politics of immigration
Policy decisions of European Union member states and Libya have caused thousands of deaths along the central Mediterranean migrant route, according to a report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released May 26. The report, covering the period from January 2019 to December 2020, is based on interviews with migrants, government officials and relevant experts. At least 2,239 migrants died during this period while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. In 2021 alone, at least 632 have died along the route. According to the report, the deaths were not a "tragic anomaly," and could have been prevented. The lack of human rights protection for migrants during their journey is a consequence of the "concrete policy decisions and practices" of Libyan authorities, the EU and its member states, and other actors.
US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced May 23 an 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This humanitarian protection allows an estimated 100,000 individuals to apply to remain lawfully in the US. There are three statutory grounds for TPS designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Haiti faces political crisis and human rights abuses, security concerns, and the exacerbation of a "dire economic situation and lack of access to food, water, and healthcare" due to COVID-19, Mayorkas found.
Advocacy groups for migrants on the US southern border are protesting conditions at Texas' Fort Bliss, an Army base that the Biden administration has opened as an emergency holding facility. Nearly 5,000 minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian are currently being held in large tents at the base. This is about a quarter of the total number of minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a body of the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). As of late May, nearly 600 of these had spent 40 days or longer at the "megasite." Nearly 1,700 minors had been there for at least a month, according to government data. Unlike traditional HHS shelters for migrant children, Fort Bliss and other emergency "influx" sites are not licensed by state authorities to care for minors, and have lower standards of care.
Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on May 24 officiated over a ceremony in Torreón, Coahuila, where he issued a formal apology for the 1911 massacre of more than 300 members of the northern city's Chinese community at the hands of revolutionary troops. The president said the objective of the apology was to ensure "that this never, ever happens again." Also on hand was Coahuila Gov. Miguel Ángel Riquelme, who said racist ideas fueled "genocidal killings" during a "convulsive" period of Mexico's history. Also attending the ceremony was Chinese Ambassador Zhu Qingqiao. (Mexico News Daily)
In a May 3 statement, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Greek government to end its practice of illegal "pushbacks" of asylum seekers at both the land and the sea borders with Turkey. Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic said she had "received a number of consistent and credible allegations concerning acts of the Greek Coast Guard to prevent boats carrying migrants reaching the Greek islands." Following reports of verbal and physical abuse inflicted on migrants being pushed back to Turkey, she indicated that acts of the Greek state may be in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on prohibition of torture. (Jurist)
A rally in Tokyo on April 22 highlighted opposition to a proposed immigration law currently under consideration in Japan's National Diet, seen as a yet further tightening of the country's already highly selective refugee system. The rally, under the slogan "Open the Gate for All," was organized by opposition lawmakers and human rights organizations including Amnesty International Japan and the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, all seeking to halt the legislation currently under consideration in the Diet. The proposed reform would permit asylum-seekers to be deported after a third failed application, and introduce new procedures for forcible deportation of individuals who entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas. As the bill includes no cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations.
Former deputy prime minister and current leader of Italy's right-wing League party Matteo Salvini must stand trial for kidnapping, a Palermo judge ruled April 17. The charges concern an incident in August 2019 in which he barred 147 migrants who had been rescued by Barcelona-based NGO Open Arms from disembarking at a Sicilian port. An indictment of the former minister was requested by prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi as well as 23 civil parties acting as representatives of Open Arms. A civil action was also filed by nine migrants who were on board the vessel, which had been blocked for 19 days off the coast of Lampedusa.
Humanitarian response networks in northern Mexico are stretched thin between the growing number of people fleeing violence, poverty, and climate disasters in Central America, the continued expulsion of asylum seekers and migrants who enter the United States irregularly, and the lingering effects of Trump-era migration policies.