ANGLICAN SYNOD PLEADS FOR AUSTRALIA TO TAKE 12,000 MORE REFUGEES

The Anglican Church of Australia has urged the Federal Government to take another 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq, especially Christians and other minorities. The church also asked the Government, as a matter of human decency, to resettle in Australia any refugees and asylum seekers still detained on Manus Island and Nauru, and urged the Government to partner with the churches in healing and resettling the refugees. At its triennial General Synod in Maroochydore, Queensland, late last year the church affirmed the life-saving consequences of the earlier allotment of 12,000 extra places, particularly for Christians and other minorities who had been targeted by Islamic State.

The synod has urged each of Australia’s 23 dioceses to give 0.7 per cent of gross income to projects supporting sustainable development goals, and asked the Government to give 0.7 per cent of gross national income to overseas development. It also asked the Government to increase diplomatic and humanitarian efforts for Rohingya Muslims. The synod voted to oppose assisted dying, urge the government to improve palliative care resources, and to encourage Anglicans to contact their MPs.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports
Published 23 January 2018

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Curbing misuse of government monetary support to vulnerable people groups – some impressive answers!

Allow me to present my researched observations about this issue, as well as a recently published article on an effective trial intervention amongst some Aboriginal tribal groups and the possible reasons why it seems to be so impressively successful:  

I am convinced that governments tend to see financial aid mainly as a political obligation, social at best. The trouble with politics is that decisions  are often made in order to “look good”: in the eyes of their voters and other perceived significant stakeholders. Decisions about where to allocate funds often are made “from the top down”, the norm in bureaucracies: from governments, to charities, to church institutions!  The trouble with this type of decision making is that many important factors “known on the ground” are not taken into consideration, or worse are unknown due to lack of willingness to allow consultation to occur, especially with the leaders of these community groups. The leaders themselves need to first undergo scrutiny as to their trustworthiness, which  takes considerable time, but which is necessary if taxpayers’ and donors’ money is to be used wisely and responsibly! We know that some politicians and other decision makers just don’t care- looking good is all they are concerned with! They should not be there in the first place!

As well, governments need to tick the “foreign aid box”, with aid to third world countries. All too often, that money ends up in the pocket of “fat cats” at the top of those countries, or is used to acquire weapons, instead of helping the poor and strengthening that country’s economy and infrastructure (sadly, there are many examples of this; the contested “Palestinian Territories” foreign aid contributions is one of these https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-does-all-that-aid-for-palestinians-go-1453669813).

There are several initiatives in place by various very smart benefactors, who have conducted research on the ground and within various needy communities, engaging in consultation with important stakeholders within those communities. They have proven that individual loans to enterprising individuals (very often women!) have led to a widespread improvement of social conditions within those communities. As well, because the monetary aid was in the form of an interest free LOAN, when those recipients are able to pay back the loan, their dignity is left intact, or best, increased! THIS to me is smart foreign or even domestic aid! (https://hbr.org/2010/03/microfinance-mega-impact?referral=03759&cm_vc=rr_item_page.bottom) This is just one of several ingenious ways the poor can be helped by foreign and domestic aid.

I wish governments would subcontract foreign aid to smart organisations using these type of tried and tested allocation strategies and stop the often monstrous abuse of those funds, due to lack of accountability!

Of course, not all recipients are enterprising and many require monetary support to help with daily living, for themselves and their families. Much allocated money has been squandered and worse, has been used to cause damage to recipients and others. I blame that mindless government “top down” bureaucratic machinery! Nevertheless, every now and then, some individuals within that machinery break that norm and shine as a consequence. Not only that, but whole communities are helped and start blossoming! All mainly because someone has taken the time to engage in meaningful dialogue with key people in those communities! We need more of these caliber type of people informing our government and being given decision making power!

For those who are intercessors: here is an important issue to pray for, for the sake of good stewardship, on all levels!

As some may remember from my recent travel report published on Facebook (Oct/Nov 2017), involving a conference with several groups of Christian Aboriginals, at one stage, some of the unspoken attitudes of “us whities” caused a walkout by the Aboriginal contingent. The rest of us were flabbergasted, puzzled and at a loss, until it was explained to us by those who had spent much time in their midst, that we had started to engage in “managerialism”; that much resented tendency to take over and to start to “run the show”, especially on their behalf! Thankfully, we were able to regain their trust, after our sincere apology! Better still, not only did we apologize but they too apologized to us (after being reprimanded by some of their elders who weren’t there at the time) for their anger and “rude” behaviour! That is true reconciliation! Genuine dialogue is where it’s at!

On the above topic, here is a recent example published by the Australian Prayer Network:

ALCOHOL ABUSE DROPS IN ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES UNDER WELFARE CARD

The cashless debit welfare card has led to a large drop in alcohol abuse and family violence in trial communities, according to an independen­t report that found community and leader support for the scheme to be rolled out nationally. The landmark final report has found the positive health and social outcomes are almost without precedent. Almost half the 2141 welfare recipients in the remote trial communities of East Kimberley in West­ern Australia and Ceduna, South Australia, reported significantly cutting their drinking, drug and gambling dependence. There was a significant reduction in alcohol-related family violence and a drop in arrests, assaults­ and flow-on impacts.

A fall in alcohol­-related hospital admissions and improved welfare outcomes and ­caring for children was also noted. The evaluation of the federal government trial program, conducted by ORIMA research, reported­ that 41 per cent of drinkers said they drank alcohol less frequently, and there was a corresponding 14 percent reduc­tion in arrests for public drunkenness. The Federal Government intends to expand the mandatory participation trials into another community. Qualitative research suggest­ed the card had led to greater use of public facilities by families and the community feeling safer. 

Almost 40% of parents and carers reported­ that they spent more time involved in their children’s schooling and homework, and 45% of participants in the scheme said they were now saving money. “There was a large degree of support from stakeholders and community leaders for the trial to be extended across the country because of the positive changes that had been observed, which were considered to be applicable on a broader scale,” the report said. “The evaluation findings indi­cate that the trial has had a considerab­le positive impact in both trial sites. The qualitative research­ found considerable evidence cited by many community leaders and stakeholders of a ­reduction in ­violence and harmful behaviours.”

The report concluded­ that there had been few previous initiatives that had produced such a positive impact for health and community outcomes, with the improvements increasin­g over time. “We are hoping it is the beginning of the turnaround,” minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said. “The card is not a panacea but it has led to a fundamen­tal improvement in these communities. There are very few other initi­atives that have had such impact. As many local leaders noted, these communities were in crisis, largely due to massive alcohol consumption paid for by the welfare dollar. I hope that we can look back in a decade’s time and say that this initiative was the beginning of the turnaround. 

A large part of the success has been the close working relationship with local leaders, who have co-designed and implemented the trial with us . They have demonstrated true leadership” (emphasis mine), Tudge said. 

The cashless debit card trials were introduced in Ceduna and the East Kimberley for a period of 12 months, following escalating concerns that alcohol abuse and related violence in the largely indig­enous communities had reached a “crisis” point. Under the trials, 80 per cent of all welfare payments are placed in an account accessible only through a Visa debit card that is locked from use in liquor stores and gambling venues, as well as preventing cash withdrawals.

Since the introduction of the card, alcohol-related presen­tations to hospitals in Ceduna had fallen by 37 per cent, leading to qualitative evidence of a fall in ­alcohol-related family violence. Of those who admitted to illegal­ substance abuse, 48 per cent reported to have been using less frequently, while 48 per cent of gamblers reporte­d gambling less. In Ceduna and the surrounding local government areas, poker machine­ revenue was reported to have been down by 12 per cent, the equivalent of more than $500,000 in 12 months. The number of people reporting that the card had made life more difficult had also fallen. 

Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter said the improvements to people’s lives in just 12 months had been ­”stunning” and provided the best hope that a lasting solution to the social crisis was possible. “The improvement we are most proud of is in the lives of families, it has been really quite amazing,” Mr Suter said. “Kids have been missing out on food because parents were pouring money down the throats of pokies  It is the most dramatic improvement I’ve seen. I’ve been involved for 14 years through council in trying a series of initiatives, some of them have given good results in the short term, but this is certainly the most significant change for the better I’ve seen.” 

“The results on the ground reflect the report. We have noticed a series of dramatic improvements, most notably the decrease in the amount of alcohol and gambling, and, while its harder to measure, a significant decrease in drug use.” Mr Suter said there had also been a “huge improvement in gener­al behaviour around town. You used to see a lot of intoxicated people and sporadic outbreaks of violence, that has dramatically decreased,” he said. “There has been a 40-50% decrease in all problem areas. But our biggest ambition was to improve the lives of families being neglected. I would like to see it expanded to other communities. I certainly hope the naysayers don’t get their way.”

Bill Shorten said ­Canberra should not be imposing outcomes on communities. “There’s no doubt that there’s concern in the community about the prevalence of ice and other drugs of addiction, but let’s also recognise, unless the community wants to do this cashless welfare card, it won’t work (my emphasis),” the Opposition Leader said. “The other thing I’ve got to make very clear here is that if you’re going to try and encourage people to break drugs of addiction, alcohol or other drugs of addiction, you need to make sure you’ve got the rehab facilities.” 

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest­, a champion of the CDC, said last week that the country would continue to suffer for years if the trials were not rolled out nationall­y. “Children are dying and being raped and absolutely suffering, and we are not helping them,” Mr Forrest said. “The cashless debit card needs a lot of courage from the opposition and from those in government to put up with all those who could tip the balance of power ­either way, who are a tiny minority.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

 

A Just Australia campaign

The A Just Australia campaign is managed by the Refugee Council of Australia. The core mission of the campaign is to campaign for positive changes to government policy on refugee and asylum seekers. By working together with prominent Australians and community groups and thousands of concerned individuals, A Just Australia aims to achieve just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.

Exercise your right to be heard
In 2001, as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers was rapidly deteriorating in the weeks after the Tampa incident, no one knew that significant change would come three years later from within the government’s own ranks. The situation today is similar: a government pushing ahead with harsh treatment of asylum seekers in the name of deterrence, supported by many in the Opposition, but with a small number of MPs and Senators in different parties publicly or privately expressing misgivings about policies which punish people seeking Australia’s protection from persecution. In thinking about when and how change might come, we can be sure that change will not come if Australians who oppose current policies remain silent.

In 2002, a group of Australians began a campaign, A Just Australia, to encourage Australians to speak up for just treatment of asylum seekers. Today, the Refugee Council of Australia is keeping this campaign alive by inviting Australian citizens and residents to exercise their right to be heard. We want you to let your local MP and the Senators who represent you know how you feel about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Participate in our “Write To Be Heard” campaign
We would like you to join us in our new “Write to Be Heard” campaign. The aim is to write to the MPs and Senators who represent us (by email or post) to let them know that we and many other fair-minded Australians oppose policies which punish and harm people who have sought Australia’s protection from persecution.

At least once a month, we will invite you to consider a current issue of concern to asylum seekers and refugees and to write to your political representatives about it. Our first request for your support is on the issue of Temporary Protection Visas.

Don’t underestimate the influence you can have. Every elector in Australia is represented in Federal Parliament by one member of the House of Representatives and either 12 Senators if they live in a state or two Senators if they live in the ACT or Northern Territory. The territories have Coalition and Labor Senators while each State has Senators from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens and one or two of the minor party or Independent Senators who hold the balance of power. The politicians who represent you will probably include people who strongly support current government policy, others who openly oppose and some who toe the party line but have misgivings or only limited knowledge of the issues.

Release all children from immigration detention
At the end of October 2014, 726 children were in immigration detention facilities.
We know the damaging effects of detention on young people’s lives.
The Government doesn’t have to detain children – there are community-based alternatives at its disposal.
The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs and demand the release of all children from immigration detention facilities.

The Refugee Council of Australia has produced a one-page background briefing on the issue which is available here.
We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill will harm vulnerable people
The government’s Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill is currently before the Senate. If passed it will have a devastating impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Write To Be Heard is asking you to contact the cross-bench Senators and urge them to vote against the Bill. Find out how here.
If passed it will:
• Give the Minister for Immigration extraordinary powers during interception and turnback operations while limiting review by the courts or Parliament.
• Reintroduce harmful Temporary Protection Visas and remove pathways to permanent protection, condemning people to constant uncertainty.
• See asylum seekers ‘fast tracked’ through the visa application process where they will have to navigate complex legal systems without support or legal advice.

Other measures will replace the internationally-accepted definition of refugee status with the Government’s own interpretation. Even the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, says the Bill breaches Australia’s core human rights commitments.

The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs – in particular cross-bench, Greens and Labor Senators – before it’s too late. Let MPs know that we will not support a Bill that strips refugees and asylum seekers of the few rights they have.

Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people.

We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Stop the forcible return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan
Last week, Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning wrote to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, urging the Australian Government to suspend forcible returns of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Phil’s pleas followed revelations in The Saturday Paper that an asylum seeker Zainullah Naseri, who was returned in August 2014, was subsequently abducted and tortured by the Taliban.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said he would investigate the circumstances surrounding Zainullah’s case. Write to Mr Morrison and urge him to immediately suspend the forced return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. We have developed a sample letter which can be used to press the case for suspending returns.
Please send a copy of your letter to Shadow Minister for Immigration Richard Marles, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Palmer United Party Federal Leader Clive Palmer, your local MP and Senators in your State.

Temporary Protection Visas
Federal Parliament is expected to push for the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). There is still time to write to Members of Parliament – in particular the Senators from the minor parties and independents – and let them know why the TPVs must be rejected.
We have developed a sample letter which outlines the case against TPVs and a series of key points you can use to write your own letters.
How to contact your MPs and Senators
Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.
Feedback is encouraged
Please share any responses you receive through your advocacy work. Send any feedback to writetobeheard@refugeecouncil.org.au

Join us on Facebook – look for ‘RCOA’
Follow us on Twitter – OzRefugeeCounc #WriteToBeHeard

Tips for writing letters
• Keep your letter short by raising only one or two key issues.
• Ask a question on those issues that require a personal response (refer to our sample questions for inspiration)
• If you are emailing your letter, write it in a word program and attach it as a document to the email rather than place it in the body of the email. Many electorate offices do not reply to emails as they are often not considered official communications.
• Use the correct title of the person you are addressing
• ‘Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’
• ‘Senator First Name Last Name’.
You are likely to get a wordy or evasive answer. Read it carefully. If it does not actually answer your question, write again pointing out politely that they have not answered the question. Repeat the question and ask for an answer. Repeat this process as often as necessary.

Sample questions on different topics
Use these to help as inspiration for your letters to elicit a personal response and reflection from your representatives.

As the elected representative in my electorate of XX, I would like to know your position in the following matter:

Asylum seekers:
• Do you believe that Australia should accord to refugees and asylum seekers all their rights and entitlements under relevant international laws? Are you aware that current laws and policies violate these rights?
• Do you believe that people commit an offence by arriving in Australia without permission and seeking asylum? If Yes, what offence do they commit?
• Do you agree that all refugees should be treated equally regardless of how they arrived in Australia?
• Do you agree that asylum seekers not afforded protection in Australia should only be returned in safety and dignity, and never to a place of danger? Do you agree that where there is credible evidence this does not occur, Australia has a responsibility to investigate our methods and locations of forced removal?

Employment:
• Do you believe that work rights should be afforded to asylum seekers holding bridging visas?

Detention:
• Do you agree that children should not be detained?
• Do you agree that refugees and asylum seekers should not be detained indefinitely?
• Do you agree that no refugee or asylum seeker should be subjected to any human rights violation in order to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia?

An alternative to offshore detention

An alternative to offshore detention

by Julian Burnside | Nov 4, 2015 | Asylum Seekers, Human Rights

The  present system of dealing with asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel (intentionally) and hideously expensive.  There is a rational alternative to the  intentional cruelty of the present system. That system reflects the attempts of both major parties at the last election to outdo each other in their promises to mistreat a particular group of human beings.

And it’s expensive.  The current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  That’s a big number: think of it as one million Geelong chopper rides each year!

Australia’s treatment of boat people needs a radical re-think.  It is shameful that we are now trying to treat asylum seekers so harshly that they will be deterred from seeking our help at all.  It is shameful that this deliberate mistreatment of asylum seekers has been “justified” by describing them falsely as “illegal”, when in fact they commit no offence by coming here and asking for protection.  It is shameful that the deliberate Coalition lies about asylum seekers have not been roundly condemned by the Labor party.  It is shameful that, out of an alleged concern about asylum seekers drowning in their attempt to reach safety, we punish them if they don’t drown.

There are better ways of responding to asylum seekers.  If I could re-design the system, I would choose between two possible models.

A Regional solution

Boat-arrivals would be detained initially, but for a maximum of one month, to allow preliminary health and security checks.  That detention would be subject to extension, but only if a court was persuaded that a particular individual should be detained longer.

After that period of initial detention, boat arrivals would be released into the community on an interim visa with a number of conditions that would apply until the person’s refugee status was decided:

  •  they would be required to report regularly to a Centrelink office or a post office,  to make sure they remained available for the balance of the process;
  •  they would be allowed to work;
  •  they would be entitled to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;
  •  they would be required to live in a specified rural town or regional city.

A system like this would have a number of benefits. First, it would avoid the harm presently inflicted on refugees held in detention.  Prolonged detention with an unknown release date is highly toxic: experience over the past 15 years provides plenty of evidence of this.

Second, any government benefits paid to refugees would be spent on accommodation, food and clothing in country towns.  There are plenty of towns in country areas which would welcome an increase in their population and a boost to their local economy.  According to the National Farmers Federation, there are more than 90,000 unfilled jobs in rural areas.  It is likely that adult male asylum seekers would look for work, and would find it.

However, even if every boat person stayed on full Centrelink benefits for the whole time it took to decide their refugee status, it would cost the Government only about $500,000 a year, all of which would go into the economy of country towns.  By contrast, the current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  We would save billions of dollars a year, and we would be doing good rather than harm.

A variant of this would be to require asylum seekers to live in Tasmania instead of regional towns.  As a sweetener, and to overcome any lingering resistance, the Federal Government would pay one billion dollars a year to the Tasmanian government to help with the necessary social adjustments. It would be a great and needed boost for the Tasmanian economy, and Australia would still be billions of dollars better off.

Genuine regional processing  

Another possibility is to process protection claims while people are in Indonesia.  Those who are assessed as refugees would be resettled, in Australia or elsewhere, in the order in which they have been accepted as refugees.  On assessment, people would be told that they will be resettled safely within (say) two or three months.  Provided the process was demonstrably fair, the incentive to get on a boat would disappear instantly.

At present, people assessed by the UNHCR in Indonesia face a wait of 10 or 20 years before they have a prospect of being resettled.  During that time, they are not allowed to work, and can’t send their kids to school. No wonder they chance their luck by getting on a boat.

Genuine offshore processing, with a guarantee of swift resettlement, was the means by which the Fraser government managed to bring about 80,000 Vietnamese boat people to Australia in the late 1970s.  It worked, but it was crucially different from the manner of offshore processing presently supported by both major parties.  In addition, other countries also resettled some of the refugees processed in this way.  It is likely that Australians would be more receptive to this approach if they thought other countries were contributing to the effort.

A solution along these lines would face some practical problems.  At present, the end-point for refugees who reach Australia via Indonesia is a dangerous boat trip.  You have to be fairly desperate to risk the voyage, which probably explains why such a high percentage of boat people are ultimately assessed as genuine refugees: over the past 15 years, about 90% of boat people have been assessed, by Australia, as refugees lawfully entitled to our protection.  If the end-point is less dangerous, it is obvious that a number of people will set out who are not genuine refugees.  That would cause a problem for Indonesia, and Australia would have to help Indonesia deal with that problem.  But since our current system is costing about $5 billion a year, we can probably work out some arrangement with Indonesia which suits them and us.

There is another problem.  Because we have been indelicate in our relations with Indonesia in recent years, the Indonesian government may not be receptive to an approach like this.  Their reluctance may be softened if Malaysia was also recruited for a similar role.

Both of these solutions have these features in common: they are effective, humane, and far less expensive than our present approach.  But more than that: they reflect the essential decency of Australians – something which has been tarnished and degraded by our behaviour over the past 13 years.

 

NAURU DETENTION FOR CHILDREN UNACCEPTABLE SAY ANGLICAN CHURCH BISHOPS

Melbourne’s Anglican bishops have again urged the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, to change the narrative on children in detention despite the High Court decision that there is no legal impediment to returning more than 250 asylum seekers to Nauru. In a published statement The Bishops claim “The fact that a legal determination has been made does not require the Government to act to return women and children to off-shore detention. No reasonable Australian wants to encourage people smugglers in any way, but it is simply morally unacceptable to leave children to languish in appalling conditions in off-shore detention centres. If the nation can agree on these two principles, surely it is not beyond us to find a solution.”

The Bishops statement went on, “The Anglican Church in Melbourne will continue to support asylum seekers and refugees with services and advocacy and spiritual help. The Church and its welfare agencies have long had considerable involvement in resettling refugees and helping them build a life in Australia. We applaud the motives of those Christian churches who intend to test the ancient common law notion of sanctuary, but our churches are not equipped to provide temporary accommodation. A better answer would be for Mr Turnbull to exercise compassion and moral principle and allow the asylum seekers to remain in Australia as the processes unfold.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, says Anglicans along with other Christians in Sydney are concerned by the prospect of 91 asylum seeker children being returned to Nauru following the High Court ruling, a situation which he said ‘should concern every Australian’. Australia is currently detaining around 80 children, at Wickham Point, and about 70 children on Nauru. The High Court’s ruling means that dozens of asylum-seeker families, including babies born in Australia, could be deported to Nauru. Dr Davies says the Human Rights Commission Report (2014) and the contemporary testimony of paediatricians indicate that the overwhelming majority of children suffer considerable trauma during detention. “There is no safe level of exposure when it concerns children in detention” Dr Davies said.

Dr Davies said he was mindful of the difficult decisions that the Immigration Department, under various governments, has had to make. “It is my sincere hope that the Immigration Minister and his Department can find a way to keep these children in Australia” the Archbishop said. “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney stands ready to offer help and facilities in whatever way we can.”

Source: Press Release from Anglican Church in Australia

Published in the Australian Prayer Network, 10 February 2016

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)