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COVID-19: Hundreds of asylum seekers in detention begin hunger strike

Asylum seekers’ room in the Villawood detention center in Sydney. Source: Supplied
Asylum seekers in immigration detention centres in Sydney and Brisbane have begun a hunger strike to protest their continued confinement amid fears of the spread of COVID-19.
BY IMAN RIMAN, ALI BAHNASAWY
More than 200 detainees in Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre are taking part in the strike, and at least one from the Brisbane detention centre transit accommodation facility.
Villawood detainee Issa Andrews told SBS Arabic24 that the strike came as a “last resort” after more than 250 detainees signed a letter which was sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In it, they express fear of being infected by the virus and complain about the lack of space in detention.
Mr Andrews said the protesters had a number of demands, including that guards and workers wear greater protective clothes to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus, as well as greater access for detainees to medical care if needed.
He said other demands included that new detainees get tested for the virus upon arrival, and also a request for the quicker processing of immigration applications.
“We communicated with the Australian Border Force for weeks, and they are not responding to us at all,” the 44-year-old Jordanian said.
“We hope the hunger strike will achieve what we are asking for.”
Video: Villawood detainees announce the hunger strike on Monday.
At the Brisbane facility, Sam Ibrahim, 54, began a hunger strike three days ago.
He’s calling for inmates in the centre to be released into community detention.
“There is a high risk of catching coronavirus in the prison since all employees enter without taking any protective measures,” he said.
Of the estimated 1400 people held in detention in Australia, many are asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their applications to remain in the county.
Furthermore, among those detained are former inmates of Australia’s offshore centres on Manus Island and Nauru, who were transferred to Australia to receive medical treatment as part of the Medevac law.
In late March, asylum seekers in three detention centres – Villawood, Yongah Hill and a Mantra Hotel – attempted to draw attention to what they say is a lack of protection and preparation against the coronavirus outbreak.
Detainees being held at the Kangaroo Point Hotel in Brisbane demonstrated over the weekend calling for their release after it was confirmed that a guard employed by contractor Serco tested positive last month.
A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Arabic24 “no immigration detention detainees have tested positive to COVID-19”.
“A service provider staff member tested positive last month in Brisbane but had not worked in a detention facility for almost two weeks before testing positive.
“All appropriate contact tracing and testing has been done and there have been no further positive cases related to that individual.”
The spokesperson added that “infection control plans are in place and plans to manage suspected cases of COVID-19 have been developed and tested”.
“Detainees displaying any COVID-19 symptoms may be quarantined and tested in line with advice from health officials and in accordance with the broader Commonwealth response.
“A range of measures have been introduced, and are being continually reviewed, to keep detainees and staff informed of preventive measures and personal hygiene standards.”
The spokesperson confirmed that in addition to regular daily cleaning, increased cleaning of communal areas, high traffic areas and common touchpoints is occurring.
“The ABF, and service providers, remain focussed on the health and safety of all detainees and staff during this time. We continue to follow the advice of the Department of Health and other health officials.”
SOURCE: sbs.com

READ  Over 140 migrants perish in deadliest shipwreck of the year

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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  African Migration To Europe: Facts Vs. Fiction

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

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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  Over 140 migrants perish in deadliest shipwreck of the year

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  Tears from prison: 10 Nigerian girls trafficked to Lebanon cry help

“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  Illegal border crossings at Europe’s external borders drop

 

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