Time to End the Refugee Shame

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By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International

A solemn moment of silence. The world over, this is the traditional response when lives are cut short by tragedy.

It has also been a common response to tragedies in Europe and off its shores which have ended the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants. Not killed by bombs in Syria, but killed while making terrifying journeys in search of safety and better lives in Europe.

But the scale and rapid succession of these tragedies calls for breaking the silence.

In the space of a week, along with people across the world, I recoiled in horror as four new tragedies added to a growing list of events that have already brought a record number of refugees and migrants to untimely deaths this year. According to UNHCR, 2,500 have already perished en route to Europe since 1 January 2015. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

10 Years After Katrina, Many New Orleans Residents Permanently Displaced

A stairway is seen still standing 10 years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house on August 28, 2015 in Waveland, Mississippi.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A stairway is seen still standing 10 years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house on August 28, 2015 in Waveland, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In marking the 10 years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina reached the Gulf shores, it is the actions of government authorities since the storm that have been nearly as catastrophic for residents of the Gulf Coast. As highlighted by the ongoing work of the local communities through #GulfSouthRising, the issues documented in Amnesty International’s 2005 report, Un-Natural Disaster: Human rights in the Gulf Coast still profoundly impact Gulf Coast residents’ right to return.   SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Belarus: Political Prisoners Released, but Authorities Need to Do More for Human Rights

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By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik

On August 22, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka issued an order “based on the principle of humanism” to release six political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich and Yury Rubtsov, recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Mikalai Statkevich was one of six opposition presidential candidates who were imprisoned in connection with a largely peaceful demonstration that took place on December 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against unfair elections. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but when a violent incident broke out at the doors of Government House, riot police moved in to disperse the crowds. Over 700 people were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom had been peaceful participants and bystanders. Most of the detained were charged with administrative offences and sentenced to 10 to 15 days in prison. Many who were sentenced for participating in the demonstrations were released after they agreed to sign a confession for organizing or taking part in “mass disorder.” Mikalai was sentenced to six years. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How You Can Fight Against “the Worst Crime in the World”

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya

Sandya Eknaligoda wife of disappeared journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda with with their two sons Sathyajith Sanjaya and Harith Danajaya

The wife of a disappeared journalist said of her husband’s disappearance, “I think it’s one of the worst crimes in the world, making people disappear. It is not just the one person who disappears…the whole family is psychologically killed.” Yet the crime of enforced disappearance continues unabated in all regions of the world. Governments or their agents are making people “disappear,” repressing suspected adversaries, human rights defenders, witnesses and relatives of victims. Families of the disappeared suffer the anguish of not knowing, sometimes for years, whether their loved ones are being ill-treated or are even still alive.

Today, August 30, is observed by the world as the International Day of the Disappeared. Today, Amnesty International is calling on dozens of governments who use this tactic against their opponents to stop using enforced disappearances once and for all. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear.”

Sombath Somphone

“They’ve already taken my husband. I’m not going to succumb to fear,” wife of disappeared Lao agriculture specialist tells audience.

How does one suddenly disappear from a busy city street?

In 2005, in recognition of his community leadership, Sombath Somphone won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s Nobel Prize.  Sombath has played a key role in supporting the development of civil society in Laos.  Sombath founded the Participatory Development Training Centre in 1996 to promote education, leadership skills and sustainable development in Laos.

In 2012, seven years after winning the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award, Sombath disappeared. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Do You Want to Know the Secret Behind Enforced Disappearances?

Amina Masood at AI demonstration outside Pakistan High Commission

Every year, thousands of men, women and children go missing in dozens of countries around the world. In 2012, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries. It’s a crime, all right, but these are not kidnappings for ransom or other criminal motives. These people were taken away by their own governments or agents acting for the government. The government then denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. Their relatives live in a torment of uncertainty – not knowing whether their loved ones are alive, being tortured or even dead. The missing have joined the ranks of the “disappeared.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chilling Reminders of Syria for Refugees Trapped on Macedonia’s Border

Refugees and migrants cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the village of Idomeni, Greece, 24 August 2015.

By Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Director of Amnesty International Greece

The view was staggering upon my arrival in the village of Idomeni, near Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia).

Up to 4,000 refugees, many of them from Syria including many families with children, were trapped after Macedonia’s government designated the southern border just outside the town of Gevgelija a “crisis area”, closing the border crossing and bringing in military backup. The refugees were all trying to pass through Macedonia on their way to northern European countries. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

“We Are All Immigrants” – Students Create Mural for Immigrant Rights in Queens

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By Michaela Miragliotta and Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario

A flock of birds is silhouetted against a geometric jigsaw sky of triangles in varying shades of turquoise in the mural now welcoming students, teachers, and visitors at the Pan American International High School (Pan Am) in Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The birds burst forth from behind thick bars and soar across the expansive wall to reach the Statue of Liberty, which is illuminated by a brilliant sun. The words “Justice,” “Freedom,” “Equality” boldly line the top of the mural and encourage those who see it to reflect on those ideas as they relate to immigration, according to Mirian, one of the students who worked on the mural. The new addition to the school is rich both in design and content, and the process behind its creation even further adds to its significance for the students and community.

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The core group of eight students who created the mural were in an art class that was part of a special program that worked with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), a non-profit organization that teaches young people about human rights through art. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Killer facts: The scale of the global arms trade

Sudan | Child holds bullets

Weapons and ammunition in circulation

Total current military stocks of China, USA, Russia, India, France and UK:

  • 15,426 Battle tanks
  • 17,816 Armoured combat vehicles
  • 36,621 Large calibre artillery systems
  • 7,644 Combat aircraft
  • 1,485 Attack helicopters
  • 269 Warships
  • 527 Heavy unmanned aerial vehicles [Source: The Military Balance]
  • 875 million small arms and light weapons are estimated to be in circulation worldwide. [Source: Small Arms Survey]
  • Between 700,000 and 900,000 small arms are produced annually. [Source: Small Arms Survey]

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Chelsea Manning: “Why Speaking Out Is Worth the Risk”

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Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Join Amnesty International and tell President Barack Obama to #FreeManning NOW!

Why did you decide to leak documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST