Israel As Safe Haven For Refugees? Not Even Close.

Sudanese refugee in Israel

A South Sudanese girl awaits deportation to South Sudan from Israel on June 17, 2012. (Oren Ziv/AFP/GettyImages)

Earlier this month, an Israeli court paved the way for Israeli authorities to deport over 1,500 South Sudanese migrants back to South Sudan, where they face an uncertain future, and may face threats to physical security depending where they end up.

One might get the sense that Sudanese are unwelcome in Israel.

“The Sudanese are a cancer in our body,” said Miri Regev, member of the Knesset during a public demonstration in Tel Aviv, which saw African passersby attacked.

Today is World Refugee Day—a day marked to remind the world of the tens of millions who face uncertainty, threats to physical security, and persecution by repressive governments.

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Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.

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From the Field: Sudanese Air Strikes Threaten Humanitarian Efforts in South Sudan

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Juba, South Sudan

Indiscriminate bombing by Sudanese forces threatens humanitarian efforts in South Sudan's refugee camps. © Pete Muller

Hopes that last week’s South Sudanese decision to withdraw forces from the Heglig oil fields in Sudan would reduce the tension between the two countries seem to have been dashed.

Sudan had responded to seizure of Heglig by South Sudanese forces with a significant increase in sorties and bombing raids by Antonov and MiG aircraft across northern South Sudan.

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From the Field: Researchers Reveal Human Rights Crisis Behind Political Spat in South Sudan

Refugees in South Sudan worry they will be forgotten amid sabre-rattling between Sudan and South Sudan © Pete Muller

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Juba, South Sudan

“Have they forgotten about us?”
-    Sudanese refugee, Yida Refugee Camp, South Sudan

The spectre of war between Sudan and South Sudan has loomed large during our time at the Yida refugee camp over the past week.

Along the increasingly tense border, the mounting conflict between the two countries has loomed in the background as both a distant spectacle and a sinister threat.

But many refugees are concerned that amidst the spiraling possibility of war, they feel increasingly forgotten.

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From the Field: Researchers Find Education At Risk in South Sudan

Nuba children take shelter from the sun at South Sudan's isolated Pariang refugee camp. © Pete Muller

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Pariang refugee camp, South Sudan – 17 April 2012

Pariang refugee camp lies in a desolate part of South Sudan, an hour’s drive from Yida, where more than 1,900 secondary school students from Southern Kordofan have come to continue their schooling.

Education is highly valued amongst the Nuba population of Southern Kordofan. Most students travelled to Pariang unaccompanied, leaving their families behind in conflict-torn Southern Kordofan, where the constant drone of Antonov aircraft – driving home the threat of aerial bombardment – forced many schools to close.

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From the Field: Amnesty Mission to South Sudan

Amnesty International is currently on a research mission in Sudan. This post is part of a series.

Yida Refugee Camp, South Sudan – April 16, 2012

Displaced people from Sudan's Southern Kordofan State wait to register at Yida refugee camp. © Pete Muller

For the past 10 months, some 20,000 refugees from Sudan’s conflict-ravaged Southern Kordofan State have fled across the increasingly volatile border to Yida, an isolated refugee camp just inside newly independent South Sudan.

They have escaped a terrifying campaign of aerial bombardments and ground attacks unleashed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), which has been fighting pitched battles since last June against the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) for control of Southern Kordofan.

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Responding to the Human Rights Crisis in South Sudan

George Clooney, members of Congress, and activists were arrested last month for protesting human rights abuses in Sudan. Despite the attention this act drew to their suffering, the Sudanese people still face grave abuses, and their country remains devastated by years of civil war.

This week, Amnesty International Canada’s Alex Neve arrived in South Sudan. He is participating in a vitally important human rights research mission to investigate deadly attacks on villages and aerial bombings of civilians along the border region of Sudan and the world’s newest country, South Sudan.

Just before he left, Alex made a video about why this trip was so important. Watch the 3-minute video:

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Business as Usual

Just over a year ago the African continent saw the birth of its newest country, South Sudan. Like many other African countries, its road to independence was marked by terrible violence and bloodshed.

According to the US Department of State Country report for human rights practices, the 22-year civil war that engulfed Sudan claimed an estimated 3 million lives and impacted tens million more. Like many other African states,  it gained independence with staggeringly little beyond the determination of the people of Southern Sudan and in the ground the blessing and curse of oil reserves.

What was and remains different is that unlike the other waves of independence, Southern Sudan has its former ruler and military adversary right on its borders and sadly what had been hoped to be the end of a terrible conflict only went underground and is now threatening to erupt fully in.

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Challenges and Opportunities for Women in the New South Sudan

via Wikipedia

On Saturday, a new nation was born: the Republic of South Sudan.

Formerly a semi-autonomous region within the Republic of Sudan, the new state is the result of a referendum on independence in which roughly 99% of the predominantly African, Christian or animist Southerners elected to split from the largely Muslim, Arab North.

For more than two decades, the two had been engaged in Africa’s longest civil war, a conflict in which staggering numbers of innocent civilians paid the price: 4 million displaced, 2 million killed and 2 million women raped.

A Violent Peace
Although a 2005 peace accord officially ended the war and guaranteed the South the right to peaceably choose whether or not to form its own state, violence continues in disputed territories of Southern Kordofan and Abyei.

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Happy Birthday South Sudan!

Today, South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country. Back in January 2011, the people of South Sudan voted in a referendum mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and decided to secede from Sudan.

Sadly, South Sudan’s very first birthday is being overshadowed by ongoing conflict in many border areas, fueled by arms shipment from countries such as China, Russia and the USA to volatile regions of Sudan such as Southern Kordofan. For instance, analysis by Amnesty International has linked Russian-made aircraft to indiscriminate airstrikes in the past month that led to civilian deaths and injuries in the regional capital Kadugli and other areas in Southern Kordofan. Satellite imagery acquired by the Satellite Sentinel Project corrobates that analysis, proving that Russian-made aircrafts have been present in many areas where conflict and violence occurs on a regular basis.

In addition, the new Republic of South Sudan will have to overcome many challenges of its own—including its legacy of prolonged civil war and severe underdevelopment—in addition to the immense trials any new state faces. Continued fighting this year has left around 1,400 civilians dead and over 160,000 people displaced. Soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and other armed forced are continually met with impunity for the crimes they commit. Political opposition is stifled, and weaknesses in the justice system lead to human rights abuses including arbitrary arrests and detentions, prolonged period of pre-trial detention, denial of a fair trial, and poor conditions of detention. Women and girls are subjected to traditional practices that can cause both physical and emotional harm, and have little knowledge of their rights and access to justice. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST