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Detained migrants pepper-sprayed for protesting amid coronavirus fears

 

Guards at the Pearsall immigrant detention center pepper-sprayed about 60 immigrants who rioted Monday and demanded their release because they fear catching the coronavirus.

“These are people sitting, trapped, at the government’s expense without access to proper medical care, so they’re freaking out,” said Andrés Perez, an immigration lawyer for the San Antonio-based Perez & Malik firm. “Pepper spray is uncalled for.”

On Tuesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced its first case of a detained migrant testing positive for the coronavirus, at a facility in New Jersey.

ICE confirmed the riot at its South Texas Processing Center, about 55 miles southwest of San Antonio. In a statement, the agency said the detainees refused to return to their beds as ordered, so the guards initiated a “use of force” protocol by spraying them with pepper spray.

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ICE has a history of struggling to contain viral outbreaks, including measles, mumps, chickenpox and other contagious diseases, at detention facilities. The agency has also come under fire for insufficient medical care for its detainees. In this fiscal year, 10 migrants have died in ICE custody.

“If you’re in a situation where any medical care is hard to come by unless it’s severe — if you can’t really get normal medical care, and you knew you were being exposed to the virus, you’d be pretty freaked out,” Perez said.

He represents a detained Mexican immigrant named Jose Luis who has a U.S. citizen wife and two citizen children. Jose Luis has been calling Perez from the Pearsall detention facility to tell him about the rioting in the dorms next door to him — he said the chemical smell of the pepper spray was seeping into his living quarters.

Inmates started panicking in recent days after learning of the virus from TV news inside the facility and grew concerned not only over the screening of arriving migrants and contract workers, but also of a few migrants who were exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms.

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“Sunday night I heard from an inmate saying there’s been rioting inside,” said Crystal Vargas, an immigration attorney in San Antonio. “The detainees were upset because they’ve seen new people coming in without being screened for the virus. … They feel that they’re not being cared for.”

Vargas and Perez said their clients told them that ICE has now removed news access at their facility.

It’s unclear if ICE has easy access to testing, though attorneys and advocates say it’s unlikely.

“Imagine how scary that is for them,” Vargas said.

ICE moved nine detained migrants who instigated the protests to restricted housing and said they would be punished with “disciplinary charges due to security violations.”

“ICE remains committed to provide detainees a safe and orderly living environment, consistent with federal law and agency policy,” the agency said in its statement. “Conduct that disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the facility is sufficient to merit a transfer, restricted house and/or disciplinary charges.”

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Silvia Foster-Frau covers immigration news in the San Antonio, Bexar County and South Texas area.

Source: www.expressnews.com

 

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Edo goes after assets, properties of traffickers

 

The Edo State Government plans to go after the assets and properties of persons behind the wanton trafficking of indigenes of the state.

Governor Godwin Obaseki told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that proceeds from such properties would be ploughed into the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees.

Convicting the perpetrators and liquidating their assets, according to the governor, will serve as a deterrent to others who are still scouting for vulnerable Nigerians to traffic.

The governor, who was among guests at an event held at the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, however, said that the state had been hindered by delays in prosecution.

He said whereas government had recruited competent prosecutors, judicial processes, long adjournments and handling of victims’ testimonies were delaying government’s move to get convictions.

He said: “We have been able to intensify investigation and prosecution. But unfortunately, we have not been able to get any conviction.

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“Not because the prosecutors are not doing their utmost best, but because of the very nature of our legal system.

“We are working very hard with the high courts and NAPTIP to ensure that we get convictions.

“This can serve as a deterrent and punishment to the perpetrators, ensuring that they lose property and they lose assets with which we will now use in supporting the rehabilitation of victims.

“We will work with the judiciary to try and reduce the long adjournments and also the way they treat evidences from victims.

“Many of these victims are afraid of revealing information on their traffickers because of threats, but we are taking measures to provide safe houses for them and to provide cover for them until we are able to get prosecutions.”

The governor said that in the last four years under his watch, the number of persons trafficked from the state had reduced with rehabilitation and reintegration of over 6,500 returnees.

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He said that the focus for the government, working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is to re-humanise the victims and restore their dignity.

He added that the government also, in the process of rehabilitation, extracts information from the victims in a bid to understand the scope and nature of the network.

“We have rehabilitated over 6,500 victims of trafficking and irregular migration working with partners like the IOM.

“We have also used the opportunity to extract a lot of data to understand the nature and scope of all these trafficking network and crisis.

“With that information, we now understand what drives people and what have driven people to be trafficked, the areas they come from, their social situation and economic situations.

“That has helped us to put strategies in place to combat trafficking in Edo state.

“You would see from records available that the incidence of trafficking and irregular migration in Edo state over the last three years has dropped dramatically,” he said.

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JIFORM to African leaders: give youths social security to combat human trafficking

Ajibola JIFORM President

JIFORM President Ajibola

As the world marks the 2021 Day Against Trafficking In Persons on July 30, the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) has urged government in Africa to pay more attention to the social security schemes to stem the tide of human trafficking on the continent.

The global media body with over 300 journalists covering migration across the continents is hosting its 3rd global migration summit in partnership with the Altec Global Inc, Toronto Canada and others at the Niagara Falls in the country between November 29 to December 6, this year.

The President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi in a statement noted that “the major pull factor of human trafficking in Africa is poverty. The youths being trafficked need jobs, shelter, security and empowerment. Before we can ensure that the victims’ voices lead the way as the theme of the 2021 anti-human trafficking day implies, every government on the continent must not pretend on the relevance of improved socio- economic status for their citizens. Time to do needful is now by being honest and set aside undue semantics and theories.

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“We salute the doggedness of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) in Nigeria. The law establishing the agency should be reviewed to mandate the leadership of the agency to be totally professional and hierarchically structured as uniformed organization.

“NAPTIP needs more funding to recruit more hands and have its presence in the 774 local governments in Nigeria. The agency should be more strategically involved in the migration process of mostly young Nigerian ladies to be sure of their mission at the airports through collaboration with the Nigeria Immigration Service.

“Youth empowerment is very key to any preventive measure. Poverty, economic hardship and ignorance are the major weapons being used by the traffickers to sway victims in Africa especially Nigeria.

“Therefore, for the theme of this year’s anti-human trafficking day to be meaningful in Nigeria and Africa, JIFORM agrees totally that listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking are very important. Survivors are key actors in the fight against human trafficking.

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“But how well have we re-integrate many of them into the society? The victims play a crucial role in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.

“We cannot agree less with the United Nations that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced revictimization and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatization or received inadequate support. So, we must rise to implement the preventive measures and defend the victims.

“Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centered and effective approach in combating human trafficking. The media too must play its roles to carry out more campaigns to complement what is expected from the government” Ajibola added.

READ  JIFORM takes anti -trafficking campaign to higher institution

 

 

 

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IOM rushes to help refugees as deadly monsoon rains wreak havoc in Bangladesh

 

IOM, Rohingya volunteers and partners are working relentlessly to assist those affected by this week’s heavy rains in Bangladesh. Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al

Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today many of the more than 13,000 Rohingya refugees forced out of their camps by flooding in Cox’s Bazar which has killed at least six people were returning to their shelters to salvage belongings after a break in heavy rains, but the risk of more casualties remained high.

IOM said a total of more than 21,000 refugees had been affected and almost 4,000 shelters were destroyed. Food distribution centres, health facilities and water points have been damaged during three days of non-stop rain.

The six confirmed dead were killed in landslides or drowned in two IOM-managed camps and officials fear more flooding and landslides will prevent help reaching others among the total of 884,000 Rohingya refugees in the country.

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Access to the camps is hazardous as constant landslides block the main roads leading to the camps, and major routes used by refugees and humanitarian actors are under water.

Up to 2,000 people have been evacuated from landslide-prone areas in Teknaf upazila (sub-district).

“Heavy rainfall is expected during the next few days, and as such, challenges are likely to increase,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.

“Over the past few months, IOM has been assessing the risk of landslides, strengthening drainage networks, installing slope protection measures and upgrading key pathways. However, despite multiple disaster risk reduction measures being implemented, the camp congestion, excessive rain and poor soil quality, make it extremely difficult to cope with the elements,” Pereira said.

One hundred Rohingya Disaster Management Unit (DMU) volunteers trained in each camp have been working around the clock and focusing on helping the most vulnerable, including the elderly and pregnant women. IOM teams are assessing the damage and working closely with the different sectors to refer those affected for relevant assistance. Mobile medical teams have been deployed and the protection emergency response unit has been activated.

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Staff on the ground are clearing drainage pipes, repairing damage and distributing emergency shelter kits, core relief items, and aquatabs to prevent waterborne diseases.

IOM has sent in Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers to urgently assist host community members.

Families have taken refuge in six different multi-purpose cyclone shelters where they are currently being assisted with relief items, protection and medical support. Since 2019, IOM has been supporting the rehabilitation of MPCS so community members can take shelter in case of disasters.

The current flood emergency further exacerbates the massive humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. After almost four years since the latest influx of Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, IOM is relying on its partners to continue to support the response.

Additional support is needed to enable teams to continue to assist those affected, as well as the rest of the refugees currently residing in the camps. As always, IOM advocates for the continuation of a comprehensive humanitarian assistance for refugees across all camps.

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