Inflammation and stories on immigration

Immigration Reform in BrazilAccording to Brazilian law, immigrants are guaranteed the same basic rights as citizens regardless of their status. However, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings of Brazil’s legal system. Many immigrants were forced into insecure situations that have put their well-being at risk. The exacerbated vulnerability of many immigrants caused by COVID-19 has spurred a new social movement, Regularização Já (Regularization Now). The movement pushes for immigration reform in Brazil in the midst of the pandemic.

Immigrants in Brazil: A Particularly Vulnerable Population

As the virus continues to spread in Brazil, immigrants constitute one of the most at-risk groups. In their policy brief covering COVID-19 as it relates to migrants, the U.N. mentions three interlocking crises that contribute to the particularly precarious position of migrants:

  1. A health crisis: Many migrants have limited or nonexistent access to health services due to legal, cultural or language barriers.
  2. A socioeconomic crisis: Migrants working in the informal sector do not have access to social protection measures such as unemployment or stimulus checks.
  3. A protection crisis: As countries close their borders to contain the spread of COVID-19, many migrants remain in dangerous situations with little agency to move somewhere safer. Furthermore, asylum-seekers and refugees may have to return to unsafe situations in their countries of origin.

Immigrants in Brazil are particularly vulnerable due to the worsening health crisis within the country. As of July 24, 2020, Brazil was the second hardest-hit country in the world in terms of COVID-19 with a staggering 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 85,000 deaths. Another factor that leaves immigrants to Brazil in a precarious position is the age demographic of the immigrant population. In contrast to other countries experiencing high numbers of coronavirus cases, Brazil’s immigrant population has a greater proportion of elderly people. In general, 9.3% of Brazil’s population are 65-years-old or older. 21.4% of the country’s immigrant population is in the same age range. The demographics of the immigrant population, combined with the country’s public health crisis, exacerbate immigrant vulnerabilities throughout Brazil.

COVID-19 and Immigration

Like many countries, Brazil has enacted ordinances to restrict movement across borders to contain COVID-19. There are exemptions in place for immigrants related to Brazilian citizens, those with authorization to reside in Brazil for a fixed or indefinite term and those who hold a National Migration Registry Card. However, in March the government paused the issuance of National Migration Registry Cards as well as the processing of asylum applications for the duration of the public health crisis.

The Brazilian federal government made monthly relief checks available to unemployed people and workers in the informal sector. However, banks have unlawfully requested immigrants to provide supporting documents such as proof of residence to collect them. Additionally, many immigrants without legal status do not have bank accounts where the checks could be deposited. As a result, many immigrants in Brazil exist in a limbo-like state without access to federal aid and without the freedom to leave the country to safer, more financially viable situations.

The Movement Towards Regularization

Several countries granted migrants temporary residence status and access to healthcare for the duration of the pandemic. These protections would likely disappear after the public health emergency ends. However, civil society groups and activists in Brazil claim that this is not enough. They feel their country must move beyond temporary fixes for an ongoing problem. Instead, many are pushing for a bill that would grant regularization to all immigrants in Brazil, effectively bringing full immigration reform to Brazil.

This bill would give all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, residency for up to two years. It would also provide the possibility of renewal for an indefinite amount of time. Federal agencies have stopped processing most immigration requests as a result of COVID-19. The regularization bill would immediately grant residency to those whose immigration cases are pending or on hold. This bill is particularly important to immigrants struggling amidst the pandemic. The residency would enable broader access to healthcare and social benefits, such as the monthly relief checks from the federal government.

Activism Moving Forward

Activists for the regularization bill face an administration that has demonstrated disregard for migrants’ rights, especially during the pandemic. In spite of this, Brazil has proven that it can implement more progressive immigration policies. Responding to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Brazil leads the way in protecting thousands of displaced people by granting them refugee status.

The COVID-19 pandemic moved activists to push for this same level of care to be given to immigrants already within the country. Should the regularization bill pass, current immigrants would benefit from improved access to public resources. The bill would also set the scene for the ongoing support of future immigrant populations and immigration reform in Brazil.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: USAID

Hunger in Norway
The nation of Norway utilizes comprehensive social service programs in order to provide medical care, education and pension to its citizens. These policies have assisted in maintaining a low rate of poverty and hunger in Norway. In the previous decade, Norway has experienced an increase in labor and refugee immigration. Though only 3% of the nation’s citizens suffer from food insecurity, immigrants often face hardships in gaining adequate nutrition.

Immigrant Hunger

Asylum seekers are defined as individuals who are forced to immigrate to another country and await refugee status. In Norway, such individuals often represent the countries of Syria, Turkey and Eritrea. The nation experienced a steady increase in refugee applicants beginning in 2006, peaking at 30,470 applicants in 2015 and declining in the following years. In 2017, Norway granted each asylum seeker 250 euros per month while they awaited approval. However, a typical adult in Norway spends 250 euros each month on food alone, and food-related costs account for only 11% of an average family’s total spending.

Language barriers, low income, unfamiliar cuisine customs and religious standards also contribute to immigrant hunger in Norway. For instance, a study conducted in 2014 discovered that immigrant women shopping for food in Norway largely purchased what appeared “familiar or safe” due to lack of knowledge about meal preparation and ingredients that would affect religious customs. Along with acquiring monetary means to purchase food, lack of nutritional savvy poses a barrier to sustaining a healthy diet.

School lunches also pose a threat to immigrant food security. While equal access to free public education is a norm, school lunches must either be purchased or provided. A study analyzing the influences of ethnicity, financial constraints and food consumption revealed that immigrant families must often make small sacrifices to supply the standard packed lunch of bread and meat. Thus, the inability to provide packed lunches contributes to hunger in Norway among school-aged children.

Immigrant Statistics

  • A 2018 study found that individuals with an immigrant background were three times more likely to experience economic difficulties and inadequate housing.
  • The same study revealed that individuals with an immigrant background were twice as likely to possess insufficient income, further exacerbating immigrant hunger in Norway.
  • In 2019, a study focusing on asylum seekers found that 93% were food insecure and 78% were food insecure with hunger.
  • Of families with children in the same study, 20% encountered child hunger.

Welfare Policies

Generous social policies and relatively equal wage distribution are trademarks of Norway’s welfare model. Such policies, however, are contingent upon a qualified labor market and a high rate of employment in order to generate the economic stability required to fund the country’s programs.

When considering immigrants, this model presents negatives and positives. Negatively, integration into the labor market has proved difficult among immigrant populations due to differences in qualifications, educational backgrounds, professional experiences and instances of discrimination. Positively, educational systems and equal wage distribution provide foundations for crafting a prosperous life.

An article published in the New Political Science journal in 2018 revealed that strict immigration policies of right-wing populist groups (exemplified in Norway by the Progress Party) have contributed to the groups’ recent successes across Europe. Debates between the coalition government of the Progress and Conservative Parties and the Labor Party reveal a wide range of stances. Opinions vary, from tightening the immigration policy to celebrating the increased economic productivity and diversity.

These debates concerning how to address the new realities of immigration have the potential to affect the Norwegian welfare model. Specifically, these beliefs could impact the educational system frameworks, training for employment and qualifications for government assistance.

Norwegian Humanitarian Initiatives

Domestically, a humanitarian foundation called Caritas provides career services, housing accommodations and healthcare counseling to immigrant families in Resource Centers across five major Norwegian cities.

In 2019, the Norwegian government developed an action plan titled “Food, People and the Environment” to promote global food security through sustainable food development in accordance with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. This action plan is an integrated governmental approach that addresses malnutrition and inefficient agricultural practices as a part of Norwegian foreign and development policies.

Additionally, Norway has worked with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to utilize its knowledge of aquaculture to promote responsible fishing practices among developing countries. This partnership also works to combat deforestation, provide emergency relief and establish prosperous legislative frameworks.

 

As a leader in foreign assistance and domestic development, Norway exhibits strategies for promoting food security. Though there is a relatively low rate of hunger in Norway, it remains necessary to resolve immigrant food insecurity, and this nation has taken steps to do so.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in NorwayNorway, a European nation known for its beautiful national parks, winter sports and northern lights, is ranked eighth by USA Today on the list of Top 25 Richest Countries in the World. The average life expectancy for a Norwegian at birth is 82.5 years, over a decade more than the global average. Norway is also one of the countries with the lowest child mortality rate. Impressively, Norway also has a very low poverty rate (at 0.5% as of 2017). However, contrary to the conventional image of Norway being a very affluent country, many Norwegians still live in poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Norway.

5 Facts About Poverty in Norway

  1. Due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate in Norway is 15.7% as of June 2020. The unemployment rate in Norway is at its highest since WWII. Pre-COVID-19, however, the unemployment rate in Norway had been already decreasing since 2016, from 4.68% (the nation’s highest unemployment rate since 2005) to 3.97% in a matter of 3 years. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration has a website for unemployed Norwegians to use in order to seek unemployment benefits.
  2. As of 2016, 36% of children born to immigrants live in poverty in Norway, compared to 5% of children with parents native to Norway.  This economic discrepancy is due to Norwegian immigrants often having large families but only one source of income. Many immigrants also have skills that were considered valuable in their home countries but inapplicable in the Norwegian job market. Another factor to consider is how common it is for Norwegian children in poverty to lack access to proper education, perpetuating issues related to poverty as they become adults and for families of their own.
  3. As of 2017, around 60% of children in Oslo, Norway’s capital city with the most residents, live in poverty. Researcher Ingar Brattbakk from the Labour Research Institute at Oslo University College led a study that concluded that “nowhere else in Norway is near that figure.” However, it seems to be a universal issue that cities with high populations are more likely to have more poor people than those with lower populations. Raymond Johansen, current Governing Mayor of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Labor Party, had stated in 2018 that more funds will go toward area-based initiatives, such as crisis packages for people in increasingly affected districts.
  4. The age range with the highest risk of being in poverty in Norway is 18-34 years of age. Many people in this age group are more affected by poverty because they are graduating from universities with debt, have large families and/or cannot find suitable employment within the Norwegian job market. There is also a sharp increase in poverty rates for elderly Norwegians (from 70 to 90 years of age) because they are past the typical working age. Other determinants of poverty include education level, family size, employment and marital status.
  5. Poverty is low in Norway due to the nation’s emphasis on collectivism and efficiency with job placement. The nation places major significance on cultural identity, values and practices, all of which add to their homogenous society that allows for many native Norwegian people to prosper socioeconomically. The country also has a rather small population (5.4 million as of 2020) even though Norway has a large amount of landmass. Norway also significantly contributes to petroleum export, which improves its economy greatly. Sustained tourism also positively adds to the nation’s wealth. Norway has a lesser rate of migration compared to other nations such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The nation has a stable democratic system of government with highly effective and trustworthy politicians who are extremely proactive in handling the welfare system. Reasons such as these have contributed to recent miscellaneous surveys citing Norway as “the best country to live in.” While this may be true for some, this ranking does not take into account the voices of those who live in poverty.

Although Norway has a very small poverty rate, the nation still experiences poverty: more specifically, poverty in Norway’s immigrant communities. One way Norway can address poverty is by helping ease the transition of immigrants. Potential methods include more school funding, free or low-cost language lessons and an expansion of the job market. An example of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Norway’s poor is Care International’s Norwegian chapter, a global group whose volunteers participate in humanitarian aid and poverty-fighting projects. Being such an affluent and progressive country, with some more money, time and energy, Norway can be on the track to lowering its poverty rate to zero.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Pixabay


In 2018, the Netherlands’ government reported that 584,000 households, or 7.9% of the general population, were subsisting on an income at or below the poverty line. In other words, they were making less than 60% of the national median disposable income. This is relatively low; the Netherlands has the fifth-lowest rate of poverty amongst the nations in the European Union, and poverty rates have been on the decline over the past several years due to economic growth and lower unemployment rates. However, refugee poverty in the Netherlands remains a major concern.

The Netherlands’ Reputation

Refugees and immigrants have always been attracted to the country because of its historically high levels of tolerance. The Netherlands is also notorious for being a nation of prosperity, egalitarianism, and humanitarian aid. For instance, in World War I, 900,000 Belgians sought refuge in the Netherlands, which was neutral, to escape fighting. During the Holocaust, tens of thousands of people fleeing the Nazis hid in the Netherlands until it was occupied by Axis powers. 

Fast forward to the twenty-first century, and once again, tens of thousands of people from all over the world are applying for asylum in the Netherlands each year. Although some are moving around within the European Union, many are escaping their war-torn countries of birth. In 1998, this was due to the Yugoslav wars, which kept the number of asylum seekers at high numbers until 2004. In 2015, the Syrian Civil War commenced the flow of a new wave of refugees that are still coming in high numbers today.

Refugees Struggle Financially

Although these refugees are welcomed into the country, they do not fare as well economically as their Dutch counterparts. Currently, 79% of Syrian refugees are making less than the low-income threshold, and 95% rely on income support as their main source of income.  The nationality of refugees that are best off, Iranians, are still four times as likely to be living in poverty as their Dutch counterparts. In total, 53% of refugee households have a low income

A cycle has developed because sectors of the Dutch economy, such as agriculture and labor, depend on migrant workers. However, these jobs consistently do not pay well, and few efforts have been made to increase their wages. Because refugees typically do not have schooling on par with those from the EU, they have limited job options, and they continue to struggle economically.

Who Is Helping

The Dutch government has done a lot to help incoming refugees. To ensure that immigrants are adjusting well to a new country, immigrants must take a national integration exam within three years of arrival. There are additional levels of support for highly educated refugees resettling in the Netherlands. The Foundation for Refugee Students (UAF) allows for better planning of “educational guidance, language training and educational courses once refugees arrive in the Netherlands.” UAF provides housing for refugees in areas that are close to universities and higher education establishments, and it has recently created a mentor program that matches Dutch students with resettled refugees to provide them with support to settle into university life.

The Netherlands has been a place refugees immigrated to during many different conflicts, including the 2015 Syrian Civil War. However, an economic gap still remains between native-born Dutch citizens and refugees. In order to address this issue, the government and UAF have been working to make the transition into the country easier and positively impact refugee poverty in the Netherlands. 

– Sophie van Leeuwen
Photo: Pixabay

Complex Problems with Asylum in the U.S.

It is no secret that the U.S. immigration system is broken. With thousands of immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is detaining them at the border. CBP has effectively jailed immigrant children in detention camps. There are somewhat secretive limits on asylum applications. In order to fix a system, it is necessary to first understand its complexities. The U.S. immigration structure as a whole is a huge and complex system that cannot be simplified into one article. This article will discuss the asylum process and specific areas that have begun to undermine asylum in the U.S.

What is the asylum process?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website defines asylum applicants as people who are “seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” The process begins after an immigrant enters the U.S. either under a different status or as an asylum applicant. An immigrant seeking asylum is required to file a form with USCIS  within one year of entering the country. They must provide extensive evidence that the applicant has a credible fear of returning to his or her home country.

As per regulation, applicants for asylum in the U.S. are able to make a claim at the U.S. border crossing or while they are in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes custody with Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, there is no way to request asylum in advance. Olga Byrne, Director of Immigration for the non-profit International Rescue Committee, confirmed that “There’s no way to ask for a visa or any type of authorization in advance for the purpose of seeking asylum. You just have to show up.”

After arriving at the border and going through an initial asylum interview. The interviewer then determines whether the applicant’s fear is credible. If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, then the applicant is released and given a court date to plead their case before an immigration judge in addition to filing the USCIS form. If it is found not credible, DHS begins deportation proceedings, though the applicant does have the option of requesting that his or her case be heard by an immigration judge.

What are the immediate problems?

The first and most immediate issue is the lack of legal counsel. The government does not provide counsel to immigrants going through the asylum process. Navigating the U.S. legal system can be difficult for anyone, let alone an asylum seeker that may or may not have full command of the English language. Having an attorney makes a significant difference. A 2016 study by Syracuse University found that having representation increases an applicant’s chances of approval for an asylum case by 40 percent.

In the same study, researchers found that 90 percent of claims for asylum in the U.S. without representation are ultimately denied. This is partly because the burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to show to the courts and USCIS that he or she is eligible under the regulations. This can be a difficult prospect for someone who does may struggle with the language or lacks have access to documents containing regulations and applicable evidence while detained.

The second issue is immense pressure to deny cases. Former immigration judge Jeffry S. Chase confirms that immigration judges are assigned quotas for cases each year. Every day, each judge sees a dashboard of their statistics with a green/yellow/red layout to show them whether they are getting through the appropriate amount of cases each day. Though the quotas are meant to help keep cases moving forward, in reality, they push judges to deny cases since denials go faster. Pushing through cases means that applicants and attorneys do not have time to build the record of evidence and ultimately build their case.

What can people do to help?

There are multiple organizations that provide pro bono representation to asylees. The Immigration Justice Campaign is an organization devoted to providing due process for non-U.S. citizens. Another organization is the American Association of Immigration Lawyers’ pro bono project, which provides pro bono immigration counsel to vulnerable populations such as asylum seekers.

For long-term solutions, it is important that people continually contact their representatives about issues in immigration. One can support immigration reform, such as getting rid of judge quotas or providing those seeking asylum in the U.S. with free legal counsel. Government employees generally are not allowed to disclose any information about their work nor are they allowed to speak publically about what goes on behind the scenes at USCIS, DHS, or similar governmental organizations, but that does not mean that they do not care. There are people in government who want to help, but they need citizens to speak up and speak out against unfair immigration policies.

The immigration system as a whole has problems, but they are not irreversible. The asylum process is currently complicated and difficult, but it does not have to be that way. With the right amount of political activism from U.S. citizens and cooperation, change is possible.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the United State's Southern Border
The border between the United States and Mexico is the second-largest border in the world, spanning about 2,000 miles long. The fences have made it harder to cross but Mexico has been the driving force of U.S. immigration control and has deterred hundreds of thousands of Central Americans from traveling north of the border. Despite the recent headlines surrounding the border dividing the U.S. and Mexico, many people do not have much knowledge about the topic. Here are 10 facts about the United State’s southern border.

10 Facts About the United State’s Southern Border

  1. Arrests at the Border: Arrests at the United State’s southern border are at their lowest in history. Though the number of apprehensions has more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, that number is still below the historical high. Statistics show that U.S. authorities made more than 1.6 million arrests at the southern border, a figure that has been steadily declining. In fact, the number of immigrants arrested at the southern border in 2018 was the fifth-lowest total since 1973, where apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million each fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
  2. Reduced Asylum Seekers: Only a limited number of asylum seekers are passing through the United State’s southern border. The Trump Administration has implemented and proposed changes that have limited the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., causing them to wait weeks and even months along the southern border before legally crossing. One of the changes to stem from the Trump Administration is the metering and queueing process that allows U.S. officials to limit the daily number of individuals who can make asylum claims. Before these changes, most asylum seekers apprehended were able to live the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their immigration status.
  3. Families at the Border: Fact three of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that the rate of families attempting to cross the border is at an all-time high. According to the Pew Research Center, people traveling in families accounted for the majority of apprehensions at the southern border in 2019, totaling 473,682 apprehensions of family units. The cause of family separation is simply because the U.S. does not have enough facilities licensed to detain them. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy has been the result of apprehended families and their separation at the southern border, separating over 4,000 immigrant families. However, a federal court has since blocked Trump’s Administration efforts for now.
  4. Overstays vs. Border Crossings: More people are overstaying their visas than those that authorities arrest at the border. Though the President claims that the issue of illegal crossing at the border stems from immigrants and bad people, the Department of Homeland Security reports otherwise. It reported having had a suspected 606,926 people in-country overstays in 2018 alone, thus, pressuring the President to suspend travel from countries with high rates of overstays.
  5. Illegal Drugs: Most illegal drugs are entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry. Illegal drugs are making their way into the U.S. but not in the way that President Trump suggests. According to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018, most drugs entering the United States are not coming from the southern border, but through official border crossings that U.S. authorities safeguard. However, there are efforts to prevent drug trafficking into the U.S. at legal ports of entry. The Trump Administration is working toward providing more customs and border protection officers along the U.S.’s southern border.
  6. Central Americans: The majority of border crossers are Central Americans. Non-Mexicans have far outnumbered the Mexicans crossing at the United State’s southern border. In an attempt to flee extreme violence and poverty-stricken circumstances, Central Americans – those individuals from the Northern Triangle nations including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – have accounted for nearly half of the people crossing the southern border illegally today. According to the Pew Research Center, individuals from these three countries accounted for 71 percent of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019, totaling 607,774 combined.
  7. Spread of Disease: Border crossing has lead to increased health issues. A large number of people crossing the United State’s southern border, whether legally or illegally, has led to an increase in health issues, mainly the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis A, HIV, measles and tuberculosis. However, there have been efforts to treat or prevent the spread of disease across the United State’s southern border. Programs such as the Binational Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (BIDS) have emerged to detect, report and prevent infectious disease threats and outbreaks.
  8. History at the Border: What some may not know about the United State’s southern border is that the U.S. did not target Mexican immigrants until the early 1900s. Efforts to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. did not begin until the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Armed forces began monitoring the border to keep fighting from spilling over into the U.S. The Texas Rangers and other militias were among the first to form along the border to keep the Mexicans fleeing battle from immigrating to the states.
  9. The Most Crossed Border in the World: The U.S.’s southern border has the most frequent crossings in the world with more than 350 million legal crossings each year and more than 200,000 illegal crossings through Texas. Though the majority of those crossing are seeking refuge and fleeing to escape poverty and violence at home, others are crossing simply for the economic freedoms that the country promises.
  10. Barriers at the Border: Contrary to what most Americans believe, fact number 10 of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that there are already barriers in place. The U.S. has been initiating fencing and other physical barriers with Mexico since the mid-1990s. President Bill Clinton is the first to advocate for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.

These 10 facts about the United State’s southern border have shown that cutting off aid to the countries of Central America, closing the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing family apprehensions and separations are not going to make the issues circling the border disappear. However, people are doing work on all sides, from Mexico’s government to the CDC and Customs Border Protection officers, in an effort to improve the structure, avoid chaos and move forward with the progress at the southern border.

– Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

Safe and Voluntary Refugee Repatriation
Despite the constant divisive debates about whether to welcome refugees, they have protection under international law by the 1951 refugee convention, a multilateral United Nations treaty. It defines who people can consider refugees and outlines their basic rights, including access to fair and efficient asylum procedures. Despite the ever-present debates about acceptance, very little of it has actually been to talk about what happens when countries refuse asylum seekers including the problem of ensuring safe and voluntary refugee repatriation rather than returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Refugees in the US

A country must ensure that refugees live in safety and dignity while it is processing their claims, and safety and dignity are also integral to voluntary repatriation. In 2020, the United States will only accept 18,000 refugees. This will be the lowest number of refugees that the U.S. resettled in a single year since 1980 when Congress created the nation’s refugee resettlement program. In light of such low acceptance rates, a national debate around safe and voluntary repatriation is crucial so that those a country turns away will have safe alternatives. Without debate, there is no clear answer to where those refugees should go, if not the United States.

Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

People often confuse the matter even more because they use the terms “migrants,” “refugees” and “asylum seekers” interchangeably, despite very different legal meanings and obligations. Amnesty International defines an asylum seeker as an individual who is seeking international protection whose claim a host country has not yet determined. In short, a country will not recognize every asylum seeker as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker. “Migrant” is a broad term that describes anyone who moves to another country for at least one year, for any reason.

“Repatriation” is when a person returns to their country of origin, whether it is because conditions have improved and they want to go home or because their host country has refused their request for asylum. According to the U.N. Refugee Repatriation Agency, safe and voluntary refugee repatriation requires not only the commitment of the international community to safely bring displaced people home but also the cooperation of the country of origin, which has to do the difficult work of reintegration and ensuring stability and safety.

So who will be the 18,000 refugees the U.S. allows in 2020? In 2019, refugees coming to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo far outnumbered those from other countries. D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees, followed by Burma (Myanmar) with about 4,900, then Ukraine (4,500), Eritrea (1,800) and Afghanistan (1,200).

Repatriation

As of November 13, 2019, a total of 1,439 individuals repatriated. ReliefWeb, an online news source for humanitarian information on global crisis and disasters, reported that approximately 14,700 refugees chose to return to their country spontaneously and by their own means. However, home countries and the international community are working together to help with safe and voluntary refugee repatriation.

The United Nations, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Angolan government collaborated on organizing convoys for voluntary repatriation. Wellington Carneiro, UNHCR’s interim representative in Angola, stated that voluntary repatriation faced challenges like poor road conditions in the rainy season and the need to find suitable vehicles as a result. However, Carneiro assured that the operation, which he expected to finish by mid-December 2019, would fully guarantee the returning Angolans’ safety and dignity. While the international community’s collaborative work was a big part of the success of these trips, the Angolan government played the most important role. Paolo Balladelli, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Angola, highlighted this when he said that “the Angolan authorities have shown their solidarity by welcoming people, including children, who were at risk of life due to serious ethnic conflicts. The conclusion of this chapter demonstrates to Africa and the world that Angola is a good example of good international practices.”

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

immigration proposal
On July 16, 2019, the White House advisor, Jared Kushner, submitted a new 600-page immigration proposal from President Donald Trump. The administration urged Congress to review and consider the proposal prior to the August Congressional recess.

The proposal’s key aspect establishes a merit-based system for individuals seeking legal entry into the United States, effectively ending legal loopholes in the American immigration system. Kushner acknowledged that though “a 100 percent fix is difficult,” the administration believes its new plan has the ability to fix 90 percent of legal loopholes in immigration legislation.

The American Immigration Crisis

The United States of America has more immigrants than any other country in the world. Forty million people living in the United States came from another country and this number makes up one-fifth of the world’s migrants as of 2017.

Though there is disagreement over the cause of the crisis at the border, there is bipartisan agreement that the situation at the border between America and Mexico is a crisis. In January 2019, a CNN survey found that 45 percent of Americans felt this way, and in July 2019, the survey found that 74 percent of Americans see a crisis at the border. Additionally, the survey concluded that despite partisan divides, there is a majority agreement across party lines supporting a plan to allow some illegal immigrants living in the United States to become legal residents; 80 percent overall agree, including 96 percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Republicans.

As of May 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was detaining an all-time record of 52,000 immigrants in jails around the United States. Two weeks prior, that number was 49,000, indicating a huge spike in jailed immigrants. The Trump administration made a decision to expand arrest priorities to nearly every undocumented individual in America, and as a result, the number of immigrants in ICE custody in the Trump administration has increased tremendously from the Obama administration’s average of 35,000 immigrants imprisoned by ICE.

Passing the Legislation

Previous legislation has focused on supporting humanitarian assistance and immigration enforcement, but with a goal of ending all legal loopholes, the immigration proposal from President Trump asks Congress to address problems that do not have funding. For example, there is no funding for changing asylum laws, indicating that President Trump’s new immigration proposal could face several hurdles to passage.

The immigration proposal from President Trump comes at a particularly partisan moment in Senate proceedings, following an eruption on the House of Representatives floor over Democrats’ decision to denounce a series of tweets from President Trump. Many believe that White House senior advisor Kushner will face difficulty in gaining bipartisan support for the bill due to the persistently rocky waters between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

climate change in Central America
The effects of climate change are more apparent in some areas than others. Central America is one of these areas with drought, high temperatures and floods contributing to agricultural problems and a rise in migration out of the region and into the U.S. These five facts about climate change in Central America provide a glimpse of how it affects the country and the people who live there.

5 Facts About Climate Change in Central America

  1. Drought: In 2014, climate change in Central America took the shape of a severe drought that plagued the residents of Central America’s dry corridor. In the same year, the U.S. saw an increase in migrants from that region. As the drought persists, high numbers of Central American migrants continue to arrive at the southern border of the U.S., because they cannot sufficiently feed their families. The summer of 2018 included severe drought, and 100,000 Honduran families and two million residents across the Northern Triangle were at risk of malnutrition. The governments of the three Northern Triangle countries entered a state of emergency. The drought was especially destructive to Honduran farmers, many of whom are subsistence farmers living in poverty. Rural Honduran farmers could not easily access the agricultural resources necessary to combat the effects of the drought.
  2. Food Insecurity: In the aftermath of the summer 2018 drought, two million Central Americans were at risk of food insecurity. The region especially suffered from the impact of the 2018 drought as it still had not recovered from droughts that took place from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Honduras lost 80 percent of its bean and maize crops. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador lost a total of 281,000 hectares of beans and maize.
  3. The Northern Triangle: Most Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. are from the Northern Triangle. The effects of climate change on the region are becoming increasingly severe. Predictions determine that temperatures there will increase by as much as two degrees by 2050, following increases that have already taken place since 1950. Flooding and prolonged periods of drought accompany the current rise in temperature and will become more severe as temperatures rise. USAID studies predict that some areas of Honduras will see a 60 percent increase in flooding and that Guatemala’s rainfall levels will become dangerously low within the next 10 years. The same studies predict that El Salvador’s coastline will shrink by as much as 28 percent within the next 100 years. One can link the current rise in migration to the effects of climate change in Central America.
  4. Summer 2018 Droughts: The intensity of the summer 2018 droughts can partly explain the size of the 2018 wave of Central American migrants sometimes referred to as the migrant caravan. In rural areas, a lack of irrigation systems made the drought especially disastrous. According to officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, crop failure was a fundamental reason for migration from Central America in 2018. Migrants left Central America to escape poverty and gang violence, but they also left to escape the effects of climate change.
  5. Agricultural Reform: USAID initiatives in Central America emphasize agricultural reform. USAID combats the effects of climate change in Central America by providing farmers with what they need to deal with droughts and floods. Thanks to initiatives like Feed the Future, 98.7 thousand Guatemalan agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques in 2017. In the same year, 45,000 Honduran agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques. Feed the Future also provided Honduran farmers with the resources and training needed to allow for increased crop diversity and animal agriculture. Diversity and reduced reliance on crops like corn and beans are vital to maintaining the region’s agricultural economy in the face of climate change.

Climate change in Central America is already causing serious problems and will continue to do so in the future. On a positive note, USAID and others are cooperating with Central American governments to respond to the changes taking place. Countries in the area are already implementing innovative, agriculture-based solutions. The efforts of aid organizations will continue to be vital as the global climate continues to change.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr