#UNHCR; #UnitedNations; #OHCHR; #immigration; #refugees
United Nations, Apr 16 (Canadian-Media): Doctors, journalists, students and farmers are among more than 60,000 Nicaraguans who have fled the country in fear of their lives since anti-Government demonstrations began last April, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said on Tuesday.
UNHCR/Roberto Carlos Sanchez: Asylum-seekers from Nicaragua wait to file their applications at the immigration office in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose (August 2018).
Echoing concerns from the UN’s human rights office, OHCHR, and others about the deteriorating situation in the Central American country, UNHCR said that families with young children are now taking extreme measures to cross the border.
“The kinds of reasons that people have been giving for fleeing are the fear of losing their lives, being attacked or kidnapped by paramilitary groups,” spokesperson Elizabeth Throssell told journalists in Geneva.
According to OHCHR, hundreds of activists have been arrested in Nicaragua in recent months in protests, while some 300 people reportedly died between April and August last year alone, the Office said in a 2018 report.
Costa Rica’s capacity, overstretched
She noted that of an estimated 62,000 people who had fled abroad, 55,500 had sought refuge in neighbouring Costa Rica.
“Some have received direct threats or have been persecuted; others fear for their lives because their communities have been a target of violence; or some, because their relatives are being sought,” she said. “So, we do feel that it is overwhelmingly a refugee flow.”
Latest information from the Costa Rican authorities indicates that at least 29,500 Nicaraguans have filed asylum applications to date. UNHCR has commended the country’s open-door policy, but noted that capacity to shelter everyone remains overstretched, meaning that 26,000 others are waiting to have their claims formalized.
People ‘hiding in trucks, amongst sacks, to escape’“
The people who are fleeing are coming from different parts of Nicaragua and they are travelling to the Costa Rican border, trying to avoid contact with the police and paramilitary groups,” Ms. Throssell explained. “Some are travelling in trucks, hidden amongst sacks.”
“Among those seeking asylum are students, former public officials, opposition figures, journalists, doctors, human rights defenders and farmers,” she said. “A significant number arrive in need of healthcare, psychological support, shelter and food assistance.”
Without a political solution to the crisis in Nicaragua, people are likely to continue to flee, UNHCR has warned.
Funds are urgently needed to strengthen the agency’s humanitarian response to allow asylum-seekers in dire need of assistance to access aid, Ms. Throssell said, instead of having to resort to informal jobs to pay for somewhere to live, and food prices which are beyond their reach.
Bachelet warns authorities to refrain from violence on anniversary
With the anniversary of the protests looming later this week, the head of the UN rights office (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, said on Tuesday that the Nicaraguan Government needed to ensure its security forces give citizens to right to assemble peacefully, and express their views freely.
“I am concerned that the protests planned for later in the week may trigger another violent reaction,” Ms. Bachelet said. “Violations over the past year include the criminalization and harassment of -- and attacks on -- student leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and others critical of the Government. The authorities have also resorted to media censorship, bans on demonstrations, and persistent use of excessive force and large-scale arbitrary arrests by the police," she added.
"Inevitably these actions, coupled with the lack of accountability for unlawful excesses by members of the security forces, have stoked rather than reduced the tensions in the country.”
The UN human rights chief said she was also disturbed by reports of conditions faced by protesters who have been detained, noting that "severe conditions" in jails could amount to torture and ill-treatment.
She cited recent protests at La Modelo, a men’s prison in Tipitapa, to the north-east of the capital Managua, where people were detained during the protests, who are being held alongside common criminals. The prisoners were reportedly violently repressed, through beatings, use of dogs and tear gas.
#UnitedNations; #FilippoGrandi; #refugees; #migrants; #GlobalCompactforRefugees; #UNHighCommissionforRefugees; #UNHCR; #InternationalOrganizationforMigration; #IOM
United Nations, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): In a heartfelt briefing to the Security Council on Tuesday, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has said that, during his three and a half decades as an international civil servant, he has “never seen such toxicity, such poisonous language in politics, media and social media,” directed towards refugees, migrants and foreigners.
At times - pointing his finger at Security Council members for emphasis - an animated Mr. Grandi said that the stigmatization of refugees and migrants is “unprecedented,” and that traditional responses to refugee crises appear increasingly inadequate.
A refugee crisis…but for whom?
Dissecting the term “refugee crisis” itself, Mr. Grandi asked the Security Council to consider to whom, exactly, that applied: “It is a crisis for a mother with her children fleeing gang violence; it is a crisis for a teenager who wants to flee from war, human rights violations, forced conscription; it is crisis for governments in countries with few resources that, every day, open their borders to thousands. For them, it is a crisis.”
Filippo Grandi briefs the Security Council. (9 April 2019). Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
But it is wrong, he continued, to portray the situation as an unmanageable global crisis: with political will and improved responses, as enshrined by the Global Compact for Refugees, adopted last December, it can be addressed, and the Security Council has a critical role to play, particularly in terms of solving peace and security crises, supporting countries that are hosting refugees, and working to remove obstacles to solutions.
Without conflict, most refugee flows would disappear
Conflicts, Mr. Grandi pointed out, are the main drivers of refugee flows: of the nearly 70 million people that are displaced, most are escaping deadly fighting. However, from the point of view of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), approaches to peace-building are fragmented; addressing the symptoms, rather than the causes.
The UN refugee chief cited the example of Libya – where UNHCR, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), has been working with displaced Libyans, as well as those who have fled conflicts in other countries.
The security conditions, said Mr. Grandi, are “at breaking point”: on Tuesday, the Agency relocated more than 150 refugees from an area heavily impacted by military clashes, the first such relocation since the recent escalation of violence. UNHCR’s view is that conditions in the fractured nation are not safe for rescued or intercepted refugees and migrants, and that these people should not be returned there.
With several staff removed from the country for safety reasons, the Agency’s work is “very, very difficult and dangerous.” The Security Council must, he said, take unified action to end the current military escalation, issue a strong call to spare civilians, including refugees and migrants trapped in the country, and take steps to address the causes of conflict, a necessity if further violence and subsequent displacement, is to be avoided.
The use of the Libyan coastguard was dismissed by Mr. Grandi as an ineffective rescue service, and he condemned the “horrific, unacceptable” conditions for refugees and migrants held in detention camps.
The UN refugee chief went on to exhort the Security council to step up support for the developing countries that host 85 per cent of the world’s refugees, to avoid leaving governments politically exposed, and refugees destitute.
With regards to the return of refugees and migrants to their countries of origin, Mr. Grandi countered the misconception that UNHCR blocks returns: refugees have both a right to return, and also a right to not return, he said, in the absence of security and basic support. The informed choice of refugees must be respected, and returns must be dignified.
Mr. Grandi concluded by returning to the consequences of the toxic language surrounding refugees and migration, citing the example of the recent mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, which left 49 dead.
The response of the New Zealand Government should, he said, be seen as an good example of effective leadership and how to respond to such toxicity, in a firm and organized manner, restating solidarity with refugees, and reaffirming the principle that our societies cannot be truly prosperous, stable and peaceful, if they do not include everyone.
#DonaldTrump; #Mexico; #UnitedStates; #immigrants; #California
Moscow, Apr 9 (Canadian-Media): A federal judge’s decision to block US President Donald Trump's administration policy, which forces migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed, had been described by Trump to be unfair to the United States, media reports said.
Donald Trump. Image credit: Twitter handle
A preliminary injunction had been issued on Monday by US federal Judge Richard Seeborg of the state of California to block the Trump administration's “Remain in Mexico” migration policy.
The Trump administration had been trying to stop illegal migration into the United States, even threatening to close the southern border.
According to Mexico’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 76,000 migrants were detained after trying to get into the United States in February, while in March the figure was expected to increase to 100,000.
Mexican Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero has said if the current migration flow remains unchanged, the number of migrants trying to get through Mexico to the United States will reach 900,000 people by the end of this year.