Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eviction Left 15 Refugee Families Homeless in Delhi

24 March 2011: Fifteen Chin refugee families, a total of 58 members, are camping out in makeshift shelters in an open space behind the UNHCR Office in Delhi, India after they were evicted from their quarters by the local Indian landlord yesterday.

The families, including children and elderly with health problems, were reportedly forced to move out after the neighbors make complaints to the manager of the flat, Mr. Babulo.

"We were told by the manager that the other neighbors didn't like the smell of our food which includes fish paste (Ngapih). Although we actually refrained from eating ngapih after their initial complaints, they still wanted us out of this area," said Mr. Joshua Hrang Lian Kap, one of the evicted family members.

"Most of the times, we felt that they were hostile to us. Our children got beaten up for no reasons and our properties stolen. We faced verbal and physical abuses. Their intention is clearly to drive us out from this location," continued Mr. Joshua.

The families are now camping out in an open space by the back entrance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office, hoping to get assistance and protection from the UN refugee agency.

"They were informed to vacate the rooms on 15 March 2011 by the landlord, who threatened to take legal actions against them if they failed to comply. So, they had no choice but to move out as they couldn't find any other places that they could afford," added the Chin resident in Delhi.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that 42 Burmese refugees were arrested from their work places, including from local restaurants and factories in a police raid in Aizawl, Mizoram State of India on Tuesday.

At least as 100,000 Chins and other migrant workers from Burma, are estimated to be living in Mizoram State.

Refugee Girl Rescued from Attempted Sexual Assault

A Chin refugee girl, 14, was rescued by passers-by around 3pm Indian local time yesterday from an alleged attempted rape by a local Indian while she was washing clothes. Originally from Lingtui village in Matupi Township of Chin State, the girl was allegedly being approached by a naked neighbor identified as Mr. Waahid when passers-by intervened.

"Suddenly, the girl cried out loudly and the nearby people rushed to her help immediately. And the incident has already been reported to the police," said a Chin resident in the neighborhood.
The girl, who is looking after her mentally challenged mother, came to New Delhi in January 2007 and has been recognized as a mandated refugee by the UNHCR in April 2007.
Last year, at least 30 refugee women were reported to have been sexually assaulted or violently beaten by local Indian men during attempted sexual assaults.

The Libyan Refugee Crisis - Thousands of people are fleeing the violence in Libya every day, the U.N. refugee agency says.
March 25, 2011 |

Tunisia is receiving about 2,000 arrivals daily, most of them Sudanese and Bangladeshi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement. Between 1,500 and 2,000 others are crossing into Egypt each day, most of them Libyans and Egyptians but also a growing number from Chad. As of Wednesday, the total number who had fled the fighting stood at more than 351,000, the statement said. The UNHCR is also receiving reports from its partners of increasing displacement inside Libya. The Santa Monica-based International Medical Corps estimates that as many as 20,000 people have taken refuge in the small town of Butwen, east of the contested city of Ajdabiya, the statement said. The Libyan Red Crescent has told the UNHCR that some 5,000 people are displaced in the coastal town of Derna.

The UNHCR said it had sent two convoys with medical supplies to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi through the Egyptian Red Crescent and the Libyan Red Crescent. It has also sent thousands of blankets, sleeping mats and other relief items. But it said it did not have access to other parts of Libya.

Meanwhile, thousands of migrant workers escaping the violence in Libya, many of them Egyptian, are stranded in a makeshift camp on the border with Tunisia, and appeal for their governments to evacuate them. Franco Frattini, the foreign minister, said Italy was bracing for an exodus 10 times bigger than the number of Albanians who fled to Italy in the 1990s when the Balkan nation descended into anarchy. "We know what to expect when the Libyan national system falls – a wave of 200,000 to 300,000 immigrants," Mr Frattini said. "These are estimates, and on the low side ... It is a Biblical exodus. It's a problem that no Italian should underestimate." He said about a third of Libya's population, or 2.5 million people, are immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa who could flee if the popular revolt topples the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Those living in the eastern part of Libya might try to reach Greece, rather than Italy, because it is closer, he said.

Umberto Bossi, a minister in the government of Silvio Berlusconi and the leader of the Northern League party, threatened to dump the problem on other European countries. "If they arrive we'll send them to France and Germany," he said. The number of refugees and economic migrants reaching Italian islands like Lampedusa, which lies close to the coast of Tunisia, fell sharply after Silvio Berlusconi concluded a pact with Col. Gaddafi in 2008 under which the Libyan navy and coast guard intercepted boat loads of Africans. But the UN's agency for refugees appealed to Italy not to block migrants who may flee from Libya.

The UN’s refugee agency has reacted with understanding to Malta’s unwillingness to host any sub-Saharan refugees evacuated to Egypt and Tunisia Libya. The UNHCR had launched an appeal on behalf of thousands of Eritrean and Somali refugees, among others, who have fled the conflict in the embattled North African state but are unable to return home where they would be persecuted. The European Commission responded by trying to lobby member states to accept resettling some of these migrants but the Maltese government has made it clear it would not be part of such an effort. “At this stage, I think we are already carrying a much bigger burden than we can handle in terms of refugees and asylum seekers and so we won’t be making any offers,” Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said.

However, the UNHCR, which had its fair share of diplomatic disputes with the Maltese government over immigration, told The Sunday Times that while all contributions were welcome it “would not expect that Malta would be among the main resettlement destinations for these refugees”. “Some 1,000 refugees have in recent years benefited from such programmes. The UNHCR considers that this support can provide opportunities for Malta to make further progress with improving the situation also for those who remain in the country,” a spokesman for the agency said. Malta hosts around 3,700 African migrants (79 in detention, 2,224 in open centres and 1,400 in the community) according to official statistics released in November – a far cry from over 10,000 immigrants who were estimated to be in Malta in 2008.However, the government is bracing itself for a possible exodus from Libya once the situation there settles down. Yesterday, the Armed Forces were monitoring a vessel reportedly carrying 300 migrants believed to have left Tripoli on Friday. Asked if Malta should take a symbolic number of migrants evacuated from Libya, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry said: “The EU has already made its position on the matter clear when it pledged its support to the southern member states during an extraordinary European Council held on March 11. “At present Malta is hosting around 4,000 African immigrants while at the same time having by far the highest rate of asylum applications in the EU. “Malta will continue to provide assistance to these people while keeping its size, limited resources and small population in sight. Malta has already proven that it assists and offers protection to those in need,” he said. Earlier this month, about 100 members of the Eritrean community in Malta held a demonstration in Valletta calling on the island and the international community to help evacuate asylum seekers stranded in Libya. They said the Eritreans could not return to their country because they would be prosecuted and as they were not part of the international evacuation effort, they were stranded without protection in Libya. Some were in danger of being shot, being mistaken for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s mercenaries, they added.

The Jesuit Refugee Service had also appealed to the EU and the international community to take immediate and concrete action to provide resettlement opportunities for some the Eritrean asylum seekers stranded in Libya. When contacted, JRS laid stress on the need for northern Europe to help the south, but urged Malta to give special consideration to refugees whose close family members have already been granted international protection here. “While the Libyan crisis, unfolding so close to Malta, is bound to make additional demands on our structures and resources, the international community and EU member states in particular clearly share the moral obligation to come forward with offers of resettlement for refugees reaching Malta and other southern European states who receive a disproportionate numbers of asylum seekers in relation to their resources,” the JRS said.

Women and Children Aboard Refugee Boat from Libya

27/3/2011 - The first boat of refugees from Libya has arrived in Italy. Women and children are among the passengers.
Yesterday, the first boat of migrants fleeing Libya reached the shores of Italy. The boat carried 350 African migrants. Conditions on the boat are said to be very poor, with roughly ten children and 20 women on board. Most of the migrants aboard the ship are Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalians. Two pregnant women were aboard the ship. Both were airlifted to hospitals on the shore – one on the island of Lampedusa, the other on the well-known island of Sicily. While the first woman's baby lived through the ordeal, the baby of the second woman did not survive, say medical staff.

The boat is reportedly taking on water, but is being assisted by a Canadian ship taking part in the NATO-enforced naval arms embargo on Libya. “We are monitoring the situation very closely and confidently,” said a NATO spokesperson. According to a spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the only migrants to arrive on Lampedusa were Tunisians until yesterday's boat arrived.

Arriving mostly in small fishing boats, 15,000 Tunisian refugees have made their way to Lampedusa since January's ousting of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. There are still about 250 Tunisian children on the island. Another 250 mostly teenaged children were taken to homes in other parts of Italy. Conditions on the island are said to be very crowded and unfit for children. This led to the transfer of 96 children to a US Coast Guard base elsewhere on the island. However, the Libyan migrants will not be taken to Lampedusa. Instead, they'll be taken to a refugee centre on the island of Linosa.

Earlier this month, one international child charity reported that the lives of one million children were endangered by the fighting between government and rebel forces in Libya. Children in capital city of Tripoli and the surrounding area were said to be particularly vulnerable. An estimated 700,000 children call Tripoli home, though many are becoming fearful for themselves, their family and their friends. Already, 100,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries Egypt and Tunisia. According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), there are 180 children and 149 women waiting to be evacuated by the Egyptian border. The number of women and children leaving the country is reported to have increased in recent weeks.

The UN authorized the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya almost two weeks ago. Air strikes with the purpose of civilian protection were also authorized under UN Resolution 1973. Resolution 1973 passed in a 10-0 vote, with China, Russia, Brazil, Germany and India abstaining.

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