Monday, May 14, 2012

Introduction to II Edition, 2012

Priyanca Mathur Velath

The current issue of RWO draws our attention to rights against exclusion and homelessness through the lens of Islamophobia, Statelessness and the Cessation Clause. In the first piece of the Perspectives Section Guillaume Cliche-Rivard urges further interrogation of the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees, followed by Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury’s analysis of the unique position of those stateless in South Asia. Geetisha Dasgupta highlights the growing intolerance, racial hatred and xenophobia particularly in the United States.

Cliche-Rivard’s piece, titled ‘Pending questions: UNHCR Recommendations regarding the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees’ questions UNHCR’s invocation of Cessation Clause in the light of compelling evidence of continuing violations of civil and political rights in Rwanda. The arguments point to concerns regarding Kagame government’s claims of free and fair elections and substantive democratic reforms. “As the recommendation expresses that the Cessation is not going to be applied on Rwandans who escaped the country after 1998 or are still seeking asylum, it clearly indicates that fundamental, durable, and positive changes have not occurred in Rwanda.” It throws uncomfortable questions into the public domain - How could any host State and UNHCR justify the invocation of the Cessation Clause when these changes are not countrywide? What is driving UNHCR’s agenda? How was the decision to recommend the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees made? Understanding the current situation presented by Amnesty International and IDMC, why is cessation recommended at this time?

The condition of statelessness creates a condition where there is literally a complete absence of a right to a life of dignity for the nowhere people. Basu Ray Chaudhury’s article titled ‘People of Nowhere: Stateless in South Asia, points out how for the stateless it may not be possible to work legally, to get appropriate wages, to purchase property, to open a bank account, to attend school or university, to marry a person from other communities, to register births and deaths, to vote or access the national justice system. It succinctly notes that “suspicion has driven South Asian states to progressively tighten the strings on who may claim membership goods, thus creating growing pockets of statelessness at their cultural and geographical margins. Examining the changes that have been introduced to citizenship laws of South Asian states provides a clear narrative of how this tightening of strings has proceeded: largely by restricting the acquisition of citizenship by right in favour of granting citizenship at the government’s discretion.”

Dasgupta in her article titled ‘Law, Islamophobia and the United States of Exclusion’ empathically states that more than half of the United States’ population has spun on the axis of renewed racial hatred that found expression in xenophobic profiling of the other half that is creating a new category of stateless, that was founded on exclusion based on religious identity. “Despite loud and clear declarations at the administrative levels that the United States government will not support any activity in hatred towards the believers of Islam or of Arab origin, there have been steady repercussions from the agents of the state and the government on these lines, when it came to arresting people for suspicion of terrorist activities. As a result, there have been repeated strikes and counter strikes and all over the last twelve years during which a large group of people became homeless and stateless.” This demands urgent attention as it reflects a foreign policy and geopolitical status of a country that affirms its ability to reach anybody that it deems inimical to its own security. This was visible in not just an increase in hate crimes but also when students were picked up from rallies of the Occupation Movement in New York City or Boston, and detained in federal prisons for anything up to three months without questions being asked.

In the News Section, we report on the continuing protests of the Rohingya asylum seekers outside the UNHCR Delhi office and provide a link to the latest Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network Newsletter. Finally in the Events section there is information that the Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group of APRRN proposes to hold a Legal Aid Training for the South Asia region from May 26 - 28, 2012 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Also enclosed is the Call for Papers for the 14th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration that will be held in Kolkata in January, 2013.

We look forward to your comments and feedback.

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