Los Desaprecidos: Enforced disappearances, a crime without end

“Many of the victims were so weak from torture and detention that they had to be helped aboard the plane. Once in flight, they were injected with a sedative by an Argentine Navy doctor before two officers stripped them and shoved them to their deaths. […] He estimated that the navy conducted the flights every Wednesday for two years, 1977 and 1978, and that 1,500 to 2,000 people were killed. ” (New York Times, 1995)

Today is International Day of the Disappeared, marking the tens or hundreds of people who have been abducted or killed and whose fates remain unknown. Enforced disappearances, forcible disappearances, or desaparecidos in Latin America –  where the concept first rose to prominence – refers to (in Article 2)

the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.

Enforced disappearances were a substantial feature of the Latin American dirty wars, with estimates of over 16,000 people disappeared in Peru, an estimated  30,000  in Argentina45,000 in Guatemala during the violence of the 1980s and 1990s, and estimates of 15,000 to 109,000 disappeared in Colombia. And it’s not just in Latin America; according to the International Centre for Transitional Justice,

In the case of Argentina,

The pattern was similar for those arrested. Many were taken from their homes in the middle of the night, tortured at clandestine detention centres and then disposed of. After years of investigations, it is thought that some bodies were destroyed with dynamite and others buried in unknown common graves, but the majority were thrown from planes into the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition, women who were pregnant were often forcibly separated from their children, with those children being given to military families for adoption. In Syria, “More than 65,000 people, most of them civilians, were forcibly disappeared between March 2011 and August 2015 and remained missing, Amnesty said, citing figures from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a Syria-based monitoring group.”

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Enforced disappearance is like a kidnapping or extrajudicial detention, and likely also torture and/or extrajudicial execution, but it has the features of being committed by State agents or with their acquiescence, and a denial of the whereabouts or the fate of the person concerned.  It’s not like the situation of persons missing during armed conflict or natural disaster, because the person was generally deliberately abducted by authorities who then refuse to acknowledge having the individuals. It’s its own crime, not just kidnapping, torture or killing, even if all of these things also happened.

Enforced disappearances are particularly horrific because the circumstances of the person remain unknown. And the crime continues – with both the disappeared individual as well as his or her family – for as long as there is no resolution. An enforced disappearance not only removes (percieved) political opponents, it avoids the evidence and the witnesses and the international outcry, as a tool to create a climate of terror among family members or other activists, who may be forced to bribe middlemen for information out of fear of approaching the State authorities directly.

‘Detainees were squeezed into overcrowded, dirty cells where disease was rampant and medical treatment unavailable, Amnesty said, while those imprisoned suffered torture through methods such as electric shocks, whipping, suspension, burning and rape. “People would die and then be replaced,” Salam Othman, who was forcibly disappeared from 2011 to 2014, was quoted as saying in the report. “I did not leave the cell for the whole three years, not once … Many people became hysterical and lost their minds.”’

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On the human rights law side,  enforced disappearances constitute “a multiple human rights violation.” They violate the right to life, the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security of the person, and the right to a fair and public trial. These rights are set out in the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture. There is even a UN Declaration on Enforced Disappearances, an Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons  and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

A widespread or systematic pattern of enforced disappearances constitutes a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which provides that enforced disappearances are a crime against humanity “when committed as a part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” In some circumstances, enforced disappearances may also constitute a war crime:  The Geneva Conventions also stipulate that persons taken into custody (combatants or otherwise) must not be murdered or executed without trial, must have due process.

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See also:

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Cartographers for social equality: more on maps

The title, of course, is from a West Wing episode a long time ago, where the point is made that how things are visually represented goes a long way to influencing how we think about them.

So, the other day, we talked a little bit about maps, and specifically about cool GIS things that people are doing.And we’ve found some more interesting tools for you, in case you feel like doing mappy things on your own:

 

The human geography of displacement: mapping and profiling

One of the (many) challenges in responding to situations of displacement is that of information: knowing what and who is where, identifying resources and needs, and allocating resources. Coordination can be as simple as a 3W (who, what where), or be a complex or interactive tool. There is far, far more that can be said about coordination than can be summarized here. Instead, let’s look at some of the interesting initiatives that have combined maps and technology to map or profile the human geography of displacement.

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 Some interesting story maps and discussions on mapping refugees:

  • Musings on Maps: Refugee Traffic Scars the Globe’s Surface: “What sort of stories does this simplified map simply omit?  The stories of those journeys are interrupted by death, while they are far smaller, of course remain absent:  the perilous trajectories of individuals fleeing Syria, Iraq, Africa, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan however risk not only their lives, but increasingly their legal status as they undertake huge geographic migrations in search of new homes elsewhere, traveling by boat, on foot, or along paths promised by human traffickers.  The sleek image, despite its attempted accuracy, shows the intensity of itineraries as embossed on the map as if to disfigure the notion of global unity that runs against the very narrative of global unity implicit in a iconic equidistant azimuthal projection centered on the North Pole which emphasized global harmony as World War II was tried to be forgotten, which as the official flag adopted by the United Nations adopted in October, 1947 promoted an image of global unity:”

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Specific mapping and profiling projects

  • Diseases and refugee camps (George Mason University, 2012) –  “Our initial focus is on the the Dadaab refugee camps which are located in Kenya, approximately 100 kilometers from the Somali border. The camps themselves are homes to roughly 500,000 people, with nearly 99% of the population coming from Somalia. Within the camps the mortality rate is ~ 0.44/10,000 per day with  diseases such as cholera and measles being among the causes of death.”
  • Livelihood, security, and access to services among urban refugees in Delhi (JIPS) – The goal of the Stanford students` research project was to add spatial analysis capabilities in order to better identify and understand geographic patterns related to refugee security. A Livelihood Index score was calculated for each household, based on responses covering the four key components of livelihoods. This enabled to carry out a spatial analysis of the distribution of households with high living standards (scoring high in the Livelihood Index) and low living standards (scoring low) with respect to one another, ethnicity, and proximity to public services. Results from the spatial analysis suggested that proximity to services did not significantly correlate with higher living standard, suggesting that physical distance to services may not be the most important barrier for urban refugees. Finances, lack of mobility, or discrimination may play more significant roles in living standards. See the full, interactive study here!
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Livelihoods, access to services among urban refugees in Delhi – JIPS

 

 

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  • Earth observation and GIS to support humanitarian operations in refugee/IDP camps – “Since 2011 we are providing Earth observation-based information services to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on demand. A service on population monitoring has already reached an operational stage. Thereby indicators on population are derived by automated dwelling extraction from (multi-temporal) very high resolution (VHR) satellite imagery. Based on such information, further added-value products are provided to analyse internal camp structure or camp evolution. Two additional services to support groundwater extraction and assess the impact of the camps on the environment are currently under development. So far twenty-five sites in nine countries have been analysed and more than a hundred maps were provided to MSF and other humanitarian organisations.”

 

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Za’atri refugee camp, Jordan

 

  • Syria Refugee Sites – “Data as of June 11, 2015. The “Syria Refugee Sites” dataset contains verified data about the geographic location (point geometry), name, and operational status of refugee sites hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. Only refugee sites operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Government of Turkey are included.”
  • Using GIS as a planning and coordination tool in refugee camps in South Sudan – “The South Sudan refugee crisis has suffered from substantial information gaps, largely stemming from a lack of coordinated approaches to data collection and inadequate resources to operationalise such a data collection effort. In particular, shortcomings in the availability and reliability of data about patterns of refugee flows over the border, settlement area characteristics and overall social organisation have limited the speed and effectiveness of the humanitarian response. To address these gaps, REACH, in partnership with UNHCR, developed a simple methodology aimed at bringing together data from reliable sources and representing it in both text and geospatial formats, such as static and interactive webmaps.”
  •  Informing Humanitarian Action with GIS in Al-Za’atari Camp – “Information about Al Za’atari collected by REACH is available on the open geo-portal Open Street Map. IS officers adjust data in to suit OSM by using JOSM and Mercaator software, a mapping platform commonly used by the digital humanitarians in emergency environments. Information is shared in a free map that can be viewed online or downloaded, although some information is protected due to its sensitive nature. Using OSM means that spatial data can be immediately available and therefore more effective in crisis situations when there is little time to construct more complex software. As part of its commitment to improve information management in emergencies, REACH has created an OSM wiki-page to explain how the data is structured and adjusted to the software so other humanitarian organisations can replicate the method elsewhere around the world. The REACH team in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is now following the Al Za’atari model for refugee camp mapping.”

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  • Using GIS technology to map shelter allocation in Azraq refugee camp (UNHCR Innovation) – “to allocate shelters, staff just had to navigate through a map of the camp to see which shelters had already been allocated, which ones were available, and how many people were living inside. Later on, the program would show additional data, such as whether the shelter had been damaged, or if it was occupied informally by another family. Staff only had to click on the desired shelter to allocate it, and the data would then feed directly into the progress file. What’s more, it only took an impressive 20 seconds to find the right key among 10,000.”
  • GIS for Good: Siting refugee camps in Uganda – “The first objective of the project was to develop two separate scenarios for refugee campsite selection.
    Scenario 1: Existing Community Infrastructure, was designed such that the selection of sites would assume that refugees would be reliant on the community infrastructure that already exists.  This would provide refugees an opportunity to integrate with local communities to a certain extent, and put less pressure on UNHCR to develop the infrastructure for new camps in rapid crisis situations.
    Scenario 2: New Community Infrastructure, was designed under the assumption that UNHCR would be able to provide infrastructure to new camps.  Although both models aspire to a level of community integration, this model would be undertaken under the hope that the presence of UNHCR and thus, refugees, would actually benefit communities that had previously suffered from poor access to certain resources.  These camps might prove a bit more difficult to develop, but the hope is that the positive effects of a camp would benefit the communities for a long time to come.”
  • What Makes a Camp Safe? The Protection of children from Abduction in Internally Displaced Persons and Refugee Camps– “The study is one of the first initiatives to generate a database of IDP and refugee camp attacks for analysis and policymaking purposes. The researchers also used geographic information systems (GIS) software to produce a series of maps that chart migration trends, camp attacks, and the abduction of children. A major advantage of GIS mapping is the ability to track the movement of IDP and refugee populations over time; this will allow Pitt researchers to continue to track population movements to determine whether migratory populations are at greater risk than those in permanent, stationary camps.”

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 Other links:

 

 

Cash not stuff: humanitarian assistance of the future?

Header: Cash Atlas

The logic of providing cash assistance instead of stuff is pretty simple: it’s more efficient and more effective; it’s more accountable; and it allows recipients some sort of agency. Traditional aid is supposed to be needs based, but in the end is subject to global procurement contracts favoring economies of scale, earmarked funding by donors, and the whims of changing global priorities that may result in the distribution of items because they are in the warehouse whether or not the beneficiaries want or need them.

It’s more efficient, because it does not need to be packaged, shipped, and distributed. With low distribution costs, more of the money actually goes to the recipient. It’s more effective, because recipients of blankets or other non-food items may sell them to obtain what they really need (as anyone who has traveled in certain countries and seen the wide range of uses to which UNHCR plastic sheeting has been put). It’s more accountable, because anti-fraud safeguards can be built in, the assistance is attributed to a specific individual or family, and there could be less vulnerability to corruption related to procurement contracts that can plague humanitarian assistance (i.e. USAID suspending funds to major aid groups after finding corruption in Syrian aid pipeline). Finally, cash assistance recognizes that recipients have agency and should be able to decide for themselves what their most important needs are.

And interestingly, cash has impacts in the wider economy, since the money given to the beneficiary is then spent on goods and services in the host community. For example, in an evaluation of the cash assistance programme in Lebanon, the study noted that cash assistance “has significant multiplier effects on the local economy. Each dollar that beneficiaries spend generates 2.13 dollars of GDP for the Lebanese economy.”

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Cash for everyone, right?

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution nor a panacea, and there are a few preconditions necessary. As World Vision, one of many NGOs involved in provision of cash assistance, describes it, “The ability of cash transfers to deliver their promise fundamentally depends on whether or not they are calculated at a fair value and for a sufficient duration to accomplish the programme objectives. In short, cash transfers are neither a panacea for the global humanitarian financing gap nor a long-term solution to ending conflict, where 80% of humanitarian resources are currently directed.”

First of all, sufficient basic financial infrastructure or systems may be required:

“To realize a global scale-up in cash transfers, countries facing crises must have the necessary infrastructure and financial services in place to make payments safely and efficiently. E-payment mechanisms, including mobile-based money transfers and cardbased payments such as prepaid debit cards, are effective tools that enable efficient and scalable transfers, improve transparency, and mitigate fraud in humanitarian response. However, these tools are not present in all countries. E-payment tools are increasingly common, but as yet impractical in countries with weak digital and financial infrastructure, regulatory environments, and/ or financial institutions.”

Scaling up humanitarian cash transfers

Second, it requires the existence of markets with sufficient supply of basic necessities, which may not exist in remote locations or post-disaster areas.

Third, the programme needs to be designed in a way that mitigates risks of fraud (both in terms of selecting beneficiaries as well as technical protections such as iris scans at ATMs) or of protection vulnerabilities, and programme design will need to think carefully about how to ensure the most vulnerable of the population have access to the services. The targeting strategy will often have to take into consideration competing priorities in different sectors, particularly if the cash assistance is intended to be unconditional and multipurpose. And the programme design will have to consider if the cash assistance programme results in market distortions or inflated prices.

In a survey of available literature evaluating cash programmes, in terms of emowerment (relating to many themes that would often be characterized under the heading of “protection”), the study found that,

“The available evidence shows that transfers can reduce physical abuse of women by men, but also that they may increase non-physical abuse, such as emotional abuse or controlling behaviour. It supports both the theory that increased income lowers stress-related abuse and the theory that increased income enables the woman to bargain out of abuse. The relatively strong evidence that decision-making power increases for women in the beneficiary household also offers substance to this latter theory. Other evidence reveals that risky sexual behaviour and early marriage differ by gender, but for both girls/women and boys/men increased income to an extent lifts the constraints that drive engagement in these behaviours. In the case of women and girls, the evidence that directly or indirectly receiving a transfer reduces the likelihood of having multiple sexual partners indicates that cash transfers may reduce the incidence of relationships that are transactional. Taken together, the evidence in this section points to cash transfers having a positive impact on women’s choices as to fertility and engagement in sexual activity. In the case of men and boys, some of the evidence collected here suggests that cash transfers do not have the same effect of reducing risky sexual activity, and in fact may lead to an increase in this type of behaviour.”

Finally, there are factors such as duration of programme, amount of assistance, gender of main recipient, and timing and frequency of asistance all influence how successful the programme may be in terms of impacts in individual sectors.

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Distribution of Non food items

But does it really do all it says on the tin?

Luckily, cash assistance being in fashion does mean that there are quite a lot of studies interested in measuring its effectiveness, usefulness, and everything else-ness that one could possibly want to measure.

But preliminary findings do indicate that cash assistance has positive impacts on poverty, education, savings, health, nutrition, and empowerment. Employment seems not to be substantially impacted by cash assistance. In the same study surveying available literature evaluating cash programmes, the study findings are as follows:

Monetary poverty

There is a comparatively large evidence base linking cash transfers to reductions in monetary poverty. The evidence extracted consistently shows an increase in total and food expenditure andreduction in Foster–Greer–Thorbecke (FGT) poverty measures.

Education
Overall, the available evidence highlights a clear link between cash transfer receipt and increased school attendance. Less evidence and a less clear-cut pattern of impact is found for learning outcomes (as measured by test scores) and cognitive development outcomes (information processing ability, intelligence, reasoning, language development and memory), although,interestingly, the three studies reporting statistically significant findings on the latter all report improvements in cognitive development associated with cash transfer receipt.
Health and nutrition
Evidence of the impacts of cash transfers across all three indicator areas – use of health services, dietary diversity and anthropometric measures – was largely consistent in terms of direction of effect, showing improvements in the indicators. On the whole, the available evidence highlights how, while the cash transfers reviewed have played an important role in increasing the use of health services and dietary diversity, changes in design or implementation features, including complementary actions (e.g. nutritional supplements or behavioural change training), may be required to achieve greater and more consistent impacts on child anthropometric measures.
Savings, investment and production
Overall, impacts on savings, and on livestock ownership and/or purchase, as well as use and/or purchase of agricultural inputs, are consistent in their direction of effect, with almost all statistically significant findings highlighting positive effects of cash transfers, though these are not universal to all programmes or to all types of livestock and inputs. This is an important finding as, with the exception of one programme, none of the cash transfers analysed focuses explicitly on enhancing productive impacts. Impacts on borrowing, agricultural productive assets and business/enterprise are less clear-cut or are drawn from a smaller evidence base.
Employment
The evidence extracted for this review shows that for just over half of studies on adult work (participation and intensity), the cash transfer does not have a statistically significant impact. Among those studies reporting a significant effect among adults of working age, the majority find an increase in work participation and intensity. In the cases in which a reduction in work participation or work intensity is reported, these reflect a reduction in participation among the elderly, those caring for dependents, or they are the result of reductions in casual work.

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Resources and specific studies:

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Offshore Justice: could Australia end up at the ICC for abusing asylum-seekers? | Justice Hub

“This isn’t the first time that it has been suggested that the ICC examine allegations of abuses against asylum-seekers in Australian detention facilities. In 2014, Andrew Wilkie, an independent member of parliament, insisted that the Australian government was committing crimes against humanity against asylum-seekers and requested that the ICC investigate. Wilkie argued that the Australian government was guilty of imprisonment and other severe deprivations of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; deportation and other forcible transfer of population; and other international acts causing great suffering, or serious injury to body and mental and physical health.”

See the whole article here.

And see the documentary:

Daily chart: The Refugee Project – an interactive chart of migration and refugee flows

In every corner of the earth ordinary people are forced to leave their homes, often without notice, often never to return. When they cross international borders, they are called refugees. The Refugee Project is a narrative, temporal map of refugee migrations since 1975. UN data is complemented by original histories of the major refugee crises of the last four decades, situated in their individual contexts.

Have a look: http://www.therefugeeproject.org/

 

The plot thickens: Australia to close Manus Island centre; staff demanding end to offshore detention; Australia doesn’t bother to investigate any of the Nauru files before declaring them bunk

After the PNG supreme court ruled in April that the detention centre was “illegal and unconstitutional”, we have been waiting with bated breath to see what convoluted legal explanation Australia will find in order to keep avoiding their responsibilities under national and international law. This week, after the leak of over  2,000 incident reports detailing systemic physical and sexual abuses, humiliating treatment and harsh conditions, and widespread self-harm and suicide attempts on Nauru, the Australian Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, and the President of Nauru have decided, respectively, that the reports were only “hype” or “cooked up” the reports just to discredit them. Of course, the standard institutional response to allegations of abuse, exploitation, or assault, particularly when perpetrated by one’s own officials, is to claim that the victim is lying and the allegations are baseless. And the fact that the official response notes that, “Many of the incident reports reflect unconfirmed allegations or uncorroborated statements and claims – they are not statements of proven fact. The Australian government continues to support the Nauruan government to provide for the health, welfare and safety of all transferees and refugees in Nauru.” Although advocates dispute the characterization as “unconfirmed allegations,” the government response does highlight one salient point: that there was no effort to investigate or substantiate these allegations. Except when they want to file charges against someone for attempting suicide, like the Iranian asylum-seeker was criminally charged and ordered to pay $165 for attempting suicide (suicide and homosexuality were legalized a month later, in May 2016).

Dutton also accused asylum seekers of committing acts of self-immolation in order to get to Australia. He does not seem to take the point that people prefer to burn to death than to stay in indefinite detention as an indication that the situation is inhumane.

Now, more than 100 former employees from Australia’s offshore detention centres have called for asylum seekers to be brought to the mainland rather than sweeping it all under the rug with yet another inquiry. (see the full list). This, in a context where they might face criminal charges by Australia for speaking up. Their voices join over 1,800 academics and dozens of  human rights, legal, religious and medical groups that have demanded the Australian government put a stop to the suffering of asylum seekers and refugees in its offshore processing regime.

There is some good news:,according to the PNG govenment (later backed up by the Australian government), Australia has agreed to close the controversial asylum seeker detention centre in Papua New Guinea (PNG) declared unconstitutional earlier this year.As described by the Guardian,

The Manus Island detention centre has had a troubled existence since being reopened in 2012. In 2014 three days of unrest and an invasion of the detention centre by PNG police and others saw more than 60 asylum seekers seriously injured. One man was shot, another had his throat slit and 23-year-old Reza Barati was murdered by guards who beat him with a nail studded piece of wood, and kicked and dropped a rock on his head. PNG’s supreme court heard up to 15 expatriate and local guards killed Barati. Two local men were convicted of his murder this year.

The detention centre has also been plagued by consistent allegations of abuse and privation. Rape, physical and sexual assault and drug abuse are common, the centre’s water supply has failed, and detainees are fed expired food. Suicide attempts and acts of self-harm are common, and some men have alleged they have been beaten and tortured in solitary confinement.

Australia still claims that none of them will settle in Australia, and organizations such as Human Rights Watch have highlighted that simply shifting them elsewhere will not work:  “These men should immediately be moved to Australia or a safe third country, not simply shunted down the road to a transit centre or moved to Nauru or Cambodia. Nearly a thousand men on Manus have already lost three or more years of their lives locked up in limbo for no good reason. They’ve endured dirty, cramped conditions, inadequate medical care and violence. Finally, it is time to let them move on with their lives in safety and dignity.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch claim that Australia has a “deliberate policy” of not addressing issues on Nauru as a strategy to “deter” further boat arrivals, as well as that asylum seekers are suffering immensely from inadequate medical care.

“Australian authorities are well aware of the abuses on Nauru. The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a Senate Select Committee, and a government-appointed independent expert have each highlighted many of these practices, and called on the government to change them. The Australian government’s persistent failure to address abuses committed under its authority on Nauru strongly suggests that they are adopted or condoned as a matter of policy.”

“Few other countries go to such lengths to deliberately inflict suffering on people seeking safety and freedom,” said Amnesty International’s senior director for research Anna Neistat, who went to Nauru to conduct the investigation.

Continue reading The plot thickens: Australia to close Manus Island centre; staff demanding end to offshore detention; Australia doesn’t bother to investigate any of the Nauru files before declaring them bunk

Nauru: “what’s the point of surviving at sea if you die here?”

https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/australia-news/video/2016/aug/10/nauru-australia-refugees-detention-centre-asylum-migration-video
Today, around 2,000 reports were leaked of abuse, psychological disturbance, sexual assault and degrading treatment that the people, particularly children, detained on Nauru have experienced. The scale, variety, and seriousness of the allegations should be shocking.The institutional response is appalling (from the Guardian article):

In one report an asylum seeker described being told she was “on a list” written by local Nauruan guards naming single women they were “waiting for”. “She has received offers to get her pregnant when she gets out,” the caseworker wrote.

They reveal allegations of misconduct by Wilson Security guards at the detention centre. In one report a “cultural adviser” for Wilson Security, the company that employs guards at the detention camp, allegedly told an asylum seeker who had been sexually assaulted in camp that “rape in Australia is very common and people don’t get punished”.

The caseworker who filed the report wrote that the female asylum seeker also told her the guard had questioned whether the sexual assault had occurred and said: “If that happened to you why didn’t you scream at the time?”

“You have to take it out of your head if you go into Nauru then he [the alleged perpetrator] could be your neighbour or if you go to Cambodia then he could be on the plane next to you,” the adviser reportedly told the woman. “You also have to teach your son to treat this man nicely.”

The Nauru Database: Interactive

A few things are worth pointing out:

  1. Not all allegations are always substantiated. The government claims that these reports are only that, and are “evidence of rigorous reporting mechanisms.” From this we can infer that these reports were not followed up or investigated or prosecuted, because then the government would be able to reply with an actual statistic of the steps they have taken to address the issues. Quite a lot of the allegations are involving crimes that, in the case of some of the sexual abuse allegations, would involve criminal sentences of 10 to 25 years if prosecuted in Australia.
  2. The fact that access to the facility is extremely restricted does not bode well for the alleged transparency and humane conditions supposedly found there. Nothing is more suspicious than a secret facility with indefinite detention – it is why organizations like the ICRC spend a lot of time monitoring detention facilities.
  3. There is a conflict of interest when the agency required to investigate is the agency also responsible for the staff who are allegedly the perpetrators of the misconduct.
  4. Australia has a duty of care, and legal responsibility for all of the people in this facility, whether or not they have contracted it out.

This is what Australian taxpayers are funding to the tune of 1.2 billion per year.

 

The Nauru files: 2,000 leaked reports reveal scale of abuse of children in Australian offshore detention (the Guardian)

The devastating trauma and abuse inflicted on children held by Australia in offshore detention has been laid bare in the largest cache of leaked documents released from inside its immigration regime.  More than 2,000 leaked incident reports from Australia’s detention camp for asylum seekers on the remote Pacific island of Nauru – totalling more than 8,000 pages – are published by the Guardian today. The Nauru files set out as never before the assaults, sexual abuse, self-harm attempts, child abuse and living conditions endured by asylum seekers held by the Australian government, painting a picture of routine dysfunction and cruelty.  The Guardian’s analysis of the files reveal that children are vastly over-represented in the reports. More than half of the 2,116 reports – a total of 1,086 incidents, or 51.3% – involve children, although children made up only about 18% of those in detention on Nauru during the time covered by the reports, May 2013 to October 2015.

Trafficking and smuggling: a very short introduction

Lina comes from a poor family in Cambodia. At the age of nine, her parents entrusted her to an acquaintance who said she could find Lina work in Thailand. The woman promised to send Lina’s parents part of her wages to help support their family. In Bangkok, Lina stood for long hours outside nightclubs in the red-light district selling flowers and candy to tourists. Her trafficker took her earnings, and beat her when sales were low .

When Peter arrived in London, a man was waiting for him. He took Peter to Peterborough, the place of his future life and work. He was supposed to work for one Roma family and to live at their place in a small room with 4-6 other men working for them as well. Right away, they took his ID… Peter didn’t see his ID again. He became a person without identity, with no possibility to escape. He started to work with some other people, doing harvesting. They would work 12 to 16 hours per day, receiving poor food once per day and not getting enough of sleep at night. After working outside, Peter often had to do clean the family’s house. Members of the family started to be aggressive, threatening their “slaves” and blackmailing them.

Perhaps the most chilling is an interview with an imprisoned trafficker. He looks at the camera nervously, recounting his exploits with a shy smile… “I used my fist. I was, at that time, more youthful… So I beat them with my fists and my feet…” He giggles nervously and continues, “No, but I think that they will have this nightmare for the rest of their lives. Some of them manage to change, but they will never be normal women.” His lips twist into a smile, a slight shrug of his shoulders.

And this is a business that earns 150 billion dollars a year.

July 30 was World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. It’s a way to raise awareness, not in a student activist kind of way that will end in a change.org petition, but as an opportunity to discuss something that’s very important and also very often poorly described. When we talk about trafficking, usually two scenarios come up: migrants paying to be brought across the Mediterranean; and sex trafficking. A google search also brings up modern day slavery, child labour in developing countries, and other kinds of phenomena. The problem is, much of this isn’t actually trafficking. Or of it’s trafficking, it’s also other things.

1. Trafficking and smuggling are not the same thing

People smuggling is basically receiving money to move people countries where they are not nationals or residents. It’s criminalized in most places, and there is also a convention (Smuggling of Migrants Protocol) that includes an obligation to criminalize smuggling. But smuggling is solely about the “procurement of… illegal entry”. We are presuming that all of this were voluntary – if the entry were legal, it wouldn’t be a smuggler, it would be a travel agency. (Except, of course, if someone is a refugee, they may not be penalized for illegal entry, and frequently there is no legal avenue for refugees to use, so they must perforce use smugglers)

Trafficking, on the other hand, involves deceiving someone and exploiting them. The official definition is very long but very worth considering:

Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs

So, people who have been trafficked have been (a) deceived, and (b) exploited, or intended to be exploited. As an example, if person A wants to enter country X, where they are not a resident or national, in order to get a better job and pays person B to take them there, that’s smuggling. If person A wants to get a better job in the city, but is tricked by person B, who instead transfers person A to country X where person A is forced into prostitution, that’s trafficking. A typical story to entice trafficking victims is to offer work in a foreign country, promising high wages and a good life. Frequently, the victim will incur “costs” for the journey which they are then expected to “earn back” by working for the trafficker or associates.

The two terms are often conflated. And in fact, a smuggler, who is transporting people to another country, might be transporting trafficked people (if the smuggler had no idea, it’s smuggling; if they knew that the person was trafficked, it’s trafficking). For example, a recent article from the Guardian talks about the high number of trafficking victims among migrants arriving to Europe:

“The trafficking of Nigerian women from Libya to Italy by boat is reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe, the UN’s International Office for Migration (IOM) warns.  About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of this year, almost double the number who were registered in the same time period last year, according to the IOM.”

2. Economic migrants and refugees are not the same thing, but both can be victims of trafficking

Economic migrants are people who are seeking a better life elsewhere. Refugees are people fleeing war and persecution. Sometimes, there is overlap, particularly in countries where poverty is caused by systematic negligence or targeting specific groups.

But both economic migrants and refugees often share the characteristic of being desperate to leave and, frequently, in possession of few resources with which to leave. They may be more inclined to take seemingly appealing offers of work elsewhere, or in their desperation place themselves in unscrupulous hands. UNHCR has quite a lot to say on the intersection of refugees and human trafficking, including highlighting the fact that some people may have started out as migrants, but fell victim to trafficking, and could be at risk of persecution if they were to go back to their home countries due to threats by the traffickers, which would then make them refugees. Not all refugees are trafficked and not all trafficking victims are refugees, but there is frequently overlap. The essential questions are: (a) why they left; (b) how they traveled and under what circumstances; and (c) what would happen if they go back.

Desperation also breeds exploitation:

Young people in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk are being sexually exploited and forced to commit crimes by traffickers, according to a Unicef report.

The document, which draws on six months of interviews and is due to be published on Thursday, paints a disturbing picture of the abuse of unaccompanied minors in camps in northern France. It says children are being subjected to sexual violence by traffickers who promise passage to the UK.

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3. Trafficking isn’t only about sex trafficking

It makes for the best headlines and the most salacious stories, but there are lots of kinds of trafficking. Forced labour takes different forms, including debt bondage, trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. The victims are the most vulnerable – women and girls forced into prostitution, migrants trapped in debt bondage, and sweatshop or farm workers kept there by clearly illegal tactics and paid little or nothing.  Forced labour and modern-day slavery account for almost 70 percent of trafficked persons: almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour, trapped in jobs which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave. That’s approximately the population of Switzerland and Belgium combined (or 3 out of every 1,000 people).

Facts and figures

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
  • Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
  • Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.
  • Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
  • Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.
  • 18.7 million (90 %) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or enterprises. Of these, 4.5 million (22 per cent) are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million (68 per cent) are victims of forced labour exploitation in economic activities, such as agriculture, construction, domestic work or manufacturing.
  • 2.2 million (10%) are in state-imposed forms of forced labour, for example in prisons, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces.
  • 5.5 million (26 %) of victims are below 18 years.
  • 9.1 million victims (44 %) have moved either internally or internationally. The majority, 11.8 million (56 %), are subjected to forced labour in their place of origin or residence. Cross-border movement is heavily associated with forced sexual exploitation.

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4. Trafficking happens right in your backyard: in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere

According to IOM, the Developed Economies and European Union have 1.5 million (7 per cent) forced labourers. “EU authorities registered 15,846 victims of human trafficking in 2013-14, including 2,375 children, but the report’s authors believe the true number of victims is far higher. More than two-thirds (67%) of people were trafficked into sex work; about one-fifth (21%) were put into forced labour, often as agricultural workers, a form of slavery that disproportionately affected men. The remainder of trafficking victims faced an equally grim catalogue of exploitation, ranging from domestic servitude to forced begging. […] More than two-thirds of the identified victims were EU nationals, with the largest numbers coming from Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. The remainder came from all over the world, with Nigerians, Chinese and Albanians especially prominent.”

Additional examples:

 

 

 

Articles of interest:

 

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Focus on South Sudan: “inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage”

Photo: Al Jazeera

South Sudan violence leads 60,000 to flee, U.N. says (CNN, 3 August 2016)

“Violence in South Sudan over the past three weeks has prompted a massive flight of refugees into neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.

More than 60,000 people, most of whom are women and children, have fled the country since fighting began at the end of June, the U.N.’s refugee agency UNHCR reported on Tuesday.

“The refugees have brought to us very disturbing reports,” UNHCR Spokesman Melissa Fleming said at a briefing in Geneva. Armed groups “are looting villages, murdering civilians, and forcibly recruiting young men and boys into their ranks,” Fleming said. “We are very concerned, and are appealing for parties to move back to the peace agreement.””

 

South Sudan to get new international peacekeeping force (BBC, 6 August 2016)

“South Sudan’s government has agreed to let in a new international protection force to try to save a peace deal. Ethnic clashes last month left at least 300 people dead and threatened to revive a civil war that has killed tens of thousands. A 12,000-strong UN mission in South Sudan was unable to prevent attacks.

The announcement was made by the East African regional body, Igad, and confirmed by South Sudan cabinet minister Dr Martin Elia Lomuro. President Salva Kiir had previously dismissed the idea of an additional force.”

 

South Sudan Situation: Regional Emergency Update #3 (25 – 31 July 2016) (UNHCR, 31 July 2016)

  • “The political and security situation inside South Sudan remains fragile and unpredictable. UNHCR continues to provide assistance in Juba as the situation allows, and other areas of operation remain functional.
  • In Uganda, a total of 53,531 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, more than the total arrivals in the first six months of 2016. Some 65% of the arrivals are children, and 88% are women and children. The daily rate of arrival has decreased slightly, but continues to number in the thousands.
  • South Sudanese refugees continue to seek asylum in other countries: In Sudan, over 9,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived in July, an increase on May and June arrivals, but lower than the monthly arrivals reported in the first quarter of 2016. DRC received an influx of 1,653 new arrivals in mid-July. The number of arrivals to Kenya has increased in the past week, though is still low compared to the influx in Uganda”

 

South Sudan: Food Insecurity – 2015-2016 (ReliefWeb, repository)

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“South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe, three UN agencies warned today. (WFP, FAO, UNICEF, 8 Jan 2016)

Civil strife and unfavourable rains have further reduced crop production in South Sudan, contributing to a cereal deficit of 381,000 tonnes — 53 percent greater than in 2015 — and aggravating the already severe food shortages, two UN agencies warned today…The crisis in South Sudan is marked by alarming levels of hunger. Some 5.8 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population, are unsure where their next meal will come from, while the rate of severe food insecurity has now reached 12 percent, double the rate of one year ago. (FAO, WFP, 5 Apr 2016)”

 

Peacekeepers made major errors that contributed to South Sudan massacre, U.N. report finds (Washington Post, 6 Aug 2016)

“On Feb. 17, fighting broke out within the U.N. Protection of Civilians Site in the city of Malakal, first between young men from rival ethnic groups who had managed to smuggle guns through holes in the fence. Then the violence escalated after heavily armed government forces entered the camp.

A summary of the United Nation’s “board of inquiry report,” released Friday, said the organization and its peacekeepers failed through a “combination of inaction, abandonment of post and refusal to engage.”

In other words, some peacekeepers, whose most prominent mandate is to protect civilians, simply ran away once they were tested, abandoning sentry posts. Other peacekeepers demanded written permission to use their weapons, even though their U.N. mandate clearly gives them that authority.”

 

‘Where will we run this time?’ South Sudanese civilians living in a displacement camp fear U.N. peacekeepers can’t protect them from a massacre (Washington Post, 6 August 2016)

“In February, fighters carrying AK-47s and grenade launchers broke into the Malakal camp. As many as 50 people were fatally shot, burned alive in their tents or crushed by panicking crowds while U.N. peacekeepers fled their posts. Even the United Nations acknowledged its troops’ failure.

For civilians in the camp, it was like trying to escape from a prison set aflame, the barbed-wire fences penning in wailing mothers and children with swarms of gunmen.

Mayik eventually managed to flee through a large metal barrier, known as Charlie Gate, into the U.N. staff compound next door, which was protected by additional layers of razor wire.”

 

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Photo: Washington Post

 

South Sudan’s government forces committed widespread violations in July fighting (UN, 4 August 2016)

“He said that information received by UN human rights officers suggests hundreds of fighters and civilians were killed during the initial fighting. While some civilians were killed in crossfire between the fighting forces, others were reportedly summarily executed by Government (SPLA) soldiers, who appear to have specifically targeted people of Nuer origin.

In two separate incidents on 11 July, SPLA soldiers reportedly arrested eight Nuer civilians during house-to-house searches in Juba’s Munuki area and took them to two nearby hotels, where they shot four of them. On the same day, SPLA soldiers broke into another hotel where they shot and killed a Nuer journalist.

At least 73 civilian deaths have been catalogued so far by the UN, but it is believed the civilian death toll may turn out to be much higher. The UN was denied access to some of the hardest-hit areas in the days following the conflict and a number of restrictions on movement remain in place.”

 

South Sudan: UN radio reporter held incommunicado for nearly two years (Reporters Without Borders, 3 August 2016)

“A reporter for Radio Miraya, a radio station operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), George Livio is being held incommunicado at the Juba headquarters of South Sudan’s intelligence agency. He has not been formally charged and has not been able to see a lawyer or relatives since his arrest. Only UNMISS representatives have been able to visit him.

RSF points out that, by holding Livio incommunicado and arbitrarily, the authorities are violating article 64 of South Sudan’s code of criminal procedure, which says: “A person arrested by the police as part of an investigation, may be held in detention, for a period not exceeding twenty-four hours for the purposes of investigation.””

 

South Sudan: UN reports campaign of killing and rape (Al Jazeera, March 2016)

“Children and the disabled in South Sudan have been burned alive and pro-government militia allowed to rape women as a form of payment, a new UN report has said.

The investigation accused all sides in the country’s civil war of targeting civilians for murder and rape but said the army and government-allied forces were most to blame for what it described as “one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”.

“The report contains harrowing accounts of civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children and the disabled, killed by being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees or cut to pieces,” the UN human rights office said in a statement on Friday.”

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Civilians taking shelter at the UN compound. Photo: UN