Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
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Analysis: Trump, leader of the mean-spirited world?

17 January 20180 comments

Much of the world seems to be channelling Donald Trump as it becomes less and less friendly to migrants, refugees and minority groups, according to a scan of recent news reports.

A disturbing string of reports this week shows a hardening of sentiment toward the displaced among political leaders and administrations across the globe.

The reports come hard on the heels of US President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about migrants from what he termed ‘s@$#hole countries’.


As part of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s power sharing agreement with the Social Democrats, the nation will limit the number of asylum seeker arrivals to around 200,000 annually.

“We determine that the number of new arrivals … should not exceed the range of 180,000 to 220,000 per year,” according to a copy of the document agreed to by Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats.


Japan will limit asylum seekers’ right to work from this week, making changes to its refugee system that are likely to swell the numbers of those in detention centres, the justice ministry announced.

The move to tighten one of the developed world’s toughest refugee systems, which accepted just ten during the period from January to September last year, is a bid to clamp down on what Japan views as a system of back-door immigration.

From Monday, the right to work is to be limited only to those Japan regards as bonafide refugees, while repeat applicants and those failing initial checks will be held in detention centres after their permission to stay in Japan expires, the justice ministry said.

Asylum seekers with valid visas now receive renewable permits to work in Japan while their refugee claims are reviewed – a system the government says has spurred people to seek asylum as a means of finding jobs.

With its shrinking population and high barriers to blue-collar immigration, Japan is grappling with the tightest labour demand in decades..

Activists say cracking down on asylum seekers looking for work will not resolve the issue, however.


The election of a right wing, anti-immigrant government in Austria has seen thousands of people take to the streets of the capital Vienna to protest.

The center-right People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party formed a coalition last month, after the People’s Party failed to secure a majority in October’s lower house election.

On Saturday, more than 20,000 protesters marched in the capital, chanting that Nazis would never again take power.

There widespread concerns among the protestors that the government will try to cut assistance to the under-privileged, such as unemployment benefits and handouts to refugees and immigrants.


An Israeli minister this week sparked outrage by calling African migrants a “sanitary nuisance”.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara made the comments during an event for the Likud party in Eilat. He said that asylum seekers who worked in the southern resort town were an issue for the tourism hot spot.

His words came as the government plans to forcefully deport African asylum seekers from the country.

At start of January, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority announced that it was launching a campaign to rid Israel of its asylum seekers, saying that among the 35,000 currently living in the country – mostly from Eritrea and Sudan – will have to leave immediately or face incarceration.


Hungarian courts are retrying a Syrian refugee who was convicted of “an act of terror” after an altercation with police on the Hungary-Serbia border crossing in 2015.

The refugee, identified as Ahmed H, was given a 10-year prison sentence in November 2016 after a conviction based on Hungary’s anti-terrorism law – which Amnesty International calls “vague” – for throwing stones at Hungarian police, using a megaphone to speak to the crowd of refugees on the border and allegedly helping to open a gate that allowed refugees to cross the frontier.

The trial will resume on March 14, with a verdict expected on March 19.

Amnesty International says the man’s conviction was an indicator of the anti-refugee stance of the Hungarian government.

United Kingdom

Reports this week reveal the British Government has been criticised by a parliamentary committee over its hostile approach and policy settings towards asylum seekers.

The cross-party Home Affairs committee’s report slams the UK Home Office’s “hostile environment” measures, which include denying access to rented accommodation, revoking driving licences and closing the bank accounts of those listed as illegal immigrants.

The committee says recent high-profile reports of the Home Office threatening to deport people based on inaccurate and untested information and before an independent appeal process risk undermining the credibility of the whole immigration system.

Also, reports from the UK say nearly 40,000 destitute asylum seekers are to receive an increase in their weekly subsistence payments of just 80p, or $A1.40 – the first rise in three year.

Britain’s Home Office has announced that the current weekly subsistence payment of £36.95 ($A64) paid to destitute asylum seekers, who are banned from working for their first 12 months, would rise to £37.75 ($A65.35) from February 5.

Refugee groups said the small rise was welcome but said it left many struggling to survive on little more than £5 ($A8.65) a day and should have been increased to at least 70 per cent of social security benefit rates.


Ten leaders of the independence movement in the Anglophone (English-speaking) regions of Cameroon could be at risk of torture and unfair trials if extradited from Nigeria, where they have been arrested and detained in secret for one week, Amnesty International says.

On 5 January, armed men in plain clothes stormed a hotel in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja where the pro-independence activists were meeting, and arrested them without presenting a warrant or providing an explanation.

They are reportedly being held in secret, with no access to legal representation, in contravention of Nigerian law which demands they must be seen by a judge within 48 hours.

Human rights lawyers in Nigeria have said that an extradition request has been made by the Cameroonian government, but no details have been made public.


While the influx of more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh commanded global attention, news from inside Rakhine state has been shut down.

Myanmar authorities have largely sealed off northern Rakhine, only recently allowing a trickle of aid to resume, along with supervised visits from foreign officials and journalists.

This comes as Myanmar’s military has, for the first time, admitted its soldiers killed some Rohingya during the violence in August, following the discovery of a mass grave.

Aid group MSF estimates that almost 7000 Rohingya died violently in the weeks immediately following the army onslaught.


Zimbabwe is preparing to repatriate refugees from Rwanda after the United Nations declared their country of origin safe and peaceful.

According to the Zimbabwean authorities, the southern African country has started the legal processes towards the implementation of Cessation Clause that went into force on January 1, 2018.

The United Nations invoked the Cessation Clause which declares Rwanda safe for Rwandan refugees across the world to return – but aid agencies say the current stability in Rwanda may be short-lived.

Almost 564 Rwandan refugees are residing at Tongogara Refugee Camp, about 500 kilometres south east of Harare, while more, believed to be in their thousands, are scattered across the country with others having integrated into communities.


Denmark’s minister for immigration Inger Støjberg has become embroiled in controversy after her department admitted it may illegally deported asylum seekers.

In a recent parliamentary hearing, Støjberg admitted that the Ministry of Immigration and Integration had been too slow to adopt a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on forced expulsions of seriously ill asylum seekers.

Individuals may have been illegally deported from Denmark despite being seriously ill as a result of the malpractice.

United States

Apart from uttering allegedly racist comments about developing countries, President Trump has been undermining the wellbeing of refugees in other ways.

He has halved US financial assistance to the UN agency specifically responsible for Palestinian refugees.

Aid agencies say this will be a disaster not only for the refugees but also for Israel and neighbouring countries and was seemingly provoked by the Palestinian rejection of Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The loss of the regular contribution of $US350m for UNRWA would be catastrophic for the region, with military and strategic implications for the US and its allies.

If UNRWA was defunded in a dramatic, sudden, and unplanned way, it would be forced to suspend within a few months most of its services to nearly five million Palestinian refugees.

Half a million children in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon would be without schools, consigning them to the already volatile streets at a time when extremists are in full recruitment mode.

Meanwhile, a new database built by Colombia University’s Global Migration Project show how, thanks to the US’ aggressive immigration policies, legal blunders and bureaucratic errors, have returned to countries like Mexico and Honduras only to end up dead.

“Safeguards implemented to prevent a repeat of America’s fata pre-WWII rejection of Jewish refugees are now being routinely disregarded, raising the spectre of sending even more asylum seekers to violent deaths.

President Trump has also been talking about ending ‘chain migration’ which allows legal resident to bring family members to the US.

For years, people advocating limits to the number of migrants into the US and the end of the ‘chain’ system has had to fend off criticism that at its heart is an agenda to produce a whiter America.

Then, this movement’s most prominent supporter told members of Congress in the Oval Office that what the US needs is fewer immigrants from Haiti and Africa and more from Norway.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist