Inter Press Service » Migration & Refugees http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:22:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 The Lost Kids at Rome’s Termini Station: Child Migrants Exploitedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 13:42:21 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr and Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147068 Young migrants spend their days at Rome's Termini's station. Credit: Rose Delaney/IPS

Young migrants spend their days at Rome's Termini's station. Credit: Rose Delaney/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr and Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

Rome ….. Termini station, 2:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Five young boys are standing next to the escalators, constantly shifting, dispersing, meeting up again. They are laughing, typing on their phones, chatting, smoking. They seem like average teenagers with fancy hairstyles and smart clothes. But every once in a while, they nervously glance over to the security personnel circling Termini station. Or carefully examine older men walking by.

Some of these kids are Egyptian, and landed in Italy by boat. “They let in minors”, Ahmed says. He came when he was 14 years old, on his own. His family remained in Egypt. Today he is 18 years old, and he is the oldest in the group.

A man with grey hair and a baseball cap appears, talks to Ahmed, and moves away. Ahmed whispers to another boy in the group, 17-year old Hasani whose dark hair and sparkling blue eyes make him the most attractive in the group. Later, when we approach him by asking for a cigarette, he assures us that he would not only offer us a cigarette, but buy us a whole pack of them, if only he had the money.

We watch Hasani going down the escalators, the man in the baseball cap follows at a 20 meter distance. They make their way through crowds of tourists, pass by coffee bars and shops, always maintaining the 20 meter distance, never looking back. They merge with the stream of people rushing down towards the metro station, then take a quick turn, and Hasani disappears into what at first glance resembles a maintenance room. The man in the baseball cap follows. It turns out to be a public toilet, hidden away in one of Termini’s many underground corridors, out of sight from the people waiting for their trains, and from the eyes of the security guards. “Even when we place these kids in foster centres, nobody checks whether they are going to school. We believe that there is a connection between those who traffic the children to Italy and
those who employ them”

Five minutes later, both of them reappear, open the door and hastily take off in different directions. Hasani goes back to join Ahmed next to the escalators. And they continue to chat, laugh, smoke, type on their phones, as if nothing had happened.

Migrant minors who enter Italy are supposed to be taken in by “Case Famiglie”, foster homes sponsored by the Italian government. There, they would receive meals and a place to sleep, education and integration programmes made available to them. The foster homes receive money from the state to provide the migrant minors with these basic services, and most importantly, to keep them safe.

Yet, many of them end up in conditions of forced labour. They work in warehouses, as porters in markets, at petrol stations – or they prostitute themselves at Termini station.

“Even when we place these kids in foster centres, nobody checks whether they are going to school. We believe that there is a connection between those who traffic the children to Italy and those who employ them”, Mariella Chiaramonte, chief of the police station in Tivoli, near Rome, said in an interview with The Guardian.

Upon their arrival in Italy, the children often find themselves indebted to the people who trafficked them here. Because they are being threatened that harm will be inflicted on their families back home if they do not repay the money for their trip, often they become vulnerable targets for sex work recruiters and drug dealers. For the migrant children, however, this type of clandestine work becomes a quick way to make larger amounts of money in order to repay their debt.

Ahmed and Hasani spend the entire day at the train station. As soon as he turned 18, Ahmed explains, he left the foster home. Now, he shares a small apartment with other migrants from Egypt. How can he afford to pay the rent? “I work at a car wash”, he says. But not convinced by his own words, he breaks into a bout of nervous laughter. He cannot look at us. They are only here to meet friends, he explains, to “hang out”.

There is a sudden downpour outside. Bangladeshi street hawkers appear at the station’s entrance, trying to sell umbrellas. As one of them approaches us, he tells us that we should not get involved with the Egyptian boys. “They steal from people waiting for their train and they sell drugs”, he says, and when asked if he knows what other business the boys have here, his expression turns cold. “We never mix with them. They are dangerous.”

The man in the baseball cap reappears, keeping his distance but staring at us while we talk with the boys. He does not seem to be a customer anymore. He appears to be supervising the boys, keeping them in line. He is nervous about them having established contact with people from the “outside”. We realize we have overstayed our welcome and it is time to leave.

Following the “Drug Dealing and Prostitution of Minors” report produced by Mediaset in March 2016, the authors who write on migrant issues spent time in Rome’s Termini station observing the lives of migrant children.

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Population Growth Extremes: Doublers and Declinershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 11:06:28 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147058 City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Asia-Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Asia-Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

While the world’s population of 7.4 billion is growing at 1.1 percent per year – about half the peak level of the late 1960s – enormous differences in demographic growth among countries are increasingly evident and of mounting concern to countries and the international community.

Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns.
At one extreme are the doublers: 29 countries whose populations are expected to at least double by the middle of the 21st century. At the other extreme in striking contrast are the decliners: 38 countries whose populations are expected to be smaller by the middle of the 21st century.

The doublers are all located in sub-Saharan Africa except for Iraq and the State of Palestine. The largest countries among the doublers are Nigeria (187 million), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (80 million) and Tanzania (55 million).

Today the doublers together account for 10 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, however, due to the doublers’ rapid rates of demographic growth that proportion is expected to increase to 18 percent of the world’s projected population of nearly 10 billion people.

Among the doublers the country with the most rapid increase is Niger, whose population of 21 million is expected to double by the year 2034 and to experience a 250 percent increase by mid-century, more than tripling its population to 72 million. Other countries with substantial increases of 150 percent or more are Zambia, Angola, Uganda and Mali (Figure 1).

Source: United Nations Population Division

Source: United Nations Population Division

The largest doubler population, Nigeria, is expected to increase by 112 percent, reaching just under 400 million by 2050 and thereby displacing the United States as the world’s third largest country after India and China. Another sizeable population increase is the Democratic Republic of the Congo whose population of 80 million is projected to increase by 145 percent, or an additional 116 million people, bringing its total midcentury population to nearly 200 million.

While not a single country’s population at the close of the 20th century was smaller than in 1950, this demographic trend is not expected to continue over the next several decades. The decliners, a group of 38 countries both developed and developing, are expected to experience population decline by the middle of the 21st century. Together the decliner’s proportion of the world’s population is projected to fall from close to 30 percent today to nearly 20 percent by the year 2050.

The top ten countries with the projected population declines of no less than 15 percent are all located in Eastern Europe (Figure 2). The country with the most rapid decline among the decliners is Bulgaria (27 percent), followed by Romania (22 percent), Ukraine (21 percent) and Moldova (20 percent).

Source: United Nations Population Division

Source: United Nations Population Division

The largest decliner population, China, is expected to decrease by more than 2 percent by 2050, with the Chinese population peaking in less than a decade. Other large populations projected to experience demographic declines by midcentury are Japan (15 percent), Russia (10 percent), Germany (8 percent) and Italy (5 percent). Moreover, some of the decliners have already experienced population decline for a number of years in the recent past, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

The population projections for the decliners assume some immigration in the future. For some decliner countries, such as Italy, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Russia, immigration lessens the expected declines in their future populations. For example, while Italy’s population with assumed immigration is projected to decline by 5 percent by mid-century, without immigration Italy’s projected population would fall to 13 percent.

Noteworthy differences exist in both mortality and migration levels between doublers and decliners. Doubler countries have markedly higher mortality rates than decliners. In addition, doublers are generally migrant-sending countries, while many of the decliners are migrant-receiving countries.

The sizeable differences in rates of future population growth, however, are primarily due to the level of fertility. The median fertility rate among the 29 doubler countries is 5.3 births per woman, ranging from a low of 4.4 in Kenya to a high of 7.6 in Niger. In contrast, fertility levels among the 38 decliner countries all fall below the replacement level of about two children, with the median fertility rate being 1.5 births per woman. Countries that are approximately a half child below the replacement level include China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia and Spain.

The comparatively high and low population growth rates pose formidable, but differing challenges for doubler and decliner countries. Doublers face serious development challenges in meeting the basic needs of their rapidly growing and very young populations. The median ages of the doubler countries are all below 20 years, with the youngest being Niger (15 years), Uganda (16), Chad (16), Angola (16), Mali (16) and Somali (16).

Many doubler countries, such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger and Uganda, are now facing food shortages. Providing sufficient foods for their rapidly growing populations is expected to be considerably more difficult in the years ahead.

Other key areas that pose serious challenges are housing, education, health care, employment, personal security and governance, especially as nearly half of the doubler countries are among high alert failing or fragile states. Given the onerous living conditions for most of the populations in doubler countries, growing numbers of young adults are turning to both legal and illegal migration to wealthier developed countries, many of which are also decliner countries.

Among their attempts to address their high rates of population growth, doubler governments have established programs for reproductive health services to assist families to have the number of children they desire, which is generally fewer than current levels. With widespread education, especially for girls, and improved employment opportunities, the doubler governments are aiming to reduce their high fertility levels and accelerate their demographic transitions to low death and birth rates.

While decliners have by and large met the basic needs of their populations, they are confronting increasingly the pervasive consequences of population decline and aging. Contractions in the size of their labor forces coupled with increases in the proportion elderly are exerting stresses and strains on the economies and budgets of decliner countries.

Many of the decliners have already passed through the historic reversal, or the demographic point where the number of elderly aged 65 and older exceeds the number of children below age 15 years. The median ages for half of the decliners are above 40 years, with the oldest being Japan, Germany and Italy at 46 years.

With the proportion of elderly increasing and more of them living longer, often many years beyond retirement, governments of the decliner countries are particularly concerned about escalating costs for social security, pensions, health and care giving. Options to address those fiscal issues include raising official retirement ages, increasing taxes, redirecting government revenues and reducing benefits.

Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns. As is being increasingly reported, some decliners are erecting barriers, fences and walls to deter unauthorized immigration, while others remain resolutely averse to a sizeable foreign population taking hold within their borders.

Many decliner countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain, are attempting to alter their projected demographic futures by raising their low fertility levels in hopes of mitigating population decline and perhaps even achieving near population stabilization. Moving to replacement level fertility by encouraging women to have additional children, however, has proved to be difficult and generally not successful.

It is often said that opposites attract. Perhaps in romance, friendships and the movies, people are attracted to those who are viewed different from them. That appears not to be the case for doubler and decliner countries, at least for the present. However, as has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout world demographic history, rapidly growing populations are not easily confined to within borders, eventually traversing deserts, mountains, rivers and seas and spreading out across continents.

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Community Conversations in Ethiopia Prevents Exploitative Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:30:44 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147048 Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.]]>

Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.

By UN Women
Sep 22 2016 (IPS)

Five years ago, when Meliya Gumi’s two daughters, Gifty* and Chaltu,* aged 16 and 18, migrated to Dubai and Qatar respectively, as domestic workers, everyone thought they were moving towards a better future. As a widowed mother of eight with little resources, living in the village of Haro Kunta in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, Gumi had a difficult time making ends meet.

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Gumi’s daughters made it to their destination countries through illegal brokers, but found themselves trapped in poor working conditions with no benefits or protection. They send some money to Gumi every now and then, which supplements her meagre income.

“My wish is to see my daughters come back home safe and I would never want them to leave again, as long as they have some income to survive on,” says Gumi, who is now one of the 22 active participants of the “Community Conversations” initiative in her village, supported by UN Women and International Labour Organization (ILO). The Community Conversations aim to prevent “irregular migration”—exploitative or illegal migration, including smuggling and trafficking of workers, mainly to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries [1]—by providing information and making the community aware of the risks. The initiative also raises awareness about the ILO Convention 189, namely the Domestic Workers Convention, which went into force globally in 2013 and has 22 ratifications to date. Ethiopia has yet to ratify the Convention and raising awareness about protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers is a critical step forward.

Among the nine administrative regional states in Ethiopia, the Oromia region, where Gumi’s village is located, is most prone to migration and a popular source for illegal brokers. Some 161,490 domestic workers from this region have migrated overseas between 2009 and 2014, of which an estimated 155,860—96 per cent—were women [2].

“One of the key interventions of the Project is to also address safe migration for women,” says UN Women Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Funmi Balogun. “UN Women recognizes the rights of women to safe migration to seek better opportunities and to improve their livelihoods. To enable this, the project strengthens the capacities of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and its affiliates to provide gender-sensitive information as part of pre-departure training for potential migrant women domestic workers, so that they understand their rights, know how to access support and how to save and protect their earnings. This training and support were designed to assist potential female migrants understand their rights, whether in Ethiopia or in their receiving countries, know where support systems for them are located and strengthen their ability to effectively save and protect their earnings. The institutions were also supported to understand the rights of migrant workers as stated in ILO Convention 189, and to institutionalize processes and systems for reintegrating returnee women migrant workers into their communities.”

Coordinated by trained facilitators, the Community Conversations take place twice a month and engage men and women of different age groups, returnee migrant workers, families of migrant workers and prospective migrants, religious leaders and community influencers. The initiative is active in three regions of Ethiopia—Amhara, Oromia and Tigray—and in the Addis Ababa city administration since 2015, and have been successful in changing attitudes and practices of the communities regarding irregular migration. For example, in the Adaba district alone, within four months of implementation, the conversations led to significant reduction of irregular migration. The Government of Ethiopia is now institutionalizing the practice of Community Conversations at the village level throughout the country.

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha, Adaba district’s Head of the Labour and Social Affairs Office, notes that the initiative is not only helping the villagers in making informed decisions about migration, it is also empowering them to identify the root causes of migration and take their ideas for solutions to policy makers. “In past four months, we have prevented 19 individuals—13 women and 6 men— from taking up irregular migration, and enabled 31 school drop outs who were preparing to migrate illegally, to get back to school in this community,” he added.

As Gumi shares the experiences of her daughters as a cautionary tale for others, she stresses, “If enough resources, including land and employment, is provided to the younger ones, there will be no need for them to migrate.” As a result of the discussions and with the support from the government, some parents have started investing in their children’s education and income generating activities, rather than financing irregular migration.

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

The Community Conversations in Adaba District are part of a joint project, ‘Development of a Tripartite Framework for the Support and Protection of Ethiopian and Somali Women Domestic Migrant Workers to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States, Lebanon and Sudan’ by ILO and UN Women and funded by the European Union. Over 140,000 women and 85,000 men have participated in the Community Conversation initiative as part of the project.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals

Notes
[1] The GCC states include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
[2] UN Women (2015). Unpublished study on the Nature, Trend and Magnitude of Migration of Female Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) from Ethiopia to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) States, Lebanon and Sudan. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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UN Refugee Summits Fall Short for Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 18:46:49 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147038 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/feed/ 0 Migrant Workers in the Gulf Feel Pinch of Falling Oil Priceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:54:18 +0000 Irfan Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147011 Pakistani migrant workers on a construction site in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Pakistani migrant workers on a construction site in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

By Irfan Ahmed
DUBAI, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

In the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a number of medium and large-sized buses can be spotted transporting workers clad in company uniforms to distant worksites early in the morning. In the evening or, in certain cases, late at night, these workers are brought back to labour camps in the same buses.

At the camps, the migrant workers barely have time to rest before the next workday. They huddle inside small, dingy quarters and the number of occupants may rise up to eight per room. With their belongings stuffed into every corner, they hardly have space to move and are vulnerable to catch infections from each other. Their day starts too early as they have to cook their food to carry to the site and ends late due to long journeys amid frequent traffic jams.“The role of the state becomes important here as migrant workers in the Gulf are voiceless. Without the right to associate and demand rights, they are as helpless as one can think of.” -- Khalid Mahmood of the Lahore-based Labour Education Foundation

The workers at a typical camp hail from different countries, so the common practice is to allocate shared rooms according to their nationalities. At a typical labour camp there can be a Pakistani block, Indian block, Nepali block or Bangladeshi block.

Javed Iqbal, 29, lives in one such labour camp. He has come to Dubai from Pakistan through a middleman who sold a work visa to his family for Rs 300,000 (about 3,000 dollars). The family borrowed money from relatives to complete this transaction. Having not attended school beyond grade 4, Javed cannot read and write and couldn’t find a job in his home country. The same lack of education and any proper skill set makes him ineligible for regular recruitment abroad as well.

The only option he had was to come to Dubai on whatever salary he could get and gradually build his fortune there. But things did not work out well and he is stuck in a construction sector job that pays a paltry 240 dollars per month. He says it’s hard for him to cover his personal expenses, let alone send anything back home. Meanwhile, he is under immense pressure from his family to pay back the loan that bought his visa.

A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be to six to eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be as high as eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Javed is not the only one in this situation. There are thousands of Pakistanis like him who are told fairytales about career growth prospects in UAE but once there, nightmares await them. These workers are mostly unskilled and employed in the construction sector, which is not performing well in the oil-rich countries of the Gulf region. With oil prices down in the global market, the government is facing difficulty clearing payments of construction companies.

“I was inspired by the story of a village fellow who went to Dubai as a mason three decades ago. Now he owns two houses and several acres of land in the village,” Muhammad Iqbal, a migrant worker from Gujranwala district, told IPS. Everybody in the village wants to emulate him regardless of the situation that exists in the Gulf region, he adds.

Dependence on remittances

Pakistan relies heavily on remittances to build on its foreign reserves and they constitute around 6.9 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a World Bank report. More than half of the remittances come from two countries – Saudi Arabia and Dubai. There are around 1.3 million Pakistani workers in the UAE and close to 4.3 million in Saudi Arabia.

In the last fiscal year, the country received remittances worth 19.9 billion dollars, but in July they dropped by 20 per cent as compared to the figure of the same month last year. There are speculations that layoffs and non-payment of salaries to migrant workers in this region are the cause of this drop in volume. Some fear there is more to come as a large number of Pakistani workers could face job losses due to the slump in the construction sector where they are mostly employed.

But Ashraf Mehmood Wathra, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, argues it is a temporary phenomenon and things will improve as these countries are revising their economic policies to offset the impact of the crash in oil prices.

Skills matter

A major problem with Pakistani migrant labour in Gulf region is that it is not diversified and has remained confined to mostly one or two sectors. The Pakistani government has long ignored this aspect and left the shaping of international labour migration trends at the mercy of the private sector. Of late, following the layoffs of around 9,000 Pakistani workers by construction companies in Saudi Arabia, there is a realization that an overwhelming dependence on this sector will not be a safe bet in the future.

Zahid Mahmood, General Manager at Material Lab, a leading material testing company in Dubai, says Pakistani labourers are considered matchless for working in the construction sector. “They can survive in the worst possible working conditions and endure extreme heat,” he told IPS.

He said that Pashtuns from the northwestern part of the country are high in demand for this very reason. But this, he says, has a negative side as well because little has been done to capture share in other sectors. These workers may be employed for as low as 210 dollars per month, although masons, carpenters, fabricators, supervisors, welders and other skilled workers can earn more.

Zahid says there are very few Pakistanis in the services sector, which is dominated by Indians due to their skills and better educational status. There are very few Pakistani security guards or hospitality sector workers despite the existence of a heavy demand for these professions.

The country will have to devise a proper human resource development strategy to stay in the highly competitive and evolving labour market of the Gulf region, he adds. He is also worried about the low wages paid to Pakistani workers and says there should be official efforts to set a minimum benchmark, for example, 300 dollars per month.

Dilip Ratha, a World Bank economist who recently authored a Migration and Development brief, points out that the Gulf region construction boom funded by oil-based revenue is over and now there is less need for unskilled migrant labour. These economies are also trying to create space to employ their own nationals – something that will further shrink the job market for foreign nationals.

Government initiatives

Though there is a lot to be done, the government of Pakistan has announced certain initiatives that it claims will promote safe and decent employment for its migrant workers. These include production of trained, skilled and certified workforce with enhanced employability.

Irfan Qaisar, chairman of the Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) of the most populous Punjab province, told IPS that they have a developed a Labour Management Information System (LMIS) that maintains the latest information about local and foreign job markets. He says the focus of this government-run institution is on producing demand-based labour and doing away with the unplanned policies of the past.

TEVTA is training people for the hospitality industry, drivers with the help of national Motorway Police and security guards. “Recently, we have announced training of 50,000 security guards on modern lines and with the support country’s law enforcing authorities,” he said. “I am quite hopeful they will be high in demand in international markets once trained on these lines.”

Way forward

Government efforts notwithstanding, there are calls for active engagement between labour-sending and receiving countries to improve the lives of migrant workers. Expecting desired results without government-to-government level negotiations is asking for too much, especially in monarchies.

Khalid Mahmood, director of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF), a Lahore-based labour rights group, put it this way: “The role of the state becomes important here as migrant workers in Gulf are voiceless. Without the right to associate and demand rights, they are as helpless as one can think of.”

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Towards Safe Migration and Decent Work for Women in Nepalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/towards-safe-migration-and-decent-work-for-women-in-nepal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-safe-migration-and-decent-work-for-women-in-nepal http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/towards-safe-migration-and-decent-work-for-women-in-nepal/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:27:38 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147004 Dawa Dolma Tamang migrated from rural Nepal to Abu Dhabi because she wanted to improve her livelihood and support her family. She ended up paying seven times more than what was required to the recruiting agency and was wrongfully denied work on medical grounds. With the help of Pourakhi, an organization working to protect migrant women’s rights, she was able to seek legal assistance and recover some of her money. Today, Tamang is working as a mason and will soon start taking the vocational and entrepreneurship skills training provided by a UN Women programme that’s advancing women’s economic empowerment in Nepal.]]> Dawa Dolma Tamang (right) visits the Pourakhi office regularly to learn about upcoming training opportunities.  Credit: Pradeep Shakya/UN Women

Dawa Dolma Tamang (right) visits the Pourakhi office regularly to learn about upcoming training opportunities. Credit: Pradeep Shakya/UN Women

By UN Women
Sep 20 2016 (IPS)

In August it’s blazing hot in Kathmandu. Dawa Dolma Tamang, 32, sits on a chair at Pourakhi’s office—an organization that works with migrant women workers—staring out of the window. “I want to send my children to a better school and support my husband to make a decent living. I want to make my family whole again,” she says.

Tamang’s story started in April 2016 when she left her remote Maheshwari village in Eastern Nepal to work in Abu Dhabi, only to find herself declared medically unfit for work upon arrival and returned to Nepal, penniless.

“I migrated because I wanted to earn an income and change my life,” she shares. Tamang’s husband was alcoholic, she had two children to support, and she saw migration as the only way out of the clutches of poverty. According to the latest report [1] on foreign migration launched by the Department of Foreign Employment in Nepal, an estimated 21,421 Nepali women are legally working overseas as of 2014-2015, mostly in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

A recruiting agent offered Tamang a job as a cleaner in Abu Dhabi and promised her a salary that she couldn’t imagine earning in Nepal. She left her children in the care of her sister-in-law and went to Kathmandu to get her visa. “I was completely unaware that the recruiting company in Abu Dhabi was paying for my visa and tickets…the agent in Nepal charged me seven times more than what was required. I had to give him NRS 70,000 ($700)!”

Soon after arriving in Abu Dhabi, Tamang was taken to a one-room apartment shared by eight other women. As part of the recruitment process, a doctor visited her on the third day for a medical examination, which included a tuberculosis test. Although she tested positive for latent tuberculosis (TB), she was not given any information about her medical condition. After 45 days, she was taken to a hospital, where she tested positive again. The doctors at the hospital finally told Tamang that she was suffering from latent TB and treated her. When Tamang was discharged from the hospital after 25 days and declared medically fit to work, the recruitment company refused to employ her. She was given a ticket and forced to leave Abu Dhabi the next day.

“I came home with no money and a strange illness for which I had to still take medicines,” she recalls. For the next one month, Tamang stayed at her sister’s house in Kathmandu trying to claim compensation from the recruiting agency, to no avail, as she didn’t have all the receipts and couldn’t prove that the agency had over-charged her.

Dawa Dolma Tamang. Credit: Pradeep Shakya/UN Women

Dawa Dolma Tamang. Credit: Pradeep Shakya/UN Women


Tamang’s story is dismally common among Nepali women migrants, explains Manju Gurung of Pourakhi (which means self-reliant in Nepali language), a non-governmental organization which is supported by UN Women and works to protect the rights of female migrant workers. “Nepali migrant workers lack protection, are victims of non-payment of wages, retrenchment without notice or compensation, as well as unsatisfactory occupational health and safety conditions,” says Gurung. The problem has been exacerbated by recruiters, who do not share the risks involved and by employers who take advantage of the women’s vulnerability as they cannot access the legal system in the host country.

“What we urgently need, is to effectively implement the Foreign Employment Act and its regulations, as this would not only end discrimination based on gender, but also adopt special measures to guarantee women’s security and rights when seeking jobs overseas, by holding employers and recruiters accountable,” says Mio Yokota, UN Women Programme Specialist in Nepal.

According to the law, a returnee migrant is eligible to claim full compensation for the money she paid to the recruiting agency if she was declared medically fit to work and still returned on medical grounds by the recruiter. With legal assistance with Pourakhi, Tamang was able to recover 60 per cent of the money that she had paid to the agency. “If I had all the receipts for the amount I paid, I would have been compensated 100 per cent. This has been a hard lesson for me.”

Today, as she gets her strength back, Dolma Tamang is planning for a better future. She is working as a mason and saving to pay back the loans she took to migrate. She will be enrolling in the upcoming vocational and entrepreneurship skills training as part of UN Women’s Advancing Women’s Economic Empowerment programme in Nepal, funded by the Government of Finland. The programme aims to support 2,000 women, including returnee migrant workers, provide business start-up and employment placement assistance and linkages to financial and private sector institutions.

Notes
[1] Department of Foreign Employment, Ministry of Labour and Employment (2016) Labour Migration for Employment – Status Report 2014/15, Pg. 7. http://www.dofe.gov.np/new/download/download_document/38

This story, part of the “Where I am” editorial series, was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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UN Refugee Summit: “No Cause for Comfort”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 03:50:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146996 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summit-no-cause-for-comfort/feed/ 0 Muslims in Europe: Can There Be Social Harmony ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/muslims-in-europe-can-there-be-social-harmony/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 18:46:15 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146993 The Geneva Centre held a panel discussion on the theme “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony” today, 19 September.

The Geneva Centre held a panel discussion on the theme “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony” today, 19 September.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

Although 20 million Muslims reside in Western Europe, establishing social harmony between the Muslim community and their European counterparts has proved exceedingly challenging.Much to the dismay of international humanitarian agencies and anti-racism activists,the language of exclusion and prejudice persists.

Since the turn of the century, Muslims, the world over, have been subjected to harsh discrimination and harassment. This was triggered by the 2001 terror attacks which rapidly spread anti-Islamic sentiments across the US.The fear surrounding Muslims and the “brute terror” they are widely thought to inflict, has now resulted in the widespread diffusion of religious racism across Europe.

According to Dr.Zidane Meriboute, author of the book “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony”, prior to the extremist-led terror attacks, there was a relative lack of concern for minority groups in Europe. Now, the growth in animosity directed at the Muslim community is increasing at a robust rate.

The modern phenomenon of Islamophobia can be related to leading literary critic, Edward Said’s, theory of “orientalism” wherein Arabs and other Muslims were traditionally labeled as the “other.” In other words, what Dr.Zidane describes as being “the scapegoat for Western society’s ills”. This also draws back to the 19th-century theorist, Arthur de Gobineau’s, description of an age-old “reciprocal repulsion” between Muslims and Europeans.Across Europe, Muslims continue to be the victims of ethnic profiling, violence, and discrimination.

Nowadays, we can see these “archaic” racist doctrines emerge and re-establish themselves in a modern context ,through sustained racism against Arabs and Muslims which may be characterized as Dr.Zidane explains, none other than “Contemporary European Phobic Discourse”.

In France, the 20th-century writings of political theorist Charles Maurras are still prevalent today. Maurras was instrumental in setting up the movement “Action Française”, whose primary objective was the restoration of the French nation through the presence of a strong monarchy powered by Catholicism.

Maurras xenophobic rhetoric targeted Jews and Mediterranean foreigners amongst a host of other minorities. His writings have acted as a major “intellectual” influence of contemporary Far-right movements including the French “National Front.”

The rise of Far-right movements in France is particularly perilous to the Muslim community, whose numbers now exceed 4 million. Muslims become the targets of these political movements, subjected to discrimination, assumed to be affiliated with extremist groups due to media manipulation and fear-mongering.

The anti-Islamic prejudice, accentuated by a series of terror attacks, was brought to light this August when the French State Council attempted to ban the wearing of the “burkini”. Although the ban has been suspended, Dr.Zidane believes that the mindset that created an environment conducive to such an extreme measure indicates a deep societal divide between Muslims and Westerners.

According to Dr.Zidane’s study on “Muslims in Europe”, in Italy, the Muslim population now surpasses 1.5 million. In spite of this vast number and a wider acceptance of secularism , both the Italian state and society remain committed to Catholicism and thus far, a move towards the recognition of Islam has not been made. In addition, there is a range of far-right political parties which are deeply opposed to Islam.

In both France and Italy, racism is commonplace. Discriminatory acts against Muslims are encouraged by the phobic discourse of Far-right parties. In France, for example, 756 anti-Muslim aggressions were enumerated in 2014. There has also been an increase in anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by police in both countries.

Even in Germany, which Dr.Zidane describes as a “model of tolerance”, there are now stirrings of extreme right-wing movements which run counter to the mainstream. The UK, home to some 3 million Muslims, remains the European country where Muslims are best protected by the law and the activities of the police. In spite of this, there has been a rise in Islamophobia triggered by right-wing movements such as the British National Party.

Across Europe, Muslims continue to be the victims of ethnic profiling, violence, and discrimination. Today, 19 of September, The Geneva Centre for Human Rights and Global Dialogue Advancement and Global Dialogue hosted the conference “Muslims in Europe: the road to social harmony” which aims to establish the illegality of racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance against Muslims. The Geneva Centre advocates for a prohibition on the incitement of religious hatred and violence and the recognition that Islamophobia should specifically be the object of sanctions under international law.

In the opening of today’s “Muslims in Europe” conference , Chairman of the Geneva Centre, Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, remarked that the meeting was called as an expression of solidarity with all victims of blind terrorism which targets Muslims and Westerners alike.

Dr. Al Qassim emphasised that all world religions encourage peace and harmony, but distorting their message in order to use them as instruments of conflict is a sham. Muslim communities are today being caught between a hammer of the imminent danger of terrorist groups and the anvil of growing Islamophobia and the emergence of xenophobic populism in some European countries.

He concluded by stating that the meeting should act as an opportunity to discuss the path towards social harmony in Europe for Muslims, whilst keeping with the Geneva Centre’s key objective of fostering interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

According to the former head of a United Nations agency, Algerian diplomat and Secretary General of the Geneva Centre, Idriss Jazairy, “social harmony begins at school.”Jazairy emphasised that teaching our children about the benefits of social harmony lies at the heart of the European Enlightenment.

The French philosopher Voltaire once said that while you may not necessarily agree with what someone has to say, you must “fight to the death” for them to have the right to say it. Jazairy encourages us to apply Voltaire’s philosophy in the context of rising Islamophobia.

In this way, future generations will practice the belief that, in spite of religious or ethnic differences, everyone has the right to live in a globalised world free from the setbacks of racism and prejudice.

Source: Dr.Zidane Meriboute, “Muslims in Europe: The Road to Social Harmony”. The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue & Z.Meriboute, 2015.

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From Where I Stand: Nahimana Fainesihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/from-where-i-stand-nahimana-fainesi/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 10:28:54 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146981 Nahimana Fainesi [Finess], 30, fled her native Burundi in July 2015 and has since been living in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. She works as a farmer in a UN Women cash-for-work programme there, which is funded by the Government of Japan. Her work is directly related to Sustainable Development Goal 2, which seeks to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food; and SDG 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. ]]> Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

Nahimana Fainesi in the Lusenda refugee camp in Fizi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Catianne Tijerina/UN Women

By UN Women
Sep 19 2016 (IPS)

“This is my second time living in communal camps, second time running away from civil war to protect myself. What made me leave [Burundi] was the problem of random people invading others’ homes, attacking those without husbands. They would enter with knives. Before they kill you, they would first rape you. When I saw those attacks, and people dying, I left with my one-year-old son. I didn’t have the chance to get all my children because it was a case of everyone for themselves, running for their lives.

When I got to the Lusenda Camp (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), I had no hope. UN Women gave me hope, motivation and empowerment. After some time, I was appointed committee member of the women’s group. I found a job [through a cash-for-work programme] and that money helped me cross back to get my children. I have five children—four girls and one boy.

Camp life is another challenge. Two of my children have now matured into young women. When they go walking around, I remain in constant fear, because at any time they could get raped. The food is also insufficient and gets depleted even before the next ration.

I survive by farming to get a little cash. Women farm together, growing several types of crops. Once they are ready to be harvested, we sell the produce. One must always think about how you can get your hands dirty to attain your goals and feed your family. Happiness begins with you.”

This story, part of the “Where I am” editorial series, was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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In Host Country Lebanon, Refugee and Rural Women Build Entrepreneurship, Cohesion and Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/in-host-country-lebanon-refugee-and-rural-women-build-entrepreneurship-cohesion-and-future/#comments Fri, 16 Sep 2016 16:44:32 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146967 Women entrepreneurs from refugee and host communities in Lebanon are using their unique skills and creativity to build their own model of social stability in Lebanon while launching economically viable businesses.]]> Refugee and rural women in host country, Lebanon, learn to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, organic and agro-food products as part of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality project. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Refugee and rural women in host country, Lebanon, learn to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, organic and agro-food products as part of the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality project. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

By UN Women
Sep 16 2016 (IPS)

“When we were forced to leave our country, I never thought that a community in Lebanon would accept and treat me as an active member, the way I have been at the Kfeir Women’s Working Group,” says Hiba Kamal, an 18-year-old refugee from Syria who travelled to Lebanon with her family five years ago fleeing instability in her own country.

Kamal is among more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria and its neighbouring countries, hosted by Lebanon. The massive influx of refugees accounts for 25 per cent of the total population in Lebanon and puts unprecedented pressure on the Lebanese economy. There is an ever-increasing demand for public services and significantly stronger competition for limited resources and employment.

Hiba Kamal, a Syrian refugee, learns needlework technique from a Lebanese woman at a workshop by Amel Association, supported by UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. Photo courtesy of Amel Association

Hiba Kamal, a Syrian refugee, learns needlework technique from a Lebanese woman at a workshop by Amel Association, supported by UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. Photo courtesy of Amel Association

The protracted refugee and migrant crisis has led to increased tensions between host and refugee populations, especially in the poorest areas, where refugees tend to concentrate. There is a higher risk of insecurity, sexual and gender-based violence [1].

Women, both Lebanese citizens and refugees, often suffer more discrimination due to the prevalence of prejudiced laws and cultural stereotypes. They are frequently either restricted at home, or relegated to finding low and unstable income within the informal sector without social protection.

To improve women’s access to employment and markets, the Amel Association, a grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, implemented a three-year project from 2012 – 2015 in the south of Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut. The project has impacted over 1,000 rural and refugee women, who have learned how to create, brand and commercialize high-quality handicrafts, such as embroidery and accessories, organic and agro-food products, following the highest quality and sanitation standards.

By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, the participants of the MENNA project create unique and marketable products under the MENNA brand. The interactive workshops where refugee and Lebanese women learn and work together has also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, the participants of the MENNA project create unique and marketable products under the MENNA brand. The interactive workshops where refugee and Lebanese women learn and work together has also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Through interactive sessions, where refugee and Lebanese women learned and worked together, the programme also created spaces for dialogue and coexistence to build social stability. “The [Lebanese] women started teaching me their traditional needle work and I was genuinely happy to share with them all the traditional practices that I had learned from my mother and grandmother in loom work,” shares Kamal. By mixing traditional techniques, materials and designs, participants link their cultural heritage and history with the products, making them unique and highly marketable.

“We started seeing real results of our work when some of the women started creating their own products and started exhibiting them. They grew stronger, more confident and set inspiring examples for other women in the area,” says Safaa Al Ali, Programme Manager at the Amel Association.

The organization facilitated an alliance with 13 other civil society organizations and cooperatives doing similar work to create the first economic network for women in Lebanon, called “MENNA” (meaning “from us” in Arabic language). Today, more than 300 refugee and rural Lebanese women producers sell soaps, candles, accessories and handicrafts directly to the public in a shop in Beirut also named MENNA.

“I came to Lebanon as the crisis began in Syria five years ago…it was hard to find a suitable job as a refugee and I could not access the formal business sector,” shares Mona Hamid, a 51-year-old Syrian refugee living in the suburbs of Beirut. “By joining the MENNA network at Amel, I gained skills to sell and promote my items at local businesses and also showed them at exhibitions.”

The success of the initiative prompted Amel to create a MENNA catering service in February 2016, opening up more income-generating opportunities for women.

Over 1,000 rural and refugee women have learned to create, brand and commercialize their products. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Over 1,000 rural and refugee women have learned to create, brand and commercialize their products. Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade


The MENNA brand has brought together Lebanese and refugee women in a way that has benefited entire communities. “The importance of this project is that it respects the culture and skills of refugee women and assists them in integrating into the host community. It is a model that works, not only to make women agents of their own economic empowerment in a fragile context, but also as a way that brings them together to work for a common goal, thus building social stability and sustainable peace,” notes Rana El-Houjeiri, Programme Specialist for UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality in Lebanon. The Fund is now building upon the success of this project by supporting similar initiatives in Lebanon and other countries in the Arab States region.

Notes
[1] Amel Association International (2013). Unpublished study on “Gender analysis of Host Communities affected by Syrian Refugee Crisis”

This story was replicated from the UN Women website <http://www.unwomen.org/>. IPS is an official
partner of UN Women’s Step It Up! Media Compact.

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Italy’s Second Economy: The Impact of Bangladeshi Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/italys-second-economy-the-impact-of-bangladeshi-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=italys-second-economy-the-impact-of-bangladeshi-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/italys-second-economy-the-impact-of-bangladeshi-migration/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:22:51 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr and Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146936 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/italys-second-economy-the-impact-of-bangladeshi-migration/feed/ 0 UN Summit Won’t Resolve Refugee Resettlement Impassehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-summit-wont-resolve-refugee-resettlement-impasse/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 20:49:11 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146926 Border guards in Bangladeshrefusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

Border guards in Bangladeshrefusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in 2012. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

By Phoebe Braithwaite
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2016 (IPS)

Next week’s landmark UN summit on refugees and migrants was supposed to help resettle one in ten refugees, instead UN member states have settled for vague gestures, including a campaign to end xenophobia.

Human rights organisations and humanitarian actors alike have expressed disappointment with an outcome document agreed upon by member states in advance of the summit, which falls short of creating a binding, comprehensive framework to protect migrants and refugees.

“If global leaders adopt a resolution with some nice language – but so lacking in concrete commitments it fails to make any real difference to the lives of those fleeing war and conflict – they are merely fiddling while Rome burns,” Richard Bennett, Head of Amnesty’s Office at the United Nations, told IPS.

They say that the UN’s richer member states are missing a crucial opportunity to tackle xenophobia and racism by actually resettling refugees within their own borders.

“When you actually speak to refugees, the men with Kalashnikovs are pushing them away, but the men in suits are running away,” -- Arvinn Gadgil

“When you actually speak to refugees, the men with Kalashnikovs are pushing them away, but the men in suits are running away,” Arvinn Gadgil Director of Partnerships and Policy at the Norwegian Refugee Council told IPS.

“There seemed to be an appetite from member states to actually find a mechanism for responsibility sharing. Now – perhaps naively – we thought that was true, and we are of course disappointed. That was the one key output from the summit that we now seem not to be able to get,” said Gadgil.

Gadgil described the talks as a “race to the bottom,” entailing “systematic risk-aversion” and overwhelming concern for national self-interest. “There is very little reason to be optimistic,” he said, deploring states’ negotiations, which, he says, were governed by the “lowest common denominator of shame.”

Revealing a process in which member states stripped back meaningful promises to vague re-affirmations of shared responsibility, Bennett said, “there’s this enormous crisis, and these diplomats sit in New York discussing words which may or may not even be implemented… there’s a huge gap between their rhetoric and the reality.”

Numbers of displaced people remain at unprecedented levels globally, higher than ever before in the UN’s history. With around 65 million people forced from their homes, one in every 113 people is now either a refugee, asylum seeker or internally displaced person. 21.3 million of these people are refugees; 51 percent of refugees are children.

Yet even a clause on the detention of children was considered too controversial by some member states.

Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser on the summit, explained that the implementation of children’s right never to be detainedhad been extremely contentious for some states and amended to the principle “for children seldom, if ever, to be detained.”

In an effort to address the broad issues created by human mobility, the summit will focus on both refugees and migrants, though discussing them side-by-side has proven controversial since migration is a less settled area of international law. Internally displaced persons will not be discussed, though there are approximately 45 million people currently displaced within national borders.

Around 86 percent of refugees reside in low and middle-income countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Chad, Turkey, and Nauru, where Australia holds refugees, including children, in offshore detention.

Criticising those states “who are continuing to put up borders and walls,” Bennett said, “there is no trigger mechanism; there are no concrete, objective criteria for deciding how a country meets its fair share… It’s a kind of ad-hoc approach, based on largesse, of whether a country offers resettlement places or money or not.”

The outcome document says that “in many parts of the world we are witnessing, with great concern, increasingly xenophobic and racist responses to refugees and migrants” – as well as the increasing acceptability of such attitudes. Yet states themselves perpetuate these attitudes by refusing to welcome people from different countries, even when fleeing violence and persecution.

On Monday Amnesty criticised the G20 declaration calling for greater “burden-sharing” with regards to refugees, calling this “callous hypocrisy” given that many G20 countries actively blocked efforts to resettle refugees. Moreover, the term itself ‘burden-sharing’ explicitly views refugees negatively.

States, said Bennett, are “reluctant to set targets when it comes to taking and supporting refugees because there is a toxic narrative about migration and refugees which affects national politics. Another concern we have about the outcome document of the summit is that it moves in the direction of securitisation – of seeing the movement of people as a security issue, and not that refugees will make societies more diverse and actually stronger.”

Last week Angela Merkel’s party, which has consistently acted as a moral force by resettling refugees, and refusing to bow to the xenophobic electoral strategies of parties in many European countries, lost a local election to far-right populist party Alternative for Germany.

Without wishing to read too much into a single local election, said Gadgil, “this could potentially be a watershed moment in European politics, where we end up with the definitive rise of parties that are primarily motivated by xenophobic views of the world, and primarily motivated by the artificial portrayal of immigrants as essentially and only bad.”

Talks “Abstract, Academic Exercise”

September 2 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, whose picture moved publics to sympathy last summer, helping to individualise suffering on an enormous scale.

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recently reported saying, “nobody is ever just a refugee,” emphasising the centrality of migration in human history at the UN’s World Humanitarian Day.

At the preliminary talks, however, Bennett said: “I didn’t really hear any countries give examples of actual refugee or migrant stories… for the states this seemed like an abstract, academic exercise.”

Narratives and public statements are doubtless indispensible tools in communicating every person’s humanity, but a more sustained level of attention is needed among policy-makers, who play a critical role in shaping public opinion, to bring about real change and uphold the rights and the dignity of refugees and migrants.

Speaking on Tuesday night in New York Médecins Sans Frontières’s Executive Director Jason Cone looked to the summit, saying, “ultimately it’s political leaders that have to step up and make these decisions… These are problems that are eminently solvable with the right resources directed towards them.”

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will take place at UN headquarters in New York on September 19.

Hopes now turn to the Leaders Summit on Refugees, convened the following day by Barack Obama, where he will invite heads of state and government to make national, rather than collective, resettlement pledges.

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Yemeni Refugees Still Stuck on Wrong Side of the Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yemeni-refugees-still-stuck-on-wrong-side-of-the-water/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2016 13:38:32 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146799 A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A Yemeni man proudly watching over an infant in the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
OBOCK, Djibouti, Sep 6 2016 (IPS)

Tears emerge from the slit of 20-year-old Gada’s black niqab face veil. After more than a minute’s silence she still can’t answer the question: How bad was it in Yemen before you left?

During 2015, escalation of fighting in Yemen led to a mass exodus. The UN refugee agency estimates that more than 2.4 million Yemenis have fled their homes to elsewhere in the country, and 120,000 have sought asylum in other countries.“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income. But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?” -- Issa, an 18-year-old refugee in the camp in Obock.

This includes Somalia and Djibouti on the opposite side from Yemen of the 30-km stretch of water known as Bab-el-Mandeb, meaning the Gateway of Tears—a name derived from the long history of people perishing when trying to cross it—at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

Some of those who went to Djibouti settled in a refugee camp that grew outside Obock, a small sun-parched town on the Horn of Africa coast. Facilities in the camp remain basic, though they now include a school started singlehandedly by an American missionary to provide Yemeni children and young adults with education, as well as something more intangible.

“Education is obviously important, and the school gives parents a much needed break from their kids in the cramped camp, but this is more to do with showing the refugees that they matter and have a future—that they’re not left out,” says Marianne Vecchione, a Los Angeles resident who has spent the past year in Obock.

After one typically sweltering day in the camp—daily temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit—as the sun sets Yemeni children giggle among themselves as they hesitantly approach and pet a group of camels, idling in a sandy lane running between groups of tents.

: With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

With little to provide excitement in the camp, Yemeni children are drawn by a group of camels. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The sight of the camels provides a rare moment of excitement amid the drudgery of camp life. Housed in the simple tents are Yemeni from all over the country and from all walks of life: from poor fisherman to relatively affluent professionals of the middle class.

“I had everything, a job and an internet shop, but the Houthi rebels took it,” says 25-year-old Saddam from the city of Alhodida. “Everything’s gone. The shop was probably worth 25,000 dollars. Mum and dad are still there, my sister is in Ta’izz and I have two brothers in the camp, but we don’t know where my other brother is—he’s lost somewhere.”

Despite such deprivations, refugees try to keep a sense of humour about their predicaments.

“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” 22-year-old Ali says with a smile as he lifts a hanging cloth acting as the entrance to an enclosed area, comprising a small central open area with a tent at either end, in which lives Ali, his mother and five siblings, two of whom go to the camp’s school where Ali volunteers as a teacher. Ali says his family knew a much better life in Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city, before his father was killed by a military plane’s bomb strike during fighting and the family fled.

“My future used to be in Yemen when I had a father with an income,” says Ali’s 18-year-old brother Issa. “But if we go back we’ll be starting from scratch. Before, we depended on ourselves, but how do we do that now?”

The camp at its peak had about 3,000 people, now there are about 1,000. Refugees have started returning to Yemen, braving the ongoing fighting there.

“There’s nothing like home,” says one woman in a group of Yemeni female refugees discussing what they miss. “Even if you are somewhere better, you can’t compare with it—where you had your childhood, the traditions, the parks, the mosques and culture. We miss everything, the breath and waves of Yemen. We even miss the shop keepers as they were part of daily life.”

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the camp. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In August, UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait for establishing peace in Yemen ended after 90 days unresolved, with fighting resuming between government forces and rebels.

“When will there be peace? Maybe in 30 years if the old generation dies and the young are more peaceful and loving,” says a 45-year-old Yemeni who back in Yemen is head of a tribe and didn’t want his name used due to his position. “The rebels came from nothing and took over everything, killing a lot. They had to have someone behind them—big support to get all the weapons.”

Yemen has fallen foul of a proxy war being waged between Saudi Arabia, supporting Yemen’s government forces, and Iran, backing the Houthi rebels who, according to Yemeni in the camp, having committed the most and worst atrocities.

Vecchione recounts how one day she told young school children to draw pictures for a class and by its end she found herself looking at scrawled pictures of the likes of bombed-out houses, dead people and boats being shelled—as refugees fled over the sea to Djibouti they were targeted by unknown forces on the Yemen mainland firing artillery at boats.

Many refugees are deeply traumatised, something the aid world can forget in its haste to deliver assistance, according to Vecchione.

“In the aid world things are done according to projects and programs, they’re not done according to individuals,” Vecchione says. “So the aid world can forget you’re dealing with someone who is traumatized and who needs special care, and needs a different way of handling.”

Djibouti’s government is often criticiz]sed for not doing enough to help large numbers of unemployed and impoverished in the country. But Vecchione notes how its Ministry of Education helped and cooperated fully with her when she undertook to take two groups of students to Djibouti City to complete exams, enabling them to progress to high-school and university in the future.

“The government does have challenges but they are showing the way internationally [with refugees],” says Tom Kelly, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti, who has visited the camp a number of times and hosted the students at his residence while they took exams in the city. “They’ve saved thousands of lives. It deserves credit for opening its borders to people who had nowhere else to go.”

The influx of Yemeni refugees into Djibouti has totalled about 35,000, Kelly says, adding how, relative to the size of Djibouti’s population, this is like 13 million people entering the U.S.

Despite the refugees’ dire situation, Vecchione encountered opposition to her endeavours to help. She was accused by some of trying to convert students to Christianity—even though the school taught the Yemeni curriculum including lessons on the Koran and Islam.

At one stage, tensions were such her bosses considered pulling her out of Obock. But she stayed, and is adamant it was worth it. Everywhere she goes around the camp and small town she is accompanied by a common refrain from both young and adult voices: “Marianne! Marianne!”

It’s clear that some refugees appreciate what one Christian volunteer has done for them, despite what can be vast cultural and religious differences.

Meanwhile, although the ongoing war in Yemen can easily appear impossibly intractable, and its terrible fallout insurmountable, Vecchione notes how often the smallest things can still make a big difference.

“The school also breaks down some of the regional challenges people have based on the war, as there’s a lot of north/south and inter-city squabbling based on the fighting and trauma,” Vecchione says. “Different cities committed different atrocities, but the school brought [children and parents] together, and unified them as one people.”

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Migrant Labour Fuels Tensions in Mauritiushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/migrant-labour-fuels-tensions-in-mauritius/#comments Mon, 29 Aug 2016 19:44:35 +0000 Nasseem Ackbarally http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146714 Workers from Bangladesh in Mauritius. Many fall into debt to pay for their travel, yet find it almost impossible to save any money despite working long hours. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

Workers from Bangladesh in Mauritius. Many fall into debt to pay for their travel, yet find it almost impossible to save any money despite working long hours. Credit: Nasseem Ackbarally/IPS

By Nasseem Ackbarally
PORT LOUIS, Aug 29 2016 (IPS)

They come from Bangladesh, China, India and Madagascar, mainly to run the machines in the textile industry here. But they do all kinds of other jobs too, from masons to bakers, house cleaners and gardeners.

For the eight consecutive year in 2016, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report ranked Mauritius first among African economies, and its GDP per capita was over 16,820 dollars, one of the highest in Africa. But there is a darker side to the success of this upper middle income island nation in the Indian Ocean, situated about 2,000 kilometres off the southeast coast of the African continent.“The government argues that foreigners are hired because the locals refuse the jobs. The truth is the government itself discourages the locals by introducing a four-month short-term contract, for example, in the construction sector." -- Trade unionist Reeaz Chuttoo

“Living like animals”

Local enterprises rely on foreign workers because Mauritians are increasingly reluctant to work long hours under difficult conditions. But these foreigners live in very poor conditions and in many cases, in human indignity.

Thirty-six-year-old Bangladeshi Maqbool* left his wife and two children back home in Dhaka two years ago and came to work in the manufacturing sector in Mauritius, hoping to earn enough money to offer a decent life to his family.

“I paid 150,000 takkas (about 2,000 dollars) to an agent who got me this job. I was supposed to get 675 dollars a month, which represents a huge amount in my country, and I was ready for any sacrifice to earn it,” he said. To his bitter disappointment, he earns only about half of that.

Foreign workers all have such stories to tell. They take loans or sell the family’s lands or jewelry to pay for their travel to Mauritius. “The island is very beautiful but there is no money here. I run short of money every month after paying for my own expenses. I send some to the family every three months and I save nothing,” adds Massood*.

Both men are frustrated as they have to leave the island in a couple of months and they have yet to save any money to take back home.

Running away from poverty

Poverty, unemployment and the rising costs of living in their home countries force thousands of Bangladeshis, Chinese, Indians and also Malagasy people to look for jobs abroad. About 40,000 of them already work in the manufacturing sector, the construction industry, hotels, transport and also in the seafood hub. They start work very early in the morning and finish up very late at night. They are forced to do overtime and do not earn more than a 150 dollars a month.

A local welfare officer from a well-known textile enterprise confirms under condition of anonymity that the foreigners work night and day with little time for rest and live and sleep in unhygienic dormitories with just a cupboard and a thin mattress full of fleas and bugs.

“I feel sorry for them. They live like animals and are helpless. They accept things as they are,” he told IPS.

Those who resist or cause trouble on their worksites are sent back home. Hundreds of them faced this fate last year after they took to the streets demanding better wages and protesting against their working conditions. Even though, says trade unionist Feisal Ally Beegun, these migrants are exemplary workers.

Still, some of them claim they are happy. “Please sir, tell them to give me more work and more money, no fuss about it,” one Bangladeshi worker pleaded with IPS, while others working at the Compagnie Mauricienne du Textile (CMT), which employs a few thousand expatriates, ran away upon seeing journalists.

A security guard posted at the gate of this factory in Phoenix, in the centre of the island, revealed that the foreigners have had so many problems with their employer and the police last year that they now refuse to talk to the media.

Source of irritation

The antipathy of the locals for the textile and manufacturing sector and for low-paid jobs has resulted in the import of labour to keep the wheels of the island’s industry turning. They were first brought in 1992 as a temporary measure as the industry moved from labour-intensive to capital-intensive manufacture.

Twenty-five years later, they are still here and the government believes they add value to the island’s economy by helping the factories deliver on time and also help in keeping the locals’ jobs.

Trade unionist Reeaz Chuttoo begs to disagree. “The government argues that foreigners are hired because the locals refuse the jobs. The truth is the government itself discourages the locals by introducing a four-month short-term contract, for example, in the construction sector, which the Mauritians refuse. In the seafood hub, foreigners are hired only for the night shift because no local does it.

“So the locals prefer to hawk cheap imported goods on the street rather than working long and late hours, even if they have to run from the police,” he says.

Chuttoo warns that a social explosion is in the making, with high unemployment, too many foreign workers and not enough jobs for the locals. “Mauritius is already invaded by a feeling of xenophobia and racism towards foreign workers,” he adds.

Jaynarain Mathurah, director at the Special Expatriate Unit of the Labour and Industrial Relations Ministry, brushes aside these allegations, arguing that foreign workers enjoy the same working conditions as the locals.

“We do not discriminate between them. The free zone manufacturing sector is governed by a remuneration order that is applied to all. Above this, there is a Special Migrant Workers Unit that take care of these migrants and it intervenes very fast with the employers when a problem arises,” he told IPS.

He believes the foreigners are well treated but agrees that “seeing their number, it happens that we are unable to visit them as often as we would have liked.”

“We believe they are well-off regarding their wages and their working and living conditions. Apart from their wages, they also get accommodation, food and transport,” he added.

According to him, low-paid jobs are common in developing countries where the free zone manufacturing sector has been introduced in a bid to create jobs. Investors are always looking for cheap and skilled labour and right now many enterprises in Mauritius plan to expand their activities and they need skilled labour.

“Where do I get them?” shouts a manager at Firemount Textiles in northern Mauritius.

Foreign workers will not stop coming to this island anytime soon, as they are needed to support its economic development in the absence of locals. They are now expected to increase in the agriculture and the ICT sectors.

*Names changed to protect their identities.

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Mexico, a Democracy Where People Disappear at the Hands of the Statehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/mexico-a-democracy-where-people-disappear-at-the-hands-of-the-state/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-a-democracy-where-people-disappear-at-the-hands-of-the-state http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/mexico-a-democracy-where-people-disappear-at-the-hands-of-the-state/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2016 14:04:01 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146690 One of numerous protests by relatives of victims of forced disappearance, who come to Mexico City to demand that the government search for their relatives and solve the cases. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

One of numerous protests by relatives of victims of forced disappearance, who come to Mexico City to demand that the government search for their relatives and solve the cases. Credit: Diana Cariboni/IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, Aug 26 2016 (IPS)

“Go and tell my dad that they’re holding me here,” Maximiliano Gordillo Martínez told his travelling companion on May 7 at the migration station in Chablé, in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco. It was the last time he was ever seen, and his parents have had no news of him since.

Gordillo, 19, and his friend had left their village in the southern state of Chiapas to look for work in the tourist city of Playa del Carmen, in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. It was a 1,000-km journey by road from their indigenous community in the second-poorest state in the country.

But halfway there, they were stopped by National Migration Institute agents, who detained Maximiliano because they thought he was Guatemalan, even though the young man, who belongs to the Tzeltal indigenous people, handed them his identification which showed he is a Mexican citizen.“One single forced or politically motivated disappearance in any country should throw into doubt whether a state of law effectively exists. It’s impossible to talk about democracy if there are victims of forced disappearance.” -- Héctor Cerezo

When his friend tried to intervene, he was threatened by the agents, who said they would accuse him of being a trafficker of migrants. The young man, whose name was not made public, was terrified and fled. When he reached his village he told Arturo Gordillo, Maximiliano’s father, what had happened.

It’s been over three months and the parents of Max, as his family calls him, have not stopped looking for him. On Monday, Aug. 22 they came to Mexico City, with the support of human rights organisations, to report the forced disappearance of the eldest of their five children.

He had never before been so far from Tzinil, a Tzeltal community in the municipality of Socoltenango where four out of 10 local inhabitants live in extreme poverty while the other six are merely poor, according to official figures.

“The disappearance of my son has been very hard for us,” Arturo Gordillo, the father, told IPS in halting English. “I have to report it because it’s too painful and I don’t want it to happen to another parent, to be humiliated and hurt this way by the government.”

“The Institute ignores people, their heart is hard,” he said, referring to Mexico’s migration authorities. At his side, his wife Antonia Martínez wept.

The case of Maximiliano Gordillo is just one of 150 people from Chiapas who have gone missing along routes used by migrants in Mexico, the spokesman for the organisation Mesoamerican Voices, Enrique Vidal, told IPS.

They are added to thousands of Central American migrants who have vanished in Mexico in the past decade. According to organisations working on behalf of migrants, many of the victims were handed over by the police and other government agents to criminal groups to be extorted or used as slave labour.

Antonia Martínez, devastated by the forced disappearance of her son, Maximiliano Gordillo, 19, while his uncle Natalio Gordillo went over details of the case with IPS. His parents and other relatives came to Mexico City from the faraway village of Tzinil, of the Tzeltal indigenous community, to ask the government to give back the young man, who they have heard nothing about since May 7. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

Antonia Martínez, devastated by the forced disappearance of her son, Maximiliano Gordillo, 19, while his uncle Natalio Gordillo went over details of the case with IPS. His parents and other relatives came to Mexico City from the faraway village of Tzinil, of the Tzeltal indigenous community, to ask the government to give back the young man, who they have heard nothing about since May 7. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

The only official data available giving a glimpse of the extent of the problem is a report by the National Human Rights Commission, which documented 21,000 kidnappings of migrants in 2011 alone.

But the problem does not only affect migrants. In Mexico, forced disappearances are “widespread and systematic,” according to the report Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico, released by the international Open Society Justice Initiative and five independent Mexican human rights organisations.

The study documents serious human rights violations committed in Mexico from 2006 to 2015 and says they must be considered crimes against humanity, due to their systematic and widespread nature against the civilian population.

The disappearances are perpetrated by military, federal and state authorities – a practice that is hard to understand in a democracy, local and international human rights activists say.

“One single forced or politically motivated disappearance in any country should throw into doubt whether a state of law effectively exists. It’s impossible to talk about democracy if there are victims of forced disappearance,” said Héctor Cerezo of the Cerezo Committee.

The Cerezo Committee is the leading Mexican organisation in the documentation of politically motivated or other forced disappearances.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24 it presented its report “Defending human rights in Mexico: the normalisation of political repression”, which documents 11 cases of forced disappearance of human rights defenders between June 2015 and May 2016.

“Expanding the use of forced disappearance also serves as a mechanism of social control and modification of migration routes, a mechanism of forced recruitment of young people and women, and a mechanism of forced displacement used in specific regions against the entire population,” the report says.

Cerezo told IPS that in Mexico, forced disappearance “evolved from a mechanism of political repression to a state policy aimed at generating terror.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged Mexico in March to acknowledge the gravity of the human rights crisis it is facing.

Signs with the images of victims of forced disappearance are becoming a common sight in Mexico, like this one in a church in Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Credit:  Daniela Pastrana/IPS

Signs with the images of victims of forced disappearance are becoming a common sight in Mexico, like this one in a church in Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Credit: Daniela Pastrana/IPS

The report presented by the IACHR after its visit to Mexico in 2015 denounced “alarming” numbers of involuntary and enforced disappearances, with involvement by state agents, as well as high rates of extrajudicial executions, torture, citizen insecurity, lack of access to justice, and impunity.

The Mexican government has repeatedly rejected criticism by international organisations. But its denial of the magnitude of the problem has had few repercussions.

The activists who spoke to IPS stressed that on Aug. 30, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the international community has an opportunity to draw attention to the crisis in Mexico and to hold the government accountable for systematically disappearing members of certain groups of civilians, as documented by human rights groups.

But not everything is bad news with respect to the phenomenon of forced disappearance, which runs counter to democracy in this Latin American country of 122 million people which is free of internal armed conflict.

This year, relatives of the disappeared won two important legal battles. One of them is a mandate for the army to open up its installations for the search for two members of the Revolutionary Popular Army who went missing in the southern state of Oaxaca, although the sentence has not been enforced.

Meanwhile, no progress has been made towards passing a draft law on forced disappearance under debate in Congress.

“The last draft does not live up to international standards on forced disappearance nor to the needs of the victims’ families, who do not have the resources to effectively take legal action with regard to the disappearance of their loved ones. There is no real access to justice or reparations, and there are no guarantees of it not being repeated,” said Cerezo.

In the most recent case made public, that of Maximiliano Gordillo, the federal government special prosecutor’s office for the search for disappeared persons has refused to ask its office in Tabasco to investigate.

For its part, the National Human Rights Commission issued precautionary measures, but has avoided releasing a more compelling recommendation. The National Migration Institute, for its part, denies that it detained the young man, but refuses to hand over the list of agents, video footage and registries of entries and exists from the migration station where he was last seen.

Aug. 22 was Gordillo’s 19th birthday. “We feel so sad he’s not with us. We had a very sad birthday, a birthday filled with pain,” said his father, before announcing that starting on Thursday, Aug. 25 signs would be put up in more than 60 municipalities of Chiapas, to help in the search for him.

As the days go by without any progress in the investigations, Gordillo goes from organisation to organisation, with one request: “If you, sisters and brothers, can talk to the government, ask them to give back our son, because they have him, they took him.”

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Tracing War Missing Still a Dangerous Quest in Sri Lankahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:51:46 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146673 The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
MANNAR, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

As Sri Lanka readies to begin the grim task of searching for thousands of war missing, those doing the tracing on the ground say that they still face intimidation and threats while doing their work.

The government will set up the Office for Missing Persons (OMP) by October following its ratification in parliament earlier this month. The office, the first of its kind, is expected to coordinate a nationwide tracing programme."We don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work." -- Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District

However, officers with the Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC), which currently has an operational tracing programme, tell IPS that it is still difficult to trace those who went missing during combat, especially if they are linked to any armed group.

“It is a big problem,” said one SLRC official who was detained by the military for over three hours when he made contact with the family of a missing person whose relatives in India had sent in a tracing request.

“The family in India did not know, I did not know, that he was a high-ranking member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The moment I went to his house to seek information, the military was outside,” said the official, who declined to be named. He was later interrogated about why he was seeking such information and who he was working for.

The official told IPS that as there was no national programme endorsed by the government to trace war missing, security personnel were unlikely to allow such work, especially in the former conflict zone in the North East, where there is a large security presence since the war’s end in May 2009.

However, the Secretariat for Coordination of Reconciliation Mechanism and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation both said that once the envisaged OMP is set up, the government was likely to push ahead with a tracing programme. The draft bill for the office includes provisions for witness and victim protection.

War-related missing has been a contentious issue since Sri Lanka’s war ended seven years ago. A Presidential Commission on the Missing sitting since 2013 has so far recorded over 20,000 complaints, including those of 5,000 missing members from government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has so far recorded over 16,000 complaints on missing persons since 1989. The 2011 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka said that over 40,000 had gone missing.

In 2015, a study by a the University Teachers for Human Rights from the University of Jaffna in the North said that they suspected that the missing figure could be over 90,000 comparing available population figures.

After years of resistance, in 2014 the then Mahinda Rajapaksa government gave the ICRC permission to conduct the first ever island-wide survey of the needs of the families of the missing. The report was released in July and concluded, “the Assessment revealed that the highest priority for the families is to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relative(s), including circumstantial information related to the disappearance.”

ICRC officials said that it was playing an advisory role to the government on setting up the tracing mechanism. “The government of Sri Lanka received favourably a proposal by the ICRC to assist the process of setting up a mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people and to comprehensively address the needs of their families, by sharing its experience from other contexts and its technical expertise on aspects related to the issue of missing people and their families,” ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said.

The SLRC in fact has an ongoing tracing programme active in all 25 districts dating back over three decades. “Right now most of the tracing work is related to those who have been separated due to migration,” Kamal Yatawera, the head of the tracing unit said. It has altogether traced over 12,000 missing persons, the bulk separated due to migration or natural disasters.

However, the SLRC is currently not engaged in tracing war related missing unless notified by family members, which happens rarely. “But we do look for people who have been separated or missing due to the conflict, especially those who fled to India,” said Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District. He has traced four such cases out of the 10 that had been referred to him since last December.

He added that tracing work would be easier if there was a government-backed programme. “Now we don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work. If there was government sanction, then we can reach out to the public machinery, now we are left to go from house to house, asking people.”

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females - either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females – either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

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Dhaka Could Be Underwater in a Decadehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 23:10:34 +0000 Rafiqul Islam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146575 Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Like many other fast-growing megacities, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka faces severe water and sanitation problems, chiefly the annual flooding during monsoon season due to unplanned urbanisation, destruction of wetlands and poor city governance.

But experts are warning that if the authorities here don’t take serious measures to address these issues soon, within a decade, every major thoroughfare in the city will be inundated and a majority of neighborhoods will end up underwater after heavy precipitation.A 42-mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

“If the present trend of city governance continues, all city streets will be flooded during monsoon in a decade, intensifying the suffering of city dwellers, and people will be compelled to leave the city,” urban planner Dr. Maksudur Rahman told IPS.

He predicted that about 50-60 percent of the city will be inundated in ten years if it experiences even a moderate rainfall.

Climate change means even heavier rains

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of the country’s growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. On Sep. 1, 2015, for example, a total of 42 millimeters fell in an hour and a half, collapsing the city’s drainage system.

According to experts, a 42 mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that more rainfall will be very likely at higher latitudes by the mid-21st century under a high-emissions scenario and over southern areas of Asia by the late 21st century.

More frequent and heavy rainfall days are projected over parts of South Asia, including Bangladesh.

Dhaka is also the second most vulnerable to coastal flooding among nine of the most at-risk cities of the world, according to the Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI), developed jointly by the Dutch researchers and the University of Leeds in 2012.

Dhaka has four surrounding rivers – Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitlakhya – which help drain the city during monsoon. The rivers are connected to the trans-boundary Jamuna River and Meghna River. But the natural flow of the capital’s surrounding rivers is hampered during monsoon due to widespread encroachment, accelerating water problems.

S.M. Mahbubur Rahman, director of the Dhaka-based Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), a think tank, said the authorities need to flush out the stagnant water caused by heavy rains through pumping since the rise in water level of the rivers during monsoon is a common phenomenon.

“When the intensity of rainfall is very high in a short period, they fail to do so,” he added.

Sylhet is the best example of managing problems in Bangladesh, as the city has successfully coped with its water-logging in recent years through improvement of its drainage system. Sylhet is located in a monsoon climatic zone and experiences a high intensity of rainfall during monsoon each year. Nearly 80 percent of the annual average precipitation (3,334 mm) occurs in the city between May and September.

Just a few years ago, water-logging was a common phenomenon in the city during monsoon. But a magical change has come in managing water problems after Sylhet City Corporation improved its drainage system and re-excavated canals, which carry rainwater and keep the city free from water-logging.

A critical network of canals

City canals play a vital role in running off rainwater during the rainy season. But most of the canals are clogged and the city drainage system is usually blocked because of disposal of waste in drains. So many parts of the capital get inundated due to the crumbling drainage system and some places go under several feet of stagnant rainwater during monsoon.

“Once there were 56 canals in the capital, which carried rainwater and kept the city free from water-logging…most of the canals were filled up illegally,” said Dr Maksudur Rahman, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Dhaka University.

He stressed the need for cleaning up all the city canals and making them interconnected, as well as dredging the surrounding rivers to ensure smooth runoff of rainwater during monsoon.

In October 2013, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) signed a 7.5 million Euro deal with the Netherlands-based Vitens Evides International to dredge some of the canals, but three years later, there is no visible progress.

DWASA deputy managing director SDM Quamrul Alam Chowdhury said the Urban Dredging Demonstration Project (UDDP) is a partnership programme, which taken to reduce flooding in the city’s urban areas and improve capacity of DWASA to carry out the drainage operation.

“Under the UDDP, we are excavating Kalyanpur Khal (canal) in the city. We will also dig Segunbagicha Khal of the city,” he added.

Dwindling water bodies

Water bodies have historically played an important role in the expansion of Dhaka. But as development encroaches on natural drainage systems, they no longer provide this critical ecosystem service.

“We are indiscriminately filling up wetlands and low-lying areas in and around Dhaka city for settlement. So rainwater does not get space to run off,” said Dr Maksud.

A study by the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) in 2011 shows that about 33 percent of Dhaka’s water bodies dwindled during 1960-2009 while low-lying areas declined by about 53 percent.

Lack of coordination

There are a number of government bodies, including DWASA, both Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), that are responsible for ensuring a proper drainage system in the capital. But a lack of coordination has led to a blame game over which agency is in charge.

DWASA spokesman Zakaria Al Mahmud said: “You will not find such Water Supply and Sewerage Authority across the world, which maintains the drainage system of a city, but DWASA maintains 20 percent of city’s drainage system.”

He said it is the responsibility of other government agencies like city corporations and BWDB to maintain the drainage system of Dhaka.

DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon said it will take time to resolve the existing water-logging problem, and blamed encroachers for filling up almost all the city canals.

Around 14 organisations are involved in maintaining the drainage system of the city, he said, adding that lack of coordination among them is the main reason behind the water-logging.

DNCC mayor Annisul Huq suggested constituting a taskforce involving DWASA, city corporations, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and other government agencies to increase coordination among them aiming to resolve the city’s water problems.

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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Let’s Improve Our Global Ranking on Impunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:31:53 +0000 Isabel Ongpin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146539 By MA. Isabel Ongpin
Aug 12 2016 (Manila Times)

After my remarks on impunity last week, a friend brought to my attention a disturbing study on Impunity (via InterAksyon), showing that among 59 countries, the Philippines led in the Global Impunity Index.

MA. Isabel Ongpin

MA. Isabel Ongpin

The simple definition of impunity, as well as the common overall perception of it, is that
wrongdoers are not brought to justice.

The so-called Global Impunity Index has been drawn up after extensive recent research by the Impunity and Justice Research Center of the Universidad de las Americas, a private university in Pueblas, Mexico.

The study focused on 59 countries out of 193 United Nations members. Only 59 were included because of the unavailability of updated information from the rest.

Sadly, the Philippines led the Global Impunity Index among the 59 countries studied, at 80 percent. It was followed by Mexico (where Universidad de las Americas is situated) at 75.7 percent, Colombia at 75.6 percent, Turkey 68.7 percent, Russia 67.3 percent. At the opposite end, meaning the countries low in the Impunity Index, were Croatia at 27.5 percent, Slovenia 28.2 percent, Czech Republic 34.8 percent, Montenegro 34.9 percent, Bulgaria 37.5 percent. In between were South Korea 63.3 percent, US 56.4 percent, Japan 49.3 percent, Spain 53.6 percent, Singapore 46.4 percent, Germany 43.1 percent.

The study divided impunity into three dimensions – security, justice and human rights – and used 14 factors to measure them. Alas, the Philippines did not show good results in any. Five factors related to problems of security, which are not so much how many policemen are in the streets but how they carry out their operations. We have seen and experienced the errors of law enforcement here as we speak, which redounds to the capacity and preparation of the police in particular.

Another five factors related to justice in reference to its administration and delivery. Here the low rate of judges to citizens resulting in delay in the delivery of justice (surely including the venality within the system) explains the high levels of impunity that are present and perceived. Under these circumstances, wrongdoers just game the justice system and impunity results.

The last four factors refer to human rights, of which clear violations are witnessed daily in the implementation of the law or keeping order. Recent events, particularly those showing the dismal attention and respect of human rights in law enforcement show that they are under siege here.

The interesting conclusion of the study is that corruption stems from impunity, not the other way around. People become corrupt when they know they can get away with it.

Having good laws are not enough. They must be implemented firmly, even-handedly and in a timely fashion. Furthermore, inequality, not wealth, fuels impunity. Countries of unequal economic levels are the ones who fail to give equal access to security and justice. Comparatively, countries with medium and high levels of human development (less stark levels of inequality) perform better.

With the above study’s conclusions showing our level of impunity, we, as a society, must demand equality from all authority be it from schools, the police, business, the judiciary, legislators, basic services, all government agencies, including ourselves, that we implement the rules that we have in place and dispense justice according to their letter and spirit.

We cannot accept being the leading country for impunity. Public opinion has to come out strongly in various ways to demand reform. We cannot tolerate that perpetrators, for example the media killers, are not brought to account, that law enforcement officers or any authorities are ineffective against these repeated crimes that go unpunished (the definition of impunity).

In these cases and in all others regarding law violators, criminal cases must be filed and disposed of as the law requires – on time and in fairness. Administrative and disciplinary rules are not exempt from enforcement with neither fear nor favor. Accused wrongdoers must face timely investigation, arrest, trial and punishment if found guilty. And reparations must be given to the victims be it persons or the state.

There may be worst-case scenarios of impunity out there among the 80 plus countries that were not studied because they did not give enough data to be included in the research. But for now we must bear the burden and accept the challenge to turn things around from having the worst “structure of the security system” and “the security system of human rights.”

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Turkey’s Syria Headachehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/turkeys-syria-headache/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turkeys-syria-headache http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/turkeys-syria-headache/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 20:48:18 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146489 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Aug 9 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Five years into the ‘oust Assad’ campaign, Turkey finds itself isolated in the region and beyond. After a narrow escape from a failed coup attempt, President Erdogan may finally be rethinking his Syria policy. Because the arming of rebels that included hard-line Islamists has not only contributed to the killing of some 280,000 innocents, it also brought upon Turkey the problem of millions of cross-border refugees and failed to put a dent against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, i.e. PKK. The overly ambitious foreign policy of the Turkish government where Erdogan found himself at odds with Egypt, Libya and of course Syria, has done little to raise his profile in the region. That the Syrian engagement is a foolhardy experiment where the rebels cannot bring down Assad is now all the more evident with Russia’s entry into the conflict.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Photo: afp

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Photo: afp

While support for Sunni groups allied against Assad have not made much headway, the pro-Kurdish forces have effectively seized Turkey’s southern borders and more alarmingly appear to enjoy the strong confidence of both the Americans and Russia! This is unthinkable from Ankara’s point of view and hence a rethinking is obvious. Changes, in fact, are evident from a reshuffle in the top echelons of administration; Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was replaced in May and this man is deemed to have been the architect of Turkey’s foreign policy.

The most important change is related to Syria. That Assad has the unwavering support of both Russia and Iran is an established fact. Both nations have committed man-and-material that not only ensures the survival of the regime but forged alliances with the Kurds to take the fight to the Islamic State (IS). To think about a 180 degree shift in policy is unthinkable for Turkey. Yet to continue the proxy war is already proving too costly and given Ankara’s increased isolation amongst its allies in NATO, particularly the US and European Union, the time for eating some “humble pie” is already being played out (Erdogan has apologised to Russia in a letter of regret of the shooting down of the jet incident in 2015). The Turkish government has come down from its high horse and sought rapprochement with Israel. And indeed, going by what has been reported in international press of late “Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, was quoted by RIA, the Russian news agency, as saying Ankara and Moscow should work together for a political solution on Syria after meeting Servei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart” in late July.

The time for rapprochement has gained momentum as Ankara comes to terms with a suicide bombing that took 43 lives in Istanbul’s main international airport. That IS was blamed for the attack merely goes to show the futility of funding and arming Sunni rebel groups (some with seriously dubious jihadi credentials) has come back to haunt Turkey today. Years of hawkish foreign policy has landed Turkey with broken alliances, a loss of trade and worse of all, allowing militants and insurgents to attack Turkish soil with impunity. Today, Turkey too is suffering the full brunt of extremism, some of which can be attributed to Ankara’s flawed interventionist policy in Syria. For, Turkey has much bigger problems on its hand than the removal of Assad. It wishes to see a weakening of Kurds and marginalisation of IS, but for that to happen Erdogan will require Putin’s assistance – and the only way that can happen is if Turkey moves away from its regime-change policy in Syria. As pointed out earlier, Turkey has begun a reshuffle and is relieving some officials that head the Syria campaign. Reports have emerged that Ankara recently sacked its intelligence official responsible for Syria – the move sends the signal that perhaps there will be a shift in Turkey’s hard-line position on Assad’s removal.

The diplomatic flurry is happening behind the scenes and Algeria has been active in trying to diffuse the situation between Syria and Turkey. A normalisation of relations is not even on the cards at this point; what is on the cards is to find some middle ground whereby Turkey moves away from its staunch position of a Syria minus Assad situation. The Syrian adventure has actually helped Kurdish separatists to re-emerge in mainstream Turkish politics as a potent political and military force and Turks have been trying for decades to push the Kurdish question to the sidelines. Hence, for Turkey and its national and regional interests, there needs to be some form of dialogue that will help Erdogan to disengage from the region without losing face.

The Syrian conflict has gone on for long enough. Too much blood has been spilled and has drawn in too many foreign powers into the quagmire. It is time for military disengagement and political dialogue between nations and not combatants. Only when there is peace in Syria can there truly be regional stability. Yes, atrocities have been committed on a massive scale on both sides and although human rights organisations will not be happy, the alternative to a negotiated settlement involving Syria, Turkey and other powers is to effectively prolong a war that has already descended into a war of attrition with no clear winner.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Thinking Global? Act Provincialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/thinking-global-act-provincial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thinking-global-act-provincial http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/thinking-global-act-provincial/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 20:45:25 +0000 Crispin Aranda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146467 By Crispin R. Aranda
Aug 8 2016 (Manila Times)

The least populated, northernmost province in North America even its own citizens dread to go has a per capita GDP of C$58,452 compared with C$3,439.28 for the entire Philippines.

Crispin R. Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda

If the northernmost province of the Philippines, say Ilocos Norte, has a per capita of more than P2.1 million, chances are there would be a huge migration flow from Imperial Manila instead of the reverse.

There would also be less Ilocanos leaving the province or the region since the high per capita reflects a good economy that translates into jobs, income, and a good quality of life.

Across the globe and closer to the North Pole, Nunavut is the newest, largest and northernmost province of Canada (North America). At the same time, it is both the least populous (31,906) and the largest in area of the provinces and territories of Canada at 1,750,000 sq. km. compared with the smaller 300,000 sq. km. of the Philippines.

In 2014, only 23 people migrated to Nunavut—a microscopic dot—given the fact that a total of 260,404 migrants applied for and obtained their permanent residency in Canada. In the same year 40,035 from the Philippines migrated to Canada, which placed the Philippines back on top of the list of countries with the highest number of immigrants.

Imperial Manila, Metro Manila or National Capital Region (as it is officially called), is the coveted place to be in the Philippines because it is the region of culture, economy, education, and government.

People from the North, South, and Central Philippines move to Metro Manila for jobs and opportunities making it the 7th most populous metropolis in Asia and the 3rd most populous urban area in the world, according to Demographia.

Canada set a target of up to 285,000 new permanent residents in 2015 to populate the country’s 10 provinces and three territories—Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.

In January 2015, Canada initiated the Express Entry—the current selection system for attracting and getting immigrants. In addition to the individual allocation of each province by virtue of Federal and Provincial agreements, each province may also set up its own mini-Express Entry and get more than the usual number of migrants calling a province their new home.

Of the 285,000 planned and targeted new immigrants last year, 65 percent will be in the economic immigration class, the remainder will be in the family reunification and humanitarian categories, including refugees.

In addition Canada has increased “the number of caregivers becoming permanent residents to 30,000 in 2015, an all-time high in that category.”

Canada20160808

Nomination programs common to all provinces

The migration statistics for the period indicated showed that without their own programs, applicants qualifying under the Federal immigration programs (Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades Workers, Canadian Experience Class, and International Student/Graduates) preferred the more urban places in Canada such as Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

Alberta and British Columbia (BC) tweaked their nomination program to attract the entry level, semi -skilled in addition to the traditional skilled workers. Both provinces offer temporary to permanent migration pathways for those with the required years of experience in the tourism/hospitality, hotel and lodging, long-haul trucking, food and beverage processing, and manufacturing.

The oil price volatility in the world market and the Fort McMurray fire, however, contributed to the bleak employment scenario in Alberta. Statistics Canada reported on August 5, 2016 that “Alberta’s monthly unemployment rate climbed to its highest level in nearly 22 years in July, marking the first time the province has had a worse jobless rate than Nova Scotia.”

Calgary, the oil and gas capital of Canada, recorded an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent—the worst among 33 Canadian metropolitan areas surveyed. Another major Alberta city, Edmonton, showed an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, the sixth highest in Canada.

Manitoba distinguishes itself from the other provinces by providing extra points and preference for applicants with close relatives in the province. Close relatives include siblings, niece or nephew, aunt/uncle (maternal or paternal), first cousin, parent or grandparent.

New Brunswick offers specific pathways for applicants with qualified family members (the applicant must to be a non-dependent child, brother, sister, niece, nephew, or grandchild of the Family Supporter in New Brunswick). Your Family Supporter would also be able to provide you with on-the-ground facts about career and employment prospects, especially with the report of the Conference Board of Canada that New Brunswick is likely to join Alberta in recession this year (published by CBC New Brunswick, June 13, 2016).

Perhaps the province with the least expectation of economic recovery, Newfoundland-Labrador, the easternmost province of Canada, has had short booms and long-term busts, especially in the oil exploration and mining sectors. With the drop in oil prices and the shutting down of Labrador’s key iron mines in 2014, jobs were hard to find, even as the provincial government found itself in deficit. Maybe that was the reason why Newfoundland is one of the few provinces charging a $250 non-refundable fee for Express Entry and provincial nominee applicants.

Bright spots west and middle of Canada

Past halfway of 2016 reveals only a few Canadian provinces have improved in economic performance, with Manitoba and British Columbia leading the way.

Manitoba distinguishes itself from the other provinces by providing extra points and preference for applicants with close relatives in the province.

A July 2016 report by the Conference Board of Canada, noted, “Manitoba’s GDP is set to expand by 2. 1 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent in 2017, which would allow the province to be a reliable source of growth … due to strong employment and wage gains in recent years.”

The Manitoba government banks on its rich natural resources and fertile farmland for a sustained positive economic performance. Manitoba is not dependent on any single industry or commodity, although manufacturing is Manitoba’s largest sector accounting for over 12 percent of total GDP. Manitoba is home to Canada’s largest factories for furniture, doors, windows, and cabinetry. The province is also North America’s largest producer of intercity and urban buses.

In addition, large service operations, including two of Canada’s major financial corporations—Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial—and one of the country’s largest media companies—CanWest Global Communications Corp.—have established corporate presence in Manitoba.

On the other hand, British Columbia, brims with confidence. The provincial government reports that “all signs point to British Columba holding on to the top spot in the provincial growth rankings in 2016.”

Citing the latest economic data published last June, yhr Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) noted that impressive job market statistic showed “the solid momentum … in 2014 and 2015” will carry over this year.

Domestic spending of BC households will lead economic growth with expected renewed “substantial activity in the retail, services, and housing sectors. Exports are expected to be a key driver of BC‘s forecasted growth rate of 2.3 percent in 2017.

RBC concluded that “with healthy job market conditions, confident households, and strengthening population growth (fueled by positive in-migration), British Columbia stands to benefit from skilled migration and vice versa.

Processing of provincial nomination applications and subsequent permanent resident applications at the Canadian Embassy in Manila could take 1 to 2 years.

If the oil price market remains unstable and terrorism continues to plague Europe and disrupts economic activity, resulting in national sentiments against migrants, the provincial migration to global Canadian cities might be focused only on British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, provinces which have shown to have the most pull factors for migrants—Filipino city dwellers and provincial migrants included.

For the rest of us the reverse migration begins if and when Federalism begins and the killings stop.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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