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Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears by Neil James Wilson

Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears
by Neil James Wilson

Copyright: The Conversation.

The Kenyan government says that it plans to close Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. It had also threatened to close the country’s other major refugee camp, Kakuma, but has subsequently said it won’t. Speaking at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Deputy President William Ruto declared that Dadaab will be closed by the end of the year.

This move has gained much-needed attention. Kenya continues to host one of the largest refugee populations at a time when international attention has overwhelmingly turned to Europe and the movement of people out of Syria. Despite hosting more than half a million people, the camps’ remote locations and longevity have made them easy to ignore.

In addition to the planned camp closure, Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs has been shut down. Though the government has threatened to restrict refugees to camps or close the camps altogether several times before, this suggests a worrying escalation. Established in 2006 alongside the country’s Refugee Act, the department worked with the United Nations Refugee Agency to register and assist refugees in Kenya. Who will fill the gap left by this closure is unclear.

While not in this case, previous threats have often followed bloody terror attacks such as at the ones at the Westgate Mall in 2013 or Garissa University College in 2015. These have led to refugees being equated with terrorism, and Dadaab being labelled a “nursery for al-Shabaab”.

The reality is that the camp highlights the violence that has led many to flee Somalia for the relative safety of Kenya.

The perceived danger posed by the movement of refugees serves as a useful tool in populist politics. It can serve as a bargaining chip in negotiating further aid or galvanise fearful citizens. As Donald Trump’s fear mongering over Syrian refugees and anti-migrant rhetoric in South Africa have shown, this is not unique to Kenya.

Grave consequences

If enacted, the government’s plans would have grave consequences for the hundreds of thousands of refugees living in Kenya. Global resettlement of refugees is already low and unlikely to meet the needs of those being told to now leave Kenya.

The closure would result in refugees returning to unsafe countries, moving to other countries in the region that already have their own extensive refugee populations, shifting from Dadaab to the already overpopulated Kakuma or making dangerous journeys to try to reach safety further afield. The move is also in breach of national, regional and international law.

The recent start of campaigning for the 2017 Kenyan elections and the announcement concerning refugees is not coincidental. Like the plans to build a border wall with Somalia, the scapegoating of refugees plays out well with parts of the electorate.

The timing of this move, and the reasons behind it, hold important lessons for understanding refugee situations around the world. In particular:

  • that longstanding humanitarian situations should not be ignored;
  • that there are very deep inequalities between different refugee populations; and
  • that, in a world increasingly fearful of the presence of refugees, there is mileage in host countries drawing attention to the burden they carry.

Read full article on The Conversation at: Kenya’s threat to close Dadaab camp plays on international refugee fears.

 

News: Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks

News:

Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks
By Migration correspondent at The Guardian

Frontex police escort migrants, who are being deported from Lesbos, on to a ferry before it returns to Turkey. Photograph: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Frontex border agency’s annual risk analysis echoes previous warnings that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU.

The EU’s border force has warned that terrorists may have infiltrated Europe by hiding among asylum seekers, noting that two of the bombers in last November’s Paris attacks arrived on the continent in a smuggling boat from Turkey.

Frontex’s annual risk analysis, released on Tuesday, said: “The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular migratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU.”

Echoing observations made five months ago, the report added: “Two of the terrorists involved in the attacks had previously irregularly entered through Leros and had been registered by the Greek authorities. They presented fraudulent Syrian documents to speed up their registration process.

“As the vast majority of migrants arrive undocumented, screening activities are essential to properly verify their declaration of nationality.”

Frontex’s suggestions come weeks after European politicians introduced a stringent new border policy that will see almost all asylum seekers landing on islands such as Leros returned to Turkey.

Read Full Article – Border force warns terrorists could enter EU by abusing asylum checks.

 

News: Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey

News from The Guardian (UK):

Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey

A woman feeds pigeons at the port of Piraeus near Athens where migrants are camped out. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/AP Image Copyright: Guardian and Associated Press.

The Greek government is bracing itself for violence ahead of the European Union implementing a landmark deal that, from Monday, will see Syrian refugees and migrants being deported back to Turkey en masse.

Rioting and rebellion by thousands of entrapped refugees across Greece has triggered mounting fears in Athens over the practicality of enforcing an agreement already marred by growing concerns over its legality. Islands have become flashpoints, with as many as 800 people breaking out of a detention centre on Chios on Friday.

Some 750 migrants are set to be sent back between Monday and Wednesday from the island of Lesbos to the Turkish port of Dikili.

“We are expecting violence. People in despair tend to be violent,” the leftist-led government’s migration spokesman, Giorgos Kyritsis, told the Observer. “The whole philosophy of the deal is to deter human trafficking [into Europe] from the Turkish coast, but it is going to be difficult and we are trying to use a soft approach. These are people have fled war. They are not criminals.”

Barely 24 hours ahead of the pact coming into force, it emerged that Frontex, the EU border agency, had not dispatched the appropriate personnel to oversee the operation. Eight Frontex boats will transport men, women and children, who are detained on Greek islands and have been selected for deportation, back across the Aegean following fast-track asylum hearings. But of the 2,300 officials the EU has promised to send Greece only 200 have so far arrived, Kyritsis admitted.

Read Full Article: Greece on brink of chaos as refugees riot over forced return to Turkey.

News: Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

News from ReliefWeb:

Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

Media Contact: Media@savechildren.org

FAIRFIELD, CT (April 3, 2016) — Save the Children expressed deep concern today over the deplorable conditions in Moria detention center on the Greek island of Lesvos, where more than 1,000 children, many traveling alone, are detained as part of the EU-Turkey deal.

In addition to concerns around the detention of asylum seekers, the agency is also shocked by the lack of safeguards in place for those likely to be returned to Turkey in less than 24 hours. It calls on European leaders to urgently rethink their proposal and suspend all transfers to Turkey until there is a guarantee that those in need of international protection will receive it.

“The situation inside Moria detention center is deteriorating rapidly,” said Simona Mortolini, Save the Children Team Leader in Greece. “We have spoken to families and children who are sleeping outside on the cold ground on thin blankets because there is nowhere else for them to sleep in the overcrowded accommodation facilities. The camp was initially designed to host a few hundred people transiting through within a day. It now hosts 3,300 people, many have been trapped there for more than a week.”

“People continue to arrive to the island and the number of families detained in the center continues to increase by the day. It is extremely dangerous for children and we are worried about their physical and mental well-being, especially those children travelling alone.”

“There are reports of protests and people have told us they will commit suicide if they are sent back to Turkey. Some said they will jump off the boats. People are absolutely desperate. They have sold all their worldly possessions to pay for the journey from Turkey to Greece, they already risked their lives at sea to make the crossing. There is nothing left for them to return to – in Turkey or in their countries of origin that are marred by wars and widespread violence and insecurity.”

As part of the new EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect on 20 March, newly-arrived vulnerable children and their families, regardless of their status, have been detained in closed facilities on the Greek islands until their individual interview and assessment take place – which could take weeks or months.

Read Full Article – Conditions Rapidly Deteriorating for Children Detained in Moria Camp on Lesvos

 

News – Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey

From the BBC News Service:

Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey

First group of returned migrants were welcomed by Turkish officials in Diki. Image Copyright: BBC.

The first boat carrying migrants being deported from Greece has arrived in Turkey as part of an EU plan aimed at easing mass migration to Europe.

Scores of migrants boarded ferries on the Greek island of Lesbos and arrived in Dikili, western Turkey.

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, told the BBC that most of the 136 people who left Lesbos on Monday were Pakistanis.

Meanwhile, the first group of 16 Syrian migrants has arrived in Germany from Turkey, officials say.

Under the deal, for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is due to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

However, Greek authorities said the first deportees were those who had not applied for asylum, and included citizens from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Morocco.

And Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said there were no Syrians among the first group of migrants sent from Greece.

Another ferry carrying migrants to Turkey is also due to leave the Greek island of Chios on Monday.

The returns were carried out calmly, despite a small protest at the gate of Lesbos port, where activists shouted ‘No to deportations’ and ‘EU shame on you’, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford at the scene said.

Read Full Article – Migrant crisis: Greece starts deportations to Turkey.

See Also – ReliefWeb: Turkey prepares for up to 500 migrants from Greece on Monday

News: UN rights chief concerned over ‘collective expulsion’ of migrants after EU-Turkey deal

22 March 2016 – The United Nations refugee agency has announced that it is “not a party” to the new provisions agreed between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stem the large-scale flow of refugees and migrants into Greece and Europe, and that it will align its work to cope with the deal.

Till now, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been supporting the authorities in the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect this past Sunday, these sites have now become detention facilities, and all new “irregular” migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey.

UNHCR has a policy on opposing mandatory detention. Accordingly, it has suspended some of activities at all closed centres on the islands, including provision of transport to and from these sites.

“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” the agency said in a press release. “We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”

Read Full Article: UN News Centre – UN rights chief concerned over ‘collective expulsion’ of migrants after EU-Turkey deal.

 

News: UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect

22 March 2016 – The United Nations refugee agency has announced that it is “not a party” to the new provisions agreed between the European Union (EU) and Turkey to stem the large-scale flow of refugees and migrants into Greece and Europe, and that it will align its work to cope with the deal.

Till now, the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been supporting the authorities in the so-called “hotspots” on the Greek islands, where refugees and migrants were received, assisted, and registered. Under the EU-Turkey deal, which came into effect this past Sunday, these sites have now become detention facilities, and all new “irregular” migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands will be returned to Turkey.

UNHCR has a policy on opposing mandatory detention. Accordingly, it has suspended some of activities at all closed centres on the islands, including provision of transport to and from these sites.

“UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention,” the agency said in a press release. “We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”

Read Full Article: UN News Centre – UN refugee agency redefines role in Greece as EU-Turkey deal comes into effect.

 

News: House of Lords votes to let lone child refugees come to Britain

The government has been defeated in the Lords as peers voted to allow 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the country.

Peers voted by 306 votes to 204, a majority of 102, to amend the immigration bill in order to require the government to let the children, currently in Europe, come to Britain.

They warned the government it must act fast to take in unaccompanied child refugees amid complaints from cross-party MPs that child migrants in Calais were enduring terrible conditions.

The vote came as three unaccompanied Syrian children, including one orphaned by war, arrived in the UK from the Calais refugee camp to be reunited with relatives.

Labour peer Lord Dubs, who proposed the amendment to the bill, said the step would protect children from exploitation, people trafficking and abuse. Dubs, who was rescued as a child as he fled the Nazis, called on the government to remember the spirit of the Kindertransport and take the lead in Europe in giving homes to child refugees traveling alone.

Read Full Article: The Guardian – House of Lords votes to let lone child refugees come to Britain.

 

News: Home Office ‘to review’ policy on returning Afghan military interpreters

The Home Office is reviewing its controversial policy of returning Afghan military interpreters to their home country after granting asylum to a former interpreter it initially tried to remove from the UK, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The 31-year-old interpreter, who had worked with UK and other coalition forces for seven years on the frontline in the battle against the Taliban, is celebrating after being told by the Home Office on Thursday that he has been granted leave to remain in the UK, despite government officials trying to force him onto a plane back to Afghanistan last April.

Lewis Kett, the interpreter’s representative at Duncan Lewis solicitors, welcomed the news and said Home Office officials informed him at an earlier court hearing that a review of the policy of returning interpreters to Afghanistan is underway.

Read Full Article: The Guardian – Home Office ‘to review’ policy on returning Afghan military interpreters.

 

Petition: Scrap the £35k threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK

Please consider signing thus important petition:

Scrap the £35k threshold for non-EU citizens settling in the UK

In April (2016) the Home Office and Theresa May are introducing a pay threshold for people to remain here, after already working here for 5 years. This only affects non-EU citizens that earn under £35,000 a year, which unfairly discriminates against charity workers, nurses, students and others.

This ridiculous measure is only going to affect 40,000 people who have already been living and working in the UK for 5 years, contributing to our culture and economy. It will drive more workers from the NHS and people from their families. This empty gesture will barely affect the immigration statistics. It’s a waste of time, money and lives.

This is the first time the UK has discriminated against low-earners. £35k is an unreasonably high threshold. The UK will lose thousands of skilled workers.

Link to Sign the Perition – https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/118060

 

 

Introducing the IASFM Working Group for Archiving and Documentation of History of Forced Migration

We are very pleased to annouce the launch of the:

IASFM Working Group for Archiving and Documentation of History of Forced Migration

Coordinator: Paul Dudman
(Archivist at the University of East London, responsible for the Refugee Council Archive).

Co-Coordinator: Dr. Rumana Hashem
(Post-doc Researcher, affiliated with the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) at the University of East London.

Terms of Reference for the IASFM Working Group   Forced Migration Archives, Documentation and History.

Statement of Purpose:

The purpose of this Working Group will be to serve as a focal point for members of the IASFM interested and/or working in within the fields of forced migration archives e.g. documentation, preservation and researching the history of forced migration.

Proposed Activities:

IASFM-WGThe proposed Working Group seeks to document and preserve original history of forced migration at both national and international levels. We would like to generate new partnerships and networking opportunities for developing forced migration archives and for helping with the creation of knowledge on, and the collection, documentation and preservation of forced migration history. We recognise that there is a need to work on how knowledge in the field of forced migration is created/ produced and maintained. Our aim for this Working Group, therefore, will be to bring together researcher, academics, librarians, archivists, activists, advocates (i.e.NGOs) who are either interested in the history of forced migration and related fields, or are interested in the care and preservation of the archival and library collections that help to preserve the often hidden voices of the migration journey. With a focus on networking on history of forced migration, we will also address the growing critique of the divide between experts and forced migrants themselves.  We would like to take steps to ensure that the documentation of testimonies associated with the migration journey are actively preserved.

The Working Group is, however, devoted to develop a cross-spectrum approach to the management and preservation of important archival, library and related collections of materials.  We also have a strong commitment to the use of oral history to help fill in the gaps which often exist within the more traditional archival collection. In this age of financial austerity, we are fully aware of the dangers posed to efforts that help to preserve the historical legacy of often marginalised group.

The proposed activities of the Working Group include organizing one panel on a topic related to archiving and documenting the history of forced migration at the IASFM conference 2016. The members of the Working Group will share information on archive and history related research findings on forced migration and refugee experience in the UK and elsewhere; assist members with access to published and unpublished material; actively encourage networking and promote collaborations and partnerships; share details on funding and develop jointly implemented funded activities; present conference papers, carry out combined publications in 2016 on, build capacity of the group; maintain a public facing portal providing research based information to interested outsiders; and provide feedback to each other concerning working papers and work in progress. The coordinators for the group will maintain records of the activities as they take place.

Possible Objectives

These might include:

  • Actively promoting an interest in the history and archives of refugee, migrant and displaced communities
  • Raising awareness and promotion of the value, relevance and importance of `refugee archives’ for education, research, history, heritage and community IASFM1engagement.
  • Enhancing collective knowledge of existing `refugee archives’ through the media, the internet and Social Media.
  • Encouraging the creation of new `refugee archives’ where they have not previously existed, either in physical or digital media.  Especially in relation to community archives, oral histories and life narratives.
  • Encouraging high standards of collection care and long-term preservation of `refugee archives.’
  • Enhancing networking opportunities for the exchange of information between archivists, librarians, researchers, practitioners, NGO’s, “refugees” and members of the public, including opportunities for virtual and physical networking.
  • Working towards developing and enhancing the UNHCR International Thesaurus of Refugee Terminology. (Link: http://www.refugeethesaurus.org/hms/home.php?publiclogin=1)
  • Collaboration with other national and international bodies as required, e.g. UNHCR, IOM, and other global human rights organisations in the field of forced migration.

Social Media

We have developed some initial social media content including a Twitter account and a Facebook page. Websites will be forthcoming in due course. Further details are as follows:

*  Twitter: @ADHFM_WG

*  Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/901449256599318

* Website:  www.iasfm.org/adfm/

Refugees plead for their release from RAF base in Cyprus: News from the Guardian

Refugees plead for their release from RAF base in Cyprus

British defence officials are under pressure to resolve the status of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Cyprus after the release of video showing chaotic scenes at a UK military base on the island.

Among the incidents in pictures, videos and audio recordings obtained by the Guardian is an apparent threat by a man to kill himself before British police officers rush in. Separately, a man is seen with his face covered in blood after cutting himself.

In other videos, members of the group of 114 who landed on the island last month, among them 28 children, plead for their release from Dhekelia, one of two British sovereign base areas (SBAs) in Cyprus.

“I am 12 years old. We are sitting here in the tents and we are cold and we are not allowed to go out from the tents … Please help us,” said one child.

Another woman, in an audio message, said: “My name is Manar from Syria, I am a 27-year-old woman. We came here by mistake to escape the war. We spent three days at sea and were close to death … They count us every day as if we were in prison … We can’t stand it any more.”

Read full article at: Refugees plead for their release from RAF base in Cyprus

 

The horror of the Calais refugee camp: ‘We feel like we are dying slowly’ : News from the Guardian

The horror of the Calais refugee camp: ‘We feel like we are dying slowly’

A five-minute taxi ride from central Calais, past the seafront restaurants serving moules and chips to tourists, past the Majestic wine cash and carry, and just beyond the neat back gardens at the edge of the town, suddenly there is a devastating vision of Europe’s refugee crisis. One minute, you are driving through placid suburbia; the next minute, you are deposited at the entrance to a sprawling shantytown, where conditions appear worse than in the slums of Mumbai, a camp that is now home to more than 6,000 people, many of them vulnerable and unwell.

In the wasteland behind the red-roofed houses, the unofficial family section of the camp sprang up in October. First there were a couple of tents, then a few shacks thrown up by charity workers, made from cheap wood with plastic sheets tacked on to them. Now, a few weeks later, there are more than 50 huts and tents, home to families from Iraq, Iran and Syria, with dozens of children playing in the mud.

Unfortunately, in the rush to accommodate the hundreds of families who have arrived in the past month, tents were put up in an unoccupied area of sandy wasteland previously used as an informal toilet by several thousand people. “Many of the children are suffering from infections now,” François Guennoc, a coordinator with the main local charity, L’auberge des Migrants, notes wearily, supervising as volunteers bang together wooden huts so families can be moved out of sagging tents. They can’t build them fast enough to accommodate the flow of new arrivals.

Read full article – The horror of the Calais refugee camp: ‘We feel like we are dying slowly’

 

News: Refugee athletes can compete at Rio under Olympic flag

Many thanks to Priyah Changela for forwarding details of this interesting article highlighting how refugee athletes can compete at the Rio Olympic Games under the Olympic flag.

This just goes to show gow two diverse archive collections at UEL, the Refugee Council Archive and British Olympic Association archive, can be linked by a single new story.

See Refugee athletes can compete at Rio under Olympic flag at http://www.trust.org/item/20151027130323-drjv1/?source=shtw

News: Life in Lesbos: “The Children’s Feet Are Rotting – You Guys Have One Month and Then All These People Will Be Dead”

Life in Lesbos: “The Children’s Feet Are Rotting – You Guys Have One Month and Then All These People Will Be Dead”

By and published in the Huffington Post.

“There are thousands of children here and their feet are literally rotting, they can’t keep dry, they have high fevers and they’re standing in the pouring rain for days on end. You have one month guys, and then all these people will be dead”.

Those were the final words of Dr Linda on the phone, a doctor that our volunteer organisations (Help Refugees and CalAid) had asked to fly out to Lesbos in response to an emergency cry for help from an overwhelmed volunteer on the ground.

The weight of those words and the responsibility that comes with them felt crippling. But why are we, a film maker, a radio presenter, and a music assistant being tasked with this responsibility? Shouldn’t, as we had presumed, the large charities and governments be taking the charge of care for the precious lives arriving on Europe shores?

Another call came in – this time from volunteers in Serbia – the refugees are burning plastic bags to keep warm, they have nothing else, they are freezing to death, and the fumes from the bags are slowly poisoning them, please send help.

Then another – this time from volunteers on Lesbos trying to find out how to order body bags en masse… will they have to resort this? Time will tell, but certainly people there have already started to die.

Read full article here:  www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lliana-bird/refugee-crisis-lesbos_b_8388988.html