Thailand expels 4,000 Hmong refugees

The New York Times reports that in “a quick, one-day operation, Thai soldiers with riot shields and clubs evicted more than 4,000 Hmong asylum seekers from a holding center Monday and forcibly repatriated them to Laos, where they say they face retribution from their government.”

Thailand acted despite protests from the United Nations and human rights groups. Even as the soldiers were trucking the Hmong over the Mekong River into Laos, the United States government was calling on the Thai government to stop.

The Washington Post reports that

the officer in charge of the operation said 2,100 of the camp residents had agreed to leave voluntarily and the army was trying to persuade the rest. But the Thai government has blocked media and international access to the camp and mobile telephone signals in it, making it difficult to independently confirm that information.

The migrants say they are at risk from persecution by the Laos government if they return there. Many were soldiers or family members of soldiers — the so-called “forgotten allies”– who decades ago fought in a secret army set up by the United States to combat the communist insurgents who eventually took over the country in 1975.

Read the WP story here.

Read the NYT story here.

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Asylum seekers testify to life in Libya

Jesuit Refugee Service Malta released the following statement to mark International Migrants Day Dec. 18:

“Does the international community know about this, what is happening here? This is what we used to ask each other when we were in prison in Libya.” – Asad, an asylum seeker in Malta

Since May 2009, some 1409 migrants, attempting to reach a place where they could obtain protection or the possibility to live in safety and dignity, were pushed back to Libya.

These actions were widely criticized and held by many to be a violation of international law, as Libya does not have the mechanisms in place to grant protection to those who need it and there is evidence that those returned would be at risk of harm.

“International Migrants Day is a good time to ask ourselves whether we are fully aware of the possible consequences of these actions for the people concerned. We believe that many who see this as a quick solution to the pressures that Malta is facing would think differently if they knew about the treatment that migrants face there,” said JRS Malta Director, Fr. Joseph Cassar, S.J.
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Colombian refugees adrift in undocumented limbo in Venezuela

InterPress Service reports

Peasants fleeing Colombia’s armed conflict are still trickling into Venezuela, joining the multitude who in the last seven years have requested refugee status and an identity document to help them rebuild their lives in their new country.

One problem is that “we are not out of reach here of the forces fighting in Colombia,” Laura (not her real name), a candy seller at a spot between Guasdualito and El Nula, two settlements in the border zone with Colombia in southwestern Venezuela about 650 km from Caracas, told IPS.

In 2005, Laura and the father of her third daughter, now five years old, managed a small restaurant in Vichada, a province in eastern Colombia near the Orinoco river, which was then controlled by the leftwing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), when suddenly the area was overrun by far-right paramilitary militias.

“Neither side tolerates people having any connection with the other. That time about 15 people were killed. I came to Venezuela with my three children, my partner fled and joined the FARC. We split up. Now he wants to take our little girl to Colombia: I won’t have it but he’s making death threats, calling me up from a telephone inside Venezuela,” said Laura.

Read the full story here.

U.S. buses undocumented immigrants to 'nowhere'

NPR reports today on a U.S. program to deport migrants to the middle of nowhere.

The Border Patrol has hit on an idea to discourage undocumented immigrants from entering southern Arizona, the nation’s busiest illegal border crossing. When agents catch them, they put them on a bus and send them 570 miles away to the remote port of entry between Presidio, Texas, and Ojinaga, Mexico.

The crossing is the least trafficked of the entire 2,000-mile border. North of Ojinaga is the storied Big Bend country of far West Texas, a sea of thorn brush desert, canyons and steep mesas. There are no large cities where undocumented immigrants can blend in, which is precisely why the Border Patrol sends them here.

Read and listen to the story here.

Jesuit Refugee Service is a partner in the Kino Border Initiative, which assists undocumented migrants after they are deported to Nogales, Mexico, often hundreds of miles from their homes and with nothing but the clothes on their back. Learn more about the KBI here and here.

Immigrant workers are particularly vulnerable to wage theft

An Associated Press story speaks to the issue of how immigrant workers – especially undocumented – are taken advantage of in the workplace by employers who also take advantage of their local communities by not paying taxes on the same workers they exploiting.

Across the nation, the long-simmering problem of employers who don’t pay their workers appears to be getting worse, especially for immigrant laborers.

In the absence of aggressive federal action, some states and local governments have begun to tackle the issue on their own. They say employers who don’t pay overtime or minimum wage are unlikely to pay into state workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance funds — bilking taxpayers even as they’re cheating workers.

The Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network says at least 50 percent of day laborers — there are 120,000 on a given day in the U.S. — experience some form of wage theft.

Read the full story here.

UN: migrants too often victims of human rights violations

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights marked International Migrants Day today by drawing attention to the plight of an estimated 200 million migrants worldwide, many of whom are exposed to violations of their basic rights and continue to be treated as commodities.

“Despite the increased efforts of the international community, including civil society, in promoting sound, equitable, humane and lawful conditions of migration, the human rights of migrants often remain out of sight,” Navi Pillay said in a statement. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayor of New York supports comprehensive immigration reform

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released the following statement:

“New York City’s greatest strength has always been its diversity, and the contributions made by New York’s immigrant communities have driven America’s economic engine for generations. Today, however, our immigration laws are broken, hurting our economy and many immigrant families.

A comprehensive solution is urgently needed, and I applaud Congressman Luis Gutierrez and his colleagues for moving the debate forward by introducing the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009.
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