Press Review 49: 1-12 December 2014

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Tags: Department of Home Affairs LGBTI asylum migration Refugee issues

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EU court blocks gay asylum tests

BBC News, 02 December 2014

The EU’s top court has ruled that refugees who claim asylum on the grounds that they are homosexual should not have to undergo tests to prove it. Three men, including a Ugandan and one from a Muslim country, failed in their bids for asylum when a Dutch court said they had not proved their sexuality. EU states including the UK have been criticised for their handling of gay asylum requests. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) says they must respect human dignity. Its rulings apply to all EU member states. The case is significant across the EU because of a surge in the numbers of sub-Saharan Africans seeking asylum in Europe this year. Most African countries treat homosexuality as a crime.

Ricky Muir vote reinstates TPVs and hands Coalition hollow asylum victory

Paul Farrell, The Guardian, 05 December 2014

The fate of thousands of asylum seekers held in Australian detention centres and thousands more who may seek protection was finally decided by the vote of a single senator from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast party. Ricky Muir was the final crossbench senator whose vote secured the passage of the migration and maritime powers legislation amendment bill late on Thursday night. The bill will have huge implications for how Australia treats and processes refugees. It introduces a fast-track process that limits merits review, which legal groups and even a member of the immigration minister’s own advisory council have warned will increase the risk that legitimate refugees will be returned to their countries of origin.

Winter brings fresh threat to Iraq’s refugees who fled the Isis advance

Fazel Hawramy, The Guardian, 06 December 2014

Several hundred Christians have been living in the concrete skeleton of a three-storey shopping centre in Iraq’s Kurdish region since Islamic State militants overran their home town of Qaraqosh, east of Mosul. Of the two million people displaced within Iraq, nearly half have fled to safety in Kurdistan, putting huge pressure on the region’s resources, which has led the United Nations to designate the situation as a level-three emergency, the highest classification of a humanitarian crisis.

348 000 migrants by sea – UNHCR

SAPA, News 24, 10 December 2014

A global total of 348,000 migrants have embarked upon dangerous sea journeys to escape conflicts or economic hardship so far this year, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday. Nearly 4,300 of them have died during those journeys, the Geneva-based body said, meaning that boat migrants face a more-than-1-per-cent chance of losing their lives during sea crossing. In the Mediterranean – which, in the wake of conflicts in Syria, the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Libya, has become the most popular sea route for asylum seekers and other migrants – there were 207,000 crossings. The figure is three times as high as the previous known record of 70,000 recorded in 2011 at the height of the Libyan crisis. There was also a record number of reported deaths that year – 3,400. Other major routes with significant death tolls include the Bay of Bengal with 540 victims, as well as the Horn of Africa, where at least 242 perished in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.


Rich nations to take 100 000 Syrian refugees

Katie Nguyen, News 24, 10 December 2014

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that Western governments had heeded a call to take in more Syrian refugees from neighbouring countries and estimated that, in all, more than 100,000 places would be offered in the coming months. UNHCR, which wants to resettle 130,000 Syrians outside the region by the end of 2016, said the figure includes 62,000 places that have already been pledged by countries such as Germany and Sweden. The outcome was criticised by aid agency Oxfam, which said Western states could have done more. Since anti-government protests in 2011 spiralled into civil war, more than 3.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees in the region, with neighbours such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey bearing the brunt of the emergency. Faced with overwhelming numbers, Syria’s neighbours have started restricting access to people fleeing the conflict.

Things fall apart as Zambia tries to elect a new president

Zarina Geloo, Mail & Guardian, 01 December 2014

After weeks of acrimony, shadow boxing and, at times, violent sparring, the Patriotic Front (PF) finally agreed to hold a general conference to elect its new president and candidate for the January 20 presidential by-election. But things are beginning to unravel. One faction has elected Defence Minister Edgar Lungu unopposed as president because the other eight aspirants did not show up. Lungu and his supporters have since dispersed from the meeting place. He has announced that he will hold his first central committee meeting today as president of the PF, ostensibly ‘firing’ Guy Scott, who is Zambia’s acting president. But the team led by Scott and the other eight presidential aspirants have stayed on and refused to accept the results, saying that the vote was illegally conducted and that the ‘real’ general conference was ongoing and would hold elections today.

Nigeria’s ‘Boko Haram attacks Maiduguri and Damaturu’

BBC News, 01 December 2014

Suspected Boko Haram militants have struck in two state capitals in north-east Nigeria, with suicide attacks by female bombers in Maiduguri and a raid on a police base in Damaturu. At least five people were killed in the twin blasts at a crowded market in Maiduguri, police said. In Damaturu, explosions and gunfire were heard as militants rampaged through the city, residents said. Boko Haram has vowed to create an Islamic state in areas it controls. The blasts at Monday market in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno, were caused by ‘two girls’, witness Mallam Muhammadu told Associated Press. At least 32 people were wounded in the explosions, a source at the local hospital told the BBC Hausa service. Confirming the attacks, police spokesman Gideon Jibrin told the AFP news agency that five people had been killed, and not 10 as initially thought.


Al-Shabab massacres non-Muslims at Kenya quarry

BBC News, 02 December 2014

Somali militants have killed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers near the north Kenyan town of Mandera.

The attackers from the al-Shabab group shot the non-Muslims dead after separating them from Muslims, residents said. There is growing concern in Kenya about security in regions bordering Somalia after a spate of attacks. President Uhuru Kenyatta, who summoned top security officials, is to address the nation on TV later on Tuesday. The attack on the quarry workers took place around midnight on Monday. Witnesses said the victims were caught after midnight, while sleeping in their tents at the quarry in Kormey, 15km (nine miles) from Mandera town. A driver who visited the scene of the attack, Ali Sheikh Yusuf, told the BBC most of the victims appeared to have been lined up, and shot in the head, at close range.


Heavily pregnant refugees ‘fainted after bus air-conditioner turned off’

Australian Associated Press, The Guardian, 03 December 2014

The air-conditioning on a bus parked at a Darwin detention centre was turned off after two heavily pregnant refugees refused to get off, causing them to faint, a refugee advocacy group says. Adnan, the husband of one of the women, alleged this was done as the bus sat in high Northern Territory temperatures. Hussein, the husband of the other pregnant woman, collapsed and was taken to the medical centre in the Wickham Point facility, Rintoul said. The refugee advocate disputes the timeframe for the end of the standoff, saying the two pregnant women had been ‘dragged off the bus’ between 5.30pm and 6pm on Monday, rather than Tuesday morning as reported. The lawyer acting for the couples could not confirm the claims. Adnan alleged he was physically restrained by four guards as his wife, Maryam, was taken off the bus, and said he was not reunited with her and his son until Tuesday night.


Four asylum seekers on Manus sew lips together as part of mass hunger strike

Ben Doherty, The Guardian, 04 December 2014

Four asylum seekers detained on Manus Island have sewn their lips together in protest at being held on the island for more than a year, while brawls and protests have broken out in a number of places.

Unrest has seized both the Delta and Oscar compounds over the last 72 hours. The four men – two Iranian, one Iraqi and one Lebanese – who have sewn their lips together in Oscar compound, have been joined in their protest by about half of the compound who are refusing all food as part of a mass hunger strike, workers on Manus Island told Guardian Australia. At least one protester has been forcibly removed to ‘Chauka’, the secret solitary confinement unit for ‘misbehaving’ asylum seekers, while up to five of the hunger strikers have been removed for medical treatment for dehydration.

Sources from the island say there is a sense of desperation among the more than 1,000 men in detention. Some have been there 17 months and do not know the status of their refugee claim. Only 10 have been given refugee status and told they will be allowed to resettle on PNG. Others have recently been told they will be deported to their home country while most are still waiting to learn their future from PNG immigration officials. The Senate was due to receive a parliamentary inquiry report into violence on Manus on Wednesday, but the tabling of the report has been delayed. Immigration minister Scott Morrison has not yet responded to questions from Guardian Australia.


Somalia PM Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed to resign after parliament vote

BBC News, 06 December 2014

Somalia’s Prime Minister, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, has accepted a parliament vote asking him to resign. In a session on Saturday, 153 members voted to oust Mr Ahmed, with 80 voting for him to stay.

Correspondents say the vote is part of a political battle between Mr Ahmed and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud which has crippled the government. Security has improved in the country in recent years but the government remains weak and largely ineffective. Various armed groups have been battling for control of Somalia since President Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group has been responsible for a string of suicide attacks in Somalia which have left hundreds dead.


Yemen migrant boat carrying Ethiopians sinks killing 70

BBC News, 07 December 2014

A boat carrying African migrants has sunk off Yemen’s western coast, killing 70 people, Yemeni officials say. The boat, carrying mostly Ethiopian migrants, sank off Yemen’s al-Makha port due to strong winds and rough waves, security officials said. Tens of thousands attempt to cross the Red Sea into Yemen every year, often in rickety, overcrowded vessels. Hundreds have died making the journey. Yemen is viewed by many migrants as a gateway to the Middle East or Europe. The latest sinking occurred on Saturday, with reports of the incident emerging on Sunday. The Red Sea crossing between the Horn of Africa and Yemen is one of the world’s major migration routes, BBC Arab affairs editor Alan Johnston says. Migrants dream of finding jobs and better lives in rich places like Saudi Arabia – but they are in the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers and, too often, never reach the Yemeni shore, our correspondent adds. In October, the UN refugee agency said that more than 200 people had died at sea in 2014 while attempting to reach Yemen.


Massacres highlight complexity of violence in DRC’s Beni Territory

Habibou Bangré, IRIN News, 10 December 2014

The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified. The killings were carried out, in various episodes between 2 October and 7 December, using knives, machetes and hoes, in parts of Nord Kivu Province, on some occasions in close proximity to positions held by the national army (FARDC) and bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). Just in the 48 hours leading up to the night of 7 December, 50 people were killed in two parts of Beni Territory, according to Civil Society in North Kivu, a local organisation. The attacks have led more than 88,000 people to flee their homes, according to a statement released on 9 December by the humanitarian coordinator in DRC, Moustapha Soumare.


UN warns against delaying CAR elections

AFP, News 24, 10 December 2014

A senior UN official warned on Tuesday that postponing elections beyond August in the Central African Republic could plunge the country back into violence and chaos. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council that meeting the August deadline for the elections will be ‘extremely challenging’ and that the situation remains ‘highly volatile’ in the country, which descended into bloodletting between Christian and Muslim rebels after the March 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize. President Catherine Samba-Panza, who took over in January, has pledged to steer the country back to recovery through presidential and legislative elections. While the country has made some gains toward stability, a flareup in fighting in the capital Bangui in October raised fears that large-scale violence could return to the Central African Republic (CAR).


Nigeria: Dozens killed in double bombing in Jos

BBC News, 11 December 2014

A twin bomb attack has killed at least 30 people in a busy area of the Nigerian city of Jos. The two bombs exploded in quick succession in a marketplace near the scene of a major bombing in May. Jos has a mixed population of Muslims and Christians, and in recent years Boko Haram militants have attacked churches and mosques there. The group has killed more than 2,000 people this year. No group has said it carried out the latest bombings. The blasts targeted Jos’s commercial district, near the Terminus bus station. The first explosion took place at an outdoor food stand. The second blast hit the marketplace. Separately, police in Nigeria’s second-largest city, Kano, say they have arrested a 13-year-old girl wearing a suicide belt. On Wednesday, at least four people were reported killed and seven hurt in attacks by two female suicide bombers in Kano. Last month, more than 100 people died in a gun and bomb attack during prayers at one of the biggest mosques in the city. Boko Haram militants are suspected of being behind the attacks. The group has taken over several towns and villages in the north-east of the country, declaring the area under its control to be a caliphate. Thousands of people have died and more than a million have been forced from their homes in the group’s five-year insurgency.

Asylum seekers get cold shoulder

Jerome Cornelius and Bobby Jordan, Times Live, 08 December 2014

Asylum seekers might soon have to reveal details of their personal finances and educational qualifications to the South African authorities before their applications will be considered. The Department of Home Affairs has released for public comment a new application form that requires asylum seekers to specify how much money they have in South Africa and how they intend to support themselves here. They will also be asked about the assistance they were given in gaining entry to this country and will have to give details about their dependants outside South Africa. The raft of new questions has prompted accusations that the government wants to ‘identify more desirable types of migrants based on education, skills and economic situation’.

South Africa is obliged to protect refugees in terms of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. But concerns about the huge number of economic migrants coming into this country under the pretence of seeking asylum from persecution have led to many valid applications being turned down, experts say. Corey Johnson, advocacy officer at the Scalabrini Centre, which assists refugees in Cape Town, said the new requirements added another obstacle to an already cumbersome application process. The changes are being proposed amid growing concern about a massive backlog in the processing of asylum applications, and about there being too few staff to deal with them. The backlog at Home Affairs’ Cape Town office is about 80,000 cases. The new application form is the latest in a number of changes to visa requirements that foreigners have to meet when visiting or working in South Africa. Department of Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete did not respond to a request for comment after undertaking to do so.


‘Case delayed against officers who allegedly beat, shocked Somalian’

Francesca Villette, Cape Times, 11 December 2014

The case of seven police officers who allegedly blindfolded, beat and shocked a Somali man before throwing him in the back of a policy van was postponed in the Bellville Regional Court yesterday. The officers are facing charges of kidnapping, theft and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Mohamed Osman in November 2010. The officers have pleaded not guilty and still serve at their respective police stations. Osman is the Western Cape co-ordinator of the Somali Association of South Africa. Osman alleges that he was kidnapped and assaulted by police after he took down the license plate of a police vehicle being driven by some officers who were searching two young Somali men on the street. The trial will resume on 19 March 2015. Osman has also taken the matter to the Western Cape High Court where he is suing the minister of police for just over R840,000 in damages and alleging that he was verbally abused, forced to exit a moving vehicle and to run away from armed police.

Tags: Department of Home Affairs    LGBTI asylum    migration    Refugee issues   

Categorised in: Press Review

Content Credit: Scalabrini Centre