Is This The End of Myanmar’s Quasi-Democracy?

Asia-Pacific, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Democracy, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

NEW DELHI, India, Feb 22 2021 (IPS) – On February 1st, 2021 the military of Myanmar overthrew the country’s democratic government in a coup d’etat followed by arresting more than 40 government officials including Aung San Suu Kyi. The military declared a year-long state of emergency under the rule of it’s Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Troops took over the streets, a night-time curfew has been put into force. Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets across Myanmar, in what is seen as the biggest street protests in more than a decade. The anti-coup demonstrators are undeterred by police attacks and increasing violence from the security forces.


Yasmin Ullah

According to this list, the military has arrested multiple members of civil society, including activists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. Monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said “more than 384 people have been detained, in a wave of mostly night-time arrests”.

The first known casualty of the coup, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing died on February 9 when a police officer opened fire with live ammunition, hitting her in the head while she was protesting in Naypyidaw. Two more protestors were killed in the city of Mandalay, marking Myanmmar’s bloodiest day since the military seized power. Myanmar’s minority community fears renewed violence after the military coup.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres condemned the use of deadly violence in Myanmar, “The use of lethal force, intimidation & harassment against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable. Everyone has a right to peaceful assembly. I call on all parties to respect election results and return to civilian rule,” António Guterres said.

The military in Myanmar alleges that the recent landslide election win by Aung San Suu Kyi was marred by fraud. Following the coup, the military has already announced replacements for a number of ministers.

Witnesses in Mandalay reported seeing soldiers from the 33rd Light Infantry Division, which led the deadly campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state in 2017. The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Tom Andrews said, “The 33rd Light Infantry Division was reportedly involved in the lethal attacks in Mandalay today – the same division responsible for mass atrocity crimes against the Rohingya in 2017. A dangerous escalation by the junta in what appears to be a war against the people of Myanmar.”

“The very idea of Aung San Suu Kyi taking the trip to Hague at the end of 2019 to defend the actions of the military spoke volume about who she is as a person, and where she stands in her understanding of how democratic transition in Myanmar should progress,” says Yasmin Ullah, a Rohingya Social Justice Activist to IPS News.

“We have had three coups so far since 1962, and that memory still lives very deeply with a lot of Myanmar citizens. The pain and hurt that comes with it still reminds them of the glory that the country could never actually achieve.

“We have lived under a military regime for decades, without unifying, without taking to the streets, and making it known to the world that we reject this unconstitutional ceasing of power. The citizens are out on the streets because they will not have another chance at this, people are done with the fact that they will have to live under a culture of impunity where the military is untouched,” says Yasmin.

Following the coup in Myanmar, Washington has imposed sanctions on the military, urging other U.N members to follow suit. The UK too announced asset freezes and travel bans on three generals in Myanmar and is also going to be putting in place new measures to prevent UK aid. Singapore warned that there will be “serious adverse consequences” for Myanmar if the situation there continues to escalate. The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell urged the military and “all security forces in Myanmar to immediately stop violence against civilians.”

Rights group Human Rights Watch in its report, Myanmar, Sanctions, and Human Rights said, “it supports the use of certain types of sanctions – including targeted sanctions and travel bans, and restrictions on military, trade, financial, economic, and other relations – as a means to condemn situations involving grave widespread human rights abuses or humanitarian law violations, to assert pressure to end those abuses, to hold those responsible to account, and as a means to deter other parties from becoming complicit in abuses.”

“We are calling on the United Nations Security Council to impose a global arms embargo. Separately, the UN General Assembly can also endorse individual governments or regional organizations imposing unilateral sanctions on Myanmar’s military, something the General Assembly has done in the past (e.g., during South Africa during apartheid.), the report stated.

International rights defenders have expressed concerns over grave human rights violations in Myanmar following the Feb. 1 military coup. “What we are witnessing in Myanmar didn’t just suddenly happen. You cannot leave the perpetrators of grave crimes under international law on the loose and then act surprised when they trample human rights again,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Advocacy Sherine Tadros.

“It was already ingrained in us Rohingyas to be intimidated, to fear the military, to fear authority, because that has always been the tactics used on us. The same kind of tactics we see now – the psychological warfare, night raids, shooting of people, arbitrary arrest, restrictions of movements – all of the things that the protestors are dealing with right now have been used on every single ethinic community and the Rohingyas,” says Yasmin.

It’s been thirty-three years since the uprising in 1988 in Myanmar against the military dictatorship, also known as the 8-8-88 Movement. The armed forces continued to rule until 2011, when a new government began a return to civilian rule. The military’s current threat to revoke the constitution only revealed the fact that it is willing to overturn any political – democratic system when its interests are threatened.

“Without a real change and reform within Myanmar to the very foundation to rip off the military power because they have infested different parts of the country that makes Myanmar what it is, without doing that there is no democracy that could take place,” says Yasmin.

The author is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi. She hosts a weekly online show called The Sania Farooqui Show where Muslim women from around the world are invited to share their views.

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Millions of New Poor Are on the Way – Who Cares?

Civil Society, Economy & Trade, Environment, Global, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Labour, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Batara slum in a Dhaka suburb. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

ROME, Nov 26 2020 (IPS) – The recent meeting of the G20 – scheduled to take place in Riyadh but held virtually due to the Coronavirus pandemic – has been an eloquent example of how the world is drifting, in a crisis of leadership.


It was, in a sense, a showcase. Everybody had to accept the view that the host of the meeting, the ailing King Salman of Saudi Arabia, was accompanied on TV screens by his apparent heir, Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who is clearly the mastermind of the brutal assassination, dismembering and disappearance of the body of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Roberto Savio

Mohamed bin Salman got away with it, also because of the support of Donald Trump who, in his video intervention said, among other pearls, that nobody in US history had done as much as he had for the environment (like when he said that nobody since Abraham Lincoln had done as much as he had for black Americans). After that, Trump promptly left for his golf course, and ignored the debate.

Raison d’état, realpolitik, diplomatic constraints have always been part of history. The fact that the G20 was virtual, can partly hide a fact: that politicians now accept the most preposterous statements without blinking, because everything has become acceptable and legitimate. In Saudi Arabia, Prince bin Salman is highly popular and in the US, those who live in the parallel world of Trumpland follow blindly.

Biden will have a very difficult life. At least one-third of Americans believe that a massive fraud has deprived their idol of the presidency. He has a Supreme Court staffed by his nominee. And unless the Democrats win the two seats for the Senate in Georgia on January 5th, it will remain in the hands of Mitch McConnell, who will block every single Biden project that needs Senate approval.

Add to this a Trump permanent electoral campaign during the next four years, probably with his own TV channel, and it is difficult to predict that Biden’s vice-president, a woman and black, will repeat his feat in 2024.

There are plenty of solutions if there was only political will. For instance, Oxfam estimates that just an increase of 0.5% over ten years on the taxes paid by 1% of the richest (a negligible increase) would suffice to create 117 million jobs in strategic sectors like health, education, and assistance to the elderly

I apologise for this diversion. The real goal of this article is to show the stunning lack of responsibility of the leaders who met virtually, and besides making totally ritual declarations about the pandemic and climate change, when faced with the issue of the impact of Covid-19 on the poor of the world, simply decided to extend the moratorium on the interest of the external debt of the poorest countries for another year. This is a debt which, in many cases, has been amply repaid with the payment of cumulative interests.

Now, it is certainly difficult to believe that the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK, India, China and Canada, and the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Union – leaving aside the United States – ignore the impacting data on the increase of poverty provided by all the international organisations.

The creation of the G7 and the G20 has been the most visible attempt of the great powers to displace substantial debates and decisions from the United Nations. It was certainly not due to lack of information that they ignored the appeal of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, who implored action in his intervention against the unfolding drama of the poor of all over the world, which is nullifying all progress achieved in the last two decades.

The data that the G20 ignored all converge on two conclusions: the impact of the Covid-19 virus is stronger than expected, and it will bring about a global social imbalance that will have a lasting impact on several millions of people – in fact, about 300 million people.

This comes on top of an already dire situation. According to the World Bank, 720 million people will be living in extreme poverty (less than 1.90 dollars a day). Of those, 114 million are the direct result of Covid-19: that is 9.4% of the world’s population. According to the UN World Food Programme, more than 265 million are already starving, and many will die. And according to the International Labour Organization 200 million will lose their job.

Let us not forget that half of the world’s population – 3.2 billion people – live on less than 5.50 dollars a day. These are in the global South, as well as those in rich countries who are close to the conditions of the poor countries. The scale of this condition is much greater than we normally think. In the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, 11.1% of the population (49 million people) can be classified as poor; but Covid-19 will probably add another 8 million people.

A staggering 16.1 million children live in food precarity, while more than 47 million citizens depend on food banks. The National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that in 2013, 2.5 million US children experienced some form of homelessness. Finally, the US Health Affairs journal affirms that in 2016, the United States had the largest rate of children mortality in the 20 countries belonging to the OECD, while according to the US Census Bureau, life expectation has shrunk by three years.

In Europe thanks to a culture of welfare (absent in the US), things are going somewhat better. Eurostat estimates that in 2017, 11.8 million people lived in a household “at risk of poverty or social exclusion”. And Save the Children estimates that 28% of those under 18 are at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

We do not have estimates of the impact of Covid-19 in Europe, but the European Union estimates that poverty may increase by 47% if the pandemic lasts until next summer. This excludes the impact of the expected third wave in the winter of 2021. Caritas Italy estimates that at the end of the year there will be at least one million more poor children.

The leaders of the G20 cannot ignore that in April UNCTAD issued an alert: we need to find at least 2.5 billion dollars to attenuate the coming social crisis. They cannot ignore that the ILO has stated that in the poorest countries of the world, like Haiti, Ethiopia or Malawi, the average income of informal workers has fallen by 82%.

They cannot ignore the political consequences of this social crisis, and how Covid-19 is putting a brake on the world economy. But the poor, for many reasons, is not a priority in political choices. Suffice it to note that in the EU’s unprecedented and brilliant Recovery Plan for Europe there are no special provisions for the poor. They are part of the general population, and of those who have suffered because of Covid-19: people working in the tourism sector, in restaurants bar, in shops, and so on.

Yet, we have all the data to know that they suffer specific problems, problems that differ from those of who have lost their jobs. Structural poverty is a cage which does not let out those who are inside it. We have no space here to analyse why poverty needs a specific action. There are tons of studies on the subject, on the relations between poverty and education, poverty and democracy, poverty and social movements, and the list goes on.

What we want to stress is that there are plenty of solutions if there was only political will. For instance, Oxfam estimates that just an increase of 0.5% over ten years on the taxes paid by 1% of the richest (a negligible increase) would suffice to create 117 million jobs in strategic sectors like health, education, and assistance to the elderly.

Repatriating 10% of the capital hidden in fiscal paradises would obtain the same result. But we have been following Ronald Reagan’s mantra that the poor bring poverty and the rich bring wealth, so the rich should be left to create wealth. This may seem like a joke, but the OECD indicates that the average taxation on companies fell from 28% in 2000 to 20.6% in 2020.

This occurred despite the rise of the wealth of large companies, which has been accompanied by a notable decline of the middle class, not to speak of workers and the proliferation of precarious and informal jobs. According to the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, between March 18 and June 4, the wealth of the richest Americans increased by 19.1% – a monumental 565 million dollars. Now, the richest Americans own 3.5 billion dollars.

Just 10% of that would be enough to bail out the 46.2 million fellow citizens who ask for unemployment subsidies. Another solution would be to reduce subsidies to the fossil industry, which the International Institute for Renewable Energy estimates at 3.1 trillion dollars – 19 times those for renewables – in spite of the imminent climatic tragedy.

The same imbalance is happening with the pandemic. It is clear that until vaccination becomes universal, Covid-19 is here to stay. It recognises no borders and global problems cannot have an assorted collection of local answers.

Yet, to date, pharmaceutical companies have received 13.1 billion dollars to develop a vaccine: a fantastic business, as they will now make more money on the market, with their costs already having been paid by governments. A central discussion would be whether markets should make profit on common goods like water, air and humans, but we have no space for this debate.

This aside, the situation today is that again according to Oxfam, the rich countries have 13.5%of the world population, Yet they have bought in advance 51% of the doses that pharmaceutical companies will produce – in 2021, 86.5 % of the world will have to make do with the remaining 49%. A consortium of public and private enterprises, COVAX, has been established to deal with the most fragile parts of the world population. Over 185 countries are involved, but it is still very far from gathering the necessary funds.

What is the lesson we can draw from this incomplete analysis? That we are far from having a political class able to face global issues. On the contrary, nationalism and xenophobia are on their way back. The attitude of nationalist leaders to Covid-19 has been similar to that for the threat of climate change: it is a left-wing idea from globalists. So, wearing a mask has become a political declaration.

Trump lost re-election in a great measure due to his attitude on the virus. We can only have a dim hope that this lesson will have some impact. When it comes to the poor, the terms social justice and solidarity are out of fashion, but we are creating imbalances and tensions that we will probably pay dearly for. The French Revolution was not done by a political party, but by an impoverished Third State, or the poor, who revolted against the nobility and the clergy. That is a lesson that the richest 1% would do well not to forget.

Publisher of OtherNews, Italian-Argentine Roberto Savio is an economist, journalist, communication expert, political commentator, activist for social and climate justice and advocate of an anti-neoliberal global governance. Director for international relations of the European Center for Peace and Development. Adviser to INPS-IDN and to the Global Cooperation Council. He is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus.

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Water, Climate, Conflict & Migration: Coping with 1 Billion People on the Move by 2050

Aid, Civil Society, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Featured, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Labour, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Nidhi Nagabhatla is Principal Researcher, Water Security at the UN University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, funded by the Government of Canada and hosted by McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada

Padma River Basin, Bangladesh Credit: Nidhi Nagabhatla

HAMILTON, Canada, Jun 8 2020 (IPS) – Do migrants willingly choose to flee their homes, or is migration the only option available?

There is no clear, one-size-fits-all explanation for a decision to migrate — a choice that will be made today by many people worldwide, and by an ever-rising number in years to come because of a lack of access to water, climate disasters, a health crisis and other problems.


Data are scarce on the multiple causes, or “push factors,” limiting our understanding of migration. What we can say, though, is that context is everything.

UN University researchers and others far beyond have been looking for direct and indirect links between migration and the water crisis, which has different faces — unsafe water in many places, chronic flooding or drought in others.

The challenge is separating those push factors from the social, economic, and political conditions that contribute to the multi-dimensional realities of vulnerable migrant populations, all of them simply striving for dignity, safety, stability, and sustainably in their lives.

A new report, ‘Water and Migration: A Global Overview,’ (https://bit.ly/3gxDgE7) from UNU’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health, offers insights into water and migration interlinkages, and suggests how to tackle existing gaps and needs.

Its information can be understood easily by stakeholders and proposes ideas for better informed migration-related policymaking, including a three-dimensional framework applicable by scholars and planners at multiple scales and in various settings.

The Report also describes some discomforting patterns and trends, among them:

    • By 2050, a combination of water and climate-driven problems and conflicts will force 1 billion people to migrate, not by choice but as their only option;
    • Links to the climate change and water crises are becoming more evident in a dominant trend: rural-urban migration;
    • That said, there is a severe lack of quantitative information and understanding re. direct and indirect water and climate-related drivers of migration, limiting effective management options at local, national, regional, and global scales
    • Global agreements, institutions, and policies on migration are concerned mostly with response mechanisms. Needed is a balanced approach that addresses water, climate, and other environmental drivers of migration
    • Unregulated migration can lead to rapid, unplanned, and unsustainable settlements and urbanization, causing pressure on water demand and increasing the health risks and burdens for migrants as well as hosting states and communities
    • Migration should be formally recognized as an adaptation strategy for water and climate crises. While it is viewed as a ‘problem,’ in fact it forms part of a ‘solution’
    • Migration reflects the systemic inequalities and social justice issues pertaining to water rights and climate change adaptation. Lack of access to water, bad water quality, and a lack of support for those impacted by extreme water-related situations constitute barriers to a sustainable future for humankind.

Case studies in the report provide concrete examples of the migration consequences in water and climate troubled situations:

    • The shrinking of Lake Chad in Africa and the Aral Sea in Central Asia
    • The saga of Honduran refugees
    • The rapid urbanization of the Nile delta, and
    • The plight of island nations facing both rising seas and more frequent, more intense extreme weather events.

In addition, the added health burdens imposed on people and communities by water pollution and contamination create vicious cycles of poverty, inequality and forced mobility.

While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda does not include an explicit migration target, its mitigation should be considered in the context of SDGs that aim to strengthen capacities related to water, gender, climate, and institutions. These issues resonate even as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent news stories have chronicled the plight of desperate migrant workers trapped in the COVID-19 crisis in India, and of displaced people in refugee camps where social distancing is unachievable, as is access to soap and water, the most basic preventive measure against the disease.

Add to that the stigma, discrimination, and xenophobia endured by migrants that continue to rise during the pandemic.

Even at this moment, with the world fixated on the pandemic crisis, we cannot afford to put migration’s long-term causes on the back burner.

While the cost of responses may cause concerns, the cost of no decisions will certainly surpass that. There may be no clear, simple solution but having up-to-date evidence and data will surely help.

On World Environment Day ( https://bit.ly/3dnKkks) last week (June 5), we were all encouraged to consider human interdependencies with nature.

Let us also acknowledge that water and climate-related disasters, ecological degradation and other environmental burdens causes economic, health and wellbeing disparities for migrants and populations living in vulnerable settings.

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Coronavirus, New Threat for Mexican Migrant Workers in the U.S.

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Migration & Refugees

Considered essential to the U.S. economy, as Donald Trump himself now acknowledges, Mexico's seasonal farmworkers are exposed to the coronavirus pandemic as they work in U.S. fields, which exacerbates violations of their rights, such as wage theft, fraud, and other abuses. CREDIT: Courtesy of MHP Salud

Considered essential to the U.S. economy, as Donald Trump himself now acknowledges, Mexico’s seasonal farmworkers are exposed to the coronavirus pandemic as they work in U.S. fields, which exacerbates violations of their rights, such as wage theft, fraud, and other abuses. CREDIT: Courtesy of MHP Salud

MEXICO CITY, Apr 21 2020 (IPS) – As the high season for agricultural labour in the United States approaches, tens of thousands of migrant workers from Mexico are getting ready to head to the fields in their northern neighbour to carry out the work that ensures that food makes it to people’s tables.


But the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, of which the U.S. has become the world’s largest source of infection, threatens to worsen the already precarious conditions in which these workers plant, harvest, process and move fruits and vegetables in the U.S.

Exposed to illegal charges for visa, transport and accommodation costs, labour exploitation, lack of access to basic services and unhealthy housing, Mexican seasonal workers driven from their homes by poverty must also now brave the risk of contagion.

Evy Peña, director of communications and development at the non-governmental Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (Migrant Rights Centre – CDM), told IPS from the city of Monterrey that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating violations of the rights of migrant workers.

“Temporary visa programmes are rife with abuse, from the moment workers are recruited in their communities. They suffer fraud, they are offered jobs that don’t even exist in the United States. It’s a perverse system in which recruiters and employers have all the control. There are systemic flaws that will become more evident now,” the activist said.

In 1943, the United States created H2 visas for unskilled foreign workers, and in the 1980s it established H-2A categories for farm workers and H-2B categories for other work, such as landscaping, construction and hotel staff.

In 2019, Washington, which had already declared them “essential” to the economy, granted 191,171 H-2A and 73,557 H-2B visas to Mexican workers, and by January and February of this year had issued 27, 058 and 6,238, respectively.

Two emergencies converge

Now, the two countries are negotiating to send thousands of farmworkers within or outside of the H2 programme, starting this month, to ensure this year’s harvest in the U.S. The Mexican government has polled experts to determine the viability of the plan, IPS learned.

The migrant workers would come from Michoacan, Oaxaca, Zacatecas and the border states. The plan would put leftist President Andres Manuel López Obrador in good standing with his right-wing counterpart, Donald Trump; generate employment for rural workers in the midst of an economic crisis; and boost remittances to rural areas.

For his part, Trump, forced by a greater need for rural workers in the face of the pandemic and under pressure from agriculture, abandoned his anti-immigrant policy and on Apr. 1 even issued a call for the arrival of Mexican migrant workers.

“We want them to come in,” he said. “They’ve been there for years and years, and I’ve given the commitment to the farmers: They’re going to continue to come.”

U.S. authorities can extend H-2A visas for up to one year and the maximum period of stay is three years. After that, the holder must remain outside U.S. territory for at least three months to qualify for re-entry with the same permit.

On Apr. 15, Washington announced temporary changes allowing workers to switch employers and to stay longer than three years.

A Mexican migrant worker works at a vineyard in California, one of the U.S. states most dependent on seasonal labour from Mexico in agriculture, and which has now urged President Donald Trump to facilitate the arrival of guest workers from that country so crops are not lost. CREDIT: Kau Sirenio/En el Camino

A Mexican migrant worker works at a vineyard in California, one of the U.S. states most dependent on seasonal labour from Mexico in agriculture, and which has now urged President Donald Trump to facilitate the arrival of guest workers from that country so crops are not lost. CREDIT: Kau Sirenio/En el Camino

The most numerous jobs are in fruit harvesting, general agricultural work such as planting and harvesting, and on tobacco plantations, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Migrant workers traditionally come from Mexican agricultural and border states and their main destinations are agricultural areas where there is a temporary or permanent shortage of labourers.

Jeremy McLean, policy and advocacy manager for the New York-based non-governmental organisation Justice in Motion, expressed concern about the conditions in which migrants work.

The way the system works, “it’s not going to be easy to follow recommendations for social distancing. Hundreds of thousands of people are going to come and won’t be able to follow these recommendations, and they will put themselves at risk. It could spell another wave of infection and transmission,” he warned IPS.

“This population group has no health services and no medical insurance. If they fall ill in a remote area, what help can they get?” he said from New York.

On Mar. 26, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico reported that it would process without a personal interview the applications of those whose visas had expired in the previous two years or who had not received them in that time, under pressure from U.S. agribusiness.

Trapped with no way out

The migrant workers’ odyssey begins in Mexico, where they are recruited by individual contractors – workers or former workers of a U.S. employer, fellow workers, relatives or friends, in their hometowns – or by private U.S. agencies.

Although article 28 of Mexico’s Federal Labour Law, in force since 1970 and overhauled in 2019, regulates the provision of services by workers hired within Mexico for work abroad, it is not enforced.

It requires that contracts be registered with the labour authorities and that a bond be deposited to guarantee compliance. It also holds the foreign contractor responsible for the costs of transport, repatriation, food for the worker and immigration, as well as the payment of full wages, compensation for occupational hazards and access to adequate housing.

In addition, it states that Mexican workers are entitled to social security benefits for foreigners in the country where they are offering their services.

Although the Mexican government could enforce article 28 of the law in order to safeguard the rights of migrant workers who enter and leave the United States under the visa programme, it has failed to do so.

In its recent report “Ripe for Reform: Abuse of Agricultural Workers in the H-2A Visa Program”, the bi-national CDM organisation reveals that migrant workers experience wage theft, health and safety violations, discrimination, and harassment as part of a human trafficking system.

Recruitment without oversight

For Mayela Blanco, a researcher at the non-governmental Centre for Studies in International Cooperation and Public Management, the problem is the lack of monitoring or inspections of recruiters and agencies.

“In Mexico there are still many gaps in the mechanisms for monitoring and inspecting recruitment. There is still fraud,” she told IPS. “How often do they inspect? How do they guarantee that things are working the way they’re supposed to?”

There are 433 registered placement agencies in the country, distributed in different states, according to data from the National Employment Service. For the transfer of labour abroad, there are nine – a small number considering the tens of thousands of visas issued in 2019.

For its part, the U.S. Department of Labor reports 239 licenced recruiters in that nation working for a handful of U.S. companies.

Data obtained by IPS indicates that Mexico’s Ministry of Labour only conducted 91 inspections in nine states from 2009 to 2019 and imposed 12 fines for a total of around 153,000 dollars. Some states with high levels of migrant workers were never visited by inspectors.

Furthermore, the records of the federal labour board do not contain any reports of violations of article 28.

Mexico is a party to the Fee-Charging Employment Agencies Convention 96 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which it violates due to non-compliance with the rights of temporary workers.

Peña stressed that there is still a gap between the U.S. and Mexico in labour protection and said workers are being left behind because of that gap.

“Countries like Mexico see temporary visas as a solution to labour migration and allow the exploitation of their citizens. The H2 programme is about labour migration and governments forget that bilateral solutions are needed,” she said.

In response to the pandemic and its risks, 37 organisations called on the U.S. government on Mar. 25 for adequate housing with quarantine facilities, safe transportation, testing for workers before they arrive in the United States, physical distancing on farms and paid treatment for those infected with COVID-19.

Blanco emphasised the lack of justice and reparation mechanisms. “The more visas issued, the greater the need for oversight. Mexico is perceived as a country of return or transit of migrants, but it should be recognised as a place of origin of temporary workers. And that is why it must comply with international labour laws,” she said.

McLean raised the need for a new U.S. law to guarantee the rights of migrant workers, who are essential to the economy, as underscored by the demand reinforced by the impact of COVID-19.

“We pushed for a law to cover all temporary visa programmes so that there would be more information, to avoid fraud and wage theft. But it is very difficult to get a commitment to immigration dialogue in the United States today,” he said.

But the ordeal that migrant workers face will not end with their work in the U.S. fields, because in October they will have to return to their hometowns, which will be even more impoverished due to the consequences of the health crisis, and with COVID-19 in all likelihood still posing a threat.

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EU Policies Don’t Tackle Root Causes of Migration – They Risk Aggravating Them

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Environment, Global, Headlines, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Opinion

Lasse Juhl Morthorst* is a freelance writer and researcher. He mainly works on international politics, development, refugee- and human rights issues.

Credit: United Nations

COPENHAGEN, Dec 17 2019 (IPS) – According to political scientist Zaki Laïdi’s La tyrannie de l’urgence (The tyranny of emergency) from 1999, crisis and emergency situations leave no time for analysis, prevention or forecasting. As an immediate protective reflex, they prevent long-term solutions and pose a serious risk of jeopardising the future.


In emergency situations, participants lack perspective, and durable solutions to human problems are treated according to the logic of immediate results and expectations of direct outcomes.

The effects of globalisation’s deepening and fragmenting landscape highlights how governance with short-term efficiency has become normative when dealing with contemporary challenges.

The so-called European refugee crisis from late 2014 and, if we buy its premise, its aftermath have come to symbolise such an emergency situation.

Contemporary political responses expose the electorate and the parties, who respectively gain and lose in the processes of globalisation.

This socio-political cleavage has allowed centre-right parties to take advantage of nationalistic values, with migration viewed through the lens of security – limitation of migration flows and the fight against terrorist groups – law and order, while the centre-left have had to bridge the working class’s fear of cheap labour and economic competition with the middle-class’s liberal socio-cultural preferences.

The European Union’s reaction towards the crisis and its aftermath cannot be seen as a political crisis reaction per se, since the solutions it initiated to manage migration built on existing legislation and practices, helping to consolidate these as routinising emergency in order to naturalise migration politics.

There is a clear political red line between addressing so-called root causes and managing migration by securing external borders and preventing movement of third-country nationals.

This is anchored in the European Commission’s comprehensive approach in the 1994 Communication to the Council, reconfirmed through the integrated approach at the 1999 European Council meeting in Tampere, and developed at the 2002 Seville meeting, where combating illegal migration and addressing root causes were top of the agenda.

What we are witnessing is rather a political crisis, which has lasted for more than a quarter of a century.

Lasse Juhl Morthorst

How did we get here?

As a result of a sceptical post-1973 oil crisis scenario, addressing root causes of migration emerged in the 1980s, with the aim of improving socio-economic conditions in the countries of migrants’ origin, to prevent unwanted migration towards Europe.

When the European Community was developing the single market, with the fluidity of the EU’s internal national borders to facilitate free internal mobility as an outcome, the fear of losing control of external migration became an increasing concern for member states.

The EU’s migration policies have, with their primary focus on securitisation, come to symbolise a harmful politicisation of humanitarianism, which seems to persist into the new Commission’s 2019-2024 period and very like beyond.

In the following years, little progress was made towards a unified European migration policy. As a result, the Commission proposed the idea of a comprehensive approach to migration in 1994.

This consisted of a threefold focus: action on migration pressure through third-country cooperation, controlling immigration to make it manageable and optimisation of integration policies for legal migrants.

The root cause approach was to be seen as a long-term humanitarian development solution to the migration ‘problem’. The ideas of cooperation and addressing root causes have become the popular political take on the EU’s migration challenges, which rhetorically attempt to circumvent the negative connotations of strict migration control and hostility.

Credit: United Nations

During the last decades, the EU has been searching for a new strategic rationalist raison d’être for its common asylum policy, through harmonisation of the EU asylum legal acts, the Common European Asylum System and attempting to solve the stalemate between member states and intra-institutionally, regarding the Dublin system’s tightening Gordian knot.

The EU has failed to solve the structural and systemic impasse in approaching migration flows, which will not end by continuing harshened border controls and security measures, earmarked development aid, externalisation processes or dubious bilateral agreements.

The EU’s migration policies have, with their primary focus on securitisation, come to symbolise a harmful politicisation of humanitarianism, which seems to persist into the new Commission’s 2019-2024 period and very like beyond.

Nothing new from Brussels?

Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission is taking office in a situation shaped by vast global challenges of geopolitical turbulence and internal fragmentation, towards which she has proposed a rather pragmatic and strategic approach.

Through her manifesto and mission letters to the designated Commissioners, von der Leyen’s new ‘geopolitical Commission’ will focus on making the EU an outward-looking politically influential global powerhouse, which must protect the Union from omnipresent geopolitical and external value-based challenges.

She has proposed ‘a fresh start’ on European migration policy, via a new pact on migration and asylum, a relaunch of the Dublin reform and a new way of burden sharing (the Achilles heel of the Dublin reform).

In charge of this agenda will be Commission Vice-President for Promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas (Greece), who will work closely with Ylva Johansson (Sweden), the Commissioner for Home Affairs, and Development Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen (Finland).

There are clear tensions and ambiguity in von der Leyen’s agenda towards migration and development, which has toxically been coined with security politics, as it has to find a ‘common ground on migration by working towards a genuine European security union’.

The external dimensions of migration management are explicitly present in the mission letters to both Schinas and Johansson. In these letters, they are instructed to cooperate with the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Josep Borrell, Spain), to develop a ‘stronger cooperation with countries of origin and transit’ in the case of Johansson and ensure ‘the coherence of the external and internal dimensions of migration’ for Schinas.

The EU’s interaction with third countries and partnerships of border control are narrow and ultimately self-eroding.

Beyond the initial internal focus against the backdrop of the eurozone and financial crises, this aligns closely with the Juncker Commission’s focus on the external dimensions of migration.

In 2015, the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa was founded to intensify cooperation with third countries. Migration is also, beyond the Trust Fund, a central element in EU foreign policy and it has further come to divide views in the debate regarding development policy.

It appears that the Union is proposing to work even more closely with partner countries to tackle human trafficking, secure borders, optimise effective returns and tackle root causes of migration through development initiatives. Schinas confirmed this at his hearing on 3 October 2019.

A reminder from the ‘field’

The collaboration with third countries regarding externalisation of borders is vastly problematic, since in some cases, as a trade-off through the funding of development aid earmarked for increased border control, it comes to support militias and authoritarian and hybrid governments.

A large amount of the support often ends up in quasi security organs of rebel groups, which have been seen continuously abusing human rights.

This can presently be witnessed in nations in the Sahel, Maghreb and MENA regions – where tight border control has led to the diversification of pre-colonial circular and reciprocal migrant routes into increasingly perilous areas and methods, along with the risk of promoting economic stagnation, recession and militia isolation.

The diversification of migration routes ultimately creates a favourable environment for the human smugglers that the Union is trying to eliminate.

The EU’s interaction with third countries and partnerships of border control are narrow and ultimately self-eroding. These policies do not tackle any root causes of migration; by aiding regional security units and military forces, they risk limiting democratic accountability and aggravating repression – some of the actual root causes of migration.

Agreements of principles and statements of intention do not compensate for the deflection of focus of an international community’s failure to get to grips with the need of today’s migrants for protection and recognition.

Von der Leyen’s agenda seems like an anachronistic reverberation of the unsuccessful policies introduced more than three decades ago, despite the opportunity to begin abolishing the tyranny of emergency.

*This article first appeared in International Politics and Society (IPS) published by the International Political Analysis Unit of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin.

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Nippon Foundation Announces US$ 2m Support for the Education of Rohingya Children in Bangladesh

Asia-Pacific, Conferences, Development & Aid, Education, Featured, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Migration & Refugees, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations

Chairman of The Nippon Foundation Yohei Sasakawa and BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh announcing $2 million partnership. Credit: Rafiqul Islam / IPS

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec 11 2019 (IPS) – In the light of limited access to education for displaced Rohingya children, the Nippon Foundation has announced US$ 2 million support to BRAC to launch a project to ensure educational facilities to both Rohingya and local community children.


The Nippon Foundation made the announcement at a press conference at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka, which was attended by Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa and BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh.

Under the US$ two million project, BRAC will build 50 steel-structured two-storey learning centres at Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to provide an educational facility for Rohingya children. This project aims to provide educational access to 8,000 Rohingya children aged between 4 and 14 years. The Nippon Foundation is also supporting BRAC to open and operationalize 100 pre-primary centres for 3,000 host community children aged between 5 and 6 years through this funding.

Learning centres will educate Rohingya children

The project will ensure education access of Rohingya children to incoming children and existing children at the newly constructed learning centres.

As the host community in Ukhya, Teknaf and Ramuupazila of Cox’s Bazar are under significant stress. The project targets 3,000 host community children aged 5-6 years to get pre-primary education from BRAC-operated learning centres to prepare them for primary education. Engagement with parents, as well as the broader community, will be prioritised to select the location of centres, which will be established on the community premises.

Providing humanitarian support

The chairman of The Nippon Foundation Yohei Sasakawa said he visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to personally witness the reality there. “When I was there, I found the situation is much more serious.

“I have seen the refugee camps from the Myanmar side and Bangladesh side as well. And as a result of that, I actually saw, on my own eyes, how difficult the situation is. And under such a different situation, the Bangladesh government is trying to provide humanitarian aid (to the displaced Rohingyas),” he said.

Chairman of The Nippon Foundation Yohei Sasakawa and BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam / IPS

Sasakawa, who is also a World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador, said given the circumstances, women and children are the most vulnerable in conflict-prone areas across the world and “that is why we need to provide support to women and children”. “With the partnership with BRAC, we will be able to provide more humanitarian support,” he added.

Regarding the long-standing Rohingya crisis, he said: “I hope the Rohingya problem will be resolved soon and the refugee camps (set up in Bangladesh) will not be permanent”. Bangladesh is hosting more than one million Rohingya refugees.

In August of 2017, a small group of Rohingya militants launched an attack against local police forces in Myanmar. This led to clashes between the Rohingya and the non-Rohingya population, Buddhist monks and police. This led to mass killings, abuses and abductions and s ost of the Rohingya fled to Bangladesh where the refugees now live in camps where they receive essential assistance and basic medical care

(http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/01/the-rohingya-the-forgotten-genocide-of-our-time/.

Promoting education to local and Rohingya children

BRAC Executive Director Asif Saleh said about 55 percent of the displaced Rohingya people staying in Cox’s Bazar are children and they have very limited access to education.

Apart from facilitating education to the Rohingya children, he said this project will provide support to 3,000 children of the host community as they are also very vulnerable and have limited access to education. “Our vision is to promote the facility to the poor and those who are still lagging behind,” he added.

Saleh said the support of the Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government are very important for Bangladesh, stating: “We always welcome such support”.

The Nippon Foundation has been working in Bangladesh since 1971. Its activities were focused on supporting health, education, human resource development and support for people with disabilities. These include, for example, supporting flood or cyclone victims, providing anti-leprosy drugs, scholarship programs, prevention of the cholera epidemic and supporting projects for relief and the rehabilitation of refugees in Bangladesh.

The Nippon Foundation, a Japanese private, non-profit grant-making organisation established in 1962, has decided to further support those projects in Bangladesh for basic human needs, including education and learning opportunities.

BRAC is a leading development organisation in Bangladesh dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor to bring about change in their own lives in Bangladesh.

The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Health Foundation of Japan organized a national conference on leprosy in Dhaka on December 11 under the theme “ZeRo leprosy initiative”.

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