Thursday, April 09, 2009

Refugee Camps inside the area of conflict: What is the purpose of safe zones when they don't protect civilians?

Recently, the conflict between the "Tamil Tigers" and the Sri Lankan military has intensified in the North-East area of the country. Appeals from the United Nations and the Red Cross have led the government to establish "safe zones" or "no fire zones" for civilians to ensure their safety form the fighting. This zone is about 20 sq km along the eastern coast of the country. However, this morning, 60 civilians were killed and more than 300 civilians were injured during Tamil-rebel shelling into the camps. According to foreign health officials who provide medical care inside the refugee camp, most of the injured were waiting in line to collect powdered milk for children from the clinic. Neither the Sri Lankan gov't nor the Tamil rebels are commenting on the situation. The Tamils have denied any involvment in the attacks. According ot the UN, more than 2700 people have been killed and over 3000 have been wounded in the last two months of renewed conflict.

I saw this article and it struck me as devastating and is an example how refugee camps established within the area of conflict just do not work. How can the government presume to protect its citizens from harm when the main camp is in the center of the conflict zone. I understand the desire to stay in their home region, but if it is ensure their safety, I would move the camp south of the line. Are we seeing another Korea? Or Cameroon? or Central African Republic? When does the violence end? When and more importantly how can we ensure the safety of populations affected by internal conflict?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Immigrants Looking For A Better Life Gunned Down

This past Friday, April 3rd, Jiverly Wong, a 42 year old man of Vietnamese decent entered the American Civic Center in Binghamton, New York and opened fire, killing 15 people (including himself) and injuring numerous others. The American Civic Association is an immigration support center that serves as an important resource for recent immigrants who are looking to learn English or receive other services. The suspect was reportedly a former student in English classes at the Civic Association. The majority of the victims, themselves were also immigrants searching for a better life in the United States.

Looking at these tragic events in the context of Human Rights/Human Wrongs, I cannot help but wonder if the United States is actually capable providing a better life for recent immigrants fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. Stories have surfaced about the backgrounds of many of the victims of the Binghamton shootings. For example, Layla Khalil, a 57 year old wife and mother of three came to the United States after surviving a numerous car bombings in Baghdad. After only a few years in the U.S., she has become the victim of the same kind of violence that she sought to escape when leaving her home country of Iraq.

Furthermore, while it is hard to call a killer a victim after taking the lives of 14 other innocent people, it appears that he felt persecuted himself by law enforcement officials. According to a letter that he sent to a news station on the day of the shootings Wong states, "Of course you need to know why I shooting? Because undercover cop gave me a lot of ass during eighteen years." Obviously, it is hard to confirm or deny this apparent motive for the shootings or whether there is a mental health issue in this case, the letter indicates a feeling of isolation that produced anger because he could not speak English as well as a clear feeling persecution from police.

Thus, when looking at how the current immigration system can be amended or improved, does this story tell us anything about the necessity for assimilation and support in the process? Or is this sort of violence unavoidable? Can the U.S. accommodate all immigrants and provide the persecuted around the world with better lives? Should we be responsible for this as the most powerful nation in the world?