Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon

From IPS

As Iraq’s refugee crisis continues to worsen, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is failing to help the estimated five million Iraqis who have been displaced by conflict, says a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon” acknowledges that while things have gotten better for many Iraqis with the relative success of the U.S. troops “surge” strategy, Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries are still living in harsh conditions.

Refugees face a desperate economic situation and rigid policies while the Iraqi authorities and the international community — especially the occupying U.S. government — does too little to support them, it says.

“Flush with oil money, it has been conspicuously ungenerous towards its citizens stranded abroad,” says the report of the Iraqi authorities.

The Iraqi government makes life difficult by encouraging tough visa policies by host countries and giving refugees limited access to Iraqi documents.

The refugees, says the report, view the moves as the Interior Ministry in Baghdad trying to control the flow of people and restrict what it sometimes sees as Ba’athists and other collaborators who left because of the new order.

“No doubt there are senior former regime figures among the refugees, but this does not excuse callous neglect of overwhelming non-political people who loyally served Iraq rather than a particular regime,” says the report, noting that Iraq has lost much of its professional class.

Many of the white-collar refugees reportedly had their diplomas and other documents seized as they fled violence in Iraq, making it difficult to find skilled professional jobs in the limited instances where host countries would have allowed it.

With refugees unable to work, the report points to their dwindling resources as leading to “a growing pauperisation of Iraqis” that could, in turn, lead to radicalisation.

“Increased destitution and unemployment among Iraqi refugees are worrying factors,” says the report, “and some observers warn against the possibility of young male refugees joining al Qaeda type militant groups.”

The exact number of refugees is unknown — roughly five million — but the scale is certain: Iraq is the second biggest crisis, preceded only by Afghanistan.

ICG acknowledges the large burden on by Syria, Lebanon, and other neighbours, who have taken on about half of the total displaced, but it says unfriendly treatment leaves Iraqis there with few services and opportunities.

The U.S. and others in the international community, including wealthy Arab states, also contribute to the crisis by neither resettling their share of refugees nor giving enough financial support to host countries and aid organisations, ICG says.

“Donor countries and Iraq bear the greater responsibility to assist both refugees and host countries,” said the report. “Western nations have been happy to let host countries cope with the refugee challenge, less than generous in their financial support, and outright resistant to the notion of resettlement in their midst.”

With host countries strained and so little international and Iraqi aid, most refugees “rely chiefly on personal savings and remittances from relatives in Iraq and elsewhere.”

The report notes that crime in refugee camps and other areas is already on the rise in areas where there is little access to education for Iraqi children, and they and women are often exploited. The conditions have become so deplorable that some refugees return to war-ravaged Iraq because the situation in host countries is so bad.

But the numbers of those returning — though they are publicised — are limited. Oftentimes, refugees cannot return home because their formerly mixed neighbourhoods experienced sectarian cleansing and members of rival sects, often settled by militias, occupy their homes.

While sectarian lines still starkly exist in refugee communities, there has been little “spill over effect” of the sort of strife seen in Iraq.

“Of course they talk about Sunni-Shiite problems; of course they rant in front of you. But that is all they do,” an Iraqi Sunni in Jordan who says he encounters all stripes of Iraqis told ICG. “It’s their way of making sense of their lives and of their past.”

With Iraq still such a violent and chaotic place, ICG recommends that the Iraqi government put a mechanism in place to both help refugees abroad and — while discouraging large-scale returns until security improves — to assist those returning to Iraq.

Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon also need to dramatically step up their efforts to organise the refugees.

In Jordan, says the report, “Even Iraqis fleeing violence were not granted refugee status; instead, they were referred to as ‘guests’ and at times treated far worse than that.”

By limiting even yearly-renewable residency permits — initially more widely available to at least the affluent Iraqis — to those who already met a particular high threshold of investment in Jordan, the host has created a “closed-door policy.”

In Syria, local officials claimed to ICG that Prime Minister al-Maliki had encouraged the visa restrictions placed on Iraqi refugees beginning in September 2007.

The restrictions on movements — effectively ending the open-door policy — coupled with poor relations with the West and particularly the U.S., have worsened conditions in Syria.

ICG calls for the U.S. to end its politically motivated low aid levels and isolate the humanitarian crisis from other political considerations with Syria. The report noted that none of the involved parties are dealing with the refugee crisis that exists, and should another one break out, it would be disastrous.

The Border and Immigration Agency In Denial


The most comprehensive examination of the UK’s asylum system ever conducted has found it “marred by inhumanity” and “not yet fit for purpose”.

The report, published by the Independent Asylum Commission, is a damning indictment of the Home Office’s failure to deal fairly with those applying for sanctuary in this country.

The commission found that Britain’s treatment of asylum-seekers “falls seriously below the standards to be expected of a humane and civilised society“. Its interim report will be delivered to the Home Office today by a delegation of asylum-seekers.

The report details how the “adversarial” system is failing applicants from the very first point of interview, with officials accused of stacking the odds against genuine claimants. “A ‘culture of disbelief’ persists among decision-makers,” it said. “Along with lack of access to legal advice for applicants this is leading to perverse and unjust decisions.

The findings are the result of the most thorough look at the system in history, with testimonies from every sphere of society, including three former home secretaries, more than 100 NGOs, 90 asylum-seekers, the police, local authorities, and hundreds of citizens.

All-day hearings were held in seven major cities, where hundreds of people gave evidence, from those who brand the system too lenient to those who think it is a blot on the country’s human rights record.

As well as this current information, an independent academic body was tasked to gather all documents already published on the issue in the past five years, from both sides of the political spectrum.

But the Border and Immigration Agency has rejected the report, claiming it operates a “firm but humane” system.

Cognitive dissonance much BIA? To say the least the BIA’s response is totally unacceptable (I’m being awfully fucking polite here). It’s nice of the Independent Asylum Commission to catch up though, below are two previous posts that detail that the Border and Immigration Agency is a big stinking pile of arrogant, cruel, racist shit (in that way one might reflect it is the perfect institutional embodiment of the ignorant spiteful racism of the gutter press and their imbecilic fucking readers)-

Buried Alive, The Migrant Gulag

Chief Exec Lin Homer (more of whom in those links) says-

“I totally refute any suggestion that we treat asylum applicants without care and compassion. We have a proud tradition in Britain of offering sanctuary to those who truly need our protection. We operate a firm but humane system, supporting those who are vulnerable with accommodation and assistance. But we expect those that a court says have no genuine need for asylum to return home voluntarily, saving taxpayers the expense of enforcing their return. We will enforce the removal of those who refuse to comply, always ensuring first that it is safe to do so.”

Well here are your choices Lin, you are either-
a/. a big fat liar…or
b/. mentally ill.
I’m sorry but those are your only choices here in reality. Either way you should not be holding your current position (something Birmingham people can appreciate after her NuLabour vote rigging exploits there, ahem. Oh look, we just found the reason she keeps failing upwards). This would be the agency that recently deported a cancer patient who then died, I would call that corporate manslaughter and is now trying to deport people to…Iraq (you honestly can’t make this shit up). So Lin, you should be fired and prosecuted. But in the post Blair -hey what’s so wrong with being a war criminal- Britain we have no such standards of ethical behaviour, that is another consequence of this war, an epidemic corruption at the heart of the state with no end in sight.

Fight the scum in the BIA- National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

Buried Alive, The Migrant Gulag

What happened today? Was a body discovered, was an actor released from jail, did terror porn aid the announcement of anti-terror measures only necessary because of the war crimes we commit?

But hidden, scheduled so as to be overrun by the big terror announcements, ironically in testimony to our determination to deny the humanity of people in our own country, news of their abuse was ignored. Both the government and the media shared the spade work of putting this story into a shallow grave in the dead of night. The Border and Immigration Agency’s Complaints Audit Committee report seemed to turn up at 11pm on the BBC website, at that time the headline was “Fury over treatment of migrants” (you cannot hide from Google cache- the irony) now the opening has been rewritten emphasising how the system will be changed (and removing some witness quotes of the brutality) and the headline is “Migrant complaint policy shake-up“. It made it into some newspapers but being released late at night so it would quickly be overtaken and obscured by the terror porn is not a coincidence. So why should you pay attention to this report? Because this is not a record of failures it is the exposure of a system publicly claimed to do one thing but is in fact about brutalising people that no one cares about, it is about the migrant gulag-

Because only 8% of complainants were interviewed 89% of investigations were “neither balanced nor thorough”. Consequently 83% of replies were “indefensible”.

Over 20% of paperwork was simply disappeared, hello Mr. Shredder, it’s called destroying evidence.

95% of cases were investigated by the same companies that the complaints were against.

This is no failure, this is no breakdown, this is a system being exposed for doing what it really does while government and private corporations claim mistakes, maybe even bad apples, maybe incompetence. NO. This is a criminal system (7 privately run ‘detention’ centres holding 1,878 people) being brought into the light, it is doing what it is meant to do, all the excuses are made because what it is doing is wrong, criminal and inhumane. No, not ‘glaring errors’ this is intentional, malice aforethought. What this shows is the government’s real instructions to the contractors were this- get rid of these people, keep it cheap, do not get us or yourselves in trouble, get the job done, keep it quiet. The contractors created a system where no person could ever get fair or even reasonable treatment from it, this was Kafka, Orwell. A closed system of incarceration and forced repatriation insulated from British law by walls, barbed wire and internal complaints procedures designed to destroy complaints. What might the nature of these crimes be-

…bundled onto a plane at Heathrow and refused permission to see his lawyer, with the security guards knowing he already had permission to stay in the UK. He struggled and was beaten up in the back of a van… “I was crying, shouting, crying, shouting, then one of his colleagues was very, very aggressive to me… Told me that these black monkeys don’t want to go back to their country.”

serious assaults in privately run immigration centres are not being passed to police because firms believe they will lose lucrative government contracts. “All in all, the immigration service managers have failed in almost every aspect of the laid-down complaints investigation procedures and in some respects, have deliberately ignored these requirements.”

In the past year, only 29% of cases alleging misconduct by named officials and contract staff were handled in time.” 

The report also revealed that of the number of arrest team cases in the past year, none was handled on time, with 89% taking more than the eight-week target and one taking a year.

All the press on immigrants and the government has been in the context of attacks on government handling with the implicit assumptions ‘illegal’ immigrant are bad. This report of the scandalous gulag would be a useful stick to beat the government, but it does damage the ethos of privatisation so not a big favourite subject of corporate media. But the real reason it has been buried alive, it screams out how we do not care about these people, it reveals the nasty hidden cruelty of our dog eat dog culture, it doesn’t just attack the establishment it tells a truth about us- fuck ’em let them be assaulted and treated as subhuman, life’s damn hard as it is, can’t we just buy shiny crap, watch X-idol factor brother jungle (some nice sadism in those, yes we like that). Don’t make us face ourselves, don’t make us wake up.-

So no big mainstream media fuss about this. No arrests, no trials, no corporate manslaughter (perchance), I don’t even think a single one of the contracts have been canceled (after all violent fascist bigots need jobs too…). No better to channel our sentiment (what little is left of our atrophied empathy) into matters we can’t effect, tragedies of the small and personally identifiable. But nothing that might provoke questions of structure, culture, economics, realpolitik, class, race. How we are set up to fight each other lest we recognise the real enemy in the room, that cruelty that hides behind many masks but its end result is always the same, broken, raped and dead bodies.

Not that we would know, in this case the complaints procedure makes sure of that and the report being ignored makes sure we don’t have to worry about it either. No better we cower in fear from the Terrorists!!!!! And support everything we are told to support to make us ‘safe’. While of course the things that would actually make us safe but would inconvenience the established elites must remain forever taboo. Things like respect, compassion, equality and inalienable rights, y’know those silly little things.

Burma Talking

The NLD had a get together at a government ‘guesthouse’-

The meeting with Aung Shwe Lwin and Nyunt Wa, senior executives of the NLD, as well as Nyan Win, was the first face-to-face talks Suu Kyi has held with members of her party since May 2004.

“She is optimistic,”…Nyan Win said Suu Kyi looked “fit, well and energetic like before. She is full of ideas”.

Suu Kyi suggested to her colleagues that the generals could make a healing gesture after September’s unrest by releasing political prisoners. Amnesty International, a UK-based human rights groups, said on that 700 political prisoners in detention in Myanmar, 91 of which were detained iduring the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

However, appearing to concede that she will remain detained for the immediate future, Suu Kyi told her colleagues that she will ask for two liaison officers of her choice to help her communicate with them. She said she will also ask Aung Kyi to make arrangements so that she can see the other party leaders whenever necessary.

…analysts were cautious about the chances of genuine progress being made between the two sides. “My reaction is extreme scepticism that this will lead to real dialogue between her and the [generals], or genuine political change,” Donald M. Seekins of Japan’s Meio University said. “The [government] likes to move Suu Kyi and the NLD around like pieces on a chessboard, to satisfy the international community.”

Here is the full text of Suu Kyi’s statement that was read out on Thursday by Gambari, a key paragraph-

In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the members of my party and in my position as General Secretary, I will be guided by the policies and wishes of the National League for Democracy. However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.

Suu Kyi’s approach is being seen as the most positive and optimistic take on the state of affairs, The Irrawaddy rounds up a broad swathe of reactions and also reports a draft ASEAN human rights charter that upholds a non-interference policy towards Burma-

While espousing human rights and democracy, the draft charter upholds Asean’s bedrock principle barring members from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs—an edict that Burma has invoked to parry criticism of its dismal human rights record. The draft charter also discourages invasions and coups, and aims to safeguard the diverse region from nuclear arms, other weapons of mass destruction and foreign interference, according to a final draft seen by The Associated Press on Friday.

Between the US and China they don’t want to cause too much trouble and some fine words lie beside faint hearted betrayals of people’s self determination, such is diplomacy. A report on internally displaced in Burma finds much ‘coercion’ by the military, forced labour, food shortages, arbitrary taxation and prosecutions of dissenters. Your basic corrupt totalitarian military state. Full pdf here.

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Rumour Of Mass Murder & UNHCR on Burma Refugees

This is from one source and is reported in The Daily Mail, so approach with caution-

Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma’s ruling junta has revealed. The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: “Many more people have been killed in recent days than you’ve heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.” Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand.

And the UNHCR says no refugee increase-

After a month of protests within Myanmar, the country’s borders with Thailand and Bangladesh were still quiet on Monday, with no signs of people fleeing to seek refuge abroad. UN refugee agency staff on Monday visited the Friendship Bridge, a major border crossing at Mae Sot in northern Thailand, open to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. “There does not seem to be any increase in the number of people arriving from Myanmar,” said Alexander Novikau, head of UNHCR’s office in Mae Sot. “We have not seen anything out of the ordinary.”

Things were also quiet on the opposite side of Myanmar, on its border with Bangladesh. “Everything seems calm today,” reported UNHCR Representative in Bangladesh Pia Prytz Phiri from Cox’s Bazar, where the agency runs two camps for 27,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.A government crackdown on protests in the past week has focused attention on Myanmar, South-east Asia’s biggest producer of refugees. At least 200,000 people are refugees in neighbouring countries, many of them in exile for two decades.

“The nine refugee camps in Thailand along the Thai-Myanmar border are full,” said UNHCR Regional Representative Hasim Utkan in Bangkok. “Because of the overcrowded conditions, any new influx of refugees could put pressure on the fragile existing infrastructure in the camps.” The 141,000 Myanmar refugees in camps run by the Thai Ministry of Interior live in cramped bamboo shelters, dependent on UNHCR and non-governmental organizations for protection, food, schooling and health care. The Thai government does not allow them to venture out of the camps for work or higher education.

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