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Australia’s refugee cruelty exposed by one man’s daring escape

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/09/2021 - 5:09pm in


reviews, refugees

Escape from Manus, by Jaivet Ealom, is an incredible story of determination, cunning and sheer luck that tears apart the Coalition’s lies about refugees. It is a book you can’t put down—sharp and clear on the politics of Australia’s refugee cruelty.

It’s a book you will want to give to friends and family this Xmas and one I suspect that will eventually be made into a film.

The book starts with Ealom’s persecution as an ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar/Burma, where Rohingya are not recognised as citizens. He falsified documents to study at Dagon University in Yangon/Rangoon but without a national ID he could not graduate. He was taken on illegally as an industrial chemist intern but when that ended he had nowhere to go.

Meanwhile the regime had launched mass slaughter of Rohingya in the Arakan province, which saw his parents flee to the jungle. In danger, he is put in touch with Khaled, a Rohingya man who has fled to Jakarta, Indonesia, where a passport is not needed for travel. Ealom seeks to join him. He writes: “I took the first step. And just like that, I became a refugee.”

Ealom explains why the slur of “economic migrants” is so mistaken. “I had never met an economic migrant in detention. Most detainees had abandoned careers and all their worldly possessions, and fled rather than face imprisonment or death. By trying to reach Australia they were looking at life at a much lower socio-economic level than they had once known. That’s the opposite of an economic migrant.”

He also describes the pressures that lead refugees to flee Indonesia by boat. “Refugees were forbidden from studying, working or even opening a bank account in Indonesia—on pain of imprisonment … a few years after I left Indonesia, representatives from the UNHCR [the United Nations body with responsibility for refugee welfare] declared that refugees there, particularly single men, would be lucky to be resettled in two decades, if ever.”

Devil’s bargain

Ealom’s view of the UNHCR “as a paragon of justice and goodness” began to change in Indonesia. He points out the weakness of the UNHCR. “In each country where it operated it was essentially made to do a devil’s bargain. The choice was to take direction from the national government and its immigration policies or to take its people saving business elsewhere.”

Worse still is Australia’s long reach as a regional bully. Ealom shows how Australia funded a new passport system in the Solomon Islands in order to toughen regional borders. Australia also influenced Fiji to deny another Manus escapee, Loghman Sawari, the ability to make a legal claim for asylum, instead deporting him to PNG where he was placed in Bomana prison for daring to escape.

After almost drowning on one attempt to come to Australia by boat, Ealom makes it to Christmas Island. On his way he writes of his thinking about Australia: “A civilised country, with good people, What could go wrong?”

What could go wrong indeed. Ealom finds himself on the wrong side of former Labor PM Kevin Rudd’s 19 July 2013 announcement that “unauthorised maritime arrivals” would never be resettled in Australia. He is imprisoned first on Christmas Island then on Manus Island in PNG.

He writes of Christmas Island detention centre as “a summer camp imagined by machine with an unlimited bank account and little in the way of human compassion”.

“So much of this place was planned and deliberate. Architects had drawn up the blueprints, engineers had built the buildings, consultants had determined the staffing levels, and hired the workers. First world stuff. Yet when it came to the basic task of allowing us to use the pay phone: chaos … this was a callous stupidity that almost felt deliberate.”

He is given a wristband that says “EML 019”, his boat ID. “I didn’t know the wristband particularly mattered. It was made from itchy fabric, the kind you cut off after going to a live event. Now it was proving a durable irritant. The insistence of using letters and numbers instead of names was a classic ploy I should have recognised by now. In Burma I was forced to have my picture taken with a number plate and to call myself Bengali. Here I was EML 019.”

After arriving on Manus, a PNG government official reads the new arrivals a speech. “You were transferred here to be processed under Papua New Guinea law, by Papua New Guinea officials, to be resettled in Papua New Guinea if your claim to asylum is judge to be valid.” Ealom writes: “He ended his speech by declaring ‘you will never set foot in Australia’ … At a stroke he had given the game away. The line, if not the entire speech had been scripted by someone in the Australian government.”

Ealom points to similar Australian government advertising that states: “NO WAY: YOU WILL NOT MAKE AUSTRALIA HOME” and writes: “The irony of this approach, from a country that had been built on an invasion—a hostile takeover by sea, by white settlers forcing themselves on an unwilling Aboriginal population—was lost on the politicians.”

Rotten food

Ealom exposes the horrors on the PNG island of Manus, from the use of DDT (banned worldwide) but regularly sprayed through the detention centre, to constantly rotten food, overflowing toilets that force the men to wade through raw sewage, and the ban on mobiles to hide what was actually going on.

He demolishes then Immigration Minister and now Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s lies over the attacks on refugees that killed Reza Barati. When Morrison says: “I can guarantee their [refugees’] safety when they remain in the centre and act cooperatively with those trying to provide them support and accommodation,” Ealom writes that this was: “A pronouncement that deftly omitted the fact that those who were caring for us were also the ones who were killing us.”

He continues: “Most of the time, from what I had witnessed, people and the way they behaved were products of the power structures in which they operated. For the first time it seemed that an individual shared a unique portion of the blame. Scott Morrison appeared to relish the task of delivering his harsh and punishing policies.”

After a remarkable and daunting series of trials and tribulations, Ealom eventually makes it to Canada, where he receives very different treatment. A Canadian judge backs Ealom’s account, writing in a formal judgement: “You were held there for almost four years. During this time at Manus the conditions were intolerable, there was poor food, you were forced to sleep in shipping containers that were unbearably hot.”

Ealom damns Australia’s approach. “The government spent billions—billions—refining its merciless tactics, which were then repackaged and sold to the Australian taxpayers as plain common sense, packaged with a layer of false advertising about the urgent need to secure borders and save theoretical lives at sea.

“Meanwhile real lives were being destroyed. Refugees were locked up without charge, rebranded as transferees, their names swapped for numbers, as they were dumped in a third country to be terrorised indefinitely. How was that different from what was taking place under other dictatorial regimes?”

Escape from Manus graphically documents Australia’s refugee cruelty, which tragically continues today. Well over 200 refugees remain on PNG and Nauru, and around 70 Medevac refugees are still locked up in Australia after more than eight years.

The refugee movement has made many gains, but there is much more to change. As vaccination rates increase and Australia opens up, we will need more people in the streets to demand welcome, freedom and permanency for refugees.

By Chris Breen

Escape from Manus by Jaivet Ealom
Penguin, $34.99

The post Australia’s refugee cruelty exposed by one man’s daring escape appeared first on Solidarity Online.

This is Little Amal, the puppet refugee girl on a European odyssey

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/09/2021 - 1:32pm in

Her message to the world: please don’t forget the refugee children.

A little girl is walking alone from Syria to England. She is 11 feet and 6 inches tall.

Little Amal (Arabic for “hope”) is actually a giant puppet. She represents the thousands of refugee children who have been displaced from their home countries. This nine-year-old Syrian girl is now journeying from Turkey, across Europe, and to the U.K., as part of an 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile)  travelling festival titled The Walk.

At the end of July, Amal began her journey as a “refugee” in Gaziantep, Turkey, home to half a million Syrians. People holding lanterns aloft surrounded her, lighting up the night. As she moved through the streets, Amal reached out to balconies where children stood watching, and gently touched their hands as they smiled down at her. Orbs of light sparkled overhead, and a choir welcomed her with song. Many of the people participating in the street theater were themselves refugees.

Amal is now halfway through this theatrical journey created by Good Chance, a theater company founded in the Calais refugee camps in 2015, in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company. Communities in Turkey, Greece, and Italy, where she’s continued her journey, have found different ways to welcome her — sometimes with love, and sometimes with hostility. But how close is Amal’s experience to that of real refugee children?

Setting off in Turkey

The rest of Amal’s journey through Turkey was likewise filled with celebration and theatrical wonder.

In Adana, a flock of model birds accompanied her across the Taşköprü stone bridge, held up proudly on long sticks by both children and adults in the local community. She played with the children of Tarsus, who crowded in together for a chance to touch her hands. In the Kaleiçi Bazaar in Denizli, portraits of refugees who had journeyed through Turkey were projected onto walls as she appeared.

“I think the most common reaction is wonderment, followed by curiosity. People have been receiving her very warmly in many places,” says Amir Nizar Zuabi, artistic director of The Walk and Good Chance.

“One of the most astonishing things for me as artistic director on this project, was the true generosity and creativity that this evoked from people,” he says. “This project is only possible because of a network of thousands of people that have devoted time, energy, and their creativity to create these welcoming events along the way.”

Turkey is a poignant place for this journey to begin. It hosts the biggest population of refugees in the world. The “best interests of the child” principle, part of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, is enshrined into law here, which means that all unaccompanied young refugees must, in theory, be given suitable accommodation and a guardian. But according to the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), many children are in fact abandoned by the state which doesn’t offer the protections they are promised. AIDA has also pointed out the state sometimes appoints inappropriate guardians, such as people without the right qualifications, or who aren’t a relative, leaving refugee children with no other choice but to beg in the street.

Were Amal settling in Turkey, accessing education could also be a real problem. Approximately 400,000 Syrian children residing in the country are not receiving an education, according to Human Rights Watch and Turkey’s Ministry of Education,

Amal, however, is not settling in Turkey. On her last day in the country, she stood on the shores of Çesme as the sun set, ready to take a boat to Greece. In these waters, many refugees like her have lost their lives. Zuabi commented on the potency of that moment, as Amal looked into the horizon, almost motionless.

Hostility in Greece

Little Amal’s journey in Greece was, at times, quite tumultuous. It began with music, with a whole community arriving to meet her off the boat in Chios and welcome her with song. But in other towns, she faced fury.

“In a city called Larissa in Greece, she became a symbol of the refugee problem, she was shouted at and even violently attacked,” says Zuabi. Protesters threw stones at Amal. And in Meteora, people voted to ban Amal from walking through their village, because they did not want a Muslim child walking through a Greek Orthodox space. More violence was threatened against Amal in other towns and villages along her route.

“From that moment, her appearances in Greece created a strong sense of solidarity. I think the reaction she induces is specific to the context of the country we are in, and even more specific to the city and the population we meet,” Zuabi says. “One thing I know for sure is that nobody stays indifferent.” 

In spite of the threats against Amal, people still came together to welcome her in Athens. While some events had to be cancelled, Amal took to a rooftop in Athens to meet locals. From this vantage point, Zuabi says, he could see people wiping tears from their eyes. On the Walk With Amal Instagram account people responded to the video of the violence with an outpouring of love and solidarity—more than double the number of comments than their other popular videos. There were messages like, “I’m so proud that I walked with you Amal, hand in hand with my children!” and “We want to welcome you, celebrate you and keep you safe.” 

In Ioannina, Amal walked between the Katsikas refugee camp and the city centre. In the camp, Zuabi says there was a sense of pride; people felt celebrated. As she walked on, the local community presented lightboxes filled with messages of hope: “You are our rainbow” and “Step by step,” they said. 

When unaccompanied minors arrive in Greece, they are detained in reception centres until they’ve been processed and a place in a shelter found for them, but backlogs mean they can be left waiting for months. Their accommodation is often unsuitable, and spaces are limited. Human Rights Watch has witnessed young people living amongst the general population of Greece’s Moria Camp, because the areas designated for children are beyond capacity. Some children have to fend for themselves, sometimes sleeping in the open despite the fact that, under Greek law, unaccompanied children should be placed in safe accommodations and placed under guardianship.

Irida Pandiri is responsible for shelters for unaccompanied minors through her work with the Association for the Social Support of Youth (ARSIS), a Greek NGO that assists young people in difficulty or danger. She says the larger reception centres in which people are detained are simply not appropriate for children, in part because they cannot leave the facilities to go to school. Meanwhile, the guardianship promised to these young people is not provided. 

“Guardianship, it is almost a joke in Greece,” she says. “When they are in the detention facilities, there are no guardians.” This, for ARSIS, is a crucial issue. Education is also a major problem, with Greek schools often reluctant to register refugee children; even in cases where registration is possible, Covid restrictions often prevent them from leaving the camp to attend.

In order to make it to these reception centres, young refugees must come face-to-face with authorities hoping to send them back to Turkey. Their “welcome” to Greece is full of violence: their belongings are confiscated and they are frequently turned away, in clear violation of their human rights. Many such experiences have been documented by organizations like the Border Violence Monitoring Network and Refugee Rights Europe.

Just as the response to Amal’s reception in Greece was mixed, so has ARSIS found its ability to do its work challenged by uneven support in various communities.

“In the years since 2017-2018, in the areas where we are trying to establish shelters, unfortunately, the communities weren’t so welcoming,” Pandiri says.

But ARSIS continues to support young refugees as best it can. The organization has eight centres for unaccompanied children across Greece, and they operate safe zones in some of the larger camps. Other NGOs also offer child protection services, legal advice, and recreational activities.

As Amal took her final steps in Greece toward Piraeus Port, she was guided by more singing and live music. The protests in Greece were loud, but the welcome was louder.

Walking through Italy

Little Amal is now walking through Italy. She arrived in Bari, where an Italian nonna, or grandmother, arrived to give her guidance. This nonna, a puppet just a few inches shy of Amal’s height, pulled her for a hug and imparted upon her some words of wisdom.

Credit: Abdul SaboorLittle Amal greeted by an Italian nonna, or grandmother, in Bari, Italy.

Italy has welcomed Amal warmly, but this experience might be far from the reality for actual young refugees. Andrea Costa is president of Baobab Experience, an organization supporting displaced people who have arrived in Italy. The organization is also a humanitarian partner of The Walk.

“Italy—and I’m very sad to say this, because I love my country—is changing,” Costa said. Although it has traditionally welcomed foreigners, negative media coverage of migration and the rise of far-right politicians have led to a changed country, he said, adding: “It’s pretty difficult for unaccompanied minors to make their way in Italy.”

In Italy, solidarity with refugees has now been criminalized in a number of ways. In June 2019, Italy banned NGOs from carrying out search and rescue operations. In the area of Ventimiglia, several people have been charged for giving food to refugees, after a municipal decree outlawed the practice.

“Before, people felt ashamed to be racist,” said Costa. But now, people who want to help refugees must do so surreptitiously. 

Like Turkey and Greece, Italy has policies and procedures in place that are designed to protect unaccompanied children. They are given a permit to remain until they are 18 years old. They can’t be pushed back to other countries, they must be accommodated, and they cannot be detained. 

But in practice, these rights aren’t always respected. As the coronavirus pandemic swept through Italy, the government used private ships to quarantine incoming refugees. According to a report from the Italian Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), some children were held on these ships for 10-15 days (although some people report this is far longer) before their ages were assessed. Human Rights Watch reported that children were being illegally pushed back from Italy to Greece, another abuse of rights. These are young people who have most likely already faced tremendous trauma.

Costa describes Italy as a transit country for refugees. While many young people choose to move through the country rather than claim asylum, they are at risk.

“We have an extremely high number of unaccompanied minors who don’t want to stay in Italy, but want to go directly to France, to Germany, to Holland, to Belgium, because they know that even for minors, just like for all the other migrants, it’s much better organized in other European countries,” Costa said.

According to Human Rights Watch, many young refugees cite a lack of access to education and poor reception upon arrival in Italy as influencing them to move onto other countries instead.

Baobab Experience is an organization composed of volunteers who care for young people at risk of falling into the hands of smugglers or human traffickers while they’re in Italy. They make sure these refugees have somewhere to sleep, something to eat, and are clothed. Recently, they joined a network of organizations helping to create safe passages so that, if those young people do choose to cross borders, trusted organizations can help on the other side, including in finding travel tickets at the best prices, rather than turning to smugglers.

But there is another problem for unaccompanied minors in Italy—a cruel gift on their 18th birthday. As they make the difficult transition into adulthood, far from their home country and family, they are no longer guaranteed accommodation. Many of them lack the skills to make their way safely in the world, with no access to language or professional skills.

“There are a lot of young people that really lose important years of their lives,” Costa says. This is why Baobab Experience provides English and Italian courses for young people.

Despite all this, Costa remains optimistic about the future of refugees in Italy. He’s seen a change in younger Italians, who seem to be more understanding about their plight. Perhaps a new, more welcoming Italy is on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Amal is continuing her journey through Italy, before she crosses into France. She’s just finished exploring the ancient landmarks of Rome; in Vatican City Pope Francis met with Amal, along with the children accompanying her on this leg of the journey. 

Amal’s welcome across Turkey, Greece, and Italy varied from country to country and village to village. Like the refugees whose experiences she’s enacting, Amal’s journey has only begun. Her last stop is the U.K., where the government is currently pushing through legislation called the borders and nationalities bill, which would deny asylum or aid to any refugee who enters the country through an unofficial port of entry—for example, by crossing the channel in a small boat. Under the provisions of the bill, Afghan refugees forced to escape from the Taliban could be jailed in the U.K. because they reached the country by routes that the U.K. government has decided are “illegal”—although, according to international law, there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. What kind of welcome can Amal expect when she arrives in October?

In spite of the government proposals, many British communities promise a warm welcome to Amal and to refugee children. Camden Town has planned a birthday party for Amal, while several choirs will sing for her in the port town of Folkestone on the day she arrives in the U.K.. Anti-refugee sentiment has become more pronounced since Brexit, but many people have also become more vocal about their support for refugees. In the face of racism, changing government policy, and dehumanizing tabloid headlines, compassionate communities are needed more than ever.

The post This is Little Amal, the puppet refugee girl on a European odyssey appeared first on The Conversationalist.

Why ‘Work from Anywhere’ Works for Refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/09/2021 - 6:00pm in

Thon Mabior Jok was just 11 years old when he fled the violent conflict in his native South Sudan in 2002. He became one of millions of Sudanese forced from their homes, and settled in the sprawling Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, which currently houses nearly 200,000 residents

Jok soon undertook his studies in the public schooling system and by graduation he had proven himself such a gifted pupil that he was hired as primary school teacher at the camp. Yet while helping to educate and improve the life prospects of refugee children in Kakuma was fulfilling, his salary of $50 per month was less rewarding.

“The money was very little,” says Jok. “It was not enough for me to sustain a decent lifestyle and cater for all my needs. I had brothers and sisters to support, too.”

But one day, Jok’s life prospects changed. The International Trade Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council launched digital training on modern, in-demand skills such as email marketing and social media campaigns in Kakuma. Jok realized that, just like any worker looking to make themselves more marketable, he would need to upskill.

In 2020, he successfully applied to become a freelancer on UpWork, one of a new wave of apps and websites that facilitate internet-based work that are giving refugees the chance to earn a good income, to better integrate within their host countries, and to experience a kind of liberty and agency in their employment that they are rarely afforded. 

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According to a report published in August by the International Labor Organization (ILO), digital gig work has the potential to play a transformative role for refugees and migrants. Unlike location-based gig work like food delivery and taxi services, or on-demand domestic labor that is often exploitable, unstable and underpaid, the report found that desk-based work on digital labor platforms offers refugees a much more promising path toward steady, fulfilling employment.

“What’s needed more than ever are long-term durable solutions for refugees,” says Drew Gardiner, a youth employment specialist at the ILO who contributed to the report, which focused on case studies in Kenya, Uganda and Egypt. “If we can get them into decent work, that will help their integration.”

Gardiner says the lower barriers to entry and greater informality of digital labor platforms make them practical for uprooted workers looking for a foothold. Jobs such as digital design and data entry can often be done from anywhere that has internet access. And platforms like UpWork, making use of a legal grey area, accept alien ID cards and refugee documents, circumventing the issue of refugees often being unable to obtain work permits. At the same time, they provide more opportunities for women and those in vulnerable situations, as well as encouraging innovation and upskilling through the cutting-edge job opportunities available.

refugee campA refugee camp in Burkina Faso. Credit: Oxfam

Jok, who is now 30, works as a freelancer doing translation, data entry and social media campaigns from a computer lab in the Kakuma camp set up by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Like Jok, some 140 refugees living in Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps have recently been trained in online freelancing, often with jobs such as translation or language teaching. 

Increasingly, intermediary organizations between platforms and workers are also being launched to help the latter with negotiating employment terms, contracts and protections. In Kenya, there is Digital Lions, which calls itself a “fair trade” digital agency; freelancing platform Ureed caters to Egypt and across the Middle East; and  Bulgaria-based social enterprise Humans in the Loop employs and trains refugees to provide data services to companies training machine learning algorithms.

Ghazaleh, a 22-year-old Iranian who emigrated to Sofia, Bulgaria, is now working for Humans in the Loop as their annotation coordinator, managing teams of freelancers who provide labeling data for images and video to help power AI programs. Tasks might, for example, include looking at images of products in a supermarket and entering data for their prices and descriptions.

“Image annotation is easy, so it helps lots of people,” says Ghazaleh, who began her job in May after being trained as an annotator herself. “If you have a computer or PC at home, you can be an annotator from every place and every hour.”

But these resources are far from guaranteed for refugees, and therefore mean that work on digital labor platforms does come with serious limitations. In refugee camps, access to computers, suitable workspaces and digital infrastructure is a luxury that many residents are not afforded.

Jok echoes these concerns: the internet and electricity connections aren’t reliable in Kakuma. And with clients living in different time zones, sometimes there are tough working hours. As with all freelancers, the work can be irregular too. “It’s not perfect,” he says. “That’s for sure.”

Gardiner, of the ILO, points to other areas for improvement. Algorithms should be used to prioritize workers who have had fewer work offers than others. Collective bargaining and basic principles for negotiations between workers and employers need to be established. And platforms should create insurance schemes that cater specifically for individual refugee workers. 

“We do promote the extension and inclusion of refugees in digital labor platforms, but we must have these minimum requirements,” he says.

Despite the teething problems, Jok is unequivocally positive about the opportunity that digital labor platforms offer to the millions around the world who have been forced from their homes.

“In Kakuma, we have lots of youths that are jobless,” says Jok. “Online platforms can create a new life. It’s helped me a lot and has given me a future. It can do the same for them.”

The post Why ‘Work from Anywhere’ Works for Refugees appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

More protests needed to open the border to Afghan refugees, end temporary visas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 19/09/2021 - 12:15pm in


refugees, refugees

A month since the fall of Kabul, the Morrison government still shows no sign of responding to the demands to grant permanent visas to Afghan refugees already in Australia on temporary protection visas (TPV).

That change would also mean they could apply to bring their families who have been denied entry to Australia under the terms of TPVs.

More than 150,000 people have now signed a petition calling for permanent visas, and for a special category intake of at least 20,000 Afghan refugees separate from the Australia’s annual humanitarian quota. 

Despite Morrison saying that the 3000 humanitarian visas set aside for Afghans was a “floor not a ceiling”, the government has done nothing to ensure that the thousands of people who need visas will get them.

The government evacuated 4100 people from Kabul, 800 of them at the request of other countries. Many others were those with Australian passports. The government has not said how many Afghan nationals were actually evacuated; those evacuated were limited to those designated as Locally Engaged Employees. Nonetheless, it is obvious that a majority of the 3000 ear-marked visas could have already been allocated. Yet the government says nothing about the thousands of Afghans who have been left behind, nor the thousands of Afghan refugees deprived of security in Australia.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke says that his office has already received more than 10,000 humanitarian visa applications via Afghans in Australia. In normal circumstances, such applications can take years to process.

Meanwhile the 5100 Afghan refugees in Australia with TPVs are prevented from bringing their families. And, because they only have temporary visas, these refugees are forced to re-apply as they expire, usually after three years.

Some are still waiting for an answer two years after reapplying. In the name of deterring refugee boat arrivals, the government has deliberately created an underclass of refugees denied permanent residency.

Twenty years after Afghan refugees on the Tampa were denied entry to Australia, the government is again shutting out Afghan asylum seekers.

Shutting the border

As people crowded around the gates of Kabul airport, almost the first thing Immigration minister Karen Andrews did as was to make a video warning that no one who arrived by boat would be settled in Australia. Meanwhile the only reassurance being given to temporary visa holders, Afghan students and others, is that, “No Afghan visa holder will be asked to return to Afghanistan at this stage [emphasis added].”

Former Human Rights Commissioner Chris Sidoti asked rhetorically, “how many human rights defenders? How many women’s and children’s rights activists? How many anti-corruption campaigners? How many democracy advocates did Australia evacuate from Afghanistan?” He reports that while the UK, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, France, Germany, the US and others have taken 43 of the 90 staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and their families, Australia has taken none.

Even those who were known to Australian staff and had lodged Australia visa applications were left behind in Kabul unless the visa itself had been issued.

When pressed about why so few interpreters were evacuated from Afghanistan, Defence minister Peter Dutton resorted to similar baseless, fearmongering smears he has used against other asylum seekers, declaring that some of the former interpreters “had shifted their allegiance to the Taliban or Al Qaeda.”

The Morrison government is desperately trying to hold maintain its hardline border protection policies. But the pressure on the government will increase over the next weeks and months. Recent Afghan arrivals will be granted permanent visas while it is obvious that those on temporary visas (or who have been denied visas) cannot be sent back.

The demand on the government to lift its ban on accepting UNHCR refugees from Indonesia is also gaining momentum.

More protests are going to be needed to win permanent visas for Afghans and all those on temporary visas and to force Morrison to open the borders to all those who need protection.

Labor is committed to scrapping TPVs, but much more is needed. Offshore detention and boat turnbacks—every bit of Operation Sovereign Borders—must also be scrapped. The refugee movement can’t settle for anything less.

By Ian Rintoul

The post More protests needed to open the border to Afghan refugees, end temporary visas appeared first on Solidarity Online.

In the Aftermath of War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/08/2021 - 2:03am in

Photo credit: john smith 2021 / _____ As the military situation in Afghanistan began to unspool at the end...

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How the Tampa crisis cemented Australia’s brutal border policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/08/2021 - 10:30am in


refugees, refugees

Twenty years ago this month, the ‘Tampa affair’, a flash point in John Howard’s militaristic and xenophobic response to refugees arriving by boat, made the demonisation of refugees central to Australian politics, writes Mark Goudkamp

On 24 August 2001 the Palapa, a small Indonesian fishing boat overloaded with 433 asylum seekers, faltered in international waters about 140 kilometres north of Christmas Island.

Two days later, Arne Rinnan, captain of the Norwegian cargo ship MV Tampa, responded to a distress call from the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre while en route from Fremantle to Singapore. Australia had wanted Indonesian search and rescue to deal with the situation, but the Tampa arrived at the sinking boat first, and commenced a rescue operation that continued all afternoon. Makeshift accommodation and bathrooms were set up on the open deck.

Rinnan later told Norway Today: “When we arrived it was obvious to us that it was coming apart. Several of the refugees were obviously in a bad state and collapsed when they came on deck to us. Ten to 12 of them were unconscious, several had dysentery and a pregnant woman suffered abdominal pains.”

Australia instructed Rinnan to transport his human cargo to the Indonesian port of Merak, 11 hours away, but a delegation of desperate asylum seekers convinced him to head for Christmas Island, which was much closer.

The Australian government threatened to prosecute Rinnan for people smuggling and to fine him $110,000 if he entered Australia’s maritime zone. Howard insisted that no asylum seeker on the Tampa would set foot on Australian soil. Two months before Howard’s infamous boast, “We will decide who comes to this country”, he said he wanted to, “draw a line on what is increasingly becoming an uncontrollable number of illegal (sic) arrivals in this country.”

Many of the asylum seekers on board were ill. Over the next 48 hours,

Rinnan made repeated requests to the Australian authorities for help. On 28 August, the Flying Doctor Service reported a “mass situation medical crisis”—including 15 unconscious, sick children, pregnant women, and hunger strikers suffering stomach pain and diarrhoea.

Rinnan declared an emergency and entered Australian waters. The government decreed him in “flagrant breach” of the law, and sent 45 SAS commandos to seize control of the ship.

Rinnan remained anchored four nautical miles off Christmas Island, refusing to move back into international waters, saying it was unsafe to sail until the asylum seekers had been offloaded. The owners of his ship agreed, and the Norwegian government reported Australia to the United Nations for breaking international maritime law.

Labor capitulates

Later that night, Howard hurriedly introduced the “Border Protection Bill 2001”, seeking the power to remove any foreign ship from Australian territorial waters.

While Labor joined the cross-bench in voting it down in the Senate, the government’s subsequent legislation, which excised Christmas Island and other areas from Australia’s migration zone, and ordered the expulsion of the Tampa refugees, faced no opposition from Labor leader Kim Beazley.

Labor’s complete capitulation meant that asylum seekers unable to reach the Australian mainland would no longer be permitted to apply for refugee status. The navy was empowered to intercept and turn back asylum boats. Labor’s “me too” bipartisan cruelty towards asylum seekers was cemented, continuing its support for anti-refugee laws and policies since Howard had come to power in 1996.

By 2 September the “Pacific Solution” was born. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer put Australia’s regional imperialist role on full display by enticing the tiny, bankrupt nation of Nauru with $20 million to take the Tampa refugees. They were forced onto the HMAS Manoora and banished there, while a temporary detention centre were hurriedly assembled.

Downer’s approaches to East Timor, Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Palau were all rejected. Fiji’s Labor Party leader, Mahendra Chaudry, described the offer of money in return for hosting a detention centre as, “a shameful display of cheque book diplomacy” and as “tantamount to offering a bribe”.

However, in October, Howard announced a deal with Papua New Guinea to detain asylum seekers on Manus Island.

New Zealand ultimately took 208 of the Tampa refugees, mostly women and children. Many of them flourished there, including Abbas Nazari, who has called for the current Nauru and Manus refugees to come to NZ too, and just published a book about his experience.

On Nauru the refugees were subjected to intense pressure to return to Afghanistan, and 179 succumbed. An investigation by Fairfax Media in 2011 found at least 20 who returned were killed, while many others fled again, and more than a dozen remained in hiding. Of those processed on Nauru, 28 did finally settle permanently on Australian soil, while Canada, Norway and Sweden took others.

Two weeks later came 9/11. Howard, who happened to be in Washington DC, exploited the terror attacks, claiming that asylum seekers from the Middle East were potential terrorists.

Days later, then Defence Minister Peter Reith asserted in four separate interviews that, “security and border protection go hand in hand”. Parliamentary secretary Peter Slipper said there was, “an undeniable linkage between illegals (sic) and terrorists”, while on the eve of the 10 November election, John Howard craftily commented, “you just don’t know”.

This was yet another lie. The following May, the head of ASIO, Dennis Richardson, said he had seen no evidence of foreign governments trying to disguise terrorists as asylum seekers, and asked: “Why would people use the asylum seeker stream when they know they will be subject to mandatory detention?”

Scapegoating refugees seemed to be a winning formula for Howard. A Roy Morgan Poll conducted on September 12-16 showed that 68 per cent of people supported the government using the SAS to block the Tampa refugees from reaching Australia. Newspoll showed support for turning back all refugee boats rising to 56 per cent by late October.

Howard sought every opportunity to make political mileage. On 6 October, the government began whipping up lies about another group of refugees, accusing them of throwing their children into the sea to force their rescue.

The “Children Overboard” affair dominated the headlines for weeks. Eventually photos were released proving that government ministers were wilfully lying—but only after the election.

Then on 19 October, the sinking of the SIEV-X under suspicious circumstances caused the drowning of 353 asylum seekers, including 142 women and 146 children. Their husbands and fathers were already in Australia but Temporary Protection Visas prevented them applying for family reunion.

Turning back the racism

Howard won the 2001 election. In his memoirs he describes the response to the Tampa as a “resounding success’’. The events are often given credit for his victory, although the terror attacks in the US on 11 September had a greater impact.

Yet by 2004 only 35 per cent still supported his government’s response to the Tampa, while 61 per cent thought some or all boats should be able to land, compared to 47 per cent at the height of the Tampa crisis.

A big reason for this shift in public opinion was the refugee rights movement. Socialists were central to initiating Refugee Action Collectives (RAC) in most capital cities with the aim of countering Howard’s racism, shifting public opinion and breaking Labor’s despicable anti-refugee stance.

The campaign began in 1999 after the Liberals introduced (One Nation’s policy of) Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), and refugees staged hunger strikes in detention centres at Woomera in SA and Curtin in WA.

The Tampa crisis caused the RAC groups to significantly step up our activity. Demonstrations mobilised crowds of people furious with the government and disgusted with Labor’s weakness and capitulation.

As Socialist Worker, the forerunner of Solidarity, reported at the time: “Hundreds rallied in every capital city around the country, including 500 people in Canberra who were addressed by ALP Senator Barney Cooney, in defiance of his party. On the following Saturday almost a quarter of the population of Christmas Island, some 300 people, protested carrying signs like ‘Let the refugees in’ and ‘SOS not SAS’. In Sydney, about 1500 outraged people marched through the city streets in a rally built with only six days’ notice.”

ALP members quit the party in droves. Others who distributed ALP how to vote cards on election day said they were voting for The Greens. The Greens’ lower house vote shot up—from 2.1 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2001.

The weeks following the Tampa saw a proliferation of other refugee activist groups formed, including Circle of Friends (Adelaide), We Are All Boat People (artists), and Actors For Refugees. ChilOut (Children Out of detention) had formed just before Tampa, after Four Corners exposed the impact of detention on a child in Villawood. In October, Rural Australians for Refugees was founded, with Labor for Refugees created soon after Howard’s re-election.

The movement called mass protests, organised detention centre convergences, held public forums, and mass distributed leaflets and fact sheets.

Many unions took a strong pro-refugee stance, and state ALP conferences passed Labor for Refugees motions. Faced with a backbench revolt, Howard was forced to make concessions. Children were let out of detention, the last refugees came off Nauru and Manus Island, and time limits were placed on onshore detention.

In Kevin Rudd’s first year in office he abolished TPVs and granted work rights to bridging visa holders. However, he left intact the repressive border regime set up during the Tampa crisis.

When asylum boats started arriving in 2009, Turnbull and Abbott demanded the reopening of offshore detention. Gillard was quick to capitulate again, and Rudd even sought to outbid the Coalition with his PNG Solution. Back in power, the Liberals imposed Operation Sovereign Borders to turn back boats, and the 2015 ALP conference voted to back them.

Resistance by refugees and the movement has continued to this day. But Australia will never have a humanitarian refugee policy until the border protection framework established during the Tampa crisis 20 years ago is fundamentally dismantled.

The post How the Tampa crisis cemented Australia’s brutal border policies appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Pressure grows for urgent intake as Morrison abandons Afghan refugees

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/08/2021 - 10:59am in

The Afghan crisis has exposed everything that is rotten about Morrison and the government’s anti-refugee policies.

Morrison has admitted that the Australian government evacuation efforts will not reach even all Afghans who worked with and supported Australian troops. Yet he insisted that Australia will only help those who come through “official channels”.

While thousands massed at the airport in Kabul desperate for a way out, Morrison has slammed shut any “official channels” to Afghan refugees in Australia on temporary visas.

There are 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas (TPVs) and thousands more on bridging visas waiting for applications to be processed. But Morrison warns that there will be no permanent residency, no citizenship for them and no safety for their families.

Morrison says he will accept 3000 Afghan refugees this year but not the families of Afghans on temporary protection visas in Australia; they are officially barred by the terms of the temporary visa.

Morrison is channelling Tony Abbott’s callous “Nope, nope, nope” response in 2015 when he refused to help Rohingya refugees dying in boats as they fled persecution in Myanmar.

Later in 2015, Abbott also refused to accept Syrian refugees caught in the humanitarian crisis, until tens of thousand of protesters demonstrated across Australia and forced him to open the door. Abbott eventually agreed to establish a special intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees (over four years), well behind the 30,000 that Canada accepted in just one year.

A special intake is once again being demanded by the Afghan community and the refugee movement.

Just as Australia’s bombing in Iraq and Syria helped create the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015, Australia’s imperialist intervention in Afghanistan has helped generate the current dire situation. And Morrison’s offer is as pathetic as Abbott’s was. Canada and the UK are two other countries that partnered the US occupation. Canada is accepting 20,000 immediately and the UK says it will accept 5000 in the next year, alongside another 5000 for those who assisted the British military.

Far more than 3000 visas will be needed just for the family members of refugees in Australia. Then there are another 7000 Afghan refugees in Indonesia that Australia should immediately resettle but who are also excluded from Australia’s “official channels” since Morrison, as immigration minister in 2014, banned resettling refugees from Indonesia.

Family reunion

Temporary protection visas have a shocking history and are an abuse of refugees’ right to enduring protection and security. Yet they are a central plank in the government policies of deterrence and have created an underclass of vulnerable people.

In 2003, thousands of Iraqi refugees were denied permanent visas because they were told that the Australian supported US invasion of Iraq was going to restore democracy and they would be able to return safely to Iraq.

Morrison has a particular responsibility for the fact that the families of refugees have been left in danger in Afghanistan. Even before TPVs were re-introduced, Morrison introduced Direction 80, placing the families of all refugees who arrived by boat “at the lowest priority”. Thousands of applications by Afghan refugees for family reunion have never been processed.

There are also hundreds of Afghan asylum seekers who have been denied protection visas because the government wrongly proclaimed that Kabul (or Mazar-e-Sharif) was safe. All those claims must be re-assessed.

There is no “official channel” for the three Afghan Medevac refugees, nor the other 53 that are in Australian detention.

On TPVs, the Labor Party is diametrically opposed to Morrison. Anthony Albanese says that all Afghans on temporary protection visas should get permanent residency and “the capacity to become full Australian citizens”. That’s a start but much more is going to be needed.

The brutal reality of Australia’s imperialist intervention and the war crimes in Afghanistan is mirrored in the government’s calculated mistreatment of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

Despite COVID restrictions, a rally called by refugee supporters in Brisbane needs to be the start of a concerted public outcry if we are going to win permanent visas and the possibility of safety for Afghan refugees and their families. Morrison is a thug at home and abroad—he’s got to go.

By Ian Rintoul

Sign the online petition to demand permanent visas and a special intake here

The post Pressure grows for urgent intake as Morrison abandons Afghan refugees appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Eight years is enough—refugee detention onshore and offshore must end

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 18/07/2021 - 2:48pm in

This year 19 July marks the beginning of the ninth year of Offshore Detention Mark II.

Eight years ago, then Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced on 19 July 2013 that asylum seekers arriving by boat would be sent to Nauru or Manus Island, and none would ever be settled in Australia.

Eight years later, there are around 233 asylum seekers and refugees still held in PNG and Nauru. And 100 more (including the refugees brought under the Medevac legislation in 2019) are still being held in detention centres and hotels in Australia.

Rudd’s announcement opened one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s shameful history of immigration detention. The Liberals went further when they were elected in September 2013 (with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister and Scott Morrison as Immigration Minister). They called in the military to command Operation Sovereign Borders and added boat interceptions and turnbacks to the war against refugees.

In a recent report, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants estimated that Australia has turned back 800 asylum seekers on 38 boats since 2013, but few have ever been reported because of the government’s policy of strict secrecy regarding “on water matters.” In 2018, the UN working group on arbitrary detention condemned Australia’s indefinite incarceration of refugees and asylum seekers, while previous reports accused Australia of violating the Convention Against Torture for holding asylum seekers in dangerous and violent conditions on Manus Island.

But the Australian Solution is spreading globally. In early June, Denmark passed a law enabling it to process asylum seekers outside Europe, having signed a memorandum of understanding with Rwanda, which is already housing refugees relocated from Libya.

Shortly after, Britain indicated its interest in teaming up with Denmark to establish a shared refugee processing centre in Rwanda. And now, Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, has introduced a Nationality and Borders Bill (previously known as the Sovereign Borders Bill) that mirrors the suite of Australia’s anti-refugee policies.

The new laws will expand detention centres, provide for the removal of asylum seekers to offshore processing centres, establish prison sentences for illegal entry (read boat arrivals), and make it easier to remove asylum seekers who arrive in Britain unlawfully.

Patel is also taking her talking points from Tony Abbott, declaring the new laws will allow, “the British people…to take full control of its borders… crack down on vile, criminal smugglers who bring asylum seekers across the Channel, and break the business model of criminal trafficking and save lives”.

The fight to end offshore detention has grown more urgent.

That fight, for the moment, is focused on the Medevac refugees still in detention in Australia. They need their freedom—they need permanent visas. But the dark chapter that opened in 2013 won’t be over until all the asylum seekers and refugees brought from Nauru and PNG and living in community detention or on bridging visas become permanent residents, those remaining in PNG and Nauru are brought to Australia (or safely resettled), and Nauru is finally closed.

Medevac refugees start hunger strike

As Solidarity goes to press, around 12 Medevac refugees have re-started their hunger strike protest in the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA).

The 12 were all part of the group of 14 refugees who staged a hunger strike in MITA in late June. Although that hunger strike ended on 3 July, one refugee is still not well enough to leave Northern hospital. 19 July will mark the beginning of their ninth year in detention too.

“We are very tired,” one of the hunger strikers told Solidarity, “Next Monday [19 July], we are nine years in detention. No-one can tell us why. Since our last hunger strike, we did not get any answers.”

In late June, the High Court decision in ALJ20 put the possibility of legal action freeing the Medevac refugees further out of reach. The decision found that even if the government was not holding them for the “temporary purpose” of their transfer (ie they are not getting their needed medical treatment) or making any arrangements for their removal, their on-going, indefinite detention was lawful.

Protests are continuing at Brisbane’s detention centre (BITA) where over 30 Medevac refugees are being held, outside Darwin detention, outside MITA, and outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne.

By Ian Rintoul

The post Eight years is enough—refugee detention onshore and offshore must end appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Entrevista a Xuân Rayne: Vietnamita, anarquista, trabajadora sexual

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/07/2021 - 7:56am in

image/jpeg icon1675F567-5CBA-4201-B131-F27992FCB93F.jpeg

Entrevistamos a Xuân Rayne, una anarquista vietnamita y trabajadora sexual no binaria afincada en Estados Unidos, para que nos explique la intersección de sus identidades, los caminos de la solidaridad internacional entre los trabajadores del sexo y cómo los trabajadores en general pueden estar con los trabajadores del sexo.
Xuân utiliza cualquier/todos los pronombres.
A translation of our interview with Xuân Rayne into Spanish. Translated by Grupo Anarquista Aurora.

Es necesario comprender que el Estado es la fuente clave de la explotación. No puede ser la solución a la misma.

Xuân Rayne

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“Community Sponsorship” Is Diversifying the Refugee Resettlement Process

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/07/2021 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published by Prism Reports.

When Sofia Khan walks into a room full of Syrian Muslim refugees, she utters “Assalamualaikum” and notices the anxious pairs of eyes that instantly take in her hijab. After months or sometimes years spent navigating the refugee resettlement process and ending up in a foreign country, meeting someone familiar with their culture and customs is a welcome reprieve for refugees. But more often than not, they are greeted by someone who looks nothing like them and doesn’t speak their language or understand what they’ve been through. Around the country, community-based organizations with people of color at the helm are working to change that.

“Having a person in your volunteer group that is the same background as the refugee community helps them feel comfortable,” explains Khan, the founder of KC for Refugees, a Kansas City-based interfaith organization dedicated to coordinating support for refugees. “Going in there with a person of color or a person that speaks their language fluently is really important.”

KC for Refugees serves as a model of community sponsorship, a form of resettlement support that can supplement the more centralized work of U.S. resettlement agencies. In the majority of cases, upon arrival in the U.S. refugees are greeted by a representative of one of the nine domestic resettlement agencies, which receive funding from the Reception and Placement Program administered the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migrations (PRM) to help cover expenses for refugees’ first three months in the country. Refugees are then connected with the local resettlement office, which arranges their housing, basic furniture, appliances, clothing and food. Each of the nine agencies has a nationwide network of local affiliates or sub-offices that provide resettlement assistance and services to refugees at the local level. Currently, there are approximately 200 resettlement partners operating across the country.

In contrast, “in community sponsorship, refugees are paired with groups (e.g. faith communities, groups of individuals, businesses, civil society organizations, clubs) who provide clearly defined financial and/or in-kind contributions and volunteer services to support their welcome and integration over a set period of time,” explains Jessica Chapman, director of community engagement at the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC), one of the nine national resettlement agencies.

Also referred to as co-sponsorship, this form of community sponsorship facilitates greater local community involvement in resettlement. KC for Refugees, for example, has been greeting refugees with flowers and gifts, setting up their new homes before they arrive and following up after they’ve been through the resettlement process to help with signing up for food stamps, jobs and other necessities. There are also organizations like the Rohingya Cultural Center in Chicago, led by Executive Director Nasir Zakaria, a refugee from Myanmar. RCC isn’t involved in resettlement yet, but instead helps support refugees navigating life in the U.S. after assistance from the State Department runs out.

Although nearly 75 percent of refugees coming to the U.S. in 2010 were people of color, eight out of nine of the resettlement agencies are white-led, and ECDC is the only resettlement agency that works primarily with local organizations created or led by former refugees or immigrants. Given the makeup of refugee populations, advocates argue that community-based organizations led by people of color, like Rohingya Cultural Center and KC for Refugees, need to be involved more deeply with resettlement and sponsorship.

“Refugees are placed in different communities across the United States and each community is different in terms of its capacity, engagement and overall openness and welcome to newcomers,” Chapman said. “There is a growing number, but still relatively few former refugees and immigrants in senior leadership positions across refugee resettlement agencies and affiliate organizations. Their lived experiences and insights are critical for successful resettlement and long-term integration related programming and approaches.”

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Critically, community sponsorship can increase opportunities for refugees to connect with people who share their lived experience and culture. Now, with the U.S.’s resettlement program in a rebuilding phase after the Trump administration’s historically low refugee caps, a recent executive order from President Joe Biden might make more room for refugee- and immigrant-led community groups to expand their support of refugees. The executive order stated that “to meet the challenges of restoring and expanding United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), the United States must innovate, including by effectively employing technology and capitalizing on community and private sponsorship of refugees, while continuing to partner with resettlement agencies for reception and placement.”

Private sponsorship is another form of community sponsorship where individuals, communities, interest groups, companies and other entities lead and fund refugee resettlement efforts separate from the Reception and Placement Program. For example, private sponsorship might potentially allow refugees who are already lawfully in the U.S. to sponsor their family members without waiting in limbo for years and sometimes decades to be reunited.

“Community sponsorship and private sponsorship are important ideas that could help improve and expand the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” says Devon Cone, senior advocate for women and girls at Refugee International. “If the U.S. adopted some of these models as Biden suggested in his executive order … I think it would be a win-win.”

Earlier this month, a coalition of advocacy groups comprised of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), and the Niskanen Center offered formal recommendations in a report to the Departments of State and Health and Human Services as they design an expanded community sponsorship system that includes a new private sponsorship program for refugees, slated to be rolled out early next year.

Although private sponsorship has been wildly successful in recent years in Canada, Australia, and Europe, the recommendations note that it hasn’t existed in the United States since the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan launched the Private Sector Initiative, which allocated 10,000 spaces for privately-supported refugees each year and facilitated 16,000 refugees’ admission. In 2016, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard announced a new private refugee sponsorship pilot program, but plans were derailed when the Trump administration came into office a few months later.

“Advocates are hopeful that the U.S. will rebuild a bigger, bolder system than exists anywhere in the world,” says Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at AIUSA and one of the architects of the report.

The recommendations argue that any private sponsorship program re-started in the U.S. should increase the number of refugees resettled here, serving as an addition to those resettled using government funds — not a replacement for government-supported resettlement.

The report encourages the White House to co-design a sponsorship model with a spectrum of stakeholders, including refugees themselves. It recommends including a strong monitoring and evaluation component and program iterations that center refugees as key stakeholders in their own resettlement process and integration plan. They also drive home the significance of equity, inclusion and diversity as guiding principles.

“The impact of community has to be at the center of it,” Bell says.

While both private and community sponsorship programs can be a way to increase capacity and safeguard resettlement from administrative changes, they are challenging to manage and often present power imbalances. There are also questions around the “white savior complex.”

“This is a threat that runs through the social welfare world,” says Elizabeth Foyde, IRAP’s private sponsorship program director. “We have to address that at all levels of the resettlement structure. A big part is the training and the resources.”

According to Chapman, leadership and management staff at refugee resettlement organizations and agencies need to proactively develop strategies and policies to engage POC in their community outreach and community sponsorship efforts. That includes placing former refugees and immigrants in leadership and senior management positions.

In addition, advocacy groups such as Amnesty International are creating training resources such as an allyship guide for sponsors to reference as the White House rebuilds the resettlement structure. It delves into cultural bias, language implications and managing racial micro behaviors. Chapman is also leading the development of a training toolkit, called the “Wider Welcome,” for ECDC’s network and others in the resettlement field, focused on engaging communities of color in their community sponsorship programs.

“This toolkit is designed to help resettlement staff understand issues of race and racism among the communities they work, both among the refugee communities they serve and the communities of color they hope to engage in their refugee resettlement efforts,” Chapman says. “In order to successfully help refugees integrate into their new communities, recruited Community Sponsorship volunteers, regardless of their ethnic background, need to be able to talk about race and racism, and understand similarities and differences between different communities’ experiences, in order to support the refugee family or individual they are paired with.”

This story was originally published by Prism Reports. It is part of the SoJo Exchange from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

The post “Community Sponsorship” Is Diversifying the Refugee Resettlement Process appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.