Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Jan 2018 20:51:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Migrants Without Shoeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/migrants-without-shoes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-without-shoes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/migrants-without-shoes/#respond Tue, 23 Jan 2018 20:51:08 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153988 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2013. It is past midnight. The aircraft come in from Saudi Arabia carrying workers who had been hastily ejected. They had gone from Ethiopia to work in a variety of jobs in a Kingdom flush with oil wealth. It is December 2013. Ethiopian migrant workers descend from the aircraft. They carry plastic […]

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Migrant worker Sahanaz Parben Skypes with her son in Bangladesh. Credit: Shahidul Alam/IPS

Migrant worker Sahanaz Parben Skypes with her son in Bangladesh. Credit: Shahidul Alam/IPS

By Kitty Stapp
DHAKA, Jan 23 2018 (IPS)

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 2013.

It is past midnight. The aircraft come in from Saudi Arabia carrying workers who had been hastily ejected. They had gone from Ethiopia to work in a variety of jobs in a Kingdom flush with oil wealth. It is December 2013. Ethiopian migrant workers descend from the aircraft. They carry plastic bags that hold their belongings. There are few signs that they have benefitted from their hard labor in Saudi Arabia. A few of the migrants walk down without shoes. The air is chilly. They must be cold in their shirts and pants, their feet on the hard ground.

What was the reason for their expulsion? The Saudi authorities said that these were migrants who came into the country without papers. They had crossed the dangerous Gulf of Aden in rickety boats. Saudi Arabia welcomes these migrants, even those without documents, largely because they – under duress – offer their services at very low rates of pay. At punctual intervals, the Saudi government goes after these undocumented workers, arresting them in public, throwing them in deportation camps in Riyadh and then shipping them home.

That was in 2013. Between June of 2017 and the end of the year the Saudi authorities detained 250,000 foreigners and sent home 96,000 Ethiopians. When the Saudi government feels particularly vicious, it carts the Ethiopians to the Saudi-Yemen border and merely leaves them on the Yemeni side. Yemen, still bombed almost daily by Saudi Arabia, is hardly the place to welcome desperate Ethiopians.

The periodic cycle of allowing undocumented workers into the country and then humiliating them by this kind of public ejection maintains the workers in fear and allows the human traffickers and the employers to keep wages as low as possible. There is no one to complain to.

Why do the Ethiopians keep returning to Saudi Arabia? Ethiopia is a country in dire economic distress. Six to nine million Ethiopians have needed food aid of one kind or another last year, as severe drought and poverty have combined to create a near famine situation. Southeastern Ethiopia, from where many of the migrant workers come, has seen the drought destroy livestock herds and reduce crop production.

A construction site in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, where Abul Hossain works. Credit: Shahidul Alam/IPS

A construction site in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, where Abul Hossain works. Credit: Shahidul Alam/IPS

It is in this same area that Ethiopia hosts 894,000 refugees from Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. Those refugees come for reasons of hunger and conflict. Last year alone, 106,000 refugees entered Ethiopia, most of them from South Sudan (whose citizens now number 420,000 in Ethiopia). A country that hosts almost a million refugees – itself wracked by distress – sends perhaps a million to the Arabian Peninsula (there are half a million in Saudi Arabia itself). It is a cycle of refugees that now defines the planet.

I can’t get the lack of shoes out of my mind. Ethiopian workers say that they are mistreated routinely in Saudi Arabia – sexual violence against domestic workers, beatings of all workers, harassment by the police. This has become normal. It is the way we live now.

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2018.

While in Dhaka, I visited the Drik Gallery III, where I saw the exhibition of photographs taken by Shahidul Alam of Bangladeshi migrants to Malaysia. The pictures are vivid illustrations of the hope in the eyes of the migrants and the great sense of disappointment, as life does not turn out as it was promised for most of them. Alam’s photography shines – his own personal compassion draws out emotions of great sincerity from the men and women he photographs.

Alam gave me his book – The Best Years of My Life – which collects the pictures that I saw in the gallery, with a moving text that he wrote to accompany his photographs. The book traces the journey of Bangladeshi migrants – chasing a dream – to Malaysia’s factories and fields, where they work for low wages, get cheated by traffickers, by officials and by their peers. The lure of savings to help their families at home leads the workers to sacrifice their own lives. Sahanaz Parben’s son (age 11) calls her aunty; he barely knows her. Babu Biswas’s children have seen him briefly three times over the past decade. “They are doing well,” he says.

The legal status of these migrants is often unclear. It is precisely their tenuous legal status that forces them to bid down the rate of wages. But the money of the ‘illegal’ migrant is not illegal. It is welcomed into Bangladesh. There are roughly 9 million Bangladeshi migrants (according to the World Bank). They send home 15 billion dollars. Based on a five-year average, this amounts to 10% of Bangladesh’s Gross Domestic Product.

This is not as high a percentage as that of Liberia, where more than a quarter of its GDP comes from remittances from migrant workers. These economies would crumble without the small amounts of money from millions of workers that adds up to large amounts of foreign exchange for these countries. It is worth noting that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Bangladesh is merely 0.9% of its GDP. The remittance of migrant workers is of far greater economic value than the FDI from foreign banks and corporations.

And yet, as Alam finds, the government of Bangladesh is cavalier towards the migrant. The High Commissioner Mohammed Hafiz seems a nice enough man. But he has essentially given up on his duties. “What can I do?” he asks.

The activists have it correctly. Parimala Narayanasamy of Coordination of Action Research on AID and Mobility (CARAM) tells Alam that “sending governments should come out strong to say that if any country needed workers, then they – the sending countries – should set the terms and conditions.” This is exactly what is not done, neither by the governments of Bangladesh nor of Ethiopia.

They treat the foreign bankers and corporate executives like heroes. They treat their own nationals that send in far greater amounts of money like criminals.

At Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, I charge my phone. Two men come and ask to use my charger. They are off to the Gulf. I don’t have a charger that fits their phone. A woman comes to me, hands me her boarding pass and asks me when her flight gets into Abu Dhabi. She is to be picked up by her employer. The boarding pass does not have the time of arrival. She looks in her bag for her ticket. There is so little there. One of the men asks her if she has a charger. She does not. They smile at each other. They have so much in common. They will find a way to help each other. It is the way of these workers. They have themselves and their families. Everyone sees them as an inconvenience.

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 4,485 in 2018; Deaths Reach 201http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-4485-2018-deaths-reach-201/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-4485-2018-deaths-reach-201 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-4485-2018-deaths-reach-201/#respond Tue, 23 Jan 2018 17:27:24 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153985 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 4,485 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 21 January. This compares with 3,335 coming ashore during a similar period in 2017. Italy accounts for approximately 60 per cent of the total, with the remainder split between Spain (19 per cent) and Greece (20 per cent). IOM […]

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By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Jan 23 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 4,485 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 21 January. This compares with 3,335 coming ashore during a similar period in 2017. Italy accounts for approximately 60 per cent of the total, with the remainder split between Spain (19 per cent) and Greece (20 per cent).

IOM Italy’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Monday (22/01) that a total of 2,749 migrants or refugees have arrived in Italy by sea this month, according to official Italian Ministry of Interior figures. That’s about a 15 per cent increase over the same period in January 2017, at the start of a late winter flow when arrivals quickly outpaced the totals from previous winters (see chart below).

IOM Athens’ Kelly Namia reported Monday that over four days, 17-20 January, the Hellenic Coast Guard reported one incident requiring search and rescue operations off the island of Lesvos. The Coast Guard rescued 32 migrants and transferred them to the respective island. Fewer than 50 migrants arrived during those days.

Greece arrivals this year continue a trend that began in 2017, when migrant arrivals along the Mediterranean Sea’s Eastern routes hit their lowest levels in four years (see chart below).

IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reported Monday total land and see arrivals of irregular migrants through the month’s first three weeks have topped 1,000, including 216 border crossings at the African enclave of Melilla.

In Tunis, IOM’s Olivia Headon reported that from 7 January through 17 January, coastal authorities in Libya have intercepted or rescued 1,497 migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea. Included in that figure were 81 children. IOM Libya also learned yesterday that fishermen near Qarapoli retrieved the remains of an African man. Authorities said the man’s body was tangled in fishing nets and that this was the second such incident in recent days.

Since the last IOM report on Friday (19/01) the organization’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) added two more deaths in the Mediterranean, both on the Western route linking Africa to Spain. Two men, of Sub-Saharan origin, were pulled from the water 10 miles west of the Island of Alboran on Saturday, (20/01) after their boat sank while trying to reach Spain, according to the Spanish maritime rescue service. Thirty-four others were rescued and brought to Almería, Spain.

Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) has recorded the deaths of 310 people during migration in 2018, many of those recorded at sea (see chart below).

Over the weekend, local authorities in Curaçao reported that human remains were found on the northeast shore of the island that could be connected to the shipwreck of 10 January, in which five Venezuelan migrants lost their lives. Venezuelan civil protection officials said they have accounted for 16 survivors of the voyage which may have had as many as 34 people on board when their vessel departed South America, all believed to be Venezuelan. An estimated 13 migrants remain missing.

On the US/Mexico border, winter cold continues to take its toll. The remains of five migrants who appeared to have died from hypothermia were recovered by authorities in Brooks County, Texas, on 21 January.

In the Middle East last week, 16 Syrian refugees lost their lives near the Masna’a border crossing in eastern Lebanon during a winter storm. Local authorities confirmed that 14 bodies (six women, two children and six men) were retrieved on Friday (19/01), while the bodies of a 30-year-old woman and a 3-year-old girl were found on Sunday, 21 January.

In Central Asia, 52 Uzbek migrant workers died last week in a bus fire in the Aktobe region in Kazakhstan. The bus was traveling along a road frequently used by migrant workers heading to the Russian border. Five people managed to escape the burning vehicle and survive the fire.

Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on missing migrants are collected, click here.

Latest Mediterranean Update infographic: https://missingmigrants.iom.int/pdf?url=https://missingmigrants.iom.int/…
For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit: http://migration.iom.int/europe
Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project at: http://missingmigrants.iom.int

For more information, please contact:
Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: jmillman@iom.int
Mircea Mocanu, IOM Romania, Tel: +40212115657, Email: mmocanu@iom.int
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail: dtsagalas@iom.int
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int
Hicham Hasnaoui, IOM Morocco, Tel: + 212 5 37 65 28 81, Email: hhasnaoui@iom.int
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email: knamia@iom.int
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Berlin, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email: jblack@iom.int
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email: chpetre@iom.int
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email: adodevska@iom.int
Myriam Chabbi, IOM Tunisia, Tel: +216 71 860 312 ext. 109, Mobile: +216 28 78 78 05, Email: mchabbi@iom.int

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Argentina Continues to Seek Truth and Justice, Despite the Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/argentina-continues-seek-truth-justice-despite-hurdles/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 22:56:21 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153964 Thirty-four years after Argentina’s return to democracy, more than 500 cases involving human rights abuses committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship are making their way through the courts. This high number not only shows that the process of truth and justice is ongoing, but also reflects the delays and the slow process of justice. Since […]

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Outside the courtroom in the city of Buenos Aires, the relatives of victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists watched on a big screen the late November sentencing in the trial for the crimes committed during the de facto regime at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA). In the trial, which lasted five years, 29 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Credit: Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)

Outside the courtroom in the city of Buenos Aires, the relatives of victims of the dictatorship and human rights activists watched on a big screen the late November sentencing in the trial for the crimes committed during the de facto regime at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA). In the trial, which lasted five years, 29 people were sentenced to life imprisonment. Credit: Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS)

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 21 2018 (IPS)

Thirty-four years after Argentina’s return to democracy, more than 500 cases involving human rights abuses committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship are making their way through the courts. This high number not only shows that the process of truth and justice is ongoing, but also reflects the delays and the slow process of justice.

Since the human rights trials got underway again in 2003, after amnesty laws were overturned, 200 sentences have been handed down, but 140 of them have been appealed.

This was revealed by a December 2017 report by the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Humanity, which stated that 856 people have been convicted and 110 acquitted.

At the same time, there are another 393 ongoing cases, but 247 are still in the initial stage of investigation of the judicial process, which precedes the oral and public trial.

“The trials for the crimes committed in Argentina’s 1976-1983 dictatorship have been an example for all of humanity, because there has no been no other similar case in the world. And it is very positive that the State is transmitting today the message that the trials are continuing,” Santiago Cantón, former executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), told IPS.Since President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015, "the dismemberment or cutting of research areas and the emptying of prosecutors’ offices dedicated to these cases has been noted with concern." -- Daniel Feierstein

“However, the delays are serious, because we are talking about defendants who in most cases are over 80 years old,” said Canton, currently Secretary of Human Rights of the province of Buenos Aires, the country’s largest and most populous.

“It is important for everyone for the trials to be completed: so that the accused do not die surrounded by a mantle of doubt, and so that the victims and society as a whole see justice done,” he added.

The dictatorship was responsible for a criminal plan that included the installation of hundreds of clandestine detention, torture and extermination centres throughout the country. According to human rights organisations, 30,000 people were “disappeared” and killed.

After the return to democracy, then president Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) promoted the investigation and punishment of crimes. The culminating point was the famous trial of the military junta members, which convicted nine senior armed forces officers.

Thus, in 1985, former General Jorge Videla and former Admiral Emilio Massera, leading figures of the first stage of the dictatorship, the time of the most brutal repression, were sentenced to life in prison.

However, under pressure from the military, Congress passed the so-called Full Stop and Due Obedience laws in 1986 and 1987, which effectively put a stop to prosecution of rights abuses committed during the dictatorship. The circle was closed by then president Carlos Menem (1989-1999), who in 1990 pardoned Videla, Massera and the rest of the imprisoned junta members.

Not until 2001 did a judge declare the two laws unconstitutional, on the argument that crimes against humanity are not subject to amnesties.

That decision marked a watershed, reaffirmed in September 2003, when Congress, at the behest of then President Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007), revoked the amnesty laws.

The prosecution of “Dirty War” crimes was then resumed and the last hurdle was removed in 2005, when the Supreme Court ruled that no statute of limitations or pardon applied to crimes against humanity.

“It is very important that since 2003, 200 trials have been carried out, thanks to the effort and commitment of victims and relatives,” said Luz Palmás Zaldúa, a lawyer with the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), the organisation that pushed for the first declaration that the amnesty laws were unconstitutional, in 2001.

Palmás Zaldúa mentioned some trials in particular, such as the one involving Operation Condor, which ended in 2016 with 15 convictions, “in which it was proven that there was a plan of political repression implemented by the dictatorships in the Southern Cone of South America.”

He also highlights the trials involving abuses at the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA), the dictatorship’s largest detention and torture centre, which ended last November with life sentences for 29 people.

“The so-called death flights, where the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, for example, were thrown (alive) into the River Plate, were proven in those trials,” Palmás Zaldúa told IPS.

The lawyer, however, warned that the process of justice and memory “faces a number of difficulties, which are the responsibility of the three branches of the State.”

CELS was one of the 13 Argentine human rights organisations that denounced, in an October 2017 hearing before the IACHR in Montevideo, that the Argentine government had undermined or dismantled official bodies dedicated to reviewing dictatorship-era documents to provide evidence in the courts.

They also complained that Congress did not put into operation the bicameral commission that was to investigate economic complicities with the dictatorship, created by law in November 2015.

Since President Mauricio Macri took office in December 2015, “the dismemberment or cutting of research areas and the emptying of prosecutors’ offices dedicated to these cases has been noted with concern,” sociologist and researcher Daniel Feierstein told IPS.

In addition, “it would appear that a new judicial climate has been created which has led many courts to easily grant house arrest to those guilty of genocide, significantly increase the number of acquittals, and reject preventive detention at a time when its use is no the rise for less serious crimes,” added Feierstein.

“So the outlook is contradictory, with a process that seems to be ongoing but under changing conditions, which generate great uncertainty,” he said.

The report by the Public Prosecutor’s Office states that of the 2,979 people charged since the cases were resumed in 2003, 1,038 were detained, 1,305 were released, 37 went on the run, and 599 died – 100 after receiving a sentence and 499 while still awaiting sentencing.

A significant fact is that more than half of the prisoners (549) enjoy the benefit of house arrest, which in some cases has aroused strong social condemnation.

“Even if they go home, they are condemned by history, by society and in some cases even by their own families,” stressed Norma Ríos, leader of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH), in a dialogue with IPS.

“A few years ago, we would never have imagined all this. And perhaps the most important thing is that it has been broadly proven that we were not lying when we denounced the crimes committed by the dictatorship,” she added.

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Left Behind: Families of Migrants Wait in Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/#respond Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:48:50 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153958 Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy. Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad […]

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A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam Sarker
NANKAR, Bangladesh, Jan 20 2018 (IPS)

Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy.

Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad (Union Council) and an influential person in the community, told IPS in Mithapukur how in 2008, the army-led caretaker government demolished his son’s shop in Nankar village, along with many other shops, in a drive to push out unauthorized commercial businesses.

Nankar has a population of about 3,000 people, most of them dependent on agriculture. It is in Mithapukur Upazilla (sub-district), south of Rangpur, a northern city some 300 km from the capital of Dhaka, Bangladesh where in the commercial section of the sub-district, prices are as high as 600,000 dollars for one acre of land.

Having lost his source of income after the shop was demolished, Nayeem contacted his cousin Ahmed Mustafa in Venice, Italy who had been living there for many years. Nayeem was impressed that Ahmed earned about 1,500 Euro per month as a street vendor and decided to try his luck entering Italy. With help from Ahmed, who managed to sponsor an Italian visa for him on training in electronics, Nayeem made his way to Italy, making an initial stop in Romania.

To organize this visa and Nayeem’s air ticket, Ahmed charged approximately 15,000 dollars, which was paid by Nayeem’s father-in-law. Nayeem was barely 20 when he married Zulekha and had two children. Zulekha’s father was not cash-rich but owned some land that he agreed to sell at the urging of his daughter, his only child, to finance Nayeem’s voyage to Italy.

Nayeem left Nankar some seven years ago. His children are now 10 and 7 years old and they, along with their mother Zulekha, have not seen Nayeem since. But with the money Nayeem sends home through a local bank, Zulekha lives in a rented house in Nankar. In the meantime, Nayeem has been working as a street vendor selling trinkets in Venice. In the summers, he shifts to the beaches for the lucrative tourist season.

He has a legal visa to stay, which requires renewal every six months. But under his current status, he cannot leave Italy to see his wife, children and parents in Bangladesh as he won’t be able to enter Italy again.

Nayeem’s father Wahid says, “That’s not a problem at all. She is a good girl and she can wait a few more years for her husband.”

Zulekha might feel differently, but IPS was not able to reach her to seek her views on what this means for her future – an absentee husband with no assurance that he will be able to get permission to visit her and his children in the near future.

Wahid told IPS another story about Imran, a 34-year-old man from a neighbouring village who crossed the Mediterranean on a boat but died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival in Italy some two hand half years ago. His father Alim Uddin, 80, and mother Roushanara, 65, refuse to accept their son’s death.

IPS spoke to Alim Uddin and Roushanara at their home in Sathibari, an adjoining village of Nakar. “Can you tell me if Imran is well?” Alim Uddin asked.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 199 people have already died this year attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

In 2017, IOM reported that 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, with just under 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the rest divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported a total of 3,116 deaths in the Mediterranean last year.

Imran was the second of seven siblings – three brothers and four sisters. Agriculture was his family’s sole livelihood. He used to support his father by cultivating crops like rice, maize and potatoes on two acres of their ancestral land in the village. But the income wasn’t enough to support the family, consisting of eleven people including Imran’s wife and daughter.

In the hope of earning more money, Imran flew to Libya with a valid visa in 2007. As an unskilled labourer, he was earning about 200 dollars a month. He worked with a construction company in Tripoli for five years and saved 2,500 dollars over that period.

But Imran lost his job soon after the civil war erupted in Libya and he faced a tough situation to stay in Tripoli.

“Meanwhile, many of Imran’s colleagues left Libya for Italy by crossing the Mediterranean,” Imran’s widow Roksana told IPS.

Akbar Ali, a man from Sylhet, an eastern district of Bangladesh who lived in Libya, offered Imran a trip by sea to Italy at a cost of 1,000 dollars, said Roksana. He agreed and set out by boat in 2012 along with 400 other people from Asian and African countries.

A few days later, “I received a phone call from an unknown telephone number and someone at the other end informed me that Imran had died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival at the Italian port,” Roksana said. “He never came home, not even his dead body that we could see and bury.”

Imran and Roksana had been married for only one year before he went to Libya. She gave birth to a girl the same year he left. They named her Rebeka Begum. She is now ten years old. Rebeka doesn’t know what her father looked like.

Although a widow, Roksana did not leave her father-in-law’s house after Imran died. She said, “I could have remarried but did not do so because of my little daughter. Fortunately, my in-laws are good people. Their granddaughter is a solace for them now that their son is gone forever.”

Roksana ekes out a living laboring in the fields at Sathibari.

“I’ve no alternative to hard work in the field,” she said. She choked up when she told IPS about another relative from Nankar who after spending four days at sea, was detained by the Italian Coast Guard and was eventually moved to a camp. Later, he was able to get all his papers in order and was granted a permit to stay. He is now visiting his family near Mithapukur and making arrangements to take his wife to Italy.

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Reinstating the Death Penalty a Violation of International Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reinstating-death-penalty-violation-international-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reinstating-death-penalty-violation-international-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reinstating-death-penalty-violation-international-law/#respond Sat, 20 Jan 2018 07:09:13 +0000 Danilo Ibayan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153955 First of 2 parts

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First of 2 parts

By Danilo Ibayan
Jan 20 2018 (Manila Times)

AS a consequence of President Duterte’s war on drugs, there has been in the Philippines a move to reinstate death as capital punishment. On March 7, 2017, the House of Representatives approved the reimposition of the death penalty for drug-related crimes, among others, by a vote of 217 yeses and 54 no’s. The bill is pending in the Senate. As might be expected from the chamber that approves the ratification of international treaties, certain Senators have raised objections to the bill on the ground that it is violative of international law.

Danilo Ibayan

As noted by the late chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, Purificacion Valera Quisumbing, in her briefing paper submitted to the European Parliament in Brussels in January 2007 , the Philippines abolished the death penalty under its 1987 Constitution and became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. It also became the first Asian country to abolish it only to reintroduce it later on.

The latter distinction owes to the fact that “the constitutional abolition of the death penalty, which immediately took effect upon the ratification of this Constitution, does not prevent the legislature from reimposing it at some future time (Bernas, The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary). The Constitution in Article III, Section 1 9(1) reads that effective upon its ratification, “The death penalty shall not be imposed unless for compelling reasons, including heinous crimes the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion perpetua (life imprisonment).”

A series of serious crimes widely described as “heinous” occurred in 1993 during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos. To arrest the rising criminality, the Death Penalty Law (Republic Act 7659) was signed in December 1993. It listed a total of 46 crimes punishable by death, 25 of which are death-mandatory and 21 are death-eligible. Republic Act 8177 mandated the death sentence be carried out by lethal injection. With the amendment of the Anti-Rape Law (RA 8533) and Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (RA9165), capital offenses were raised to 52; of these, 30 of are death-mandatory and 22 are death-eligible.

In 1999, the administration of President Joseph Estrada put to death seven death row convicts. It was observed that “1999 was a bumper year for executions which were intended to abate criminality. Instead, using the same year as baseline, criminality increased by 15.3 per cent, the total in the previous year of 71,527 crimes rising to 82,538 in1999.” Giving in to appeals from groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, President Estrada issued a moratorium on executions in observance of the Vatican’s “Jubilee Year.” The practice of carrying out executions was re-initiated and carried over to the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After a rise in drug trafficking and kidnappings that mainly victimized the Chinese-Filipino community, President Arroyo announced on December 5, 2003, the lifting of the de facto moratorium on executions “to sow fear into the hearts of criminals.” The resumption of executions was, however, halted with the reopening of the Lara and Licayan capital case. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the lower court and ordered the admission of newly discovered evidence, including the testimonial evidence of two other co-accused in the same case, both of whom gave testimony exonerating Lara and Licayan from culpability. Since then successive administrations have been issuing reprieves on scheduled executions without actually issuing a moratorium.

The Commission on Human Rights vehemently objected to the reimposition of the death penalty. It cautioned against it and recommended reforms for a more effective enforcement of penal laws. It should also be mentioned that the European Union and the Roman Catholic Church, among others, waged an intensifying campaign against the death penalty.

On April 19, 2006 in a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate, President Arroyo endorsed the immediate enactment of House Bill No. 4826 entitled “An Act Prohibiting the Imposition of the Death Penalty.” It was signed into law as Republic Act 9346 on June 24, 2006.

At this point, the Philippines might be said to be the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty for all crimes only to reimpose it on certain heinous crimes, and then only to prohibit it totally once again.
To those who have followed the twists and turns of the history of the death penalty in the Philippines, much of the arguments for and against the current move to reimpose capital punishment are not new. Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, in sponsoring the bill reimposing the death penalty, cited four “compelling” reasons: 1) The death penalty is a fitting response to increasing criminality and killings in the county; 2)The death penalty is a measure to restore respect for the laws of the land; 3) Death is a path to achieving justice; and 4) Reimposition of the death penalty is geared towards a genuine reform in the Philippines criminal justice system.

(To be continued tomorrow)

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Address the Prime Concernshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/address-prime-concerns/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=address-prime-concerns http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/address-prime-concerns/#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 20:19:49 +0000 Editor Dailystar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153949 We welcome the recent agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. However, there is ample ground for scepticism regarding the real concerns of the Rohingyas fully addressed by Myanmar. Now, as the date and timeframe have been fixed, a further concern—the rate of repatriation—has been added. Only since August […]

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By Editor, The Daily Star, Bangladesh
Jan 19 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

We welcome the recent agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. However, there is ample ground for scepticism regarding the real concerns of the Rohingyas fully addressed by Myanmar. Now, as the date and timeframe have been fixed, a further concern—the rate of repatriation—has been added.

Rohingya refugees line up for daily essentials distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox’s Bazar, on January 15, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Only since August last year, over six lakh Rohingya refugees have sought shelter in Bangladesh. Another 48,000 are likely to be born in the camps. At the rate that has been proposed, is two years a feasible timeframe to repatriate this huge population? And what of the other major requirements that must be ensured to make the repatriation meaningful?

Restoration of citizenship and guarantee of safety once they are repatriated, are concerns that still remain. The Myanmar-sanctioned Annan Commission had stressed on both these factors, and as it happens, the plan of first settling the repatriated population in camps in Myanmar has already raised fear among the refugees—the root conditions which caused them to flee have not been addressed. These concerns should be addressed honestly by Myanmar now that the process of repatriation is about to begin.

Monitoring of the repatriation is imperative and in that the UN can play a major role. And the rate of repatriation should be increased so that the process can be completed within two years, if not sooner. However, while dealing with the current issue, we should not overlook the fact that there are another nearly 300,000 Rohingya refugees who have been in Bangladesh since 1991, whose repatriation should also be completed as soon as possible.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Groups Condemn U.S. Cuts to Palestinian Refugee Agencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/groups-condemn-u-s-cuts-palestinian-refugee-agency/#comments Fri, 19 Jan 2018 06:04:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153938 International organizations have criticized the United States’ decision to cut more than half of planned funding to a UN agency serving Palestinian refugees. This week, the U.S. administration announced that it is withholding 65 million dollars from a planned 125-million-dollar aid package for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA serves […]

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Displaced children in a UN-run school in the Shujaiyeh neighbourhood of Gaza.Credit: Khaled Alashqar/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 19 2018 (IPS)

International organizations have criticized the United States’ decision to cut more than half of planned funding to a UN agency serving Palestinian refugees.

This week, the U.S. administration announced that it is withholding 65 million dollars from a planned 125-million-dollar aid package for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA serves over 5 million refugees with education, healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in the Middle Eastern region.

As the U.S. was the agency’s biggest donor, contributing over 350 million dollars in 2017, UNRWA is now facing its biggest financial crisis.

“At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees in need of emergency food assistance and other support…at stake is the access of refugees to primary healthcare including pre-natal care and other life-saving services. At stake are the rights and dignity of an entire community,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

“The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiples risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization,” he added.

Former UN Undersecretary General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland noted that the funding cut will have devastating consequences for vulnerable Palestinian refugee children who depend on the agency for their education.

“It will also deny their parents a social safety net that helps them to survive, and undermine the UN agency’s ability to respond in the event of another flare-up in the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” he said.

UNRWA provides education to over half of a million boys and girls in 700 schools and manages more than 9 million refugee patient visits at over 140 clinics.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar noted that many Palestinian refugees live in poverty, including the majority of those in Syria who require humanitarian assistance to survive.

“Unless other governments fill the gap soon, the U.S. cuts will jeopardize children’s schooling, vaccinations, and maternal health care for refugees,” she said.

Politics Over Humanitarianism?

The Trump administration said that the decision was made as a way to press for unspecified reforms in the agency.

Though the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the move was not made to pressure Palestinians to enter negotiations, President Donald Trump suggested otherwise in a series of tweets just weeks before the decision.

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect…with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?” he tweeted.

Kumar pointed out that UNRWA is an aid agency rather than a party to the peace process.

“The administration seems intent on holding them hostage—and ultimately punishing vulnerable Palestinian refugees—as an indirect way to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to join peace talks,” she said.

Head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) U.S. delegation Husam Zomlot echoed similar sentiments, stating that refugees’ access to basic humanitarian services is not a “bargaining chip, but a U.S. and international obligation.”

“Taking away food and education from vulnerable refugees does not bring a lasting and comprehensive peace and [the] rights of Palestinian refugees will not be compromised by a financial decision,” he said.

Egeland also tweeted that cutting aid is a “bad politicization of humanitarian aid.”

UNRWA has long been controversial since its establishment in 1949.

Though it has evolved into a quasi-government, the agency was first set up to temporarily assist those who fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

However, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continued, so did UNRWA’s existence.

The agency allows refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation and does not remove people from its list who have gained citizenship elsewhere, contributing to an ever expanding population and questions as to who qualifies as a refugee.

From the approximately 700,000 Palestinians who fled after the 1948 war, there are now over 5.2 million registered refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.

While UNRWA has been criticized for not working to resettle refugees, Israel has not granted refugees the right to return and other countries such as Lebanon have largely denied Palestinians citizenship and access to employment or land.

Even if the funding cut is meant to target Palestinian authorities, many note that vulnerable Palestinian refugees will bear the brunt of the impact as they will be left in a renewed state of limbo.

UNRWA has since launched a global fundraising campaign to try to close its funding gap before it is forced to cut safety-net services.

Donors have begun to step up including the Government of Belgium which pledged 23 million dollars to UNRWA soon after the move was announced.

“For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy,” said Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

“Let us draw our strength from the Palestine refugees who teach us every day that giving up is not an option. UNRWA will not give up either,” Krahenbuhl said.

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Davos: a Tale of Two Mountainshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/davos-tale-two-mountains/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=davos-tale-two-mountains http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/davos-tale-two-mountains/#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 15:58:52 +0000 Ben Phillips http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153934 Ben Phillips is Launch Director, Fight Inequality Alliance.

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As the elite in the world of finance gather in the Swiss luxury town of Davos, rallies are taking place around the world as citizens demand for solutions to rising inequality.

By Ben Phillips
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

As the elite in the world of finance gather in the Swiss luxury town of Davos, rallies are taking place around the world as citizens demand for solutions to rising inequality.

At the same time as the World Economic Forum’s rich and powerful hold forth about fixing the crisis of inequality they created, a new movement called the Fight Inequality Alliance is telling another story that is growing around the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2017. Credit: World Economic Forum/Valeriano Di Domenico

As the world’s 1% gather in the luxury Swiss mountain resort Davos this week, rallies are taking place around the world on mountains of a very different sort – the mountains of garbage and of open pit mines that millions of the most unequal call home.

People will be gathering in events in countries including India, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, United Kingdom, The Gambia, Tunisia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mexico to publicly demand an end to inequality.

Worldwide the groups involved include Greenpeace, ActionAid, Oxfam, Asia People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Femnet, Global Alliance for Tax Justice and the International Trade Union Confederation. Events worldwide include a pop concert at a slum next to a garbage mountain in Kenya, a football match in Senegal, a public meal sharing in Denmark, a rally at open-pit an mine in South Africa, a sound truck in Nigeria, and a giant “weighing scales of injustice” in the UK.


Worldwide the groups involved include Greenpeace, ActionAid, Oxfam, Asia People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Femnet, Global Alliance for Tax Justice and the International Trade Union Confederation.

The protesters are demanding an end to the age of greed, and say that the solutions to the inequality crisis will not come from the same elites that caused the problem. People living on the frontlines of inequality are the key to the radical change that is needed, they say.

They are already organising to build their power by joining together in a global Fight Inequality Alliance that unites social movements, women’s rights groups, trade unions, and NGOs in over 30 countries across the world. They are urging the world to hear the solutions to inequality from those who suffer it not those who caused it.

Nester Ndebele, challenging mining the companies widening inequality in South Africa, remarks: “These mining companies claim to bring development but they make a fortune while leaving our land unfarmable, our air dangerously polluted, and our communities ripped apart. Women bear the brunt of this. They claim it is worth it for the energy they provide but the wires go over our homes with no connection. The politicians need to stop listening to the mining companies fancy speeches and hear from us instead.”

Mildred Ngesa, fighting for women’s rights in Kenya, explains why the events are taking place at the same time as, and as a counter to, the elite Davos meeting in Switzerland: “All these rich men at Davos say all these nice things about women’s empowerment but when young women in the places I grew up have no economic security, many have little real choices beyond the red light. We need jobs, housing, and free education and health, not speeches from the same people who push for corporate tax exemptions which take away resources needed to advance equality.”

Campaigners call on governments to curb the murky influence of the super-rich who they blame for the Age of Greed, where billionaires are buying not just yachts but laws. Community groups ideas, which elites don’t mention, include an end to corporate tax breaks, higher taxation on the top 1% to enable quality health and education for all, increases in minimum wages and stronger enforcement, and a limit how many times more a boss can earn than a worker.

“We have rising inequality because the rich are determining what governments should do. Davos can never be the answer because the problem is caused by the influence of the people at Davos. Governments around the world must listen instead to their citizens, and end the Age of Greed. We know that governments will only do that when we organize and unite, so we are coming together as one. The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” says Filipina activist Lidy Nacpil, a co-founder of the international Fight Inequality Alliance.

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“The World Has Gone in Reverse”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-gone-reverse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/world-gone-reverse/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:06:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153922 A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future. Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres briefs the General Assembly on his priorities for 2018. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

A year into his position, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that peace remains elusive and that renewed action must be taken in 2018 to set the world on track for a better future.

Around the world, challenges such as conflicts and climate change have deepened while new dangers have emerged with the threat of nuclear catastrophe and the rise in nationalism and xenophobia.

“In fundamental ways, the world has gone in reverse,” said Guterres to the General Assembly.

“At the beginning of 2018, we must recognize the many ways in which the international
community is failing and falling short.”

Among the major concerns is the ongoing and heightened nuclear tensions.

Guterres noted that there are small signs of hope, including North Korea’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympics as well as the reopening of inter-Korean communication channels.

“War is avoidable—what I’m worried is that I’m not yet sure peace is guaranteed, and that is why we are so strongly engaged,” he said.

Despite UN sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to surrender the country’s development and stockpile of nuclear missiles.

During a meeting in Canada, United States’ officials warned of military action if the Northeast Asian nation does not negotiate.

“It is time to talk, but they have to take the step to say they want to talk,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told foreign ministers.

A recently released nuclear strategy also outlines the U.S. administration’s proposal to expand its nuclear arsenal in response to Russian and Chinese military threats which may only sustain global tensions.

Guterres has also pinpointed migration and refugee protection as priorities for the year.

Though arrivals have dropped, refugees and migrants from Honduras to Myanmar still embark on dangerous journeys in search of economic opportunity or even just safety. However, they are still often met with hostility.

“We need to have mutual respect with all people in the world. In particular, migration is a positive aspect—the respect for migrants and diversity is a fundamental pillar of the UN and it will be a fundamental pillar of the actions of the Secretary-General,” Guterres said.

The UN Global Compact for Migration is set to be adopted later this year after months of negotiations. The U.S. however has since withdrawn from the compact and is seemingly increasingly abandoning its commitments to migrants and refugees.

Most recently, U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly made offensive comments about immigrants from Caribbean and African nations.

The African Group of UN Ambassadors issued a statement condemning the “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic remarks” and demanded an apology.

UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville echoed similar sentiments, stating: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Guterres expressed particular concern about U.S. cuts to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which has served more than five million registered refugees for almost 70 years.

“UNRWA is providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population…those services are extremely important not only for the wellbeing of these populations—and there is a serious humanitarian concern here—but also it is an important factor of stability,” he said.

Just a day after the Secretary-General’s briefing, the U.S. administration announced that it will cut over half of its planned funding to the agency.

Former UN Undersecretary-General and current Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland urged the government to reconsider its decision.”

“Cutting aid to innocent refugee children due to political disagreements among well-fed grown men and women is a really bad politicization of humanitarian aid,” he said in a tweet.

In light of the range of challenges, Guterres called for bold leadership in the world.

“We need less hatred, more dialogue, and deeper international cooperation. With unity in 2018, we can make this pivotal year that sets the world on a better course,” he concluded.

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Caught Between Two Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/caught-two-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caught-two-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/caught-two-countries/#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:01:36 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153915 Three friends are relaxing in a quiet courtyard. They speak English with a strong American accent and talk about their disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their tattoos depict a rough life on the street. One of them calls Massachusetts home, while the others grew up in Georgia. But home is far away, on the other side of the […]

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Chhean was four years old when he moved to the U.S. His impoverished and traumatised parents ended up in the margins of society. "Life was hard. We were a minority in a minority.”

Chhean was four years old when he moved to the U.S. His impoverished and traumatised parents ended up in the margins of society. "Life was hard. We were a minority in a minority.”

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, Jan 18 2018 (IPS)

Three friends are relaxing in a quiet courtyard. They speak English with a strong American accent and talk about their disadvantaged neighborhoods. Their tattoos depict a rough life on the street. One of them calls Massachusetts home, while the others grew up in Georgia.

But home is far away, on the other side of the world. They have been living in Cambodia for a number of years, against their will. They were deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to their country of origin, one completely unknown to them. Most have no or little knowledge of the Cambodian language, Khmer."Officially I'm Cambodian, but I don't feel that way. My home country is the U.S. but they don't want me there anymore." --Jock, 49

These American Cambodians belong to a group of more than 500 ‘deportees’ who have been sent back since 2002. They have lived the biggest part of their lives in the U.S. Their parents fled in the eighties, when Cambodia was torn apart by the genocidal Khmer Rouge and the following civil war. Between 1975 (start of the Khmer Rouge) and 1994 (end of the civil war) 158,000 Cambodians were allowed into the U.S.

“I was born in Thailand, in a refugee camp. Before I was deported, I had never visited Cambodia,” explains Chhean* (35). “I didn’t know nothing of this country. I didn’t speak Khmer. I grew in America, I am an American.”

Chhean was four years old when he moved to the U.S. His impoverished and traumatised parents ended up on the margins of society. “Life was hard. We were a minority in a minority. It was a tough time trying to survive, there was a lot of violence. I had to protect myself. That’s how I ended up in a gang.”

“I made bad choices. I was a threat to society. I can’t make no excuses, I can only blame myself.” After Chhean finished his time in prison, he was deported by ICE.

Five Years for a Fistfight

Legal residents in the U.S. who have no citizenship and get convicted for a crime can be sent back to their country of origin. No appeal is possible. The nature of the crime is not taken into account. “Immigration came to my home to detain me,” remembers Jock* (49). “I once got a conviction for a fistfight at school. I was 18. Twenty years later I get deported for a fistfight.”

Jock recounts what happened to him with disbelief. “I have spent five years in a cell, they thought I was an escape risk. Five years! For a fistfight 20 years ago! For years I have been begging them: ‘Please deport me’.” His friend Chhean was also incarcerated before his flight to Cambodia, but ‘only’ for two years.

Jock has been living in Cambodia for six years. He didn’t know the country at all. “I cried a long time when I arrived here. I thought my life was over. Someone who robs a bank is released after 15 years in prison and can start over again. I can’t.”

The deported Cambodians have trouble finding work. This country has a high rate of unemployment. They speak the local language badly and lack the necessary skills. Cambodia has an agrarian economy, but they are city boys. They are also met with distrust. They dress and behave differently. In Cambodian culture, their tattoos are considered signs of serious crimes.

“I worked the first six years in the rice fields. That is simple but hard work. I couldn’t find anything else,” says a deported Cambodian who wishes to stay anonymous. Last year, he acquired a certificate to teach English. He works in a classroom now.

“In the U.S. I worked in construction, but here it makes very little money. So I became a farmer,” explains Jock. “When I’m picking mangos, I can stop thinking.”

Chhean has familiar problems. “When I arrived here, I suffered from panic attacks. And even now I’m not adapted yet. Officially I’m Cambodian, but I don’t feel that way. My home country is the U.S. but they don’t want me there anymore. Now, Cambodia is my ‘land of opportunity’. I have to make the best of it. But I don’t plan big things for my life anymore.”

Lasting Trauma

The U.S. government wants Cambodia to take back more of its ‘lost’ children. That is required by international law when Cambodians are deported. But the government in Phnom Penh is hesitant. These citizens have no sense of the culture and can never really integrate into society. Some have serious mental illnesses, says Jock.

“I know a mental ‘deportee’ in my neighborhood. He walks all day in the middle of the street. He doesn’t realize where he is, he thinks he is still in the U.S. They shouldn’t bring those people here.”

The families that found a new home in the U.S. in the eighties brought few belongings but many war traumas. “My parents survived famine and mass murder,” says the teacher. “They don’t talk about it much. They try to forget.”

Research by the Leitner Center in New York showed that 62 percent of Cambodian refugees in California suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Fifty-two percent had severe depression. Many were in a state of shock and not able to take care of themselves or their children. They ended up in poor neighborhoods where crime was the norm.

For these specific circumstances, psychiatrists and lawyers say that refugees from Cambodia deserve special treatment. But President Donald Trump wants to increase the deportations. Some 1,900 are eligible for deportation, says ICE. In the “Kingdom of Wonder” – as Cambodians call their country – many refugees who return are confronted with alcohol and drug abuse. Many suffer from depression, and at least six deported Cambodians have committed suicide.

“I miss my three children (24, 18 and 13),” says Jock. “I call them once a week. I don’t tell them how I’m doing here. I don’t want them to worry.”

The teacher has a child in the U.S. as well. “I talk to her with Messenger. I can’t do much more. I can miss her as much as I like, it will not change a thing.”

Once deported, there is no way back. They can never visit the country where they grew up ever again. “Hell yeah! I would go back immediately if I could. Not tomorrow but today,” shouts Chhean jokingly.

His friend Jock has another view. “Once you have a criminal record in the U.S. they will never leave you in peace. I don’t want to go back. Period.”

*Last names omitted to protect the sources’ privacy.

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Chance for Kenya to Make Amends for Post-Election Sexual Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/chance-kenya-make-amends-post-election-sexual-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chance-kenya-make-amends-post-election-sexual-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/chance-kenya-make-amends-post-election-sexual-violence/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 10:24:16 +0000 AgnesOdhiambo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153889 Agnes Odhiambo is a senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, based in Nairobi.

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Chance for Kenya to Make Amends for Post-Election Sexual Violence - Frida Njeri (not her real name), 27, was raped by a man she said wore “combat trousers” in the presence of her 12-year-old son. Like many women Human Rights Watch interviewed, she did not report the sexual assault to the police because she did not know the attackers and feared retaliation. Credit: Bonnie Katei for Human Rights Watch

Frida Njeri (not her real name), 27, was raped by a man she said wore “combat trousers” in the presence of her 12-year-old son. Like many women Human Rights Watch interviewed, she did not report the sexual assault to the police because she did not know the attackers and feared retaliation. Credit: Bonnie Katei for Human Rights Watch

By Agnes Odhiambo
NAIROBI, Jan 17 2018 (IPS)

I had already heard many disturbing stories of violence by the time I interviewed Mercy Maina, whose name I have changed to protect her privacy.  Even so, what Mercy told me was truly disturbing. She said she was raped during the post-election violence in August alongside her sister by two men wearing uniforms and helmets, and carrying guns and walkie-talkies.

But, Mercy told me, this was not the first time she had been a victim of post-election sexual violence. She was also raped by two police officers during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, that time with a friend who later committed suicide. Mercy became pregnant from that rape and has a 9-year-old daughter. She said she still suffers from stomach ulcers as a result of the stress of that rape.

Mercy is one of 71 women, girls, and men I interviewed about rape and other sexual violence during Kenya’s 2017 elections. They described brutal cases of vaginal and anal rape, gang rapes involving two or more attackers, mass rape of a group of women, attempted rape, rape with an object, putting dirt into a woman’s private parts, unwanted sexual touching, forced nudity, and beatings on genitals.

Some women were raped in the presence of family members, including children. In at least one case, a girl died after being raped. Most of the attackers, survivors and witnesses told me, were policemen or men in uniform, many of whom  carried guns, batons, teargas canisters, and whips, or wore helmets and other anti-riot gear, and by militia groups.

 

Chance for Kenya to Make Amends for Post-Election Sexual Violence

Credit: Bonnie Katei for Human Rights Watch

 

Many said they experienced profound mental trauma and anguish, they felt hopeless, fearful and anxious, had nightmares about the assault, or suicidal thoughts. Mercy, like many survivors, did not get immediate or comprehensive post-rape medical care or any mental health services. She and her sister didn’t go to a medical facility until two weeks after the rapes because they were afraid to go out in case their attackers came back and because they did not want to tell health workers what had happened. “You cannot trust people,” she told me.

Mercy never reported the sexual assault to the authorities. The reason she gave me captures the lack of trust in the police expressed by many survivors: “I did not go to the police because even in 2007 we were abused by the police and we were told by police you cannot report the government to the government.”

Some of the women we interviewed did try to report sexual violence, but the police sometimes sent them away without taking statements, ridiculed or verbally abused them, or failed to follow up on complaints. Such unprofessional police response also undermines survivors’ ability to seek help from health facilities, and weakens justice efforts.

Some of the women we interviewed did try to report sexual violence, but the police sometimes sent them away without taking statements, ridiculed or verbally abused them, or failed to follow up on complaints. Such unprofessional police response also undermines survivors’ ability to seek help from health facilities, and weakens justice efforts.

Members of the Kenyan police and security forces have a long history of committing abuses, including sexual violence, during election periods, but the authorities have largely ignored election-related sexual crimes and the victims’ suffering. Thousands of women and girls are estimated to have been raped during the 2007-2008 political violence, including by state security agents.

Based on our extensive research, the authorities rarely  provided any medical treatment or post-rape counselling, or offered victims any financial support. Almost a decade later, very few cases have been properly investigated or attackers held accountable.

The Kenyan government continues to underestimate and has even denied the abuses committed during the 2017 elections. In December, President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated the police, for “being professional” and “firm” during the election period, a move that shocked many Kenyans and was quickly criticized by civil society groups and others.

The Kenyan government and other state authorities have an obligation to protect women and girls, men and boys against sexual violence, to punish offenders, and provide reparations to victims. All sexual assault victims should get timely, quality, and confidential post-rape treatment, including psychosocial, or mental health, care for themselves and their families, and communities need to know where victims can get post-rape care, including free treatment.

It is critical for the government to also ensure that credible criminal investigations are conducted into all allegations of election-related sexual violence. It should consider establishing an independent judicial commission of inquiry to examine any unlawful activities of the police, including allegations of sexual violence, with a view to ending impunity and ensuring accountability.

The Inspector General of Police has committed to put in place a taskforce to investigate the involvement of its officers or other men in uniform in sexual violence during the 2017 elections period. If the  task force is to be successful, it will need clear terms of reference and bring together officials from relevant government bodies, health care providers, representatives of women’s and children’s groups and other civil society organizations and experts working on sexual violence.

It should set clear goals of the investigations, ways of reaching out to all victims, effective measures to secure accountability for these crimes, and mechanisms for the protection, treatment, and care of victims.

Sexual violence survivors should not be left suffering and ashamed. It is the Kenyan authorities who should be ashamed at failing to meet their needs or to prosecute their attackers.

 

 

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 1,916 in 2018; Deaths Reach 194http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-1916-2018-deaths-reach-194/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-1916-2018-deaths-reach-194 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-1916-2018-deaths-reach-194/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:02:55 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153912 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 1,916 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 14 January. This compares with 3,046 coming ashore during a similar period in 2017. IOM Italy’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Monday (15 January) that last Thursday IOM learned that 263 migrants were rescued from a sailing ship of unknown […]

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By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Jan 16 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 1,916 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 14 January. This compares with 3,046 coming ashore during a similar period in 2017.

IOM Italy’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Monday (15 January) that last Thursday IOM learned that 263 migrants were rescued from a sailing ship of unknown registry and taken to the port of Crotone in Calabria, Italy. IOM staff had the opportunity to speak with the disembarking migrants, who were mainly Pakistani, Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan.

According to their testimony, these migrants left Antalya, Turkey on a sailboat on 6 January, led by a smuggler of Russian nationality. Each paid from USD 5,000 to USD 12,000 for the trip, sums paid by their families. Many said they had relatives in France, Germany, Great Britain, among other places.

These witnesses said the smuggler threatened them with a firearm until he abandoned the boat after two days of navigation. When the sailboat encountered a storm, it began to take on water and became unstable. Three days out, the migrants, in a state of great agitation and fear, called for rescue, which arrived through the Italian Coast Guard and Guardia di Finanza patrol boats.

“As strange as it may seem, it is not the first time that we have recorded the arrival of a sailboat with migrants leaving from Turkey,” explained Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean.
He added: “It is a known phenomenon, but numerically very residual (about 1,000 arrivals from Turkey in 2017) compared to the total number of arrivals. We cannot therefore speak of a new route or be too surprised by this news. Rather this is an example of a less-used route, which involves enormous risks for migrants, who in this case have been lucky enough to survive a storm they had to face in very difficult conditions.”

The 841 arrivals to Italy through Sunday (14 January) is about one-third the total (2,355) arriving by this time last year. Since the end of June of 2017, Libya-to-Italy voyages have shown a marked decline, although fatalities on the Mediterranean’s Central Route remain high. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project records 176 deaths on this route in 2018, compared with 200 at this time last winter (see chart below).

Italy and Greece arrivals this year continue a trend that began in 2017, when migrant arrivals along the Mediterranean Sea’s Central and Eastern routes hit their lowest levels in four years (see chart below).

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) in Berlin reported that in the Western Mediterranean the remains of two migrants were found at different locations off the coast of Algeria: on 12 January, local fishermen found a body entangled in their fishing nets near Mostaganem. He was identified as a 23-year-old local resident of the town of Abdelmalek Ramdane, and he had been reported as missing by his family since he attempted to cross to Spain two months earlier. On 13 January, another body washed up in Zemmouri El Bahri beach, near Boumerdès in Algeria.

Eighteen migrants have lost their lives in the Western Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, compared with 25 fatalities recorded in these waters during the first two weeks of 2017.

Worldwide, the Missing Migrants Project has recorded the deaths of 215 people during migration in the first two weeks of 2018. This compares to 276 at this time last year (see chart below).

Beside the two new Mediterranean deaths, seven migrants died trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands from North Africa on 15 January: the Spanish Maritime Safety Agency reported five bodies were found in a large rubber boat near the island of Lanzarote. Another two migrants who were retrieved from the sea died later. Twenty migrants made it to the shore; two of those have been hospitalized with signs of hypothermia.

Two fatal incidents were recorded in Europe in recent days: on 11 January, a 26-year-old Afghan man was hit by a vehicle in the A14 motorway near Castel San Pietro in Bologna, Italy. On 14 January, a 28-year-old Gambian man died after being electrocuted on the roof of a train travelling from Ventimiglia in northern Italy to Menton, France.

In the Caribbean, the death toll from last week’s (10 January) shipwreck of a small motorboat carrying migrants from Venezuela to the coast of Curacao rose to five, after the body of another Venezuelan migrant was found last Friday, 12 January. Local authorities said they had accounted for 16 survivors of the shipwreck.

Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on missing migrants are collected, click here.

Latest Mediterranean Update infographic:
http://migration.iom.int/docs/MMP/170714_Mediterranean_Update.pdf
For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit: http://migration.iom.int/europe
Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project at: http://missingmigrants.iom.int
For more information, please contact:
Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: jmillman@iom.int
Mircea Mocanu, IOM Romania, Tel: +40212115657, Email: mmocanu@iom.int
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail: dtsagalas@iom.int
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int
Hicham Hasnaoui, IOM Morocco, Tel: + 212 5 37 65 28 81, Email: hhasnaoui@iom.int
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email: knamia@iom.int
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Berlin, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email: jblack@iom.int
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email: chpetre@iom.int
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email: adodevska@iom.int
Myriam Chabbi, IOM Tunisia, Tel: +216 71 860 312 ext 109, Mobile: +216 28 78 78 05, Email: mchabbi@iom.int

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Pakistan, Facing Military Aid Cuts, One Step Ahead of UShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pakistan-facing-military-aid-cuts-one-step-ahead-us/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 14:27:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153886 When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers. So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, […]

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'Rafale B', French Air Force combat jets.

By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

When the United States abruptly cuts off military supplies to its allies for political or other reasons, the reaction has been predictable: it drive these countries into the arms of the Chinese, the Russians and Western European weapons suppliers.

So, when the Trump administration decided recently to withhold about $2.0 billion in aid to Pakistan, the government in Islamabad was one step ahead: it had already built a vibrant military relationship with China and also turned to UK, France, Sweden, Turkey and Italy for its arms supplies.

In the Middle East, some of the longstanding US allies, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt and Kuwait, are known not to depend too heavily on American weapons systems—and their frontline fighter planes include not only F-15s and F-16s (US-supplied) but also Rafale and Mirage combat jets (France), the Typhoon (a UK/France/Italy joint venture) and Tornado and Jaguars (UK), all of them in multi-billion dollar arms deals.

The primary reason for multiple sources is to ensure uninterrupted arms supplies if any one of the suppliers, usually the US, withholds military aid – as it did in the 1990s when Washington suspended security assistance to Pakistan under the so-called Pressler amendment which called for a certification that Pakistan did not possess nuclear weapons. (It did)

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) latest data for 2012-2016, the US accounted for about a third of the entire global market in major conventional weapons.

SIPRI reports that Pakistan has received significant quantities of weapons from both the United States and China in recent years. Deliveries from China in the last several years reportedly include combat aircraft, tanks, submarines, and other naval vessels.

US deliveries have included armored personnel carriers and systems to modernize US F-16s that were previously supplied to the Pakistani military.

Derek Bisaccio, Middle East/ Africa & Eurasia Analyst at Forecast International Inc., a US-based defense research company, told IPS the two primary arms suppliers to Pakistan are the United States and China.

American arms agreements with Pakistan, he said, have totaled between $5-6 billion since 2001; much of this stems from the sale of F-16 fighter planes.

“Although Chinese arms sales to Pakistan are more difficult to put a dollar figure to– owing to a lack of transparency on both sides– it is expected that Chinese arms sales have eclipsed American arms sales on an annual basis in recent years as Pakistan and China have deepened their military-technical cooperation,” he noted.

In the past decade, China has sold naval patrol vessels, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to Pakistan. The two have partnered on projects like the JF-17 fighter jet, assembled and manufactured locally by the Pakistanis.

Other arms suppliers include Ukraine, with whom Pakistan has partnered on its fleet of battle tanks, and Turkey.

Pakistan and Turkey have negotiated in the past few years over Pakistan’s possible purchase of attack helicopters and corvettes. Pakistan has purchased airborne early warning & control aircraft from Sweden and may well acquire more in the coming years, Bisaccio said.

In the past, Pakistan has contracted the United Kingdom, France and Italy for some of its purchases; many naval vessels and aircraft operated by Pakistan are French-origin, he added.

According to a report in the Washington Times last week, China is planning to build a military base in Pakistan, which would be its second overseas military base, after Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The naval installation will be erected in a key strategic location: the Pakistani town of Jiwani, a port near the Iranian border on the Gulf of Oman and near the Straits of Hormuz, which resides at one of the six proposed economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Times said.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, a Senior Fellow with the Security Studies Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, told IPS: “The Trump administration’s decision to halt military aid to Pakistan is long overdue. Pakistan’s human rights record is deplorable, as documented in annual reports from the State Department.”

However, that decision was not justified on human rights grounds, she noted. Instead, the administration argues that the Pakistani government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“This argument that Pakistan is harboring terrorists is not new. The US-Pakistani relationship frequently features policy cycles that include critical statements by US officials, attempts to reduce or halt aid, and an eventual return to the status quo,” said Goldring, who also represents the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy at the United Nations, on conventional weapons and arms trade issues.

“Ironically, the Trump decision to put a hold on military assistance to Pakistan comes at the same time as Reuters reports that the administration is planning to be even more aggressive in pursuing global arms sales. Embassy staffs are apparently going to be asked to promote US arms sales more actively to their host governments. This is reminiscent of similar moves during the Reagan administration.”

She also pointed out that advocates of arms sales often argue that countries can find other suppliers if the US government refuses a sale.

“Yet by avoiding selling sophisticated US weapons to unstable regimes, we may significantly reduce the risk that members of our armed forces will end up fighting our own weapons. And in the end, the US government needs to set ethical standards for arms sales, not merely economic ones.”

Reacting to the US aid cuts, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif was quoted as saying: “We do not have any alliance” with the US. “This is not how allies behave.”

Trump said on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies and deceit” and accused Islamabad of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

But Islamabad may still retaliate by closing down US supply routes to Afghanistan which goes through Pakistan. Currently, there are over 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Bisaccio of Forecast International Inc told IPS that due to decades of partnership, the Pakistani military has a large amount of U.S.-supplied equipment, either provided directly from the U.S. or a third party, in its force structures, either in active use or in storage.

Much of the Army’s aviation wing is composed of Western-supplied aircraft, with a lot of American systems.

Asked if the Pakistani military can survive if the US suspends military aid– and halts maintenance, servicing and spares to US-made equipment—Bisaccio said it can certainly survive, but in some areas of the military such moves to end cooperation would be painful.

He said the suspension of maintenance, servicing, and the provision of spare parts– should the U.S. decide to enact such a move– would be particularly problematic for the Pakistani F-16 fleet.

Pakistan has already encountered difficulty acquiring new F-16s, as the U.S. Congress blocked Pakistan from using foreign military financing to purchase eight jets in 2016. Inability to acquire maintenance or armaments would impact fleet readiness, especially over time as the F-16s face attrition. Posturing against rival India would suffer as a result, he added.

Moreover, the ability of the Army to carry out counter-insurgency operations could be impacted should Pakistan not be able to obtain servicing for the Army’s aviation assets, especially the AH-1 attack helicopters.

“Pakistan, in recognition that reliance on one supplier could create vulnerability, has over the years diversified its supplier base and worked to build up its own defense industry, which does have the effect of lessening its military dependence on the U.S,” Bisaccio pointed out.

The dispute with President Trump, he pointed out, is a symptom of the longer-running tension between the U.S. and Pakistan, but, in Pakistan’s view, the latest row with the Trump administration provides further validation for this policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times in September 2017, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi reiterated that his country would like to purchase F-16s from the U.S., but could seek alternatives from France or China if need be.

Pakistan’s missile deterrent against India is a key element of the country’s national security and Pakistan was able to develop its missile program without American assistance.

“The gradual fraying of relations between the U.S. and Pakistan has occurred amid a deepening of relations between China and Pakistan. Their joint cooperation on a range of matters, including military-technical issues, will help blunt the impact of the U.S. cutting off aid to Pakistan.”

The volume of security assistance provided to Pakistan from China is unknown but is likely to increase moving forward, offsetting to some extent the temporary or permanent loss of American assistance, he added.

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Fate of the Rohingyas – Part Twohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/fate-rohingyas-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-rohingyas-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/fate-rohingyas-part-two/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 00:01:45 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153883 With discussions underway between Bangladesh and Myanmar about the repatriation of more than a half a million Rohingya refugees, many critical questions remain, including how many people would be allowed back, who would monitor their safety, and whether the refugees even want to return to violence-scorched Rakhine state. A Joint Working Group (JWG) consisting of […]

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Rohingya refugees carry blankets at a camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya refugees carry blankets at a camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Jan 16 2018 (IPS)

With discussions underway between Bangladesh and Myanmar about the repatriation of more than a half a million Rohingya refugees, many critical questions remain, including how many people would be allowed back, who would monitor their safety, and whether the refugees even want to return to violence-scorched Rakhine state.

A Joint Working Group (JWG) consisting of government representatives from Myanmar and Bangladesh was formed on Dec. 19 and tasked with developing a specific instrument on the physical arrangement for the repatriation of returnees."Three elements of safety – physical, legal and material – must be met to ensure that return is voluntary and sustainable." --Caroline Gluck of UNHCR

A high-ranking Bangladeshi foreign ministry official who requested anonymity told IPS, “The Myanmar government has been repeatedly requested to allow access to press and international organisations so they can see the situation on the ground. Unless the world is convinced on the security issues, how can we expect that the traumatized people would volunteer to settle back in their homes where they suffered being beaten, tortured and shot at?”

He says, “The crimes committed by the Myanmar regime are unpardonable and they continue to be disrespectful to the global community demanding access for investigation of alleged genocide by the regime and the dominant Buddhist community.

“The parties who signed the deal need to consider meaningful and effective and peaceful refugee protection. In Myanmar, as a result of widespread human rights abuses, hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country and are living as refugees in camps or settlements also in Thailand and India. The same approach of reconciliation and effective intervention by the international community must be in place.”

A human right activist pointed out that the very people who are to return to Myanmar have no say in the agreement. Their voices are not reflected in the agreement which does not clearly outline how and when would the Rohingyas return home.

Asked about the future of the Rohingyas, Fiona Macgregor, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesperson in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS, “Formal talks on repatriation have been held bilaterally between the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar and IOM has not been involved in these.”

“According to IOM principles it is crucial that any such return must be voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified. At present Rohingya people are still arriving from Myanmar every day who are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. IOM continues to focus efforts on supporting the needs of these new arrivals, as well as those who have arrived since August 25, those who were living here prior to August and the local host community in Cox’s Bazar.”

Recently, top brass in the Myanmar regime said that it was “impossible to accept the number of persons proposed by Bangladesh” for return to Myanmar.

The deal outlines that Myanmar identify the refugees as “displaced residents.” Repatriation will require Myanmar-issued proof of residency, and Myanmar can refuse to repatriate anyone. Those who return would be settled in temporary locations and their movements will be restricted. In addition, only Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh after October 2016 will be repatriated.

According to official sources, a meeting of the Joint Working Group supervising the repatriation will be held on January 15 in Myanmar’s capital to determine the field arrangement and logistics for repatriation with a fixed date to start repatriation.

As of January 7, a total of 655,500 Rohingya refugees had arrived in Cox’s Bazar after a spurt of violence against the minority Muslim Rohingya people beginning in August 2016, which left thousands dead, missing and wounded.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer at UNHCR Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, told IPS that the agency is currently appealing for 83.7 million dollars until the end of February 2018 to fund humanitarian operations.

In March, the UN and its partners will launch a Joint Response Plan, setting out funding needs to assist Rohingya refugees and host communities for the 10-month period to the end of the year.

Regarding the repatriation process, Gluck said, “Many refugees who fled to Bangladesh have suffered severe violence and trauma. Some have lost their loved ones and their homes have been destroyed. Any decision to return to Myanmar must be based on an informed and voluntary choice. Three elements of safety – physical, legal and material – must be met to ensure that return is voluntary and sustainable.

“While UNHCR was not party to the bilateral arrangement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, we are ready to engage with the Joint Working Group and play a constructive role in implementing the modalities of the arrangement in line with international standards.”

She added that UNHCR is ready to provide technical support to both governments, including registering the refugees in Bangladesh and to help determine the voluntary nature of their decision to return.

“As the UN Secretary-General has noted, restoring peace and stability, ensuring full humanitarian access and addressing the root causes of displacement are important pre-conditions to ensuring that returns are aligned with international standards.

“Equally important is the need to ensure that the refugees receive accurate information on the situation in areas of potential return, to achieve progress on documentation, and to ensure freedom of movement. It is critical that the returns are not rushed or premature, without the informed consent of refugees or the basic elements of lasting solutions in place.”

Gluck noted that while the numbers of refugees have significantly decreased, their needs remain urgent – for food, water, shelter and health care, as well as protection services and psychosocial help.

“The areas where the refugees are staying are extremely densely populated.  There is the risk of infectious disease outbreaks and fire hazards,” she said. “And, with the rainy season and monsoon rains approaching, we are very concerned at how this population, living in precarious circumstances, will be affected. UNHCR it working with partners to prepare for and minimize these risks.”

She said UNHCR has already provided upgraded shelter kits for 30,000 families; and will expand distributions for around 50,000 more this year. The kits include bamboo pieces and plastic tarpaulin, which will allow families to build stronger sturdier, waterproof shelters, better able to withstand heavy rains and winds.

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Pardon of Former Peruvian President Fujimori Deals Blow to Fight Against Gender Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pardon-former-peruvian-president-fujimori-deals-blow-fight-gender-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pardon-former-peruvian-president-fujimori-deals-blow-fight-gender-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/pardon-former-peruvian-president-fujimori-deals-blow-fight-gender-violence/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 19:15:25 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153871 The political crisis triggered in Peru by the presidential pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori granted on Christmas Eve casts a shadow of doubt over what actions will be taken to curb violence against women in this country, where 116 femicides were registered in 2017, and which ranks eighth with respect to gender-related murders in […]

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Peru ended 2017 with 116 victims of femicide and 223 women who survived this gender-based crime. Credit: Courtesy of Julia Vicuña

Peru ended 2017 with 116 victims of femicide and 223 women who survived this gender-based crime. Credit: Courtesy of Julia Vicuña

By Mariela Jara
LIMA, Jan 15 2018 (IPS)

The political crisis triggered in Peru by the presidential pardon of former president Alberto Fujimori granted on Christmas Eve casts a shadow of doubt over what actions will be taken to curb violence against women in this country, where 116 femicides were registered in 2017, and which ranks eighth with respect to gender-related murders in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The pardon devalues the actions that the government may undertake to achieve a life without violence, because it has released one of the worst violators of the human rights of women,” said Liz Meléndez, director of the non-governmental Flora Tristán Women’s Centre.

Meléndez pointed out that in the 1990s, Fujimori was responsible for a public policy that forcibly sterilised more than 200,000 Andean indigenous peasant women, a crime for which he will not be investigated or penalised since he was granted a presidential pardon.

“This impunity is outrageous,” she said, since due to problems of access to justice, poverty and discrimination, it was only possible to put together a file of 2,074 cases.

The distrust towards the government’s actions was accentuated by the official designation of 2018 as the year of Dialogue and Reconciliation, a phrase coined by current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to justify the pardon granted to the ex-convict, sentenced for corruption and human rights violations.

It rankled even more given that Decade of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men is beginning.

“The declaration of the Decade warns us that the gender focus will continue to be undermined, as happened throughout 2017, by the pressure of conservative groups, whose representatives are likely to be part of the next new cabinet; and we are worried that there may be setbacks in the fight against violence against women, despite the advances in legislation and regulations,” said Meléndez.

Peru is in fact, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women, one of the countries in the region with laws, plans and public policies against gender violence, specific legislation against femicide (gender-related murders), and new laws such as the elimination of prison benefits for those sentenced for rape, passed in 2017.

However, crime rates remain high.

Conference given by women’s collectives in Peru on Nov. 25, 2017 in the Flora Tristán Centre to announce the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The centre’s director Liz Meléndez is holding the microphone. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Conference given by women’s collectives in Peru on Nov. 25, 2017 in the Flora Tristán Centre to announce the march for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The centre’s director Liz Meléndez is holding the microphone. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

According to statistics from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations (MIMP), between 2009 and 2017, there were 2,275 cases of gender-based violence: 991 femicides and 1,275 attempts. In this country there is an average of 10 murders of women for gender reasons per month.

The MIMP reported that last year ended with 116 victims of femicide and 223 women survivors of this kind of crime. The majority of cases, 79 percent, occurred in urban areas.

In almost 80 percent of the cases, the aggressors were men with an intimate relationship with the victims, 90.4 percent of whom were adult women.

This places Peru in eighth place in terms of femicide in the region, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and in fourth place compared to the countries in the Southern Cone of South America.

In Peru, seven out of 10 women suffer physical, psychological or sexual abuse on a routine basis by their partners, according to the Demographic and Family Health Survey (ENDES 2016), despite the current legal and regulatory framework.

Precisely to call attention to the need to act more effectively in the face of this scourge, the Ombudsman’s Office, an autonomous government body, carried out a campaign in November and December to declare 2018 as the “Year of equality and non-violence against women.”

The proposal received broad support, the commissioner at the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Women’s Rights of that public body, Patricia Sarmiento, had told IPS before the government declared the Decade of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men.

Commissioner at the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Women’s Rights of the Peruvian Ombudsman's Office, Patricia Sarmiento. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Commissioner at the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Women’s Rights of the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office, Patricia Sarmiento. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Sarmiento said her institution has contributed to preventing, punishing and eradicating violence against women and other members of the family carried out in the public or private sphere, under Law 30,364.

She was referring to the training of judges and police to eradicate the mistaken belief that they can apply a reconciliation mechanism in cases of violence against women committed by an intimate partner. “That is unacceptable,” she said.

“Unfortunately, this idea reaches the victims, so some believe that when they are insulted or pushed it is not an act of violence and can be subject to reconciliation, and that is what leads us to continue perpetuating this situation in the country,” Sarmiento added.

Another recommendation is to grant a budget allocation to the police for it to provide adequate protection measures for the victims. “The institution lacks sufficient logistics, staff and equipment, such as for example a georeferenced map to monitor the cases,” she said.

A 2015 report by the ombudsman’s office, based on the analysis of court records of cases of gender-based violence, reveals that in 30 percent of femicides, the victims had brought complaints against their aggressors for domestic violence.

“One of the cases was of a woman who had filed complaints four times and did not receive protection. That cannot keep happening,” said Sarmiento.

In February 2017, a similar case occurred in the central highlands region of Ayacucho, where lawyer Evelyn Corahua was murdered after reporting an attempted femicide, and requested protection measures.

“A sufficient budget is needed for proper enforcement of the law and for the implementation of policies to eradicate gender violence. Otherwise the law will only be dead letter,” Sarmiento warned.

Civil society organisations such as the Flora Tristán Centre are worried about the degree of political will that the new cabinet, named after Fujimori was granted his pardon, will have.

Melendez, the director of the organisation, said that in the face of the cruelty shown in cases of gender violence in 2017, the main challenge for this year must be to strengthen prevention.

“That would entail ensuring comprehensive sex education with a gender focus in the classroom, something that unfortunately with this government remains in question,” she said. “It is clear that the current crisis will impact the management of public policies and will affect the fight against violence against women.”

This view is shared by human rights activists and feminists through the social networks, as is the case of lawyer Patricia Carrillo, who participated in the marches against Fujimori’s pardon and in those promoted by women’s organisations for the right to live without violence. “They want to silence us but they will not succeed,” Carrillo said, in dialogue with IPS.

“Declaring the decade in this way, without taking into consideration what was proposed by the ombudsman’s office, undermines our demand for equality and non-discrimination based on gender,” she lamented. “We do not want equal opportunities in the same conditions of oppression as men, our space of struggle will continue on the streets,” she said.

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Thousands Still Dying at Sea En Route to Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:39:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153861 Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places. Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe. “[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach […]

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Somali refugees on the Tunisian desert. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2018 (IPS)

Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places.

Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe.

“[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach to address movements of migrants and refugees who embark on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean,” said spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) William Spindler.

On Monday, the Italian coastguard picked up 60 survivors and recovered eight corpses. Up to 50, including 15 women and 6 children, are feared to have drowned.

Most recently on Wednesday, an inflatable boat carrying 100 refugees sank off the coast of Libya. Libya is among the major countries of departure for refugees.

Approximately 227,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route.

Despite appealing for just 40,000 resettlement places last year, UNHCR has thus far received 13,000 offers of resettlement places.

“Most of these are part of regular established global resettlement programmes and only a few represent additional places,” Spindler said.

After stories of migrants being sold at an auction and being held in horrific conditions in detention centers were revealed, both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have helped evacuate hundreds of vulnerable refugees from Libya to Niger.

However, the European Union has continued its policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity…what was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, adding that the EU’s policy is “inhuman.”

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he continued, calling for the decriminalization of irregular migration in order to help protect migrants’ human rights.

Human rights officials have also criticized the EU-Turkey deal which returns migrants who have entered the Greek islands to Turkey. Many have found that asylum seekers are also not safe in Turkey as the country does not grant asylum or refugee status to non-Europeans.

UNHCR called for efforts to strengthen protection capacity and livelihood support in countries of first asylum, provide more regular and safe ways for refugees to find safety through resettlement or family reunification, and address the root causes of refugee displacement.

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Fate of the Rohingyas – Part Onehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/fate-rohingyas-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-rohingyas-part-one http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/fate-rohingyas-part-one/#respond Sun, 14 Jan 2018 12:11:41 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153857 The repatriation of Rohingya refugees driven from their villages through violence and terror appears uncertain, with critics saying the agreement legalising the process of their return is both controversial and impractical. Shireen Huq, a leading women’s rights activist and founder of Naripokkho, one of the oldest women’s rights organisations here, told IPS, “In my view […]

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Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh wait in limbo. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh wait in limbo. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Jan 14 2018 (IPS)

The repatriation of Rohingya refugees driven from their villages through violence and terror appears uncertain, with critics saying the agreement legalising the process of their return is both controversial and impractical.

Shireen Huq, a leading women’s rights activist and founder of Naripokkho, one of the oldest women’s rights organisations here, told IPS, “In my view Bangladesh should not have rushed into the bilateral ‘arrangement’ and especially without the involvement of the United Nations or consulting the refugees themselves."It is the same old story. They would move from a camp in Bangladesh to a camp in Myanmar." --Shireen Huq

“Bangladesh should have engaged in a diplomatic tsunami to gain the support of its neighbours and in particular to win the support of China and Russia. The international community has to step up its pressure on Myanmar to stop the killings, the persecution and the discrimination.”

The uncertainty deepened with Myanmar regime still refusing to recognize the refugees as their citizens, throwing the possibility of any peaceful return into doubt.

UNHCR estimates there have been 655,000 new arrivals in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, bringing the total number of refugees to 954,500.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding on Nov. 23, 2017 on the repatriation of Rohingya people who fled their ancestral home in Rakhine state in the wake of military assaults on their villages.

But Huq notes that a similar 1993 bilateral agreement to repatriate Rohingya refugees who had fled to Bangladesh was not very successful as the voluntary repatriation was opposed by the majority of the refugees.

She describes Bangladesh government’s generosity and the subsequent responsibilities as a ‘job well done’ but she fell short of praising the deal, saying, “This is going to be a repeat of the 1993 agreement where involving only bilateral efforts clearly showed that it does not work.”

“They [Rohingyas] are going to be here for a long time,” Huq predicted. “If we understand correctly, the Rohingyas will not be allowed to return to their previous abode, their own villages, but moved to new settlements. In that case, it is the same old story. They would move from a camp in Bangladesh to a camp in Myanmar. It will be another humanitarian disaster.”

She continued, “If this arrangement is implemented as it is, it will be like another ‘push back’ of the refugees by Bangladesh, unless the international community oversees the repatriation and can guarantee their safe and peaceful settlement and rehabilitation.”

While the deal has been welcomed by the international community, including the US, the European Union and the United Nations, others urged the government to involve a third party to ensure a sustainable solution to the crisis.

They say that Bangladesh has little experience in managing an international repatriation process and unless it fulfills the international repatriation and rehabilitation principles, the agreed terms may not be strong enough to create a lasting solution.

Muhammad Zamir, a veteran diplomat, told IPS that the world should not leave Bangladesh to shoulder the complex problem alone.

“It is unfair to burden Bangladesh with such a huge task that requires multiple factors to be considered before initiating the process of repatriation. The foremost issue is ensuring security or protection of the refuges once they return.”

Zamir, who just returned from a visit to the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, says, “The situation in the camps is already a humanitarian disaster and it is getting worse by the day. These people [Rohingya] are already traumatized and confused. They have suffered enough with the ordeals they have gone through. There is no guarantee that with the nightmares still fresh in their minds they would want to return so early unless there are strong and serious efforts to guarantee their protection in the long run.”

A Joint Working Group (JWG) consisting of government representatives from Myanmar and Bangladesh was formed on Dec. 19 and tasked with developing a specific instrument on the physical arrangement for the repatriation of returnees. The first meeting of the JWG is due to take place on Jan. 15, 2018.

Former army general M Sakhawat Husain, a noted columnist and national security and political analyst, told IPS, “The Rohyngas’ legitimate and minimum demand to be recognised as citizens of their native land is completely ignored in the agreement. In the face of continuous persecution still going on, as widely reported, how can voluntary repatriation take place?”

“The most damaging clause seems to be agreeing on the terms of Myanmar that is scrutiny of papers or authenticity of their being residence of Rakhaine,” he added.

“Most of these people fled under sub-humane and grotesque torture. It would be difficult for Bangladesh to send them back voluntarily. The report suggests that unless a guarantee of security and minimum demand of citizenship not given these people may not go back.”

Former ambassador Muhammad Shafiullah said, “It is quite uncertain to execute such a huge repatriation process without involving the UN system although Myanmar has outright rejected involving the UN. In such a situation how can we expect a smooth repatriation process?”

Shafiullah expressed deep concern about the inadequate financial support for humanitarian aid to the Rohingya camps.

“The UN system so far could garner funds for six month. Another pledging meeting is expected before the fund is exhausted. Bangladesh cannot support such an overwhelming burden alone for a long time. Precisely for this reason Bangladesh signed the agreement for repatriation although the terms were not favorable to her.”

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UN Chief Calls for Collective Global Response to Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/un-chief-calls-collective-global-response-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-chief-calls-collective-global-response-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/un-chief-calls-collective-global-response-migration/#respond Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:53:41 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153850 António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, speaking at the launch of his report on Migration

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António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, speaking at the launch of his report on Migration

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 2018 (IPS)

I am very pleased to present this report, “Making Migration Work For All”, which serves as my principal input to the zero draft of the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

The adoption of this Compact stands as one of our most important collective priorities for 2018.

As we look forward to the zero draft, I would like to commend your efforts to date under the wise stewardship of Mexico and Switzerland, aided by the President of the General Assembly and my Special Representative, Louise Arbour. Allow me to express a very deep gratitude to Louise Arbour and her team – your extraordinary contribution was absolutely vital for me to be able to present a report that, I hope, you will find both bold and constructive.

We have an opportunity to fashion, for the first time, a truly global response to migration. It is an opportunity to maximize the contribution that millions of migrants are already making to our societies and to agree a set of actions to ensure that the rights of all migrants are fully respected.

My report describes the reality of migration today. It outlines what a system of safe, orderly and regular migration could realistically look like. It identifies key challenges and possible solutions.

And it calls for more concerted collective action to deal with the unbearable limbo in which many migrants find themselves trapped.

Let me emphasize: migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline.

It is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies. But the majority of migrants live and work legally.

Unfortunately, others live in the shadows, unprotected by the law and unable to contribute fully to society. And a desperate minority put their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.

Globally, migration remains poorly managed. The impact can be seen in the humanitarian crises affecting people on the move; and in the human rights violations suffered by those living in slavery or enduring degrading working conditions.

It can be seen, too, in the political impact of public perception that wrongly sees migration as out of control. The consequences include increased mistrust and policies aimed more at stopping than facilitating human movement.

In my report, I call for us to focus on the overwhelming positives of migration and to use facts not prejudice as the basis for addressing its challenges. Above all, I urge a respectful discourse that places our collective humanity at the centre of the debate.

Migrants make a major contribution to international development – both by their work and by sending remittances to their home countries. Remittances added up to nearly $600 billion last year, three times all development aid.

The fundamental challenge is to maximize the benefits of this orderly, productive form of migration while stamping out the abuses and prejudice that make life hell for a minority of migrants.

States need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants – for the benefit of their economies, their societies and migrants themselves.

Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration – or place severe restrictions on migrants’ work opportunities – inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labour needs met in an orderly and legal fashion.

Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration. Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods. This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments’ authority itself.

The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration. This will remove incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of markets for foreign labour.

It will also aid in efforts to clamp down on smugglers and traffickers and to assist their victims. Simultaneously, development cooperation policies must take human mobility into account.

It is essential to provide more opportunities for people to be able to live in dignity in their own countries and regions. Migration should be an act of hope, not of despair.

We must also address the drama we witness in mixed flows of refugees and migrants. What happens all too often with these movements represents a humanitarian tragedy and an abdication of our human rights commitments.

They are reflective of acute policy failures: of emergency response; of conflict prevention; of good governance; of development; and of international solidarity. I call for greater international cooperation to remove those failures and to protect vulnerable migrants.

In parallel, we must re-establish the integrity of the refugee protection regime in line with international law. My report addresses a number of elements for consideration in shaping the Global Compact on Migration.

I will highlight three: the need for action, the need for engagement and the need for a UN that is fit for purpose.

First, our focus must be on implementation. The past decade has seen an enriching development of both our understanding of migration and its grounding in human rights. It is time now to build on these declarations rather than simply reiterate them.

Second, everyone has a part to play. On this, let me pay particular credit to the incomparable contribution of Peter Sutherland, whose death last week is such a loss for us all.

Improving the management of migration is pre-eminently a matter of State responsibility. But it demands, also, the knowledge, capacity and commitment of many others.

The consultation phase of the Global Compact has benefitted hugely from the participation of a wide range of actors.

Municipalities, parliaments, civil society, the private sector, regional organizations, the media, academia and migrants themselves all have vital roles. Moving forward, I urge you to maximize the space for their contributions.

Third, as the United Nations finally ensures that migration is an issue squarely on its agenda, we have the responsibility to ask ourselves whether we are best organized and equipped to support the Compact’s implementation.

For you, the Member States, this will require consideration of how to ensure ongoing review of the impact of the Global Compact. What we focus on in 2018 may not be what we need to focus on in 10 or 15 years’ time.

We will also need to reflect on how best to ensure oversight of migration within the UN system. There are many fora addressing migration, but none with comprehensive oversight. This merits consideration.

I am committed to ensuring that the UN system is best organized to ensure that it can support you in following through on the Compact.

In my report, I stress my determination to strengthen how we work on this issue, consistent with my proposed management reforms and strengthening of the UN development system, taking full advantage of the IOM’s important and welcome move, in 2016, towards the UN System.

It is a phenomenon that touches on all our collective priorities – from the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals to the promotion and protection of peace and universal human rights.

I urge all Member States to engage openly and actively in the negotiations ahead.

I encourage you to work towards the adoption of a solution-oriented Global Compact on Migration at the International Conference in Morocco later this year.

I stand ready to assist however best I can.

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The Reality of North Korea as a Nuclear Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reality-north-korea-nuclear-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/reality-north-korea-nuclear-power/#comments Thu, 11 Jan 2018 11:12:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153823 With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel. But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued […]

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Credit: UN photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2018 (IPS)

With a track record of six underground nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, North Korea is desperately yearning to be recognized as the world’s ninth nuclear power – trailing behind the US, UK, France, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel.

But that recognition seems elusive– despite the increasing nuclear threats by Pyongyang and the continued war of words between two of the world’s most unpredictable leaders: US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Arguing that North Koreans have little reason to give up their weapons program, the New York Times ran a story last November with a realistically arresting headline which read: “The North is a Nuclear Power Now. Get Used to it”.

But the world’s five major nuclear powers, the UK, US, France, China and Russia, who are also permanent members of the UN Security Council, have refused to bestow the nuclear badge of honour to the North Koreans.

North Korea, meanwhile, has pointed out that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, were perhaps facilitated by one fact: none of these countries had nuclear weapons or had given up developing nuclear weapons.

“And that is why we will never give up ours,” a North Korean diplomat was quoted as saying.

Dr M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, told IPS there is, however, hope in the recent placatory moves by North and South Korea.

“I think that the situation can return to a calmer state, although it is entirely possible that this calmer state would involve North Korea holding on to nuclear weapons. I suspect that for the time being the world will have to live with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

“Although that is not a desirable goal, there is no reason why one should presume that North Korea having nuclear weapons is any more of a problem than India, Pakistan, or Israel, or for that matter, China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, or the United States,” said Dr Ramana, author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012).

“I think the greater problem is the current leadership of the United States that has been making provocative statements and taunts. I think it is for the powerful countries to start the process of calming down the rhetoric and initiate negotiations with North Korea.”

Also, any peace process should be based on reciprocal moves: one cannot simply expect North Korea to scale down its programs without corresponding moves by the United States, he declared.

Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs (1998-2003), told IPS there is little doubt that North Korea, (also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has acquired a nuclear weapon capability and the means of delivering it to the mainland of the USA.

That this is clearly in defiance of international norms and a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions is also clear, he noted.

Those norms, quite apart from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), now include the recently negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty, the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading towards their total elimination.

It was adopted on 7 July 2017, but neither the USA nor the DPRK have acceded to it, said Dhanapala a former President of Pugwash (2007-17),

He also pointed out that the persistent efforts of the DPRK since the end of the Korean War to conclude a just and equitable peace with the USA have been rebuffed again and again.

“Past agreements and talks both bilateral and multilateral have failed and we are now witnessing the puerile antics of two leaders engaged in the mutual recrimination of two school-yard bullies asserting that one man’s nuclear button is bigger than the other’s while tensions reminiscent of the Cold War build up alarmingly.”

Such escalation reached dangerous proportions at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis where the historical record proves that the world was saved from nuclear catastrophe by sheer luck.

“We cannot trust to luck anymore,” he warned.

“Some small steps between the two Koreas hold promise of a dialogue beginning on the eve of the Winter Olympics. This must be the opportunity for all major powers to intervene and resume negotiations. The Secretary-General of the UN must act and act now,” he added.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world has declined significantly since the end of the Cold War: down from approximately 70,300 in 1986 to an estimated 14,550, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

According to US intelligence sources, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is anywhere between 20 to 50 weapons. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates a total of over 50 weapons.

Joseph Gerson, President of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, told IPS that successive North Korean governments have pursued their nuclear weapons program for two primary reasons: to ensure the survival of the Kim Dynasty and to preserve the survival of the North Korean state.

“As Scott Snyder (a Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Council on Foreign Relations) taught us years ago, there is a logic – potentially deadly as is the case with any nuclear weapons program – to the development of North Korea’s deterrent nuclear arsenal.”

Beginning with the Korean War, the United States has threatened and or prepared to initiate nuclear war against North Korea. These threats have added resonance for North Koreans as a consequence of the United States military having destroyed 90% of all structures north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War.

Gerson said it is also worth noting that in the wake of the 1994 U.S.-DPRK nuclear crisis, North Korea was prepared to trade its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees, normalization of relations and economic development assistance.

The United States failed to fulfill its commitments under the 1994 Agreed Framework, by refusing to deliver promised oil supplies and endlessly delaying its promised construction of two light water nuclear reactors in exchange for the suspension of the DPRK nuclear weapons program.

In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated a comprehensive agreement with North Korea. And President Clinton was to travel to Pyongyang to finalize the agreement, but with the political crisis caused by the disputed outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election, he did not make that trip.

Among the first disastrous orders of business of the Bush Administration was the sabotaging of that agreement. This, in turn, led to North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test, said Gerson, author of “Empire and the Bomb: How the US Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World”, “The Sun Never Sets…Confronting the Network of U.S. Foreign Military Bases”, and “With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination”.

While expectations for the meeting of North and South Korean officials, currently underway, are low, said Gerson, the world should be celebrating South Korean President Moon’s winter Olympic-related diplomatic initiatives and the resulting functional Olympic Truce.

By welcoming North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics and by postponing threatening U.S.-South Korean military “exercises,” President Trump’s “my nuclear button is bigger than yours” –ratcheting up of dangers of war have been sidelined– he pointed out.

Following his inauguration last year, President Moon announced that he had a veto over the possibility of a disastrous U.S. initiated second Korean War. Having exercised that veto and forced Trump’s hand, he has opened the way for deeper diplomacy and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Gerson said: “There remains, of course, the danger the Olympic Truce will simply serve as a temporary reprieve, with President Trump, beleaguered by the Muller investigation and seemingly endless scandals, again ratcheting up tensions. Disastrous war remains a possibility should the nuclear monarch opt for a desperate and deadly maneuver in his struggle for political survival.”

There never was, nor will there be, a military solution to the U.S.-North Korean nuclear crisis, and as U.S. military authorities have repeated warned, given Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery, even a conventional U.S. military attack against North Korea would result in hundreds of thousands of South Korean casualties and could escalate to uncontrollable and genocidal nuclear war.

The way forward requires direct U.S.-North Korean negotiations, possibly in multi-lateral frameworks like the Six Party Talks, Gerson noted.

As the growing international consensus advocates, resolution of the tensions will necessitate some form of a “freeze for freeze” agreement, limiting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for halting U.S. threats to destroy or overturn the North Korean government and to implement previous commitments to normalization of relations.

With this foundation in place, future diplomacy can address finally ending the Korea War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and building on numerous proposals for the creation of a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.

In the end, Gerson said, the only way to prevent similar nuclear weapons proliferation crises is for the nuclear powers to finally fulfill their Article VI Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to negotiate the complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

As the Nobel Peace Laureate and senior Manhattan Project scientists Joseph Rotblat warned, humanity faces a stark choice. “We can either completely eliminate the world’s nuclear weapons, or we will witness their global proliferation and the nuclear wars that will follow. Why? Because no nation will long tolerate what it perceives to be an unjust hierarchy of nuclear terror.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Philippines Most Dangerous Country in Southeast Asia for Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/philippines-dangerous-country-southeast-asia-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=philippines-dangerous-country-southeast-asia-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/philippines-dangerous-country-southeast-asia-journalists/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 22:05:14 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153815 It’s not just suspected drug users and dealers at risk of targeted killing in the Philippines. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported last week that the Philippines is the most dangerous country in Southeast Asia for journalists. Globally, the island nation came sixth on the list of most murderous countries. Joaquin Brinoes, Rudy Alicaway, […]

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A police commando stands guard as forensics investigators unearth the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. Credit: InterAksyon file photo

A police commando stands guard as forensics investigators unearth the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. Credit: InterAksyon file photo

By Pascal Laureyn
MANILA, Jan 10 2018 (IPS)

It’s not just suspected drug users and dealers at risk of targeted killing in the Philippines. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported last week that the Philippines is the most dangerous country in Southeast Asia for journalists. Globally, the island nation came sixth on the list of most murderous countries.

Joaquin Brinoes, Rudy Alicaway, Leodoro Diaz and Crisenciano Ibon Lozada. These are new names to be added to a tragic roster of killed journalists. In August, a gunman shot columnist Crisenciano Ibon in the back and seriously wounded his driver. The police speculate the attack may have been in retaliation for his columns criticizing illegal gambling. He had received many death threats.

Broadcaster Rudy Alicaway and columnist Leodoro Diaz were attacked within two days time. They were both riding motorcycles when gunmen came up behind and shot them dead. Their murders are likely linked to their reports on political corruption, underground gambling and the drug trade. Journalist Joaquin Briones was killed the same way. He was known for his hard-hitting radio program.

There is a fifth killing, not included in the statistics of IFJ. In August, Michael Marasigan, a respected former newspaper editor, was shot dead in a Manila suburb. Rodrigo Duterte’s administration says it is doing all it can to apprehend those responsible. But so far, no arrests have been made.

President Duterte is a vocal critic of the press. Even before he took office, as president-elect, he sent a chilling message to the press corps: “Just because you’re a journalist, you’re not exempted from assassination if you are a son of a bitch,” he said at a press conference. “Free speech won’t save you, my dear.”

Need for independent reporting

The numbers of journalists being killed are dropping in recent years. But there is no room for complacency, says IFJ. Only a year ago, the Philippines was reported to be the second most dangerous country for journalists in the past 25 years. Only Iraq had more deaths. And in the Philippines, the IFJ warned, unprecedented numbers of journalists were jailed or forced to flee, self-censorship was widespread and impunity for the killings, harassment, attacks and threats against independent journalism was running at epidemic levels.

In September, Edito Mapayo, the editor-in-chief of Diaryo Balita, a local newspaper on the Mindanao island, was choked and punched by Surigao del Norte Vice Mayor Francisco Matugas Gonzales. And in August, a government official filed a libel case against ABS-CBN’s broadcast journalist Ted Failon and three members of his staff. They were looking into the “allegedly irregular purchase of secondhand motorcycles for Pope Francis’ visit to Manila in 2014”.

The country is in great need of independent journalists to report on human rights abuses, like the continuing war on drugs and the extended martial law in Mindanao. According to Human Rights Watch, the war on drugs has claimed 12,000 lives since president Rodrigo Duterte decided to purify his people from the evil of cheap drugs. Critics say he doesn’t let the law get in the way of his mission.

Last month, Congress approved Duterte’s request to extend martial law on the southern island of Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2018. UN special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary released a statement on Jan. 3 saying  that the Lumads, the non-Muslim indigenous people living on Mindanao, are suffering from the island’s ongoing militarisation.

“Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed,” the experts said in their statement. There were also reports indicating that military forces had killed local farmers in early December.

The restive island of Mindanao is also the location of the single deadliest event for journalists in history. The Maguindanao massacre is named after the town where mass graves where found in November 2009. A convoy was on route to file a candidacy for local elections when it was attacked. Fifty-eight people were killed, including at least 34 journalists.

‘End impunity’

“We welcome the reduction for the third year in a row in the loss of life suffered by journalists and media staff during 2017,” says IFJ President Philippe Leruth. “While this represents a downward trend, the levels of violence in journalism remain unacceptably high. We find it most disturbing that governments refuse to tackle the impunity for these crimes targeting journalists. Instead, the patterns don’t change in the most violent countries.”

While Mexico and India are extremely dangerous places for journalists, no region was spared the scourge of violence, including Western democracies. Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta paid for her pursuit of the truth with her life. She was killed by a car bomb after she reported on government corruption, nepotism, patronage and allegations of money laundering.

“There is a safety crisis in journalism,” added IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger. “There is a desperate need for a new instrument that finally would make it possible to implement a numerous of existing resolutions on media protection. We urge the adoption of this new convention to sustain other ongoing efforts to further promote the safety of journalists.”

In anticipation of such a guarantee for the safety of journalists, a few brave Philippinos are working hard to maintain an independent press.

The post Philippines Most Dangerous Country in Southeast Asia for Journalists appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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