June 29, 2017 NEW YORK – The State Department today said that the Trump administration may not recognize refugee resettlement agencies as having “bona fide relationship” for purposes of its refugee ban implementation. The decision by the administration means tens of thousands of refugees from countries all over the world who were in the process of being resettled in the United States may not be able to come this fiscal year. Amnesty International USA’s senior director of campaigns Naureen Shah issued the following statement: “This policy is effectively a ban on many refugees and will have devastating effects for people in the process of being resettled. It will jeopardize the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people including people and families fleeing war, violence and torture.
Rich countries are failing in their obligation to help Uganda support thousands of refugees fleeing death, rape and other human rights violations in South Sudan, said Amnesty International in a damning report launched ahead of a high level donor summit in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
More than 900,000 refugees have fled the brutal conflict in South Sudan and sought safety in Uganda, but funding shortfalls mean that many of them are not receiving basic services such as food, water and shelter. At least 86% of them are women and children.
“Uganda has remained welcoming and generous at a time when many countries are closing their borders on refugees, but it is under incredible strain as funds dry up and thousands continue to cross from South Sudan every day,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, Horn and Great Lakes.
“Donors, including the US, EU countries, Canada, China and Japan, must step up support for Uganda by ensuring timely funding for refugees’ immediate and long-term needs. These refugees must not become the latest victims of a collective and shameful failure of international cooperation.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2017
NEW YORK – Amnesty International USA is launching a global campaign today to urge Ivanka Trump to intervene on behalf of the women and children held at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania. Amnesty has sent a letter to Trump on June 7 urging her to visit Berks. Currently, there are as many as 60 infants, toddlers, children, fathers and mothers jailed at Berks, one of three such family detention centers, which are akin to jails, in the United States. Some have been held for more than 600 days.
“Berks is a clear symbol of the cruelty of this country’s immigration system. The women and children held at Berks fled horrific violence in their home countries, only to be put behind bars in the United States,” said Margaret Huang, executive director at Amnesty International USA. “Parents are facing an impossible choice: stay and risk violence or flee to the U.S. and risk tearing their family apart or raising a family in jail. We are asking Ms. Trump to witness, firsthand, what these families are experiencing as they seek refuge in this country.”
Amnesty’s letter reads, in part:
By: Marium Yousuf
On a beautiful, crisp sunny day last weekend, Amnesty International, Sojurn House, Culture Link and the Centre for Victims of Torture held an event in Toronto to mark Canada’s Refugee Rights Day (April 4). The tone was deliberately celebratory, with performances from the Nai Syrian Kids Choir, poet Ama Luna and poet/singer, song-writer Ruth Mathiang that left the audience captivated all afternoon.
The Nai Syrian Kids Choir immediately captured everyone’s attention as they streamed through the room in their yellow uniforms. Ranging between the ages from 6-12, it was hard to imagine that these smiling young faces had experienced war and loss, having recently resettled in Canada as Syrian refugees. The Choir is an initiative of Culture Link and serves as a space for children to deal with their loss, grief and hope through music, while their parents practice conversational English with ESL teachers. Their performances did not disappoint: singing songs in Arabic, French and English, while their beaming parents cheered them on.
By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee Coordinator Amnesty International
“It was like Donald Trump had awakened a dormant volcano that was ready to erupt at any time; and I didn’t want to be a part of it”
April 4 is Refugee Rights Day in Canada. This is the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1985 Singh decision, which recognized that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects refugees' fundamental rights. The Court decided that refugee claimants are included in the Charter sentence: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.’
This means that, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law, refugees who enter Canada from the United States and make a refugee claim are entitled to an oral hearing.
After a year trapped in Greece, this week Alan, Gyan and the rest of the family have finally travelled to Germany. We know they arrived safely and that they are provisionally staying in a camp. We will keep you updated.
Alan and Gyan are Kurdish refugees from Syria. They both suffer from muscular dystrophy and fled their home in Syria in wheelchairs; escaping bombs and the Islamic State. They arrived in Greece in March 2016 with their mother, Amsha and two siblings, Ivan and Shilan. Their father and another sister are already in Germany.
Their arduous journey in search of safety had taken them and their family across four borders. They were shot at on three occasions when they were trying to cross into Turkey and were strapped to the side of a horse in order to cross the mountainous border between Iraq and Turkey.
Content Warning: This post includes descriptions of violence.
By Catherine Bruce, Director, Refugee Law Office Toronto
In September 2016, I spent two weeks working with a group of international volunteers and interpreters in a refugee camp in Greece. This is my account of my experiences.
The trauma invaded my dreams
Perhaps I should start by saying that after my first day working in the camps, I dreamed that I saw an airplane circle around and around in the sky.
In my dream I was lying on the beach. And I was thinking to myself in my dream: why is that plane circling and what is the pilot in that plane watching? And then I saw that the pilot was watching a helicopter and the helicopter was coming to the ground. And as it landed, people jumped out of it, and suddenly on the ground next to me everyone was screaming and shouting, “run, they are shooting”. And I got up and ran, and then I woke up.
By Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research
There was a time when Australia led the way on refugee protection.
Following World War II, Australia came second only to the United States on resettling European refugees. Its signature brought the Refugee Convention into force a few years later. And, in the 1970s, it resettled the third highest number of Indochinese refugees following the wars there.
Sadly those days are a distant memory. After earning global notoriety for the cruelty it continues to inflict on refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru and Manus Island, the Australian government has shown it is capable of worse.
Not only is the government refusing to shut down its centres on the two Pacific islands, it is now planning to introduce a law to permanently ban the people trapped there from getting a visa to Australia.
By Anna Shea: Amnesty International Researcher/Advisor on Refugee and Migrant Rights
In an out-of-the way, dingy watering hole, a young woman I’ll call Jane told me: “I picked this place because it was very noisy, so there’d be less chance of being monitored.”
Up until that point, we had only communicated by encrypted messages, so that the local authorities wouldn’t know about our meeting. I was in a country that had recently enacted legislation allowing it to prosecute and imprison people who disclosed information about offshore government operations. By meeting with me, Jane was demonstrating real courage. Many other people were too scared to meet with me—or even speak on the phone. At the bar, Jane spoke for hours about the human rights abuses she had witnessed. At several points, she broke down in tears.
As a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International, I’m used to making elaborate arrangements to ensure the safety and anonymity of the people I interview in authoritarian countries. I’m also accustomed to hearing traumatic stories of abuse.
By Hanna Gros
Canada prides itself as a place where immigrants and refugees are welcome -- a safe haven strengthened by its diversity, where multiculturalism flourishes. Canada also prides itself as a defender of human rights at home and abroad. Canadians played an important role in drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms has served as a model for human rights instruments worldwide.
But in recent years Canada has come under harsh criticism from the United Nations and civil society organizations for its immigration detention regime, which deprives children of their fundamental human rights. Under current law and administrative procedures, children affected by the immigration detention regime enter a Kafkaesque world of prison conditions, uncertain lengths of detention, and separation from their parents, that robs them of the opportunity to develop normally.
By Gloria Nafziger: Refugee and Migrant Rights Coodinator
On August 21, as Silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa finished a marathon at the Rio Olympics, he crossed his arms above his head in a gesture of solidarity with the Oromo people in Ethiopia. He is reported as saying, “The Ethiopian government is killing my people so I stand with all protests anywhere as Oromo is my tribe. My relatives are in prison and if they talk about democratic rights they are killed.”
He did not return to Ethiopia, and is reported to be seeking asylum in either Brazil or the United States.
Feyisa Lilesa is right to be concerned about human rights violations targeting the Oromo in Ethiopia.
Early in August of this year, at least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured when Ethiopian security forces fired live bullets at peaceful protesters across Oromia region and in parts of Amhara. A disproportionate violent police response to protests has resulted in over 500 protestors’ deaths recorded in Oromia region since November 2015 and over 100 others in the Amhara and Oromia region in the month of August.
“You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet.
On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family. The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond. Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety. His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey. Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.
Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives. Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.