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Bahamas Refugees
The Bahamas is an archipelago of over seven hundred islands and keys. It is nestled in the Caribbean with close proximity to the U.S. and has a populous of 319,000, as recorded by the United Nations in 2005.

The country has always been plagued with refugees and asylum seekers. Recently, there has been a change in immigration policies by the current governing administration, the Progressive Liberal Party. It has received much scrutiny and gotten backlash from international organizations inclusive of Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

To understand the Bahamas’ position and the state of refugees, here are 10 facts about Bahamas refugees:

  1. According to the World Bank, refugee by country or territory of asylum in the Bahamas was last measured at 13 in 2014.
  2. Individuals who have applied for asylum or refugee status and are awaiting a decision or registered as asylum seekers — are excluded.
  3. The percentage of tertiary educated immigrants or refugees to the Bahamas has significantly decreased to zero, signifying the country’s undesirable conditions.
  4. It is estimated that at least 100 refugees are residing in the Bahamas as of 2000 according to U.N. reports.
  5. The Bahamas government prefers repatriation of immigrants, and in 2015 the government spent $83,000 repatriating illegal immigrants as opposed to granting asylum to refugees.
  6. The process to seek asylum or refugee status in the Bahamas has been exposed as corrupt, unfair and unfavorable to applicants seeking political protection.
  7. Refugees experience discrimination, both subtle and overt, on a widespread scale.
  8. Refugees and asylum seekers are detained at a facility called the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in adverse conditions.
  9. Refugees and asylum seekers are subject to cruel treatment if detained in the Bahamas.
  10. The Bahamas receives no assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development for refugee and migration or other food aid programs.

With proper policy reform, training and understanding of human rights, as well as taking preliminary measures to establish a fair asylum process to regulate more efficiently situation with the Bahamas refugees, the country will be on the right path to compliance with international human rights law and eligible for aid.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

 Refugees in Iran
There are more refugees and displaced people now than ever before in history. An estimated 65.3 million people are displaced, with 21.3 million of those being refugees. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Iran.

  1. As of October 2016, the Islamic Republic of Iran was the fifth top refugee-hosting country in the world. The number of refugees in Iran come in after Jordan, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon.
  2. Iran only has a small number of refugees that flee to find resettlement elsewhere. Iran has taken on a significant role in the refugee crisis, taking in around 979,400 refugees, most of which have fled from Afghanistan and Iraq.
  3. At the end of 2015, Iran constructed and renovated three schools for the benefit of refugee and host communities. In 2016, UNHCR supported Iran in building four more additional schools and providing literacy classes for approximately 3,000 refugees, both children and adults.
  4. The Supreme Leader of Iran declared, in 2015, that every child in Iran is required to attend school, no matter their documentation status. This allowed around 48,000 undocumented Afghans to enroll in the education system. Over 350,000 Afghan and Iraqi students enrolled for the 2015–2016 school year and that number is only expected to grow.
  5. UNHCR has worked together with Iran’s Ministry of Health to provide Primary Health Care (PHC) to all refugees. PHC includes vaccines, family planning, and care specifically for mothers and children. There were 83,000 refugees enrolled in Iran’s national health insurance program in 2015.
  6. The Iranian government and UNHCR are working together to provide prevention and rehabilitation to those who have been victims of violence. Assistance is given to sexual and gender-based violence victims as well as those victims to substance abuse.
  7. Around 6,000 refugees were set to receive legal assistance from the Iranian government in 2016. UNHCR also invests in infrastructure in areas of Iran that have the largest refugee populations.
  8. Iran’s government has recently shifted its view on formal skills training for refugees. Skills learned in this training will assist in providing the refugees with self-reliance tools. This will not only be valuable for them during their time in Iran, but also if they choose to return to their home country. Around 3,500 refugees were to be enrolled in formal skills training in 2016.
  9. There were 157 health centers and 24 educational facilities planned to be constructed, rehabilitated, or adequately equipped in Iran in 2016.
  10. Iran and nine other developing countries host more of the world’s refugees than any of the world’s wealthiest nations. These 10 countries account for only 2.5% of the world’s economy. Amnesty International said that the wealthiest nations do the least in providing host communities and resources.

Over 20 million refugees, including refugees in Iran, are under the age of 18. Every day, nearly 34,000 people are forced to flee their home countries worldwide. Some organizations that assist Iran and other developing countries in their support of refugees are UNHCR, Amnesty International, and World Relief — among many others.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Sanctions
Sanctions. A frequently employed strategy to mollify human rights abuses has been marked, at best, as underwhelmingly ineffective.

In 1948, the U.N. General Assembly outlined a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “sets out basic rights and freedoms to which all women and men are entitled – among them the right to life, liberty, and nationality; to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to work and to be educated; the right to food and housing; and the right to take part in the government.”

Unfortunately, the UDHR has been ineffective at upholding member-states to their obligations. Violent and nonviolent human rights abuses are common practice for unscrupulous governments.

According to information gathered by Amnesty International, out of the 160 countries in which data was collected, 119 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression. During 2014, at least 18 countries committed war crimes or other violations of the “laws of war.”

In an effort to avoid draconian measures when correcting the irresponsible behavior of international actors, the global community has developed a pattern of implementing sanctions – the process suppressing or excluding economies from reaping the benefits of the global trade system.

Recently, however, the efficacy of sanctions has been questioned. Reports by the International Association for Political Science Students noted that sanctions disproportionately provide adverse consequences for the innocent population, but not the guilty leadership.

The now dismembered U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights issued a resolution in August 1997 where it condemned the use of sanctions as a tool of international diplomacy – further increasing skepticism on the efficacy.

Consequently, both selective and comprehensive sanctions discourage the promotion of human rights, and in fact, create counter-productive consequences – e.g. less distribution of wealth and the advent of black market business practices.

A recent example that undermines the efficacy of sanctions is the U.S. led sanctions on North Korea, which concentrated the remaining resources and wealth in Pyongyang (with the government). As a result, famished North Koreans resorted to cannibalism as an attempt to garner the necessary nutrients to survive.

Other long-standing recipients of U.S. sanctions are Iran and Cuba, which were marked as a pariah for their involvement in the sponsorship of terrorism and spread of communism, respectively. Fortunately, the U.S. has begun to normalize relations with Cuba and is likely to undergo a “fresh-start” without U.S. administered sanctions.

Some sanctions have remained intact for over 30 years without a change in behavior by the target country. At one point, the international community must begin to question the efficacy, as the primary objective to correct misguided international behavior is not achieved. Additionally, the international community must also wonder if the act of sanctioning itself is a violation of the UDHR, as the collateral damage of innocent civilians’ deaths continues to rise.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Zimbabwe Refugees
Here are 10 facts about Zimbabwe refugees:

  1. It’s estimated that 3.4 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population have fled their country as refugees. Most of them have gone to three countries — South Africa, Australia and Britain. Britain houses the majority with over 400,000.
  2. Zimbabweans are leaving their homes as a result of the repressive government in the country. For more than 40 years, President Robert Mugabe has repeatedly violated human rights. Amnesty International called on the government to “end the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders.”
  3. Most Zimbabwean refugees flee to South Africa, the bordering country. South Africa is actually one of the busiest borders in Africa, and the number of Zimbabweans entering has been increasing since President Mugabe escalated his brutal regime. Once in South Africa, local churches are able to provide Zimbabweans with the food and education they have to give.
  4. Thousands of Zimbabweans apply for asylum, yet only a tiny fraction is granted. Since South Africa does not officially recognize the human rights violations of Mugabe’s regime, the majority of Zimbabweans crossing the border are deported back to their country, 14,000 are deported every week.
  5. Many Zimbabweans attempting to seek refugee status in South Africa face deadly diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV. The Mugabe regime has been unable to provide any type of health care system.
  6. Zimbabweans crossing the border to South Africa at Beitbridge are forced to swim across the river. Unfortunately, many don’t make it. There are frequent reports of drowning or being eaten by crocodiles.
  7. The vast majority of Zimbabweans that flee to South Africa are children. Between 350 and 400 cross the border without passing official checkpoints, many travel without an adult. Criminals know this and take advantage of the situation — robbing, enslaving or sexually abusing Zimbabwean children.
  8. The large influx of Zimbabweans entering South Africa has lead to backlash from the local population — the lack of jobs has created xenophobia.
  9. Doctors Without Borders continues to be a huge help for refugees, yet their only location in South Africa near the Zimbabwean border was closed. This location was crucial in providing 2,000 medical consultants for Zimbabweans each month, protecting them from danger while awaiting their legal papers to enter into South Africa.
  10. Much of Zimbabwe is maintained and financed because of the money that these refugees are sending back home; small amounts of money are consistently sent each month to many families who then use that money to pay for school, groceries or housing.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Ten Facts about Refugees in China
Refugees are displaced individuals that are forced to flee their homes in order to look for greener pastures. Because of the crisis in Syria, China has been asked to take in thousands of refugees that are trying to escape. There are a plethora of misconceptions that arise when it comes to refugees. Here are ten facts about refugees in China that will shed some light on the matter:

1. Large Variety of Refugees

An increased number of foreigners are making their way to China from all around the globe which makes the country’s refugee pool very diverse. China is a world power and has been modernizing itself for some time now. Their economy, cost friendly living expenses and studious universities make it a promising place for refugees to escape the turmoil. According to an article written by Heidi Haugen, the vast majority of refugees are from “the Republic of Korea, the U.S., Japan, Burma and Vietnam.”

2. The Number of Refugees

China hosts approximately 300,000 refugees. This is not a very large number when one considers the total population of China, which is currently at 1.38 billion. That is almost 20 percent of the earth’s population. Of those 300,000 refugees, less than 30 are Syrian refugees. This explains why many countries are urging China to take in more Syrian Refugees.

3. The Acceptance

Although China is reluctant to let in Syrian refugees at this instance, statistics show their citizens are very accepting. A collaborative survey conducted by Amnesty International and consultancy GlobeScan found that “94 percent of the population said they would welcome them into the country while 46 percent said they would welcome them into their homes.” This revealing survey points out the conundrum the Chinese government is facing. It is clear that the public perception of Syrian refugees is not on par with the political policies in place.

4. Asylum Claims

The Exit-Entry law that was first enacted in 1985 did not include the right for refugees to apply for asylum. As a country that originated from numerous international asylum seekers, this seemed very unusual. In the year 2012, the Exit-Entry Law was amended so it would include “provisions for persons to apply for refugee status and remain in the country during the screening of their applications.”

5. Refugees Can Prosper

Refugees in China have been known to prosper. When the Vietnamese wanted to enter China at the height of the exodus, 100,000 people were allowed access into China. They came in through the border town called Dongxing in Guangxi. There was a massive effort to empty schools, homes and even government buildings in order to house them. The High Commissioner for Refugees at the U.N., António Guterres, called it “one of the most successful integration programs in the world”. Stories such as this give refugees hope that China will be just as generous upon their arrival.

6. Syrian Refugee Denial

Refugees from Syria are currently being denied. By the end of Aug. 2015, there were only nine refugees in China and 26 others seeking asylum. Even if China accepted 4.7 million refugees, that would equal 3.5 refugees for every 1,000 citizens.

7. Fault of Western Countries

China has the most space for refugees based on its population and land size, but continues to not take action. China blames the western countries for the refugee problem. They claim that the democratization of the U.S. and its allies are the cause of the current refugee problem. They even blamed the western countries for the drowning death of a Syrian boy whose body was found on the beach.

8. Population Control

It is well documented that China has placed regulations on childbirth. A fear of overpopulation has caused them to limit families to only one baby. Numerous abortions and sterilizations have been executed over the decades, because of this. Even though the current fear isn’t as high as it once was, this does play a factor in the government’s willingness to accept refugees.

9. Refugee Hardships

Many refugees who have obtained visas have found themselves trapped within the borders of China. In order to obtain an exit visa, one must have the support of housing registrations. This requires the refugee to have valid travel documents. This leads to the purchasing of false documents and can easily lead to refugees being arrested. Both of these methods will cost a great deal of money.

10. Unauthorized Refugees

Unauthorized refugees are often subjected to trafficking. Women are forced into forms of bondage, prostitution and stripped of their rights as free citizens. Although the trafficking in Persons Protocol was ratified by China in Dec. of 2009, “the 2012 Exit-Entry Law does not contain provisions for trafficking victims or conform to international standards in this area.”

It is important to fully understand the facts about refugees before assumptions are made. Refugees are people too and they are trying to make the most out of tragic situations.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Amnesty International
On May 4, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Shalil Shetty met with the President and Prime Minister of the Kurdistani Regional Government, or KRG, to discuss the humanitarian crisis in the region and collaborate to prevent human rights abuses by all parties.

This meeting, taking place in Kurdish Iraq, came just months after Amnesty International published a report in January accusing the KRG of rights abuses. Amnesty International’s report earlier in the year accused Kurdish allied forces of demolishing Iraqi homes and preventing Arab Iraqis from returning to their communities after they were recaptured from the Islamic State.

The report argued that displacements without military justification could be considered a war crime, but also acknowledged that many of the territories had been disputed prior to the Islamic State, with many ethnically cleansed of Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Amnesty International also acknowledged that the alleged abuses were occurring in the context of an unprecedented security, humanitarian and financial crisis for the Kurdistani Regional Government. Still, they asserted that the government cannot allow that to justify turning a blind eye to abuses within its territories.

More than a million foreign refugees and internally displaced persons are currently seeking shelter in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The KRG immediately responded to Amnesty International’s report, contending that it is the policy of its armed forces not to allow immediate return to recently recaptured territories for civilians of any ethnicity, due to proximity to continued conflict and due to the Islamic State’s tendency to leave IEDs behind when it withdraws.

In a further expression of concern for human rights, the KRG promised to conduct a full investigation into the reports compiled by Amnesty International. They granted AI and other rights groups full access to its territories in order to conduct their own independent investigations to ensure the protection of human rights.

Shetty thanked the KRG for its commitment to preventing abuses in the face of tremendous adversity, and acknowledged the long history of Kurdish cooperation with AI and other rights groups.

Hayden Smith

Photo: Flickr

 

Amnesty_International
More than 400 human rights advocates, including actors, directors, fashion designers and many more, signed an open letter to Amnesty International asking the organization to vote against the decriminalization of the sex industry.

The proposed policy that these advocates are referring to backs the legalization of brothels and pimping. The policy asks for the support of all acts of selling sex to be lawful, but for sex buying to remain illegal.

After learning about Amnesty International’s intention, hundreds of noticeable individuals joined an international public campaign. The campaigners urged the organization to re-evaluate their plans and to stand with those who are oppressed in the sex trade.

The letter declares that advocates agree that those who are prostituted must not be outlawed by law enforcement and that the legalization of selling sex contributes to poverty, homelessness, sexual abuse and discrimination.

Many young children who are forced into the sex trade will not earn an education and will likely contract sexually transmitted diseases. Without healthy and educated citizens, a developing area cannot improve economically.

The cycle of poverty continues because poverty contributes to the sex trade. According to Medical News Today, many families in impoverished areas sell their children into the trade. Sometimes, children and young adults will seek out the trade to earn wages for food and shelter.

Former Irish prostitute Mia de Faoite said that the policy proposal advocating these means of earnings is absolutely unacceptable.

“I can find no justification for those crimes, and I believe that no one is able to justify such human wickedness,” de Faoite said.

She also said this policy move contradicts the organization’s ideals for human rights.
“Amnesty would agree with me, I am sure, and would fight alongside me to find justice, if I asked,” de Faoite said. “This is confusing to me, and it makes no sense because, on the other hand, they are prepared to sanction the behavior that led to this crime.”

A Change.org petition that petitions a “non-profit industrial complex” by Amnesty International agrees with de Faoite. The petition states that with this new policy, the organization will ultimately be harming those who Amnesty International claims to help.

“With this proposal, Amnesty International is moving away from human rights advocacy,” the petition said.

About 500 members of the international human rights organization will meet in Ireland for Amnesty’s 32nd International Council Meeting, where they are projected to approve the decriminalization of sex work. The vicious cycle of poverty will be promoted by Amnesty International’s proposal if there is not a change similar to the one proposed in the open letter.

The letter was signed by celebrities such as author Hannah Pakula, poet Rose Styron, actress Meryl Streep, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Anna Quindlen, chef Alice Waters and 2008 Amnesty International Human Rights Award-winner, Lydia Cacho. Other celebrity signers include Emily Blunt, Lena Dunham, Anne Hathaway, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

This level of support for the change has helped achieve such a grand presence in human rights that there is now a campaign on Change.org for the modification. The letter is still open for more signatures.

To sign the letter and learn more about Amnesty International’s policy, click here.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Change.org, Look to the Stars, Medical News Today, Independent News Ireland
Photo: Vanity Fair

Women in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an island in the South Pacific located just north of Australia, with a population of around 7 million. It is a developing country, ranking 156 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. 


Papua New Guinea suffers—like most developing nations—from high levels of poverty and corruption within the government due to vast oil and gas reserves.

But Papua New Guinea doesn’t simply have to deal with the normal problems of a developing country. Sadly, in recent years this island nation has become known for rampant and increasing violence against women.

It has been reported that 68 percent of PNG women suffer from violence. What is worse is that one in three women have reportedly been raped. As with most rape statistics, that number is often low, as many women who have been raped do not report it.

Violence against women in Papua New Guinea is not always of a sexual nature. Women are often accused of sorcery, and violence is used as retribution. In February 2013, there was a highly publicized case of a 20-year old woman accused of sorcery. As punishment, she was burned alive. 

Domestic violence seems to be the most prevalent form. It is often the result of the male’s desire to assert authority over his female partner because he may perceive that she is acting insubordinate or lazy. 

Amnesty International states that this type of violence “includes rape, being burnt with hot irons, broken bones and fractures, kicking and punching and cutting with bush knives.”

There have been some attempts by the government to deal with this issue. In April of last year, the 1971 Sorcery Act, which criminalized sorcery, was repealed.

In September 2013, the parliament in PNG passed the Family Protection Bill, which made domestic violence illegal. 

However, many women still do not know of the existence of this law, and implementation has been difficult and not very far reaching. The same is true of the sorcery law, which is in the appeals process and does not change the pervasive cultural view of the existence of sorcery.

Women’s groups from within and outside PNG continue to try and spread awareness of this issue and work on programs that attempt to eradicate these grave human rights violations.

Statistics and research on this subject are hard to find though. Women’s rights groups have a difficult time funding further research because no raw data exists. Papua New Guinea is low on the international radar.

Awareness and further research on this issue is needed in order to help the women of Papua New Guinea escape this terrible cycle of violence.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: Child Fund, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Islands Business, Human Development Report, United Nations,
Photo: ABCNews

over_under_sideways_down
Hear “Over Under Sideways Down” and you may think of the experimental, blues-rock single released by the English Yardbirds in the 1960s. On the off chance that experimental 1960s English music is unfamiliar, the song is sung by someone lost to the high life. “Over, under, sideways, down, backwards, forwards, square and ‘round…when will it end?” asks the chorus.

Though for completely different reasons, the feelings of confusion and displacement professed in the song are echoed in a recently released comic of the same name. Commissioned by Amnesty International in honor of Refugee week, it tells the story of Iranian Ebrahim Esmail.

Esmail is Kurdish Iranian, one in a group of people marginalized and often very poor. In addition to the trials he faced as an ethnic Kurd, he has long been a victim of political persecution. At 6 years old, he was shot in leg, an event from which he still bears a scar. His father, a reformer and activist, was murdered. At 9, he was passing out political flyers for his stepfather. At 15 it was revealed that he was in danger, and he was forced to leave his mother and his home.

The smugglers who led Esmail and others to the United Kingdom took complete advantage of the vulnerability of their charges. They were brutal and inhumane in their treatment of the men and women with whom they had been entrusted. They abandoned Esmail as soon as he reached the U.K. Left with no money and no connections, he found police authorities, then spent four years in examination after interview after court case. He was finally given “leave to remain” in the country.

This was, briefly, the story given to comic creator Karrie Fransman. Having written for The Guardian, The Times and Random House, she was hardly short on experience. But the task was daunting. “I listened to everything Ebrahim was telling me and thought, how on Earth am I going to draw this?” she said in a recent interview.

To some, comics are for children. But it is immediately apparent that Fransman’s work is not. Muted in tone and understated in narrative, it simply and sympathetically presents Esmail’s story, without overpowering it.

Fransman expresses her honor in speaking with Esmail and committing some of his life to the page. Esmail seems satisfied with the result. “The experiences I’ve had are not always easy for me to talk about, but I wanted people to be able to understand what it means to be forced from your home and made to start all over again,” he says. The comic does just that.

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Broken Frontier, The Red Cross, Refugee Week
Photo: The Guardian

my body my rights
Amnesty International launched the “My Body, My Rights” campaign to address the sexual and reproductive rights that every person should be granted. It stresses the need for all individuals to have the power to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives. It goes further to state that every government ought to safe guard these rights so everyone can live without fear of discrimination.

Part of the campaign lists the basic rights a person should have. The list includes:

· Make decisions about your own health
· Have access to information about health services
· Decide if and when you want children
· Choose if and when you want to marry
· Access to family planning (which includes contraception and legal abortions if justifiable)
· Live free from rape and violence

The security of sexual and reproductive rights is a fundamental problem in today’s world. According to Amnesty International, many people lack access to accurate information, sexual education and health services that they need in order to live a healthy life. For example, over 3,000 people each day are infected with HIV but of the 3,000, only 34 percent can answer basic questions about the disease and how to prevent it.

Those particularly affected by the failure to uphold sexual and reproductive rights are young women and girls. Specifically, females from poor and marginalized families often times fall victim to rights abuses. They are denied access to the health information and services they need because of discrimination. This reality can be seen in the fact that the leading cause of death in developing countries for girls 15 to 19 years old is pregnancy complications.

To demonstrate the pervasiveness of this issue, Amnesty International presents a series of little known but alarming realities. For example, more than 60 percent of teens in four sub-Saharan African countries do not know how to prevent pregnancy. Additionally, in 76 countries, sexual actions between people of the same sex are considered illegal. The problem is not limited to developing countries, as evidenced by the fact that about 83 percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in the United State have experienced sexual harassment.

The campaign includes striking photos of body paintings done by Tokyo-based artist Hirkaru Cho. The 3-D paintings are meant to capture Amnesty International’s messages of violence against women, marriage equality and right to health services, including contraception.

One particularly impactful photo is of a person’s face broken in two and is meant to depict everyone’s right to: choose a partner and to be open about sexual orientation and gender identity. Another image shows a stack of books on a man’s back which is meant to represent everyone’s right to know and learn about one’s body, sexual health and relationships.

Amnesty International calls for an end to all policies, social norms and other barriers that prevent people from accessing the services and information they need to lead a healthy life. It asks people to take action by petitioning to global leaders and UN representatives to better address the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: Amnesty International, Huffington Post, The Independent
Photo: Femsource