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- 10/16/17--19:39: _World: EU Annual Re...
- 10/24/17--23:23: _World: Violence Aga...
- 12/14/17--08:44: _World: Migration: O...
- 12/14/17--22:43: _United States of Am...
- 01/19/18--13:48: _World: Humanitarian...
- 03/01/18--04:37: _Nauru: More refugee...
- 03/01/18--04:37: _United States of Am...
- 03/13/18--00:09: _United States of Am...
- 04/04/18--11:31: _Nauru: Australia-bo...
- 04/05/18--21:26: _Nauru: Transcript: ...
- 04/29/18--17:38: _Nauru: More Nauru r...
- 06/18/18--08:13: _World: Refugee rout...
- 10/24/17--23:23: World: Violence Against Women - Regional Snapshot (2017)
30 out of 37 countries in the UNFPA Asia-Paciﬁc region completed at least one violence against women (VAW) prevalence survey
4 countries have completed more than one national VAW prevalence survey with comparable methods
26 countries have national statistics on intimate partner violence
22 of these have data on all three forms of violence in the last 12 months for SDG indicator 5.2.1
17 countries have national statistics on sexual violence by non-partners
8 of these have data on sexual violence in the last 12 months for SDG indicator 5.2.2
- 12/14/17--08:44: World: Migration: Our work in Asia
- 03/01/18--04:37: Nauru: More refugees leave Nauru for resettlement
- 03/01/18--04:37: United States of America: More refugees leave Nauru for resettlement
- 03/13/18--00:09: United States of America: Seven Nauru refugees fly to the US
- 04/29/18--17:38: Nauru: More Nauru refugees sent to be resettled in the US
- 06/18/18--08:13: World: Refugee routes blocked for reporters as well
On Monday 16 October 2017 the Council adopted the EU Annual Report on Human Rights And Democracy in the World in 2016.
2016 was a challenging year for human rights and democracy, with a shrinking space for civil society and complex humanitarian and political crises emerging. In this context, the European Union showed leadership and remained strongly committed to promote and protect human rights and democracy across the world.
This report gives a broad picture of the EU's human rights efforts towards third countries in 2016, and encompasses two parts: The first part is thematic, and pays particular attention to the human rights approach to conflicts and crises, main human rights challenges and human rights throughout EU external policies. The second part is geographical and covers EU actions in third countries, thus mapping in detail the human rights situation across the globe.
As of August 2017:
Key findings for Asia-Pacific
By country, the proportion of women who have reported experience of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime ranges from 15 percent in Japan and Lao PDR, to 68 percent in Kiribati and Papua New Guinea.
The proportion of women who have reported experience of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the past 12 months ranges from 4 percent in Japan to 46 percent in Afghanistan and Timor-Leste.
In most countries of the region, women are much more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence than to have experienced physical or sexual violence by someone other than a partner.
Samoa and Tonga differ from other countries in that women are more likely to have experienced physical violence by perpetrators other than partners, such as by family members or teachers.
kNOwVAWdata is a UNFPA initiative to support and strengthen sustainable regional and national capacity to measure VAW. Over three-and-a-half years, from mid-2016 through the end of 2019, with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the kNOwVAWdata initiative will build on work already being supported by UNFPA to conduct VAW surveys and analysis in in theAsia-Pacific region. The initiative will also ensure sustainability, including by strengthening capacities of national institutions to collect and analyze data, in particular by using internationally recognized, best practice survey methodologies
This factsheet provides a summary of the activities that the ICRC carries out for vulnerable migrants and their families in Asia. It explains our approach and describes what we, together with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, do to help protect and assist migrants along migration routes in Asia.
In Asia, our migration activities are focused on using our Family Links network to restore contact between migrants and their families, helping clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing migrants and supporting their families, and providing humanitarian forensic support. They also include delivering basic aid and services to migrants along the route, working in immigration detention, and engaging with the authorities to ensure that they fulfil their legal obligations so as to protect the lives, preserve the dignity and alleviate the suffering of vulnerable migrants.
Majority of refugees to be resettled in the new year are from Pakistan and Afghanistan
Nearly 200 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention islands of Nauru and Manus will be resettled in the United States in the new year.
Read more on The Guardian
Drought, earthquakes, floods, typhoons, volcanoes, and civil unrest, compounded by limited government response capacity in some countries, present significant challenges to vulnerable populations in the East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) region. Between FY 2008 and FY 2017, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) provided humanitarian assistance in response to a range of natural and complex emergencies in the region. Examples include cyclones and typhoons in Burma, the Pacific Islands, and the Philippines; earthquakes in China, Indonesia, and Japan; floods in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam; drought in the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Vietnam; volcanic eruptions in Indonesia and the Philippines; winter emergencies in Mongolia; and conflict in Burma, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.
USAID provided nearly $338 million to respond to disasters in the EAP region between FY 2008 and FY 2017. USAID/OFDA assistance included more than $189 million for programs in agriculture and food security; chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive hazards; economic recovery and market systems; health; humanitarian coordination and information management; logistics support and relief commodities; nutrition; protection; search and rescue; risk management policy and practice; shelter and settlements; and water, sanitation, and hygiene.
USAID/FFP support included more than $148 million for food assistance in the form of U.S.-purchased food, locally and regionally purchased food, cash transfers, food vouchers, and related activities.
In the last decade, USAID responded to 108 disasters in EAP. USAID frequently deployed humanitarian teams to the region, including six Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DARTs). USAID deployed DARTs to Burma after Cyclone Nargis in FY 2008; to Indonesia following an earthquake in FY 2010; to New Zealand following an earthquake in FY 2011; to Japan in response to an earthquake and resulting tsunami and nuclear emergency in FY 2011; to the Marshall Islands in FY 2013 due to a drought; and to the Philippines in FY 2014 for Typhoon Haiyan. USAID also activated multiple Washington, D.C.-based Response Management Teams to support coordination and response efforts.
More refugees, including three babies, are the latest to leave Nauru to go to the United States for resettlement.
Read more on Radio New Zealand.
More refugees, including three babies, are the latest to leave Nauru to go to the United States for resettlement.
Read more on Radio New Zealand.
Seven single men have made up the sixth group of refugees to leave Nauru for resettlement in the United States.
Read more on Radio New Zealand International
A senior UN refugee agency official warned on Wednesday about the “shocking” effects of long-term detention on Australia-bound asylum-seekers who are being held on remote Pacific islands.
Indrika Ratwatte said the situation in Nauru, as well and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, was as bad as he had seen in his 25-year career.
Both locations have been used to house more than 3,000 men, women and children from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, since Australia implemented its offshore processing policy in 2013.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva after returning from Nauru last week, Mr. Ratwatte, who heads the Asia and Pacific bureau of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), described the “shocking” psychological and the mental toll on refugees and asylum seekers.
Children have been particularly affected, he said:
“I have seen a little girl for example who was 12 years old in a catatonic state who has not stepped out of her room in a month […] clinical psychiatrists and professionals have determined that around 80 per cent of the asylum-seekers and refugees in Nauru and Manus as well are suffering from post-traumatic stress and depression. This is per capita one of the highest mental health problems levels that have been noted.”
Despite the clear need to address the problem, the lack of psychiatric help and healthcare “has increased the sense of hopelessness and despair,” Mr. Ratwatte said.
“The point here is also that Australia has had a long tradition of supporting refugee and humanitarian programmes globally, but on this one, the offshore processing policy has had an extremely detrimental impact on refugees and asylum-seekers.”
He urged Australia to continue to support the authorities on Nauru once it hands over responsibility to the island for medical and psychiatric services.
There are currently around 2,000 detainees on the islands.
Around 40 children born in Nauru have seen “nothing but detention-like conditions,” Mr. Ratwatte said, and another 50 youngsters have spent more than half their lives there.
Under a deal agreed between Australia and the United States, some 1,000 detainees from Nauru will be repatriated to the US Around 180 have already left the island.
Welcoming the agreement, the UNHCR official said that this would still leave the same number of people on Nauru, and he urged the Australian Government to consider an offer from New Zealand to rehouse them.
“It is a very genuine offer and New Zealand has an excellent programme for refugee settlement,” Mr. Ratwatte said.
This is a transcript of the press briefing by Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Director of the Bureau for Asia and the Pacific – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 04 April 2018.
Indrika Ratwatte: Thank you and good morning. I undertook a mission to Nauru and UNHCR obviously has regular visits to Nauru and PNG [Papua New Guinea] in the context of the offshore processing policy of Australia which has, as we speak, around 1,100 individuals, asylum-seekers and refugees in Nauru and about another 800 in PNG. And, the purpose of my mission was to also look at the situation on the ground and coordinate also with the Australian authorities and the Nauru authorities on the conditions of the asylum-seekers and refugees and what we consider the minimum efforts that need to be taken to make the life of these people more conducive.
I’ve been working for 25 years in the UN and with refugees and I must say when I went to Nauru I was shocked by the situation of, particularly, the children in Nauru.
The long term detention – five years plus – in Nauru has taken an immense toll on the people and I think three things struck me as really telling of the condition.
One was the mental health situation. Over 80 per cent of the people have been diagnosed by clinical psychiatrists and others as suffering from PTSD and trauma and depression, in both PNG and Nauru. I think the lack of adequate healthcare and psychiatric care really has impacted people. The sense of hopelessness and despair was extremely tangible amongst the group of people here.
The second point, which was also very telling here was the family separation. As you may know, given the cut-off point of when people were brought to Nauru and the others allowed to go to Australia to be settled, some families have been separated. Secondly, there were medical cases, for example, where you would see the mother and child who had gone for medical treatment to Australia, and the father and the daughter are in Nauru, and they are unable to join and they are separated. This has caused also a lot of trauma on the children. One case I remember seeing this little child, 12 years old, tried to speak to her. She was in bed, catatonic, not gotten out of that bed for a week, not gotten out of that room for over a month and the father was desperate as to what to do with this child and this is symptomatic of some of the mental health issues that was there.
The next issue, I think, which needs addressing immediately as well is the withdrawal or the change or the transfer or the transition of services from Manus and in Nauru, where certain services are being provided, particularly medical and psychiatric care, is now going to be given over to the Nauru authorities and here we have expressed a deep concern that there should be adequate capacity, training and ability for the Nauru government to take over these services if they are being given those services and that Australia should commit to continue supporting these efforts. If not, the impact on the asylum-seekers and refugees are going to be quite serious.
Lastly, I think, the whole issue of solutions for these people. We are very encouraged that the bilateral agreement between the US government and Australia has enabled, or will enable, about 1,200 of these asylum-seekers and refugees to find solutions in the US. However, there is still approximately another 1,000 individuals who are in need of solutions. Here we have urged the Australian government to consider taking up the government of … New Zealand’s offer of potential resettlement places and we really urge Australia to consider that option and pursue other options that individuals are not in these detention-like conditions for a further length of time because the evidence of that period in Nauru and Manus on the people, their psychiatric and physical and mental wellbeing is evident and it is quite shocking.
The point here is also that Australia has had a long tradition of supporting refugee programs and humanitarian programs globally but, on this one, the offshore processing policy has had an extremely detrimental impact on refugees and asylum-seekers. And for those who say that these may be people who are not in need of international protection, the statistics indicate 80 per cent plus have been recognised as refugees. So that, in and of itself, shows that these are indeed people in need of protection. This also has been our point of advocacy with the Australian government, that these are people in need of protection, they should be availed with protection and solutions, and offshore processing is not the way forward to deal with providing protection and solutions for the people in need.
These are some of the impressions I had and, I must say, looking at the children and the parents and their despair and hopelessness was striking in these conditions. I’ll leave it at that as initial reflections and I’m happy to take some questions.
The floor was then open for questions.
Question: You mentioned the transfer of services but I’m actually interested in another element of the transfer which is that apparently Nauru has severed its ties with the Australia court of appeals so that migrants – asylum-seekers – no longer have the right to appeal to the Australian judicial system to have their case reviewed and there are obviously some activists who are saying that’s going to leave people in an even more legal limbo. Nauru has sort of said they are going to set up some sort of interim local court of appeal to hear asylum cases but there’s no structure in place and no clarity on how that will play out. Do you have any comment on that?
Indrika Ratwatte: That’s correct. The Nauru government has now decided to set up its own appeal procedures, severing its links with Australia. While that is a sovereign decision of Nauru, we are very keen that there is no gap, one, in the ability of asylum-seekers to seek redress on appeal, that that has to be maintained and until such time Nauru has established a process where appeal can be effectively heard I think Australia should continue to have that facility open and the transition is seamless. The bottom line is that individuals, as you rightly said, have access to appeal procedures.
Question: Can you give us a small summary, what is happening, in terms of who has responsibility upon these people? Australia left but it was a processing centre that they set up. Do they have any responsibility or not at all? As well as…if you can do a breakdown of the numbers. You say 1,100 people but how many of them are children, women, nationalities?
Indrika Ratwatte: Thank you. The breakdown, initially, it was about 3,172 individuals who were transferred from Australia to PNG and Nauru, and today we have about 1,100 in Nauru and 800 in PNG. For example, in Nauru, 40 children were born in Nauru. They have seen nothing but detention-like conditions and another fifty have spent half their life in Nauru. They have seen nothing but half their life in Nauru and in detention. Around 400 cases have been also transferred to Australia for medical and other reasons, and so far around 169, almost 170 individuals have departed to the US under the bilateral arrangement between Australia and the US. In Manus, the caseload is primarily single males, while that is the 800 and in Nauru the 1100 are families and children. So the families are in Nauru and the single males are in Papua New Guinea. On the transfer of services, the real concern is that adequate services are provided with trained, qualified individuals, particularly in mental health, and, as the statistics indicate, this is a serious issue and Nauru should be supported and Australia should live up to its responsibilities vis-à-vis these refugees and asylum-seekers.
Question: I want to understand the legal point. Is Australia bound to do, under International Law? Are they obliged to take care of them – what they do is another story – but should they take care of these people?
Indrika Ratwatte: Under International Law, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the international law obligations for Australia obliges them to have asylum-seekers access their territory and go through status determination procedures. So the offshore processing policy is, indeed, an abrogation of their International Law responsibilities.
Question: Do you have a sense of Australia’s motivations here? Is it cost cutting? They no longer want to bother funding the services in Nauru. What’s going on actually, in your view? And, additionally, I don’t quite understand why Australia would show reluctance toward New Zealand’s offer. New Zealand is offering some resettlement places, why not just say ‘here you go’?
Indrika Ratwatte: I mean two elements, I think, are many individuals initially when there were the boat arrivals – large numbers coming – wanted to look at how to manage this. There was one perception that this might be people abusing asylum systems and there is international, transnational crime, trafficking and smuggling. The point is people are on the move globally, yes, it is a challenge for member states to look at how to manage this process, yes, but this is not the way to do it. You have a process where there is due process for individuals seeking protection who go through the system of status determination and then are either recognised as refugees through that due process or not, and that has been our point to Australia. Saying, is it a challenge? Yes. Should it be managed? Yes. But not in this manner. It can be managed differently. And Australia has had a long tradition of refugee programs and humanitarian programs - a country of migrants and refugees, very hospitable. Many, many refugees have been resettled in Australia. And Australia continues to be a generous supporter of the humanitarian and refugee programs and, on this one, the precedent they are setting also is not the one which should be set by a country which is a signatory to the Refugee Convention.
Question: So if I understand what you’re saying, Australia has decided to no longer provide these essential services in Nauru because they believe the people there are not legitimate asylum-seekers, that they’re people – they’re criminals or people taking advantage of the asylum process?
Indrika Ratwatte: No, Australia has now come up with a policy that they support Nauru financially to provide these services and our point is that it should be adequate, it should be skilled and it should give the level of services needed for individuals.
Question: The New Zealand question, why is Australia not just saying ‘here, this is a good solution’?
Indrika Ratwatte: This is not a question that was answered and we keep asking the question from Australia saying ‘why not, why not’, because it is a very genuine offer and New Zealand has excellent program of resettlement for refugees as well, globally.
Question: Can you give a breakdown of the nationalities of the people on Nauru right now?
Indrika Ratwatte: I don’t have the exact numbers but we have numbers of Afghans, Iranians, some Rohingya refugees, Syrian and also I believe some Sri Lankans and … Myanmar, some other nationalities, some other ethnicities from Myanmar as well, indeed.
Question: When you said 80 per cent are effectively refugees, this … was done by you, UNHCR?
Indrika Ratwatte: No, the status determination is done by Nauru and Australian authorities in their status determination procedures. This is also the point we’ve made that, for those who say these are not individuals in need of protection, 80 per cent have been recognised under due process as having need of international protection – that they’re refugees.
Question: If you have people on this island who have refugee status, you have a country, New Zealand, that has offered to resettle them in accordance with all procedures in the Refugee Convention and Australia is saying actually I’m not sure we want to allow that. I think I’m missing a piece.
Indrika Ratwatte: Your surprise is as good as mine and if I were to venture a speculation I would think that there are some who think that if they go to New Zealand they’ll come back to Australia. Because of family links, or whatever reasons, I think this is one perception I’m assuming, but that’s really not the case because there have been thousands of refugees resettled in New Zealand and its excellent resettlement program.
At this point there were no further questions on Nauru and Australia
Indrika Ratwatte: Just to update you, if I may, on a separate point of interest to you, on Myanmar and Bangladesh, to give you the latest developments here.
As you know, UNHCR was in discussions with the Bangladeshi government on a Memorandum of Understanding on voluntary repatriation, because UNHCR was very keen to have the international principles stated and stipulated in any future potential return – if and when it happens. These negotiations [with Bangladesh] are almost concluded and, hopefully in the near future, we will be signing this agreement with Bangladesh that stipulates the conditions and the standards and the international norms that have to be followed should any voluntary repatriation take place.
Secondly, on the Myanmar side, the government of Myanmar, the UNDP and UNHCR are in discussion on tripartite agreement that will look at access to Rakhine state, to see the conditions on the ground and look at possibilities of having programmes that create conditions within these areas for possible returns and repatriation in the future.
So, two different processes are going on. But, in Myanmar, it’s between UNDP, UNHCR and the government of Myanmar. As you know, we have clearly said access is imperative for the UN and us in the UN family to have access to northern Rakhine to see the situation on the ground.
Question: Would it be fair to say that UNHCR could not advocate for the return of these Rohingyas without some kind of monitoring mechanism on the ground in Rakhine state? If hundreds of thousands of people start going back and the military comes in again, it’s not just going to be a human tragedy, it’s going be a disaster for the international community ‘cause this cycle is now repeating. So would you not like to see some kind of presence on the ground to watch people come home, to observe and to monitor for a period of time?
Indrika Ratwatte: Absolutely. As the High Commissioner in his briefing in the Security Council said – conditions for voluntary repatriation to Myanmar do not exist at this point in time. Two, any repatriation should be voluntary, refugees should be well informed and it should be conducted in safety and dignity. And, as you rightly say, for that to happen it is imperative that we have a presence and meaningful access in northern Rakhine state.
Question: Three months ago when the agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar government was announced and there was a mention of UNHCR, but then UNHCR said we were not involved in this process. Now you are having an agreement just with Bangladesh. What is the relation with the framework the two countries agreed upon and then you having another agreement just with Bangladesh?
Indrika Ratwatte: The two governments had a bilateral agreement and UNHCR was not involved in that. We were not invited to be part of that. Traditionally what happens it’s always a tripartite [agreement] – the country of asylum, the country of origin and UNHCR. We did tell both governments that even in their bilateral certain clear principals have to be articulated about voluntary nature [of returns], etc. – which in their bilateral agreement is included, which is good. We were not part of that agreement and particularly since we were not, we want to enshrine the principles of voluntary returns, the conditions needed for voluntary returns and because the host country is hosting the refugees we thought it is important to reiterate that with Bangladesh and have that agreement. Ideally, it should have been a tripartite which has the same conditionality.
Question: Why do not you try to have a separate agreement with Myanmar?
Indrika Ratwatte: Well, this is a Myanmar government that came forward because we have been insisting as UNHCR, as the UN family, to have access to northern Rakhine state and they said OK, now we will consider a tripartite agreement with UNDP and UNHCR and that is why we are now in negotiations. To put down the conditions, again, linked to meaningful, unfettered access in northern Rakhine.
Question: Is this both to check what is happening in northern Rakhine and on top of that to set up the conditions to eventually accept some returnees?
Indrika Ratwatte: Primarily, this is to have unfettered access, exactly, and secondly, to be enabled to have programmes that impact the communities and create the conditions for returns, for sustainable returns and reintegration. That again is, if people eventually decide to come. But access is the main fundamental point here, meaningful and unfettered access to Rakhine state which, as you rightly said, right now does not exist.
Question: When you’re negotiating are the Myanmar security forces in the room? Or you negotiate strictly with the civilian government?
Indrika Ratwatte: No. [We negotiate with] civilian government.
Another 16 refugees, including three children left Nauru yesterday to be resettled in the United States.
Read more on Radio New Zealand International.
Threats, intimidation, arrest, prosecution, denial of permits, rejection of interview requests, seizure of equipment and deportation – such are the methods used by governments to obstruct media coverage of refugees. It is the 21st century’s biggest humanitarian crisis, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is examining for World Refugee Day, on the 20th of June 2018.
La Repubblica journalist Alessandro Puglia never imagined the outcome of the investigative report he did on a migrant reception centre in Catania, Sicily. When he submitted his story, which included interviews with migrants describing how they were “interviews with migrants describing how they were “treated like animals,”,” he thought it would it would lead to an investigation into the centre.
Although, the Italian judicial authorities did get involved, but Puglia became their target, not the centre. The reporter who had exposed how the centre was flouting the most basic right of the migrants, is being prosecuted for defamation and has been insulted and threatened on social networks. The trial is scheduled for October. Puglia says the worst and most “unacceptable” aspect of this episode, has been encountering “a legal form of intimidation” designed to “discourage journalists from doing their work.”
In the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeastern France that borders Italy, reporters covering migration issues have to deal with another “legal form of intimidation,” this one by the police. “It’s the only story in which I have encountered so much harassment,” said photographer Laurent Carré although, as a regional correspondent for various French dailies including Libération, he often works on stories involving the police.
Carré has lost count of the number of times he has had to show his press card and assert his “right to be able to photograph” police and refugees together on the public highway “to police officers who tell me the contrary.” In January 2017, he was even manhandled and thrown to the ground by gendarmes who had just arrived in force at the home of Cédric Herrou, a farmer who is being prosecuted for helping migrants. On one occasion, a gendarme who recognized Carré told him: “Monsieur, I advise you to stop covering these stories because you’re going to have problems.”
Arrested while reporting
US reporter Spencer Wolff faced such problems. He had spent the past several months filming a documentary for a documentary for The Guardian about residents in the Roya valley near the French and Italian border who help migrants, when he was arrested in June 2017 and spent 24 hours and 55 minutes in police custody on a charge of assisting illegal migrants. The gendarmes who arrested him were ones he had filmed a few weeks earlier while following some of the subjects of his documentary. “They knew full well that I was journalist but they interrogated me at length for information about Cédric Herrou,” he said.
Lisa Giachino, the editor of the monthly L’âge de Faire, spent ten hours in police custody after being arrested by the Frontier Police (PAF) as she accompanied six Eritrean minors in the Alpes-Maritimes region in January 2017. “The police didn’t dispute the fact that I was a journalist when they told me they were taking me into custody,” she wrote in an editorial. “Hundreds of soldiers, gendarmes, police officers and judicial officials have been deployed in Alpes-Maritimes to hunt for migrants and to harass those who help them and even those who just take an interest in them,” the editorial concluded.
Behind the official goal of breaking up migrant-smuggler networks, “there is clearly a desire to obstruct our reporting on the ground,” freelance journalist Raphaël Krafft said. Krafft has done many stories about migrants in the Mediterranean border town of Ventimiglia, on the refugee rescue boat Aquarius, in Alpine border passes and in the Briançon region, where he was arrested in December 2017 with Caroline Christinaz, a reporter for the Swiss daily Le Temps.
“But it is not just the police who prevent us from working,” Krafft added. “We are also blocked by municipal authorities and different state agencies that don’t respond to our requests.” In both France and Italy, he said, requests for interviews with officials directly involved in migrant issues or authorizing access to refugee camps are never successful. This is not new. As a participant in the “Open Access Now” campaign in 2012, RSF drew attention to the fact that reporters were being denied access to migrant detention centres almost everywhere in Europe.
“Our societies cannot dispense with media coverage of migration crises, which are now at the centre of the public debate in Europe and elsewhere,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Covering this story cannot be regarded as a crime. So why detain journalists, seize their equipment and deny them access to refugee detention camps? Governments have a duty and responsibility to not obstruct journalism on security grounds and not promote a rosy view of an often tragic reality.”
Reporting that shows basic rights being flouted
Reporting on migrants “challenges the authorities about the legality of what they are doing,” Krafft said. “Criminal abandonment, failing to assist persons in danger, refusing to recognize the rights of minors... they are very often on the edge of the law.”
This is also what reporter Claire Billet and photographer Olivier Jobard have found. They crossed six borders clandestinely in 2013 in order to cover the journey of five migrants from Kabul to Paris. The boat in which they were travelling was intercepted off Greece. Its motor was removed and then it was pushed back into Turkish waters. “If we had been identified as journalists, we would never have been able to see how the Greek coastguards turn back refugees en masse, which is illegal.”
When Billet and Jobard were subsequently spotted at the border by Turkish officials, they were arrested, fined, expelled and banned from returning to Turkey for two years. Their expulsion was carried out in a reasonable fashion. Four years later, after a dramatic decline in media freedom in Turkey in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt, Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande ended up going on hunger strike in order to get out of the detention centre in which he had been held for two weeks after being arrested while covering refugees at Turkey’s border with Syria.
Restricting coverage of a shameful and inhumane reality
Outside Europe, the situation is even worse. At Agadez, in Niger, where the routes of migrants from Guinea, Nigeria, Mali and Sudan intersect, “first-hand reporting is impossible.” Even those with a press card are denied entry to the centre run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), although “we know that there are thousands of migrants living there in deplorable conditions, with barely enough to eat,” Radio Kaoucen manager Ousmane Oumarou said.
In Libya, journalists are terrified nowadays when they go to migrant detention centres, which have been controlled by Libya’s militias since 2014. After a bureaucratic run-around for the necessary permits, they arrive at a centre where “the reality of the conditions inflicted on the migrants is clearly being disguised” and where they have to “film staged scenes at the militiamen’s behest,” RSF was told by a Libyan reporter, who requested anonymity for safety reasons.
The reporters comply “out of fear of reprisals.” They film or stop filming on orders. In June 2015, the same reporter was “forced to cut short an interview with a migrant who was crying while describing inhuman detention conditions.” Last year, he watched helplessly as guards used force to prevent a pregnant woman from coming to talk to him.
The Pacific gulag’s information “black holes”
Thousands of people who have been detained while seeking an international refuge now languish far from cameras and microphones in government-run news and information “black holes.” After imposing offshore asylum processing and moving its detention centres to Pacific islands, Australia has managed to isolate these “Pacific gulags” from the media.
After letting Australia use a prison as a migrant detention centre, the small and remote Pacific island state of Nauru prevented media access by establishing a unique visa policy. The charge for a visa application runs as a high as 8,000 euros and is not refundable even when the visa is denied, which is usually the case. And to further limit media attention the Nauruan government found another radical solution – blocking access to Facebook for three years.
Journalists are supposed to be banned from Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, where Australia has its other main migrant detention centre. But one of the asylum seekers held there happens to be the Iranian Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been taking advantage of the limited and costly Internet access available to detainees to cover the reality and the consequences of Australia’s immigration policy since 2014. It’s from inside the centre, using Twitter, Facebook and the British press that this journalist has been describing the “slow agony” of the often “terrified” refugees who are the victims of this “sadistic prison system.”
Risky reporting from the inside
It can be dangerous for refugee journalists to cover the abusive treatment of their fellow refugees in the detention centres or camps into which they are crammed. Abdel Hafez al Houlani, a Syrian journalist from Homs who has been living in the refugee camp in Arsal, in eastern Lebanon, since 2015, was held and mistreated for six days after being arrested on 24 May of this year. When he acknowledged under interrogation that he ran the press office of the Union of Syrians for the Defence of Prisoners and was the Zaman Al Wasil news website’s correspondent, and that he covered “anything to do with the Syrian refugees in the Arsal camp, including Lebanese army raids and the frequent arrests,” the insults by his interrogators redoubled. Since his release, he has been summoned for further questioning twice, he thinks he is being followed, and he fears for his life.
Minzayar Oo and Hkun Lat, two Burmese journalists who were covering the flight of several hundred thousand Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh, feared the worst when the Bangladeshi authorities arrested them in September 2017 on suspicion of spreading “false information” and spying for Myanmar. The Bangladeshi suspicions were fuelled by the fact that Myanmar was not supposed to be letting its journalists cross the border and, even more so, by the fact that it did not want them writing about the atrocities that were driving the Rohingya exodus.
By intimidating journalists who cover the refugee story, some governments are not only seeking to conceal their violations of international humanitarian law but also to ensure that their questionable political decisions are ignored or can even be denied outright.