Press Review 44: 27 October – 2 November 2014
Asylum Seeker/Refugee Policy Issues
Manus Island asylum seeker writes to UN in bid to access healthcare
Melissa Davey, The Guardian, 27 October 2014
An asylum seeker who had an eye gouged and lost several teeth during unrest at Manus Island detention centre in February has written to the United Nations in a desperate plea to receive proper medical care. There are growing concerns from human rights experts about the lengthy delays for medical treatment asylum seekers held in offshore processing centres face, even when suffering from serious conditions. In the letter sent Monday, the asylum seeker described how he could no longer sleep at night because of his pain. The asylum seeker has been waiting to go back to a specialist to have his treatment completed, nearly nine months after he was first injured. Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, said delayed medical treatment was a ‘persistent complaint’ among those held in Australia’s offshore processing centres. Ben Pynt, director of Human Rights Advocacy, said denying people medical treatment amounted to torture under international humanitarian law.
Merkel calls for aid to Syrian refugees
SAPA, News24, 28 October 2014
On Tuesday, the German government hosted an international conference in Berlin, where donor nations and envoys from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey conferred on how to help Syrian refugees through the upcoming cold season. Germany is urging the European Union to release funds to help the millions of Syrian refugees. Development Aid Minister Gerd Mueller said billions of euros could be diverted from existing EU budget lines. More than 50 non-government aid organizations issued a joint appeal in Berlin for aid spending for Syrians to double and for Western nations to take in at least 180 000 of the refugees, millions of whom are displaced inside Syria or living in camps just over the border. The UN office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says 3.2 million Syrians have fled abroad and 6.45 million are internally displaced out of a total pre-war population of 22.4 million.
Italian navy says it will continue refugee rescue mission despite plan to scrap it
Arthur Nelsen, The Guardian, 28 October 2014
The Italian navy will continue a search and rescue mission which has saved the lives of an estimated 150,000 refugees because no order has been received from the Italian government to stop. Confusion now surrounds the future of the Mare Nostrum programme as a decision has already been taken to replace it with a more limited scheme from 1 November. But Admiral Filippo Maria Foffi, the navy’s commander-in-chief, told a conference in Brussels that the Italian navy had no intention of standing down, and hinted at a division within the Italian government on the issue. Foffi said that he received the prime minister’s orders through the defence minister and reacting to Alfano’s statement was ‘not the way that military men conduct their activities’. Mare Nostrum’s demise had seemed certain after the launch of a more limited ‘Triton’ scheme was announced for 1 November, which will be confined to a 30-mile zone around Italy’s coastal waters, possess a third of Mare Nostrum’s maritime capacities, and be coordinated through the EU-funded Frontex agency. But campaigners noted that any decision to terminate Mare Nostrum would have to be taken by a council of Italian ministers, and the issue has not yet been formally put on any meeting agenda.
Syria’s neighbours risk ‘host-country fatigue’
Reuters, News24, 28 October 2014
Jordan and other countries neighbouring Syria are approaching ‘host-country fatigue’ because of huge demand from refugees for housing, schools, jobs and healthcare and scant resources like water, Jordan’s foreign minister told a conference on Tuesday. The message was echoed by other countries being overwhelmed by Syrian refugees, such as Lebanon and Turkey, and by the UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres, who called it ‘the most dramatic humanitarian crisis the world has faced in a very long time’.
29,000 asylum cases still unresolved from 2007, say MPs
BBC News, 29 October 2014
The Home Office has ‘failed to deal’ with the UK’s backlog of asylum cases, with 29,000 applications dating back at least seven years still waiting to be resolved, MPs have warned. The Public Accounts Committee said 11,000 of those applicants had not even received an initial decision on whether they could remain in the country. Contact was lost with 50,000 people refused the right to stay, it added. The government said it was ‘addressing the backlogs inherited’ in 2010. During Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Ed Miliband told David Cameron to ‘apologise’ for his record on immigration, adding: ‘You’re not making it right. You’re making it worse.’ But Mr Cameron replied that the coalition was ‘clearing up a shocking shambles and mess left by the last Labour government’. Home Office ministers wryly observe that many of the people they deal with are doing their best to avoid being tracked down, but yet again a picture is being painted of a system that’s struggling to cope. Similar problems dogged the last Labour government and led to the then Home Secretary John Reid describing the immigration and asylum system as unfit for purpose. Eight years on MPs don’t believe things are quite that bad, but many of the problems are depressingly familiar – administrative incompetence and a failure to harness technology to streamline services.
Australia pushes on with asylum seeker deterrence
IRIN News, 29 October 2014
As Australia moves ahead with a plan to resettle some 1,000 refugees in Cambodia, its government is trying to change a range of laws so as to give it a freer hand to dismiss future asylum claims. Earlier this year, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison touted the Cambodia transfer as, ‘an arrangement where people are being resettled in a country that has signed the Refugee Convention, being supported by another signatory to the Refugee Convention.’ Introducing the ‘Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment’ in September, however, Morrison argued: ‘The new statutory framework will enable parliament to legislate…without referring directly to the Refugee Convention and therefore not being subject to the interpretations of foreign courts or judicial bodies which seek to expand the scope of the Refugee Convention well beyond what was ever intended by this country or this parliament.’ The controversial bill is now in its third reading. Meanwhile, immediate protection concerns have been raised as Cambodian government officials are reportedly travelling to Nauru, where Australia operates an off-shore processing centre for asylum seekers. Some 1,000 detainees from Nauru are slated to be transferred to Cambodia in exchange for US$35 million in aid. Opponents point to Cambodia’s poor treatment of asylum seekers in the past, the country’s limited capacity to care for 1,000 newcomers, and murky details about the plan – saying the move is part of Australia’s broader attempts to deter asylum seekers. In October 2014 a Member of Parliament wrote to the International Criminal Court asking it to investigate the current administration for crimes against asylum seekers.
Please return home, Interior CS Joseph ole Lenku tells refugees
Daily Nation, 30 October 2014
A Kenyan Cabinet Secretary wants refugees, particularly those from Somalia, to voluntarily return to their country. Mr Joseph ole Lenku of the Interior Ministry said the government was finalising plans to start repatriating the refugees in a matter of weeks. He admitted that terrorists had been infiltrating the camps in Kenya and unleashing mayhem which had affected the refugees and Kenyans. He said the huge number of refugees Kenya hosted was also causing environmental problems. He urged the international community to provide Kenya with resources for reconstruction of roads, health facilities, police stations and schools among others to restore the environment and correct other imbalances occasioned by refugees. The Cabinet approved repatriation of refugees starting January after Kenya and Somalia signed a ‘voluntary repatriation’ deal in December last year. Kenya hosts an estimated 600,000 refugees from 36 countries. Out of this, more than three quarters are from Somalia.
Nearly 25 million food insecure in Sahel
IRIN News, 29 October 2014
Food security and malnutrition rates across the Sahel are deteriorating, due in large part to ongoing conflict and instability in the Central African Republic (CAR), northern Mali, and northeast Nigeria, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Nearly five million more people have joined the ranks of the food insecure since the beginning of the year, bringing the estimated total to 24.7 million – more than double the number in 2013, says OCHA. Some 6.5 million people have crossed the emergency threshold from being moderately food insecure to facing an acute food and livelihood crisis. This is four million more people in this category than in January. Negative coping mechanisms include taking out a loan that must be repaid from profits from the following year’s harvest, eating seeds that should be saved for next year’s planting season, and reducing the number of daily meals from three down to two, or even one.
Harrowing video shows scene of bloody devastation after Syrian army allegedly drops two banned ‘barrel bombs’ on refugee camp, killing up to 75 people
John Hall, Mail Online, 30 October 2014
A harrowing video has emerged showing the charred and dismembered bodies of up to 75 people killed when a helicopter thought to be from the Syrian regime dropped two barrel bombs on a refugee camp yesterday. The graphic footage – filmed at a displaced persons camp in the northern province of Idlib – shows the bloodied corpses of women and children, while passers-by scramble to save the wounded. ‘It’s a massacre of refugees,’ a voice off camera can be heard saying, while tents that act as makeshift homes burn all around and dazed children wander the camp looking for relatives. Barrel bombs, which are banned by international law, are crudely made containers filled with nails, metal shrapnel and explosive material that are dropped from low altitude.
The attack was most likely to have been carried out by the Syrian army. Human rights groups say the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has previously dropped barrel bombs on densely populated neighbourhoods. These acts are in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution banning their use. Although militants from the Islamic State are known to be operating in the area, neither the ISIS jihadis nor any other rebel group are thought to have access to helicopters inside Syria. Earlier this month, monitoring groups claimed to have witnessed ISIS carrying out test flights near Aleppo using three Soviet-built fighter jets seized from Assad regime. Within days the Syrian Air Force, which remains loyal to Assad, had destroyed two of the jets. The third plane remains missing but at the time the first two jets were destroyed, Syria’s Information Minister Omran Zoabi said: ‘It does not worry us and [the plane] cannot be used.’
South Sudanese refugees face flooding and difficult dynamics in Ethiopia
William Davison, The Guardian, 30 October 2014
For the refugees who have escaped South Sudan, and for the aid workers assisting them in the western Ethiopian region of Gambella, now is a time for waiting. The uncertainty in the refugee operation is twofold. Though a difficult situation is under control in South Sudan for now, many believe heavy fighting will resume in South Sudan once roads dry up, leading to a new surge of tens of thousands of refugees. Moreover, Ethiopia’s government is struggling to find suitable locations for flooded refugees and potential new arrivals that do not disturb volatile local political dynamics. Almost 200,000 refugees, primarily from the ethnic Nuer minority, have ended up in Ethiopia since December 2013, when attempts by Kiir to arrest political rivals for coup plotting – including his Nuer former deputy, Riek Machar – prompted commanders to rebel. The ensuing clashes have claimed thousands of lives and displaced nearly 2 million people. Ceasefire deals have been signed in Addis Ababa, but in reality it is the rainy season that has discouraged the movement of potential refugees and armed groups. The result has been a huge reduction in people crossing the border, despite severe food shortages inside South Sudan. Aid organisations nonetheless remain alert: fading rains could lead to renewed fighting, causing a surge comparable to the first few months of the crisis, when thousands a day were arriving. Funds are in heavy demand because of the exceptional number of emergencies occurring globally, not least the Ebola outbreak. The UN refugee agency has received 37% of the requested $567m needed to deal with the 2 million displaced inside and outside South Sudan.
CAR: The search for justice
IRIN News, 30 October 2014
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) steps up its work in the Central African Republic (CAR), pledging to bring the worst perpetrators of violence to justice, concerted efforts are being made to counter endemic impunity in CAR. But the prevailing insecurity in many parts of the country rules out any quick fix solutions. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in September that the ICC was ready to open its second investigation in CAR. According to Bensouda, a preliminary enquiry in February had ‘gathered and scrupulously analysed relevant information from multiple sources’, leaving no doubt as to the ICC’s right to intervene under the Statute of Rome. ‘The list of atrocities is endless,’ Bensouda emphasized. ‘I cannot ignore these alleged crimes.’ The preliminaries may be out of the way now and the ICC set for a full investigation, but there has been no indication from The Hague as to how long it will take before suspects are identified, warrants issued and defendants brought to trial.
Mozambique: Divided CNE Declares Frelimo Victory
Joseph Hanlon, Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, 30 October 2014
The National Elections Commission (CNE) approved the results of the 15 October election giving victory to Filipe Nyusi as president with 57% of the vote and Frelimo with 144 of 250 seats in parliament. The results are close to those predicted by the parallel sample count. But in a meeting which ran from 11.30 am yesterday to 4 am this morning, the CNE split and only approved the results by a vote 10-7, with opposition nominees and some civil society voting against. Renamo today filed a formal protest. The CNE was required by law to report today, but it admits that it is continuing its investigations into a wide range of complaints including late opening of polling stations, conflicting numbers in different copies of some results sheets, suspected ballot box stuffing, reports of pre-marked ballots in circulation, and opposition ballots improperly made invalid by polling station staff (MMVs) They also say that some ballots were missing, but do not identify how many.
Renamo in a statement Tuesday in Beira said it won the election and had won more than 139 seats in parliament. MDM in a statement this afternoon rejected the results. Both said they rejected the election because misconduct was too widespread. In a meeting with civil society, Renamo candidates Afonso Dhlakama said he had a large file of evidence of misconduct which he would submit to the Constitutional Council but refused to show it civil society or the media. In his meeting with civil society, Dhlakama called on his members to oppose the result, but not to resort to violence. And Dhlakama continues to call for a neutral government of technocrats or a government of national unity for at least two years.
Nigeria: 41 Boko Haram Members Beheaded in Biu
Ndahi Marama, Vanguard, 1 November 2014
No fewer than 41 suspected members of the Boko Haram sect were killed and beheaded by men of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a.k.a. Civilian JTF, at Biu, Borno State, following a failed attempt by the insurgents to overrun the Sabon Gari village, in the Damboa Local Government Area of the state, Thursday. Biu, located south and about 185 kilometres drive from Maiduguri, the state capital, is one of the largest local government areas in the state. Fifty suspected Boko Haram members arrested hiding underneath the truck carrying sheep and goats during a routine check. Sources told Vanguard that the combine efforts of military officers and members of the Civilian JTF pursued the insurgents to Gur area, around Mandafuma village where they engaged them in a fierce battle which lasted for about two hours killing 41 members of the sect, before beheading them and hanging their heads on sticks. The victorious Civilian JTF members displayed the heads of their victims as the returned to Biu amid fanfare. A member of the Civilian JTF, Umar Hassan, who confirmed the incident, told Vanguard that, ‘we beheaded the insurgents after the shootout which lasted for about two hours and took their heads to Biu to show the people that the Boko Haram insurgents are human and not beasts and so, people should not fear them but instead, join hands with us and security operatives to ensure that the sect members who are enemies of Islam and the people of Nigerians are defeated.’
20 killed in renewed clashes in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp
Sudan Tribune, 1 November 2014
At least 20 more people have been killed in renewed fighting over the weekend between various communities in the Kakuma refugee camp in the western part of Kenya, sources said. ‘Clashes occurred again on Friday and Saturday between the Nuer community and the communities of Great Lakes region who have forged an artificial alliance with the Dinka community,’ Gai Duop, leader of the Nuer community in Kakuma refugee camp, told Sudan Tribune on Saturday. The clashes, he said, followed last week’s incident between Dinka and Nuer communities in which 8 Dinka members were reportedly beaten to death by angry Nuer youth after a Dinka man raped a 9-year old Nuer girl-child, leaving her in coma. The refugees used sticks and machetes during the fighting which involved thousands from rival sides. Sources from the United Nations, however, downplayed the number of casualties from last week’s violence, reporting only one person who died in hospital. However, the Nuer community leader accused the Dinka community of mobilising refugee communities from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda as their allies from the Great Lakes region, inciting yet another fierce clash over the weekend which he said left 4 Nuer members dead. Among the 4 one was shot dead by the Kenyan police, he explained. Duop said calm has however returned to the refugee camp after police intervention. Kakuma camp is the biggest habitat for refugees hosting 180,000 people from different nations. There are about 90,000 South Sudanese living in the camp.
President Michael Sata’s body returns to Zambia as political rivals jockey for position
Aislinn Laing, The Telegraph, 2 November 2014
The body of Michael Sata, Zambia’s president who died last week in London, was returned to his home country on Saturday as splits within his ruling party grew over who will take power next. Guy Scott, the white vice-president, stepped into the role of acting president for three months until emergency elections are held and has been tipped by some as a possible candidate to run in the polls because of his closeness to the popular former leader. But he is facing questions about his suitability even to act as interim leader by those who say he is barred from high office because his parents were not born in Zambia. Cambridge-educated Mr. Scott, who was reported to have rung military chiefs after Mr. Sata’s death to ask for their support, says he has the backing of the Attorney General as well as cabinet. Despite being the first democratic white leader in mainland Africa, he has dismissed the interest in his colour, telling local journalists: ‘I may be white on the outside, but my blood is black.’ In a reflection of the tensions in the former British protectorate, security has been stepped up around the acting president and military snipers have been stationed on the roof of the public broadcaster, ostensibly to ward off a coup.
Burkina Faso crisis: Army ‘must give power to civilians’
BBC News, 2 November 2014
Military leaders now in control of Burkina Faso must hand power to civilians or face consequences, the United Nations and African Union say. UN West Africa envoy Mohamed Ibn Chambas said the military could face sanctions if they refused. Meanwhile, thousands of people are gathering in the capital Ouagadougou to rally against the military takeover. Days of protests forced President Blaise Compaore to step down on 31 October and flee to Ivory Coast. Mr Compaore’s attempt to extend his time in office was the immediate trigger for the protests. But analysts say high prices, low wages and persistent poverty have fuelled wider discontent, particularly among younger Burkinabes. The military takeover has infuriated opposition groups, who called a mass rally on Sunday against the army’s ‘confiscation’ of the uprising. By early afternoon, thousands had turned out to protest in Ouagadougou’s National Square, where one million had gathered earlier in the week to demand Mr Compaore’s resignation. Elsewhere in Ouagadougou, witnesses reported hearing gunfire at the headquarters of state TV. An unconfirmed report by the AFP news agency claimed that soldiers fired in the air to disperse protesters before seizing control of the building. Meanwhile, the AU, UN, the US and regional economic bloc Ecowas all condemned the military takeover. The US state department urged an immediate transfer of power to civilian authorities and a move towards free and fair presidential elections. The army has quickly stepped in to fill the power vacuum, declaring Lt Col Isaac Zida the nation’s transitional leader. Col Zida was second-in-command of the presidential guard, and his selection apparently came after a power struggle with the overall army chief, Gen Honore Traore.
Under Burkina Faso’s constitution, the president of the Senate should take over after the national president resigns and election should take place between 60 and 90 days afterwards.
SA man tested for Ebola
SAPA, News24, 30 October 2014
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) will conduct an Ebola test on a South African man, it said on Thursday. She said the results would be available within the next 48 hours. The NICD denied a claim on Thursday that the man had contracted Ebola. Shabalala said the KwaZulu-Natal health department arranged for his admission on Thursday, to allow further assessment and to check specifically for other infections including malaria, given the absence of risk factors and no direct exposure to persons with Ebola disease. The Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of SA (Hospersa) said in a statement on Thursday that a patient who contracted Ebola had ‘absconded’ from the hospital.
South African peacekeepers ambushed in Sudan
Al Jazeera, 31 October 2014
Two South African peacekeepers were wounded when gunmen opened fire on their patrol in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. The soldiers were injured when unidentified attackers shot at them as they collected water in the Kutum district of North Darfur state on Wednesday, the joint United Nations African Union mission said. The troops returned fire and the casualties were ‘evacuated to El Fasher for treatment’ in the state capital, UNAMID press officer Guiomar Pau said. It was unclear who the attackers were, she said, or whether any were hit by the return fire. A spokesperson for the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) spokesperson said the soldier were in a critical but stable condition in a UN hospital. The SANDFcurrently have 809 members including eight military observers and seven staff officers in Sudan. UNAMID was deployed in late 2007 to help end bloodshed among militias, rebel forces and gangs in Darfur. Three Ethiopian peacekeepers were killed on October 16 as they guarded a well in Karma in North Darfur. Violence in Darfur which UNAMID has attributed to government-linked forces, rebel offensives and inter-communal fighting has risen this year to its worst level in a decade. More than 300,000 people have been killed in some 11 years of conflict in the region, with another two million displaced, the UN said.
South Africa’s health system shuns asylum seekers
Kristy Siegfried, IRIN News, 31 October 2014
South Africa’s national health policy guarantees asylum seekers, refugees and undocumented migrants from other SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries, the same rights to treatment at public sector hospitals as South African citizens. They are supposed to pay only what they can afford, based on their income. However, last August, Gauteng’s provincial health department distributed a draft set of guidelines for managing non-South African patients that appears to have sowed confusion among healthcare providers and resulted in patients being denied critical care. The root of the confusion seems to stem from the guidelines’ definition of foreign patients as including refugees and asylum seekers. Such patients, according to the guidelines, should be charged in full before being treated. Lower down, it lists refugees and asylum seekers (but not SADC citizens) as among the categories of foreign patients who should in fact be charged according to income means testing. Although the guidelines note that foreign patients, with or without documentation, should not be refused emergency treatment, there is no mention of pregnant women and children under six, who are entitled to free treatment whatever their nationality, according to the national health department’s Patient Classification Manual. ‘The Gauteng guidelines are not legally sound and have the possibility of very negative consequences; we’re seeing people being incorrectly classified and charged,’ said Jo Vearey, a senior researcher with the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Witwatersrand University and a member of the Johannesburg Migrant Health Forum, which campaigns for migrants’ access to health services. Vearey also pointed to a section of the guidelines which encourages hospital staff to report ‘any illegal foreigner or any person whose status or citizenship could not be ascertained’ to the Department of Home Affairs. ‘Suggesting that frontline providers should be acting as home affairs officials is potentially detrimental to public health,’ she said.
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Content credit: Scalabrini Centre