Latest migration news
Below are some of the latest international news stories on migration and refugees, taken from Inter Press Service. If you click on the titles you will be taken to the full story on the IPS site. To return to this guide, please use the 'back' button on your browser.
Europe Sending Armies to Stop Immigrants
A Frontex ship patrols the maritime border in Greece. Credit: Frontex.
By Apostolis Fotiadis
A Nov. 19 paper by the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU diplomatic corps, considers the possibility of the European military getting involved in the south Mediterranean in an effort to curb the influx of irregular migrants and refugees into Europe.
The idea for a military operation initially appeared in an Italian proposal set forth on Oct. 24, suggesting extraordinary measures after the recent tragic events at Lampedusa in Sicily, where a boat that departed from Libya on Oct. 3 sank before reaching the island, killing 360 immigrants.
The incident sent shock waves throughout Europe and triggered a civil society dialog about European migration policy’s human cost. But many of Europe’s leaders have seen the tragedy as a reason for further militarisation of the region.
EEAS deputy spokesman Sebastien Brabant told IPS in an email interview that following the Oct. 3 incident in Lampedusa “the ‘Taskforce Mediterranean’ was created to set out proposals for immediate EU action” from which the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) proposal has emerged.
The proposal includes options for the interception of population movements towards Europe including an independent maritime operation or the implementation of extra measures within an ongoing Frontex – the EU border agency – operation in the region.
All options predict a central role for the CSDP, the key European instrument for dealing with international security crises.
The CSDP proposal as a platform for dealing with population movements that could occur as a result of destabilisation in the Mediterranean countries coincides with a pending consideration of the instrument’s future on the agenda of the European Council planned for later this month.
The EEAS will present its proposal when the heads of state discuss how to enhance defence capabilities, strengthen the defence industry and improve the effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP.
The idea has provoked a backlash, with German MP Andrej Hunko, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, saying that “Further militarisation of border surveillance will make crossings even riskier and lead to even more deaths. The EEAS even confirms this. The inhumane and frequently criticised approach taken by the EU border police, FRONTEX, is being reinforced.”
Meanwhile Frontex has already arranged to update its Joint Operations “Hermes”, launched to control illegal migration flows from Tunisia towards southern Italy, mainly Lampedusa and Sardinia, and “AENAAS”, combating illegal migration from the Ionian Sea towards Italy (mainly Apulia and Calabria) from Turkey and Egypt.
Italy has also put in place a national patrol operation named “MARE NOSTRUM” coordinated by the Italian military. An internal European paper issued on Apr 18 demonstrated the serious concern among European leadership about the possibility of Libya collapsing into sectarian war.
The paper was a blueprint for a civilian integrated European Union Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM), aiming to help establish and train a new territorial and maritime border guard in Libya. EUBAM, which is ongoing now, is also a CSDP mission.
EUobserver reported on Nov. 18 that elements in the internal EU paper indicated that the “civilian” EUBAM to Libya was in fact designed to also train “paramilitary forces, amid a wider European and U.S. effort to stop Libya becoming a ‘failed state’.
Militarisation of the central Mediterranean would complement earlier restrictions put in place in the southeastern part of the sea. In the spring of 2012, Greece adopted tough control policies, including deploying security forces to its borders, building a fence along its land border with Turkey, and detaining irregular migrants for up to 18 months.
As a result incoming flows shifted to new routes through the Western Balkans or revived older one in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.
Meanwhile Spain has initiated project CLOSEYE, a multi-million euro border control project that will see drones and other means of surveillance being deployed over the southwestern Mediterranean.
The European Commission not only has bankrolled many of these operations but also has not effectively restrained member states from violating refugee and human rights, and even the principle of non-refoulement, against the expulsion of persons who have the right to be recognised as refugees.
Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies, University of Copenhagen and an expert on the securitisation of European immigration policy told IPS that the question is why is the EEAS still proposing such options.
“Two reasons come to mind: Firstly, the Arab Spring brought with it the fall of dictators, who up until that point had been key allies funded by the EU, containing sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern migrants before they could reach European territory.” Since then, he said, “it seems that the EU has been looking to establish similar systems of control.”
“Secondly, it is important to note the timing of the EEAS’ proposals: they have been put forward just when the new EUROSUR [border] surveillance system is about to become operational. The EUROSUR system, which has been developed in close cooperation with the European arms industry, stresses exactly those goals listed in the EEAS options,” he said.
EUROSUR, which became operational on Dec 2, predicts a key role for Frontex in creating a border control coordinator. It initially involves 18 member states, and aims to gradually achieve increased intelligence sharing, improved situational awareness, increased surveillance capacity, search and rescue missions, and integration of third countries security and law enforcement systems.
LGBT Immigrants Face Rampant Assault in U.S. Jails
By Ramy Srour
Gay and transsexual immigrants who enter the U.S. detention system face high levels of sexual abuse, new research warns, at times leading them to decide to return to their home countries rather than stay to fight a legal battle.
Activists say instances of LGBT immigrants who prefer being deported rather than endure abuse in U.S. detention facilities are quite common. Credit: Bigstock
Advocates say that, although sexual assault and violence are widespread in all types of prisons, LGBT immigrants are particularly vulnerable.
“One of my clients, a transgender Mexican woman detained in a facility in New Jersey, after months of mistreatment actually ended up accepting her deportation, rather than endure her situation,” Clement Lee, a detention staff attorney at Immigration Equality, an advocacy group representing LGBT immigrants in court, told IPS.
“I told her, ‘I can win your case, but it will take several months,’ but because she was poor she could not pay to get out of detention. In the facility, people were calling her ‘maricon’, Spanish for faggot, and she seriously feared for her physical safety.”
Clement notes that his clients often come from countries that are dangerous for them. He cites instances in which transgender individuals would be raped and assailed “for violating gender norms”, or instances in which some of his gay clients have been subjected to “conversion therapies” under which community and family members attempt to change their sexual orientation.
Jamaica is the country from which most of his clients have fled, “which is surprising,” he says, “given that country’s image as a beach paradise.”
According to other immigration activists closely involved in LGBT cases, instances of LGBT immigrants who prefer being deported rather than endure abuse in U.S. detention facilities are quite common.
Karen Zwick, a managing attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Centre (NIJC), says that the decision to accept deportation may not be a rational one, because these immigrants may be underestimating the risks they would face going back to their home countries.
“They can’t see beyond the terrible situation they’re in,” she told IPS.
According to a new report, released this week by the Centre for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think tank here, as many as 34,000 immigrants are detained each day by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in over 250 detention facilities across the country.
According to the study, which is based on evidence gathered through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, detained LGBT immigrants are far more vulnerable to abuse than other immigrants.
“What we tried to do with this report is to paint a clearer picture of what is going on inside these detention centres,” Sharita Gruberg, a policy analyst at CAP and the author of the report, told IPS. “And what we’ve found is that, in some centres, guards were still using homophobic language against LGBT detainees.”
But LGBT detainees say they face far worse problems than abusive language, reporting instead physical and sexual abuse by both fellow detainees and guards.
15 times more vulnerable
Because of internal regulations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not keep data on sexual orientation or gender identity of detainees. But the information obtained through the FOIA request suggests that LGBT detainees are “15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population”.
ICE, the agency in charge of immigration detention facilities across the United States, has also been at the centre of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an official watchdog, into the agency’s sexual abuse allegations.
According to a GAO report released Nov. 20, nearly 40 percent of total allegations were never acted upon “because ICE field office officials did not report them to … headquarters.”
“ICE takes the health, safety and welfare of those in our care very seriously,” an ICE official, who commented on the condition of anonymity, told IPS by e-mail. “The agency is continually working to ensure these reforms are consistently implemented at all facilities that house ICE detainees.”
The official also noted that in 2009 the agency initiated “fundamental detention reforms, including the development of new detention standards to protect vulnerable detainees.”
Yet advocates suggest an underlying problem with the way the U.S. immigration system functions.
“We know that the immigration detention system has extended vastly over the last 20 years, as we spend billions of dollars on immigration detention every year,” Harper Jean Tobin, the director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, an advocacy group here, told IPS.
Tobin refers to the congressionally mandated requirement that ICE detain 34,000 immigrants at all times, also known as the “bed mandate”. According to the NIJC, this mandate “prevents ICE officers from exercising discretion and expanding more efficient alternatives to detention … that would allow individuals who pose no risk to public safety to be released back to their families.”
In the past, U.S. legislators have touched upon the issues surrounding mistreatment of detainees in immigration facilities. In 2003, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which sought to protect individuals against sexual abuse in confinement settings, including in immigrant detention centres.
But according to the new Centre for American Progress findings, PREA may have only partially addressed the issue of sexual abuse in detention facilities. It points out that ICE created its own standards on sexual assault in detention facilities, which are less comprehensive than those mandated by the Department of Justice in 2012.
Last June, Rep. Trey Growdy of South Carolina, the chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee, introduced the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act (SAFE), which was later approved by the Judiciary Committee. Yet critics note that, if approved, this bill would not only do “nothing to resolve the legal status of 11 million undocumented immigrants” but would also “create an environment of rampant racial profiling and unconstitutional detentions.”
The post LGBT Immigrants Face Rampant Assault in U.S. Jails appeared first on Inter Press Service.
Haitian Migrant Boat Capsizes, Dozens Feared Dead
By AJ Correspondents
A sailboat passing through the southern Bahamas islands with about 150 Haitian migrants on board capsized after running aground, killing up to 30 people and leaving the rest clinging to the vessel for hours, authorities said Tuesday.
The exact death toll remained uncertain. Authorities on the scene confirmed at least 20 dead and determined the number could reach 30 based on accounts from survivors, said Lt. Origin Deleveaux, a Royal Bahamas Defence Force spokesman.
The remains of five victims had been recovered and the Bahamas military and police were working with the U.S. Coast Guard to recover additional bodies as they pulled survivors from the stranded sailboat.
“Right now, we are just trying to recover as many bodies as we possibly can,” Deleveaux said.
Authorities believe the migrants had been at sea for eight to nine days with limited food and water and no life jackets, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Gabe Somma said. Many were severely dehydrated when the first rescue crews reached them. The boat, in addition to being overloaded, likely encountered rough weather, Deleveaux said.
“It was obviously just grossly overloaded, unbalanced, unseaworthy,” Somma said. “An incredibly dangerous voyage.”
The capsizing of overloaded vessels occurs with disturbing frequency in the area, most recently in mid-October when four Haitian women died off Miami. There have also been fatal incidents near the Turks and Caicos Islands, between Haiti and the Bahamas, and in the rough Mona Passage that divides the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
“Unfortunately, we see these types of tragedies occur on a monthly basis,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said. “Every year we see hundreds of migrants needlessly lose their lives at sea taking part in these dangerous and illegal voyages.”
It’s common enough that the Coast Guard recently developed a public service announcement that will run on TV and radio in Florida, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic urging people not to risk the deadly ocean voyages.
This latest incident occurred late Monday near Harvey Cays, about 80 miles southeast of New Providence, the island that includes the capital of Nassau, and 260 miles southeast of Miami.
Fishermen spotted the dangerously overloaded sailboat and alerted the Bahamian military, which asked the Coast Guard for assistance in locating the vessel, Somma said. By the time it was spotted, the 40-foot boat had run aground in an area dotted with tiny outcroppings and reefs and then capsized.
Photos taken by the Coast Guard showed people clinging to every available space on the overturned vessel. Some were taken to a clinic on nearby Staniel Cay for treatment for dehydration.
By late Tuesday afternoon, the Coast Guard and Bahamian authorities had rescued about 110 people, including 19 women. Deleveaux said there were no children on board. Smugglers will often seek to blend in with the migrants when they are captured and authorities did not announce any arrests.
Migrants have long traversed the Bahamian archipelago to reach the United States. Thousands have also settled in the Bahamas in recent years. Deleveaux said those rescued from the boat near Harvey Cays would be taken to a military base on New Providence, processed and then repatriated to Haiti.
Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.
CARICOM Chastises Dominican Republic over Deportations
At the bustling border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Credit: Dan Boarder/cc by 2.0
By Peter Richards
Outraged at a court ruling that would potentially render stateless thousands of Dominican people of Haitian descent, the Caribbean Community on Tuesday suspended the Dominican Republic’s bid to join the 15-member regional grouping.
Dominican President Danilo Medina had reportedly promised that his government would not actually deport any of the persons affected by the Sep. 23 ruling.“It renders an already marginalised section of the Dominican population even more vulnerable to acts of daily discrimination and abuse." -- Prof. Norman Girvan
However, Michel Martelly, Haiti’s president, said that soon after returning from Venezuela last weekend where he held talks with Dominican officials to resolve the issue, the authorities in Santo Domingo deported 300 people “who do not know the country, who do not have family in Haiti and who do not even speak the language.”
Martelly is threatening to stay away from future talks – the next round is scheduled for next week – if the Dominican Republic does not show some form of goodwill.
“We don’t have to keep meeting without them showing some action,” he told IPS, adding that the deportees included children, some “as old as one day”.
Trinidadian Prime Minister and CARICOM chair Kamla Persad-Bissessar vowed to raise the matter with the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). A delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is also visiting the Dominican Republic early next month.
“It is especially repugnant that the ruling ignores the 2005 recommendations made by the IACHR that the Dominican Republic adapts its immigration laws and practices in accordance with the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights,” she said. “The ruling also violates the Dominican Republic’s international human rights obligations.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who had written two letters to President Medina on the issue, said he was also prepared to push for the suspension of the Dominican Republic from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM).
He told IPS that “quiet diplomacy” has led nowhere and “clearly we have to up the ante for the government and the relevant authority to act”.
At the heart of the controversy is the stripping of citizenship from children of Haitian migrants. The decision applies to those born after 1929 — a category that overwhelmingly includes descendants of Haitians brought in to work on farms.
CARICOM had come under increasing pressure from civil society groups in the region to respond strongly. Caribbean organisations that met in Colombia last week condemned the ruling as “immoral, unjust and totally unacceptable”.
“It renders an already marginalised section of the Dominican population even more vulnerable to acts of daily discrimination and abuse based on the colour of their skin and/or the sound of their names,” former ACS secretary general Professor Norman Girvan told IPS.
Caricom has an opportunity to “prevent a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
But efforts to pressure the Dominican Republic to soften the ruling – only the latest salvo in decades of cultural and economic tensions between the two nations – will likely prove an uphill task.
Earlier this month, Anibal De Castro, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the United Sates, responding to an article published in a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper, made it clear that his country “does not grant citizenship to all those born within its jurisdiction.”
“In fact, the United States is one of the few nations that maintain this practice. In most countries, it is the norm that citizenship be obtained by origin or conferred under certain conditions. Since 1929, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic has established that the children of people in transit, a temporary legal status, are not eligible for Dominican citizenship,” he wrote.
On Nov. 6, hundreds of people rallied in Santo Domingo in support of the ruling, even suggesting the erection of a wall to ensure the division of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Emilo Santana of the group Night Watch of San Juan claimed that many Dominicans were unable to receive health services because the resources were being used to assist Haitians and urged President Medina to prevent a “silent and massive Haitian take-over of the territory.”
“I feel humiliated and angry, but not by my president, I feel humiliated by those NGOs that negotiate with the poverty of Haitians and it is they who are destroying our country,” Santana said at the rally.
Another speaker, jurist Juan Manuel Castillo Pantaleon, said the Constitutional Court “has aroused all Dominicans to defend as one man our national sovereignty”.
He described the ruling as a landmark “because it clearly defines who we Dominicans are and reaffirms the laws and institutions, as provided in the Constitution.
“The hypocritical international community which offered aid to Haiti never kept their promises and in some cases committed robbery, and intends that we Dominicans should assume responsibility for a failed state,” said Castillo Pantaleon.
A United Nations-supported study released this year estimated that there were around 210,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent and another 34,000 born to parents of other nationalities.
The government of the Dominican Republic estimates that around 500,000 people born in Haiti live in the Dominican Republic.
In a statement, CARICOM said it was calling on the global community to pressure the Dominican Republic to “adopt urgent measures to ensure that the jaundiced decision of the Constitutional Court does not stand”.
“The government must show good faith by immediate credible steps as part of an overall plan to resolve the nationality and attendant issues in the shortest possible time.”
The post CARICOM Chastises Dominican Republic over Deportations appeared first on Inter Press Service.
South Scores 11th-Hour Win on Climate Loss and Damage
COP19 delegates huddle to resolve the issue of loss and damage. Credit: Courtesy of ENB
By Stephen Leahy
The U.N. climate talks in Warsaw ended in dramatic fashion Saturday evening in what looked like a schoolyard fight with a mob of dark-suited supporters packed around the weary combatants, Todd Stern of the United States and Sai Navoti of Fiji representing G77 nations.
It took two weeks and 36 straight hours of negotiations to get to this point."We need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two-degree temperature rise.” -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
At issue in this classic North versus South battle was the creation of a third pillar of a new climate treaty to be finalised in 2015. Countries of the South, with 80 percent of the world’s people, finally won, creating a loss and damage pillar to go with the mitigation (emissions reduction) and adaptation pillars.
Super-typhoon Haiyan’s impact on the Philippines just days before the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) amply illustrated the reality of loss and damages arising from climate change. Philippines lead negotiator Yeb Saño made an emotional speech announcing “fast for the climate” at the COP19 opening that garnered worldwide attention, including nearly a million YouTube views
His fast would only end with agreement on a loss and damage mechanism – an official process now called the “Warsaw Mechanism” to determine how to implement this third pillar. Much still needs to be defined. Climate impacts result in both economic and non-economic losses, including the growing issue of climate refugees, people who are forced to move because their homelands can no longer support them.
“This Warsaw decision on loss and damage is a major breakthrough,” said Bangladesh’s Saleem Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in the UK.
“There is a long way yet to go for an effective climate treaty,” Huq told IPS.
Overall, the results from COP19 are mixed, said Alden Meyer, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ director of strategy and policy, who has attended all but one of these climate negotiations over the past 19 years.
“Loss and damages is big but we have the bare minimum in the rest to keep going,” he told IPS.
The U.N. talks known as COPs are part of a complex and acronym-laden process to create a new climate treaty to keep global warming to less than two degrees C, and to help poorer countries survive the mounting impacts.
In 2009 at the semi-infamous Copenhagen talks, the rich countries made a deal with developing countries, saying in effect: “We’ll give you billions of dollars for adaptation, ramping up to 100 billion dollars a year by 2020, in exchange for our mitigation amounting to small CO2 cuts instead of making the big cuts that we should do.”
The money to help poor countries adapt flowed for the first three years but has largely dried up. Warsaw was supposed to be the “Finance COP” to bring the promised money. That didn’t happen.
Countries like Germany, Switzerland and others in Europe only managed to scrape together promises of 110 million dollars into the Green Climate Fund. Developing countries wanted a guarantee of 70 billion a year by 2016 but were blocked by the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan and others.
“Rich governments have refused to recognise their legal and moral responsibility to provide international climate finance,” said Lidy Nacpil, director of Jubilee South, Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development.
The mitigation pillar in Warsaw is even shakier. Japan said they couldn’t make their promised emission reductions and gave themselves a new extremely weak target. Canada and Australia thumbed their noses at their reduction commitments and are increasing emissions.
Today’s reality is that slightly more than half of annual CO2 emissions are coming from the global south. In Warsaw, the big emitters like China and India refused to take on specific reduction targets. Instead they agreed to make “contributions”. Specific details about reduction amounts and timing was deferred to a specially-convened leader’s climate summit in New York on Sep. 23, 2014.
“We need those promises to add up to enough real action to keep us below the internationally agreed two-degree temperature rise,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said here in Warsaw.
The one surprising success at COP 19 was an agreement on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). This will provide compensation for countries that could lose revenue from not exploiting their forests. Deforestation and conversion of forests to farmland contributes about 10 percent of total human-caused CO2 emissions.
“We now have a system in place to do REDD and reduce emissions,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous representative from the Philippines.
It’s a strong package that includes verification, monitoring and safeguards for local communities. Countries have to put all of this in place before they can access finance either through the Green Climate Fund or through carbon markets, Tauli-Corpuz told IPS.
“Hopefully, it will pump a lot of money into local communities and reduce deforestation,” she said.
Honouring land tenure or land rights of local communities to care for the forests is the key to making REDD work as intended and benefit local people and not corporations or national governments, she said.
Emissions from deforestation have been slowly declining. However, the vast majority of CO2 comes from burning fossil fuels, especially coal, and it continues to grow quickly. Those emissions will heat the planet for centuries and yet governments spend more than 500 billion dollars to subsidise these industries, said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace international executive director.
“Democracy has been stolen by corporations,” Naidoo told IPS. “While activists and protesters are arrested, the real hooligans are the CEOs of fossil fuel companies.”
The only avenue left to people is civil disobedience and 2014 will be the year of climate activism, he said.
“Now is the time to put our lives on the line and face jail time,” Naidoo said.
In what may be the first of many such actions, more than 800 members of civil society walked of the COP negotiations on the second to last day “in protest against rich industrialised countries jeopardising international climate action” they said.
While international negotiations inch along, climate scientists are growing increasingly alarmed by mounting evidence that climate change is happening faster and with larger impacts than projected.
To have a good chance at staying under two degrees C, industrialised countries need to crash their CO2 emissions 10 percent per year starting in 2014, said Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester.
“We can still do two C but not the way we’re going,” Anderson said on the sidelines of COP 19 in Warsaw. He wondered why negotiators on the inside are not reacting to the reality that it is too late for incremental changes.
“I’m really stunned there is no sense of urgency here,” he told IPS.
The post South Scores 11th-Hour Win on Climate Loss and Damage appeared first on Inter Press Service.
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