Tag Archives: refugees

More than 100 million at risk of starvation

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RTX2V8OJ

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

By Umberto Bacchi
March, 2017

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.

Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said latest studies showed 102 million people faced acute malnutrition – meaning they were on the brink of starvation – in 2016, up almost 30 percent from 80 million in 2015.

The hike was mainly driven by deepening crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, where conflict and drought have crippled food production, he said. [nL5N1FF5EX]

“Humanitarian assistance has kept many people alive so far but their food security situation has continued to deteriorate,” Burgeon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

More investment is needed to help people feed themselves by farming crops and livestock, he added.

“We come with airplanes, we provide food assistance and we manage to keep them alive but we do not invest enough in the livelihood of these people,” he said.

“We avoid them falling into famine but we are not good at taking them off the cliff, away from food insecurity.”

The U.N. World Food Programme said last month more than 20 million people – greater than the population of Romania or Florida – risk dying from starvation within six months in four separate famines.

Wars in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan have devastated households and driven up prices, while a drought in east Africa has ruined the agricultural economy. [nL8N1G06JS]

Famine was formally declared in February in parts of South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

In northeastern Nigeria, once a breadbasket for the country, a seven-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants has uprooted some 1.8 million people, forcing many to abandon their farms.

The government says it has clawed back most of the territory it lost to the jihadist group and tens of thousands of refugees are hoping to return to their crops, although security remains a concern. [nL4N1G65JP]

Burgeon said the FAO had raised less than a third of the $20 million it needs within the next two weeks to support almost 2 million people in the upcoming planting season in Nigeria – an investment he said would save money in the future.

“If you don’t support those who want to return to their area to crop then you have to agree that you will have to provide massive aid assistance at least until the harvest in 2018, which is unbearable,” he said.

Lack of funding was also hampering the agency’s response in Syria, where food production dropped to an all-time low in 2016, Burgeon said. [nL8N1DG4UO]

“A lot is going to food assistance and barely anything is going to help farmers who have decided to stay on their land,” he said.

The soaring cost of seeds, fertilisers and tractor fuel was pushing many farmers to leave, making it more difficult to restart the economy once peace or stability returned, he added.

“What we need to do is to help them stay and crop their land and be there for the future,” Burgeon said. “To survive is not enough.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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U.S. Ban Causes Immigration Chaos, Fury

A woman exits immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

A woman exits immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Yeganeh Torbati and Doina Chiacu 
January 28, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal U.S. residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country.

Immigration lawyers and advocates worked through the night trying to help stranded travelers find a way back home. Lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying many people have already been unlawfully detained, including an Iraqi who worked for the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Confusion abounded at airports as immigration and customs officials struggled to interpret the new rules, with some legal residents who were in the air when the order was issued detained at airports upon arrival.

“Imagine being put back on a 12-hour flight and the trauma and craziness of this whole thing,” said Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston. “These are people that are coming in legally. They have jobs here and they have vehicles here.”

The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.

The ban affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and extends to green card holders who are legal permanent residents of the United States.

Arab travelers in the Middle East and North Africa said the order was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from U.S. Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.

Iran condemned the order as an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation” and vowed to retaliate. Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year – around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The ban extends to green card holders who are authorized to live and work in the United States, Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said.

It was unclear how many legal permanent residents would be affected. A senior U.S. administration official said on Saturday that green card holders from the seven affected countries have to be cleared into the United States on a case-by-case basis.

People shout during anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protests outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

People shout during anti-Donald Trump immigration ban protests outside Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S. January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

LEGAL RESIDENTS STUNNED

Legal residents of the United States were plunged into despair at the prospect of being unable to return to the United States or being separated from family members trapped abroad.

“I never thought something like this would happen in America,” said Mohammad Hossein Ziya, 33, who came to the United States in 2011 after being forced to leave Iran for his political activities.

Ziya, who lives in Virginia, has a green card and planned to travel to Dubai next week to see his elderly father. “I can’t go back to Iran, and it’s possible I won’t be able to return here, a place that is like my second country,” he said.

Saleh Taghvaeian, 36, teaches agricultural water management at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, said he feared his wife would not be able to return from Iran after a visit.

In Cairo, five Iraqi passengers and one Yemeni were barred from boarding an EgyptAir flight to New York on Saturday, sources at Cairo airport said. Dutch airline KLM [AIRF.PA] said on Saturday it had refused carriage to the United States to seven passengers from predominately Muslim countries.

Canada’s WestJet Airlines said it turned back a passenger bound for the United States on Saturday in order to comply with the order. A spokeswoman did not say which country the passenger had come from.

At least three lawyers from the International Refugee Assistance Project were at the arrivals lounge at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, buried in their laptops and conference calls, photocopies of individuals’ U.S. visas on hand.

U.S. AGENCIES SCRAMBLE

Women check their luggage after arriving on a flight from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Women check their luggage after arriving on a flight from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

In Washington, the agencies charged with handling immigration and refugee issues grappled with how to interpret the measure. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were not consulted on the executive order and in some cases only learned the details as they were made public.

At the State Department, a senior official said lawyers were working closely with their counterparts at Homeland Security to interpret the executive order, which allows entry to people affected by the order when it is in the “national interest.”

However, a federal law enforcement official said, “It’s unclear at this point what the threshold of national interest is.”

Senior administration officials said it would have been “reckless” to broadcast details of the order in advance of new security measures. The officials told reporters that Homeland Security now has guidance for airlines.

They dismissed as “ludicrous” the notion that the order amounted to a “Muslim ban.” Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Oman, Tunisia and Turkey were Muslim-majority countries not included, an official said.

Since it was announced on Friday, enforcement of the order was spotty and disorganized.

Travelers were handled differently at different points of entry and immigration lawyers were advising clients to change their destination to the more lenient airports, she said. Houston immigration lawyer Yegani said officials denied travelers with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship from boarding planes in Canada to the United States.

The order seeks to prioritize refugees fleeing religious persecution. In a television interview, Trump said the measure was aimed at helping Christians in Syria.

Some legal experts said that showed the order was unconstitutional, as it would violate the U.S. right to freedom of religion. But others said the president and U.S. Congress have latitude to choose who receives asylum.

Lawyers from immigration organizations and the American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court in Brooklyn on behalf of two Iraqi men, one a former U.S. government worker and the other the husband of a former U.S. security contractor.

The two men had visas to enter the United States but were detained on Friday night at Kennedy airport, hours after Trump’s executive order, the lawsuit said. One of the men, former U.S. Army interpreter, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was later released.

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton, Doina Chiacu, Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Mica Rosenberg, Jonathan Allen and David Ingram in New York; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

 

Travel Bans Called Unjust in Middle East

By Eric Knecht and Maher Chmaytelli
January 28,2017

People exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

People exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

CAIRO/BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Arabs and Iranians planning U.S. trips reacted with fury on Saturday to new American travel curbs they said were insulting and discriminatory, as five Iraqis and a Yemeni were stopped from boarding a New York-bound flight in Cairo.

In some of seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the restrictions, would-be travellers preparing family visits, work trips or seeking to escape war reported chaotic disruption to their plans. Some said they had been humiliated.

Iran, one of the seven countries, said it would stop U.S. citizens entering the country in retaliation to Washington’s visa ban, calling it an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation”.

“It’s not right to portray huge groups of Arabs and Muslims as possible terrorists,” Najeeb Haidari, a Yemeni-American security manager in Yemen, said a day after Trump put a four-month hold on refugee arrivals and temporarily barred travellers from war-torn Syria and six other mainly Muslim nations.

“This is a stupid, terrible decision which will hurt the American people more than us or anybody else, because it shows that this president can’t manage people, politics or global relationships,” Haidari added.

Sudan called the decision to ban entry of its citizens very unfortunate in light of “historic steps” just weeks earlier to lift U.S. sanctions for cooperation on combating terrorism.

In the most sweeping use of his presidential powers since taking office a week ago, Trump signed an executive order on Friday to pause the entry of travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days.

He said separately he wanted the United States to give priority to Syrian Christians fleeing the war there. The travel curbs began immediately, causing confusion for would-be travellers with passports from the seven countries.

UNFAIR DECISION

Sources at Cairo airport said the five Iraqi passengers and one Yemeni, arriving in transit to Cairo airport, were stopped and re-directed to flights headed for their home countries despite holding valid visas. [L5N1FI0CI]

A Syrian family holding U.S. visas who had travelled overnight from Beirut to Paris was prevented from boarding a connecting flight onto Atlanta, Lebanese airport sources said. They flew back to Beirut later on Saturday.

In Doha, Qatar Airways advised passengers bound for the United States from the seven newly banned countries that they needed to have either a U.S. green card or a diplomatic visa.

Farea al-Muslimi, a U.S.-educated Yemeni political commentator with the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies said, “It’s insane – but what part of Trump is sane?”ers.”

“This punishes thousands of innocent people for things they have no control over, when the last few attacks in America had to do with radicalized U.S. citizens, not foreigners.”

A 34-year-old Sudanese man who won the U.S. Green Card lottery said he was worried he would be forbidden entry. “If I’m barred…this will destroy my life because I resigned from my work in Sudan and was preparing to settle in America,” he said.

Fariba, an Iranian-American who declined to give her family name and lives in New Jersey, said her parents would not be able to make a planned visit to celebrate Iranian New Year in March.

“What have we done to deserve such a ban? … This ban will ruin our lives. Thank you Mr. President. Are you making America great by hurting innocent people?”

Some people planning U.S. travel said the curbs would harm their careers. Others feared for the safety of their families.

“HUMILIATING INSULT”

In Baghdad, Bayan Adil, a doctor working in the Iraqi Health Ministry who applied for a U.S. visa to attend a medical seminar, said Iraqi academics should visit Europe instead of the United States, where they were no longer welcome.

“Trump’s decision is unfortunately a humiliating insult not only for us as academics but for all Iraqis,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by Abd Al-Jafar, a 43-year-old university professor in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, who said he had sought to go to the United States for doctoral studies.

“This decision, if implemented, will be a disaster,” he said. “I have work in Sudan and have no desire to emigrate to the U.S., just to study there. This decision is illogical.”

In Beirut, Joumana Ghazi Chehade, 34, a refugee from Yarmouk in Syria living in the Lebanese capital’s Burj al-Barajneh camp, said the decision would “destroy a lot of people”.

“Of course we’re not going to go blow anything up … All we are asking for is security and freedom.”

Mirna, an American and a mother of two living in Syria, said it was clear Trump “doesn’t want to receive Syrian Muslims … we have to expect the worst from him because he is a crazy man.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi, Babak Dehghanpisheh, Noah Browning, John Davison, Khalid Abdulaziz and Ahmed Elumami.; Writing by William Maclean; editing by Ralph Boulton; Editing by Helen Popper)

Canada Welcomes Refugees

By David Ljunggren and Anna Mehler Paperny
January 28, 2017

OTTAWA/TORONTO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed those fleeing war and persecution on Saturday even as Canadian airlines said they would turn back U.S.-bound passengers to comply with an immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

A day after U.S. President Donald Trump put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travellers from the seven countries, Trudeau said in a tweet: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

A second tweet included an archive photo of Trudeau welcoming a Syrian refugee at a Canadian airport in 2015.

Confusion abounded at airports around the world on Saturday as immigration and customs officials struggled to interpret the new U.S. rules.

In Canada, WestJet Airlines said it turned back a passenger bound for the United States on Saturday to comply with an executive order signed by Trump on Friday. WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said the airline would give full refunds to anyone affected by the order. It did not say which country the passenger had come from.

The order would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks, the president said.

Stewart said WestJet had been informed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) that the ban did not apply to dual citizens who had passports from countries other than those covered by the ban: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

“U.S. CBP has confirmed it is the citizenship document they present to enter the country, not the country of where they were born,” Stewart wrote in an email.

Air Canada, the country’s other major airline, said it was complying with the order but did not comment on whether it had yet denied travel to any passengers.

“We are required to ensure passengers have the required documents for entry into, or transit the countries they are travelling to,” said spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur. “In the case of these nationalities, they are not permitted to enter the U.S.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by David Ljunggren and Anna Mehler Paperny; Writing by Amran Abocar, Editing by Nick Zieminski and Grant McCool)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Photos Shape Attitudes to Refugees: View from Australia

JANE LYDON
July 30, 2016

Over the last two decades we have seen the unprecedented politicisation of immigration. Many Australians remember the wave of immigration after World War II when our rapidly developing industrialised economy addressed its labour shortage. Yet, like many Western countries, since the end of the Cold War we have worked to prevent refugees from seeking asylum by making our borders impenetrable.

Today, we distinguish between migrants, who arrive via our Migration Program (currently up to 190,000 places per year), and refugees, admitted through our Humanitarian Program, (providing 13,750 places in 2016-2017). Migrants make a conscious choice to seek a better life elsewhere. Refugees are forced to leave their country because of persecution.

Photography has mapped a distinctively Australian version of this global story. Once migrants were represented as complex, vulnerable, diverse people, as in David Moore’s iconic 1966 photograph, Migrants arriving in Sydney. This image allows us to empathise with the fear, anxiety and hope felt by newcomers, poised between old and new, tradition and change.

David Moore Migrants arriving in Sydney 1966, gelatin silver photograph.
Art Gallery of NSW, gift of the artist 1997 © Lisa, Michael, Matthew and Joshua Moore

By contrast, today the Australian government seeks to suppress photographs of asylum seekers, seemingly from fear that such images will prompt empathy with them and undermine border security policy. As asylum seekers have come to be widely viewed as a security threat, refugee policy has been militarised, displacing attention from the situation of those attempting to reach Australia to their supposed menace to our way of life.

The power of photos

Researchers have long debated the impact and ethics of photographs of those very far away or different from ourselves – how do such representations allow us to empathise with their subjects’ plight? Do our responses to such photos prompt political or social change? Or, after a moment of compassion or shame, do these feelings simply subside, letting us return to business as usual and thereby reinforcing the status quo?

Clearly, Australian government and military officials believe, very deeply, in the power of such imagery to undermine – or conversely, support – their agenda.

Two episodes in our recent history reveal the power of photography to shape attitudes and influence public debate. The first is 2001, the year of the Tampa incident, Children Overboard, and the Pacific Solution. The second is the increased border protection measures introduced by the Abbott government from 2013, still in place today.

During the late 1990s, increasing numbers of people attempted to travel to Australia by boat to seek asylum, including Afghanis, many being members of the persecuted Hazara minority. In August 2001, the Norwegian vessel MV Tampa rescued 438 mostly Afghan refugees from their sinking boat, around four hours from the Australian territory of Christmas Island.

The Australian government blocked the Tampa from landing on Christmas Island. Indonesia, which had not ratified the 1951 Convention on Refugees, refused to receive them. When the Tampa entered Australian waters without permission, the Australian military intervened. After much delay, the refugees were taken to Nauru.

Australian citizens’ understanding of these remote events was necessarily highly mediated. A review carried out by researchers from the University of Queensland examined the visual representation of asylum seekers on the front pages of two prominent Australian newspapers at this time – The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

The boat carrying asylum seekers pulls up alongside the Tampa.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen/AAP

Their analysis showed the predominance of pictures of boats, mostly from a distance, as well as those depicting asylum seekers as large groups (42%). In contrast, there was a striking lack of images showing individual asylum seekers with clearly recognisable facial features (only 2%).

The researchers concluded that the effect of this pattern was to dehumanise refugees and frame the refugee “problem” as a potential threat that demanded mechanisms of security and border control.

Perhaps the most widely circulated image from this crisis was an aerial view of the Tampa showing the rescued refugees sitting on the deck in rows, in a space defined by shipping containers. Powerful as it was, this image did not show a single human being’s face.

Asylum seekers on board the Tampa.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen/AAP

Following the Tampa incident, a new border protection initiative titled Operation Relex implemented a restrictive public affairs plan that tightly regulated the collection and circulation of information and images.

The Director-General of Defence Communication Strategies, Brian Humphreys, later testified to the Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident that Defence Minister Peter Reith had explicitly instructed personnel, “Don’t humanize the refugees”.

The inquiry concluded that this restrictive public affairs plan intended to retain “absolute control” of the facts,

to ensure that no imagery that could conceivably garner sympathy or cause misgiving about the aggressive new border protection regime would find its way into the public domain.

Visual theorists express concerns about the ethical use of images of suffering. They argue that such images exploit their subjects by violating their privacy or showing them as abject and less-than-human. In addition, there are well-grounded fears that identifying individuals may render them vulnerable to persecution in their home countries.

However, the complete suppression of images by the state also acts to erase the social experience of suffering. In this way, the absent image may be as powerful, and terrifying in its effects, as images of suffering.

Empathy overboard

John Howard’s government did, however, make active use of photographs to advance its agenda at this time. In October 2001, in the immediate lead-up to a federal election, a boat designated Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel 4, carrying 223 asylum seekers, was intercepted by HMAS Adelaide north of Christmas Island, and then sank.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock claimed that passengers had thrown children overboard as a means of forcing the Australian navy to rescue them. Defence Minister Peter Reith and the prime minster repeated this claim, and on 10 October released photographs that supposedly proved it.

An October 8, 2001 file photo of video footage of refugees being rescued in seas off Christmas Island by defence personnel from HMAS Adelaide.
Defence PR/AAP

However, journalist Virginia Trioli challenged their status as proof during a radio interview with Reith, pointing out

Mr Reith, there’s nothing in this photo that indicates these people either jumped or were thrown?

Reith responded

Well, quite frankly, if you don’t accept that, you don’t accept anything I say … they are clear as day. A mother and her presumably son, aged seven or eight clearly in the water and clearly being assisted by a female member of the Royal Australian Navy … Now, we have a number of people, obviously RAN people who were there who reported the children were thrown into the water.

However a later Senate inquiry found, on the basis of evidence provided by senior Navy personnel, that the photographs offered as evidence of children thrown overboard on 7 October were actually pictures taken the following day, 8 October, while SIEV 4 was sinking.

The inquiry concluded that the Howard government had deliberately told lies about these events and suppressed the truth for political purposes.

A different picture

In mid-2003, meanwhile, an anonymous source published photographs of the rescued asylum seekers taken by Navy personnel aboard HMAS Adelaide in October 2001.

Aboard the HMAS Adelaide
Courtesy Project SafeCom, Jack H Smit.

These photographs show how these rescued people responded aboard the navy vessel. Note the good health and happiness of the children. Imagine the effects on the Australian public in October 2001 of seeing these happy, relieved families: would our political history have been different?

Children drinking milk.
Courtesy Project SafeCom, Jack H Smit.

The Howard government’s response to the “children overboard” affair was “The Pacific Solution” – establishing Nauru and Manus Island as offshore processing centres. According to a report compiled by parliamentary library staff using a variety of official sources, the policy was effective in halting boat arrivals in 2001.

With the election of the Rudd government in 2007, after six years of operation, Manus was closed. However a sharp rise in arrivals of asylum seekers by boat up to 2012 led to the re-opening of offshore processing centres under then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In October 2011, meanwhile, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship announced a new media policy designed to control media access to asylum seekers. A key part of this policy was to regulate the use of images and, in particular, to prevent journalists from showing the faces of asylum seekers, justified as protecting the individual’s identity. This policy remains in place.

After the election of the Abbott government in 2013, Operation Sovereign Borders was mounted, a key component being the Regional Deterrence Framework, at a cost of A$420 million. This is still in place.

Part of this campaign entailed the production of a video and poster, captioned “No Way. You will not make Australia home.” This stated,

Any vessel seeking to illegally enter Australia will be intercepted and safely removed beyond Australian waters.

At sea

In response to these official campaigns, those seeking to arouse empathy with asylum seekers and counter aspects of the Australian government’s policies have also turned to photography.

In 2014 Hazara refugee Barat Ali Batoor’s photo on board an asylum seeker boat between Indonesia and Australia won Photo of the Year in the Nikon-Walkley Award for Excellence in Photojournalism.

Barat Ali Batoor, The First Day at Sea
Courtesy Barat Ai Batoor

Batoor was lucky to survive the two-day voyage. The boat he and 92 other asylum seekers took from Indonesia ran aground on rocks before reaching Australia. His camera was ruined, but his images survived. He was officially recognised as a refugee and resettled in Australia in 2013. In response to his photo, the Walkey judges said:

For all the years of debate about asylum seekers, this is the first time we’ve seen what one of those boats look like. No-one else has been there. The processes Barat Ali Batoor went through to get on that boat, and facing the possibility it could sink – which it did – that took phenomenal courage and commitment to telling a story. Batoor broadened the debate and helped us visualise what happens before the boats arrive at Christmas Island.

Since 2014, we have seen ever-increasing tightening of control of information about detention centres. In July 2015, reporting of abuse within the Manus Island centre was made illegal, prompting a campaign of civil disobedience by staff.

Events such as the tragic death in February 2014 of Reza Berati, a 23-year-old Iranian national, have aroused great concern. Medical staff have repeatedly testified to the trauma for inmates of these places, especially children. The Australian government has continued to invest heavily in media programs to discourage refugees.

Commissioned by the Immigration Department, the telemovie Journey cost $5.6m and was filmed in three countries, screening in 2015 in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. It aimed to inform audiences in “source countries” about the

futility of investing in people smugglers, the perils of the trip, and the hard line policies that await them if they do reach Australian waters.

In September 2015, however, photographs of a three-year-old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, whose body had washed up on a beach in Turkey went viral on social media.

Aylan Kurdi, Bodrum, September 2015.
AAP

Aylan had drowned with his brother Galip, who was five, and his mother Rehan as they tried to reach the Greek island of Kos in a small, overloaded rubber dinghy.

European newspapers debated whether or not to show the image, because historically, publishing images of dead children has been taboo for Western media. But the next morning most European newspapers ran the photo on the front page. British prime minister David Cameron’s initial response was to reiterate his policy that “we can’t take any more people fleeing from war”.

But within hours of seeing Aylan on all the front pages he admitted that he was deeply moved, and within days he announced that Britain would accept 20,000 more refugees.

In Australia, our papers carried the photo the following day. Initially the tragedy was represented as a European problem, with headlines such as “The images that stopped Europe”. Tony Abbott expressed sorrow but blamed the choice of refugees to flee by boat:

Well, I’d say if you want to stop the deaths, if you want to stop the drownings, you’ve got to stop the boats …

For a week, refugees were the subject of almost every radio and TV debate. Pressure from voters and Coalition backbenchers caused the prime minister to pledge $44 million in emergency aid to refugees still detained in camps, and on September 9, Abbott announced Australia would resettle an additional 12,000 refugees from the Syria/Iraq conflict.

There is a clear link here between the empathy aroused by such affective images – of which Aylan’s was perhaps only the most shocking – and its concrete political consequences.

Shutting our eyes

The Australian government currently has obligations under various international treaties to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Australian territory are respected and protected.

As a party to the UN Refugee Convention, Australia has agreed to ensure that asylum seekers who meet the definition of a refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement.

Australia also has obligations not to send people to third countries where they would face a real risk of violation of their human rights under these instruments. On April 26 this year, Papua New Guinea’s supreme court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island illegal. Offshore detention was among three areas of concern raised by the UN’s recent universal periodic review of Australia’s human rights record. Our refugee policy remains a troubling and unresolved question for the nation.

Authorities respond to an inmates’ hunger strike at Manus Island in January 2015.
AAP Image/Refugee Action Collective

This recent history reveals the intense politicisation of media representations of these events. Official responses with their focus on border protection have framed immigration and asylum seeking as a military threat, constituting asylum seekers as invaders and enemies of the state.

Increasingly, we have seen our government move from attempting to control images of events such as shipwreck or rescue or conditions in detention centres, to simply prohibiting them.

The more troubling aspects of these policies – such as effects upon asylum seekers and particularly children and families under indefinite detention – remain invisible.

We forget that the occupants of offshore processing centres are not enemy soldiers but refugees – they are already victims of conflict in their home countries. Many of them are children, and we have specific responsibilities towards them under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The examples I have reviewed here demonstrate the Australian government’s profound fear of the power of photographs to provide a counter-narrative to its own policies, and specifically, to create empathy between Australian public audiences and asylum seekers.

They show that in certain contexts, displaying and circulating images, or conversely, restricting them, may have a significant impact on viewers’ attitudes and subsequently on events.

Harsh national border defence policies are maintained at the expense of refugee well-being. Many atrocities have been committed in the shadow of such secrecy: only this week Four Corners revealed terrible conditions prevailing within onshore juvenile detention centres as well, prompting immediate public outrage, and leading Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs to call for a wide-ranging inquiry into Australia’s detention culture.

I suspect that most Australians would feel just as sad, angry, or ashamed if they witnessed conditions within offshore detention centres: yet so far most Australians have not been prepared to insist on seeing into these places, nor to demand that we soften our policy of mandatory offshore detention.

As ethical – and privileged – Australian citizens, there is a moral imperative for us to engage with and respond to what these pictures show us.The Conversation

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related on F&O:

 

jpegviewJane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at the University of Western Australia. Her books include The Flash of Recognition: Photography and the emergence of Indigenous rights (NewSouth, 2012), which won the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards’ USQ History Book Award. Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire has just been published by Bloomsbury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Shelter the focus at Venice Architecture Biennale

By Joel Dullroy
June, 2016

A visitor looks at an installation by Do Ho Suh + Suh architects during the Architecture Biennale Exhibition in Venice August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR2HR1K

A visitor looks at an installation by Do Ho Suh + Suh architects during the Architecture Biennale Exhibition in Venice August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

VENICE, Italy (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Venice Architecture Biennale is usually a showcase of prestigious architecture projects from around the world, but Germany’s entry this year has taken a different angle, focusing instead on simple shelters used to house asylum seekers.

The structures, designed and developed to deal with the influx of migrants into Europe from Africa and the Middle East, provide a direct contrast to Germany’s 2014 submission – a scale replica of the former German Chancellor’s residence.

The curators said they hoped the exhibition would inspire a revival of well-designed social housing across Europe. Rather than temporary shelters, governments should build large-scale quality homes for both refugees and citizens alike, they said.

“We don’t have a refugee crisis, we have a housing crisis,” said Peter Cachola Schmal, the pavilion’s commissioner and director of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum.

The decline of interest rates to historic lows has prompted many foreigners and investment funds to move into real estate.

“That means that prices in most cities are rising incredibly. The consequence will be a tremendous competition between refugees and all those looking for affordable housing,” he said.

“If nothing is done, the right wing will grow, and (public) opinion against refugees will grow. The first thing to do is build more affordable housing.”

The pavilion co-curator, Oliver Elser, said shelters assigned to refugees are often low-rise, barrack-style buildings placed in peripheral locations on the outskirts of cities.

This reflected governments’ desire to reduce the visibility and permanency of the projects, he said.

“The political will is not there to create normal housing for refugees,” Elser said.

“There are cases where it would be possible to build a normal four or five floor apartment building, instead of low-profile barracks. But they (governments) don’t want to draw attention to the buildings.”

Originally designed to be low cost, temporary solutions, in the long run such structures tended to be neither, he added.

CULTURAL HOTSPOTS

The German pavilion also displays examples of buildings from earlier migration waves which are still in use today.

These include the Praunheim Estate in Frankfurt, built in the 1920s to house refugees from the central European region of Silesia. The houses, built over two or three floors, were partially constructed by the refugees, and have been modified and extended by the communities over many years.

Elser said housing officials should invest in modular multi-functional buildings designed for long-term use and adaptation – which are only marginally more expensive than the container villages now being erected in Germany and many parts of Europe.

The exhibition, ‘Making Heimat. Germany, Arrival Country,’ borrows its title and theme from the 2010 book ‘Arrival City’ by Doug Saunders, which argued that new migration zones can also be vibrant hotspots of cultural and economic activity.

To demonstrate the potential of immigrant communities, the exhibition also includes photographic displays and reportage from flourishing migrant districts in several European cities, including the city of Offenbach, near Frankfurt, where about 79 percent of residents have at least one migrant parent.

As well as showcasing refugee shelters, the curators have presented a series of policy proposals to governments which they believe will encourage the creation of livable, efficient and workable “arrival cities” for refugees.

The papers argue the extraordinary circumstances created by the most recent wave of refugee arrivals warrants the relaxation of planning restrictions to allow faster construction and development and residents should be allowed and encouraged to build extensions and improvements to their housing as needed.

Cachola told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that in Germany, well-intentioned, stringent building codes and energy efficiency standards are slowing down construction at a time in history when fast and efficient development is urgent and necessary.

The 15th International Architecture Biennale, which opened on May 28, is open until Nov. 27 and the German exhibit will tour and be shown in Frankfurt next year.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Joel Dullroy, Editing by Paola Totaro; Thomson Reuters Foundation

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Migrants to Europe via sea top one million in 2015

A Palestinian volunteer doctor helps Syrian refugees disembark a raft at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos October 25, 2015. According to United Nations over half a million refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year and the rate of arrivals is rising, in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis - RTX1T4FC

A Palestinian volunteer doctor helps Syrian refugees disembark a raft at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos October 25, 2015. According to United Nations over half a million refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year and the rate of arrivals is rising, in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

By Sebastien Malo
December 31, 2015

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than one million refugees and migrants braved the seas in 2015 seeking sanctuary in Europe, nearly five times more than in the previous year, the United Nations’ refugee agency said.

About half of the 1,000,573 men, women and children who made the perilous journey came from war-torn Syria, while Afghans accounted for roughly a fifth, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency said in a statement.

Most people who took to the water for Europe made their way on the Aegean Sea to Greece’s islands from Turkey, it said. From Greece, many travel to wealthier western Europe.

A photograph of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned trying to reach Greece with his family in September appeared around the world, prompting sympathy and outrage over the refugee crisis.

Nearly 4,000 people were believed to have drowned before reaching shore, according to UNHCR.

Another major route for migrants was the Mediterranean Sea, separating North Africa and the Middle East from Europe, it said.

Europe is in the midst of its biggest migration crisis since World War Two, according to the United Nations.

The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide is likely to have surpassed 60 million this year, mainly driven by the war in Syria and other long-term conflicts, the United Nations has said.

The UNHCR said it tallied the number of migrants traveling by sea to Europe using figures from national authorities.

The figure in 2015 represents nearly five times the sea arrivals to Europe in 2014, recorded at roughly 216,000, the UNHCR said.

The number highlights the issue of people forced to flee in dangerous ways, said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

“There are abundant regular, safe and legal means of managing this, and they need serious looking at,” he said.

Syria has been ravaged by a nearly five-year-old civil war, which has forced more than four million people to leave the country and killed some 250,000 people.

The influx of refugees and migrants has caused tensions across Europe, with some nations toughening border controls.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. The Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Findings: the best of the web

Susan MacLeod: Amid heated debate about taking Syrian refugees, two points of view emerge in conversation at a Canadian nursing home reflects two points of view. The woman on the left is 107, and descended from United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada from the U.S.; the woman on the right is 98 and came to Canada at age three from inner-city London with her family. © Susan MacLeod 2015

Amid heated debate about taking Syrian refugees, two points of view emerge in conversation at a Canadian nursing home. The woman on the left is 107, and descended from United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada from the U.S.; the woman on the right is 98 and came to Canada at age three from inner-city London with her family. — Susan MacLeod © 2015

You’ve read F&O’s latest work, I assume? (If not, may I respectfully remind you, here, of the essential stories on our Contents page?)

We’d also like to share with you some findings elsewhere on this marvel of a web –starting with the image above by Canadian artist Susan MacLeod, drawn in response to heated debate in the West over taking Syrian refugees.

You might appreciate:

World Philosophy offerings, Oxford University Press

The ultimate Thinky trove: For World Philosophy Day earlier this month, Oxford University Press  collated some of its most popular research across various disciplines, and have made them available to download until January 1, 2016. Click here to find works at no charge ranging from Rousseau and Hobbes, to short introductions to topics, to Public Health Ethics….

This is why they hate us: The real American history neither Ted Cruz nor the New York Times will tell you, by Ben Norton, Salon, November 18, 2015

We talk democracy, then overthrow elected governments and prop up awful regimes. Let’s discuss the actual history … “Regime change” is not a phrase you hear discussed honestly much in Washington, yet it is a common practice in and defining feature of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. … read This is why they hate us (you will leave F&O)

State of Terror — What happened when an Al Qaeda affiliate ruled in Mali. By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, July 1, 2013

Extremists attacked a hotel in Mali on Friday, taking hostages before a bloodbath ensued. Mali’s context was eloquently captured by Jon Lee Anderson in the New Yorker in 2013.  From the New Yorker: “In 2012, Islamist extremists seized the north of Mali, ruling until French troops intervened. “However remote Mali may seem to Westerners, its travails exemplify the security problems posed by neglected places in the age of Islamist terror.” …. read State of Terror at the New Yorker (you will leave F&O’s site)

‘The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame.’ By Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, Nov.  21, 2015

I wonder what (anti-refugee politicians) would have told a desperate refugee family fleeing the Middle East. You’ve heard of this family: a carpenter named Joseph, his wife, Mary, and their baby son, Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus’ birth they fled to save Jesus from murderous King Herod (perhaps the 2,000-year-ago equivalent of Bashar al-Assad of Syria?). Fortunately Joseph, Mary and Jesus found de facto asylum in Egypt  .… read The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame (you will leave F&O)

Last but not least, Tracy Chapman’s new greatest hits album celebrates a quietly powerful legacy, promises PBS.
 

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Facts and Opinions, a journalism boutique of words and images, is independent, non-partisan and employee-owned. F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. You are welcome to try one story at no charge. If you value our work, please support us, with at least .27 per story. Click here for details.  Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and find us on Facebook and Twitter.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Nowhere to Run: A roundup of Europe’s refugee crisis

Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Migrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with Hungary, August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

by Pia Dangelmayer, ProPublica
September  4, 2015

Every day we’re struck by terrible headlines concerning the refugee crisis in Europe: Austria finds 71 migrants dead in a truck. Hungarian police officers fire teargas at migrants. Fifty refugees die in a ship’s hold off the coast of Libya. News like this has become almost commonplace. With the Syrian Civil War raging, ISIS displacing millions in Iraq, Ukraine and Russia at loggerheads, and multiple states in Africa mired in poverty, the number of migrants will surely increase in the months to come. To better understand what is at stake, we’ve compiled some of the best reports from the U.S. and Europe.

The Global Refugee Crisis, Region by Region

The New York Times, August 2015

Why do people leave their country? Why has the United Nations called this migration crisis the worst since World War II? Take a look at the hot spots illuminated by clarifying graphics.

Life on Hold – The Struggle of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Al Jazeera, March 2015

Europeans may feel that they are taking on the biggest influx of refugees, but most Syrians fleeing from war never make it to Europe. While the European Union currently hosts about 350,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon – a country of 4.5 million – has received nearly 1.5 million. The refugees wait in camps and abandoned buildings. For them, as well as for the country that shelters them, life has changed unalterably.

Why Is EU Struggling With Migrants and Asylum?

BBC, August 2015

Another year, another record: Germany is expecting more than 800,000 refugees to arrive by the end of this year, 4 times more than the last. Where do they come from, which routes do they take, and what has caused migrant numbers to rise?

Scenes From a Tragedy: Just Another Week in Europe’s Migrant Crisis – in Pictures

The Guardian, August 2015

Refugees arriving on a beach full of tourists in Greece. A fence set up to seal the border in Hungary. Migrants running after trains and trucks to get from France to England. Flight has many faces – some of them shown in these impressive photographs.

On Island of Lesbos, a Microcosm of Greece’s Other Crisis: Migrants

The New York Times, August 2015

The Greek isles are a new hotspot in Europe’s migrant crisis. More than 150,000 refugees have already arrived this year. The islands of Lesbos, Kos or Chios, which are close to the coast of Turkey, can hardly cope with the influx.

Migrants Wait With Hope and Resignation at French Camp Called “The Jungle”

Time, August 2015

The Jungle is in France, more precisely in Calais. It’s a tent city built out of dark and dirty makeshift shelters for more than 3,000 migrants on their way to England. The future they’re longing for is just a 30-minute train ride away, but police officers and barbed wire make the transit almost impossible. Some migrants have risked uncertain crossing, jumping on trucks, hanging on trains, swimming across open water.

Den ganzen Weg nur Todesangst — The Whole Way Scared to Death

Bavaria’s Public Broadcasting Service, January 2015

Muhanad is a Syrian father with two daughters. After studying finance and marketing, he worked in the textile industry in Halab, a city known for its textile mills, until his house was bombed. Muhanad and his family decided to escape from the war – first together to Turkey, and then Muhanad on his own to Germany, a perilous odyssey.

Fortress Europe

Sveriges Radio, 2014/2015

The Swedish Radio has collected stories of Syrian refugees on their way to Europe – Muhanad’s escape is one of the featured episodes. Hatem, another refugee, left Syria for Turkey, then to Indonesia and back, before embarking on a four-month long journey across Greece, Slovenia, France, and Belgium to arrive finally in the United Kingdom.

Mastermind: The Evil Genius Behind The Migrant Crisis

Newsweek, June 2015

Dead migrants left behind in a truck – the driver is gone. A captain flees from the broken boat on the Mediterranean, leaving the refugees to fend for themselves. Smugglers are too often refugees’ only hope – and their doom.

Is the Ugly German Back? Flames of Hate Haunt a Nation

Spiegel Online International, July 2015

Germany is the EU country that has taken the most asylum seekers. Some Germans feel overwhelmed by the high number – anti-refugee protests online and in the streets, as well as attacks on refugee hostels, are on the rise. But others are standing up against hate.

Germans Open Their Homes to Refugee Roommates

NPR, March 2015

A German couple launched the website “Refugees Welcome” to place asylum-seekers in homes with room to spare.

This Silent Protest Song to Benefit Refugees Just Topped the Charts in Austria

Vice News, August 2015

The Austrian artist Raoul Haspel released a track last month titled “Schweigeminute (Traiskirchen).” It is a minute of silence that serves as an unconventionally inaudible protest song against the treatment of refugees in Europe.

Munich Police Swamped With Refugee Donations

The Local, September 2015

Just this week, more than 2,000 refugees arrived at the main train station in Munich. Police, aid organizations, and ordinary citizens came to help, offering food, water, diapers and teddy bears, all to say #refugeeswelcome.

Europe Doesn’t Have Enough Immigrants

Bloomberg View, September 2015

Columnist Leonid Bershidsky says it “makes good economic sense” to let more refugees in: Europe’s population is aging. With more and more retirees, Europe needs younger workers.

Creative Commons

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

Hungarian police officers face migrants outside the Eastern railway station in BudapestA policeman stands in front of a door of a train ready to go to Munich at Brenner railway stationMigrants, hoping to cross into Hungary, walk along a railway track outside the village of Horgos in Serbia, towards the border it shares with HungaryMigrants fall as they rush to cross into Macedonia after Macedonian police allowed a small group of people to pass through a passageway, as they try to regulate the flow of migrants at the Macedonian-Greek borderIranian migrants approach the Greek island of Kos on a dinghyPeople stand in a queue to buy train tickets a the railway station in BudapestTravellers sit on a platform as they wait for a train to Austria at the railway station in BudapestMigrants stamped as they are gradually let in MacedoniaA policeman assists a family as migrants try to enter Macedonia near Gevgelija near the border with GreeceMigrants seeking asylum status queue outside the foreign office in BrusselsSyrian refugees raise their arms in front of the railways station of Budapest


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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a subscription (click here), a donation, and/or by spreading the word.

 

 

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“Politicizing” Alan Kurdi’s death

By Alexander Kennedy 
September, 2015 

Photo by Nilufer Demir

Alan Kurdi, 3, was one of 12 Syrians seeking refuge who drowned when the small boat taking them to Greece from Turkey sank. Photo by Nilufer Demir

The future and the past clash with me, and I’m left with a feeling of shame.

The past. That a child drowned on a beach near a Turkish resort.

The present. That the death of Alan Kurdi, 3, along with his brother Ghalib and mother Rehanna, is the last fucking straw for me.

The future. That Canada’s immigration minister, Chris Alexander  was allegedly asked to bring these children to safety in Canada. That he denied these children. That it would be good for the future if this man — now campaigning in Canada’s federal election Oct. 19 — gets run out of office.

And then the shame floods over. Because yesterday, I had wondered what the hell I could do. I wondered if I could I take that image of the drowned boy … and put it squarely in the Conservative party logo? Post it on social media?

A line would have certainly been crossed if I did that.

If I posted that kind of photo-shop handiwork on Facebook. I imagine that even a great number of my like-minded friends would respond with,

“Dude…”

I like friends; how we get together sometimes after all coherence and sensibility has had the shit kicked out of it, to enjoy beer and nonsense in the dark amongst good people. The knowledge that there are indeed good people anchors me, while the rest of the world spins.

But I don’t see it as worthwhile to clutch to some vague notion of “social standing” by avoiding crossing a line, by avoiding offence.

I am offended. It’s abundantly clear that Chris Alexander and Canada’s current administration has blood on their hands.

The web is full of trolls, who giggle about how the “lefties” got their panties all up in a wad over actions or inactions by Canada’s conservative government.

They should wipe the goddamn smirks off their faces. 

Except you learn later that the family of the drowned child did not apply for asylum.

… or so says the headline of the Globe And Mail.

But just read those reports a little more, and you’ll find that Tima Kurdi, the Canadian aunt of Alan Kurdi, applied first for asylum for Alan Kurdi’s older uncle, and that application was returned as incomplete, “as it did not meet regulatory requirements.” She did not have the money or the papers to officially apply to sponsor Alan Kurdi’s family as refugees to Canada. Instead, her Vancouver-area Member of Parliament, Fin Donnelly of the Opposition New Democratic Party, hand-delivered a letter she wrote asking Canada to help them to Chris Alexander.

Still, say the reports, there was no “official,” “actual,” “formal,” application for asylum.  

So just like that, poof.

The one “anchor” you have to reality, the one straight-foreword narrative of Canada’s failure to save Alan Kurdi’s life, goes awry … because the life of the child was not expressively asked for, on paper, in a manner that conformed to the regulatory requirements.

Amongst the trolls, the smirk returns.

We could point out that the Member of Parliament for Kurdi’s Canadian family still claims that he had hand-delivered the sister’s letter to Chris Alexander … And that he had asked Mr. Alexander to please let those children in.

The smirk gets wider “nah nah nah. You didn’t say the magic word.”

And you could say that, if you read the goddamn small print of our refugee policies, there was the matter of the aunt not being able to fill the application for the drowned child’s family  because she could not afford it yet. (And who the fuck thinks it’s o.k. to charge a family to request their nephews be given asylum from a war zone?)

The troll eyes light up, “Irregardless of the fact. The paperwork was not filled out in a suitable manner.”

And you could mention other failures, such as 100 Palestinian children abandoned to languish in dilapidated hospitals.

Alan and x Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

Alan and Ghalib Kurdi. Photo from Facebook page In Memory of Kurdi Family

There are teeth in the smirks now. “Ah, but you see… You’re changing the subject.”

And you could mention that–in direct contrast to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement that Canada is a leader in helping refugees — Canada is number 15 in allowing asylum seekers in this country.

“…But now you’re generalizing the issue, aren’t you? Didn’t you get so worked up about one little boy and your fantasy of a crime?”

~~~

I backed away from the dark notion I had. To take the horrific image that we now see across the world …  and photoshop it into the Conservative Party logo. To put a boy’s corpse in the middle of the big blue C.

I recoilled from myself.

However, unlike me, Vancouver activist Sean Devlin had class.

He showed up to a recent campaign rally for Stephen Harper. He wore a shirt that read “Aylan* should be here.”

It’s a simple statement. It’s one that I think any true citizen of a first-world nation would agree upon.

And he got arrested for doing it.

Say the trolls: “Awful for some people to politicize a tragic death. Don’t these pseudo-intellectual soy latte drinkers have any shame?”

…Well, I have shame. As a Canadian, I am filled with shame.

When a woman decides not to pursue a formal bit of paperwork because she was already denied another application for a loved one, and she felt that she simply couldn’t afford it….

When our government is so inaccessible that a desperate woman in Canada would rather opt to use her money to finance human smugglers to try to get her family out of danger..,..

When a personal letter to Chris Alexander saying “Please, is there any way you can help my family come here” receives no response … (Or at least you’ll have to take her word for it.)

Then I feel like I have every goddamn right to go after our leaders and demand answers.

And responding with “Well, she didn’t cross all her i’s and dot all her t’s”….

Chris Alexander is not exonerated because he was given a letter but not given the magic word.

Fuck it.

I’m politicizing this.

And yes, as a Canadian, I have shame.

Copyright Alexander Kennedy 2015 

Alexander Kennedy is a Canadian writer, artist, craftsman, and former reservist with the Canadian Forces. 

Notes:

*Aylan is the Turkish spelling of Alan, and is the name Turkish authorities used to identify him.

Further reading on F&O:

Below is a

September 3 

statement released by the Canadian arm of the Kurdi family, on their Facebook page In Memory Of Kurdi Family: 

STATEMENT FROM TIMA KURDI ON SYRIAN REFUGEE FAMILY MEMBERS

On behalf of our family, we feel it is important to outline the details of my brother’s tragic experience in Turkey this week given some misinformation currently circulating in the media.

My brother, Abdullah Kurdi, lost his wife and two young boys yesterday while trying to cross the 4 km journey from Turkey to the Greek Island of Kos, in a desperate attempt to survive.This tragic journey has now become the focus of the international media, finally bringing to light issues that need the global community’s immediate attention.

There is an innate fear among the Syrians living in Turkey who are without many of the basic necessities of life. The concern among refugees is that a camp is being mobilized on the border of Syria to push millions of displaced refugees back into their country where there is threat of imminent danger. This has led to many Syrians attempting a risky journey across the water to Western Europe. These are acts of desperation.

One thing that’s become clear is that the international community so far has failed and drastic measures are needed right now. The tragedy my family has endured in fleeing Syria, just trying to survive and yesterday’s events have highlighted the desperate need for greater humanitarian efforts by all countries. Sadly, my family’s story is one of many.

The tragedy my family has endured in fleeing Syria with yesterday’s events have highlighted the desperate need for greater humanitarian efforts by all countries. Sadly, my family’s story is one of many.

We began a formal process to bring over all of my siblings and their families early in 2015. However, due to financial constraints and a complex application process requiring numerous international documents, we were forced to do one at a time.

The first of the applications was done on behalf of our older brother Mohammad and his family, as his children are of school age. Abdullah’s application was to be submitted upon approval of the first.

I gathered a group of sponsors including family and friends and we filed a sponsorship application in early 2015. It was rejected in June as it was impossible for my family, as it is for many Syrians, to get the necessary documents that would satisfy the Canadian refugee entry requirements. Some of the documentation required for this process included: a valid Syrian passport and a Turkish work permit (Mavi Kimlik card), which are simply not available to Syrians in that region.

Without the documents above, the Canadian application was formally declined. The same week, in despair, my older brother, Mohammad, left for Germany as they had opened their borders to the refugees.

When Abdullah learned about our brother’s rejected Canadian application, it became clear he also had to find a way to reach Western Europe. There was no hope of collecting the appropriate paperwork for his family to be successful with an entry to Canada.It is too late to save Abdullah’s family. However, it is clear that the international community needs to do more to help the refugees of this war-torn region.

I respectfully implore our government to work immediately to improve the application procedure based on the current humanitarian crisis. We will continue our efforts to sponsor and bring our family into Canada into safety and hope that the UN and the respective governments around the world will work together to address these issues that have existed long before my family’s tragic loss this week.

It is now close to home in the West and it’s clear that people want action by their leaders.People are dying because they can’t get basic human essentials, are afraid for their lives and are fleeing to countries they hope will open their borders.

Please let’s use our collective voices to make change and demand that our world leaders take action now to pass emergency refugee measures. Let’s put an end to this suffering. Our hearts have been broken.

I want to thank all of those who have reached out to our family during this difficult time and for the outpouring of support and kindness.

Sincerely,

Tima Kurdi

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us.

 

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Refugee, asylum seeker, migrant: what’s the difference?

By Reuters
August, 2015

26-year-old Azam from South Sudan stands on rail tracks after failing to flee to Italy in the western Greek town of Patras April 28, 2015. Afghan, Iranian and Sudanese immigrants, living precariously in abandoned factories in Patras, southwest Greece, try to stow away on nearby ferries to Italy as they seek a better life in Europe beyond crisis-hit Greece. Shocked after as many as 900 people drowned last month in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, European Union leaders have agreed to triple funding for sea patrols, but disagreement persists on what to do with those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Some in Patras are recent arrivals, often travelling via Turkey, others have languished in the empty buildings for as long as two years. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

26-year-old Azam from South Sudan stands on rail tracks after failing to flee to Italy in the western Greek town of Patras April 28, 2015. Afghan, Iranian and Sudanese immigrants, living precariously in abandoned factories in Patras, southwest Greece, try to stow away on nearby ferries to Italy as they seek a better life in Europe beyond crisis-hit Greece. Shocked after as many as 900 people drowned last month in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, European Union leaders have agreed to triple funding for sea patrols, but disagreement persists on what to do with those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Some in Patras are recent arrivals, often travelling via Turkey, others have languished in the empty buildings for as long as two years. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Europe is grappling for answers to its worst refugee crisis since World War Two with the crisis testing the unity of the 28-nation European Union and fuelling anti-immigration sentiment.

European Union members are struggling to cope with record numbers of people fleeing war and poverty and heading across Europe by land and sea.

Nearly 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean this year with 2,373 migrants and refugees dying in a bid to reach Europe, nearly 300 more than the same period last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The terms refugee, asylum seeker and migrant are often used interchangeably to describe people on the move but there are major differences and different requirements regarding their treatment. These differences are explained below:

 

WHO IS A REFUGEE?

A refugee is a person who has left his or her own country fearing persecution because of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, according to the United Nations. Refugees have no protection from their own state. It can be their own government that is threatening to persecute them. Recognition as a refugee provides protection under international laws and conventions, mainly the 1951 U.N. Refugee Convention, and support from the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) with food, shelter and safety.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS AS A REFUGEE?

Refugees have three options: repatriation to the country they fled from, integration into their host country, or resettlement in another country.

 

HOW MANY REFUGEES ARE THERE GLOBALLY?

The United Nations estimates there were 19.5 million refugees worldwide at the end of 2014, around 2.9 million more than in 2013. The number of people forcibly displaced was 59.5 million with 38.2 million displaced within their own country and known as internally displaced people (IDPs) with 1.8 million asylum seekers.

 

WHO IS AN ASYLUM SEEKER?

An asylum seeker is someone seeking refugee status. They have fled their country in search of international protection. Those judged to be neither refugees nor in need of any other form of international protection can be sent back to their home countries.

 

WHO IS A MIGRANT?

Migrants and refugees often travel in the same way but migrants choose to leave their country for reasons not related to persecution. They may want to study abroad, reunite with family, or improve the future economic prospects of themselves and their families. A migrant continues to enjoy the protection of his or her own government even when abroad. Refugees have to move to save their lives or preserve their freedom.

 

WHO IS AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT?

An illegal immigrant is often someone who has arrived in a country on a legal visa but overstays this visa. Asylum seekers can become illegal immigrants if their claim to refugee status fails and they remain in the host country.

 

WHAT ABOUT ECONOMIC MIGRANTS?

Migrants and refugees often travel in the same way but economic migrants choose to leave their country to improve the future economic prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move to save their lives or preserve their freedom.

Copyright Thomson Reuters Foundation 2015

(Reporting By Astrid Zweynert and Alex Whiting,; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith and Tim Pearce.  Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change.)

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Migrants: A Train Towards a New Life

Migrants arrive from Greece at the train station in Gevgelija near the Greek border with Macedonia July 30, 2015. Tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, use the Balkans route to get into the European Union, passing from Greece to Macedonia and Serbia and then to western Europe. After walking across the border into Macedonia to the small local station of Gevgelia, migrants pile onto an overcrowded four-carriage train in sweltering heat, young infants among them, to travel about 200 km north. Their aim: to enter Serbia on foot, another step in their uncertain search for a better life. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

Migrants arrive from Greece at the train station in Gevgelija near the Greek border with Macedonia July 30, 2015. Tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, use the Balkans route to get into the European Union, passing from Greece to Macedonia and Serbia and then to western Europe. After walking across the border into Macedonia to the small local station of Gevgelia, migrants pile onto an overcrowded four-carriage train in sweltering heat, young infants among them, to travel about 200 km north. Their aim: to enter Serbia on foot, another step in their uncertain search for a better life. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

 

By Ogden Reofilovski, Reuters
August, 2015

In the past month, an estimated 30,000 refugees have passed through Macedonia, another step in their uncertain search for a better life in western Europe. They all travel in harsh conditions and face many challenges en route.

The small railway station of Gevgelia, a stone’s throw from the border with Greece, has space for about 20 passengers to wait comfortably for a train heading north.

 

 

  

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a subscription (click here for our subscribe page) or a donation, and/or by spreading the word.

 

 

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