Category Archives: Migration Headlines

Mix of fear and hope for Somali refugees in Kenya looking to return home

By Bosire Boniface in Garissa

March 11, 2014. From SabahiOnline

While some Somalis residing in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex are taking stock of the living conditions back home before their eventual journey back, others are not ready to return and fear what might happen if the camps are closed prematurely.Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee complex in attend the celebrations to mark World Refugee Day on June 20, 2012. [Abdullahi Mire/AFP]

To better understand refugees’ mixed sentiment on the repatriation process, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), launched on February 25th a comprehensive survey of Somali refugees living in Dadaab camps.

The Return Intention Survey will be conducted over four months, and the results of the survey will be taken into consideration in the planning process for the voluntary repatriation of refugee families, according to IOM.

“In the next two months, 50 enumerators trained by IOM will be in the field to interview a sample of 7,453 households, representing 27 groups of refugees from nine different regions in Somalia, who arrived in three phases to Dadaab,” IOM said in a statement.

The survey will attempt to gather information a host of data points on the refugees, including how they used to earn a living, what property claims they may have, what forced the families to move from Somalia, current living conditions, skills and occupation, why they may choose to return, and their expectations with regard to access to services, security, employment and housing in Somalia, IOM said.

IOM and UNHCR agreed to carry out the survey to ensure the refugees’ views and concerns are heard and taken into consideration, under the framework of a tripartite agreement signed last November between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR.

Hesitation and hope

To inform the public about the correct objectives of the survey, the organisations launched a communications campaign that included a press conference in Dadaab, public service announcements on radio and extensive meetings with refugee leaders.

But despite those efforts, the survey has been greeted with little or no enthusiasm, according to Halima Hussein Abdille, 35, a refugee in Dadaab’s Kambioos camp.

“I am certain that most of the refugees are reluctant to return in Somalia,” she told Sabahi. “But I doubt our voice will sway the Kenyan government which appears decided that we refugees should leave Kenya.”

Abdille, who arrived in the camps in 2007 from Bardhere in Gedo region, said she is not ready to return back home “any time soon” and is braced for forceful evictions from the camps.

“Al-Shabaab killed my cousin in January 2014 accusing him of not being cooperative with their demands. They have killed elderly and clerics there [recently]. How can one return to such a place?” she said.

“There have been sustained calls from Kenyan government officials to close the camps,” she said. “In case we are asked to leave the camps, our options will be limited regardless of international laws protecting the refugees.”

Still, Abdille said she knows of at least ten refugee families who left the camp for Somalia during the month of February.

“They left under their own means. Some left with donkey carts carrying their belongings while others left on hired vehicles,” she said.

Adan Hussein Ibrahim, 35, a refugee in Ifo II camp, was more optimistic about his future in Somalia and said he plans to return before the end of March.

“I came to Kenya on November 3, 2010, with my wife and three children,” he told Sabahi. “Since then, I have not been registered. We have been surviving on the goodwill of relatives in the camp who share with us their meagre food rations.”

Ibrahim said dozens of families who arrived in Kenya at the end of 2010 had already left.

He said a group of his relatives have been checking to see if his hometown of Bulo Marer in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region is suitable for resettlement.

“In the long run, my family and I will find our way to Hargeisa. I hope to settle and start business there,” he said, adding that he was inspired to return to his home country by those still in Somalia living and working under volatile situations.

Despite reports of al-Shabaab kidnappings, harassment, extortion, stealing livestock and imposing fines, many of the refugees are keen to return or have returned already, he said.

Beginning the journey home

Dadaab District Officer Bernard ole Kipury said security forces on patrol along the Kenya-Somalia border encounter far more groups of Somalis leaving Kenya than entering.

“On questioning those leaving, they tell the security officers that they are going back home to rebuild their lives,” he told Sabahi. “They are always in groups of not less than ten people including children and mothers.”

During security searches, the refugees are mostly found in possession of personal belongings, bedding and a little food and water for the journey back home, he said.

“Those coming [into Kenya] tell security officers they were in the camps [previously],” Kipury said. “Others say they are visiting their relatives.”

He said security in the camps has improved over the past two months, however, security forces remain on alert “because the lack of activities by al-Shabaab group has previously proved to be a tactic to distract alertness before an attack”.

Kipury said it was difficult to know exactly the number of refugees who have left the camps so far.

But on February 19th, during a press conference with Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto said that between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees had already travelled to Somalia voluntarily, adding that it may take two years to repatriate Somalis from Dadaab.

Raouf Mazou, UNHCR representative in Kenya, said the return of the refugees would be carried out on a voluntary basis only, as per the tripartite agreement signed between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR, and that the process would take at least 10 years to conclude.

Kenyan Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Joseph ole Lenku, however, maintains that it is possible to close the camp under a year.

“What is required in every situation is a will and commitment,” he told Sabahi. “There are organisations and individuals who want to instil the notion that Somalia is not safe for returning refugees. They are instilling fear instead of hope.”

“It will defeat logic if the refugees do not return to areas liberated by Somalia and African Union as soon as today,” he said.

As repatriation becomes more real for Somali refugees in Dadaab, what do you think is the role of the Return Intention Survey? Why do you think there is a lack of enthusiasm for taking part in this survey? Do let us know your thoughts!

Mining-Induced Displacement and Resettlement: Social Problem and Human Rights Issue (A Global Perspective)

Not much has been written on Mining- Induced Displacement, but as the extraction industry grows globally it becomes imperative to examine what this means for those who are made to leave their homes.

Bogumil Terminski has written about this in an article titled ” MINING-INDUCED DISPLACEMENT AND RESETTLEMENT: SOCIAL PROBLEM AND HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE (A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE)” and that can be accessed here  and downloaded here Mining-Induced Displacement– Terminski

The abstract states:

The object of this paper is to present mining-induced displacement and resettlement (MIDR) as a highly diverse global socioeconomic issue occurring in all regions of the world, as a human rights issue, and as a source of challenges to public international law and and institutions providing humanitarian assistance. Development-induced displacement is primarily an socioeconomic issue associated with loss or significant reduction of access to basic resources on which communities depend. Physical abandonment of the existing residence shall therefore secondary to the loss of access to material resources such as land, pastures, forests and clean water as well as intangible resources such as socio-economic ties. More in-depth analysis has been preceded by an introduction which draws attention to the specific nature of MIDR as one of the categories of internal displacement. Mining-induced displacement is currently not a statistically significant category of development-induced displacement and resettlement (DIDR). Nevertheless, the social costs of exploitation are great, and that is why the topic is worthy of a wider and more profound scientific analysis. The first displacement caused by mining dates back to the late nineteenth century. As pointed out by Walter Fernandes, in India alone, mining has led to the displacement of more than 1,5 million people over the last fifty years (particularly in Jharkhand region). Other sources estimated the scale of mining-caused displacement in India at more than 2,55 million people between 1950 and 1990. Contrary to the opinions of some specialists, the problem of mining-induced displacement and resettlement is a global problem, occurring on all continents. Countries with particularly large-scale MIDR include: India, China, many African countries (e.g. Ghana, Mali, Zimbabwe) and even Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The problem of compulsory resettlement is also a consequence of open pit coal mining in European countries like Germany and Poland. Although mining-induced displacement is a global phenomenon, problems experienced by the displacees in many parts of the world differ greatly. The largest portion of the displacement is caused by open-pit mining (associated with the extraction of gold, copper, iron, lignite, and diamonds).

What are your thoughts on Mining- Induced Displacement? Do let us know!

South Sudan conflict: 3.7m in ‘need of food’, says UN

South Sudanese refugees cook on an open fire at a camp run by the Sudanese Red CrescentA third of South Sudan’s population is now in “urgent need” of food, the UN says

The United Nations has said it estimates 3.7 million people are in acute need of food in South Sudan as a result of the civil conflict there.

The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in South Sudan Toby Lanzer told the BBC $1.3bn (£790m) was needed to deal with the crisis.

Violence broke out in South Sudan on 15 December, starting as violence between rival army factions.

It has now killed thousands of people and displaced around 860,000.

Mr Lanzer said it had also had profound effects on the country’s economy. “Largely because markets have been disrupted, people have been living under extreme duress, people aren’t able to move as they normally would,” he said.

“Nobody in mid-December… could have foreseen the scale of the emergency that now faces us. We are doing everything we can to avoid a catastrophe,” he added.

The number of those needing food represented around a third of South Sudan’s population, he said.

He said that in the city of Malakal, some civilians had stormed a warehouse where aid was being kept and “helped themselves”.

“Most of the looting was done by people who were so desperate for the aid that they simply couldn’t wait,” he said.

He said over that of 863,000 people who have been displaced; 740,000 of them are still in South Sudan and the others have left for neighbouring countries.

Fighting continues

A fragile ceasefire was agreed last week between the two sides ahead of a second round of peace talks due to start on 7 February.

However, earlier this week, the medical charity MSF says 240 of its staff in South Sudan were forced to flee into the bush because of continuing insecurity.

MSF said the workers were among thousands of people trying to escape fighting in Unity State between government forces and rebels.

The fighting was sparked by a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar on 15 December.

Although both men have supporters from across South Sudan’s ethnic divides, fighting has often been communal, with rebels targeting members of Mr Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and government soldiers attacking Nuers, the group from which Mr Machar hails.

A ceasefire was agreed after talks between the two but fighting has continued in some areas and correspondents say it could be further jeopardised by treason charges against some of Mr Machar’s allies over what authorities say was a “coup attempt” in December.

Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians’ political bases are often ethnic.
Accessed originally from the BBC here

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



Horn migrants risk new routes to reach Europe

By Kristy Siegfried 

Migrants form queues to be counted by their smuggler prior to boarding a boat to Yemen


  • More migrants heading to Europe
  • Saudi Arabia and Israel get tough
  • Smugglers’ new routes through Sahara
  • The ‘balloon effect’

JOHANNESBURG, 11 November 2013 (IRIN) – The shipwreck that claimed the lives of more than 350 mainly Eritrean asylum seekers off the Italian island of Lampedusa last month has focused Europe’s obsession with irregular migration on the area of the Mediterranean separating southern Italy and Malta from North Africa. But this treacherous stretch of sea represents only the final leg of a lengthy journey filled with hazards.

The number of migrants attempting the so-called Central Mediterranean route has doubled in the last year, to over 30,000 by the end of September. The majority of boats now depart from Libya, a country where smugglers operate with relative ease thanks to porous borders and the lack of an effective police force or army under the transitional government.

Coming from the Horn

Syrians fleeing the war in their country make up a significant portion of the current migrant influx, accounting for 7,500 of the 26,100 who arrived in Sicily from Libya by the end of September, according the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). But a further 7,500 came from Eritrea and 3,000 from Somalia, compared to 1,890 Eritreans and 3,400 Somalis who used the same route through all of 2012.

Katrine Camilleri of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta, a tiny southern European country that has received nearly 1,700 migrants and asylum seekers so far this year, told IRIN that “over the last two years, the proportion of Somalis and Eritreans has increased.”

The question of why more Eritreans and Somalis are trying to reach Europe is one that researchers are only beginning to try to answer, but changes in migration policy in faraway Saudi Arabia and Israel offer some important clues.

Until last year, the majority of migrants and asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa region – which encompasses Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti – headed either for the Gulf States by way of Yemen or to Israel by way of Sudan and Egypt.

This year, both of these routes were virtually cut off. Saudi Arabia has resumed construction of a 1,800km fence along its border with Yemen and deported thousands of undocumented migrant workers. According to Chris Horwood of the Nairobi-based Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS), Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen is now “completely sealed” and migrants are unable to get through. Although Ethiopians and Somalis continue to arrive in Yemen, their numbers have dropped from over 107,000 in 2012 to 58,000 by the end of September this year.

At the beginning of 2013, Israel completed its own fence along the border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, shortly after a law allowing it to detain so-called “infiltrators” for up to three years came into effect. Prior to these measures, around 1,000 asylum seekers, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, were reaching Israel every month. By contrast, during the first nine months of 2013, only 36 individuals crossed the border, according to UNHCR Tel-Aviv.

“It would make sense that two major borders being closed – and the demand from migrants to move being the same as it was – that they will look for alternative routes,” said Horwood.

A perilous journey

Tesfamihret Sheshy*, a 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker who spoke to IRIN over the phone from Malta, left his country in February 2012 after being forced to take up a teaching post as part of his national service. He was not trained as a teacher, received no salary and was posted far from his family home. “There was no limit of years you have to be there,” he explained. “You can’t help yourself, your family or the economy of your country.”

After a brief spell at Shagarag refugee camp in eastern Sudan, a “deadly” place where abductions of refugees by human traffickers were a common occurrence, Sheshy paid smugglers to take him to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. But after a year of dodging authorities and being unable to support himself, he decided to try to reach Europe via Libya. “I knew life there [in Libya] was very difficult, but I had no choice,” he said. “Going out of Eritrea, it’s not like you have a preference [about where you’re going]; you get out of your house because it’s on fire and you’re just looking for people who can welcome you.

“People were travelling to Israel because it was the only way, and now they’re travelling to Europe because it’s the only way.”

After paying another smuggler, Sheshy spent 10 days crossing the Sahara desert with a group of 25 other migrants, all of them Eritrean. “It was very horrible. In the desert, there was no water and the smugglers were threatening us. Fortunately, we survived.”

Some are less fortunate. Recently, the bodies of 92 migrants who had been trying to reach Algeria were found in northern Niger. They had died of thirst after the two trucks carrying them broke down and their smugglers abandoned them.

After entering Libya and being detained by a militia in Benghazi for several days, Sheshy escaped and made his way to Tripoli, the capital. There, he contacted a Libyan smuggler who promised to transport him to Europe. Instead, the man locked him in a warehouse with 300 other migrants. He remained there for two months before his relatives could send the US$1,600 that the smuggler demanded for his release and passage to Europe.

On their own

Melissa Phillips, a senior programme officer with the Danish Refugee Council in Tripoli, said that the absence of international or government agencies in southern Libya has made it impossible to track the numbers of migrants entering the country. “The only thing we have at the moment is the number of boats departing from Libya,” she told IRIN.

According to UNHCR, 4,619 migrants left Libya for Europe in September alone, compared to 775 during the same month last year.

Phillips added that Libya has long been a destination for economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa looking for work. But for asylum seekers looking for protection, Libya’s lack of a refugee law and practice of detaining migrants means it is rarely a final destination. “Those groups [transiting through Libya] would include Eritreans, Somalis, some Ethiopians and Syrians,” she said.

Fearing arrest, smugglers rarely accompany migrants on sea crossings, despite charging upwards of $1,500 for passage on over-crowded, often unseaworthy, vessels. “Someone is given instructions on how to navigate. People will call that person the captain, but that person is a fellow migrant who’s suddenly been given a GPS [global positioning system],” explained Phillips. “If anything adverse happens [at sea], they will go off course.”

This was the experience of Ahmed Omar Isaak, a 31-year-old Somali refugee who also described his journey to IRIN over the phone from Malta. “We were 55 Somalis in one inflatable boat. They just gave us a compass and a GPS and told us which direction to go, and then they put us in the sea and told us to go,” he said.

Sheshy travelled with 300 others in a fishing boat that broke down after three days at sea with no food or water. They were rescued by Italian and Maltese coast guards and taken to Malta, where Sheshy has spent the past three months in a refugee reception centre while his asylum application is processed.

“Playing into the hands of human traffickers”

The Danish Refugee Council and RMMS are about to embark on a study that will look at migration flows from the Horn of Africa, through Sudan to Libya, and onward to Europe. The research aims to learn more about the routes and methods of travel this group of migrants and asylum seekers are using and the dangers they face along the way.

What is already clear, however, is that making it more difficult for asylum seekers to use one route to safety merely forces them to use other, often more dangerous, routes. Similar patterns are playing out all over the world, but particularly on the frontiers of Europe, where increasing numbers of migrants and asylum seekers are now entering the European Union via Bulgaria and other Balkan countries, following increased border controls in Greece, previously the most popular entry point.

“It’s like squeezing a balloon,” said Edwards of UNHCR. “The problem pops up somewhere else, and that’s exactly why we’ve been arguing strongly that you can only really work to reduce the toll in lives if you approach it holistically. If you approach it from a deterrent point of view, you’re playing into the hands of human traffickers.”

Phillips of the Danish Refugee Council pointed out that not only do deterrents like fences shift the routes taken by migrants, they also set precedent for transit countries like Libya that are looking for examples to model their migration policies on.

“It’s not just Israel and Saudi Arabia. It’s the actions of European countries, who are talking about greater use of sea patrols and Frontex [the EU’s border security agency] but not about how [they] can share this responsibility. So there are very few good examples that Libya can look to about how to manage this.”

The plight of refugees

War and political turmoil force thousands to leave their homelands, but why do so many risk it all in search of asylum?

Everyday war, poverty and political unrest force thousands of people to leave their homelands in search of a better life.

The United Nations says that there are now more refugees than at any time since 1994. And many do not always reach their final destinations.

One popular migrant route from Africa to Europe is via Italy’s Lampedusa island. Located southwest of Sicily, the island is actually closer to Africa – just over 100km from the coast of Tunisia. For years it has been a stepping stone for undocumented migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

More than 8,000 refugees arrived on Lampedusa in the first nine months of this year, but on October 3, more than 300 Eritrean and Somali asylum seekers drowned when their fishing boat sank off the Italian island.

Despite huge risks, refugees continue to make the dangerous crossing from North Africa to Europe on an almost daily basis.

Most refugees come from Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia. Among the main causes of global migration are war, famine and political turmoil.

Most migrant arrivals by boat to the European Union land in southern EU countries, like Italy and Malta, which have appealed for more support and resources to deal with the influx.

This has prompted the European Commission to press for greater resources to survey and patrol sea routes; the opening of more channels of regular migration; increased cooperation with countries of origin and transit, especially Libya; and spreading migrants more evenly across the EU.

“We are verging on the unsustainable now. Honestly, something needs to be done,” Malta’s Primer Minister Joseph Muscat said.

“First of all the people who get their application refused need to go back, I do believe that we need to convey the message that there should be legal ways in which to reach Europe and that Europe is not the promised land of milk and honey. It’s a place where there are problems and people should not expect a solution to all their woes, just like that, overnight.”

Indonesia is a popular transit point for asylum seekers going to Australia, but 36 people died in September when their Australia-bound boat sank off Indonesia’s coast. All the victims of that accident were from the Middle East.

Australia’s government sends undocumented migrants to processing centres in the Pacific Islands. Prime Minister Tony Abbott promises to turn back any boats with refugees, and his tough immigration policies helped his party win the country’s recent elections.

Since 2007, around 45,000 people have arrived in Australia, but the number of asylum seekers arriving by boat has fallen since the new policy was adopted.

So, why do so many people risk it all to cross into other countries? And what is being done to protect them?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, is joined by guests: Mikael Ribenveek, the deputy director general of the Swedish Migration Board; Jamal Osman, a former refugee from Somalia who has settled in the UK; and Volker Turk, the director of international protection with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“As you know, human smuggling and trafficking is a big business, is organised crime, but … unfortunately in many parts of the world legal entry for refugees is not possible, so you would as a result see an increase in so-called irregular migration … which is sometimes for them the only way to escape and to seek safety. This is very unfortunate but this is how it is , I am afraid to say.”

– Volker Turk, the director of international protection with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Al Jazeera