Any detention of migrant children is a violation of their rights and must end

By François Crépeau, McGill University

Children represent around a quarter of all migrants worldwide. While in June 2015, one in ten migrants reaching the Macedonian border from Greece was a child, in October 2015 it was one in three.

Without regular status and the protection that comes with it, children on the move are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse. The unknown social and cultural environment, as well as their age and level of development, often make it impossible for them to be aware of and assert their rights.

Rather than opening regular, safe and cheap channels for migration, states continue to erect walls, use barbed wire fences and systemically detain migrants, including children. For too many children, their experience is all too often linked to their status as immigrants, rather than their age. While there is little reliable data on how many migrant children are being detained, there is evidence that it is happening around the world.

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I’ve become a racist’: Migrant wave unleashes Danish tensions over identity

The New York Times reports: Johnny Christensen, a stout and silver-whiskered retired bank employee, always thought of himself as sympathetic to people fleeing war and welcoming to immigrants. But after more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers poured into Denmark over the past two years, Mr. Christensen, 65, said, “I’ve become a racist.”

He believes these new migrants are draining Denmark’s cherished social-welfare system but failing to adapt to its customs. “Just kick them out,” he said, unleashing a mighty kick at an imaginary target on a suburban sidewalk. “These Muslims want to keep their own culture, but we have our own rules here and everyone must follow them.”

Denmark, a small and orderly nation with a progressive self-image, is built on a social covenant: In return for some of the world’s highest wages and benefits, people are expected to work hard and pay into the system. Newcomers must quickly learn Danish — and adapt to norms like keeping tidy gardens and riding bicycles.

The country had little experience with immigrants until 1967, when the first “guest workers” were invited from Turkey, Pakistan and what was then Yugoslavia. Its 5.7 million people remain overwhelmingly native born, though the percentage has dropped to 88 today from 97 in 1980.

Bo Lidegaard, a prominent historian, said many Danes feel strongly that “we are a multiethnic society today, and we have to realize it — but we are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

The recent influx pales next to the one million migrants absorbed into Germany or the 163,000 into Sweden last year, but the pace shocked this stable, homogeneous country. The center-right government has backed harsh measures targeting migrants, hate speech has spiked, and the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is now the second largest in Parliament. [Continue reading…]

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German anti-immigrant party beats Merkel in her home district

The New York Times reports: Voters in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political home state delivered her a stinging rebuke on Sunday, propelling a far-right party to second place in the state legislature, ahead of her center-right bloc.

It is the first time in an election in modern Germany that a far-right party has overtaken Ms. Merkel’s bloc of Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.

Official results released early Monday showed that Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats had received 19 percent of the vote, against 21 percent for the far-right Alternative for Germany. The center-left Social Democrats, with whom Ms. Merkel governs nationally, got 31 percent in the state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and are likely to continue their coalition there with Ms. Merkel’s bloc.

The vote took place a year to the day after Ms. Merkel agreed with Austria that the two countries would admit thousands of mostly Syrian refugees then trapped in Hungary, with several hundred desperately marching on foot toward the West.

Although Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has only 1.3 million eligible voters in a country of 81 million people, Sunday’s elections were seen as an indicator of Ms. Merkel’s political strength and as the real start of the campaign for national elections, due by fall of next year. [Continue reading…]

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Anne Frank today is a Syrian girl

Nicholas Kristof writes: On April 30, 1941, a Jewish man here in Amsterdam wrote a desperate letter to an American friend, pleading for help emigrating to the United States.

“U.S.A. is the only country we could go to,” he wrote. “It is for the sake of the children mainly.”

A volunteer found that plea for help in 2005 when she was sorting old World War II refugee files in New York City. It looked like countless other files, until she saw the children’s names.

“Oh my God,” she said, “this is the Anne Frank file.” Along with the letter were many others by Otto Frank, frantically seeking help to flee Nazi persecution and obtain a visa to America, Britain or Cuba — but getting nowhere because of global indifference to Jewish refugees.

We all know that the Frank children were murdered by the Nazis, but what is less known is the way Anne’s fate was sealed by a callous fear of refugees, among the world’s most desperate people.

Sound familiar?

President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees — a tiny number, just one-fifth of 1 percent of the total — and Hillary Clinton suggested taking more. Donald Trump has repeatedly excoriated them for a willingness to welcome Syrians and has called for barring Muslims. Fears of terrorism have left Muslim refugees toxic in the West, and almost no one wants them any more than anyone wanted a German-Dutch teenager named Anne. [Continue reading…]

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1.2 million Iraqis could be uprooted in Mosul battle, UN says

The New York Times reports: The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday that it was bracing to accommodate as many as 1.2 million displaced Iraqis when the battle begins to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants, who overran the northern city more than two years ago.

A spokesman for the agency, Adrian Edwards, said it was scrambling to build encampments in six locations in northern Iraq to handle such an influx, which could inflate the country’s displaced-person population by more than a third. Mr. Edwards also said that “other shelter options are being prepared.”

His announcement, at a regular news briefing in Geneva, the refugee agency’s headquarters, did not necessarily signify an imminent military operation to seize Mosul, about 250 miles north of Baghdad.

But the announcement provided detail on the efforts to prepare for enormous new pressure on the Iraqi government to house and feed hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents when the fighting starts.

“The humanitarian impact of a military offensive there is expected to be enormous,” Mr. Edwards said in remarks posted on the refugee agency’s website.

The Iraqi government has been warning for months that the battle to retake Mosul is coming. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq said at a news conference in Baghdad that “Mosul will be liberated in 2016.” [Continue reading…]

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Turkey’s migrant deal with Europe may collapse under post-coup attempt crackdown

The Washington Post reports: The landmark agreement that halted a torrent of migrants flowing from Turkey into Europe is nearing collapse in the wake of the failed Turkish coup and the subsequent nationwide crackdown.

Turkish and European leaders are threatening to abandon the deal — the Europeans because they say they are worried about widespread human rights abuses, the Turks because of European reluctance to fulfill a promise to drop visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.

Now, even as it detains tens of thousands of people in response to the coup attempt, Turkey has given the European Union an October deadline over the visa pledge — or it will walk away from its commitment to stem the flow.

An end to the agreement, which came after more than a million migrants and refugees entered in Europe in 2015, would mark another blow to the contentious relationship between the E.U. and Turkey, which is petitioning to join the bloc. It could also result in a fresh surge of asylum seekers traveling from Turkey, which would confront E.U. leaders with a new humanitarian and political dilemma after a relatively quiet spring and summer. [Continue reading…]

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The 75,000 Syrian refugees trapped on Jordan’s border

Jason Cone writes: For millions of Syrian civilians trapped for five years by a relentless war, mere lifesaving aid, let alone refuge, is out of reach. But for the 75,000 displaced people caught on Jordan’s desert frontier with Syria, salvation is only yards away. Unlike many of their fellow citizens, they can be saved. So why have they been effectively abandoned?

They are assembled in a kind of buffer zone on an inhospitable strip of land, much of it within Jordanian territory, just north of the official Jordanian border. But that border is closed, which prevents aid from reaching these desperate refugees and at the same time prevents them from seeking safety. If they move, they risk being pushed back into Syria or perishing in the harsh desert. Both options are morally intolerable and completely avoidable.

The refugees have amassed in makeshift camps in an area known as the berm, so named for its distinctive raised barrier of sand, which marks a mileslong no man’s land between Syria and Jordan. Military bases, checkpoints and patrols dot the area, along with various Syrian armed groups, some of whom mix among the refugees.

Since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, the area around the berm has served as an entry point to safety in Jordan from the unremitting violence in Syria. But on June 21, Jordan closed its northern border after a car bombing that day at a nearby Jordanian military base.

For the last seven weeks, relief agencies based in Jordan have not been able to get to the berm. Adequate food, water and medical supplies are not reaching the refugees, just as summer temperatures soar. Rodents roam the sprawling settlement, which lacks proper latrines and shelter. Dust storms regularly rip apart makeshift tents.

With the border closed, a critical lifeline has been cut, threatening death by starvation, illness, heat stroke or unattended medical complications. While some water is provided by a rudimentary pipeline, it’s unclear how many refugees have access to it. And it’s not known if an ad hoc delivery of food last week, dropped by crane over the berm, reached all those in need.

What is clear is that no medical aid is getting through. Just this week, Doctors Without Borders teams in Jordan received reports from United Nations personnel that pregnant women at the berm had died in labor.

According to the United Nations, four out of five of the refugees at the berm are women or children. Even before the border closing, medical assessments conducted by Doctors Without Borders revealed alarming medical needs. Children suffered from diarrhea and malnutrition. Hundreds of pregnant women lacked adequate obstetric care. Many people were afflicted with respiratory illnesses and skin infections because of the harsh living conditions. [Continue reading…]

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Aid and attention dwindling, refugee crisis intensifies in Greece

The New York Times reports: As her young children played near heaps of garbage, picking through burned corn cobs and crushed plastic bottles to fashion new toys, Shiraz Madran, a 28-year-old mother of four, turned with tear-rimmed eyes to survey the desolate encampment that has become her home.

This year, her family fled Syria, only to get stuck at Greece’s northern border with Macedonia in Idomeni, a town that had been the gateway to northern Europe for more than one million migrants from the Middle East and Africa seeking a haven from conflict. After Europe sealed the border in February to curb the unceasing stream, the Greek authorities relocated many of those massed in Idomeni to a camp on this wind-beaten agricultural plain in northern Greece, with promises to process their asylum bids quickly.

But weeks have turned into months, and Mrs. Madran’s life has spiraled into a despondent daily routine of scrounging for food for her dust-covered children and begging the authorities for any news about their asylum application. “No one tells us anything — we have no idea what our future is going to be,” she said.

“If we knew it would be like this, we would not have left Syria,” she continued. “We die a thousand deaths here every day.” [Continue reading…]

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The world loves refugees, when they’re Olympians

Roger Cohen writes: The world is moved by Team Refugees at the Olympics in Rio. They are greeted with a standing ovation at the opening ceremony. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, not a man given to extravagant displays of emotion, is all smiles.

President Obama tweets support for these 10 athletes who “prove that you can succeed no matter where you’re from.” Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, posts a video on Facebook in which she speaks of the world’s 65 million displaced people — the largest number since World War II — and says they “are dreaming bigger because you’re doing what you’re doing.”

Who could fail to be moved? These are brave people. They have fled anguish in search not of a better life, but of life itself. In general, you do not choose to become a refugee because you have a choice, but because you have no choice. Like Yusra Mardini, the 18-year-old Syrian refugee from a Damascus suburb, who left a country that now exists only in name, and reached Germany only after the small boat bringing her from Turkey to Greece started taking on water in heavy seas. She and her sister Sarah dived into the water and for more than three hours pushed until it reached the island of Lesbos.

In Rio, Mardini won her heat of the 100-meter butterfly, but did not advance due to her inferior time. Still, hers is a remarkable achievement.

Yes, the world is moved by Team Refugees. Yet, it is unmoved by refugees. [Continue reading…]

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Middle East bishops say U.S. has ‘moral responsibility’ to help Christians

Crux reports: Catholic leaders in the Middle East say that the United Sates has the “moral responsibility” to help stop the savagery against Christians in the region, and to provide assistance to help them stay in the region, because it was the U.S. that unleashed the chaos in the first place.

“They were the ones who invaded [Iraq] in 2003 and changed the whole region, and they had the moral responsibility to fix the situation before leaving the country,” said the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, Bashar Matti Warda.

Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, the “martyred city” of Syria, said that the U.S. has a two-fold responsibility. On the one hand, he asked the U.S. government to ensure that the aid being sent to the region is also distributed among Christians, which, he said, means entrusting a portion of it to the churches.

As the system is set up, he said, all the aid goes to the refugee camps. Yet Christians see their lives at risk there, so they generally choose to seek shelter at churches and convents instead.

“If the help went to the churches, it wouldn’t mean that they’re giving special rights to Christians, but that they’re actually helping everyone,”Jeanbart said at a press conference held on Wednesday during the Knights of Columbus’s 134th Supreme Convention, which took place in Toronto, Canada.

The many Christian churches in the region – in Syria, there are six different Catholic rites alone – fund schools, hospitals, and provide shelter to all refugees, without distinguishing between Muslims, Yazidis or Christians, he said. [Continue reading…]

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Against all odds: #TeamRefugees at Rio

The Guardian reports: For the first time in Olympic history, 10 athletes will compete at Rio 2016 for the Refugee Olympic Team in a move designed to bring global attention to the magnitude of the worldwide refugee crisis.

After the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, announced in March that a team would be selected, 43 were identified as candidates and 10, displaced from South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have since been picked in three sports – athletics, swimming and judo. The athletes will march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at Friday’s opening ceremony.

Bach said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honour and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium.

“This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that, despite the unimaginable tragedies they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.” [Continue reading…]

UNHCR – The UN Refugee Agency: Each day war forces thousands of families to flee their homes. People like you, people like me.

To escape the violence, they leave everything behind – everything except their hopes and dreams for a safer future. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency believes that all refugees deserve to live in safety.

Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.

 

 

 

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The refugee Olympians in Rio

Robin Wright writes: Samia Yusuf Omar, who was lithe to the point of frailty, sprinted her way to momentary fame at the Beijing Olympics, in 2008. She was one of two athletes on the team from war-torn Somalia. Only seventeen, she’d had no professional coaching, and had dropped out of school in the eighth grade, after her father died, to help care for five younger siblings while her mother peddled produce. She practiced at a bombed-out stadium in Mogadishu. Female athletes were rare in Somalia, and she faced harassment and intimidation from Islamist militias. In Beijing, she dared to run without a hijab. Virtually no one in Somalia was able to watch her compete — no TV station carried the Olympics, and many Somalis had no television or electricity, anyway. Omar’s running shoes had been donated by runners on Sudan’s team.

Omar competed in the women’s two hundred metres, a middle-distance race. Beating her personal record, at 32.16 seconds, she still finished last — so far behind that the camera couldn’t keep her in the frame — but the crowd roared when she completed the race.

“We know that we are different from the other athletes,” Omar said in Beijing. “But we don’t want to show it. We try our best to look like the rest. We understand we are not anywhere near the level of the other competitors here. We understand that very, very well. But, more than anything else, we would like to show the dignity of ourselves and our country.” [Continue reading…]

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