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Refugees and Migrants

    October 03, 2013

    The Italian authorities and the European Union must redouble efforts to patrol their shores and assist migrants in order to prevent further tragic loss of life, Amnesty International said after at least 100 people, including children, perished off the coast of Italy on Thursday morning.  

    The boat – which was reportedly from Libya – was apparently carrying more than 500 migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, when it caught fire and sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Around 120 people have been rescued and more than 100 bodies have so far been brought to shore. Many more are still missing.

    “The waters around the small island of Lampedusa have again tragically become a graveyard for migrants. These grim events keep repeating themselves as thousands of people make the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to seek protection or a better life,” said Jezerca Tigani, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    October 01, 2013

    Kenya must drop calls to force hundreds of thousands of refugees to return to Somalia where ongoing armed conflict would put their lives and security at risk, Amnesty International said today.

    It follows calls from the Kenyan MP Ndung'u Gethenji, head of the Parliament’s defence committee, to clear Somali refugees from camps in northern Kenya. He said they are used as "training ground" by armed groups such as al-Shabab.

    “Returning refugees to Somalia, where all parties to the conflict, including al-Shabab, continue to carry out attacks against civilians, would only make matters worse and would be in violation of international law. Instead, authorities in Kenya must protect those living in a vulnerable situation in refugee camps,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s deputy Africa director.

    The call follows last month’s attack on a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. The Somali armed group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

    September 03, 2013

    The number of Syrian refugees has now surpassed 2 million according to the United Nations. This figure has doubled in the last six months alone. The rising flow of refugees into neighbouring countries has sparked a desperate humanitarian crisis.

    “"The rising flow of refugees into neighbouring countries has sparked a desperate humanitarian crisis. In the context of the most severe forcible displacement crisis in recent history, it is paramount that the international community acts decisively to share the responsibility for Syria’s refugees,” said Sherif El-Sayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Global Thematic Issues.

    “Humanitarian assistance to neighbouring countries must be significantly stepped up. Neighbouring countries must also keep their borders fully open to all persons fleeing the conflict."

    Amnesty International’s researchers have been monitoring the situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan, including at the Za’atari refugee camp, and elsewhere. They are available for interview on the human rights concerns of this crisis.

    Researchers available for interview:

    August 19, 2013

    The Jordanian authorities must not deny entry to anyone fleeing the armed conflict in neighbouring Syria, Amnesty International said after families with young children were among scores of people forced to wait at the border in recent days.

    “The Jordanian authorities must ensure safe access to Jordan for all those wishing to seek safety without discrimination,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “Persons fleeing Syria should not be denied entry even on a temporary basis as this puts their lives in danger. Jordan has an obligation under international law to ensure that its borders stay open to receive refugees.”

    Since Wednesday 14 August, Syrian national Amina and her six children have been denied entry to Jordan at the official Nasib border crossing, the organization has learned. Jordanian border officials granted them entrance visas but told them that they could not enter Jordan for one month. Their passports were stamped with the message: "Return in one month”. 

    August 14, 2013

    The Greek authorities must act immediately to curb the growing spate of xenophobic and racist attacks Amnesty International said today. It follows a brutal knife attack by a mob of around 20 men on two Pakistani migrants on the island of Crete in the early hours of yesterday morning.

    The two young men approached Amnesty International for help, saying they were too scared to report the matter to the police or seek medical attention for fear of being deported.

    “At the same time as we’ve seen a spike in xenophobic violence around Greece, the lack of laws to protect victims with irregular status has meant that reporting such crimes can result in the victims being deported while their attackers walk free,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “This only contributes to the general climate of impunity for the perpetrators of such attacks and it allows for an acceptance of these horrific crimes.”

    August 06, 2013

    The Maltese authorities must urgently allow a boat carrying 102 sub-Saharan Africans to disembark those on board, Amnesty International said.

    The private vessel 'MV Salamis', which rescued the group stranded at sea and reportedly includes pregnant women, one injured woman and a five-month-old baby among its passengers, was stopped by the Maltese navy before it entered Maltese territorial waters last night. The group is currently stranded off the Maltese coast.

    "The Maltese authorities have a humanitarian duty to ensure the safety and well-being of those rescued. They must allow the boat to disembark in Malta and its passengers to be given any necessary medical treatment, as well as a chance to apply for asylum," said Jezerca Tigani, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    "Otherwise, the highest price may be paid by the women, men and children who may have to spend another night at sea with the fear of being sent back to Libya."

    The Maltese government has said it does not intend to take the passengers ashore, saying the ship's captain should have taken them back to Libya.

    July 25, 2013

    Separate boating incidents putting the lives of dozens of migrants at risk in the Aegean Sea today are a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by people seeking to reach Europe’s borders, Amnesty International said.

    A search and rescue operation continues off the Turkish coastal city Bodrum, where a boat believed to have 13 migrants on board went missing early this morning.

    Also today the Greek coastguard rescued 21 migrants who fell from a rubber boat carrying 46 people near the island of Chios. One of the migrants was unconscious when pulled out of the sea and was later pronounced dead.

    “The sad truth is that we’re likely to see more tragic incidents like these as migrants and asylum-seekers flee economic hardship and conflict with the hopes of finding safety and a better life in Europe,” said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program.

    July 19, 2013

    On 19 July 2013, Amnesty International welcomed an important decision of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in the case of Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola.  The unanimous judgment, written by Justices LeBel and Fish, brings Canada’s interpretation of the UN Refugee Convention into line with international law.

    by Anna Shea and Gloria Nafziger

    Supreme Court Ruling in Ezokola case

    Mr. Ezokola had a long career with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2008 he resigned from his position at the Permanent Mission of the DRC at the UN in New York and fled to Canada with his family, seeking refugee protection.  He stated that he could no longer work for a government which he considered corrupt, violent and antidemocratic. 

    July 19, 2013

    Australia passes the parcel and closes the door to desperate boat arrivals
    Amnesty International strongly condemns this afternoon’s appalling announcement by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he will now refuse to resettle asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia.

    “The new plans to resettle all asylum seekers that are found to be refugees in PNG shows not only a complete disregard for asylum seekers but absolute contempt for legal and moral obligations,” said Graeme McGregor, Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Campaign Coordinator.

    “Mark this day in history as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world’s most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key”.

    “This new plan completely deviates from any ‘solution’ that is acceptable under any standards. This is beyond belief. The Prime Minister has shown his willingness to pay any financial costs to bypass humanitarian obligations.

    July 16, 2013

    The Italian government must investigate and make public all the facts behind the illegal expulsion of the wife and daughter of Kazakhstani opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov, said Amnesty International today. The Italian parliament is preparing to consider an internal inquiry by the Minister of the Interior on Thursday into allegations of collusion between both countries and other violations of Italian law.

    “The Italian authorities must ensure that there is a full investigation and criminal prosecution for any violation of their human rights. Only then can any allegations of collusion between the Italian and Kazakhstani authorities be put to rest,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of the Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    Alma Shalabayeva and her six-year old daughter Alua Ablyazova were apprehended in a house in Rome on 29 May 2013 following a police raid reportedly conducted in search of Mukhtar Ablyazov. There is an outstanding warrant for his arrest on fraud-related charges issued by the authorities of the United Kingdom, and a pending extradition request from Kazakhstan.

    July 10, 2013

    The Egyptian authorities should not recklessly deny entry to Syrians and must provide anyone fleeing the conflict the opportunity to seek asylum, Amnesty International said today after reports that some 259 people were turned back at Cairo Airport on Monday.

    “Given the scale of violence, bloodshed and human rights abuses currently taking place in Syria, it is unthinkable that Egypt should deny Syrians fleeing for their lives safety," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui , Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme.

    Syrian nationals arriving on Monday were denied entry to Egypt on the grounds that the passengers had not obtained the newly required visas or security permits. Previously, Syrian nationals did not require visas to enter Egypt.

    While the Egyptian authorities can regulate entry to and stay in Egypt, they must do so in full respect of their international human rights and refugee law obligations.

    Those sent back include: 95 passengers on a Syrian Airlines flight to Latakia, in Syria; 55 flew MEA back to Beirut; some 25 to Jordan, and six to Abu Dhabi.

    June 20, 2013

    The Libyan authorities must act immediately to end the indefinite detention of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, including children, solely for immigration purposes, Amnesty International said in a new briefing published today, 20 June 2013, World Refugee Day.
    The briefing, Scapegoats of Fear: Rights of Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Migrants Abused in Libya, highlights the unacceptable treatment of thousands of foreign nationals, many from sub-Saharan Africa, who are subjected to arbitrary arrests and held for long periods in deplorable conditions at immigration detention facilities described by the Libyan authorities as “holding centres”, with no immediate prospect of release or redress in sight.
    Amnesty International visited seven “holding centres” in April and May this year and found evidence of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture. Many detainees were also denied medical care and some were slated for deportation on medical grounds.

    May 29, 2013

    The South African authorities must stop trying to ‘squeeze out’ asylum-seekers Amnesty International said today, after police used pepper spray and stun grenades to repel desperate crowds outside a Cape Town refugee office.

    Crowds of around a thousand asylum-seekers and refugees trying to legally renew their permits at the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office have been refused entry since Monday 27 May, and over three days have been on the receiving end of stun grenades, pepper spray, warning shots and a fire-hose.

    The tensions outside the Cape Town office come amid a recent national spike in attacks on small businesses owned by asylum-seekers and refugees.

    A witness to the first incident on 27 May told Amnesty International:

    “Suddenly the crowd started moving backwards. I asked someone what was happening and they told me the police were [pepper] spraying people. Then I heard a loud boom which sounded like a gunshot and the crowd started running. I ran with them. I saw a man with blood running down his head and two men with red eyes who had been sprayed.”

    May 15, 2013

    Forcibly returning people to a volatile security situation in Somalia would violate international law, Amnesty International said as Danish courts are due to consider returning five Somali citizens currently living in Denmark.

    The Danish hearings on Thursday and Friday come after at least two other European states – Norway and the Netherlands – have already ended suspensions on forcibly returning people to the Somali capital Mogadishu.

    The Dutch and Norwegian decisions – in December 2012 and February 2013, respectively – cited improved security in the capital as the reason for the change. But the European Court of Human Rights and Dutch courts have suspended the deportation of four Somali nationals from the Netherlands since then, while the security situation remains poor in Mogadishu, and extremely dire in other parts of Somalia.    

    “Though there have been improvements in the security situation in Mogadishu, it remains fragile and volatile,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 13, 2013

    Heavy monsoon rains and a tropical cyclone threaten the lives of tens of thousands of displaced persons in western Myanmar unless the authorities immediately step up efforts to protect them, Amnesty International said.

    More than 140,000 individuals – mostly from the Rohingya Muslim minority – are currently displaced across Rakhine state and have been living in temporary shelters since violence erupted between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state in June 2012. Around half are located in low-lying areas prone to flooding.

    According to information released by the US military, cyclone “Mahasen” is expected to reach the area by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.

    “The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state. Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

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