Friday, January 27, 2012

Non-Citizen News Roundup

U.S. Atty Fein at a press conference announcing the indictment, via AP
US: Federal charges have been brought against members of the police force in East Haven, Connecticut for charges ranging from excessive force and false arrest to conspiracy. The basis for the charges is years of harassment and violence against the immigrant community.
"They stopped and detained people, particularly immigrants, without reason, federal prosecutors said, sometimes slapping, hitting or kicking them when they were handcuffed, and once smashing a man’s head into a wall. They followed and arrested residents, including a local priest, who tried to document their behavior."
So despicable, but sadly common in other small towns in America, where picking on immigrants is a pastime as well as a source of income. (As many immigrants, lacking bank account, carry large sums of cash on their person.) Let's hope this action by the Justice Dept. sends a message to police officers like those in East Haven that their racial profiling and bullying will no longer be tolerated. 
NY Times: Police Gang Tyrannized Latinos, Indictment Says Feds Indict 4 East Haven cops in racial profiling abuse case, more may be on the way

Kuwait: 61 of the bidoon/ stateless protestors (that we discussed last week) are being imprisoned for an additional 3 weeks pending further investigations into the protests. The charges include assaulting police and instigating an illegal gathering, although the news out of Kuwait suggests if anyone turned the protests violent, it was police.
AFP: Kuwait detains Stateless Protestors for 3 Weeks

Australia: More than 50 persons in Australian detention are recognized as refugees but unable to leave due to having failed security tests. The security tests have expanded their definitions of threats in the last years, and having being classified as a threat most countries are unwilling to receive the individuals (understandably.) The refugees are not informed why they failed, nor are they accepted by their home country, leaving them in legal limbo without much hope of a resolution. As the Australian human rights violations stack up, you really have to wonder what their government is thinking.
ABC Sydney: Darwin refugees in limbo after failing ASIO tests

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kuwait: Is it legal to deport stateless protesters?

Image via
According to news coming in the past few days from Kuwait, a meeting assembled by the Central Agency in charge of illegal residents (bidoon/bedoon) has reached a decision following several weeks of protests by members of the community. The government will take "deterrent measures" against protesters, including layoffs, eviction, cancellation of naturalization cases and, most crucially, deportation. These measures will apparently be levied against those who participated in the protests, and those who plan to participate in the future. (if you're not raising an eyebrow now, go back and re-read that sentence.)

Although there are an estimated 100,000 bidoons in Kuwait, naturally only a portion of these participated in the protests, and an even smaller portion are currently in jail or under investigation for such participation. (Some 80, according to the AFP.) Even one person in jail for peaceful protest is too many, but symbolically these actions are even more important as instruments to intimidate the bidoon population and to discourage further shows of solidarity or discontent with their untenable situation. In recent weeks the protests have turned ugly, with riot police attacking protestors with tear gas and batons and government spokesmen claiming that the demonstrations have been incited by Iraqis and other "enemies of Kuwait."

Despite the tough talk, both supporters and non pretty much agree that the aim of the protests has always been to ensure citizenship and other basic rights for this population that has been living illegally for almost 4 decades, and of course I tend to believe that too, absent evidence to the contrary. It seems much more likely that bidoons were inspired to non-violent protest by Arab Spring than that they were foreign provocateurs trying to destabilize one of the most democratic regimes in the Middle East.

Regardless, it is worth asking now: under international human rights law, is it legal to deport non-citizens based on their participation in a protest? In other words, do non-citizens possess the right to assemble?

First, let's look to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 20(1) states "everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association." (Other relevant provisions for this question could be articles 6, 9, 15, and 19.) A threshold question might be whether the UDHR is binding on Kuwait. My opinion is of course "yes"- as I have stated elsewhere:
"through multiple invocations in state constitutions, international law cases, and repetition in subsequent conventions, the UDHR is regarded to be of special significance and almost certainly of an instructive character in defining what is meant in the U.N. Charter by “human rights". 
I think the UDHR has special status as evidence of international customary law on human rights. (For case law on the subject, see e.g., Corfu Channel Case (Merits), ICJ Reports (1949), Iranian Naturalization Case, 60 ILR 204 at 207,  Case Concerning the United States Diplomatic and Consular Staff in Tehran, ICJ Rep 1980, 3).

Moving more to the point, can the expansive term "everyone" really mean, well, everyone? Is a state really bound to protect the rights of non-citizens, especially when it comes to expressing discontent? Again, I would say "yes." The drafters were not shy about sprinkling universalizing terms like "all" "no-one" and "everyone" throughout the UDHR, but neither were they shy about confining rights when necessary by adding modifiers like, "within their own state." Further, the Preamble states that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world," a sentence that leaves little room for quibbling about territorial jurisdiciton.

We can look elsewhere for evidence that Kuwait must, under international law, respect the rights of stateless persons to peacefully assemble. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which Kuwait is a signatory) protects freedom of association and right of peaceful assembly in articles 21 and 22 and the right also shows up in the Migrant Workers Convention and IESCR. However, these rights are proscribed by law, and Kuwait is entitled to regulate them based on national security and public order- an argument they will likely raise to support deportation.

However, the stated intent of the protests is to gain basic human rights. If this is considering a destabilizing or threatening concept to the government, what does this say about Kuwait?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Topic around the Web

Everybody learns in different ways (or at least that's how my Algebra teacher used to console me). So while some people seeking to understand non-citizen issues may be best served by a dry and factual NGO report, others may get the picture better from an evening news piece, a politician's rant, or a short story. Here are a few interesting pieces on non-citizens that may be worth a read or a look to round out your knowledge. 

McSweeney's has a fantastic series of articles by an anonymous "Bible-college educated evangelical" Christian who decided to try out her missionary skills on a group of Somalian refugees in Portland. The resulting tales are funny and often heartbreaking, drawing a comparison between people trying to adjust to a entirely new way of life, and those among us who feel like outsiders wherever they are.
Assimilate or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers by DLM

Aleksander Hemon, author of several books about the immigrant experience including the bitter and beautiful novel "The Lazarus Project," has a piece out in Guernica Magazine this month about ethnic education in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This look at how the "ridiculous and demeaning" peace-process has played out in the classroom offers a cutting intro into a complex and fascinating subject.
National Subjects by Aleksander Hemon

Surprising Europe, a series from Al Jazeera, has some great pieces covering the experience of African Migrants in Europe. The episode below is especially salient, about undocumented migrants in Berlin and Amsterdam trying to live inside the paper maze.
Running out of Luck- Surprising Europe

And last but not least, below is a video by the Serbian NGO Praxis (whom I work with) regarding the situation of the legally invisible in Serbia.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who are Kuwait's Stateless?

Source: Arabian Business
At the end of a year dominated by a profound upswing in attention to statelessness, Kuwait's stateless Bidoons (alt.  Bedoun, Bidun) have seized the day to protest an untenable situation in their country, one that has stretched almost half a century. Not being well-informed on Kuwaiti history, I would point those interested to the following sources, which I have been following to get information on the continuing protests and legal battles.

  • As usual, Open Society is up on any emerging human rights issue seemingly anywhere, and thus this concise introduction to the Bidoon by blogger Sebastian Kohn is a good place to start.
  • Mona Kareem's blog has great coverage and links from a Kuwaiti Bidun freelance journalist/ poet.
  • And of course, for the most up-tp-date news, you can always turn to the twitter machine: try hashtags #Kuwait, #Bidoon and naturally, #Stateless
Please feel free to leave any additional good sources in the comments. Meanwhile, I offer my solidarity to the stateless Bidoons of Kuwait, and hope that the government and the Kuwaiti people will see the light before anyone else has to get hurt.