Friday, September 22, 2017

Is This The End of Refugee Resettlement?

Over the past few years, the refugee resettlement program has come under increasing strain. This week, we saw Trump tell the UN General Assembly that host countries would now have to bare the burden of finding a solution, while floating the possibility of increased monetary aid (though how this fits in with his promise to slash the State Department's budget is unclear.) Basically, the US is not going to participate much in the resettlement program in the future and we certainly aren't going to step forward to take on our fair share of Syrian refugees or anyone else. People should get ready for that.

Worryingly, apparently Denmark has now suspended its program as well. The doors are closing on a global solution and it's not clear if there will be any increased funding for host countries. Lebanon and Bangladesh, you are on your own. What will be the result? Probably yet more conflict and more displacement.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trump Has Tacitly Given the Green Light For Genocide in Burma

For decades, the Burmese government has denied the right of the Rohingya to Burmese citizenship. The government has systematically subjected the Rohingya Muslim minority to abuse and persecution, driving tens of thousands abroad. Many, many, many reports and condemnations have been issued over the years, yet the Burmese junta had little reason to listen. As a pariah state, there was not much more the international community could do to effect change (without more Chinese pressure, that is.)

In 2015, it seemed like change had finally come to Burma following the election of pro-democracy proponent Aung San Suu Kyi. With the change in government, the Obama Administration lifted some of the sanctions on Burma in 2016. Yet in celebrating the beginning of democracy in Burma, the international community glossed over important questions about Burmese identity and nationality. For decades, to be Burmese in the eyes of the government and many Burmese nationals meant belonging to one of the official Burmese ethnic groups listed in the 1982 citizenship law. The Rohingya are not on that list.

Perhaps predictably, the move towards democracy has not led to greater representation or rights for Burma's many minorities, but no group has suffered severe persecution like the Rohingya. Recently, things have come to a head in the worst wave of anti-Rohingya violence perhaps ever seen in Burma. The government stands accused of torching hundreds of villages. You can see some of the photos here.

Suddenly, the world seems to be waking up to the risk of another mass extermination of an entire group of people. In particular, Muslim nations are finally taking more notice. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are beginning to push back. The Trump administration today released a statement condemning the violence, but make no mistake, they have also tacitly signaled to the Burmese government that they plan to do nothing about it.

Even setting aside the gutting of the State Department and the problematic (to say the least) tenure of Rexxon, the real problem is the administration's isolationist stance. The Obama administration built up a considerable amount of leverage by lifting some sanctions on the country, dangling before it not only the possibility of trade, but also economic assistance. As most diplomats know, it's our giant economy, not our nuclear weapons, that give America our international clout and keep us safe. No one can hurt us because we are literally too big to fail. But we are pretty much the only country in this position (along, perhaps, with China) and, as a result, no other country wants to risk our economic wrath through our powerful ability to enact economic sanctions. But the Trump administration doesn't believe in sanctions or in criticizing dictatorial or genocidal regimes. So Burma is free to do whatever it likes without fear of punishment.

Meanwhile, this latest crisis means UNHCR needs yet more money. And where is this money supposed to come from? I'm seriously asking and somebody from the Trump administration needs to answer.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A new article on statelessnes from "the World Weekly"

Friday, August 25, 2017

Partition and Statelessness

The Guardian has published a long piece on statelessness as the result of the partition of Pakistan and India.

Citizenship in the US

Statelessness and citizenship issues have been much in the news lately, but usually the US is low on news about these issues. Lately, however, there has been an explosion of issues around citizenship, voting and what Americans call 14th Amendment birthright citizenship.

This week saw an interesting article from WaPo on the expanding rights of non-citizens in some US states, particularly the right to vote in some local elections, like school board elections. See more here.

The Pope's Four Points on Migrants and Refugees

With political leadership sorely lacking on the refugee and migrant crisis, the Pope has issued words of guidance for world leaders and citizens alike: Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate. Read more here.

Bedouin in Israel Have Their Nationality Revoked

Anyone who followed the issue of Bedouins in the Negev desert in Israel knows that there has long been an argument in that country over their status and rights. While the problem of the status of Bedouin Israelis has many unique characteristics, the Bedouin lack nationality throughout the region. In many cases, their lack of status stems from a wide-spread failure to register Bedouin nomads and former nomads during the colonial and post-colonial period coupled with discrimination against the Bedouin as nomadic "outsiders" lacking ties to any state, despite clear evidence of Bedouin families having long-standing ties to various states in the region, including Israel.

Now, the Israeli government is apparently stripping many Bedouin of their nationality, often without a hearing, claiming that they were "improperly registered" in the past. In many cases, this argument about registration is over documents from the British Mandate period, before the Israeli nationality law was even passed. As the linked article in Haaretz makes clear, the revocation of nationality is only targeted towards Bedouin Israelis.

It's to be hoped that litigation on behalf of the families involved can help resolve the issue.