Saturday, September 17, 2011

Swapping Refugees?

There are many people protesting in Australia against the Australian government’s plan to swap refugees with Malaysia. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been receiving a lot of criticism for her proposed controversial plan to where she wants to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for accepting 4,000 of its refugees. The high court has blocked this proposal and ruled this ‘deal’ not adequate because it does not provide proper protections for those seeking refuge. They stated, “The ‘boatpeople’ cannot be sent to a country (Malaysia) without necessary rights and agreements.”

Protesters and refugee activist have been continually heckling the Immigration minister and the parliament members to follow the high court ruling. They feel that through this type of ‘offshore dumping’ Australia is abandoning it’s responsibilities to those who are seeking refuge and essentially denying them their rights by sending them to Malaysia.

The Immigration minister and Gillard argue that Malaysia has agreed to treat the refugees with dignity and respect and will cater to their human rights protections. The public is not convinced.

While the intentions behind this proposal may have been good, and for the benefit of the refugees and the Australian people, it brings a fascinating question to the issue of asylum seeking. Should countries be able to ‘swap’ amongst each other?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Never-ending road of bloodshed and tears

When will the Syrian government finally believe that they are doing something wrong?

In the beginning of 2011, the people of Syria decided to take a stance against the government of Syria and demanded an end to the injustice, poverty, and corruption that has been plaguing Syria under the presidency of Bashar al-Assad. Since then,

"Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people have been killed in the government's crackdown on protests. The regime has unleashed tanks, snipers, and pro-regime gunmen in an attempt to stamp out the uprising." - USA Today

Along with the 2,000 plus people that have been killed, over 10,000 people have been arrested and even more people have merely disappeared. The Human Rights Council along with the United States, the United Nations and more than 30 members of the Human Rights Commission have formed an international Commission of Inquiry in order to look into the violations of international human rights law being committed by the Syrian government. President Obama has taken it one step further by not allowing American Citizens to engage in any transactions with the Syrian government in hopes of getting President Basha al-Assad to step down.

The current condition in Syria is dangerous for anyone there and a civil war is imminent unless something drastic is done to save the Syrian people.

In the above webpage, you can see 4 short clips of the protests in Syria. All the protests have been peaceful in the sense that the protesters did not use violence rather they marched through the streets; however, the Syrian government thought it was necessary to call in tanks on the protesters and open fire.

- Cosima

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Immigration Law: Pre and Post 9/11

In fifty years, how will we think of post 9/11 immigration law?

The events of 9/11 drastically changed U.S. immigration policy. Prior to 9/11, in the 1950s through the 1980s, very few laws were strictly enforced. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was purposelly written in very vague terms. Its vagueness allowed very little enforcement of immigration laws, and even condoned employers hiring illegal immigrants. Clinton and Bush viewed lax immigration laws as a great boost to the economy - motivated foreigners searching for a better life produced more than a complacent American. In these times, many illegal immigrants lived and worked in the United States, and still many continued to cross the border without check.

However, 9/11 drastically changed immigration law. President Bush enforced laws that greatly tightened security measures. For example, the INS became part of the DHS and was given much more enforcement powers. In addition, Bush passed the Anti - terrorism Act, the Patriot Act, and the Enhanced Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (EBSVERA). Such laws gave the government extreme powers that gave them the ability to crack down on illegal immigration. Such policies pushed immigrant apprehensions to a 40-year low and immigrant removals to an all-time high; the illegal immigrant population shrunk by a staggering 1 million people.

Some argue that it is time for immigration policy changes. Such people vouch for a "Comprehensive Immigration Reform " bill (CIR), which calls for more immigrants being granted the chance to earn "legalized" status. They argue that in years down the road, we will think of the CIR bills similarly to how we now think of laws prior to the Civil-Rights movement - as ignorant and cruel to other humans.

I, however, do not know if not passing Civil Rights Laws in the 1960s can be compared to not passing the CIR bill. Clearly, times in post 9/11 call for greater security and enforcement of immigration laws. There is certainly a greater threat of terrorist attack, than threat of someone with a different skin color of gender attending one's school.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting thought to consider - in years down the road, will we look back at the post 9/11 immigration laws as warranted, or de-humanizing and cruel?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Double standard in Libya?

“Alleged Libyan rape victim deported from Qatar back to Libya”

-June 02, 2011 By Nic Robertson, CNN

"Secret diplomatic moves were under way to enable Col Muammar Gaddafi to leave Libya and seek temporary asylum in a sympathetic country."

-The Telegraph 9/6/2011

A double standard?

The situation in Libya has deteriorated considerably over the last few months. Civil war has made life uncertain for a large portion of the population and two drastically different asylum cases bring up a serious issue of double standard.

Last March Eman al-Obeidy grabbed the worlds attention by marching into a Tripoli hotel filled with international reporters claiming she had been kidnapped and raped by 15 members of Gadhafi’s security forces over the course of two days. After telling her story she was forced to flee Libya and made her way to Qatar where, with the help of the UNHCR, she tried to start a new life. This, however, was not to be, as Qatari authorities deported her back to Libya despite the pleas of the UNHCR and others.

We often see asylum as a tool for those who have no other option to seek a better life. It is a way for people to escape persecution when they fear living in their own country. A person like Eman al-Obeidy is exactly who asylum is supposed to protect.

But what happens when it is the persecutor who all of a sudden has what might be considered a "well founded fear of persecution". Colonnel Gaddafi is certainly living in fear at the moment, as rebels take control of more and more of the country. In the U.S. we have provisions preventing persecutors from being granted asylum but when it comes to a person like Gaddafi it seem the international community is more concerned with protecting him than bringing him to justice.

Talks have been taking place over a deal to ensure the deposed dictator escapes a final reckoning with the rebels, so sparing Libya any further bloodshed.” –The Telegraph

There is no doubt that Libya has seen enough bloodshed, but does that mean that we have to grant asylum to the man who is the reason for all of the fighting in the first place? Is there no room for a middle ground where justice can be served? Why should Gaddafi be allowed to walk away and start a new life when Eman al-Obeidy cannot?

Much of what this blog and the class that accompanies it are about is fighting tooth and nail for the rights of the persecuted to seek safety and live a better life. It is, therefore, frustrating to see so much political will to come up with a place that will grant Gaddafi asylum, but at the same time a victim of brutal rape is returned to the place of her persecution.