Tuesday, March 07, 2017

We have moved!

This blog has now moved to 

Keep on writing to us at refugeewatchonline@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More on US Immigration Ban

This piece is on the 'The disastrous ripple effects of Trump’s executive action on refugee resettlement'. For more, read on -

You can also check an interesting map, on US Immigration History here - http://metrocosm.com/us-immigration-history-map.html

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Letter - On Rohingyas by the Asian Centre For Human Rights (ACHR)

[Comments could be mailed to -  secretariat@achrweb.org ; Web site: www.achrweb.org]

 20th February  2017

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms Yanghee Lee, isundertaking a visit to various locations of the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh from today, i.e. 20th February to 23 Febuary 2017 to examine human rights violations on the Rohingyas.

In its submission to the Special Rapporteur titled"Rohingya refugees of Myanmar: Bangladesh is facilitating ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas in Arakan and indigenous Jumma peoples in the CHTs by using the fleeing Rohingyas" (http://www.achrweb.org/briefingpapers/RohingyaRefugees-BP-01-17.html), Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that while gross human rights violations against the Rohingyas must be investigated but the UN human rights mechanisms cannot be oblivious to the Buddhists of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) being made into a minority in their own land by the permanent settlement of the Rohingya refugees by the Government of Bangladesh as part of its racist policy againts indigenous peoples of the CHTs. The Rohingyas  who belong to the same stock of people as the majority Muslim population of Bangladesh have already become majority in Bandarban district of the CHTs and have been involved in grabbing the lands of indigenous Buddhists and attacks on Buddhists monks and Buddhist temples in the CHTs.

Most in the international community has taken "Symptomatic Approach" to the Rohingya refugee crisis, viewed the Rohingya refugee issue only from "Rohingya/Arakan tunnel" and have failed to conduct local impact assessment on the settlement of the Rohingya refugees on the local/indigenous communities of the CHTs. The UNHCR which has access to Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district and is required to conduct local impact assessment essentially remained a mute witness since 1992. 

1. Current influx and ACHR's findings from the field visit to Rohingya refugees at Ukhia in January 2017

The current influx of the Rohingya refugees started following the attacks on the Border Guard Police of Myanmar in Rakhine State on 9th October 2016 by the Rohingya insurgents in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reporting about “mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State”. By the end of January 2017, the United Nations was quoted of reporting influx of 65,000 new Rohingya refugees since October 2016.

From 13-15 January 2017,  researchers of of ACHR visited Rohingya refugees who had taken shelter under Ukhia Subdivision under Cox’s Bazaar. ACHR researchers found that the Rohingyas refugees are living in self-made make shift camps and have no intention to return to Myanmar in the light of the gross human rights violations and absolute lack of guarantees against non-repetition of human rights violations by the Myanmar's security forces. At the same time, the Government of Bangladesh is neither registering them nor issuing identity cards to record their origin which is indispensable for repatriation to Myanmar. There is no intention on the part of the Government of Bangladesh to repatriate the Rohingya refugees while Myanmar shamefully agreed to take back less 2,500 Rohingya refugees.

This calls of local impact assessment since influx of the Rohingya refugees from 1992.

2. From refugees to rulers: The case of the Rohingya refugees becoming effective rulers over the Bangladeshi Rakhines i.e. Marmas in Bandarban district of the CHTs 

The latest influx takes the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to about 6,00,000 i.e. upto 500,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees living outside the official camps as per UNCHR in 2014, 32,000 refugees living in the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar district as per UNHCR in 2014 and 65,000 refugees who arrived since October 2016.

Majority of these refugees settled in the CHTs. This is confirmed by the fact the national survey of the Rohingya refugees conducted by the Government of Bangladesh from 2 to 14 June 2016 focused all the three districts of the CHTs out of the six districts i.e. Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari, Chittagong and Patuakhali. Out of these districts, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachari are part of the CHTs Regional Council while two remaining districts i.e. Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong are bordering districts of the CHTs region. The Government of Bangladesh has refused to disclose the number of Rohingya refugees in these districts as none outside the Nayapara and Kutupalong camps claimed as Rohingyas.

The influx of the Rohingya refugees started in 1992 and as per the census of Bangladesh, the population of Bandarban district increased from 157,301 persons as per 1991 census to 298,120 persons as per 2001 census i.e. an increase of 90% against decadal growth rate of 17% in entire Bangladesh during the same period. In a submission under the Universal Period Review of the UN Human Rights Council, the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact claimed that over 15,000 families of the Rohingya refugees (i.e. about 105,000 persons) had been settled in Nakkhyangchari, Ruma, Lama, Alikadam and Sadar area of Bandarban district with direct support from the authorities of the Government of Bangladesh. The Marma people whose population is less than 100,000 have already been reduced to minorities.

Paritosh Chakma

Can E.U. Shift Migrant Crisis to the Source? In Libya, the Odds Are Long

This is an interesting read on how officers in the Libyan Coast Guards were trained by the Italians to intercept and rescue migrant boats near the Libyan coast before reaching international waters. Normally, if European forces intercept migrants, then they should be taken to Italy. But if Libyans pick them up from their water, then they can be taken  to Libya instead. You can find the detail of the news in - Can E.U. Shift Migrant Crisis to the Source? In Libya, the Odds Are Long

Friday, February 03, 2017

Moral Bankruptcy of Trump’s Muslim Ban

Ravi Arvind Palat
(Professor, Department of Sociology, Binghamton University. He can be reached at palat@binghamton.edu)

It is hard to think of a more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious policy than President Trump’s executive order “Protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States.” It barred the immigrant or non-immigrant entry into the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya—for 90 days except for Christian minorities. This ban applied initially also to US legal permanent residents (LPR) who were born in these countries. And it barred the entry of refugees from Syria for 120 days.

It is morally bankrupt because LPR or ‘green card’ holders are subject to most rights of US citizens including the right not to be discriminated against and the ability to serve in the military. The executive order would have banned a serving US military officer from returning to the country after fighting in one of the numerous wars the US is waging if she or he had been born in one of the seven ‘countries of concern.’ It is telling these warriors that they can shed blood for the United States but cannot enter it. Is there anything more morally bankrupt than this?

The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees of which the US is a signatory obligates countries to take in refugees from wars on humanitarian grounds. As an international treaty it has the force of law within this country. Admission of refugees, especially from Syria, is a rigorous process. As is made clear in the official State department website (https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/), processing of applications can take 18-24 months. But for many, it takes much longer. Five years after Sgt. Ali Alsaeedy of the 82nd Airborne division filed refugee papers for his parents—five long years during which his father died—when his mother, Hamidyah Al Saeedi finally landed in New York’s JFK airport last Saturday, she was held for 33 hours, handcuffed for some of the time, and released only after her son procured a habeas petition. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Many of the refugees from Iraq are people, like Sgt.Alsaeedy, who had first worked for the US, saved US lives, and because of that, their own lives became vulnerable. Doesn’t the US have a moral obligation to these people? Is it morally acceptable to ban them and their aged parents? Or to hold them at airports for long? Nada, a Yazidi woman whose husband, Khalas, was an interpreter for the US forces in Iraq was turned back from boarding a flight in Dubai to come and join her husband in Washington, DC because of President Trump’s executive order. She was bundled into a plane back to Iraq where her fate is anything but certain. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

Another Yazidi woman, VianDakhil, the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament who had pleaded with the world to save her people from extinction at the hands of ISIS was to arrive in Washington to receive the Lantos Human Rights prize at the Capitol—a prize named after Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress. Yet she is barred by the executive order from boarding a plane to receive the award. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt than this?

We must also investigate how the refugees were created. Take the case of Libya—it was ruled by an autocrat but it also had high levels of income and standards of living. It blocked migrants from Africa crossing the Mediterranean. When a small rebellion broke out, US led airstrikes on the country which destroyed its infrastructure, killed its dictator, and led to the country being partitioned by warlords. This was the cause of the refugee crisis. In Yemen, the US and the UK supplied Saudi Arabia with munitions to intervene in a civil war that created the refugees. In Iraq, again, the 2003 invasion by US-led forces on the blatantly false claim that the country was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, destabilized the country and led to the flow of refugees. If the actions of the US directly created refugees, on humanitarian grounds does this country not have a responsibility to care for them?

When Candidate Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States in December 2015, Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana called it “offensive and unconstitutional.” House Speaker Paul Ryan railed against Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims coming to this country. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell said it was “completely and totally inconsistent with American values.” And General Mattis, the new Defence Secretary, said that a ban on Muslims would make allies think “we have lost faith in reason.” Yet, today these intellectual titans are all offering support to the president. Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

In the last 40 years, not a single US citizen has been killed in North America by a citizen of the seven ‘countries of concern’ named in the executive order. Citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon have been responsible for over 3000 deaths, chiefly from 9/11. Yet, nationals from these countries are not included in the exclusion order. Strangely enough, the Trump Organization has investments in most of these countries but not in the ‘countries of concern.’ Can there be anything more morally bankrupt, intellectually dishonest, and politically mendacious than this?

If the media and the Democrats have been relentless in critiquing the executive order, it is important to recall that the order itself did not refer to the seven countries; it barred the entry into the US “of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12).” This referred to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2016 signed into law by President Obama in December 2015. It was the Obama administration which initially highlighted problems with individuals from these countries—and as we have seen none of them have been responsible for acts of ‘terrorism’ in the United States.

Even earlier, after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995—the perpetrators of which were white Christian Americans—President Clinton pushed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which was the first legislation to authorize fast-track deportation of refugees and even LPR. The Democrats, in other words, created the laws that enabled President Trump to issue his Islamophobic executive order. It is intellectually dishonest for news media to blank out this information in its report of President Trump’s executive order.

In short, the executive order violates international and US domestic law: there can be no religious exceptions to immigration; signatories to the Geneva Convention have an obligation to extend protection on a humanitarian basis. Violating these legal obligations underlines the United States’ position as an exceptional nation: an exceptionally morally bankrupt one.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

More on, No to US Immigration Policy.

Here is a news piece by Walden Bello on Trump's recent immigration ban that hardly is a national security concern. He says, the Philippine government should vocally,publicly condemn this ban on immigration on the pretext of national security, or else it will soon affect citizens across the globe, including Philippines' citizens.

To read the article, please go to -  Trump's ban: It's not about national security

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

No to Immigration Ban

Five days ago, the new American President, Donald Trump, signed an executive order proposing a 90 day suspension of visas for people belonging to seven countries. 
(Photo: The New York Magazine)

While there were widespread protests across the US, the following is the letter by academics against the executive order. 
The letter is hosted at notoimmigrationban.com, and can be endorsed by sending an email to NoToImmigrationEO@gmail.com

The Petition

President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order (EO) proposing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. The unrealistic conditions required for discontinuing the suspension make it very likely that this EO will turn into a permanent ban. We, the undersigned academics and researchers from a variety of fields of study, backgrounds, and personal convictions, would like to voice our concern and strongly oppose this measure on three grounds:

1.    This Executive Order is discriminatory. The EO unfairly targets a large group of immigrants and non-immigrants on the basis of their countries of origin, all of which are nations with a majority Muslim population. This is a major step towards implementing the stringent racial and religious profiling promised on the campaign trail. The United States is a democratic nation, and ethnic and religious profiling are in stark contrast to the values and principles we hold.
2.    This Executive Order is detrimental to the national interests of the United States. The EO significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research. US research institutes host a significant number of researchers from the nations subjected to the upcoming restrictions. From Iran alone, more than 3000 students have received PhDs from American universities in the past 3 years. The proposed EO limits collaborations with researchers from these nations by restricting entry of these researchers to the US and can potentially lead to departure of many talented individuals who are current and future researchers and entrepreneurs in the US. We strongly believe the immediate and long term consequences of this EO do not serve our national interests.
3.    This Executive Order imposes undue burden on members of our community. The people whose status in the United States would be reconsidered under this EO are our students, friends, colleagues, and members of our communities. The implementation of this EO will necessarily tear families apart by restricting entry for family members who live outside of the US and limiting the ability to travel for those who reside and work in the US. These restrictions would be applied to nearly all individuals from these countries, regardless of their immigration status or any other circumstances. This measure is fatally disruptive to the lives of these immigrants, their families, and the communities of which they form an integral part. It is inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.
These bans, as proposed, have consequences that reach beyond the scope of national security. The unethical and discriminatory treatment of law-abiding, hard-working, and well-integrated immigrants fundamentally contravenes the founding principles of the United States.
We strongly denounce this ban and urge the President to reconsider going forward with this Executive Order.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Dark World of Women Workers in a Modern City

Arup Kumar Sen

[Dr. Arup Kumar Sen works at Serampore College and he can be reached at arupksen@gmail.com]

[Editor's note: On 31st December, new year's eve, Bangalore was witness to wide spread mass-molestation of women. This report on the condition of women garment workers in Bangalore, is a timely reminder that gendered violence is endemic in society, and those at the bottom of the pecking order, are affected by it everyday.]

Bangalore has earned its fame as the IT capital of India. The headquarters of two IT giants, Infosys and Wipro, are located in the city. But, a dark side of city life is seldom discussed in the media. A large percentage of the city’s population, about 18 percent, live in slums. In addition to the recognized slums, a large number of poor households live in unrecognized low-income settlements and urban villages. The story of opulence and that of poverty go side by side. The recent two day protests by the garment workers in the city made the dark side of the moon more pronounced.

A notification was made on February 10, 2016 regarding change in the provisions of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Act. The workers feared that this change would impact them adversely. Their chief concern was that they would not be able to withdraw employer’s contribution to the Provident Fund corpus until the retirement age of 58. The garment workers became apprehensive of the new Ordinance passed by the Central government as they depend on withdrawals from the Provident Fund for payment of house rent and school fees of children, and for health-related emergencies and other financial emergencies. This led to the mass walk-out of “footloose” garment workers from their factories and participation in a series of spontaneous demonstrations on April 18-19, 2016, in various parts of Bangalore. It is reported that at least 50000 garment workers, most of whom were women, participated in the protests. The workers interviewed by an investigating team stated that peaceful protests turned violent on April 19 due to police brutality on women workers on day-one. Reportedly, male police officers started raining blows on the women workers, in spite of their repeated assurances that they intended to protest peacefully. Based on personal interviews with garment workers, the investigating team observed that “the level of brutality exhibited by the police throughout the protest as well as in the following weeks was due to a calculated effort by the police to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation amongst the workers.”1

In fact, fear is very much a part of everyday life of garment workers in Bangalore. There are about 500000 garment workers in the city of Bangalore, working in big, small and medium-sized factories and producing for global giants including Wal-Mart, TESCO and Primark. The industry employs mainly women workers, who constitute around ninety per cent of the total workforce. Deprived of their right to associate or unionize due to intimidation and reprisals by management, the space for articulation of protest against workplace harassment and low payment is very limited.2 To put it in the words of one woman worker, “They treat us like dogs”. There are instances of women who committed suicide to evade their oppression in everyday life. Women aged between 18 and 45 are often found running towards the factory gate to reach just on time. Otherwise, they face harassment to get permission to work for the day. In a particular case, a woman worker crashed in the factory gate and got severely injured. The security men present at the gate did not lift her. She was saved by her co-workers. In another case, a pregnant woman started feeling unwell after reporting for duty. She appealed to management for her release at around 10-10.30 am. She was granted leave at around 12.30. Finally, they let her off at 1pm. With the cooperation of a younger woman, she got into an auto and became unconscious there after giving birth to a baby, who died for lack of care. A study of PUCL, Karnataka, in collaboration with other human rights organizations, bears testimony to multiple oppressions suffered by women garment workers in Bangalore. The story of oppression as documented in the PUCL Report is summarized below:

Gate checking in the factory finishes at 9.30 AM. On days when one is late, she has to stand at the security check for an hour or so till the HR manager permits her to enter and start work. On days like this, she has to make up the lost one hour by forgoing her lunch time or staying after working hours to finish the given target for the day. The women workers also face sexual harassments including verbal abuse of a sexual nature. The male supervisors, floor in-charges and managers call them by abusive names, such as dog, pig, monkey, ‘loose’ etc. and cast aspersions on their character. The women do not report about sexual harassments to higher authorities in the fear that they would lose their jobs.  Being allowed limited toilet breaks, workers are forced to reduce their consumption of water considerably, and many women faint inside the factory due to dehydration. When a woman goes to the toilet, someone follows her to ensure that she does not waste time. No concessions are given to women workers during advanced stages of pregnancy. It is difficult to withstand such mental stress and agony. It is a common sight to find many women crying and weeping in the factory. However, they are not in a position to give farewell to this dirty world of the factory, as most of the women come from a modest financial background, and they are either the sole breadwinner of their families or their income constitutes a substantial part of their family income.3  

The future struggles of workers in the city of Bangalore should focus on minimum wages and other basic necessities for the survival of “footloose” workers. But, the multiple oppressions faced by women garment workers in their everyday life must be an organic part of the struggles for ensuring their right to live with dignity.


1.For the protests and their aftermath, see People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka, and Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Karnataka, Bangalore Garment Workers’ Protest Demonstration: A Preliminary Fact-finding Report, 2016.
2.PUCL, Karnataka, NLSIU, Bangalore, Vimochana, Alternative Law Forum(ALF), Concern-IISC, Manthan Law and Garments Mahila Karmikara Munnade, “Production of Torture”: A Study on Working Conditions including  work place harassments faced by Women Garment Workers in Bangalore and other districts.