Friday, May 16, 2014

Safe Havens? - No chance

Another tragedy that has seen more political refugees drown at sea as they seek the safety of Europe.

“Why do people embark on those boats? Because there are no legal ways to get to Europe. The immediate way to help people, especially people from Syria, would be to engage in resettlement,” she told The Independent. “Pathetically few countries take resettled refugees.”

Ms Malmstrom said 14 European countries have so far refused to resettle any Syrians refugees, giving excuses ranging from financial hardship to pressure from far-right parties, whose support has surged in reaction to unemployment, austerity and the euro crisis. Rehousing a few hundred refugees barely makes a dent when 2.7 million have fled the civil war, Ms Malmstrom said it is was “better than zero”.

Meanwhile Australia continues its policy of breaching international conventions as it outsources detention centres and refugee resettlement to some of the world's poorest and most corrupt countries.  Australia has made it clear that desperation or need alone "is not a ticket to a first-class economy", as Immigration Minister Morrison put it last month.

The Cambodian government let slip that it had been approached by Australia to house refugees, Australian authorities have remained silent on the cost, scope, and timeline - with even members of the government saying they have yet to receive any information. The Australian Embassy in Cambodia referred questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs - which referred questions back to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection which declined to answer questions.

Cambodia announced it had agreed "in principle" to Australia's request - which came during a February meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries and it is  it has been rumoured that Australia will pay Cambodia $40m to house anywhere from 100 to 1,200 refugees.  Cambodia has already been roundly criticised for its human rights record. Cambodia's refugee dealings have come under fire in the past. In 2009, 20 Uighur asylum seekers were shipped back to almost certain imprisonment or death; two days later, China awarded Cambodia with $1.2bn in aid. Previously, Motagnards fleeing persecution in Vietnam have also been sent back. Currently, there are fewer than 70 refugees in Cambodia and only 18 asylum seekers, according to UNHCR statistics. Processing can take years, and in an extremely poor country, social services are nil. There are no translators, no legal aid, no housing, no schooling, no job placement - let alone integration assistance - provided by the government to refugees.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Since November last year, Bulgaria has virtually closed its borders to an inflow of Syrian asylum seekers and other migrants trying to enter the country from Turkey, while EU institutions concerned appear to have acquiesced to this. Bulgaria implemented a plan in autumn last year “to manage the crisis resulting from the enhanced migratory pressure.” Its main elements included building a 33 kilometre fence on the border with Turkey and increasing by 1,500 units the border police contingents patrolling that border. It seems to have paid off: just over 100 asylum seekers managed to enter Bulgaria each month in the first part of this year. Documents show, as part of implementation of the Bulgarian plan, people crossing the border from Turkey into Bulgaria were being summarily pushed back into Turkey, without being given a chance to lodge asylum applications and sometimes suffering abuse from border guards. According to rights groups, this strategy by the Bulgarian government breaches the non-refoulement principle (not returning or expelling people to places where their lives and freedoms could be threatened) included in the 1951 Refugee Convention that Bulgaria has ratified, as well as in EU legislation that Bulgaria is bound to implement (the EU’s Return Directive, the Schengen Border Code and the EU Charter of Fundamental Human Rights).