Tag Archives: asylum-seekers

Global Event: The Afghanistan Exodus

The International Situation of Afghan Asylum-Seekers

The pullout of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent collapse of the Afghan government has generated a wave of Afghan people fleeing incoming Taliban rule. With the Taliban committed to governing according to fundamentalist interpretations of Islamic law, concerns are particularly heightened for women, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, journalists, and those who supported the fight against the Taliban. Abroad, governments have debated whether and to what degree to accept asylum-seekers, with many seeking to either offshore asylum processing or contain refugees to the immediate region of southwest and Central Asia. For refugees who do make it out, the intensification of anti-immigrant sentiment across the world’s regions in recent years—including the increasing political power of far-right nativist movements—has created new threats for asylum-seekers in their destination countries.

While politicians and analysts around the world bicker over responsibility and blame, Afghans scramble to exit before the full weight of the new Taliban regime comes down. Here is a collection of reporting on the conditions in Afghanistan for those needing refuge, which countries are offering haven, and reactions from the Afghan diaspora.

Continue reading Global Event: The Afghanistan Exodus

U.S. Feature | Indigenous Asylum-Seekers

The U.S. Immigration System’s Indigenous Language Problem

The surge of asylum-seekers from Central America in the mid-2010s revealed critical language gaps in the asylum system: namely, the lack of competent Mayan-language interpreters. Language shapes each stage of the immigration process, from Border Patrol interrogations and detention to credible-fear interviews and post-approval integration. Non–Spanish-speaking indigenous children are at particular risk, with five of the six children who have died in Homeland Security custody having been indigenous and others traumatized by separation from their families in an unfamiliar language environment.

With three Guatemalan Mayan languages ranking among the top 25 languages used in immigration courts last year, the demand for interpreters exceeds supply, with the U.S. government relying on an uneven landscape of third-party companies and non-profit volunteers. The New Yorker highlights how skill deficiencies, U.S. President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and a strained asylum system have combined to produce unique vulnerabilities for indigenous asylum-seekers.

“The indigenous population was likely the least able to understand their rights, and may therefore have been more susceptible to losing their children and waiving away their own asylum rights.” 

Read

A Translation Crisis at the Border” (The New Yorker | December 2019)

Previous Coverage

Anyone Speak K’iche’ or Mam? Immigration Courts Overwhelmed by Indigenous Languages” (The New York Times | March 2019)

Indigenous immigrants face unique challenges at the border” (High Country News | June 2018)

Ancient Mayan languages are creating problems for today’s immigration courts” (Los Angeles Times | August 2016)

Connect

Asociación Mayab (English version)

The Mayan League

Malaysia News | UyghurS

Malaysian PM announces asylum provisions for refugee Uyghurs

  • Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamed indicated that the country would not honor extradition requests from China for Uyghurs fleeing persecution.
  • The announcement follows a statement from the foreign minister indicating that an inquiry into human rights violations in the Xinjiang region of China.
  • Hundreds took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to protest the ongoing incarceration of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in “political re-education” camps in northwest China.

Read

Malaysia not to extradite Uighurs seeking asylum” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)

Malaysia to probe rights violations against Uighurs” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)

In KL, hundreds of Muslims protest against China’s treatment of Uighurs” (Malay Mail | December 2019)

Malaysia Feature | Refugees

The Hardships of Refugees in Malaysia

Although Malaysia has long offered refuge to persecuted Muslim populations, Malaysian law does not distinguish between asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants. As a consequence, refugees experience high levels of legal precarity, severely limiting access to healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities. Immigration police frequently raid businesses in search of undocumented workers, and children are frequently pushed into work because of an educational system with limited resources to accommodate them. While more than 164,000 refugees in Malaysia are officially registered with the UN Refugee Agency, many more languish in the long registration queue. Today, activists are working to pressure the recently installed government to become a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to improve protections and access to opportunity for those seeking life and livelihood in the wake of war and persecution.

Read

‘We have nothing’: A life in limbo for Malaysia’s Yemeni refugees” (Al Jazeera | March 2019)

Inside Malaysia’s ‘Living Hell’ for Refugee Children” (NewsDeeply | February 2018)

Study

UNHCR Figures at a Glance in Malaysia

U.K. News | Asylum-Seekers

Asylum-seekers increasingly attempt dangerous cross-Channel trek to the U.K.

  • Patrol operations in the English Channel have led to the rescue of asylum-seekers attempting to reach the U.K. by small boats, which French and British officials claim is driven by organized smuggling.
  • More than 200 have arrived in the U.K. by water since November, which represents more than a tenfold increase from last year.
  • Migrants have begun turning to aquatic travel as the British and French governments have increasingly targeted land-based vehicles for inspection and closed shelter camps.

Read

More migrants and refugees try to reach UK via English Channel” (Al Jazeera | December 2018)

Five migrant boats rescued in English Channel” (BBC News | December 2018)

Migrants risk death at sea to reach Britain as prices spike on traditional routes” (CNN | December 2018)

Germany News | Asylum-Seekers

Report indicates attacks on asylum-seekers down in Germany
  • According to police, there were 704 cases of anti-refugee violence from January to June, down more than a third from 2017.
  • The 2018 attacks included 77 on asylum shelters and 627 direct attacks on refugees, resulting in 127 injuries.
  • The reduction has come as immigration debates continue to erupt along political fault lines, including the introduction of “anchor centers” for asylum-seekers awaiting judicial decisions and the limited restart of family reunifications.
Read

Fewer attacks on refugees and asylum shelters in Germany” (Reuters | August 2018)

Germany opens refugee ‘anchor centres’ amid criticism” (Al Jazeera | August 2018)

Family reunification for refugees resumes in Germany” (Deutsche Welle | August 2018)

China Feature | Uyghur

The Transnational Oppression of Uyghur Chinese

Growing paranoia over terrorism by and radicalization of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority has led to the dramatic expansion of state surveillance activities in Xinjiang—where Uyghurs account for nearly half of the population—and abroad. Digital surveillance, travel restrictions, indefinite detention, “reeducation” camps, and the exploitation of intra-community and transnational relationships have dramatically expanded the crackdown on ethnic minorities perceived as threats to the integrity of the state. After fleeing China, Uyghur emigrants find themselves and their families (some of whom remain in China) subject to harassment by Chinese security forces in places as far flung as Istanbul and Washington, D.C. BuzzFeed News and The Globe and Mail have profiled a number of Uyghur Chinese in exile and the oppressive conditions they and their families face, including high levels of distrust and fear of advocacy.

Read

Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again” (BuzzFeed News | July 2018)

How China is targeting its Uyghur ethnic minority abroad” (The Globe and Mail | October 2017)

Additional

‘It is about Xi as the leader of the world’: Former detainees recount abuse in Chinese re-education centres” (The Globe and Mail | July 2018)

One in 10 Uyghur Residents of Xinjiang Township Jailed or Detained in ‘Re-Education Camp’” (Radio Free Asia | June 2018)

Connect

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Hungary News | Asylum-Seekers, Undocumented Migrants & Advocates

Hungary passes laws criminalizing support of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants
  • The Hungarian parliament passed legislation criminalizing the “organization of illegal immigration,” prohibiting individuals and organizations from providing aid to undocumented immigrants including support in asylum petitioning.
  • Framed as retaliation against the pro-immigrant efforts of billionaire Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, the laws could subject those found guilty of providing support to asylum-seekers to imprisonment for up to a year.
  • The passage comes amidst a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, spearheaded by recently reelected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Read

Hungary passes anti-immigrant ‘Stop Soros’ laws” (The Guardian | June 2018)

Hungary to criminalise migrant helpers in crackdown” (BBC News | June 2018)

Hungary aims to criminalize aiding illegal migration in ‘Stop Soros’ bill” (Reuters | May 2018)

U.S. News | Migrants & Asylum-Seekers

Upwards of 4,000 children taken from families as immigration crackdown continues in U.S.
  • The implementation of a “zero-tolerance” policy for migrants and asylum-seekers seeking haven in the U.S. has led to nearly 4,000 children being separated from their families since October 2016, including 2,000 in less than a two-month period.
  • The separations have resulted from the criminal referral and subsequent pretrial detention of all adults crossing the border without authorization, a misdemeanor.
  • Although the Trump administration claims families seeking asylum at ports of entry are not included, several reports (including a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union) have indicated asylum-seekers have been separated or deterred from entering as well.
Read

DHS: 2,000 children separated from parents at border” (CNN | June 2018)

U.S. govt says nearly 2,000 child separations at Mexico border in under two months” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation | June 2018)

The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained” (Vox | June 2018)

 

U.S. News | Asylum-Seekers

U.S. government loses nearly 1,500 children as administration directs separation of families at border
  • Under direction from the Trump Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers have begun separating children as young as 18 months old from their parents and shipping them to detention facilities at times more than a thousand miles from where their parents are held.
  • The separation of children from their families effectively produces “unaccompanied minors,” who are then referred to the Office of Refugee Settlement (ORS) for placement.
  • The head of the ORS reported to Congress that the office had lost track of some 1,475 children who had been placed in its charge.
Read

Testimony of Steven Wagner on the Care and Placement of Unaccompanied Alien Children” (Office of Legislative Affairs and Budget | April 2018)

Federal Agencies Lost Track of Nearly 1,500 Migrant Children Placed With Sponsors” (The New York Times | April 2018)

What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like” (VICE News | May 2018)

Italy News | Black African Migrants

Far-right extremist injures six in racist shooting rampage in central Italy
  • The shooter reportedly drove around the city of Macerata for two hours shooting at black people, leaving six nationals of Nigeria, Ghana, the Gambia, and Mali injured (one seriously) in his wake.
  • Now booked on charges of attempted murder with the aggravating circumstance of racial hatred, the man had collected Nazi and other white-supremacist paraphernalia and had ties to a number of neo-fascist political parties.
  • The incident came amid increased tensions following the arrest of a Nigerian migrant in connection with the suspected homicide and dismemberment of an Italian teenager.
Read

Italian man held after driving through city shooting at black people” (Reuters | February 2018)

Italy shooting: Mein Kampf found in home of suspect” (The Associated Pressvia The Guardian | February 2018)

Macerata gunman had extreme right-wing background” (Euronews | February 2018)

Citations | LGBTQ+ Asylum-seekers

Citations
Asylum Claims and the Adjudication of Sexual Identity

In immigration systems around the world, credibility stands as the primary burden of proof and identity indicator for sexual and gender minorities fleeing persecution in their countries of origin. In determining who assesses credibility and how, however, precision has long eluded researchers, lawmakers, and adjudicators as fluidity and multiplicity in identity has come to define sexual- and gender-minority communities. The reliance on expert assessments and interviewer perceptions in legal and administrative decisions has proven problematic from both a scientific and human rights perspective. Testing often involves a combination of physiological and psychological measurement, from arousal responses to personality assessments, and interviews have been based on a range of cultural biases and unrealistic expectations.

Immigration laws across nations have variously granted or denied asylum based on behavior, identity, affiliation, or perception, and the lack of standardization has created a large degree of uncertainty for LGBT individuals fleeing unsafe conditions in their countries of origin. This Citations installment outlines the patchwork of domestic and international laws and guidelines framing the consideration of asylum claims by sexual and gender minorities in popular destination countries, region- and country-specific legal and administrative processes, and recent trends in the assessment of sexual and gender identity and asylum claims.


Global

The U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention) established guidelines determining the status of an individual as a refugee, defined as “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” The “membership of a particular social group” item has become the cornerstone of the expansion of asylum rights to LGBT individuals fleeing persecution, and international organizations have undertaken efforts to outline frameworks for ascertaining such membership.

European Union

In a victory for LGBT asylum-seekers in Europe, the E.U. Court of Justice recently ruled against Hungarian immigration officials’ decision to deny a gay Nigerian’s asylum claim as the result of a sexuality assessment test. In its ruling, the ECJ determined that while such psychological assessments are not prohibited, the results cannot factor into asylum decisions when testing methodology contravenes any of the human rights outlined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The decision comes as the culmination of a series of rulings related to the assessment of sexual identity in asylum decisions in member states amid historic levels of trans-Mediterranean migration.

United States

Since 1994, the U.S. has recognized sexual identity as grounds for granting asylum in the country. The political and legal recognition of LGBT asylum-seekers has co-evolved with that of LGBT citizens, with asylum decision-making processes having liberalized alongside greater scientific research into sexual orientation and expanding legal rights and protections for LGBT citizens. Today, LGBT asylum-seekers submit an application that includes documentation corroborating both individual circumstances as well as the conditions LGBT individuals face in their country of origin and are then selected to participate in an interview with the Department of Homeland Security. With no government data kept regarding the outcome of claims based on sexual orientation, however, transparency and accountability have emerged as central issues for advocates and watchdogs seeking to promote security and rigor in adjudication.

Australia

While Australia has recognized sexual orientation as part of the 1951 Convention’s designation of “membership of a particular social group,” the country has faced significant criticism for its asylum process for LGBT petitioners, which has included low approval rates and offshore detention that has further imperiled asylum-seekers. When asylum-seekers have gone before the Refugee and Migration Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in a final attempt to secure asylum, they have faced arbitrary, invasive, stereotypical, and culturally ignorant lines of questioning and expectations by interviewers and offered private photos and texts by asylum-seekers in desperation to “confirm” their sexual identity.

Canada

As immigration and refugee acceptance have become political hot topics in Europe, the U.S., and Australia, Canada has sought to position itself as a beacon of acceptance for individuals fleeing to the Global North to escape war or persecution. LGBT individuals petitioning for asylum enjoy higher-than-average approval rates in the country, but advocates have noted that Canada’s adjudication process has historically suffered from the same cultural biases and pitfalls in credibility assessment as other popular destination countries. Tight claim deadlines and multiple points of inquiry introduce further precarity in the process, but advocates are hopeful that a new set of guidelines issued in 2017 will improve the adjudication process. 

South Africa

A popular destination for LGBT Africans seeking refuge outside of their countries of origin, South Africa positioned itself as an early global leader in the establishment of LGBT legal rights and protections. Though the most progressive African nation in this respect, the country has nevertheless been criticized for the legal process through which it puts LGBT asylum-seekers, including reliance on temporary permits to defer long-term status provision and intimidation and credibility issues in the interview process.

 

Israel News | African Asylum-seekers

Israel announces deportation plan for tens of thousands of African asylum-seekers
  • Some 40,000 African asylum-seekers—many activists and other dissidents from Sudan and Eritrea—are facing expulsion or imprisonment in Israel, with fewer than 1% of applicants having been granted refugee status.
  • The Israeli government announced that asylum-seekers will have 90 days to accept $3,500 and a plane ticket to a classified third country (speculated to be Rwanda or Uganda) or face incarceration.
  • In response, a network of more than a hundred rabbis called the Anne Frank Home Sanctuary Movement has formed and pledged to protect asylum-seekers from deportation.
Read

Israel to tell African migrants: leave or face indefinite imprisonment” (The Guardian | January 2018)

Mass expulsion under way as Israel begins deporting 40,000 Africans” (Middle East Eye | January 2018)

Inspired by Anne Frank, Rabbis in Israel Plan to Hide African Asylum Seekers Facing Deportation” (Haaretz | January 2018)

Read More

Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Get Rid of African Refugees” (Foreign Policy | June 2017)

Connect

The Hotline for Refugees and Migrants

Global Feature | Atheists & Secularists

The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists


Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)

With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.

Read

The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)

Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)

Connect

Secular Rescue

Atheist Asylum Program

 

U.S. News | Somali Immigrants

Deported Somali immigrants file suit against U.S. for inhumane conditions during removal flight
  • The 92 deported individuals were reportedly subjected to physical and psychological abuse during a 48-hour trip intended for Mogadishu, including physical shackling, medication withholding, and lack of restroom access.
  • After landing in Dakar, Senegal, the flight was held for nearly 24 hours before eventually returning to the U.S., with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials denying incident.
  • The lawsuit seeks to reopen their deportation cases and ensure the future treatment and security of the plaintiffs, with some having lived in the U.S. for decades and fearing retribution by the militant group al-Shabaab given the publicity surrounding the flight.
Read

Somalis were shackled for nearly 48 hours on failed US deportation flight” (The Guardian | December 2017)

Somalis faced ‘inhumane’ abuse on US deportation flight” (Al Jazeera | December 2017)

Somalis faced ‘slave ship conditions’ on failed deportation flight” (Public Radio Internationalvia USA Today | December 2017)