UNHCR calls for mechanism to share migrant burden

United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi attends a press conference on September 10, 2018 in Geneva after his UNHCR/OCHA joint mission visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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UNHCR calls for mechanism to share migrant burden

  • Between 80 and 90 percent of the estimated 68 million refugees globally according to UNHCR figures were “in poor countries or have few resources

ROME: Outgoing UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has appealed for the creation of a clear mechanism for European states to share the burden of migrants rescued at sea rather than work on a case by case basis.
Those arriving “must be shared around Europe. There must be a foreseeable mechanism. We cannot deal on a boat-by-boat basis,” the UN refugee chief told a news conference after two days of talks with authorities in his native Italy.
Italy has closed its ports to NGOs rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and has been increasingly reluctant to take in those brought to shore in its own vessels, making reception conditional on those brought to shore being offloaded to other EU states.
“We are not talking about incredible figures — if Libya can deal with a million refugees then Europe can manage a few tens of thousands,” Grandi said.
He added that between 80 and 90 percent of the estimated 68 million refugees globally according to UNHCR figures were “in poor countries or have few resources.”
Grandi added that Europe faced a “long battle” in reaching common ground on how to deal with the migrant issue but should cooperate in so far as possible and use the expected drop in numbers over the winter to draw up a coherent strategy.
In the meantime he added that the priority should be ensuring migrants reached the “nearest safe port.”
That could not, he stressed, be Libya given that conditions in some reception camps there were “abominable, unacceptable.”
Grandi said he was also concerned at the lack of rescue boats of Libya, be they humanitarian or military which meant not just less people brought ashore but also “more deaths.”
Grandi further warned against politicians using intemperate language when discussing the migrant issue, urging that “the language of politics must not a create a space for abuse and violence of a racist character.”
On Monday, new UN rights head Michelle Bachelet announced a new team would be heading to Italy to monitor “a signalled strong increase” in racist violence, something which Italy’s far right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denied.
Salvini said that Italy had in recent years accepted 700,000 immigrants, “including many illegals, and never got any help from other European countries.”


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”