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Macedonian Activist Ends Hunger Strike for Migrant Rights

On Saturday, June 20, human rights expert and activist Suad Missini ended the hunger strike he started six days prior in protest of inhumane treatment of migrants passing through Macedonia. Mr. Missini issued the following statement [links added]:

While the effects of the changes of the Asylum Law are yet to be seen in practice, the conditions in the migrant center in Gazi Baba has not been improved. The refugees are still kept in the center which gains characteristics of a concentration camp, under impossible, inhuman and degrading conditions, out of the legal framework and international human rights standards which are part of the national legal system.

Authorities in Republic of Macedonia chose to remain deaf to the demands for solving of this problem by numerous international organizations and institutions. They act blind to the fact that the UN Committee Against Torture characterized the treatment of refugees in this center as torture and breach of the UN Convention Against Torture in its latest report. And all this while our country is a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

On the other hand, I'd like to stress that Macedonia, as member of Council of Europe (CoE), received a visit by the CoE Committee for Prevention of Torture, which included a visit to Gazi Baba center. This summer, the president of this committee Mikola Gnatovskij visited Macedonia and also talked to the authorities about this center, among other things. I emphasize that Macedonian authorities have still not issued approval for the report of this visit to be published.

Finally, two days before the start of the hunger strike, the Ombudsman of Republic of Macedonia presented the catastrophic situation and lawlessness that rule in this center.

Today, we can acknowledge that the public in Republic of Macedonia, as well as the international public and foreign media and organizations, are fully aware and informed about the problem with this center. These days, Gazi Baba center is an international topic. If the government decided that this catastrophic problem should not be a subject of immediate reaction and subsequent solution, then this definitely puts our country among those which openly and unscrupulously conduct torture, while the authorities are legitimized as institutions lead by persons which have no respect for human lives. The lives of hundreds of people detained within this center. And finally, about my life.

Therefore, on this day I end the hunger strike. Because the limits of health risks are already surpassed, and because the potentials of this strike are fulfilled.

My demands, which are demands by an enormous part of the public in Republic of Macedonia, are partially fulfilled.

My civic act was a drop which made waves, which, I sincerely hope, together with all the other efforts, will lead to solving of this problem which turns our country into an uncivilized space.

I am immensely grateful to the thousands who sincerely and unambiguously expressed their support, making this civil act as much theirs, as it was mine.

Meanwhile, Twitter users continue sharing leaked photos showing the conditions of detained refugees.

The Humanitarian Crisis You Haven't Heard of in Burundi

50000 refugees have fled Burundi ( here at the border with Tanzania)  photo via Jamii Forums

50,000 refugees have fled Burundi (here at the border with Tanzania). Photo via Jamii Forums

Following Burundi President Nkurunziza's announcement of his candidacy for a third term (unconstitutional by Burundi's existing law), a massive humanitarian crisis has hit the country as at least 50,000 refugees have fled the country after scenes of violence were reported in several cities. The occurrence of violence were often posted on social media platforms first under the hashtags #burundichaos or #sindumuja. The following infographic sums up the refugees situation as of May 8:

Civil War Separates Peuhl Children from their Parents in Yaloke, Central African Republic

aloke Boys Reunited with Their Family via UNICEF_CAR twitter account - Public Domain

Yaloke Boys Reunited with Their Family via UNICEF_CAR twitter account – Public Domain

Peuhl minorities of Islamic confession have been trying to escape anti-balaka militia since the beginning of the civil war in in the Central African Republic.  One of the camps where displaced Peuhl can find protection is the Yaloke camp by the Cameroonian border in the western region. The health situation in the Yaloke camp is critical where death rates is three times higher than other cities in the region. The refugees are not allowed to move out of the Yaloke Camp which has made it difficult for families to reunite.  The Reseau Des Journalistes pour les droits de l'homme EN RCA (The Journalist Network for Human Rights in CAR) reports on the situation:

Pour Moussa Saidou, deux de ses enfants l’ont quitté et se retrouvent aujourd’hui à Gamba. « Ils sont partis le jour de l’attaque qui a conduit à la perte de nos bétails. Ils ont fui dans la brousse pour se retrouver à Gamba avant de rejoindre Goré au Tchad, où ils séjournent pour le moment»

Moussa Saidou explains that two of her children have escaped and now find themselves in Gamba. “They left the day of the attack that led to the loss of our livestock. They fled into the forest to find themselves in Gamba before joining Gore in Chad, where they stay for now”.

Sri Lanka Plans to Deport 1,500 Pakistani and Afghan Refugees

A Christian man stands inside his destroyed house in Gojra town. Image by Muhammad Tahir. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2009)

A Christian man stands inside his destroyed house in Gojra, Pakistan. Image by Muhammad Tahir. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2009)

Facing persecution in Pakistan, many Ahmadiyya Muslims and Christians have taken refuge in Sri Lanka. These refugees are mostly held in Boossa and Mirihana detention centers and have to live on government-provided rations as they are not eligible for work.

According to the media, the Sri Lankan government is preparing to deport about 1,450 Pakistani and 50 Afghan refugees who have apparently fled to rural areas in Sri Lanka. More than 1,400 of the targeted refugees have been registered as asylum seekers at the UN refugee agency office in Colombo.

Human Rights Watch has requested the Sri Lankan government not to summarily deport these minorities. Meanwhile, Pakistan has disowned these refugees and an uncertain future awaits for them if they are deported.

W3Lanka English blog opines:

The practice of deporting them is very unethical. They can be economic migrants per se the claim of the Pakistan government. What if they are actually threatened people?

The Unintended Consequences of Pakistan's Operation Zarb-e-Azb

On June 15, 2014, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a joint-military operation involving Pakistan against armed insurgent groups such as the Taliban (TTP), al–Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

The operation started exactly a week after the terrorist attack on the Karachi airport. Kashif Aziz at Chowrangi fears that innocent people will suffer and seek refuge elsewhere to avoid the military attacks and the backlash of the militants:

This offensive in Waziristan will bring a fresh wave of IDPs [internally displaced people] to other parts of Pakistan. They need to be accommodated with care.

Hope the operation will end swiftly and without much collateral damage.

Human Rights Activist Begins Hunger Strike for Migrants in Front of Macedonian Parliament

The growing migration crisis has recently also affected countries in southeastern Europe, with new issues arising almost daily. Reacting to the inhumane treatment of migrants who pass through Republic of Macedonia, renowned human rights activist Suad Missini started a hunger strike in front of the Parliament building in Skopje. He began the strike immediately after publishing his three demands in a Facebook post on Sunday, June 14, which garnered almost 300 likes and over 90 shares in just the first day.

I am just starting a hunger strike.
In front of the Parliament.

I demand urgently and immediately:

  1. Urgent adoption of the changes of the Asylum law, that would enable safe transit or temporary stay of refugees passing through the Macedonian territory, as well as free use of all publicly available means of transport.
  2. Concrete and publicly announced measures by the Ministry of Interior in view to safeguard the life, security and possessions of refugees passing through Macedonia.
  3. Immediate liberation of all refugees and migrants detained in the Gazi Baba center and its immediate closure.

The strike will not end unless these demands are fulfilled.

Suad Missini

Thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and other war zones pass through Macedonia, traveling from Greece towards Serbia on a path to try to reach Germany or other well-off EU countries. The migrants used to follow the railway tracks on foot, suffering horrific “accidents.” Lately the migrants buy bicycles, reportedly at inflated prices, in southern Macedonian towns and cycle on the main highway. Many of them fall victim to human trafficking rings and gangs of robbers. Some of the refugees are held as “witnesses” in the Reception Center for Foreigners “Gazi Baba” in Skopje in what Macedonian Ombudsman Idzhet Memeti has called “inhuman, unhealthy, and undignified” conditions.

The Government is supposed to discuss the amendments to the  Asylum Law on June 16.

Former French Defense Minister Finds Excuses for the Alleged Rape of Central African Children by French Soldiers

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Screen capture of video of Former Defense Minister of France arguing that challenging conditions can explain odd behaviors (such as rape)

Afrique Info reports that JP Chevènement, a former defense minister of France, stated on public radio Europe 1 on May 3 that the challenging conditions that French soldiers face in the Central African Republic could explain “behavior of that kind” (see video above). Chevènement was referring to the allegation of child sexual abuse by French troops posted in the Central African Republic. The allegations surfaced after disciplinary proceedings were taken against a United Nations employee accused of leaking the allegations to the French authorities.

A March in Solidarity with Migrants Who Perished Trying to Reach Europe

Human Chain in Strasbourg (Photo Suzanne Lehn)

Signs at the March in defense of migrants in Strasbourg (Photo Suzanne Lehn)

“Europe is fighting its own make-believe enemy”: This is the message that a dozen of associations in defense of migrants wanted to convey when they organized a human chain between the tramway station “Droits de l'Homme (Human Rights)” and the EU Parliament station in Strasbourg on November 26. In order to put Human Rights back at the core of Europe” and oppose the policy adopted by the European Agency of Border Control Frontex, protesters held signs that narrate the tragic plight of migrants trying to reach Europe. For the past 20 years, more than 20,000 migrants have died or disappeared trying to make the journey from their hometowns into Europe.   

Here are a few photos of the event :

chaîne humaine migrants

The Human chain in front of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Les participants attendent leur tour de parole avant de se diriger vers le Parlement européen (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Protesters are taking turn speaking up as they move toward the parliament (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Dans le fond, la Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme (photo Suzanne Lehn)

In the background, the European Court of Human Rights (photo Suzanne Lehn)

Online Networks Help Relief Flood-Plagued Côte d'Ivoire

Abidjan and other regions of Côte d'Ivoire have been plagued by heavy downpour and floods for the past weeks [fr]. Local residents got organized on social networks to bring relief to stranded citizens. On twitter and facebook, #CIVSOCIAL is the hashtag for emergency humanitarian reliefs. It was created in 2011 in the aftermath of the post-electoral crisis. The hashtag was revived again as floods marred Abidjan and the rest of the country. The facebook page CIVSOCIAL has collected images, videos and testimonies as well as calls for donations for each afflicted borough.  Here is a video of one of the flooded borough :

Heartbreak for Ibrahim and Djouma in the Central African Republic

Ibrahim and Amadou - screen capture of UNHCR video on YouTube

Ibrahim and Amadou – screen capture of UNHCR video on YouTube

Djouma and Amadou Moussa are Ibrahim's parents. Djouma and Ibahim are the two lone survivors of an incredibly violent attack by militiamen that took the lives of 5 of Ibrahim's siblings in the Central African Republic, near the border with Cameroon. The militiamen came while  Amadou Moussa was away. Djouma, 30, recalls the attack

They found me with my children in the house; they gathered all the small children and slaughtered them with machetes. They killed six people, including five children in my presence [..] Ibrahim was among the six children they took. When they hit him with the machetes, they thought he was dead.

As seen in the video, Ibrahim bears the scar of the machete attack on his head. But Ibrahim came through, against all odds. Ibrahim's story epitomizes the ongoing plight of refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon. 20,000 refugees have crossed the borders since the beginning of the war. A petition was sent to US secretary of State John Kerry to remind him to take the “necessary steps to ensure that the peacekeeping operation is fully funded in FY2015.”

  

 

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