Showing posts with label Refugees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Refugees. Show all posts

January 25, 2017

Trump Cracks Down on Sanctuary Cities Like NY But Their Fight is ON

Signing an executive order is one thing; enacting it may be another.
President Donald Trump signed an order Wednesday that he said would "crack down on sanctuary cities" by withholding federal grant money.
Sanctuary cities limit help to federal authorities who may be looking to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. Forty U.S. cities and 364 counties nationwide have established themselves as sanctuary places.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said federal authorities are going to "unapologetically" enforce the law.
U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump signs an executive order at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2017.
"We will strip federal grant money from sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. ... The American people are not going to be forced to subsidize this disregard for the law," Spicer said. Federal grants are U.S. economic aid that come from general revenue and are used to pay for various services, such as community centers, health clinics and housing for low-income people.
But New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says Trump does not have the constitutional authority to cut off funding to sanctuary cities.
At least 12 cities in New York have declared themselves safe for illegals, including New York City.
"Any attempt to bully local governments into abandoning policies that have proven to keep our cities safe is not only unconstitutional, but threatens the safety of our citizens,” Schneiderman said Wednesday. "I urge President Trump to revoke the executive order right away. If he does not, I will do everything in my power to fight it."
FILE - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks in New York, June 28, 2016.
FILE - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman speaks in New York, June 28, 2016.
A top U.S. immigration lawyer says only Congress can cut federal funding to cities in the United States.
"[President Trump] cannot take away funds," said Paromita Shah, associate director at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She added, however, the president can move grant money around.
"I think he is also saying that he can shift funds," she said. "So if he is threatening to take away funds, there is a distinction between whether he wants to shift how funds are used. And I think we have to watch and see how he does it."
Shah added that it will be "interesting" to see if the president tries to undo Congressional decisions. If he does, she says, "he will be on shaky grounds."
Legal status
Another view is that there is no legal definition for a sanctuary city; they are not a legal entity. This means, according to Washington immigration lawyer Mark Shmueli, the cities are not breaking federal law and cannot be penalized by the Trump administration.
 "To cut off all federal funding to the majority of the largest cities and population centers in the United States would be unprecedented, and it would certainly economically destroy those places and harm the economy of the United States," Shmueli said.
But Anand Ahuja, a lawyer and co-founder of Indian-Americans for Trump, said cities should be held accountable.
"If a mayor of a particular city protects illegal immigrants in his or her county or town ... the mayor should be liable," Ahuja said.
"If you look into the history, it was actually under [former President] Bill Clinton in 1996 that illegal-immigration reform was passed that specifically says that local governments are to cooperate with the department of homeland security and immigration and custom enforcement," he added.
Ahuja noted that while presidents have executive powers, "if you want to make long-lasting law then it has to be passed by the Congress."
Congressional action
The sanctuary movement began in the 1980s when church congregations across the United States began providing shelter to asylum-seekers fleeing civil war in Central America.
But proponents of tougher immigration laws, like Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, object to sanctuary cities.
"We confer this special privilege on, in many cases, dangerous, violent criminals because they came here illegally," Toomey said. He's proposed legislation that would strip cities of federal development assistance if they fail to cooperate with federal authorities.
The impact of his bill, called the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, would fall mainly on low-income neighborhoods that rely on the federal aid for affordable housing and public services.
Others said if local officials follow the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, then authorities are expected to cooperate with immigration enforcement.

Aline Barro

February 12, 2016

[Not Since WWII] NATO Orders Warships to Aegen to Ease Deadly Smuggling of Refugees

BRUSSELS — In a dramatic response to Europe's gravest refugee crisis since World War II, NATO ordered three warships to sail immediately Thursday to the Aegean Sea to help end the deadly smuggling of asylum-seekers across the waters from Turkey to Greece.

"This is about helping Greece, Turkey and the European Union with stemming the flow of migrants and refugees and coping with a very demanding situation ... a human tragedy," said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Yet even after the ships were told to get underway, NATO officials acknowledged uncertainties about the precise actions they would be performing — including whether they would take part in operations to rescue drowning migrants.

The arrival of more than a million people in Europe in 2015 — mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans — has plunged the 28-nation European Union into what some see as the most serious crisis in its history.
Despite winter weather, the onslaught of refugees crossing the Aegean has not let up. The International Organization for Migration said this week that 76,000 people — nearly 2,000 per day — have reached Europe by sea this year and 409 of them have died trying, most drowning in the cold, rough waters.

The number of arrivals in the first six weeks of 2016 is nearly 10 times as many as the same period last year. Most come from Turkey to Greece and then try to head north through the Balkans to the EU's more prosperous countries such as Germany and Sweden.

The decision Thursday by NATO defense ministers in Brussels came in response to a joint request by three members — Turkey, Germany and Greece — for alliance participation in an international effort targeting the smugglers.

"This is not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats," Stoltenberg stressed at a news conference. "NATO will contribute critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks."

In a related effort, the military alliance will also step up its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities on the Turkish-Syrian border, Stoltenberg said.

The vessels of NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 "will start to move now" on orders from U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's top commander in Europe, Stoltenberg said.

Breedlove said the ships should be at their Aegean destinations by Friday. NATO's website says the flotilla is composed of a German navy flagship, the Bonn, and two other ships, the Barbaros from Turkey and the Fredericton from Canada.

"(Until now) NATO has been mainly focused on how we can address the root causes, to try to stabilize the countries where many of the refugees are coming from," Stoltenberg said, mentioning Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia and Jordan. "The new thing now is ... providing different kinds of military capabilities ... to provide direct help, direct support, to Turkish authorities, to Greek authorities, and to the European Union."

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in Brussels for two days of discussions with his Canadian and European colleagues, said NATO military authorities will draw up plans for how the alliance might further throttle human smuggling operations across the Aegean.
"There is now a criminal syndicate, which is exploiting these poor people," Carter told a news conference. "Targeting that is the greatest way an effect could be had."

Stoltenberg said once the NATO brass makes its recommendations, the alliance will talk to the EU and decide how to proceed.

Breedlove said the mission specifics were still being written.

"This mission has literally come together in about the last 20 hours," Breedlove told journalists. "I have been tasked now to go back and define the mission, define the rules of engagement, define all of what we call special operation instructions — all of the things that will lay out what we are going to do."

He said it was too early to say whether the NATO crews will be rescuing migrants in sinking or non-seaworthy boats — something the Greek and Turkish coast guards have been doing nightly for months.

"I really can't talk to you about what is a core task and what is not ... we had some really rapid decision-making and now we've got to go out and do some military work," Breedlove said.

The NATO commander hailed the fast reaction to the joint request as an example of the streamlined decision-making the alliance has put into place since 2014.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose country has a fraught relationship with neighbor and NATO ally Turkey, said the agreement "will finally solve the issue of migration."

"Greece, until now, has paid too high a price — during a financial crisis — on migration, a price that is disproportionate relative to the other countries of Europe and NATO," Kammenos said. "It is perfectly clear from the joint declaration that the purpose of this force is to stop the criminal activities of those who traffic in human beings."

Kammenos said the presence of NATO forces along the Turkish coastline will "ensure that any migrants who are arrested will be sent straight back to Turkey." In a later stage, the Greek minister said, the EU's border agency, Frontex, could broaden its operations from Greek islands of the Aegean to the Turkish coast.

There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.

An official with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders, however, said the NATO and EU actions "miss the point."

"More than 300 men, women and children have drowned in the Aegean in their desperate attempts to reach Europe this year alone," said Aurelie Ponthieu, the group's humanitarian adviser. "In this context, NATO's involvement in the "surveillance of illegal crossings" is dangerously shortsighted. People will continue to risk their lives in search of safety and protection, no matter the obstacles that the EU - and now the leaders of the NATO alliance - put in their way."

"How many deaths will it take before Europe, Turkey and others focus their energy on providing humanitarian solutions rather than deterrence measures that clearly miss the point?" she asked.

A former British Navy officer gave a measured assessment of the NATO flotilla's impact.

Peter Roberts, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said "the ships will show where the people are moving to and from, but will provide no information about the criminal networks."

"That type of information requires presence on shore and investigative powers of police forces, not military ones," Roberts said.

___New York Times
Derek Gatopoulos in Athens and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed.

January 23, 2016

Berlin’s LGBT Group Gets Help for Abused Gay Refugees


We all know that through all those thousands of Syrians asylum seekers there most be a good percentage of LGBT. As a matter of fact when gays have to disclose who they are they also need to disclose their sexual orientation so they could would be considered for qualification under the asylum program. 
The LGBT in Germany has taken steps to help those refugees. I don’t have to tell you what happens when all those so called religious people in line to be interviewed and they hear someone is gay the news spreads among homophobes like wild fire. 

For those that look weaker or smaller there is rape and possible pushed to to be pimped and for the others there is vocal abuse and gang beatings. The gay community in Germany is a strong smart bunch of people that not only complaint but they also get their hands dirty in demonstrations and pushing the government to be fair in the way they are treated. These community remembers the days in which they were tagged with a pink triangle and hung or sent to the gas camps to be gassed and burnt. They take no prisoners when they see their rights violated.

The Jerusalem Post reported what steps this community is taken to help some of these refugee seekers.
They have gotten the ok to open a center that accommodates 125 in Berlin.

There are an estimated 3,500 LGBT asylum seekers in Berlin, many experiencing abuse in shelters where they are staying with other people seeking asylum, according to Schwulenberatung, a Berlin-based gay rights organization which will run the center.

"We have heard a lot of stories about discrimination and crimes against LGBT people in the last two years," Stephan Jakel, Schwulenberatung manager in charge of refugee affairs, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Friday.

"They were frightened and scared after being beaten or spat on, and one survived a murder attempt. We heard a lot of horrible stories," he said by phone from Berlin.

Germany has borne the brunt of Europe's biggest refugee influx since World War Two with over one million people arriving in the country in 2015, most of them fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Between August and December 2015, there were 95 cases of violence against LGBT people, mainly in accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers, according to the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD).

They involved physical violence, sexual assaults, insults, threats and coercion.

Jakel said there was a shortage of cheap or free apartments in Berlin and many asylum seekers were forced to remain in centers for a long time, often facing abuse.

"Refugees have been coming to our center over the last few years asking for help," Jakel said.

LGBT asylum seekers will be offered accommodation in the new center during their asylum-seeking process and will be allowed to stay for as long as they need, he said.

September 15, 2015

Syrian Asylum Applications per Country (Interactive)

September 5, 2015

“I was sure I was going to be rape or kill” A Gay Syrian Refugee

Subhi Nahas is a gay Syrian refugee and advocate for the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM). To learn more, go here:

'I was sure I’d be raped or killed. I was terrified': My life as a gay Syrian refugee who had to flee Isis
I first escaped to Turkey, but I wasn't even safe there – a childhood friend who had joined Isis threatened to kill me through a mutual friend

Growing up in my small city Idlib, Syria, I always knew I was different. I didn’t know what the difference was or what it was called, but I knew I had a secret to guard. That was a decade ago. Even in my worst nightmare, I didn’t dream that one day my beautiful country would implode. And I couldn’t possibly imagine that one day I would address the UN Security Council on behalf of all refugees including LGBT people like me.
Once my family and community in Idlib found out that I was gay, they confirmed my worst fears. I was “abnormal” and “sick.” Most of them believed – and probably still do – that gay people like me should be hospitalized, imprisoned and even killed. I felt desperately alone.

The internet saved me. I was hungry for information about who I was, and I learned there were others like me who were able to live happily – with careers, travel, and even love. Many were free to tell the truth about who they are. 

When I was 15, before I came to terms with my identity, my parents suspected something was “wrong” with me and sent me to a therapist. Breaching rules of confidentiality, he told them I was gay.

From that time, I became a prisoner in my home and my town. My father watched my every move. Authorities of the Syrian government and Jabhat al Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda, raided cafes and parks where LGBT people secretly gathered. Militants promised the townspeople to cleanse our town of gender nonconforming people. Many people were arrested and tortured. Some were never seen again.

Then I became a target of the militants. In 2012, I was on a bus heading to university. We were stopped. The young people, including me, were taken to a remote house where we were all physically assaulted and harassed. The militants took special notice of me. They called me “sissy,” “faggot,” and other insulting Arabic epithets. I was sure I’d be raped or killed. I was terrified. In the Idlib of 2012, there was no law — only people with guns. Miraculously, they let me go.

The terror followed me home, where my father and I had our last fight. The scar on my chin is a constant reminder of his violent reaction to my being different.

My only hope was to flee. I escaped first to Lebanon and then to Turkey, where I lived for three years and began to advocate for other LGBT people and refugees like myself. I co-founded a group, LGBT Arabi, to bring LGBT refugees and non-refugees together. I wrote a blog about LGBT rights.

By 2014, Isis had taken much of Syria and was broadcasting its execution of gay people. I was not safe even in Turkey, as a childhood friend who had joined Isis threatened to kill me through a mutual friend.

It was during my time in Turkey that I found ORAM - the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration. Through ORAM, I understood that my struggle and that of my compatriots was part of a largely unseen global phenomenon of LGBT people escaping extreme persecution and hatred – often in silence and shame.

Three months ago, I became one of the lucky few resettled to freedom in the United States. I now continue to advocate through ORAM in San Francisco for all vulnerable refugees.

Last week I had the extraordinary opportunity to tell my story to the United Nations Security Council. I was speaking for all vulnerable refugees – LGBT people, children, the elderly and frail and so many others when I urged all nations of conscience to open their doors. It is my hope that if enough concerned citizens speak out, more LGBT refugees will reach freedom.

These vulnerable refugees have so much to give the world, but time is running out. They need all nations of conscience to open their doors as wide as they can and protect them.

Subhi Nahas is an advocate for LGBT refugees. He spoke before the first-ever forum at the United Nations Security Council devoted to LGBT rights. He is a system administrator at ORAM – Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration in San Francisco, US.

September 4, 2015

Drowned Images of Child Enrages Syrian Refugees


Images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, showing the little boy wearing a bright red T-shirt and shorts and lying face down in the surf on a beach near the resort town of Bodrum, went viral on social media and appeared on the front pages of newspapers in several countries.

 Syrian refugee Abu al-Yaman said that when he saw the photo of little Aylan, “  hugged my daughter tightly, imagining she could have been that innocent child.

Like millions of others, Yaman was riveted by the image of the toddler, who drowned along with his mother and brother when their boat capsized on a short run from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos and hopes of a new life in Europe.

Umm Hussein, a 40-something mother who fled Syria's war in the central city of Homs to a poor neighbourhood of the Jordanian capital, said the photo was too much for her.

Aylan Kurdi, who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, lies on the shore in the Turkish coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey. (Reuters Photo)

"We witnessed the bombing, the destruction... but I couldn't cope with the picture of that innocent child, whose only fault was to have been born in Syria," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Read: Drowned Syrian kid's father wants to be 'buried with him'

Umm Hussein said she can't afford to send her children to school, and she's furious with the Gulf's wealthy Arab oil monarchies, who are targets of a social media campaign highlighting their failure to take in refugees.

"Do Arab leaders have no shame when they see the photo," she asked.

@monaeltahawy on Twitter)

"They squander billions of dollars on weapons that rust in their armouries or to build the (world's) tallest tower but, despite their humanity, they ignore the suffering of the Syrian people and close their doors to us."

Syria's civil war broke out four and a half years ago when President Bashar al-Assad brutally cracked down on peaceful protests against him and people took up arms.

It has claimed more than 240,000 lives and driven nearly half of Syria's people from their homes. Some four million people have fled abroad, primarily to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The world's 'treason' 
Jordan has taken in at least 600,000 of them, according to the United Nations, but the government in Amman says the figure is 1.4 million.

Nearly 80,000 of them have taken shelter at Zaatari, a sprawling desert camp in northern Jordan where Abu al-Yaman is the spokesman for refugees, and their plight has also left him furious.

He denounces what he calls the "treason of the world, particularly of Arab countries," whom he also accuses of a closed-door policy.

"I'm not talking about Lebanon and Jordan," he said.

"My rebuke is addressed to the countries who have the ability to help and are doing nothing, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia."

Read: Italy PM says Europe 'cannot just get emotional' about migrants

He also accuses unnamed news media of "using the photo (of Aylan) in an exaggerated and negative way, as if their aim is to frighten Syrians and dissuade them from emigrating."

And despite the risks, he doesn't rule out heading for Europe himself.

"There is no other way out for Syrians but to emigrate, even if it means death," he said.

The conversation returns to the image of Aylan, which Yaman said is "distressing for every human being who sees it".

Abu Malek, a 30-year-old teacher living in Zaatari, said: "I never imagined that things would reach the point where one saw Syrian bodies lying on a beach or floating in the sea."

Louei, 19, also deplores the sense of being "abandoned" by Arab countries. "This image will haunt those countries forever," he prophesied.

Hindustan Times

August 26, 2015

ISIS Gay Victims Refugees Plea at Historic UN Security Council Meeting

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian refugee, speaks at the United Nations headquarters 
in New York, August 24. The U.N. Security Council held its first-ever meeting 
on LGBT rights on Monday. MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

Two gay refugees from Syria and Iraq testified Monday about the constant fear of violence and death they experienced living under authoritarian governments, militant groups and the Islamic State (ISIS) in the first-ever meeting on LGBT rights at the United Nations Security Council.

Their testimony was part of a closed session co-sponsored by U.S. and Chile, held to highlight the risk of violence faced by LGBT people in ISIS-held areas.

Homosexuality is generally not accepted in the cultures of many Middle Eastern and African countries which has led to the persecution of many in the LGBT communities. Protecting the rights of these groups is further complicated in areas where armed conflict is raging.
In Syria and Iraq, the presence of ISIS “has increased the vulnerability of millions…and further entrenched structural and cultural violence against women and [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] persons,” Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the Security Council on Monday. Stern urged U.N. agencies to create programs to assist LGBT people and for the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) and governments to help resettle LGBT refugees.

ISIS is well-known for documenting their acts of brutality against anyone who violates their strict interpretation of Islamic tenets, including gay people. Since beginning their campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria in last year, ISIS has killed at least 30 people for “sodomy ” including by stoning, shooting them to death, beheading them and throwing them from the tops of building.

Monday’s session featured a disturbing slideshow of images depicting the killings of those accused of sodomy by ISIS between June 24, 2014 and August 2, 2015.

Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian refugee, addressed the Council in person while “Adnan,” a gay Iraqi, spoke by phone from Lebanon, using a pseudonym for his own security. Nahas said he hoped his testimony would highlight the struggle faced by many LGBT youth in ISIS-besieged areas, while Adnan told the Security Council he had to leave a society where “being gay means death.”

“I was hoping that my message will prove that LGBT is not just a terminology invented by the West, but there is an LGBT community in the Middle East and in Africa and they stand together and they want their rights too,” Nahas told reporters outside the Security Council on Monday.

Nahas described how attacks on gay people in Syria ramped up in 2011 as rebel militias and armed groups, as well as Syrian government troops, arrested and beat gay men in bars, parks and other locations known for being frequented by LGBT people. In 2012, Nahas was arrested along with 11 others at a government checkpoint while on his way to university. He said he was held longer than the others as soldiers mocked him for being gay before letting him go after a few hours.

After his detention, Nahas went back home. His father became increasingly violent toward him and he was afraid to go out.

A few months later Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian militant group linked to Al-Qaeda, took control of Nahas’s hometown, Idlib, and vowed to cleanse the city “of everyone who was involved in sodomy,” Nahas said. “I was terrified that would be my fate,” Nahas told Newsweek on Tuesday.

“I knew I would face death if I didn’t do anything, so I contacted my friend in Lebanon and I arranged my escape there,” he said.

From Lebanon he went to Turkey—two countries with “lots of homophobia [that are] very narrow-minded,” although slightly better for LGBT people than Syria, said Nahas—then to San Francisco, where he has lived since June. Now Nahas works for the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration (ORAM), a policy group that helps resettle LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. In Turkey, he was threatened by ISIS operatives.

Nahas said he felt “very empowered” to address the Security Council. “We’re doing something really big,” he said.

My own family turned against me when [ISIS] was after me," said Adnan. "If [ISIS] didn't get me, members of my family would have done it."

Neil Grungras, founder and executive director of ORAM, says most LGBT refugees originate from the Middle East—namely Syria, Iraq and Turkey—and Africa—primarily Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia.

Members of the LGBT community "really fear persecution" as they “watch these horrendous sights of people being hurled off buildings,” Grungras said. "They won’t come out and request protection because they’re too afraid to tell anyone," he said.

According to ORAM, approximately 400 self-identified LGBT Syrian refugees live in Turkey, which is now home to nearly 2 million Syrian refugees. That number is likely much higher, but they are afraid to speak out, Grungras says. Fewer than 100 LGBT refugees are resettled in the U.S. every year, a number ORAM is trying to increase. Gay women are much less likely to seek refugee status than men, something Grungras puts down to women being less empowered, having less resources or, in many cases, needing their father's permission to travel or get a travel document.

Chad and Angola, two members of the 15-member council, did not attend Monday’s meeting, according to diplomats who spoke with the Associated Press, although their reasons for doing so were unclear. Being gay is illegal in Angola, and while homosexuality is legal in Chad, the country’s government is seeking to outlaw it. The remaining members of the council made statements at the meeting, except for Russia, China, Malaysia and Nigeria.

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., spoke with the media after the Security Council session, which she called “a very moving meeting and “a sign that this issue is getting injected into the mainstream at the United Nations.”

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