Asylum seekers at the Mexican border fleeing violence or persecution are entitled to lodge claims in the United States to obtain sanctuary there, U.N. agencies said in a fresh attempt to shield migrants from tough U.S. immigration policies.
U.N. officials have repeatedly urged Washington to ensure asylum seekers are protected, but U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that Mexico should send migrants seeking asylum in the United States back to their home countries.
U.S. authorities fired tear gas canisters toward migrants in Mexico — near the border crossing separating Tijuana from San Diego, Calif. — on Sunday when some rushed through border fencing into the United States. Mexico’s foreign ministry presented a diplomatic note to the U.S. government on Monday calling for a “full investigation.”
After Trump signed an order limiting asylum rights earlier this month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the United States must make sure anyone fleeing violence or persecution can get protection “without obstruction.”
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch, asked on Tuesday about U.S. forces firing tear gas at migrants, told a Geneva news briefing: “We are following those reports with concern. We are still trying to understand what transpired there.”
Border management is “a sovereign prerogative of national governments,” but border security and international protection for refugees are not mutually exclusive, he said.
“It means that any person whose life is at risk in their country of origin must be able to access territory and request asylum in a safe country. And each asylum request should be considered individually.
“We have been repeating our call on the U.S. authorities to grant access to the territory and to asylum procedure to those who are fleeing persecution and violence,” he said.
Sunday’s incident was the latest chapter in a saga that has pitted Trump’s hard-line immigration policies against thousands of migrants who have made their way north through Mexico from violent and impoverished Central American countries.
About 3,500 migrants from the caravans have applied for asylum in Mexico, Baloch said. Seven migrants have died in incidents along the way, Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration said.
“We believe governments have the right to defend their borders and should do so responsibly,” he said. “We also think migrants certainly should have the expectation that there be an access that is legal and safe for them to at least seek to cross a border.” (VOA)
Coronavirus cases are spiking from India to South Africa and Mexico in a clear indication the pandemic is far from over, while Russia and Brazil now sit behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, according to COVID-19 Information & Resources.
The surges come as much of Asia, Europe and scores of U.S. states have been easing lockdowns to restart their economies as new infections wane. U.S. autoworkers, French teachers and Thai mall workers are among hundreds of thousands of employees back at work with new safety precautions.
Russia reported a steady rise in new infections Tuesday, and new hot spots have emerged across the nation of about 147 million. Russia registered nearly 9,300 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000 infections, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, a figure some say is surely higher.
Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia’s low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening. Nearly 7.4 million tests have been conducted.
In Russia’s second-largest city of St. Petersburg, a virus hot spot, all burials now must be with closed coffins as a precaution, irrespective of the cause of death. Previously the measure applied only to COVID-19 deaths.
Russia’s caseload is second only to that of the U.S., which has seen 1.5 million infections and over 90,000 deaths. The country’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, resumed work Tuesday after a bout of coronavirus.
Cases are still rising across Africa, where all 54 nations have seen confirmed infections for a total of over 88,000 cases and 2,800 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
South Africa has the highest number of cases at over 16,400 and nearly 290 deaths. Infections have increased dramatically in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province, which now accounts for 61% of South Africa’s total.
Latin America has seen more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 31,000 dead. The highest number of cases is in Brazil, which became the world’s third worst-hit county Monday with more than 250,000 infections despite limited testing. Hospital officials reported that more than 85% of intensive care beds are occupied in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Some countries have seen encouraging signs reverse: Iran reported a steady drop in new infections through April, only to see them rise again in May.
But there is new hope after an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus yielded encouraging results, though in a small and extremely early test. Stocks rallied Monday on the news.
In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus even though scientists say there is no evidence of its effectiveness against the disease and his own administration has warned it should be administered only in a hospital or research setting because of potentially fatal side effects.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has declared that a partial economic shutdown imposed in late March helped slow the outbreak and prevented the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed. A week ago, he ended the nationwide lockdown.
He has given Russia’s 85 regions a free hand to determine how they will ease their own lockdowns, but some have been struggling. The mostly Muslim southern province of Dagestan has reported a spike in infections that left its hospitals overflowing.
In India, coronavirus cases surged past 100,000, and infections are rising in the home states of migrant workers who fled cities and towns during a nationwide lockdown when they lost their jobs. India is now seeing more than 4,000 new cases daily. States including West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Gujarat, the major contributors of India’s migrant labor, are showing major spikes in infections as the country’s lockdown rules have eased. More than 3,100 with COVID-19 have died, according to India’s Health Ministry.
And in densely populated Bangladesh, where authorities reported a record number of new positive tests at over 1,600, thousands of cars were on the streets of the capital, Dhaka, despite a lockdown. Authorities have relaxed some rules and allowed shops to open ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
In Latin America, intensive care units in the Chilean capital of Santiago have been beyond 90% capacity for days, and officials warned that intensive care staff members are reaching their limits.
“They can’t keep going forever, no matter how many beds or ventilators there are,” said Claudio Castillo, a professor of public policy and health at the University of Santiago.
Infections are also increasing in poor areas of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where authorities relaxed strict lockdown measures last week, allowing some businesses to open and children to walk outside on weekends.
Colombia struggled with an outbreak in Leticia, a city on the border with Brazil, where hospitals were overwhelmed and patients were being sent to commandeered hotels. Colombia has recorded about 16,300 confirmed cases and close to 600 dead.
In Europe and in the United States, which has seen 36 million Americans file for unemployment, economic concerns dominated the political landscape.
Unemployment claims in Britain jumped 69% in April, the government reported Tuesday. European car sales collapsed by an unprecedented 76% last month.
An experimental vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. triggered hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. They were found to have antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Much bigger studies on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness are planned. Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in or near the first stages of testing.
More than 4.8 million people worldwide have been infected and over 318,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts believe is too low for several reasons. (VOA)
While India is fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people.
She “expressed regret at the measures that have the effect of stigmatising sections of society, including migrants, such as the practice in some states of stamping hands of those quarantined in their homes, reportedly to ensure that they stay home, and sticking notices outside the homes of people quarantined,” the statement said.
She added, “It is important to weigh such measures against the right to privacy and avoid measures that would unduly stigmatise people within the community, who may already be vulnerable due to their social status or other factors.” She has been silent on other places which use electronic monitoring of those under quarantine. Bachelet also had strong criticism for the impact of the lockdown on migrant workers.
Please follow NewsGram on Twitter to get updates on the latest news
“She was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown,” according to a statement released by her office in Geneva.
The statement said, “Without the ability to sustain themselves in urban centres and in light of the almost complete shutdown of public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant men, women and children were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres trying to reach their villages and home states. Some have died making the journey.”
“Supreme Court of India’s subsequent instruction on March 31 to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies as well as psychosocial counselling in shelters that should be run by volunteers instead of security forces, and that they should be treated in a humane manner,” the statement said.
Please follow NewsGram on Facebook to get updates on the latest news
It quoted her as saying, “The Supreme Court’s order and its implementation will go a long way to ensuring the safety and rights of these vulnerable migrants. Many of these people’s lives have been suddenly uprooted by the lockdown, placing them in very precarious situations.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson Stephane Dujarric highlighted Bachelet’s statement at his daily briefing on Thursday.
Dozens of sprawling informal education centers across refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar are providing a glimmer of hope for thousands of Rohingya refugee children who survived a massacre in their home country of Myanmar in 2017.
Across makeshift camps in refugee city of Kutupalong, hundreds of informal learning centers have been set up by international agencies and Rohingya community leaders to give the refugee children access to education. The opportunity to learn and improve skills is something the youngsters were never offered back in Myanmar.
Sharmeen Noor, a mathematics teacher at Kutupalong Primary School, told VOA that their programs ensure the Rohingya children do not fall behind in their education despite the absence of formal schooling. The centers can also create a positive impact to help those traumatized by the Burmese army’s 2017 crackdown that forced nearly 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh.
“Those who have seen violence think about it all the time,” said Noor. “They pay very little attention in class. As teachers, we are working on this matter. We are trying our best to bring them into normal life. God willing we will do it.”
About 350 Rohingya children are currently enrolled at Kutupalong Primary School, which provides basic informal education from preprimary through fifth grade. The children are taught subjects such as general science, mathematical, English, Burmese, and Bengali.
Noor said many of their teaching activities focus on play-based learning to provide education and at the same time give the children a chance to forget the daily struggles they face in the overcrowded camps. Particular attention is given to children who are mentally challenged.
“We put these children in between two good students so that the kids can follow their example … It is challenging, all kids are not similar. To understand them we have to rely on their mental ability. We make a list of pupils who are behind. To bring them to a normal level, we try to provide something they like, such as games,” Noor added.
More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya people fled their homes in Rakhine province of neighboring Myanmar in the summer of 2017 due to a crackdown by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist militias. The UN has described the army’s campaign in Rakhine province as “textbook ethnic cleansing”, and has charged that the Rohingya people suffered killings, rape, and mass destruction of their homes by the army and Buddhist militias.
Most of those who fled to neighboring Bangladesh have been placed in Kutupalong, making it the largest refugee settlement complex in the world.
An estimated 400,000 of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. Human rights organizations say only one-third of them have access to education. Lack of basic services and health care have also put many children at the risk of malnutrition and infectious diseases.
In a December report, Human Rights Watch said authorities in Bangladesh were deliberately preventing aid groups from providing education in the camps and banning Rohingya children from enrolling in schools outside the camps.
“Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster,” said Bill Van Esveld, the watchdog’s associate children’s rights director.
“The government of Bangladesh saved countless lives by opening its borders and providing refuge to the Rohingya, but it needs to end its misguided policy of blocking education for Rohingya children,” he added.
Informal learning centers
The Bangladesh government, however, announced in January that it was working with the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF to provide formal education to the children. UNICEF described the move as “a major new phase” for education of the refugee children that initially targets 10,000 Rohingya students from grades six to nine and will later be expanded to other grades.
Through a program called the Learning Competency Framework and Approach, the UNICEF currently provides informal education to 220,000 Rohingya children between aged four to 14. An estimated 315,000 children and adults are getting education in over 3,200 learning centers supported by the UNICEF and other agencies.
Many Rohingya refugees, however, say the learning centers are not enough to empower their children and equip them with needed skills.
Across the camps, religious leaders have volunteered to provide religious teaching in mosques and makeshift centers known as Madrasas. The children in the Madrasas mainly focus on Islamic studies and Arabic.
Teacher Abdus Sobhan told VOA that 15 volunteer instructors were working with him at a Madrasa hosting 93 students. The children in his classes are taught to recite Quran and learn Arabic.
“It is important to teach children religion, so that they refrain from bad actions and devote themselves to God,” Sobhan told VOA.
Hafez Idris, another Rohingya teacher based in Kutupalong lambashia I2 B3 camp, is working with four other teachers to help orphaned kids learn how to recite the Quran. The learning center, Nurani Yetim Khana and Hafez Khana, hosts as many as 250 Rohingya orphans who are put into religious studies as well as math, Burmese and English.
“We don’t take any money from students or people from our block, but if anyone willingly wants to contribute, then we accept the money. We run this Madrasa to save our religion and to educate our young generation about religious studies,” he told VOA.
According to Hafiz Ullah, another teacher at Hafez Khana, by providing children with education, even if informal, the community hopes to preserve their culture from being lost after being uprooted from Rakhine state.