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Refugees

    April 03, 2017
    A refugee in Montreal looks out a window over the city

    By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee Coordinator Amnesty International

    “It was like Donald Trump had awakened a dormant volcano that was ready to erupt at any time; and I didn’t want to be a part of it”

    April 4 is Refugee Rights Day in Canada.  This is the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1985 Singh decision, which recognized that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects refugees' fundamental rights.  The Court decided that refugee claimants are included in the Charter sentence: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’ 

    This means that, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law, refugees who enter Canada from the United States and make a refugee claim are entitled to an oral hearing.

    March 16, 2017

    After a year trapped in Greece, this week Alan, Gyan and the rest of the family have finally travelled to Germany.  We know they arrived safely and that they are provisionally staying in a camp. We will keep you updated.

    Alan and Gyan are Kurdish refugees from Syria. They both suffer from muscular dystrophy and fled their home in Syria in wheelchairs; escaping bombs and the Islamic State. They arrived in Greece in March 2016 with their mother, Amsha and two siblings, Ivan and Shilan. Their father and another sister are already in Germany.

    Their arduous journey in search of safety had taken them and their family across four borders. They were shot at on three occasions when they were trying to cross into Turkey and were strapped to the side of a horse in order to cross the mountainous border between Iraq and Turkey.

    December 02, 2016
    Message from refugees pinned to a tent in Chios port

    Content Warning: This post includes descriptions of violence.

    By Catherine Bruce, Director, Refugee Law Office Toronto

    In September 2016, I spent two weeks working with a group of international volunteers and interpreters in a refugee camp in Greece. This is my account of my experiences.

    The trauma invaded my dreams

    Perhaps I should start by saying that after my first day working in the camps, I dreamed that I saw an airplane circle around and around in the sky.

    In my dream I was lying on the beach. And I was thinking to myself in my dream: why is that plane circling and what is the pilot in that plane watching? And then I saw that the pilot was watching a helicopter and the helicopter was coming to the ground. And as it landed, people jumped out of it, and suddenly on the ground next to me everyone was screaming and shouting, “run, they are shooting”. And I got up and ran, and then I woke up.

    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.

    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.

    March 21, 2016
    Garnotte - Refugee 'choices'

    Take the Refugees Welcome Here Pledge! 

    March 07, 2016

     

    “You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet. 

     

    On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family.  The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond.  Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety.  His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey.  Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.

     

    Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives.  Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.

     

    February 16, 2016

    "Mohammad" arrived at the Canada-US at Fort Erie in early January.  He is a 16 year old boy from Syria who came to Canada looking for protection.  It is reported that he was immediately detained and held in isolation in an immigration holding centre in Toronto for three weeks. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has ordered that he be deported back to the United States.  According to the Canada-US ‘Safe Third Country Agreement’ a refugee must make a refugee claim in the first country in which they arrive; either Canada or the United States.  There is an exception to this agreement for unaccompanied minors, but the Canadian officials decided the exception did not apply in Mohammad’s case.

    November 02, 2015

    By Ina Strøm from Amnesty Norway
     

    Resettlement is a lifeline open to some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. A young family from Syria tells us what a huge difference moving to Norway has made in their lives.

    “The Norwegian authorities deliberately scheduled the call on Kahraman’s first birthday,” remembers Sherihan, a 29-year-old musician. “They said: ‘We have a gift for you. You can come to Norway!’. We didn’t know anything about Norway, but we were so happy.”

    In a bright apartment in a modest 1950s building in a quiet corner of Oslo, Norway, she and her husband are teasing each other. “This is how I see Norway,” says Hennan, an artist aged 31: “Children come first, then the woman, then the dog, and at last the man!” They both laugh.

    Blood-spattered pieces of bread

    The happy scene is a million miles away from what they left behinhd in Aleppo, Syria. “Those days were hard,” says Hennan. “I saw a man being shot by snipers on the way from the bakery.

    May 08, 2015

    By Gloria Nafziger
    Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner, Amnesty International

    I first met Luis and his family shortly after they arrived in Canada sometime in 1993.  He was a writer and human rights activist from Colombia.  Both he and his wife Diana had been targeted in Colombia because of their work in support of human rights.  Shortly after they arrived in Canada they made a refugee claim. We couldn't talk much, because his English was poor and my Spanish was even worse; but from the beginning I considered him to be a compañero. My first vivid memory of Luis is a day in December 2003 when Luis, Diana and their friends from the Mennonite church came to our office to share the good news that just an hour or so earlier their refugee claim had been accepted on the spot at their refugee hearing.  There were many hugs and much happiness.  Luis and Diana began to plan to begin their new lives in Canada and quickly made their application to become permanent residents.

    April 27, 2015
    Italian Navy vessel Virginio Fasan, performing search and rescue activities in the Central Mediterranean as part of the Mare Nostrum operation, August 2014

    An Amnesty International delegation has just returned from the Italian island of Lampedusa and elsewhere in Sicily, after collecting the testimonies of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers rescued in the high seas of the central Mediterranean.

    Over the past fortnight, hundreds of people are feared to have lost their lives at sea, with more than 10,000 rescued. Many of the survivors have harrowing stories to tell. Here is one, from a Somali boy who lost his friend during a terrifying journey that lasted more than three months in all. Amnesty International spoke to him in a reception centre in Lampedusa, less than a week after his rescue on 17 April. His name has been changed at his request.

    My name is Ali and I come from Somalia. I am 15 years old.

    When I was nine, I was separated from my family and moved to the capital, Mogadishu, where I lived with friends in the Yaaqshiid area. There, I learned English and worked cleaning shoes for soldiers.

    Just over three months ago, I left Somalia. There are lots of problems there – fighting, drought, famine. I’m looking for a better life. I’d like to go to Norway.

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    We share our world, and we share responsibility for making it the kind of place in which we want to live. This includes responsibility for protecting each other’s human rights and freedom.

    Right now, record numbers of people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes. But instead of protecting refugees; out of fear and prejudice, many of the wealthiest nations are slamming their doors shut and leaving a handful of countries to cope alone. Effective protection for refugees requires international cooperation.
    Each country must take responsibility to uphold international obligations and provide asylum and protection to refugees. At an individual level the solution to the global refugee crisis starts with each and every one of us making one simple, personal commitment to help – simply by saying: “I welcome refugees”.

    Canada is viewed as a global leader with respect to refugee protection.  It has signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees other human rights instruments which protect refugees.  Canada was the first country to set out guidelines for considering the refugee claims of women, and has taken an active role globally in the resettlement of refugees through both government and private sponsorship programs.  However, Canada like many other countries,  also creates barriers for people seeking safety and security.

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