Inter Press Service » Migration & Refugees http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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To Be Fixed, Europe Needs a Wrecking Ballhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:38:25 +0000 David Ignatius2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145810 By David Ignatius
Jun 24 2016 (Manila Times)

One-time shot exclusive for The Manila Times
WASHINGTON: Imagine a young Margaret Thatcher, a politician who deeply mistrusts the political establishment and identifies on a gut level with the frustrations of the middle class. That’s shorthand for what Britain will need as it picks up the pieces after Thursday’s “Brexit” referendum.

DAVID IGNATIUS

DAVID IGNATIUS

Friends of Britain (and Europe, too) need to stop pretending that support for withdrawal from the European Union is simply a product of xenophobic right-wing nationalism. Nearly half the country supports a British exit, according to pre-referendum polls, and these people are not all deluded reactionaries.

The European Union is unpopular in Britain for the same reason it is in many other parts of Europe: It’s seen as the project of a financial and political elite that often operates without regard for public sentiment. Nationalism may be a tarnished, retrograde sentiment, but the fact remains that many people feel deeply attached to their countries.

This patriotic feeling can’t be expunged. But it should be modernized. And that’s where a modern Maggie could do wonders. Think of a restless, mildly rebellious British politician who could find common cause with like-minded Europeans who are tired of being lectured by Brussels.

Thatcher took a wrecking ball to an earlier generation of entrenched, elite opinion in Britain. When she became prime minister in 1979, Britain was still encased in a class system that maintained the conservative status quo at both ends—the power of the aristocratic Tory elite and the Labor Party trade-union bosses, who in tandem resisted any reforms that might challenge their power.

Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, despised this status quo. She defied a bitter 1983-84 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers where previous prime ministers, Labor and Tory, had caved. She deregulated the financial sector, in what was called the “Big Bang,” restoring the City of London to global primacy.

Britain in recent years has seemed to be slipping backward. David Cameron, the conservative leader, is an Old Etonian who, in form and function, is a latter-day embodiment of the Tory elite. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, similarly, is a throwback to the left-wing, union-cosseted yesterday of his party.

The most hopeful aspect of the Brexit debate is that most young British people seem to be instinctively European. They have grown up in a global economy where people move from job to job and country to country. A June 13 poll by ICM for the Guardian found that 56 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 want to remain in the EU, while just 39 percent favor leaving. By contrast, 55 percent of those over 65 favor withdrawal.

Other surveys make the same point: The older people get in Britain, the more they mistrust the EU. That’s the biggest danger of the pro-Brexit campaign, beyond the economic damage it has risked. It would tie the country’s future to the oldest, most conservative cohort of its population.

The EU leadership in Brussels deserves its bad reputation. Lacking the instruments of real governance, the Eurocrats have nibbled around the edges with rules and regulations that imply a common destiny but leave to others the hard questions, such as border security and fiscal discipline.

Germany sits uneasily atop this shaky enterprise. The Germans are lucky to have a chancellor who, no matter how wealthy and privileged her country may be, still acts like the Lutheran pastor’s daughter who was raised in East Germany. Asked once what was distinctive about Germany, she gave this sturdy, if unlikely, answer: “No other country can build such airtight and beautiful windows.” Her power comes in part from her ability to appear ordinary.

Europe is only beginning its process of change. A senior German official told me a few months ago that the strange thing about the Brexit vote was that “the best case and the worst case are so close together.” What he meant was that Germany understands that Europe’s institutions must change, regardless of whether Britain is in or out.

EU purists may still dream of a tighter federalism, but that would involve a surrender of national power that nobody, least of all the Germans or French, really wants. What’s more likely is a core EU that runs at German speed, and allows the periphery some of the leeway that Cameron won for Britain in the negotiation that preceded the wretched Brexit campaign.

Rather than crying crocodile tears for the old version of the EU, modernizing politicians in Britain and on the continent should be thinking about change. It’s time for “Maggie redux.” Bring on the wrecking ball.

©2016 THE WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Brits Shouldn’t ‘Brexit’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brits-shouldnt-brexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:53:25 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145778 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jun 23 2016 (Manila Times)

Today the British will vote in their “Brexit” referendum whether to stay in or exit from the European Union.

The United Kingdom applied for the first time to join what was then called the European Economic Community, in 1961. The Brit movers for membership were afraid their country would get politically isolated from Western Europe. At that time the USA’s and its allies’ Cold War with the Soviet Union was still ablaze.

UK’s bid for EEC membership had strong US support but the French Government (with Gen. De Gaulle as President) vetoed it in 1963 and also the second British application in 1967. Only on Jan. 1, 1973 did the UK (along with Denmark and Ireland) get to join the EEC.

At first opposed to EEC membership, the UK Labour Party wanted to renegotiate the membership but settled for a referendum to determine if the people of Britain really wanted to remain in the EEC. In the referendum held in 1975, 67 percent of the Brits voted to remain.

These days, polls show only a slight majority of the British public to be in favor of remaining.

This is because the Brits are doing very well compared to the countries of the EU, whose only solidly rich country is Germany. Europe seems to be in one kind of economic crisis after another.

The problem of refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa has become too much for the EU countries to bear. It has caused anti-immigrant militancy among the poor in nearly every European country. Terrorist ISIS bombings in Paris and Brussels and false-alarm news of new attacks are agitating Europeans, who have lost their former sense of security.

These tensions in the continent have made the anti-Europe side in Britain restive. For decades now they have been calling for their country’s exit from the EU.

Today’s Brexit referendum, if won by the Yes side, would still have to be ratified by the British parliament. The majority and ruling Conservatives would not dare go against the winning public vote.

But for all the mess that Europe is in, it is still in the British people’s best interest to stay in the EU and keep it whole. For if the UK exits it, some other countries, also fed up with having to bear the continent’s troubles and having to share their wealth with the poorer European countries that are always in need of aid, would promptly follow the British lead. Europe would then break up.

The UK would also lose a lot of the economic advantages it has in the continent as an EU member. For one, a lot of the British products that are sold in Europe tariff-free would cost more to EU customers. And it is, despite any cultural protests from Frenchmen, looked up to as the country that is EU’s political leader, and shares EU’s economic leadership with Germany.

It is not true, as Brexit proponents argue, that Britain would become stronger by leaving the EU. It would instead become weaker. And it would begin to face problems in dealing with countries in Europe—as an outsider.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Worldwide Displacement At Levels Never Seen Beforehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/worldwide-displacement-at-levels-never-seen-before/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:35:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145762 A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

A family living in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. Credit: Annabell Van den Berghe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

Displacement has increased to unprecedented levels due to war and persecution, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has found.

In a new report, entitled Global Trends which tracks forced displacement globally, UNHCR found that 65.3 million were displaced at the end of 2015, compared to 59 million just 12 months earlier. This is the first time in the organisation’s history that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.

Globally, 1 in every 113 people is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee. This represents a population greater than the United Kingdom and would be the 21st largest country in the world.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during the launch of the report.

Though the Syrian conflict continues to generate a large proportion of refugees in the world and garners significant international attention, other reignited conflicts have been contributing to the unprecedented rise in displacement including Iraq.

Iraq currently has the third-largest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and alongside Yemen and Syria, the Middle Eastern nation accounts for more than half of all new internal displacements.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too.” -- Filippo Grandi.

By the end of 2015, there were 4.4 million Iraqi IDPs, compared to 3.6 million at the end of 2014. At least one million of these IDPs have been displaced since conflicts in the mid-2000s.

Displacement has increased even further following a government military offensive against the Islamic State in May with more than 85,000 Iraqis fleeing from the Iraqi city of Falluja and its surrounding areas. Approximately 60,000 of these fled over a period of just three days between 15 to 18 June.

Despite the figures, UNHCR continues to struggle to secure funding to meet the needs of Iraqis.

Halfway through the year, the agency has so far only received 21 percent of funds needed for Iraq and the surrounding region.

“Funds are desperately needed to expand the number of camps and to provide urgently needed relief supplies for displaced people who have already endured months of deprivation and hardship without enough food or medicine,” said UNHCR spokeswoman Ariane Rummery.

Though six camps have already been built and the construction of three more are underway, UNHCR estimates that 20 additional camps will be needed in the coming weeks.

In the Debaga camp in northern Iraq, newly displaced civilians are staying in a severely overcrowded reception centre which is currently seven times above its capacity.

Along with the lack of shelter, insufficient hygiene facilities and clean drinking water is creating a “desperate situation,” Rummery said.

And displacement may only get worse, she added.

“It is estimated that more than a million people still live in Mosul and any large offensive against the city could result in the displacement of up to 600,000 more people,” Rummery stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraq is classified as a level-three emergency, which signifies the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis.

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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Fearing Violence, LGBT Refugees Rarely Seek Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:47 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145751 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fearing-violence-lgbt-refugees-rarely-seek-help/feed/ 0 Unmet Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unmet-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:49:58 +0000 Umair Javed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145710 By Umair Javed
Jun 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Donald Trump’s rise in America, a wave of pro-Brexit and xenophobic sentiment in the UK, mass demonstrations in France and Brazil, a political crisis in South Africa, communal polarisation in India, and religious zealotry coupled with anti-corruption agitation in Pakistan. On the face of it, there’s very little that connects these disparate events. Each appears unique to a country’s history and its contemporary interaction of domestic and global events.

faccione_However, strip away the details, and the names and faces of the actors involved, and a common theme emerges. At the heart of this decade of political crises, marked by conflict and disruption across the world, is a story of unmet expectations.

In 1962, James Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review titled ‘Towards a theory of revolution’. He borrowed the J-Curve model from non-linear mathematics to develop an understanding of why mass social disruptions, such as revolutions, take place.

His answer was that a period of prolonged prosperity followed by a sharp reversal in fortunes creates a crisis of unfulfilled expectations. By triggering sentiments of relative deprivation amongst upwardly mobile population segments, economic shocks or other exogenous factors (such as war) generate anger towards the established political order. In contemporary times, this order rests in the hands of the state and the political elite.

In a world where it takes little effort to see how the wealthy live, expectations from the state will be high.

In the 54 years since this article was published, we know human beings don’t function as angry automatons. Institutions, politicians, and ideological and cultural issues are very important in determining the scale and outcome of public anger and acquiescence. But perhaps there is a kernel of truth in the story of boiling frustrations.

For the last three decades, deindustrialisation and a complementary shift towards the services sector characterises the economies of many high- and low-income countries. The wake of this transformation has left behind a burgeoning mass of underemployed, semi-skilled labour, ruptured communities, and decaying cities. Over the same period, conservative political elites have capitalised on this crisis by shoring up support using scaremongering tactics and cultural markers such as gender roles, religion, and racial and ethnic identity.

Trump, for example, polls highest in areas, and amongst population segments (such as the white working class), ‘left behind’ by economic transformations of the last three decades. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where conservative cultural politics by the Tea Party and other radical fringes ran amok for the last two decades. The outcome? A heady combination of protectionist economic populism with visceral hatred towards racial minorities.

In the UK, a legitimate debate over immigration and a prolonged economic downturn has taken on ugly xenophobic contours. At its core, as John Hariss puts it, the anti-EU, anti-immigration movement is tapping into the frustrations of the precariously perched middle and working classes. Its support is loudest amongst those who have no space in London’s glamorous ‘knowledge economy’ and are now left at the mercy of whimsical, short-term employment contracts, a burdened social welfare system, rising house prices, and an increasingly inaccessible path towards social mobility.

The prosperity-followed-by-apocalypse model doesn’t just hold true for the US and UK. Brazil was jerked out of a decade of relatively egalitarian growth by a slump in commodity and oil prices, thus pushing the economy into recessionary free fall. The result is public anger over government corruption, directed towards the now-suspended president, Dilma Rouseff, and her party. The desire for a way out of relative or absolute deprivation has pushed many into the hands of politicians equally (and in some cases, even more) hollow only because they offer some element of change.

Similarly, Imran Khan and PTI are the prime beneficiaries of sentiments of relative deprivation amo-ngst Pakistan’s urban middle classes. As the heady days of consumption and mobility of Musharraf’s era gave way to expensive oil and incompetent governance under the PPP, anger became the most natural response. Even now, as the economy shuffles towards some semblance of stability, the anger hasn’t completely subsided. In a world where it takes very little effort to see how the wealthy live, and how the rest of the world progresses, expectations from the state will always remain high.

To this point, I’ve focused on unmet material expectations because, historically speaking, these have triggered the greatest unrest. However, unmet cultural and moral expectations are also potent factors for agitation. In India, provoked religious sentiment has led to the Hindutva right-wing asserting itself as a victim of Congress-ite secularism and minority appeasement. They now hold a prime seat at the BJP’s table, and will push the government’s supposed developmental agenda into one that caters to their communal demands as well.

For Pakistan, the biggest threat comes from a combination of material and cultural frustrations. The state pays lip service to its Islamic foundation, yet retains a comparatively secular orientation towards governance. Its existing political elite exhibits no intentions of turning the country into a Sharia-compliant state. However, decades of top-down soft-Islamism and cultural propaganda have resulted in an organic demand for a version of faith that stands proudly and violently on its own.

With fundamentalism and communal conflict rampant, the onus is on political elites and activists to construct an alternative cultural worldview that channels away and dilutes some of the moral anger. Similarly, politicians need to do a far better job of managing expectations by being better at delivering services and also by avoiding making unrealistic promises to the electorate.

So far, the country’s authoritarian history — with its patronage-tied political parties and a largely demoblised, cynical population — has acted as an inadvertent bulwark against mass Islamist mobilisation. Yet without adequate safeguards taken on an urgent footing, there is no guarantee that this ossified condition will persist indefinitely.

The writer is a freelance columnist. umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk
Twitter: @umairjav

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Case for Overcoming the Ostrich Syndromehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:30:09 +0000 C R Abrar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145707 refugee_day__

By C R Abrar
Jun 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The final week of May 2016 was a grisly one. More than 700 asylum seekers and migrants died as three boats attempting to carry them to Italy sunk in the Mediterranean, and the death toll for the year crossed 2000. A week ago, Unicef reported a doubling of the number of unaccompanied children arriving as asylum seekers this year. The report also highlighted that these children are subjected to sexual violence, forced prostitution and other forms of abuse.

UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, informs that, of the 157,574 arrivals in Europe in 2016, 90 percent were from the top 10 refugee producing countries of the world — fleeing war, violence and persecution in their countries of origin, and were in need of international protection. A breakdown of the total reveals almost 90 percent of the cases were from three countries: Syria (49 percent), Afghanistan (25 percent) and Iraq (14 percent). These figures debunk the myth that most are economic migrants, who have left their own countries by choice in search of economic opportunities.

The magnitude and nature of the global refugee situation has changed considerably over the last few decades. It has become increasingly ‘protracted, politicised and complex’. This has made the task of finding a durable solution further challenging.

Evidence is replete that states are not only reluctant to uphold ethical standards of refugee protection, but also that they are actively contributing to the erosion of the principle and practice of asylum. Refugees are increasingly been seen as subjects of charity. There is little acknowledgement that the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of international refugee protection, is now a provision of customary international law, binding even on states that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Over time, many Western states, particularly those of Europe, have introduced measures to reduce the number of individuals seeking asylum in their territory through non-arrival policies, diversion policies, an increasingly restrictive application of the 1951 Convention and a range of deterrent policies, such as detention of asylum seekers and the denial of social assistance; on the other hand, some states, like the UK, have openly advocated for dismantling of the 1951 Refugee Convention and instituting of a new international refugee regime, premised on containing of refugees within their region of origin.

This two-facedness of the western states has placed significant burden on asylum countries of the South, especially of Africa and Asia. This, in turn, has led some of the Southern countries to close off their borders to prevent arrivals, push for early and unsustainable return of asylum seekers to the country of origin and, in a few instances, forcibly expel entire refugee populations.

There is little recognition that protracted refugee situations do not remain confined to the host states of the South and have major regional and international implications. A UNHCR commissioned survey on Somali refugees has indicated that the absence of durable solutions and effective international protection in the first country of asylum is a major motive for secondary migratory movements to Europe and elsewhere.

There is a propensity in most quarters to view the refugee problem as a humanitarian problem. However, protracted refugee situations require more than humanitarian engagement. They entail meaningful and sustained engagement of peace, security and development actors. A comprehensive and holistic approach is perhaps the only way forward.

Thus while there is an urgent need to work out creative solutions to the global refugee problems, the international community appears to be hanging on to the old approach, premised on the concept of national security. This has been evident in Europe’s pursuit of Operation Sophia in dealing with the current refugee inflow. The next part of this essay will explicate how ill-conceived the strategy was.

In October 2014, Italy abandoned its ‘search and rescue’ Mare Nostrum operation that prevented mass drowning of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. This resulted in an increase in the number of deaths of migrants trying to seek asylum in the continent. The demand for re-launching of the operation was met with stiff opposition and, on April 23, 2015, the European Council adopted a British-drafted resolution vowing to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy (refugee) vessels”. This was a palpable shift from humanitarian commitments to a military solution. It is worthwhile to note that British fascist Nick Griffin made the proposal five years earlier.

The European border agency Frontex reported that since its adoption 14 vessels have been destroyed and 69 ‘suspected smugglers’ were apprehended. The strategy was modelled to impede the human smuggling syndicates and limit the opportunities for would be refugees to flee to Europe. There is a little evidence that the new strategy worked at all. In the period from September 2015 to January 2016, the marginal drop of 9 percent in the Mediterranean flow was supplemented by the opening up of the ‘Balkans route’ to Europe. In order to minimise ‘significant financial loss’, the human smugglers amended their business model and replaced expensive wooden or fibre-glass boats by cheap mass produced Chinese inflatable rubber dinghies that have less carrying capacity and are more limited by sea conditions. In addition, as the borders became more challenging to navigate, migrants turned to more sophisticated smugglers to facilitate their crossing.

All these led the UK House of Lords EU Committee to observe, “The Mission (Sophia) does not… in any meaningful way deter the flow of migrants, disrupt the smugglers’ networks, or impede the business of people smuggling on the Mediterranean route”. The House of Lords report quotes Amnesty International’s Steve Symonds that the EU’s reinforcement of external borders policing had brought about “the movement of ever larger number of people around different routes by different journeys, usually at greater danger and cost to them, and so of greater profit to smugglers”. The opening sentence of the report quoted Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, “migrants in the boat are symptoms, not causes, of the problem”.

The challenge, therefore, for the international community is to acknowledge that refugees constitute an overwhelming bulk of the flow and they are fleeing protracted conflict conditions that needs urgent political solution. Pursuing unworkable policies would only be acting like an ostrich.

Recently displaying a life jacket used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos to a group of youngsters, Pope Francis explained, “Migrants are not a danger – they are in danger”. It’s time the policy makers of Western nations paid heed to the pontiff.

The writer teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He writes and researches on rights and migration issues.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Paradox of Refuge: Rise of Gender-Based Violence in Times of Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-paradox-of-refuge-rise-of-gender-based-violence-in-times-of-crisis-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-paradox-of-refuge-rise-of-gender-based-violence-in-times-of-crisis-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-paradox-of-refuge-rise-of-gender-based-violence-in-times-of-crisis-2/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:59:48 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145705 A Syrian refugee woman. In spite of the fact that women and girls make  up over half of the world's 18 million refugees, little attention or  resources have been dedicated to meeting their needs. Although all  refugees face health and security risks, women are susceptible to  additional problems such as violence as a result of their gender. Credit: IPS

A Syrian refugee woman. In spite of the fact that women and girls make up over half of the world's 18 million refugees, little attention or resources have been dedicated to meeting their needs. Although all refugees face health and security risks, women are susceptible to additional problems such as violence as a result of their gender. Credit: IPS

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

Since the outbreak of war in 2011, 9 million Syrians have fled from their homeland, creating one of the gravest migrant crisis’ the world has ever seen. However, what happens to these vulnerable migrants once they secure the refuge they so perilously seek? Can refuge really bring safety to all? Or is ‘the refugee camp’ nothing more than the creation of another war, in this case, fought against one’s own troubled people. Particularly, for those who are traditionally stigmatized, such as women and girls.

In Lebanon, many Syrian women and girls bear the burden of the trauma their communities now carry. From the witnessing of ruthless warfare to the relentless struggle to secure a place of refuge, emotional scars run deep within the displaced psyche. As a result, many have identified a rise in intimate partner violence (IPV), early marriage and survival sex since arriving at the camps. In many cases, women and young girls have been used as commodities, providing sexual favours to men in order to cover the cost of living for their families. As one refugee explained in a focus group discussion , “And if you want help from other NGOS’ you should send your daughter or your sister or sometimes your wife, with full make-up on so you can get anything, I think you understand me”. (*)

The increase of domestic and sexual violence within these temporary settlements is not unique to the Syrian refugee crisis. With over 18 million of the refugee population being made up by women and girls, the increase of gender-based violence within these communities is a critical global issue. In spite of its severity, little attention is paid to the plight of refugee women and their struggle for safety. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees states that data on violence against women, are few and limited in scope. In most refugee camps, there is no effective reporting system, and there is still uncertainty about how to respond to such reports from victims, which in turn, leaves them with little or no protection, and more susceptible to acts of sexual and domestic violence.

As one Palestinian refugee commented on the conditions for females in the Bourj al-Barajneh refugee camp between 2003-2006 “It was better during the war“.(**) According to Nduna S. Goodyear, refugees, especially women, are made vulnerable to violence at every stage of their quest for safety. Reports of Burundi refugee women in the established camp of Kenembwa in Tanzania recounted acts of violence perpetrated by policemen, soldiers, fellow refugees and husbands, with one woman even describing a case of rape by a nongovernmental security staff member within the camp. In a survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee, 79% of the Afghan women interviewed reported being beaten by their husbands in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Jeff Crisp’s study on the security in Kenya’s refugee camps describes one case of a woman and her infant who were detained for seven days in a cell her offense; being found guilty of committing adultery. These are amongst the few examples of the thousands of gender-based acts of violence being committed on a daily basis in refugee camps everywhere.

Experts say the root cause of this violent epidemic which targets women in refugee settlements links back to masculinity. In what is known as “heightened male vulnerability” caused by bearing witness to torture, violence and rape many men feel helpless and isolated. As a result, they suffer from low self-esteem, stemming from the failure to protect their families, which, in turn, leads them to assert a negative form of masculinity upon relatives and other female refugees in the camps. Their feelings of powerlessness and frustration are reflected in the beatings, rape and other forms of violence they perpetrate against women. Ghida Anani recorded one Syrian man’s description of senseless violence against his wife “When my wife asks me for vegetables or meat to prepare food, I hit her. She does not know why she was hit, neither do I”.(***) In this sense, The wounds of war are still freshly open for these displaced men, whose defeated psyches have resulted in grave implications on their female counterparts.

Although many international organizations have been working on reducing gender-based violence in refugee camps across the world, many have proved ineffective due to the decentralized nature of their services. With limited resources, a lack of information and a rising number of unreported cases of sexual and domestic violence, the future looks grim for displaced women and girls, the most vulnerable group in these communities plagued by feelings of anger and loneliness. It is clear that if these pressing issues of gender violence continue to be kept in the shadows, millions of refugee women and girls will never obtain the information provision, awareness raising, and health and psychological services they so desperately need.

 

(*) Roula El Masri, Clare Harvey and Rosa Garwood, Shifting Sands: Changing gender roles among refugees in Lebanon, ABAAD- Resource Center for Gender Equality and OXFAM, 2013. http://tinyurl.com/Oxfam-ABAAD-ShiftingSands-2013

(**) Latif, Nadia. ‘It was better during the war': narratives of everyday violence in a Palestinian refugee camp. Feminist Review, 2012http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/41495231.pdf?_=1466432873876

(***) Roula El Masri, Clare Harvey and Rosa Garwood, Shifting Sands: Changing gender roles among refugees in Lebanon, ABAAD- Resource Center for Gender Equality and OXFAM, 2013. http://tinyurl.com/Oxfam-ABAAD-ShiftingSands-2013

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Fences and Walls: A Short-sighted Response to Migration Fears?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:16:09 +0000 Andrew MacMillan and Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145688 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Andrew MacMillan, former Director of Field Operations. ]]> Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Andrew MacMillan and José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

European nations from which millions once left to escape hardship and hunger – Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today destinations for others doing the same.

Many people are on the move. The really big numbers relate to rural-urban migration in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

By comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007.(*) And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population.

Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, along with the breakdown of law or of freedom in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, have catalyzed a surge in asylum seekers – whose numbers climbed to 800,000 in OECD countries alone in 2014 and who, under international law, must be protected.

Growing apprehension in some recipient countries has led to calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Barriers, however, are costly, can be circumvented, and are all too reminiscent of the restrictions on liberty from which many migrants are seeking refuge.

The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international. People are “pulled” by the belief that better prospects exist elsewhere. As mobile phones and internet access have reached the remotest corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.

For those countries wishing to reduce cross-border migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address the root causes. This entails actions that foster peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also implies closing the widening gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor in the countries that economic migrants are leaving.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals in a bid to reduce their attraction. But more fundamental policy shifts in wealthier societies towards deterring their own people’s most conspicuous consumption behavior are needed. This will not be easy. It could involve having consumers meet the full costs of the environmental and social damage incurred in the production and use of what they buy.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food.

Urbanization seems bound to further widen these gaps. Cash remittances sent by first-generation local and international migrants to their relations back home help, but are usually modest in scale.

Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to locally expressed priorities for improved access to infrastructure and public services, including competent and honest local government institutions. They also need to include social protection programmes, ideally based on regular and predictable cash transfers to the poorest households, ensuring that all people are, at the very least, able to eat healthily and cope with periods of shortages.

The European Union has endorsed the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at a November 2015 summit in Malta, declared that investing in rural development is a priority. However, the EU’s nearly 30 members approved only EUR1.8 billion in extra resources. This is trivial, given the scale of poverty. It is about a quarter of what they offered Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Andrew MacMillan

Andrew MacMillan

Much greater funding is warranted. This is explicitly acknowledged in last September’s unanimous endorsement by all governments of the UN-brokered Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration in the first place.

The link between the reduction of extreme deprivation and peace was acknowledged by FAO’s founders in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, for it is a condition of freedom from the tensions, arising out of economic maladjustment, profound discontent, and a sense of injustice which are so dangerous in the close community of modern nations.” (**) FAO today is guided by these principles in its ongoing work in rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries torn apart by conflict.

Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities but a more sustainable way of closing the urban-rural gap is offered by fairer trading in food, the main saleable output of most rural communities. When consumers begin to pay food prices that reward producers fairly for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labour, and for their responsible stewardship of natural resources, the market can become the main vehicle for eradicating the extreme deprivation and hunger that “push” migration. (***)

This move towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can, through their work, lead a decent life even when they choose to live where they were born.

 

(*) See OECD (2015), International Migration Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris

(**) See United Nations Interim Committee on Food and Agriculture, The Work of FAO, Washington DC, 1945

(***) Contrary to most predictions, the food price rises of 2008 and 2011 reduced extreme poverty in the long term in both rural and urban communities. See Headey, D., Food Prices and Poverty Reduction in the Long Run, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01331, Washington DC, 2014

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy


He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee


“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA


The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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Children of a Lesser God: Trafficking Soars in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 11:57:59 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145678 Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

Sunita Pal, a frail 17-year-old, lies in a tiny bed in the women’s ward of New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Her face and head swathed in bandages, with only a bruised eye and swollen lips visible, the girl recounts her ordeal to a TV channel propped up by a pillow. She talks of her employers beating her with a stick every day, depriving her of food and threatening to kill her if she dared report her misery to anybody.

“I worked from 6am until midnight. I had to cook, clean, take care of the children and massage the legs of my employers,” Sunita recounts to the journalist, pain writ large on her face. “In exchange, I got only two meals and wasn’t even paid for the six months I worked at the house. When I expressed a desire to leave, I was beaten up.”

Sunita is one of the fortunate few who got rescued from her hell by an anti-slavery activist and is now being rehabilitated at a woman’s home in Delhi. But there are millions of Sunitas across India who continue to toil in Dickensian misery for years without any succour. Trafficked from remote villages to large cities, they are and sold as domestic workers to placement agencies or worse, at brothels. Their crime? Extreme poverty and illiteracy.

The Global Slavery Index released recently by the human rights organisation Walk Free Foundation states that globally, India has the largest population of modern slaves. Over 18 million people are trapped as bonded labourers, forced beggars, sex workers and child soldiers across the country. They constitute 1.4 percent of India’s total population, the fourth highest among 167 countries with the largest proportion of slaves. The survey estimates that 45.8 million people are living in modern slavery globally, of which 58 percent are concentrated in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states.

Grace Forrest, co-founder of the Australia-based foundation, told an Indian newspaper that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including inter-generational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into non-state armed groups and forced marriage.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), trafficking of minor girls — the second-most prevalent trafficking crime in India – has surged 14 times over the last decade. It increased 65 percent in 2014 alone. Girls and women are the primary targets of immoral trafficking in India, comprising 76 percent of all human trafficking cases nationwide over a decade, reveals NCRB.

As many as 8,099 people were reported to be trafficked across India in 2014. Selling or buying girls for prostitution, importing them from a foreign country are the most common forms of trafficking in India, say experts. Sexual exploitation of women and children for commercial purposes takes place in various forms including brothel-based prostitution, sex-tourism, and pornography.

Last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation unearthed a pan-India human trafficking racket that had transported around 8,000 Indian women to Dubai. Another report about a man who trafficked 5,000 tribal kids from the poor tribal state of Jharkhand also caught the public eye.

Equally disconcerting are thousands of children which go missing from some of India’s hinterlands. Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states. They were trafficked into domestic work or other forms of child labour in cities. Overall , an estimated 135,000 children are believed to be trafficked in India every year.

Experts point to the exponentially growing demand for domestic servants in burgeoning Indian cities as the main catalyst for trafficking. A 2013 report by Geneva-based International Labour Organization found that India hosts anywhere from 2.5 million to 90 million domestic workers. Yet, despite being the largest workforce in the country, these workers remain unrecognized and unprotected by law.

This is a lacuna that a national policy in the pipeline hopes to address. Experts say the idea is to give domestic workers the benefits of regulated hours of work with weekly rest, paid annual and sick leave, and maternity benefits as well entitlement of minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act of 1948.

“Once these workers come under the ambit of law,” explains New Delhi-based human rights lawyer Kirit Patel, “it will be a big deterrent for criminals. But till then, domestic workers remain easy targets for exploitation.”

Despite growing awareness and media sensitization, however, registered human trafficking cases have spiralled up by 38.3 percent over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013 as per NCRB. Worse, the conviction rate for such cases has plummeted 45 percent, from 1,279 in 2009 to 702 in 2013.

Not that human trafficking is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. The menace is the third-largest source of profit for organised crime, after arms and drugs trafficking involving billions of dollars annually worldwide, say surveys. Every year, thousands of children go missing in South Asia, the second-largest and fastest-growing region in the world for human trafficking after East Asia, according to the UN Office for Drugs & Crime.

To address the issue of this modern-day slavery, South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation recently held a conference on child protection in New Delhi. Ministers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and the Maldives agreed to jointly combat child exploitation, share best practices and common, uniform standards to address all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

One of the pioneering strategies adopted at the conference was to set up a toll-free helpline and online platform to report and track missing children. “We need to spread the message to support rescue efforts and rehabilitate victims. With the rapid advance of technology and a fast-changing, globalized economy, new threats to children’s safety are emerging every day,” said India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the conference.

Rishi Kant, one of India’s leading anti-trafficking activists, says it all boils down to prioritizing the issue. “For poor Indian states, providing food, shelter and housing assume far greater importance than chasing traffickers. Besides, many people don’t even see trafficking as a crime. They feel it’s an opportunity for impoverished children to migrate to cities, live in rich homes and better their lives!”

Initiatives like anti-trafficking nodal cells — like the one under the Ministry of Home Affairs — can be effective deterrents, say experts. The ministry has also launched a web portal on anti-human trafficking, while the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a programme that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims.

But the best antidote to the menace of human trafficking, say experts, is a stringent law. India’s first anti-trafficking law — whose draft was unveiled by the Centre recently — recommends tough action against domestic servant placement agencies who hustle poor children into bonded labour and prostitution. It also suggests the formation of an anti-trafficking fund.

The bill also makes giving hormone shots such as oxytocin to trafficked girls (to accelerate their sexual maturity) and pushing them into prostitution a crime punishable with 10 years in jail and a fine of about 1,500 dollars. Addressing new forms of bondage — such as organised begging rings, forced prostitution and child labour — are also part of the bill’s suggestions.

Once the law is passed, hopefully, girls like Sunita will be able to breathe a little easier.

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What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 22:26:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145685 Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 19 2016 (IPS)

Will the rapid–though silent escalation of political tensions between the European Union and Turkey, which has been taking a dangerous turn over the last few weeks, push Ankara to drop a “human bomb” on Europe by opening its borders for refugees to enter Greece and other EU countries?

The question is anything but trivial—it is rather a source of deep concern among the many non-governmental humanitarian organisations and the United Nations, who are making relentless efforts to fill the huge relief gaps caused by the apparent indifference of those powers who greatly contributed to creating this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

These powers are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France who, supported by other Western countries and rich Arab nations, led military coalitions that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and who, along with Russia, have been providing weapons to most of the fighting parties in Syria.

Ironically, these four powers are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the above posed question is about a mere, alarming speculation. In fact, Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan has recently made veiled, though specific threats to the EU, by warning against the consequences of Europe continuing to fail the two key commitments it made in exchange of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement —also known as “the shame deal”–, which the two parties sealed on March 22 this year.

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

The deal is about Turkey taking back the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who fled to its territories mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and crossed from there to EU bordering countries like Greece. Once “re-taken”, the EU said it would “select” an undetermined number of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians.

In exchange, the European Union promised to pay to Ankara three billion euro a year, starting in November 2015, to share only a relatively small part of the big financial burden that Turkey has to face by providing basically shelter, food and health care to the repatriated asylum seekers. Turkey currently hosts three million refugees.

The EU also promised to allow Turkish citizens to access its member countries without entry visa, also as part of the “shame deal.”

The tensions between the EU and Turkey were made clearly visible on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which Turkey hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, covering a big portion of its cost.

The WHS was meant to highlight the fact that human suffering has now reached unprecedented, staggering levels as stated to IPS by Stephen O’ Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), as well as to call on world leaders to mobilise the much needed resources to alleviate this human drama.

For this, the UN submitted to the WHS a set of shocking facts: the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War II, and experiencing a human catastrophe “on a titanic scale” as stated on IPS by the WHS spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: 125 million humans in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

The UN also quantified the urgently needed resources: more than 20 billion dollars needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And stressed that unless immediate action is taken, 62 per cent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all human beings could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.

In spite of these staggering facts, none of the leaders of the most industrialised countries–the so-called Group of the 7 richest nations (G7), nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The sole exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had reportedly gone to Istanbul to meet Erdogan over the growing political tensions rather to participate in the Summit.

This absence of the top decision-makers of the richest countries has been widely criticised, starting with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon who on May 24 publicly decried it. Also Turkish president Erdogan expressed deep disappointment at such political boycott by world leaders.

Moreover, in a press conference at the closure of the WHS on May 24, Erdogan revealed that Europe had not met its promises as it had not provided the committed financial resources, nor kept its compromise to let Turkish citizens enter the EU without visa as from June this year.

He then expressed strong indignation, rather fury, over the set of 72 new conditions the EU has suddenly imposed on Ankara in exchange of suppressing the entry visa requisite for Turkish citizens. These conditions imply, among others, that Ankara changes its current anti-terrorist laws.

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

All this moved Erdogan to warn that of Europe does not honour its part of the refugee deal, the Turkish Parliament will not ratify it.

This simply means that Turley would not only stop allowing refugees to be forcibly returned to its territories, but that it would also permit more and more of them to cross its borders to the EU countries.

In the mean time, more and more organisations have been accusing Europe of sealing an immoral, unethical and, above all, illegal refugee deal with Turkey. But meanwhile Europe has been turning rapidly, dangerously towards far right parties and movements that are feeding hate, xenophobia and islamophobia.

Also meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are arriving to Europe, many of them drowning at sea, prey to inhumane practices and manipulation by smugglers.

Humanitarian assistance organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the UN Children Fund, UN Refugee agency, among many others, have been warning that a growing number of unaccompanied children—estimated in 1 in 3 refugees and migrants, are crossing Mediterranean waters and European frontiers.

Only two days ahead of the World Refugee Day, marked on June 20, the UN secretary general visited the Greek island of Lesbos, which has become migrants’ entry point to Europe. There he called on “the countries in the region” to respond with “a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry.”

“Today, I met refugees from some of the world’s most troubled places. They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over,” Ban told non-governmental organisations, volunteers and media.

The “human bomb” is ticking at Europe’s doors amidst an inexplicable passivity of its leaders.

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Majority of Vulnerable Refugees Will Not Be Resettled in 2017http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 16:18:22 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145669 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/majority-of-vulnerable-refugees-will-not-be-resettled-in-2017/feed/ 0 New Guidelines Aim to Help Migrants Experiencing Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-guidelines-aim-to-help-migrants-experiencing-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-guidelines-aim-to-help-migrants-experiencing-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-guidelines-aim-to-help-migrants-experiencing-crises/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 19:35:30 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145660 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/new-guidelines-aim-to-help-migrants-experiencing-crises/feed/ 0 Leaving Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/leaving-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=leaving-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/leaving-saudi-arabia/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:53:22 +0000 Rafia Zakaria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145634 By Rafia Zakaria
Jun 15 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is not one pilgrims or foreign tourists normally visit. Set against the Persian Gulf, it is the heart of the kingdom’s oil industry. Unsurprisingly, it is also home to most of its migrant workers whose labour populates this sector.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

Other than migrant workers, mostly Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan or from one or another poor labour-exporting nation, the Eastern Province is also home to the majority of Saudi Arabia’s Shia population. Perhaps because of this diverse mix, the province has also been the place where the government has chosen to launch a programme called ‘Ehna al-Ahl’ or ‘We are one family’. According to an article in the Saudi Gazette, this programme, which organises performances in the region’s malls and arranges for the distribution of brochures, is meant to enhance national cohesion and denounce extremism and divisions. The programme is supposed to last throughout the month of Ramazan.

It can be safely assumed, however, that the Pakistanis labouring in the Eastern Province are not part of the ‘one family’ whose cohesion and lack of division is a priority for the kingdom. Among them is Mohammad Ilyas who works as the head of budgeting and finance at a multinational steel company. For several months now, Mr Ilyas has been trying to obtain an exit permit that would enable him to visit Pakistan. As some may remember, a confusing directive by the Saudi government several months ago stated that Pakistani workers living in Saudi Arabia would only be permitted to visit Pakistan once every year. A few weeks later, however, the Saudi government said that the directive had been withdrawn and that Pakistani workers could go back home for visits multiple times as they did in previous years.

The issue of Pakistani workers trapped in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region deserves the urgent attention of both Islamabad and Riyadh.

The renewed permission to leave more than once seems only to apply to Pakistanis in certain parts of the kingdom. In the Eastern Province, which includes the areas of Jubail and Dammam, however, things are far more complicated. As per the kingdom’s latest requirements, workers must apply for the entry/exit permit through the computerised system known as muqeem. However, when Mohammad Ilyas and others in the Eastern Province use it to apply for the permit, the system gives them an error message and asks them to visit the passport office in Jubail in person.

Both Mr Ilyas and his company representative have visited the passport office numerous times. When Mr Ilyas did so, the people at the passport office told him that he was only permitted to visit Pakistan once a year and that if he could not obtain a permit online, he simply could not go home. To add to the humiliation of denied workers like Mr Ilyas, colleagues of different nationalities, including Indians, have no problem obtaining the multiple exit/re-entry permit via the system and can visit home as many times as they wish.

Nor is Mohammad Ilyas alone in this predicament. According to the online forum Life in Saudi Arabia, where numerous overseas Pakistani workers share their issues, many other Pakistanis in the Eastern Province are similarly being denied exit permits to go home. Saudi officials at the passport office either tell them that they must try again online or simply state that no permit will be issued at the office itself. In other cases they are told that they have already visited Pakistan more than once this year and are hence not eligible for an exit permit.

On May 5, the embassy of Pakistan in Riyadh took note of the problem. The press release posted on the embassy’s website says: “The embassy of Pakistan, Riyadh is aware of the fact that some of our nationals face difficulty in obtaining multiple exit/re-entry visa from the passport offices of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. The embassy is in constant contact with the concerned authorities to resolve the matter.” In a previous communication issued on April 16, the embassy has stated that it had brought up the issue in writing and in person with the Saudi authorities concerned and was trying its level best to handle the situation.

It is now June 15 and Mohammad Ilyas (who has lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for the past 10 years) and many other Pakistani workers in the Eastern Province continue to be without exit/re-entry permits and are hence unable to leave the kingdom. It is true that the embassy of Pakistan has many issues on its hands. Some weeks ago, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that over 2,000 Pakistanis are languishing in Saudi jails on various charges. The Pakistani embassy is the only recourse for all of these accused. Add to this the demands of the upcoming Haj season and the ever larger number of pilgrims that wish to travel to Makkah, and you have a small consular staff beset with large problems.

Even so, the issue of Pakistani workers trapped in Saudi Arabia’s eastern region is one deserving the urgent attention of both governments. At the Saudi end, the kingdom’s commitment to the principles of justice and fair treatment, particularly in this, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, means that they should not entrap Pakistani workers in a situation that is akin to enslavement.

At the Pakistani end, some honest answers must be demanded on the discrepancy between the ‘official’ statements given by the Saudi government’s representatives (ones that state that no restriction exists on the multiple exit/re-entry of Pakistani workers) and the reality via which Pakistani workers are being denied exit.

It is Ramazan now and soon it will be Eid. Pakistan’s workers — forced abroad because of the scant sources of employment at home — should not be permitted to become pawns of a Saudi government that seems to care little about whether or not they can be with their families for the holiday. Workers, it must be remembered, are not slaves chained to their place of employment and must be accorded the very basic right to leave and return.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy. rafia.zakaria@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Brexit and Its Economic Fallouthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-its-economic-fallout http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:33:00 +0000 Abdullah Shibli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145633 By Dr. Abdullah Shibli
Jun 15 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The United Kingdom is now in the midst of a Shakespearean dilemma, “to stay or not to stay”. Voters will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether to stay in the European Union or to break the four decades old relationship they forged, i.e. opt for “Brexit” as it is popularly known. If the majority decides to leave, it will have implications for Britain across the spectrums, political, economic, and social. While in the last referendum on this issue in 1975, an overwhelming 68 percent of the electorate had decided to stay, this time the margin will be narrower, one way or the other. Britain’s departure from the EU will also undoubtedly set a bad example for advocates of Customs Union, an economic arrangement of sovereign countries set up to facilitate trade and economic integration through trade.

While there are many issues relating to the current mood of disillusionment with Britain’s ties with EU, they are not all economic. The most important ones are: immigration, excessive EU regulations, budgetary contributions, loss of sovereignty, and EU social policy. However, all of them have economic side-effects, including the non-economic ones, immigration and EU’s regulatory influence. Prima facie, Brexit appears to be a dramatic move; nonetheless most analyses show that the most important long-term impact could be minor in terms of GDP and unemployment rate. As one meta-analysis points out, the decision to leave the EU appears to be mainly a political consideration about sovereignty and self-determination.

From the policymaker’s perspective, the most important lesson is that the forecasts on GDP are very uncertain. Nine out of ten economists surveyed indicate that in the short-run the economy will experience a downward adjustment, but the loss of income is small. But in the long run, there is a potential for greater loss, and the risk of bigger losses is large.

Fortunately, Britain is not in the same shoes as Greece, since the former has its own currency – the pound sterling – and has not embraced the Euro. It has also been doing much better than its EU partners in recent years. However, EU is Britain’s most important trading partner, accounting for half of all UK exports and imports. UK exports to the EU correspond to almost 15 percent of national output (GDP). Eurosceptics, i.e., those who believe that membership in EU is hurting the UK, counter that “membership of the single market imposes too many regulations on Britain in exchange for too little opening of European markets and that Britain’s trade with countries outside Europe would be higher if it left”.

Unfortunately, should Brexit occur, the UK will need to negotiate a new trade relationship with the EU, and outcomes will depend on the terms of the subsequent trade arrangement and the regulatory framework that it adopts once it is free of EU’s regulatory framework. And there are many alternative trade regimes that have been circulating in the research and media world to capture the short and long-term economic impacts in the post-Brexit world. A sampling of these include joining the European Economic Area (EEA, like Norway), entering into a Customs Union (like Turkey), negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (that eliminates export tariff barriers, like Canada), and the Swiss model (continued bilateral negotiation). Some of the core metrics include GDP growth, trade volumes, inflation, household spending, employment, property values, and assets prices.

A quick survey of economic forecasts based on quantitative models indicates that Britain might benefit or lose from breaking up with the EU. However, the most important conclusion seems to be that the magnitude of the economic impact is hard to predict. Any divorce lawyer will tell you that. Most domestic relationships don’t go sour for economic reasons, rather due to social or personality conflicts. But, any breakup affects both parties and other family members. Britain’s mood until June 23 is captured by a song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the English punk rock band The Clash written in 1981. The latest opinion poll indicates that there is a greater than even chance that the Brits will decide to leave, unless Prime Minister Cameron can get the voters out in droves.

The writer is an economist, and writes on public policy issues for this newspaper.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Water Scarcity Could Impact West Asian Credit Ratingshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/water-scarcity-could-impact-west-asian-credit-ratings/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 23:50:43 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145574 By Manipadma Jena
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Water scarcity, conflict and refugee exodus is the strongest megatrend in West Asia, indicating the status of current trends and how these factors may shape the future, according to UN Environment Programme’s sixth Global Environment Outlook – GEO-6 Regional Assessment for West Asia released May 2016.

Families travel in search of water. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Families travel in search of water. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Only 4 out of 12 countries in West Asia remain above the water scarcity limit of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year, the minimum limit viable for human population, the assessment warns.

“Water shortage potentially could have more impact on sovereign credit ratings than natural catastrophes as water scarcity conditions are slow onset impacting larger societies,” Moritz Kraemer, Managing Director of S&P Global Ratings told IPS adding, “water scarcity, migration and conflict has yet not been factored into the Environmental Risk Integration in Sovereign Credit Analysis (ERISC) but certainly we need to.”

The ERISC aims to help financial institutions to integrate environmental risks in their overall risk assessments and investment decisions by identifying and quantifying how they can affect countries’ economic performance and thereby their cost of credit in the sovereign debt market.

The analysis premise is that sovereign credit risk can be materially affected by environmental risks such as climate change, water scarcity, ecosystem degradation and deforestation.

“So far we do not have sufficient liquid data on the potential economic implications of water shortage or change in rainfall patterns to be able to simulate numerically what the outcome would be, but we know countries with big water problems will have repercussions well beyond their boundaries, triggering migratory movements to start with. Europe is an example,” Kraemer said.

West Asia has a significant geopolitical location linking three continents Asia, Europe and Africa.

“Jordan in 2013 was the world’s fourth most water-scarce country but within just two years by 2015, it’s status deteriorated to second place, when hundreds of thousands Syrian and Yemen refugees migrated into Jordan,” Carl Bruch, legal expert on armed conflict and the environment, climate change, and water rights at Washington DC-based Environmental Law Institute (ELI) told IPS, illustrating impacts of migration on a natural resources and economy.

“Many of the economies with water problems that we have rated such as Jordan and Morocco have low credit ratings already, so part of their vulnerability has already been baked in like, though not explicitly. Still more research needs to be done,” Kraemer told IPS on the sidelines of the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi where world’s environment ministers gathered to take action on the 2030 agenda for sustainable development last week of May.

Political, social coupling with environmental issues trigger migration and conflict

“There is a tight coupling between political and social issues around displacement, but why people ultimately decide to move is often due to environmental problems, increasingly now due to water scarcity recurring very much in West Asia,” Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP’s chief scientist and Director of early warning and assessment division, told IPS.

Land degradation, desertification and scarcity of renewable water resources are currently Western Asia region’s most critical challenges as rolling conflicts damage environment and human health denting the region’s ability to produce enough food to meet the growing population’s needs especially in the Mashriq sub-region ( includes Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territories , Syria; and Yemen of West Asia), according to GEO-6 which offers a policy vision and good governance outlook over the next 25 years.

Increasing water demand resulting in diminishing per-person availability, West Asia now faces deteriorating water quality because of groundwater overexploitation, seawater intrusion, depletion and salinization of aquifers, and rising pumping costs. The region has already surpassed its natural capacity to meet its own food and water demand.

Water, land resource degradation and conflict in a vicious cycle

While peace, security and environment are the region’s topmost priority, the vicious cycle of land degradation leading to, and resulting from conflict, can prevent people from returning home and normalizing life (and economy), Daria Mokhnacheva , migration, environment and climate change specialist at International Organisation for Migration (IOM) told IPS.

“The majority of refugees from conflicts in Iraq will not be able to return home to normalize life even if they want to, without clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance planted in what used to be their farms. Clearing of mines and can take decades,” Mokhnacheva said.

Moreover although Iraq has the largest area of available farmland in the region, it suffers the most from soil salinity and wind erosion; 97 percent of its total area is arid, desertification affects 39 per cent of the country’s surface area with an additional 54 per cent under threat according to GEO-6.

“Traditional farmers and herders can lag in temporary camps for years and these if based in water-scarce or drought-prone areas, may drive multiple displacements. Migration to urban areas destroys their lifestyles, customs and livelihoods completely, increasing vulnerability. Camped long-term, girls and women become traffickers’ targets and girls as young as nine years of age are forced into marriage to reduce household’s pressure on food,” she said.

Early identification of water scarcity and migration hotspots critical for conflict prevention

“We have evidence from West Asia that the transition from the rural to the urban starts to sow the seeds of displacement which ultimately can lead to conflict,” McGlade said.

“So the real issue for environmental governance is can we detect early enough the conditions under which either food or water security is likely to fail, can we identify these ‘hotspots’ to take preventive action so that people do not leave the lands that already supports them,” she said.

“We are already seeing three million people from Syria and Yemen on the move towards the borders of Jordan. Could this exodus have been prevented?” she added.

“We need to integrate migration and environmental research with that of social vulnerability to identify hotspots early,” Mokhnacheva of IOM said, adding, “We also need to improve very local evidence to inform migration policies that can respond to actual need.”

Poor governance of natural resource also responsible for conflict

“Poor governance is a deep-rooted problem we have picked up throughout GEO-6 assessments. The other fundamental cues for resource conflict are lack of access and inequality. Conflict can arise from multiplicity of lack of access, whether to justice or to resources themselves,” McGlade said.

“Climate change causes stress on societies but these impacts by themselves do not necessarily indicate water wars in future. How the government institutions, civil society and international community respond to that stress and address the different interests, greatly influences whether a country will cope or whether it will degrade into tensions, disputes and ultimately into conflict,” Bruch said.

“For instance, both Lebanon and Syria experienced precipitation changes that stressed their respective economies. Why then did Syria alone plunge into conflict?” Bruch added.

“Unfortunately there is no legal framework to pin institutional responsibility for forced migration,” said Mokhnacheva.

Good governance implies that issues such as conflict resolution, food, water and energy are examined in a holistic framework,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.

“The Gulf countries can invest around water scarcity, creating artificial, energy-intensive, expensive water but most countries including those in West Asia or the Sahel and Burkina Faso have very little resilience, economic or environmental,” Kraemer said.

Environmental governance could be the key to a nation’s access to international credit and investment in the near future, experts said.

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A Triple Threat in the Fight Against AIDShttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-triple-threat-in-the-fight-against-aids/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-triple-threat-in-the-fight-against-aids http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-triple-threat-in-the-fight-against-aids/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 20:28:20 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145554 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/a-triple-threat-in-the-fight-against-aids/feed/ 1 Thousands of Minor Refugees Stranded Alone in Greecehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 13:15:08 +0000 Apostolis Fotiadis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145520 Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Apostolis Fotiadis
ATHENS, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Closure of the Western Balkans route has trapped tens of thousands of refugees heading to Central and Northern Europe in Greece, including many unaccompanied minors who either escaped from war zones after having lost their relatives, or were sent ahead in hopes of helping their families follow afterwards.

While the Western Balkans corridor remained open, many minors opted to declare they were adults or register as relatives of other refugees transiting the country to avoid being put in protective custody and reception facilities.

According to a May 31 report by Save the Children, more than 1.2 million refugees have headed to Europe since 2015 – the continent’s “biggest wave of mass migration since the aftermath of the second world war.” They come mainly from conflict-torn countries like Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea.

The problem has worsened since the beginning of February, when European countries limited the number and profile of those let through. The formal closure of the route a month afterwards boosted the number of refugees stranded in Greece to 57,000, according to UNHCR. The U.N. refugee agency estimates more than 30 percent of them are minors.

Kiki Petrakou, a social worker with the National Center for Social Solidarity, a state agency involved with the system of transferring minors to specialized accommodation centers around the country, says the number of requests for hosting unaccompanied children rose sharply in the first three months of this year.

“The numbers we are called to manage have multiplied. From January to March 2016, we have had 1,210 requests while during the same period last year they were only 328,” Petrakou told IPS.

Up to the end of May, there have been 1,875 cases, 1,768 boys and 107 girls. “It is likely the numbers will keep increasing while authorities and organisations identify more of these kids throughout the reception camps,” said Petrakou.

So far 1,269 children have been sent to reception centers and another 629 requests are pending. But with inadequate facilities, some children must be placed temporarily in protective custody in police stations or reside in reception facilities for refugees in the Greek islands where conditions are tough and sometimes even hazardous.

Kostantinos Kolovos, a social worker involved with the management of a hosting facility operated by the NGO Praksis in the middle of Athens, says there have been a few isolated cases of children mistreated by authorities.

The center he works at currently hosts 28 minors of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. According to Kolovos, a crucial factor in whether a child receives adequate protection or falls through the cracks of the existing system is access to accurate information.

“Children are misinformed by smugglers who have their own interest in perpetuating the vicious circle of exploitation or ignore basic information regarding protection and rights available to them,” he says.

Consequently, many times they attempt to avoid being sent to official facilities or run away after a few weeks and try to survive on the streets."We pass information to kids about where to seek basic services and food so they don't resort to doing something bad for just 10 euros." -- Kostantinos Kolovos of the NGO Praksis

“We also do street work programmes so we can pass information to kids about where to seek basic services and food so they don’t resort to doing something bad for just 10 euros,” Kolovos says.

Abuse and harassment is not uncommon for minors who have completely fallen out of the protection network and are on the streets. Even those hosted in various emergency reception camps set up by the government around the country are not entirely safe.

Katerina Kitidi, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Athens, told IPS, “UNHCR is deeply concerned by media reports about survival sex, including sexual exploitation of minors, in sites accommodating refugee populations. The authorities should proceed to an immediate and thorough investigation whenever such reports occur.”

According to UNHCR, safeguarding the security of the sites and their inhabitants should be a key priority in all areas, both in the mainland and the islands.

“The danger of survival sex and other types of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is closely linked to the living conditions in areas accommodating refugees. Many sites were not set up to prevent or respond to such risks. For this to be achieved, one clearly needs well-lit and gender segregated WASH (water-sanitation-health) facilities and sleeping areas, as well as private facilities for women and children. In addition, one needs skilled personnel in SGBV monitoring and response, more female translators and investment in the provision of psychosocial aid” Kitidi told IPS.

But so far most of this kind of support to vulnerable populations and unaccompanied minors remains scarce or simply entirely unavailable throughout the reception camps.

A report published last week by the German organisation Pro Asyl regarding detection and protection of vulnerable populations in refugee camps around the Attica region includes interviews with many unaccompanied minors.

The majority of them, the report ‘Vulnerable Lives on Hold’ found, were not followed up with by authorities after being sent to the camps, had no accurate information regarding their own case, and had limited or nonexistent access to protection or asylum services.

“A very high percentage of them is estimated to be admissible for family reunification or relocation,” Pro Asyl noted.

But many, especially those in the islands, might have to wait a long time before having their cases processed while the asylum system struggles to cope with priorities set by the EU-Turkey statement. Under this agreement and according to the EU Asylum Directive, Syrian and other nationals who crossed the Aegean after Mar. 20 could be returned to Turkey on the basis that Turkey is considered a safe third country for them.

Petrakou says the acute need to increase the capacity of the unaccompanied minors’ reception system is not being met. Some new locations  have been created in various Greek cities over the last few months and have been immediately integrated into the reception system. But the 584 referral positions available are too few in light of the rapidly growing size of the problem, and meanwhile the threat of exploitation and abuse for unaccompanied minors is as big as ever.

Child trafficking trends in the context of migration and asylum analysed in a European Commission progress report last month show strong evidence that the ongoing refugee crisis “has been exploited by criminal networks involved in trafficking in human beings to target the most vulnerable, in particular women and children”.

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