European Union Admits Most Migrants Are NOT Actually Refugees…

Any time the European Union is involved in a story, you can bet it’s probably going to be gutter worthy. See European Union Says “Europe NEEDS More Migrants.” Yes Really… and European Union Plans to Fine Countries… For Refusing Refugees. But this time the league of freedom-hating Euro trash dialed down the crazy a bit […]

YouTube Launches #MoreThanARefugee Campaign. It Backfires Magnificently…

YouTube enjoys mixing virtue signaling with creativity in its holier than thou campaigns. Its audience? Not so much (see Whoops! YouTube’s Pro-LGBT Campaign Hilariously Flops). The audience/video creator divide is becoming more apparent as YouTube exploits its platform. As evidenced in this video. As per the description: YouTube Creators for Change is a new initiative from YouTube dedicated to amplifying […]

For Trump, ‘World Refugee Day’ means other countries should take care of vulnerable populations

The U.S. government’s rhetoric doesn’t match our international commitments.

A South Sudanese refugee boy plays with a ball made from plastic bags and string in Bidi Bidi refugee camp in northern Uganda, June 3, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

The Trump administration’s statements on World Refugee Day are the epitome of hypocrisy.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of State put out a short statement stressing the country’s financial commitment towards humanitarian assistance. The statement also called the United States a “leader in supporting refugees.”

“The overwhelming majority of refugees want to go home to help rebuild their societies once the violence has stopped,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in his statement. “As the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance the United States is a leader in supporting refugees and addressing causes of forced displacement.”

In a more personalized statement, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said her role as both a wife and mother has made her understand that Syrian parents want safety for their children. She later stressed refugees and host countries “can continue to count on the United States to lead.”

“The United States gives more humanitarian aid than any other country, but money alone is not enough — we must also work to end the conflicts that drive these people from their homes, while tearing apart their countries,” Ambassador Haley said in her statement. “We have lots of work to do at the UN, but the world’s refugees and the countries that host them should know they can continue to count on the United States to lead.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump has yet to release a public statement on World Refugee Day, like former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took an “America First” approach during a press conference, saying the White House would work to create “safe zones” for refugees to safely return. But Spicer emphasized President Donald Trump’s “number-one goal” is “to make sure that people coming into this country are doing so through peaceful means.”

It’s true that the United States gives more humanitarian aid toward refugee assistance than any other county, making it the top donor. But the Trump administration’s public statements don’t fully reveal how the country has otherwise forcefully rejected attempts to help refugees through other forms of assistance and are now asking the rest of the world to take care of vulnerable populations.

Just one week after Trump took office, he signed a controversial executive order stopping both travel from some countries with predominantly Muslim populations and suspending the entire refugee resettlement program for 120 days. That executive order, and a second, revised executive order, aimed to “realign,” or cut the number of refugee admissions into the United States to 50,000 people from the 110,000 designation set by former President Obama.

In May, the Trump administration submitted to Congress the 2018 fiscal year budget, which cut refugee resettlement funding by 11 percent. At the time, Hari Sastry, the Department of State Director at the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, said the United States would “refocus our efforts into those areas that are closely aligned with the President’s priorities and also asking the rest of the world to step up and do a little bit more than they have in the past.”

Currently, 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, with 22 million people registered as refugees in a host country. The sheer number of people on the run has meant that there are now more people displaced than after World War II.


For Trump, ‘World Refugee Day’ means other countries should take care of vulnerable populations was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

These four Italian towns are thriving thanks to refugees

Once-sparsely populated towns have revived populations and economies.

Italian Coastguard, children, volunteers and officials take part in a symbolic rescue of paper boats to send a message to the G7 leaders to take action to safeguard children on the move off a beach in Palermo, Italy, on May 25, 2017. CREDIT: Salvatore Cavalli/AP Images for UNICEF

This World Refugee Day, a massive 65.6 million people are displaced worldwide. That’s 20 new displaced people every minute. Many of the displaced undertake perilous journeys by land or sea in search of dignity, safety, and more stable lives.

Europe has been a main destination for many people fleeing war in Asia and Africa. The European response has been mixed. Thousands have greeted the newcomers with open arms and open homes, unfurling “Refugees Welcome” banners, and providing their time and expertise to help their new neighbors settle. Others, however, have actively opposed refugee resettlement, and various European populist movements have hooked onto anti-immigrant settlement in attempts to attract voters.

But in the face of darkness, a few Italian towns have shown an alternative path. Their stories are not of pure selflessness, but of showing how refugees and immigrants can revitalize dying towns.

Many Italian towns, particularly in the Calabria region, are on the verge of extinction. Populations and birthrates are rapidly dropping. To keep their historic towns alive and allow the aging residents to keep going, a few mayors and good samaritans have began training and resettling refugees.

On World Refugee Day, here are four places in Italy thriving thanks to refugees:

Riace

The mayor of the Calabrian town of Riace, Domenico Lucano, was named one of Fortune Magazine’s top 50 global leaders in 2016 for his work receiving refugees. Riace was practically a ghost town 15 years ago. Many of the residents had fled north or abroad in search of employment.

In 1998, Lucano noticed something. “There were people without a house here, and there were houses without people here,” he told the BBC. “It’s simple.”

The town offers housing and training to refugees. Around 450 immigrants live in the town hailing from around 20 different countries. And due to the longevity and success of Lucano’s plan, Riace is now a multicultural town with Italians (first and second generation) from an array of backgrounds.

“[He had] a long-term vision of rejuvenating his area and showed leadership to help his new residents feel welcome,” Manos Moschopoulos, of the Open Society Initiative for Europe, told the BBC. “Riace’s model offers migrants the ability to participate in their new society, free from the extreme economic and social pressures many have faced as they tried to earn enough to sustain themselves. Migrants are then able to focus on inclusion, learning the local language, interacting with locals and getting the skills they need to build a better future for themselves.”

Camini

Just one town over from Riace, Camini’s glory days were 50 years ago. The once populous town was depopulated by poverty and unemployment. And, unlike Riace, Camini’s revival was something of an accident.

“We never thought it would be like a resource for us,” Rosaria Zulzolo, the initiative’s leader, told Al-Jazeera. “We just wanted to receive people who were running away from war and offering them hospitality. And in this hospitality, we saw that shopkeepers were selling more goods, more work was being created.”

The town’s population was about 280 before refugees began resettling here. Now, Camini has accepted around 80 newcomers from the Middle East and Africa.

Palermo

he capital city of the autonomous Sicilian region, Palermo is much larger than both Riace and Camini. Mayor Leoluca Orlando, who became famous for fighting the mafia and winning, has gained recent plaudits for welcoming rescued migrant ships in his city’s harbor.

Orlando has been one of the most prominent voices in support of aiding refugees.

“People have the right to move in search for a better life,” Orlando told the Guardian. “When your life is at stake because your country is at war, you are welcome. But when you’re dying because you have nothing to eat, you are left out in the cold. That makes no sense at all. Economic migrants are the most vulnerable because they don’t have the right to a residence permit.”

He said refugees are forced to put themselves in such harrowing situations because Europe’s support is lacking.

“People from Syria are supposed to have the right to live in Europe, but they are not given that right. They can’t travel by plane. We make them pay thousands of dollars to smugglers and risk their lives.”

Before the refugees began resettling Palermo, parts of the city’s historic quarters had sat empty. With rent so cheap, immigrants from Bangladesh and Africa moved in. As many Italians have left Palermo in search of higher paying jobs, immigrants have taken their place. In the last ten years, around 29,000 natives of Palermo have left the town. But the number of immigrants has nearly doubled to 30,000.

“Many parts of the historical center of Palermo had been empty for 30 years,” Juan Diego Catalano Ugdulena, a city councilman, told the Huffington Post. “The city had lost its identity. Now they are making it alive again.”

Satriano

This small town in Italy’s “boot” once boasted a population of around 3,800 residents. That was the 1950s though, and today the population has eroded to around 1,000. When Italy began witnessing high numbers of refugees land on their shores, the local mayor saw an opportunity for growth.

“The presence of refugees can be an opportunity to repopulate the town,” Satriano Mayor Michele Drosi told Citiscope. “It can create a virtuous cycle.”

The town began helping refugees with temporary housing, job placement, and asylum applications. The program is still small, but has been praised as a model that other towns could use.

Carmine Battaglia, president of the local association of seniors, said many residents could relate to their new neighbors. “Who better than us, who left town because of poverty as young workers, to understand the pain of those people fleeing wars and persecutions?”


These four Italian towns are thriving thanks to refugees was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Forced displacement at record levels on World Refugee Day

This year, 65.6 million people are displaced across the globe.

South Sudanese refugee children play on swings in Bidi Bidi, Uganda, Monday, June 5, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

By E.A. Crunden and Esther Yu Hsi Lee

This World Refugee Day, a record 65.6 million people worldwide are displaced in part due to war, famine, and political upheaval. Of those, roughly 22.5 million have registered as refugees in a host country, according to a United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report out this week.

In its report, the U.N. found that Syria, currently in the midst of a civil war, led with the highest total number of refugees fleeing. Meanwhile, an end to peace efforts in South Sudan has led to 737,400 people fleeing the country — the fastest growing displacement of people in the world.

With millions fleeing from volatile situations around the globe, many Western countries like the United States remain staunchly opposed to resettling refugees within their borders. Between October 2016 and early June 2017, 46,835 refugees were resettled in the United States. But the future of refugee resettlement is in question, with President Donald Trump’s 2018 fiscal year budget aiming to cut 31 percent from refugee resettlement programs, and legislation like the Muslim ban further targeting those seeking asylum and sanctuary.

But this legislation won’t stop desperate people from leaving their homes in search of safety. Here are the top five countries people are fleeing and why:

Afghanistan

Security forces stand next to a crater created by massive explosion in front of the German Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 31, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Suffering under the weight of decades of war, Afghanistan’s refugee crisis is years in the making. Ripped apart by the former Soviet Union as well as various Western powers, including the British Empire and the United States, Afghanistan has also experienced civil war and severe problems with militancy and extremism. Worsening the situation is the repressive and brutal Taliban, which has terrorized Afghan civilians and forced many to flee their homes. Millions of Afghans are internally displaced, while many more have sought asylum in Europe. A large number also live in Pakistan and Iran, Afghanistan’s neighbors.

Complicating the issue is Afghanistan’s strained relationship with neighboring Pakistan, which has hosted Afghan refugees for much of the last 40 years. Until recently, Pakistan held around 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees, with another million believed to be without documentation, many of whom live in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. But following a border clash with Afghanistan in 2016, the Pakistani government has begun cracking down, refusing to register new refugees and working to send many back over the border. Some 606,905 refugees were repatriated to Afghanistan in 2016 from Pakistan according to UNHCR — the highest number since 2005.

Fear of being sent back dominates life for many Afghan refugees, with good reason. Despite the best efforts of its citizens, Afghanistan remains in a state of war, experiencing daily bombings and attacks. While numerous reports have challenged the Western view of Afghanistan as bleak and lifeless, it’s still far from safe. That reality is one some countries are grappling with — including Germany, whose forced repatriation of Afghans has drawn protests and censure.

Sayed Aliraza, an Afghan refugee who spoke with the New York Times in 2015, expressed frustration with approaches like Germany’s.

“I understand — the government of Germany doesn’t have place for refugees,” Aliraza said. “But we are also human. We don’t have any security there [in Afghanistan]. That is the reality. Afghanistan is not secure, and the government of Germany knows this.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan has seen an uptick in violence recently. In May, at least 80 people were killed and hundreds wounded when a bomb went off in Kabul — an attack that came only a month after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed on a military base in the country’s northern region. Smaller-scale attacks have occurred on a weekly basis as well; on Sunday, a suicide bomber in eastern Afghanistan killed at least six police officers.

Somalia

Somalis carry away the body of a civilian who was killed in a car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, Tuesday, June 20, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh

Somalia has continuously been in turmoil because of its civil war that began in 1991. Since that time, more than 1 million people have left the country while another million are internally displaced. Roughly 3 million people in the country are at risk of starvation from a widespread food shortage, according to the United Nations.

In March, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared a state of disaster because of severe drought, which has affected 6.2 million people living in the country. That month, 110 people died from famine and diarrhea in the south of the country, with Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire urging Somalis “wherever they are to help and save the dying.” Because of unsanitary conditions in camps build by internally displaced people, sanitation facilities have been inadequate and have led to outbreaks of cholera.

Particularly in rural southwestern Somalia, people face incalculable danger in accessing basic necessities because these areas are controlled by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which regularly attacks federal government forces in Somalia. In the capital of Mogadishu, at least ten people died during a car bomb attack on Tuesday, days after a suicide bomber attacked a hotel and killed 31 people. Al-Shabab militants also attacked a military base earlier this month and killed upwards of 61 soldiers, following similar assaults on bases in Somalia and nearby Kenya.

Since the beginning of this year, 2,855 Somalis have escaped westward to Ethiopia. Many underestimate how long it takes to get to neighboring countries and starve to death along the way. Kenya, which has threatened to close two of its biggest refugee camps holding an estimated 492,046 Somali refugees, has already sent back 65,000 people to Somalia, citing potential economic and security reasons as its rationale. The Kenyan government issued a directive giving Somalis until May 2017 to return, but an eleventh-hour ruling by the Kenyan High Court in February blocked the order for the camps closures. In his decision, a high court judge nulled and voided the directive, saying it violates Kenya’s responsibility to people in vulnerable situations.

“We left Somalia and crossed the border because of the drought,” Kula Ali, a man who left Somalia with his wife and seven children for Ethiopia, told the International Organization for Migration. “It took us two days by minibus to get to the border. We had to pay a big amount and the vehicle was full of people and we only brought a small amount of food and water with us,” Ali said of the exhausting journey.

Syria

A man surveys damage at the mountain resort town of Zabadani in the Damascus countryside, Syria, on May 18, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Syria has been in the midst of a devastating civil war since 2011. Dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime is engaged in an ongoing stalemate with various rebel factions, in addition to ISIS, a militant group that has targeted both sides of the war.

Caught in the middle, Syrian civilians have suffered unthinkable atrocities, forcing half of the country’s population to leave their homes and flee. According to UNHCR, there are at least 6.3 million internally displaced Syrians, with 13.5 million in need more generally, and 4.53 million in besieged and hard-to-reach areas. As of 2017, at least 5 million Syrians have left the country.

But that’s just within the region — International Rescue Committee has contested the 5 million number, arguing that it overlooks the 1.2 million Syrian refugees currently seeking asylum in Europe.

Life in Syria under war has been called “worse than death,” with bombs reigning down on neighborhoods and necessities like food, water, and medicine running scarce. After six years of war, life has come to a standstill for many, leaving residents traumatized and unable to carry on with their lives. Essa Essa, a 27-year-old NGO field projects officer, described the situation to Fox News in April.

“All the time, you will be afraid of aircraft and you don’t know when one will strike. You will be afraid when your children go to play or when they go to school that they won’t come home. You will not be safe in your house, maybe the regime bombed your house,” Essa said. “You know that maybe you will die when you walk in the street or go to pray in a mosque. You wonder if you will die when you try to buy something for your children to eat, or your babies won’t wake up or you won’t wake up to see your babies grow up. It’s hard to find work, it’s hard to find medications. People suffer in every way.”

Most Syrian refugees are concentrated in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where many live below the poverty line and lack access to financial resources. But while Turkey currently hosts 3 million Syrian refugees, it is a larger country than its neighbors. By contrast, Jordan, a country of about 7 million people, hosts 656,000, while Lebanon, with a million Syrian refugees, has a population of fewer than 6 million.

Despite the strain on other countries, Western nations remain split on approaching the crisis, with countries like Poland and Hungary working to avoid taking in refugees, while leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have advocated for taking in more. U.S. President Donald Trump has made his stance on the issue clear, working to ban Syrian refugees from the United States and accusing Syrians of posing a threat to U.S. citizens.

“We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” Trump said while signing the original Muslim ban that put an indefinite hold on the resettlement of Syrian refugees. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”

South Sudan

Displaced South Sudanese look on in South Sudan’s largest camp for the internally-displaced, in Bentiu, South Sudan Sunday, June 18, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Sam Mednick

South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, has been beset by violence since 2013 two years after it broke away from Sudan in a referendum vote in 2011. As of December 2016, one in four people in the country have been forcibly displaced. People are fleeing South Sudan due to growing famine and drought conditions. Donor countries have failed to raise $1.4 billion the UNHCR said was needed to respond to refugee support as the country faces a desperate lack of basic services, shelter, food, and accommodations.

The humanitarian crisis has only gotten worse since armed clashes broke out in the capital of Juba in July 2016, with conflict spreading to other areas. In 2016, more than 779,000 South Sudanese people registered as refugees in other countries, according to United Nations data, with more than 281,000 new displacements in areas previously considered stable. There are currently more than 900,000 South Sudanese living in the host country of Uganda, which says it faces a $2 billion funding shortfall to accommodate these refugees. In total, as of March 2017, more than 1.7 million South Sudanese refugees have fled to the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five, told UNHCR staff at a temporary way station in Ethiopia. She fled her home country with five children after soldiers set fire to her village and killed five of her relatives.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Policemen drive past burning debris during protests in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 20, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/John Bompengo

Two decades of war, famine, and disease have not abated in a country where recent political insecurity and violent clashes have riled ethnic tensions.

In spite of a New Year’s Eve pact to hold elections this year, President Joseph Kabila has refused to step down, a decision that has led to violent protests across the country. The Congolese president rose to power in 2001 after his father President Laurent Kabila was assassinated, and has served two consecutive terms since then.

An estimated 30,000 people have fled to neighboring Angola in part due to the deadly violence that broke out in the postponement of presidential elections. On top of that, 922,000 people were internally displaced within the DRC last year, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre report, granting it the grim distinction of being the country with the highest number of internally displaced people thanks to conflict.

Particularly in the North and South Kivu region of the country, people have to deal with internecine conflicts between armed groups. Last year, humanitarian efforts were hampered by the closure of five displacement camps. The Congolese government justified the camps’ closures by saying parts of North Kivu are stable and that some camps have become hotspots for anti-government rebels. But newly arrived refugees are mostly coming from the Kasai province, where they are at risk of “physical mutilation, killing, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention in inhumane conditions,” according to the United Nations. From August 2016 to April 2017, UN investigators have found upwards of 40 mass graves in the country.

In a major health setback, the World Health Organization said two outbreaks of polio — with at least four cases — were found in the country in June, with “further national spread of these strains to be high, and the risk of international spread to be medium.”

“DRC is the world’s most forgotten crisis,” Ulrika Blom, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in DRC, said. “Humanitarian needs here are immense. But despite over 7 million people needing aid, the US$813 million international aid appeal is only 20 per cent funded.”


Forced displacement at record levels on World Refugee Day was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

In rare victory, Australia will pay $53 million to refugees in abuse case

“Money can’t bring back my four years I spent in hell,” one refugee said.

Protestors against asylum seekers being deported, gather for a rally in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 4, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rob Griffith

Thousands of people have suffered under Australia’s harsh detention and immigration policies. Now, the country is paying — a lot. In a settlement decision with 1,905 claimants detained on Manus, a Papuan island where Australia holds migrants and refugees, Australia’s government has agreed to pay AUS$70 million (or, US$53 million) in one of the largest human rights class action settlements in Australian history.

“The people detained on Manus Island have endured extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence,” Andrew Baker, an attorney for the detainees, said in a statement, going on to detail the persecution and violence many of the refugees had faced prior to their arrival, only to be met with further abuse on Manus. “This was a long battle for social justice, but we hope that today’s result, and the three years of work preceding it, helps to ensure the voices of the Manus Island detainees have finally been heard.”

Members of the suit, detainees held on Manus between November 2012 and May 2016, say they were mistreated and falsely imprisoned by the Australian government. But Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton asserted that, despite the settlement, Australia “strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings.” Dutton emphasized that the decision to settle was a “prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers,” and would avoid an even more costly legal battle.

While the settlement will benefit the suit’s claimants, several refugees interviewed said that the money was little consolation.

“Money can’t bring back my four years I spent in hell,” one refugee told BuzzFeed. “We didn’t make this dangerous journey to get money or a luxury life, we just fled our home land to protect our life from danger. This injustice can not be undone with money to cover this awful history.”

Majid Kamasaee, a refugee from Iran and the case’s lead plaintiff, said the abuse he faced on Manus worsened a childhood injury and caused him physical agony.

“This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island,” Kamasaee said in a statement. “I was severely burned in a fire when I was a child, and needed more than 30 operations, including skin grafts. When I arrived on Manus they confiscated my medicine. Every day in the harsh sun my skin felt like it was on fire.”

He also noted his concern for those still on Manus. “The way we were treated at the Manus Island Detention Centre was degrading and cruel, but sadly, many of my friends are still there,” he said. “Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard and I hope everyone’s suffering can be over as quickly as possible.”

Majid Kamasaee was severely burnt as a child. At #ManusIsland his medicines were confiscated. He recounts his initial days in a statement. https://t.co/38wcPaZ4he

 — @SlaterGordon

Australia’s inhumane attitudes towards refugees are nothing new. Australia has long held refugees in a number of detention centers, the most infamous of which are on Manus and Nauru, an island country in Micronesia. Human rights organizations say refugees face appalling treatment at the centers, with many resorting to self-harm as a coping mechanism. A report from Amnesty International in October 2016 found that disintegrating mental health was leading many refugees to kill themselves — exactly the sort of pattern that prompted detainees to sue.

Still, the Australian government has maintained its immigration policies are humane. Following a 2015 UN report on Australian human rights abuses towards asylum seekers, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asserted that Australians were “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations,” dismissing claims of abuse. (Just two months earlier, more than 200 refugees on Manus had gone on hunger strike to protest their conditions.)

Under former President Barack Obama, the United States agreed to take 1,250 refugees from Manus and other Australian detention centers. In February, Trump clashed with Australian Turnbull over the topic, later taking to Twitter and labeling the plan a “dumb deal” in addition to incorrectly labeling the refugees as “illegal immigrants.”

Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Despite Trump’s response, his administration is still set to honor the deal — meaning more than a few of the claimants Australia must pay are likely to wind up in the United States. In return, Australia has agreed to settle refugees from the Central American Northern Triangle — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The exchange is part of the original agreement made under the Obama administration.

As for refugees left on Manus, their future is uncertain. With the island’s detention center scheduled to close this October, detainees were recently told to “consider your options” by an immigration official, who added, “no one will be resettled in Australia.”


In rare victory, Australia will pay $53 million to refugees in abuse case was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

In rare victory, Australia will pay $53 million to refugees in abuse case

“Money can’t bring back my four years I spent in hell,” one refugee said.

Protestors against asylum seekers being deported, gather for a rally in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 4, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rob Griffith

Thousands of people have suffered under Australia’s harsh detention and immigration policies. Now, the country is paying — a lot. In a settlement decision with 1,905 claimants detained on Manus, a Papuan island where Australia holds migrants and refugees, Australia’s government has agreed to pay AUS$70 million (or, US$53 million) in one of the largest human rights class action settlements in Australian history.

“The people detained on Manus Island have endured extremely hostile conditions, but they will no longer suffer in silence,” Andrew Baker, an attorney for the detainees, said in a statement, going on to detail the persecution and violence many of the refugees had faced prior to their arrival, only to be met with further abuse on Manus. “This was a long battle for social justice, but we hope that today’s result, and the three years of work preceding it, helps to ensure the voices of the Manus Island detainees have finally been heard.”

Members of the suit, detainees held on Manus between November 2012 and May 2016, say they were mistreated and falsely imprisoned by the Australian government. But Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton asserted that, despite the settlement, Australia “strongly refutes and denies the claims made in these proceedings.” Dutton emphasized that the decision to settle was a “prudent outcome for Australian taxpayers,” and would avoid an even more costly legal battle.

While the settlement will benefit the suit’s claimants, several refugees interviewed said that the money was little consolation.

“Money can’t bring back my four years I spent in hell,” one refugee told BuzzFeed. “We didn’t make this dangerous journey to get money or a luxury life, we just fled our home land to protect our life from danger. This injustice can not be undone with money to cover this awful history.”

Majid Kamasaee, a refugee from Iran and the case’s lead plaintiff, said the abuse he faced on Manus worsened a childhood injury and caused him physical agony.

“This case is not just about me, it is about every person who has been trapped on Manus Island,” Kamasaee said in a statement. “I was severely burned in a fire when I was a child, and needed more than 30 operations, including skin grafts. When I arrived on Manus they confiscated my medicine. Every day in the harsh sun my skin felt like it was on fire.”

He also noted his concern for those still on Manus. “The way we were treated at the Manus Island Detention Centre was degrading and cruel, but sadly, many of my friends are still there,” he said. “Our voices have never been listened to, but today we are finally being heard and I hope everyone’s suffering can be over as quickly as possible.”

Majid Kamasaee was severely burnt as a child. At #ManusIsland his medicines were confiscated. He recounts his initial days in a statement. https://t.co/38wcPaZ4he

 — @SlaterGordon

Australia’s inhumane attitudes towards refugees are nothing new. Australia has long held refugees in a number of detention centers, the most infamous of which are on Manus and Nauru, an island country in Micronesia. Human rights organizations say refugees face appalling treatment at the centers, with many resorting to self-harm as a coping mechanism. A report from Amnesty International in October 2016 found that disintegrating mental health was leading many refugees to kill themselves — exactly the sort of pattern that prompted detainees to sue.

Still, the Australian government has maintained its immigration policies are humane. Following a 2015 UN report on Australian human rights abuses towards asylum seekers, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asserted that Australians were “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations,” dismissing claims of abuse. (Just two months earlier, more than 200 refugees on Manus had gone on hunger strike to protest their conditions.)

Under former President Barack Obama, the United States agreed to take 1,250 refugees from Manus and other Australian detention centers. In February, Trump clashed with Australian Turnbull over the topic, later taking to Twitter and labeling the plan a “dumb deal” in addition to incorrectly labeling the refugees as “illegal immigrants.”

Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!

 — @realDonaldTrump

Despite Trump’s response, his administration is still set to honor the deal — meaning more than a few of the claimants Australia must pay are likely to wind up in the United States. In return, Australia has agreed to settle refugees from the Central American Northern Triangle — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The exchange is part of the original agreement made under the Obama administration.

As for refugees left on Manus, their future is uncertain. With the island’s detention center scheduled to close this October, detainees were recently told to “consider your options” by an immigration official, who added, “no one will be resettled in Australia.”


In rare victory, Australia will pay $53 million to refugees in abuse case was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

ENOUGH! Austria Fights Islam, Proposes Burqa Ban, ‘Integration’ Law…

There’s a pattern among countries riddled with refugees. Usually suckness in the form of terrorism and child rape. After tolerating so many Islamic migrants, many nations end up considering a burqa ban of some kind. France tried it (see France Fights Islam by Banning Burkinis). Even Germany has made promises to enforce one (see FED […]