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Refugees Topic Updates (Spring NSDA China)

Refugees Topic Updates (Spring NSDA China)

Many refugees being forcibly returned to Syria

Jesse Markes, 2-13, 19, Washington Post, Jesse Marks is an MPhil candidate in International Relations and Politics at the University of Cambridge, and a former Fulbright visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies in Jordan and a Scoville fellow at the Stimson Center.

In July, a Russian strategy was introduced to facilitate the return of more than 1.7 million refugees to Syria, where 6.2 million people remain internally displaced. The United Nations projects the return of 250,000 refugees this year. Increasingly anti-refugee policies in western states and the reduction of Syrian refugees resettled annually from 2016 to 2018 have placed significant financial and domestic political pressures on host countries in the region. As a result, heightened domestic fears in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey of permanent integration are coinciding with a reported increase in deportations since 2017. With resettlement increasingly less possible and the domestic instability surrounding fears of naturalization, the regional and global push for the return of Syrian refugees is underway. In most instances, however, it is premature. Refugees are at risk of forced return to Syria because of shifting norms in refugee policymaking. How did this come about? The resettlement regime falls first ADVERTISING The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has three primary “durable solutions” for refugees — resettlement, integration and voluntary repatriation (return). In 2016, the first option, resettlement, came under attack amid waves of Syrian asylum seekers and refugees fleeing toward Europe. Rather than accepting refugees, many western states closed their doors and looked to neighboring countries — Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan — already hosting significant refugee populations to stem the outflows. The protracted displacement of as many as 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and upward of 1.4 million in Jordan have intensified domestic concerns about political and socioeconomic issues in both countries. Host to more than 3.6 million Syrians refugees, Turkey has a greater size and economic capacity, but the general public responded with backlash to 55,000 Syrian refugees obtaining citizenship. The politics of return rates With the door on resettlement and naturalization closing, return is becoming a priority for host states. But UNHCR and host states seem to be painting different narratives about both the manner of and justification for returns, with host states consistently reporting higher totals of returning refugees. Moreover, Russia’s Center for Reconciliation for Syria announced that about 130,000 Syrians returned last year — putting its estimated total at 315,000 since the beginning of the war. Meanwhile, the United Nations reported that it has verified about 103,000 refugees who have returned to Syria since 2015. While refugee return rates are inevitably difficult to monitor, host states may be more inclined to report higher totals to emphasize that return is plausible. Higher totals would also signal to other Syrian refugees that return is safe because thousands of others have gone home before them. Or, refugee returns are occurring more widely than the UNHCR is able to monitor and verify, bringing into question whether non-UNHCR-monitored returns were carried out in accordance with international law. Insecure conditions await Lacking the capacity to sustain protracted hosting, and enticed by Russian and Syrian government-organized avenues of return, states in the region are likely to hasten efforts to reduce their refugee populations. Indeed, Lebanon is the first. Changes on the ground have enabled Russia and Syria to push a narrative of stability and reception for refugees in protracted displacement abroad. The war has slowed in many areas with the return of government control to many formerly contested territories — most notably in the southwest — and undoubtedly, thousands are returning. But, for a large population of Syrian refugees, the fear of going home is not only predicated on the threat of renewed instability, but also fear of the Syrian government. Jordan, for example, hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled largely from regime-held areas. Many have evaded military service to protect their families. Others participated with the opposition as activists, journalists, monitors, fighters and so on; or a member of their family did. Beyond fears of government retaliation, much of Syria’s infrastructure and housing is in rubble. Returning Syrians are finding cities and towns in ruin, riddled with unexploded mines. For others seeking to return, restitution of personal property and assets remain in question as recent legal changes in Syria creates uncertainty over refugees’ claims to their property — that is, if they even have the appropriate identification papers to prove ownership, given that many left personal documents behind when they fled. The return en masse of refugees as a political strategy would provide a measure of international legitimacy to the Syrian government. It would probably signal a false narrative of trust in the Syrian government, despite widespread findings from surveys of refugees asserting the opposite. Successful repatriation depends on a number of factors. First, the choice to return to one’s country of origin should be voluntary. Second, conditions for a safe and sustainable return must be present in the country of origin. Third, the UNHCR, its partnering organs, the host country where refugees sought refuge and the country of origin must have the capacity to ensure that repatriation can be organized in a voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified manner. The key actor, UNHCR, serves as the effectual manager, providing oversight and facilitating repatriation. Any efforts to repatriate refugees bilaterally or outside the umbrella of UNHCR raise red flags because the fundamental international legal premise on which repatriation occurs cannot be ensured, monitored or enforced. Legitimate concerns from UNHCR and humanitarian monitors over the “voluntary” nature of many returns in 2018 cast doubt on whether the timing or viability of any legitimate refugee return plan is realistic. The increasing trend of returning might force the UNHCR to intervene or even increase collaboration with state actors to reduce the inherent risks.

Suppressed studies show allowing refugees in helps the economy, it doesn’t hurt it

David Beir, CATO Institute, February 12, 2019, Encouraging Findings of the Trump Administration’s Report on Refugees and Asylees

In July 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) produced the first rigorous accounting of the fiscal effects of refugees and asylees to the United States. The study gives the best insight so far into the economic assimilation of U.S. refugees into their adopted country. While the White House prohibited the official release of the report for political reasons, the New York Times in September 2017 obtained a copy of the draft. This post summarizes the report’s main findings: While refugee and asylee high school graduation rates are lower than all U.S. adults, refugee and asylee college graduation rates are slightly higher. Adult refugee and asylee full-time employment grows over time to be slightly higher than all U.S. adults. Refugee and asylee poverty declines over time to be only 1 percentage point higher than all U.S. families. Refugee and asylee median family income almost doubles over time from $32,539 to $59,433, virtually identical to the U.S. average. Refugee and asylee Medicaid-CHIP participation rate halves over time to be only 1 percentage point higher than the U.S. population. The U.S. refugee and asylee population paid $63 billion more in taxes than they received in benefits to all levels of government from 2005 to 2014. The per capita annual net fiscal effect of each refugee or asylee was positive $2,205 compared to a national average of $1,848 from 2005 to 2014. Refugees and asylees had a more positive fiscal effect because 81 percent were in their prime working years compared to just 63 percent of the U.S. population overall. Refugee fiscal benefits were more than twice as great during years when the economy was growing quickly compared to the recession years. Report Methodology: The report covers the period from 2005 to 2014 and reviews the economic effects of all refugees and asylees in the United States if they entered since 1980, when the modern refugee and asylum systems were created. This includes those refugees who later became legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens. The study includes an exhaustive list of expenditures, including entitlements, means-tested welfare, public education, corrections, refundable tax credits, health care, housing, school lunches, and much else (see. p. 15 for the full list). It excluded the cost of public goods—mainly, defense and interest payments on existing debt—since an additional beneficiary does not generally require an increase in spending on these items. HHS relied on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS-ASEC)—which asks survey respondents about their demographic characteristics, incomes, benefit use, etc.—but increased the reported amounts to account for known underreporting of benefits. Because CPS-ASEC fails to ask respondents if they entered as refugees, HHS classified respondents as refugees if they entered in a year during which most immigrants from their birth country were either refugees or asylees (who are refugees who apply in the United States). While the White House stopped the public release of the report, immigration researchers across the spectrum—including for the anti-legal immigration think tank Center for Immigration Studies—are relying on it. Findings of the Trump Administration’s Refugee and Asylee Study HHS found that refugees have higher educational attainment than many people would expect given the fact that these immigrants are not entering based on skills. Of refugees and asylees who are adults (ages 25 and over) who entered from 2010 to 2014, 28 percent had at least a college degree (Figure 1). Overall, 32 percent of all adult refugees living in the United States from 2005 to 2014 had a least a college degree, compared to 30 percent of all U.S. adults. Of course, many refugees fall on the opposite end of the skills spectrum as well, with 20 percent of all refugee adults lacking a high school degree compared to 13 percent of the overall U.S. adult population. This bifurcation between those with more education and those with less education allow refugees to fill niches at both ends of the labor market. According to HHS’s analysis, refugees are, in fact, contributing to the U.S. economy. HHS found that adult refugee full-time employment rates increase over time to eventually exceed the national average (Figure 2)—60 percent v. 57 percent. The entire population of adult refugees had about the same full-time employment rate (58 percent) as all U.S. adults during the 2005 to 2014 period. Increased employment translates into fewer refugee/asylee families living in poverty. The share of refugee and asylees living below the poverty nosedives after the first five years, and among those who entered 10 years or more ago, the poverty rate is almost the same as the national average. Overall, all refugee families still had a higher poverty rate (19 percent) than the entire U.S. population (14 percent) during this period. The effect of more employment experience also shows up in the strong increases in median family income for refugees and asylees in the United States. Their median family income almost doubles over time and after 10 years in the United States is virtually the same as the national average (Figure 4). Higher incomes translate into lower rates of means-tested benefits use. The rate of Medicaid or Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) participation among refugees and asylees, for example, halves over time (Figure 5). Among those with at least 10 years in the United States, the rate during the 2005 to 2014 period was just 3 percentage points higher than the national average. Higher incomes and greater employment results in refugees and asylees paying more taxes and receiving fewer benefits. From 2005 to 2014, refugees and asylees received $206 billion in benefits and paid $269 billion in taxes to all levels of government—a net gain of $63 billion (Figure 6). HHS also looked at the net fiscal effect of refugee families, which include U.S. citizen spouses and minor children. Once again, it concluded that over the course of the decade, refugee families contributed more in taxes ($343 billion) than they received in benefits ($326 billion)—a net of $17 billion. While the report’s period of study ended in 2014, the fiscal benefits of refugees and asylees have likely increased since then. From 2005 to 2007—when the U.S. employment situation was most comparable to today—refugees and asylees paid nearly twice as much in taxes as they received in benefits (Figure 7). The annual surplus during those years was $11 billion compared to $7 billion overall. Refugees and asylees paid slightly less taxes per capita than other Americans, but they received fewer benefits per capita from 2005 to 2014 (Figure 8). The annual net fiscal effect from 2005 to 2014 was slightly higher for refugees and asylees (+$2,182) than for the national average (+$1,848). The better fiscal effect for refugees is driven by the fact that more refugees and asylees are in their prime working years and are not children and elderly. HHS finds that 81 percent of refugees and asylees are between the ages of 18 and 64-years-old compared to just 63 percent for all U.S. residents (Figure 9). As a result, governments spent far less on K-12 public education and Social Security benefits for refugees and asylees, on a per capita basis, than the national average (see Figure 8). While the federal government runs a considerable deficit—nearly $1 trillion—public goods like defense spending and interest on the debt are greater than this deficit. Each new person generally requires no increase in spending on public goods (while they do require an increase on other items like Social Security or food stamps). This means that it is possible for the government to spend more than it takes in, but the marginal effect of each additional person to remain positive. Conclusion The Trump administration’s analysis is the most detailed accounting of the cost and benefits of refugees and asylees in the United States so far. While it has several important limitations driven by the availability of the data, the results are positive. Refugees and asylees not only contribute to the economic health of their new country but increase their economic contributions considerably over time. The Trump administration should permit its authors to finalize the report and publish it.

Trump dismantling the world’s refugee regime

Rachel Ida Buff, February 11 19,   How President Trump is dismantling the world’s refugee regime Rachel Ida Buff teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is author, most recently, of “Against the Deportation Terror: Organizing for Immigrant Rights in the 20th Century.” Her next project is titled “Terms of Occupancy: What We Talk About When We Talk About Migration.”

February 11 The prolonged political showdown over an unpopular border wall is unlikely to end with a green light from Congress for concrete or steel-slatted construction. But the media shenanigans and xenophobic rhetoric associated with this conflict have come close to completing the decades-long collapse of a crucial linguistic distinction: that between refugees and migrants. Refugees are entitled to broad protections under both domestic and international law, protections the Trump administration does not want to afford to caravans of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Under U.S. law, asylum seekers who enter the country and claim a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their nations of origin are entitled to a hearing in immigration court. Those who cannot claim asylum are treated as undocumented migrants, often deported or turned back at the border. What is at stake in the manufactured crisis about the caravans is nothing less than an international system by which refugees and asylum seekers are granted safe harbor. ADVERTISING As the Trump administration increasingly treats asylum seekers as undocumented migrants, it disregards international conventions governing the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Increasingly, all those arriving at borders and ports of entry are treated as “illegal aliens,” with little recourse or access to rights. As the refugee regime that has developed over the past 75 years collapses, people fleeing horrific conditions are met by punitive, zero-tolerance immigration enforcement, leaving them with no good option. In 1951, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Convention in Geneva defined the term “refugee” and stipulated both refugee rights and the obligations of signatory nations toward them. A central principle of the “Convention and Protocol Related to the Status of Refugees” was the idea of non-refoulement: Someone claiming persecution in their nation of origin was not to be returned there. The convention endorsed the rights of families to remain together and the protection of minor children traveling alone in the “Contracting States” that signed the document. While this regime offered up new protections for refugees, there was a catch. The narrow definition of refugee only applied to a small percentage of migrants. In fact, the ascendance of this refugee regime left other migrants with far fewer claims and protections. The UNHCR also hesitated to fully define the rights of asylum seekers, or those who enter a country without official refugee status and claim a “credible fear of persecution” if forced to return to their nations of origin. Moreover, because of perceived conflicts between national sovereignty and international law, the high aspirations articulated by the UNHCR were not widely enforced and still aren’t today. Initially, the United States did not sign on to UNHCR refugee protocols. In fact, American policy remained inhospitable toward all migrants, except those fleeing political persecution in communist countries. In the 1950s, at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s request, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) initiated “Operation Wetback”: a vast, militarized exercise intended to “clean up” the U.S.-Mexico border. The operation fomented deportation sweeps far from the border, ultimately deporting between 2 and 3 million people and terrorizing Mexican American communities in the Southwest and California. While it failed in stopping undocumented migration, the deportation operation succeeded in widely publicizing the racialized term “illegal alien,” conflating it specifically with Mexican unauthorized migrants. At the same historical moment that the United States granted refugee admissions for those fleeing communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the INS demonized Mexican migrants as unwanted “aliens.” These two linguistic poles have defined the debate over migrants in the United States ever since. The term “refugee,” allowing harbor for some migrants, afforded protections denied to those referred to by the racialized term “illegal alien,” which authorized ongoing campaigns against the presence of others. The Refugee Act of 1980 created a process by which those already in the country could seek asylum and gain recognition as refugees. It also established 50,000 as a “normal” annual flow of refugees, with the option for admitting additional numbers by presidential request. By placing a cap on the number of refugees, this law incentivized defining refugee narrowly, and branding others fleeing bad situations as illegal immigrants. An influx of asylum seekers from Central America and Haiti in the 1980s exposed the contradictions of the refugee regime implemented by the 1980 law. Thousands fled the brutal, U.S.-backed Duvalier regimes in Haiti and the bloody civil wars fomented in part by the CIA in Central America, but few were granted asylum. The Reagan administration saw these people as undocumented migrants and worked to interdict boatloads of would-be asylum seekers at sea, returning them to Haiti regardless of their stated fears. Others were interned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If the United States couldn’t keep these asylum seekers out, it would incarcerate them, treating them as criminals because they ventured to seek safe harbor. In 1983, a Mass Immigration Emergency Plan required that 10,000 beds be available to detain migrants. The impulse toward detention grew ever more intense, in part because of the rise of private detention companies like Corrections Corporation of America with vast lobbying power. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Individual Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996 institutionalized the detention of all asylum seekers while they await their appearance in immigration court. In the 21st century, the association of refugees with “terror” has expedited the collapse of the post-1951 refugee regime. The Trump administration’s implementation of Executive Order 13769, a controversial ban on travelers, refugees and migrants from seven mostly Muslim nations, continues this collapse, equating migrants and refugees as equally threatening and undesirable and upending prior distinctions between these two terms. To the Trump administration, almost all migrants belong in the “illegal alien” basket, no matter what their reasons for migrating. The collective organization of successive, multinational caravans since 2016 indicates that the Trump administration’s conflation of asylum seekers with undocumented migrants may be creating new grounds for solidarity among those seeking to enter the United States. This humanitarian crisis emanates from the violence and immiseration wrought by decades of U.S. intervention and trade policy. Caravans of Central American, African, European and Caribbean asylum seekers have walked together, across Central American and Mexico, to the U.S. border. Describing themselves as refugees and migrants, caravan members defy legal distinctions to claim their human rights to migration and safe harbor. The current demonization of asylum seekers undermines an international refugee regime that is over a half-century old. As the terms used to define their status shift, the lives of thousands of people hang in the balance.

Cameroon blocking refugees

Philip Obaji, February 12, 2019, Cameroon Used to Welcome Refugees. Now It Forcibly Expels Them. Philip Obaji Jr. is a journalist based in Nigeria. His work on jihadi groups, terrorism, human trafficking, and Africa has appeared in numerous publications including the Daily Beast, the Hill, Equal Times, Refugees Deeply, IRIN News, and the Guardian

There was a time when Cameroon was considered to be one of the most generous refugee-hosting countries in the world. For almost 40 years, it took in hundreds of thousands of refugees who had fled persecution and armed conflicts in countries such as the Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria. But this was prior to the emergence of the militant group Boko Haram, a sect operating mostly in Nigeria whose uprising has led to the death of more than 20,000 people and forced millions from their homes as its members seek to establish an Islamic state in the Lake Chad region, which encompasses northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, northern Niger, and western Chad. Now, with thousands of Nigerians fleeing the jihadis and crossing into Cameroon, which itself is struggling to keep the same fighters at bay, much of that generosity has faded away. Cameroon is facing its own internal crisis, which seems to be shaping its actions toward outsiders. Since the government repressed peaceful protests in 2016 by Anglophone Cameroonians against perceived marginalization, more than 180,000 people have been displaced. Repatriation of Nigerian refugees has increased as the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has escalated—with over 10,000 refugees and asylum-seekers forcibly returned in the past 13 months.Repatriation of Nigerian refugees has increased as the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has escalated—with over 10,000 refugees and asylum-seekers forcibly returned in the past 13 months. Trending Articles Thai Politics Has a Princess but No Storybook Endings With elections coming, the junta still fears the specter of Thaksin Shinawatra. Powered By In recent weeks, the situation has gotten worse. In one of its biggest clampdowns on asylum-seekers, Cameroonian authorities on Jan. 16 began the forceful repatriation of some 9,000 Nigerian refugees who fled across the border days before in search of safety after militants attacked the border town of Rann in Nigeria’s Borno state, killing at least 14 people. Most of the returned refugees are reportedly women, children, elderly, or sick. They face an uncertain future back home in Rann; the militants who raided the town recently went on a rampage by targeting civilians, humanitarian facilities, and military installations. Cameroon’s decision to forcibly repatriate refugees and leave them exposed to such violence is a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which forbids countries from sending refugees or asylum-seekers back to countries where they face real danger. The law constitutes the cornerstone of the 1951 Refugee Convention, of which the Cameroonian government is a signatory. When the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria began in 2009, many Nigerians fled into CameroonWhen the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria began in 2009, many Nigerians fled into Cameroon, but it was not until early 2013 that the number of Nigerians fleeing to the country became significant. In June of that year, the Cameroonian government, which at that time still acted with great benevolence, responded by setting up a refugee camp able to hold 20,000 people in the northern town of Minawao and allowing asylum-seekers to travel there. But as the conflict escalated in Nigeria, tens of thousands sought refuge in Minawao, leading to overcrowding. The number of refugees in the camp rose to nearly 100,000 in mid-2015, causing authorities to begin to forcefully return some residents to their home country. Since then, at least 100,000 Nigerians have been deported from Cameroon, with a high of 76,500 asylum-seekers being pushed back in 2016, according to Human Rights Watch. About 110,000 people are still taking refuge in the country, with 90,000 of them at the camp in Minawao. Efforts to protect refugees and asylum-seekers from being forcefully returned home led to the signing of the Tripartite Agreement for the Voluntary Repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon by the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon alongside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at a ceremony in Yaounde on March 2, 2017. But it didn’t take long for Cameroonian authorities to violate the agreement. That same month, more than 2,000 people were returned to Nigeria. Between April and May 2017, about 13,000 more were deported from Cameroon—with most of the deportations happening arbitrarily. Cameroonian soldiers have illegally and forcibly returned thousands of Nigerian refugees to the same volatile areas they fled.Cameroonian soldiers have illegally and forcibly returned thousands of Nigerian refugees to the same volatile areas they fled. The country’s soldiers have mistreated, tortured, and abused many of these refugees and asylum-seekers in the course of their forced journey back home. Last July, six Nigerian asylum-seekers, among them three children, who were being forcibly returned to the Nigerian border town of Banki in a Cameroonian army truck, were killed in a blast in the far north of Cameroon after their vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device in the town of Homaka. The incident is just one of many tragedies that have befallen the refugees and asylum-seekers forced out of Cameroon in military trucks. The threats are even greater back in Nigeria. Since September 2017, more than a dozen refugees who returned to Nigeria have lost their lives, in most cases killed by Boko Haram foot soldiers during bomb attacks in internally displaced persons camps, where many of them end up after deportation. At least 11 refugees were slaughtered during a blast in the Banki camp in September 2017. Four Nigerians suspected to have returned from Cameroon were killed in a second Boko Haram attack in the camp at the end of June 2018. Others have died of severe malnutrition and illness made worse by the poor living conditions in camps. READ MORE Soldiers of the 21st Motorized Infantry Brigade patrol in the streets of Buea, Cameroon on April 26, 2018. The United States Can Stop Cameroon’s Brutal Crackdown Washington must not ignore atrocities against the country’s Anglophones. It should use existing U.S. laws to force an end to the violence. ARGUMENT | CHRISTIAN FREYMEYER Members of the Cameroonian Gendarmerie patrol in Omar Bongo Square in Buea, Cameroon’s majority-Anglophone southwestern province’s capital, during a political rally for incumbent President Paul Biya on Oct. 3. (Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images) Cameroon’s Paul Biya Gives a Master Class in Fake Democracy One of the world’s most experienced autocrats has clinched another seven-year term by bending the rules of the game in his direction in ways both old and new. REPORT | JEFCOATE O’DONNELL, ROBBIE GRAMER BORNO, NIGERIA – MARCH 29: Nigerian soldiers are seen after an operation against Boko Haram terrorists at a terrorist camp in Borno, Nigeria on March 29, 2016. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) Nigerian Army Chief Faces Death Threats from Boko Haram, But Says He Already Beat Them In an exclusive interview on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Nigeria’s military chief defended his military’s human rights record. PASSPORT | SIOBHÁN O’GRADY The Pulka village camp, where many of the deported refugees and asylum-seekers are living, has a population of tens of thousands. Eight years ago, there were only 30,000 people in the entire village. Now, that number has doubled as a result of the displacement crisis caused by the conflict in the northeast of Nigeria. The humanitarian situation in the village is catastrophic. “People in Pulka are getting water much lower than the minimum international standard” of at least 50 liters, about 13 gallons, for each person to use daily, said Luis Eguiluz, the Doctors Without Borders head of mission in Nigeria. “The water level in Pulka [which is below eight liters, about two gallons, per person a day] was just not enough to provide for that many people.” Human Rights Watch documented many abuses perpetrated by Cameroonian armed forces in the report, “They Forced Us Onto Trucks Like Animals,” released in September 2017. According to the report, soldiers have frequently used extreme physical violence, and some refugees and asylum-seekers “including children, weakened after living for months or years without adequate food and medical care in border areas, have died during or just after the deportations, and children have been separated from their parents.” How Cameroon moved from being a country so generous to refugees to one that violently deports them is baffling.How Cameroon moved from being a country so generous to refugees to one that violently deports them is baffling. In 2009, before anyone had ever heard of Boko Haram, Cameroon hosted 91,900 refugees and asylum-seekers, according to the UNHCR, which reported at the time that the country “does not punish asylum seekers for illegal entry, provided they come directly from a country of threat and present themselves immediately to the authorities.” Today, all that goodwill has vanished. Cameroon no longer guarantees freedom for many refugees and asylum-seekers. It instead puts them in harm’s way. Unfortunately, the Nigerian government has said little or nothing about these forceful deportations. The issue has not been taken up by candidates running for president in the country’s upcoming elections, as both President Muhammadu Buhari and his challenger, Atiku Abubakar, tend to focus their attention on the troubled economy and growing insecurity in the north. But whoever emerges victorious in the Feb. 16 vote has a responsibility to remind Cameroon of its obligations under international law when it comes to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers and meet with Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, to put an end to forcible deportations. The international community, for its part, must take more drastic action in order to force Cameroon to listen. Numerous warnings by the United Nations have clearly fallen on deaf ears, and repeating them continuously will likely bring same results. Western nations—particularly the United States—continue to offer financial and technical support to Cameroon’s military and are therefore in a position to demand changes. Washington appears to be planning to withdraw some aid, according to reports, and that is a step in the right direction. But it will take more concerted pressure. For a country that depends so much on foreign security assistance, only the threat of losing the goodwill of the West is likely to force Cameroon to change its ways.

40 million refugees now

John Schaarp, Chair of ALNAP, a global network for learning and improvement of the humanitarian system, and associate senior fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, February 11, 2019,

The world’s 40 million invisible refugees People displaced within their own countries – whether by conflict or disaster – often struggle for the same recognition and protections afforded to refugees. And yet the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement were launched 21 years ago today – the creation of Sudanese diplomat Francis Deng, then the UN’s special rapporteur for IDPs, or internally displaced persons. The 30 principles built on pre-existing instruments such as the Geneva Conventions, the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – all of which ratifying governments had committed to. They reminded national governments of certain absolute obligations towards their citizens, those laid down in international humanitarian law. More than two decades later, governments continue to routinely fail to implement Deng’s principles; in Africa this is despite the African Union having made them binding through the 2009 Kampala Declaration. The grossest violations of international law can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and specialised courts such as those set up for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. But when IDPs can’t enjoy basic rights found in domestic law – for example to education, health services, or to vote – it speaks to deep problems of neglect that can’t be prosecuted by international bodies. The lack of application of the guiding principles since 1998 reveals not only a lack of awareness of the needs of IDPs, but also of the inability of states to prevent and resolve the crises that force people to flee within their own country. When IDPs can’t enjoy basic rights found in domestic law – for example to education, health services, or to vote – it speaks to deep problems of neglect that can’t be prosecuted by international bodies. When the principles were born, there were 20 million IDPs; by the end of 2017 there were twice as many – a rise driven by protracted conflicts and a growing number of extreme weather events. Those who flee from armed conflicts often remain IDPs for many years, while those who are forced away because of storms, floods, or earthquakes tend to return sooner. So what can be done to improve the lives of the world’s 40 million IDPs? In a 2018 analysis for the 20th anniversary of the guiding principles, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) in Geneva – established at the initiative of the Norwegian Refugee Council in the year the principles were launched – identified three urgent issues for further action. First, the economic consequences of internal displacement need to be properly assessed. In terms of shelter, healthcare, and food, these can be estimated with relative ease, but the more intangible societal burden – lost opportunities in education, investments and revenue, psychological trauma, and social fragmentation – is harder to pin down. IDMC has begun a new programme to estimate these costs, so that the real burden to societies becomes known and can be factored into national plans and budgets. Second, access to data on existing levels and new flows of internal displacement must be improved. IDMC uses a broad range of formal and informal sources for its statistics – sources often afflicted with considerable uncertainty as states don’t always register the correct information or make data public. Discover More Madagascar measles, Venezuela aid, and a dodgy data deal: The Cheat Sheet Finally, and most importantly, governments in the affected countries must be encouraged and supported to take more responsibility for their IDPs. Much has happened in terms of protection and assistance during displacement, but a great deal remains to be done to prevent flight in the first place, and to enable safe return and reintegration. Many states are not taking these responsibilities as seriously as their citizens have the right to expect. And some are committing, or allowing, grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. Displacement has, in some countries, been enforced, or even prevented, through siege. And several fragile and conflict-prone states lack the capacity to even implement the principles. In Somalia, for instance, IDPs find their way to cities when violence, drought, and floods undermine their rural livelihoods. The largest increase in 10 years occurred in 2017 – there are now 600,000 IDPs in Mogadishu. In the absence of legislation and regulations, they live under great insecurity, especially in the capital. As the value of land where they have settled rises in the growing economy, they risk being forcibly evicted by landowners belonging to a different clan than their own. They are extremely vulnerable, mostly living in poor shelters without access to clean water, healthcare, or education. In Ethiopia, the new government has created political openings and the beginning of reconciliation with Eritrea. But communal tensions over access to natural resources in 2018 led to violence between ethnic groups in the south of the country that created the largest number of new IDPs anywhere in the world. Hundreds of thousands of these people were being assisted with relative efficiency by the authorities but were forced to return towards the end of the year under the threat of having assistance taken away – even though the conflict in the south remained unresolved. Many Ethiopian IDPs have ended up in a new cycle of precarious displacement with little hope of rebuilding their livelihoods. Last year’s global compacts on migration and refugees, for instance, didn’t even try to address the IDP issue. In Syria, a degree of repressive stability is emerging as the regime regains control of large parts of the country. But 2.9 million new IDPs were added in 2017 – many finding themselves in Idlib province, which remains under threat from a new military offensive. Syrian IDPs are often hard to reach for humanitarian actors struggling to gain access to areas both under and outside of government control. For a long time the regime failed to properly acknowledge the existence of IDPs. Both the regime and rebel groups used besiegement as a war strategy – to force the population onto its knees by depriving them of food, water, and medical assistance. A new law gives the authorities the right to seize land and property for redevelopment, only providing compensation if the owner is able to prove ownership within one year – this will hit refugees and IDPs hard and make return and reintegration more difficult. States can always invite the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, or other agencies into their countries to assist IDPs, but many are reluctant to commit to anything that they see as a challenge to national sovereignty – especially anything that is legally binding. Last year’s global compacts on migration and refugees, for instance, didn’t even try to address the IDP issue. The number of people forced to flee violence and the impacts of climate change is growing. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement should be increasing their chances of receiving protection and assistance. But they need to be respected and, without the political will to prevent people from being forced to leave their own homes in the first place, they are insufficient.

Mexico’s humanitarian visas do not solve

Levi Vonk, 2-9, 19,
Foreign Policy, Mexico Isn’t Helping Refugees. It’s Depriving Them of Their Rights, Levi Vonk is a freelance journalist and a doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley

GUADALUPE, Mexico—José was riding on the top of a train car in the Mexican state of Veracruz, when bandits derailed the train. Somehow, he was thrown clear, but his two travel companions were partially crushed in the wreckage. José tried to stanch their bleeding by pressing his T-shirt into their wounds, but he was afraid to call for help. As a migrant who had entered Mexico without the proper documents, he worried that Mexican police might deport them instead of assisting them. Trump’s son-in-law has become known as a deal-maker. But with the Palestinians, his approach appears to be take it or… Powered By After 15 hours, a nun from a nearby church spotted José and his friends by the train tracks. She rushed them to a local hospital, where doctors diagnosed both of his friends with acute blood loss and several broken bones. Luckily, they survived. Fortunately for José, the crash was near Las Patronas—a shelter in the town of Guadalupe, La Patrona—that aids migrants who are injured during their journeys. Shelter directors gave José and his friends a place to sleep and helped them apply for “humanitarian visas”—a legal document in Mexico available to “foreigners who are victims of natural disasters or violence.” On the surface, humanitarian visas seem a wise and generous policy.On the surface, humanitarian visas seem a wise and generous policy. They ostensibly allow victims to remain in Mexico legally for one year and travel freely, giving migrants the time necessary to recover and regain control of their lives. But humanitarian visas may not be as humanitarian as they appear—and they offer virtually none of the protections awarded to refugees. In 2013, Mexico only granted about 250 humanitarian visas to migrants. But in 2014, Mexico created a new immigration program known as the Southern Border Plan, which seeks to detain and deport as many Central American migrants as possible before they can reach the United States. Dozens of new immigration checkpoints were set up in southern Mexico, splintering historic migration routes and forcing migrants to spend weeks or even months trekking through jungles and deserts, dangerous spaces often patrolled by gangs and drug cartels. As a result, the numbers of migrants attacked, kidnapped, and killed in Mexico skyrocketed, and so did the number of humanitarian visas granted. In 2016, 3,632 migrants received humanitarian visas, a more than tenfold increase. Luis, a 16-year-old migrant from El Salvador, packs his bags outside of Mexico’s National Migration Institute in Mexico City in June 2015. He had just received a humanitarian visa for being attacked by a group of federal policemen. When asked what he would do with it, he said, “I don’t know, maybe go to the United States. They told me I can’t work in Mexico with this document. So if I’m going to work illegally, I might as well make dollars, not pesos.” (Levi Vonk for Foreign Policy) Here lies the bureaucratic strangeness of humanitarian visas: Migrants only qualify if they suffer extreme violence, but this violence is largely a product of the Southern Border Plan and is often at the hands of the Mexican police and immigration agents themselves. Essentially, Mexico has created a system where the only way many migrants can gain legal status is through physical suffering. “Mexico has been facing increased pressure by the United States to accept more asylum applicants,” said Maureen Meyer, the director of Mexico and migrant rights research at the Washington Office on Latin America. “And to house U.S.-bound asylum-seekers until they have their immigration hearing north of the border.” Over 400,000 migrants cross Mexico’s southern border each year. Many flee poverty, government instability, and gang violence in Central America, which led to a 311 percent asylum request increase in Mexico between 2014 and 2016. The Southern Border Plan has been an attempt to slow this mass exodus at the behest of the United States, but under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which outlines the internationally accepted principle of “non-refoulement,” Mexico is still required to give each person fleeing the opportunity to apply for asylumThe Southern Border Plan has been an attempt to slow this mass exodus at the behest of the United States, but under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which outlines the internationally accepted principle of “non-refoulement,” Mexico is still required to give each person fleeing the opportunity to apply for asylum before being deported, so as to determine that “a refugee… not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.” But Mexico’s national asylum office, commonly abbreviated in Spanish as COMAR, has struggled to keep pace with the surge in recent applications. Reviewing applications is expensive, and actually granting asylum is exponentially more so. Asylum recipients theoretically qualify for social services such as housing and health care, adding stress to the country’s chronically underfunded infrastructure. Once migrants secure a humanitarian visa, however, they don’t receive more support. Humanitarian visa recipients are not permitted to work, study, or receive social services. Many migrants are forced to work under the table for less than minimum wage, which is only about $4 per day in Mexico. Whereas the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees works with Mexican officials to integrate asylum-seekers into Mexican society—providing them with financial support, legal aid, and safe housing—no such programs exist for recipients of humanitarian visas. In short, humanitarian visas allow the Mexican government to claim they are ethically addressing a migration crisis while actually shirking the responsibilities of the 1951 Refugee Convention.In short, humanitarian visas allow the Mexican government to claim they are ethically addressing a migration crisis while actually shirking the responsibilities of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Humanitarian visas have in fact become a means of deterring migrants from applying for asylum, thereby denying them rights guaranteed under international law. Such a strategy is similar to the practice of the Turkish government, led by the increasingly dictatorial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of giving millions of Syrians fleeing war the bureaucratically ambiguous titles of “brothers” or “guests” in order to deny them the rights outlined in the 1951 convention. Turkey’s recent moves to stop registering new asylum seekers and its ongoing policy of sending some back to Syria has drawn international outcry from human rights organizations but has received little formal pushback from Europe, which has relied on Turkey to deter migrants from reaching its borders, much in the same way that the United States relies on Mexico to detain migrants under the Southern Border Plan. Yet Mexico’s approach has been subtler than Turkey’s. By swiftly granting humanitarian visas to migrants already waylaid in the country, Mexico can quietly divert thousands of costly asylum resettlements each year without international watchdogs even noticing. In 2016, COMAR received 8,781 asylum applications but only granted 2,722 of them, just 37 percent. However, another 3,632 migrants were given humanitarian visas. Though it is impossible to know for sure—humanitarian visa applicants are not asked why they left their home countries—it is assumed that many, if not the majority, of applicants also fled for reasons that could potentially qualify them for asylum. Still, some activists still prefer humanitarian visas over asylum. “Of course asylum is the ideal,” said Norma Romero, the director of Las Patronas, who helped José apply for his visa. “But the process is complicated, expensive, and usually lasts a year or more. And in the end most people are still denied.” By contrast, humanitarian visa applications only take about three months, and the vast majority are approved. “It’s just sign your name and get a visa,” Romero said. “Plus, humanitarian visas document assaults against migrants. So local police and politicians have to acknowledge that this violence is happening instead of just ignoring it like they usually do.” Yet this acknowledgement is wholly superficial and does not help migrants’ asylum cases. In fact, many humanitarian visa recipients are shocked to learn that they may be automatically disqualified from asylum in both Mexico and the United States. This is because asylum is structured as a “last option” of legal and humanitarian relief for those fleeing their countries under extreme duress. If a migrant has already received another form of legal status—which a humanitarian visa technically is—then, in the eyes of international refugee law, they are no longer vulnerable enough to qualify for asylum.If a migrant has already received another form of legal status—which a humanitarian visa technically is—then, in the eyes of international refugee law, they are no longer vulnerable enough to qualify for asylum. José, who fled Honduras because of gang violence, was not told any of this until after his humanitarian visa was approved. “Everyone told me, ‘You can stay in Mexico’ and ‘You can get a job here,’” he said over a plate of rice and beans at the Las Patronas shelter. “But that’s not true. The only work I can find is cutting sugar cane outside of town, but I don’t get paid hardly anything because I’m a migrant.” Without steady income, migrants like José often settle in the poorest and most dangerous areas of town, where they are quickly singled out by gangs, cartels, and corrupt policemen. Eventually, many become fed up and set off toward the U.S. border once again. A mural in Las Patronas pictured here in July 2018 depicts Doña Leonidas, the founder of the migrant shelter, encircled by the train La Bestia, which migrants attempt to ride through Mexico to the United States. The inscription reads: “The route where the paths of courage and love converge.” (Levi Vonk for Foreign Policy) Migrant activist Julio Cesar Campos, while describing the uptick in humanitarian visas in 2015, told me, “We call it la visa vete [the ‘go away’ visa], because it’s clear the Mexican government doesn’t actually want to support these people.” This is similar to the unsanctioned custom in Greece and Italy, where officials feign strict border security but look the other way in practice, knowing that most refugees wish to only pass through in order to settle in wealthier northern European countries such as Germany or Sweden. Even if humanitarian visa recipients do stay in Mexico, the visa expires after one year, leaving migrants without documents again.Even if humanitarian visa recipients do stay in Mexico, the visa expires after one year, leaving migrants without documents again. Visa recipients are eligible to renew their visas, but the paperwork is complex and time-consuming, and applicants have to resubmit documents from their home countries—nearly impossible tasks for a population that is usually fleeing for their lives and has, on average, an elementary school education. It is unclear if Mexican officials at COMAR or the National Institute of Migration, which grants humanitarian visas, are aware of the large-scale suffering that humanitarian visa recipients face in Mexico. No government officials responded to inquiries for this story. There is one bright spot: This past November—after Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, faced international pressure to accommodate the most recent caravan that arrived in Tijuana—the Mexican government began granting caravan members work permits in conjunction with their humanitarian visas. It is unclear, however, if the vast majority of Central American migrants in Mexico who did not march with the caravan will receive the same treatment. Caravan members I spoke with were also confused as to what rights a humanitarian visa would grant them, and several had no idea that it may actually disqualify them from asylum. Even from the perspective of nativists such as U.S. President Donald Trump, it is hard to see humanitarian visas as anything other than a ticking time bomb. By delaying migrants in Mexico, marginalizing them, and forcing them to live in poverty, humanitarian visas will only make a huge swath of migrants more desperate to eventually cross into the United States. Today, José is uncertain about his future in Mexico. “I don’t make enough money to live here,” he said. “And after a year in Mexico my visa will run out. I’ll have to go to the U.S. for a decent life.”

European refugee restrictions are creating a humanitarian crisis that is killing refugees

Sally Hayden is a journalist focusing on migration and humanitarian crises, February 5, 2019,

By February 2018, Haftom had survived smugglers in the Sahara and police in Sudan. He boarded a flimsy rubber boat on the Libyan coast and spent 12 hours at sea before being caught and brought back again by the Libyan coastguard. Like tens of thousands of others who’ve gone through the same EU-approved ordeal, he was then locked up indefinitely. He died days before Christmas. Saturday marked two years since Italy, backed by the EU, did a deal to spend tens of millions of euros funding the Libyan coastguard, which intercepts boats heading for Italy and returns refugees and migrants to a war zone. While much of the justified outrage against European migration policies has been caused by the criminalisation of search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the deadliest sea route in the world, no one seems to be tracking the number of refugees and migrants dying in horrific conditions after being sent back to Libya as a direct result of EU policy. Haftom, the 32-year-old Eritrean dentist who died in detention after being sent back to Libya Haftom, the 32-year-old Eritrean dentist who died in detention after being sent back to Libya For the past six months I’ve been in daily contact with detainees in nine different detention centres who use hidden phones to reveal what’s going on at huge risk to themselves. EU leaders continue to promote the idea that arrivals in Europe and deaths at sea are dropping. But what about the untold suffering of thousands of men, women, and children, whom the EU has effectively turned away? They speak of going days without food and of drinking toilet water to survive. Some have stopped speaking, forgotten their families, sit crouched in a corner and wet themselves from trauma, according to witnesses. Couples are separated – some of the roughly 640 detained children are held with their mothers, though those over 14 are kept in adult cells. In one centre, Triq al Sikka, infected detainees are locked with others in a dark room and have been repeatedly left without tuberculosis medication, in one case for more than a month. In October, a 28-year-old Somali set himself on fire there after saying he saw no other way out. EU support for Libya contributes to ‘extreme abuse’ of refugees, says study Read more Advertisement In early January dozens of refugees and migrants, brought by the coastguard to the Libyan port city of Khoms, were forced back to smugglers by Libyan guards in Souq al-Khamis detention centre. They now risk torture if they can’t raise an the $5,000 ransom that has already been demanded. More than 40 detainees in just one centre say they’ve been imprisoned for more than a year, and have no hope of help any time soon. The UNHCR says it’s aiming to evacuate 2,500 people in 2019 but needs countries to step up and offer resettlement places. Even if this target is met, it will be a small percentage of the 15,000 who were returned to Libya last year after trying to cross the Mediterranean. Abdulaziz, the Somali who set himself on fire in October Abdulaziz, the Somali who set himself on fire at the Triq al Sikka detention centre in October Last month, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released reports condemning the conditions refugees are being held in. On Friday, more than 50 major organisations, including Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders, wrote an open letter, saying: “EU leaders have allowed themselves to become complicit in the tragedy unfolding before their eyes.” Six months ago, any pretence that Libya was a safe place to send refugees back to crumbled completely, when the worst fighting in years broke out in the capital, Tripoli. Refugee detainees were ousted from some detention centres and made to move weapons or pack bullets. In September, Haftom was one of hundreds of refugees and migrants transported to a detention centre in Zintan, far outside the capital, ostensibly because it was more secure. At least eight people have died at that centre since mid-September, according to detainees. One was a five- or six-year-old boy who died from appendicitis because he didn’t get the necessary medical care. Dinghies with 170 migrants on board missing in Med Read more “It is hard to talk about this life. I am also losing hope. Please share this to the world and tell [them] our problems before many lives [are] gone,” an Eritrean still imprisoned there messaged me this week. Though friends believed Haftom developed a heart problem, it wasn’t clear what the final cause of his death was. “So many people [are] getting ill,” messaged his fellow detainee. “They take them and [put] them in one house and they don’t give them any medication.” The Eritrean also said Haftom knew he had reached the end. “Everyone in here [thinks that] if he gets sick. No one is thinking that they are going to be OK. They are thinking only it’s our turn.”

No resettlement options for Syrian refugees now, they are trapped in Turkey

Kemal Kirişc, TÜSİAD Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe Director – The Turkey Project, Jessica Brand, Fellow – Foreign Policy, February 5, 2019, A refugee compact for Turkey?

The Syrian crisis is entering its eighth year and shows no sign of ending. More than 3.6 million Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey, which now hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide. Authors Kemal Kirişci TÜSİAD Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe Director – The Turkey Project kemalkirisci Jessica Brandt Fellow – Foreign Policy jessbrandt As the conflict in Syria continues—and as doors around the world close—neither return nor resettlement appear to be realistic, durable solutions for Syrians in Turkey. “They are here to stay for the foreseeable future,” said a former senior government official, quite bluntly. Although, according to the Turkish government, about 292,000 Syrians (as of the end of 2018) have returned to their home country, the majority of Syrians in Turkey will stay there. How the Turkish government and the international community tackle the task of integrating Syrian refugees into society—and crucially, the labor market—will go far to shape the country’s future. So too for the European Union, whose politics were upended by the sudden onset of large number of Syrian refugee arrivals in 2015. Those interested in developing new schemes should consider whether employing Syrian refugees in large-scale agricultural projects in Turkey could be incentivized by preferential trade access to European markets for products involving Syrian labor. SYRIANS AND THE LABOR MARKET IN TURKEY Developing schemes that can help move Syrian refugees into the formal economy while creating opportunities for local residents is a promising way forward. Despite the widespread misconception that refugees are an economic drain, research shows limited effects on the employment and income of workers in the countries that host them. Refugees can even become net contributors.

US no longer safe for refugees

Alex Neve, February 5, 2019,   Trump-led U.S. is not ‘safe’ for refugees

The heartbreaking absurdity of the fact that Canada continues to maintain that the United States is a “safe” country for refugees was apparent with every interview, observation or meeting I had as our six-country Amnesty International delegation moved along the U.S./Mexico border this past week. Far from being safe, it is beyond question that the frightening reality for refugees and migrants in the United States is one of unrelenting human rights violations. Rather than pretending otherwise, it is time for Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement that shuts down access to official border posts for refugee claimants crossing into the country from the United States. A look inside a volunteer-operated Padre Chava shelter for migrants – those who have yet to make their asylum claims at the border and those who have been deported back from the United States. Instead, Canada should be exerting all possible pressure on the Trump administration to end the deepening and dehumanizing assault on the safety and dignity of refugees and migrants. A safe country? Certainly not the experience of the three LGBT teens who have fled frightening violence and discrimination in Honduras and needed the protective presence of 20 international observers, including our Amnesty delegation, simply to make sure that U.S. border guards at the crossing between Tijuana, Mexico and San Ysidro, Calif., did not unlawfully turn them away as they tried to lodge their claims for asylum. They were allowed in but only after a tense standoff and threats from both U.S. and Mexican officials. They have now disappeared into the harrowing world of U.S. immigration detention. A safe country? That is most assuredly not the word that Valquiria would use. Having fled terrifying threats of violence from criminal gangs in Brazil, she and her young son were detained as soon as they made their asylum claims at the Ciudad Juárez/El Paso, Tex., border. But U.S. officials forcibly separated her from 7-year-old Abel the next day. She has not seen her son, now residing with his father in Boston, for more than 10 months and has no idea when they might be reunited. Her sobs as she described the agonizing pain of being apart from him brought all of us to tears.

Saudi refugees increasing

Tamar Qiblawi, February 3, 2019,   CNN MBS ‘clampdown’ fuels surge in numbers of Saudi refugees

Saudi refugees on the rise The number of Saudi refugees globally has increased in recent years. In 1993, the first year with recorded cases of Saudi asylum-seekers, there were seven Saudi refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). They took up residence in Jordan, Greece and Sweden. According to the UNHCR’s latest public records, Saudi refugees and asylum-seekers totaled 2,392 in 2017. Five countries hosted the majority of these Saudis: the United States (1,143), Canada (453), Australia (191), the United Kingdom (184) and Germany (147). The figure ebbed and flowed from 1993 onwards. It spiked in 2006 and tapered in ensuing years. The number of Saudi refugees rose again after the 2011 Arab Spring, which spurred unrest in the kingdom’s eastern province. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, addresses the media at a news conference in Toronto. Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, addresses the media at a news conference in Toronto. But the sharpest increase in Saudi refugees and asylum-seekers occured after 2015, the year Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then 29, emerged in the kingdom’s political scene. You have people fleeing political repression, and that’s very easily tied to MBS and what he’s done. And I think that the number (of refugees and asylum-seekers) you’re seeing here is indicative of that,” Human Rights Watch Middle East researcher Adam Coogle told CNN. Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. In comparison to war-torn countries in the region, such as Syria, the overall numbers are unremarkable. But analysts and activists point to a relatively sharp rise apparently brought on by the kingdom’s rapidly changing political environment. “Certainly the political space and the space for freedoms was already very tight, and it’s gotten much tighter over the last two years. So certainly the environment would provoke more Saudis to go abroad,” said Ali Shihabi, a supporter of Mohammed bin Salman and the founder of The Arabia Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. “But it’s statistically insignificant.” Shihabi attributed the crown prince’s tightening of political freedom as a reining in of an “increasingly polarized society” in Saudi Arabia in order to introduce “very dramatic change.” While my sister is in a Saudi jail, Mariah Carey could use her voice to help her While my sister is in a Saudi jail, Mariah Carey could use her voice to help her Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power began with his father’s ascent to the throne in January 2015. King Salman appointed the prince (known by his initials MBS) defense minister in January 2015, and later that year, to the post of deputy crown prince. MBS’s rapid consolidation of power in the Saudi royal court and government culminated with his elevation to crown prince in June 2017. He is widely considered the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler. During this period, the prince spearheaded an ambitious economic and social reform program, known as Vision 2030, aiming to wean the economy off its dependency on oil production. In addition to a series of robust privatization measures, Vision 2030 relaxed the kingdom’s ultra-conservative social code. A ban on women’s driving was lifted, male guardianship rules were loosened, and the kingdom hosted its first concerts and opened its first movie cinemas. The string of reforms earned the praise of many international pundits and Western leaders and captured global headlines. The prince’s supporters hailed the kingdom’s shake-up of a system in which clerics wielded considerable influence, and where the economy was riddled with bureaucratic bottlenecks. But even as MBS regaled global business leaders with his ambitious plans in weekslong tours of Western cities, his critics pointed to a bleaker side of the story. Authorities: Filipina domestic worker executed in Saudi Arabia Authorities: Filipina domestic worker executed in Saudi Arabia Some months after MBS’s appointment as crown prince, insider-turned-critic Khashoggi wrote his first Washington Post opinion piece from his self-imposed exile in Washington. “(MBS) spoke of making our country more open and tolerant and promised that he would address the things that hold back our progress, such as the ban on women driving,” wrote Khashoggi in a September 2017 column. “But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests.” He then added, ominously: “It anguishes me to speak with other Saudi friends in Istanbul and London who are also in self-exile. There are at least seven of us — are we going to be the core of a Saudi diaspora?” Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a news conference in Bahrain in 2014. Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a news conference in Bahrain in 2014. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of Saudi refugees and asylum seekers rose by 52% to 1,936, compared to an average year-on-year increase of around 13% over the preceding decade. In 2017, the number increased 23.55% to 2,392. The trend of Saudis seeking refuge has grown despite risks of interception by Saudi authorities. Analysts, self-exiled critics and women who have fled Saudi Arabia say that many people leaving the kingdom fear that other countries’ governments may force their return. In Kuwait, authorities said they deported a Qatari-Saudi dual national, Nawaf al-Rasheed, at the request of the kingdom. He was reportedly a resident of Qatar and was in Kuwait on a visit. In the airport in Doha, Qatar, Saudi asylum-seeker and rights activist Mohammad al-Otaibi was forcibly returned to the kingdom when he tried to fly with his wife to Norway in May, according to Amnesty International. Otaibi was presented with a list of charges including “dividing public opinion,” Amnesty International said, and eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison. “(Saudi Arabia) does not like the optics of its citizens fleeing, because it really cuts into the PR campaign to portray Saudi Arabia as modernizing and improving,” said HRW’s Coogle. There is an “acute and clear danger that Saudi asylum-seekers face,” he added. Coogle says he has been receiving requests from Saudis for asylum support letters — statements that vouch for the credibility of the asylum-seekers — on a nearly bimonthly basis since 2016. He says that requests for asylum support were less frequent before 2016. Fleeing the kingdom to seek asylum is more complicated for Saudi women, who need the permission of a male guardian to travel. Several have slipped away from their fathers and guardians while on family vacation abroad. Even then, they risk being forcibly repatriated by governments acting at the behest of Saudi Arabia. In addition to restrictions on travel, women in the kingdom cannot marry, divorce, get a job or have elective surgery without the permission of a male guardian, usually the woman’s father or husband, and sometimes their son. In 2017, young Saudi woman Dina Ali Lasloom attempted to flee her family from Kuwait. She was in transit at Manila airport on her way to Australia when she was stopped by Philippine immigration officials. Lasloom had pleaded with authorities not to deport her back to her family because she said she feared they would kill her. Later, the Saudi Embassy in Manila said she “had returned with her relatives to the homeland,” and called the case a “family matter.” Amani al-Ahmadi, Saudi Arabia human rights officer at Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, herself fled the kingdom in 2014. She said her escape was “hectic but worth it.” “We were lucky enough to be advised by the US Embassy,” Ahmadi, whose mother is a US citizen, told CNN. “Even if it was just for a layover, they knew that the chances of being hunted down in a different airport … was a very much likely possibility.” Saudi Arabia has not responded to CNN’s request for comment about the women’s cases. Saudi men have also been part of the growing numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers in the kingdom. Lawyer Taha al-Hajji arrived in Germany in 2016 among tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. He had been representing activists in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province of Qatif, where predominantly Shia protesters have, in recent years, demonstrated against perceived discrimination against their religious sect in the Sunni-ruled country. Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi refugee in Germany Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi refugee in Germany Hajji said his friends were being targeted in an arrest sweep in the aftermath of the January 2016 execution of the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other people in a single day. One day, Hajji said, police told him he was being summoned to a police station in his birthplace of Al-Hasa in eastern Saudi Arabia, a two-hour drive from his residence in Damam. “That was my first clue that I was going to be arrested. I’m used to going to police stations, as I am a lawyer, but they usually happen in the city of my work, Damam, not my birthplace,” Hajji told CNN. He deleted his emails, packed his belongings and boarded a flight to Istanbul the next day. “I went to the airport leaving my fate to God. There were three possibilities: I could be arrested, I could be stopped from traveling or I could safely leave the country.” He arrived in Istanbul and traveled to Berlin 10 days later, he said. After that, he began his life as a Saudi refugee. “Going from being a lawyer to being a refugee was a substantial change. And it barely had a real justification. There was no war. It was just a question of asking for basic rights,” said Hajji. “I don’t like to say that I am a refugee.” A week ago, Hajji’s father died and he was unable to attend his funeral. Saudi officials contacted him twice, once from the Berlin embassy and another time from inside the kingdom, asking him to return to the kingdom and promising safe passage. Both times, Hajji politely declined, he says. “If I were to return to Saudi Arabia, an arrest would be unlikely. But the situation isn’t about that. When one returns, one is under a lot of political pressure and is consistently being blackmailed,” said Hajji. “Our trust in the state is non-existent.” Saudi Arabia has not responded to requests for comment on Hajji’s case. Female exodus The Arabia Foundation’s Shihabi said he’s skeptical that women could be leaving Saudi Arabia because of current political conditions. Social reforms introduced by MBS have improved women’s conditions in the kingdom “dramatically,” he said. He said the frequency of reported women’s escapes in recent months could be due, instead, to greater willingness for Western countries to host asylum-seekers in the aftermath of the Khashoggi fallout. “There’s an appetite in the world with the demonization that’s happening to Saudi Arabia that creates more opportunities (for asylum),” said Shihabi. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at the Future Investment Initiative FII conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 24, 2018. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at the Future Investment Initiative FII conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 24, 2018. But many activists and Saudi feminist groups argue that the reforms pushed by the crown prince have reached a standstill, precipitating the urgency to flee. “There has been tremendous increase in the number of Saudi women leaving the country especially in light of MBS and the imprisonment of Saudi activists,” said Saudi human rights officer Ahmadi, who is now based in Seattle and says she is regularly contacted for advice by women seeking to flee. “I think a lot of women feel unsafe and they feel like any chances or hope that they had that things would be better has almost gone by now. It’s fight or flight. Fight is no longer there so it’s literally just flight.” For Nourah, who says she had been plotting her escape for much of her life, it was her parents choosing her future husband on her behalf that accelerated her decision. “The idea of escaping was always with me, and I used to put money aside with the idea that I would one day leave,” said Nourah. “The Saudi government keeps trying to convince me that I’ve turned myself into a homeless person,” she said. “But, in truth, my escape from Saudi Arabia was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life

Refugees strengthen the economy over the long term

Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture, January 31, 2019, The cities refugees saved

For CityLab, NAE crunched the numbers on the 11 cities that have resettled the most refugees per capita between 2005 and 2017 to gauge how welcoming these newcomers affected overall population. In almost all cases, refugee resettlement either stemmed population loss or reversed it completely. Without its new Bosnian community, for example, Utica would have faced a 6 percent population drop. With them, the city saw a 3 percent gain. But what Andrew Lim, NAE’s director of quantitative research, found surprising was that this list didn’t just include industrial towns hungry for newcomers—places like Syracuse, New York, and Springfield, Massachusetts; it also features places in the South and Sunbelt. Take Clarkston, Georgia, for example, a diverse Atlanta exurb of 13,000 (whose young mayor you may recognize from a recent episode of Queer Eye). Since the 1970s, Clarkston has taken in tens of thousands of refugees from various parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. In Bitter Southerner, Carly Berlin recently explained how it gained its nickname as the “Ellis Island of the South.” As many white residents fled farther out to more fashionable developing Atlanta suburbs, Clarkston became perfect for refugees, with its hundreds of vacated apartments and access to public transportation, a post office, and a grocery store, all within walking distance. The little city became one of now 190 designated resettlement communities across the country. Using the data NAE extracted from the Census Bureau and from the Department of Homeland Services, CityLab’s David Montgomery created this nifty chart to show exactly how much refugees boosted or stabilized population in these 11 cities: But the pipeline that funneled refugees into cities like Utica is being closed up. In 2018, the Trump administration lowered the maximum number of refugees it takes in for the third year in a row—to 30,000, which is the lowest in three decades. Resettlement agencies, from Western Kansas to Florida, are having to close shop. Cities are changing fast. Keep up with the CityLab Daily newsletter. The best way to follow issues you care about. EMAIL ADDRESS Subscribe Loading… Some places are already seeing the effects. In cities with large concentrations of refugees and refugee services, recent arrivals have been waiting for loved ones to join them. Because of the slash in numbers being accepted, some of these people have been thrust into uncertainty. Muslim refugees from countries listed in the final travel ban have been doubly hit, and may not be able to reunite with their families at all. But the effects of the Trump-era refugee policy don’t just affect individual families. In Buffalo, New York—another Rust Belt city that has been reinvigorated by new residents from refugee communities—medical clinics have closed down, housing developments have stalled, and employers have been left looking for employees, The Buffalo News reported. The loss for refugees hoping to come to America appears to also be a loss for the communities they might have called home The biggest argument for refugee resettlement is that it is a moral imperative, many advocates argue. Refugees are human beings fleeing terrible circumstances; assisting them is just the right thing to do. Foes of taking refugees—most notoriously, White House advisor Stephen Miller, who is quoted as saying that he would “be happy if not a single refugee foot ever touched American soil again” in a new book by a former White House communication aide—point to the perceived costs and dangers of taking in more. Past analyses shows little basis to that fear. In fact, cities with large refugee populations have seen drops in crime, per a previous NAE’s analysis. And according to NBC News, an intelligence assessment that included inputs from the FBI concluded that refugees did not pose a major national security threat. The Trump administration dismissed its findings. Recommended Venezuelan refugees arrive at Boa Vista Airport in Brazil. Cities Need to Welcome—Not Resist—Refugees ROBERT MUGGAH OCT 2, 2018 Carlos Rodríguez, an evacuee from Puerto Rico, and Edna López, a family advocate, at Lancaster’s San Juan Bautista Catholic church. The Hurricane Refugees of Amish Country MARTÍN ECHENIQUE FEB 28, 2018 Are Refugees Dangerous? TANVI MISRA FEB 14, 2017 Of course, it does cost federal, state, and local money to equip refugees with the tools they need to start a new life. But once they are settled, refugees open up businesses, hire locals, buy homes, and pay taxes. Muslim refugees like Patkovich have had outsized economic and demographic impacts on cities like Detroit, Michigan and Nashville, Tennessee. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) drafted a report in 2017, later obtained by the New York Times, showing that refugees brought in far more revenue from taxes, business permits, and other fees than they consumed in public benefits: “Overall, this report estimated that the net fiscal impact of refugees was positive over the 10-year period, at $63 billion.” The Trump administration rejected this report as well. This kind of wrangling over the true impact of refugees doesn’t get much traction in Utica, where refugees now make up almost a quarter of the city’s population, Bedient says. It’s not really up for debate at this point—“it’s a part of the city’s identity now,” he says.

Refugees are industrious and work to improve the economy

Albright & Miliband, 2-1, 19, Madeleine Albright is a former US secretary of state. David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and a former UK foreign secretary, Madeleine Albright and David Miliband: Welcoming refugees makes total economic sense

In 1956, András Gróf decided to start walking. At 20, he had survived Hungarian fascism, Nazi occupation, and the invasion of the Soviet Red Army. To escape the crossfire of a bloody counterrevolution, he walked from Budapest to Vienna, where he reached the offices of the International Rescue Committee (IRC): an organization founded by Albert Einstein to help people fleeing violence and persecution. The IRC put Gróf on a boat to the United States. When he arrived at Ellis Island, he took the name Andy Grove. Andy Grove went on to become co-founder and CEO of Intel. He is recognized today as one of the people who profoundly shaped Silicon Valley and the digital transformation of the world economy. The decision to admit this one refugee created immense prosperity for America. Sponsor content by WeSpeke Learning English opens new doors for billions around the world David Crystal, the British linguist and academic, has calculated that there are three times more people learning English than there are native speakers of the language. Why? How closing America's doors on refugees like me will hurt the economy How closing America’s doors on refugees like me will hurt the economy Not every person fleeing violence is the next Andy Grove, but his story represents a basic truth: when given the opportunity to rebuild their lives in a welcoming country, refugees make enormous contributions. Despite being among the most vulnerable and destitute when they arrive, the data shows that refugees work hard and quickly become net economic contributors in their host societies. In other words, resettling refugees is not just the right thing to do — it’s the smart thing, too.

Restrictions on refugees are significantly increasing, but we need to accept more refugees

Albright & Miliband, 2-1, 19, Madeleine Albright is a former US secretary of state. David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and a former UK foreign secretary, Madeleine Albright and David Miliband: Welcoming refugees makes total economic sense

Yet today, the global refugee resettlement system is breaking down. There are approximately 1.4 million refugees worldwide who are in need of urgent resettlement — either because of their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or poor health. But in 2018, just 100,000 refugees were resettled, down from the previous year’s 180,000. Countries that once proudly welcomed refugees are closing their doors. Under the Trump administration, the United States is less welcoming to the international homeless now than at any time in modern memory.

ADVERTISING inRead invented by Teads This moment demands bold action — not only to revive the bipartisan American tradition of resettling refugees, but to broaden the coalition of countries accepting the world’s most vulnerable people. Play Video White House slashes refugee cap to new low 02:16 At the IRC, we have concluded that persuading more countries to accept refugees requires a new coalition of actors — from the private sector, philanthropy and civil society — to address three constraints that hold countries back from doing more.

Refugees are net economic contributors

Albright & Miliband, 2-1, 19, Madeleine Albright is a former US secretary of state. David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and a former UK foreign secretary, Madeleine Albright and David Miliband: Welcoming refugees makes total economic sense

First, we need to address the concern that refugees represent a cost, rather than an asset. In the United States, refugees become net economic contributors — contributing more to the economy than they have taken out — after eight years. The European Commission estimates that for every euro spent on refugees, two euros is generated within five years. We can make the economic argument even more compelling. Right now, when a refugee is resettled, agency representatives decide which town or city to send them to, based on a wide range of criteria. Our partners at Stanford University have developed an algorithm to improve placement decisions by harnessing employment data — the skills and characteristics of refugees, available jobs in a community, housing costs and other local factors. If we applied the algorithm to the 25 cities where we work today in the US, the employment rate of refugees after three months could be 40% higher. In Switzerland, the algorithm yields a 70% improvement. Second, while refugees go on to become economic contributors, they require up-front investment of between $10,000 and $20,000 to cover the costs of plane tickets, the first few months of housing, and language training. In some countries, enough political will exists to resettle refugees, but not enough to win spending battles at a time of tight public finances. An answer to this problem is to borrow from the models developed in global health, climate finance, and social impact bonds, which have harnessed private finance for public good. At the IRC, we are exploring the possibility of creating a financial facility that pays for the initial cost of resettling refugees. This investment would then be paid back using the refugees’ tax contributions as they work. 30,000 Nigerians flee Boko Haram violence in two days, UN says 30,000 Nigerians flee Boko Haram violence in two days, UN says

We can use computers to find more hosts for refugees

Albright & Miliband, 2-1, 19, Madeleine Albright is a former US secretary of state. David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and a former UK foreign secretary, Madeleine Albright and David Miliband: Welcoming refugees makes total economic sense

Finally, we have to deal with the more intangible concern that refugees often face a backlash from local communities. When a refugee is resettled in Canada, a few members of the public — from a church or local organization — come together to act as their legal sponsors. This group finds housing, gets children into school, connects them with local jobs, and, like volunteers in the US, provides guidance on everything from transportation to financial literacy. Two million Canadians, or 7% of the adult population, have now sponsored a refugee.

By using a digital platform, we believe we can spread the sponsorship model, so that it is much easier to recruit sponsors, match them to refugees, and provide sponsors with the information and support needed to help refugees.

Taken together, these three solutions can change the way governments make decisions. There is no easy fix to the current global refugee crisis. But if people see that refugees will be an economic asset, at no up-front cost, with an army of citizens prepared to integrate them and support the cause, we believe the political dynamic around refugee resettlement will begin to shift — offering hope to millions of refugees around the world who carry the same dreams that Andy Grove once did.