Posts

fire truck

At Least 39 Killed in Fire at Migrant Detention Center Near Mexico-US Border

A fire at a migration center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico left at least 39 people dead and 29 others injured after migrants facing deportation set their mattresses ablaze, authorities said on Tuesday. The facility lies near the United States and Mexico border, across El Paso, Texas, a major crossing point for migrants seeking asylum.

The fire broke out late Monday at the National Migration Institute (INM) after authorities picked up a group of migrants from the city streets and detained them. Tensions had been high between authorities and migrants in the area.

Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said authorities “do not know exactly the names and nationalities of those who unfortunately lost their lives,” but believes “migrants from Central America and same from Venezuela were in that shelter.”

“This had to do with a protest that they started after, we assume, they found out that they were going to be deported, and as a protest, they put mattresses from the shelter at the door of the shelter, and they set fire to them. They did not imagine that this was going to cause this terrible accident.”

Embed from Getty Images

On March 9th, an open letter protesting the criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers was published by more than 30 migrant shelters and advocacy organizations in Ciudad Juarez. The groups stated that police were improperly asking people about their immigration status on the street.

The city’s federal deputy, Andrea Chavez, tweeted about the incident on Tuesday, expressing her condolences.

“It is with deep sadness and grief that we learned of the fire that occurred inside the INM in Ciudad Juárez. We will wait for the official information and, from this moment on, we send our condolences to the families of the migrants. FGR initiated the investigation.”

Reuters reported a grim scene of several body bags lined up outside the facility. The incident is one of the worst fires of recent years in Mexico.

Venezuelan national Viangly Infante told Reuters about her experience witnessing the fire and its aftermath. Her husband was inside the detention center in a holding cell during the fire but survived it by dousing himself in water and pressing up against a door.

“I was here since one in the afternoon waiting for the father of my children, and when 10 p.m. rolled around, smoke started coming out from everywhere.”

Embed from Getty Images

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called the tragedy “heartbreaking” in a tweet.

“The tragic loss of life in Ciudad Juárez is heartbreaking. Our prayers are with those who lost their lives, their loved ones, and those still fighting for their lives. The United States has been in touch with Mexican officials and stands ready to provide any needed support.”

Mexico is the world’s third most popular destination for asylum seekers, after the United States and Germany. However, it mainly serves as a transit point for those aiming to enter the U.S.

The Biden administration has heightened efforts to curb the number of migrants crossing the border after seeing a record level of crossings in recent years. Mexico has also stepped up its efforts to stem the flow of migration into the U.S., causing it to struggle with overcrowding in its facilities, which house tens of thousands of migrants.

In February, the administration proposed a new rule that would broadly prohibit migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. without first applying for asylum in the countries they transit through on their way to the shared border.

There are more than 2,200 people in Ciudad Juarez’s shelters and more migrants outside shelters from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, and El Salvador, according to The Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

migrants

Death Toll In San Antonio Migrant Tragedy Continues To Rise

Efforts to identify the dozens of migrants found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio has proven to be a slow effort for officials, as many of the fatalities carry no — or in some cases, stolen — identification. Efforts to contact victims’ family members has also been difficult due to their remoteness.

Meanwhile, the number of total deaths has now reached 53, up from the initial 46 Monday. Originally, 16 people were hospitalized, with at least 13 in critical condition. 40 of the victims were male, while 13 were female.

According to officials, 37 of the victims had been potentially identified Wednesday morning. The victims’ suspected origins vary, with some from Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. The tragedy is now being called the deadliest U.S. smuggling incident in history.

Embed from Getty Images

Bexar County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores explained the stage of identification is a “tedious, sad, difficult process.” Meanwhile, mourning the deaths, San Antonio mayor Ron Nirenberg stated that the victims had families “who were likely trying to find a better life.”

“This is nothing short of a horrific human tragedy. This is a horror that surpasses anything we’ve experienced before.”

President Joe Biden was equally horrified at the deaths, saying the situation underscores “the need to go after the multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and leading to far too many innocent deaths.”

Stepping into the non-air conditioned trailer was sadly a fatal decision for the migrants, who were forced to endure the Texas weather that can reach up to highs of 100 degrees. The total group of 67, covered in steak seasoning to avoid authorities, was abandoned in the vehicle, where they proceeded to suffer from heat strokes and heat exhaustion.

While the truck has been registered in Alamo, Texas, it possessed fake numbers and plates. The road it was discovered on is referred to by locals as “lo boca del lobo,” which in English translates to “the mouth of the wolf” due to its remoteness.

Embed from Getty Images

According to Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, the driver of the vehicle was apprehended after pretending to be one of the migrants, while two other men have been arrested. The road is located around 150 miles North of the U.S.-Mexico border.

CBP commissioner Chris Magnus previously warned that smugglers like those apprehended will continue to take advantage of desperate migrants for financial gain. Typically, migrants pay around $8,000 to $10,000 for transportation in tractor trailers and smaller vehicles.

“The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving,” Magnus explained.

“Our message to those who would try and gain illegal entry to the United States remains the same – don’t make the dangerous journey only to be sent back.”

At the end of 2021, over 1.5 million migrants had arrived at and crossed the border, the highest total in 20 years. It forced the U.S. border control to make 1.6 million apprehensions, a figure not seen since 1986. According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report, 239,416 migrants crossed over in May, a 2% increase from April. 25% of that group has attempted to cross more than once.

The risks that migrants take crossing the desert through scorching heat have costed heavy tolls. So far in 2022, 290 migrants have died attempting to secure access into the U.S. 2021 saw 650 deaths at the border, the highest number since the International Organization of Migration began tracking in 2014.

Migrants And Troops Gather At Poland-Belarus Border, Heightening Tensions

At the Poland-Belarus border, tensions are escalating by the minute. The stranded group of 3,000-4,000 migrants at the border have made a number of attempts, including three “large scale” endeavors, to breach the frontier over the past week, but were driven back by the force of 15,000 soldiers and border guards Poland mobilized.

Videos released by Polish authorities show migrants, who are forced to endure freezing temperatures that reach below zero throughout the night at their camps, using shovels and wire cutters in order to break through fencing while being fended off with tear gas.

Authorities say several migrants have been found dead at the border, likely due to the weather conditions and lack of food, water, and medical supplies. The crisis is expected to only grow worse over the coming days.

While saying the situation is difficult, Polish Border Guard head Ewelina Szczepańska expressed confidence in Poland’s security to CNN. Poland’s Ministry of Defense noted that the migrants are camped out in the Kuznica region and are being guarded by Belarusian services.

Embed from Getty Images

The Belarus State Border Committee has said that the migrants do not pose any kind of security threat or behave aggressively, and instead wish to enter the country as refugees. According to a Polish Guard spokesman, Belarusian services are responsible for moving large groups of migrants to the border.

Lithuania, which shares a border with Poland and Belarus, has announced its intentions to redeploy troops as well, while also being prepared for “all possible scenarios.”

The European Union (EU), the United States, and NATO have accused Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko of “manufacturing” a migrant crisis on the EU eastern frontier by directing Middle Eastern migrants to Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia in an act of revenge for sanctions over human right abuses. Lukashenko and his regime have denied all accusations, instead blaming the West for their migrant conduct.

These sanctions, along with visa restrictions, were announced by the U.S. Department of State back in August, which not only stated were in regards to the “increased repression and deteriorating human rights situation” that was unfolding in Belarus, but also acknowledged the anniversary of the fraudulent Belarus election that allowed Lukashenko to continue his reign, which started back in 1994.

Embed from Getty Images

According to Reuters, more sanctions are on the way for Belarus. The EU’s 27 ambassadors met Wednesday, agreeing that the massing of migrants on the Poland-Belarus border amounts to “hybrid warfare” and provides a basis for additional sanctions.

Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has accused Vladimir Putin and Russia of being the “masterminds” behind the ongoing crisis, due to its strong support for Lukashenko and Belarus. The Kremlin denied those claims while also flying two nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 bombers over the border Wednesday as a show of strength.

After German police reported an uptick in migrants illegally entering Germany, Poland announced its plans to spend 1.6 billion zlotys ($4.4 million) on building a wall, which would include motion sensors and cameras, on the Belarus border. Poland had previously been building barbed-wire fencing.

Many have criticized Poland of violating the international right for asylum, to which the country replied that their actions are legal. Poland saw 13.3 million immigrants enter the country in 2020, down from 16.6 million in 2019 – which was the highest total the country had dealt with in the past two decades.

US Special Envoy To Haiti Resigns Over ‘Inhumane’ Expulsions Of Haitian Migrants 

The Biden Administration’s special envoy to Haiti resigned this week after citing “inhumane large-scale expulsions of Haitian migrants to their homeland,” which has already been ravaged by natural disasters, and civil unrest. 

Daniel Foote was appointed to the envoy position back in July after Haiti’s president was assassinated. An envoy refers to a messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission, within the government. Beyond the recent headlines regarding the harsh treatment Haitian migrants have been enduring, Foote was known for often complaining about the lack of urgency coming from Washington when it came to improving Haiti’s conditions and infrastructure after so many natural disasters. 

Embed from Getty Images

Foote wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week, stating that he was “stepping down immediately with deep disappointment and apologies to those seeking crucial changes.”

“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life.”

“Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own,”  he wrote

One official within the White House claimed that Foote had consistently tried to have a greater oversight presence in Haiti, especially when it came to policies that would improve the nation’s infrastructure. The administration consistently told Foote his requests were not appropriate, according to the official who chose to remain anonymous. 

Embed from Getty Images

The White House and Biden Administration has been under major fire in recent weeks when it comes to Haiti. Many Democrats and immigration rights activists have gone online to condemn the government for expelling thousands of Haitians without a chance to seek asylum; which violated American principles.

Even more recently, images were blasted all over social media showing Border Patrol agents on horseback using aggressive tactics against Haitian migrants, including a whip, leading many to make the obvious comparison to slavery and the power dynamics that still exist within the American system to this day. 

US officials are currently ramping up their deportation efforts and organizing to get seven expulsion flights from the US to Haiti a day; this would mark one of the swiftist and large-scale expulsions from the US in decades, and in the middle of a worldwide health crisis. 

“When someone who is tasked with Haiti policy at the highest level resigns because recommendations are ignored and dismissed it’s not only troubling, but shows you this administration does not tolerate anyone who won’t go along with their distorted view of the facts. Dan Foote is a world class diplomat who refuses to be told what to do. I wish more foreign service officers had his courage to stand up and call out their bosses,” said Damian Merlo, a Republican strategist who has worked for years on Haiti policy and is now a registered lobbyist for the country’s government. 

The White House Podium

Biden Administration To Begin Admitting Asylum-Seekers Forced To Wait In Mexico By Trump 

The Biden administration has announced that they will be allowing migrants into the US who have been forced to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed due to a Trump-era policy. This is a part of the administration’s greater efforts to overhaul the immigration system. 

The Department of Homeland Security is projected to begin the first phase of this new program next Friday, when they will start gradually letting in migrants who have active cases under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. Biden is hoping that this is the first step in undoing former president Donald Trump’s hateful immigration legacy.

Biden is also looking to end the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which has also forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait for US court proceedings. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently delivered a statement regarding this revision in immigration policy in America. 

Embed from Getty Images

“This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values.” 

“The administration’s latest step does not mean the border would be open to all migrants, however, because changes will take time. Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border. Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced,” Mayorkas warned.

There are currently around 25,000 migrants with active cases under MPP, and under the new program those who have been waiting in the program the longest and/or those in the most vulnerable populations will be processed to come to the US first. The Biden Administration is planning on working with the Mexican government, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations in Mexico as well to help better identify eligible migrants who want to come to the US and begin transporting them into the country to process their cases. 

Embed from Getty Images

The Mexican government and Biden Administration have warned migrants with active cases not to go to any US port of entry until they receive proper guidance. According to the administration those in the first phase will be processed in three ports of entry, and officials believe that once they have these ports fully up and operational they’ll be able to process up to 300 people per day. 

Migrants who are processed through this new program will be tested for Covid-19 before entering into the US and once they’re here they will be enrolled in what the administration is calling an “alternative to detention program” that will help track them and their specific cases so that they can be routed to the appropriate court. Being routed to the right court is essential for migrant cases because it determines where they will settle in the country. 

President Joe Biden has vowed throughout his campaign that he would be ending the program that is keeping so many asylum seekers in dangerous living conditions. Due to Trump-era policies there are currently tens of thousands of asylum seekers being forced to stay in Mexico, often in poor living conditions. Last week Biden signed an executive order that gave Mayorkas the task of reviewing the program for potential termination.

Greece Flag

Greece Pledges To Rehouse Migrants Made Homeless By Devastating Fires

After massive fires took out Europe’s biggest refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, the country pledged that they would rehouse any and all migrants that were made homeless within days. Notis Mitarachi is Greece’s migration minister, and recently spoke with local media outlets about their efforts to resettle more than 12,500 men, women, and children. He claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to make this happen, however, it’s also the reason there’s such an urgency to get these individuals in a safe space, away from large crowds. 

“It’ll take a few days but all the affected people will be moved into this temporary location. We hope to have 5,000 beds ready by the end of the day.” 

Embed from Getty Images

The “temporary location” that Mitarachi was referring to is a large open plot of land that the military has been tirelessly working on building for these homeless migrants. Before anyone enters this temporary “mini community” they must be tested for Covid-19 as well. The community is set up on a former outdoor firing range, one of the largest plots of land they could find on such short notice. 

Last Tuesday, a series of fires completely obliterated a famously overcrowded migrant camp in Lesbos. Thousands of people were forced to flee into the surrounding countryside and fend for themselves until they could find some sort of safety. Many described making makeshift shelters alongside a long stretch of road so that they could remain in groups. This road led to Mytilene, the island’s port capital, that’s heavily policed. 

Beyond the sides of roads, other individuals have sought out shelter in churches, parking lots, and even cemeteries. Aid groups and authorities began bringing water and food to help these individuals, however, finding all of them after fleeing has proven to be difficult, as many don’t have the resources to make a phone call or receive help. Both the refugees and locals are also not too thrilled at the idea of relocating. 

Embed from Getty Images

Both groups of individuals are fearful of contracting Covid-19, and even though authorities are testing individuals before they enter the temporary camp, there’s still so much uncertainty regarding these refugee’s futures. Prior to the fires in Moria, 35 residents were diagnosed with the virus, leading experts to believe case numbers could very much be over 200 at this point. 

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Greece, recently spoke with the media as well, and claimed that the combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and migration fire crisis has been an “explosive mix,” but also is aware that the fires that occurred in Moria could’ve been avoided if more refugee camps were made available. 

“I want to believe that this tragedy is a warning bell for all. I’ve requested that the EU be involved in the management of this new center wherever it is. I hope to see the flag of Greece and Europe at it.” 

Mitsotakis explained that human rights groups have been working tirelessly to improve conditions in these facilities, as they’ve long been underrun and dangerous. As of right now military authorities have been working with local government officials to continue to rehouse as many refugees as they can.

Refugee

It’s Time The World Took Another Look at The Way We Look After Refugees

This month UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke to the Global Refugee Forum about the way the world looks at refugees, and how we must ‘reboot’ our approach to them. At the first meeting of its kind in Geneva, Mr Guterres said we should be doing more to understand the reasons why so many people are feeling the need to flee their homes while respecting their rights and protecting them where possible.

“Now more than ever, we need international cooperation and practical, effective responses. We need better answers for those who flee, and better help for communities and countries that receive and host them.”

After ‘a decade of displacement’ the global forum – defined as the ‘blueprint’ for restoring the human rights of refugees – comes as Mr Guterres calls for joint action, describing the Global Compact on Refugees as “our collective achievement and our collective responsibility. It speaks to the plight of millions of people. And it speaks to the heart of the mission of the United Nations.”

UN data states that there are currently over 70 million people who have been forced to leave their homes, an increase of 2.3 million from last year and double the amount 20 years ago. Over 25 million have become refugees, unable to go back home thanks to civil unrest, war and persecution, desperately trying to make a new home in thousands of refugee camps throughout many other countries across the world.

Although there are international agreements that were created decades ago, Mr Guterres stated that we need to “re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.”

“Indeed, at a time when the right to asylum is under assault, when so many borders and doors are being closed to refugees, when even child refugees are being detained and divided from their families, we need to reaffirm the human rights of refugees.”

Embed from Getty Images

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the event’s co-host has also called on the world to ‘reboot’ the way it deals with people who need protection.

“Injustice, conflict and violence. This is why we are here. Our world is in turmoil, and 25 million refugees are looking to us for solutions.”

Mr Grandi also stated that there are “71 million people uprooted from their homes globally, inside and outside their countries, it’s time to reboot our responses.’ Yet instead of helping those in most need, the responsibility had been passed onto the poorest countries by those ‘with more resources.”

With this outlook “refugees are pushed aside too…often in camps, cut off from the social and economic life of the communities hosting them. Humanitarian aid helps, and remains vital, but is not enough and not adequate to turn the tide from despair to hope.”

Switzerland Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis confirmed that his country has dedicated $125 million to refugee protection for the next four years and gave his support for more countries to share the burden.

Currently 8 in 10 refugees are taken in by developing countries however Swiss cities and towns are continuing to provide assistance in the integration into communities.

Speaking on the crisis Mr Cassis quoted a saying from one of the most famous refugees, Albert Einstein:

“Life is like a bicycle; you have to move forward to avoid losing your balance…This applies to all of us, we must not lose our balance and look ahead.”

Embed from Getty Images

Mr Cassis went on to highlight how religious partners could play a positive role when helping find ways to solve refugee issues including integration and protection, quoting the ‘unique’ written agreement, based on ‘ethics and solidarity’ between the country’s Muslims, Christians and Jews.

While Heiko Mass, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke for Germany, saying the refugee ‘burden’ should be shared amongst ‘a greater number of shoulders’.

However Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan brought the forum’s attention to the struggles that developing nations were facing stating that the amount of vulnerable families heading over their borders ‘causes problems that cannot be imagined by richer countries.’

Although Pakistan currently houses nearly three million refugees in ‘a country with massive unemployment’ Mr Khan commented that Europe was also struggling to cope with refugees, thanks to the new trend of socialist politicians who ‘cashes in on public distress’.

Confirming his desire for a rethink into the way the world looks at refugees, Mr Guterres declared:

“This is a moment for ambition. It is a moment to jettison a model of support that too often left refugees for decades with their lives on hold: confined to camps, just scraping by, unable to flourish or contribute. It is a moment to build a more equitable response to refugee crises through a sharing of responsibility. One might say that as refugees go, so goes the world. Today we must do all we can to enable that humanitarian spirit to prevail over those who today seem so determined to extinguish it.”