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IRIN - Migration

Stories about refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, people. 


Hostility in US, Europe makes Mexico a new refugee destination of choice

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 12:45:35 +0000

Aisha woke up bruised and disoriented in a hospital bed in Kinshasa. Her husband, a driver for a prominent opposition politician in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was dead. Her five children were missing. One thing was clear: She had to leave her home. On a cold November morning last year, Aisha set foot in an airport half a world away. Unable to understand the local language, she walked through immigration on a tourist visa, picked up her bags, and began her new life as an asylum seeker in Mexico. As the administration of US President Donald Trump tightens immigration policies and refugees crossing the Mediterranean face a backlash in Europe, a growing number of people like Aisha are looking elsewhere for safe haven. Mexico, traditionally an origin country for migrants or a transit stop on the treacherous Central American route to the United States, now finds itself as a destination for people fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands. But the swelling numbers have caught Mexico by surprise – and authorities are struggling to deal with the influx. Erika Piñeros/IRIN With the help of a map of Africa, Aisha explains the situation in Congo and the reason why she fled. She says she witnessed her husband’s killing and was then tortured and left for dead. ‘I chose Mexico’ Aisha’s new home is an NGO-run safe house in Mexico City where dormitory rooms are filled with bunk beds and personal reminders of homes left behind – old photos, clothing, children’s toys. “I chose Mexico because human rights are respected here,” Aisha told IRIN. “It’s a country of migrants, and it doesn’t have political ties with my country.” Aisha is just one face of the shifting refugee trend in Mexico. According to the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance, or COMAR, which processes asylum applications, the country has seen a nearly 600 percent rise in asylum petitions over the last four years. In 2013, COMAR received about 1,300 requests for asylum. That jumped to almost 8,800 last year. Groups that work closely with asylum seekers in Mexico predict there could be 18,000 applications this year. frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="" width="100%"> The majority of applicants come from Central or South American nations. But many, like Aisha, are making the long journey from origin countries in Africa and the Middle East. Aaron Rodriguez works for the Scalabrinian Mission for Migrants and Refugees. His organisation used to mainly help migrants pushing north in search of better opportunities, but the last year has seen it take in asylum seekers from four continents, including people fleeing violence in countries like Congo, and Syria, even Ukraine. Rodriguez told IRIN that Mexico suddenly finds itself facing an unexpected problem: large numbers of migrants wanting to stay. “This new reality is taking us all by surprise,” he said. With traditional settlement nations in Europe and the United States building up barriers, more and more people are looking to Mexico as a destination. “When the great borders close… Mexico, every day, is recognised more as a destination country,” explained Rodriguez. Erika Piñeros/IRIN A young boy from Congo plays at a shelter for migrants and refugees in Mexico City. Some refugee lawyers claim Mexican authorities systematically reject asylum petitions from people from Africa. This growing phenomenon has thrust the spotlight on Mexico’s undermanned refugee system, which migrant rights advocates like Rodriguez say is often unsympathetic and doesn’t want new asylum seekers. A report by US-based Human Rights First warned that COMAR was “exceedingly understaffed”. As protection applications surge, an asylum process that is meant to take 45 days now stretches on for months. Critics say its decisions can be flawed, unfair, and wildly inconsistent – the report cites the case of[...]

Why doesn’t South Sudan’s refugee exodus spur East Africa to action?

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:46:26 +0000

Migration crises in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa reconfigured global politics. So why – as the millionth South Sudanese took refuge in Uganda earlier this year, and with the total number of South Sudanese refugee and asylum seekers now more than two million – is there no comparable shift in the political posture of East African states?   Uganda hosts by far the greatest number of South Sudanese refugees, but Sudan also hosts nearly half a million, Ethiopia more than 400,000, and Kenya over 100,000. In 2017 alone, the number of refugees increased by 500,000, and there’s no sign the massive and rapid depopulation of South Sudan will abate any time soon.    All four host countries are crucial to sustaining, or spoiling, any conflict resolution effort in South Sudan, but it’s time to end the presumption that the refugee exodus is sufficient to alter regional geopolitics. There’s little evidence that the mass movement of South Sudanese across international borders has mobilised the country’s neighbours to positively act to address and resolve the multiple political, security, and humanitarian crises in South Sudan.    It would be a mistake to believe there is a migration tipping point at which the region, accustomed to tolerating refugee populations for decades, will suddenly unite or work collaboratively to address the conflict. For the most part, the presence of South Sudanese refugees doesn’t affect core national or regional political or security interests.    The geopolitics   Other interests explain bilateral and regional behaviour.    These include, but are not limited to: economic ties and pecuniary relations; the belief in maintaining a regional balance of power; ongoing jockeying for regional hegemony between Ethiopia and Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda, and Ethiopia and Egypt; historic antagonisms between Sudan and Uganda (even if that bilateral relationship is currently improving); the belief that stability in South Sudan is best served by a continuation of the current regime; or, conversely, that a degree of instability in South Sudan is necessary to ensure Juba is never strong enough to again threaten its neighbours.    The bottom line is this: the prospect of the systematic depopulation of the world’s newest country doesn’t motivate action by the region.   Further, wider international preoccupation with the refugee crisis may only reinforce regional political complacency.    To unconditionally commend neighbouring countries for their generosity in hosting civilians fleeing conflict or starvation overlooks the cynical reality that hosting refugees is an opportunity for some states to raise money and burnish reputations.   Even worse, it risks sending the message that as long as sanctuary is provided to civilians, there’s little expectation that the neighbours need do anything more to tackle the conflict. UNHCR/F.Noy South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda Why the refugees don’t matter   Depending on the neighbour, different factors account for the false logic that refugee flows matter.    In the cases of Kenya and Uganda, South Sudanese refugees are hosted in the most marginal, distant parts of both countries, far removed from the politics of Nairobi and Kampala.    The Turkana of Kenya may be upset by the influx of refugees into Kakuma refugee camp, but Kenyan political elites do not perceive the South Sudanese influx in the same terms.   Nor are all refugees perceived equally in Kenya. In the popular imagination of some Kenyans, a Somali migrant in Dadaab, or Eastleigh, Nairobi is immediately to be treated with suspicion.    The narratives – all too often seen through the distorted prism of terrorism – and conceptions of Somali-Kenyans within the national Kenyan identity, position Somali refugees quite differently from South Sudanese refugees.   In Uganda, although national security is an overriding policy concern, the presence of South Sudan[...]

IRIN reporting wins 2017 UNCA award

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 08:07:48 +0000

We are delighted to announce that the United Nations Correspondents Association has recognised IRIN’s outstanding reporting on Asia, awarding a joint silver medal to former Asia Editor Jared Ferrie for the Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize for written media. From the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, to the forgotten conflict in the Philippines, to the deepening migration crisis in Afghanistan, Jared Ferrie’s excellent reporting from the region is well deserving of recognition - recently earning an honourable mention from the Society of Publishers in Asia. His award-winning entries include: Myanmar says Rohingya rape and abuse allegations “made-up”, despite mounting evidence In the face of outright denials by Myanmar’s government, Jared Ferrie uncovered strong evidence that the military was committing atrocities against the country’s persecuted ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. His story juxtaposes the experiences of survivors against government statements, providing a historical record of both the atrocities and the attempts to cover them up. As Myanmar refused to allow journalists near the police border posts where the accounts were emerging, Ferrie travelled to neighbouring Bangladesh. His vital reporting there revealed that the number of people who fled across the border was far higher than previously reported, and the facts he uncovered directly challenged the government’s narrative. A spokeswoman for Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, insisted that military operations had been conducted “with very much restraint”. And allegations of rape and ethnic cleansing? “Completely false.” With the evidence presented in Ferrie's story, such denials became impossible to believe. EXCLUSIVE: UN rights envoy urges inquiry into abuses of Rohingya in Myanmar In an exclusive interview, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told Jared Ferrie her plan to push member states to sponsor a resolution for a commission of inquiry into military abuses of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims. “I never said in the past to a reporter what I plan to put in my report,” she said. “This time I am making this point: I will certainly be pushing for an inquiry, definitely, on the Rohingya situation.” With Myanmar unwilling or unable to carry out a credible investigation, pressure was mounting for a UN-backed inquiry. Jared Ferrie’s analysis outlined the challenges to forming such an inquiry. It would require that a Human Rights Council member put forward a resolution, and it would need cooperation from the Myanmar government, which is civilian-led but has no control over the military. Indeed, the Council in the end choose to form a “fact finding mission”, which carries less weight than a commission of inquiry. To date, Myanmar has refused to allow members of the mission access to the country. For more on the denied oppression of Myanmar’s Rohingya people, please see our in-depth coverage here. (TOP PHOTO: A Rohingya family shelter in the village of Hazi Para, Bangladesh, after fleeing Myanmar. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IRIN) bangladesh_5.jpg About Us Aid and Policy Migration Conflict Human Rights IRIN reporting wins 2017 UNCA award IRIN Asia Global [...]

How a fingerprint can change an asylum seeker’s life

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:48:15 +0000

When Anas Obeid was deported from Germany and landed at Milan’s Malpensa airport, the wound in his leg was still bleeding.   German police had woken him up at 4 that morning, 22 September, in the refugee accommodation centre where he was staying in the northern Bavarian town of Bamberg. They put him in the back of a van with metal grates in the windows, and drove him two hours to the airport in Munich.   The blood had soaked through his trousers during the ride, as German police discovered during a pre-flight security check. They called the airport doctor who insisted Anas was not fit for travel and should instead be in a hospital.   “Let him get treatment in Italy,” Anas remembers the officer overseeing his deportation saying before they put him on the plane.   Anas, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee, had not committed a crime so much as run afoul of a regulation he did not even know existed before arriving in Europe in December 2015. Under a European Union law known as the Dublin Regulation, he should have applied for asylum in the first country he arrived and was registered in. But Anas had waited to request refuge, and now he was being sent back to Italy, where he had landed after being rescued from an over-packed, wooden fishing boat off the coast of Libya along with 500 other people and taken to the island of Lampedusa.   Already injured from his time in Syria, instead of being taken to a hospital when he disembarked in 2015, Anas was taken for interrogation. The Italian police inspector questioning him wanted to know where he had come from and who he had met and interacted with from the time he left Syria until he reached Italy.   “I gave them everything; all the names I remembered, telephone numbers. Everything. They told me, ‘You’re a terrorist’,” said Anas. “I told them that I wasn’t, and they told me to give them my fingerprint to make sure. This fingerprint ruined my life.”   “Dublined”   Since 2014, more than 600,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy. Many – like Anas – have fled wars and brutal dictatorships, but even those who make the crossing out of economic desperation often claim asylum once reaching Europe – even if many of their claims will ultimately be rejected.   The EU asylum process is governed by the Dublin Regulation, which requires people to apply for protection in the first country they enter. But many don’t want to remain in Italy or other southern European countries, such as Greece, where most asylum seekers arrive.   Social support systems in these countries are weak compared to northern Europe and there are high levels of unemployment even among citizens. New arrivals also often have connections elsewhere – family and friends who came before them – that encourage them to move on.   But once someone is registered as having arrived in one country, and their fingerprint is taken, they cannot apply for asylum anywhere else – barring a few exceptions. Their fingerprint is entered into a database that is searchable by police throughout the EU.   If they apply for asylum in another country, their fingerprint will come up, their claim doesn’t have to be considered and they can face deportation back to the country where they were first registered. Those who are sent back are referred to as having been “Dublined”.   As political attitudes in Europe have shifted against asylum seekers and refugees, the number of deportation requests under Dublin has skyrocketed – particularly to Italy. People are separated from friends and sometimes family in communities where they have started to build new lives.   Back in Italy, they face a cold reception. Even vulnerable cases – like Anas – are often left without support in a country where they never intended to stay.  Eric Reidy/IRIN Anas, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee Forced from Syria   Anas’ journey to Europe began[...]

IRIN TEDx Talk: Stop eating junk news

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 14:05:17 +0000

Over the last decade, we've awoken to the fact that junk food hurts us. It's time for a similar revolution in our news consumption.  In this new TEDx Talk, IRIN Director Heba Aly takes on the role of ‘chief news nutritionist’. Fake news is one thing but Heba explains why we must stop consuming the more insidious, less obvious variety of junk news: “If classical junk news is your greasy double bacon cheeseburger, junk coverage of important news is the low fat blueberry muffin that looks healthy but is actually loaded with calories.” A journalist covering humanitarian crises for the past 10 years, Heba highlights through personal experiences and powerful examples the dangers of simplistic narratives that can warp our views of conflicts and crises, affect realities on the ground and even impact peace negotiations. “It has never been more important to understand our ever-complex world because we cannot prevent, respond to or resolve these crises if we do not properly understand them,” she says.  “This isn’t just about a failure to understand the world around us. Junk news erodes our democracies because it fails to give us the information we need to be responsible, active citizens and to make informed decisions about our own lives.”  IRIN’s mission is to put quality, independent journalism at the service of the most vulnerable people on earth. As Heba explains, “reliable journalism does exist - you just have to seek it out and consume it, and where possible support the journalists producing it.” Food is fuel; knowledge is power. Better diets make us healthier. High quality news helps change the world for the better. Support IRIN’s journalism here. Stop eating junk news | Heba Aly | TEDxChamonix width="640" height="360" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen=""> TEDx Talks HebaTEDx.jpg About Us Aid and Policy Migration Environment and Disasters Conflict Food Health Human Rights Politics and Economics IRIN TEDx Talk: Stop eating junk news IRIN Global [...]

EU fails to identify and protect gay, lesbian, and transgender asylum seekers

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 09:00:00 +0000

Daar* was scared to tell anyone he was gay, let alone the foreign officials who held his future in their hands.   So when the 28-year-old Syrian from Damascus had his first interview for European asylum on the Aegean island of Lesvos, he kept mum, even though revealing his identity would have helped him start a new life away from the island’s squalid camps.   “I was afraid,” he told IRIN. “I didn’t know how to say that [I am gay], and didn’t want to talk about that with the official interpreter who was present during the interview. He is from the Arab community and I didn’t know how he would react.”   In his second interview, Daar decided to tell the asylum office he was gay, helping him gain asylum in a European country and leave the island.   What Daar may not have known at first is that under EU law, people who have been persecuted or face persecution in their home countries due to their sexual orientation and gender identity qualify for refugee status and potentially asylum.   But a weeks-long IRIN investigation has found that EU governments are often failing to even identify gay, bisexual, and transgender asylum seekers, much less afford them special protections that, as a vulnerable group, many desperately need.   Ignorance and fear   Joey*, a volunteer from the UK who came to Greece to help LGBTQI individuals through their immigration and asylum procedures, understands why many people share Daar’s original instinct to hold back.   The onus is on asylum seekers to raise issues of sexuality and gender in the interviews that are a required part of the asylum process, and only then can officials ask questions on the topic. In some countries, like Finland, France, or Sweden, questions around sexual orientation aren’t allowed at all as they’re considered a personal intrusion.   “Why would you, if you come from a country where you can’t really be open about who you are, why would you go to an official, policeman, or representative of the asylum service and say, ‘and by the way, I am lesbian or transgender’, or anything?” questioned Joey.   Katherine Reilly, an activist for LGBTQI rights who has advised asylum seekers on the interview process, agrees: “You have to carry on your shoulders two stigmas at the same time, and I understand why many people are not ready to deal with it,” she told IRIN. Some people cross the hurdle of telling officials they are gay or transgender and claim asylum because of it, only to find their applications have been rejected. Last year Eliana, a trans woman from Lebanon, was rejected in Germany on the grounds that she crossed from Turkey to Greece as a man and therefore couldn’t be considered trans. In 2014, the European Court of Justice concluded that asylum seekers couldn’t be asked to present proof of their sexual orientation “in a way that violates their privacy and dignity”. But some asylum offices, in Hungary for example, still ask for proof that is humiliating and/or impossible to provide. Your browser does not support the video tag.   Unsure   Only a handful of EU member states have specific guidelines for interviewing LGBTQI individuals. A UNHCR survey revealed that only one in five asylum offices have formal or informal procedures dedicated to handling these issues.   A number of grassroots groups and NGOs in Greece and across Europe are trying to find ways to help, not just by encouraging people to come out during the asylum interview, but also by demanding that interviewers ask the right questions and address the situation appropriately.   IRIN met Abtin*, a 17-year-old from Iran who has set up a campaign group in Greece that aims to reach Iranians before they leave home to encourage them to talk about their sexuality on arrival in Europe.   That’s all well and good for those who are certain about their sexual orientation, but it doesn’t help M*, a 23-year-old from Iran, who is[...]

Rohingya death count, war games, and a non-coup in Zimbabwe: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 15:27:22 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   Plus ça change in Zimbabwe   It all started with tanks; except the military vehicles globally reported on the outskirts of Harare on Tuesday evening weren’t tanks at all, but infantry fighting vehicles. Anyway, things like tanks on the streets, the president under house arrest, a man in uniform on state TV insisting it’s all a temporary measure, everything will return to normal shortly. Has to be a coup, right? Not so fast. It’s increasingly apparent that Zimbabwe’s army has no intention of effecting fundamental political changes. It may have determined it’s time for President Robert Mugabe, 93, in power since 1980, to leave office, but they haven’t actually yet deposed him, and still refer to him as the head of state. And, as this article published by African Arguments postulates, what’s really been happening in recent days is a “realignment” and an “internal settling of scores” within the long-ruling ZANU-PF party. “This is no revolution giving the power to the people. The army has done its duty in giving power back to the party,” it concludes. For more on life after Mugabe, read our recent analysis (Not that we’re claiming we saw this coming).   Libya’s descent   Libya is hell for migrants, with rape, extortion, and imprisonment rife. Utter chaos has allowed smugglers – allied with some of the country’s militias and competing political forces – to run rampant. Two months ago, the UN launched an action plan to get an “inclusive political process” going again and establish some sense of stability. But Ghassan Salamé, the UN’s special representative in Libya, hinted in a Thursday briefing to the Security Council that it would be a complicated and long road ahead: “Elections should not take place until we are certain that they will not add a third Parliament or fourth government.” It’s in part thanks to political instability that Libya’s economy is in a bad way. Despite a small rebound in oil outputs, inflation is rising and the country is unable to fund much in the way of food imports or defend its foreign reserves. On the ground – with many going unpaid and food prices rising steadily – some Libyans are getting desperate. Reuters reports that in Tripoli, people are selling foreign currency and jewelry to pay for medical care. Whose fault is the economic collapse? According to Libya’s Central Bank Governor Sadiq al-Kabir earlier this week: “everyone”.   Tracking deaths in Bangladesh’s swelling Rohingya camps   Health authorities in Bangladesh are investigating a measles outbreak in the crowded Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar, to where more than 620,000 refugees have fled since late August. In that time, there have been at least 611 cases. Aid groups have warned that disease outbreaks are likely in the makeshift camps, where authorities have struggled to keep pace with the swelling refugee numbers and even basic water and sanitation systems are severely inadequate. Ongoing tests of drinking water sources in the camps, for example, found 83 percent tested positive for faecal contamination. It’s forced health authorities and aid groups to keep a close eye for early signs of problems. Health providers have set up an early warning reporting system in Cox’s Bazar, tracking everything from severe diarrhoea and respiratory infections to a recent, worrying uptick in cases of “unexplained fever” – there were more than 49,000 reported cases as of mid-November. This surveillance system is also a thorough, if dispassionate, record of what’s killing people in the camps, which now have the population, but none of the infrastructure, of a bustling city. Until 12 November, the system recorded 199 deaths since the most recent[...]

Peeking through the cracks into Yemen’s war

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 08:47:13 +0000

In a city positioning itself as a bastion of stability and safety in the midst of war, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis (which the UN calls the largest in the world) is still palpable. You just have to peer through the cracks to see it.   Sometime in the far-gone past, several legends go, the Queen of Sheba (Bilquis in Arabic) ruled over a wealthy kingdom from what is now the middle of Yemen.   What she did, or if she even existed, differs based on religious text and archaeological record, but her past is very much present in today’s Yemen.   Politicians, academics, and tribal leaders invoke the ruler as an example of a time when the country prospered. So perhaps it’s no coincidence the ruins of her supposed throne were one of the first places a group of Western journalists and researchers (myself included) were shown earlier this month in Marib, a city that is booming both because of and in spite of Yemen’s long war. Annie Slemrod/IRIN The six-columned Queen of Sheba's throne is believed to have been a temple   The temple is the sort of place you could get lost in, with its towering stone columns and carvings in an ancient script, were it not for the armed men surrounding the site (for our benefit) and their hurried instructions to move out.   As we did so, the jarring reality hovered in my head that today’s Yemen is not only at war but also in the throes of a humanitarian catastrophe that is the antithesis of the famed riches of Bilquis.   A Saudi Arabian-led coalition and forces allied with the internationally recognised (but deposed) President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi have been battling Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for more than two and a half years.   The war is in something of a stalemate now, but more than 5,350 civilians (likely a massive undercount) are dead (the majority by Saudi airstrikes), millions can’t afford enough food, and a cholera epidemic has swept through the country, killing thousands more.   Rare access   Foreign journalists are rarely able to access the country (with a few notable exceptions), and so when the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies managed to secure visas and organise a trip – even to one of the less hard-hit parts of Yemen – I was in.   That meant heading to Marib, which presents itself as an island of calm in the midst of a country in collapse. Thanks to oil, a charismatic governor with ties to a modern-day royal family in Saudi Arabia, a major military headquarters, plus tribal politics, it is growing and considered relatively safe, at least for those with sympathies on one side of the war.   But it’s not yet secure enough for a gaggle of journalists to roam the streets, or so deemed Marib’s provincial governor Sultan al-Arada and his diligent security team. So when they said to move, I did (perhaps not as swiftly as they would have liked). I listened to talk of expansion and of the war’s progression, and I went where I could.   I did not see the malnourished children that are the face of a country that could be about to plunge into famine if aid does not get in soon, and perhaps they weren’t there. But I did catch glimpses of the crisis.   As the Sana’a Center’s co-founder and chairman Farea al-Muslimi put it to me after the trip: “It’s a… Yemeni habit to hide your pain and exaggerate your good… Just because you didn’t see [the full extent of the crisis], doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”   Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink   It’s said that the collapse of the Marib dam, around 575 CE, apocryphally attributed to a mouse, set off one of the world’s first refugee crises – the flood of tens of thousands of people out into the Arabian Peninsula.   Today’s dam is functioning just fine – it’s full eno[...]

No home for refugees in Rome

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 11:30:46 +0000

The doors of the hulking building on the corner of Via Curtatone and Piazza Indipendenza are now shut; the handles lashed together with heavy chains and secured by padlocks. At the front entrance, a brief walk from Rome’s main train station, three plain-clothed security officers stand guard at metal barricades and follow the movement of passersby from behind dark sunglasses. Without speaking a word, their message is clear: This building is off limits.   For six days in August, the former government research centre and the piazza next door were the setting of a showdown between refugees squatting in the building and Roman authorities. The tense standoff culminated in the eviction of around 800 people from the illegally occupied building and violent clashes between residents and police that dramatically highlighted the government’s failure to integrate refugees and asylum seekers into Italian society.   Thousands of refugees like them in Italy’s capital also live in occupied buildings and makeshift homes. Instead of receiving support, they are left on their own to figure out ad hoc solutions to services that should be provided by the state. Despite this cold reception, a record breaking 120,000 people applied for asylum in Italy last year. With its northern borders closed, and the EU’s Dublin Protocol – which requires people to apply for protection in the country where they first arrived – fully enforced, most people have nowhere else to go.   The fate of the refugees evicted from the building on Via Curtatone – and of other people living in squats in Rome – is a stark testament to the long-term challenges new asylum seekers will face unless Italy is able to improve its integration policies.     allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" id="datawrapper-chart-3lK3G" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="//" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important;" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen"> In the aftermath of the eviction and violence, some residents of Via Curtatone ended up homeless on the streets of Rome; others went to live with family and friends, often in other squats; and a small number of vulnerable people were given space in reception centres for newly arrived migrants and asylum seekers, even though they had already been living in Italy for years. But a large majority – around 600 people – left altogether and headed to countries in northern Europe. After years of marginalisation and neglect, they gave up on the possibility of building stable lives in a country where they received little support and now felt antagonised by authorities.   Trapped as irregular migrants   The occupation of the building on Via Curtatone began on 12 October 2013, before the number of people clandestinely crossing the Mediterranean skyrocketed and captured the attention of the world. However, the timing was still significant: People had been crossing from Libya to Italy at least since the mid-1990s, but the numbers didn’t jump dramatically until after the fall of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Most of the people entering Italy – then and now – didn’t want to remain here because of the weak economy and minimal services provided to refugees and asylum seekers. But the Dublin Protocol meant anyone registered in Italy would most likely end up back here anyway. On 30 September 2013, 13 men drowned off the coast of Sicily after jumping overboard when the boat they were travelling on from Libya ran aground. A rumor circulated among the Eritrean refugee community in Italy that they had jumped off the boat and tried to swim ashore to avoid having their fingerprints entered into the Eurodac da[...]

Ethnic violence displaces hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:16:32 +0000

Lifting her robe the young woman revealed undulating scar tissue blanketing her breasts, stomach, and extending up her neck and along her arms. “They poured petrol over me then lit it,” said 28-year-old Husaida Mohammed. “They were Somali boys.” When IRIN met Mohammed she was in a camp of about 3,500 displaced Oromo people on the outskirts of Harar, the ancient walled city in Ethiopia’s Harari Region. It had taken her over a month to make the 100-kilometre journey to safety from Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopia’s far eastern Somali Region. For weeks she lay hidden in an empty Oromo-owned house tended to by friends as she recovered from her injuries. Next to her in the large warehouse being used to shelter the displaced was a woman in a striking pink robe. She had no visible injuries but didn’t utter a word. “She was throttled so badly they damaged her vocal chords,” a doctor explained. “She can’t eat anything, only drink fluids.” Tit-for-tat ethnic violence in Ethiopia’s two largest regions of Oromia and Somali began in September and has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. Local media have reported upwards of 200,000 displaced, humanitarian workers at the camps talk of 400,000.  Chronology  The unrest began when two Oromo officials were reportedly killed on the border between the two territories, allegedly by Somali Region police.  On 12 September, protests by Oromo in the town of Aweday, between Harar and the city of Dire Dawa, led to rioting that left 18 dead. The majority were Somali khat traders, a mildly narcotic leaf widely chewed. Somalis who fled Aweday said the number of dead was closer to 40. In response to Aweday, the Somali Regional government began evicting Oromo from Jigjiga and the region. Officials say this was for the Oromo’s own safety, and that no Oromo died as a result of ethnic violence in the region – a claim disputed by those displaced. In addition to the camps around Harar and Dire Dawa – cities viewed as neutral safe havens – they have popped up elsewhere along the contentious regional border. In these camps Oromo and Somali tell equally convincing stories of ethnic violence. They accuse the regional special police – in the Somali Region known as the Liyu, and the Oromia version, referred to by Somalis as Liyu Hail – of being behind many of the attacks*. Both regional governments deny their police forces were involved. The federal government faces fierce accusations ranging from not doing enough, to deliberately turning a blind eye to the violence. The Oromo see this as punishment after their year of protests against the ruling party that led to a state of emergency. There has also been a legacy of distrust of the Somali Region in Addis Ababa. The perception is that among the population there is revanchist sympathy for the idea of a Greater Somalia. Another possibility is that the government simply has not had the capacity to effectively respond, so widespread has been the violence. Oromia and Somali share a 1,400-kilometre long border. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, numbering about 35 million, a factor Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups remain deeply conscious of – especially its 6.5 million Somalis. James Jeffrey/IRIN Victim of the violence History of strife and harmony Ethnic conflict along the common border and in the rural hinterland has long existed – with Oromo migration a particular source of friction. The ongoing drought, which has put pressure on pasture and resources, could be another. “As you move west of the regional border the land becomes higher with more water and pasture,” said the head of a humanitarian organisation who spoke on condition of anonymity over the sensitivity of the issues. [...]