NEWS from Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

Dutch Labour backs review of Iraqi refugees

The Dutch governing Labour Party has dropped its opposition to a government plan to stop giving all Iraqi refugees a temporary residence permit. It had opposed the move saying security in Iraq was insufficient for asylum seekers to return safely. The party says it has been swayed by Labour Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albarayk, who says most Iraqi asylum seekers fled Iraq through Syria and Jordan.

Labour support means the plan now has a majority in parliament. The plan also calls for a fresh review of the asylum applications of some 5,000 Iraqis already in the Netherlands. Aid agencies say the government is failing the refugees.


When the global debate over refugees takes place, the question has always been: which country (or countries) should bare the burden of caring for those who have been displaced? Two pieces today, one from the Catholic News Service and the other, Post-Bulletin of Rochester, NY portrays what life is like for refugees in the country of first refuge and then country of resettlement.

The country of first refuge is where refugees flee to after they have left their homes. Refugees often languish in refugee camps or poor urban and rural areas in these places for years at a time before they are resettled. The Catholic News Service discussed the trouble of education for many refugees in Cairo, Egypt – a place that has been known to become a haven for refugees from Africa and Middle Eastern countries.

“The Sudanese [refugees] consider Egypt a step” to resettlement in the United States, Canada or another country, said Yasmine Serry of CRS, who coordinates the program. But hopes of resettlement often are delayed or dashed, and as families struggle to adapt to life in their new home, one of the first hurdles is sending their children to school.

While Egypt has allowed many refugees to harbor in cities like Cairo, it has unfortunately been unable to accommodate for the needs of the displaced, and as a result, many refugees live in sub-standard environments and become burdens on the surrounding communities. Few countries who have served as the first country or refuge for refugees have been able to integrate them in a meaningful manner. As a result, the burden has fallen on “western” nations such as the United States, Canada, etc. While these nations have had humanitarian traditions to be countries of resettlement, where refugees are relocated after they have entered refugee camps, they cannot continue this for years to come. The “burden” of refugees cannot fall on a select few countries but all countries must work appropriately to assist and provide for those who have fled from war and conflict.

As the article in the Post-Bulletin of Rochester, NY highlights, when refugees are provided with education, they become contributing members of societies and their children have the opportunity to be part of the new resettlement nation, developing an understanding of the country’s culture and values.

Sudanese refugee Gawa Eldabas…Two years earlier, she had fled Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, to escape oppressive government control. Now, she was leaving her temporary home of Cairo, Egypt [country of first refuge], with her husband and three children…on a plane bound for the United States.

With the help of the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association’s program in New York, refugees like Gawa Eldabas are complete programs in nursing and joining a much needed profession in the American work force while her kids are receiving an education. Instead of becoming a burden on a community like once may have been in Egypt, Gawa Eldabas and her family are adding the the diversity and economic needs of the United States because countries of resettlements are investing in those who have sought refuge within their borders.

The International Herald Tribune featured the following article today:

GENEVA: The United Nations says the increasingly negative image of refugees is fueling racism and violence against foreigners around the world.

A senior official at the U.N. refugee agency says even countries with good reputations for protecting asylum seekers are seeing a rise in hostility toward foreigners.

Erika Feller says the growing intolerance of refugees is causing countries to tighten the laws and procedures affecting asylum seekers. She says South Africa and Ukraine are examples of countries where this has led to unprovoked and lethal attacks on foreigners.

Her comments Wednesday were part of an annual report to the agency’s governing body.

Click here to see the article.

Daisy Dube, a drag queen who fled Zimbabwe to South Africa in 2001, was shot last June outside of a nightclub. Her murderer shouted, “shoot the lesbians!” Her death received little coverage as is often the case with hate crimes in most countries. As a result, some debates have taken place over the issue of GLBT individuals seeking asylum in more “gay friendly” countries like South Africa; putting international human rights and refugee laws into question. An article today highlighted the current situation:

Gays and lesbians are entitled to apply for refugee status as they are classified as being part of a “social group”. But the process of applying for asylum, like for so many other refugee applicants, can be long and difficult.

Beyond the process being long and difficult, there are several cases where many gay refugees are not granted asylum on the basis of “sexual orientation.” Refugees must produce documentation or proof of persecution from their home country before they are given refugee status. This begs the question, how do you prove that you are a member of the GLBT community? Unlike the traditional concept of refugees, where people are forced to flee because of war and conflict, gay refugees are challenging international law to recognize that gay rights is a human right and thus also part of refugee rights and the international community must recognize their plea for asylum.

South Africa is one of only seven countries in the world that grants refugee status on the basis of sexual orientation. But people seeking that relief are battling as much as other refugees in the country.

A GLBT refugee’s plea for protection from persecution is at the mercy of the immigration/refugee policies of the country he/she is seeking asylum in. Only a select few countries (many of them “Western” nations) have established guidelines relating to the intersection of gender-based violence and forced migration. According to the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of Law, in order for a gay refugee to be granted asylum in another country, that host country must recognize “sexual orientation” as a social group.