Category Archives: Community Scholar

Protests throw spotlight on Israel’s African migrant pressures

From the BBC News, by Richard Galpin

Hundreds of African women and children marched across the Israeli city of Tel Aviv on Wednesday to demonstrate outside the offices of the United Nations and the embassy of the United States.

It was the latest in an unprecedented wave of protests by African asylum seekers, who fear the Israeli government is trying to force them out of the country.

Since a new law came into force last month, the asylum seekers – most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea – say the authorities have been instructing many of them to leave the cities and towns where they have been living and report to a detention centre in the Negev desert in southern Israel.

The new law gives the authorities the power to hold them in the centre indefinitely, putting them under intense pressure to agree to leave Israel voluntarily.

The African immigrants began arriving in Israel in 2006 and it is estimated there are currently 53,000 in the country.

Female African asylum seekers and their children demonstrate on January 15, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Israel.Thousands of African migrants have held protest marches over the past week

‘Seeking protection’

“The reason I am here is because I fled violence and persecution back home, the on-going genocide,” says Dahar Adam who is from the Darfur region of Sudan.

“The reason I am here is because I fled violence and persecution back home, the on-going genocide,” says Dahar Adam who is from the Darfur region of Sudan.

“I came here seeking protection as a refugee and have been here almost seven years, but I didn’t get any kind of status or recognition as a refugee.”

“We requested many times, but they denied and neglected us, they don’t want to take this problem seriously,” he said.

In a rare public rebuke, the UN Refugee Agency has accused the Israeli government of following a policy that “creates fear and chaos amongst asylum seekers,” and warned that putting asylum seekers under pressure to return home, without first considering why they had fled, could amount to a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

A child from the African migrant community holds a placard ahead of a protest against Israel's detention policy toward migrants, in Tel Aviv (15 January 2014)Israel says most of the migrants do not meet the criteria for refugee status according to international convention

‘Economic migrants’

But the government is sticking to its position that the African immigrants are not refugees but are instead economic migrants who see Israel as an attractive destination because it is the nearest developed country where they can find jobs.

The government also insists it has the systems in place to process any asylum applications.

“Only a few hundred have applied,” says the foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor.

“It is quite a mystery why not more have tried to use the procedure.”

And only a handful so far, approximately a dozen, have been granted refugee status.

“The others have been found to be working migrants or other types of migrants and did not qualify for refugee status under the criteria of the Refugee Convention,” Mr Palmor said.

Male African migrants protesting in Tel Aviv (January 2014)Hundreds of migrants are being held in a detention centre in the Negev desert

But a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency rejected this, telling the BBC that the Israeli government, having initially advised the immigrants they did not need to apply for asylum, then changed its mind in 2012.

But, the UN spokesperson said, the government failed to inform the migrants that they needed to submit their applications.

Five to a room

Zena MebrahtuZena, from Eritrea, has a job and says he lives in better conditions than African friends of his

Many of the Africans live in a run-down area of south Tel Aviv, attracted to the city by the chance of finding work in the many restaurants, cafes and hotels.

At the entrance to a dingy, dilapidated apartment block, I met Zena Mebrahtu, a 27-year-old Eritrean, who invited me to follow him up the stairs to see the room that is now his home.

He shares the bed and single electric cooking ring with his younger brother.

The other rooms which make up what was once an apartment, have all been rented out individually to Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants.

But Zena knows he is lucky. He has a fridge, a television and even a surfboard leaning against the wall, given to him by a friend.

“I have a good job,” he says, “I have Israeli friends and they gave me a job.”

“My [African] friends are living in the worst condition, in a room like this with five people.”

Zena’s neighbourhood has a particularly high concentration of immigrants, and relations with the local Israeli population are tense.

“There are people who behave well with me,” he says.

“But there are more who don’t like me, don’t like refugees and don’t like me staying here.

“They say to me you are dirty, you don’t know how to live, you need to go home.

“Most of them think I came to Israel to get money.”

African migrants walk on a road after abandoning a detention facility in the southern Israeli desert (December 15, 2013)Illegal migrants who agree to leave the country get $3,500 compensation

On the street outside, a local Israeli man Yaniv Avigad poured out his feelings about the immigrants.

“They are destroying our lives in many ways,” he said.

“There’s a lot of violence. I have lived in the neighbourhood ever since I was a little kid and they always said this was a bad neighbourhood.

“But I’ve never encountered anything like it since they came here five years ago.”

“I feel very scared, it is not my country any more, it is theirs.”

Mr Avigad believes the government is not being tough enough and wants new laws which will stop the African immigrants renting rooms.

“I think then they will go home.”

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned the immigrants that their protests will make no difference to the government’s policy of removing “illegal infiltrators”.

The increasingly shrill debate about the African immigrants prompted President Shimon Peres to speak out last week.

He reminded Israelis that the country had signed the UN convention on refugees and this prohibited the deportation of people to countries where their lives would be in danger.

He added: “We remember what it means to be refugees and strangers.”

And all this even though the government says it has successfully stopped almost all illegal immigration into Israel, with the completion last year of a fence across the border with Egypt – the route which the Sudanese, Eritreans and other Africans had been using.

What do you think of this situation in Israel? Do let us know your thoughts!

On the trail of migrant smugglers

By Kristy Siegfried 

Photo: Mujahid Safodien/IRIN: Migrants climb into a smuggler’s vehicle at the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa


  • Stricter immigration laws boosts demand for smugglers
  • Smugglers provide a service migrants willingly pay for
  • But abuse, extortion increasing with growing demand
  • Prosecutions rare, smuggling low risk and highly profitable

JOHANNESBURG, 7 January 2014 (IRIN) – When the corpses of migrants are discovered in the desert, floating at sea, or in airless container trucks, the official response often includes calls to take action against the smugglers. Following the deaths of over 300 migrants who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in October 2013, for example, Italy’s integration minister, Cecile Kyenge, declared, “Behind these tragedies… there are human traffickers who are enriching themselves on the backs of people who are fleeing war and hunger,” and urged increased patrols to target people smugglers.

Statements like Kyenge’s reflect the widely held perception that “human trafficker” and “people smuggler” can be used interchangeably to describe shadowy criminal networks preying on desperate and naïve people. The small number of researchers worldwide who study migrant smuggling say the truth is often less malevolent and more complex.

To begin with, smugglers – unlike traffickers – provide a service that migrants willingly pay for. The definition provided by the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, which forms part of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, says that service must involve helping someone to gain illegal entry to another country in return for “financial or other material benefit”.

The demand for such services has increased as states around the world have shored up their borders over the last 10 to 15 years, making it more difficult for would-be migrants and asylum seekers to enter countries legally.

In a statement released on International Migrants Day (18 December), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) pointed to the “direct link between tighter border controls and increases in people smuggling”, which it described as a US$35-billion-a-year business.

Noting that at least 2,360 migrants had died trying to cross borders clandestinely in 2013 – the deadliest year on record – IOM suggested that unless the international community takes decisive action to address the causes of irregular migration, “more migrant lives will be lost at the hands of people smugglers and traffickers”.

Smugglers as protectors? 

Gabriella Sanchez, a social and cultural anthropologist who has researched migrant smuggling in a number of countries, disputes the notion that migrants who use smugglers run a greater risk. “Most people who die crossing borders die proceeding on their own,” she told IRIN on the phone from the Border Crossing Observatory, a research centre at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “Most people die because of exposure to the elements, not because of violence.”

 “Most people who die crossing borders die proceeding on their own”

She says migrants typically think of smugglers as “mechanisms of protection”, who can increase their chances of crossing a border successfully. “Of course, there’s going to be a level of risk, but people calculate their risk… Migrants and refugees are not ignorant or gullible.”

The level of risk migrants are exposed to often depends on how much money they can afford to spend. Those who can buy plane tickets, pay for forged visas and passports, and bribes for customs and immigration officers, are much more likely to reach their destination safely. Migrants who use longer land and sea routes, travelling with different smugglers who may or may not be linked to one another – what the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) describes as a “pay-as-you-go” package – run the highest risk of being stranded or exposed to abuse.

More abuse by smugglers

Routes from West and East Africa to Europe, and from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East, with their treacherous sea and desert crossings, have become even more dangerous in recent years. Smugglers have increasingly taken to extorting more than the agreed upon sum from migrants, often by means of holding them captive along the way or even at their destination, and forcing them to phone relatives to ask for money under threat of torture. Reports of such abuses, which blur the line between smuggling and trafficking, have emerged from Sudan, Yemen, Egypt’s Sinai desert and Libya.

“What’s happening now is unprecedented,” says Yitna Getachew, a regional thematic specialist with IOM’s East and Southern Africa office in Pretoria, South Africa. “Up until recently, you didn’t see abuse of migrants by smugglers. It’s a business and they have reputations to think of.”


Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN:  Migrants form queues to be counted by their smuggler prior to being transported by boat from Djibouti to Yemen

Christopher Horwood, coordinator of the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) which published a  in June 2013 on migrant smuggling between the Horn of Africa and Yemen, speculated that the large numbers of migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia have pushed up demand for smugglers’ services, and also the temptation to extort ever larger sums of money. “In the case of Ethiopians and Eritreans, the sums are so large it’s become irresistible,” he told IRIN.

Christopher Horwood, coordinator of the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) which published a report in June 2013 on migrant smuggling between the Horn of Africa and Yemen, speculated that the large numbers of migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia have pushed up demand for smugglers’ services, and also the temptation to extort ever larger sums of money. “In the case of Ethiopians and Eritreans, the sums are so large it’s become irresistible,” he told IRIN.

Migrants who experience the highest levels of violence are those who travel “without smuggling references”, Sanchez says. “Most people travel with smugglers who are known to them and recommended by others.”

However, on the long “pay-as-you-go” routes, such as the one from Eritrea to Israel or from Somalia to South Africa, migrants generally only know the smugglers who take them on the first leg of their journey. Thereafter, they may travel alone for part of the way or be passed from one smuggler to another through what Horwood describes as “informal chains” or “loose alliances” that differ from the more organized networks typical of human trafficking.

Obstacles to prosecution

The extent to which abuse by smugglers occurs, even on the most notoriously dangerous routes, is unclear. “Most stories you hear are the stories of the people who had a bad experience with a smuggler. You don’t tend to hear the stories of the people who didn’t experience abuse,” said Sanchez, who argued that the majority of migrants do not experience abuse at the hands of smugglers.

Those migrants who do experience abuse rarely report it, particularly if they have reached their destination and are trying to steer clear of the authorities. The lack of formal complaints by migrants has added to the difficulties of prosecuting smugglers, who can be difficult even to identify.

“Unlike trafficking, smuggling isn’t done by professionals, it’s done by people who have other jobs. These aren’t arch-criminals, but people who are making money on the side,” said Khalid Koser, deputy director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, who has done extensive research on migrant smuggling.

“There’s no profile for a smuggler,” agreed Sanchez. “The smugglers I interviewed in Arizona [near the US border with Mexico] were teenagers who guided people through the desert… you have a single mother of three who was housing people overnight and… grandmothers feeding people.” Migrants may also assist by cooking at a safe house, steering a boat or driving a vehicle in return for a lower fee. This sometimes results in their arrest for smuggling.

Migrants criminalized

“The determination of who is a smuggler is quite problematic. We think about smuggling as becoming more organized and structured, but what we’re actually seeing is how the risk is being transferred onto the migrants and refugees,” said Sanchez. “Most of the people who are prosecuted for smuggling are migrants themselves.”

Even countries that are signatories to the Smuggling Protocol often have no specific legislation to target people-smuggling. Samantha Mundeta, a regional legal adviser with UNODC’s Southern Africa office, noted that most countries in her region rely on immigration laws that “tend not to get to the bottom of the crime [smuggling] and the people who perpetuate it”, and which are more often used to criminalize migrants.

“There’s no attempt to go after the smugglers, it’s all about irregular entry by the migrants”

“There’s no attempt to go after the smugglers, it’s all about irregular entry by the migrants,” agreed Getachew of IOM, who says the lack of capacity and resources in local law enforcement authorities has also hampered efforts to investigate smuggling.

UNODC has set up a voluntary reporting system in Asia that allows countries in the region to collect and share data on smuggling trends and networks. In eastern and southern Africa there is no such system, and “weak coordination regionally on these issues”, said Mundeta.

The role of corruption in facilitating almost every stage of a smuggling operation presents another major obstacle. In a paper published recently by UNODC, the authors note that “Migrant smuggling could not occur on the large scale that it so often does without collusion between corrupt officials and criminals.”

Smugglers are often able to bribe their way out of trouble, and the combination of corruption and light penalties for the small number of smugglers who are prosecuted has made it “a very attractive activity” for criminals, commented Horwood.

Allowing mobility

Several researchers IRIN spoke to suggested that the most effective deterrent to smuggling may be fewer border controls, not more. “Countries tend to focus on border security, and that doesn’t seem to work,” said Koser. “The unintended consequence of more restrictive immigration policy is more illegal migration.”

In the West Africa region, where a protocol on freedom of movement allows people living in member states to travel within the region without visas, there is little demand for smugglers. “Smuggling can’t operate without restrictions,” said Horwood.

“We need to look at visas and passports, we don’t need to look at any more criminalization or deterrents,” said Sanchez. “We need to look at mechanisms that are going to facilitate mobility.”

However, the political sensitivities that inform debates about irregular migration around the world make it unlikely that such mechanisms will be introduced in the near future. As long as public sentiment remains anti-immigration, governments will continue to make it more difficult for migrants to enter their countries legally, perpetuating the demand for smugglers.

What do you think about this piece? Are the smugglers to blame? 

The Dominican Republic’s discrimination against Haitians

From the Washington Post

HAITI AND the Dominican Republic, uneasy neighbors on the sun-baked island of Hispaniola, share a tangled and contentious history, by turns violent, cooperative and exploitative. That is the background, though hardly an excuse, for an unconscionable decision by the highest Dominican court that strips at least 200,000 ethnic Haitian migrants of any claim to citizenship, including those born on Dominican soil decades ago.

The court’s decision enshrines the deep-seated racism and discrimination suffered by Haitian migrants and their children, who have worked back-breaking jobs in Dominican sugar-cane fields and construction sites for many years. It leaves the migrants stateless, lacking even the certainty that their children can receive an education.

Compounding this injustice, the court ordered the authorities to comb through birth records, back to 1929, to weed out ethnic Haitians no longer entitled to citizenship. Tens of thousands will be left in legal limbo, including those who have never set foot in Haiti and speak no Creole, Haiti’s main language.

The Dominican economy, much like that of the United States, depends on migrant labor to fill jobs at the bottom of the wage scale. And much like the United States’ political class, Dominican authorities have balked at extending fair treatment and equal status to those migrants.For many years, the children of Haitian laborers born on Dominican soil were denied official documents on the grounds that their parents were “in transit” — even if they’d been working in the country for decades. A constitutional amendment in 2010 codified that systemic discrimination, and the court decision, handed down last month, set the rule in stone — and applied it retroactively. The court gave officials one year to draw up a list of residents to be excluded from or stripped of citizenship.

The implications of the court’s xenophobic ruling are disastrous. Ethnic Haitians — as well as the Dominican-born children of immigrants from Europe, China and elsewhere — may no longer be entitled to subsidized tuition, public health insurance or other benefits.

As in the United States, mass deportation of immigrants on whom the economy relies is not a viable option for the Dominican Republic.The Dominican president, Danilo Medina, acknowledged that the decision had created “a human problem that we have to solve.”U.S. officials should press the issue through diplomatic channels with their Dominican counterparts. By ignoring the plight of ethnic Haitians, the international community would only compound an injustice.

What are your thoughts on the deportation of Dominicans of Haitian Origin?

Typhoon Haiyan’s displaced seek refuge in cities

From IRIN. 

Photo: Carmela Fonbuela/ IRIN:  IDPs recently arrived to Metro Manila following the Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan

MANILA, 3 December 2013 (IRIN) – Almost 20,000 typhoon survivors have arrived in the Philippine capital region of Manila since Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated a large area across the central island provinces nearly one month ago, displacing a total of four million people.

“We did not expect this massive devastation. We were not prepared. It would have been better if they [had been] evacuated to neighbouring provinces so it will be easier for them to return when the situation has normalized,” said Alice Bonoan, regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the National Capital Region.

“But many of them just took the free flights to Metro Manila offered by the military and took their chances… They just needed to escape the devastation and hunger,” Bonoan said.

Military cargo flights transporting relief goods from Manila to devastated areas offered to fill the empty return flights with survivors desperate to evacuate.

Hundreds of kilometres away from the typhoon’s epicentre, local governments in the capital region are scrambling to absorb the new arrivals in an urban area already stretched by its 12 million residents, including the country’s largest population of slum dwellers – about 200,000 households, according to 2010 estimates.

At the headquarters of the Philippine Air Force, aid workers and volunteers welcome an estimated 500 survivors arriving on cargo flights daily with hot meals and fresh sets of clothing. Lactating mothers line up to offer breastfeeding to survivors’ babies. Volunteer drivers transport those seeking shelter from relatives. The remaining displaced are housed DSWD shelters and “tent cities”.

Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) flattened swathes of homes and other structures, displacing some four million Filipinos, according to the government’s latest count. About 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are staying in evacuation centres while the remainder are seeking shelter in private homes.

Temporary Shelter

Gerardo Macenda, 37, from Guiuan in Eastern Samar, one of the most devastated cities in the typhoon’s path, set foot in Metro Manila with his family on 20 November. Without relatives in Manila to help them, they were taken to a DSWD facility in Mandaluyong city on the outskirts of the capital.

Macenda, his wife, and three children took the first C130 flight out of the province on 15 November, which took them first to Cebu and then to the capital region. “We needed to go away. I don’t want to see the devastation anymore. My children are traumatized. We had a simple but good life. We built a house and I owned a tricycle [to transport customers]. I earned enough for the family, but the typhoon took it all away,” Macenda told IRIN.

They are among the 134 displaced persons at this DSWD shelter, one of 1,031 temporary sites the agency has set up nationwide. The government is counting on the IDPs to return to their hometowns as soon as the situation normalizes, but the challenge will be to prepare for those who stay on, said Eric Esmas, a senior DSWD social welfare officer.

A number of private sector companies have made job offers, but many evacuees do not have the skills or education, or are the right age to fulfil the basic requirements. “Is he a worker or a farmer? We will then link them to the resources that are available,” Esmas said.

Off radar

While thousands of evacuees fled on military planes and have been formally registered by the government upon landing, unknown numbers of survivors are taking what are known as “roll-on roll-off” (Ro-Ro) inter-island transport vessels that carry busloads of people from affected islands to safer shores.

This group has hardly been reached by aid workers, much less included in the national database, according to the government. Other evacuees manage with their own resources and simply do not seek DSWD assistance, said the agency’s regional director, Bonoan.

“It’s the hard reality,” she acknowledged. “We cannot help them if we don’t know where they are. There are those who arrived in Metro Manila without going through DSWD. We cannot avoid that.”

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) began tracking evacuees on 17 November at their departure points to map migration flows as well as to learn what plans the unregistered IDPs have to survive financially at their destination.

Urban IDPs are often seen as “messy” beneficiaries who risk being “ignored”, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “IDPs in urban environments are less photogenic and less visible than those in camps. The plight of urban IDPs therefore goes largely ignored by an international media flooded with other compelling images.”

A 2008 UNHCR study noted that “Effective protection is further limited by the fact that both host governments and donors are not generally keen on assisting IDPs in urban environments because many assume that those who make it to cities can support themselves.”

DSWD’s Bonoan said the government is managing for the moment because relatives and acquaintances have hosted most arriving IDPs, but an unknown number may not be receiving any help, and that DSWD “cannot help them forever”.


Solidarity Fast with Striking Detainees in Lindsay, ON Detention Center – Dec 14th

Solidarity Fast with Striking Detainees Dec 14th

(From :

In response to our call for a demonstration on the outside, immigration detainees in Lindsay will be initiating their own 24hr fast inside on December 14th, 2013. Because of this, we have called for a 24hr global solidarity fast to accompany the protest at Lindsay Jail. Please take a photograph of yourself if you are fasting in solidarity with those inside and send it to (And if you’re in Ontario.. GET ON THE BUS TO LINDSAY!)

Latest statements of solidarity.

DSC_0510Wife, mother and family friend of Clifford Adjei

DSC_0515Mohammed Mjasiri, father of Amin Mjasiri who was on hunger strike for 65 days.

IMG_7349Amee, Toronto

enddetention_dec14Victoria, Toronto

Hunger Strike 1Kitty, Toronto

Hunger Strike 2Brendan, Toronto



” In The Name of the Italian People”

Watch “In the Name of the Italian People” a short documentary that examines the lives of detained migrants in the Identification and Expulsion Centres of Rome. This short documentary is about “Family fathers, female workers, young boys and girls born in Italy. Many of them arrive every day in the Identification and Expulsion centres (CIE) of Rome. They did not commit any crime, nevertheless they risk to spend 18 months behind bars waiting to be expelled. They detention is validated by a Justice of the Peace. In the name of the Italian People. A short doc directed by Gabriele Del Grande and Stefano Liberti

More information and similar videos can be found @ Fortress Europe

Migrant deaths in Mediterranean spark debate, but little action

By Kristy Siegfried ; Sourced from IRIN

A boat carrying migrants arrives at the Lampedusa port, escorted by the coastguard (file photo)

JOHANNESBURG, 18 October 2013 (IRIN) – Migrants have been losing their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels for years, but until two weeks ago, their deaths rarely generated headlines. The sheer scale of the tragedy that occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on 3 October, however, was hard to ignore.

A boat, which disembarked from Libya carrying an estimated 500 Eritrean asylum seekers, was only half a mile from Lampedusa’s coast when it caught fire and capsized. So far, Italian authorities have pulled over 350 bodies from the water.

The disaster has precipitated much discussion about what the European Union (EU) and its members states should be doing to prevent further loss of migrant lives at sea, even as the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to mount, with dozens of Syrian and Palestinian refugees losing their lives on 11 October when another boat capsized between Malta and Lampedusa.

Compared to last year, 2013 has seen a marked increase in the numbers of migrants attempting sea crossings to Italy and Malta. While some 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers reached the two southern Mediterranean countries in 2012, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over 32,000 have arrived so far this year. The spike in numbers of migrants using the so-called Central Mediterranean route – which usually involves departures from Libya, but also includes those from Egypt and the Turkish coast – is not unprecedented. Following the collapse of the governments in Tunisia and Libya in 2011, 60,000 migrants used the route, with most of them arriving in Lampedusa.

The Italian website Fortress Europe, which tracks migrant deaths, estimates that since 1988, nearly 20,000 people have died trying to penetrate Europe’s borders, the vast majority of them at sea.

Responsibilities unclear

Most of the discussion since the recent tragedies has focused on increasing search-and-rescue capacity. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed that the role of EU border agency Frontex be expanded from the patrols it currently coordinates off the Italian coast to span the entire Mediterranean. Such a move could address the current lack of clarity surrounding which countries are responsible for rescuing boats in distress and where their occupants should disembark. But the six member states with Mediterranean coastlines have already voiced their opposition to a proposed regulation that would govern Frontex-coordinated operations, arguing that international laws already deal with such matters.

“Prospects for it to be adopted soon are quite low,” said Kris Pollet, a senior legal and policy officer with the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). “There’s no real sign that this is going to be a decisive moment.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just approved a new state-of-the-art border surveillance programme called Eurosur, which will implement a system for monitoring the EU’s external borders and sharing information between various national border security agencies. Eurosur will launch in December and, according to Malmstrom, could also be used to more quickly identify migrant boats in distress.

However, Philip Amaral of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe pointed out that Eurosur has been in the pipeline for several years, long before the recent tragedy in Lampedusa. “The real basis is to tighten borders and prevent irregular migration; there’s a heavy emphasis on the use of satellite imagery and drones,” he told IRIN.

“A byproduct could be that more lives would be saved at sea, but it doesn’t establish clear lines in terms of which countries are responsible for migrant boats in distress. We think it’s a missed opportunity,” he said.

Amaral also lamented the fact that the Eurosur regulation does not include language that would absolve ship masters from criminal responsibility when rescuing migrant boats. “In Italy, they’re very reluctant to rescue ships in distress because they fear, rightly so, that they’ll be prosecuted” for aiding irregular migration, he said.

Ensuring that shipmasters cannot be prosecuted for facilitating the smuggling of migrants is among a list of 10 urgent measures that UNHCR is calling for to prevent further loss of life and increase burden sharing across the EU.

“It is shameful to witness hundreds of unwitting migrants and refugees drowning on Europe’s borders,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in a 12 October statement. He expressed particular concern that Syrian asylum seekers were among the casualties of recent boat tragedies. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum,” he said.

In the absence of any EU-wide agreement on how to handle irregular migration across the Mediterranean, Italy announced on 14 October that it would triple its air and sea presence in the southern Mediterranean to better respond to potential shipwrecks. The following day, Italian authorities reported that 370 migrants had been rescued from three boats in the waters between Libya and Sicily.

Amaral welcomed the move by Italy but emphasized that the responsibility for search and rescue should be shared with other member states. “The EU is all about solidarity, so it can’t just be left to Italy and Malta. Other countries need to pitch in and help out,” he said.

Legal migration options needed

EU Commissioner Malmstrom has joined migrant rights organizations in pointing out that, in the longer term, the only way to discourage migrants and asylum seekers from paying smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean in rickety vessels is to provide them with more legal channels for entering Europe.

“Currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far from that”

However, Pollet of ECRE said there was little willingness among member states to even engage in a debate about opening up legal channels for low-skilled migrants and asylum seekers to enter Europe. “At the moment, it’s a very hypocritical approach,” he said.

“The whole discussion is focusing now on increased search and rescue capacity and trying to prevent irregular migration; it’s really focused on the symptoms of the problem rather than the root causes. There’s very little talk about how are these people supposed to get into Europe.”

Amaral agreed. “There is definitely a needed [legal] channel, especially for asylum seekers,” he said. “But currently there’s no political will for opening the doors of Europe and mainstream public opinion is very far away from that.”

What are your thoughts on this article? Should there be “tighter borders to prevent illegal immigration”? Do you think this will prevent more migrant deaths in the Mediterranean?

ACTION ALERT: Support nearly 200 immigration detainees on strike over prison conditions

ACTION ALERT: Support nearly 200 immigration detainees on strike over prison conditions (Sourced from No One is Illegal)

La version française de cet appel est ci-dessous

Joint statement by Books to Bars Hamilton, Dignidad Migrante, Fuerza/Puwersa, No One Is Illegal-Montreal / Personne n’est illégal, No One Is Illegal Toronto, No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Solidarity Across Borders / Solidarité sans frontières (Montréal)

Over a 180 immigration detainees in Lindsay, Ontario’s Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) began protest actions on Tuesday, September 18th against conditions of their detention. The detainees were recently moved from other prisons in the Greater Toronto Area, about two hours away, and have lost touch with families and legal support as a result. Conditions at Lindsay are substantially worse for them then before. Some prisoners began a hunger strike on Wednesday which has now ended but other strike actions are continuing.

Striking immigration detainees are asking supporters to call and write Superintendent Neil Neville (read more about him below) and immigration enforcement in support of their demands.

CALL: 705-328-6009

The striking immigration detainees in Lindsay are demanding:

– Better access to medical care and social workers
– Cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas)
– Access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges
– An end to constant lockdowns
– Keep the improved canteen program going
– Better access to legal aid and legal services

Additionally, detainees are demanding that the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) grant specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services. Some of the prisoners are long-term detainees, people immigration enforcement cannot deport but will not release. Others have been designated as ‘high security’ based on prior criminal history but this can be as little as an arrest that has not led to conviction. Some people have been in jail for over 7 years because Canada unlike the US and UK has no limit on how long someone can be held prior to deportation.


About Superintendent Neil Neville: Neville was in charge of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in 2009, when two inmates died. He left EMDC in May 2011, and took on several roles within the provincial bureaucracy before taking over in Lindsay. Inquests held into the 2009 deaths painted a picture of an overcrowded, understaffed EMDC with inadequate medical care and supervision of inmates.

About Immigration Detention in Canada: Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 25,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. In 2012, 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10. There are three dedicated immigration detention centres in Canada: in Toronto, in Laval and in Vancouver. The Kingston centre, specially built for the security certificate detainees, known as “Guantanamo North”, was quietly closed in 2011. The rest of the detainees, about 35% of the total are held in maximum security provincial prisons, some unable to leave their cells for 18 hours a day. $53, 775, 000 in public money is spent on immigration detention annually or $239 per day. Comparatively, a unit of social housing can be provided at less than $31/day. The total cost of immigration detention including surveillance and supervision of immigrants, particularly of security certificate detainees and those not in detention is much higher. Immigration detention centres are a $50million business, run in partnership with private companies like G4S, Garda and Corbel Management Corporation. In Toronto alone, G4S and Corbel were paid $19 million between 2004 and 2008. Garda has the contract for the Laval Immigration Holding Centre. More info:

Freedom to Move, Return, Stay: In the last ten years, the number of people without full status (refugee claimants, temporary workers, etc) has increased by 60% but permanent residency visas have stayed constant. Refugee acceptance rates are less then 25%. Too many migrants are denied full status, and are forced to live in the country without papers, services, justice or dignity. Migrants without full status live in daily fear of detention and deportation. Those arrested are locked up in cages in brutish conditions awaiting forced deportations. This system is broken. We insist: No One Is Illegal! End Immigration Detentions! Freedom for All Prisoners!


Soutenons les immigrants détenus en grève!
Plus de 180 personnes immigrantes détenues à Lindsay, le Centre Correctionnel Central de l’Est de l’Ontario (CECC en anglais), ont entamé des actions de protestation le mardi 18 septembre contre leurs conditions de détention. Les détenus ont récemment été transférés d’autres prisons dans la grande région de Toronto, à environs deux heures plus loin, et ont donc perdu le contact avec leurs familles et leur soutien légal. Les conditions à Lindsay sont considérablement pires pour eux qu’avant. Quelques prisonniers ont entamé une grève de la faim mercredi mais elle est maintenant terminée.

Les détenus en grève demandent de les soutenir en écrivant au Superintendent Neil Neville (lire plus à son sujet plus bas) et aux autorités d’immigration pour appuyer leurs revendications.

APPELEZ AU: 705-328-6009

Les détenus en grève revendiquent :
-Un meilleur accès aux soins médicaux et aux travailleurs sociaux
-Des appels téléphoniques plus abordables et l’accès à des cartes d’appel internationales (plusieurs ont des familles à l’étranger)
-L’accès à une meilleure nourriture, comme la nourriture dans les sections non-immigrantes
-La fin des couvre-feux constants
-Garder le program de cantine amélioré
-Un meilleur accès à l’aide juridique et aux services légaux

De plus, les détenus exigent à l’Agences des Services Frontaliers du Canada (ASFC) d’accepter des demandes spécifiques de déplacer des individus vers des centres plus proches de leurs familles, services légaux et services sociaux.

Certains des prisonniers sont détenus à long-terme, des gens que les autorités d’immigration ne peuvent pas déporter mais ne veulent pas libérer. D’autres ont été désignés comme à « sécurité élevée », mais cela peut inclure jusque des arrestations qui n’ont pas mené à des accusations. Plusieurs personnes sont détenus depuis plus de 7 ans parce que le Canada, contrairement aux États-Unis et à l’Angleterre, n’a pas de limite sur la durée qu’une personne peut être détenue avant d’être déportée.


A propos du Superintendent Neil Neville: Neville était responsable du Centre de Détention Elgin-Middlesex (EMDC) en 2009, quand deux détenus sont décédés. Il a quitté EMDC en mai 2011 et a occupé plusieurs fonctions dans la bureaucratie provinciale avant de devenir responsable de Lindsay. Des enquêtes sur les morts de 2009 ont dépaint un EMDC surpeuplé, avec un manque de personnel, des soins médicaux et une surveillance des détenus inadéquats.
A propos de la détention des immigrantEs au Canada: Entre 2004 et 2011, 82 000 personnes ont été détenues dans les prisons pour immigrants. Au moins 25 000 personnes de plus ont été détenues depuis 2011. En 2012, 289 des détenus étaients des enfants, dont plusieurs avaient moins de 10 ans. Il y a trois centres de détention pour les immigrantEs au Canada : à Toronto, à Laval et à Vancouver. Le centre de Kingston, construit spécialement pour les détenus des certificats de sécurité, connu comme « Guantanamo Nord », a été fermé discrètement en 2011. Le reste des détenus, environs 35% du total, sont détenus dans des prisons provinciales à sécurité maximale, certains ne peuvent quitter leurs cellules durant 18 heures par jour. 53 775 000$ d’argent public sont dépensés pour détenir des immigrants chaque année, soit 239$ par jour. Comparativement, une unité de logement social coûte moins de 31$ par jour. Le coût total de la détention des immigrants, dont la surveillance et la supervision des immigrants, en particuliers des détenus des certificats de sécurité et de ceux qui ne sont pas en détention, est bien plus élevé. Les centres de détention des immigrants sont une entreprise de 50 millions de dollars, menée en partenariat avec des compagnies privées comme G4S, Garda et Corbel Management Corporation. Juste à Toronto, G4S et Corbel ont été payés 19$ millions entre 2004 et 2008. Garda a obtenu le contrat pour le Centre de Détention de l’Immigration de Laval. Pour plus d’infos :

La liberté de se déplacer, rentrer, rester :Durant les dix dernières années, le nombre de personnes sans statut complet (les demandeurs du statut de réfugié, travailleurs et travailleuses temporaires, etc.) a augmenté de 60% mais les visas de résidents permanents sont demeurés constants. Les taux d’accueil des réfugiés sont des moins de 25%. Trop de migrantEs se font refuser le plein statut et sont forcés de vivre ici sans papiers, services, justice ni dignité. Des migrantEs sans statut vivent dans la peur quotidienne de la détention et de la déportation. Les personnes arrêtées sont détenues dans des cages dans des conditions brutales et attendent d’être déportés de force. Ce système est cassé. Nous insistons : Personne n’est illégal! Arrêtons la détention d’immigrantEs! Liberté pour tous les prisonnieres!

Deported but Determined: DREAMer Raises Funds for London Grad School

Photo courtesy of Nancy Landa

by Aura Bogado

Sourced from Mundo Citizen and Published Wednesday, August 14 2013, 7:00 AM in

Nancy Landa arrived in the U.S. with her parents when she was 9 years old. She graduated high school with honors and was in the top three percent of her graduating class. Because she didn’t have a greencard she worked to pay for college. She also rode the bus for four hours round-trip each school day from her South Los Angeles home in South Los Angeles to California State University at Northridge. Before graduating with honors with a BS in information systems degree, she was active on campus and was even class president.

When Landa started college in 1998, there was no such thing as the DREAM Act, which would allow certain people who arrived to the U.S. as minors a pathway to citizenship. Although some version of the DREAM Act has existed in Congress for more than 10 years, it has never been passed—yet those people who might benefit from the legislation have claimed the word DREAMer for themselves. Since the DREAM Act was introduced during the time she was in college, Landa considers herself a first generation DREAMer. She graduated in 2004, and worked at Los Angeles area non-profits and continued to try to adjust her immigration status.

Landa says that because a notary missed key deadlines on their political asylum applications her whole family became ineligible for authorization to remain in the U.S. She hoped that immigration reform would provide some kind of relief, but, just like the DREAM Act, it never came about. Immigration officials ordered the entire family’s removal.

Landa was deported from the only real home she ever knew on September 1, 2009; her mother, father and brother were deported one month later. None of the four were high priority immigrants who were accused of any crimes. As one of the two million immigrants deported under the Obama administration, says she identifies with the Dream 9, and even signed a letter urging the president to release them from detention.”[I] thought it was important to share a deportee’s perspective on Dream 9,” she explains.

Landa tried to continue her education in Mexico, but her country of birth doesn’t recognize her degree. So she got creative. She decided that if the United States and Mexico wouldn’t support her ambition to earn another degree, she would look for a third country that would. Her perseverance paid off, because she was accepted to the Masters in Global Migration program at the University College London Department of Geography.

But there’s a glitch. Although Landa has worked to cover almost all her costs to begin her studies this fall, she’s about $8,000 short. So she’s started a fundraising effort to help get her to London to finally get that master’s degree. “I arrive to London on September 20 so that doesn’t give me a lot of time,” she says by phone from Tijuana, Mexico.

Once she graduates, Landa hopes to find a job working on international migration issues—something it seems she’s a bit of an expert on, already. “I want to work for a non-profit, an international group like the UN, or any non-governmental organization related to refugees or migrants. I’d like to help,” she says.

What do you think of Nancy Landa’s story?