Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats [File: Pablo Garcia/AFP]
A commercial ship rescued 35 Europe-bound migrants off Libya’s Mediterranean coast and returned them to the capital, Tripoli, the UN migration agency said.
The International Organization for Migration posted on Twitter that the migrants, intercepted on Thursday, were given medical assistance and relief items upon disembarkation.
“Saving lives at sea is a moral and legal obligation. It is, however, unacceptable that migrants continue to be returned to an unsafe port,” said the IOM.
Libya, which descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, has emerged as a major transit point for Africans and Arabs fleeing war and poverty in their home countries and hoping to travel to Europe.
Most migrants make the perilous journey in ill-equipped and unsafe rubber boats. As of last October, roughly 19,000 people had drowned or disappeared on the sea route since 2014, according to IOM.
Last week, a rubber dinghy packed with 91 migrants set out from Libyan shores for Europe; it went missing in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea.
In recent years, the European Union has partnered with the coastguard and other forces in Libya to stop the flow of migrants.
Rights groups say those efforts have left people at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centres that lack adequate food and water.
The latest developments come amid criticism of the EU’s lack of rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea.
Member countries agreed earlier this month to end an anti-migrant smuggler operation involving only surveillance aircraft and instead deploy military ships to concentrate on upholding a widely flouted UN arms embargo that’s considered key to winding down Libya’s relentless war.
Venezuelan immigrants (l-r) Daniel, Yevely, Miguel Salazar, Vitoria, Iesta, Primari and Caren Ramirez shelter together in central Madrid. Photograph: Denis Doyle/The Guardian
On Monday night, a group of newcomers to Madrid put their children to bed. In the absence of a roof, walls or mattresses, they wrapped them in blankets and tucked them into open suitcases to guard against the cold of the streets.
Had it not been for the intervention of a neighbourhood volunteer network who paid for a hostel, the two families who had fled violence in their home country of El Salvador would have spent the whole night outside the city’s overwhelmed emergency shelter coordination centre.
As temperatures in the Spanish capital plummet, rain falls and the city prepares to host next month’s UN climate summit, authorities are unable to provide basic shelter and protection to dozens of migrants and asylum seekers, including children. The number of people arriving in the Madrid region to seek asylum has almost doubled over the past year, rising from 20,700 to 41,000.
The Salvadoran families ended up sleeping on the floor of a church in the south of the city where volunteers have spent the last 25 years working with immigrants, refugees, young people and people with drug problems. On Wednesday night alone, the centre fed and sheltered two dozen men, women and children from Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Yemen.
“We know that this isn’t our country and we can’t expect anything but I just felt sad when we ended up on the street,” said one Salvadoran woman, who would not give her name for fear of reprisals from the criminal gangs that drove her family overseas.
Another Salvadoran woman had brought her two children to Spain after the gang demanding money from the family gave them an ultimatum: “The money you don’t pay us is the money you use to bury your children.”
She said they had spent much of the money they had on searching for accommodation as far away as Ávila, a 90-minute bus ride from Madrid. “We’ve found some wonderful people here, who’ve been so helpful, but I just don’t understand how this is meant to be a caring country, judging by all this,” she said.
They are among the luckier ones. A small camp has sprung up outside the Samur emergency shelter headquarters, where, cocooned in anoraks and sleeping bags, a handful of young Venezuelans were waiting for somewhere warm and dry to sleep. “Come into the living room,” said one, pointing to the pile of cardboard and blankets that covered the pavement.
Daniel Pérez, 29, who used to earn his living repairing medical equipment in a town close to the border with Colombia, said he was applying for asylum despite the improvised accommodation. “We were in the Red Cross shelter for a few days but we’ve been camping here for three days,” he said. “The first night was really difficult because we had nothing and it was -1C – we’re not used to such cold.”
Like all the migrants and refugees the Guardian spoke to, Pérez and his friends had been overwhelmed by the kindness of local people, who had been handing out blankets, buying them food and making them soup.
And no matter how cold it got, said Pérez, he would rather be on the streets of Madrid than back in his troubled country. “This generation of Venezuelans just can bear it any longer,” he said. “We realised that we’re not trees, rooted to the spot, and that we can move away. We’ll get through this because it’s still better to be here than in Venezuela. All this is just temporary.”
Javier Baeza, the priest who runs the San Carlos Borromeo parish centre that took in the Salvadorans, teases and jokes with his guests. But he is deeply angry over the lack of care and has reported the protection failure to the public ombudsman.
“People come here and they’re disappointed because they think the image of a country with basic human rights is real and they’re profoundly mistreated,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s a capacity problem – the problem is the lack of political will at every level. There’s no political will from the government for immigrants to be looked after properly, the Madrid regional government isn’t doing anything at all, and Madrid city council doesn’t have the will to help 100 people in one of the world’s greatest capitals.”
On Thursday, the conservative mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, wrote to Spain’s acting prime minister – the Socialist leader, Pedro Sánchez – claiming that central government’s inaction had triggered the collapse of an already overstretched system.
The mayor also asked Sánchez to find 1,300 emergency places to help guarantee refugees were treated with dignity and respect. The government, however, insists the council needs to do more to deal with the emergency.
Consuelo Rumí, Spain’s secretary of state for migration, said other major Spanish cities such as Barcelona managed to allocate sufficient resources to vulnerable arrivals, adding that it was Madrid city council’s responsibility to help those currently on the streets.
“Madrid city council, which serves a population of 4 million people, just can’t have so few resources on the street,” she said. “Until someone has actually formalised their asylum application, they’re someone who’s on the street and who needs to be looked after by the city council. They just can’t have such scant resources on the street, especially at this time of year.”
A spokeswoman for the regional government said it was a matter for the central government and the city council.
Ana Zamora, a volunteer with the Red Solidaria de Acogida (Solidarity Welcome Network), which has been working to help people find shelter, said “totally ineffective management” meant the relevant authorities were failing in their basic duty of care
“The people sleeping rough are all seeking international protection and none of them is getting the help to which, in theory, they’re entitled,” she said. “These people have no other option – they’ve spent all their money on getting here and they have no more.”
While the political squabbles continued, one of the Salvadoran mothers sat crying in a parish 5,000 miles (8,000km) from home, thinking about the church where her family used to worship, where they would donate food and toys to the poor.
My daughter is confused by all this and she asked if we were poor now,” she said. “We’re not asking for luxury, we’re not even asking for comfort. We came to Spain because we’d been told we would be protected here.”
Migration in Spain
Sánchez won huge plaudits in June last year after one of his first acts in office was to announce that the country would take in the 630 migrants and refugees stranded onboard the rescue ship Aquarius.
Sánchez said Spain had a duty to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe while his foreign minister, Josep Borrell, called for an end to “ostrich politics” when it came to the issue of migration.
In 2018, 56,480 migrants and refugees reached Spain by sea, with 769 people dying in the attempt. The record number of arrivals to Spain, partly driven by the closure of other European routes, placed huge strain on the country’s reception infrastructure.
It was also seized on by conservative and far-right parties who sought to make it a political issue. The far-right, anti-immigration Vox party, which won 52 seats in this month’s general election, has accused unaccompanied foreign children of being “a serious problem in our neighbourhoods”.
Its messages are a far cry from those of the former Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena, whose administration famously hung a banner on city hall reading: “Refugees welcome.”
Vox’s leader, Santiago Abascal, said this week the party was looking into the possibility of abandoning the landmark UN convention on the rights of the child so that Spain would be able to deport all irregular immigrants regardless of their age.
Stockholm/Rome,(IPS) – According to the Mexican Interior Ministry more than 7,000 Central American migrants have during the last month arrived at the US-Mexico border. Despite warnings by officials that they will face arrests, prosecution and deportation if they enter US territory, migrants state they intend to do so anyway, since they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence. This is not new, in 1995 I visited Ixil and Ixcan, two Guatemalan areas mainly inhabited by Ixiles. My task was to analyse the impact of a regional development programme aimed at supporting post-conflict indigenous communities. United Nations has estimated that between 1960 and 1996 more than 245,000 people (mostly civilians) had been killed, or “disappeared” during Guatemalan internal conflicts, the vast majority of the killings were attributed to the army, or paramilitary groups.
A rainy day I visited a camp for returnees. After living in Mexico, Ixiles were awaiting land distribution. Behind wire and monitored by soldiers, they huddled among their meagre belongings, sheltered by plastic sheets stretched across wooden poles. They expressed their hopes for the future. They wanted to be listened to, allowed to build up their villages, gain respect and become accepted as coequal citizens in their own country. While asked what they wanted most of all, several returnees answered: “We need a priest and a church.” I wondered if they were so religious. “No, no,” they answered. “We need to rebuild our lives, finding our place in the world, be with our ancestors. The priest will make us believe in ourselves and trust in God. That will give us strength. We need a church so we can build our village around it. We all need a centre and every village needs one as well.”
Ixil tradition emphasizes the importance of land and ancestry. A few days before my visit to the camp I had interviewed an aj’kin, a Maya priest. Aj means “master of” and kin “day”. Aj´kines perform rituals and keep track of the time – the past, the present and the future. Like many old Ixiles the aj´kin did not speak any Spanish and the Ixil engineer who accompanied me translated his words. The engineer suggested that I would ask the aj´kin to “sing his family”. The old man then delivered a long, monotonous chant, listing his ancestors all the way back to pre-colonial days. When I asked him what the singing was about the aj´kin explained: “The world belongs to those who were here before us. We only take care of it, until we become one of them. All the ancestors want from us is that we don´t abandon them, making them know that we remember them. Memory and speech is the thread that keeps the Universe together.”
In the camp, Ixiles told me they had been ignored for hundreds of years and that this was the main reason for the violent conflict. Uniformed men had arrived in their villages and first, people had assumed they were government soldiers, becoming enthused when the strangers declared that it was time for Ixiles to have their voices heard, their wishes fulfilled. However, the “liberators” could not keep their promises.
They did not represent the Government, they were guerilleros, proclaiming they had “freed” the peasants, when all they had done was to “speak a lot” and create “revolutionary committees”, only to retreat as soon as the Government troops arrived. These were much stronger and more ruthless than the guerilleros and stated that Ixiles had become “communists”. They murdered and tortured them, burned their fields. What could they do? They asked their Catholic priests for help, but the Government accused the Church of manipulating them through its ”liberation theology”; by preaching that Jesus had been on the side of the poor.
The soldiers even killed priests. One woman told me that she and her neighbours one morning had found the parish priest’s severed head laying on the church steps. Some peasants joined the guerrilla, others organized militias to keep it at a safe distance:
“Some of the guerilleros were our own sons and daughters, but what could we do? As soon as guerrilleros appeared and preached their socialism, the army arrived, killing us. The guerrilleros were not strong enough to fight the soldiers. We were left to be slaughtered. The only solution we could find was to arm ourselves and with weapons in hand ask the guerrilleros to stay away from our villages. However, all over the world they declared that we were supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. We found ourselves between two fires, solutions were almost non-existent. No one listened to us”
A Catholic priest living in the camp explained: “They tend to be very religious, but their faith is mostly about human dignity. Ixiles want to be masters of their lives. They need to be listened to. Every day I sit for hours listening to confessions. They talk and talk. It makes them content when someone is listening to them. This is one of the problems we Catholics face. Ixiles are abandoning our faith for the one of the evangelicals.”
For centuries the Church had told Ixiles what to do, but finally both Catholics and peasants had been persecuted. In 1982, under the presidency of Ríos Montt, violence reached its peak. A scorch earth campaign lasting for five months resulted in the deaths of approximately 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans, while 100,000 rural villagers were forced to flee their homes, most of them over the border, into Mexico. Ríos Montt was a “born-again Christian” and in the aftermath of the violence evangelical sectarians appeared in the Ixil areas. Many of the remaining Ixiles became evangelicals, stating this was their only way to avoid persecution and come in contact with the “High Command” of the unconstrained army forces.
The loudspeakers of evangelical churches amplified their voices, allowing Ixiles to confess their sins and praise the Lord. However, were their voices finally heard? Their well-being improved? Do they have a say in the governing of their country? Many Ixiles are once again leaving their homes, hoping to reach the US. Research indicates a difference between migration patterns of El Salvador and Honduras and Guatemala. In the former two countries migration decision is more often the result of immediate threats to safety, while in Guatemala it stems from chronic stressors; a mix of general violence, poverty, and rights violations, especially among indigenous people.
Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.
Washington D.C., Feb 27, 2018 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- A group of about 100 people–including Franciscan friars, religious sisters, and laity–gathered in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Building in Washington on Tuesday, and were led away in flex cuffs in a planned act of civil disobedience.
The protest was intended to pressure Congress to take action on “Dreamers,” or people who were brought to the United States illegally as children. It was organized as part of the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers, an event planned by Catholic social advocacy groups.
One of those arrested was Sr. Tracy Kemme, a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati. Prior to her arrest, Kemme told CNA that she considered her actions to be worthwhile to help protect the immigrant community.
“Myself, two of my sisters, and one of our associates will be doing civil disobedience,” said Kemme. She continued, “It’s a moral moment of truth and it’s worth it to us to try to raise the consciousness of our legislators.”
Registered “Dreamers” are afforded renewable protection from deportation under an Obama-era policy called the “Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals” (DACA). President Donald Trump sought to end DACA in September of 2017 and gave Congress a six-month period to come up with a solution before the protections would expire on March 5.
Two federal courts have issued injunctions preventing the President from ending DACA.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to consider the Administration’s expedited appeal of those injunctions, ensuring that the program will remain as-is until a final court decision is made later this year.
Congressional legislators have been unable to pass compromise bills that would have codified parts of DACA into law. On Monday, the USCCB urged Catholics to call their Congressmen as part of the “National Call-in Day for the Protection of Dreamers.”
The PICO National Network, along with Faith in Public Life and the DC Catholic Coalition, organized Tuesday’s “day of action.” The day featured a prayer rally and peaceful civil disobedience, culminating with the arrests.
Kemme told CNA that she hopes Congress is able to pass a DREAM Act unconnected to other proposed immigration reforms, and that her faith inspires her passion of working with the immigrant community.
“As a Catholic, my end goal would be comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together,” she said.
Kemme’s desires were echoed by Sr. Elise Garcia, O.P., from the Dominican sisters in Adrian, Michigan. Garcia said she was in D.C. on Tuesday to pray for the Dreamers as well as for elected leaders, and she too would like to see comprehensive immigration reform.
“Ideally, I would like to see an entire comprehensive package of immigration reform. That’s the ideal. Short of that, I’d like to see justice for Dreamers,” who have only known the United States as their home.
Before the Capitol Police attempted to disperse the protest, Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, addressed the crowd. Once the crowd began loudly praying a decade of the rosary, the police started to make arrests.
A total of 40 people were arrested and charged with “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding.”
(August 21, 2017) Yuba, South Sudan — Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale is not a man to mince words and he didn’t mince words earlier this year when he discussed South Sudan’s descent into a worsening, seemingly never-ending civil war.
“The government is the orchestrator of the war, and the people are suffering as a result,” he told NCR from his office in the capital of Juba in late May, citing numerous examples of the afflictions South Sudanese are experiencing: rape, looting and displacement.
“They are being brutally mistreated,” the auxiliary bishop of the capital of Juba said of those who are the victims of violence — victims who have, at the moment, “no resource to justice. It’s a big mess.”
He acknowledges that his critics — in the government and even some, privately, within the church — wonder if his criticisms are fair, smart or wise.
But Doggale brushes aside those criticisms, saying, “I’m not afraid.”
“My life doesn’t matter. I’ve suffered, too. I’ve lost members of my family. But when brutality is the order of the day, someone has to speak up, especially when you see that the flock is living in fear. This makes me angry.”
Doggale’s outspoken stance represents one wing of the church — a faction that believes that the church needs to be firm in its prophetic stance not only for the larger cause of peace in South Sudan but also in calling out the current government for policies and actions some believe are the cause of the current war.
But in a predominately impoverished, Christian nation where the church has an outsized role in providing education, social services and even basic necessities like food, the church’s place in society also has a practical side.
“The Catholic Church has a strong, strong footprint here,” said Fr. Pau Vidal, a Jesuit priest and a project director for Jesuit Refugee Service in the northern city of Maban. Another humanitarian agrees. “The churches have credibility here in South Sudan,” said Jerry Farrell, the country representative in South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services. “In fact, they’re the only institutions that do have credibility, as they touch on so many parts of life: spirituality, health care, housing, education, food.”
Financial figures about the church’s role are hard to come by, but Catholic Relief Services alone has provided assistance of some sort to more than 1 million South Sudanese, the agency said, and works in partnership with local dioceses, parishes and religious congregations of both women and men.
Famine remains a serious problem and 6 million of country’s 12 million people face some kind of food insecurity — the lack of access to food — according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Church-based groups have initiated programs to improve the humanitarian situation within the country. As just one example, the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate, or DMI Sisters, is working on local initiatives to assist small communities in agricultural projects.
Grave problems persist in the country and whether stated in public, like Doggale, or in private, among numerous Catholics, they revolve around the current government in power.
The criticisms center on several fronts — that the government has either not been able to control factions of the government military forces known as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, which is predominately made of members of the ethnic or tribal group known as the Dinkas, or has been purposely targeting non-Dinkas and populations the government believes oppose it.
Ethnic tensions have been put to use for political purposes, as Human Rights Watch said in its report on the ongoing conflict, noting that it began in 2013 when “soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, and those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar, a Nuer, fought in the capital following months of growing political tensions.”
In its 2017 report, Human Rights Watch said that government troops have “killed, raped, and tortured civilians as well as destroying and pillaging civilian property during counterinsurgency operations in the southern and western parts of the country,” while acknowledging that both sides of the conflict “have committed abuses against civilians in and around Juba and other areas.” Some 2.4 million South Sudanese have been displaced, Human Rights Watch noted.
For its part, the South Sudanese government claims its troops are trying to battle an anti-government rebellion. It has blamed the civil war — which began in late 2013 — on anti-government rebels. And it has said it is committed to finding a peaceful solution to South Sudan’s war with those who oppose the government.
Some within the church, such as Fr. Moses Peter, a diocesan coordinator for Caritas in the city of Wau — which has faced a serious crisis, with thousands seeking refuge on the ground of the Catholic cathedral there — are, like Doggale, government critics. Peter said, “Nobody trusts the SPLA,” and notes that the government has accused the Catholic Church of being “pro-rebel,” a charge he strongly rejects. (President Kiir is a Roman Catholic.)
Yet the prophetic often mixes with the practical — Peter says in his humanitarian work, he works cordially with local officials among the thousands displaced in Wau by the conflict. And the church has a long history in Wau of involvement with peace efforts among all parties and factions to help diffuse local tensions.
Everyone in the church is tired of the conflict and is eager to resume some sense of hope and nation-building that ushered in the creation of the world’s newest nation after it gained independence from Sudan in 2011. Many relish memories from that time, their first taste of independence, coming after years of war.
“It was a beautiful moment — an independent people felt they could start afresh,” said Vidal. “But the [current] war has worsened the situation so much and there is no sense of nation unity now.”
Some say there is still enough political and humanitarian space to do needed pastoral work.
“It is certainly better now than in the 1960s when our people were under Arab rule,” Sr. Mary Faida, a member of the Sacred Heart Sisters, a South Sudanese congregation, said of life under the rule of neighboring Sudan, which is predominately Muslim. She said the work now of the church and of religious congregations — whether in education or in health care — is “giving hope to the people.”
Yet there are still deep worries about the church and its future. Interviewed in May, Doggale said even with all of its problems, he did not believe that the national government was engaging in systematic harassment of the church. But he did say some government officials were probably behind threats to individuals, including him.
“Is it government policy? No,” he said, but added he had received several threatening anonymous calls recently, including one in which a man told him, “Your days are numbered.”
There have been other troubling signs, too: a group of government troops threatened employees of a church bookstore in Juba in February of this year and took books off of the shelves they declared were written by government critics.
Since May, the bishop has become increasingly pessimistic. South Sudan-based Radio Tamazuj reported in July that Doggale called the current government’s national dialogue strategy “a waste of time.” He said, “The problem is political and it has to be solved by the political leaders,” including Kiir and Machar.
“The ordinary citizens have not yet created any problem, that’s why our faithful citizens are able to stay for three months without salaries and they don’t even demonstrate. They still go to work, you will never see this in any country in the world,” he said.
In emails earlier this month, Doggale told NCR that the current situation is “getting worse day by day. People are living in the uncertainty, rampant insecurity, hunger and diseases. In one word. It is limbo.”
In a later email, the bishop said, “The intimidation is of all South Sudanese by their own government. The ruling elite don’t care who you are, they just do what they want and when they want it.” He said there is there is no rule of law and repeated his belief that the country is in limbo.
“In South Sudan everybody is under intimidation, and so fear is instilled into people. It is the church that tries to give some voice, and so they (the government) are not comfortable about that and that is why they also get frustrated when the voice of the church continues in many ways to be aloud and strong on the suffering of the people.”
Others who agree with the bishop say privately the church has to be careful — that it is dealing now with what some call a military dictatorship and that the church is clearly in the government’s crosshairs.
“This is not a joke, what is happening now,” said one member of a religious order, who said the Kiir government has made a number of false allegations about the church, including that it has called “for regime change.”
“The stakes are now going up for the church,” the member said.
“The blood of the tribe is thicker than the water of Baptism,” Doggale said. “Our government is Catholic. They read the Bible. They go to church. But how much do they put into practice?”
Others also point out that in such an intense, confusing environment it is probably no surprise that four dioceses in the country are without bishops now.
“The Catholic Church is trying to finds its way now. But in keeping quiet, and not speaking out against human rights, we are taking sides and protecting our own projects,” said one cleric who did not want to be identified.
“How much injustice will we continue to see? There is so much that the religious here are witnessing,” the cleric said. “When you speak out [it is assumed], you are speaking out against the government. How can you do that in a way that is constructive?”
[Chris Herlinger is international correspondent for Global Sisters Report. His email address is email@example.com.]
A smuggler forced the mostly Somali and Ethiopian refugees
into the sea as they approached Yemen’s coast, says the UN.
Up to 50 refugees and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia were “deliberately drowned” when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen’s coast, the UN migration agency said on Wednesday, calling the drownings “shocking and inhumane.”
International Organization for Migration (IOM) staffers found the shallow graves of 29 of the refugees and migrants on a beach in Yemen’s Shabwa during a routine patrol, the agency’s statement said. The dead were buried by those who survived.
At least 22 people are still missing, the IOM said. The passengers’ average age was 16, the agency said.
The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen’s ongoing conflict. Refugees and migrants try to make their way to the oil-rich Gulf countries.
The smuggler forced more than 120 people into the sea on Wednesday morning as they approached Yemen’s coast, the IOM statement said.
“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them to the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM’s chief of mission in Yemen.
“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.”
IOM staffers provided aid for 27 survivors who remained on the beach, while others left.
Laurent de Boeck told Al Jazeera that the chaos of Yemen’s war is providing fertile ground for people smugglers.
“It’s absolutely awful, and this is reflected in the real big business which is happening now in Yemen where there is no capacity to actually control the border. We have seen since the war increased smuggling to the country actually,” he said.
“Last year we counted 117,000 people entering the country irregularly – and these are those who have identified,” added de Boeck.
‘False hope of a better future’ De Boeck called the suffering of refugees and migrants on the route enormous, especially during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. “Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” he said.
The IOM says about 55,000 people have left Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January, with most from Somalia and Ethiopia. A third of them are estimated to be women.
Yemen refugee boat attack: Survivors speak out Despite the fighting in Yemen, African refugees and migrants continue to arrive in the war-torn country where there is no central authority to prevent them from travelling onward.
The refugees are vulnerable to abuse by armed trafficking rings, many of them believed to be connected to the armed groups involved in the war.
The conflict itself is a deadly risk. In March, Somalia’s government blamed the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen for an attack on a boat that killed at least 42 Somali refugees off Yemen’s coast.
Some Somalis are desperate to avoid years of chaos at home with attacks by homegrown armed group al-Shabab and deadly drought. Some Ethiopians have left home after months of deadly anti-government protests and a 10-month state of emergency.
More than 111,500 refugees and migrants landed on Yemen’s shores last year, up from around 100,000 the year before, according to the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, a grouping of international agencies that monitors migration in the area.
ROME, Jul 7 2017 (IPS) – World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.
Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate change, spend on often illegal, inhumane measures aiming at impeding the arrival of migrants and refuges to their countries, could be devoted instead to preventing the root causes of massive human displacements.
One such a solution is to invest in sustainable agriculture. On this, the world’s leading body in the fields of food and agriculture has once again warned that climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, while stressing that promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response.
The “solution to this great challenge” lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 6 July said.
The UN specialised agency’s chief cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters –an average of 26 million a year– and suggesting the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall.
For his part, William Lacy Swing, director-general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), also on July 6 said “Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time.”
“Since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters”
Swing cited the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. “Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices.”
FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group –an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations– are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.