Press review 37: 8-14 September 2014

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Tags: Department of Home Affairs international migration refugees regulations and legislation South Africa

Asylum Seeker / Refugee Policy

White South African family seeking asylum in Canada granted new refugee hearing
Adrian Humphreys, National Post, 8 September 2014

A family of white South Africans sought refugee protection in Canada, claiming fear of rape and violence against whites by the black majority, and have won the Federal Court’s support to continue their asylum claim.This is the first time the Federal Court of Canada has awarded a white South African with a favourable decision. The claim of Charl and Naira Nel will now be sent back for a new determination by the Immigration & Refugee Board, after the Nels argued their claims were mishandled. The last instance of a white citizen seeking asylum in Canada was met with international outrage, and prompted a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Pretoria.

The importance of teaching more than English to refugee students
The Conversation, 9 September 2014

New research on migrant children in Australia has found that class topics that don’t require English language skills – such as art and sport – help diverse groups of children to make friends and adjust to mainstream schooling. Both of these factors are important for increasing the well-being of refugee and migrant students.Developing English language skills obviously remains a priority for the education of migrant and refugee children; however, the research suggests that ensuring that the previous experiences of these students are truly heard (rather than just treated as hurdles to English language acquisition) is critically important to their continuing development and school engagement. In a context of standardised education, it is important to ensure that refugee and migrant students have the opportunity to participate in subjects that allow them to showcase their strengths. Feeling a sense of belonging in the early years of school is vitally important to ensure that students stay engaged with their education.

Can legal changes stop trafficking in Yemen?
IRIN News, 9 September 2014

A Yemeni draft law envisaging strict penalties for those involved in trafficking migrants, including kidnapping them and demanding ransom, may finally bring an end to decades of exploitation. To give the process a push, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) co-hosted a three-day workshop from 6-8 September with Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, bringing together government entities, international agencies, and non-governmental groups to develop Yemen’s anti-trafficking roadmap. According to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS), 37,971 migrants and refugees had reportedly crossed the Red Sea to Yemen since the beginning of the year. Many of them were Ethiopians trying to reach job opportunities in Saudi Arabia, despite a recent toughening of border controls and immigration rules in that country. Thousands of Somalis seeking protection also continue to cross every year, with 230,878 currently in Yemen, according to the UN Refugee Agency. From the beginning of 2013, cases of migrants being held for ransom rose drastically. After being freed, migrants often work difficult, low-paying jobs or try to find their way to another country. With support from ILO, Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights (MHR) has joined forces with the ministries of defence, justice, interior, and planning, among others, to establish a National Dialogue Committee on Combating Trafficking. The committee will work to see the new anti-trafficking bill become law, conduct research on the extent of trafficking in Yemen, and roll out a comprehensive national strategy by 2015.

High court verdict spells the end for Australian immigration detention as we know it
Joyce Chia, The Guardian, 11 September 2014

Thursday’s high court verdict, which dealt another blow to the federal government’s plans to give asylum seekers temporary protection visas, set significant new limits on Australia’s policy of mandatory detention. In the unanimous decision handed down on Thursday, the court threw out the federal government’s strategy of granting temporary visas to asylum seekers through a legal loophole. More importantly, and for the first time, the court clearly set out the constitutional limits on immigration detention. It was previously unclear for what purposes the government could detain non-citizens. The court has now clearly stated that the government can lawfully detain someone in only three circumstances: to consider whether to let someone apply for a visa; to consider an application for a visa; or to remove someone. The length of detention must be assessed by what is ‘necessary and incidental’ to execute and fulfil those purposes. These limits on detention are constitutional, so parliament cannot override them by introducing new legislation. Thursday’s decision has profound implications for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. The detention of thousands of people who arrived irregularly before July 2013 is now potentially unlawful and the government will have to either release these people or at least resume processing. Prolonged cases of detention can be challenged before the courts. The policy of locking people up indefinitely, without carefully considering whether it is justified in the individual case, is unlawful under Australian law.

Refugee Children Discriminated Against In Germany, UNICEF Says
Zeynep Doğusan, Daily Sabah, 10 September 2014

According to a UNICEF report published on Tuesday, refugee children in Germany do not have standards of life equal to their German peers due to discrimination in health and education services. The study, ‘First and Foremost Children,’ states that despite the daily difficulties they encounter, refugee children have inadequate governmental support, which is against the principles of the U.N. Children’s Convention. The Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees was in charge of carrying out the study ‘Children first and foremost – refugee children in Germany,’ which was presented on Tuesday at a press conference. One in three asylums seekers coming to Germany are children or teenage refugees according to the UNICEF report. The majority of the 65,000 refugee children are with their families, but there are nearly 2,000 children who reside in Germany without accompaniment. The study concludes that those German authorities in many cases fell below the standards of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Germany in 1992. It indicates that the wellbeing of all people under age 18 must be given priority.


Migrants’ new tactics sound alarm bells in France
Elaine Ganley, 8 September 2014

African migrants are ambushing trucks, jumping on vacationers’ cars and fighting over turf, new tactics in an increasingly desperate struggle to cross the English Channel to Britain — the land they see as their El Dorado. Pouring in at an ever-faster pace, they are overwhelming Calais police and fueling a far-right backlash.Calais officials in turn have hunkered down in crisis mode, increasing security and making threats to Britain, which they accuse of not helping to shoulder the burden. City officials say at least 1,300 migrants, mainly from Africa — Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia — and Afghanistan, are now in Calais. They fear the number could rise to 5,000 by year’s end. That represents a small portion of those flooding into Europe — most via Italy where some 60,000 have arrived so far this year — but those looking to go to Britain end up in Calais, a city of 75,000 with a soaring jobless rate.City officials want Britain to help shoulder the financial burden since Calais is a transit stop, and to revise a 2003 accord that puts the onus for stopping migrants on France. Tensions are nearing a boiling point among some Calais residents as pro- and anti-migrant blocks form, feeding extremist sentiments, a reflection of the challenges faced by Europe as nationalist, anti-immigrant movements gain support amid economic woes.

The Gambia passes bill imposing life sentences for some homosexual acts
The Guardian, 9 September 2014

The Gambia has passed a bill imposing life imprisonment for some homosexual acts, potentially worsening the climate for sexual minorities in a country with one of Africa’s most vocal anti-gay leaders. The bill amending the criminal code was passed last month and brings life sentences for ‘aggravated homosexuality,’ minority leader Samba Jallow said. The charge is levelled at repeat offenders and people living with HIV/Aids. Homosexual acts were already punishable by up to 14 years in prison, under a Gambian law that was amended in 2005 to apply to women in addition to men. The bill now awaits approval by President Yahya Jammeh, an autocratic ruler who in 2008 instructed gay men and lesbians to leave the country or risk having their heads cut off. Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup and is famous for speeches condemning Western powers, has not addressed the new bill publicly.

DRC opposition leader jailed for insulting Kabila
News24, 12 September 2014

A senior opposition lawmaker in the Democratic Republic of Congo was sentenced on Thursday to one year in prison for insulting the country’s president and government. ‘The Supreme Court Thursday evening sentenced Jean-Bertrand Ewanga to one year in person for offending the head of state, members of the government and parliament,’ said Richard Mpinda, who called the trial ‘a parody of justice.’ Ewanga, the general secretary of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC) party, was arrested on 5 August at his home in Kinshasa, a day after a rally to oppose any extension of presidential terms. Thousands of people had demonstrated in the capital to protest over suspicions that the rulers of the central African country intend to amend the constitution and enable President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond 2016, when he is due to step down after two five-year elected terms.

South Africa

South Africa: Four Jailed for Failed Hit on General
South African Press Association, 11 September 2014

Four men were jailed for eight years each by the Kagiso Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for attempting to murder a former Rwandan general. Six men — three Rwandans and three Tanzanians — were arrested and tried for the failed plot to kill General Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former member of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s inner circle. AFP reported that two of the Rwandans — the alleged mastermind and Nyamwasa’s former driver — were acquitted by magistrate Stanley Mkhari during their last court appearance on August 29. Nyamwasa fled to South Africa in February 2010 after falling out with the Kigali administration, and was shot and wounded in Pretoria in June 2010 in what was described as an attack by foreign ‘security operatives.’ Mkhari found the assassination attempt to be politically motivated, and Nyamwasa has been given asylum in South Africa. Spain and France want to extradite him for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, and Rwanda wants him to serve a 24-year prison sentence after a military court tried him in absentia on charges of desertion, defamation, and threatening state security. He also faces terrorism charges for allegedly masterminding grenade attacks in Kigali in the run-up to Rwanda’s 2010 presidential elections.

Home affairs probes illegal deportation
News 24, 9 September 2014

The illegal deportation of Edwin Samotse is currently being investigated by the Department of Home Affairs. Samotse is accused of murder in Botswana, and could face the death penalty. Two home affairs officials have been suspended for allegedly arranging his transfer back to Botswana on 13 August without the authority to do so. Samotse was in custody at the Polokwane police station while the Botswana government sought his extradition. The South African government sought assurance that Samotse would not face the death penalty if extradited, but was denied by the government of Botswana. In two previous cases, the courts decided that the South African government and its officials could not deport people to countries where capital punishment was used, if such an assurance was not given. According to Tshwete, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria issued a similar order in the Samotse matter on August 13. Officials from the department of home affairs, without prior knowledge of the director general and without any authority, secured the release of Mr Samotse from the Polokwane police station and transported him to the Groblersbrug port of entry between South Africa and Botswana, where they handed him over to Botswana officials. The department condemned these actions as unlawful and unconstitutional, and is trying to resolve the matter with the Botswana government. Lawyers for Human Rights stated that it and Legal Aid SA would approach the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday, seeking to compel home affairs to find Samotse and get an assurance from the Botswana government that he would not face the death penalty if convicted.

Home Affairs sets up team to look at visa regulation implementation
defenseWeb, 12 September 2014

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has announced that it will set up a task team to look at the implementation of new visa regulation. Under new regulations (part of the Immigration Amendment Act) that were supposed to take effect from May, but now postponed to October 1 after an outcry, people travelling to South Africa on a visa are required to apply for the visa in person. Parents travelling with children under the age of 18 are required to produce an unabridged birth certificate for each child. In the case where only one parent is travelling with the child(ren), consent in the form of an affidavit from the other parent registered is required. Alternatively, either a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or a death certificate of the other parent must be produced. Gigaba acknowledged that the department is aware of concerns raised by the tourism industry and also acknowledged that there is a need to enable greater communication with industry stakeholders. An IATA spokesman said they support the new regulations that tackle the scourge of child trafficking and approve of efforts to stop unsavoury elements from coming into South Africa, but they were concerned about the practicality of the regulations and their implementation.

Tags: Department of Home Affairs    international    migration    refugees    regulations and legislation    South Africa   

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Content credit: Scalabrini Centre