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Trump: US ‘Being Stolen’ by Illegal Migrants

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Central American migrants gather before continuing their journey to the U.S. despite President Donald Trump's vow to stamp out illegal immigration, in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, March 31, 2018. VOA
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For the second day in a row Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump railed against illegal immigration into the country at its southern border with Mexico, contending that the U.S. “is being stolen” by the migrants.

He complained about a stream of about 1,100 people marching north through Mexico to escape poverty and violence in Central America in long-shot bids to win asylum in the United States.

“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large “Caravans” of people enter their country,” Trump said in one of a string of tweets. “They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws.”

ALSO READ: For Migrants, Death due to Dehydration, Starvation, Sexual Attacks has become rampant in North Africa

The migrants, mostly from Honduras, plan to turn themselves in at the U.S. border or slip into the country, according to Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), which has organized the long winding march through Mexico. The migrants, who have already walked hundreds of kilometers north from the Mexican-Guatemalan border, are traveling in a large group in hopes of thwarting criminal gangs known to rob immigrants as they set out in search of a new life in the United States.

Two smaller caravans reached the U.S. last year. So far, three people out of 200 seeking asylum have been successful, with the rest yet to be decided.

illegal migrants
Central American migrants arrive at in Ixtepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, before continuing their journey to the United States, March 30, 2018. VOA

Calling for new legislation

In his new tweets Monday, Trump said, “Congress must immediately pass Border Legislation … to stop the massive inflow of Drugs and People,” even if means abandoning long-standing Senate parliamentary rules to approve a measure on a simple majority vote.

He contended that “Mexico is making a fortune” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, its 1994 trade deal with the U.S. and Canada that is currently being renegotiated.

“They have very strong border laws — ours are pathetic,” Trump said. “With all of the money they make from the U.S., hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours, at least until Congress changes our immigration laws!”

The U.S. leader said that U.S. border patrol agents “are GREAT,” but argued that “weak” laws approved by opposition Democratic lawmakers “don’t allow them to do their job. Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!”

ALSO READ: International Migrants Day & global migrant crisis

DACA still in limbo

Trump last year ended a program championed by former president Barack Obama to protect from deportation about 800,000 young people who were brought illegally into the country by their parents when they were children.

illegal migrants
President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes, March 13, 2018, in San Diego, California. VOA

Court decisions have at least temporarily blocked the deportation of the immigrants, many of whom have only known the United States as their home, but Trump and Democratic lawmakers have failed to reach a permanent legislative fix. The recent $1.3 trillion bill that funded government agencies through the end of September made no mention of the dispute.

Trump in the past has said he would show “great heart” for the plight of the young immigrants protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and said he would keep the program in place in exchange for full funding of a wall he wants built along the U.S.-Mexican border to thwart more illegal migrants from entering the U.S.

But lately, Trump has taken a harder line against the young immigrants, often called Dreamers by their advocates.

“DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon” by entering the country illegally, he said. “No longer works.”

He added, “Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!”

On Sunday, as Trump unleashed the barrage of attacks on Mexico, foreign affairs secretary Luis Videgaray Caso rebuffed the U.S. leader.

“Every day Mexico and the U.S. work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this,” he said. “An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law. Happy Easter.” VOA

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Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months.

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Rohingya, myanmar
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Bangladesh’s plans to begin repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar Thursday were scrapped because officials were unable to find anyone who wanted to return to the country that has been accused of driving out hundreds of thousands in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The refugees “are not willing to go back now,” Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press. He said officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”

Some people on the government’s repatriation list disappeared into the sprawling refugee camps to avoid being sent home, while others joined a large demonstration against the plan.

Rohingya, myanmar
Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

UN urged a halt to repatriation

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017 to escape killings and destruction of their villages by the military and Buddhist vigilantes that have drawn widespread condemnation of Myanmar.

The United Nations, whose human rights officials had urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation process even as its refugee agency workers helped to facilitate it, welcomed Thursday’s development.

Firas Al-Khateeb, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, said it was unclear when the process might begin again.

“We want their repatriation, but it has to be voluntary, safe and smooth,” he said.

Bangladesh officials declined to say whether another attempt at repatriation would be made Friday.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told reporters in Dhaka late Thursday that “there is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?”

Rohingya, myanmar
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Pleading with Rohingya

At the Unchiprang refugee camp, a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya on Thursday to return to their country over a loudspeaker.

“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.

“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.

Some refugees on the repatriation lists, which authorities say were drawn up with assistance from the UNHCR, said they don’t want to go back.

‘I don’t want to go back’

At the Jamtoli refugee camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not. She said she had never asked to return to Myanmar, and that she had sent her children to a school run by aid workers Thursday morning as usual.

“They killed my husband; now I live here with my parents,” said Setara, who only gave one name. “I don’t want to go back.”

She said that other refugees on the repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers, which on Thursday were bustling with commerce and other activity.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Plan to return 150 a day

Bangladesh had planned to send an initial group of 2,251 back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.

Myanmar officials, speaking late Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, said they were ready to receive the refugees. Despite those assurances, human rights activists said conditions were not yet safe for the Rohingya to go back.

The exodus began after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale, organization and ferocity of the crackdown led the U.N. and several governments to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, viewing them as “Bengalis” who entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

Refugee camps bleak

The refugees survived the ransacking of villages, rapes and killings in Myanmar, but for many, life in Bangladesh’s squalid refugee camps has been bleak.

The refugees who’ve arrived in the last year joined a wave of 250,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped forced labor, religious persecution and violent attacks from Buddhist mobs in Myanmar during the early 1990s.

Access to education and employment has been far from assured.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in December elections, has repeatedly complained that hosting more than a million Rohingya is taxing local resources.

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months, but plans last January to begin sending refugees back were called off amid concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that their return would be met with violence.

Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

But on Thursday, Pence said that U.S. officials were “encouraged to hear that” the repatriation process would begin.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would continue working with international partners including the U.N. “to ensure that the Rohingya themselves are part of any decisions on their future.” (VOA)