Press Review 48: 24- 30 November 2014
Asylum Seeker/Refugee Policy Issues
Tough conditions for CAR displaced at airport camp
IRIN News, 20 November 2014
One of the most telling effects of the bitter internal crisis which has rocked the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012 is the continuing displacement of thousands of ordinary citizens. Those who fled have been forced to abandon their houses and home areas, often moving into rapidly-established camps and living in dismal conditions. And the conflict is not over. October and November were marked by new waves of violence in the capital, Bangui. Witnesses said political battles were still being fought out on the streets, with the anti-Balaka militia particularly prominent. French military sources warned of growing delinquency, armed gangs taking part in looting sprees and robbing civilians at gunpoint.
The most dramatic population movements in Bangui were between December 2013 and January 2014. Close to a year on, there are still 31 camps in the capital. The biggest is still at M’Poko, near the airport. The airport became a critical refuge for thousands of Bangui city-dwellers, mostly from the 3rd, 5th and 6th districts of the city, fleeing renewed outbreaks of violence in which fighters from both the former Séléka coalition and the anti-Balaka militias were implicated. At the peak of the crisis, the airport camp played host to 60,000-70,000 people. According to Dana Mcleod, director of communications for US-based NGO Refugees International, ‘aid agencies deliberately scaled back their services in order to discourage people from settling here.’ Numbers at M’poko are now down to around 20,000, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But despite the collective efforts of NGOs, residents still describe conditions as ‘catastrophic’.
Abandoned in the borderlands
IRIN News, 20 November 2014
Longstanding humanitarian needs in South Sudan’s Aweil North County, where some 30,000 people are displaced, are largely unmet. ‘Today, we don’t receive any help, because the buffer zone makes it very difficult for aid organizations to operate here,’ Luka Akon Deng Lual, a community leader, told IRIN. Aweil North lies in the so-called ‘14-Mile Area’, a supposedly demilitarized zone between South Sudan and Sudan. More than three years after South Sudan seceded, the border between the two states remains in dispute. In 2012, Kiir Adem, one of the main towns in Aweil North, came under aerial bombardment, forcing many people to flee their homes. Together with others who fled conflict in South Kordofan and Darfur (both in Sudan), the displaced live in makeshift settlements dotted along the River Kiir (known as the Bahr al-Ara in Arabic). Clean drinking water and decent sanitation are scarce. Education and adequate health care are almost non-existent. Irregular rain during the latter half of 2014 means this year’s crops are likely to fail.
Sudan: Darfur Displaced Worry About Exit UNAMID, Demand Replacement
Radio Dabanga, 24 November 2014
Internally displaced people in Darfur have agreed that troops of the UN-AU hybrid mission in Darfur (Unamid) should not leave the region before they are replaced with alternative forces which protect the civilian and displaced population. The peacekeeping mission confirmed it has received a request from Khartoum to put in place an exit strategy from Darfur. Speaking to Radio Dabanga, a spokesman for the Darfur Displaced and Refugees Association said that the association refuses a departure of Unamid. The spokesman explained that, although the displaced people know that the peacekeepers do not serve them, nor do anything for victims, they adhere to their presence as representatives of the United Nations. He claimed that there has been ‘a decline of 10 percent’ in the intimidation of criminals and commission of crimes in Darfur. He added that the displaced population will be targeted more if the mission withdraws and that it would be difficult for new UN forces to return to Sudan. Sharati called upon the UN to increase the number of Unamid troops.
Unamid confirmed in statements to Kuwait News Agency on Saturday the mission had received a note from the government of Sudan referring to the need for an exit strategy over two weeks ago. Spokesman Ashraf Eisa added that consideration of an exit strategy is already contained in UN Security Council resolution 2173. The Foreign Minister of Sudan, Ali Karti, has harshly criticised the Unamid and accused it of failing to comply with its mandate. The mission does not serve the peace process as required, he said. On Saturday, the Minister was quoted by Radio Omdurman as saying it warns the UN to either abide by the purpose for which they came to Darfur – by realising security and advancing the peace process – or leave Sudan.
About 100 people slaughtered in a week in DRC
AFP, Mail & Guardian, 24 November 2014
About 100 people were slaughtered last week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the latest massacres to shake the restive region, regional deputies told AFP on Monday. The carnage took place on Thursday near the town of Beni in the North Kivu province, where mainly Muslim Ugandan rebels have been blamed for killing more than 200 civilians in gruesome attacks since October 2014. Officials who spoke to AFP said they did not know who carried out the massacres, but they took place in a region where rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces and National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-NALU) battled the army early in November. An administrative source in Beni said killings took place in four villages located near each other between the market town – 250km north of the provincial capital Goma – and the town of Mbau, 20km further north. The ADF-NALU rebels have been hiding out in the Ruwenzori mountains which straddle the border with Uganda since being driven out of their homeland by President Yoweri Museveni’s soldiers in 1995. In January, the Congolese army and troops of a special UN intervention brigade launched a joint offensive against the insurgents. The brigade with the large UN mission in the DRC has an offensive mandate to tackle armed insurgent forces.
Kenya bus attack: Mandera residents flee to army base
BBC News, 25 November 2014
Hundreds of people have fled to a military airstrip in Kenya’s Mandera region amid fears that militants could launch a new assault. Many of them are non-Muslim civil servants who are demanding that the government evacuate them from the region. Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab gunmen killed 28 people in a bus attack on Saturday. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is under growing pressure to end attacks by the group. Al-Shabab is based in neighbouring Somalia, but has stepped up attacks in Kenya since 2011, when Kenya sent troops across the border to help battle the militants. Many people in Mandera are worried that al-Shabab could strike again, especially as the festive season approaches. Six unions – including those representing doctors, teachers and civil servants – have advised members to leave until security forces can ensure their safety. The call could affect more than 10,000 teachers and 16,500 civil servants in major towns such as Mandera, Wajir and Garissa, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports.
It is believed that 20 of the 28 people killed in the bus attack were teachers who were returning to their homes for the Christmas holidays, following the closure of schools. Many of the teachers, doctors and government officials who work in Mandera are from other parts of Kenya and no longer want to stay in the north-east, which borders Somalia and has been badly affected by al-Shabab’s insurgency. Hundreds of people have left their homes with their belongings and are now camping at the Kenya Defence Forces airstrip, demanding that they be given safe passage out of Mandera. In Saturday’s attack, gunmen pulled non-Muslim passengers from a bus in northern Kenya, killing 28 of them. Al-Shabab said it carried out the assault in retaliation for a government crackdown on mosques in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa allegedly used by extremists.
Mozambique: Dhlakama Threatens to Set Up His Own Government
Mozambique News Agency, 26 November 2014
Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Tuesday threatened to set up his own government in January, if the ruling Frelimo Party does not agree to his call for a caretaker government to run the country for the next five years. Dhlakama proposes to take ‘the genuine 36 per cent of the votes and the false 57 per cent and put them together in a caretaker government’. These numbers refer to the results announced on 30 October by the National Elections Commission (CNE) according to which Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi won the presidential election with 57 per cent of the vote, and Dhlakama was runner up with 36.6 per cent. Dhlakama did not explain why his votes were ‘genuine’ and Nyusi’s were ‘false’, when they both came from the same source. Asked who would be president of the republic in this ‘caretaker government’, Dhlakama said that would be a matter for negotiation. He insisted that he had no personal ambition for the post. He insisted that he and Renamo had won the elections, although both the official figures and the parallel count undertaken by the Electoral Observatory, the largest and most credible group of Mozambican election observers, point to a Frelimo victory.
Bangladesh proposes interning, repatriating up to 270K Rohingya to Myanmar
Nigel O’Connor, Al Jazeera International, 26 November 2014
Bangladesh has outlined proposals to intern thousands of undocumented Rohingya before repatriation to Myanmar, which they fled because of targeted violence and systematic discrimination. An estimated 270,000 stateless Rohingya live in overcrowded camps, on the outskirts of already impoverished townships, finding shelter in locals’ homes or using plastic sheeting and bamboo to construct huts in forests. An additional 30,000 have official status as refugees, living in U.N.-run camps but lack freedom of movement and the right to employment. Dhaka announced a new national strategy for the undocumented Rohingya in February but has refused to make the details public. What is known is that the IOM would provide basic humanitarian needs, with the International Committee of the Red Cross assuming coordination of the delivery of humanitarian services.
An official at Myanmar’s foreign ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said the country would only accept Rohingya from U.N.-run refugee camps. Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said it is was also very unlikely that any significant number of Rohingya would voluntarily repatriate. The Bangladesh outline provides no indication of whether any basic rights will be conferred upon registration. The IOM directed questions on whether Rohingya would have the ability to move freely and apply for identity documents and passports to the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, which directed the questions back to the IOM. Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Denied citizenship in Myanmar and subject to tight restrictions on their daily lives, the unrecognized Rohingya in Bangladesh live in a legal vacuum, making employment illegal and leaving them open to abuse or corruption, with no recourse to justice.
Nigeria explosion ‘kills dozens’ in Adamawa state
BBC News, 27 November 2014
At least 25 people are reported to have been killed in an explosion in north-eastern Nigeria’s Adamawa state. Some reports said the blast was caused by a roadside bomb and occurred near the town of Mubi, close to the Cameroonian border. This week Mubi was recaptured from Islamist group Boko Haram, which controls many towns in the region. In April, the group kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok, causing international outrage. A spokesman for the governor of Adamawa state told the BBC that most of the victims of the bomb attack in Marabar-Mubi, about 30km (18 miles) west of Mubi, were civilians, although five of the dead were said to be soldiers. Earlier reports put the death toll as high as 35. A witness told the Reuters news agency that several buses caught fire in the roadside explosion. Mubi was captured by Boko Haram last month and was only ousted this week by the Nigerian military with assistance from local vigilante groups and hunters. A 24-hour curfew has been imposed in the area. However, attacks by the Islamist extremist group are relentless. The latest comes two days after at least 78 people were killed in a twin suicide bombing in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
Despite Aid Push, Ebola Is Raging in Sierra Leone
Jeffrey Gettleman, NY Times, 27 November 2014
While health officials say they are making headway against the Ebola epidemic in neighboring Liberia, the disease is still raging in Sierra Leone, despite the big international push to combat the disease. In November alone, the World Health Organization has reported more than 1,800 new cases in this country, about three times as many as in Liberia, which until recently had been the center of the outbreak. More than six weeks ago, international health officials conceded that they were overwhelmed in Sierra Leone and reluctantly announced a Plan B. Until enough hospital beds could be built here, they pledged to at least help families tend to their sick loved ones at home. The health officials admitted Plan B was a major defeat, but said the approach would only be temporary and promised to supply basics like protective gloves, painkillers and rehydration salts.
Discouraged, scared and furious, Sierra Leoneans are taking matters into their own hands. Laid-off teachers (all schools in the country are closed) race around on motorbikes, monitoring the sick. In some villages, informal isolation centers are popping up, with citizens quarantining one another, an incredibly dangerous ad hoc solution being performed without appropriate protection. (United Nations officials say this country is still short hundreds of thousands of protective suits.) On Freetown’s outskirts, burly youth are setting up roadblocks. The police are nowhere to be found. The young men barricade the road, but instead of wielding weapons, they brandish infrared thermometers. Just about every important building in Freetown — hotels, banks, government offices — is now manned by a guard with an infrared thermometer and a bucket of diluted bleach for a mandatory hand wash. But in the slums, it is a different story. In Kissi Town, an underserved area of dirt roads and dirty wells, the local Ebola task force said that more than 150 people had recently died of the virus, and that many had received no food, medicine or any other help.
War refugees caught in a no man’s land
John Psaropoulos, Al Jazeera, 27 November 2014
An estimated 30,000 ‘irregular’ migrants, mostly Syrian war refugees, are expected to cross into Greece on their way to central Europe this year – a twofold increase from last year’s figure. In the process they bump, moth-like, against invisible security curtains stretching across several borders. Those who can spend thousands of dollars on increasingly professional smuggling rings, capable of transporting them from Turkey to Germany in under a month. Most, however, cannot and they are accumulating in Greece, posing a policy dilemma for Greek authorities.
Igoumenitsa is a mere six hours from Istanbul along a new highway. Some 100,000 articulated lorries annually traverse its sparkling white concrete from east to west. Checking them all is a mammoth task, but the coastguard sports a rotating collection of confiscated vehicles – a museum of smugglers’ ingenuity. A flatbed truck carried a cargo of cottonseed over a false bottom, which could conceal dozens of migrants lying down. Another had a hatch in the roof of the driver’s cabin. In yet another, several Afghan children had been stuffed into plastic olive barrels. One teenager was found suffocated inside a false fuel tank. Stone seems to be a favourite camouflage material, perhaps because X-ray scanners cannot penetrate it. On one occasion, 16 migrants were found inside two hollowed-out granite slabs. On another, migrants were ensconced amid stacks of flagstones. Perhaps the most ingenious disguise consisted of marble sheets leaning against A-frames and dug out like books. Fourteen Afghans were found inside them, and the coastguard estimates the value of this human cargo at more than $50,000. The cost and elaborateness of these preparations, say officials, suggest deals made in Turkey between organised crime rings and trucking companies, rather than casual contracts with individual drivers along the way.
Four dead in Egypt anti-government protest
Al Jazeera, 28 November 2014
At least four protesters have been killed and scores of others injured in Cairo after thousands took to the streets of the Egyptian capital against the government of President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, heeding to a call by the opposition Salafi Front. The protesters were killed on Friday after security forces opened fire in the district of Matrya in eastern Cairo, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The protests by the Salafi Front, a faction concentrated in parts of the Nile Delta, are being held at the same time as regular Friday demonstrations that have been held by supporters of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood since the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi. On its Facebook page, the Salafi Front has called for a ‘Muslim Youth Uprising’ to ‘topple military rule in Egypt,’ urging followers to ‘raise your Quran’. The protests are the first attempt in months to hold large demonstrations in the country. More than 100 people were arrested in advance of the Salafist demonstrations. Meanwhile, three senior army officers were killed in separate shooting incidents by unidentified assailants. Two were shot in Cairo while a navy officer was killed in Alexandria. Two army conscripts were also injured. The attacks occurred despite heightened military and police presence in the capital in view of the latest demonstrations. Security forces deployed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and in other strategic spots around the country from Thursday evening, the Associated Press news agency said.
Many Egyptians say they are cancelling social gatherings, avoiding public transportation and remaining home on Friday. Churches in southern provinces, where both Christians and Muslims have large concentrations, cancelled Friday services and Sunday religious classes. The fears have been further stoked by a campaign on pro-government media, playing patriotic songs and showing army special forces deploying. Security officials have voiced concerns over possible attacks, especially after Egypt’s main armed groups recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Many of the attacks have taken place in the north of the Sinai Peninsula. Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that with the absence of a ‘true political solution, violence will continue to escalate’. ‘More people will probably go underground and there will be more violence,’ he said. ‘There’s an atmosphere of fear in the country’.
South Africa: Refugee Dies After SA Hospital Denies Treatment, Citing Health Act
Aaisha Dadi Patel, The Daily Vox, 26 November 2014
Ethiopian refugee Badesa Fokora has died in a Johannesburg hospital after suffering double kidney failure and being refused treatment for it, despite the fact that he had been lying in a hospital bed for a month. Although doctors at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg were aware of his life-threatening condition, they refused him treatment on the basis that he was not a South Africa citizen. Fokora was told that as a non-South African, he did not qualify for a place on the hospital’s chronic renal treatment programme, which involves dialysis and an organ transplant. The hospital refused to treat him even after Fokora’s family said that they would contribute to the costs of the treatment.
The National Health Act states that only citizens and permanent residents of South Africa may receive assistance in a treatment programme like this. But Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which was approached for assistance after Fokora was refused treatment, state that under the Refugees Act, refugees are to be treated as citizens when it comes to medical issues. LHR filed an urgent medical matter in the North Gauteng High Court to compel the Minister of Health to make an allowance for Fokora to be granted treatment, and also for refugees to not be excluded from medical treatment. The organisation called the conditions of the National Health Act ‘unconstitutional’ because it does not distinguish between refugees and other foreigners, and the fact that refugees cannot return to their home countries for medical treatment due to the risks this would pose to them. For this reason, the Refugees Act should ideally come into effect, as it recognises that refugees have the same rights to basic medical services as citizens do. LHR’s Patricia Erasmus said that the organisation is disappointed that a young man has died ‘under preventable circumstances.’ ‘The National Health Act is clear that the Minister of Health has a discretion to order chronic renal treatment to a foreign national. The manner in which the department has treated Mr Fokora is a gross and unjustifiable violation of his rights to health care, dignity and ultimately life,’ said Erasmus.
Asylum seekers run riot in Cape
Natasha Bezuidenhout, IOL News, 28 November 2014
Hundreds of asylum seekers turned away from a Home Affairs refugee office in the Cape Town CBD on Thursday ran riot, hurling stones and damaging the building. Police responded with rubber bullets and teargas, injuring a number of protesters. Tresor Mbangu from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was hit on the head by a rubber bullet fired by police. He was helped by fellow citizens who took him to the police to show the damage they had caused. As they were approaching, the police fired rubber bullets again at them. Tensions erupted after refugees were told to renew their permits in Durban or Pretoria. Stones littered Lower Heerengracht while a number of windows were shattered. The Home Affairs refugee office in Cape Town CBD was damaged after angry refugees pelted with it stones. Ndombi Lubazedio Miriam, who arrived at the offices with her one-year-old daughter Aline Nanoka Amba, had an appointment to get proof of her marriage certificate her husband needed for a work permit. “The security told me to wait at the gate. When people in the queue started making trouble he pushed me, I fell with my baby I was carrying on my back. He also pepper-sprayed us,” she said. Fru Joy Chi, 30, from Cameroon, said it was unfair to be turned away after he was told to be at the office on Thursday. “No one is explaining anything to us. Some are saying we must come back on Monday, but then we will have to pay a fine of R2 500 for arriving after the expiry date.” Soleil Nantabara, 20, from DRC, was at Home Affairs to renew her temporary permit which expired on Thursday. “I can understand why people are upset. They came here to have their permits renewed but were told to go to the refugee offices in Pretoria. No one has the money to travel that far.” She added it was a problem for everyone because they could be arrested. “They refuse to give us our papers. We came here to renew our papers, but today we were told we couldn’t. We have to renew it where we received our first permit, Durban or Pretoria. I wanted to go home for the holidays but now I can’t.” She added it also left them feeling vulnerable to harassment by police. Niclette Sheta, from DRC, whose permit also expired on Thursday, said they couldn’t work without their permits. Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said about 1 000 people “started fighting among each other” early on Thursday morning.
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Content credit: Scalabrini Centre
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