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.N. food cuts lead to desperate food situation for refugees in Uganda
- The U.N. cut food rations by half in refugee camps, adding to an already critical famine driving displacement in the region.
- Refugees have taken to stealing crops and other food from locals to sustain themselves, and while no widespread violence has broken out yet, tensions have worn at the historically amicable relations between Ugandans and refugees.
- Nearly 1 million refugees have fled from South Sudan into neighboring Uganda, a significant fraction of the 3 million driven from the country since the outbreak of civil war in 2013.
“South Sudan refugees scrounge for scraps as rations slashed in Uganda camps” (Reuters | May 2017)
“Tensions rise as Uganda neighbourly refugee policy starts to feel the strain” (The Guardian | May 2017)
“Faced with slaughter they fled, now their safe haven teeters on the brink” (CNN | May 2017)
(Image Credit: via CNN)
Central and East African refugee crisis expands as hundreds of thousands of Burundians flee country
- Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) reported that almost 325,000 Burundians have fled political violence in their country following the president’s decision to seek a third term.
- Almost 250,000 have crossed into neighboring Tanzania, where poor conditions in underresourced, overcrowded camps—including the threat of malaria—have compounded refugees’ insecurity.
- Refugees report having suffered harassment, hunger, and poor prospects as the country has fractured following the disputed July 2015 reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
“Tanzania: Assistance Urgently Needed for Refugees” (Médecins Sans Frontières)
“Burundi exodus driving major African refugee crisis – charity” (The Thomson Reuters Foundation)
“Burundi will soon be one of ‘Africa’s biggest refugee crises’, says MSF” (International Business Times)
(Image Credit: Stephanie Aglietti/AFP/Getty Images, via International Business Times)
Police raid Uganda Pride event, arrest more than a dozen
- After attendees reported some 10 officers stormed the nightclub where the Mr. and Miss Pride pageant was being held in Kampala.
- Reports of those arrested ranged from 15 to 25, including prominent Ugandan LGBT activist Frank Mugisha, and some witnesses reported that police beat some attendees and undressed trans participants.
- The Pride march was postponed indefinitely after a senior government official threatened to bring a mob of opposition to protest the event.
“Ugandan police storm Gay Pride event, arrest at least 15 – activist” (Reuters)
“Ugandan Police Storm Gay Pride Event, Arrest More than a Dozen People” (NBC News)
“Uganda’s Pride Parade Has Been Cancelled” (BuzzFeed News)
Journalists in Uganda experience harassment as elections near
- Foreign and domestic journalists alike have reported harassment by Ugandan law enforcement and government officials while reporting on government-related stories.
- Last Saturday, a BBC journalist was allegedly detained and ordered to delete footage of a decaying government hospital, though she and her team were eventually released.
- Domestic journalists, particularly those in less urban areas, have been given official warning and had their licenses revoked over the last year, with the country set for elections on February 18 as President Yoweri Musaveni looks to extend his 30-year rule.
“Pressure mounts on Ugandan journalists as election nears: campaigner” (Reuters)
“Journalists without degrees barred from covering Parliament” (The Daily Monitor)
“Parliament Withdraws Office Space from Journalists” (Uganda Radio Network)
(Image Credit: The Daily Monitor)
Ugandan women’s rights groups set up anti-violence center ahead of elections
- Uganda’s Women’s Situation Room (WSR) has been established as a national monitoring and control center focused on protecting women against physical and psychological violence in tension-laden elections.
- With elections scheduled for February 18, the center will run from February 15 to 20 and is the latest in a line of WSRs mobilized in African countries since 2011.
- A central call center and in-field monitors and reporters (some 450 trained women and youth observers) form the main infrastructure of the system, which provides real-time support through coordination with law enforcement officials.
“Uganda rights groups set to monitor violence against women during elections” (Reuters)
“Women’s Situation Room: Africa’s unique approach to reducing electoral violence” (UN Africa Renewal)
“Kiggundu urges women to expose poll cheats” (The Daily Monitor)
(Image Credit: Joseph Mathenge/UN Africa Renewal)
Uganda holds fourth-annual Pride festival amidst pervasive anti-LGBT sentiment
- The invitation-only event includes film screenings, a cocktail party, and a low-profile parade, all held in secret locations disseminated through private networks.
- Last year’s pride coincided with the overturning of the law condemning gays discovered by law enforcement to life imprisonment.
- Despite the law’s overturning, Uganda continues to experience rampant anti-LGBT persecution, including media outings and violence at levels sufficient to warrant asylum in other countries.
Read the full story at the Guardian.
“The law is only part of it. … It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have the people on your side. The biggest challenge is to get that neighbour, that shop keeper, that person working in the salon to support you.”
(Image Credit: Iain Statham/SIPA/REX Shutterstock, via The Guardian)
Treatment program in Ecuador saves newborns of HIV-positive mothers from infection
- In Ecuador, a program driven by the government, Ecuador’s largest maternal hospital, the VIHDA foundation, and Duke University provides antiretroviral medication to newborns of HIV-positive mothers right after birth, significantly reducing their chances of contracting the virus.
- At least 1,000 babies have remained virus-free thanks to the program, when they would otherwise face a 45% chance of infection during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.
- When their status is known, infected mothers receive treatment throughout their pregnancy, but new programs around the world are pushing for ways to quickly reach women who don’t have prenatal appointments during the limited deterrence window.
“I don’t care if my career as a teacher was ruined by this illness. Today I am happy to see my children healthy and studying.”
Read the full story at the BBC.
(Image Credit: Marc-Grégor Photography, via the BBC)
Ugandan LGBT activist remains skeptical of the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against Uganda for its anti-homosexuality laws.
- The U.S. imposed sanctions ranging from financial divestment to visa restrictions a year ago.
- Celebrated activist Pepe Onziema shares that conditions on the ground have changed little: fear still permeates his daily life as the threat of violence follows him wherever he goes.
- Activists have filed suit against Scott Lively, the American pastor widely viewed as having contributed to the creation of Uganda’s anti-gay laws.
“Le gouvernement est devenu encore plus arrogant à notre égard…Cela signifie que le but recherché par les sanctions n’a pas été atteint, surtout pour la communauté LGBT. Cela a peut-être permis un meilleur dialogue entre les gouvernements, mais pour nous sur le terrain, nous en avons subi les conséquences.”
Translation: “The government has become more arrogant with regard to us…That means that the goal sought by sanctions hasn’t been achieved, above all for the LGBT community. That has perhaps allowed for a better dialogue between the [U.S. and Ugandan] governments, but for us on the ground, we have suffered the consequences of it.”
More on this story at RFI (in French).
(Image Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for GLAAD/AFP, via RFI)
Investigation finds corruption and exploitation throughout inter-country adoption process in Uganda. More from Reuters.