Inter Press Service » Migration & Refugees http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 24 May 2016 18:48:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 Bangladesh’s Urban Slums Swell with Climate Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bangladeshs-urban-slums-swell-with-climate-migrants/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 11:34:55 +0000 Rafiqul Islam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145249 Abdul Aziz stands with one of his children in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came here a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but has found only grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

Abdul Aziz stands with one of his children in Dhaka's Malibagh slum. He came here a decade ago after losing everything to river erosion, hoping to rebuild his life, but has found only grinding poverty. Credit: Rafiqul Islam/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, May 23 2016 (IPS)

Abdul Aziz, 35, arrived in the capital Dhaka in 2006 after losing all his belongings to the mighty Meghna River. Once, he and his family had lived happily in the village of Dokkhin Rajapur in Bhola, a coastal district of Bangladesh. Aziz had a beautiful house and large amount of arable land.

But riverbank erosion snatched away his household and all his belongings. Now he lives with his four-member family, including his 70-year-old mother, in the capital’s Malibagh slum.

“Once we had huge arable land as my father and grandfather were landlords. I had grown up with wealth, but now I am destitute,” Aziz told IPS.

Fallen on sudden poverty, he roamed door-to-door seeking work, but failed to find a decent job. “I sold nuts on the city streets for five years, and then I started rickshaw pulling. But our lives remain the same. We are still in a bad plight,” he said.

Aziz is too poor to rent a decent home, so he and his family have been forced to take shelter in a slum, where the housing is precarious and residents have very little access to amenities like sanitation and clean water.

“My daughter is growing up, but there is no money to enroll her school,” Aziz added.

About the harsh erosion of the Meghna River, he said the family of his father-in-law is still living in Bhola, but he fears that they too will be displaced this monsoon season as the erosion worsens.

Like Aziz, people arrive each day in the major cities, including Dhaka and Chittagong, seeking refuge in slums and low-cost housing areas, creating various environmental and social problems.

Bachho Miah, 50, is another victim of riverbank erosion. He and his family also live in Malibagh slum.

“We were displaced many times to riverbank erosion. We had a house in Noakhali. But the house went under river water five years ago. Then we built another house at Dokkhin Rajapur of Bhola. The Meghna also claimed that house,” he said.

According to scientists and officials, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and rising sea levels. Its impacts are already visible in the recurrent extreme climate events that have contributed to the displacement of millions of people.

Cyclone Sidr, which struck on Nov. 15, 2007, triggering a five-metre tidal surge in the coastal belt of Bangladesh, killed about 3,500 people and displaced two million. In May 2007, another devastating cyclone – Aila – hit the coast, killing 193 people and leaving a million homeless.

Migration and displacement is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. But climate change-induced extreme events like erosion, and cyclone and storm surges have forced a huge number of people to migrate from their homesteads to other places in recent years. The affected people generally migrate to nearby towns and cities, and many never return.

According to a 2013 joint study conducted by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), Dhaka University and the Sussex Centre for Migration Research (SCMR), University of Sussex, riverbank erosion displaces 50,000 to 200,000 people in Bangladesh each year.

Eminent climate change expert Dr Atiq Rahman predicted that about 20 million people will be displaced in the country, inundating a huge amount of coastal land, if the global sea level rises by one metre.

The fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made a similar prediction, saying that sea levels could rise from 26cm – 98cm by 2100, depending on global emissions levels. If this occurs, Bangladesh will lose 17.5 percent of its total landmass of 147,570 square kilometers, and about 31.5 million people will be displaced.

“The climate-induced migrants will rush to major cities like Dhaka in the coming days, increasing the rate of urban poverty since they will not get work in small townships,” urban planner Dr. Md. Maksudur Rahman told IPS.

Dr. Rahman, a professor at Dhaka University, said the influx of internal climate migrants will present a major challenge to the government’s plan to build climate-resilient cities.

Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country. Floods also hits the country each year. The Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna river basin is one of the most flood-prone areas in the world. Official data shows that the devastating 1998 flood alone caused 1,100 deaths and rendered 30 million people homeless.

Disaster Management Secretary Md Shah Kamal said Bangladesh will see even greater numbers of climate change-induced migrants in the future.

“About 3.5 lakh [350,000] people migrated internally after Aila hit. Many climate victims are going to abroad. So the government is considering the issue seriously. It has planned to rehabilitate them within the areas where they wish to live,” he said.

Noting that the Bangladeshi displaced are innocent victims of global climate change, Kamal stressed the need to raise the issue at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24 and to seek compensation.

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When Emergencies Last for Decadeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-emergencies-last-for-decades http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 21:34:06 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145217 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/when-emergencies-last-for-decades/feed/ 0 Refugees Bring Economic Benefits to Citieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 16:41:33 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145210 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-brings-economic-benefits-to-cities/feed/ 0 Climate Change Compounds Humanitarian Crises in Global Southhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/climate-change-compounds-humanitarian-crises-in-global-south/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 06:20:41 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145197 Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the areas hit hardest by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The disaster coincided with the COP19 climate talks and served as the backdrop for negotiations on mechanisms of damage and losses. Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the areas hit hardest by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The disaster coincided with the COP19 climate talks and served as the backdrop for negotiations on mechanisms of damage and losses. Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, May 20 2016 (IPS)

As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.

“Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaption in fragile and conflict-affected states in the Global South have long been overlooked, as it is often perceived as too challenging or a lower priority,” Janani Vivekananda, an expert in security and climate change, told IPS.

Vivekananda, the head of Environment, Climate Change and Security in International Alert, a London-based non-governmental organisation working to prevent and end violent conflict around the globe, cited her country, Sri Lanka, as an example of problems shared by developing countries.

“Given the fragile political situation since 25 years of violent conflict ended in May 2009, ensuring that climate impacts do not fuel latent conflict dynamics is critical,” she said from London.

A politically unstable developing island nation like Sri Lanka, and many other countries in the South, will see their problems multiply in a warmer planet with higher sea levels, she said.

“Climate change is the ultimate ‘threat multiplier’: it will aggravate already fragile situations and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent conflict,” says “A New Climate for Peace”, an independent report commissioned in 2015 by members of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthiest nations.

This is the challenge faced by the governments and organisations that will attend the first World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul. The conference was convened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “to generate strong global support for bold changes in humanitarian action.”

At the summit, the delegates will search for ways to integrate the traditional conception of humanitarian emergencies with new crises, such as those caused by climate change, which this year caused record high temperatures.

“This is why the World Humanitarian Summit’s initiative to remake the humanitarian system is so timely and so important,” said Vivekananda.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that in the absence of policies that effectively curb greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by four degrees Celsius by 2100.

And even if the world were to reach the “safe limit” for global warming – a rise of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees C, the target agreed in the Paris Agreement in December – the effects would still be felt around the planet, warns the IPCC, which decided in April to prepare a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The landmark climate deal is one of the key elements that the national delegations will have when they reach Istanbul, along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed in September, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, agreed in March 2015.

More people were displaced worldwide in 2015 by weather-related hazards than by geophysical events. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

More people were displaced worldwide in 2015 by weather-related hazards than by geophysical events. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

“Explicit recognition of the linkages between different types of risks and vulnerabilities is still missing,” said Vivekanada, with regard to the not yet formalised connection between these two agreements and the World Humanitarian Summit.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) forming part of the 2030 Agenda are essential for understanding the relationship between climate change and humanitarian assistance.

The report commissioned by the G7 says the poorest countries with the most fragile political systems, like Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Haiti face the greatest risks and difficulties adapting to climate change.

Climate pressure could hurt food production or require extra aid for local governments overwhelmed by the situation. In extreme circumstances, these phenomena can lead to forced migration.

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), more people were displaced in 2015 by hydrometeorological disasters (14.7 million) than by conflicts or violence (8.5 million).

The report also stressed the impact of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENOS) meteorological phenomenon and said that for the people most exposed and vulnerable to extreme rainfall and temperatures, the effects have been devastating and have caused displacement.

For example, El Niño caused intense drought along Central America’s Pacific coast and in particular in the so-called Dry Corridor, a long, arid stretch of dry forest where subsistence farming is predominant and rainfall shrank by 40 to 60 percent in the 2014 rainy season.

“Hundreds of people were forced to leave Nicaragua because of the drought,” Juan Carlos Méndez, with Costa Rica’s National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Management (CNE), told IPS.

As a CNE official, Méndez is also an adviser to the Nansen Initiative, an inter-governmental process to address the challenges of cross-border displacement in the context of disasters and the effects of climate change.

“This is where we see the biggest political and technical challenges. You can clearly associate displacement with a natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane, but now we have to link it to climate change issues,” the expert said.

Partly for that reason, Costa Rica and another 17 countries launched the Geneva Pledge for Human Rights in Climate Action in February 2015, a voluntary initiative to get human rights issues included in the climate talks.

In the final version of the Paris Agreement, the concept was incorporated as one of the principles that will guide its implementation.

The simultaneous inclusion of climate change and its humanitarian impacts in international summits is not new, but is growing.

The backdrop to the climate talks at the 19th United Nations Climate Change Conference in November 2013 in Warsaw was the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in Southeast Asia, and in the Philippines in particular.

The human impact of the typhoon, which claimed 6,300 lives, intensified the talks in the Polish capital and prompted the creation of a mechanism to address climate change-related damage and losses.

A scientific study published in January this year found that the Philippines would experience the highest sea level rise in the world, up to 14.7 mm a year – nearly five times the global average.

“Which is why it is very urgent for the Philippines to beef up efforts on disaster preparedness, particularly in the communities with high risk for disasters and high poverty incidence,” Ivy Marian Panganiban, an activist with the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO), told IPS.

Along with six other Filipino institutions, CODE-NGO is calling for locally-based humanitarian emergency response, with an emphasis on local leadership, and hopes Istanbul will provide guidelines in that sense.

NGOS “should really be capacitated and involved in the governance process since they are the ones that are in the forefront – people who are actually affected by disasters,” she said from Manila.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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A Precarious Fate for Climate Migrants in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-precarious-fate-for-climate-migrants-in-india/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:18:15 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145182 Many Bangladeshi migrants and those from coastal Indian towns take up menial jobs in the construction industry and live in slums. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Many Bangladeshi migrants and those from coastal Indian towns take up menial jobs in the construction industry and live in slums. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, May 19 2016 (IPS)

After the sea swallowed up her home and family in the Bangladeshi coastal district of Bhola along the Bay of Bengal, farmer Sanjeela Sheikh was heartbroken. Stripped of all her belongings, her fields swamped and her loved ones dead, she contemplated suicide.

But good sense prevailed. The frail 36-year-old decided to till her neighbours’ fields in exchange for food. At the same time, she started saving and planning to migrate to India for better prospects like some of her neighbours. Finally, Sheikh packed her belongings and boarded a rickety bus to India’s eastern state of West Bengal. From there, a ticketless train journey brought her to New Delhi where she now lives and works.

“I’ve accepted my fate,” Sheikh told IPS, now employed as a domestic help and living with an Indian family. “There’s no future for me in Bangladesh.”

Along with India, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, Bangladesh is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change in South Asia. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina acknowledged in a speech last year that roughly 30 million Bangladeshis will risk becoming climate migrants by 2050."We're petrified of the authorities probing our Bangladeshi antecedents. We can be packed off without any questions. But that's a risk we're willing to take."

The reasons for migration are familiar — climate change, loss of livelihood due to disasters like cyclones, drought, ingress of the sea, and lack of fresh water for agriculture. In its report Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has highlighted grave causes and ramifications of climate-induced displacement. As per ADB, roughly 37 million people from India, 22 million from China and 21 million from Indonesia will be at risk from sea levels rising by 2050.

Changing weather patterns will also impact agriculture, hampering millions of livelihoods around the world, especially of poor and marginalised populations, add experts. Cyclone Phailin, which lashed the coastal Indian state of Orissa in October 2013, has triggered large-scale migration of fishing communities. Ditto the floods of 2013 in the Himalayas, which have wrecked millions of livelihoods forcing people to move elsewhere.

However, among the most daunting effects of climate change is human displacement as it involves migration, protection of vulnerable people and liability for climate change damage. The U.S. Department of Defence has rightly called climate change “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.”

These words ring all the more true when viewed against the ominous backdrop of the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters. These catastrophes are exposing millions of vulnerable people like Sanjeela to largescale displacement and forced migration. According to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, at least 19.3 million people worldwide were forced out of their homes by natural disasters in 2015 – 90 percent of which were related to weather-related events.

Unfortunately, even as the numbers of these “climate refugees” crossing international borders in search of a safe haven has seen a dramatic upward spiral, the issue of legal rights or guaranteed help remains elusive for them.

“Despite being forced to leave their home countries, these migrants cannot apply for refugee status. They are bereft of legal protection under the U.N. High Convention for Refugees and can be deported at any time without question,” a senior official at the Ministry of External Affairs told IPS.

Zahida Begum, 45, is one such refugee who lives in constant fear of being deported. The poor farmer migrated from Bangladesh in 2014 when her fields were wrecked by floods. She now lives in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh with her three young children and husband. “When we’d just shifted,” Begum told IPS, “we used to spend entire days hiding. Now, we just pretend we’re from the Indian state of West Bengal as we speak the same language and our cultures are also quite similar. However, we’re petrified of the authorities probing our Bangladeshi antecedents. We can be packed off without any questions. But that’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

Researchers in Assam in India and in Bangladesh have estimated that around a million people have been rendered homeless due to erosion in the Brahmaputra river basin over the last three decades. Particularly susceptible to climate change are the Sundarbans, a low-lying delta region in the Bay of Bengal where some 13 million impoverished Indians and Bangladeshis live.

The 200-odd islands here constitute the world’s largest mangrove estuary shared by India and Bangladesh which has experienced loss of forests, lands and habitats due to rising sea levels in recent years.

Climatologists say seas are rising in the Sundarbans more than twice as fast as the global average due to which much of the delta could be submerged in as early as two decades. “That catastrophe,” says Dr. Abhinav Mohapatra of the Indian Meteorological Department, “could trigger a massive exodus of climate refugees creating enormous challenges for India and Bangladesh.”

Sahana Bose of the Central University of Assam states in her essay “Climate resilience and the climate refugees” that the migrant tribes in the Indian Sunderbans, working as agricultural labourers or cultivating small farms, locally known as ‘Adivasis’ are the worst type of climate refugees.

“Their very frequent displacement from one island to another within a span of five years has created a wide range of ecological and socio-economic problems leading to humanitarian crisis. These climate refugees are also the world’s most poor people living on less than 10 US dollar per month,” writes Bose.

A Greenpeace study suggests that India will face major out-migrations from coastal regions. According to these estimates, around 120 million people will be rendered homeless by 2100 in Bangladesh and India.

“Everyone knows that climate change is displacing people but no government is willing to acknowledge this officially for fear of having to recognise these people as refugees and be held responsible for their welfare,” explains Dr. Jamuna Sheshadri, an associate professor of sociology at Delhi University.

The problem is aggravated, says Sheshadri, with the scientific community still struggling to define “climate refugees” even though displacement and migration due to climate are a global phenomenon.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in India are expected to rise at the rate of 2.4 mm a year; in 2050, the total increase will be 38 cm, displacing tens of thousands of people. For nearly a quarter of India’s population living along the coast, global warming is a scary reality.

The issue of climate refugees is also creating simmering tensions at the local level. In West Bengal, the massive and continuous influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh has become a fraught political issue. Waves of Bangladeshi migrants have settled in the state and the Northeast over the decades. The resultant pressures on land and economic resources is triggering clashes between local residents and the migrant Bangladeshis.

The migrants’ influx is also creating social marginalisation among local Indian populations apart from disguised unemployment, scarcity of land for agriculture and food insecurity. In Delhi, the city slums are experiencing a severe strain on civic services and urban infrastructure including paucity of potable water. Meanwhile, unscrupulous politicians are busy milking both the constituencies — of migrants and locals — to fatten their vote banks.

Where does the solution lie to the complex problem of climate refugees lie? The Norwegian Refugee Council, a prominent humanitarian organisation in Norway that works on global refugee issues, had suggested setting up of an international environmental migration fund bankrolled by industrialised nations. The idea of a UN pact to compensate victims of climate change is another suggestion, and the issue will also be taken up at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 23-24.

But, as some experts have highlighted, the issue first needs to be mainstreamed. A solid plan can then be devised and incorporated in national policies of the affected nations for a lasting and sustainable solution.

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A Latin American Humanitarian Emergency Invisible to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 23:42:43 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145171 In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.

Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Mar. 2, is in Mexico after visiting several European cities to ask for help clarifying her mother’s murder and to call for a cancellation of the financing for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, to which the Lenca indigenous people are opposed.

In an interview with IPS she admitted that despite the death threats and the murders of other activists, she didn’t believe they would dare kill her mother, who was so well-known at an international level.“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency).” -- Rubén Figueroa

She herself and her siblings had fled to Mexico due to the threats against members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), which was founded by Cáceres 23 years ago. She had been studying in Mexico for a month when her mother was killed.

Now she wants to tell the world about communities that are displaced and forced off their land because of a “neoliberal, racist and patriarchal” system.

The victims, she said, are not only the Lenca Indians. Also affected are the Garifunas, mixed-race descendants of native people and African slaves, who have been displaced by the construction of tourist resorts in their coastal territory.

To that is added abuse by the police and other agents of the state, since the 2009 coup d’etat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, mixed with criminal violence that has forced thousands of people to seek refuge outside of Honduras.

Rubén Figueroa, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 11 caravans of Central American mothers searching for their children who have gone missing in Mexico, concurs with Zúñiga Cáceres.

“The situation in the entire Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is a humanitarian crisis,” the migrants’ rights activist told IPS.

“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency),” he said.

Figures from an invisible crisis

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of internally displaced people forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence rose to a record 40.8 million in 2015.

Of that total, at least 7.3 million were in Latin America, most of them in Colombia, because of its decades-long armed conflict.

But the report dedicates a special analysis to the growing new phenomenon of displacement caused by criminal violence, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

These four countries accounted for a total of one million internally displaced persons – nearly double the number reported in the 2014 edition of the report. They are mainly victims of criminal violence, principally associated with drug trafficking and gangs.

The IDMC stresses that these are incomplete figures, to which must be added the number of people who are forced to leave the country by criminal violence.

It describes those displaced by criminal violence as “unseen and in displacement limbo”.

Human rights activists in Mexico blame this generalised violence on the war between organised crime groups, as well as on violence by the states against opponents to mining and energy projects.

“What we are experiencing is not a war on drug trafficking, but a war by the state against the general population,” María Herrera, an activist with the group of relatives searching for family members forcibly disappeared in Mexico, who number in the thousands, told IPS.

Also part of this new kind of humanitarian emergency, arising from transnational crime, are civilian victims of the growing militarisation in countries of Central America and Mexico, according to those interviewed by IPS, who complain that the issue is not on the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

Figueroa said a series of regional policies, such as Mexico’s Southern Border Plan and the Alliance for Progress in Central America, were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Approximately five years ago we began to notice that displacement is caused by more direct violence. We have seen young people who come to the shelters with bullets in their bodies. People who have returned to their countries and have been killed,” the activist said.

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

“Migration has always existed, but now people are being displaced by drug trafficking and gang warfare, and there is also the question of persecution and harassment of activists and human rights defenders in Honduras. It’s become structural violence,” he said.

Mexico between a rock and a hard place

The Central American diaspora triggered by violence, along with the deportation of thousands of migrants by the United States, has turned Mexico into a sort of sandwich. And this is causing a growing phenomenon, which has not been addressed either: Central Americans who are choosing to stay in Mexico rather than head north to the United States.

More than two million people were deported during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term – 2009-2012 – alone.

The governmental Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) reports that 2,000 Central Americans requested refugee status in 2014, and only one-fifth were granted it.

Mexico, meanwhile, has its own humanitarian emergency. The Mexican Commission of Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) documented 281,400 cases of forced displacement caused by generalised violence between 2011 and February 2015.

One-third of these displaced persons fled their communities in 141 mass displacements in 14 states.

Mass displacement is defined as an event simultaneously affecting more than 50 people or 10 families. Between January 2014 and February 2015, the CMDPDH registered 23 mass displacements.

One-fifth of these happened in Guerrero, a state that doubled its record and became the leader in forced displacement due to violence in Mexico in the last year.

“People who have been internally displaced do not have mechanisms or institutions for their protection or assistance,” says the report Forced Displacement in Mexico, released by the CMDPDH, a government agency, in 2015.

But there are other cases, like that of Myrna Lazcano, a Mexican woman who, after marrying and having two daughters in the United States, decided to return to Mexico in 2008.

However, the violence against women in her home state of Puebla and in Veracruz, where she found work, forced her to send her daughters back, first, and then return herself to the United States, where she has requested asylum.

Like her, another 9,200 Mexicans applied for asylum in the United States in 2012 – three times the number of requests filed there by Mexicans in 2008.

“This is an emergency that no one wants to address,” said Figueroa. “It is influenced by the position, especially on the part of the United States, with regard to the situation in Central America, because they would be forced to offer refuge if they recognised it.”

But in his view, “another element is the stance taken by Mexico and the countries of origin (of the migrants), because they would be forced to admit that they are failing, as is the international community.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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A Refugee Crisis with No End in Sighthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-refugee-crisis-with-no-end-in-sight/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 10:35:15 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145164 Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

By Silvia Boarini
GAZA, Palestine, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“We don’t want charity, we want a long-term solution.”

That’s what a group of Palestinian refugees who fled the war in Syria and found safety in Gaza told IPS last November.

Today, their sentiment continues to be echoed in Syria and in camps and urban centres hosting refugees across the region.

New challenges

As the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War gives no sign of relenting, the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit will offer a much needed space to discuss what a long-term solution for people fleeing protracted conflict might look like and how actors and stakeholders might go about achieving it.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Middle East has slowly overtaken Sub-Saharan Africa to become the epicentre of this crisis and of the migratory movements of millions of people in search of a safe haven."We in America spend more money buying Coca-Cola than all the money going into Syria." -- Thomas Staal, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that today some 60 million people are displaced worldwide, that is 1 person in every 122. What experts in the field agree upon, is that traditional responses to refugees’ needs are falling far short of the mark.

At a conference on this issue that was held last June at the Middle East Institute (MEI) in Washington DC, humanitarian and political actors agreed that it is no longer enough for the UN to set up a camp at the nearest border, send in the aid professionals and assume that rich countries will foot the bill.

“That model has been shattered in recent years,” wrote scholar Greg Myre. And new patterns are emerging that demand new approaches.

Protracted conflict; the ability and willingness of refugees to reach far away places; and lack of funding for the aid industry, have been widely identified as the new elements causing a need to re-think traditional humanitarian approaches that are failing.

Protracted conflict

If in the recent past economic opportunities played a major role in people’s movements, today by far the major pushing factor is war.

In the Middle East alone, in 2015 some 15 million people had been displaced by conflict. As of May 16, 2016, the numbers have continued to rise.

Close to five million people have escaped Syria alone, while 6.6 million are IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). According to OCHA, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in Yemen, IDPs number 2.76 Million, while in Iraq it is 3.4 million.

These numbers, of course, add to the existing five million Palestinians registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) since 1948 and 1967; to the Lebanese who had fled civil war in the 1980s; and to the Iraqi refugees who had fled the 1991 and 2003 wars. Many of them were living in Syria when the war broke out, making them refugees for a second or third time.

Refugees in the region compete for limited resources, place tremendous stress on the often wavering infrastructure recovering from prolonged conflict, and are perceived as a potential security threat by countries striving to maintain a precarious peace, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Willingness to travel to faraway countries

As the region’s capacity to absorb refugees is stretched, the ability and willingness of refugees to reach faraway corners of the world is another important new element that sets this crisis apart from previous ones.

Especially in the case of Syria, the length of the conflict and the vacuum left by the lack of political solution in the foreseeable future push refugees to take the risk of settling somewhere else for the long term.

Poor living conditions in camps and limited or no educational and economic opportunities in hosting urban centres in the region are decisive factors in the move.

The people with the means to undertake a trip to Europe, the USA or Australia are often professionals whose expertise will be necessary, but unavailable, once the rebuilding kicks off. Statistics show that the further a refugee travels, the more unlikely he or she is to return. UNHCR estimates that the average length of displacement has now reached 17 years.

Lack of funding

Last, but certainly not least, this crisis is characterised by an endemic lack of funds that leaves the aid industry and UN agencies unable to provide for the basic needs of millions. As of May 2016, UNHCR is 3.5 billion dollars short on its 4.5 billion appeal for the Syria Regional Refugee Response alone.

It is often reported that it costs 10 times less to care for a refugee in the region of origin than it does in the West, and yet donor countries are slow to raise the necessary funds to improve the lives of millions escaping wars.

In 2015, Official Development Assistance (ODA) by OECD countries reached a record high, totalling 131.6 billion dollars. And yet payments still only average 0.30 percent of Gross National Income (GNI), well below the UN recommended minimum of 0.70 percent.

The funding crisis and the inability to successfully meet, let alone end, the needs of refugees has pushed the aid community to some soul searching that in the past decade has led to calls for reform, especially at the UN level, to streamline work, decrease overheads, coordinate more efficiently with local humanitarian organizations and seek alternative donors to governments.

On the subject of alternative funding sources, Thomas Staal, Acting Assistant Administrator at USAID, tellingly explained to the audience at the MEI conference last June that “we in America spend more money buying Coca-Cola than all the money going into Syria.”

Aside from highlighting that the private sector should play its part in times of crisis, the statement can be read as a comment of the need to reassess our priorities and values as a society.

The crisis is in the Middle East, not in the West

Despite clear statistics and readily available numbers on the Middle East refugee crisis, this emergency is still too often talked about in Western-centric terms and inevitably looked at as a ‘problem’, never an opportunity.

Deaths in the Mediterranean do not happen in a vacuum, they are the direct result of the shortcomings of the international community to meet the needs of refugees worldwide, to deflate conflicts and to create lasting opportunities for improvement.

The immense strain placed on the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian hosting populations, which have taken in 2.7, 1.05 and 0.70 million Syrians respectively, further highlights the West’s inability to add a sensible perspective to the small numbers of refugees reaching its shores.

As the healthcare and education systems of countries ravaged by war head down the path of de-development, it is imperative that lasting solutions are implemented before the situation spirals further into chaos, experts say.

The humanitarian summit could be the forum where the first steps on this road are taken.

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OPINION: Fear Is not a Good Counsellorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-fear-is-not-a-good-counsellor/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 15:27:46 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145135 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

A new spectre is haunting the world. It is not the spectre of communism, as Marx’s Manifesto famously proclaimed. It is the spectre of fear, which has increasingly become the rationale behind politics. And, as the old proverb says, fear is not a good counselor.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us take, for example, the last elections in the Philippines. In a country where the of memory of the Marcos dictatorship are still relatively recent (Marcos was forced by a popular revolution to quit in 1986), people have elected by a large margin as their president Rodrigo Duterte, who made his campaign motto: “Let us kill them all”. He was referring to criminals, thieves, drug dealers and others whom he prosecuted using paramilitary gangs, when he was mayor of Davao City. In his campaign, he said that once president he would kill some of them himself. The outgoing President, Benigno S. Aquino III, tried to stop him, saying that was tantamount to return to the dictatorship of Ferdinando Marcos. He asked the other candidates to unite to defeat Duterte, but nobody agreed.

Despite strong economic growth, the Philippines still has a high level of poverty and unemployment, a raging war in the southern part of the country against insurgents and kidnapping gangs. Polls found that there was a general sense of fear: from those unemployed and looking for work, to those who were already working but were concerned with being able to keep their jobs. It was generally believed that this very sense of uncertainty in the population was an important element in the final vote.

On the other side of the world, in Brazil, President Dilma Roussef, elected less than two years ago by 50 million voters, has been deposed by the Congress. She has not been accused of stealing, (in a giant corruption scandal), but of falsifying the budget, a practice commonly used everywhere. A surveyby a specialized Brazilian firm, found that the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets calling for her impeachment, were from the middle class, and they knew that over 50 percent of parliamentary Deputees and Senators voting for her impeachment were under criminal investigation, and for far worse crimes than falsifying a budget. While the glue uniting the demonstrators was to eradicate corruption (though Rousseff has not been accused of this), citizens were upset by the growing economic crisis, which has put Brazil in a dramatic situation, where the government is incapable of facing the crisis.

It is important to know that the Workers Party (PT) under the Presidency of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, has lifted 30 millions from poverty into middle class. Those millions fear that they will go back to where they come from, and are the large majority of those who have taken to the streets. What is impressive is that another poll found that close to 32 percent of the demonstrators were actually dreaming of the period under the military regime,( 1964-1985) when order was guaranteed.

Looking now at the current situation in the United States,a country that that many consider ‘the’ example of democracy, the last book from two noted social scientists, John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, “Stealth Democracy”, uses results from a Gallup poll carried out in 1998, and updates it today. Incredibly, a surprising number of Americans dislike the messiness of democracy. Sixty percent of respondents believed that government would “run better if decisions were run like a business”. Thirty-two percent were convinced that the US government would “run better if decisions were left up to successful business people”, 31 percent believed it would run better if decisions were instead left to “non-elected experts”.

Some time ago, the NY Times published the results of a striking poll, where one third of respondents would have accepted a military government, if this were more efficient. The two authors think that those data are a good explanation for Trump’s success. But they also concur that the main support base for Donald Trump comes from people that feel that they have been left behind by the system and have fears for the future.

No wonder: the American middle class has shrunk by less than 50 percent of the adult population, compared with 61 percent at the end of the 1960. The Pew Research Centre, together with the Financial Times, has come to a startling conclusion. Society splinters, as the bedrock of post-war economy is “hollowed out” – the American middle class has shrunk by half. For the first time, those in lower and upper incomes households outnumbered those in the middle class. Just to give an example, the number of adults in the upper two tiers has grown by 7.8 million, while those in the middle class by 3 million. Those in the lower two tiers, increased by 6.8 million. In this trend, the most important wedge has been education. Those with a university education were eight times likelier to live in the upper income tiers, than adults who did not finish high school, and twice as likely as an adult who has only a high school diploma. Therefore, those who cannot afford higher education are now becoming excluded from a successful labour market. Many who work in low paying jobs, do not earn enough for a normal living.

Let us now go to Europe. The only country that has made a study about what is happening to its middle class is Spain: but it is certainly representative of many countries in Europe. Between 2007 and 2013, (the years of the great recession, from which Europe has not yet escapted), the lower class grow from 26,6 percent of the population, to 38.5 percent. A study from the Foundation BBVA has found three essential trends: 1) income per capita and for families has now reverted to levels not seen since the end of the last century; 2) the distribution of income has become worsened, increasing economic inequity; and 3) the unstoppable increase of this inequality combined with the decline in income” has created situations of poverty and social exclusion that, a few years ago, appeared to have disappeared from our society”.

In China, the middle class is frantically trying to place savings abroad; China has lifted 600 million people out of poverty but these same people are obviously worried about slide backwards again. The Chinese economy is in the middle of a change of economic model, from the export to the internal market. This is accompanied by the closure of many inefficient factories and companies, just the beginning of a radical process. Individuals and companies have moved about 1 trillion dollarsout of the country in the last year and a half. Economic insecurity adds to the list of daily worries which include pollution, tainted food and water, millions of faulty vaccines, the lack of a real retirement system, coupled with the lack of medical support. Social media now carry articles on “the anxiety of the middle class”, “will the middle class become the new poor?”. The Financial Times found that 45.5 percent of middle income earners wanted to take at least 10 percent of their savings abroad, and another 29 percent has already done so. In 2014, 76.089 Chinese were awarded permanent residency coupled with solid financial requirements, compared with 4.291 the previous year. In the 2014-15 scholastic year, 304 040 Chinese were studying in the US, compared with 110 000 in 2011-12. Meanwhile, according to official figures, there were over 850 000 public demonstrations last year.

All economists agree that we are entering into a post-industrial world, where the share of labour in value-added to products is going to continue to diminish. Automation will rise from the present 12 percent of industrial production, to 40 percent within ten years. The total number of refugees is now close to 20 million, according to the United Nations and will keep growing. The giant fire in Canada, that almost destroyed an entire town, is one of the many sign of climate change. Newspapers in every country devote growing space to corruption, the Panama Papers, youth unemployment, and to the threat of terrorism, just to quote a few elements that lead people to feel fearful. Therefore, the Trump, the Dutertes, the Le Pens, the Erdogans are a mechanic reaction to fear. But is fear a good counsellor?

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Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: Assessment & Way Forwardhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/special-procedures-of-the-human-rights-council-assessment-way-forward/#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 03:22:49 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145115 By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, May 14 2016 (IPS)

In my personal capacity as an academic from the Global South and a retired international civil servant, I undertook a study for the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue which was published in November 2014. This was at a time when I had no idea that I would later become a member of this elite group of Special Procedures Mandate Holder. The study is entitled “In Defence of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: An alternative narrative from the South”.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: courtesy author.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: Image provided by author.

The study makes the point that this mechanism was first initiated by the South and that the countries of different regions of the South share with those of the North the paternity of this innovative way of ensuring independent monitoring of human rights worldwide. They all consequently have an equal right to contribute to enhancing the efficiency of this mechanism.

The study indicates how one can remove the barrage of objections raised by countries or groups headquartered in the North who believe they are the self-appointed defenders of Special Procedures. They have tended to act in the past as if any suggestion for improvement of Special Procedures coming from the Global South can only be motivated by a desire to undermine the independence and integrity of the said mechanisms.

In other words, this study is an appeal to the North whether to Governments or to civil society organisations from the North that they accept to discuss with the South such suggestions on their merits. It would warrant engaging with those who hold different views and seeking to broaden areas of consensus through bridge-building as our Chairman emphasized in his opening remarks rather than through “excommunication”!

I will raise five central issues:

First, the process of selection of mandate-holders: the study reviews the process of selection of mandate-holders which has been improved as an outcome of the 2010 -2011 HRC review process. Henceforth the President of the Council has to give reasons if he decides to disregard the recommendations of the Consultative Group concerning the list of appointees. This adjustment indeed makes for greater transparency but it does not insulate the President from backroom political pressure from powerful quarters.

Why could we not, in cases where paralysis or postponement threaten, put the appointment of the mandate holders to a vote? There has been no disastrous effect resulting from the fact that their counterparts in treaty bodies are selected by ballot. Are they less objective or independent because of that? Candidates could campaign, offer plans of action indicating what they would do if elected. Many methods exist to ensure equitable gender and geographic distribution.

Second, the review, rationalisation and improvement of mandates.

The challenge here is to change the cluster of 77 Special Procedure Mandate Holders into a system. This is what the Council was mandated to do by General Assembly Resolution 60/25, o.p. 6, which directed it to “where necessary improve and rationalize all mandates (…) in order to maintain a system of Special Procedures”.

Why has this not happened? There are currently 77 mandate holders as against 44 when HRC was established and on current trends their numbers will reach 100 in ten years’ time. No provisions for a sunset clause, for mergers or absorption are in the cards.

If each mandate, of which there are now over 55 including SPs in working groups and with numbers growing year on year, interact with States on top of other Human Rights mechanisms, this can become an administrative nightmare for smaller and least developed countries.

Some claim ballooning of Special Procedures has a political explanation: each special procedure has a virtual national flag on it and to eliminate, merge it or otherwise change it may be seen as an offence to the initiating country which continues to enjoy special rights over the fate of the mandate.

Be that as it may, the numbers of Special Procedures keep increasing, never dovetailing but rather duplicating with pre-existing mandates. There is obvious overlap, for instance, between the mandates on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, the one on contemporary forms of slavery including its causes and consequences and the mandate on the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.

Likewise CEDAW having defined violence as a form of discrimination against women, it’s hard to explain why one needs two mandates, one on discrimination against women and the other on violence against women.

While these mandates have Northern roots, the initiating countries from the South are not immune to such tendencies. Thus there is an obvious link between the mandate of promoting a democratic and equitable international order, the mandate dealing with foreign debt and that related to human rights and international solidarity.

I recommend a revitalisation of the RRI process in an open ended working group of the Council.

As a staying measure, the Council should start by requiring initiators of new mandates to answer such questions as:

– is there no other UN mechanism which addresses in part or in whole the issue proposed?

– is there not a Special Procedure which covers partly or wholly this issue?

– if so why not adjust the existing mandate for this purpose?

– could the new mandate not replace an existing mandate?

In parallel, the working group would review “all existing” thematic mandates to promote coherence, avoid duplication, determine protection gaps and determine whether the distribution of SPs between individual mandates and working groups is still appropriate.

Third, the enhancement of the cooperation between States and Special Procedures

General Assembly resolution 65/281 of 17 June 2011reiterating other similar positions incorporated in resolution 60/251 and in the Code of Conduct of Special Procedures stipulates that “The Special Procedures shall continue to foster a constructive dialogue with States” (emphasis added). In its para. 94, the MOSP reiterates this commitment but then illustrates it by saying “It is thus appropriate that reminders be sent to Governments in relation to unanswered correspondence”.

Mandate holders are also urged “to follow up on replies provided by the Governments in order to request further clarification…”. Surely a constructive dialogue can go beyond sending registered letters and asking for more clarification.

Real dialogue involves give and take. Why not for instance ask the CC and the 5 geographic representatives of States members of the Council to consult on how para. 94 of the MOSP could be made to reflect not only the letter but also the spirit of UNGA resolution 65/281.

Fourth is the broader issue of how the Human Rights Council can interact with Special Procedures on issues of methodology.

This interaction has to reconcile the accountability of Special Procedures to the Council which appoints them with the full independence of judgement of these mandate-holders in the pursuit of their monitoring mission.

The following kinds of issues have been raised in the recent past which have not found an optimal solution:

Can a Special Procedure Mandate Holder, in the legitimate context of his right to select studies to present to the Council, also question initiatives under discussion by the Council itself without being requested to do so?

If a Special Procedure is mandated by the Council to present a report on a particular issue at a specified session of the Council, may he replace such report by a study that he considers as taking precedence over the mandated theme without consulting the Bureau of the Council?

May a Special Procedure or a commission of enquiry mandated by the Council to present to it a report on a specific theme, report to the General Assembly thereon before reporting to the Council without specific authority to do so?

Should Special Procedures who also interact with the General Assembly of with the Security Council also report to the Human Rights Council thereon?

Many other such questions may crop up from time to time.

During the 2010-2011 review process, all groups of countries of the Global South proposed that some form of advisory body of independent jurists could be consulted on an ad hoc basis to address these procedural issues and free more time in the Council for debates on the substance of human rights promotion and protection.

This view held by a majority of developing nations deserves respect even in case of disagreement. And indeed it was objected to by the Global North, whether at the governmental or at the NGO level, who claimed this was tantamount to imposing an Ethics Committee on Special Procedures.

Pending progress towards greater understanding between North and South on this issue, it is suggested that such issues be discussed at an annual joint meeting of the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures with the 5 regional representatives of the geographic regions recognized by the Council. They would consult on solutions to such procedural issues including linkages between relevant GA or HRC resolutions and paragraphs 94, 102 and 105 of MOSP.

Fifth, what future structure and funding for Special Procedures?

The dissemination of thematic and country mandates between different divisions or branches of OHCHr in the past has been a cause for concern about the preservation of the independence of Special Procedures. So has their authority to fund-raise individually as per paragraph 11 of MOSP.

The latter question has been addressed recently as Special Procedures are now asked to disclose and report on the support they obtain directly in cash or in kind from outside donors. This report should be submitted to HRC in the context of standard financial reporting.

Idriss Jazairy is author of “In Defence of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council: An Alternative Narrative from the South”, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

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Why Set Up a Shell Company in Panama?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 13:28:21 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145091 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ ]]> Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
Daylesford, Australia, May 12 2016 (IPS)

A previously little-known law firm called Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, has recently been exposed as one of the world’s major creators of ‘shell companies’, that is, corporate structures that can be used to hide the ownership of assets. This can be done legally but shell companies of this nature are widely used for illegal purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering of proceeds from criminal activity.

See ‘Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption: The Panama Papers‘.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Despite widespread awareness of offshore tax havens in many countries around the world, governments have never acted in a concerted manner to halt these illicit financial flows.

Why? In essence, because wealthy elites are heavily involved in using these mechanisms to isolate their wealth from the usual scrutiny to which the rest of us are subjected precisely so that they can evade tax. And governments do as these controlling elites instruct them.

There is an important reason why wealthy individuals want to maximise their wealth and evade contributing to any country that gave them the opportunity to make this wealth. You might think that you know this reason too: greed.

However, greed is a simplistic explanation that fails to explain, psychologically, why an individual might be greedy. So let me explain it now.

Individuals who engage in dysfunctional behaviours, ranging from accumulating excess wealth to inflicting violence, do so because they are very frightened that one or more of their vital needs will not be met. In virtually all cases, the needs that the individual fears will not be met are emotional ones, particularly including the needs for listening, understanding and love.

So, bizarre though it might seem, the dysfunctional behaviour is simply a (dysfunctional) attempt to have these needs met.

Unfortunately, the individual who compulsively accumulates wealth and/or hides money in a shell company is never aware of their deep emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met which, admittedly, is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, because the individual is unconscious of their emotional needs, the individual (particularly one who lives in a materialist culture) often projects that the need they want met is, in fact, a material need.

This projection occurs because children who are crying, angry or frightened are often scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as a toy or food – to distract them instead.

Because their emotional responses to events in their life are not heard and addressed, the distractive items become addictive drugs. This is why most violence and ‘business’ involving illicit financial flows is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources.

The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need.

And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs.

This is the reason why individuals using the services of Mossack Fonseca seek material wealth and are willing to take advantage of tax evasion structures beyond legal scrutiny.

They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids and each of them justly deserves the appellation ‘poor little rich boy’ (or girl). For a full explanation of how this emotional damage occurs, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Were they emotionally healthy, their conscience, their compassion, their empathy, their sympathy and, indeed, their love would compel them to not hide their wealth and, in fact, to disperse it in ways that would alleviate world poverty (which starves to death 100,000 people in Africa, Asia and Central/South America each day) and nurture restoration of the ancient, just and ecologically sustainable economy: local self-reliance. See ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Of course, it is not just those who use tax havens to evade their social responsibilities or, more generally, those billionaires and millionaires of the corporate elite who have suffered this emotional destruction.

Those intellectuals in universities and think tanks who accept payment to ‘justify’ the worldwide system of violence and exploitation, those politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary businesspeople who accept payment to manage it, those judges and lawyers who accept payment to act as its legal (but immoral) guardians, those media editors and journalists who accept payment to obscure the truth, as well as the many middle and working class people who perform other roles to defend it (such as those in the military, police and prison systems, as well as many school teachers), are either emotionally void or just too frightened to resist violence and exploitation.

Of course, it takes courage to resist violence and exploitation. But underlying courage is a sense of responsibility towards one’s fellows and the future.

As an extension of the above point, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism.

Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

What can we do? We need to recognize that several generations of people who were extremely badly emotionally damaged created the world as it is and that their successors now maintain the political, economic and social structures that allow ruthless exploitation of the rest of us and the Earth itself. We also need to recognize that the Earth’s ecological limits are now being breached.

And if we are to successfully resist these emotionally damaged individuals, their structures of exploitation and their violence, then we need a comprehensive strategy for doing so. If you wish to participate in this strategy you are welcome to sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Whatever else they do, the Panama Papers give us insight into the extent of the psychological damage suffered by wealthy elites and those who serve them.

(End)

The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?

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OPINION: Greece, the Punching Ball of Germanyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 18:45:52 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145072 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 11 2016 (IPS)

Greece is again in the media, because a new negotiation is due between the embattled country and its creditors. The North-South divide of Europe is coming back with force (while the East-West relationship is increasingly looking as beyond repair). The German minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble , has come back with his peculiar view of the economy as a branch of moral and ethical discipline, and not as a reading of reality. He has asked the Greeks “to not get distracted” by the refugees crisis, and not forget their primary task, which is to pay their debt. The request is to cut 2% of the Gross National Product; in case there will not be a 3.5% budget surplus within 2018.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Such parameters have never been reached by any country in the world, on occasion though only for a short period. And these are totally out of reality in a small economy, which has lost 25% of its GNP in seven years, and is facing a serious deflation because of lack of demand and because of daunting unemployment caused by the austerity programs.

This has lead to a once unimaginable situation: the International Monetary Fund, against which thousands of mass demonstrations have been held worldwide, as the symbol of fiscal intransigence and total disregard for social issues, has been the force for a more lenient approach against Germany’s wishes. The IMF has declared that either some measures must be adopted for cutting the impossible amount of the debt, or lower interest, or a longer time or it will not participate in the negotiations. This Germany cannot afford.

Schäuble is representing not only the general aversion of German citizens toward leniency for countries from the South, who have spent beyond their means, and must be now disciplined, there is also the fear of playing the game of the extreme right wing party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), which is now projected to be a decisive force in the next German elections. Its electors besides being anti euro and anti refugees are also opposed to any help to Greece and any European solidarity. So Schäuble is playing the strong guy not giving any ammunition to AfD.

This strategy of robbing the political platform for the extreme right wing parties, has led the traditional parties, and especially the social democrats, to take positions incompatible with their electorate, without any visible gain. A good example comes from the resignation of the Austrian Prime Minister, Werner Faymann who reversed the original position of openness to immigrants, to erecting barriers and refusing to apply European norms to refugees. Faymann declared: “we are not going to leave to the extreme right the banner of curbing refugees”. The result is that the Freedom Party, came second in the September regional elections in Northern Austria. Faymann then took a harder stance, menacing to close the border with Italy. And on April 24, the Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, won the first round of the Presidential elections, with more than a third of the votes. For the first time since the end of the war, the President will not be from the two traditional parties: Social Democrat Party and the Austrian People’s Party that received together only 22% of the first round vote. It is clear that this strategy lends legitimacy to the extreme right wing parties, and alienates the traditional faithful.

Schäuble accused Draghi, with its monetary policy of low interest, (which affects those with strong traditions of savings, like Germany and the Netherlands), of being responsible for 50% of the increase in votes for AfD. The growing loss of moral leadership in Germany, increasingly centred on a domestic agenda, and at the same time public urging the other countries to follow its priorities is becoming a serious problem for Europe. Economists know well that the feeble demand still alive in Greece is also due in great measure from the pensioners who act as a safety net in a country with large youth unemployment. But now, after eleven cuts in pension, the request is for another new cut of 6%. Meanwhile hospitals are without bandages, schools without books, public transport is in a mess and the country on its knees.

Schäuble must have read the study from the Berlin European School of Management and Technology (ESMT). The study demonstrates that 95% of subsidy to Greece went to bail out the banks (largely German and French), which were overexposed with Greek bonds. According to ESMT, only 9.7 billion euro of a total of 184.6 billion
reached the Greek citizens. About 86.9 billion went to pay old debts, 52.3 billion to pay accumulated interests, and 37.3 billion to refinance the Greek banks. Why Schäuble does not present these figures to German citizens does not present these figures to German citizens to show that it is not about solidarity, but creditor’ s interests ?

There is a clear lack of an analysis on how different are the Bonn’s Germany and the Berlin’s Germany. The most salient trait is that Bonn’s Germany was an active engine for European Integration. To get accepted the German proposal for the creation of an European Central Bank , Helmut Kohl agreed that the first governor would not be a German (it was Win Duisenberg, a Dutch national). For the Germans, who were afraid of dropping the strong Mark for the unknown euro, was quite a shock. Now Draghi had to fight to phase out the 500 euro notes (widely used for illicit operations), because it did remind the Germans of their 500 Marks note…

And Schäuble, (and Merkel), who always tell others what to do, suddenly became deaf when others did the same with them. The IMF has now again repeated what also OECD have been saying for a long time. Berlin should reinvest at least some of its large economic surplus into the economy, as an urgent and necessary measure to speed up Europe’s recovery. IMF has now come up again with the same request, but Schäuble finds it more convenient to attack Draghi than to implement some of the IMF recommendations.

The German Parliament is to approve a law, which gives access to national welfare only to those who have resided in Germany for at least five years. Germany is coping with Great Britain, that has this clause in the negotiations with Europe to avoid its exit from the European Union. This is the first negative result of the concessions given to Great Britain, which will hold a referendum on Europe in five weeks from now. It was always feared that such concessions would set a precedent for other member states. Germany is the first one…..

So, the Greek agony is here to remind all of us that the constant rise of xenophobes and nationalist parties at every election has not generated until now an appropriate response from the traditional parties, and especially those from the left.

The xenophobes are aiming to form an international coalition and Marine Le Pen is going to campaign in the UK against the European Union. It is interesting though, that Donald Trump has refused to meet any of them, not because of ideological differences, but because he has no interest beyond American borders. He has expressed positive views on Vladimir Putin, as all the right wing European parties have also done (Russia even gave a loan to Le Pen’s party). All this should bring us to reflect deeply when we see Europe, again led by Germany, donate 6 billion dollars to an openly autocratic Recep Erdogan; and block 1 million Syrian refugees (and open the doors to 70 million Turks).

Democracy is on the wane…. May be we should oblige students to read “Authoritarianism goes Global: the challenge to Democracy’, written by Christopher Walker, Marc Plattner and Larry Diamond. They repeat what we know: that in times of crisis, the credibility of a strong man increases exponentially. But their analysis is updated and worrying . And we have only to look at the past Presidential election in the Philippines, to see the winner as a cross between a strongman of the past, like Ferdinand Marcos, with a strident nationalist and xenophobe, like Trump. Rodrigo Duterte has won the elections by promising the execution of thousand of criminals, the expulsion of foreigners, and “not letting the niceties of democracy compromise the need for exceptional measures against corruption and crime”. How is it possible that we hear the same language in so many different parts of the world? Should we agree that we are in a global economic, social and value crisis, that the present globalization is dying, and therefore we are in a time of transition to something of which we have no idea?

(End)

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Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalismshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:46:26 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145064 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
Antwerp, Alfaz, May 11 2016 (IPS)

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU–but then what kind of EU–and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016). Big numbers. They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions. There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);
Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;
Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;
Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;
Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; creating the asymmetry uninhabitable vs inhabitable by exploitation, becoming rich at the expense of others becoming poor.

That clearly applies to slavery, colonialism, robbery capitalism and many wars (the difference between bombing and being bombed). But the ecological factor hits both; so, the West attends to that factor.

Anyhow, many think: Time has come to share more equitably this wealth.

Of 28 EU members, 11 were colonial powers. 9 in Africa: England, Netherlands, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, till the end of WWI Germany; all enriching themselves.

To believe that the other 28 – 9 = 19 members will accept “quotas” for migration due to the violence of the 9–England-France particularly, in the Middle East by Sykes-Picot colonization (*)–is simply naive. EU has institutions, but has not managed fusion into a Europe of one for all, all for one.

EU today is an exploitative pyramid: Germany on top; 8 Northern-Germanic countries; 5 Southern-Latin countries with France, Ireland; 12 Eastern countries; Greece at the bottom. With inequity and quotas, not strange that nationalisms flourish, tearing EU apart. Remove the causes: England-France, pick up the bill; EU, flatten the pyramid. (**)

Nevertheless, that only solves the intra-EU problem, not the world problem of mass migration from parts of the world mainly damaged by the West. Migrating into the EU, over land and across the Mediterranean, with a small part into a USA protected by two major oceans from the problems they helped to cause–except for migration via and from Mexico.

Mass migration is now an “industry” with “helpers”, smugglers, drugs and trafficking, dubious migrants, police and military among them. Yet that does not detract from the role of the five root causes, even if all kinds of lesser causes and effects make them less visible.

EU redirects migrant flows from the Middle East to Turkey at high costs; the flow from Africa to Nigeria; NATO patrols the Mediterranean. But these are at most stopgap measures. They are migrants not only from but also to–to the colonial “mother countries”, England and France.

Today they travel on foot, by bus, taxis–tomorrow by submarines (like drug smugglers), planes (many do) or by more massive numbers? Claiming a right to settle, uninvited, where much of their human and natural resources has been processed into the wealth of others–who also settled, uninvited. How do we handle this? Are there solutions?

5 Causes, 2 (groups of) Solutions. For Each, Negative and Positive

Slavery:

Negative: CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leads in denouncing slavery, followed by eLAC Summit meeting in Quito; EU endorsing; joint history books (USA: Frederick Douglass testimony); mapping levels of slavery; museums-memorials.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; negotiate compensation.

Colonialism:

Negative: South Africa leads in denouncing, followed by AU; others should join; joint history books on the experience.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; cover federation-confederation costs for multi-nation states and multi-state nations.

Robbery Capitalism:

Negative: Documentation, like using Sevilla customs data calculating the value as debt of the resources robbed; “Hands Off Africa”.

Positive: Africa processing its own resources; the Gaddafi 3 points; SSS trade also with China; lifting the bottom up; new infrastructure.

Wars:

Negative: Stop killing (bombing, SEALs); how many killed in how many countries, like for USA; denounce events (like Berlusconi for 1911).

Positive:
Use military defensively against IS violence; solve conflicts with “terrorists” (IS)–with “communists” (Vietnam) after they won.

Ecology:
Negative: reduce CO2+CH4 levels controlling fossil fuels and fracking.

Positive: Switch to renewable non-polluting resources like sun, wind; increase diversity of biota and abiota resources; help with symbiosis (enough CO2!); improve light-dark balance to absorb less solar heat.

Much more awareness is needed to understand the damage done. But three positive approaches, from “trickling down” capitalism to lifting the bottom up, from offensive to defensive use of military, from victory to solution, could carry far way, even quickly. Likely?

Notes:

(*) To tilt the WWI power balance in their favor one century ago, the four colonies they created–instead of freedom for the Arabs–have been at the root of most Middle East problems. Take Syria as example, an artificial state constructed by Paris, with 7 built-in conflicts: with Israel-USA blocking for Eretz Israel (Golan is one aspect); with Russia if a government should deny Russia their only base (as opposed to at least 800 US bases); between minority Shia-Alawite dictatorship with tolerance for others and a majority Sunni dictatorship without; between Arab Muslims and others like Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews; between Shia and Sunni and their countries, the Shia living in the Fertile Crescent; between Al Qaeda+ and foreigners; and between all of the above and the Islamic State. IS wants to undo Sykes-Picot and to recreate the Ottoman Empire and their Caliphate without Istanbul; and see themselves as Islamic responses to the EU and the Vatican.

In so doing IS has a decisive advantage relative to “all of the above” who reify Syria as something sustainable with basic changes. IS relates to a reality where today’s Syria is located that lasted four centuries, 1516-1916. They want to reconstruct a past based on provinces and proceed accordingly. This author would be surprised if Iraq as a state survives beyond 2020 and Syria as a state beyond 2025.

(**) If we collapse the top three and the bottom 2 levels 14 Western and 12 Eastern; with ten islands 28. Add Turkey and the point of gravity moves further East, with Istanbul challenging Brussels. And what happe then to the migrants stranded in Turkey?

Johan Galtung’s op-ed originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 May 2016: TMS: Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms

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Kenyan Refugee Camp Closures will have Disastrous Consequenceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 01:04:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145049 An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2016 (IPS)

The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns.

Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.-

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

International human rights groups have lambasted the move.

“In a single breath, the Kenyan government recognizes that the Somalis it has been hosting for nearly 25 years are still refugees, but then states it’s finished with them,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Refugee Rights Program Director Bill Frelick.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Aelbrecht stated that in one Dadaab camp alone where MSF works, approximately 330,000 Somalis will be affected and forced to return to a war-torn country with little access to vital humanitarian assistance. Somalia is also facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water, and destroyed schools and hospitals.

Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” Frelick echoed these sentiments, stating that though the threat of Al-Shabab is real, Kenya still has to “abide by international refugee law.” HRW also noted that there is no evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made such calls.

According to Refugees International, in 2012 and 2014, the government ordered all urban refugees to report to refugee camps. Refugees were subsequently bribed, harassed, physically assaulted and arrested by police.

The most recent announcement may therefore increase levels of extortion and abuse by security forces, said Refugees International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell.

Though they acknowledged the humanitarian consequences of the decision, the Kenyan government stated that they have been “shouldering” the burden on behalf of the regional and international community.

“As a country with limited resources, facing an existential terrorist threat, we can no longer allow our people to bear the brunt of the International Community’s weakening obligations to the refugees,” said Kenya’s Minister for National Security Karanja Kibicho in an editorial.

He noted that there has been a fall in international funding and lack of commitment to resettlement, partly due to a magnified focus on the refugee crisis in Europe.

“The world continues to learn the ruinous effect of these persistent double standards,” Kibicho stated.

In response to the government’s concerns, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted the “vital” role Kenya has played as one of the frontline major refugee hosting nations.

Organisations including Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee also acknowledged the “hospitality” and “responsibility” that the Kenyan government has borne over decades in a joint statement.

“The NGO community is committed to continue supporting the Government of Kenya in the search for long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees,” the statement says.

The joint statement calls on the international community to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to Kenya’s refugee programmes and to expand resettlement quotas.

The joint statement, along with UNHCR and MSF, also called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Aelbrecht stated that Kenya, alongside the international community, must continue providing humanitarian assistance and ensure adequate living conditions for the thousands “who desperately need it.”

Wanyeki, while recognizing the slow resettlement process, also urged the government to consider permanent solutions towards the full integration of refugees.

“Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option,” she concluded.

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Should Sadiq Khan`s Faith Matter?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/should-sadiq-khans-faith-matter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=should-sadiq-khans-faith-matter http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/should-sadiq-khans-faith-matter/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 21:26:12 +0000 Jawed Naqvi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145052 By Jawed Naqvi
May 10 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Sadiq Khan`s brilliant victory as London mayor is a feather in the cap of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, which the leftist leader is striving to lick into an agreeable shape. How is it of use to be reminded profusely that Khan is a Muslim or is of Pakistani extraction? Parochial exultations here will necessarily smack of hypocrisy and are disingenuous.

Celebrating the first ‘Muslim Lord Mayor of London’ runs the risk of surprising the disparate groups of open-hearted Londoners who chose Khan over his opponents` perverse recourse to religious innuendo. Does Khan`s victory indicate that racism is over in Britain? The answer is no. It will be a while and may require a nationwide change of heart. Khan`s election is a milestone in that direction.

In any case, the plain truth is that Sadiq Khan would not have survived in Pakistan, not as a Muslim, not as a non-Muslim. There was one Labour Party-like (or possibly better) hope in the country in the 1970s but its leaders compromised with right-wing Muslim zealots. And the zealots found a self-proclaimed Muslim despot to hang their former benefactor. That was that. The daughter tried to rekindle some hope for an open society but sadly ended up creating the Taliban. The liberal soufflé has not risen since in Pakistan. Where would Khan fit? Well, the news of his victory in London coincided with another cowardly murder of an open-minded Pakistani, the murder of Khurram Zaki. The slain human rights activist would have savoured the Labour-Corbyn-Khan win had he lived to rejoice.

Khan too was a respected rights activist before plunging into politics.

And here we can say that Zaki`s killers do seem to belong to the stock of self-proclaimed Muslims, the kind that can and do make life difficult for people like Khan. And by making it difficult for Khan, they make it equally uphill for Corbyn`s old Labour politics and its growing allies, Bernie Sanders among others.

Some will say since we supported Barack Obamaas the first black contender for the White House why not celebrate Khan as the first Muslim mayor of London. A simple answer would be: history. Obama`s election ushered a point of departure in American history. And then he was the most progressive hope doing the rounds at the time, more so after the dark years of Bush presidency. To use a counterfactual argument, however, would Colin Powell have clinched the support of black voters, or even Obama, for that matter, had he been a Republican candidate? The analogy is actually relevant in Khan`s case. In a parallel narrative on the London circuit, a suggestion is being circulated by some of his admirers, inappropriately in my view, that he won the election despite or perhaps because of policy differences with Corbyn.

Another view on offer, with Corbyn as the obvious target, is that Khan won because he reached out to Tory voters and businesses. The claim suggests that Labour under Corbyn doesn`t have what it would take to offer a strategy to win a wider range of support than he had inherited. Let`s hope this view is wrong for I do believe that Khan`s major winning asset if not the only one was the Labour Party in its new changing avatar. But let me return to the issue of parochial identities coming into play.

The reason why I might seem more sensitive than some others about narrow identities could be because of their overuse in India. India, we are told ad nauseam by fellow Indians, is secular as it has the Khan brothers as movie heroes, a Muslim vice president, a Catholic (is she?) leader of a national party and so on. People would helpfully add how beautiful Urdu sounds and also how their grandfathers spoke Persian. The fact is with all these facets of important symbolism, Indian society is hurtling towards increasing prejudice, a well-defined majoritarianism and state-sponsored violence.

Besides, how much longer are we going to be stuck in the Hindu pani and Muslim pani vacuity, the water pitchers thus labelled on railway platforms in pre-Partition India? Add to that an Ahmadi pitcher, a Jewish pitcher and a Christian pitcher in an imaginary mayoral fray. What would the original inhabitants of the city, the pagans, have to say about it? Are the Hindus in London or Tamilians for that matter going to jockey for their community member next to make the mark? If so to what avail? In any case, as the Guardian said in its assessment of Khan`s campaign, it has become standard practice for London politicians to proclaim the city`s ethnic diversity as its strength. On the other hand, there was appeal by Khan`s rivals to the city`s dark underbelly. For example, Zac Goldsmith attempted to woo Indian and Tamil Londoners ‘London’s Hindus,’ as the Mirror`s headline put it with tales of threats to their family jewels because Khan proposed to impose wealth tax.

We are told that in the run-up to the polls, Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate, escalated his drive to scare up votes in London`s suburbs.

Leaflets were sent to voters in Harrow and elsewhere with messages tailored to arouse hostility to Sadiq Khan.

One leaflet claimed that Khan `supported` Corbyn who `wanted to BAN [India`s] Prime Minister Modi from visiting the UK`. It added that Khan did not attend the vast welcome event held at Wembley stadium for Modi when he visited London last year.

The fact is that both Corbyn and Khan eventually did meet Modi. And that tempts me to wonder if the Labour tally would not be higher had the two not met the controversial leader as a matter of principle enshrined their liberal ideals.

The writer is Dawn`s correspondent in Delhi. jawednaqvi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Refugees and Migrants: A Crisis of Solidarityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-and-migrants-a-crisis-of-solidarity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-and-migrants-a-crisis-of-solidarity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/refugees-and-migrants-a-crisis-of-solidarity/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 13:14:37 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145047 By Ban Ki-moon
May 10 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

This September, the United Nations General Assembly will bring together world leaders to address one of the leading challenges of our time: responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.

War, human rights violations, underdevelopment, climate change and natural disasters are leading more people to leave their homes than at any time since we have had reliable data. More than 60 million people — half of them children — have fled violence or persecution and are now refugees and internally displaced persons. An additional 225 million are migrants who have left their countries in search of better opportunities or simply for survival.

But this is not a crisis of numbers; it is a crisis of solidarity. Almost 90 percent of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries. Eight countries host more than half the world’s refugees. Just ten countries provide 75 percent of the UN’s budget to ease and resolve their plight.

With equitable responsibility sharing, there would be no crisis for host countries. We can afford to help, and we know what we need to do to handle large movements of refugees and migrants. Yet too often, we let fear and ignorance get in the way. Human needs end up overshadowed, and xenophobia speaks louder than reason.

Countries on the frontlines of this crisis are struggling every day to meet the challenge. On September 19, the General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting to strengthen our efforts for the longer term. To help the international community seize this opportunity, I have just issued a report, “In Safety and Dignity”, with recommendations on how the world can take more effective collective action.

We need to begin by recognising our common humanity. Millions of people on the move have been exposed to extreme suffering. Thousands have died in the Mediterranean, on the Andaman Sea, in the Sahel and in Central America. Refugees and migrants are not “others”; they are as diverse as the human family itself. Movements of people are a quintessentially global phenomenon that demands a global sharing of responsibility.

Second, far from being a threat, refugees and migrants contribute to the growth and development of host countries as well as their countries of origin. The better new arrivals are integrated, the greater their contribution to society will be. We need more measures to promote the social and economic inclusion of refugees and migrants.

Third, political and community leaders have a responsibility to speak out against discrimination and intolerance, and to counter those who seek to win votes through fearmongering and divisiveness. This is a time to build bridges, not walls, between people.

Fourth, we have to give greater attention to addressing the drivers of forced displacement. The United Nations continues to strengthen its work to prevent conflict, resolve disputes peacefully and address violations of human rights before they escalate. One powerful new tool is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a blueprint agreed last year by all 193 members of the United Nations that includes a strong focus on justice, institutions and peaceful societies.

Fifth, we need to strengthen the international systems that manage large movements of people so that they uphold human rights norms and provide the necessary protections. States must honour their international legal obligations, including the 1951 Refugee Convention. Countries where refugees arrive first should not be left to shoulder the demands alone. My report proposes a “global compact on responsibility sharing for refugees”.

There is a pressing need to do more to combat smugglers and traffickers, to rescue and protect people en route, and to ensure their safety and dignity at borders. More orderly and legal pathways for migrants and refugees will be crucial, so that desperate people are not forced to turn to criminal networks in their search for safety.

The number of migrants is expected to continue to grow as a result of trade, labour and skill shortages, the ease of travel and communications, rising inequality and climate change. My report proposes important measures to improve global governance in this area, including through a “global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration”.

Refugee and migrant crises are far from insurmountable, but they cannot be addressed by states acting alone. Today, millions of refugees and migrants are being deprived of their basic rights, and the world is depriving itself of the full benefits of what refugees and migrants have to offer.

The World Humanitarian Summit I am convening in Istanbul on May 23 and 24 will seek new commitments from States and others to work together to protect people and build resilience. I expect the September 19 meeting of the General Assembly to point the way toward solutions to the most immediate refugee and migration challenges, and commit world leaders to greater global cooperation on these issues.

Human beings have moved from place to place across the millennia, by choice and under duress, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Only by upholding our duty to protect those fleeing persecution and violence, and by embracing the opportunities that refugees and migrants offer to their new societies, will we be able to achieve a more prosperous and fairer future for all.

The writer is Secretary General of the United Nations.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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UN Releases Plan to Increase Refugee Responsibility Sharinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/un-releases-plan-to-increase-refugee-responsibility-sharing/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 04:32:34 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145040 A Syrian refugee in Cairo: fleeing Syrians have little to look forward to here. Credit: Hisham Allam/IPS.

A Syrian refugee in Cairo: fleeing Syrians have little to look forward to here. Credit: Hisham Allam/IPS.

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2016 (IPS)

The UN wants to create a new Global Compact to encourage countries to share the responsibility for hosting the 19 million refugees who have fled their home countries.

The success of a UN summit on refugees and migration planned for September this year “will hinge on the strength” of the proposed compact, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, ‎Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International told IPS.

Elsayed-Ali said that a small number of states have been expected to deal with a huge number of refugees while wealthier countries that could be doing a lot more “are not doing very much.”

One of the countries that has born a disproportionate burden of hosting refugees for decades is Kenya.

Elsayed-Ali said that the Kenyan government’s recent renewed threat to close down the world’s largest refugee camp and deport thousands of Somalis is “a manifestation of the complete failure to uphold responsibility sharing as it should be.”

“The situation has come to what it is now partially because the international community has ignored situations like the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya,” he said.

“The situation has come to what it is now partially because the international community has ignored situations like the Somali refugee crisis in Kenya,” -- Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty.

Kenya is not the only developing country struggling to cope with hosting refugees. Almost nine out of ten refugees live in developing countries, Karen AbuZayd, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants told journalists here Monday.

AbuZayd was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene the September summit as a key part of the UN’s response to the ongoing global refugee crisis.

A report released here Monday “In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants” details Ban’s hopes for the summit, including his plans for the Global Compact.

AbuZayd said that the summit was partly needed to remind member states of the international laws they have already agreed to follow.

“We’ve come to this point that we have to have another summit about this and remind people of their previous commitments,” she said.

The summit will also propose new solutions, including a plan to increase development aid to host countries.

Countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are hosting millions of Syrian refugees, have been calling for increased international assistance to help them bear the financial burden of shelter, education and healthcare for millions of refugees.

“There needs to be proper funding for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, for the financial costs of hosting a large refugee population,” said Elsayed-Ali.

However, it is unclear whether the proposed Global Compact plans to address the issue of rich countries paying poorer countries to host refugees for them.

IPS asked UN Deputy Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General about this issue here Monday and he said that it was one of many reasons demonstrating the urgency and relevance of the initiative. However Eliasson did not provide details as to how the issue could be specifically addressed.

So far one of the few countries to adopt this approach has been Australia. Elsayed-Ali described Australia’s policy of settling refugees in Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia as “completely disastrous.”

“Essentially Australia is absolving itself of its core responsibility under international refugee law,” he said.

Referring to the conditions on Nauru where two refugees have recently resorted to self-immolation in protest, Elsayed-Ali said that “almost no independent observers have been able to go and see the situation or talk to the refugees.”

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Is the System Broke or Broken?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-system-broke-or-broken http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-the-system-broke-or-broken/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 17:35:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144971 Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

Families displaced from their homes in Pakistan’s troubled northern regions returning home. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2016 (IPS)

Though the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit may seem timely, a debate ensues on an important question: is the world humanitarian system broke or broken?

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, which takes place in Istanbul on May 23-24, was convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to address the pressing needs of today’s humanitarian problems.

“We believe this is a once in a generation opportunity to address the problems, the suffering of millions of people around the world,” said European Union Ambassador to the United Nations João Vale de Almeida during a press briefing.

More than 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance globally. If this were a country, it would be the 11th largest in the world. Over 60 million are forcibly displaced, making it the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Crises now last longer, increasing the average length of displacement to 17 years from 9 years.

However, need has surpassed capacity and resources. As of the beginning of May, almost $15 billion in appeals is unmet for crises around the world including in Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Syria. Approximately 90 percent of UN humanitarian appeals continue for more than three years.

The meeting therefore represents not only a call for action, but also an alarm to reform the increasingly strained humanitarian system.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity.

Among the summit’s core responsibilities is strengthening partnerships and a multi-stakeholder process that puts affected civilians at the heart of humanitarian action.

“The current system remains largely closed, with poor connections to…a widening array of actors,” a summit synthesis report stated following consultations with over 23,000 representatives. “It is seen as outdated.”

Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Humanitarian Policy Group Christina Bennett agrees, noting that humanitarian and aid structures have changed very little since it was first conceived.

“It’s still a very top-down, paternalistic way of going about things,” she told IPS.

In an ODI report, Bennett found that the system has created an exclusive, centralised group of humanitarian donors and actors, excluding local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from participating.

In 2014, 83 percent of humanitarian funding came from donor governments in Europe and North America.

Between 2010 and 2014, UN agencies and the largest international NGOs (INGOs) received 86% of all international humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, less than two percent was directly provided to national and local NGOs.

This has prevented swift and much needed assistance on the ground.

Field Nurse for Doctor of the World’s Greece chapter Sarah Collis told IPS of her time working in the Idomeni refugee camp in Greece, noting the lack of medical resources and basic items such as food and blankets.

“Distribution of blankets only happened at night because the aid agencies were worried about mass crowds,” she told IPS. “This meant that single mothers and young families often had no chance,” she added.

Collis also recalled that there were only two ambulances for the whole region and at times, her team often had to pile six people in an ambulance at once.

The most fast acting groups, Collis said, were the small NGOs and volunteers with direct funding sources and less red tape.

From the recent earthquake in Ecuador to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, local communities and NGOs are often the first responders due to their proximity. They also have better access to hard-to-reach areas, have familiarity with the people and cultures, and can address and reduce risk before disaster strikes.

On the other hand, larger organisations or institutions such as the UN often have difficulty conducting efficient and effective humanitarian operations.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) identified the UN as being at the “heart of the dysfunction” in the humanitarian system. They found that UNHCR’s three-pronged role, as being a coordinator, implementer and donor, led to their poor performance in South Sudan, Jordan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In South Sudan’s Maban county, UNHCR was reportedly slow in response and struggled to mobilise qualified staff.

Their “triple” role also made it difficult for subcontracting NGOs to share implementation challenges and for the agency itself to “admit to bigger problems or to ask for technical assistance from other UN agencies, for fear of losing out on funding or credibility.” This, in turn, impacted the quality of information to make sound decision-making.

Though some funds from UN agencies and INGOs are provided to local NGOs, the relationship is more “transactional” rather than a “genuine, strategic engagement,” Bennett says.

For instance, when aid is provided, it is often determined by the availability of goods and services rather than what people actually need or want on the ground.

“We don’t have more of an alliance…with these organisations as equal players,” Bennett told IPS.

These issues also came to a head during consultations for the World Humanitarian Summit in Geneva.

“Southern NGOs are demanding accompaniment rather than direction,” Executive Director of African Development Solutions (Adeso) Degan Ali told government officials, UN representatives, and civil society. “Be prepared to be uncomfortable.”

Though many acknowledge that there is an important role for INGOs and donor governments in the humanitarian system, there is an emerging understanding that such actors must shift their positions from one that is dominating to one that is enabling.

Organisations such as Oxfam and Adesso have called for the UN and large INGOs to enable local NGOs by directly providing funds. This will not only help them to prepare and improve their responses to crises, but it would also put decision making and power “where it should be,” Oxfam stated.

They have also urged for a target of 20 percent of all humanitarian funding to go directly to local organisations. Already, a charter has been created to commit INGOs to these actions. Among the signatories are Oxfam, Care International and Islamic Relief Worldwide.

Despite these calls to action, Bennett told IPS that she does not believe that the World Humanitarian Summit will lead to change.

“I think it isn’t something on the agenda of the World Humanitarian Summit…partially because they are hard to address and they’re very political—these aren’t easy wins,” she said.

In order to achieve fundamental changes, donor governments and institutions with decision making power must address the underlying assumptions and power dynamics that hold the system back, Bennett remarked.

“Until they move, the system is stuck.”

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Free Press a Casualty of Pakistan’s Terror Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 14:59:49 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144927 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/free-press-a-casualty-of-pakistans-terror-war/feed/ 0 Pakistani Deporteeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistani-deportees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:34:01 +0000 Arif Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144882 By Arif Azad
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In March 2016, the EU signed a far-reaching deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into their union, which has spiked since September 2015. The hastily crafted deal, criticised by the UN for its disregard for human rights safeguards, requires Turkey to accept all migrants currently stranded in Greece, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU, and a hefty sum of six billion euros.

Earlier, the EU had expanded its monetary and expert support to Greece to ease its burden of hosting migrants. As part of this new deal, Greece has begun expelling migrants to Turkey, which in turn has begun housing refugees on its soil, and is preparing to expel most non-Syrian refugees. As a consequence of this policy, Pakistani migrants in Greece are at the front of the expulsion queue.

On April 4, Greece shipped around 200 migrants to Turkey, including 111 Pakistanis.

Ninety-seven deportees (mostly Pakistanis) were also expelled via land route, according to Greek police. Given the Turkish parliament`s position on the status of Pakistani migrants, our government must be prepared to receive and repatriate a new wave of migrants returning to their (apparent) home country.

This issue has been brewing for years and has been on the policy radar of EU officials who have quietly intimated the Pakistani government of the possibility of impending deportations from their territory. Last December, our government returned over 30 out of 50 deportees who arrived in Pakistan due to lack of proper documentation, the interior ministry claiming that the EU is dumping non-Pakistani deportees on our soil. The EU`s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, visited to resolve the issue. Yet the crisis has worsened.

The issue of Pakistani migrants in Greece, mostly without papers according to Greek authorities, has been in the spotlight since the Greek financial crisis. Greece has attracted Pakistan migrants since the 1970s; in one study by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Pakistani migrants number 40,000-50,000, although of ficial figures put the number at 15,478. The estimated 40,000-50,000 include migrants without residency documents.

Irrespective of their status, the Pakistani migrant community constitutes the largest Asian community in Greece; they have suffered the worst racist abuse and attacks in recent years, as documented in reports by various human rights groups.

The atmosphere of hostility has resulted in a huge spike in administrative expulsions by the Greek government, which peaked at 5,135 in 2012, according to Greek police.This is a huge jump from 2011, where the figure stood at 1,293 administrative expulsions.

Another category of voluntary returns includes another 6,445 migrants, according to combined figures of the International Organisation of Migration and the Greek police. Again, this represents a massive spike from 715 in 2011. Worryingly, before the deportation itself, most of these Pakistani migrants are detained in detention centres in degrading conditions. In some of these, the migrants have taken to hunger strikes to protest their conditions.

Yet this huge number of forced and voluntary repatriation has barely raised any policy ripples in Pakistan. With the new draconian EU-Turkey deal being hastily put into effect with little regard for human rights safeguards, the number of Pakistani deportees is set to rise exponentially especially given Pakistan`s agreement with Turkey to take back all the deportees and repatriate them. Yet this is not the only stream of depor-tees coming Pakistan`s way; the EU, too, is oiling up its deportation machinery.

Given growing hostility to newly arriving migrants in Europe, EU immigration policies are stiffening. One of the policy responses to the migrant issue involves voluntary or forced repatriation of failed applicants, to ease domestic opposition to growing migrant populations.

That means the rate ofasylum refusal is set to grow across the EU, resulting in a greater drive towards deportation and repatriation. With an acceptance rate of 10-50pc for Pakistani applicants, the refused applicants will be put on a fast-track deportation schedule. This will swell the already growing concourse of Pakistan deportees, bringing with it its own set of rehabilitation challenges.

Yet it seems that the Pakistani government is not fully tuned into the scale of the crisis which is slowly brewing in foreign lands but heading for its borders. The response requires energetic planning to address a range of rehabilitation, policy and human rights challenges. Not much is forthcoming on this front. The sooner this multifaceted challenge is faced head-on, the better it is for the desperate and exhausted deportees.

The writer is a development consultant and policy analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Opinion: Unnoticed, We Are Close to Destruction of Our Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-unnoticed-we-are-close-to-destruction-of-our-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-unnoticed-we-are-close-to-destruction-of-our-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-unnoticed-we-are-close-to-destruction-of-our-planet/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 07:45:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144747 By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Two weeks after the Summit, the British Prime Minister took the initiative to extend the licenses to extract coal, explaining that 10.000 jobs were at stake. Then it was India’s turn, to declare that licenses for coal powered stations would be increased, as the development of the country comes before protection of the environment.

On this, the Polish government declared that it had no intentions to reduce the use of Polish coal, in the short term. Then Hungary made a similar statement about its use of fossil energy.

Meanwhile, no significant initiative for emission’s control has been announced after Paris. And all the Republican candidates have announced that, once installed in the White House, they will declare null and void the agreements reached in Paris, where Obama played a crucial role. In fact, several Republican initiatives are seeking Supreme Court cancellation of measures taken by the administration to limit pollutions. And with different accents, all the xenophobe and right wing parties which are emerging everywhere in Europe, have indicated that they do not consider the Paris agreement as a priority in their agenda.

The main criticism of the scientific community, on the Paris agreements, was that while the accepted goal was to limit the increase of the global temperature to 2 degrees, compared with that of the beginning of the industrial revolution (while accepting that 1.5 degrees would have been an adequate target), in reality the sum total of all individual targets freely established by the countries, was coming to at least 3.5 degrees.

The idea was that with further negotiations, the target of 2 degrees would finally emerge, also thanks to new technologies. Now, an equally crucial flaw is emerging. No control of implementation of the agreement will take place before 2030. Until then, each country is responsible for implementing its target, and also for checking the implementation of its commitment.

It would have been interesting to see a similar philosophy, adopted on tax levels. Every citizen could decide how much tax he or she pledges to pay, and be responsible until 2030 to check that this engagement or commitment is met. Then only in 2030, mechanisms of verification would fall in place. And those mechanisms would bear no enforcements or penalties. They would only indicate public shaming of those who did not keep their engagements.

Of course, the fact that industrialized countries, like Italy and United Kingdom, far from reducing sources of pollution, is not a good example for developing countries, who are now coming into industrialization, and have to limit their emissions because since early 19th century industrialized countries have been polluting the world.

In fact, subsidies to the fossil industries, according to the World Bank, run now at 88 billion dollars per year. According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute G20 countries spend more than twice of what the top 20 private companies are spending on finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, and do so with public money. Meanwhile, the Fund for helping underdeveloped countries to adopt new technologies, established at 100 billion in Paris, has yet to be completed. Of course a check up is due by 2030.

Well, every week we receive alarming data on how the climate is deteriorating much faster than we thought. I am not talking about the uninterrupted news on natural catastrophes. I am talking about the alarming cries by the scientific community from all over the world.

The National Centre for Climate Restoration from Australia has published a sort of summary about all those calls, in an alarming report by Prof. Kevin Andersen of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in which it says:

…According to new data released by the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, measurements taken at the Marina Loa Observatory in Hawaii show that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration jumped by 3.08 parts per million (ppm) during 2015, the largest year-to- year increase in 56 years of research. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2ppm.Scientist say that they are shocked and stunned by the “unprecedented NASA temperature figures for February 2016, which are 1.65”C higher than the beginning of the nineteen century and around 1.9”C warmer than the pre-industrial level…..

This means, according to Prof. Michael Mann “we have no carbon budget left for the 1.5 degrees target and the opportunity for holding the 2 degrees is rapidly fading unless the world starts cutting emissions rapidly and right now. The current el Niño conditions have contributed to the record figures, but compared to previous big El Niños, we are experimenting blowout temperatures.” For a glimpse into what lies in our future, we have only to look at Venezuela, where now public offices work three days per week to cut water and power usage.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Change Research says “In 2012, the US National Academy of Science analyzed in detail how a major drought in Syria – from 2007 to 2010 – was a crucial factor in the civll war that began in 2011. More than a million people left their farms to go to crowded and unprepared cities, where they were inspired by the Arab Spring to rise against a dictatorial regime which was not providing any help.

Journalist Baher Kamal, who is the Inter Press Service IPS Advisor for Africa and Middle, East did publish a two part series on the impact of Climate Change on the Middle East and North of Africa region, which makes clear the region, could become largely uninhabitable by the year 2040. Just to give an example, the Nile could lose up to 80% of its flow. Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are all at very high risk. But so are also Algeria, Iraq, Jordan Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Dr. Moslem Shathout, deputy chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space, considers that Arab North African countries are the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

In other words, we have to expect a mass of displaced people, on the shores of the Mediterranean, and therefore of Europe. The category of climate refugees does not exist in any legislation.

While it is a fact that Europe’s population was 24% at the beginning of the nineteen-century, it will be 4% at the end of the present one. Europe will lose 40 million people that will need to be replaced by immigrants, to keep productivity and pensions running.

The arrival of 1.3 million people, two thirds young and educated, has created a massive political crisis, and the unravelling of Europe.

The climate refugees will be of all ages, and many from the agricultural sector, the most conservative and uneducated in the Arab world.

Do Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron – who for electoral reasons play the chord of a few lost jobs from the fossil industry – have any idea on how to face this imminent future?

Probably not, but they do not care. This problem will not be during their tenure. So climate change is not in the political agenda as a very top priority. And media follows events, not processes, so no cries of alarm; yet, from one to the next, a continuation of disasters lead to catastrophes…

When, everybody will realize as the saying goes, God pardons, man does sometimes, but nature never.

(End)

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