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.
Global Protests: #BlackLivesMatter / Anti–Police Violence
Nearly four years ago, Outlas published a catalog of media coverage focused on global protests connected to the burgeoning #BlackLivesMatter movement. Today, the murder of Black American George Floyd by the police has re-galvanized demonstrations across the world’s continents, promoting diverse forms of solidarity across movements focused on affirming Black lives, eliminating racism, and ending police violence.
Floyd’s death is one among many that have pushed people into the streets of cities from Honolulu to East Jerusalem, drawing together accounts of the criminalization of people of color and other minority groups around the world. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, protesters around the world have gathered to interconnect their causes, demonstrating the resilience of a global anti-racism and anti–police brutality movement despite the lull in media coverage in recent years. This collection has gathered more than 150 articles, statements, and multimedia stories documenting the recent surge in protests and their interconnection.
A number of media outlets have mapped the development of demonstrations around the world and compiled media and accounts from protests, summarizing the connections between the diverse sites and expressions of solidarity journalists have uncovered.
The U.S. has experienced more than a week of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. His death was the latest in a series of events that had drawn attention to ongoing violence and threats of violence faced by Black people in public space across the U.S., from racist vigilantism in Georgia to a dead-of-night police break-in and murder in New York. Protesters across all 50 states mobilized to contest police violence, prompting spectacular forms of police repression—including tear-gassing, beatings, tasing, and shootings—captured on video and circulated across social media platforms.
Canada has experienced its own widespread condemnation of police violence in the U.S., organizing massive demonstrations from Vancouver to Halifax in honor of the memory of George Floyd. Participants have also drawn attention to recent fatal incidents involving police—including the recent death of Afro-Indigenous woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet—and the disproportionate effects of police violence experienced by Black and Indigenous Canadians and other Canadians of color.
Afro-Latinx, Afro-Caribbean, and allied Latin American communities have also expressed solidarity with Black Americans, highlighting both the ongoing forms of marginalization experienced by Afro-descendant people in Central American countries and the complex relationships to racism across the Caribbean. Brazil, in particular, has been grappling with an entrenched police brutality problem that overwhelmingly threatens Afro-Brazilians—particularly those living in poor communities. The recent killing of 14-year-old João Pedro has reignited protests, with demonstrators drawing explicit connections to anti-Black police violence in the U.S.
Massive protests across Europe have centered not only the injustice of George Floyd’s death, but also ongoing forms of racism across the continent. In France, George’s death scratched at the wound of the 2016 murder of Adama Traoré in a suburb of Paris. In the UK, protest participants were quick to shut down any attempt to distance the UK from U.S.-style racism, highlighting ongoing discrimination experienced by Black communities in the country. Whether in the commemoration of colonial leaders responsible for the death of millions of Africans or stubborn denials of institutional racism, contemporary manifestations of racism drew the ire of demonstrators of all backgrounds.
Solidarity with protesters in the U.S. found diverse expression across Africa and the Middle East, from a mural in the rubble of an obliterated Syrian building to an open letter signed by dozens of African writers demanding accountability and pressuring African governments to do more. African political leaders, for their part, took the rare step of condemning the situation in the U.S.. But activists across the region also worked to draw attention to local police brutality problems as well, including the killing of autistic Palestinian Iyad Halak by Israeli border security and high levels of violence against women (both by police and by others not held to account by police) in Nigeria.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a range of responses to unrest in the U.S. has emerged. In a tit-for-tat with the U.S. government, Chinese officials have used the situation to draw attention to human rights violations in the U.S. as the U.S. has condemned China for its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong. Elsewhere, police brutality has been a longstanding issue with respect to the treatment of indigenous communities. Thousands of protesters across Australia and New Zealand expressed solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement while also integrating the long history of anti-Indigenous violence into their calls for change. Similarly, the outbreak of protests in U.S. and the resurgence of global anti-racism consciousness provided an opportunity for activists and members of the Papuan diaspora to highlight the ongoing discrimination and violence experienced by indigenous Papuans at the hands of the Indonesian government.
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.
French hospital dismisses Egyptian trainee doctor from program for beard
The administrative court of appeals ruled in favor of the hospital after the surgery trainee sued as the result of termination by hospital managers at a Saint-Denis hospital for failing to trim his beard.
The trainee’s lawyer argued that the termination was discriminatory as a similarly long beard worn by someone who wasn’t Egyptian and named “Mohamed” would likely not have been asked to prove it was not of religious orientation.
French law dictates that religious expression is forbidden in state institutions like public hospitals, including personal symbolic displays that could be construed as religiously motivated.
Discussions of systemic racism in France provoke backlash
Recent rows in French government and civil society have pitted anti-racism activists against government officials over discussions of the state and other political institutions’ role in propagating racial inequality.
Journalist Rokhaya Diallo was removed from France’s national digital council only a week after her appointment following a campaign by right-wing activists and officials that targeted her for, among other things, her discussions of “institutional racism.”
The same use of the term by the teachers union SUD-Education 93 led Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer to indicate he will pursue complaints against the organization as well as for having hosted workshops reserved for people of color.
Paris mayor backtracks after threatening to ban Afro-feminist festival
Mayor Anne Hidalgo originally threatened to prohibit the Nyansapo Festival, alert police, and sue for discrimination, repeating far-right accusations that the event was “prohibited to white people” despite no such language appearing in the organizers’ materials.
Festival organizers, part of the Mwasi Collective, planned to reserve certain events for black women, others for black people of all genders, others for women of color in general, and others still for the general populace in an attempt to provide open discussion spaces free of judgment for minority participants.
The mayor eventually backtracked, although she and right-wing activists claimed victory for having “established a solution” as a rest of Hidalgo’s “firm intervention.”
Shelterless migrants arrive on streets of Paris, leading to denunciation by French president
More than 6,000 migrants and refugees seeking to enter the U.K. from France have been funneled into shelters and streets around France following the forced evacuation of the “Jungle” camp in Calais.
Paris security officials estimate an increase in the number of unsheltered asylum-seekers from around 1,500 to 2,000-2,500 in just a few days.
Hundreds of tents and cardboard flooring mark attempts by migrants to shelter themselves from the cold as Paris’s shelter supply—fewer than 1,000 beds—has been far outstripped by demand in the French capital.
France and U.K. resettle asylum-seekers in preparation for dismantlement of Calais camp
The government—with the help of more than 10,000 refugee aid agencies—has begun moving an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 asylum-seekers out of the Calais camp (known as the “Jungle”) and into “reception centers” throughout the country.
The UK has committed to accepting unaccompanied children across the border, although local agencies have expressed concern about a lack of planning to facilitate the transfer process.
The asylum-seekers are expected to spend an average of two months in the centers under the supervision of social workers before being again relocated while their asylum applications are processed, though some report having languished in limbo for longer.
French court overturns ban on burkinis in Villeneuve-Loubet
The State Council, the highest administrative court in the country, ruled the ban on the religiously inspired bathing suit constituted a violation of civil liberties, including freedom of movement and religious freedom.
The decision opens the door to challenges to similar bans in at least 30 other municipalities.
The bans have roiled political tensions in the aftermath of IS-coordinated and -inspired attacks in the country, with government officials and civil liberties advocates clashing over the limits of the national security apparatus.
Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet mayors ban burkinis on public beaches
Cannes Mayor David Lisnard said the hooded full-body swimsuits “create risks of disrupting public order,” with another municipal official elaborating that such garments display “allegiance to terrorist movements.”
The measure falls in line with the French government’s antagonism of public displays of religious affiliation, which have discriminated against observant Muslims—particularly women—in the country.
Following in Cannes’ footsteps, Mayor Lionnel Luca banned burkinis in the coastal town of Villeneuve-Loubet, stating such garments aren’t “hygienic” or in line with the ideological principle of laïcité, or enforced public secularism.
In the wake of the attack that left more than 80 dead during Bastille Day festivities in Nice, French Muslims have expressed fears of scapegoating for the violent crime and others that have erupted over the last two years in France. An attack that left a Catholic priest dead in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray further inflamed tensions in the country as the nation responded to its fifth terrorist attack in 2016. Fearing the ongoing state of emergency and retaliatory attacks against their communities, many French Muslims, who have been among the victims of these attacks, have made large public condemnations of the attackers and expressed solidarity with non-Muslim French neighbors and the counterterrorism efforts. Observers and commentators have offered analysis on what the recent attacks mean for Muslim relations in France and how the country can move forward as the country battles inequality at home and threats from abroad.
Massive protests against French labor reform bring about violence, arrests, strikes
Demonstrations have been ongoing since March, when labor and student unions organized against government proposals perceived as decreasing job security and negotiating power for workers.
More than 1,000 have been arrested during clashes with police in cities like Paris and Nantes that have seen more than 300 officers injured as protesters have alleged instances of police brutality, with police unions organizing counter-protests against anti-police violence.
After President François Hollande’s government survived a no-confidence vote, union leaders planned rolling strikes and continuing demonstrations across the country.
France’s leading political women, journalists, and activists confront sexism in French politics
Two op-eds appeared over the last week as protests have grown confronting what many women in French politics—politicians, reporters, and petitioners alike—report is a culture of silence and impunity towards sexual harassment.
Appearing in the Journal du Dimanche and Libération, the op-eds called for women who have experienced sexual harassment to speak out and register formal complaints and for an expansion of investigative capacity to ensure the behavior does not go unpunished.
The effort comes as a number of scandals have engulfed male politicians, including the most recent leading to the resignation of Denis Baupin, vice president of the National Assembly, following multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
“Ce n’est pas aux femmes à s’adapter à ces milieux, ce sont les comportements de certains hommes qui doivent changer.”
Translation: “It’s not on women to adapt to these environments; it’s the conduct of certain men that must change.”