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Refugees and Migrants

    July 31, 2017
      By James Lynch, Deputy head of Global Issues at Amnesty International   The Gulf crisis that erupted in early June, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain announcing an immediate restriction of relations with Qatar, more recently has turned into a very public war of words, with political arguments being played out through satellite TV channels and newspaper opinion pages.   The restrictions imposed have seen families from across the Gulf separated, students thrown off courses and governments ordering their citizens to return home. The measures have drawn widespread censure for violating people’s rights from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.     But one of the most striking shifts generated by the crisis is the sudden interest governments and institutions from across the region have developed in the welfare of migrant workers in Qatar.  
    June 28, 2017
    No Ban No Wall

    AI USA provides the following information for those impacted by the Executive Order barring entry into the United States for people from six Muslim majority countries; Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Canadian citizens or dual nationals of these countries should not be affected by this ban, but permanent residents of Canada may encounter difficulties obtaining a visa to travel to the United States. Those facing difficulty at the US border will find the following information helpful.

    Naureen Shah, AIUSA Senior Director of Campaigns

    The Muslim and refugee ban will partially go back into effect, following the June 26, 2017 Supreme Court decision. The court partially lifted an injunction on the ban that’s been in place since days after President Trump issued it in late January.

    There are 180 million nationals from the six banned countries; several tens of millions of them will be banned for 90 days, and so too will many refugees — for at least 120 days, and maybe longer.

    June 26, 2017

    By Khairunissa Dhala Khairunissa Dhala is a researcher on refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International.

    At just 37 years of age, Joyce has seen it all. She's stared into the abyss of human cruelty and lived to tell the story. In September 2016, soldiers stormed her home in Kajo Keji, South Sudan, which she shared with her husband and their children. They tied her husband's arms behind his back and stabbed him multiple times until he lay dead.

    A single mother with nine children to feed, Joyce decided to run away - to escape the violence in her native land. So she joined the hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese people fleeing southwards to Uganda.

    But although the trek to Uganda by foot has reduced her risk of being shot dead or raped by soldiers or rebels, her life is still a painful daily struggle. She still lacks basic supplies, including food, water or shelter.

    May 26, 2017
    Afghan woman and children outside Elliniko camp in Greece

    Outside the unused airport in the Elliniko area of Athens, a group of Afghan women take off their sandals before sitting down on a blue blanket. Behind them is the old terminal building, which has been their temporary “home” for months, for many more than a year.

    There’s rubbish everywhere, shattered windows have turned into gaping holes and some places reek of urine.

    “I have been in this camp for 1 year and two months without a destiny”, a woman with a burgundy headscarf said, tears trickling down her face.

    The government is now starting the process of evacuating the camp. But for these women, their destiny is still unknown. No one we talk to knows exactly what will happen to them.

    “The uncertainty is killing us”,  Afghan woman.

    Amnesty has visited the Elliniko camps several times since they opened around a year and a half ago. Every time the stories have been the same and this visit is no different: appalling living conditions, lack of security, severe anxiety caused by former traumas and not knowing what the future will bring.

    “We’ve been through hell here,” one woman said.

    April 18, 2017

    Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, blogs from Beirut, Lebanon. Follow Salil on Twitter @SalilShetty

    At a time of extreme contestation of what constitutes truth, and an era where “fake news” is almost celebrated, the rule of law based on real evidence is more essential than ever.

    International human rights law and humanitarian law are long-established standards and norms, and are critical to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

    Human rights give us a framework to interpret and describe why what we see is wrong. And they give us a legal architecture to hold governments to account and demand change.

    And what is the alternative to addressing the massive challenges the world faces without international solidarity and accountability, without a shared commitment to uphold the equal and inalienable rights of every person?

    April 13, 2017

    By: Marium Yousuf

    On a beautiful, crisp sunny day last weekend, Amnesty International, Sojurn House, Culture Link and the Centre for Victims of Torture held an event in Toronto to mark Canada’s Refugee Rights Day (April 4). The tone was deliberately celebratory, with performances from the Nai Syrian Kids Choir, poet Ama Luna and poet/singer, song-writer Ruth Mathiang that left the audience captivated all afternoon.

    The Nai Syrian Kids Choir immediately captured everyone’s attention as they streamed through the room in their yellow uniforms. Ranging between the ages from 6-12, it was hard to imagine that these smiling young faces had experienced war and loss, having recently resettled in Canada as Syrian refugees. The Choir is an initiative of Culture Link and serves as a space for children to deal with their loss, grief and hope through music, while their parents practice conversational English with ESL teachers. Their performances did not disappoint: singing songs in Arabic, French and English, while their beaming parents cheered them on.

    April 11, 2017

    An Amnesty International team recently returned from the US-Mexico border where they investigated how President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and border security threaten to affect thousands of people. 

    This is what they found.

    What did you find at the border? 

    We spent almost two weeks visiting towns and cities on both sides of the US-Mexico border, talking to migrants, asylum seekers, human rights activists and government officials. We travelled the entire length of the land border, something that no other international human rights organization has done since Trump took office. We knew this was essential to get a clear picture of what was happening in what has become one of the most talked-about places on earth. 

    We were surprised by what we found. 

    Most places were quiet – but the kind of edgy quiet before a big storm kicks in. Because President Trump’s executive orders are setting the scene for what could turn into a full-blown refugee crisis. 

    April 11, 2017

    By Madeleine Penman, Mexico Researcher at Amnesty International

    The sight of one of the most infamous borders on earth – roughly 1,000 kilometers of porous metal fence dividing lives, hopes and dreams between the USA and Mexico, is undoubtedly overwhelming, but not in the way we expected it to be.

    While it has been one of the most talked about issues since last year’s USA election campaign, the stretch of land that separates the USA and Mexico now lies eerily quiet.

    March 09, 2017

    By Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Response Advisor at Amnesty International. Follow Rawya on Twitter @RawyaRageh.

    It was an excruciating choice that no family should ever have to make.

    Should they stay together with their two young daughters and miss perhaps their only chance to escape the horrors of war, or should they make a break for freedom but leave their year-old baby behind in a foreign land half-way around the world?

    This was the devil’s dilemma facing US-Yemeni dual national Baraa Ahmed (not his real name) and his wife, who were separated from their breastfeeding baby in the wake of President Trump’s discriminatory travel ban.

    “I would have never left my daughter behind in Malaysia and flown back [to the States] if it weren’t for the decision by the President. Nothing would have made me leave my daughter behind … But [Trump’s executive order] really compelled us to do what we did,” Baraa Ahmed told Amnesty International.

    What brought them to entrust their baby’s care to friends in Malaysia, a country 15,000 km away where they have no close ties?

    March 07, 2017
    New packaging, same fear and hate.

    Donald Trump's Executive Order on immigration may have been revised, but it remains blatantly discriminatory. 

    Thinly disguised as a national security measure, Trump’s travel ban reinstates many of the most repellent elements of the original blocked by US courts.

    The US president has effectively shut America’s door to anyone - including refugees - from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. These six countries have two main things in common: they are predominantly Muslim, and many of their citizens are trying to seek asylum abroad to escape serious human rights violations like persecution, indiscriminate bombing, and torture.

    Rather than curbing the excesses of the first travel ban, the revised version shows a xenophobic policy towards Muslims which is mutating, virus-like, into an ever more resilient strain. And like a virus, its effects cannot be easily contained.

    November 01, 2016
    Children playing near the Refugee Processing Centre on Nauru.

    By Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research

    There was a time when Australia led the way on refugee protection.

    Following World War II, Australia came second only to the United States on resettling European refugees. Its signature brought the Refugee Convention into force a few years later. And, in the 1970s, it resettled the third highest number of Indochinese refugees following the wars there.

    Sadly those days are a distant memory. After earning global notoriety for the cruelty it continues to inflict on refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru and Manus Island, the Australian government has shown it is capable of worse.

    Not only is the government refusing to shut down its centres on the two Pacific islands, it is now planning to introduce a law to permanently ban the people trapped there from getting a visa to Australia.

    October 18, 2016

    By Anna Shea: Amnesty International Researcher/Advisor on Refugee and Migrant Rights

    In an out-of-the way, dingy watering hole, a young woman I’ll call Jane told me: “I picked this place because it was very noisy, so there’d be less chance of being monitored.”

    Up until that point, we had only communicated by encrypted messages, so that the local authorities wouldn’t know about our meeting. I was in a country that had recently enacted legislation  allowing it to prosecute and imprison people who disclosed information about offshore government operations. By meeting with me, Jane was demonstrating real courage. Many other people were too scared to meet with me—or even speak on the phone.  At the bar, Jane spoke for hours about the human rights abuses she had witnessed. At several points, she broke down in tears. 

    As a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International, I’m used to making elaborate arrangements to ensure the safety and anonymity of the people I interview in authoritarian countries. I’m also accustomed to hearing traumatic stories of abuse.

    September 22, 2016

    By Hanna Gros

    Canada prides itself as a place where immigrants and refugees are welcome -- a safe haven strengthened by its diversity, where multiculturalism flourishes. Canada also prides itself as a defender of human rights at home and abroad. Canadians played an important role in drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms has served as a model for human rights instruments worldwide.

    But in recent years Canada has come under harsh criticism from the United Nations and civil society organizations for its immigration detention regime, which deprives children of their fundamental human rights. Under current law and administrative procedures, children affected by the immigration detention regime enter a Kafkaesque world of prison conditions, uncertain lengths of detention, and separation from their parents, that robs them of the opportunity to develop normally.

    September 07, 2016
    By Monica Costa Riba

    Strapped onto either side of a horse, 30 year-old Alan Mohammad and his 28 year-old sister Gyan crossed craggy mountains from Iraq and into Turkey last February. Their younger sister walked ahead, leading the horse. Their mother, brother and younger sister trailed behind, pushing heavy wheelchairs up the steep unpaved path.

    August 29, 2016

    By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee and Migrant Rights Coodinator

    On August 21, as Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished a marathon at the Rio Olympics, he crossed his arms above his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. He is reported as saying, “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”

    He did not return to Ethiopia, and is reported to be seeking asylum in either Brazil or the United States.

    Feyisa Lilesa is right to be concerned about human rights violations targeting the Oromo in Ethiopia.

    Early in August of this year, at least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara. A disproportionate violent police response to protests has resulted in over 500 protestors’ deaths recorded in Oromia region since November 2015 and over 100 others in the Amhara and Oromia region in the month of August.

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