Sunday, November 15, 2009

So... what's going on in Greece and Turkey?

[Photo: Andrea Motta]
New on Greece and Turkey

Six Die in Migrant Boat Accident
Eight Afghan Illegal Immigrants Drown off Coast of Greek Island
Two recent incidents highlight the dangers that some immigrants are willing to face in order to gain access to the European Union, and the importance of heightened communication and cooperation with Turkey in dealing the EU border states. In both cases, a boat full of illegal immigrants, once with passengers from Palestine, and the other from Afghanistan, capsized in the Aegean Sea resulting in the deaths of the passengers. Both boats were carrying children.

Greece Shuts down Migrant Detention Center
Even those lucky enough to make it into Greece face grave difficulties, as this article demonstrates. A detention center on the Isle of Lesbos that had come under fire for its human rights abuses by the UNHCR was closed by Greek authorities, and its 900 inhabitants were sent to neighboring islands. The center will reopen and expect to hold roughly 150 immigrants.

Turkey Frets over EU's Illegal Immigrants
As illegal immigration increases, Greece and Turkey have become primary barriers into the EU, and the way these two countries handle illegal immigrants have huge significance: both for the EU's human rights reputation and for the potential for Turkish accession. The prime Turkish negotiator for accession, Egemen Bağış, highlighted this issue recently, claiming that it demonstrates why Turkey can be considered both a "bridge" and a "barrier" to the Middle East.

Lastly, a report by NGO's the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, NOAS and AITIMA chastises Greece for massive deportations of immigrations without assessment of their claims to refugee status, in violation of the 1951 Geneva Convention.

Clearly, as borders of Europe, Turkey and Greece shoulder a disproportionate amount of responsibility for how the European Union welcomes and treats its immigrants. However, it is crucial that Europe shows its commitment to refugee and human rights conventions by insisting that these nations respect the human rights of those so desperate for access to Europe.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Obama to tackle Comprehensive Immigration Reform Next Year

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that the Obama administration would start pushing immigration reform in the upcoming year. The plan will evidently be a "three-pronged" approach, with a re-vamped path to citizenship, a tightened interior and border enforcement system, and a pathway to legalization of the some 12 million undocumented already present in the States.

This plan is sure to be contentious among republicans (expect to get sick early of the term "amnesty") despite the fact that it mostly tracks former President Bush's failed immigration reforms. And given the massive unemployment rate, any reforms implying increased competition for jobs is bound to be unpopular. However, if the President can manage to get the once-doomed healthcare bill through both houses of Congress, is the mythical 'comprehensive immigration reform' really that far of a stretch?

More on the U.S. Immigration Debate:
Op Ed: A Bi-Partisan Blueprint for Immigration Reform
A Farewell to Lou

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Roundup

Here are some odds and ends in Migration News from the past week or so

African Unit Summit Results in Historic IDP Convention
-A recently wrapped conference in Kampala, Uganda brought about a major convention on the rights of IDPs, known now as the "Kampala Convention" (Text available in sidebar.) The African Union planned for the conference, which ended on Oct. 23rd, to address strategies and best practices in dealing with internal displacement, as well as enhance partnerships between states and work together to prevent the causes of large-scale internal displacement. According to theAU the Convention is the first of its kind in the world.

Obama Lifts AIDS Immigration Ban
-On Friday, Pres. Obama lifted a U.S. travel and immigration ban on people infected with HIV or AIDs. The ban has been in place 22 years and put the US in the company of only a handful of other states that had such bans, including Libya, Russia, South Korea and Armenia.

UNHCR Human Trafficking Event Highlights Victims
-A Conference hosted by the UN last week hosted former victims of human trafficking from a variety of different backgrounds and told some of their appalling stories. Particularly jarring was the accusation by one former victim that some US contracting firms, including KBR, were involved in a human trafficking scheme forcing Nepalese men in Iraq to work on US military bases. If true, this would follow a highly publicized case where an American KBR employee was allegedly gang-raped by her co-workers and held hostage when she threatened to go to authorities. So basically, KBR is potentially even more terrible than previously thought.

Human Rights Watch Publishes Report on Unaccompanied Migrant Youth at Paris CDG Airport
-A new report by Human Rights Watch, published last week, condemns France's system of dealing with unacccompanied Migrant youth who end up at Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport. Essentially, migrant children are treated as though they are in a "transit zone" rather than in France, and are therefore denied rights that they would normally have in France. The report, which can be found in full here, alleges that this system puts children at great risk. As researcher Simone Trollier says, "in the airport transit zone, children end up being treated like adult migrants. French authorities should stop pretending this place is not in France and grant children the protection they are entitled to."

Sri Lankans Protest Australian Immigration System
-A group of 78 Sri Lankan refugees off the coast of Australia are refusing to disembark from their ship, the Oceanic Viking, until they are granted refugee status.(See photo above.) The protesters have evidently been in limbo for several years, accepted as refugees by UNHCR, but unable to settle in either Australia or Indonesia. The stand-off comes at a time when Australia is engaged in a heated debate in how they deal with an influx of Asylum Seekers.