The Sunday Morning Herald: 'Race to the bottom': Trump and Turnbull urged to end refugee limbo

One of the world’s peak refugee groups is calling on Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump to extend their agreement to resettle refugees in the United States while warning of the “unconscionable” treatment of those who may be left behind.

As Mr Turnbull prepares to meet the US president in the White House, refugee advocates are lobbying for a bigger intake by the Trump administration to resettle people from Manus Island and Nauru.

The president of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, warned that Australia could lead a “race to the bottom” on the treatment of refugees unless it found a new solution for those left on Manus and Nauru after the US completes its intake.

“We don’t want Australia to be leading the race to the bottom on refugee protection,” he told this newspaper.

“Given the circumstances these refugees are confronting, we would welcome the United States accepting more of them.

“But that should not let Australia off the hook.”

Mr Schwartz said Australia should end offshore detention and the “unacceptable” conditions on Manus Island and Nauru, warning the Australian policy “does not work”.

“Something has to change,” he said.

The agreement between Australia and the US sparked a fiery telephone conversation between Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump in January last year, when the President slammed the “worst deal ever” and sought to rewrite the terms agreed by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Since then, however, the US appears to have accepted as many as 200 refugees. The Obama agreement said the US would consider up to 1250 applicants but put no obligation on the US as to the final number.

Fairfax Media reported last month that a second cohort of Manus Island refugees, consisting of 40 men who were mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan, had flown to the United States.

For the full article, click here. 

 

VOA News: Plight of Refugees

Host Carol Castiel sits down with Eric Schwartz, former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration under the Obama Administration, currently President of Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization that advocates on behalf of displaced and stateless people. He discusses the plight of refugees worldwide with a focus on the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar; the impact of US refugee policy under the Trump administration and the EU’s struggle to integrate the largest refugee flow since World War II.

For the original article, click here. 

FOX News: Major refugee aid fraud under investigation in Uganda, U.N. reveals

In March 2017, the non-profit humanitarian organization Refugees International, or RI, which says it does not take money either from governments or the U.N., issued a lengthy field report on Uganda, with a section devoted to such warning signs.

The report noted that the Ugandan Prime Minister’s office (OPM)  was exercising “tight control” over where non-government organizations could conduct relief work, and making them seek permission to work in refugee settlements.

Refugee International field workers were told by aid workers that even though the government was not supposed to have any say in choosing contractors who would work with humanitarian NGOs on aid distribution,  “aid organizations were allegedly denied access to settlements after rejecting a contractor that OPM suggested”—a warning sign of possible collusion.

They also heard that “OPM allegedly delayed approving projects for months because of disagreements over the choice of a contractor.” The field report also says that U.N. officials “did not deny the government’s involvement in these decisions.”

Aid donors also knew of the untoward pressures, Refugees International reported, but their response was tepid at best, at least until RI brought the matter to their attention.

In fact, the uncovering of the Uganda scandal may actually point in a novel direction—of the U.N. beginning to move against its longstanding habitual passivity in the face of similar aid scandals, which was outlined in a scathing report by the U.N.’s own watchdog Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) in mid-2016.

The 133-page report summarized a nine-month investigation that covered “fraud detection, prevention and response” across 28 U.N. organizations and discovered that the world body was only marginally engaged on all three topics.  

To read the full article, click here. 

Straits Times: Trump nominee for UN migration post called out over tweets on Islam

WASHINGTON • The Trump administration's nominee to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants around the world has suggested in social media posts that Islam is an inherently violent religion and has said Christians in some cases should receive preferential treatment when resettling from hostile areas.

In tweets, social media posts and radio appearances reviewed by The Washington Post, Mr Ken Isaacs, a vice-president of the Christian relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change - a driving force behind migration, according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead.

In June, after a terrorist attack in London, Mr Isaacs reposted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying: "This isn't in the name of God, this isn't what the Muslim faith asks people to do."

Mr Isaacs responded: "CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know 'this' is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do."

Mr Isaacs was announced last week as the Trump administration's pick to become director-general of the United Nations' International Organisation for Migration, or IOM.

The 169-member organisation has a nearly US$1 billion (S$1.32 billion) annual operating budget and for decades has deferred to the United States, one of its top benefactors, to lead the organisation.

Mr Trump's pick could be at risk of being the first US nominee since the late 1960s to lose an election by the group's voting members, according to several people involved in international relief coordination.

"I don't know the nominee, but I've seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world's most important international migration agency," said Mr Eric Schwartz, president of the non-profit Refugees International.

"The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community's support for humanity. And that means that dark-skinned people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people."

For the full article, click here. 

Hacking Law Practice: TRUMP’S UN MIGRATION NOMINEE SAYS ACCEPTING MORE SYRIAN REFUGEES IS “FOOLISH AND DELUSIONAL”

Donald Trump’s UN Migration nominee uses social-media to give his true feelings about Muslims.

Ken Isaacs, the vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, has made many controversial statements through twitter, radio appearances, and various other media outlets.  Not only has he denied climate change, which is a lead factor in migration, he has made many Islamophobic statements.

After a terrorist attack in London, a Catholic bishop said, “This isn’t in the name of God, this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do,” in an attempt to defend the Islamic faith from blanket statements of “radicalism.”

Isaacs disagreed with the bishop and retorted, “Bishop if you read the Quran you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Isaacs’ nomination was announced on Thursday.  His official position would be director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).  The budget of IOM is nearly one billion dollars.  This organization has commonly had a United States leader for many years because the United States gives very high contributions to IOM.

After Obama said he wanted to accept more Syrian refugees, Isaacs said that this was a “foolish and delusional [attempt to] show cultural enlightenment.”  According to Isaacs, after a measly two hours in a refugee camp, he saw people that he assumed to be “real security risks” because he “knows what a fighter looks like.”

Isaacs also said that Christian Syrian refugees “must be 1st priority” because “Christians can never return” to Syria.

After the State Department was sent evidence of Isaacs social media, his Twitter was made private and Isaacs issued an apology, saying he regrets that the comments “have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record.”

Noticeably, Isaacs did not say in the statement that he did not mean what he said.  Based on his inability to condemn his past claims and a look at his previous posts, one can assume that Isaacs holds a serious prejudice against Muslims.

Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International (who used to be an assistant secretary of state for President Obama), spoke of the nomination saying, “I don’t know the nominee, but I’ve seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world’s most important international migration agency.”

Schwartz went further, adding, “The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community’s support for humanity.  And that means that dark-skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people.”

For more information, click here.

For the full article, click here

Pass Blue: Why Turkey’s Model Work Permits for Refugees Don’t Actually Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A major problem with Turkey for the millions of refugees there, it has a model work permit system for the newcomers, but it still bars them from the country’s labor market. Such problems can be overcome, experts contend, so that the refugees can work for decent wages in Turkey.

Izza Leghtas, a Refugees International senior advocate, and Kirsten Schuettler, a senior program officer at the World Bank, discussed these challenges for refugees in Turkey at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University on Jan. 22. Leghtas, noting that Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world, at 3.5 million, of whom 3.2 million are Syrians, shared her recent report, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights; Legal Employment Still Inaccessible for Refugees in Turkey.”

Many outsiders think that refugees live mostly in camps, which is hardly true in Turkey, Leghtas explained. In fact, Istanbul, despite being an expensive city of 14 million residents, is a metropolis that attracted many refugees at first or who gravitated to it eventually. About 530,000 officially registered Syrian refugees live in Istanbul, although the total number may well be more than 700,000.

Article 17 of the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, Schuettler pointed out in a policy brief that she wrote with two others, gives refugees “the most favorable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as regards the right to engagement in wage-earning employment.”

However, the brief, titled “Refugees’ Right to Work and Access to Labor Markets,” also says “some countries completely legally bar refugees from work, be it as an employee or starting a business.”

For the full article, click here. 

Independent: Trump nominee for UN migration post called Muslims violent, said Christians 'first priority' and denied climate change

The man the Trump administration has put forward to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants is alleged to have said on Twitter that Islam is a violent religion and that Christiansshould be given preferential treatment. 

The Washington Post says it has reviewed tweets, social media posts and radio appearances by Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the Christian relief organisation Samaritan's Purse, and found a number of derogatory comments about Muslims.

The US media organisation claims that in June last year, following the terrorist attack in London Bridge, Mr Isaacs commented on a CNN International story claiming that the attack was "exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do".

In another tweet he is alleged to have said: "If Islam is a religion of peace, let's see 2 million Muslims in National Mall marching against jihad & stand for America! I haven't seen it!"

And in response to Barack Obama's position on Syrian refugee relief in 2015, Mr Isaacs tweeted: "Refugees are 2grps. Some may go back and some can't return. Christians can never return. They must be 1st priority."

Mr Isaacs has since made his Twitter account private, but screenshots of his tweets are being shared on the social networking site.

He was announced on Thursday as the Trump administration's nominee to become director general of the United Nations' International Organisations for Migration (IOM), which has an annual operating budget of almost $1bn. 

In a statement to The Washington Post, Mr Isaacs said: "I deeply regret that my comments on social media have caused hurt and have undermined my professional record.

"It was careless and it has caused concern among those who have expressed faith in my ability to affectively lead IOM.

"I pledge to hold myself to the highest standards of humanity, human dignity and equality if chosen to lead IOM."

Mr Isaacs comments are putting him at risk of being the first US nominee since the late 60s to lose an election to become the head of the IOM by the group's voting members.

Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International, told The Washington Post: "I don't know the nominee, but I've seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world's most important international migration agency.

For the full article, click here. 

The Western Journal: Refugee Admissions From Terrorist Hotbeds Fell Over 80 Percent in Trump’s First Year

Data shows that President Donald Trump is on his way to fulfilling another campaign promise: to limit refugee admissions from “terror-prone regions.”

There has been an 81 percent decline in the number of refugees from the seven countries identified as terrorist hotbeds since President Donald Trump’s inauguration, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center admissions data.

The number of refugees arriving from Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Libya dropped from 45,114 in 2016 to 6,475 in 2017, Breitbart reported.

123 refugees arrived per day in the United States from those seven countries under the Obama administration in 2016.

In contrast, during the first eight months of the Trump administration, that number fell to 32 refugees arriving per day. In the last three months of 2017, only three refugees arrived per day.

These numbers show that Trump is well on his way to fulfilling more promises he made on the campaign trail.

“When I’m elected president, we will suspend the Syrian refugee program and we will keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” he said in 2016, according to Breitbart.

Trump added, “And we will pause admissions from terror-prone regions until a full security assessment has been performed, and until a proven vetting mechanism has been established.”

The number of refugee arrivals from each of the seven “terrorist hotbeds” countries has also significantly dropped.

Only 1,972 refugees came from Syria in 2017, an 88 percent decline from the 16,395 arrivals in 2016. Refugee arrivals from Iraq dropped 80 percent from 11,940 in 2016 to 2,308 in 2017.

There was a 77 percent decline in refugee arrivals from Somalia, with 10,811 arriving during former President Barack Obama’s final year in office and only 2,454 arriving during Trump’s first year in office.

Only 601 refugees came from Sudan in 2017, a 61 percent drop from the 1,524 that arrived in 2016.

The number of refugee arrivals from Libya and Yemen in 2017 was low with none coming from Libya and only 16 from Yemen.

Refugee admissions overall have declined by 70 percent since Trump took office.  From Jan. 21, 2017 to Jan. 20, 2018, only 29,620 refugees have been admitted into the U.S. The previous year, a total of 98,898 refugees were admitted under Obama.

The rapid decline of refugee admissions shows the broad effect of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. If the current admission rate continues, the number of refugees granted asylum in the U.S. will not come close to the 2018 refugee ceiling of 45,000 Trump set last year, Fox News reported.

“Our job is to balance the need to protect legitimate refugees with the need to protect our security,” Jennifer Higgins from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency told The Wall Street Journal.

The president of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz, told The Journal that the drop in refugee admissions is “enormously discouraging and dispiriting, and it is another reflection of this administration’s march away from the principle of humanity.”

For the full article, click here. 

Reading Eagle: UN migration nominee has issued controversial tweets

The Trump administration's nominee to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants around the world has suggested in social media posts that Islam is an inherently violent religion and has said Christians in some cases should receive preferential treatment when resettling from hostile areas.

In tweets, social media posts and radio appearances reviewed by The Washington Post, Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change - a driving force behind migration according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead.

In June, after a terrorist attack in London, Isaac reposted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying "This isn't in the name of God, this isn't what the Muslim faith asks people to do."

Isaacs responded: "CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know 'this' is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do."

Isaacs was announced Thursday as the Trump administration's pick to become director general of the United Nations' International Organization for Migration, or IOM. The 169-member organization has a nearly $1 billion annual operating budget and for decades has deferred to the United States, one of its top benefactors, to lead the organization.

Trump's pick could be at risk of being the first U.S. nominee since the late 1960s to lose an election by the group's voting members, according to several people involved in international relief coordination.

"I don't know the nominee, but I've seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world's most important international migration agency," said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and a former assistant secretary of state under President Barack Obama.

"The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community's support for humanity. And that means that dark skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people."

For the full article, click here. 

Washington Post: Trump nominee for U.N. migration post called Muslims violent, Christians top priority

The Trump administration’s nominee to coordinate billions of dollars in assistance to migrants around the world has suggested in social-media posts that Islam is an inherently violent religion and has said Christians in some cases should receive preferential treatment when resettling from hostile areas.

In tweets, social media posts and radio appearances reviewed by The Washington Post, Ken Isaacs, a vice president of the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, made disparaging remarks about Muslims and denied climate change — a driving force behind migration, according to the agency the State Department has nominated him to lead.

In June, after a terrorist attack in London, Isaac reposted and commented on a CNN International story that quoted a Catholic bishop saying “This isn’t in the name of God, this isn’t what the Muslim faith asks people to do.”

Isaacs responded: “CNN, Bishop if you read the Quran you will know ‘this’ is exactly what the Muslim faith instructs the faithful to do.”

Isaacs was announced Thursday as the Trump administration’s pick to become director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration, or IOM. The 169-member organization has a nearly $1 billion annual operating budget and for decades has deferred to the United States, one of its top benefactors, to lead the organization.

Trump’s pick could be at risk of being the first U.S. nominee since the late 1960s to lose an election by the group’s voting members, according to several people involved in international relief coordination.

“I don’t know the nominee, but I’ve seen some of his statements and they reflect a troubling prejudice that is really incompatible with a position of leadership for the world’s most important international migration agency,” said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and a former assistant secretary of state under President Barack Obama.

“The person who leads this needs to be a symbol of the international community’s support for humanity. And that means that dark-skin people and Muslim people have the same inherent worth as any other people.”

For the full article, click here. 

Luciadore: What the UN can learn from Turkey about refugees

The subject of refugees always enacts a mix of emotions. Some people believe that refugees detract from the local community; others that they enhance it and give back more than they take from society. I’m in the latter camp but that’s because I’ve undertaken research on the matter. (I’ve made a documentary on the subject.: “Stepping Up: NZ’s response to the refugee crisis. https://www.luciadore.com/blog/stepping-up-nz-s-response-to-the-refugee-crisis).

I continue to do research on the subject. Indeed, I’m undertaking ongoing research with the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC) (http://www.canterburyrefugeecentre.org.nz/) where we’re looking at employment and health.

So this article that was published in the Brookings Brief was both timely and enlightening. What will New Zealand learn about the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR).

What the UN can learn from Turkey about refugees

By Jessica Brandt and Kemel Kirisci

As the crisis in Syria enters its seventh year, it shows little sign of abating. The violence there has killed nearly half a million people and displaced more than 11 million others—over six million of them within the country, and roughly five-and-half millionbeyond its borders within the region. Although nearly a million more have sought asylum in Europe, the majority of Syrian refugees reside in neighboring states, which have been called upon to shoulder the social, political, and economic consequences. Approximately 3.5 million are seeking new lives in Turkey. As Syrian regime attacks on the Idlib region mount, there are fears that these numbers may well increase.

Against this backdrop, there is a growing international recognition of the need for new approaches—and new energy behind efforts to identify them. United Nations member states are now in the process of developing a new Global Compact for Refugees (GCR), designed to improve responses to displacement worldwide, which will be adopted when world leaders convene in New York in September of this year. A key component of the GCR is the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which lays out objectives that include easing pressures on refugee-hosting countries, building refugee self-reliance, expanding access to resettlement, and supporting conditions for refugees to return home voluntarily. It is intended to take “whole of society” approach, bringing together a range of stakeholders for a coordinated response.

The CRRF is being applied in 13 countries. None of them are in the Middle East—despite the considerable experience amassed by frontline states, which together host roughly a quarter of all refugees worldwide. Capturing this knowledge, and ensuring that it informs the Programme of Action that will accompany the CRRF and underpin its implementation, is critical.

A few lessons are immediately evident

First, since the European migration crisis of 2015, Syrian refugees have been seen as a threat to the stability and future of Europe. There has been a concerted effort to keep Syrian refugees close to home with walls, barbed wire, and the deterrent effect of squalid conditions, especially on the Greek islands. The implicit assumption in Europe is that Syrian refugees, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, are more likely to integrate into their host communities in the frontline countries because of cultural affinity. This is a simplistic approach. It fails to recognize challenges resulting from economic, political, social, and even cultural differences between host communities and refugees. A public opinion survey in Turkey completed late in 2017 reveals that 80 percent of Turkish society believes that refugees either “do not resemble at all” or “do not resemble” them culturally. Strikingly, this percentage increases in some parts of Turkey bordering Syria, where locals “share the same geography, religion, sect and even ethnic commonality with Syrians,” as survey author Murat Erdoğan notes.

Second, engagement between humanitarian actors and local authorities is essential. That is in part because of the urbanization of displacement. Today, approximately 60 percent of refugees and at least half of internally displaced people worldwide reside in urban environments. More than 90 percent of Turkey’s refugee population lives outside of traditional refugee camps, almost one million of them in Istanbul and with one city, Kilis, hosting more Syrians than its own population. The Turkish government, civil society, and the municipalities where refugees are concentrated have accumulated rich experience in facilitating integration and managing challenges related to social cohesion.

Cities—and the dense networks of public, private, and civic actors that operate within them—are an inspiring source of innovation. They can also be particularly challenging environments for the displaced, who frequently forgo formal protection when they leave formal camps. In cities, newcomers may find that labor and housing markets are tight, costs are high, social services are strained, and relations with established residents are tense. The latter reality is startling, considering that 75 percent of the Turkish public, according to the above survey, does not agree that it is possible to live in peace with Syrians. Supporting urban projects that mitigate the pressure on public services and nurture a culture of living together (social cohesion) will be essential to managing this resentment.

Turkey and the West

By Kemal Kirişci

In a recent report, “I am Only Looking for my Rights,” senior advocate at Refugees International Izza Leghtas illustrates how, while Turkey’s new system of work permits for refugees is an important step forward, few refugees have benefited and exploitative work in the informal sector remains the norm. Some livelihood programs in Turkey’s urban centers are assisting refugees in the difficult task of accessing legal employment, but there is an urgent need for these programs to be expanded. Her work suggests that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should cooperate with municipal authorities to expand the availability of free Turkish language instruction for adult and child refugees, and to support the creation of community centers in Istanbul where refugees can access employment assistance and information about their rights. The report also makes clear that for legal employment of refugees to become a reality, there must be incentives for employers to hire refugees and the private sector must be involved.

Next month, UNHCR is expected to release a “zero draft” of the GCR. Formal consultations on the text, attended by U.N. Member States, will take place between February and July of this year. During that window, UNHCR should find ways to feed lessons from Turkey and other frontline states into the ongoing discussions. One way to accomplish this would be to commission a detailed report that sheds light on good practices, and share it with member states as part of the formal consultation process. This idea, as well as others, are outlined in a forthcoming brief, “The Global Compact for Refugees: Bringing Mayors to the Table, Why and How.”

Drawing on the experience of Turkey, as well as other frontline states like Jordan and Lebanon, which have also received large numbers of Syrian refugees, will help ensure that the CRRF is as effective as it can be. That’s not just good for the framework’s legitimacy—it’s good for the millions of refugees in search of safety, and for the communities that host them.

For the original article, click here. 

Games World Italia: Abbas Told Israeli Politician 'Oslo Accords Are Dead'

The Palestinians have long threatened Israel to either adopt the two-state solution or the one-state solution, provided that the Palestinians are given full citizenship rights, both civil and political.

Also on Monday, a hospital in Gaza was forced to stop services after it ran out of fuel, the health ministry said, in a further example of a severe electricity shortage facing the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday called for the African Union and its member states to play a role in a multilateral mechanism for the peace process between the Palestinians and Zionist Regime.

Those joining Monday's strike said the US funding cut would worsen hardship in the Gaza Strip, and they marched to the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City waving Palestinian flags and brandishing banners that read "Dignity is priceless". It is natural that Abbas responded this way and refused to meet with Pence, he added.

"Their family foundation has donated to Israeli settlements, they are very pro-Israel", the writer told RT.

"This decision is aimed at punishing Palestinian political leaders and forcing them to make political concessions", said Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and a former U.S. assistant secretary of state.

For the full article, click here. 

Learning and Finance: Catholic Humanitarian Groups Ask USA to Restore Aid to Palestine Refugees

Ahead of his sit-down with Hamdallah, Kahlon met with United States peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who implored him to stress to the Palestinians that there is no alternative to US-brokered peace talks, the report said. "U.S. aid cuts will affect the entire community", said 59-year-old English teacher Ahmed Abu Suleiman. "Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace, and they're going to have to want to make peace too, or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer". "The separation wall has already devastated their economy". 

The Changemaker Award, which celebrates the beauty company Revlon Live Boldly campaign, was given to Amani al-Khatahtbeh for her advocacy for Muslim women, however, she declined the award because of the ambassador role given to Gal Gadot, who is a former Israeli Army soldier support the Israeli Defence Force's campaign against the Palestinian people.

But on Thursday, the president made more threats to cut aid. The prime minister called it a "fantasy" to think any other country than the United States can broker a peace agreement. 

The prime minister called it a "fantasy" to think any other country than the United States can broker a peace agreement. 

The U.S. has already once threatened to shut down the PLO mission in NY. The agency provides support for more than 3 million Palestinians across the Middle East. The letter, spearheaded by Refugees International and Norwegian Refugee Council, objected to the withdrawal of USA funds.

For the original article, click here. 

Daily Kos: Despite many people who still need assistance, FEMA plans to end food and water aid to Puerto Rico

The end of 2017 saw multiple natural disasters hit the United States simultaneously. Wildfires and mudslides in California and deadly hurricanes which hit Southern states and the Caribbean. Federal disaster response and recovery has likely been stretched beyond budget and capacity. Perhaps this is one reason why that FEMA has decided to end food and water aid in Puerto Rico beginning on Wednesday. This would be a mistake. While Puerto Rico is not in the same state that it was in the few days and weeks post Hurricane Maria, there are plenty of residents across the island which still need assistance.

However, according to FEMA, those needs can be met without government assistance. 

In a sign that FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided, on Jan. 31 it will, in its own words, "officially shut off" the mission it says has provided more than 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals across the island in the four months since the hurricane. The agency will turn its remaining food and water supplies over to the Puerto Rican government to finish distributing.

Some on the island believe it's too soon to end these deliveries given that a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water, but FEMA says its internal analytics suggest only about 1 percent of islanders still need emergency food and water. The agency believes that is a small enough number for the Puerto Rican government and nonprofit groups to handle.

Let’s revisit what happened immediately following Maria and how the federal response to the hurricane was abysmal. It took 5 days after the hurricane hit the island before any senior federal official came to visit. It was 10 days before 4,500 troops arrived. Numerous FEMA workers that were on the island did not speak Spanish. We all saw Trump’s visit and, how after throwing paper towels at hurricane survivors, he proclaimed that the response was “excellent.” Meanwhile, Refugees International says that the agency handled the situation terribly, stating that "poor coordination and logistics on the ground" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Puerto Rican government "seriously undermined the effectiveness of the aid delivery process."

For the full article, click here. 

FPJ: ‘Whitewashing’ Genocide in Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi should be held accountable for more than her moral failings but, considering her leadership position, she should be held directly responsible for crimes against humanity, together with her top security and army brass.

Although the genocide of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has gathered greater media attention in recent months, there is no indication that the international community is prepared to act in any meaningful way, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in border camps between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

While top United Nations officials are now using the term ‘genocide’ to describe the massive abuses experienced by the Rohingya minority at the hands of the Myanmar army, security forces and Buddhist militias, no plan of action to stem the genocide has been put in place.

In less than six months, beginning August 2017, an estimated 655,000 Rohingya refugees fled or were pushed out across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Most of the ‘clearance operations’—a term used by the Myanmar military to describe the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya—took place in Rakhine state.

In a recent report, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) relayed the harrowing death toll of Rohingya during the first month of the genocidal campaign.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed between August 25 and September 24, according to MSF. This number includes 730 children under the age of five.

Eric Schwartz of Refugee International described these events in an interview with American National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the greatest crimes in recent memory—massive abuses, forced relocations of hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks.”

For the full article, click here. 

Arab News: Whitewashing the genocide in Myanmar

Although the genocide of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has gathered greater media attention in recent months, there is no indication that the international community is prepared to act in any meaningful way, thus leaving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in border camps between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

While top United Nations officials are now using the term “genocide” to describe the massive abuses experienced by the Rohingya at the hands of the Myanmar army, security forces and Buddhist militias, no plan of action has been put in place.
In less than six months, beginning August 2017, an estimated 655,000 Rohingya have fled or were pushed across the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Most of the “clearance operations” — a term used by the Myanmar military to describe the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya — took place in Rakhine state.


In a recent report, Medecins Sans Frontieres relayed the harrowing death toll of Rohingya during the first month of the genocidal campaign. At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed between August 25 and September 24 last year, according to MSF. This includes 730 children under the age of five.


Eric Schwartz, of Refugee International, described these events in an interview with American National Public Radio (NPR) as “one of the greatest crimes in recent memory — massive abuses, forced relocations of hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of weeks.”

For the full article, click here. 

Crux: Advocates alarmed at U.S. suspension of aid to Palestinian refugees

JERUSALEM - The U.S. suspension of $65 million in aid to the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees alarmed advocates who work with Palestinians living in camps.

Hilary DuBose, country representative to the Palestinian territories for the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services, said her agency is “deeply concerned about the impact such a dramatic cut in aid will have.”

The agency, UNRWA, “is one of the major providers of critical, basic life-sustaining support services - including food assistance, education, health care, sanitation management - in the refugee camps. These needs exist.”

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, said cutting the aid to refugee assistance would be inhumane.

“We have visited the refugee camps in Gaza and, even with the assistance they receive, they live very meager and undignified lives,” said Cantu, who was participating in the Hispanic Bishops’ Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. “The separation wall has already devastated their economy. Able-bodied Palestinians who would want to work and are trying to work can’t find sufficient work to support their families. It would be absolutely inhumane to cut the aid.”

He added that politicians must move away from taking offense at the words they say to one another and move toward thinking what is best for humanity.

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed frustration with the lack of movement in Mideast peace. Early in January, Trump blamed the Palestinians and threatened to cut U.S. funding. Later, the U.S. government suspended a $65 million payment to UNRWA, which serves more than 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants scattered across the Middle East.

On Jan. 25, Trump said the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive U.S. aid money.

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and Giulia McPherson, interim executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, were among advocates who signed a Jan. 24 letter from humanitarian aid groups. The letter, spearheaded by Refugees International and Norwegian Refugee Council, objected to the withdrawal of U.S. funds. It was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, national security adviser.

For the full article, click here. 

Catholic Register: Catholic humanitarian groups ask U.S. to restore aid to Palestinian refugees

JERUSALEM – The U.S. suspension of $65 million in aid to the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees alarmed advocates who work with Palestinians living in camps.

Hilary DuBose, country representative to the Palestinian territories for the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services, said her agency is "deeply concerned about the impact such a dramatic cut in aid will have."

The agency, UNRWA, "is one of the major providers of critical, basic life-sustaining support services – including food assistance, education, health care, sanitation management – in the refugee camps. These needs exist."

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, said cutting the aid to refugee assistance would be inhumane.

"We have visited the refugee camps in Gaza and, even with the assistance they receive, they live very meager and undignified lives," said Bishop Cantu, who was participating in the Hispanic Bishops' Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. "The separation wall has already devastated their economy. Able-bodied Palestinians who would want to work and are trying to work can't find sufficient work to support their families. It would be absolutely inhumane to cut the aid."

He added that politicians must move away from taking offense at the words they say to one another and move toward thinking what is best for humanity.

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed frustration with the lack of movement in Mideast peace. Early in January, Trump blamed the Palestinians and threatened to cut U.S. funding. Later, the U.S. government suspended a $65 million payment to UNRWA, which serves more than 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants scattered across the Middle East.

On Jan. 25, Trump said the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive U.S. aid money.

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and Giulia McPherson, interim executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, were among advocates who signed a Jan. 24 letter from humanitarian aid groups. The letter, spearheaded by Refugees International and Norwegian Refugee Council,objected to the withdrawal of U.S. funds. It was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, national security adviser.

For the full article, click here. 

ASEANTODAY: The myth of the stateless Rohingya

Aung San Suu Kyi continues to bury her head in the sand on the Rohingya issue. She avoideddiscussing sexual violence against women in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. She met with senior UN official, Pramila Patten during Patten’s four-day visit in December. Patten recounted how she dodged meaningful discussion about widespread rape in Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch released a report on the situation in November. They interviewed 29 rape survivors. Three were under the age of 18.

Aung San Suu Kyi continues to hold the military line. The official military line is that the Rohingya are illegally squatting in Myanmar. The military maintains they are stateless ethnic Bengalis. It maintains they are illegal migrants. Should they go back to Bangladesh?

The Rohingya are a persecuted race

The Burmese military has denied Rohingya citizenship rights. After the military came to power in 1962, the Rohingya had foreign identity cards. They could not hold certain jobs. The military banned the Rohingya from practicing law or medicine. They could not run for office.

Then in 1982, they received the stateless label. The military refused to recognise them as an official ethnic group. They could no longer vote. They had restricted access to health services. The violent crackdowns began in the 1970s.

The military constructed the idea that they are stateless

The idea of the Rohingya as a stateless people is a Burmese military construct. Muslims have inhabited the Rakhine region of Myanmar since the 12th century. During British colonial rule, Myanmar was a province of India. There was migration from Bangladesh and India to Rakhine State. But it was legal. It was internal migration.

In 1948, Myanmar secured its independence. The Burmese government passed the first Union Citizenship act. Rohingya who had been in Myanmar for at least two generations could apply for identity cards. They also served in parliament.

The military came to power in a coup in 1962. The new government created the myth of the Rohingya as a stateless population. It was a tool to justify the restriction of Rohingya rights. President of Refugees International, Eric Schwartz summed it up. He said, “the notion that they [the Rohingya] are stateless is nonsense. It is nonsense. It is a myth perpetrated by the authorities in Myanmar.”

For the full article, click here. 

NCR: Advocates alarmed at U.S. suspension of aid to Palestinian refugees

JERUSALEM — The U.S. suspension of $65 million in aid to the U.N. agency that deals with Palestinian refugees alarmed advocates who work with Palestinians living in camps.

Hilary DuBose, country representative to the Palestinian territories for the U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services, said her agency is "deeply concerned about the impact such a dramatic cut in aid will have."

The agency, UNRWA, "is one of the major providers of critical, basic life-sustaining support services -- including food assistance, education, health care, sanitation management -- in the refugee camps. These needs exist."

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, said cutting the aid to refugee assistance would be inhumane.

"We have visited the refugee camps in Gaza and, even with the assistance they receive, they live very meager and undignified lives," said Cantu, who was participating in the Hispanic Bishops' Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. "The separation wall has already devastated their economy. Able-bodied Palestinians who would want to work and are trying to work can't find sufficient work to support their families. It would be absolutely inhumane to cut the aid."

He added that politicians must move away from taking offense at the words they say to one another and move toward thinking what is best for humanity.

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed frustration with the lack of movement in Mideast peace. Early in January, Trump blamed the Palestinians and threatened to cut U.S. funding. Later, the U.S. government suspended a $65 million payment to UNRWA, which serves more than 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants scattered across the Middle East.

On Jan. 25, Trump said the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive U.S. aid money.

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and Giulia McPherson, interim executive director of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, were among advocates who signed a Jan. 24 letter from humanitarian aid groups. The letter, spearheaded by Refugees International and Norwegian Refugee Council, objected to the withdrawal of U.S. funds. It was addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, national security adviser.

For the full article, click here.