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Australia Denies Allegations of Torture at Migrant Camp by Human Rights Campaigners

Amnesty alleges the refugees continue to endure poor conditions with little access to medical care

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An undated supplied image from Amnesty International claiming to show children playing near a fence at the country's Australian-run detention centre on the Pacific island nation of Nauru.VOA

Sydney, October 18, 2016: Australia has rejected allegations by human rights campaigners that conditions on a small South Pacific Island where migrants are kept “amount to torture.” Amnesty International’s report claims that many asylum seekers held at the Australian-run camp on Nauru have attempted suicide to escape indefinite detention.

Amnesty International said the incarceration of asylum seekers on the tiny South Pacific Island of Nauru was a “systematic regime of neglect and cruelty.”

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It’s report – ‘Island of Despair’ – also accuses Australia of failing to provide a safe environment for young migrants that prevents many from attending school and amounts to a serious violation of children’s rights.

More than 750 former detainees, including large numbers from Iran and Afghanistan who have been granted refugee status, are now living in the Nauruan community alongside 10,000 islanders.

Despite having their claims for asylum approved, Amnesty alleges the refugees continue to endure poor conditions with little access to medical care.

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Anna Neistat, who wrote the Amnesty International report, says conditions on Nauru are intolerable.

“I do not think I have seen such levels of mental distress. There is no reason for this suffering. They are not in a war zone. They have fled the kind of war zones that we are talking about and now they are stuck there with no future and subjected to this daily humiliation and abuse,” said Neistat.

Amnesty alleges the mistreatment amounts to torture – a claim strongly denied by Australian authorities.

At a parliamentary committee hearing in Canberra, the head of Australia’s Immigration Department, Mike Pezzullo, denied Amnesty’s claims.

“I do not accept that characterization. It does not surprise me, senator, because I have seen Amnesty International reports that say similar things. I refute categorically both on behalf of my own department and by way of explaining government policy in this regard. It is not the Australian government’s position nor the position of this department that we flout any laws, international or otherwise,” said Pezzullo.

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Under Australia’s strict immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by sea are sent for processing at camps in Nauru or to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and are not eligible for resettlement in Australia. The government in Canberra insists the policy is a deterrent that saves lives by stopping asylum seekers from making the hazardous sea crossing from places such as Indonesia.

Critics, however, argue the policy is inhumane and demonises those fleeing war and persecution. Earlier this year, judges in Papua New Guinea ruled the facility on Manus Island to be unconstitutional and it is expected to close in the coming months.(VOA)

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Indians Among Top Asylum Seekers in the World: International Migration Outlook 2017 Report

Asylum seekers from India are among the highest in the world as pointed out in International Migration Outlook 2017 report

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Asylum Seekers
Indians are ranked among highest number of asylum seekers. Wikimedia
  • The International Migration Outlook 2017 report concludes that asylum seekers from India are among the highest in the world
  • New Zealand has been the most preferred nation for asylum seekers from India
  • Resettlement and students overstaying their visas are the biggest reasons to this problem 

New Delhi, July 20, 2017: The International Migration Outlook 2017 report states that Indians are among the highest asylum seekers in the world.

According to the report, New Zealand has been the most preferred destination for asylum seekers. Nationals of India, China and Fiji were the highest asylum seekers in New Zealand between 2012-2016. In the year 2015-2016, a total of 340 people sought asylum in New Zealand, out of which the highest was from India (11%) followed by China (9%).

Other countries like Latvia, Japan, Slovakia, Finland, Australia, UK and the US also receive a high number of asylum seekers from India.

Latvia is a small country in Europe with only 2 million population. Here too, Indians are the highest number of asylum seekers. In 2015-2016, out of 6,200 asylum requests, Indians were the highest at 18%.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has observed that Indians have sought asylum in 40 countries over the course of several years now. The two main factors for this is the fact that many students overstay their education visas and others opt for resettlement. Many people also choose to enter the high wage markets in abroad.

Indians have sought asylum in 40 countries over the course of several years now Click To Tweet

Jonathan Chaloff, International Migration Division’s policy analyst, said to TOI that students who have overstayed their visa have high chances of acceptance when they apply for asylum.

ALSO READ: 1,200,000 people applied for political asylum in Europe in 2016: EU Statistics Agency

Loyola College’s Head of Department, Social Work, Gladstone Xavier said about the asylum seekers, “They have to prove a threat to life because of race, religion, political belief, political affiliations or gender. If not, the Refugee Status Branch will turn down the request or keep the decision pending.” Mr. Xavier has worked with Sri Lankan Refugees in India.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

ALSO READ: Flashback to Terror: 1993 Mumbai Blasts Judgement to Hail on June 27 After 24 Years

Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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India’s Textile and Fashion Heritage now part of Google project

Google's project 'We Wear Culture' is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

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we wear culture
Google's new art project 'We wear Culture' digitizes fashion, Wikimedia
  • Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India
  • It intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures
  • Its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago

June 15, 2017: To a certain extent, a culture is defined by what is worn by its people. In a country as diverse as India, vast and varied spectrum of cultures and clothes is one of the specialties. Google’s latest virtual exhibition project now provides us the opportunity to explore and know more about it.

Google’s project ‘We Wear Culture’ is collaborating with 183 renowned cultural institutions from all around the world including India and its objective is to let people explore history of clothes dating as early as 3,000 years ago, from the ancient Silk Road to the unmatched elegance of the Indian Saree,  from the courtly fashion of Versailles, to the Victorian ballgowns with intricate thread work.

According to Amit Sood, director of Google Arts and Culture,”We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your Saree, jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

Culture is defined by what is worn by its people. Click To Tweet

The company also mentioned that noteworthy collections from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and varied weaves from across India, from Gharchola to Patola to Temple to Ikat sarees will be included in the online project, as it intends to trace the story and importance of Indian textiles from ancient sculptures.

ALSO READ: New Google Project Digitizes World’s Top Fashion Archives.

According to PTI reports, the world fashion exhibit also includes designs from north-eastern India including the weaves of tribes such as the Nagas, Meitis. it will showcase the traditional attire from Meghalaya called ‘Dhara’ or ‘Nara’ worn by the Khasi women as well.

As a part of the exhibit, Sewa Hansiba Museum has brought the unique colorful and rich embroidery arts, applique and mirror work from different communities such as the Ahir, Rabari, Chaudhury Patel and many others from the western part of India online.

The exhibition conducted by Salar Jung Museum brings to light the Sherwani and its journey of becoming the royal fashion statement of the Nizams from 19th century Hyderabad. Fashion and textiles enthusiasts can revisit Colonial Indian attires with Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Over 400 online exhibitions and stories sharing a total of 50,000 photos, videos and other documents on world fashion are open to exploration as well.

The ‘We wear Culture’ initiative highlights significant events in the growth of the world fashion industry; the icons, the movements, the game changers and the trendsetters like Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Audrey Hepburn and many more.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang