Saturday, November 05, 2011

Is Asylum Working in Australia?

"Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Thursday that she remains committed to her thwarted policy for deterring asylum attempts by boat after at least eight people drowned in Indonesian waters while attempting to reach Australia."

After the fatal capsizing Australia's PM is trying to resurrect a deal with Malaysia to send asylum seekers there is return for resettling 4,000 refugees from Kuala Lumpur. The deal was meant to deter refugees from boarding dangerous boats in an attempt to reach Australian shores. Apparently there have been a rise in asylum seekers trying to reach Australia since the law was shelved.

Opposition is opposed to the bill because of Malaysia's poor human rights record, believing it is wrong to send asylum seekers there. Gillard at least claims to be looking out for the best interests of the asylum seekers, implying that her solution would be safer and lead to less accidents.

What do you think? Is Australia acting selfishly by trying to keep asylum seekers out? Or are they trying to providing an alternative that allows those fleeing persecution to avoid putting there lives at risk traversing dangerous waters to reach Australia?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Human Rights Activist Persecuted in China

"The Chinese government imprisoned Chen for four years in response to his work documenting forced abortions and sterilizations. Since Chen’s release from prison in September 2010, the police have cordoned off his home from the rest of his village and severely beaten him at least three times. "

The international community is outraged with the Chinese Government's persecution of Chen, a blind Chinese Human Rights Lawyer. As the quote indicates, most of Chen's work focuses in fighting the forced abortions and sterilizations taking place in China – clear violations of human rights.

For his opposition to the Government’s inhumane practices, Chen was imprisoned for four years, and then upon release, was blocked off from the rest of the community by authorities, and beaten numerous times. Fortunately, many local friends and community members heard of Chen’s abuse, and visited his home to try to help out. Authorities, however, violently confronted these supporters, and violently assaulted and robbed them. Despite the violence, supporters still come to see Chen. One supporter summed up his reason for visiting Chen, like this: “I couldn’t believe something so dark and evil could happen in my country, so I had to see for myself.”

It is very disturbing knowing that abuses like this are happening in this day and age. Chen’s treatment reminds me of when Jews were forced into ghettos the in Germany, separated from the rest of the community. Even though it is clear that there are supporters of Chen, it seems that more can be done to stop this human rights abuse. What can be done? Do you think that more attention ought to be paid to this story, even though it is one isolated event? If the answer is no, just remember the quote by Martin Niemollier:

First they came for the communists,
 and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
 and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
 and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Families Torn Apart By Deportation

This article from the Huffington Post discusses the latest report from the Applied Research Center. The advocacy group has analyzed national data to create a better understanding of the serious problems involved with separating families through deportation. The author and chief investigator of the report, Seth Freed Wessler, found that, "almost one in four people deported is the parent of a United States citizen child." When parents are taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, their children are often placed in the foster care system and are sometimes never reunited with their families.

I think this is unfair and frankly insensitive to the needs of the child; there should be another way to handle the legal issues of undocumented immigrants without the parents and children being separated. Isn't America all about "family values?"

Doctors take an oath to help others, no? Save their lives? Help them?

A report entitled, Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim, will be published later this month and it is based on 100 cases of Palestinian detainees brought to Public Committee Against Tortue, PCAT. The report reveals that Israeli doctors don't report torture of Palestinian detainees. They don't keep proper medical records of injuries caused during interrogations. There are "countless cases wherein individuals testified to injuries inflicted upon them during detention or in interrogation, and yet the medical record from the hospital or the prison service makes no mention of it." A man alleged in an affidavit that "he was beaten, held in stress positions and deprived of sleep. He said he told doctors of his ill-treatment and said he was suffering from severe arm, leg and back pain. His medical record shows that he was seen by doctors but the only comment noted is that the patient had no complaints and was in good overall condition." The report also mentions that the doctors return the detainees to interrogators after treatment, which essentially grants medical permission to continue on with their practices.  

I look forward to reading this report when it is published.    

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Famine in Horn of Africa - New Green Revolution may not be way forward

“Just as death from exposure is not an inherent result of a cold winter, famine is not a natural consequence of drought. Simply put, the structure of human society often determines who is affected and to what degree.” 
More than 10 million people have been hit by severe drought in the Horn of Africa. Parts of southern Somalia are hit by the worst famine in the area for 20 years, according to the United Nations. I stumbled an older article regarding the famine and it discussed how the “New Green Revolution” may not be the most effective for certain regions of the world. I first heard of the Green Revolution in my advanced genetic course where we began to access genetically modified crops. Interestingly we had a debate on the ethics (and advantages and disadvantages) of genetically modified crops. However, that same semester, an Dr. Akinqumi Adesina received a doctor of humane letter during our F&M commencement. Dr. Adesine is a scholar of African agriculture, economics and development, and a  champion of the Agricultural Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which boosts food security for the continent. We are constantly given information about how life changing the green revolution in Africa could be – and how it is the right way forward.

Though it is critical for the world to act immediately to address the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa (right now..), to ensure food delivery and distribution, we should also attempt to understand the underlying causes of the crisis in order to provide effective long-term solutions.

Some argue that the problem is that the USAID plan for agricultural development in the majority of Africa has stressed a “New Green Revolution” involving improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. This green revolution, though scientifically proven to be effective and be more advantages to local growers that are attempting to be most efficient, may not be the best solution. First of all – these green revolutions are financially out of reach of the world’s poor (i.e. the populations that they are trying to help) and have been unsuccessful in times of severe stress. In changing to a Green Revolution, we are removing any chances of species being able to adapt and survive in harsh conditions.

In attempting to solve general hunger problems in the horn of Africa – are we handicapping the countries “food resources” in their ability to naturally overcome harsh weather conditions? Adaptation for all organisms is critical to overall abilities, function, and survival. If we really go forward with the green revolution – we maybe taking natural abilities away from all food sources in the countries, ultimately creating a larger long term problem.  

poorest of poor farmers, who are the most likely to face food shortfalls. A more realistic approach would play down imported seeds and commercial agriculture in favor of enhanced traditional approaches to producing food for families and local markets.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Dutch asylum system under fire

I'm not at all familiar with how the Dutch asylum system works, but a recent article published by the BBC draws attention to recent popular and political outrage against it because of the proposed deportation of an Angolan asylum-seeker. Mauro Manuel, who is now 18, came to the Netherlands when he was a young boy and has been fully integrated into Dutch society. From what I could gather from the article, the fact that he is now an adult means that he is eligible for deportation, since he is not a legal resident of the Netherlands, and powerful politicians and citizen groups alike have reacted with harsh criticism of the system and advocacy on Manuel's behalf. The Dutch parliament has even taken up measures to grant him residency status, but anti-immigrant legislators have argued that "rules are rules" and he must be deported.

I'm the first person to argue that the laws must be adhered to and that justice comes from changing the system, not subverting it, but I'm failing to understand why Manuel cannot be granted asylum - or at least some sort of comparable protection. The fact that his situation has catalyzed an national, and international, debate about his situation indicates to me that there is disagreement about what exactly Dutch asylum law says must happen. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out.

"Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan"

“My son was born seven months after my husband went missing…he has never met his father, he just looks at his pictures."
- Zahida Sharif

Ever since Pakistan joined the war on terror in 2001, citizens of Pakistan have noticed a dramatic increase in ‘enforced disappearances.’ Families of victims told Amnesty International that authorities forcibly enter their homes, and take whoever they are looking for without any explanation or reason. Victims include prominent members of society, including doctors, engineers, and journalists who speak out against the government. Students have also been prime targets as well. Families are not informed of what happens to their loved ones after the government takes them away. Sometimes bodies are not found until years later.

Disappearances occur across the country but especially in Balochistan province in the Southwest, which faces violence from ethnic and religious armed groups and state security forces.” Please click on the picture to the right to watch a short video from Amnesty International.

A judicial Commission of Enquiry on enforced disappearances has failed to resolve the crisis or to hold the security forces and intelligence agencies accountable. There is a call for the prime minister to take action against this terrible crisis. I have raised this question before, and I’ll do it once again. What can one do when the very entity that is design to protect and serve are the ones committing gruesome crimes?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Israel Using Legal Technicality to Deport Eritrean Asylum-Seekers

I just read this article from the Israeli news organization, Haaretz (in English, "The Nation"). It sounds like a terrible injustice is occurring. Israel's Interior Ministry is just assuming that Ethiopia will indeed accept and grant citizenship to Eritreans that Israel deports there, despite the fact that many legal scholars doubt this is actually occurring. Thus Israel may in fact be sending asylum-seekers to a nation where they will be imprisoned, or worse. Israel is supposed to be a safe haven for those fleeing conflict, but it sounds like its government is taking advantage of an imaginary legal loophole to deport as many Eritrean refugees as possible. 

What do you think? Should governments make it a policy to deport as many refugees as possible for any reason they can find?

By Talila Nesher, Haaretz

The Interior Ministry is deporting Eritrean asylum-seekers to Ethiopia even though it admits it cannot guarantee their safety there, a ministry document obtained by Haaretz shows.
Under UN rules, Eritreans are automatically entitled to asylum, whereas Ethiopians have no such collective asylum right. In 2003, however, Ethiopia passed a law granting citizenship to anyone whose mother or father was an Ethiopian citizen. That provision applies to many Eritreans, since Eritrea split off from Ethiopia in 1993.
An Eritrean migrant in Rehovot, Israel
The ministry's Population Authority has therefore been deporting some Eritreans to Ethiopia on the grounds that they could obtain citizenship there. Yet the document obtained by Haaretz casts doubt on whether the new law is really being applied, and consequently, on whether Eritreans will really be safe there.
The interior and foreign ministries are currently investigating this issue, but the Population Authority hasn't informed the courts of this when seeking permission to deport Eritreans to Ethiopia.
In July, the ministry's advisory committee on refugees met and discussed the 2003 law and its subsidiary legislation. But according to the minutes of this meeting, the option of Eritreans obtaining Ethiopian citizenship is currently only "theoretical," and the interior and foreign ministries are still trying "to understand whether these laws are being applied."
The minutes also quote Danny Hass, head of the Interior Ministry's research department, as saying, "this is a sensitive issue due to the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and it's hard to get answers about what happens to those refugees who return once they land at the airport."
Yet none of this is mentioned in the briefs the ministry files in court. In response to one Eritrean's petition against his deportation, for instance, the ministry wrote simply that "even if the petitioner lost his Ethiopian citizenship at some point, he can, under Article 3 of the new Ethiopian citizenship law, reacquire Ethiopian citizenship if one of his parents (in this case, the petitioner's mother ) is Ethiopian."
Yonatan Berman, outgoing legal advisor for the Hotline for Migrant Workers and one of the attorneys representing that petitioner, said, "the minutes constitute evidence that the Interior Ministry is concealing information that could have led to different conclusions about the legal possibility of deporting people."
Attorney Yuval Livnat of Tel Aviv University's refugee rights clinic termed the minutes "extremely disturbing. The Interior Ministry tells the courts over and over that Ethiopians of Eritrean origin can return to Ethiopia without fear, but in private it admits there's no certainty regarding the treatment that awaits them."
In another case, Judge Rami Amir noted two other problems with the ministry's position. First, he said, neither the Justice Ministry's international department nor any expert on Ethiopian law has confirmed that the new law means what the Interior Ministry says it does. Moreover, another article in the law states that anyone with citizenship in another country shall be viewed as if he had given up his Ethiopian citizenship, unless he waives his foreign citizenship within a year of reaching his majority. That would seem to preclude most Eritrean asylum-seekers from acquiring Ethiopian citizenship under this law.
The Interior Ministry responded that it stands by its right to deport any Eritrean who has or could acquire citizenship in any other country, including Ethiopia. The fact that an asylum seeker also has Eritrean citizenship "does not entitle him to immunity" from deportation, it said

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Birth tourists get instant U.S. citizenship for their newborns

I think that you guys will find this article interesting. It is about an uprising global industry that permits foreign women in the U.S. to give birth to their babies for money. Once the babies are born they return to their parents country of origin but at age 21 they can reap the benefits of American citizens, including bringing their family members to the U.S. There has been a lot of controversy over this issue because members of Congress and Representative Phil Gingrey say "They are gaming the system…and people should be put in jail,” a Republican from Georgia. Many people don't think it's right especially because while the mothers are here in the U.S. they shop at very high end stores.

It is a very interesting article guys, check it out!