Category Archives: Migration

South Sudan church balances prophetic role, practical challenges

by Chris Herlinger
NCR
(August 21, 2017)

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Santo Loku Pio Doggale, the auxiliary bishop of the capital of Juba (Chris Herlinger)

(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.

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Homes and businesses destroyed in recent clashes just outside the South Sudanese capital of Juba (Chris Herlinger)

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.

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Young boys in a camp for the displaced on the grounds of the Catholic cathedral in Wau (Chris Herlinger)

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 cherlinger@ncronline.org.]

Up to 50 refugees deliberately drowned off Yemen: UN

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies
August 10, 2017

A smuggler forced the mostly Somali and Ethiopian refugees
into the sea as they approached Yemen’s coast, says the UN.

Refugees from the Horn of Africa
The IOM says about 55,000 people have left Horn of Africa nations for Yemen since January [File: Emilio Morenatti/AP]
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.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/50-refugees-deliberately-drowned-yemen-170809204210883.html

Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’

by Baher Kamal
IPS News Service

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Unprecedented levels of population displacements in the Lake Chad Basin:  Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Credit: FAO

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.

Drivers of Rural Migration
“Rural areas of developing countries, where often poor households have limited capacity to cope with and manage risks, are forecast to bear the brunt of higher average temperatures. Such vulnerabilities have been worsened by years of under-investment in rural areas.” Continue reading Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’

Vatican funds job-creation project for refugees in Jordan

Catholic Universe

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A Christian family who fled from violence in Mosul, Iraq, sit in the room of a church in 2014 in Amman, Jordan. The Vatican is funding a job-creation program for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them. (CNS photo/Jamal Nasrallah, EPA) See JORDAN-REFUGEE-JOBS May 10, 2016.

The Vatican is funding a job-creation programme for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, a country that is hosting close to 1.5 million refugees, but is struggling to provide work for them.
With €132,000 donated to the Vatican by visitors to its pavilion at the World’s Fair in Milan in 2015, the Vatican will provide the funding that Caritas Jordan needs to launch the project.
Fifteen Iraqi refugees will have full-time work cultivating, producing and selling vegetables and oil, said a communique from the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican office which promotes and distributes Catholic charity. The jobs will allow them to provide for their families and become self-supporting, the office said.
Another 200 Iraqi refugees will be given training in carpentry, agriculture and the food industry, Cor Unum said, and an additional 500 will be given seasonal employment. Continue reading Vatican funds job-creation project for refugees in Jordan

Immigrant families’ lives, nation’s values hinge on court’s ruling (COMMENTARY)

Religious News Service

By Sr. Bernadine Karge (RNS)

Sophie, walks with her father, Raul Cruz, after arguments in a challenge over the constitutionality of President Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrants, in Washington

As an immigration lawyer for more than 30 years, I have seen how immigration laws evolve in response to the needs of the country, world events and the political winds. The result is an inconsistent mishmash that traps hopeful immigrants and rips families apart.

As a Catholic sister, I reflect on the values and church teachings that should inform just and prudent immigration policies. Pope Francis speaks about the dignity of every person and rails against treating immigrants as mere pawns on a global chessboard. Continue reading Immigrant families’ lives, nation’s values hinge on court’s ruling (COMMENTARY)

Migrant mothers bridge distance with virtual parenting

Deutsche Wella

Migrant parents are using social media to raise their kids from afar. But a virtual presence enabled by technology is hardly a substitute for the intimacy of physical closeness. Ana P. Santos reports from Paris.

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It is nearly midnight and like most working mothers, 39-year-old Gemma, is preparing for the next school day before turning in.

It is about 5:30 a.m. in the Philippines and Gemma picks up her phone and goes on Viber to wake up her nine-year-old son, Vlad, and her husband, Nielson.

If the soft whir of the Viber ring doesn’t wake them up, she will try Skype from the laptop on the stump of a nightstand next to her bed.

“If that still doesn’t work, I’ll try calling the landline. That’s the loudest, you can hear it ring throughout the entire house,” said Gemma, chuckling at the familiar struggle of rousing a young child from slumber. Continue reading Migrant mothers bridge distance with virtual parenting

Heathrow’s immigration detention centre “among worst”

The Tablet

Megan Cornwell

mig6A recent report into Europe’s largest immigration centre finds conditions substandard.

Heathrow’s immigration detention centre “among worst” Heathrow’s immigration detention centre “among worst”.

A report into conditions at Harmondsworth immigration centre near Heathrow Airport has found evidence of substandard facilities and lack of suitable care for vulnerable adults.

Europe’s largest immigration removal centre, housing 661 men, is holding detainees for unacceptably long periods and failing to provide adequate risk assessments in the first few days of arrival, the report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found. Continue reading Heathrow’s immigration detention centre “among worst”