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
rohingya girl

Bangladesh denies education to Rohingya children

Human Rights Watch reports that the Bangladesh government is violating the right to education of nearly 400,000 school-age Rohingya refugee children by barring UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs from providing the children with any formal, accredited education. The government’s policy prevents Rohingya from integrating into Bangladeshi society, barring their children from enrolling in schools in local communities outside the camps or taking national school examinations. According to HRW, Bangladesh is violating its obligations to ensure the right to education under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other treaties, and its obligation to the integration of refugee children into national education systems under the Global Compact on Refugees. (Photo: Wikimedia/Shirin Kona)

Central America
Honduras protest

Honduras: uprising against narco-president

Militant protests have swept through Honduras since the conviction by a federal jury in New York of the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández on narco-trafficking charges. Thousands have filled the streets of cities and towns across the Central American country to demand the resignation of Hernández. Protesters have repeatedly blocked traffic arteries, erecting barricades with stones and flaming tires. A police transport truck was set on fire in Tegucigalpa. Opposition leader Salvador Nasralla of the Anticorruption Party has thrown his support behind the protests and called on the security forces to stand down, invoking a “right to insurrection” in Article 3 of the Honduran constitution. (Photo via AMW)

North America
border

Judge blocks Trump border wall funding plans

A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction against President Donald Trump’s proposed plan for funding the border wall, finding that it exceeds executive branch authority under the Appropriations Act. Trump issued a proclamation in February declaring a national emergency on the southern border of the US, as both a humanitarian and security crisis. El Paso County, Tex., and the Border Network for Human Rights sued to challenge the proclamation. Going further than previous rulings against the border wall plans, Judge David Briones specifically declared Trump’s emergency proclamation to be “unlawful.” (Photo: WikiImages via Jurist)

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)

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)

North America

SCOTUS allows enforcement of Trump asylum ban

The US Supreme Court allowed enforcement of a policy that would deny asylum to Central American migrants who pass through another country en route to the US and fail to make a claim for protection there. US District Judge Jon Tigar blocked the new rule in July by issuing a nationwide injunction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later scaled back the order so that it only pertained to Ninth Circuit states, which include California and Arizona. In response to Judge Tigar’s attempt to return his order to its original scope, the Trump administration requested a stay on the injunction. The Supreme Court’s decision to grant the stay authorizes the administration to proceed with nationwide implementation of the policy even though it is still being challenged in the lower courts. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Syria

Erdogan bargains with refugees in Syria land-grab

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Europe if his long-sought “safe zone” in northern Syria is not established. Having recently declared the EU-Turkey deal on refugees struck back in 2016 to be no longer in effect, Erdogan is now using the some 4 million Syrian refugees in his country as a bargaining chip in his dispute with Washington over the size of the military “safe zone.” US Central Command maintains that Kurdish militia forces have withdrawn from the strip along the Turkish border, acquiescing in establishment of the “safe zone.” But the US and Turkey remain at odds over the width of the zone, with Ankara demanding 40 kilometers and Washington insisting on 10.  (Photo via Ahval)

The Caribbean

Protest racist attacks in Dominican Republic

Rights groups throughout the Caribbean are raising the alarm on the persistence of racist attacks in the Dominican Republic, charging they are being actively encouraged by authorities. The wave of attacks on Haitian immigrants and Dominicans of Haitian background has been particularly focused in the region of El Cibao, which has become a center of operations for ultra-right nationalist groups. The mayor of Santiago, Abel Martínez Durán, a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party, has promoted hate campaigns against Haitians. Media outlets amplify the racist and conspiracy-laden speeches of anti-immigrant public figures about a “silent invasion,” continuing a disastrous tradition that began under the long right-wing dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. (Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores via Change.org)