Africa

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New Illegal Immigration Deal with Nigeria Raises Human Rights Concerns

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 7:38pm in

A deal on deporting foreign national offenders could have serious implications when the Nationality and Borders Act criminalises certain migrants for how they enter the UK, Sian Norris reports

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The UK Government has agreed a deal with Nigeria to tackle shared illegal immigration, prompting concern from migrant rights activists. 

The deal was signed the same day the UK deported 13 individuals to Nigeria, including a man who had sought asylum on the basis of his sexuality but had his claim refused. 

The agreement forms part of the Home Office’s New Plan for Immigration and was described by Priti Patel as a “landmark” decision to “increase the deportation of dangerous foreign criminals to make our streets and country safer”.

Patel described the deal as “our New Plan for Immigration being put into action”. However, the plan and its associated Nationality and Borders Act have come under much scrutiny and criticism for creating an increasingly hostile environment for migrant people and those seeking asylum. 

The new laws create a tiered asylum system where those who arrive via irregular routes, such as small boats across the Channel, could face criminalisation. This has major consequences for the agreement, which seeks to speed up deportations of foreign national offenders to Nigeria.  

“Under the new Nationality and Borders Act, in theory when the Government talks about ‘foreign criminals’ to deport to Nigeria, they could mean anyone entering the UK via irregular means, such as crossing the Channel,” said Peter Dolby, Director of Operations at Love146, an NGO working with child victims of trafficking.

“Particularly when looked at in the context of the current situation in Nigeria, where human rights violations are rampant, this potentially raises the significant risk of children, deliberately or otherwise, being sent to a country where their lives are put at risk and they are outside of any of the recognised formal protection mechanisms which the UK has in place”.

“This is not some hypothetical,” Dolby continued. “The Home Office has already fought, and lost, a case where it attempted to refuse to bring back a mother and her five-year-old child from Nigeria under previous agreements. Removing people to a country where they face serious threats and risk to life, particularly when that may include young people, goes against the very principles of humanity and human rights we believe the UK should stand for”.

The deal will speed up the removal of foreign national offenders from the UK to Nigeria and vice versa. It will allow for emergency travel certificates or temporary passports to be issued to individuals being returned within five working days of receipt of their passport or biometric details. 

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Patel also claimed that it would help in the fight against people smugglers.

“It is inconceivable that sending people, in particular young people, to a country where people being kidnapped and sold into slavery is well known about could in any way be seen as a means to tackle either trafficking or smuggling,” said Dolby.

Nigeria has long cooperated in deportations, meaning that despite the fanfare over the announcement, not much will change in terms of the relationship. The concern is that the criminalisation of crossing the Channel will lead to vulnerable people being classed as offenders, and therefore deported.

While there is no doubt Nigeria has experienced huge progress in recent decades, with a flourishing literature and cultural scene and a growing economy, particularly in the major cities, social problems and repression remain an issue. As many as four in 10 people live below the poverty line, and parts of the country are still facing violence from the Boko Haram militia group.

According to Amnesty International, people in Nigeria face numerous barriers to freedom of expression and assembly – while women and LGBTIQ people face specific discrimination. In June 2021, President Buhari ordered the shut down of Twitter, after the site deleted one of his tweets. Security forces responded with violence and aggression to protesters in the major cities of Lagos and Abuja, in what became known as the End SARS protests. Those who took part in the protests were arbitrarily detained – including Kemisola Ogunniyi, an 18-year-old woman who gave birth during her eight-month detention.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Nigeria, making it particularly dangerous for LGBTIQ people – gay men can face 14 years in prison while transgender people endure even more severe penalties. Between 2015 and 2020, a total of 898 Nigerian people claimed asylum where sexual orientation formed part of the claim. Of these, 621 were refused. 

And while rates of female genital mutilation in Nigeria have halved in the past few decades, women and girls remain at risk of this and other forms of gender-based violence. 

Earlier this year, UNICEF warned that FGM was rising among Nigerian girls aged 0-14. Rates have increased from 16.9% in 2013 to 19.2% in 2018, something the charity called a “worrying trend”. The national prevalence for FGM in women aged 15-49 is 20%. Nigeria ranks at 139 on the Global Gender Gap Index.

Despite the criticism of the new laws, the Government has remained bullish in its commitment to taking a hardline on migration.

In a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The deal will mean that operational teams in both countries will share their expertise to take the fight to criminal people smugglers who are responsible for a wider range of criminality and put profit before people while undermining the security of our two countries”.

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Africa is suffering as a result of our economic indifference, yet again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 5:00pm in

It is easy to think of the economic crisis that we are facing as a purely domestic issue. It is not. As the FT notes this morning:

Steep rises in international food and fuel prices since the Russian invasion of Ukraine have left millions more Africans facing hunger and food insecurity this year, the UN, local politicians and charities have warned.

They published this chart:

Africa is moving into crisis again. This will be greatly exacerbated by increases in dollar interest rates as the debts of most African countries are denominated in that currency. Another African debt crisis might follow.

It is  as if we never learn.

And it is as if we perpetually want to punish the poorest for the economic folly of a so-called elite.

You might almost think it deliberate, but casual indifference is probably a better explanation.

Neither is readily forgivable.

Setting the Record Straight on Rwanda’s Asylum System

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/06/2022 - 6:45pm in

The issue is not about physical infrastructure but the quality of legal provision, practical assistance and the conditions facing refugees in Rwanda, writes Brad Blitz

The decision by the European Court of Human Rights in K.N. v United Kingdom, which put a halt to the Home Office’s attempt to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, gave campaigners a temporary victory.

It was, however, a crucially important moment for both the Iraqi appellant and the other asylum seekers who were due to follow him onto the deportation flight to Kigali.

Following the decision from Strasbourg, their removal was stayed by last-minute injunctions by the Court of Appeal and Upper Tribunal and so far no one has been sent to Rwanda. 

But this is not the end of the story.  The Home Secretary has vowed that the removal flights to Rwanda will go ahead and is gearing up to fight off a judicial review in which the lawfulness of the Government’s policy will be put to the test. In the meantime, it is important to set the record straight about what constitutes an asylum system. 

Over the course of this controversy, UK courts have accepted at face value promises made by the Government about its intentions and the capacity of Rwanda to protect asylum seekers. Indeed, one of the reasons the UK Supreme Court gave for refusing one asylum seeker’s application to appeal the Court of Appeal’s decision on their removal was based on the Government’s ‘assurance’ that anyone removed unlawfully would be returned to the UK. This was one provision included in the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Rwanda and the UK which failed to convince me, given the Government’s history of post-removal follow-up

Since the decision by the ECHR, advocates for the governments in London and Kigali have sought to persuade all that Rwanda has both the will and the ability to receive asylum seekers and could process applications on behalf of the UK. Footage of a repurposed hostel, with fresh bed linen and a bright yellow coat of paint, ready and waiting for the deportees, has featured prominently in news stories.

Leaving aside the ethical and moral arguments against outsourcing, as raised by clerical leaders across the UK, no one should be fooled by Potemkin reception centres in Rwanda. 

The issue is not about physical infrastructure but the quality of legal provision; diplomatic and practical assistance to hand; and the conditions facing refugees in Rwanda.

Even if we accept that Rwanda has made progress in recent years and is willing to host asylum seekers on behalf of the UK, one must ask the extent to which it can process a heterogeneous population, whose histories, needs and claims are more complex than the housed populations drawn principally from its neighbours, Burundi and the DRC.  

The Rwandan Government insists that the deportees will be well treated and that they will have opportunities to seek asylum and, upon receiving refugee status, integrate and secure jobs including in the Government. Yet, a quick review of the 'country policy and information note' from May – which contains notes on Home Office visits and interviews with Rwandan authorities – records that asylum seekers are effectively offered temporary protection that can be renewed after three months. They do not have the right to work, but to apply for a jobseeker visa. 

Accurate and up-to-date statistics on the outcome of asylum claims in Rwanda is difficult to find. The UNHCR has published figures up to 2021, which record numbers in the asylum system. In 2020, the last full year for which we have data, there were just 204 applications.

Refugee status determination figures are even harder to locate. Data provided to the UK Government records that, in 2019, some 62 individuals were granted refugee status, while 124 were refused. Out of 24 appeals, only two saw their decisions corrected. A slightly improved number received refugee status in 2020: out of 489 decisions, 285 individuals were recognised as refugees (58%).  

Yet, this is a tiny number of applications given the 127,369 people of concern reported by UNHCR for 31 May 2022.

The greatest trend in Rwanda's refugee protection has in fact been the return of tens of thousands of Burundians, in line with a voluntary repatriation agreement between Rwanda, Burundi and UNHCR which was restarted just last year. 

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Moreover, if refugees are welcome in Rwanda – as we are told – how does one account for the resettlement to third countries, including Sweden and Canada?

The bottom line is that, given its history, the few economic offerings and the fact that Rwanda can only guarantee a place in a refugee camp for those unable to find work, the prospect of international protection is limited. 

Interestingly, given Rwanda’s importance in the Commonwealth, the UK’s contributions to UNHCR’s operations there are nowhere to be seen – in sharp contrast to other donors who have offered assistance through bilateral and multilateral channels, for example via the EU. 

This is by all accounts, then, an untested experiment and one which raises significant doubts. What we can say for certain, however, is that those seeking international protection stay in Rwanda temporarily. This is not a ‘durable solution’.

Brad Blitz is Professor of International Politics and Policy at UCL

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Killings in Somalia: War Crimes, Deception, and Impunity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/06/2022 - 9:08pm in

Mohamed Gabobe explores several reports of extrajudicial killings by Western-backed forces in Somalia

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After taking a motorbike ride from Mogadishu’s bustling Taleh junction to a dirt road on the outskirts of the Somali capital, where I trekked past a row of shanty homes, I caught my first glimpse of the elderly woman I was scheduled to meet. Standing before me with the warmest of smiles, she gestured towards her home, inviting me to enter.

She didn’t know much about me, only that I was eager to hear her story. She tells me her name is Sadiya, and that her family hails from the village of Buurane in the Middle Shabelle province, a region synonymous with militancy and where the rules of engagement are often non-existent.

When I offer a smile in the direction of three young children sitting on an old rug. she says, “These are my son’s children. They were left with me after he was murdered.”

Sadiya tells me how her 18-year-old son Sharmarke and his friends were cutting onions on the porch of her home, the day they were approached by coalition troops from Burundi serving under the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia, commonly referred to as AMISOM. The troops ordered the young men to go inside for reasons Sadiya doesn’t know.

AMISON soldiers routinely patrol the village of Buurane and its surrounding areas – often implementing curfews and detaining civilians under the mere pretext of suspicion. Many are often held under arbitrary detention for weeks – sometimes even longer.  

On this occasion, however, the AMISOM troops departed without incident. Sadiya’s son and his friends went back to their chores, before starting a card game.

Moments later, a massive blast punctured the air, and a cloud of thick black smoke billowed into the night sky. A roadside bomb had struck a nearby AMISOM convoy. 

Not long after that, AMISOM troops returned to her home. She remembers spotting one peering through the window seconds before they opened fire. Screams and falling glass engulfed the tiny home. Her son was cut down by a hail of bullets, piercing his heart and spine, and striking his friend sitting directly behind him.  

The friend died instantly, but her son clung to life, screaming for his mother to stop the bleeding while mouthing the words to the Shahada (the Islamic declaration of faith).

The AMISOM troops barged into the home and pointed their weapons at Sadiya and her dying son, she says. Sadiya pleaded with the soldiers to allow her to tend to her son’s wounds, but to no avail. Her son bled to death in front of her eyes.

As Sadiya tells me this, she slumps to her knees, and sobs uncontrollably. 

“It’s one thing to watch your child be shot in front of you. It’s another to watch them bleed out while begging for your help,” she says.

Sadiya’s account is consistent with testimonies of other eyewitnesses to mass killings carried out by AMISOM troops. A scathing report by Human Rights Watch revealed how AMISOM troops targeted wedding-goers near the Somali port town of Merka in 2015, killing six men, and denying medical care to the lone survivor, who later died of his wounds.

Sadiya said the soldiers remained in her home for two hours after her son bled out, leaving only when Somali Government troops arrived to retrieve the lifeless bodies of her son and his friend. Murdered at 18 years-of-age, Sharmarke would never get to see the arrival of his third child.

Moreover, in the weeks and months that followed, Sadiya endured relentless threats and intimidation from AMISOM troops, who would repeatedly show up at her home and order her to leave, she claims, often threatening to burn down her home if she continued to refuse their demands.  

Sadiya says the AMISOM troops told her that they were carrying out military operations in the area and she needed to vacate the home, but this was an order given only to her, and nobody else in the village. The same troops that brutally murdered her son were now forcefully displacing her from the only home she’s ever known.  

Many of her neighbours advised Sadiya to heed the warnings and not risk losing the three young grandchildren, but she refused to leave and instead pleaded her case to local authorities located several kilometres away in the district of Mahaadey. 

But she was turned away.

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Rampant Impunity

Coincidentally, the district of Mahaadey is home to a large-scale African Union military base that hosts foreign troops from Burundi. Sadiya believes her cries for help fell on deaf ears because coalition forces in Somalia wield immense influence over the local authorities, which explains why Somali officials often turn a blind eye to atrocities carried out by coalition forces from the African Union. 

Deployed to Somalia in 2007 under the auspice of the United Nations Security Council, the AMISOM consists of thousands of foreign troops from nearly a dozen states in Africa, fighting under the rubric of the global ‘war on terror’, but without meaningful oversight or transparency.

Sadiya then made her way to the city of Jowhar, the provincial capital of the Middle Shabelle province and seat of power for Somalia’s semi-autonomous Hirshabelle state, turning up at the headquarters of the-then regional vice president, Ali Gudlaawe.

Again, she was turned away by Somali troops.

When the threats became too much to bear, Sadiya made the decision to flee Buurane. During the night, her brother-in law put Sadiya and her three grandchildren in a vehicle and sent them to the capital Mogadishu, where they remain to this day.  

Two years have passed since the brutal murder of her son Sharmarke and his friend Abukar, but Sadiya is yet to receive any answers, let alone accountability from the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia.  

After meeting Sadiya, I made my way to the notorious Suuqa-Hoolaha neighborhood in the Huriwa district of Mogadishu, which is a known to be an al-Shabaab stronghold. This isn’t an area that journalists often venture to.

There, I met Ibrahim, the father of Abukar, who was shot and killed in Sadiya’s home. Ibrahim fled the village of Buurane with his two remaining daughters immediately after his son’s murder. The trek to Mogadishu on foot took him and his children seven days. He’s never returned home since. Ibrahim wants justice for his family but knows that the prospects for accountability are slim.

Prosecuting African Union soldiers for atrocities in Somalia is nearly impossible, as the Somali Government has no jurisdiction over the multi-national coalition troops on their soil, which are funded by the European Union and supervised by the US and UK.  

They are rarely, if ever, held accountable for the rampant war crimes and human rights abuses they are alleged to have committed.

The Case of Mohamed Hassan

During my investigation into war crimes by AMISOM troops in Somalia, the most perplexing case was the murder of Mohamed Hassan, a local university student from Mogadishu. He offers a typical example of how broken promises, deception and impunity make the death of a loved one at the hands of coalition forces even much more unbearable. 

I arrived at the Tarabunka junction in Mogadishu, and stood in front of a mechanic shop, waiting for the go-ahead. A young woman dressed in all black wearing a Niqab (face veil) approached and told me to follow her.  

I eventually found myself at the home of a prominent tribal chief – an older gentleman with a bright orange beard dyed in traditional colouring. I sat down at the table. What followed was the traditional Somali custom of drinking tea and getting acquainted with one another.  

As we spoke, the tribal chief was eager to tell me about the ordeal of his family members who had been killed by AMISOM forces. When I began the interview, I couldn’t help but notice the armed gunmen in military attire standing a few meters away. The tribal chief told me not to worry; they were his people (clansmen).  

He told me how his nephew, Mohamed Hassan, who he had raised from birth, was murdered by AMISOM forces in Mogadishu. “Mohamed was walking down a road in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, when he was struck by an AMISOM convoy, driving at full speed on 3 July 2014,” he said.

Mohamed died instantly from his wounds, as the AMISON convoy sped off. Ibrahim shows me a photo of his deceased nephew.

A baby in a person's arms</p>
<p>Description automatically generated with medium confidenceA photo of Mohamed Hassan following his death

AMISOM military convoys in Somalia, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, routinely strike civilians while patrolling the city. Countless civilians have either been killed or wounded over the years, as has been widely reported in the Somali media.  

The tribal chief said that he had reached out to his fellow clansmen, who held senior ranks in the Somali Armed Forces, to track down the AMISOM convoy responsible for his nephew’s death. It had made its way to Spartiva, they said, a football arena turned military base that housed foreign troops from the AMISOM coalition, but primarily from Uganda.  

It was revealed that a Ugandan soldier by the name of Lance Corporal Tumusiime Robert was behind the wheel of the AMISOM truck that killed Mohamed Hassan. The soldier was detained and transferred to the fortified Halane compound (Somalia’s Green Zone) in Mogadishu, which houses numerous Western embassies, the United Nations headquarters, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  

But justice and accountability would not be forthcoming. “It was like running in circles,” the tribal chief told me.

They took up their case with the African Union, which responded by appointing a board of inquiry to investigate the murder, concluding that the family should be compensated, but the reparations never came.

“We were misled and deceived,” says the tribal chief.

The family were only ever given excuses. At times, the African Union would claim it was waiting on further confirmation from its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Other times it wouldn’t give an explanation, despite AMISOM’s own board of inquiry having agreed to compensate the family for Mohamed’s death.  

“All we got at the end were documents from a Djiboutian official at AMISOM,” said the tribal chief, which he then shared with me.  

The documents show a probe conducted by a six-member board from the African Union investigating the death of 20-year-old Mohamed Hassan at the hands of coalition troops.  

The findings, as detailed in the documents, concluded that the AMISOM convoy was at fault in the death of Mohamed and therefore the family should be duly compensated.  

The document shows the names of the military officials appointed to the board, as shown here:

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Another document identifies the driver of the military convoy that killed Mohamed Hassan. The vehicle number is also stated on the document:

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However, the tribal chief told me that they’ve almost given up hope on receiving any form of justice.

My the tribal chief’s revelations didn’t end there.

Pulling his seat closer, he told me that a relative named Omar Dhoore was extrajudicially murdered by AMISOM troops in volatile Lower Shabelle province on 1 September 2017, when Omar was tending to his crops in the farming village of Golweyn.

The tribal chief said that Omar was abducted by foreign troops from Uganda serving under the AMISOM coalition. He was taken to the town of Buula-Mareer, which hosts a large-scale Ugandan military base.  

The tribal chief claims that he led a group of local elders there, pleading for the release of Omar, only to have their request rebuffed. 

Days later, however, locals discovered Omar lifeless on the side of a dirt road that connects the town of Buula-Mareer to the village of Golweyn – bullet holes riddling his body.

Both of Omar’s hands and eyes were tied shut. The brunt of the bullet holes was across his face and head. The tribal chief showed me a photo of Omar’s body, claiming it demonstrates evidence of extrajudicial murder.

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<p>Description automatically generatedA photo of Omar Dhoore following the discovery of his body International Culpability

Over the years, AMISOM troops have been implicated in numerous extrajudicial killings and wanton massacres of civilians. The abduction and brutal execution-style murder of Omar Dhoore has eerie similarities with other cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Most notably, the 2021 Golweyn Massacre, which saw seven civilians abducted and murdered.

When the tribal chief and local elders went to the AMISOM base in Golweyn, demanding to know how someone in their custody could be later found dead on a dirt road, the Ugandan military commanders openly acknowledged that Omar was killed in “retaliation” for a recent attack carried out by the terror group al-Shabaab in the area, causing the deaths of several Ugandan soldiers. 

In disbelief, the tribal chief led his fellow elders to the fortified Halane compound (Somalia’s Green Zone) in Mogadishu, where they held a closed-door meeting with Ugandan military officials. 

During the encounter, the Ugandan officers from AMISOM admitted wrongdoing and stated that they would compensate the victim’s family to the tune of $3,000 – but that soon turned out to be another false promise.

“They’ll make you promises for accountability and compensation, then have you keep going back and forth, running until you get tired and just simply stop coming back,” the tribal chief said.

To this day, they’ve heard nothing further about the compensation. Five years have now passed since Omar was murdered.

“He had no affiliation with the insurgents. He didn’t deserve to die,” the tribal chief said.

AMISOM has a mandate to fight the armed group al-Shabaab and prop up Somalia’s fragile government. but as of 31 March of this year, the UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2628, which states that AMISOM will transition into the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and will oversee the withdrawal of multi-national coalition forces from Somalia by December 2024.  

While this move is welcomed by the people of Somalia, it offers little comfort to the families whose lives have been wrecked by these forces.   

Prominent international human rights organisations have directly implicated AMISOM troops in the deliberate targeting of civilians by indiscriminately shelling densely populated urban areas under the pretext of fighting militants, particularly during the siege of Mogadishu, which spanned from January 2009 to August 2011.  

Similar reports released by human rights bodies have accused AMISOM forces of using rape as a weapon of war against both women and young children. 

To that end, Western governments that continue to finance, supervise and provide cover for AMISOM bear part of the responsibility. Indeed, the continued presence of foreign troops in Somalia is a direct result of decisions made in Washington, Brussels and London.

If calls for accountability continue to be brushed aside by the so-called ‘international community’, then Somalia will be remembered as another terrible example of how Western-sponsored foreign military interventions, often under the guise of counter-terrorism and peacekeeping, cause more harm than good.

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The Home Office is Trying to Consign Asylum Seekers to a Life in Limbo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/06/2022 - 8:47pm in

Brad Blitz unpicks the legal and political logic for deporting desperate individuals to the central African nation

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“I accept that the fact of removal to Rwanda will be onerous,” said High Court Justice Jonathan Swift, as he ruled that the Home Office’s planned deportation flight to Rwanda could go ahead for some 31 asylum-seekers. 

Challenging Raza Husain QC for the claimants, who argued that the proposed deportation was unsafe and based on aspiration, Swift argued that the Home Office had set out a policy based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Rwanda, which while unenforceable, included information about arrangements for transfer and access to the system of asylum in Rwanda.

The judge then offered his own opinion, concluding that: “it is unlikely that persons transferred would be refused access to the system of asylum. After all, it is the very purpose of the MoU (for asylum claims to be processed) in Rwanda.”

Similar assertions have been made by Conservative politicians, including Dover MP Natalie Elphicke ,who pointed to a package of assistance dedicated to supporting deported asylum seekers.

On the basis of facts alone, this is nonsense.

First, the issue is not about being refused access, but about the nature of any such access, and the quality of asylum protection available. There is currently no package of assistance on offer, just a series of unenforceable promises.

Second, the UK has no experience of follow-up post removal, currently offers no services to those it has deported to third countries, and does not collect data on those removed to third countries. They just disappear. 

Third, Rwanda has limited expertise to offer the UK. While Rwanda is currently hosting some 127,112 registered persons of concern, these are overwhelmingly from the neighbouring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi who are housed in refugee camps. Even if camps are open, the provision of asylum support is limited, and the process of seeking asylum in Rwanda is especially slow.

The few specifics included in the MoU raise further questions about the operation of the scheme. The Home Office mentions the Emergency Transit Mechanism and the Gashora Transit Centre but this currently only applies to African asylum-seekers. The UNHCR currently has no published data asylum-seekers from Afghanistan and Iran in Rwanda, though nationals of these countries are among those targeted for removal by the Home Office.

What we do know is that some 260 Eritreans and other east Africans from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and South Sudan, have been resettled from Rwanda most of them to Sweden, and just over a quarter to Canada. A handful were sent on to Norway, France and Belgium, countries with which the UK once cooperated.

While Swift’s decision leaves open the door to appeal, and recognises the possibility of a judicial review finding the Home Office’s policy unlawful, it exposed a number of biases, not least the judge’s own conclusions about what is and is not ‘onerous’ – a significant understatement of the harm that may result from deportation, as noted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

If this decision is not corrected on appeal, it will surely leave the Government open to claims of human rights violations, specifically ECHR Article 3 claims on the prohibition of torture, and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Last Recourse

One loophole of the UK-Rwanda agreement concerns the provision in the MoU that anyone unlawfully removed could be brought back to the UK. Yet, as we saw in the Bigzad case, concerning an Afghan man who was hurriedly and unlawfully forced onto a plane to Kabul at the insistence of then Home Secretary Amber Rudd, it is not easy to correct past wrongs.

It is difficult enough to bring people back to the UK even when you have a large military and diplomatic presence, which is not the case for Rwanda. As for those facing removal as early as Tuesday, we are now left with a series of untested assumptions, which appear to have been accepted by the judge at face value.

But will returnees lend themselves to the Rwandan authorities and the asylum system, or will they flee? Will the promises of integration in Rwanda be upheld? Evidence from a similar experiment led by Israel – which failed – suggests otherwise.

After initiating a voluntary departure programme, Israel concluded agreements with Rwanda and Uganda, to remove refused asylum seekers, again with the promise of documentation and access to Rwanda’s asylum system. Yet, Amnesty concluded that such promises were empty, and that these former deportees were only given a temporary migration status which left them at risk of detention, unable to work, and at risk of refoulement to their country of origin.

Research conducted by Shahar Shoham, Liat Bolzman and Lior Birger found that returnees were denied the opportunity to apply for asylum in Rwanda. Not surprisingly, the deportees opted to leave.

With the first removal flight scheduled for Tuesday, activists are pinning their hopes on the Court of Appeal overturning Swift’s decision. Yet, I would caution against such optimism, since the appeal may only deal with the judge’s decision and not the fact that critical evidence from UNHCR and other human rights authorities was deemed less relevant than the Home Office’s paper promises.

Further, we do not need reminding how this Government, and previous governments, repeatedly violated the rule of law to pursue their agenda. As we saw with the Bigzad case, a court decision may not stop a determined minister from removing unwanted asylum seekers, or blocking their return, even after three High Court orders and the possible charge of contempt of court.

Yet, there may be other options.

Under Rule 39 of its Rules of Court, the European Court of Human Rights may issue interim measures where there is an imminent risk of irreparable damage. The procedure has been used in similar cases to suspend a deportation order at the last minute. Now would seem to be a good time for the lawyers to fax a 10-page request to Strasbourg.

Brad Blitz is Professor of International Politics and Policy at UCL

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‘I Am Counting the Seconds’: The Iranian Dissident Set to be Deported to Rwanda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/06/2022 - 11:24pm in

Frankie Vetch interviews a man facing the harsh reality of Priti Patel’s renewed hostile environment

When Bahram (not his real name) refused to fire on the protestors, it changed his life forever.

Last year the Iranian policeman escaped his country. 27 days ago, he entered the UK. Then 10 days ago, he was told he would be deported to Rwanda.

All that now stands between him and deportation is a decision by the UK High Court.

“If I go to Rwanda, considering the relationship between Rwanda and Iran, I will definitely be hunted down,” he told Byline Times. “I’d much rather go to Iran and be taken to my execution immediately, than for it to be drawn out.”

Bahram is just one of 130 people selected to be deported to Rwanda next week. To the Home Secretary, he is an 'illegal migrant'. But for many lawyers and experts he is a legitimate asylum seeker.

This is not the first time that Bahram has faced deportation. He escaped persecution in Iran by going to Turkey. “Iranian officers are known as having free reign in Turkey,” Bahram said. “There have been many arrests and many kidnappings by Iranian intelligence officers.”

Concerns about the safety of Iranians in Turkey have been raised before. In 2020, 33 Iranians were deported back to Iran, where two were killed for their involvement in the same 2019 protests that led to Bahram’s prosecution.

Bahram was only saved by a lawyer who freed him from a deportation centre. After this, having spent around a year in hiding, he felt the pressure on his family would increase. He knew once again that he would have to flee. 

“I contacted my family and they gave money to a smuggler,” he said. “I put my life in the hands of the smuggler.”

Bahram was first taken to a house near the Turkish coast and hidden. The house was dirty and there were 20 people in one small room. They were given a sandwich or two a day. He felt like he was under house arrest.

The night he left, they were shuttled out in groups of four. He walked for half an hour to a small boat. He was then taken to a bigger boat. Around 67 people were crammed into a 10-metre-long ship – the equivalent of fitting six football teams into a boat less than half the length of a tennis court. He had been sold a lie.

“It was not safe at all,” Bahram told Byline Times. “The smuggler had told us that it was about 27 metres in length, and had shown us pictures and videos.”

In the early hours of the morning, they started their three-hour trip across the water. “There were many times we nearly drowned,” he said. “There was a Ukrainian captain on the ship, if it weren’t for him we would have 100% drowned.”

But this was not the last boat he would take or the most dangerous.

When they approached the shore, those who could swim were told to do so. Some women and children were taken on small boats.

On the beach, they were divided into groups again and put into lorries. There was no way to tell the time, but it took Bahram and his four other companions at least two to three days to get to their next destination. Tucked away in a lorry, to eat they had biscuits. For a loo, a plastic container. In this lorry, he travelled an unknown route.

His first night free from the lorry was spent in a forest. It was very cold. At 5am he was taken to a beach. He had arrived on the French coast and was now to make the final and most dangerous part of his journey – the English Channel crossing.

There were around 10 men armed with guns and knives. The boat was a small blow up raft. The five of his travelling companions were soon joined by a growing crowd. 

“There were some people who did not want to get on the boat but were threatened,” Bahram said. “Because of that I decided that I must get on the boat.”

This boat was worse than the one they had taken from Turkey. It was just a life raft, less than 10 metres in length, accommodating at least 40 people. “At that point, you know it is not in your own hands,” Bahram said. “A wave would come over and you would think you would die.”

When a French naval ship dwarfed their raft 10 to 15 minutes into their journey, it stayed there, watching over them. Bahram realised it was trying to protect them from drowning.

After about five hours, Bahram arrived at the British coast. His journey from Turkey had taken between 17 and 20 days. He had escaped two countries and travelled across the world by foot, boat and lorry.

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Welcome to the UK

As part of the UK’s new immigration policy, refugees entering the UK across the Channel or by other so-called ‘illegal routes’ can be deported to Rwanda. Once there, they can claim asylum, but there is no route back to the UK. Priti Patel hopes the plan will “overhaul the broken asylum system and break the evil people smugglers”.

But experts, human rights activists and lawyers doubt the legality of the plan.

Gillian Triggs, an assistant secretary-general at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has said it is a breach of international law. The UNHCR has also said that the majority of people crossing the Channel are refugees and not migrants.

Between January 2018 and June 2020, more than 50% of people detected crossing the Channel were from Iran. Three other Iranians are reportedly set to be deported alongside Bahram.

Arriving cold, with wet clothes and an empty stomach, Bahram felt very happy to have arrived in the UK. But, just 17 days after reaching safety in the country, he was sent a letter by the Home Office – his application for asylum had been refused. He is now to be sent 4,000 miles – almost two-and-a-half times the distance he travelled from Turkey – to Rwanda.

Lawyers have filed a judicial review for his case today, challenging the Government’s policy of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. It could take months for the case to be reviewed and would likely be combined with other applications for judicial review. Bahram could still be deported while the case is being reviewed.

His lawyers, who have only had five days to prepare, will also potentially file for an injunction on Monday. If this is the case, the court could halt his deportation while his case is being reviewed.

Hamid Sabi, a British human rights lawyer of Iranian origin, said it is “absurd” of the Government to argue it is illegal to arrive on a dinghy. Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, if a person arrives in the UK and asks for asylum, they have entered the country legally.

Bahram’s ‘Crime’

In November 2019, protests erupted in Iran over the tripling of fuel prices. In response, the Iranian police and military cracked down on protestors using weapons. Amnesty International estimates that more than 300 people were killed.

The Aban Tribunal – an international people’s tribunal – was set up to assess the killings. Bahram was a witness, explaining how he was ordered to shoot protestors.

As a policeman with 60 people under his command, he told his forces that under no condition must they use firearms. Bahram said the protestors were cooperative, “very polite” and “totally peaceful”. But he said other policemen and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard started to shoot at people, killing some. 

“I saw snipers target anybody,” he said. “There was no rhyme or reason to it. Peaceful protestors were arbitrarily shot.”

After the protests, Bahram says he was arrested and taken to a detention centre where he spent 97 days in solitary confinement and was “subjected to the most serious types of psychological torture”. In one instance, he was handed a forged report, he says, that claimed his family had died in an accident and were in a morgue. He went on hunger strike and, after weeks, they allowed him to contact his family.

Bahram said he was given a mock trial in a military court, with no prosecutor or jury. It lasted 10 minutes and he was condemned to five years and 10 months in prison. He was accused of acting against national security and collaborating with demonstrators. When he was let out on bail, he fled to Turkey.

Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer and organiser of the Aban Tribunal, said that “Bahram’s refusal to fire and his decision to testify against the Iranian regime were acts of conscience" and that he was "punished for it once and is being punished again for trying to escape through the only way available to him”.

Sadr added that the UK Government’s Rwanda deal “is in violation of a number of human rights principles, including right to life" and is a "blatant breach of due process that bars basic rights given to refugees”.

Human Rights Watch has criticised Rwanda’s human rights record and poor treatment of refugees. Lewis Mudge, its central Africa director, has said that the “Government continues to embrace a policy of cruelty by sending refugees to a country with a track record for human rights abuses”.

Hamid Sabi, who acted as counsel to the Aban Tribunal, indicated that Bahram was a serious target for the Iranian state, having been a “very important witness” as one of few policemen to have criticised the Government. He also confirmed that members of his family have been arrested.

Nowhere Left to Escape

Bahram’s life is constantly in the hands of someone else. The Iranian state. The Turkish state. The smugglers. The UK Government. And now its judicial system. Not because he is a criminal but because, when he was in a position of power, he refused to follow orders by killing innocent civilians.

When Hamid Sabi escaped persecution in Iran after the 1979 Revolution, he did not need a visa to enter the UK. He questions whether, in modern Britain, he would be given sanctuary.

“The Iranian community in London are shocked,” he said, “nobody can understand where they found this solution to the problem.”

As Bahram counts down the days until he will be made to board a flight to an unfamiliar land – one in which he will once again be at the mercy of a foreign state – he is left in a prison-like detention centre.

“There are cells, they shut the doors at a certain point at night,” he said. “They let us out half an hour a day in the yard. It’s basically a prison.”

He has no safe way to contact his family directly and has to communicate through a friend. Bahram has not spoken to them for almost a month. Nor, he says, has he been allowed to see a specialist doctor to assess his heart condition. No medication had been provided until yesterday, when he was told he was to be given a malaria tablet.

“Right now, I am just counting the seconds," he told Byline Times. Trying to distract myself and tell myself that this is not going to happen... The only thing I can do these days is just hope.”

Bahram refused the malaria pill and told them he did not want to go to Rwanda; a small act of resistance from a man with nowhere left to escape.

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Soap Operas That Teach but Don’t Preach

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 09/06/2022 - 6:00pm in

When Aisha Bekele’s (not her real name) daughter was 14, she was abducted on her way to school, raped and forced to marry the man who did it. Scared the same thing would happen to her 12-year-old, Bekele kept her younger daughter at home in her southern Ethiopian village to protect her. 

It was only when the mother of two heard a radio program about marriage by abduction on Yeken Kignit (“Looking Over One’s Daily Life”), a soap opera that was broadcast across Ethiopia between 2002 and 2004, that she learned that not only was the practice common in the region, it was also illegal. 

Empowered by this knowledge, Bekele and a group of other villagers — many of whom had also listened to the show — came together to condemn the practice and work out ways to prevent it, and Bekele felt able to send her younger daughter to school again.

Bekele’s story is one of many that Population Media Center (PMC) tells to demonstrate the impact of its work. The U.S. nonprofit, which tackles social, health and environmental challenges using entertainment-education soap operas on radio and TV, has created more than 40 shows in over 20 languages since it launched more than two decades ago, broadcasting them to 50 countries and reaching more than 500 million people.

Aspiring voice actors audition for PMC ZambiaAspiring voice actors audition for PMC Zambia. Credit: PMC.

“People do not go home at night to listen to public health messages, they go home to relax and be entertained by the mass media,” says PMC founder William Ryerson. “Using charismatic characters in serial dramas to role model healthful behaviors has been shown over and over to influence large audiences to adopt new social norms.”

While the plotlines of programs like Yeken Kignit might appear straightforward, their simplicity belies the significant work that goes on behind the scenes. Before creating a new radio or TV soap, PMC researchers go into the field to do quantitative and qualitative research, interviewing culture experts to learn as much as they can about the place and its people, from the challenges they face to what they like to eat for breakfast. 

Based on this ethnographic research, PMC chooses the main theme, or themes, of the show — Yeken Kignit’s marriage by abduction, for example — checking that the messages they intend to advocate align with government policies and programs available to the intended audience. If there is no reproductive health clinic in the broadcast zone, for example, PMC will not address reproductive issues that require visiting a clinic.

PMC then hires local writers, training them in an entertainment-education methodology established by Miguel Sabido, former vice president for research at Televisa, a Mexican media corporation. Sabido’s approach, founded on psychological principles of behavior change, gave rise to a communications strategy that uses mainstream media to educate the public on social and health issues. Among his accomplishments, his telenovela Ven Conmigo (”Come With Me”) is credited with increasing enrollment in state-run literacy classes by 63 percent to over 800,000 students.

PMC script writersPMC shows are written and produced by local professionals in the local language. Credit: PMC.

Once PMC’s writers are trained, it is their job to develop a plot with three types of characters — positive, negative and transitional. The former advocate for positive values and negative ones criticize it, but it is the transitional characters, whose attitudes evolve over time towards positive values, who tend to be the most influential, according to Ryerson.

The shows are broadcast over at least a year, enabling such character development and giving audiences time to get accustomed to the messages.

“Parachuting a feminist leader to Sudan would be too radical,” says Ryerson. “It is better to bring permanent change in baby steps. If we do it too fast, the radio gets switched off and people get angry.”  

To be as culturally relevant as possible each PMC show is produced by local professionals in the local language, played by local actors, and set across rural, urban and semi-urban locations so that everyone can identify with at least one of the characters. As the show evolves, the writers incorporate audience feedback and real-life events happening in the country in question into the storyline.

To measure the impact of its work, PMC uses a number of methods including nationally-representative household surveys conducted once a show has ended. These compare knowledge, attitudes and behaviors between listeners and non-listeners. The nonprofit also tracks use of a particular service, such as a health clinic, during a show’s broadcast to discern if the program is helping increase real-time demand. 

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While paying for the likes of prime time airtime and professional actors is more expensive than, say, a billboard campaign, PMC is convinced that the impact of their soap operas makes them a cost-effective way to bring about positive change in low-income communities.

Ruwan Dare (“Midnight Rain”), a PMC radio drama that aired in four northern states of Nigeria between 2007 to 2009, reached an estimated 12.3 million listeners (over 70 percent of the local population) and is believed to have led to 1.1 million new people adopting family planning methods, among other outcomes. Even though the show cost $1 million, funded in part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, PMC calculated that the cost per person for those who adopted family planning and attributed it to the program was only 30 cents.

As well as the measurable impacts of PMC’s work there are the anecdotal ones, such as the Burundian father who says that the popular three-season serial drama Agashi (“Hey! Look Again!”), which aired between 2014 and 2016 and which addressed family planning, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS, helped him talk with his family about issues normally considered taboo.

“There are things I don’t feel comfortable talking about,” he said in a video about PMC’s work. “The serial drama helps me educate my children.” 

Entertainment-education has its critics among scholars who find fault with it for focusing too much on individuals and their power to change themselves rather than on complex sociocultural and economic underlying factors that might influence an individual’s behavior.  

Critics also highlight that development communication interventions are based on the concept of modernization, a process through which countries adopt Western political, economic, cultural and health systems. They argue that the main factor that impedes development is not lack of knowledge but global patterns of power and exploitation as well as structural inequalities and power relations within countries. 

While acknowledging these concerns, Shereen Usdin, a founding member of the Soul City Institute for Social Justice, which uses popular culture for social change (and which has no affiliation with PMC), says that entertainment-education isn’t itself a negative thing.

“Historically, many entertainment-education programs were used by the Global North to educate people in the Global South about issues such as family planning,” says Usdin. “Their agenda was questioned as to whether this was about fertility control or genuine interest in women’s reproductive rights. But people have learned from stories since time immemorial in all cultures. We have found that creating local stories that are not victim blaming and that focus not only on the individual is extremely powerful.”

PMC voice actorA PMC voice actor. Credit: PMC.

Traditionally, PMC focused more on individual behavior change. In recent years, the organization, like many leading entertainment-education practitioners, has moved towards approaches that focus on structural barriers. PMC has also been trying to cooperate more with communications researchers to help them understand the importance of social norms. 

For an upcoming project in Liberia, where a three-year ban on female genital mutilation was recently announced and national elections are scheduled to take place next year, PMC is working with an NGO on the ground to address gender equity, sexual and gender-based violence, and social cohesion and conflict resolution.

There are times when the impact of PMC’s work is immediately evident, as the story of Agness Kaonga, a 23-year-old mother of three from Zambia, demonstrates. 

“I had my first child at the age of 16 and my second son came soon after that,” says Kaonga. “While listening to Kwishilya (“Over the Horizon”) I learned that I could use contraception to space my children and use the time to take better care of my two children. Our third son was born four years later, allowing us to save money for clothes, food and school equipment.”

In many cases, however, working to change norms can take a long time, says Joe Bish, director of issue advocacy at PMC. 

“While our efforts may not be as immediately tangible as the work of other developmental organizations,” says Bish, “which may be providing health clinic services or building physical infrastructure like school buildings, we are trying to bring long-lasting, transformative impacts to the health and wellbeing of future generations.”

The post Soap Operas That Teach but Don’t Preach appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Doubts Cast Over Home Secretary’s Claim that EU has Resettled Refugees in Rwanda

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/05/2022 - 6:45pm in

The Home Office's evidence for the claim pointed to the UNHCR's Emergency Transit Mechanism – but this scheme differs from the UK's plans to resettle people who arrive in the UK 'illegally' to Rwanda

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Questions have been raised about the Home Secretary assertion to MPs that the European Union has resettled individuals in Rwanda. 

Speaking at a House of Commons debate on 19 April about the controversial plan to send people who enter the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda, Priti Patel defended the policy to the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry who had raised concerns about Rwanda’s human rights record.

“Over 130,000 refugees have been resettled in Rwanda and, it is not just a safe country, but one where both the [United Nations refugee agency] UNHCR and the EU have resettled individuals,” Patel said. 

But there are questions around her claims.

A Freedom of Information request submitted to the Home Office asked for clarification on what the UK Government knows about the EU resettling migrant people to Rwanda.

In response, the Home Office said: “It is correct to say that UNHCR and the EU have worked together to resettle refugees to Rwanda, in particular through the Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM)”.

To support this assertion, the Home Office shared an article from the UNHCR website titled 'ETM Rwanda: EU Support Helps UNHCR to Bring Fresh Hope to a Young Refugee'. However, the article shows profound differences between the support the EU provides the UNHCR with the ETM; and the proposal to resettle people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes to Rwanda where they can claim asylum and who will not be able to return to the UK once their asylum claim has been processed.

One is a scheme partly-funded by the EU that evacuates African refugees to a transit facility in Rwanda, where they can make decisions about their future and be resettled elsewhere. The other is a policy that sends migrant people from a place of safety in the UK to a country where they are unlikely to have any ties. 

There is no evidence cited by either the Home Office or the article it shared that the EU itself has resettled individuals in Rwanda.

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A Home Office press officer insisted to Byline Times that the EU “has a scheme” (providing funding to the ETM) to resettle refugees to Rwanda, from where they are free to move to a new home.

They also said the Migration and Economic Development Partnership resettles people who “enter the UK illegally” to Rwanda where they are not detained and where they can receive support, claim asylum or – as per the ETM – move elsewhere. The press officer pointed to a fact sheet on the partnership. 

The fact sheet explains that "people will have all their needs looked after while their asylum claims are being considered in Rwanda. This includes safe and clean accommodation, food, healthcare and amenities. They will have full access to translators and will be able to access legal support in order to appeal decisions in Rwanda’s courts".

People who are "relocated" to the country "will be given a generous support package, including up to five years of training, accommodation and healthcare". They are "free to leave" if they wish.

Sile Reynolds, head of asylum advocacy at Freedom from Torture, told Byline Times: "The Emergency Transit Mechanism is an urgent humanitarian evacuation programme, designed to move vulnerable and traumatised refugees from a situation of immediate danger, to a temporary transit location in Rwanda before they are ultimately resettled in Europe or North America.

"It could not be more different to the UK’s Rwanda scheme which moves refugees from a place of safety to one of danger and insecurity. This is nothing more than a cynical and cack-handed attempt to distract critics from the brutality and unfairness of the Rwanda scheme.”

The UNHCR has strongly criticised the agreement between the UK and Rwanda, saying that it "threatens the international refugee protection regime". Following a meeting with Priti Patel and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta in Geneva on 19 May, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi reiterated these concerns.

The Difference Between the ETM and UK's Rwanda Scheme

The Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM) is a humanitarian solution introduced by the UNHCR to address the torture and exploitation of asylum seekers and refugees in Libya. It helps evacuate people held in detention in Libya to a safe country such as Rwanda or Niger.

The article shared in the FOI response by the Home Office provides a case study of 18-year-old Beza Yimesgen, who was smuggled to Libya and endured human trafficking, rape and torture before being held in detention. Under the ETM, Beza was evacuated to Rwanda transit facility in Gashora. She is now set to be resettled by the UNHCR to Canada. 

The Eu was one of the first bodies to fund the ETM when it was proposed, donating €12.5 million from the EU Trust Fund for Africa. The money helped the UNHCR to evacuate people such as Beza.

“The European Union and its member states are among the largest partners of UNHCR globally, but also to the Rwanda Operation,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, quoted in the article. 

“Their remarkable contributions to the ETM programme in Rwanda, as well as the generous resettlement pledges clearly demonstrate a genuine humanitarian commitment to the refugee cause. I would like to commend the EU for helping us make a new start, new hopes for these vulnerable refugees.”

The ETM evacuates people to a transit facility, like the one in Gashora, where the UNHCR can determine their refugee status and support them to either be resettled in a third country, return to their country of origin, or resettle in Rwanda. Of the 824 who have been received into the system, just over half have been resettled overseas and none have opted to remain in Rwanda.

The clue, however, appears to be in the name: transit facility. This is not a permanent home, but a place where people can start to determine their futures after abuse and violence while receiving medical and psychosocial support. 

Just over 50% of people evacuated to Gashora have moved on to Sweden; while 26.9% have gone to Canada. 17.7% were resettled in Norway; 3.8% in France; and 0.8% in Belgium. All the people evacuated to Gashora were from other African countries.

This seems very different from the EU resettling people seeking asylum in Rwanda, which would involve sending people who are from, or who have arrived into, an EU country to Rwanda permanently – rather than supporting evacuation efforts from Libya to a transit facility. 

It is also profoundly different to the policy agreed by the British and Rwandan Governments. 

The Memorandum of Understanding agreed by Britain and Rwanda allows the Home Office to transport people who arrive in the UK via irregular routes – such as small boats across the Channel – to Rwanda. Once they arrive in the central African nation, they are expected to apply for asylum in Rwanda or leave to go elsewhere. If their asylum claim is successful, they can remain in Rwanda – if not, they will be deported to their country of origin or apply for another form of leave to remain. 

The two policies are not the same – raising questions as to why the Home Office is using a different model as evidence to support the Home Secretary's claims that the EU has resettled refugees in Rwanda. 

The evidence provided by the Home Office does not suggest that the evacuations carried out under the ETM are anything like the resettlement policy introduced by the UK Government – or that the EU has itself resettled refugees to Africa.

“The Government is well aware that anyone transferred to Rwanda under the scheme will not receive anything like the healthcare, accommodation, trauma rehabilitation or durable solution offered through the ETM,” Sile Reynolds added.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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The EU Plan to Expand ‘Hellish’ Repression of Black Migrants

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/05/2022 - 10:24pm in

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Africa

Nafeez Ahmed reveals the European Union’s new defence strategy that promises to scale up an unlawful scheme to forcibly trap migrants in abusive detention camps throughout Africa

Despite justifiable outrage over the UK Government’s plan to send asylum seekers who have entered Britain illegally to Rwanda – which has been accused by the US State Department of “impunity” in significant human rights abuses such as arbitrary killings, torture, force disappearances, and beyond – there has been almost complete silence on the European Union’s latest plan to do the same in partnership with a whole variety of African nations.

The plans are alluded to in the EU External Action Agency’s new Strategic Compass for Security and Defence document, released in March shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but have received no coverage until now despite their dire implications.

The EU’s migrant partnership with Libya has already been the subject of harsh criticism from Amnesty International, which described the conditions migrants and refugees are being returned to in Libya as “hellish”. According to Amnesty, it is unlawful to return anyone to a place where they face serious abuse. 

A report by the UN human rights council released in March revealed alarming evidence of murder, torture, inhumane acts, rape, persecution, and enslavement of migrants in Libya.

Yet under the EU’s cooperation agreements with Libya over the last five years, the EU, Italy and Libya have intercepted 82,000 refugees and migrants at sea and sent them back to Libya where they are detained indefinitely with no due process. They then end up facing what Amnesty describes as “arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and inhuman detention conditions, rape and sexual violence, extortion, forced labour and unlawful killings”.

However, in recent comments, the European Commission has defended the policy as being based on a “do no harm” principle, while confirming plans to expand “the effectiveness of the Libyan search and rescue operations.” But according to the EU Observer, the EU’s partnership with Libya has been so aggressive that it regularly put the lives of dozens of people last summer at risk.

Buried within the new EU defence strategy are plans to expand the Libya strategy by establishing new partnerships with a variety of African nations to address “weaponised” migration.

The document offers an openly aggressive stance on migration, repeatedly describing it as an “instrument” of foreign interference and destabilisation, despite no evidence to this effect:

“State and non-state foreign actors are constantly refining their tactics, techniques and procedures, including the instrumentalisation of irregular migration, lawfare, as well as coercion targeting our economic and energy security.”

Elsewhere, the document claims: “State and non-state actors are using hybrid strategies, cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns, direct interference in our elections and political processes, economic coercion and the instrumentalisation of irregular migration flows.”

Migrants, in other words, are depicted as agents of warfare and destabilisation against the EU – which is precisely the stuff of far-right myths such as the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, that sees all immigration to Europe as a conspiracy to replace white populations with foreign and Muslim migrants.

Astonishingly, the EU document proposes that the solution to this is to expand the “positive” policies showcased in its partnership with Libya, by ensuring more cooperation between civilian border forces and military personnel: in other words, militarising the borders:

“Greater cooperation for mutual benefit between CSDP civilian and military operational engagements and the EU’s justice and home affairs actors, such as EUROPOL, EUROJUST and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX), is necessary. We can build on the positive experiences of border assistance in places such as Libya or the crime information cell established in the EU’s naval operation in the Mediterranean.”

The document further calls for an expansion of its partnerships in Africa to tackle the migration problem, including an expansion of EU military and police operations in coordination with local forces.

“In this context, we will offer more comprehensive security packages to southern neighbourhood partners ready to deepen cooperation on a range of issues, including operational cooperation”, the document proposes.

“We will seek a more robust and balanced security partnership with African partners. To this end, the EU will develop closer operational ties with regional and sub-regional organisations such as the G5 Sahel and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as ad hoc bodies or coalitions in Africa. We will develop military-to-military and police-to-police contacts with African counterparts to enhance our situational awareness.”

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Overall, this suggests that the EU is looking to expand its Libya model across Africa. It also reveals that despite extensive criticisms from human rights organisations, the EU is unrepentant, characterising its horrendous Libya partnership as an example of “positive experiences of border assistance”.

With the EU pursuing this inhumane policy for so many years, it’s no wonder that Brexit Britain has moved in the same direction through its devastating partnership with Rwanda.

A foreign affairs spokesperson for the European Commission promised to provide Byline Times with a comment “clarifying the apparent confusion on the topic, policies and strategies of the EU”. However, they failed to do so.

From Australia to Israel, to Denmark, to the EU and now to Britain, this new model of migrant management has become a fast-growing global trend. Its common denominator in all these regions is the control and brutalisation of vulnerable people of colour fleeing from zones of conflict, terror and poverty.

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A Violent Enterprise

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/05/2022 - 11:29pm in

British colonialism casts a long shadow over modern Nigeria.

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