Entrance into the Moria hotspot in Lesbos, Greece, where children registered as adults are accommodated with unrelated adult single men, exposed to very poor living conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, and frequent incidents of violence. © 2017 Thanos Tsantas for Human Rights Watch

Greece: Lone Migrant Children Left Unprotected

Flawed Procedures Leave Those on Lesbos at Risk of Abuse - Human Rights Watch
21 July, 2017

Many thanks to Cecilia.

“Unaccompanied migrant children on the Greek island of Lesbos are being incorrectly identified as adults and housed with unrelated adults, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and unable to access the specific care they need, Human Rights Watch said today…

Under Greek and international law, unaccompanied children are entitled to special care and protection. But the flawed age assessment procedures that are being followed in practice mean that some of these children are wrongly deemed adults during registration, despite an assurance by Greek officials to Human Rights Watch that a proper, multidiscipline procedure is followed. Other children claim to be adults, believing it will allow them to avoid detention or because they follow bad advice from adults, but then realize they have made a mistake and try to persuade the authorities to register them correctly. They can spend months trying to change their official status, and in the meantime often continue to be treated as adults, or reach adulthood, known as “aging out,” while waiting for their correct age to be assessed…

On the other hand, reception service officials do not usually question unaccompanied children who claim to be adults even when their appearance strongly suggests that they are well under 18. In practice, authorities fail to provide children with adequate information about their rights during the reception and identification process on the islands and take no steps to verify whether an individual claiming to be an adult is a child, creating a risk that trafficked children will not be identified and protected from further harm.”

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Italy is facing a surge of migration across the Mediterranean

Article in The Economist
21 July, 2017

Europe is failing at properly governing mobility by facilitating it and regulating it. It doggedly pursues its attempt at sealing borders. Despite repeated failure, it does not yet accept that this is precisely what causes the problem in the first place. The EU-Turkey Statement has redistributed the routes and temporarily reduced the numbers, but has not in any way responded to any of the push or pull factors. The current negotiations with some Libyan factions will not produce much long-term solution either. Clear-eyed leadership is sorely lacking.

“Carlotta Sami of UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, estimates that more than 170,000 migrants are in Italian reception centres or are being housed by local authorities. The French blockade is one reason for the growing build-up. Others include the increase in arrivals and more rigorous identification, such as taking fingerprints, which blocks migrants from applying for asylum in other countries.

As the logjam grows, there have been protests in parts of Italy. And with a general election due by May, Paolo Gentiloni, the prime minister, cannot ignore the discontent. His government wants neighbouring countries to accept migrant rescue boats when exceptional numbers are picked up at sea, and for Italy’s EU partners to take more of those it already hosts. He also wants international action to stem the flow through Libya.”

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  Demonstrators stage a beach party outside the French Embassy, in Knightsbridge, London, in protest against burkini bans. Photo Credit: EPA

European Court of Human Rights upholds Belgium’s ban on burqas and full-face Islamic veils

Article in The Independent
17 July, 2017

Another wrong decision on the part of the European Court of Human Rights.

How can a ban on full face covering not be discriminatory when the full face covering is banned when Muslim, but allowed in many other circumstances not defined as Islamic? Indeed, a scarf over one’s face protects from the cold, as is the case for months on end in Canada. A full face helmet protects most motorcyclists. A mask protects from pollution or dust, as is often the case in New York or other cities. A face covering may be worn to protect the skin against the sun. And I remember mantillas worn in church by ladies when I was young and which are still often a fashion statement when attached to a small hat. Why should, without any other specific circumstance, protecting one’s face from the view of others be treated differently?

The idea that such a general distinction can be justified by vague notions such as principles of “living together” or the “protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, without specifics, seems totally insufficient. Distinctions made between individuals without justification are prohibited discriminations. A justification is often possible (showing one’s face for identity controls before taking a flight is a good example), but it needs to respond to specific criteria. Restrictions to freedom should be specific, individualised, necessary and limited to the minimum restriction possible.

For example, a young football player should not be permitted to wear a head scarf with a knot under the chin, as she could get accidentally strangled in a kerfuffle during a play. A “reasonable accommodation” can be found. A head gear bound in the nape of her neck, or a bandana, or a bathing cap will ensure, at the same time, the hair covering she wishes (and should be free to decide for herself) and her physical security during the game.

How can one tell a person that she needs to remove her face covering for the sole reason that she is Muslim? How can one tell one Muslim women that her clothing preference prevents the “living together” (of whom?), when motorcyclists and persons who do not want to breathe pollution are not requested to abide by the same standard? Why would a face covering prevent the “living together” more than a face full of metallic studs, or even a big beard? How can one seriously argue, without any other information, that a young Muslim woman’s face covering threatens the “rights and freedoms of others”, if a motorcyclist’s helmet doesn’t? How are those “rights and freedoms of others” specifically threatened: What rights? Whose rights? In what circumstances? Should not the same reasoning lead some cities to ban masks at Halloween altogether? What about carnivals? Venice’s would be sorry without the masks.

Freedom of religion, including the right to express one’s religion, should not be a second-class freedom, only acceptable when the majority doesn’t “feel” offended. We would not have same-sex marriage in Canada if Canadian courts had followed this kind of reasoning. Freedom of expression should not be limited based on the single fact that this is a religious expression.

The caveat in the judgement that Muslims should not be singled out seems a very feeble attempt to limit the considerable effect of the judgment. Muslims will have to go to court and spend time, energy and money trying to demonstrate that each specific instance of implementation against them of the ban on face covering is specifically aimed at them as Muslims, which will always be very difficult. In a properly hierarchised scale of values, it should be for the power that wants to restrict the freedom of any individual to justify specifically and individually the necessity and limited nature of the restriction they wish to impose: in this case, the authorities should be asked to demonstrate that the specific request to uncover one’s face is not implemented for the sole reason that the person is Muslim.

The “margin of appreciation” left to States in the case law of the ECtHR should not allow such blatant religious discrimination. Recognising the essential freedom to dress as one wishes, with only limited and specifically justified restrictions, should be essential.

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  Ulla Tornaes (right) is a minister in the government of Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen (centre). Photo Credit: AFP

Denmark’s contraception aid to Africa ‘to limit migration’

Article in the BBC
13 July, 2017

No comment.

“Denmark has pledged more funds for family planning in developing nations, saying this could also help “limit the migration pressure on Europe”…

She then referred specifically to Africa, saying that curtailing the continent’s population growth by increasing access to contraception and family planning was an important foreign and security policy priority for the Danish government.

“If the population growth in Africa continues as now, the African population will double from 1.2 billion people to 2.5 billion people by 2050,” Ms Tornaes said.

“Part of the solution to reducing migratory pressures on Europe is to reduce the very high population growth in many African countries.”

Denmark, like a number of other EU nations, has in recent years been under pressure to deal with a rising number of asylum seekers and immigrants arriving in Europe.”

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  Photo Credit: Sputnik/ Valeriy Melnikov

Lebanese Politicians Seek to Return Syrian Refugees Back Home

Article in Sputnik News
10 July, 2017

If a program of voluntary assisted return to Syria is provided as an option for refugees who wish to find a secure and dignified alternative to their present cramped circumstances in Lebanon, AND if coordinated with programs in Syria to ensure that such refugees can choose where they will settle, can be reunited with family members in Syria, can be properly housed according to their needs and can quickly find income-generating activities to support their families, AND if well-planned with the participation of all stakeholders, including especially the refugees concerned themselves, AND if implemented progressively over a long period of time so as to offer a durable solution to each and every concerned refugee family and ensure the sustainability of their settlement back in Syria, AND if it allows for refugee families to go back and forth between their present residence in Lebanon and their future settlement in Syria so as to allow them to “test the waters” and ensure that this is effectively the best solution for themselves and their family, it will serve a purpose.

If hundreds of thousands of refugee families are forcibly and massively returned to “30,000 square kilometers of Syrian Desert”, without proper planning and coordination, only because Lebanon wants to get rid of a problem, it is a recipe for another humanitarian disaster.

Refugees are not boxes that can be transported and dumped anywhere. They are people who need respect for their autonomy and agency. They need to be offered options and be allowed to exercise choices.

Many thanks to Faten.

“A growing number of Lebanese politicians are seeking to help the Syrian refugees currently residing in the country to return home, as Beirut is apparently no longer able to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living there…

Kabbani also added that Lebanon needs to resolve this issue as soon as possible as the country now finds itself unable to accommodate so many refugees any longer. Furthermore, there are no programs aimed at integrating Syrian refugees into Lebanese society due to the fact that there are so many of them, approximately 1.5 million at the last count.”

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