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Refugees and Migrants

    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.

    April 25, 2013

    It is vital that the international community does more to help the increasing number of refugees pouring across borders as they flee the violence in Syria, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    To escape the ongoing bloodshed and violence at home, those fleeing have sought safety in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Many live in extremely difficult conditions.

    “The responsibility to protect and assist refugees from Syria needs to be shouldered by both the international community and neighbouring countries,” said Charlotte Phillips, refugee researcher at Amnesty International.

    All these countries say that the long-term hosting of refugees is putting a strain on resources, as increasing numbers of Syrians and others try to reach the relative safety of refugee camps and elsewhere in neighbouring countries.

    “In the face of this mounting crisis, the international community must act now to provide badly needed financial and technical assistance in order to support the efforts made by Syria’s neighbouring countries,” said Phillips.

    April 22, 2013

    The victims of a recent shooting at a strawberry farm in southern Greece still fear for their livelihoods and safety, Amnesty International said after a visit to the farm. 

    A group of Bangladeshi workers at the farm in Manolada were shot on 17 April by farm supervisors when they joined other workers protesting because they had not been paid for seven months. Eight of them were seriously injured.

    “They hit us and said, ‘We will kill you.’ Three of them were shooting at us while the others beat us with sticks. The shooting went on for more than 20 minutes,” one of the workers told an Amnesty International delegation that visited the camp over the last few days.

    While there, the organization observed horrendous conditions where workers – some in their early teens – live in crowded sheds without access to clean water and sanitation.

    “The living conditions we’ve witnessed in Manolada are a shocking glimpse into an appalling underworld endured by thousands of migrant workers across the area,” said Kondylia Gogou, Greece researcher at Amnesty International.

    April 04, 2013

    A Roma community in Poland are being threatened with imminent eviction and homelessness in a blatant violation of international human rights law, Amnesty International said today.

    In a rare move for Poland, the city of Wroclaw in the west of the country is planning to force around 60 Romanian Roma from an informal settlement on municipal land, while offering no alternative homes for them.

    “Forcibly evicting up to 60 people is utterly unacceptable behaviour by a government with very clear obligations to uphold human rights,” said Marek Marczyñski, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Alternative accommodation must be offered before 60 people, 35 of whom are children, are made homeless,” said Marczyñski.  

    The residents were served with a 14-day eviction notice on 26 March but the municipal government has never consulted them on alternative places to live.  

    If the authorities fail to provide adequate alternative accommodation or consult the community affected, the eviction would violate international human rights law and standards.

    April 04, 2013

    The European Union (EU) is not doing enough to end discrimination against Roma across its member-states, Amnesty International said on the eve of International Roma Day marked on 8 April.

    “The EU must implement immediately the considerable measures at its disposal to sanction governments that are failing to tackle discrimination and violence against Roma,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director.

    “Such practices run counter to EU law and the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights it was founded on.”

    The estimated six million Roma living in EU countries fall far below the national average on almost all human development indicators -- eight out of ten Roma are at risk of poverty; only one out of seven young Roma adults have completed upper-secondary education.

    Forced evictions of Roma continue to be the norm rather than the exception in a range of European countries such as Romania, Italy, and France.

    And education is segregated in the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovakia. This is at odds with national and EU laws prohibiting racial discrimination.

    April 03, 2013

    Over 200 people, mostly Romanian Roma, were forcibly evicted this morning from an informal settlement in greater Paris in a move Amnesty International has labelled shameful and callous. 

    Police evicted around 230 people at 7:00 am from their huts and caravans in Ris-Orangis on the outskirts of Paris, citing public health and safety concerns. It is the latest in a resumed wave of forced evictions of Roma across France over the past few weeks.

    “Evicting hundreds of people without offering any adequate alternative housing or support is a shameful and callous action that totally ignores France’s international human rights obligations,” said Marek Marczyński, Europe and Central Asia Program Deputy Director.

    The community were given 24 hours notice to leave the site, despite the lack of adequate housing being offered. 

    According to reports, only 38 had previously been offered any assistance with accommodation or employment. Local activists reported that the only alternative emergency accommodation offered required families to be separated, which the residents refused to accept.

    April 03, 2013

    Egypt and Sudan must make urgent and concerted efforts to stop asylum-seekers and refugees being kidnapped from camps in Sudan, forcibly transported to Egypt, and being severely abused in the Sinai desert, Amnesty International said in a new briefing.

    For over two years, refugees and asylum-seekers have been kidnapped from in and around the Shagarab refugee camps in eastern Sudan, near the Eritrean border. The vast majority of victims are Eritrean. They are then trafficked to Egypt’s Sinai desert, where they are held captive by Bedouin criminal gangs while ransom payments are demanded from their families.

    Amnesty International has received repeated reports of brutal violence used against captives in Sinai, including rape and sexual abuse, beatings, burning and other violent and cruel treatment.

    The captors reportedly telephone their victims’ relatives while inflicting violence in order to extort money, often demanding ransoms of up to USD 30-40,000.

    March 28, 2013

    Up to 600 Syrian refugees have reportedly been deported by the Turkish authorities in a move that would show a shocking disregard for their safety, Amnesty International said.

    Reports state that those forcibly returned had been accommodated in the Akcakale refugee camp in the Sanliurfa province that borders Syria. Others run the risk of the same treatment.

    "Any forcible return of Syrian refugees would represent a deplorable act in clear violation of international law and Turkey's own laws," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey.

    Reports indicate that the returns occurred following violent protests at the camp.

    ”The Turkish authorities need to ensure that from now on no forcible returns occur and they must effectively investigate forced returns that are alleged to have taken place.

    ”In no circumstances whatsoever should the authorities forcibly return Syrians putting them at risk of persecution and serious human rights violations."

     

    March 21, 2013

    The Kuwaiti parliament's decision to grant citizenship to up to 4,000 "foreigners" is a step in the right direction but much more must be done to protect the rights of more than 100,000 Bidun in Kuwait, said Amnesty International. 

    Forty-three MPs voted in favour of a bill on Wednesday with only two abstentions. In order to take effect, the law must now be signed by the Amir of Kuwait. 

    "While this bill is a welcome step, the Kuwaiti government must intensify its efforts to find a lasting solution for all the Bidun in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. 

    "The Bidun's human rights must be upheld without discrimination, in particular their rights to health, education and work.

    "The absence of policies to resolve the plight of the Bidun, rooted in human rights standards, is a stain on the country’s international reputation. It deprives thousands of Bidun families of their basic political, economic and social rights and bars them from contributing fully to Kuwaiti society." 

    March 20, 2013

    In a case highlighting the risks people take when fleeing conflict in their countries to seek refuge in Europe, the authorities of Lesvos continue their search for the bodies of asylum-seekers who had attempted to reach the Greek island.

    Since last Friday, they have found the bodies of six Syrian nationals including a 17-year-old pregnant woman and a mother with her young children. They are now searching for the bodies of three more Syrian nationals whose families had reported missing to the island authorities after the nine attempted to cross from Turkey on 6 March 2013.

    Lesvos is one of the main crossings for migrants and refugees trying to enter the European Union via Greece. Last December, 21 people (mostly Afghans) drowned close to the shores of the island, after the boat they were in capsized.  

    Since last summer, people fleeing the conflict in Syria have featured among those attempting the crossing, including many families with young children.

    March 12, 2013

    Routine abductions, sexual violence, forced recruitment into criminal gangs, people trafficking and murder of migrants are normal events in the lives of the tens of thousands of irregular migrants that cross Mexico every year and, according to Amnesty International, impunity for these grave abuses is the norm.

    The government of Enrique Peña Nieto, which last Sunday completed a hundred days in office, has not so far taken any steps to correct the abject failure of the previous administration to deal with this humanitarian crisis.

    “Once again, the fate of irregular migrants in Mexico appears to be reduced to a side issue,” said Rupert Knox, Amnesty International’s researcher on Mexico.

    “Yet migrants’ shelters and human rights defenders have told Amnesty International of an increasing flow of migrants and an escalation in attacks on them and those working for their rights.”

    February 09, 2013

    Authorities in Iraq must urgently investigate the attack against a camp of Iranian exiles that left several people dead and injred and ensure all those wounderiate medical care, said Amnesty International today.   

    The investigation should also look into the conduct of Iraqi security forces in the lead up and during the attack and whether they have failed to prevent any such attack.

    Several people reportedly died and have been injured as a result of the attack against Camp Liberty, home of some 3,000 Iranians in exile in Iraq, on 9 February.  

    “The attack against Camp Liberty is a despicable crime,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme's Deputy Director  

    “Authorities in Iraq must ensure not only that those responsible for this attack are brought to justice but that those living in the camp are protected.”  

    February 07, 2013

    Four Chinese migrant bus drivers could face up to a year in prison and steep fines for allegedly instigating a strike unless the Singapore authorities immediately drop the charges against them, Amnesty International said ahead of a pre-trial hearing for the men on 8 February.

    The drivers – He Jun Ling, 32, Gao Yue Qiang, 32, Liu Xiangying, 33, and Wang Xianjie, 39 – were charged with violating section 10(a) of the Criminal Protection (Temporary Provisions) Act and allege that they were ill-treated in custody. If the men are found guilty, besides jail time, they face possible fines of up to S$2,000 (US$1,615) each – nearly twice their monthly wage.

    The four men were among 171 Chinese migrant bus drivers who took part in a “strike action”, by refusing to go to work and staying inside their company-run living quarters on 26 November 2012. Along with 84 others they continued the work stoppage into the following day. The industrial action was the first in more than two decades in Singapore, where the law prohibits organizing a strike in essential sectors such as public transport without 14 days’ advance notice.

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