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Refugees and Migrants

    March 12, 2019
    A young Rohingya girl named Bibi Ayeshi, wearing a black hijab and a white top sits in front of a multicolored background.

    By Kate Schuetze and Alex Neve

    Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

    Bibi Ayesha is a 15 year old Rohingya girl who  was born in Bangladesh. Her family fled Myanmar during a wave of human rights violations against the Rohingya community in 1992. They have never been given official refugee status in Bangladesh.  Her father, determined to ensure that education was accessible for his daughter, managed to enroll her in a local school near the Nayapara Refugee Camp where they live. 

    Earlier this year in January, however, the Bangladeshi government began strictly enforcing a long-standing policy that no Rohingya students would be allowed in local schools on the grounds that they are refugees and must go to schools in the camps.  However, the government does not allow formal schools in the camps, because they believe that will encourage refugees to remain in Bangladesh. The only options are the very basic Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) and Learning Centres, which mainly offer a place to play and some very rudimentary lessons.

    February 21, 2019
    Mohammed Ali is a 65 year-old farmer from the village of Kyein Chaung, in the Township of Maungdaw, in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. He and his family now live in the Balukhali Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
    Content warning: violence and violence causing death

    Balukhali Refugee Camp, Bangladesh

    “We’ve been through this before, but never like this.  Never so many people.  And now it feels like it might go on and on. It has been eighteen months, but it feels like forever.”

    Mohammed Ali, a 65-year-old farmer, was returning from his fields to his home in the village of Kyein Chaung, in the Township of Maungdaw, in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in early September, 2017.  And the attack began. The village was surrounded by government soldiers who began shooting at villagers and setting fire to houses as they advanced. The people of Kyein Chaung knew what was coming as they had already seen dead bodies floating down the stream from other neighbouring villages.

    “There was only one thing to do.  We knew we had to leave and we ran.  And fortunately, no one in our own family was injured or killed. But we heard cries around us.  We knew that could easily have been us. And it was only good luck that it was not.”

    February 11, 2019

    Dhaka, Bangladesh

    As I arrive in Bangladesh, joining an Amnesty International delegation that is here for two weeks to meet with and hear from Rohingya refugees in the country, a specific question comes to mind. In this world of ours – a world marked of late by far too much conflict, hate and division – when and why is a crisis no longer seen to be a crisis?

    In a world which feels to have an ever-shortening attention span and seems only able to give real attention to two or three emergencies at once, we forget and move on from today’s or this week’s crisis more quickly than ever.

    Meanwhile, politicians regularly bandy the word crisis about to inflame tensions and score political points when it isn’t a crisis by any measure; be it Donald Trump’s manufactured border wall crisis or the overblown rhetoric around a supposed-influx of refugees crossing the Canada/US border. We see quick resort to the word crisis in those situations, largely to undermine support for refugee protection.

    February 08, 2019

    Photos: Ahmer Khan (Twitter, Instagram) Words: Saad Hammadi, South Asia Campaigner (Twitter)

    The Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have yet to come to terms with the trauma they had experienced in Myanmar. Ahmer Khan visited Cox’s Bazar to document in photographs the Rohingya people with what they held dearest to them during their troubled escape from home…writes Saad Hammadi

    Last November, when word spread of a possible repatriation of a few thousand Rohingya refugees, hundreds sought sanctuary in other camps in Cox’s Bazar to escape a forced return and avoid being identified.

    In the desperately overcrowded camps across Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, many Rohingya refugees have still not recovered from the trauma they experienced in Myanmar. That painful escape from home still haunts them.

    January 31, 2019
    Mexico USA border wall with barbed wire at top

    Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve is currently part of a delegation of senior Amnesty leadership who are visiting the Mexico/USA border to witness the impacts of US policy on migrants and asylum seekers.|

    El Paso, Texas

    So many times over the past two years, since Donald Trump’s presidency and assault on the rights of refugees and migrants began, I have asked myself: what more will it take for the Canadian government to agree that the United States is not “safe” when it comes to refugee protection?

    And while I do not have the answer yet, as the accounts of utter contempt for international obligations and the lack of even a minimal sense of compassion mounted during our visit to Tijuana, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez this week, as a Canadian I felt a deepening sense of shame that this remains an open question.

    What more will it take?

    January 30, 2019

    Photo: Mother and son holding hands at the shelter for the Migrant Caravan in November 2018. 

    Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve is currently part of a delegation of senior Amnesty leadership who are visiting the Mexico/USA border to witness the impacts of US policy on migrants and asylum seekers. 

    The polarizing and politicized discourse about refugees, migrant and border policy in the United States revolves around ugly chants and a long list of terms and agencies that are at once sinister and incomprehensible: #BuildTheWall, Migration Protection Protocols, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Customs and Border Patrol, pushbacks and zero-tolerance.

    But what is truly at stake and so lost in the swirling toxic debate are peoples’ hopes, lives and rights.

    January 28, 2019

    Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Alex Neve is currently part of a delegation of senior Amnesty leadership who are visiting the Mexico/USA border to witness the impacts of US policy on migrants and asylum seekers. 

    Tijuana, Mexico

    We began the day walking across the border between the United States and Mexico, separating San Ysidro, California and Tijuana. We ended the day back at that exact same border post, accompanying three courageous LGBTQ teens from Honduras as they sought, against considerable odds, to lodge their asylum claims with US officials.

    In between we had ample occasion to see and hear firsthand that despite Donald Trump’s toxic rhetoric, the only crisis that is playing out along this frontier is a politically-driven one that spreads distortions and fear on the backs of people – mainly, but not only, from Mexico and Central America – who are fleeing terrifying persecution, endemic violence and grinding poverty.

    It is a crisis of conscience, compassion and justice.

    December 10, 2018

    By Alex Neve and Aditya Rao. Published on Ipolitics Dec 10, 2018 10:34am

    'Some countries under pressure from anti-immigrant and anti-refugee groups are choosing not to endorse the agreement. How disheartening to hear similar sentiments in Canada.'

    The UN headquarters in New York. (Neptuul/Wikimedia Commons photo)

    November 15, 2018

    Since August 2017, more than 720,000 Rohingya have fled a vicious campaign of violence by the Myanmar security forces and sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

    This week some refugees could be returned from Bangladesh to Myanmar under an agreement reached earlier between the two governments that sidestepped safeguards mandated under international law.

    Here, Amnesty International explains how this situation has come about and why the forcible return of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar is unlawful, being premature, and putting their lives, liberty and other key human rights at risk.

    Who are the Rohingya people?

    The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar. Until recently, more than a million lived mostly in Rakhine State, in the west of the country, on the border with Bangladesh.

    June 20, 2018

    Nuri Mohammed is just like other boys his age: he likes spending time with friends and family and dreams of what life will be like when he grows up. He hopes to one day buy a store and run his own business. But Nuri’s life changed completely when he came home one day to find the military in his village, killing his neighbors. The military killed his parents and eight of his siblings. His last memory of his mother was of her pleas for him to flee. Nuri ran to a nearby lake, where a bullet struck him and injured his leg. He continued on, walking for three days until he escaped from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, where he reunited with his remaining two sisters.

    May 25, 2018
    Campaign and Local Organizing Committee of the 2018 Canadian Council for Refugees National Youth Action Gathering

    Brought together by shared passion and commitment for inclusivity, youth empowerment and human rights, the Local Organizing Committee for the 2018 Canadian Council for Refugees’ Youth Action Gathering (YAG) is working to bring together immigrant and refugee youth from across Canada to share, learn and network on strategies to address common challenges. The Local Organizing Committee consists of a partnership between York University’s  Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) and Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, Amnesty International at York and the World University Service of Canada’s (WUSC)  Keele Campus Committee. All of them have been active long term participants in the York U Refugees Welcome Here! Campaign.

    May 07, 2018
    Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp Bangladesh

    By: Naureen Shah

    In March 2018, I visited the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s bazaar in south eastern Bangladesh. 

    Violence and persecution in the western Rakhine State of Myanmar have caused more than 500,000 Rohingya people, an ethnic minority, to flee their homes.The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called the situation a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing," and the crisis has caused a mass exodus of the Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh. I wanted to bring the stories of the Rohingya people living in Cox’s bazaar back to Canada, so they would not be forgotten.

    March 14, 2018

    By Rebecca Ma, Associate Campaigner, Amnesty International USA

    For the past three years, fourteen-year-old Astrid and her father Arturo were living an ordinary life in Easton, Pennsylvania. She was in the eighth grade, studying at Easton Area Middle School, where her favorite subject is Math.

    Less than a month before the much anticipated quinceañera celebration of her fifteenth birthday, life as Astrid knew it was turned upside down.

    On February 20, at approximately 5:00 AM, Astrid was asleep in her room when she was awoken by six male Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) armed agents standing before her bed and yelling: “IMMIGRATION — GET UP!” They ordered everyone in the house into a room and asked them for identification. The ICE agents did not show a warrant or say why they were there.

    March 07, 2018
    Taibeh Abbasi with her younger brother Ehsan.

    By Maria Serrano, Campaigner on Refugee and Migrants Rights

    Would you go to Afghanistan tomorrow? If you follow the news at all, the answer is probably no. Maybe you read about the truck bomb that killed at least 150 people last May, or the gunmen who stormed the offices of the charity Save the Children in January, killing four people. Perhaps you wondered how anyone could ever feel safe in Kabul after an ambulance packed with explosives blew up in a crowded street. Over 100 people died and at least 235 were injured.

    If you are in Europe, it’s likely that your government would also advise you against travelling to Afghanistan, citing the high threat of kidnapping, indiscriminate attacks and clashes between armed groups.

    February 14, 2018

    Traumatized, exhausted, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are living out another chapter in their painful history as an unwanted people. Amnesty’s Deputy South Asia Director, Omar Waraich, joined a research mission to document their experiences in Cox’s Bazar, a district shaped by the sufferings of Rohingya people over centuries.

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