US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

1 / 3
Pro-migrants activists demonstrate next to US border patrol agents against US migration policies near the US-Mexico border fence at Imperial beach in San Diego county, US, as seen from Playas de Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on December 10, 2018. (AFP)
2 / 3
A girl waves to a young man watching from Mexican territory who said he was her cousin, as a group of Honduran asylum seekers is taken into custody by US Border Patrol agents after the group crossed the US border wall into San Diego, California, seen from Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. (AP)
3 / 3
A man holds his hands in the air in front of a line of Border Patrol agents during a protest Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in San Diego. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2018

US arrests religious leaders, activists at border protest

  • US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case

SAN DIEGO : Kneeling in front of riot police, 32 religious leaders and activists were arrested at the US border fence in San Diego on Monday during a protest to support the Central American migrant caravan.
More than 400 demonstrators, many leaders of churches, mosques, synagogues and indigenous communities, sought a halt to detention and deportation of migrants and for the United States to welcome the caravan that arrived in Tijuana, Mexico in November.
Singing and praying, religious leaders moved forward in lines of four to six, some wearing T-shirts reading, “Love Knows No Borders.” They were handcuffed and led away by federal agents upon entering a restricted area in front of the fence.
“As a Quaker who believes in our shared humanity...We’re calling on the US to respect the rights of migrants,” said Joyce Ajlouny, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, which has run a week of actions to back migrants.
US Border Patrol spokesman Theron Francisco said 31 people were arrested by Federal Protective Services for trespassing and one was arrested by Border Patrol for assaulting an agent.
The arrests marked the second confrontation with US authorities since the caravan reached Tijuana. US Border Patrol agents fired tear gas at migrants on Nov. 25 after they said they had stones thrown at them.
Thousands of migrants are living in crowded shelters and encampments in Tijuana after traveling from Central America to escape poverty and violence. They may have to wait weeks or months to claim asylum at the US border.
Data released on Monday by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) showed asylum claims at the US-Mexico border rose 67 percent in the 2018 fiscal year from a year earlier.
US immigration officials say these claims, most of which are accepted, exploit a legal loophole allowing migrants to enter the United States while they await a court hearing on their asylum case.
“As the majority of these claims will not be successful when they are adjudicated by an immigration court, we need Congress to act to address these vulnerabilities,” CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said in a statement.
Protest leaders said President Donald Trump had portrayed the caravan as a security threat to advance his “anti-immigrant” agenda and further restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum.
A US judge in November blocked Trump’s proclamation to bar migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally from seeking asylum.


Afghan writer’s book of poems gives voice to refugees stranded in Indonesia

Updated 28 February 2020

Afghan writer’s book of poems gives voice to refugees stranded in Indonesia

  • The book is titled after the red ribbon Haidari untied from his dead sister’s hair while fleeing an attack on his village

JAKARTA: An Afghan writer who fled war to Indonesia six years ago has penned a book of poems giving voice to the plight of his fellow refugees.

“The Red Ribbon,” by Abdul Samad Haidari, tells the story of asylum-seekers stranded in Indonesia and their protracted wait for resettlement to a third country.

Launched on Sunday, the book is titled after the red ribbon Haidari untied from his dead sister’s hair while fleeing an attack on his village, Dahmarda, in the Arghandab district of Zabul province.

Having worked as a freelance journalist in his country, Haidari, of Hazara ethnicity, told Arab News he had sought solace in poetry when he realized there was little else he could do while a refugee in Indonesia.

He described the book’s publication as a miracle, given the challenges and limitations he has faced.

“It took me more than five years to complete it, with persistence, faith, sweat, tears, and an empty stomach in a humid room some 60 km away from Jakarta, in a remote village,” he said during a launch event at a cultural center in Jakarta.

The poems chronicle Haidari’s life and the circumstances on the night he fled his home to Indonesia, where he has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness and separation.

One of his verses, titled “Dedication to evergreen Indonesia,” is a tribute to the country which for the past seven years has given him shelter. Indonesia’s arms were “warmer than the arms of those who had thrown me out of my hometown,” the poem reads.

Writer and author Carissa Finneren described the poems as “honest and raw,” while poet Ruby Astari told Arab News that she hoped Haidari would become the voice of fellow Afghan refugees and those who were oppressed.

Haidari arrived in Indonesia in 2014 and in 2016 was granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which makes him eligible for resettlement to a third country.

He is one of some 14,000 refugees — more than half of them from Afghanistan — registered with the UNHCR office in Indonesia, who have been waiting for years to be resettled.

Indonesia acts as a transit country, as it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Its national laws bar refugees and asylum seekers from working. Some of them have access to basic education and healthcare, although very limited.

Their wait has been stretched further as countries that are party to the convention have reduced their refugee intake. Australia, which used to be the main destination for asylum seekers transiting in Indonesia, froze its resettlement program on July 1, 2014.

“The book is a much-needed manifestation of what refugees bring to the world when they are allowed to, encouraged to, given space and opportunities to do so,” said Ann Mayman, UNHCR representative in Indonesia.

Afghanistan’s ambassador to Indonesia, Faizullah Zaki Ibrahimi, said the poems made readers feel the pain of a generation that had suffered due to Afghanistan’s long and deadly conflict.

A new hope, the ambassador said, was sparked by a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, which has been in place since Saturday, ahead of an expected peace agreement between the US and the Taliban. If extended, it could eventually lead to peaceful dialogue and eliminate the main cause of Afghans seeking refuge around the world, the envoy added.

“We hope that someday peace comes back to Afghanistan and democracy thrives.”