Judge blocks deportation flight for rejected Afghan asylum-seekers

April 25, 2015 | the guardian

Charter flight due to depart on Tuesday night cancelled after warning by Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation that 80% of country is not safe to return to.

Afghan security personnel at the scene of a suicide attack in Jalalabad. A high court judicial review is due to take place on whether deportations to Afghanistan remain safe in view of the worsening security situation

Afghan security personnel at the scene of a suicide attack in Jalalabad. A high court judicial review is due to take place on whether deportations to Afghanistan remain safe in view of the worsening security situation Photograph: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

A charter flight which was due to depart on Tuesday night with dozens of Afghan asylum-seekers facing removal from Britain has been cancelled on the orders of an appeal court judge.

Lady Justice Rafferty blocked the flight ahead of a high court judicial review due on Wednesday on whether deportations to parts of Afghanistan remain safe in view of the deteriorating security situation.

The decision to postpone the charter flight of 56 rejected Afghan asylum-seekers, which was due to leave at 11.30pm on Tuesday, follows warnings to European countries by the Afghan minister for refugees and repatriation that 80% of the country was not safe to send people back to.

It also follows a separate ruling by a high court judge ordering the Home Office to arrange for a deported migrant family to be returned to Britain from Nigeria.

In an unusual step an immigration judge, Mr Justice Cranston, 10 days ago ordered the Home Office to find the mother and her five-year-old son and bring them back to Britain by Thursday.

He said in the “special circumstances” of the case the home secretary had failed to have regard for the best interests of the child, known only as RA, as a primary consideration in sending him back to Nigeria with his 45-year-old mother.

The judge said the Home Office had adopted a “careful and proactive” approach to the child’s interests in contacting the school and involving the [UK Border Agency’s] children’s champion and the independent family returns panel [which advises the Home Office on meeting welfare needs of children in families to be removed].

But he said they had not taken into account the implications of his mother’s degenerating mental health and the likely consequences for the child of sending them back to Nigeria together.

A Home Office attempt to overturn the ruling demanding the return of the mother and son from Nigeria was rejected at an appeal court hearing on Wednesday. “The tribunal was fully entitled to take the decision it did,” said the judge. The pair are due to arrive in London on a flight from Nigeria on Thursday.

The Home Office confirmed that the scheduled charter flight of Afghan deportees had not left on Tuesday night but refused to comment further on the case.

Lawyers for the Afghan deportees were expected to argue at a judicial review hearing on Wednesday that Britain could not safely return deportees to Afghanistan due to the security situation, which has deteriorated since allied forces started pulling out of the country.

They claim that nowhere outside of Kabul could be considered safe enough to send people back to and the Afghan capital did not have the infrastructure to look after vulnerable people who have been deported from Europe. The legal challenge is effectively pressing for the official Foreign Office country guidance for Afghanistan to be rewritten.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/22/judge-blocks-deportation-flight-for-rejected-afghan-asylum-seekers

Leave a comment

Filed under Asylem Seekers in Europe, Deportation

Cautions for Australians, Lies for Refugees | Cambodia Resettlement

April 23, 2015 | the diplomat

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 22 : Unidentified protester holding anti government immigration policy sign whilst attending World Refugee Rally June 22, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia

Australia is pulling out all stops to convince asylum seekers to take the Cambodia option.

A tropical paradise or a place where foreigners risk serious danger and hardships? When it comes to refugees, the Australian government has been acting like a used car salesman trying to peddle a sale – or in this case, a one-way ticket to Cambodia. Australia has been pulling out all the stops to convince refugees from Nauru to take a charter flight to Cambodia, which could leave as early as this week.

A letter that Australian officials recently sent to refugees on the island of Nauru, obtained by the Guardian, claims that, “Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order. It does not have problems with violent crime or stray dogs. Cambodians enjoy all the freedoms of a democratic society including freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”

But that’s not what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is telling Australians. Its travel advice for its own citizens has this to say: “Opportunistic crime is common in Cambodia… Assaults and armed robberies against foreigners have occurred, and foreigners have been seriously injured and killed… Banditry and extortion, including by military and police personnel, continue in some rural areas… Australians should avoid all political gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent. Local police and security forces have responded with force on occasion.”

For its part, Khmer-language media in Cambodia are reporting an upsurge in violent crime, aimed particularly at foreigners, which it says the government is unable or unwilling to address.

Why is the Australian government telling its own citizens the truth, while telling refugees a pack of lies? Simple. The government has sent more than 800 asylum seekers who tried to reach Australia by boat to Nauru for resettlement and refugee processing. It’s now trying to get some of those found to be refugees to go to Cambodia. It is desperate to implement its A$40 million ($31.1 million) deal with Cambodia to send refugees there so it can show that it has not trapped them forever on Nauru.

To its credit, Cambodia has insisted that only refugees who consent to go to Cambodia will be accepted, and up until now, no one has been willing to go. So now Canberra is resorting to deception to persuade some of them to take up the offer.

The reality is that Cambodia is an extremely poor country with no safety net. There are few social services for Cambodian citizens, let alone foreigners. The Australian government letter touts Cambodia’s healthcare system as being “of a good quality for the region,” but it’s not even equipped to meet the needs of most Cambodians, much less refugees. Mental health treatment is virtually non-existent, though Cambodia is full of people suffering the psychological effects of the Khmer Rouge period and subsequent wars and mass atrocities.

As for protecting freedom of speech, that wasn’t the experience of 10 women whose trial I observed there last November. After a three-hour show trial, the women were fined and each sentenced to a year in prison. Their crime? “Obstructing traffic” while protesting the flooding of their homes. Opposition activists and politicians are regularly arrested. The notoriously corrupt police commit abuses with impunity, while the courts run on exchanges of money.

The Australian government letter describes “jobs for migrants, and strong support networks for newly settled refugees, including opportunities to buy businesses.” But the refugees I met in November who had gone to Cambodia seeking asylum told a different story – of discrimination that makes jobs hard to get, of language barriers, and low wages that don’t even cover subsistence costs. They told me how difficult their lives were, and how they live hand to mouth.

“This is a corrupt country,” one refugee told me, when asked what advice he would give to the people on Nauru. “You will not find jobs. We have been here more than two years and we have no money and not enough to eat. It’s better to wait in Nauru. It is a very, very bad life here in Cambodia. There is no future.”

So who will look after refugees traumatized by the persecution in their home countries, perilous boat journeys, long periods in detention, and the shock of being dropped into a completely unknown culture without being able to speak the local language?

Refugees on Nauru already have a difficult life with squalid conditions and abuses in detention, and limited job prospects and a lack of safety for those released into the community. But they are understandably fearful of making a new life for themselves in Cambodia where respect for human rights depends on who you are, where you come from, and who you know. Needless to say, foreigners fleeing war and repression are likely to start at the bottom of that pecking order.

Australia should end its sick joke of pretending Cambodia is a safe country for refugees. It’s unconscionable to lie to people who have already suffered so much and to put them in further danger. The right thing to do would be to close the camps on Nauru and Manus Island once and for all, and allow those found to be refugees the chance to start their lives over in Australia, a paradise or not.

Elaine Pearson is Australia director at Human Rights Watch

Source: http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/cautions-for-australians-lies-for-refugees/

Leave a comment

Filed under Asylum Policy, PNG/Pacific Solution

Cambodia says no refugee arrivals imminent, contradicting Peter Dutton

April 20, 2015 | theguardian

Refugees on Nauru protesting in early March over conditions and the Cambodia deal.

Refugees on Nauru protesting in early March over conditions and the Cambodia deal.

Spokesman for Cambodia’s interior ministry says a delegation left for Nauru on Monday but ‘we don’t know anyone who volunteered so far’

Cambodian officials have confirmed they are sending a delegation to Nauru to discuss settlement plans, but have said no arrivals were imminent from the island, contradicting comments by Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton.

Last week letters were distributed by Australian immigration staff to refugees on Nauru offering them a settlement package in Cambodia. A spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration has confirmed it was sending an official in anticipation of movements.

Small protests have also occurred in the refugee community living on Nauru surrounding the Cambodia arrangement. One 12-year-old boy also attempted to throw himself into the ocean in an apparent attempt to self-harm.

While the transfer of refugees for settlement from Nauru to Cambodia was scheduled to leave on Monday, the move has faced delays, in part due to the arrival of Cambodian officials.

On Monday, Dutton also said there were logistical issues with officials from Cambodia. He added that if it had “forced a delay of a couple of days then so be it”.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia’s interior ministry, told the Phnom Penh Post that a delegation was en route on Monday to Nauru.

But he also contradicted Dutton’s comments about the transfers, and said that no arrivals were imminent from Nauru.

“We have received a request from the embassy and [the interior minister, Sar] Kheng has already ordered the immigration department to send officials to Nauru, either [yesterday] or [today], depending on the availability of plane tickets.

“We don’t know anyone [who] volunteered so far,” he said.

Another official from the foreign ministry, Koy Kuong, said officials “were confused by the Australian side”, and the comments contained in a letter to refugees that said flights could begin as early as Monday.

Dutton told ABC radio that Australia had approached “a large number of people on Nauru” for potential resettlement.

The memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and Australia says that Cambodia will offer permanent settlement to people who have “undergone a refugee status determination process in the republic of Nauru and have been determined to be a refugee, and meet the entry and settlement requirements of the kingdom of Cambodia”.

They must be found to be refugees, have made a voluntary decision to go to Cambodia and must have their applications considered by Cambodian officials.

The settlement push for Cambodia has faced heavy criticism from human rights groups. Unicef says Australia would be violating the rights of children if transfers to Cambodia went ahead.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/apr/20/cambodia-says-no-refugee-arrivals-imminent-contradicting-peter-dutton

1 Comment

Filed under Asylum Policy, PNG/Pacific Solution

Militants behead kidnapped civilians in Ghazni

April 18, 2015 

GHAZNI CITY (Pajhwok): Militants with links to little known Daish group on Friday beheaded the four civilians who were kidnapped by gunmen the other day from Ghazni City, the provincial capital of southern Ghazni province, officials said.

On Thursday, unidentified gunmen kidnapped four civilians from the Arjistan district. The abducted individuals were the residents of Malistan district who were on their way to their hometown.

Zamin Ali Hidayat, the town’s administrative chief, had said security forces had arrested Taliban Commander Mullah Abdullah along with his six of his associates during a clearing operation in Jaghori district. But in retaliation, the rebels kidnapped the civilians and were demanding prisoners swap.

Zamin Ali, the Malistan district chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News that insurgents beheaded the kidnapped men. He said militants wanted prisoners swap for the release of detained rebels.

He said that tribal elders were sent to the area to collect dead bodies of the slain persons. Ali Mohammad, a resident of the district, confirmed the abducted persons were killed today.

Source: http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2015/04/17/militants-behead-kidnapped-civilians-ghazni?hootPostID=3c03ba00a362e94ac8f275d0619652d8#sthash.5Ex2d161.dpuf

Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

After suffering under the Taliban, an Afghan minority faces new threats

April 10, 2015 | washingtonpost

Esmail Kayhan, 20, an ethnic Hazara holds the portrait of his father, Mohammad Jomah Amini, at their family home in Kabul. (Sudarsan Raghavan/The Washington Post)

Inside the two seized buses, terrified passengers prayed to remain in their seats. The masked gunmen had collected their identification cards and snatched their cellphones, survivors would later recall. Next, they separated males from females and Sunni Muslims from Shiite Muslims. Finally, they ordered the Shiite males — all ethnic Hazaras — off the buses.

The kidnappers then vanished into the harsh terrain of southern Zabul province with 31 men and boys, sparking concerns of a potential fresh wave of sectarian tensions in Afghanistan.

Six weeks later, their families remain in an emotional limbo.

“We don’t know what our sin is,” said Namatullah Noori, 40, after recounting what his mother, one of the surviving passengers, had told him. “From one side, they are targeting us. And from the other side, the government is not helping us.”

His 65-year-old father is among the abducted men.

In recent weeks, concerns have mounted across the nation overthe emergence of the Islamic State, the Iraq- and Syria-based Sunni movement that has violently targeted Shiites and other religious and ethnic groups. Now the events that unfolded on the buses, corroborated by Afghan officials and victims’ relatives, are fanning those fears. In interviews, Afghan officials and Hazara leaders said they suspect that a rogue Taliban faction that has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State is behind the abductions in Zabul.

For the nation’s minority Hazaras, the kidnappings, along with other recent attacks, are grim reminders of the persecution they endured under the rule of the mainly ethnic Pashtun and Sunni Taliban, which viewed Shiites as apostates. Since the abductions in late February, there have been at least three more mass kidnappings of Hazaras in three other provinces, according to Afghan officials and Hazara.net, a nonprofit Web site focused on the community’s rights and culture.

“Historically, we have struggled a lot to be accepted as normal citizens,” said Hayatullah Meheryar, 30, a Hazara activist. “But now these assaults show they want to restrict our development that we’ve achieved in the past 13 years.”

Opportunity to attack

Throughout the 20th century, successive Pashtun-led regimes in Afghanistan targeted the Hazaras, the country’s third-largest ethnic group, making up about 20 percent of the population. Also a religious minority, they were massacred and tortured. Uprisings were viciously crushed. Their religious leaders were jailed; women were abducted. Most Hazaras languished in poverty and humiliation, forced to take menial jobs.

The Taliban carried out mass executions of Hazaras and drove them from their lands and meager livelihoods. Tens of thousands of Hazaras sought refuge in frigid mountain hideouts. In the Hazara ethnic homeland of Bamian province in early 2001, the Taliban methodically destroyed two giant Buddha statues that had survived for centuries, drawing an international outcry.

Since the Taliban regime collapsed in late 2001, however, the Hazaras have experienced a communal rebirth. Many returned from exile in Iran and other countries to forge a future here. A new generation entered universities and later found jobs with the United Nations and international firms and aid agencies. Economically, many flourished. Politically, theygained more clout.

Attacks against them had grown rare. In 2011, a suicide bomber in Kabul killed 56 Shiite worshipers, mostly Hazaras, on the holy day of Ashura in the bloodiest sectarian attack of the war. Last year, gunmen in central Ghowr province executed 15 Hazara civilians traveling in a minibus.

Now, a familiar anxiety is boiling up again within the community.

Most of the Hazaras in the two buses attacked in February were returning from Iran. Some had gone there for construction or other blue-collar jobs, and others to visit relatives.

Noori’s father and mother were inside with his 17-year-old son. They had taken him for medical treatment in Iran. When the teenager saw the gunmen, he fainted. That saved his life. The gunmen left him in the vehicle after Noori’s mother pleaded for mercy. But her pleas couldn’t save her husband.

“Who else but the Taliban can be behind this?” Noori said.

The Taliban’s central command has denied responsibility for the abductions. But the insurgency has become increasingly disjointed, with many Taliban factions acting on their own. Some have become so disgruntled that they have aligned themselves with the Islamic State to gain funds and prominence, according to U.S. military commanders who view the group as a potential threat but still at an embryonic stage in Afghanistan.

Survivors of the Zabul kidnappings told authorities that the gunmen spoke local languages and appeared to be ethnic Pashtuns from their accents. That’s a reason why officials say they think that the assailants were home­grown disciples of the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.

“These are Taliban who have changed their colors,” said Ali Akbar Qaseemi, an influential ethnic Hazara parliamentarian. “Daesh’s goal is to disintegrate the nation by creating problems among ethnic groups in Afghanistan.”

For many Hazaras, the fresh threats against them reflect the vanishing U.S. and international military presence. The abductions unfolded on major highways in areas once patrolled by foreign forces. With far fewer international troops, Afghanistan’s security forces­ are straining to fill the gap. Growing portions of the country are unpoliced.

“With the foreign troops gone, the Taliban see an opportunity to attack us again,” Meheryar said.

Since the abductions in Zabul, Afghan police and security forces­ have mounted unsuccessful operations to rescue the 31 men and boys. So far, there have been no public demands from the kidnappers.

Afghan government officials have declined to provide details of the incident or the efforts to free the victims, beyond vowing to use all means necessary to find them.

“The government is working hard on this matter,” said Ajmal Obaid Abidy, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

‘We can’t do anything’

In the meantime, the families of the 31 men and boys have embarked on a frustrating daily quest to learn the fate of their loved ones. Some have traveled to Kabul from other cities — even from Pakistan. Each morning, they visit the offices­ of Hazara leaders and government officials. Each evening, they return home disappointed.

“No one is giving us any answers,” said Hussein Ali, 67, whose son is among the abducted. “We can’t do anything.”

“We are poor, working-class people,” Noori said. “We don’t know the influential people. We don’t have power.”

Esmail Kayhan’s family is struggling as much from the lack of knowledge as finances­. For the past year, his father had been working construction in Iran, sending money home every month. Now, he’s among the kidnapped. Kayhan’s older brother, who works in a bakery in Saudi Arabia, was forced to take a loan to help the family.

Kayhan said he is most worried about his mother, who has heart problems, and his grandmother, who is frail. He fears the shock of learning the truth could harm them. So he keeps telling them that his father is still in Iran, dealing with some last-minute business.

The other day, he said, his mother asked him: “Why does your father keep calling you? Why doesn’t he call me?”

He shrugged and said he didn’t know.

As each day passes, the Hazara community is growing angrier — and more organized. Small protests have been launched in Kabul and other parts of the country. There have also been demonstrations in Australia and Europe. On Twitter, activists have created the hashtag #Free31Hazaras, as well as a Web site: http://www.bringback31hazaras.com.au.

This week, they set up tents near the presidential palace in protest. Ali, who has been in the capital for five weeks, said he has no plans to return to his home in Quetta, Pakistan.

“I will remain in Kabul until I learn whether my son is alive or dead,” he said.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/after-suffering-under-the-taliban-an-afghan-minority-faces-new-threats/2015/04/08/035e1c4a-d71b-11e4-bf0b-f648b95a6488_story.html

Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution

Nauru staff call for closure of asylum centre and royal commission into abuse

April 07, 2015 | the guardian

Open letter from detention centre employees alleges Australian government knew of physical and sexual abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru more than a year before it acted.

Asylum seeker children play in the dirt at the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Nauru.

Asylum seeker children play in the dirt at the Australian-run immigration detention centre on Nauru. Photograph: Supplied

The federal government has been aware of physical and sexual abuse of asylum seekers on Nauru for more than a year but failed to take appropriate action, workers from the detention centre have alleged.

In an unprecedented move, 23 current and former medical staff, teachers, social workers and child protection staff have signed an open letter calling for the removal of all asylum seekers from Nauru to Australia. They have also called for a royal commission into sexual abuse on Nauru and into the government’s response.
Transfield immigration staff told they can be fired for using Facebook
Read more
The three-page letter says comments by immigration minister Peter Dutton that there was a “zero tolerance” attitude to sexual abuse “do not reflect the attitude or actual response” on Nauru.

It says Dutton’s request for asylum seekers to come forward and report sexual assaults could put them in further danger because of the close-knit nature of the detention environment.

The recent review led by former integrity commissioner Philip Moss found some allegations of sexual assault at the centre were substantiated. The review has now sparked a federal Senate inquiry to further investigate allegations of abuse at the centre.

Some of the workers were also due to appear on ABC’s Lateline on Tuesday evening.

The letter says: “We are a group of current and former employees from the Nauru detention centre who have first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which children and adults are detained.

Advertisement

“We would like to inform the Australian public that the government and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection [DIBP] has been aware of the [allegations of] sexual and physical assault of women and children on Nauru for at least 17 months, long before the Moss review was ever commissioned.

“[DIBP] and all service providers were informed, in writing, of several of the assaults detailed in the Moss review in addition to many other assaults not mentioned in the report.”

The letter was signed by former and current staff and workers from Save the Children and International Health and Medical Services.

Former Save the Children workers named on the letter include Jesse-James Clements, Viktoria Vibhakar, Tobias Gunn, Jarrod Kenney, Hamish Tacey and E Maree.

Named former staff from International Health and Medical Services include Dr Peter Young, Dr Rodney Juratowitch and Dr Michael Gordon.

A number of other current and former staff from Save the Children and the Salvation Army have signed the letter, but chose to remain anonymous.

The incidents it highlights include one from November 2013 in which a boy was sexually assaulted by a detention centre employee. Guardian Australia has previously reported on the case, and obtained documents that show the service provider Transfield filed an incident report at the time.

The letter says that on this and other occasions, the immigration department was made aware of the allegations through incident reports, meetings and minutes from Save the Children meetings, but that it chose not to act.

“Despite this knowledge, the DIBP chose to keep this child in the detention centre where he was assaulted and remained at risk of further abuse and retaliation. Indeed, this child was subjected to further incidents of abuse while he was in detention.”

The letter says Dutton’s comments encouraging asylum seekers to report abuse when the Moss report was released posed further risks as they continue to live in close proximity to the alleged perpetrators. The signatories allege this will place them at future risk of assaults.

“It is not safe to expect women and children to report abuse to authorities and then require them to live in close proximity to the [alleged] perpetrators,” it said.

“To do so places them at risk for repeated assault, retaliation for reporting the abuse, and exposure to repeated reminders of the assaults that they suffered which further delays their recovery from trauma.”

The letter says the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women by detention centre staff – another allegation raised by Moss – was reported to the Department of Immigration 16 months before the Moss review.

“However, DIBP refused to remove these women from the unsafe detention environment.”

The letter calls for the closure of the Nauru detention centre.

“In order to protect asylum seekers, and in particular women and children from further abuse, we immediately ask for the transfer of all asylum seekers in the Nauru detention camp to Australia. We also request the Australian people support a royal commission into abuse allegations in the Nauru detention centre.”

The Senate inquiry into events on Nauru is now accepting submissions, and is likely to hold public hearings in April and May. Some former detention centre staff are preparing submissions, which will be protected by parliamentary privilege.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/07/nauru-staff-call-for-closure-of-asylum-centre-and-royal-commission-into-abuse?CMP=soc_567

Leave a comment

Filed under Courts and Legal Challenges, Human Rights and Refugee Activists, PNG/Pacific Solution

Another 6 Hazara Passengers Abducted from Herat-Farah Highway

March 17, 2015 | Tolo News

In a fresh and the third incident, at least six more passengers from Hazara ethnic minority have been abducted by armed masked men on the Herat-Farah highway, west Afghanistan on Monday night, officials told TOLOnews.

As the fate of 31 abducted passengers is still unknown, the commander of second unit of 207th Zafar Military Corps, Sayed Hassanullah said Tuesday that the new incident happened in Kanisk area of Farah province.

“A search operation has been started to rescue the abducted people,” he said.

However, unconfirmed reports suggest that four of the abductees were the Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers.

This has been the third incident within 24 days after the unknown armed men kidnapped 31 Hazaras on Kabul-Kandahar highway in Shah Joy district of Zabul followed by abduction of another 10 Hazaras in Ghazni. However, nine of Ghazni abductees were released three hours after the incident but the fate of rest of them is still unknown.

‎Despite the negotiations between the elders of Zabul and alleged abductors, the 31 abductees are yet to be freed, something many blame on newly-emerged Daesh group.

The Zabul abductees are said to be transferred to Khak Afghan district of Zabul where the security forces have killed more than 50 insurgents so far in the operation to rescue the hostages.

Source: http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/18651-another-6-hazara-passengers-abducted-from-herat-farah-highway

Leave a comment

Filed under Hazara Persecution