Press review 41: 5-12 October 2014

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Tags: Africa Asylum Seeker Border Crossing migration management press review South Africa undocumented migration

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Asylum Seeker/Refugee Policy Issues

Smuggling of Migrants Tops Agenda At Opening of Conference On Organized Crime
UN News Centre, 6 October 2014

According to an estimate released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the two main routes for smuggling migrants into Europe and North America generate nearly $7 billion a year to the smuggling networks. The Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is taking place this week, and will address issues ranging from human trafficking to new forms of transnational organized crime. In his opening remarks, UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov called on the international community to be united in its desire to prosecute smugglers and protect migrants.

Australian Paediatricians Agree That Detaining Refugee Kids Is Child Abuse
Chris Pash, Business Insider: Australia, 6 October 2014

Most Australian paediatricians believe mandatory detention of asylum seeker children is child abuse, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia. A questionnaire answered by 139 Australian paediatricians revealed that over 80% agreed with the Australian Medical Association’s position that mandatory detention of children constitutes child abuse, and disagreed with offshore processing. What’s more, less than half of the paediatricians knew which subgroups of asylum seeker children were eligible for Medicare or had had pre-departure HIV and tuberculosis screening, or that the average stay in refugee camps before settlement in Australia was more than 10 years. Only 60% knew that the Minister for Immigration was the legal guardian of detained unaccompanied minors.

Finding the Missing Piece of Refugee and Asylum Policy
Hazel Guardado, The World Post, 06 October 2014

Despite protections provided by the 1951 convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which include the rights to employment and education, among others, there are today that either deny or severely restrict refugees’ right to work. According to the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ethiopia has become Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country, having sheltered 629,718 refugees as of late July. As a signatory of the 1951 convention, Ethiopia should offer the refugees it hosts access to all the rights outlined in the convention. However, in Ethiopia, many articles of the convention are recognized as recommendations, rather than legally binding obligations. Reflecting its more general policy of not allowing foreigners to work unless there are no qualified nationals available, Ethiopia does not implement article 17 of the convention, which deals with wage-earning employment. Refugees in Ethiopia are thus reduced to working illegally and to working ‘piecemeal jobs’ to earn their livelihood. Ethiopia is not the only country in the world with restrictive employment laws for refugees, as Lebanon and Bangladesh also restricts refugees’ rights to work. Uganda, on the other hand, has a much more generous policy, providing refugees with agricultural land and the opportunity to work for themselves.

Alternatives to refugee camps: Can policy become practice?
Kristy Siegfried, IRIN News, 7 October 2014

Keeping refugees in camps has not only been logistically convenient for aid providers, but has often been the preference of host states, who view camps as minimizing both the perceived security threat posed by refugees and their burden on local communities and economies. Just over one third of the world’s 17 million refugees live in camps today. However, as refugee crises have become more protracted, with over six million refugees now living in exile for five or more years, camps have become increasingly difficult to fund. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in particular, has struggled to adapt its traditionally camp-based model to fulfil its mandate of ensuring that all refugees have access to protection and assistance, wherever they may live.

In 2009, it released a policy statement on refugee protection and solutions in urban areas which recognized urban areas as ‘a legitimate place for refugees to enjoy their rights.’ Now it has gone a significant step further with the release of an ‘Alternatives to Camps’ policy which commits the agency to actively pursue alternatives to camps whenever possible. It is the first official recognition by UNHCR that camps should be a last resort rather than the default response to refugee influxes, and has been widely welcomed by the refugee rights community as representing a major, if overdue, shift in the agency’s approach. However, the success of the policy would depend to a large extent on how effective advocacy efforts will be, particularly in convincing host governments that alternatives to camps are not only better for refugees, but can also produce better outcomes for local economies and host communities. Guidance to help field staff operationalize the policy is still being developed, and UNHCR will need buy-in from partners, including international NGOs, other UN agencies and donors, but most importantly host governments.

South Africa: Court Victory for Asylum Seekers
Carmel Rickard, GroundUp (Cape Town), 6 October 2014

Somali and Ethiopian asylum seekers and refugees have scored a longed-for victory against official xenophobia – the Supreme Court of Appeal has thrown out key elements of ‘Operation Hardstick’. This is a police programme in terms of which, among other strategies, Somali and Ethiopian businesses in Limpopo were shut down regardless of whether or not they had valid licences. The appeal court made an order spelling out that asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to apply for new business and trading licences. They may also apply for existing licences to be renewed and they may apply for and renew consent to operate tuck-shops and spaza shops. The five judges also agreed that it was unlawful and invalid for the authorities to close businesses operated by refugees and asylum seekers with valid permits. This was another strategy used during ‘Hardstick’. On top of it all the court also ordered that the local, provincial and national authorities must pay the legal costs of the case brought by the Somali and Ethiopian organisations.


South Sudan: Famine Threatens South Sudan If Conflict Deepens – Report
Kieran Guilbert, Thomas Reuters Foundation, 05 October 2014

According to a report released Monday, famine could strike another million people across South Sudan early next year if the civil war escalates. Aid agencies fear an imminent upsurge in fighting once the rainy season ends this month, which could wipe out recent efforts to avert famine and push areas of the world’s youngest country into starvation by March next year. Some 10,000 people have died and 1.7 million, one seventh of the population, have been displaced since conflict broke out between President Salva Kiir’s government forces and rebels allied to his former deputy Riek Machar. Despite significant international aid and a recent lull in fighting due to the wet season, nearly 2.2 million people currently face starvation.

Nine killed in eastern DRC attack
IOL News, 11 October 2014

Nine civilians were killed when suspected members of a notorious Ugandan Islamist group stormed a village in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo this week. The attacks in the restive North Kivu province forced between 3 000 and 5 000 people to flee towards Beni, 30 kilometres to the south. The rebels may have come from the Allied Democratic Forces, an Ugandan Islamist group targeted by the Congolese army and UN peacekeepers since the start of the year. The operations have weakened the rebels but local civil society groups have warned of renewed attacks by the ADF in recent days. The North Kivu region, which borders Uganda, has been plagued by numerous armed groups for the past two decades, feeding off the region’s lawlessness and rich mineral resources.

South Africa

Perilous escape to an uncertain fate
Sunday Times, 12 October 2014

Sunday Times reporters investigated the experiences of ‘unaccompanied minors’ who have been given shelter in Musina. Official figures show that 12, 000 refugees reached Musina last year, but only 2 were granted asylum. The children travel to Musina in groups or on their own, and are often orphans or heads of households back home. In order to reach South Africa, these children must travel long distances, and survive the threat of lions, crocodiles, and the torrent of the Limpopo River. What’s more, magumaguma (the men who help those crossing illegally) often take advantage of the people they help. Most of the women and children who cross end up on the streets, in shacks, abandoned buildings, or in the bush, while those who are lucky end up in shelters. Of the 776 unaccompanied minors interviewed, 12.6% had been arrested, 18.6% of boys and 27.5% or girls had been physically hurt, 43.4% of those girls were hurt by their boyfriends, 32.5% of the girls had been or were pregnant, and 87.6% of the children did not attend school.

High rate of abuse, rape by cops in Cape
Rebecca Jackman, IOL News, 13 October 2014

According to the latest report by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), the Western Cape has the largest percentage of cases of abuse by police officers and the second-highest number of incidents of rape by police. There has, however, been a decrease in the national number of recorded incidents. Nationally, a total of 5 745 cases involving the SAPS and municipal police services were recorded during the 2013/2014 financial year. There were 6 728 recorded incidents last year. Just 84 incidents were reported against municipal police, with the remaining 5 661 – 99 percent – against the SAPS. Criminal convictions of police officers, just four, included a case of culpable homicide at the Langa station resulting in 1 440 hours’ direct imprisonment (or 60 days), another case of culpable homicide in Sea Point resulting in a five-year sentence, murder by a police officer at the Harare station resulting in a 10-year prison sentence, and a case of common assault in Durbanville resulting in one year in jail or a R12 000 fine. Disciplinary convictions in the Western Cape included dismissal from the service for a robbery in Beaufort West, corrective counselling for common assault in Delft, and suspended dismissal for an attempt to do grievous bodily harm in Mfuleni.

Waiting for change at Lindela
Phillip De Wet, Mail & Guardian, 10 October 2014

After nearly two decades of criticism, flouted laws and disturbing reports, there seems to be a promise of change at the infamous Lindela Repatriation Centre. In September the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) stepped in and said it required a long list of specific actions by the department of home affairs – the department responsible for the deportation of illegal immigrants – that will in effect make the commission responsible for oversight of Lindela. The SAHRC made several recommendations to Home Affairs, some of which include a formal system that would allow ‘human rights defenders’ easy access to Lindela, and a report on the viability of an independent monitoring mechanism, including a way for inmates to report abuse. The SAHRC “recommendations” and accompanying court order come against a generally promising background. However, measured against history, the odds for change seem slim.

Hunger strikers: ‘They shot us in the head at Lindela’
Rapula Moatshe, Mail & Guardian, 10 October 2014

A group of 25 Nigerians ended their two-week hunger strike at the Lindela Repatriation Centre after a brutal attack on them allegedly by security guards who were apparently trying to force them to eat. The guards work for Bosasa Operations, the company charged with running the centre. Five members of the group claimed that 10 guards shot at them with rubber bullets and beat them with batons. The alleged attack comes in the wake of a strongly worded judgment in the high court in Johannesburg and associated recommendations by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that would give it access to and oversight of Lindela. In August the Johannesburg high court ruled that the detention of a number of inmates had been illegal, and undocumented immigrants may be held for no more than four months. However, that rule is regularly flouted at Lindela. Their version of events was not corroborated by other witnesses, but a number of reports, court cases, investigations and independent verification by ­credible human rights organisations and lawyers, over more than a decade, paint a picture of abuse, torture and the trampling of detainees’ rights.

Money bucks the corrupt system at Lindela
Phillip De Wet, Mail & Guardian, 10 October 2014

Money, former inmates of the Lindela Repatriation Centre say, is what separated them from their compatriots also in South Africa illegally. Those unable to prove they are in South Africa legally, given away by an accent or a vaccination scar, get their first taste of detention. Some say they had valid permits, which were destroyed by the police – claims that are impossible to verify – and some admit that they entered South Africa illegally in search of opportunities. Determining the truth – or otherwise – concerning complaints from Lindela inmates about everything from severe beatings to mere technical infringements of their rights is a problem that has, for years, flummoxed organisations with experience in everything from notorious prisons to war zones. Bosasa, the private company that manages the Lindela Repatriation Centre, has a long and fraught history with government tenders, the law and the media – especially the M&G. But on Lindela, at least, it has never been directly in the firing line. The facilities and fleet management company has been investigated for allegations of bribing its way into lucrative tenders with the correctional services department and has been accused of black empowerment fronting.

Tags: Africa    Asylum Seeker    Border Crossing    migration management    press review    South Africa    undocumented migration   

Categorised in: Review

Credit: Scalabrini Centre