Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

South Asia
CAA

Protests sweep India over citizenship law

India’s northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist government say it therefore violates India’s founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity. (Image: Sowmya Reddy)

North Africa
Libya migrants

UN tells migrants to leave Libya ‘transit center’

The UN says it is unable to help most residents of an overcrowded refugee center in the Libyan capital it once touted as a safe haven. To encourage people to go, it is offering money and aid—and even telling them they won’t be able to register as refugees to leave the war-torn country if they remain. Originally intended as a temporary residence for a small fraction of refugees—just those already vetted by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and scheduled for evacuation or permanent residency in other countries—the Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) now has some 1,150 residents, well over its stated capacity. Most arrived over the last eight months of clashes in Tripoli, including 900 who UNHCR says entered “informally”; some even bribed their way in to escape more oppressive conditions at other facilities run by the Libyan government. But conditions are now rapidly deteriorating at the GDF as well. (Photo of Triq al-Sikka migrant detention center via TNH)

North Africa
Libya migrant center

Controversy at UN migrant facility in Libya

The UN’s holding facility for undocumented migrants in Libya was unveiled last year as an “alternative to detention,” but critics now say it is coming to mirror the notoriously harsh detention centers it was supposed to replace. The facility is overcrowded with nearly 1,200 migrants—about twice the number it was built for—including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Conditions inside are deteriorating fast, and there are accusations that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is planning to force migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers to leave by cutting off food (a claim the agency denies). The people inside are among an estimated 600,000 migrants in Libya, including more than 45,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers. Some have come in search of work, others are hoping to make the incredibly dangerous trip to Europe. Those who risk it are often “rescued” by the Libyan coast guard and returned to land, and end up in the country’s oppressive detention centers—which is among the reasons a recent French plan to give the Libyan coast guard more boats met with strong opposition. (Photo: Sara Creta/MSF via TNH)

South Asia
Gandhi

Podcast: against Narendra Modi’s Gandhi-exploitation

Amid moves toward mass detention of Muslims in Kashmir and Assam, a growing atmosphere of terror, and persecution of government critcs, India’s arch-reactionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi cynically places an op-ed in the New York Times extolling Mohandas Gandhi on his 150th birthday. In Episode 40 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls this out as Orwellian propaganda, and documents the historical reality: Modi is not the inheritor of the tradition of Gandhi, but that of his assassin. Those who assert that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has fascist roots are factually correct. Progressives in recent years have been rethinking the sanctification of Gandhi, and that is one thing. But Modi should not be allowed to get away with wrapping himself in the legacy of a man who was the antithesis of everything he represents. And US political figures like Tulsi Gabbard who pretend to be progressives while embracing the fascistic Modi must be exposed and repudiated. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.. (Photo via Biography.com)

South Asia
Rohingya

Bangladesh: ‘climate of fear’ in Rohingya camps

Rights groups say there’s a “climate of intense fear” in the Bangladesh refugee camps for Rohingya who have fled Burma, following the killings of six refugees by police officers. Police officials say the men were involved in the murder of a local Bangladeshi man and killed in “crossfires”; critics say such language is often used to cover up extrajudicial killings. Tensions in southern Bangladesh have risen over the last two years as the refugee emergency evolves into a long-term crisis. (Photo: UNHCR)

Africa
Giwa barracks

Nigeria: army runs ‘child detention camp’

Human Rights Watch reports that the Nigerian military has been arbitrarily detaining thousands of children, some as young as five years old, for suspected involvement with the armed group Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram. According to HRW, the military often detains children based on little or no evidence. Many children were arrested after fleeing Boko Haram attacks on their villages, or while seeking refuge. Some of the detained girls had been abducted or forced to become Boko Haram “wives.”  Based on interviews with former child detanees, HRW reports that conditions at Giwa military barracks, the main detention facility, are inhumane, with detainess subject to severe overcrowsing and extreme heat. (Photo: Nigeria Today)

North Africa

UN, African Union to evacuate refugees from Libya

The government of Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the African Union signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a transit mechanism for evacuating refugees out of Libya. According to a joint statement, around 4,700 are currently being held in detention centers in Libya and urgently need to be transferred to safety. Under the agreement, refugees and asylum-seekers currently being held in Libya will be transferred to Rwanda on a “voluntary” basis. Evacuees will then either be resettled to third countries, be returned to countries where asylum had previously been granted, be returned to their home countries if it is safe to do so, or be given permission to remain in Rwanda subject to agreement by the competent authorities. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Europe

Scores of Ukrainian detainees remain in Russia

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was among 70 detainees from Russia and Ukraine released in a prisoner swap—35 from each side. Last year, Sentsov spent 145 days on a hunger strike, demanding the release of all Ukrainians held in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea on politically motivated charges. Human Rights in Ukraine decried the fact that, despite the swap, at least 87 Ukrainian political prisoners remain imprisoned in Russia or occupied Crimea, in addition to at least 225 hostages held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region. In light of this reality, the group called the “upbeat noises” in Western media about a “normalization” in Ukrainian-Russian relations “at very least premature.” (Photo via Kyiv Post)

Central Asia

India, China mirror each other in Islamophobia

Well, this is grimly hilarious. Genocide Watch has issued two “warning alerts” for India—one for Kashmir and the other for Assam, with Muslims held to be at grave imminent risk of persecution and mass detention in both. Pakistan’s semi-official media are jumping all over this news, which is hardly surprising. But Pakistan is closely aligned with China due to their mutual rivalry with India, so it is also hardly surprising that Pakistani media have failed to similarly jump on the Genocide Watch report on the Uighurs of Xinjiang—despite the fact that the group categorizes the situation there as “preparation” for genocide, a more urgent level than “warning.” China itself has issued a protest to India over the situation in Kashmir. Delhi shot back that Kashmir is an internal matter. Beijing has been similarly dismissive of India’s protests over the mass detention in Xinjiang.  (Photo via Bitter Winter)

South Asia

Muslims face mass detention in India’s Assam

In the coming days, up to four million Muslims in India’s northeastern state of Assam could find themselves officially stateless, and facing detention or expulsion from the country. Last year, the Assam state government published a National Registry of Citizens—excluding the state’s Muslims, who now have until Aug. 31 to prove their residence in India before a 1971 cut-off point. State authorities are planning huge new detention camps for those deemed aliens. Rights groups are warning of a “Rohingya-like refugee crisis” in the making. Like the Rohingya of Burma, Assam’s Muslims are considered by authorities to be Bangladeshi citizens—yet this citizenship is not recognized by Bangladesh. (Photo via KashmirWatch)

North America

Judge blocks indefinite detention of asylum seekers

A US district court judge ruled that the Department of Homeland Security cannot hold migrants seeking asylum indefinitely as was ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle held that the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act cited by Barr violates the US Constitution. Pechman stated that the plaintiffs in the case have established that asylum seekers have “a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty” and a “right to due process, which includes a hearing.” (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)