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refugees_in_calais
Many refugees in Calais, France are using any means possible — most of them using rather dangerous means — to make their way to Britain in hopes of a new life.

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants sit in refugee camps in Calais waiting to make their next attempt into the United Kingdom. Many of these individuals have traveled all the way from Africa, the Middle East and some from even further away. For most, sanctuary in Britain is the last stop on a very long journey that may have lasted for months, with hopes that a better life and more opportunities await them on the other side of the English Channel.

In France, where many migrants await the next move, which may potentially land them in Britain, lie refugee camps filled with hundreds of thousands of migrants from all around the world. Many have fled injustice and corruption within their native countries, such as that of Sudan, Eritrea and other crime-ridden and infamously violent nations.

Within the camps are volunteers and medical staff to help those who have been injured or have fallen ill throughout their long journeys. Nurses in the camps have recounted a number of cases where individuals have even been hit by trains and fallen off moving trains while trying to make their way across the Channel. This is a horrific image to imagine, but it is the reality of the extent people in these circumstances are willing to go to make it to their final destination. The legitimacy of their travels is backed by the success of others. An estimated 40 people actually make it across each day, though the numbers have varied greatly. Those who have been successful give those still struggling the hope they need to keep going.

With all these people from around the world flooding the entrance to the United Kingdom, both Britain and France have asked for more intervention, particularly from other members of the European Union. The French government has upped its security measures by increasing the number of police officers at the French side of the Channel as well as implementing other new security means. However, with the number of migrants in the hundreds of thousands at least, and a handful of migrants making their way to the UK each day, there obviously is a need for more assistance in order for the two countries to maintain border security.

This issue has been going on since the beginning of June, and a recorded 10 migrants have died in the journey specifically from Calais to the other end of the Channel. This is an issue of international security for which no clear solution has been found thus far, neither the migrants seeking refuge nor the European nations themselves.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: The New York Times, BBC
Photo: The New York Times

Migration Patterns in Latin America
Although immigration is a major concern for policymakers in the United States, immigration and emigration have a significant impact on the economy and communities throughout Latin America.

Over the last 25 years, in particular, migration patterns in Latin America show that immigrants have moved from unstable economies and governments into bordering states that have greater economic stability and prosperity. This continues to be the case in Chile, with migrants flowing in from neighboring countries.

The Southern Cone of Latin America is famous for its continued movement of people across country borders. This region includes Chile, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay. Chile has seen an influx of immigrants, particularly from Peru, since the 1990s. This was the turning point in the Chilean economy and government, transitioning over from a military regime to a more stable, democratic system.

This change in government led to more overall economic stability in Chile, creating more job opportunities and more money per household. Neighboring countries, such as Peru, have not seen such success.

This influx of immigrants has been accompanied by its own issues, particularly with regard to security concerns. Large groups of immigrants easily travel across state borders, because of geographic proximity, as well as insufficient border policies. For example, Peruvian immigrants that have migrated to Chile have created cultural enclaves within cities and populated areas of the country. These transnational communities as they are described have created a concern for not only governments of receiving nations, but also the citizens of said countries.

Social marginalization is one of the biggest obstacles many immigrants of said transnational communities report facing, forcing such cultural enclaves to emerge. This, in a way, defeats the purpose of many immigrants, in search of new opportunities, as they are almost forced to stay within the confines of communities that are primarily made up of other immigrants.

Though this is the case, many immigrants in Latin America continue to migrate to neighboring countries, because despite social and cultural obstacles, many do find more economic potential and opportunities for jobs that they have the qualifications and skillsets for.

Immigration is a concern that faces not only the United States and its borders but also persists as an issue throughout intraregional Latin America. Not only that, but the circumstances in which Latin Americans find themselves make immigration that much more appealing and feasible.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Migration Policy Institute, Money Market, Bloomberg,
Photo: Flickr

 

poverty_in_mexico
Understanding poverty in Mexico can help us further understand immigration rates into the United States and how to create more effective policies regarding immigration in the U.S.

Immigrants from Mexico typically have a higher rate of poverty than those who are native to their country, which is referring to American natives. Approximately 25 percent of Mexican born immigrants live in conditions that are considered impoverished while living in the U.S.

This means that many immigrants that migrate to the U.S. are eligible for state-funded programs, despite having immigrant status. This leads to the controversy that many hear about in the U.S. Numerous policies regarding immigration take into consideration that many immigrants are living in poverty, and would be in need of government assistance in order to sustain a normal and healthy life.

Mexican immigrants have been the largest group of immigrants to migrate to the U.S. since the 1980s and therefore, it is not surprising that many immigration policies are directed more so to that group of the population. This is particularly important because this means that policies take into consideration that many immigrations are living in impoverished conditions and will therefore be more dependent on the government.

This is a largely contributing factor to the strict policies regarding immigration and deportation over the last twenty years or so in the U.S. Becoming a U.S. citizen and immigration into the U.S. particularly from Mexico is more difficult than it has ever been and the economic pull has much to do with such strict policies.

Poverty stricken Mexican immigrants have traveled to the U.S. with hopes for more economic prosperity, however, this is often more difficult than many immigrants anticipate. Despite finding minimum wage jobs, if that, many do not make enough money to find themselves or their families living above the poverty line. Therefore, many continue living under a poverty status and are depending on the state and government funding.

Unfortunately, a great deal Mexican immigrants find themselves continuing to live in poverty after leaving their native country, on their journey to live out the American Dream. That being said, the U.S. government has created policies with these conditions and potential outcomes in mind.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Center for Immigration Studies, Migration Policy Institute
Photo: Flickr

danish_politicsOn June 18, Denmark’s center-left government, the Social Democrats, were ousted out of the political limelight as the country moved dramatically to the far right in favor of the ring-wing, populist and anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (D.P.P). The Danish People’s Party is often regarded with stigma both at home and abroad and is on the outskirts of Danish politics since its founding in 1996.

However, in the most recent elections, the D.P.P. came in second place with 21.1% of the votes, only 5.2% less than the number of votes received by the leading Social Democrats. According to preliminary results published by the DR.DK, Denmark’s national broadcaster, the center-right bloc that includes the D.P.P now holds a majority of 90 seats in Parliament, which, for the first time, has elevated the D.P.P. into the centerfold of Danish politics. The results of this election come on the heels of growing unrest within Denmark over issues related to immigration and the security of the Danish welfare state. Denmark, a socialist and uber-liberal country which was voted “happiest country in the world” last year, is one of the highest-functioning welfare state programs in the world. The thanks is owed to the Danish citizens paying the highest income taxes in the world, at 60.2%.

The Danish welfare state was created in 1933 following the Social Reform Act, which sought to redirect Denmark’s attention inwards following the loss of the last remnants of the former Danish Empire, which once included Southern Sweden, Northern Germany, Iceland and Norway (and continues to include Greenland and the Faroe Islands). A “Denmark for the people” mentality was adopted, which subsequently iterated outwards into a Scandinavian-socialist ethos which has traditionally regarded foreign aid as an obvious centerpiece of Danish foreign policy. Providing welfare services “from the cradle to the grave” for citizens at home, such as free childcare, education through university and healthcare, and providing international aid to citizens abroad was regarded as two sides of the Danish-socialist-mentality coin.

The recent elections reflect the ways in which some Danes have begun to adjust their thinking about the welfare state and its relationship to those outside the “Danish family.” Similar to the recent wave of anti-immigrant parties which have popped up throughout Europe, such as the Finns Party in Finland, the Progress Party in Norway, the Sweden Democrats in Sweden and UKIP in the United Kingdom, the D.P.P. frames itself as the voice of “Old Danes” who regard the growing influx of immigrants within Denmark as a threat to the Danish welfare state and the Danish way of life.

The presence of immigrants in Denmark, who make up around nine percent of the population country-wide, in conjunction with the recent surge of 14,000 mostly Muslim asylum seekers and the Copenhagen shootings of February 14 by the 22-year-old son of Palestinian immigrants, has produced a backlash of growing nationalist sentiment in Denmark. As a result, supporters of the D.P.P. have begun to implicitly redefine how “Denmark for the people” is understood. A motto that traditionally went unchallenged, given the historically monocultural and monoethnic nature of the Danish population, is now being reformulated by the D.P.P. to function more as “Denmark for the Danes;” as the D.P.P. has proposed slashing welfare entitlements for newly arrived immigrants and refugees into the country.

Increasing exclusivity regarding Danish welfare state benefits is being matched in Parliament by talk among the D.P.P and the Liberal Party that Denmark should cut back on foreign aid in order to channel more money into welfare entitlements for native Danish citizens, especially the elderly. In 1970, the world’s richest developed countries agreed to give point seven percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) annually to international development aid.

Historically, Denmark, along with Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, has been one of the few developed countries to actually commit to reaching this target. Proposals or talks of cutting foreign aid thus represent a dramatic break from Denmark’s historically extraordinary commitment to reaching the point seven percent goal. A survey conducted for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also found that right-wing political opinion about foreign aid is being matched in public opinion, as support among Danes for foreign aid has fallen by 15% in the last five years. The recent shift to the right in Denmark now leaves Sweden as the only country in Scandinavia in which the center-left continues to hold the majority of political power. The Swedish equivalent to the D.P.P. – the Swedish Democrats – also continue to be regarded as political pariahs in mainstream Swedish society.

Despite Denmark’s sudden swing to the conservative anti-immigrant right, the country currently continues not only to meet but to exceed the annual point seven percent foreign development aid target.

– Ana Powell

Sources: BBC, CNN Money DR, The Guardian New York Times 1, New York Times 2 OECD
Photo: Dagens

FIFA
Qatar has an estimated budget of 62 billion pounds for the hotels, infrastructure, stadiums and other buildings that it needs for the 2022 World Cup. Qatar has relied on migrant workers from countries such as India, Nepal and Sri Lanka to complete these building projects. However, the work for migrant workers is extremely difficult and many are dying, most likely as a consequence of the harsh conditions that they are forced to live and work in.

Since 2013, Qatar has been under investigations by groups such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, who are worried that Qatar’s migrant workforce is being treated as modern-day slaves. According to a 2013 report from the Guardian, over 4,000 workers will die as a result of the conditions that they are subjected to while they prepare for the World Cup. From June 4 to August 8 in the same year, 44 Nepalese workers died, and half of those deaths were related to heart failure or workplace accidents.

Heart failure and heat strokes are common, since many workers are forced to slave away in extremely hot temperatures—up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit—and are sometimes not given access to free drinking water. This has led to many complaints from workers. More than 80 workers from India died from January to May 2013, and 1,460 complained to the embassy about problems related to labor conditions.

While it may seem like the best solution is for workers to go home, unfortunately, it is not that simple. Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, have instituted the kafala system—a system of sponsorship in which migrant workers are not allowed to change jobs or leave the country without a sponsor’s permission. Many sponsors hold the passports of migrant workers, making it impossible for them to leave. Workers are also often jilted out of the money that they were promised, and contracts are sometimes in English or other languages foreign to migrant workers, meaning that workers are forced to sign contracts that they do not understand.

Qatar promised that they would reform the kafala system after the deaths of migrant workers were bought to light. However, as The Guardian states, the system that Qatar plans to replace the kafala with will still ensure that employees are tied to their employers for the length of their contract, which can last for as long as five years.

An estimated 1,200 workers have died since Qatar began to construct its stadiums for the World Cup. However, this week, Qatar’s state news agency has issued a statement claiming that no workers have died during construction for the World Cup. They claim that no workers died while at work, and therefore argue that the assumption that the deaths of migrant workers are work related, is incorrect.

While it is most likely true that not all the deaths of migrant workers are work related, the fact remains that many of the deaths probably are a result of the poor living and working conditions that migrants are forced to face. Qatar is also hesitant to let reporters research the conditions of migrant workers in the country. In May of 2015, they arrested a group of BBC reporters who attempted to do so.

The problems with workers for the FIFA World Cup are representative of larger socioeconomic problems in Qatar. Qatar is the world’s richest country by income per capita. Its growing industry and infrastructure attract migrant workers determined to improve their living conditions by moving to such a rich country. However, migrant workers are treated extremely poorly. They are crammed into overcrowded living conditions of six to eight men in a room, and up to 40 men have to share a kitchen. The living conditions are unhygienic and bathrooms and washers are so dirty that some men are forced to use buckets of water to wash instead.

There are over 1.2 million migrant workers making up the workforce in Qatar. These workers are subjected to physical, verbal and sexual abuse. It is especially difficult for migrant workers who work in domestic situations. As the Human Rights Watch states, these workers are normally women, and they are especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, as they are sometimes locked in the homes where they work and are not given protection under Qatari Labor Law.

The poor treatment of migrant workers might be an attempt by Qatar to keep its population under control. After all, over 80 percent of the Qatari population is now composed of migrant workers, meaning that 20 percent of the population actually benefits from the riches of Qatar, while the rest are forced to suffer. As one Nepalese migrant worker states, “No one respects our feelings, we are just labor, all people hate us.” Unless Qatar changes its laws and issues drastic reforms, it risks becoming a country where modern day slavery becomes more and more prevalent, and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

— Ashrita Rau

Sources: BBC, BBC, BBC, Business Insider, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Migration News, The Guardian, The Guardian, The Guardian
Photo: The Telegraph

senate subcommittee
As the 114th Congress settles into a regular routine, committee and subcommittee chairs are being announced. Notably, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was announced as the chairman for the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security.

Sen. Sessions expressed his desire for stricter immigration control in the past, saying that immigration reform is a term “reserved for proposals which benefit everyone but actual American citizens.” He also pushed back against President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, renamed the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest after Sen. Sessions took over, is a subset of Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Its jurisdiction encompasses immigration, citizenship and refugee laws and the immigration functions of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Jan. 26, 2015, Sen. Sessions released a 25-page guide entitled the “Immigration Handbook for the New Republican Majority.” The handbook covers executive amnesty, immigration economics and effects on welfare, concluding with questions about the immigration debate in the U.S.

The subcommittee handles refugee policy in the U.S., which is a foreign policy issue that receives little floor time in the House and Senate and even less funding and support. Refugee programs run through a complex system of departments and offices, including USAID, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs. The sheer number of hoops to jump through for funding, visas or support can be daunting for both advocates and refugees themselves.

Immigration debate in the U.S. took a rare humanitarian turn last year when reports revealed the staggering number of minors crossing over the Mexican/U.S. border out of Central America. Many of these minors are fleeing extreme poverty, violence and illegal economic activities.

Sen. Sessions’ subcommittee will likely decide the outcome of the dangerous journey many take to flee poverty and violence.

Caitlin Huber 

Sources: Politico, U.S. Senate 1, U.S. Senate 2, Breitbart
Photo: ProPublica

The recent surge of immigrant children across the U.S.-Mexico border has caused a wave of anger and criticism of the Obama Administration from those who are opposed to immigrants who enter the country illegally.

Despite the fact that President Obama recently asked for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address border control, Senator Ted Cruz (R- TX) recently accused the President and fellow Democrats of “doing nothing” to stem the flow of immigrants, as well as holding immigrant children for ransom with promises of amnesty.

Cruz’s accusations come in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) recent comment that the southwestern border is already secure. The comment angered Cruz, who said that Reid should visit the border himself and then decide whether or not it is secure.

Congress is currently debating the President’s request for $3.7 billion. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said in a press conference that he is not optimistic about the House coming to an agreement but that they will continue to discuss it just the same.

House Republicans think $3.7 billion is too much money, but Democrats believe that the investment needs to be made in order to see a positive change and that trying to accomplish the same goals with less money will not be successful.

House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also stated that House Democrats do not agree with the Republican desire to make changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law. Currently the law treats unaccompanied children from Mexico differently than unaccompanied children from other Central and South American countries. The law was passed in order to protect immigrant children from sex traffickers and requires that hearings be held for children of non-neighboring countries.

This often leads to these children being housed in the U.S. indefinitely, whereas Mexican children are more likely to be immediately turned away at the border. Republicans would like to see the bill altered so that all unaccompanied children are treated in the same manner.

The problem with court hearings for immigrant children is that courts are so backed up that it can take years for a hearing to take place. Generally, while the children wait for their hearing, they will stay with family or friends, go to school and begin to feel like they belong in America.

When people in Central and South America hear how much easier it is for minors to move to the U.S. than it is for adults, more and more children are sent. Republicans hope that altering this law will result in fewer children journeying north to the border, but Democrats claim that this could be potentially harmful to children who travel a long way.

Between 2002 and 2013, Congress increased spending on border control by 300 percent but only increased immigration court funding by 70 percent, resulting in inefficient court systems. It also begs the question whether or not increased funding for border control is effective or if the government should invest that money elsewhere.

– Taylor Lovett

Sources: Politico 1, Politico 2, CNN
Photo: ND SATCOM

unaccompanied minors
Members of the GOP have insisted that President Obama’s $3.7 billion immediate spending demand to curtail the flow of children across the U.S. border is too costly.

Republicans want to pass legislation that would accelerate the deportation of unaccompanied minors. Since the end of 2013, more than 40,000 children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have turned themselves over to officials at the border.

Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, insists that the best way to stop the flow of children is for them to be returned to their families in their homeland. He stated that it would discourage families and traffickers from sending children to the U.S. border.

While McCain agreed that many of the children are escaping danger and violence at home, he also claimed, “We cannot have an unending stream of children, whether it’d be from Central America or any place else, to come into our country with all of the strains and pressures that it puts on our capabilities.”

The legislation that Republicans want to introduce would allow Central American minors to be deported more quickly. Unaccompanied minors from any country would be able to have a hearing within seven days of their processing by the Human Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. An immigration judge would rule within three days whether the child could stay or would have to be deported.

The Obama administration has agreed to give support for laws that will speed up deportation proceedings, even though prominent congressional Democrats are against it.

Representative Mike McCaul, R-Texas, Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, stated that Republicans are contemplating a limited emergency funding bill that would supply aid through the end of the fiscal year.

Representative Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky and House Appropriations Chairman, told reporters that the current bill was excessive, but did not comment on what funding level the committee seeks.

A new poll reported that there is broad public disapproval of both President Obama and Republican congressmen’s handling of the flow of unaccompanied minors at the southern border. In fact 58 percent of Americans, including 54 percent of Latinos, disapprove of Obama’s management of the situation.

66 percent disapprove of the GOP’s handle on the crisis of unaccompanied minors.

The administration’s attitude towards this crisis is also facing opposition from Democrats and immigrant rights organizations who are afraid that deporting the children will put them at risk of returning to dangerous conditions in their home countries.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: USA Today, The Washington Post
Photo: ABC News

On July 18, 446 North African migrants reached the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea via boat. Their arrival comes after the recent deaths of 19 migrants who choked on engine fumes en route to Italy aboard a boat holding over 600 people. Their deaths bring the total to 45 deaths in the past month attributed to asphyxiation and being crushed on board crowded and often shoddy boats headed to southern Italy.

August has not yet begun, but the number of migrants arriving in Italy has already surpassed 2013’s total of 42,000 people. Italy’s border patrol, Mare Nostrum, began in 2013, following the deaths of 360 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa. The patrol agency costs Italy $13 million a month. This year alone, it has already rescued 60,000 migrants from the Mediterranean making their way, often haphazardly so, to Italy’s southern coast.

What awaits those migrants are overcrowded asylum centers buckling under a demand for housing which they simply cannot accommodate. For many, however, these centers are merely a pit stop from which they embark further into Western Europe.

Italy is not the only European country experiencing large numbers of migrant arrivals. Greece’s Public Order Minister Vasilis Kikilias has stated that Greece has endured an 800 percent increase in the number of migrants reaching its coast by boat from Turkey over the past two years. Greece is now seeking more EU funding to deal with the increased arrival of undocumented immigrants.

While the number of non EU migrants to EU countries is increasing, so are anti-immigration sentiments. An EU court recently struck down a law in place since 2007, which required Turkish immigrants seeking visas in Germany to display proficient understanding of the German language before receiving a visa. Of Germany’s 6.2 million foreigners, nearly half are of Turkish descent.

However, despite rising tides of resentment, the droves of migrants rushing to EU boarders show no sign of abating. There were 435,760 asylum claims in the EU last year, an increase of 30 percent from 2012. In the first three months of this year alone, applications have increased by 29 percent compared with the same period last year.

Foreigners remain willing and eager to join the EU. What will happen to them when they do, though, is the real issue at hand.

– Taylor Dow
Sources: Ekathinmerini, The Wall Street Journal, US News, BBC 1, BBC 2, The Journal, World Bulletin
Photo: Venitism

drug policy
Over the past year, an influx of children has been immigrating to the United States. This has been connected to the increasing violence in Central America, which in turn, has recently been linked back further to the drug trade based in the areas of emigration. This drug trade seems to be fueled by markets in the United States.

Since October 2013, about 57,000 unaccompanied children have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Three out of four of these children are from Central America, and most from Honduras.

Honduran President Juan Hernandez spoke out about the link between drug trafficking violence and children fleeing the country. “Seven out of nine children who venture on the dangerous journey toward the United States come from the most violent areas of Honduras. Those are also the regions where the drug cartels are most active,” he stated.

The President then requested the United States to aid the drug problems continuing in Central America, as the United States fuels the market. After a group of Hondurans were deported back to San Pedro Sula, Honduran first lady Ana Garcia de Hernandez spoke out about the issue, stating:

“The countries consuming drugs need to support and take joint responsibility because if there wasn’t demand, there wouldn’t be production and we wouldn’t be living like we are.”

While the cartels were mainly in Mexico and Colombia in the past, large operations were carried out to minimize the illegal drug trade there, which pushed much of the trafficking to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Hernandez suggests that the United States fund similar anti-drug programs in Central America that have been carried out in Mexico and Colombia in order to curb violence. This, in turn, would lead to less emigration.

While Honduras is hopeful for aid from the U.S., they are still making other plans to address the crisis. The Honduran government requested Mexican officials to add four new Honduran consulates to the U.S.-Mexico border in order to provide humanitarian aid to those who need it.

It is predicted that without U.S. aid directed toward alleviating the drug problem, more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors could leave Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for the United States border.

Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Program, states that one of the biggest challenges for the U.S. will be creating a balance between responding to the influx of immigrants humanely without encouraging more to cross over illegally.

The current U.S. fiscal plan announced by the Department of State is to slash $285 million in aid to Latin America and place it toward military training, drug policy and social programs. Central America is hopeful that this will change.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, Fox News
Photo: Yahoo