Prayer Call for Palestinians

bombed streetsDear praying friends,

Would you like to join me in praying for Christians who find themselves continuously surrounded by hateful, inflammatory speech, which in some cases has been part of generations of their families?

I particularly am thinking of Christians living in the Palestinian Territories, surrounded by but also filled with hatred for the Jewish State of Israel. Many of these Christians have put politics above the word of God. It is understandable in a way, for they are afflicted by severe poverty, often surrounded by bombed-out ruins from the last conflict with Israel and still vividly remember the bombings and the lost relatives and friends. The older ones among them may remember the houses and lands they once owned, which were taken by Israel; either assigned to them by international treaties or simply claimed. It is a potent recipe for hatred but anathema to a viable spiritual life in Christ! A tall order to ask them to forgive and even love their enemies! Matthew 5:44 (KJV) “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Nevertheless, no more difficult than to ask a victim of rape to forgive his/her abuser! It still stands and God asks us, by calling on His help, to obey His command, just like all His other commands.

I suggest therefore we pray as follows:

1) For God to reveal to Palestinian Christians the truth of His word about the need to forgive, no exceptions given.
2) That they would understand that they can only do so effectively by trusting in His Spirit’s help to do so.
3) For them to be given a sound mind, as in 2 Timothy 1:7(KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
4) For Scripture-based, Spirit-led teachers to teach rightly how to walk as a disciple of Christ.
5) For Palestinian Christians to make God their provider Matthew 6:25-34 (NET) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”
6) For protection from other Palestinians who see forgiving their enemies as treason and may well want to kill those who profess and practice forgiveness towards their enemies.
7) For peace to come to this people group and for a desisting in making alliances with terrorist groups, which has been reaping destruction and devastation for its people.

Bless you for praying in faith!

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Easter greetings and some thoughts on human slavery

Dear friends and fellow pray-ers!

Like some of you; this morning I awoke to a Facebook security message asking me to reply whether I was safe, in view of an explosion which took place just recently. It turned out to be a world-wide error by Facebook, in response to an explosion which just took place in Pakistan (I googled it to find out). It nevertheless touched a nerve in me; in view of all the recent unsettling events world-wide. It could well have occurred on our soil, and there have been and continue to be attempts here to orchestrate just such a terror event as we have seen recently in Brussels and Paris.

When criminals consider their heinous crimes to be holy acts of a holy war and pleasing to their god, then we are facing a new and infinitely worse level of evil. As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised what the evil one is capable of, especially as his time on earth is reaching its final stage (Revelation 20:10).

One of the worst forms of evil which, unlike the sudden death caused by of a terror related explosion, or its wounding or lasting maiming effects, is the entrapment and daily abuse of other human beings through slavery. As we have seen before; it often touches the people group we are and have been praying for: refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP’s).

What should our response as intercessors be to such overwhelming evil? I can think of no better one than the one recommended by our Lord Himself: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)! In it is contained what our response should be. I believe that not only does it evoke the best answer from God to a seemingly ever increasing form of evil but keeps us in a place of calm and peace. For it keeps our eyes on Him, who is our wisdom, our safety and our peace (Is. 26:3-4; Thess. 3:16; 1 Cor. 1:30; Ps 46:1-3).

We just celebrated Easter and I realise that Jesus Himself lived that prayer to perfection; He lived “hallowing” or highly honouring the name of the Father, submitting to and serving His will, ushering in God’s Kingdom (as its King and Humble Servant), giving the hungry bread and much more, He Himself delivering us from evil through His death and resurrection and, tortured, mocked and in His dying breath; asking for forgiveness for His tormentors and murderers “because they knew not what they did”.

The depth of Christ’s life and words are infinitely worthwhile to read about and to meditate upon. They continuously have the effect of transforming us and bringing us His life, through faith.

Enjoy this final day of this year’s Easter break!

P.S.

Below some info and stats on the worldwide situation regarding slavery:

Contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery, refers to the institution of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 29 million. Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually.

The Global Slavery Index 2013 states that 10 nations account for 76 percent of the world’s enslaved. India has the most slaves of any country, at 14 million (over 1% of the population). China has the second-largest number with 2.9 million slaves, followed by Pakistan with 2.1 million, Nigeria with 701,000, Ethiopia with 651,000, Russia with 516,000, Thailand with 473,000, Congo with 462,000, Myanmar with 384,000, and Bangladesh with 343,000.

An estimated 22% of slaves to date are active in the sex industry.

Children comprise about 26% of the slaves today. Most are domestic workers or work in cocoa, cotton or fishing industries. Many are trafficked and sexually exploited. In war-torn countries, children have been kidnapped and sold to political parties to be used as child soldiers. Forced child labor is the dominant form of slavery in Haiti.

Mainly driven by the culture in certain regions, early or forced marriage is a form of slavery that affects millions of women and girls all over the world. When families cannot support their children, the daughters are often married off to the males of wealthier, more powerful families. These men are often significantly older than the girls. The females are forced into lives whose main purpose is to serve their husbands. This oftentimes fosters an environment for physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

Islamist

In 2003 Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member at that time of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, issued a fatwa stating “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam,” and that anyone who says otherwise “is an infidel.”

Two Islamist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have supported the practice of slavery. In 2014, both groups were reported to have kidnapped large numbers of girls and younger women. According to an August 2015 story in The New York Times, in territory of the Islamic State, “the trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.”

Quotations taken from Wikipedia website

 

Some more promises to claim!

As we continue to pray for the latest prayer issue (refugees in and heading for Europe), we all have heard of many of those refugees abandoned in desert areas (the sea of course is another type of “desert area”), often due to people smugglers’ dodgy cars (or boats) braking down, or abandoned in “holding camps” awaiting ransom money from relatives and friends which never is paid. Their prospect is certain death.

We have a promise from the Lord Himself which we can claim on their behalf:

“Is. 43:16: Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters…

and

Ia. 43: 19b) I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”

2 Cor. 1:20 tells us that: ”For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God”.

As for the latter part of this Scripture, let’s pray that the glory due to God by acting on the above promises, would indeed go to Christ alone, the God Who Provides (Jehovah Jireh [Gen. 22:14]).

Let’s continue to have confidence that He hears us for, as we know and need to remind ourselves; “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), and that the “eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15), and, again, “the prayer of the upright pleases Him” (Proverbs 15:8).

Thank you on behalf of those who can’t or have lost the will to call on God themselves!

Prayer Points for The Refugee Situation in Europe (2015)

Father God, we lift up the refugee situation in Europe.

As wars and the threat of terror posed by many rogue terror groups increases all across the Middle East and the African Continent and as wars and rumours of wars become the norm (Matt. 24:6), we pray that the hearts of Europe’s leaders and its inhabitants would not grow cold (Matt. 24:12).

We pray especially for organisations that profess your Name to show leadership in caring for the stranger (Lev. 19:34; Ex. 22:21 and others).

Once again, we thank you for the leadership shown by such organisations as the UNHCR in trying to advocate on behalf of refugees.

We ask that you would soften and humble the hearts of those who act as advisers and policy makers to the EU, that they would recognize that the problems posed by the continuous floods of refugees seeking a new home in Europe are very great and that godly wisdom is the only lasting solution to this problem. May they show willingness to consider the welfare of individuals involved before economic considerations.

Some very damaging and impacting decisions have already been taken, due to a hardening of hearts, at the expense of further loss of life amongst fleeing refugees. Such measures have increased the hardship of the most vulnerable and eroded the notion of justice and mercy in Europe.

May the call to justice and a love of mercy go out all over Europe, especially across the Body of Christ. (Micah 6:8)

The Refugee Situation in Europe (2015)

Irregular immigration in the EU 2014The scale of … tragedies is shocking but no novelty. It is estimated that since 1993 some 20,000 migrants have died trying to cross Europe’s southern borders. The true figure is undoubtedly higher: Thousands have perished, their deaths unrecorded.

Who is to blame? European politicians point the finger at traffickers. On Monday (20.4.2015 my inclusion), European Union officials came up with a 10-point plan, including military action against smuggling networks.

…what pushes migrants into the hands of traffickers are the European Union’s own policies. The bloc’s approach to immigration has been to treat it as a matter not of human need, but of criminality. It has developed a three-pronged strategy of militarizing border controls, criminalizing migration and outsourcing controls.

For more than three decades, the European Union has been constructing what critics call “Fortress Europe,” a cordon protected by sea, air and land patrols, and a high-tech surveillance system of satellites and drones.

The decision last year to scrap Mare Nostrum, the Italian-run search-and-rescue program, highlights this strategy. Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, smaller in scope and with an entirely different aim — not saving lives but surveillance and border protection. The number of migrants now attempting to reach Europe is little different from that for the same period last year, yet the death toll is about 18 times higher.

When the European Union treats immigration as a problem of criminality, it is not just the traffickers who are targets. In 2004, a German ship rescued 37 African refugees from a dinghy. When the ship entered a Sicilian port, it was seized by the authorities who charged the captain and first officer with aiding illegal immigration. They were acquitted only after a five-year court battle.

Similarly, in 2007, the Italian authorities tried to block two Tunisian fishing boats that had rescued 44 stranded migrants from docking at Lampedusa, an island between Sicily and Tunisia. The captains were charged with assisting illegal immigration. Not until 2011 did an appeals court overturn all the convictions.

Such cases are not aberrations. Treating good Samaritans as common criminals is the inevitable consequence of the European Union’s immigration policy.

…current policy is not preventing people from migrating; it is simply killing them, by the boatload.

Kenin Malik, The New York Times, 21 April 2015

“According to the UNHCR, Europe received some 714,300 asylum claims in 2014, up from 485,000 in 2013. EU member states accounted for 80 percent of this number in 2014—an increase of 44 percent compared to 2013. As to the country of origin of these asylum seekers, the top 5 countries in descending order were Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Eritrea. Syria and Iraq accounted for 30.1 percent of all asylum applications made in the EU. Many refugees do not immediately apply for asylum in their first point of entry. Those arriving in Southern Europe and the Balkans sometimes prefer to wait until they are in northern countries, given their better benefits, to apply. Others, lacking proper documentation or unsure of their asylum prospects, may never apply. They disappear into informal jobs as they try and build a new life for themselves.

Chances of receiving asylum vary widely. In the United Kingdom, 36 percent of applicants in 2013 received an initial positive decision. For the others, there are appeal processes in play and various other means of staying in the country, legally or otherwise; only 24 percent of the 2013 cohort were sent back or took advantage of voluntary repatriation schemes.The EU averaged a 25 percent approval rate in 2013, with Malta (72 percent) and Italy (62 percent) having the highest rates. Only four countries – Germany, Italy, France and Sweden – accounted for over two-thirds of asylum applications in that year.

While Syrians represented the largest of number asylum seekers in 2014, that number (149,600) is tiny compared to the total number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries (4 million) and to those internally displaced within the country (8 million). Still, the number of Syrian asylum seekers increased as did Iraqi asylum seekers. Iraqi asylum seekers stood at 68,700 in 2014, more than double the 2013 figure of 37,300. Turkey registered 50,500 or 74 percent of all Iraqi asylum seekers in 2014. Compared to the number of Syrians and Iraqis taken in by bordering countries (Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey), Europe, and countries like the United States, Australia and others have remained largely closed to those seeking refuge from the wars in Syria and Iraq.

Efforts by the EU to stem the flow of arrivals from the Mediterranean by relying on fences and closed doors will only serve to displace the challenge. Ultimately, a policy of managed immigration is likely to be the final outcome as the UNHCR calls for a more robust search-and-rescue operation and enhanced legal avenues such as resettlement programs, humanitarian visas, and enhanced family reunification measures. However the EU will also have to deal with the government in Tripoli(Tripoli, largest city and chief seaport and the national capital of Libya, located in north-western Libya on the North African coast of the Mediterranean Sea, 500 km (310 mi) south of Sicily/Italy [Wikipedia], my addition), which controls the ports of departure but is unrecognized by the EU. A strategy will also be needed to spread the burden of asylum seekers more equitably across the EU, open transit camps in North Africa and elsewhere, and strong>tackle the smugglers and the financial gains made possible by current policies.

However, this is in reality a small portion of the global crisis of refugees and IDPs. We should by all means tackle this human tragedy and end the horrors being witnessed in the Mediterranean. But we should also recognize that the global problem is getting worse as the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere continue, and people are displaced, killed, and maimed every day. Closing doors and building fences work in very limited ways. Refugees can have an impact on whole societies and regions decades after the tragedies that led to their displacement. Just as we are doing with climate change and global epidemics, it’s time for a global response to the refugee crisis—before it further destabilizes an already fragile global order.

Omer Karasapan, Regional Knowledge & Learning Coordinator, World Bank, published by Brookings, published 23.4.2015

 

New Proposals by the UNHCR

“UNHCR’s new proposals include the establishment of a robust European search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, similar to the Italian Mare Nostrum operation which came to an end last year, and to set up a EU scheme to compensate shipping companies for losses incurred while rescuing people in distress at sea.

UNHCR is also urging the EU to explore solutions to address challenges once refugees arrive in Europe, ensuring adequate support for them and avoiding a few countries having to shoulder the main responsibility for them.

At the moment, most people seeking safety in Europe arrive in a few states in the external border of the EU while, at the same time, a handful of countries, mainly Germany and Sweden, receive the largest number of asylum applications. To address this imbalance, intra-European solidarity is needed. Countries such as Italy and Greece should be supported to adequately receive asylum seekers and process their asylum applications. In addition, UNHCR is proposing a pilot project for the relocation of Syrian refugees who are rescued at sea in Greece and Italy to different countries across Europe, based on a fair distribution system.

Currently, Germany and Sweden alone have received around 56% of all Syrian asylum applications since the conflict started. This pilot project would seek a better distribution of Syrians recognized as refugees, among all countries in the EU and also contribute to reduce the risk of trafficking and exploitation linked to the current onward movements within the EU.

For asylum seekers, the Dublin Regulation, which defines state responsibility for processing asylum claims, should be fully implemented including using all tools available, such as family reunification, unaccompanied children, and the use of discretion for certain cases with more distant family links or other needs. These are tools which have been designed by EU States and should be used effectively.

As Syria’s conflict enters its fifth year with almost 4 million refugees, predominantly in the countries neighbouring Syria, increasing legal avenues for Syrian refugees to find protection in Europe is becoming imperative. UNHCR calls on European countries to make larger commitments to receive refugees through sustainable resettlement programmes and to intensify their efforts to increase opportunities for other forms of admission, so that people seeking safety can find it in Europe without having to resort to smugglers and dangerous irregular movements.

More opportunities for resettlement and other alternatives are needed, such as using private sponsorship, humanitarian visas, student and work visas. UNHCR is ready to explore conditions to expand programmes for more resettlement and for other forms of admission to the EU.

“As anti-foreigner rhetoric echoes through Europe, it is important that we remember that refugees are fleeing war and violence in places such as Syria. We need to recognize the positive contributions that they and their families make to the societies in which they live and also honour core European values: protecting lives, human rights and promoting tolerance and diversity,” said Cochetel. “UNHCR’s proposal includes also efforts to ensure that solid national integration support programmes are developed, and that refugees receive the support they need to contribute to our societies.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNHCR proposals to address current and future arrivals of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants by sea to Europe, March 2015

 

Further Proposals and Reflections

“The EU should create asylum procedures at the embassies of its member states in the same way Switzerland has done. This would mean that in the future, refugees could apply for asylum at the embassies of EU member states outside of Europe. This would spare them the potentially deadly path across the borders.

The visa requirement for people from countries in crisis like Syria or Eritrea should also be temporarily lifted. That would allow asylum-seekers to request admission at European border control posts without being given blanket rejection by police. The EU’s Dublin Regulation, which only allows refugees to apply for asylum in their country of arrival, also needs to be eliminated. Instead, asylum-seekers should be distributed among EU countries through a quota system. The freedom of movement that has long applied to EU citizens should then also be extended to recognized refugees.

Contrary to what European leaders and interior ministers claim, deaths at Europe’s borders can be prevented. At the very least, their numbers could be dramatically reduced. But that requires a readiness on the part of Europeans to protect people and not just borders.”

Maximilian Popp, Spiegel Online International, 20.4.2015

 

Trading quotas

A quota-trading mechanism may persuade more policymakers to accept a quota system. Under such a mechanism, states would be able to sell all or part of their quotas to another EU state. For example, France could avoid accepting all 87,000 of its quota by paying money to Malta, who would accept all or some of these refugees. Malta would then have more than 4,300 asylum seekers, but would also have more funds to make up for the “burden” of accepting more than its quota. However, for a quota trading mechanism to work, four concerns must be addressed:

There is, firstly, an ethical concern. Some may object to a quota scheme on the grounds that it ‘commodifies’ refugees, rather than respecting their rights. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has rejected a quota scheme using this logic. “Asylum is a right”, he stated, and so “cannot be subject to quotas”.

A second concern, of a more empirical nature, is that it is not clear that trading quotas would distribute costs fairly. Were France to pay Malta a very large amount of money to take some of its asylum seekers, the money may still not be enough for Malta to process all claims in an efficient manner, forcing asylum seekers into detention facilities in Malta until their claims are heard.

Another potential worry could be that if a country is paid or required to process an asylum claim, they may refuse to recognise these asylum seekers as refugees, even if they merit this status. The more money a country receives to deal with claims, the greater the incentive for it to process more claims in a shorter period of time: potentially rejecting claims quickly, agreeing to process more, and then rejecting these still. This is especially worrisome for countries, such as Spain, who have a history of abusing refugees and asylum seekers. Other states may accept refugees, but generally deny permanent residency or likely paths to citizenship, as in Germany.

A final concern relates to EU funding for immigration control in third countries to prevent onward migration to Europe. Some of these funds go to detention centres, including the one in the Nafusa Mountains. The Libyan government is paid to keep refugees within its borders so that they do not reach Europe, but there is little genuine protection: a key EU goal.

When the EU funds third countries, this may also encourage refugees to try and reach Europe, undermining the EU goal of securing its borders. Though detention in Libya may seem to prevent individuals from getting on a boat to Italy, it may also encourage them to try: paying off guards to escape detention, and then smugglers to escape the country. Even if over 20,000 migrants died at sea over the last two decades, and 3,000 in 2014, it is likely that many more died within Libya, including in detention. Some refugees may be attempting to cross the Mediterranean to escape the very conditions created to prevent them from reaching Europe.

Effective quotas

For a quota mechanism to ensure refugees are protected, it must guarantee that EU states do not reject asylum seekers with strong claims to refugee status. One solution would be to create a separate EU body for processing all asylum claims. However, such a body may face political pressure to reject claims because every state would need to accept a proportion of them, thereby ensuring every state has an interest in their claims being rejected. This is not a definitive reason for opposing quota trading, but rather a reason to make certain that the process for determining who is a refugee is especially strong and unbiased.

Furthermore, to guarantee refugees are protected in a trading scheme, no state should be able to pay another state to accept refugees for less money than the cost of processing claims.

Finally, payment schemes should not be extended to third countries outside of the EU who have failed to provide refugee protection. Funding detention centres in third countries may fail to protect refugees, and encourages onward migration to Europe.

Ultimately, some may still object to a quota mechanism. If migration is a right, we may struggle to see how it can be subject to quotas. However, quota trading needn’t be a commodification of rights, but a way of distributing costs. It would ensure that states that accept disproportionately more asylum seekers are compensated for doing so, and those who accept fewer pay for the privilege.

Mollie Gerver , PhD Candidate, Department of Government, London School of Economics,

 

Some Christian Thoughts and Initiatives

“What is needed is a system of prevention, rather than cure, such as the new UN ‘early warning system’. They aim to detect as soon as possible if and where the conditions arise that will cause people to flee”.

(Robin Schneider, Social Anthropologist, Berlin Institute for Comparative Social Research).

…the situation in Europe is not as dramatic as many newspapers and politicians pretend. Yet, why are Europeans so unwilling to admit more foreigners into their countries? According to Ute Osterkamp (Psychologist, Free University in Berlin)… the real cause of the hostility is the existential uncertainty confronting many Europeans.  …people do not put the reason – and thus the solution – for this uncertainty with themselves, but with others, with foreigners. “The government should …create jobs (rather) than to create tightly closed asylum centres” Mrs Osterkamp explained.

Refugees & the Future of Europe, World Student Christian Federation, 23 August 2013

Refugee Highway Partnership (RHP) website:

Some of the recent efforts and areas of interest related to the asylum issues in Europe have included:

  • raising awareness of the journey to Europe and its effect in the lives of refugees;
  • meeting stranded refugees;
  • tracing where refugee and national churches are connecting;
  • highlighting various training opportunities;
  • connecting refugees to churches;
  • building-up “Welcome Centres”
  • supporting resettlement opportunities;
  • affecting EU policy

Some news clips published on the RHP website, for prayer:

*The European Commission is set to propose next week that 40,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Italy and Greece should be relocated across the continent in response to what it considers an emergency situation in both countries.  The proposal, revealed to Reuters by an EU source familiar with a draft, follows plans announced last week for the European Union to take in 20,000 asylum-seekers currently living outside the bloc.  The Commission has also set a quota system, based on a country’s size and economic health, for those resettled migrants as well as for those relocated within the EU.  The EU measure is due to be finalised on Wednesday and would need majority support from EU nations expecting to take in some of the migrants (Fri May 22, 2015).

(some good news for a change, my comment): *”I am really amazed at how much this country has changed – even a decade ago this would have created anger and distrust, but today I’m hearing nothing but welcome for the new refugees – people are being really open,” says Zerai Kiros Abraham, a former Eritrean refugee who now runs Project Moses, a refugee-settlement charity in Frankfurt. And Susanne Simmler, head of the regional council. “We have labour shortages and demographic changes here, so we need new people – and a rural region like this normally does not attract immigrants.”  “For now, the big question, across the country, is where to house them all.” (May 23, 2015)

*…tens of thousands of migrants and refugees — desperate to escape violence and poverty at home — have opted for the safer Balkan land route through the former Yugoslavia and into the E.U. through Hungary. Last month alone 7,000 migrants and refugees — primarily from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — crossed the frontier between Serbia and Hungary, according to Frontex. Last April, just 900 crossed there (May 22, 2015)

*Pray for Israel, they have received thousands of Jewish refugees from Ukraine (Nov 2014).

*Asylum seekers have become easy target for human traffickers. In Italy last week 4000 children were missing from the refugee centers (Nov 2014).

*The UN refugee agency warned Tuesday that as many as 400,000 people may flee to Turkey from Syria’s Kurdish region to escape attacks by the Islamic State group. Turkey, already hosting some 1.5 million refugees from more than three years of war in Syria, has come under mounting pressure amid the latest influx. (Oct 2014)

(General comment re this document: all highlighting mine)

The Curse of People Smuggling

A COMPLEX ISSUE

Some Definitions:

“The flow of migrants across borders is controlled increasingly by criminal networks. Due to more restrictive immigration policies in destination countries and improved technology to monitor border crossings, “willing illegal” (inverted commas my addition, in view of the known desperation motivating these individuals and in view of the repeated statements by the UN that asylum seekers fleeing life endangering situations are not illegal, unless economic migrants, seeking simply to improve their standard of living) migrants rely increasingly on the help of organized people smugglers.

People smuggling is not a homogenous (of the same kind – my addition) criminal activity; the price of the trip, conditions of travel and status upon arrival can vary significantly. Smuggling is carried out by land, air or sea (my emphasis).

Very often the travelling conditions are inhumane: the migrants are overcrowded in trucks or boats and fatal accidents occur frequently. After their arrival in the destination country, their illegal status puts them at the mercy of their smugglers, who often force the migrants to work for years in the illegal labour market to pay off the debts incurred as a result of their transportation.”
Quotations taken from INTERPOL’s website

“Virtually every country in the world is affected by these crimes. The challenge for all countries, rich and poor, is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life.
…In short, what begins as a situation of migrant smuggling may develop into a situation of human trafficking.
For some crime groups, migrants are viewed simply as one of many commodities to be smuggled along with drugs and firearms for instance.

Simply put, there are four main technical differences between human trafficking and migrant smuggling:

1. Consent – migrant smuggling, while often undertaken in dangerous or degrading conditions, involves consent. Trafficking victims, on the other hand, have either never consented or if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive or abusive action of the traffickers.

2. Exploitation – migrant smuggling ends with the migrants’ arrival at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victim.

3. Trans nationality – smuggling is always transnational, whereas trafficking may not be. Trafficking can occur regardless of whether victims are taken to another state or moved within a state’s borders.

4. Source of profits – in smuggling cases profits are derived from the transportation of facilitation of the illegal entry or stay of a person into another county, while in trafficking cases profits are derived from exploitation.
Taken from website of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

“Smuggled migrants are vulnerable to life-threatening risks and exploitation; thousands of people have suffocated in containers, perished in deserts or dehydrated (or drowned! – my addition) at sea. Generating huge profits for the criminals involved, migrant smuggling fuels corruption and empowers organized crime.

“People smuggling syndicates are drawn by the huge profits that can be made, while benefiting from weak legislation and the relatively low risk of detection, prosecution and arrest (my emphasis), compared to other activities of transnational organized crime.”
Quotations taken from INTERPOL’s website.

“The value of the black market in human smuggling was estimated to be worth $35 Billion a year (conservative estimate, my comment), according to the IOM.”
Source: “It’s Time to Take Action and Save Lives of Migrants Caught in Crisis,” International Organization for Migration, Press Release, December 17, 2013.

My addition: Some comparisons; “Human trafficking creates approximately $150 billion in illegal revenue annually” Taken from ENDcrowd website.

On the other hand, Microsoft’s income in the US is said to have been 22.07 Billion US$ (Statistica Website) and 76.4 Billion (untaxed) US$ in foreign earnings (Reuters 2015, quoted in Wikipedia).

“People smuggling networks often change their routes and methods in response to legislative and law enforcement activities. (This may explain a recent spike in illegal arrivals to Australia via air – my comment.) This means that the routes used by people smugglers may sometimes be simple and direct, at other times circuitous. The time between departure and arrival may vary from some days to several months or even years.

People smuggling takes place on all scales but INTERPOL’s focus is on organized networks, due to their international dimension (this may explain why individual people smugglers are not apprehended more frequently, as in the following Libya scenario, comments mine:). The modus operandi of criminal organizations is increasingly sophisticated, with numerous other crimes linked to people smuggling, such as identity-related crimes, corruption, money laundering and violence.”
Quotations taken from INTERPOL’s website.

Costs and Fees for Migrants Smuggling to Europe
A human trafficker who was arrested by security forces in Italy explained the cost structure that migrants departing from North Africa to Europe must pay in order to be smuggled on a boat: The boats that consist of the human smuggling market of North Africa to Italy are usually retired fishing boats that are in bad conditions. The migrants first must pay between $1,000 to $2,500 to reserve a spot on the boat. That fee is simply to have a spot on the boat. The migrant must pay for all charges and expenses while on the boat. According to the trafficker, a life jacket costs $200. Bottles of water and cans of tuna costs up to $100. The “first class” section of the boat, which is located on the top deck and not being crowded into the ship’s hull costs $200 to $300. Blankets and rain coats costs $200. Pregnant women must pay $150 for catheters because many consider the urine of pregnant women to be poisonous. Use of the satellite phone for a few minutes costs $300. And children who are making the journey without parents are charged $1,500.

Between January and June 2014, security forces in Italy estimate that over 43,000 people have reached the Italian shores, an increase of 835 percent from the same period in 2013. In a single weekend at the end of May, a total of 3,162 migrants from Syria and North Africa were seized on 11 fishing boats off the coast of Sicily.
Source: Barbie Latza Nadeau, “Confessions of a Human Trafficker Who Smuggled Desperate Migrants Into Europe,” Daily Beast, June 5, 2014.
Some ongoing strategies to fight People smuggling:

“Despite the wide-spread nature of smuggling in migrants, the global efforts in curbing this phenomenon have largely focused on apprehending and deporting individual migrants (my emphasis), with very little done to dismantle the organized crime behind this deadly business. Unless the organized crime groups who smuggle migrants are dismantled, migrant smugglers will continue to operate and quickly adapt their methods and routes to changing circumstances such as improved border controls or changes in visa regimes. Similarly, where efforts are focused primarily on strengthening border controls, the effect is often to increase demand for smuggling services to enter countries illegally (my emphasis).

Tackling migrant smuggling necessitates a comprehensive, multi-dimensional response, which begins with addressing the socio-economic root causes of irregular migration to prevent it, and goes through to prosecution of criminals who commit smuggling-related crimes. From a UNODC perspective, the challenge is to dismantle the smuggling networks by strengthening the criminal justice response, while protecting rights of smuggled migrants (emphasis mine) with strong multi-agency cooperation in all responses.”
Taken from website of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

“At INTERPOL today, we have a global membership of 190 countries. Each country maintains a National Central Bureau (NCB), staffed by national law enforcement officers. It forms the link with INTERPOL’s global network, enabling member countries to work together on cross-border investigations. NCBs are increasingly involved in shaping the Organization’s direction.

At INTERPOL, our unique position in the international law enforcement community enables us to assist in combating the criminal networks behind people smuggling. A dedicated project, known as Smuggling Training & Operations Programme (STOP), supports our member countries in border management issues, particularly in detecting criminal networks that provide stolen or lost travel documents to illegal immigrants or individuals involved in organized crime. The Project provides police at strategic border points with direct access to our Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) Database, allowing them to instantly check travel documents against INTERPOL records.

At INTERPOL, we have developed additional tools which can facilitate the exchange of information among police in member countries and help coordinate action. The following tools are accessible to authorized users of I-24/7, INTERPOL’s secure global police communications system:

■ MIND/FIND technical solutions enable frontline law enforcement agencies dealing with people smuggling (border police, immigration) to receive instant responses for queries on stolen or lost travel documents;

■ The International Contact Directory for People Smuggling Issues contains contact details for individuals responsible for people smuggling and illegal migration issues within INTERPOL National Central Bureaus around the world.

We also host a Global People Smuggling Conference where key stakeholders can contribute to a strategy to combat the complex web of people smuggling issues.”
Quotations taken from INTERPOL’s website.

“In order to comply with the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, Article 6 requires states to criminalize both smuggling of migrants and enabling of a person to remain in a country illegally, as well as aggravating circumstances that endanger lives or safety, or entail inhuman or degrading treatment of migrants (this is particularly applicable to present Australian detention practices – comment mine).”

As the only United Nations entity focusing on the criminal justice element of these crimes, the work that UNODC does to combat human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants is underpinned by the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.

… migrant smuggling affects countries of origin, transit and destination – and therefore requires the collaborative response of all.
Taken from website of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

An example: Libya

“… beyond the destruction of specific boats, conversations with smugglers, refugees and coastguards along the shores of west Libya suggest there are other, more long-term strategies for curbing the flow of people across the Mediterranean. The message from refugees is clear: find us a safer option. Often fleeing dictatorship, war or hunger at home and faced with further conflict and exploitation in supposedly safer havens like Libya, to many refugees the Mediterranean seems the least bad option.”

“It is not our choice to penetrate the sea,” said Keflemekal from Eritrea, one of the world’s harshest dictatorships. “If we got some help from the Libyan government, from UNHCR, we would try something else. But if the government won’t help us, if UNHCR won’t help us, if no one can help us, then the only option is to go to the smugglers.”

A return to stability in Libya is also crucial. The Libyan civil war, which has divided the country between two rival governments and dozens of militias, has left local law enforcement either unconcerned about, unable to deal with, or part of the problem in the first place. In the expanse of western Libya, where most migrant missions begin, the Libyan coastguard has just three functioning boats. In Zuwara, there is just one – a Zodiac no bigger than some of the smugglers’ smallest ships. The coastguards have not been paid in months, while an extra ship that could help them increase their operations remains in Tunisia because the local government could not afford to pay for its maintenance.

In an area where there are dozens of smuggling missions a week, trying to resist seems pointless, said a Zuwaran coastguard who gave his name as Mostafa.

“The EU, if it really wants to stop smuggling from Zuwara, they need to bring us the tools to this office,” Mostafa said, claiming that millions of dollars meant for ports like Zuwara had never reached their target after they were sent straight to the central government in Tripoli. “We need serious tools, boats, proper patrols, a committee to train us. Don’t give the aid to Tripoli. Give it to us in Zuwara.”
Patrick Kingsley, The Guardian, 25 April, 2015

Australian strategies:

“To combat the spike in people smuggling activity, the AFP (Australian Federal Police) has generated a law enforcement program founded on three pillars: prosecution, disruption and capacity building (my emphasis). The prosecution strategy relies on foreign and Australian prosecution of people smugglers. The disruption strategy consists of providing actionable intelligence to inform foreign law enforcement action and prevent maritime ventures before they depart for Australia. The capacity building strategy is focused on enhancing the capacity of the Indonesian National Police and other law enforcement agencies across the region including in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Malaysia.”
Taken from the AFP website.

“Mr Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) said the Government was committed to stamping out the people smuggling trade in the region. “By working closely with our regional partners we save lives at sea and prevent vulnerable people being lied to and ripped off by people smugglers”.
The Coalition Government’s policies and resolve are stopping illegal boat arrivals and are restoring integrity to Australia’s borders and immigration programme.

“Anyone attempting to enter Australia illegally by sea will never be resettled in this country,” Mr Dutton said.

Measures and safeguards are in place to enable Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) actions and activities to be undertaken in a manner consistent with Australian domestic law and Australia’s obligations under international law. The overriding priority for all agencies involved in OSB is the safety of all involved at all times. This includes potential illegal arrivals, crews, and Australian personnel.”
Taken from Minister Peter Dutton’s website, 19 February 2015.

“… while political and popular attention has focused largely on irregular maritime arrivals, people smuggling to Australia also occurs by air.”
Cat Barker, Australian Policy Online (APO), 28 February 2013

My observation: This figure has spiked in recent years, especially since boats have been stopped.

Putting the whole issue of people smuggling into perspective (my comments):
The UN in 2013 published a figure of 51.2 Mio. displaced people worldwide (including internally displaced persons). More than 85% of these are hosted in developing countries (usually in refugee camps). Australia hosts 0.3%.

Of the above 51.2 Mio, which would have increased significantly by now, 11.7 Mio. refugees are registered under the UNHCR mandate. Of these, a mere 3+% were resettled; 90 % to the US, Australia and Canada in 2013. Australia has since reduced its resettlement target.
Figures taken from an article in the SMH, by Sarah White and Inga Ting, June 20, 2014.

Further references and resources:

*UNODC – In-depth training manual on investigating and *UNODC Toolkit to Combat smuggling of and prosecuting the smuggling of migrants migrants

Since first publishing the above, this report by Ross Kemp in April 2017, shows that things only have gotten worse. With so much apathy around, there is little hope for these people trapped in the greatest humanitarian tragedy worldwide: 60+ million people drifting in a literal and symbolic ocean of greed and indifference! If you do nothing but watch this report, you will have done more than most. I hope it will spurn you on to prayer and to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves!
https://youtu.be/MdYv1k6PPU8