Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Appeal to protect the Rohingya Burmese Refugees in Malaysia

Press Release:

Our Ref: ST-002/2010

Dated: July 29, 2010

Appeal to protect the Rohingya Burmese Refugees in Malaysia

Today, the plights of Rohingya (Arakanese) refugees in Malaysia are being ignored by every concerned quarter for their belief, which is a total of negligence to the real cause.

Fact that, no quarter is eager to take measureable step to support the Rohingya vulnerable refugees, having an offer from the Malaysian Government that it will allow the refugees to do odd jobs.

Some quarters try to implicate that the Rohingya refugees are receiving helps from Muslim Malaysian government which is not bound to respect the rights of refugee protection regardless of race or religion and thus the government simply says that the refugees are illegal in the country.

In the current context of refugee advocacy, issue of Rohingya falls into a missing chapter, which is only because of denial of the citizenship rights by the Burmese military ruler with a systematic policy towards ethnic cleansing. By this option, many quarters apply the issue into statelessness for whom, no facility or right is left, except slavery.

In modern form of salvation, some of the Rohingya refugees have already ended over 30 years in Malaysia, who reached to 3rd generation but their fates remained unchanged.

It is undeniable that the Rohingya refugees are facing humanitarian challenges in Malaysia for their living, livelihood, medication and employment. In times of their illegal employment, they meet with unavoidable accidents that result to breaking hands, legs, bones, head injuries and etc for which no compensation or assistance is available as they are considered useless animals or scrub human being.

At the same times, Malaysian public hospitals are keen to develop training manual but face serious troubles in language variety.

Currently, hundreds of Rohingya refugees are facing challenges to pay house rents and to have daily food adequately as they are unable to work in any sector for the reasons of their long-term illness and inability to do odd jobs. In such situation, they are suffering from severe diseases with extreme poverty for which no appropriate medication is available because of their failure to unbearable hospital bills.

Inevitably, some of the elderly people, children and widows go out from their rental house to roadside to beg money or food for their survivals and to pay house rent but they are not free from law enforcement agencies' operation and thus get arrest and have to serve detention.

In time of getting release by UNHCR intervention, they need to pay bribe to UNHCR interpreters. Otherwise, have stay in the cage of over crowded detention camp. Besides, many intellectuals including responsible human rights advocates are trying to brand the Rohingya refugees as economic migrants in order to gain personal advantage, rather presenting the cause appropriately.

Some quarters always try to misguide the genuine Rohingya refugees, the victims of gross human rights abuses and enslavement in countries of their refuge. Therefore, request may be made to every concerned quarter to work with genuine Rohingya refugee community and dedicated Rohingya refugee representatives.

As of our commitment for the betterment of Rohingya Burmese refugees in Malaysia and ready to work together with every concern quarter in order to ensure the basic rights of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.

Some links are provided for your kind information:

Coordinating Committee

Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC)


For further query, please contact:

Mr. Mohammad Sadek, H/p: +60163094599

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Burma: Genocide against Ethnic Minorities

Below is an article published by the Democratic Voice of Burma:
Readers of this website should need no convincing of the seriousness of ongoing human rights violations against minority ethnic groups in Burma. Medicins Sans Frontieres has described Burma’s ethnic Rohingya minority has one of the world populations “most in danger of extinction” and leading scholars, including William Schabas, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, have suggested that the Muslim group may be victims of crimes against humanity, a sentiment that has been echoed by multiple other bodies.

Numerous human rights and legal advocacy groups have similarly said that Burma’s other ethnic minorities – the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Shan – are also seriously threatened by the ruling junta, which has held power in various forms since 1962.

In the past decade and a half, there has been significant progress in our understanding of genocide and how to prevent it, mainly as the result of our failures to do so. One of the most crucial lessons learned from this bitter experience is that, from the standpoint of saving human lives, the question of whether or not a situation meets the legal definition of genocide is beside the point. And the point, for those in the field of genocide prevention today, is not how to stop genocide once it has begun, but rather how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

To that end, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, based in New York, operates a genocide prevention program targeting the women and men in government who shape and implement the policies that determine whether or not a society will tip over the edge into mass slaughter. Key to the program is the forging of a community of policymakers to support one another in their everyday work. Given that some of those who take part come from countries that are at risk of genocide, or perhaps even in the midst of one, we do not take a position on whether or not the situation in any particular country constitutes genocide. To do so would defeat our purpose, since the countries that are most at risk of genocide are the very ones we most hope to attract.

This is important because, up until now, there has been no community of prevention between the level of grassroots activism and the officialdom of national governments and the UN. And research has shown that the more connected a country is to the rest of the world – especially economically and politically – the less likely it is that conflict there will escalate into genocide. Some of the other risk factors for genocide, according to US political scientist Barbara Harff, include a prior history of genocide, ethnic and religious divisions within society, exclusionary ideology, and autocratic rule.

Burma has all these in spades. Other researchers may look to different indicators, but the pattern is unmistakable. Most genocide scholars and human rights groups agree there has already been one genocide in Burma since 1962 – that of the Rohingya – and there is ample evidence to suggest that government killings of other ethnic groups constitute at least crimes against humanity, if not full-blown genocide.

US political scientist Ted Robert Gurr recently published a brief paper titled ‘Options for the Prevention and Mitigation of Genocide: Strategies and Examples for Policy-Makers’. His analysis and recommendations are grounded in the most recent experience of the international community as well as the most up-to-date scholarship. Other, more comprehensive attempts to address the issue have come from Minority Rights Group International, which focuses on UN policy; the Genocide Prevention Task Force, focusing on US policy; and the Will to Intervene Project, which looks at both US and Canadian policy.

There are several drawbacks, however, to all of these approaches. One is that they tend to stress intervention over prevention, which tilts the balance toward short-term military solutions and away from longer-term, political or economic approaches. The second is that they view the solution as coming from outside the country at risk, as opposed to from within.

In any case, history clearly suggests that it would be na├»ve to expect direct action by the international community to prevent genocide in Burma anytime soon. Perhaps the most promising avenue for change at the moment is the recently created International Criminal Court (ICC), which is empowered to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In 2009, the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma called on the UN security council to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma with an eye to referring the case to the ICC. And earlier this year, the British government issued a statement saying that it would support a referral of Burma to the ICC by the UN Security Council. The wheels of international justice grind slowly, though. The question is, can they grind quickly enough for Burma’s ethnic minorities?

Alex Zucker is Communications and Development Officer of the New York-based Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Refugee groups condemn Australian PM's asylum policy

Refugee groups condemn Australian PM's asylum policy, story released by Press TV on July 9, 2010

Source: PressTV

Myanmar refugees in Malaysia grappling with acute poverty

Rohingya Burmese refugees in Malaysia are facing inhuman challanges with severe illness and extreme poverty as they are not allowed to access for their basic human rights.

Source: Press TV

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Refugees 12-day hunger strike in Darwin

Sunday, July 4, 2010
By Thomas Maung Shwe

A rally and march for refugee rights took place in Sydney on June 26.

Thirty one Rohingya refugees in a detention centre in Darwin ended their 12-day hunger strike on June 25. They were protesting against the Australian government’s delay in processing their asylum claims, an average of nine months after their boats’ interception.

The president of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia, Kyaw Maung Shamsul Islam, told Mizzima the hunger strikers ended their protest after meeting with their lawyer who reassured them he would push for their release. He said that three of the protesters had been taken to hospital because of the effects of the fast.

He said 42 refugees began the strike, but 11 dropped out earlier because of the physical toll.

The 42 refugees were transferred to Darwin from Australia’s offshore detention centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean in April. He said the Rohingya protesters were very worried about the safety of the loved ones they had left behind.

“They have spent too much time in the detention centre”, said Brisbane social worker Soe Lwin. “It has been a long time since immigration officers and social service groups have visited the detention centre. So, they’ve lost their rights and have gone on a hunger strike.

ABC news said Australian immigration officials in Darwin responded to inquiries about the hunger strike by saying that such actions would not speed up the processing of their asylum applications.

The June 23 NT News reported one of the hunger strikers had attempted to hang himself on June 22 but a fellow refugee intervened to save his life.

Mizzima was unable to contact any representatives of the Australian government for further comment.

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul told Mizzima that he had recently spoken on the phone with an Afghan refugee who was detained in the same area as the group of Rohingya hunger strikers. The Afghan said many of the Rohingya were “very weak” because of the far north Australian heat and their refusal to drink liquids.

Rintoul said the Australian government’s security check process was what was causing the lengthy delays in the Rohingya’s asylum claims. He criticised the government for stalling the process despite the fact that Australia considers the Rohingya a resettlement priority.

He told Mizzima that there was “no justifiable reason” for continuing to detain the refugees, adding that the government has refused to disclose what the security screening process entails.

Kyaw Maung told Mizzima that one reason for the delay in security background checks is that Australian authorities are seeking documentation from all of the countries that the refugees lived in or travelled through after fleeing Burma — which for most Rohingya in Australia means Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The slow and often corrupt bureaucracies in these countries, and their lack of administrative infrastructure, means just getting a response can take years. Kyaw Maung urged the Australian government to release the Rohingya while immigration officials continue their record checks.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group that hail from Burma’s western Arakan state and who speak a separate language from Arakanese or Burmese. Despite the fact that their families have lived in Burma for several generations, most Rohingya do not have Burmese citizenship. Many Arakanese nationalist organisations dispute the legitimacy of the Rohingya people, claiming they are merely Bengalis, a claim Rohingya activists say is a deliberate misrepresentation of history.

Rohingya activists point out that during the time of U Nu’s democratic post-war government, Rohingya were elected to the national parliament and Burmese state radio even had regular Rohingya-language broadcasts.

Over the last 20 years tensions in Arakan state between Muslims and Buddhists have been exacerbated by scarce land resources. Outbreaks of intra-communal bloodshed that many Rohingya believe were instigated by the Burmese military regime have sent hundreds of thousands fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh, where several hundred thousand Rohingya refugees live illegally.

The plight of the Rohingya briefly made headlines across the world last year when dozens of boats containing Rohingya refugees were pushed back into the ocean by Thai authorities.

In an attempt to counter the sympathetic coverage the Rohingya boat people received, Burma’s top diplomatic representative in Hong Kong, Consul-General Ye Myint Aung sent a letter to his fellow diplomats in the territory that claimed that the Rohingya could not possibly be Burmese citizens because their “complexion is dark brown” and that they are as “ugly as ogres”.

In April 2007, the Australian government proposed a US-Australian refugee deterrence trading plan. To launch the program, the Australian government wanted to swap eight Rohingya refugees and 82 Tamil refugees who had been detained attempting to make it to Australia by ship with a similar number of Haitian and Cuban refugees who had been captured at sea by US authorities.

Australia’s then-prime minister John Howard claimed the bartering of asylum seekers would limit the number of refugees trying to flee to Australia. “I think people who want to come to Australia will be deterred by anything that sends a message that getting to the Australian mainland illegally is not going to happen”, Howard told the April 18, 2007 Age.

However, the Howard government’s refugee-trading proposal was abandoned and no refugees were actually exchanged.

Kyaw Maung remains hopeful that all of the refugees will be released and given full residency status in Australia. He notes that the more than 400 Rohingya already in Australia have thrived.

[Abridged from Mizzima .]
Source: GreeLeft

BBC E-mail: Desperate plight of Burma's Rohingya people

ARRC saw this story on the BBC News website and thought you
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** Desperate plight of Burma's Rohingya people **
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Arakan: A Field of Muslim Genocide

By Nurul Islam CRCS

Rohingyas, a predominantly Muslim community, are one of the many ethnic nationalities in Burma. They are one of the two major indigenous peoples of Arakan; the other is the Rakhine who are Buddhists.

Rohang, the old name of Arakan, was a very familiar region for the Arab seafarers even during pre-Islamic days. Tides of people like the Arabs, Moors, Turks, Pathans, Moguls, Central Asians, Bengalis came mostly as traders, warriors, preachers and captives over land or through the sea route. Many settled in Arakan, and mixing with the local people, developed the present stock of people known as ethnic Rohingya. Hence, the Rohingya Muslims, whose settlements in Arakan date back to the 7th century AD are not an ethnic group which developed from one tribal group affiliation or single racial stock. They are an ethnic group developed from different stocks of people. The ethnic Rohingya is Muslim by religion with a distinct culture and civilisation of their own.
They trace their ancestry to Arabs, Moors, Pathans, Moghuls, Central Asians, Bengalis and some Indo-Mongoloid people. So, the Rohingyas are nationals as well as an indigenous ethnic group of Burma. They are not a newborn racial group of Arakan, rather they are as old an indigenous race of the country as any other. In 1826 AD Arakan was annexed to the British India and it was almost depopulated. A few months after the conclusion of the treaty of Yandabo Mr Paton, the Controller of Civil Affairs in Arakan, submitted to the British government a detailed report about the character of the country (Arakan), its extent, history, population, production and manners and customs of the inhabitants. He stated the population of Arakan as 100,000 (Maghs - 60,000; Muslims - 30,000; Burmese - 10,000). So on the date of the conquest of Arakan by the British, there had already been thirty thousand Muslims, i.e. 30 percent of the total population of Arakan. So, Rohingya Muslims are not the settlers of British period. A British army officer, who served on the Arakan front during the Second World War remarked about the ethnic character of the Arakan Muslims as follows "to look at, they are quite unlike any other product of India and Burma that I have seen. They resemble the Arab in name, in dress and in habit. The women and more particularly the young girls, have a distinctive Arab touch about them."
On 8th December 1941, Japan declared war against British Government. On 7th March 1942, the Japanese invading forces occupied Rangoon, the capital city of Burma. On 23rd March 1942 Japan bombed the Akyab City of Arakan. So, the British administration withdrew from Akyab by the end of March 1942. There was an administration vacuum in Arakan and exploiting the opportunity, the Rakhine communalists in connivance with Burma Independence Army (BIA) led by Bo Rang Aung brought a pogrom among them, massacring about 100,000 innocent Rohingya Muslims, driving out 80,000 of them across the border to East Bengal, devastating their settlements and depopulating the Muslims in some parts of Arakan. According to the London Agreement of October 7, 1947 power was handed over to the government of the Union of Burma on 4th January 1948.
We will now look at the context within which Rohingya Muslims are becoming Victims of State Terrorism decade by decade!
Since 1948, up to 1999, there have been no less than 20 major eviction campaigns against the Rohingyas carried out by the successive governments of Burma, causing more than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims left Arakan and sheltered in Bangladesh as political refugees. In July 1991, about 500 Rohingya businessmen were arrested under so-called "Phi-tha-ya Operation'' and all their belongings were confiscated. They were severely tortured for none of the proper allegations and sentenced to 5 years with hard labour. They were taken to the front line of military operation and used as human shields and cleansing mines or road construction projects. They were summarily executed.
1994: Year of Barbarism at its worst

From May, 1994 accused as Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) supporters or sympathisers, Rohingyas were taken at night from their homes and were tortured to death or buried alive. About 60,000 troops have been deployed in northern Arakan, who used thousands of Rohingyas as human shields. Hundreds of young Rohingyas were taken to deep forest as porters, most of whom have never come back. Under false and imaginary charges, thousands of Rohingyas had been gunned down and slaughtered. They were forced at gunpoint to kill each other. There are instances that brother had to kill brother and father and son were killed together before the very eyes of the family members. At least 300 Rohingyas were buried in the mass graves in Maung Daw and Buthidaung townships in the year 1994.
The major Rohingya exoduses
The root cause of the outflows of refugees from Arakan into Bangladesh and other countries is the 'Rohingya problem', which is a problem of ethnic, religious and political persecution to rid Arakan of the Muslim population, and to eventually turn it into a purely Burmese Buddhist region.
There were two major Rohingya exoduses from Arakan into Bangladesh, once in 1978 and another in 1991-92, each with more than 250,000 refugees. Despite repatriation, the problem remains unsolved and the exodus into Bangladesh is still continuing. "In both these instances -1978 and 1991 - the Rohingyas went back incidentally not as citizens of Myanmar but as "stateless" people. And then after their return to Arakan they once again faced forced labour, lack of freedom of movement, periodic displacement, whimsical arrest and killing, and other forms of human rights violations, including torture and rape. There are more than 28,000 official Rohingya refugees from 1991-92 exoduses still remaining in the two camps of Nayapara and Kutupalong in Cox's Bazar district.
In addition, about 62,000 refugees live in the two unofficial camps of Leda Tal and Kutupalong respectively in Teknaf and Ukhiya townships, while an estimated 150,000 have intermingled with the local villagers. But the humanitarian situation of these uprooted people all together is very heartrending.
The junta has been using methods of persecution as weapons of extermination such as n rape, extrajudicial killing, extortion, forced labour, imposing restrictions on travelling, religious freedom, Muslim marriage and education, etc. Killing without judicial proceeding is a crime against humanity and is a clear violation of Article 9-3 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and a resolution approved by the 40th session of the UN General Assembly. Under the pretext of looking for insurgents, random murder of innocent villagers is a regular feature of the forces. For activists, Burma has become synonymous with institutionalised rape, torture, forced labour, and ethnic cleansing. In the popular imagination, however, the enormity of Burma's crisis remains obscured by indifference and the overshadowing presence of disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur. There is no significant communal riot in Arakan except the unfortunate "1942 communal Riot'', and peaceful co-existence among the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims is prevailing. The ethnic minorities in Arakan have well perceived the junta`s policy of "Divide and Rule" because more or less the Rakhines are also victimised too. According to the news dated 6/17/2009 published by a Rakhine media, "Burmese Army soldiers have deserted over 210 women from eight villages located near the town of Rathidaung, after marrying them, said a youth who compiled three army battalions LIB 536-38 stationed from 1992 to 2008. The eight villagers are - Kha Naung Gyi, Say Kan, Kan Byin, Taung Hla Maw, Wra Thit Kay, Nga Tauk Tuu Chay and two other wards in Rathidaung- east and south.
Whatever the situation is the military junta allowed Rohingyas to vote and contest all the previous national elections. In 1990 election, 4-Rohingya MP were elected. Reportedly the junta is now desperate to attain support of Rohingyas in 2010 election. Junta uses Rohingyas to retain power without returning their birth rights and privileges. Who is a refugee?
"A refugee is a person who has been forced from his or her home and crossed an international border for safety. He or she must have a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her native country, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion''. So, there is no doubt that Rohingyas meet with the criteria of a refugee. We the people of Bangladesh should show them sympathy and compassion because they were forced to leave their ancestral land and they will not let us feel burden of their presence in Bangladesh when the situations of their native land become conducive for their return. The neighbouring countries of Myanmar and the 3rd party countries including Saudi Arabia should feel and sympathise for their severe sufferings and adopt measures to shelter and protect them until a democratic government is established in Burma.Solution to the problem
There is no scope of solving Rohingya issue unless and until regional and international unprecedented pressure on Myanmar is ensured. Rohingyas are potential or actual victims of massive atrocities and crimes against humanity. It is a problem of 'religious, ethnic and political persecution' against an ethnic minority Muslim community in Burma. Having political and humanitarian aspects, the Rohingya problem affects the region and beyond and is essentially a regional problem with international perspective that warrants 'international responsibility to protect'. Any regional solution must rest on securing improvements to the political situation within Burma such that the human rights of all peoples within its territory are respected. The Rohingya should be allowed to coexist as equal in Arakan. Their citizenship and ethnic rights are to be guaranteed, and their rights and privileges are to be ensured, on par with other national groups of the Union of Burma.
The Muslim "Rohingya'' of Burma by Martin Smith
Human Rights violations in Arakan by AFK Jilani
A short History of Arakan by Mohd Ashraf Alam
Human Rights Abuses and Discrimination on Rohingyas by Zaw Min Htut
Kaladanpress Net work, Narinjara News and MSF reports.
"The Advent of Islam in Arakan and the Rohingya" by Dr.Mohammed Ali Chowdhury presented at the seminar organized by Arakan Historical Society at Chittagong Zila Parishad Hall on December 31, 1995

Sat Jul 03 13:52:23 2010

Promoting Practices that Reflect Our Ideals: A Sharper Focus for International Migration Policy

Eric P. Schwartz
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
Seventh Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference, Georgetown University Law and Conference Center

Washington, DC

June 25, 2010


I want to thank the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the United States’ approach to international migration policy and to discuss these critical issues with experts in the field. I appreciate the invitation from MPI President Demetrios Papademetriou, Vice President Don Kerwin, and Kathleen Newland. I am especially honored to appear with my friend Doris Meissner, also of MPI, who is a dedicated and seasoned expert on these matters. And thanks, too, to the Catholic Immigration Network and Georgetown Law Center for hosting us. Finally, I want to thank my colleagues in the Office of International Migration in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for collaborating so closely with me on the words I’m about to offer.

It’s important to consider that when we talk about international migration policy, we are in many respects referring to an array of national practices that apply to citizens and non-citizens who cross borders.

Thus, international migration policy largely reflects the effort, by the United States and other governments, to develop common principles, approaches and initiatives with respect to those national practices. And while it’s not immigration policy, our views on domestic immigration policy certainly inform the effort to develop these common principles, approaches and initiatives with other governments, and our views of what other governments should be doing should certainly inform our approaches to our own domestic practices and law.

In fact, it was only over the past two decades or so that the Department of State recognized international migration as a distinct area of policy focus. In 1993, the Department created the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) out of the Bureau of Refugee Programs, and international migration was an issue of growing importance. Civil wars in Central America and the collapse of the Soviet Union had led to large movements of people and questions about how they should be treated from a policy and legal standpoint. With large-scale migrations of foreign policy importance, issues like human trafficking and other abuses of migrants also came to the fore. And with these events, the Department began to chart a policy and develop a range of programs that articulated and promoted our perspectives on international migration.

And this is as it should be, given the critical role that migration has played in our nation’s history. A huge percentage of the world’s migrants have ultimately found themselves in the United States. Indeed, our country has been built on immigration, and our national political leadership – whether Democrat or Republican – has continually articulated the view that immigration has made enormous contributions to our cultural diversity and richness, and to our economic growth and development. To be sure, perspectives on the economic impacts of immigration do vary. But positive views of those impacts are supported by analyses suggesting that due in some measure to immigration, the United States has largely been spared some of the troubling demographic trends that have bedeviled – and will continue to impact – the fiscal systems of other advanced industrialized countries that have been less hospitable to immigrants.

In articulating our approach to international migration over the years, the State Department has noted the U.S. effort to promote legal, humane and orderly migration, emphasizing the importance of family unification, appropriate treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants such as trafficking victims and stateless persons, and regional dialogues on international migration to promote the policy objectives I’ve just mentioned.

We have also supported migration management efforts, asserting that there is no necessary conflict between enforcement, on the one hand, and protection and inclusion, on the other.

PRM has supported a wide range of programs on every continent to increase the ability of countries to manage their borders in a humane way, provide assistance to vulnerable migrants, especially those trafficked for sexual or labor exploitation, and increase cooperation among countries.

Our foremost international partner in addressing migration has been – and continues to be – the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), another major partner for our Bureau, IOM grew out of the crises of refugees and displacement in Europe at the end of World War II.

The programs we have been supporting, mostly in partnership with IOM, have been solid, even imaginative, and have produced concrete benefits for a large number of vulnerable migrants over the past years. But as the number of small, discrete projects grew to nearly fifty, we have felt a need to sharpen our focus and develop a more targeted strategy, and to capture both in a clear and concise statement of mission.

In the effort to sharpen our focus, we are not operating in a vacuum. Echoing many of the sentiments of their predecessors, Democrat and Republican, both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have provided us with valuable guidance on how we might proceed. President Obama has reaffirmed that we are a nation of immigrants enriched by our diversity, and the Secretary of State has stressed the critical importance of support for vulnerable populations, including populations in transit. In addition, as recently as earlier this month when she released the 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the Secretary reminded us that we must ensure that our domestic policies live up to ideals we often promote to others.

So we’ve given considerable thought in our Bureau about how we ought to characterize our overall policy and program mission in these critical areas. Let me offer our preliminary thinking about such a statement, with the caveat that we’re still honing in on an exact formulation.

In essence, we will seek to promote safe, humane and orderly international migration policies and practices, which play a critical role in supporting family unification, advancing development in both countries of origin and destination, enriching the cultures of host countries, encouraging cooperation between states, safeguarding human rights and ensuring stability and security, and we will seek to ensure that the policies and practices we implement and advocate to others uphold international protection principles.

In pursuit of these objectives, we will narrow our capacity building and direct assistance programs to focus on about eight critical geographic regions where migration flows raise critical humanitarian and protection concerns. We also anticipate complementing this project focus with policy engagement and advocacy.

We believe that this more narrow orientation will enhance the overall policy impact of our work, and also have more of an effect on the process of creating best international migration practices.

In Africa, that means a focus on the Gulf of Aden, from the Horn of Africa and East Africa toward the Middle East. It also means focusing on movements from sub-Saharan Africa into North Africa and onward toward Europe; and, finally, on flows to and through Southern Africa.

In the Gulf of Aden, hundreds of people drown each year, when overloaded boats capsize or smugglers throw migrants overboard to avoid detention or prevent sinking; in parts of North Africa, vulnerable migrants are without access to asylum procedures and subject to detention and deportation; and in Southern Africa, they often experience robbery, rape and other forms of violence and exploitation.

In Southeast Asia, we will focus efforts to promote the protection of highly vulnerable migrants – victims of trafficking, minors, stateless persons and others – who are often part of broader economically driven migration flows, and we will concentrate on areas where abuses appear to be most prevalent.

In the Middle East, we plan to concentrate on Iraqi migrants living in neighboring countries who are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. In addition, we anticipate policy engagement and advocacy on irregular migration in the broader region.

And in the Americas, we will focus on two sets of migration flows that present significant protection concerns: the Caribbean, with an emphasis on irregular migration flows, and parts of Latin America that are experiencing new large-scale inflows of migrants and asylum seekers from other regions of the world. In this respect, for example, we recently received a request from a country in Central America to assist in the voluntary repatriation of victims of human trafficking who were stranded, with no resources to get home.

In each of these areas of focus, our programs and our engagement with international organizations and national and local authorities will be designed, first, to build the capacity of governments to manage issues humanely and responsibly; second, to provide direct assistance to vulnerable migrants; third, to link capacity building and assistance to broader regional cooperation on best practices; and fourth, support efforts by IOM and UNHCR to coordinate effectively so that vulnerable migrants do not fall through the cracks.

Beyond a new mission statement and a sharpened program focus, we are working very hard to ensure that, with respect to international migration, we practice at home what we preach abroad.

I was in Bangkok earlier this month, meeting with senior Thai foreign policy officials and discussing with them the treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless minority ethnic group in Burma. Many Rohingya have fled over the past many years toward Thailand, Malaysia, and elsewhere in the region to escape persecution. In early 2009, when a group of sea-bound Rohingya reached Thai waters, the Rohingya were given some food and water, but they and their boats were pushed back out to sea. When I urged the official to ensure against any such actions in the future, I was asked about U.S. government treatment of asylum-seekers rescued at sea.

It was a fair question.

And while our interdiction policies have certainly been subject to critical assessment by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others, it was very important that I was able to assure my Thai interlocutor that the U.S. Coast Guard, day in and day out, meets a solemn obligation to rescue people at sea, provide them with food and other assistance, and ensure their safe disposition. It was also very significant that I could tell my counterpart that individuals rescued at sea in the Caribbean have an opportunity to voice protection concerns, and I described for him our process for addressing these issues.

To be sure, the risk of large-scale and irregular migration requires smart migration management measures, including effective law enforcement, but that imperative must coincide with the vindication of protection objectives.

And we can make those points more effectively to our friends overseas if we are respecting protection principles in our own policies. In fact, with this objective very much in mind, we in the Department of State are reviewing our efforts to ensure protection of individuals interdicted at sea, and will be discussing these issues with our colleagues in other parts of the government.

To increase the effectiveness of these kinds of initiatives, we are also reaching out to partners in other agencies of government. I have begun to meet regularly with Alejandro Majorkas, the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on a wide variety of international migration and protection issues that jointly impact domestic and foreign policy. This year, the U.S. Government, led by PRM and USCIS, will chair the Intergovernmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum and Refugees – which, as many of you know, is a key intergovernmental forum on migration issues. We have chosen to explore the theme of Humanitarian Responses to Crises with Migration Consequences. We are also working closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies in preparation for the Global Forum on Migration and Development, taking place this November in Mexico.

And, of course, our partnerships are not limited to DHS colleagues, and include agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services as well as the White House.

Within the Administration, the Department of Homeland Security has the leading role with respect to domestic immigration law and reform. But our domestic practices often define our approaches on international migration issues, and have major foreign policy implications. This has been clearly evident in the strong and negative reaction by our friends and allies to the recent immigration legislation enacted by the Arizona legislature. And it underscores the importance of the international migration work at the Department of State and our contributions to the broad discussion of these critical issues.

Finally, let me address the migration-related elements of PRM’s response to the Haiti earthquake. Our response reflects an additional area of program emphasis: the need to be opportunistic in filling migration-related gaps in responses to key foreign policy challenges. Immediately following the earthquake, the U.S. government initiated a broad, multi-agency humanitarian response, but the bulk of the initial response effort was focused on the most heavily impacted areas near Port-au-Prince.

At the same time, tens of thousands of Haitians were crossing the border with the Dominican Republic to seek medical treatment or to join friends and family. Through IOM and other organizations, we have supported important projects focused on the vulnerable populations at or near the border – to include counseling, assisted voluntary return, healthcare and non-food items such as blankets, kitchen items, and hygiene kits. This gap-filling role taps the migration expertise of our bureau, and serves as a model for future responses.

Moreover, it is consistent with our overall goal of ensuring that our future migration policy and program efforts have greater policy impact, and therefore more effectively enhance the quality of life for people in transit.

That, it seems to me is, is an appropriate and noble goal for international migration policy. Thank you.

Source: US State Department

Burmese minority left to languish

Published on July 02, 2010
THE Uniting Church raised the plight of a Muslim minority group from Burma with Immigration Minister Chris Evans last month.

The church made the plea because of lengthy delays in processing the group's claims for asylum.

After visiting some of the Rohingyas detained at Christmas Island, the church and the Coalition for Asylum-Seekers, Refugees and Detainees discussed their concerns with Senator Evans

"We raised the issue of the length of time that people had been processed, given that one of (the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's) detention values is to do things in the shortest amount of time," coalition chairwoman Rosemary Hudson Miller said.

She said the Rohingyas were concerned and upset by the long time they had been detained and had no idea how much longer their claims would take.
Ms Hudson Miller said it was known that the longer people were detained, the more they were prone to mental illness.

A spokeswoman for Senator Evans said all asylum seekers were subject to rigorous identity, health and security checks before a final assessment of their refugee status could be made.

Nearly 250,000 Rohingyas fled from western Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh in the 1990s to escape persecution.

"To be a minority group in Burma is to draw a short straw in the world," Pamela Curr, campaign co-ordinator for the Asylum-Seeker Resource Centre, said.

She said the minority had faced horrific persecution by the Burmese government, which had tortured them and used them as weapons carriers for the military.

The Burmese government has refused to recognise the minority, making them virtually stateless in their own country.

The UN High Commission for Refugees says many of the Rohingyas in exile in Malaysia are targeted by immigration authorities.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship says there has recently been a rise in the number of Rohingyas claiming asylum in Australia.

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