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Refugees and Migrants

    May 22, 2020

    Updated May 22, 2020

    Shocking footage of Rohingya women, men and children being rescued off rickety boats after dangerous sea voyages is still being broadcast around the world.

    According to reports, more boats – carrying hundreds more Rohingya people – are still stranded at sea and in urgent need of rescue. These vessels have nowhere to land, as countries ignore international obligations to allow safe disembarkation, using COVID-19 restrictions as a pretext.

    These policies raise the risk of repeating the dangerous mistakes of 2015, when the break-up of trafficking networks left thousands of Rohingya stranded in Southeast Asian waters, with likely hundreds losing their lives.

    Here, Amnesty International explains why the Rohingya are still risking everything to flee crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh and apartheid conditions in Myanmar.

    We also explain how countries in the region can help, and why the Rohingya shouldn’t be sent back to Myanmar.

    Who are the Rohingya people?

    April 20, 2020

    Nazik Awad is the founder of the Sudanese Women Human Rights Project. She fled to Egypt in 2011 after being detained for her human rights work. There she continued to face harassment and threats for her activism, and faced years of limbo as she sought refugee resettlement in the US. During Write for Rights 2018, Amnesty activists from around the world spoke out for her safety. Nazik was finally resettled to Canada recently. Here is her story. 

    Being a refugee is, for me, a matter of personal identity. Being a refugee is a statement of my struggle and the struggle of millions of other people around the world forced to leave their homes. Being a refugee is a reminder of the different global crises that drove us from our homes—conflicts, poverty, inequality, injustice, climate change, or sexual violence.

    April 02, 2020

    Authorities in a number of countries across the Americas, including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Curaçao, and Trinidad and Tobago, among others, are detaining migrants and asylum seekers in a dangerous and discriminatory manner based solely on their migration status, Amnesty International said today. In doing so, they are pushing people into unhygienic and unsafe environments, contrary to international human rights and public health guidelines.

    “Migration status is irrelevant to every human being’s dignity and their right to live. Instead of putting people’s health at increased risk, governments should be doing everything in their power to protect them,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

    “In order to effectively combat COVID-19 in the Americas and avert thousands of preventable deaths, states should swiftly release people from immigration detention, only detain migrants in extraordinary cases and ensure their access to lifesaving healthcare without discrimination.”

    CANADA

    January 30, 2020

    Last week, in the lead up to the International Day of Education, Amnesty International once again pressed the government of Bangladesh and the international community to address the continuing failure to provide education to Rohingya refugee children, and the lack of educational opportunities for many children in host communities near the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

    What a difference a week makes! On Tuesday, the Bangladeshi government announced it will open up the prospect of going to school for hundreds of thousands of refugee children who have been denied that right for years.

    It is tremendous news, and Canada is well-placed to work with Bangladesh to ensure that vital promise becomes reality.

    The International Day of Education draws attention to the vital role that education plays in advancing peace and development in our world. It is grounded in recognition that access to education is an important human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and numerous other international treaties adopted over the decades. Recognition as well, though, that around the world it is a right far too frequently violated and ignored.

    November 13, 2019

    After an inspiring, challenging and eventful week at the Federal Court in Toronto, it is worth taking a moment for some final reflections on the court challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) which took place from November 4-8, 2019. 

    November 06, 2019

    Jaya Bordeleau-Cass and André Capretti are the 2019-2020 Public Interest Articling Fellows at Amnesty International Canada. They will be posting updates about the Safe Third Country Agreement hearing throughout the week.

    Shame. Frustration. Rage. Disappointment.  

    Court hearings can be dry, but when we listen to the facts and stories presented over the past two days in the challenge to the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), it is hard not to have an emotional reaction.

    On the second day of the hearings in Toronto, counsel for the applicants – Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches and individual refugee claimants – continued to present their legal arguments and reviewed how the STCA violates equality rights under section 15 of the Canadian Charter, and the rights to liberty and security of the person under section 7.

    November 05, 2019

    Today marked the first day of a week-long hearing, in which the applicants - Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Council of Churches, and individual refugee claimants - are challenging the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement (the STCA) in Federal Court before Justice Ann Marie McDonald.

    “Year after year, month after month, Canada willfully turns its back on refugee claimants at the border.”

    The applicants’ opening remarks, delivered by Mr. Andrew Brouwer, set the stage for the day’s arguments, which reviewed the facts, the evidence and administrative law issues.

    October 31, 2019

    From October 22th to 26th, Amnesty Canada's Alex Neve joined a global Amnesty delegation to monitor the impact of anti-asylum policies at the US-Mexico border. They met with the consul general of Mexico in San Diego, the National Commission of Human Rights in Tijuana, visited shelters in Tijuana and San Diego, met with NGOs and UN agencies on both sides of the border, and met with legal aid providers and toured a shelter for unaccompanied children in Brownsville, TX. On their last day, the group crossed the border into Matamoros, Mexico to speak with families and others who have been affected by the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.

    Matamoros, Mexico

    “Some days we cry.  Some days we laugh.  And we are here to lift each other up when we are down.”

    October 10, 2019
    Andrew Scheer standing behind a podium labelled 'Fair Immigration Equitable'

    On 10 October 2019, Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, went to Roxham Road in Quebec to announce a revised “immigration policy,” including closing the “loophole” in the Safe Third Country Agreement. The news release continuously uses the disparaging and inaccurate term “illegal” to describe people who are exercising their legal and human rights to seek refugee protection in Canada, and irresponsibly conflates Canada’s refugee protection system with it’s immigration system.

    Alongside a number of courageous refugee protection claimants, Amnesty International, the Canadian Council of Refugees and the Canadian Council of Churches are challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement in Federal Court on 4-8 November 2019.  These organizations will argue that the United States is not safe for many refugees, particularly under the harsh policies adopted by President Donald Trump’s administration.

    We’ve made some notes to help Andrew Scheer better communicate about refugees, and perhaps reconsider some of the policy proposals included in this press release.

    June 20, 2019

    Millions across the Americas are fleeing human rights violations in their countries, seeking protection. Refugees are people who find themselves with no choice other than to leave their lives behind hoping for safety. Many arrive in hostile environments but stepping back home could put their lives at risk. American states must protect those in need and promote a coherent regional response.

    June 17, 2019

    Tens of thousands of older women and men from ethnic minorities across Myanmar who faced military atrocities and were forced to flee their homes are being let down by a humanitarian system that often fails to adequately address their rights and needs, Amnesty International said in a report published today.

    “Fleeing my whole life”: Older people’s experience of conflict and displacement in Myanmar is the organization’s first comprehensive investigation into the specific ways older people’s rights and dignity are not respected amid armed conflict and crisis, as well in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
     
    “For decades, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities have suffered recurrent abuse at the hands of the military. Many older people racked by atrocities amid recent military operations lived through similar crimes as children or younger adults. Their experience lays bare the military’s longstanding brutality, and the need for justice,” said Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

    May 31, 2019

    AI USA Release

    The Trump administration is reportedly considering barring anyone who transits through a third country from seeking asylum at the US southern border. Such a policy would effectively block anyone other than Mexicans and Canadians from seeking asylum in the United States. In response, Charanya Krishnaswami, Advocacy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International USA, made the following statement:

    “Seeking asylum is a human right, full stop.  This latest policy is a disgusting example of the lengths the Trump administration will go to deny people protection. Instead of taking sensible steps to fix this crisis of their own making, they choose to further their agenda of hate and fear against mothers, fathers, children, and anyone else who has been forced to flee their homes and who have no other way to seek safety. To effectively close the border to Central Americans and the vast majority of people seeking asylum not only violates human rights obligations, but is also fundamentally cruel.”

    Background:

    April 11, 2019

    The US is not safe for all refugees. The Canadian government should suspend the US/Canada border pact and allow those in need of refugee protection to access it in Canada.

    Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the US government, at the request of the Canadian government, is considering altering an agreement that would make it more likely that refugees seeking asylum in Canada would be returned to the United States. This week, the Canadian government also introduced a bill that includes provisions that would bar individuals from making a refugee claim in Canada if they have made a prior asylum claim in certain countries, particularly the United States.

    The request to renegotiate concerns a possible expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between the two countries, which currently applies only at official ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border. It requires individuals who arrive in Canada or the US to request protection in the first country in which they arrive. There are only limited exceptions.

    March 29, 2019

    Responding to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s letter to Congress, Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA stated:

    “Secretary Nielsen is ready to exploit the vulnerable situations of families in order to send a loud message to the world that refugees are not welcome in America.

    “The US must live up to its promise and implement humane policies that do not unnecessarily detain people seeking safety and protection.

    “The DHS’s argument that treating asylum seekers humanely fuels migration is a blatant lie meant to curb the basic rights of those fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries.”

    Amnesty International USA calls on Congress to reject Secretary Nielson’s request for more powers and demand that DHS renew its ‘Alternative to Detention’ programs.

    Background

    In October, Amnesty International launched a report on the policy of family separation and illegal pushbacks and the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers.

    March 27, 2019

    Reacting to reports that EU governments have agreed to significantly downscale the EunavforMed Operation ‘Sophia’, withdrawing ships from the central Mediterranean and only continuing the mission with air surveillance, Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International’s Migration Researcher, said:

    “This is an outrageous abdication of EU governments responsibilities.

    “Having already used every excuse in the book to banish NGO rescue boats from the Mediterranean, and having already stopped carrying out rescues several months ago, EU governments are now removing their own ships, leaving no-one to save the lives of women, men and children in peril.

    “EU governments will continue to use aerial surveillance to alert the Libyan Coast Guard when refugees and migrants are spotted at sea, so they can be taken back to Libya, despite knowing that people there are arbitrarily detained and exposed to widespread torture, rape, killings and exploitation.

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