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Boris Johnson is shutting the door on child refugees

In the name of strengthening its negotiating position after Brexit, the British government is removing internationally recognized protections for unaccompanied children who were once welcomed in the U.K.

Children warm themselves around a fire.

Children warm themselves around a fire in the refugee camp of Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on Nov. 26, 2019. Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

It was May 2014 when 16-year-old Tedros fled Eritrea after becoming a military target for suspicion of smuggling. Giving his parents no notice of his departure, he slipped over the border into Ethiopia, and from there traversed Sudan, Libya, Italy, and France by himself until finally settling in Britain. Of the family of six he left behind, his youngest brother, Danni—both names are pseudonyms to protect their identities—would follow the same route four years later.

Now, after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government removed child refugee protections from the European Union withdrawal bill last month prior to Britain’s Jan. 31 departure from the EU, the brothers hope other young people like them will continue to have the same chance they did.

In the final stretch of his journey, Tedros recalled living on a river’s edge in Calais, France, among strangers, dependent on a charity that provided food each day. “There’s no protection there,” Tedros said of the camp, formerly referred to as the Jungle, where children and young adults were at risk of exploitation and trafficking. Both Tedros and Danni had stayed in the camp, though years apart, prior to forging a new home in Britain. “They are young … they are desperate to join family, they will take whatever chance they get,” Tedros said.

READ  63 Nepali, 21 Indians back home via IOM organised voluntary return

Danni, he said, was desperate. Tedros contacted the British Red Cross to help him reunite with his brother, who was nearly 13 when he left for the same arduous journey. From there, Safe Passage, an international organization that provides aid to unaccompanied children, reunited the brothers under the Dublin III Regulation, established by the EU in 2013 to transfer asylum claims to Britain and other member states, guaranteeing unaccompanied child refugees the right to reunification with family members.There are currently an estimated over 4,000 unaccompanied minors in Lesbos, Greece, and a few hundred in northern France.

The brothers’ story is not unique. Since 2010, Britain has granted protection to over 12,000 unaccompanied minors. There are currently an estimated 4,000 unaccompanied minors in Lesbos, Greece, and a few hundred in northern France, many living on the outskirts of formal camps. In both 2015 and 2016, over 1 million people applied for asylum in Europe—the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

After three years of political instability during which Britain sought to withdraw from the European Union, calls for sweeping immigration reform to wrest control over Britain’s borders dominated the national narrative. In the week leading up to Brexit, Johnson’s government introduced plans for a new points-based system, a new global talent visa, and the removal of protective measures for refugee children as part of the EU withdrawal bill—even as the House of Lords voted to restore the refugee protections after Brexit.

READ  EU turns its back on migrants in distress

Despite being enshrined in British and international law, and former Prime Minister Theresa May including the Dublin Regulation in her former Brexit bill, last week members of Parliament gave a final stamp of approval, voting 348 to 252 against the Lords’ amendment, ceasing to allow unaccompanied child refugees such as Danni to be reunited with family members in Britain after Brexit.

“It is bitterly disappointing,” said Alf Dubs, a Labour Party member of the House of Lords and an ardent defender of unaccompanied child refugees given his own experience being evacuated from Czechoslovakia as part of the Kindertransport—a British effort that welcomed 10,000 children over the course of nine months beginning in 1938. “What could be more humane than arguing for child refugees to be able to join relatives in this country?” Dubs wrote in an emailed statement.Britain’s Conservative Party has long been hostile toward migrants.

As members of Parliament declared that including the amendment in the EU withdrawal bill “weakened their negotiating flexibility,” making political pawns of young people who take life-risking measures to flee to safety, a Home Office minister assured the House of Lords that the amendment would be included in the immigration bill set to be introduced later this year during the 11-month transition period.

READ  IOM calls for end to pushbacks and violence against migrants at EU external borders

But the compassion extended to child refugees 80 years ago has all but faded. Even as the government says it “intends to seek a family reunion agreement with the EU for separated children,” it simultaneously withdrew all legal obligations to do so and refrained from making similar commitments for adults. In 2018, Britain transferred 209 migrants out of the country under the Dublin Regulation, while accepting 1,215—a paltry figure when compared to Germany’s acceptance of 7,580 migrants that year.

Britain’s Conservative Party has long been hostile toward migrants. But at a moment when Britain claims to be reclaiming its sovereignty and hails Brexit as a “moment of real national renewal,” the government is backtracking rather than making progress when it comes to protecting basic human rights and international obligations upheld by national and international humanitarian and refugee laws under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Source: FP

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  European states too focused on preventing refugees and migrants from reaching European shores, give little on the humanitarian, human rights aspects--Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  Hungary denying food to asylum seekers, say human rights groups

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  EU, IOM, UNHCR to support peaceful integration of refugees and migrants across Latin American, Caribbean communities affected by Covid-19

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  The stories of migrants risking everything for a better life

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Haven and hell: How the EU should protect refugees during the covid-19 crisis

 

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