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PRESS RELEASE – 20200914/Migrants and Refugees/Human Rights

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Press release, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on September 14, 2020 at 7:49 AM

Press Release

September 14, 2020

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THE ASSOCIATION OF WORLD CITIZENS PROPOSES

INCREASED GOVERNMENTAL AND NONGOVERNMENTAL ACTION

FOR AN ENLIGHTENED POLICY

TOWARD MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

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Recent events have highlighted the need for a dynamic and enlightened policy toward migrants and refugees. The refugee camp in Moria, on Lesbos Island, Greece, which burned to the ground on September 9, 2020, hosted over 13,000 refugees and migrants, most from Afghanistan with others from Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and an increasing number from West Africa. Among them were thousands of defenseless women and children, victims of war, violence and later from xenophobia, islamophobia and racism. Prior to the fire, the refugees were already living in poor conditions, in small tents on wet ground without clean drinking water or medical care.

Since the fire, most of the refugees in Moria, including newborn babies, have been sleeping in the streets while xenophobic locals harass them and armed policemen, known for their far-right sympathies, threaten them.

A second drama of refugees and migrants is being acted out in the French Department of Pas-de-Calais, as refugees try to reach England before December 31, 2020, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, thus ending the existing accords on refugees and migrants. Many have paid large sums of money for the possibility to reach England, often in unsafe makeshift boats.

The Association of World Citizens, along with other humanitarian organizations, has worked actively for world law concerning migrants and refugees – policies which need to be strengthened and, above all, applied respecting the dignity of each person: https://awcungeneva.com/2020/06/20/world-refugee-day/

World Refugee Day

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on June 20, 2020 at 4:01 PM

By René Wadlow

 

June 20 is the United Nations (UN)-designated World Refugee Day marking the signing in 1951 of the Convention on Refugees. The condition of refugees and migrants has become a “hot” political issue in many countries, and the policies of many governments have been very inadequate to meet the challenges. The UN-led World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul, Turkey on May, 23-24, 2016 called for efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts by “courageous leadership, acting early, investing in stability, and ensuring broad participation by affected people and other stakeholders.”

If there were more courageous political leadership, we might not have the scope and intensity of the problems that we now face. Care for refugees is the area in which there is the closest cooperation between nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the UN system. As one historian of the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has written “No element has been more vital to the successful conduct of the programs of the UNHCR than the close partnership between UNHCR and the non-governmental organizations.”

The 1956 flow of refugees from Hungary was the first emergency operation of the UNHCR. The UNHCR turned to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies which had experience and the finances to deal with such a large and unexpected refugee departures and re-settlements. Since 1956, the UNHCR has increased the number of NGOs, both international and national, with which it works given the growing needs of refugees and the increasing work with internally displaced persons who were not originally part of the UNHCR mandate.

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Hungarian refugees outside a building at Charleston Air Force Base in 1956.

Along with emergency responses − tents, water, medical facilities − there are longer-range refugee needs, especially facilitating integration into host societies. It is the integration of refugees and migrants which has become a contentious political issue. Less attention has been given to the concept of “investing in stability”. One example:

The European Union (EU), despite having pursued in words the design of a Euro-Mediterranean Community, in fact did not create the conditions to approach its achievement. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, launched in 1995 in order to create a free trade zone and promote cooperation in various fields, has failed in its purpose. The EU did not promote a plan for the development of the countries of North Africa and the Middle East and did nothing to support the democratic currents of the Arab Spring. Today, the immigration crisis from the Middle East and North Africa has been dealt with almost exclusively as a security problem.

The difficulties encountered in the reception of refugees do not lie primarily in the number of refugees but in the speed with which they have arrived in Western Europe. These difficulties are the result of the lack of serious reception planning and weak migration policies. The war in Syria has gone on for five years. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, not countries known for their planning skills, have given shelter to nearly four million persons, mostly from the Syrian armed conflicts. That refugees would want to move further is hardly a surprise. That the refugees from war would be joined by “economic” and “climate” refugees is also not a surprise. The lack of adequate planning has led to short-term “conflict management” approaches. Fortunately, NGOs and often spontaneous help have facilitated integration, but the number of refugees and the lack of planning also impacts NGOs.

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Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station in 2015.

Thus, there is a need on the part of both governments and NGOs to look at short-term emergency humanitarian measures and at longer-range migration patterns, especially at potential climate modification impact. World Refugee Day can be a time to consider how best to create a humanist, cosmopolitan society.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Plus que jamais, créer un Etat en paix pour tous en Libye

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 11, 2020 at 8:10 AM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

Dans la Libye où rien ne semble pouvoir éteindre les braises de la guerre civile, l’appel à un cessez-le-feu et à la poursuite des négociations lancé le 6 juin par le Président égyptien Abdel Fattah al-Sissi en présence du Général Khalifa Haftar a vécu.

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Le Général Khalifa Haftar

Le 4, les troupes du Gouvernement d’accord national (GAN) du Premier Ministre Fayez al-Sarraj, reconnu par l’ONU, reprenaient la ville. Une défaite majeure pour Haftar, longtemps vu comme l’homme fort du pays mais dont les revirements sur les accords conclus et le refus d’en adopter de nouveaux ont mené à sa remise en question, y compris par l’Egypte et la Russie qui lui préféreraient, pour représenter la Cyrénaïque qui recouvre le tiers oriental de la Libye, Aguila Saleh, le Président du Parlement hostile au GAN.

Le 9, les chefs de la diplomatie français, italien et allemand, accompagnés du Haut Représentant de l’Union européenne, appelaient ensemble à reprendre les pourparlers et la recherche d’un cessez-le-feu, prenant en compte les discussions du Caire et demandant dans un communiqué conjoint «instamment, toutes les parties libyennes et internationales à faire cesser de manière effective et immédiate toutes les opérations militaires et à s’engager de façon constructive dans les négociations en format 5+5, sur la base du projet d’accord du 23 février».

Néanmoins, la course à l’influence menée par les diplomaties russe et turque menace d’emblée toute recherche de la paix sur ce seul fondement. Comment, dès lors, envisager une paix prochaine et durable dans la Libye qui, depuis 2011 et la fin du régime Kadhafi, n’a plus d’État que le nom ?

Un Etat qui n’a jamais su s’inventer

Avec le retournement de la situation militaire, les espoirs sont ouverts pour des négociations plus fructueuses et, plus encore, afin d’envisager des formes nouvelles et stables de gouvernement.

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Le Premier Ministre Fayez al-Sarraj

De longue date, l’Association of World Citizens (AWC) appelle à la création en Libye de structures gouvernementales nouvelles qui prennent en compte la nature géographique du pays, particulièrement en ce qui concerne la nature tribale de la population.

Après la fin de la colonisation italienne en 1952, la Libye fortement marquée par les combats de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale n’a jamais su se trouver en tant qu’entité étatique, ni la monarchie du roi Idriss Ier, ni la République arabe libyenne proclamée en 1969 par Mouammar Kadhafi et encore moins la Jamahiriya, néologisme signifiant «l’État des masses» et désignant une forme d’Etat minimaliste mise en place en 1977 n’étant parvenues à cimenter le pays.

Depuis la fin du régime Kadhafi en 2011, deux provinces de Libye démontrent cet échec par deux exemples extrêmes.

Un conte de deux Libye – sans grandes espérances

A la frontière sud derrière le Sahara, le Fezzan et ses oasis abritent plus de deux cent mille personnes. La terre de l’ordre soufiste du roi Idriss n’inquiétait guère Tripoli du temps de Kadhafi, qui n’y voyait guère un foyer de contestation. Mais après 2011, le Fezzan s’est trouvé livré au trafic de drogue, d’armes et même d’êtres humains. Il a fallu que ce soit l’ancienne puissance coloniale, l’Italie, qui attire l’attention sur l’anarchie gangrénant le Fezzan – et pour cause, nombre de migrants africains qui gagnent le pays passaient par cet enfer.

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Ibrahim Jadran

A l’est, le Cyrénaïque adossé à l’Egypte a vu se développer dans l’ère post-Kadhafi le règne d’un chef de milice, Ibrahim Jadran. Emprisonné en 2005 avec ses quatre frères pour avoir tenté de fomenter une rébellion armée contre le «guide de la révolution» Kadhafi, il sort avec eux de prison à la faveur de la révolution de 2011. Accédant l’année suivante à la hiérarchie des Gardes de Défense du Pétrole protégeant les infrastructures pétrolières du pays, il se prononce pour un fédéralisme aussi décentralisateur que possible en Libye. L’année suivante, il instaure le Bureau politique de Cyrénaïque et proclame l’autonomie de la province, défiant Tripoli et tentant sans succès de vendre à son seul profit du pétrole à l’étranger. En juin 2018, il fuit la débâcle de sa Force d’autodéfense de la Cyrénaïque, un temps forte de 17 500 hommes devant les troupes de Haftar. Le 12 septembre, le Conseil de Sécurité de l’ONU adopte des sanctions individuelles contre Jadran pour ses attaques armées contre les forces du général.

Si les deux provinces offrent ce que Charles Dickens, auteur d’Un conte de deux cités, aurait pu appeler un «conte de deux Libye», il n’existe dans l’une et l’autre aucune place pour Les grandes espérances, autre roman de Dickens, tant le chaos qui mène au banditisme généralisé et l’aventure personnelle d’un seigneur de la guerre se voulant magnat du pétrole sont deux exemples de ce que l’avenir de la Libye ne doit pas être.

La Libye comme l’Europe, «Unie dans la diversité»

L’histoire l’a quelque peu oublié, mais l’Etat libyen de 1952 se nommait le Royaume-Uni de Libye, à l’image de la Grande-Bretagne. Pour autant, tenter d’unir autour d’une figure monarchique un pays aux identités locales, voire «micro-locales» selon l’expression du chercheur français Patrick Haimzadeh, à ce point enracinées et prononcées relevait de l’utopie, sans une forme de gouvernement à l’image, par exemple, du Royaume-Uni contemporain avec un Parlement en Ecosse, une Assemblée du Pays de Galles et une autre en Irlande du Nord en plus du Gouvernement britannique à Londres.

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L’histoire n’était pas prête, sans doute. Elle ne le sera pas davantage si, au cas où le Brexit tournerait mal, les nations composant le Royaume-Uni venaient à se découvrir plus diverses qu’elles ne sont unies et l’une ou plusieurs d’entre elles plébiscitaient leur indépendance.

Aujourd’hui, le seul salut de la Libye réside dans une structure gouvernementale faisant d’elle un pays qui soit à l’image de la devise de l’Union européenne, «Unie dans la diversité». Désunis, les Britanniques ne se tueraient pas. Les Libyens, oui, depuis près de dix ans. Ce qui leur manque, ce n’est pas un homme pour les diriger. C’est de pouvoir se diriger eux-mêmes, être eux-mêmes et apprendre à se ressembler dans la différence.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

Au Nicaragua, l’Etat nie la COVID-19 et abandonne les soignants à leur sort

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Latin America, NGOs, Nicaragua, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 2, 2020 at 8:03 PM

Par Bernard J. Henry

 

L’une des leçons majeures de la crise de la COVID-19 restera que, malgré ses errements dans les premiers temps de la pandémie, l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS) aura agi comme un révélateur de la mentalité des Etats envers cette menace planétaire sans précédent depuis la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. L’enseignement en est clair, autant qu’il est inquiétant : là où, partout dans le monde, le virus frappe sans faire de distinction, certains dirigeants nationaux le croient néanmoins perméable à leurs choix politiques.

Là où Emmanuel Macron, Président de la République française, déclarait à son peuple en instaurant le confinement «Nous sommes en guerre» et son Ministre des Solidarités et de la Santé Olivier Véran faisait sien le mot d’ordre de l’OMS, «Testez, testez, testez», le Premier Ministre britannique Boris Johnson risquait le pari de l’immunité collective, pari perdu qui faillit lui coûter sa propre vie.

Aux Etats-Unis, le Président Donald Trump refuse toute injonction internationale, étant allé jusqu’à interrompre le financement américain de l’OMS puis rompre toute relation avec elle. Au Brésil, le Président Jair Bolsonaro adopte une ligne semblable, rejetant gestes-barrière et distanciation physique. Dans les deux pays, ce sont les gouverneurs des Etats fédérés qui doivent agir, provoquant la colère de leurs chefs d’Etat respectifs qui mobilisent contre eux leurs partisans.

Et toujours sur le continent américain, un pays se distingue plus encore – le Nicaragua, où le pouvoir nie tout bonnement l’épidémie et invite, si ce n’est oblige, la population à enfreindre toutes les préconisations internationales.

Le Président du Nicaragua défend la COVID-19 comme un «signal de Dieu»

Daniel Ortega, l’ancien chef sandiniste du temps de la Guerre Froide, évincé du pouvoir aux urnes en 1990 puis qui y est revenu par la même voie en 2006 et s’y est fait réélire en 2011 avec, pour candidate à la Vice-présidence, nulle autre que son épouse Rosario Murillo, tenait déjà son pays d’une main de fer depuis le 18 avril 2018 et sa répression des protestations populaires contre un projet avorté de réforme des retraites et de la sécurité sociale défavorable aux plus précaires. Des professionnels de tous corps de métier, parmi lesquels un nombre important de soignants, avaient été licenciés. Des militants de l’opposition avaient été emprisonnés. Le Costa Rica voisin connaissait un afflux par dizaines de milliers de Nicaraguayens fuyant la dictature de fait surnommée «Orteguillo» en contraction des noms de Daniel Ortega et Rosario Murillo.

Dans de telles conditions, il n’aurait pas paru saugrenu de voir le pouvoir nicaraguayen prendre prétexte de la COVID-19 pour imposer des restrictions impitoyables, par exemple un confinement sur le modèle philippin avec menace de tirer à balles réelles sur les contrevenants. Contre toute attente, Managua a choisi l’extrême inverse, celui du déni total de la pandémie.

Capture d’écran France 2, 2018

Après avoir obligé la population à marcher en masse, dans la promiscuité, sous la bannière du Front Sandiniste de Libération Nationale (FSLN) au pouvoir pour célébrer «l’amour et la paix en temps de coronavirus», Ortega a disparu des écrans à partir du 12 mars, à tel point que d’aucuns le supposaient contaminé lui-même. Le 15 avril, il est réapparu sur les antennes de la télévision nicaraguayenne, qualifiant la COVID-19 de «signal de Dieu» et excluant toute mesure sanitaire nationale contre elle.

Le résultat en est dramatique. Au 23 mai, l’Observatoire citoyen du Nicaragua annonçait plus de 2 600 cas dans le pays, où s’enracine à présent la pratique des inhumations nocturnes des victimes de l’épidémie niée par le pouvoir. Le danger est devenu tel que les Etats voisins d’Amérique centrale, Guatemala, El Salvador et Costa Rica, craignent désormais de voir s’embraser toute la région par la faute de Managua.

Malgré tout, la population respecte les consignes internationales, la campagne «Quédate en casa», «Reste à la maison», lancée pour inciter au confinement, s’attirant les foudres d’un Ortega qui insiste pour ne rien faire. Quant au personnel médical, il est au mieux livré à lui-même et au pire réprimé.

Les soignants du Nicaragua livrés à eux-mêmes – et surtout au danger

Depuis avril 2018, au Nicaragua, les médecins sont des ennemis d’Etat. Ces médecins qui ont soigné les manifestants blessés dans la répression des mouvements populaires et qui l’ont payé en nombre de leur emploi. Face à la COVID-19, les derniers remparts d’une population poussée à l’infection par le régime sont devenus pour lui rien moins que des traîtres.

Fulgencio Baez, onco-hématologue hospitalier, confiait à l’association SOS Nicaragua France dans sa Newsletter de mai : «Nous savons que nous sommes dans la partie de la montée exponentielle de la contagion, avec la contagion communautaire. Il y a plusieurs morts, sans connaître le nombre exact. Ce que nous entendons quotidiennement et ce que nous voyons concernant les personnes décédées sont des foyers à Chinandega, Managua, Masaya et Matagalpa».

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Déjà faible auparavant, poursuivait le médecin, le système de santé nicaraguayen n’avait aucune chance contre la pandémie. Privés de tout appui gouvernemental, notamment de toute statistique puisque les quelques tests disponibles restent le monopole de l’Etat, les soignants sont débordés et bien sûr menacés eux-mêmes d’infection à tout moment.

L’ennemi devant eux avec la pandémie, mais aussi derrière eux en la personne de leur propre Président, les soignants du Nicaragua n’ont pas seulement la santé, et la vie, de leurs seuls compatriotes mais aussi des peuples de toute l’Amérique centrale.

Seul moyen de leur permettre de vaincre : les aider directement, en passant outre leur gouvernement. C’est ce qu’a entrepris SOS Nicaragua France, à travers une campagne de dons sur son espace HelloAsso.

L’Association of World Citizens défend l’action citoyenne en plus de celle de l’Etat, voire à la place et, s’il le faut, contre l’Etat. Ici, à la place suffit déjà bien, la société civile devant assumer seule et sans aide, envers son peuple et les pays voisins, la responsabilité que l’Etat ne reconnaît pas. Seule et sans aide, sauf si le peuple du monde vient à son secours.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.

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Pour contribuer à la campagne de soutien,

cliquer ici.

Libya: The Fairy Godmothers Hoping to Bless a New State Structure Meet in Berlin

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on January 22, 2020 at 9:16 PM

By René Wadlow

The Fairy Godmothers of world politics met in Berlin on January 19, 2020 to assist at the birth of a State structure arising from the currently deeply divided factions of Libya: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were the co-hosts with the Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, France’s Emmanuel Macron, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, the USA’s Mike Pompeo as well as the less easily recognized officials – the Prime Minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, and the representatives of China, Egypt, Algeria, and the United Arab Emirates. There were also representatives of the major intergovernmental organizations involved in Libya: the UN, the European Union, the African Union and the League of Arab States.

The Final Document of the Berlin Conference is an effort to please all participants, but, in fact, on the crucial issue of the creation of a functioning administration for Libya, there was only a broad vision of a desirable future: a single, unified, inclusive, and effective Libyan government that is transparent, accountable, fair with equitable distribution of public wealth and resources between different Libyan geographic areas, including through decentralization and support for municipalities, thereby removing a central grievance and cause of recrimination.

The creation of such State structures has been the chief issue since 1945 when the Allies – Britain, the USA and the USSR – agreed that the Italian colonies should not be returned to Italy, although Italian settlers were encouraged to stay. The Allies did not want to create the structures of the new State believing that this task should be done by the Libyans themselves. Also, the three Allies disagreed among themselves as to the nature of the future State.

King Idris I of Libya

By 1950-1951 with more crucial geopolitical issues elsewhere, the Allies were ready for the creation of a Libyan State. It seemed that a monarchy was the most appropriate form of government as there were no structured political parties that could have created a parliamentary government. Thus in 1951, Idris was made the King of the State. Idris was the head of the Senussi Sufi Order created by his father. The Senussi Sufi Order had branches in most parts of the country. Idriss ruled the country as if it were a Sufi order and did little to structure non-religious political structures. Idris ruled until September 1969 when he was overthrown by Muammar Qaddafi.

Qaddafi was also not interested in creating permanent political parties which, he feared, might be used against him. He called himself “the Guide of the Revolution” not “President” and Libya became the Libyan Jamahiriya, that is, the authority of the people. The closest model to Qaddafi’s vision is a Quaker Meeting, where decisions are taken by consensus and compromise at the local level. These decisions are then sent as recommendations to the next higher level where by consensus and compromise again a decision is taken. Ultimately, these decisions reach to the top of Libya, and the “Guide” sees how they can be carried out.

Muammar Qaddafi

The problem with the governance of Libya was that not everyone was a member of a Sufi order where the search for enlightenment in a spirit of love was the way decisions were to be made. Moreover, there were hardly any Libyan Quakers, and compromise was not the chief model for the tribal and clanic networks which was how the country was structured under Qaddafi.

Since the overthrow and death of Qaddafi in 2011, there has been no agreement on how the country should be structured. The model which is most likely to be followed is that of General Khalifa Haftar, who now likes to be addressed as “Field Marshal”. The model is a military-based dictatorship with a small number of civilians as “window dressing”. The model is well represented through the world although not always held up as a model form of government. Haftar holds a good bit of the Libyan territory, although his hope of a quick victory over the “national unity” government in the capitol Tripoli has not been successful for the moment.

Faiez Sarraj

The National Unity Government of Faiez Sarraj is a civilian-led government but heavily dependent for its survival on tribal militias. The model for the government is that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey with a certain ideological coloring from the Islamic Brotherhood, originally from Egypt but whose ideology has spread. What type of structures can be created between these two major models is not known. I would expect to see a Khalifa Haftar-led government with a few civilians brought in from the National Unity Government.

General Khalifa Haftar

The only geographic area outside of the current Tripoli-centered conflict between Faiez Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar is the area known as the Fezzan – the southwestern part of the country on the edge of the Sahara. The area was associated with the rest of the country during the period of King Idriss as there were a number of branches of his Sufi order in the oases where most of the 200,000 people in the area live, mostly date palm farmers. Gaddafi largely left the area alone as there was little possibility of developing organized opposition. However, today, the governmental neglect has opened the door to wide-spread smuggling of people, weapons and drugs. The Italian government in particular has drawn international attention to the lack of administration in the Fezzan as many of the African migrants who end up in Italy have passed through the Fezzan on their way to Europe.

The creation of highly decentralized governmental structures in Libya will not be easy. Nevertheless, such decentralized administration is key to the future, and a challenge to all of us who want to see a peaceful and relatively just Libya.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Africa, Asia, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Environmental protection, Europe, Fighting Racism, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on October 28, 2019 at 12:40 PM

By René Wadlow

On October 23, 2019, 39 people, 8 women and 31 men, were found dead in a refrigerated trailer truck coming from Belgium in the last leg of its journey. The truck was at a parking lot in Essex, near London, England. The identity of the persons is still in the process of being investigated. They may be Vietnamese having traveled through China, or Chinese. The victims draw sad attention to the process of trafficking in persons.

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has drawn attention to the positive aspects of migration. However, there are also negative aspects so that we are also concerned with migration that is not safe such as trafficking in persons. A UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the biggest human rights crises today. The vast majority of victims trafficked are for sexual exploitation, while others are exploited for forced labor and forced marriage.

One aspect of migration issues is the issue of the trans-frontier trafficking in persons. Awareness has been growing, but effective remedies are slow and uncoordinated. Effective remedies are often not accessible to victims of trafficking owing to gaps between setting international standards, enacting national laws and then implementation in a humane way.

The international standards have been set out in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The Convention and the Protocol standards are strengthened by the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The worldwide standards have been reaffirmed by regional legal frameworks such as the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Despite clear international and regional standards, there is poor implementation, limited government resources and infrastructure dedicated to the issue, a tendency to criminalize victims and restrictive immigration policies in many countries.

Trafficking in persons is often linked to networks trafficking in drugs and arms. Some gangs are involved in all three; in other cases agreements are made to specialize and not expand into the specialty of other criminal networks.

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As 25% of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. As a result, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

The second category are people leaving their country for economic reasons − sometimes called “economic refugees.” Migration for better jobs and a higher standard of living has a long history. Poverty, ethnic and racial discrimination, and gender-based discrimination are all factors in people seeking to change countries. With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries and with a popular “backlash” against migrants in some countries, would-be migrants turn to “passers” − individuals or groups that try to take migrants into a country, avoiding legal controls.

A third category − or a subcategory of economic migration − is the sex trade, usually of women but also children. As a Human Rights Watch study of the Japanese “sex-entertainment” businesses notes “There are an estimated 150,000 non-Japanese women employed in the Japanese sex industry, primarily from other Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. These women are typically employed in the lower rungs of the industry either in ‘dating’ snack bars or in low-end brothels, in which customers pay for short periods of eight or fifteen minutes. Abuses are common as job brokers and employers take advantage of foreign women’s vulnerability as undocumented migrants: they cannot seek recourse from the police or other law enforcement authorities without risking deportation and potential prosecution, and they are isolated by language barriers, a lack of community, and a lack of familiarity with their surroundings.” We find similar patterns in many countries.

The scourge of trafficking in persons will continue to grow unless strong counter measures are taken. Basically, police and governments worldwide do not place a high priority on the fight against trafficking unless illegal migration becomes a media issue. Therefore, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as the Association of World Citizens, which has raised the issue in the UN Human Rights bodies in Geneva. There are four aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other three aspects depend on the efforts of the NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which children and women are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of the country and among marginalized populations. Socioeconomic and educational development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is the development of housing and of women’s shelters to ensure that persons who have been able to leave exploitive situations have temporary housing and other necessary services.

The fourth aspect is psychological healing. Very often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trades have a disrupted or violent family and have a poor idea of their self-worth. This is also often true of refugees from armed conflict. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimension to the person through teaching meditation and yoga. There are needs for creating adult education facilities so that people may continue a broken education cycle.

There are NGOs who are already working along these lines. Their efforts need to be encouraged and expanded.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

International Humanitarian Law, Constant Challenges, NGO Responses

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Human Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on August 12, 2019 at 8:38 AM

By René Wadlow

August 12 is the anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Protocols Additional are central instruments of International Humanitarian Law. The Geneva Conventions, are also often called the Red Cross Conventions as the International Committee of the Red Cross is the institution which is to promote and protect the articles of the Conventions, although the Convention opens the door to other organizations “which offers all guarantees of impartiality and efficacy.”

The 1949 Geneva Conventions were drawn up in light of the violations of earlier international humanitarian law during the Second World War. The first Geneva Convention was drawn up in 1864, the time of the birth of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aims of the ICRC were set out at the time: the development and universalization of humanitarian law and as a neutral go-between in armed conflicts, enabling contact to be maintained between combatants. There could also be a role to serve as an intermediary between victims and States, reminding States of their obligations towards those victims.

The Geneva Conventions have evolved as the nature of armed conflicts has evolved. The 1977 Protocols Additional were drawn up by a diplomatic conference held in Geneva in light of the experiences of the war in Vietnam, the greater number of conflicts that could be called “civil wars” and the greater use of armed militias which were not regular military forces. In the 1977 discussions, there was greater awareness of the conditions of refugees, already protected by the international refugee agreements but also a growing awareness of persons displaced within the country, a pattern which has grown.

Closely related to the Geneva Conventions is a second tradition of international humanitarian law, what may be called “the Hague Tradition” growing out of the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. This tradition places its emphasis on banning the use of certain types of weapons. The 1925 Geneva Convention prohibiting the use of poison gas was a direct result of poison gas use in World War I. Since then, there has been a treaty banning the use of land mines, of cluster munitions, and a wider ban on chemical weapons.

There are two other sources or traditions in the development of international humanitarian law. One is respect for human rights provisions as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the conventions which followed focused on different aspects of the Universal Declaration. While the provisions of the Universal Declaration are to be upheld at all times, there are highly visible and wide-spread violations during armed conflicts. Thus the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights (become the Human Rights Council) became concerned with situations of armed conflicts.

Palmyra, the ancient city in Syria, much of which has been destroyed by both the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) and the Syrian Arab Army of the Assad regime.

The fourth tradition is the development of the 1936 Roerich Peace Pact to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The 1936 Pact, signed at the White House in Washington, D.C. was a Pan-American Union Treaty. Its provisions served as the basis of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Goods with UNESCO as the official body for its safeguard. The 1954 Treaty has been progressively enriched by the development of UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage sites. The International Criminal Court has recently condemned a person for his role in the destruction of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites in northern Mali, West Africa.

These traditions of international humanitarian law have been highlighted in a number of United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolutions such as that on Basic Principles of Protection for Civilian Populations in Time of Armed Conflict, Resolution 2625 (1971).

Thus, the provisions of international humanitarian law are well developed and cover many issues that are likely to arise in armed conflicts. There are two major challenges for their respect. One is that the provisions of international humanitarian law are not well known, neither by the military nor by possible victims. Thus, education concerning international humanitarian law is necessary. During the 1969-1971 Nigeria-Biafra War, I had been a member of an ICRC working group as the Nigeria-Biafra war was the first war among Africans without a colonial power being involved. There were many violations during the war, including the use of starvation as a military policy. After the end of the war, the need for teaching international humanitarian law was obvious. I helped in the preparation of a textbook using African examples that the Red Cross used fairly widely in Africa. The teaching of international humanitarian law in the context of local cultures and values is still a vital challenge.

The second and more important challenge is that international humanitarian law is not respected even when its provisions are known. The current conscious violation of international humanitarian law including some of the oldest provisions – not attacking medical facilities or not shooting prisoners – has been widespread in armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere. More than preparing handbooks for the military and the militias is needed.

The Association of World Citizens has been stressing the need for a UN-led world conference on the reaffirmation of international humanitarian law in which governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and armed factions could participate. The degree of respect for humanitarian standards is far from satisfactory, as has been repeatedly pointed out. However, for the moment, there has not been the needed momentum. Such a momentum is likely to arise only from NGOs. The August 12 anniversary is a reminder that we need to work creatively before major wars not afterwards.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Libya: The Blitzkrieg Breaks Down, Negotiations Needed

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Humanitarian Law, Libya, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on July 20, 2019 at 10:29 AM

By René Wadlow

Dozens of people were killed in an air raid on July 3, 2019 on a detention center holding migrants in a camp at Tajoura, a suburb of Tripoli according to the United Nations (UN) Support Mission in Libya. Most of those killed and wounded were Africans from Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia who had hoped to reach Europe but were blocked in Libya. Others held in the detention center had been returned to Libya, arrested trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

In 2018, some 15,000 persons were intercepted on boats at sea and returned to Libya, placed in detention centers without charge and with no date set for release. The detention centers are officially under the control of the Government of National Accord’s Department for Combating Illegal Migration. In practice, most of the detention centers are controlled by militias. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the conditions in these detention centers as “an outrage to the conscience of humanity.”

Since the outbreak of armed conflict on the outskirts of Tripoli on April 3, 2019, many persons have been killed or wounded in what General Khalifa Haftar hoped would be a blitzkrieg advance. He badly underestimated the degree of military response that he would meet from the militias loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Since the blitzkrieg bogged down, in the absence of a ceasefire, the humanitarian situation is dramatically degenerating.

General Khalifa Haftar

The dramatic conditions in Libya have a double aspect. One is the need to create a stable administrative structure of government taking into consideration the geographic and ethnic diversity of the country. The second aspect is the humane treatment of refugees and migrants from other countries who have tried to cross Libya or have been returned from failed crossings of the Mediterranean.

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj

Therefore, the Association of World Citizens (AWC), as an immediate step, calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and the resumption of UN-led negotiations in good faith among a broad spectrum of Libyan political parties and tribal representatives.

Secondly, the AWC calls for an end of returning refugees and migrants to Libya. Other countries must welcome migrants while longer-range cooperative structures are put into place. Migration issues will continue to challenge the world society.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Migration and Awareness of Trafficking in Persons

In Being a World Citizen, Current Events, Human Rights, Modern slavery, NGOs, Refugees, Social Rights, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 10, 2019 at 9:47 PM

By René Wadlow

The United Nations (UN) Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration has drawn attention to the positive aspects of migration. However, there are also negative aspects so that we are also concerned with migration that is not safe such as trafficking in persons. A UN report presented to the Commission on the Status of Women at the start of its current two-week session in New York highlighted that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries and one of the biggest human rights crises today. The vast majority of victims trafficked are for sexual exploitation, while others are exploited for forced labor and forced marriage.

One aspect of migration issues is the issue of the trans-frontier trafficking in persons. Awareness has been growing, but effective remedies are slow and uncoordinated. Effective remedies are often not accessible to victims of trafficking owing to gaps between setting international standards, enacting national laws and then implementation in a humane way.

The international standards have been set out in the “United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” and its “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.” The Convention and the Protocol standards are strengthened by the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.” The worldwide standards have been reaffirmed by regional legal frameworks such as the “Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.”

Despite clear international and regional standards, there is poor implementation, limited government resources and infrastructure dedicated to the issue, a tendency to criminalize victims and restrictive immigration policies in many countries.

Trafficking in persons is often linked to networks trafficking in drugs and arms. Some gangs are involved in all three; in other cases, agreements are made to specialize and not expand into the specialty of other criminal networks.

Basically, there are three sources of trafficking in persons. The first are refugees from armed conflicts. Refugees are covered by the Refugee Conventions supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country of first asylum. Thus, Syrian refugees are protected and helped by the UNHCR in Lebanon, but not if they leave Lebanon. As ¼ of the population of Lebanon are now refugees from the conflicts in Syria, the Lebanese government is increasingly placing restrictions on Syrian’s possibility to work in Lebanon, to receive schooling, medical services, proper housing etc. Therefore, many Syrians try to leave Lebanon or Turkey to find a better life in Western Europe. Refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan follow the same pattern.

The second category are people leaving their country for economic reasons − sometimes called “economic refugees.” Migration for better jobs and a higher standard of living has a long history. Poverty, ethnic and racial discrimination, and gender-based discrimination are all factors in people seeking to change countries. With ever-tighter immigration policies in many countries and with a popular “backlash” against migrants in some countries, would-be migrants turn to “passers” − individuals or groups that try to take migrants into a country, avoiding legal controls.

A third category − or a subcategory of economic migration − is the sex trade, usually of women but also children. As a Human Rights Watch study of the Japanese “sex-entertainment” businesses notes, “There are an estimated 150,000 non-Japanese women employed in the Japanese sex industry, primarily from other Asian countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. These women are typically employed in the lower rungs of the industry either in ‘dating’ snack bars or in low-end brothels, in which customers pay for short periods of eight or fifteen minutes. Abuses are common as job brokers and employers take advantage of foreign women’s vulnerability as undocumented migrants: they cannot seek recourse from the police or other law enforcement authorities without risking deportation and potential prosecution, and they are isolated by language barriers, a lack of community, and a lack of familiarity with their surroundings.” We find similar patterns in many countries.

The scourge of trafficking in persons will continue to grow unless strong counter measures are taken. Basically, police and governments worldwide do not place a high priority on the fight against trafficking unless illegal migration becomes a media issue. Thus, real progress needs to be made through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Association of World Citizens. There are four aspects to this anti-trafficking effort. The first is to help build political will by giving accurate information to political leaders and the press. The other three aspects depend on the efforts of the NGOs themselves. Such efforts call for increased cooperation among NGOs and capacity building.

The second aspect is research into the areas from which children and women are trafficked. These are usually the poorest parts of the country and among marginalized populations. Socio-economic and educational development projects must be directed to these areas so that there are realistic avenues for advancement.

The third aspect is the development of housing and of women’s shelters to ensure that persons who have been able to leave exploitive situations have temporary housing and other necessary services.

The fourth aspect is psychological healing. Very often women and children who have been trafficked into the sex trades have a disrupted or violent family and have a poor idea of their self-worth. This is also often true of refugees from armed conflict. Thus, it is important to create opportunities for individual and group healing, to give a spiritual dimension to the person through teaching meditation and yoga. There are needs for creating adult education facilities so that people may continue a broken education cycle.

There are NGOs who are already working along these lines. Their efforts need to be encouraged and expanded.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Syria: Concerns Raised and Possible Next Steps

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, Migration, NGOs, Refugees, Solidarity, Syria, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on March 16, 2019 at 8:52 AM

By René Wadlow

March 15 is widely used as the date on which the conflict in Syria began. March 15, 2011 was the first “Day of Rage” held in a good number of localities to mark opposition to the repression of youth in the southern city of Daraa, where a month earlier young people had painted anti-government graffiti on some of the walls, followed by massive arrests.

I think that it is important for us to look at why organizations that promote nonviolent action and conflict resolution in the US and Western Europe were not able to do more to aid those in Syria who tried to use nonviolence during the first months of 2011. By June 2011, the conflict had largely become one of armed groups against the government forces, but there were at least four months when there were nonviolent efforts before many started to think that a military “solution” was the only way forward. There were some parts of the country where nonviolent actions continued for a longer period.

There had been early on an effort on the part of some Syrians to develop support among nonviolent and conflict resolution groups. As one Syrian activist wrote concerning the ‘Left’ in the US and Europe but would also be true for nonviolent activists “I am afraid that it is too late for the leftists in the West to express any solidarity with the Syrians in their extremely hard struggle. What I always found astonishing in this regard is that mainstream Western leftists know almost nothing about Syria, its society, its regime, its people, its political economy, its contemporary history. Rarely have I found a useful piece of information or a genuinely creative idea in their analyses “(1)

A Syrian opposition rally in Paris
(C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

In December 2011, there was the start of a short-lived Observer Mission of the League of Arab States. In a February 9, 2012 message to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ambassador Nabil el-Araby, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) proposed a renewal of the Arab League Observer Mission with the inclusion of a greater number of non-governmental organization observers and a broadened mandate to go beyond fact-finding and thus to play an active conflict resolution role at the local level in the hope to halt the downward spiral of violence and killing. In response, members from two Arab human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGO) were added for the first time. However, opposition to the conditions of the Arab League Observers from Saudi Arabia let to the end of the Observer Mission.

On many occasions since, the AWC has indicated to the United Nations (UN), the Government of Syria and opposition movements the potentially important role of NGOs, both Syrian and international, in facilitating armed conflict resolution measures.

In these years of war, the AWC, along with others, has highlighted six concerns:

1) The widespread violation of humanitarian law (international law in time of war) and thus the need for a UN-led conference for the re-affirmation of humanitarian law.

2) The widespread violations of human rights standards.

3) The deliberate destruction of monuments and sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

4) The use of chemical weapons in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol signed by Syria at the time, as well as in violation of the more recent treaty banning chemical weapons.

5) The situation of the large number of persons displaced within the country as well as the large number of refugees and their conditions in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. In addition, there is the dramatic fate of those trying to reach Europe.

6) The specific conditions of the Kurds and the possibility of the creation of a trans-frontier Kurdistan without dividing the current States of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.

These issues have been raised with diplomats and others participating in negotiations in Geneva as well as with the UN-appointed mediators. In addition, there have been articles published and then distributed to NGOs and others of potential influence.

The Syrian situation has grown increasingly complex since 2011 with more death and destruction as well as more actors involved and with a larger number of refugees and displaced persons. Efforts have been made to create an atmosphere in which negotiations in good faith could be carried out. Good faith is, alas, in short supply. Efforts must continue. An anniversary is a reminder of the long road still ahead.

Notes:

(1) Yassin al-Haj Saleh in Robin Yassin-Kassal and Leila Al-Shami, Burning Country, Syrians in Revolution and War (London: Pluto Press, 2015, p. 210)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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