Refugee Crisis Reaches New Peak amid Ongoing Conflicts, Islamophobic Policies

Syrian refugees arrive in Greece
Credit: Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, more than 65 million people were estimated to be refugees or internally displaced persons  – the highest number in history. [World Economic Forum] Many of the migrants who are fleeing their countries are unable to permanently resettle for a number of reasons, including the global underfunding of refugee support programs and national policies motivated by Islamophobia or isolationism. See Amnesty International, Refugees & Asylum. [Slate] Migrants face dangerous conditions and human rights abuses both during travel and once they reach host countries. Thousands of migrants have drowned while attempting to reach Europe by sea and the conditions of detention in more common refugee destinations may include overcrowding and a failure to provide basic necessities. [Independent; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International]

Moreover, recent measures enacted by some governments are perpetuating Islamophobia and complicating travel or resettlement for those from Muslim-majority countries. [New York Times: Muslim; IJRC: Protests] An executive order recently implemented in the United States specifically targets migrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries, temporarily prohibiting their entry into the United States. [IJRC: Protests]  The International Justice Resource Center, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and with the support of dozens of other organizations, yesterday submitted a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking it to review this order in a public hearing. Migrants and refugees are protected against discrimination, among other human rights violations, under international law. Read more

Following Three Decades of Isolation, Morocco Rejoins African Union

African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

After more than 30 years of separation, Morocco has officially been admitted back in to the African Union (AU), the continent’s largest intergovernmental organization. [New York Times; Reuters] Morocco quit the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, in 1984 after the regional bloc officially recognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (Western Sahara) as a member. [BBC: Morocco] After a reported 39 to 9 vote at the 28th African leader’s summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on January 30, 2017, Morocco became the 55th member of the AU despite some opposition concerning its position on Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco considers part of its historic land. [Guardian; Reuters; Al Jazeera] Morocco also boasts a 110 billion-dollar economy, one of Africa’s largest, and its membership in the regional bloc could mean economic opportunity for the AU. [Reuters] Read more

Rights Protests Continue Across the U.S. as Immigration Ban Implemented

Women’s March participants
Credit: ufcw770 via Wikimedia Commons

Protesters in the United States and around the world demonstrated last week and over the weekend, calling for the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, women, and other vulnerable groups, as a new administration assumed power in the United States following a bitterly divisive campaign in which now-President Trump denied sexual assault allegations and promised to enact a “Muslim ban.” [Fortune] During the past year and more recently, various universal and regional international human rights monitoring bodies commented on human rights issues relevant to those prioritized in these protests, and called on American authorities to respect fundamental rights and values.

The organizers of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which may be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, specifically called for the protection of women’s right to be free from violence and discrimination, women of color’s right to be free from racial discrimination, migrants’ rights, environmental rights, and LGBTQIA communities’ right to be free from violence and discrimination, among other rights.

Since then, President Trump has taken several steps that civil society and human rights experts warn greatly threaten many of the same human rights championed by the demonstrators. On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day suspension on entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia); a 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions; and an indefinite pause on the admission of refugees from Syria. The order, which was immediately implemented, unleashed chaos and protests in the country’s airports, as civil society and the courts struggled to define its scope and legality. [New York Times; NPR]

The U.S. is a State party to multiple human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which protect the rights to, among others, non-discrimination and equal protection. It is also a party to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, commonly referred to as the “Refugee Convention.” Read more

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