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West must admit its mistakes and act swiftly to curtail European refugee crisis

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By Hank Stillwell

In the year 2015, scientists have made staggering discoveries about distant galaxies, their contents, and Planets that could potentially harbor life right now.  Doctors are using viruses not to treat, but to cure cancer.  Computers are near universal, and we are not far from being able to provide every human being access to the internet at some level.  The human species is at its most evolved point in history, and human brains have learned keys to some of the natural world’s most puzzling secrets.  However it is clear we still have yet to learn one quintessential trait: basic humanity.

LibyaAs I write today, authorities have confirmed over 100 have died, and many more are feared dead in a tragic sinking of a refugee smuggling boat off the coast of Libya.  Death tolls have been staggering in the Mediterranean, having already broken the record set in 2014.  And for those who do complete the journey, most are met with horrifying conditions.  Close quartered housing, lack of access to medical resources, and often, little to no food is what refugees who do manage to complete the journey suffer through.

Where do refugees come from?

In what human rights groups have called the greatest refugee crisis since World War II, refugees hail from war torn nations like Syria, Afghanistan, and Sudan.  Many in Libya, a war torn nation in its own right, have made use of such desperation and attempted to traffic refugees in dangerous missions across the Mediterranean.  Refugees have also been reported fleeing from Iraq, and other African nations.  Most have attempted to sail to Italy or Greece via Libya, however many have made land routes through Turkey, in to Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Where are refugees going?

Refugee Rights Protest at Broadmeadows, Melbourne

Refugees, having landed usually in either Italy or Greece, are then housed in horrible conditions, while families devise plans to escape their landing spots and eventually make it to countries like Germany, Sweden, or the United Kingdom as these countries have the resources to provide some assistance to refugees.  Refugees attempting to make it to Europe via land usually make it to Bulgaria or Macedonia and are housed in decrepit conditions until they can devise a plan to flee to a wealthier nation.   However, as of this year, even some of the worlds wealthiest nations, like Germany, have refused to take in refugees and instead, deported them.

How has the West been involved in creating this crisis?

At a time where war affects so many different nations for so many differing reasons, whether it is sectarian, nationalistic, religious, or any other reason, the West cannot be held accountable for every violent act taking place in Africa and the Middle East today.  However, there is no doubt that the West played a major role in creating some of the worst conflicts happening today.  Civil wars in Iraq and Syria have long roots in the United States and its allies’ invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The conflict in Yemen involves US and Israeli ties to Saudi Arabia.  And civil war in Libya has direct links to US airstrikes that took down Muammar Gaddafi.  The West has not directly or purposefully created these conflicts, however the West has not done all it could to prevent such situations.   Furthermore, many human rights groups have often stated that the United Nations and wealthy nations have not done enough to provide aid and assistance for refugees displaced by these conflicts, as well as civilians who have not managed to flee such conflicts.

What will happen now?

 A few facts must be observed from the outset.  First, the civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and many across Africa do not appear to be ending any time soon.  The situation is that no army or fighting force is great enough to crush it’s opponent once and for all.  As such, these wars will likely go on and on for months, if not years.  Secondly, the amount of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean does not appear to be decreasing any time soon.  As these wars rage on, likely many more refugees will be faced with the decision: flee to Europe or die.  So it is likely to assume more and more will attempt these perilous journey.

Some nations in Europe have reacted by doubling down their efforts to keep immigrants out.  Increased funding for border patrol officers, fences and walls, and politicians who demonize immigrants have began to rise to prominence in countries like Bulgaria and Greece.

Syria-civil warA tipping point was reached a few days ago in Macedonia.  Thousands of refugees had lined up at Macedonia’s border with Greece.  The state of Macedonia reacted by sending their military to the border to keep immigrants out.  Troops fired stun grenades and rubber bullets in attempt to keep the refugees out until on Saturday August 22, troops lowered their weapons and allowed the refugees to pass.  There is no question that this gesture was a humanitarian victory and worthy of much praise.  Furthermore, Italy has begun to launch rescue operations in the Mediterranean for in-danger vessels, a move that has and will continue to save hundreds of lives.  However many questions remain.  If more and more refugees are expected, how will Europe react?  With increased security, or increased compassion.  Many countries in Southern Europe are dealing with debt crisis, so these countries are not likely to begin accepting refugees.  However wealthy EU nations could potentially do better with setting up displacement camps and providing aid and assistance to refugees.  And if this is to be the case, the United States must step up its involvement, admit mistakes, and take part in helping to alleviate the crisis.

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Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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Rohingya
A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)

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Nearly 58% of Rohingya Refugees are Kids Suffering from Severe Malnutrition, Says UN Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Bangladesh, October 20, 2017 : Nearly fifty-eight per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) report also said that these children were highly exposed to infectious diseases, Efe news reported.

“In a sense it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” said Simon Ingram, Unicef official and author of the report.

Titled “Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future” was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering”.

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

The report also highlighted several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky.

In mid-August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees “are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops”, he said.

According to the Unicef estimates, one in every five children under the age of five is suffering from acute malnutrition and about 14,500 suffer severe acute malnutrition.

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water as these children consumed only contaminated water which is another main source of infection.

With regard to child protection, the expert welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification tasks carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced or early marriages, Ingram explained that for now they have only punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as in Cox’s Bazar.

What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people.

Not only do they have to be recognized as refugees, but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way, he said, should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

Unicef and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but the talks are still in process.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and are therefore stateless. (IANS)

 

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)