Category Archives: Immigrants

Migrants stuck at sea aboard rescue ship Ocean Viking for 11 days

strandedThe rescued group comprises people from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan [Stefan Dold/MSF]

More than 100 migrants and refugees are still stranded onboard a rescue ship in the central Mediterranean after being rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat 11 days ago.

On October 18, a group of 104 people, including 10 women – two of them pregnant – and 41 minors were rescued 50 nautical miles (93km) from Libya’s shores.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, the charities operating the rescue vessel Ocean Viking, said they have requested permission to disembark in Malta or Italy but have not received any response despite a plan by some EU countries to resolve such cases quickly.

MSF staff onboard the Ocean Viking told Al Jazeera the Libyan Joint Rescue Coordination Center (LJRCC) assigned Tripoli as a place of safety for disembarkation.

Libya is a major departure point for African migrants trying to reach Europe. But figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in July showed at least 5,200 people are currently trapped in official detention centres, often in appalling conditions.

“A first medical assessment showed all survivors in a stable condition. A few were weak due to the exhaustion and being exposed to the sun, with no water to drink. Many were dehydrated but have recovered,” according to an MSF statement sent to Al Jazeera.

“Many were quite emotional, especially mothers with children, when they came onboard and started crying out of relief that they survived.” 

Thirty-one of the 41 minors rescued are unaccompanied, with six of those younger than 16 years. Two infants – aged two months and 11 months – were also rescued as part of the group.

The standoff comes despite a plan revealed by some EU countries earlier this month to resolve such cases quickly.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers in October, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal agreed to participate in the “fast-track” plan by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, which would screen migrants, relocate asylum seekers, and return people who do not apply or qualify for asylum, all within four weeks.

“This isn’t how you treat people who have been rescued from a boat in distress. This is adding to their anxiety, mental suffering and the mental trauma,” Jay Berger, MSF project coordinator onboard the Ocean Viking, told Al Jazeera.

“This, again, shows lack of care, lack of dignity that Europe puts on the people that are in need of rescue and care. They should be treated with dignity and respect they deserve.”

Texas Knights of Columbus work with Mexican Knights to aid migrants

Charity
Members of the Knights of Columbus help to deliver supplies to the Casa del Migrante in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Credit: Knights of Columbus.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, (CNA).- Following an August announcement from the Knights of Columbus that the group would commit at least $250,000 to aid migrants at the US-Mexico border, the fraternal organization’s Texas leaders are announcing a joint effort with a Mexican council to aid migrants south of the border.

A caravan of Knights of Columbus from both Texas and Mexico arrived Oct. 5 at Casa del Migrante, an aid facility in Ciudad Juarez, delivering a truckload of supplies valued at $61,000, according to Terry Simonton, the Knights’ Supreme Director for Texas.

The supplies for the Juarez diocese-run facility included medicine, food, water, diapers, and shoes, he said. The over 40 Knight-volunteers were joined by Bishop José Guadalupe Torres-Campos of Ciudad Juarez and Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso.

The Knights in El Paso were already providing supplies, cooking meals, and paying for a rented shower for migrants in the city. In May, the Knights’ Diocesan Deputy for El Paso sent a request for additional funds which made its way to Simonton, who talked it over and realized that the Supreme Council in Connecticut would have to help.

“[The El Paso Knights] were renting the showers and they were getting donations to cover that expense— and renting those showers was $1,500 a day,” Simonton, a former state deputy in Texas, explained to CNA.

“It was the kind of shower that sits on a trailer, and it was $1,500 a day. So the more we looked into it, it said they were asking for $9,000 to purchase their own portable heated showers. And that would accommodate probably 60 showers per day…it just made sense to purchase the showers.”
Simonton asked the Supreme Council to cover half the cost.

“They liked the idea, but when it got to the table, and the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, said ‘Yes we need to help, but we must do more.’ And that’s when Carl Anderson started the initiative to help out Southern border. Without his vision, this would have never happened.”

He said a number of parishes and virtually all the Knight of Columbus councils in El Paso have been busy, especially since January, raising funds for border relief. Council 11926 and Council 2592 in El Paso had raised about $10,000 on their own to help migrants in the city, he said.

“Between the councils and the parishes, they’d already spent $54,000,” Simonton said.

“All the councils were involved in this in El Paso. But their funds were being depleted, so that’s why they came to us for help. And just out of that simple, $9,000 request, has come this tremendous initiative.”

There were about 75 migrants present at the Casa del Migrante Oct. 5— out of an estimated 20,000 migrants currently waiting in Ciudad Juarez.

“To be able to see the little kids, they were so happy to be there at that center. Because we don’t know what they faced two or three days before then, before they got to the center. So it’s sad, but at the same time they;’re happy, they’re all smiles, because soon hopefully they’ll be able to continue their journey with their families.”

To watch the Knights of Columbus from both the Mexico and the United States work together was a “tremendous blessing,” he said.

Possibly as soon as late October, Simonton said the Knights plan to go and provide similar aid at the border city of Laredo, which is across the fence from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, as well as Eagle Pass, Texas and Piedras Negras, Mexico.

The Knights also recently made gifts for humanitarian aid of $100,000 to the Diocese of El Paso and $50,000 to the Diocese of Laredo.

“Let me be clear: this is not a political statement,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in August. “This is a statement of principle. This is about helping people who need our help right now. And it is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world.”

Bishop Seitz, along with Catholic leaders of the Dioceses of Las Cruces, San Jose, Victoria, and Ciudad Juarez toured the Casa del Migrante in late September as well as a Ciudad Juarez parish that has been providing aid to migrants.

The Department of Homeland Security announced new Migrant Protection Protocols in January, providing that migrants arriving illegally or without proper documentation “may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay.”

These policies have meant the flow of migrants into El Paso has largely dried up, as thousands of migrants remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed.

The migrants in Mexico are mostly from Central America, but also from other places including Africa, Haiti, Cuba, and some from South America and Europe, the Knights said.

Bishop Seitz told CNA in September that the diocese opened a shelter in Oct. 2018 at the pastoral center, a “purely volunteer response,” to deal with the large number of people passing through the city. The temporary shelter has since closed due to a drop in the number of migrants passing through.

“Right now, we’ve seen a huge drop off in the number of people coming because of enforcement actions in Mexico,” Seitz noted.

“So what’s happening is there’s kind of a bottleneck in Ciudad Juarez, and we estimate that there are up to 20,000 people that are pretty much stuck there. They’re afraid to go home, because that’s where they’re fleeing from…they’re afraid to stay in Mexico, because most of them have faced violence there.”

Robberies and kidnappings among the migrants waiting in Mexico are common, he said.

The HOPE Border Institute, along with the Diocese of El Paso, in July initiated a Border Refugee Assistance Fund to send money to organizations working with migrants and refugees in Juarez.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/texas-knights-of-columbus-work-with-mexican-knights-to-aid-migrants-72482

Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year

Screenshot_2019-10-01 Migrant death toll in Mediterranean tops 1,000 for 6th year
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Syrian and Afghan refugees fall into the sea after their dinghy deflated some 100m away before reaching the Greek island of Lesbos, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

GENEVA, (Reuters) – More than 1,000 migrants and refugees have died in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the sixth year in a row that this “bleak milestone” has been reached, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called for European Union (EU) member states to reactivate search and rescue operations and acknowledge the crucial role of aid groups’ vessels in saving lives at sea.

“The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,” Charlie Yaxley, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a statement.

The bodies of five migrants were found on Morocco’s Atlantic coast near Casablanca on Monday, bringing to 12 the number killed when their boat capsized on Saturday, the state news agency reported.

The EU struck a deal with Ankara in 2016 to cut off refugee and migrant flows to Greece from Turkey. Departures, now also diverted largely via Libya and other parts of North Africa, have fallen sharply from a peak of more than 1 million in 2015 to some 78,000 so far this year, UNHCR figures show.

“Of course the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean are much lower. So, that points to the fact that the journeys themselves are much more dangerous,” UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell told Reuters Television.

“It is also worth highlighting that 70 percent of the deaths actually occur on the central Mediterranean, namely people attempting to get from Libya across to Italy or Malta.”

More than 18,000 people have lost their lives in Mediterranean crossings since 2014, according to figures from both the UNHCR and the website of the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

 

 

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20191001084633-w941m/

Archbishop Gomez at Mass for immigrants: ‘We can heal what is broken in America’

1F7B47FD-E261-4BD8-B718-F0D12D84BF5CSept. 7 Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

.- At a Mass in Recognition of All Immigrants, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called migrants to witness to America the healing love of Christ, which has the power to restore unity to a divided nation.

“My brothers and sisters, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have a mission in this moment, in this challenging time in our country,” the archbishop said. “We need to show our neighbors a better way. The way of Jesus, the way of love.”

In this critical moment in America, Jesus is offering an invitation “to love those who make themselves our enemies, and to pray for those who would try to cause division in our country,” he said.

“We can heal what is broken in America. We can restore the sense of mutual trust and empathy; the shared belief in our common humanity; in the dignity of those who are different from us,” Gomez stressed. “Love is the only way forward for America. And we are the ones who must show our nation the way.”

The Mass, held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, united Catholics from the diocese of Los Angeles, and the Dioceses of San Bernardino, Orange, and San Diego.

Archbishop Gomez presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishops David G. O’Connell, Robert E. Barron, and Marc V. Trudeau, Archbishop Emeritus Cardinal Roger Mahony, and Retired Auxiliary Bishop Joseph M. Sartoris, as well as Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange and Orange Auxiliary Bishops Timothy Freyer and Thanh Thai Nguyen.

The Mass concluded a novena in parishes across Southern California, as well as a three-day walking pilgrimage from Orange County to the cathedral in Los Angeles. The 60-mile pilgrimage was a gesture of solidarity with immigrants.

Relics of St. Junípero Serra, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and St. Toribio Romo were available for veneration following Mass.

In his homily, Archbishop Gomez stressed that “[h]atred can never change the one who hates. Only love can.”

“Christian love is not weak or soft,” he said. “Christian love means working for the good of the other. It means talking to those who disagree with us, treating them with kindness and respect, trying to see things through their eyes.”

Each person present at Mass has their own story, the archbishop noted, with their own fears, hopes and dreams, converging at this moment in Southern California.

While the United States has always been an “exceptional” country, welcoming migrants as a “beacon of hope,” he said, the nation is today seeing exceptional polarization, perhaps the worst since the Civil War.

“But as we stand at this altar today, we know there are no divisions, no ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ No matter who we are, or where we come from, we are one family. And we are sinners, all of us in need of God’s mercy and redemption.”

The death of Christ unites all the faithful in a story of redemption and a call to conversion, Gomez said.

”In Jesus Christ, every barrier, every wall falls down,” he said. “There is no Mexican no Vietnamese, Korean or Filipino; no Russian or Venezuelan, no migrant or native-born. In Jesus Christ, we are all children of God, made in his image.”

When viewed through this lens, it is clear that immigration is not merely a political issue, but a spiritual one as well, Gomez said.

“Immigration is not only about borders between nations. It is about barriers in the human heart — barriers that make us fearful of people who do not look like us; barriers that make us see others as less than human, not worth caring about.”

The archbishop pointed to Mary as a special advocate for America. He encouraged all those present to pray a daily Rosary for the conversion of hearts and the healing of the nation.

When circumstances appear bleak, we can remember that Christ “is the Lord of Creation and history,” he said. “That means this world belongs to him. And we belong to him. And he wants each of us to have a place we can call home.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop-gomez-at-mass-for-immigrants-we-can-heal-what-is-broken-in-america-11439

Venezuelans stranded as Ecuador imposes new visa rules

colombiaEric Rafael Rodriguez expresses frustration over new visa rules at the Ecuador-Colombia border [Joshua Collins/Al Jazeera]

Rumichaca, Colombia – Eric Rafael Rodriguez had been on the road for 10 days, walking and hitchhiking from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, when he said he and his girlfriend were robbed at knife-point in Tangua, Colombia.

“They took everything we had – food, money, everything. We made it here before they closed the border, but now it doesn’t matter. We don’t even have IDs any more,” he said, wrapped in an old blanket to ward off the frigid temperature in the Colombian town of Rumichaca, which borders Ecuador. Rodriguez’s girlfriend, Deisy, wore sandals held together with duct tape.

They were part of a wave of migrants rushing to reach the border of Ecuador before the implementation of strict new visa requirements. Now, like hundreds of others here, they find themselves stranded. They plan to cross between official ports of entry and to continue on to Lima, Peru.

Ecuador on Monday joined Peru and Chile in restricting Venezuelan immigration. To enter the country, Venezuelans now need to provide a criminal record, apply for a visa before arrival and present a valid passport. As the deadline neared, many Venezuelans in Ecuador rushed home to retrieve family members. Thousands more rushed east from their homes in Venezuela, eager to start a life in Ecuador that would soon be much harder to achieve.

The last-minute wave sowed chaos for immigration officials on both sides of the Ecuador-Colombia border.

Migrants waited hours in bitterly cold temperatures as they navigated immigration processes. Temperatures dropped to six degrees Celsius and many slept huddled together in blankets as they queued, in some cases overnight.

Colombian migration officials did not know the exact number of Venezuelans who crossed before the border closed on Sunday, but a director at the Rumichaca office told Al Jazeera that more than 11,000 Venezuelans had crossed as of 6pm, well before the midnight deadline.

According to Colombian immigration officials on the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, there are still more on the way.

The land-race for Venezuelans wishing to make it to Ecuador before the deadline was visible on the border. The number of migrants swelled considerably on Saturday evening as many arrived by bus and on foot. By Sunday, the queue to cross into Ecuador stretched into the motor lanes of the highway, blocking traffic on both sides of the road.

Red Cross and Colombian health officials distributed water, food, hot chocolate and aluminium blankets to those waiting on the Colombian side.

The chaos was not limited just to Colombia as masses of migrants huddled in Ecuador as well, waiting to be processed.

Requirements beyond reach

Ronald Alarcon, 28, was crossing with his wife, two children and his mother early Sunday morning. He has been working in Ecuador for over a year and is one of few Venezuelans fortunate enough to have obtained a passport – the rest of his family carried only cedulas, Venezuelan national identification cards.

Passports can cost several months salary for most Venezuelans, though many migrants told Al Jazeera the actual price is much higher when one factors in necessary bribes of $100 to $300.

In a country where the monthly minimum wage has fallen to below $5, that is beyond the reach of most Venezuelans.

“I had to go back and get my family. When I heard about the changes in Ecuador I knew I couldn’t wait,” he said. “Only my grandmother now remains in Valencia.”

She refuses to leave Venezuela and survives off of the remittances he sends her from his salary in Ecuador.

“It doesn’t matter how bad it gets,” he said. “She will never leave. It’s all she knows.”

‘Hunger is more powerful than Ecuadorian law’

For those who missed the deadline, the next step seems uncertain.

A young family arrived at the border just after midnight, with three children in tow. Construction on the highway north of Rumichaca had delayed their arrival. They stared forlornly at the empty Colombian immigration office and the few remaining vendors on the closed frontier.

Luis Torres, a Venezuelan street merchant in the area approached them and offered help. He told them about a nearby refuge for migrants, gave them a bit of food and explained how to find the informal paths across the border.

Luis told Al Jazeera that the irregular paths are generally safe for migrants but police in nearby Ipiales worry about the days to come. They say that the tighter restrictions are likely to cause more migrants to cross informally, and as they do so they will be vulnerable to the criminal groups who control the smuggling paths.

“This new law might scare some people away in the long-term,” said Torres. “But desperate people will find a way. My country is in ruins. Look around, these people aren’t going anywhere. Hunger is more powerful than Ecuadorian law.”

The young family that he had been talking to wandered off into the darkness of the night towards refuge for the evening and an uncertain tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/venezuelans-stranded-ecuador-imposes-visa-rules-190826134509203.html

Jurors refuse to convict activist facing 20 years for helping migrants

HumanitarianScott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants. Photograph: Kelly Presnell/AP

A US jury could not reach a verdict on Tuesday against a border activist who, defense attorneys say, was simply being kind by providing two migrants with water, food and lodging when he was arrested in early 2018.

Scott Daniel Warren, a 36-year-old college geography instructor, was charged with conspiracy to transport and harbor migrants in a trial that humanitarian aid groups said would have wide implications for their work. He faced up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors maintained the men were not in distress and Warren conspired to transport and harbor them at a property used for providing aid to migrants in an Arizona town near the US-Mexico border.

The case played out as humanitarian groups say they are coming under increasing scrutiny under Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies.

Outside the courthouse, Warren thanked his supporters and criticized the government’s efforts to crack down on the number of immigrants coming to the US.

“Today it remains as necessary as ever for local residents and humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees, and we must also stand for our families, friends and neighbors in the very land itself most threatened by the militarization of our borderland communities,” Warren said.

Glenn McCormick, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Arizona, declined to comment on whether Warren would face another trial. The judge set a 2 July status hearing for the defense and prosecution.

Warren is one of nine members of the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths who have been charged with crimes related to their work. But he is the only one to face felony charges.

In west Texas, a county attorney was detained earlier this year after stopping her car on a dark highway to pick up three young migrants who flagged her down. Teresa Todd was held briefly, and federal agents searched her cellphone.

Border activists say they worry about what they see as the gradual criminalization of humanitarian action.

Warren has said his case could set a dangerous precedent by expanding the definition of the crimes of transporting and harboring migrants to include people merely trying to help border-crossers in desperate need of water or other necessities.

Warren and other volunteers with the No More Deaths group also were targeted this year in separate federal misdemeanor cases after leaving water, canned food and other provisions for migrants hiking through the Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge in southern Arizona.

In Warren’s felony case, the defense team headed by Greg Kuykendall argued that Warren could not, in good conscience, turn away two migrants who had recently crossed the desert to enter the US.

Jurors said on Monday that they could not reach a consensus on the charges against Warren, but a federal judge told them to keep deliberating. They were still deadlocked on Tuesday and ultimately dismissed.

Thousands of migrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s, when heightened enforcement pushed migrant traffic into Arizona’s scorching deserts.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/11/arizona-activist-migrant-water-scott-daniel-warren-verdict

At least 7 dead as refugee boat sinks off Greek island

BoatInternational Organisation for Migration says more than 300 refugees and migrants have died this year in total while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe [File: Kostis Ntantamis/AP Photo]

A boat carrying dozens of refugees and migrants to a Greek island from the nearby Turkish coast has capsized, leaving seven people dead, including two children.

Greece’s coastguard said 57 people had been rescued on Tuesday, while seven people – two girls, four women and a man – were pulled from the water unconscious and later confirmed dead.

A search and rescue operation in the area off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos was called off after all those on board had been accounted for, the coastguard said.

There were no further passengers reported missing.

It was not immediately clear why the boat capsized, and the coastguard did not provide further details on the incident or the nationality of the refugees and migrants.

Greece became one of the main gateways for refugees entering Europe in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict in countries like Syria and Afghanistan, in the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.

The number of people heading to the Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast has decreased significantly since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, dropping from 875,000 in 2015 to under 40,000 a year in 2017 and 2018, according to Frontex, the European Union’s border force.

However, hundreds of people continue to make the treacherous journey.

Although the distance from Turkey is short, smugglers often use unseaworthy boats and pack them way beyond capacity, leading to many sinking or capsizing.

Nearly 10,700 refugees and migrants have reached Greece so far this year by sea, and 39 people have lost their lives while attempting the journey, the UNHCR said.

The influx of migrants and refugees to Greece was drastically curtailed by a 2016 accord between Turkey and the EU.

Greece is hosting some 70,000 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants who have fled their countries since 2015 and crossed over from neighbouring Turkey.

More than 300 refugees and migrants have died this year in total while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/06/dead-refugee-boat-sinks-greek-island-190611095725520.html

“This tragedy is a painful reminder that people continue to take perilous journeys to reach the Greek Aegean islands,” said Philippe Leclerc, the UNHCR representative in Greece.

“Redoubled efforts are needed to ensure safe and legal ways to reach Europe, so people stop risking their lives in the hands of ruthless traffickers and smugglers.”