By Rebecca Staudenmaier
The European Union is upping the pressure on countries that don't take back rejected asylum-seekers by making it harder to obtain visas, a newspaper reported. The threat has already resulted in a deal with Bangladesh.
The European Union has decided to take measures against countries that don't cooperate with repatriating migrants who have been denied asylum, according to a German newspaper report published on Sunday.
Welt am Sonntag reported that the 28-member bloc agreed to levy visa penalties on such countries, making it more difficult for their citizens to secure a visa to an EU country.
The European Commission confirmed to Welt am Sonntag that the visa threat has already resulted in a deal with Bangladesh, with officials in the country agreeing to comply with standard procedures for repatriations.
In the spring, a majority of migrants who crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy originated from Bangladesh.
Talks with other countries, particularly several African nations, are ongoing, Welt am Sonntagreported.
'Important approach' or 'Trump practice?'
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere welcomed the EU's decision, telling the newspaper that if there are regular difficulties when it comes to deporting rejected asylum-seekers, "it is only logical, in turn, to tack on stricter entry conditions for people from this country."
De Maiziere explained that the measures specifically target "those responsible for the slow readmissions, that is to say, officials and diplomats with passports of the country concerned."
The minister noted that the deal with Bangladesh proves that the visa-pressure tactic works "when the EU-member states act together."
Bavarian state Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann called the new tactic "a very important approach." He told Welt am Sonntag that the process to repatriate rejected asylum-seekers only moves forward with difficulty "especially with regards to African nations."
"The European Union and the [German] government must increase pressure" in regards to those nations, Herrmann said.
Herrmann's Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister-party to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, has been pushing for a yearly cap on asylum-seekers in Germany, particularly after losing many voters to the far-right Alternative for Germany.
Not all were pleased with the EU's latest measure, with Left Party co-head Katja Kipping questioning the reasoning behind the move.
"The Left Party does not support visa restrictions for repatriation-unwilling countries because it impacts the wrong people: tourists, students or people who want to work here," she told Welt am Sonntag.
The EU is using "questionable Trump practices by blaming ordinary citizens for their government's policies," Kipping added.
Published on DW on October 29, 2017.
The Australian and Papua New Guinean authorities must ensure that a tense standoff with refugees on Manus Island does not descend into violence by security forces as the authorities try to move hundreds of people from the refugee detention centre to so-called transit facilities on Manus Island, Amnesty International said.
Tensions have grown on Manus Island in recent weeks, as the hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers living in the current refugee detention centre have said that they will resist any move because they fear for their safety if moved to new locations on the island.
“The looming move to so-called transit facilities on Manus Island cannot become an excuse to use violence against refugees and asylum seekers. The authorities have a duty to ensure that the PNG security forces, who already have a chequered history of abuse, refrain from using excessive force,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Issues.
The detention centre on Manus Island, where refugees and asylum seekers have suffered for four years as part of Australia’s cruel and illegal ‘offshore processing’ policies, will close on 31 October.
Australian government officials have said that water and electricity at the centre will be turned off after 31 October, and have refused to rule out forcibly transferring those who do not voluntarily leave the premises.
The closure of the detention centre does not mean the end of the ordeal for the refugees as they are being moved to other centres.
More than 600 people are due to be moved to transit facilities over the next few days, including to the East Lorengau Transit Accommodation Centre.
There are serious concerns that the various transit facilities are far too small to house the numbers of refugees, or are not yet completed.
The Lorengau Centre is also close to local communities which could make attacks on the refugees more likely. There have been several attacks by members of the local community – some wielding machetes – against refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island in recent months, which have left individuals badly injured. Neither the PNG nor the Australian authorities have acted to adequately protect the refugees from such violence.
“The closure of the current centre is not a solution if people are simply being moved from one abusive location to another. Reports that the new facilities are unfinished and leave refugees at risk of violence are extremely concerning. Authorities must ensure that the safety and well-being of refugees is given priority,” said Audrey Gaughran.
“The fact that the refugees - who the Australian government has trapped in a system amounting to torture for years - are resisting being moved because they fear for their safety in other locations on the island speaks volumes about the risks they feel they face.”
The closure of the detention centre was announced in 2016 following a ruling by the PNG Supreme Court that the Australian government’s detention of refugees and asylum seekers there is illegal and unconstitutional.
Amnesty International has documented a catalogue of serious human rights violations on Manus Island, including how people are kept in overcrowded compounds in stifling heat without access to adequate medical care, and has called for the centre’s closure, and for the refugees and asylum-seekers to be brought to safety.
“Shuttling refugees from one centre to another is simply papering over the cracks in an abusive system. It does nothing to address the central problem, and indeed may make it even worse. Authorities in Australia should do the only humane thing and immediately bring the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island to safety in Australia,” said Audrey Gaughran.
“The Australian government must accept its responsibility to protect the human rights of all those who have come under its jurisdiction as people seeking refuge, and put an end to the use of offshore processing centres. The same violations will continue as long as the same cruel and inhuman refugee policies remain in place.”
Published on Amnesty International on October 26, 2017
The European Union (EU) has signed an important additional contribution of EUR 9.5 million to the 2017 Programme Budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in response to a call to donors to help close a shortfall that could impact its key services such as education and health-care.
The announcement was made during a meeting on 20 September between UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. This contribution comes in addition to the disbursement earlier this year of EUR 82 million to the UNRWA Programme Budget.
The new contribution will help preserve access to education for 500,000 children, provide primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients and assistance to over 250,000 acutely vulnerable Palestine refugees.
The UNRWA Commissioner-General expressed his deep appreciation for the EU's trust and support: “I am very grateful for the European Union’s partnership with UNRWA and commitment towards Palestine refugees at this critical time. This generous additional contribution is highly valued and will make a big difference.”
The EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn said: “This substantial additional contribution once again reaffirms the European Union's longstanding commitment to UNRWA and the continuity of its essential work in service of Palestine refugees. The EU calls on other donors for greater solidarity and burden-sharing to ensure that UNRWA receives adequate resources to protect and maintain its core functions. Adequate and predictable funding requires a joint effort. We expect all to engage in this way to enable the Agency to continue its tasks without disruption and deliver on its efficiency reform plans.”
In June of this year, the EU and UNRWA signed the 2017-2020 Joint Declaration, strengthening the political nature of the EU-UNRWA partnership and reaffirming the European Union’s commitment to promoting the rights of Palestine refugees and supporting the long-term financial stability of the Agency in a context of intensified budgetary constraints and operational challenges.
Published on the UNRWA on October 10, 2017
By Anna Shea
“If Norway had believed us, my husband would be alive today,” Sadeqa tells me. She had fled to Norway with her family in 2015 after Hadi, her husband, had been kidnapped and beaten, but Norwegian authorities rejected their claim for asylum and returned them and their children to Afghanistan. A few months after their arrival, Hadi was killed. Sadeqa and her three young children are living in constant fear.
Sadeqa is one of thousands of Afghans who have been returned from Europe to Afghanistan in the last two years. They are sent back despite evidence that people are at real risk of serious human rights violations in a country that has become even more dangerous since they fled.
A new report by Amnesty International, released today, details harrowing cases of Afghans who have been returned from Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany only to be killed, injured in bomb attacks, or left to live in constant fear of being persecuted for their sexual orientation or because of their religion. In 2016 alone, almost 10,000 Afghans have been put in harm’s way.
Afghanistan is deeply unsafe, and has become more so in recent years. Currently, the Government and its security forces are battling more than 20 armed groups operating across the country, including the Taliban and the group calling itself the Islamic State. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported that 2016 was the deadliest year on record for civilians, with 11,418 people killed or injured, and the deterioration in the security situation has persisted into 2017. Kabul is the most dangerous province in the country, accounting for 19% of civilian casualties in 2016.
In defiance of common sense and common humanity, this is the country to which European countries are sending thousands of Afghans back. As security risks increase, so do returns. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of people returned from Europe to Afghanistan nearly tripled: from 3,290 to 9,460.
Farid, who was deported to Kabul last May from Norway, is in danger of religious persecution for converting to Christianity. He left Afghanistan as a child, grew up in Iran, then fled to Norway. He is terrified about what will happen to him. Still in shock after being wrenched from his adopted country and faith community, he told me: “I feel like I’ve fallen from the sky. I don’t believe I’m here.”
A year ago, on 5 October 2016, the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan hosted representatives from 75 countries and 26 international organisations and agencies. The European Union (EU) and its Member States committed to providing the Government of Afghanistan with approximately €5 billion in aid. Also at the conference, the EU and Afghanistan signed a document called the “Joint Way Forward,” which aims to facilitate the return to Afghanistan of Afghan citizens in Europe.
The Joint Way Forward opens with the assertion that the EU and Afghanistan “face unprecedented refugee and migration challenges. Addressing them requires solidarity, determination and collective efforts.”
But whilst true solidarity on the part of the European governments would be welcome in Afghanistan, the refugee and migration challenges experienced by the EU and Afghanistan are simply not comparable.
Recently, brutal conflicts and crushing poverty in many parts of the world have pushed large numbers of people to seek asylum in Europe: more than 1 million desperate women, men and children arrived irregularly in 2015, with about 200,000 of them being Afghans. But these numbers must be compared with the numbers of refugees being hosted – sometimes for decades – in countries with far fewer resources than most European States. Of the 2.5 million Afghan refugees worldwide, for instance, the vast majority - about 2.28 million - live in Iran and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan itself faces a staggering internal displacement crisis. The country’s Internally Displaced People population will almost certainly exceed 2 million people by the end of 2017. Moreover, in recent years increasingly hostile conditions for Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan have forced hundreds of thousands of people back to Afghanistan. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of others have fled the country in fear for their lives.
The EU’s so-called refugee crisis is rooted not in the number of refugees arriving, but in a staggering lack of moral courage amongst career politicians.” To “but in a staggering insistence of many European politicians to outsource any responsibility to other countries with much fewer resources. Europe does not lack the resources to fulfil its legal obligations towards people fleeing the horrors of war and persecution. The average GDP per capita of EU countries far exceeds that of major refugee hosting countries like Pakistan, Lebanon and Kenya.
Clearly, notwithstanding the Joint Way Forward’s rhetoric of solidarity, the document is intended to pressure Afghanistan to accept large numbers of returnees. A leaked EU document from March 2016 is frank on this point. In it, EU agencies acknowledged Afghanistan’s “worsening security situation and threats to which people are exposed,” as well as the likelihood that “record levels of terrorist attacks and civilian casualties” will increase, but nevertheless stated that “more than 80,000 persons could potentially need to be returned in the near future.”
Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance, Eklil Hakimi, has been quoted telling the Afghan parliament: “If Afghanistan does not cooperate with EU countries on the refugee crisis, this will negatively impact the amount of aid allocated to Afghanistan.” A confidential Afghan government source called the Joint Way Forward a “poisoned cup” that Afghanistan was forced to drink in order to receive development aid.
Evidently the “Joint Way Forward” is neither joint, nor a way forward. Afghanistan is currently too dangerous a place for returns. Until European governments and the EU acknowledge this, the lives of tens of thousands of Afghans in Europe remain uncertain. For others, it is already too late. “I’m so afraid,” Hadi’s widow told me. “I can’t even bring my children to their father’s grave.”
Names in this article have been changed.
Published on Amnesty International on October 5, 2017.
For 420,000 refugees living in northern Kenya, insufficient funding has forced the United Nations food relief agency to cut rations by 30 per cent, as it appeals for nearly $30 million for assistance.
“We are facing a critical shortage of resources, which has compelled us to reduce the amount of food given to the refugees only six months after we resumed full rations,” said World Food Programme (WFP) Representative and Country Director Annalisa Conte in a statement.
Overall, refugees living in Dadaab and Kakuma camps will receive a food ration equivalent to 70 per cent of their requirements.
“WFP urgently needs $28.5 million to adequately cover the food assistance needs for the refugees for the next six months,” she added.
The UN agency provides sustenance assistance to refugees in Kenya as a combination of dry food – including cereals, vegetable oil and nutrient-enriched flour – as well as mobile phone cash transfers to buy fresh food from local traders.
However, while keeping cash transfers unchanged, starting this month, WFP will provide through health clinics fortified flour only for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers instead of the general population, which may lead to a rise in malnutrition levels among the refugees.
“Working closely with UNHCR [Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and other partners, WFP strives to meet urgent food and nutrition needs of refugees and other vulnerable groups, and calls upon all parties to take all necessary steps to end conflicts and create conditions for refugees to safely return home,” she continued.
In addition to the general food ration and cash transfers, WFP provides nutritious foods to young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, to stave off malnutrition. Primary grade students receive porridge in school, which helps them concentrate on their classes and provides an incentive for families to send them to school. For the time being, WFP can maintain these critical safety nets for refugees.
“Cutting rations is a last resort and we hope that it is only a short-term measure as we continue to appeal to the international community to assist,” said Ms. Conte.
If new funds are received immediately, WFP can quickly mobilize food stocks from within the region, and/or increase the amount of cash transfers to the refugees allowing them to buy adequate food from the local markets.
“An abrupt halt to food assistance would be devastating for the refugees, most of whom rely fully on WFP for their daily meals,” she concluded.
Published on the UN News Center on October 2, 2017.