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ICRD Analysis: Syrian Refugees Need Safe and Legal Pathways for Resettlement

Syria remains a deadly and hostile country while its civil war is underway. This means civilians con..

Syria remains a deadly and hostile country while its civil war is underway. This means civilians continue to require protection and refugees will need assistance in terms of resettlement and safe passage to third countries.

From its pre-conflict population of 20.5 million, 6.15 million people are internally displaced and 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance.

By the end of October 2017 there were 5.31 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Conditions for refugees remain precarious and there are a number of risks for those who reside in camp settings, including:

Lack of access to psychological support.
Protection concerns for unaccompanied minors.
Sexual and gender-based violence.
Poor health and bad hygiene.
Lack of protection to harsh weather conditions.
Limited financial resources.
While funding from donors to help humanitarian organisations is still vital and allows for much needed protection and assistance mechanisms to be put in place, there can be no alternative to asylum and resettlement to allow refugees to continue their lives and enjoy their full entitlement to rights in as safe an environment as possible.

In 2015, the EU asked 27 countries to take 160,000 refugees but by September 2017 only 29,162 had been taken in. The UK, who was not part of this scheme eventually agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 through its own national Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP).

However, many refugees are still making dangerous journeys from their country of origin, which exacerbates their suffering.

That’s why more safe and legal pathways are needed to ensure protection of Syrian refugees.

The UK position
The UK government settled on accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees. There has been opinion that the UK should accept more. The UK government has made clear though that it prefers to provide humanitarian funding to support those within the country believing that offering resettlement would encourage people to make the dangerous journey to the UK.

While aid can help attend to urgent needs there are many hard to reach areas in Syria, including those that are besieged. That means that humanitarian convoys can be denied entry. And so-called safe zones cannot truly protect the civilian population who have suffered disproportionately from the conflict. In addition Syrians are at risk of sexual violence, enforced disappearances and forced conscription as well as the recruitment of child soldiers. Evidence of torture and extra-judicial executions have also been uncovered.

The VPRP gives those under it ‘refugee status’, which affords more benefits to them than the previous prescribed ‘humanitarian protection’ status. This change in status is certainly positive.

Participation in the VPRP by local authorities in the UK is voluntary. In the year ending March 2017, 235 out of 418 local authorities in the UK had accepted refugees under the VPRP. The devolved administrations are coordinating their response separately to England.

Those eligible for the VPRP are identified by UNHCR and those who register with the agency can indicate if they’d be interested in being resettled under the VPRP. Refugees are then prioritised according to vulnerability, and then undergo a two-tier vetting process.

In addition there are two other pathways for Syrians to stay in the UK. One is that it is possible for Syrians to claim asylum upon arrival or after entry to the UK. In the year ending March 2017, 86% of initial asylum decisions in Syrian cases gave permission to remain in the UK – one of the highest rates of recognition. The other is a temporary concession that allows Syrian nationals in the UK to apply for an extension to their existing visa or change the category of their visa.

There are various practical and legal challenges to reaching the UK however. The absence of legal routes exacerbates refugees’ vulnerability and may undermine efforts to stop them making the dangerous journeys often at the hands of people smugglers.

Therefore, the UK and other states should implement measures that would ensure safer and legal pathways to migrate.

This could be done in a number of ways.

Safe and legal pathways
Resettlement/humanitarian admission schemes
The UK is currently operating the VPRP, which offers resettlement to Syrian refugees prioritised according to vulnerability criteria. However, local authorities who operate voluntarily have pledged places in excess of the designated number of 20,000.

The UK should allow all pledges to be fulfilled to minimise irregular migration methods to be used.

Humanitarian visas
Humanitarian visas are visas that enable the holder to travel to claim asylum overseas without having to make dangerous journeys out of their country of origin.

Instead they are applied for at consular posts either within the country of origin or other points on their migratory route. On acceptance they can then take a legal and safe mode of transport to their destination country.

The UK does not offer humanitarian visas and neither does the EU. However, this has been argued to be a major solution to many of the ills related to forced migration particularly in the current context of the European refugee crisis. That includes deaths at sea, people smuggling or overcrowding on the Greek hotspots who are made up in large part by Syrian refugees.

Medical evacuation
Medical evacuation could allow for refugees with urgent medical needs to be treated in a third country. This would remove the challenges for families who cannot afford medical treatment and sacrifice other essential needs such as food, rent and education.

The UK could admit those with serious medical conditions to help share the burden of responsibility with host countries.

Family reunion
Family reunion is a key protection mechanism which not only reunites divided families but provides a safe and legal route to the UK and away from harm.

Under UK asylum policy, people can apply for family reunification however it is only applicable to a nuclear family definition. For many people the family extends beyond this narrow interpretation and can include other dependent relatives.

The UK could extend this definition and pass the private members bill – Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19.

Community based private sponsorship
Community based private sponsorship means that sponsors take responsibility for some of the costs associated with resettling individuals.

In the UK, the Community Sponsorship initiative matches refugees who arrive through the resettlement programme with community sponsors who assist them through settlement and integration.

This can go one step further like in Canada where private groups can identify refugees for resettlement and then seek government approval for their admission. This then happens outside of current resettlement quotas.

In addition, academic scholarships and labour mobility schemes can also facilitate safe and legal pathways for Syrian nationals.

A change in approach
At the moment asylum in the UK can only be applied for on arrival and Ministers have indicated no intention to change the rules.

Visitor visas are also being increasingly rejected and Syrians must have a transiting visa if transiting through the UK to another country.

More work needs to be done at both the UK and EU level to ensure Syrian refugees are protected.

Enhancing safe and legal methods for this is one key way in which this can happen with relatively little derision from the current impact to the UK.

Article by

International Centre For Relations & Diplomacy
ICRD.org.uk

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Removal of artwork showing names of murdered women, children draws anger

An artwork depicting names of Australian women and children lost to male violence has been removed from a museum, amid claims it was considered “inappropriate” and “uncomfortable”.

The Lost Petition artwork, listing almost 1000 women and children who have died since 2008, was hung in the Her Place Women’s Museum Australia in East Melbourne for only a week when it was taken down on Wednesday.

Femicide researcher Sherele Moody, who collaborated with artist Dans Bain on the artwork, said the museum had asked to exhibit it.

But when the 30m artwork was hung along the ceiling featuring the names of the murder victims, it drew a reaction.

“While Dans was hanging it, someone came up and said it was really confronting and inappropriate and shouldn’t be there,” Ms Moody said.

“She just brushed it off.

“But then yesterday the museum contacted her and said they were taking it down because it wasn’t appropriate to have it alongside the Emily’s List exhibition there at the moment.”

Ms Moody, a News Corp journalist and founder of the Red Heart Campaign, which aims to end domestic and family violence, said the decision to take it down was “infuriating”.

“Literally what they’re saying, from my perspective, is the stories of women and children lost to violence are not worthy of being seen or heard,” she said.

“These women and children are an inconvenience and inappropriate.

“The murder of women and children is too uncomfortable for them.”

Ms Moody said a museum dedicated to women was the perfect place to display the work.

But the organisation based on celebrating women had now taken down an artwork detailing the greatest social issue facing them.

Families of the victims depicted were “extremely upset” at its removal, as it was a tribute to their memory and highlighted the impact of domestic violence, Ms Moody said.

Her Place museum said the Emily’s List exhibition organisers requested the artist remove the petition from the space, where a new exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Emily’s List – a network for progressive Labor women in politics – was installed.

“Due to the size and scale of the Lost Petition, there was no alternative space at Her Place Museum to exhibit the artwork,” the museum said.

The Her Place board would reinstall the artwork later in the year, in a move it said the artist agreed on as part of the Her Voice program of Australian Women’s activism.

“The exhibiting of The Lost Petition was at the invitation of Her Place Museum Australia. It is a powerful artwork and that power is reflected in the feedback we have received,” the museum said.

Artist Dans Bain said the decision to remove her artwork made her “uneasy”.

“The fact that this work has been censored speaks to the stigma of male violence against women and children. It is an uncomfortable reality,” she posted on Facebook on Thursday.

“This work lists almost 1000 women and children, every woman and child on the Lost Petition is a loved one and has families that love them. They are not an inconvenience.”

Emily’s List Australia said it had a long term booking at the museum, which as a new facility had competing demands for space.

“Difficult decisions need to be made about how to display significant material in a small public space, during limited run exhibits,” the organisation said.

“The removal of The Lost Petition was temporary to enable installation in a more permanent way … and to ensure other women’s history exhibits move seamlessly in and around it.

“It’s a big, bold piece of art and it deserves showcasing.”

The organisation added protecting women from gendered violence was far from complete and “we are all dedicated to this work”.

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Senator Claire Chandler unable to answer question on who is calling for ban of trans women in single sex sports

A Tasmanian senator pushing for transgender people to be excluded from women’s sport has been unable to name a single sporting organisation in the state who has called for the change.

Under a proposal introduced to parliament earlier this month, senator Claire Chandler wants the Sex Discrimination Act to be amended so it would not be unlawful for a sporting club to ban a person from a team based on their biological sex.

In a sensational grilling on ABC Radio Hobart, Senator Chandler was repeatedly asked to clarify who in particular is calling for the change.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” she said.

When asked a further three times by host Leon Compton, the senator stood firm.

“What I will say is that I’ve been contacted by parents of girls who have realised how despondent their girls have become competing in sport, in situations where they’re competing against males and feeling like they’re not good enough to be in the game.”

“Is it possible, Claire Chandler, that this isn’t an issue at all; the fact that you can’t name a single group,” Mr Compton quipped back.

“Leon, like I said, I’m not going to get into specifics with you,” she responded.

She added she had been contacted by “sporting administrators” who have been concerned about the legal action that could be taken against them if they do exclude a transgender person from a single-sex sport.

“You look at what is happening with Leah Thomas in the United States, where this trans woman, I should say, swimmer, who’s beating her female counterparts by seven seconds in the pool. That is just madness,” Senator Chandler said.

Senator Chandler’s bill came back into the spotlight after Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed he had encouraged her to pursue it.

“I support it, as Claire knows. I think it’s a terrific Bill and I’ve given her great encouragement,” Mr Morrison told reporters on the hustings in Tasmania.

“Claire is a champion for women’s sport and I think she’s been right to raise these issues in the way that she has. Well done, Claire.”

But it remains to be seen if Mr Morrison’s backing will translate into broader support.

To have the bill introduced to the upper house, Senator Chandler had to do so as a private members bill, meaning she did not have support of the wider cabinet to put it on the agenda.

“If it was such a great bill, why isn‘t it endorsed by the cabinet?” Mr Compton pressed repeatedly.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister obviously and with my colleagues about this issue. And look, if it’s something that the cabinet wants to consider, then that is obviously a matter for them,” Senator Chandler retorted.

With only three days left in the parliamentary sitting calendar, it is unlikely the Bill will pass, or even make it to the lower house, before the election.

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Liberal MP Bridget Archer told Scott Morrison would decide if she could attend Grace Tame speech

Child sex abuse survivor and Liberal MP Bridget Archer was told the decision on whether or not she could attend a speech by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins was “up to the Prime Minister.”

The confusion was blamed last night on a communication breakdown between the Whip’s office and the Prime Minister’s office.

The PMO insists it instructed the whips this morning to seek pairs from Labor for those Government MPs wanting to attend Wednesday’s National Press Club address.

That didn’t happen with Ms Archer told at 3pm it was “up to the PM” before she was finally told she could go after 7pm when news.com.au contacted the PMO.

In a major speech to be delivered at the national press club on Wednesday, the former Australian of the Year will speak out on tackling child sex abuse in Australia.

Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer secured a last-minute ticket to the sold out event on Tuesday, but her request to attend the event was not immediately granted.

Liberal colleagues claim she was told by party whip Bert Van Manem that it was “up to the PM.”

Despite Labor’s offer to allow her to leave Parliament despite the tight numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives, confusion reigned about whether she could attend.

After news.com.au contacted the Prime Minister’s office at 7:05 pm on Tuesday night, Ms Archer’s office then got a call 5 minutes later confirming she was cleared to attend.

The outspoken MP earlier declared she planned to cross the floor and vote against the Morrison Government’s religious freedom laws because they were in breach of Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws.

She told Parliament she was “horrified” that proposed amendments excluded children that identified as transgender.

“After so much progress how did we get back to a place where we ignore the harm we place on children when we tell them they are ‘other’, ‘less than’ and do not deserve rights and protections afforded to others – I fear it may risk lives,” Ms Archer said.

Labor’s manager of government business Tony Burke took to Twitter on Tuesday to insist there was no barrier from Labor MPs on Ms Archer or other MPs attending.

“If requests come in for the Press Club we will accommodate the same as we did for March4Justice,’’ he said.

“The government’s claim that we are meant to offer pairs that they haven’t requested is weird. And wrong.”

Last year, Ms Archer told news.com.au she burst into tears after she was taken to the Prime Minister’s office to discuss her decision to cross the floor on another matter despite repeatedly telling his staff she wanted to delay the discussion.

While Scott Morrison described the talks as “friendly”, Ms Archer said she was ambushed by the meeting and had earlier asked to delay it.

“I didn’t feel like I was being marched to the principal’s office. I just felt a little disappointed that it happened when I had expressed to the Prime Minister’s office that I would have preferred, that my preference was not at that time,” she told news.com.au.

“And I had said in the text messages to the Prime Minister’s office that I didn’t want to have the meeting, before the meeting.

“They sent me a message saying he wanted to see me at 12.15pm. I said I am not ready. I need a break.

“It was a big thing. It was just the emotion of the moment.”

Ms Archer is a child sexual assault survivor who voted with independent MP Helen Haines to suspend standing orders to establish an anti-corruption commission.

“I have found this year incredibly difficult, personally because of my own history as a child sexual abuse survivor,” she said.

“It has been difficult for me to sit with discipline in unity with all this going on around me and it has hurt me. It has hurt me.

“But I am not weak. I’m telling you that I don’t think that some of these things are the right way forward.

“That language being used yesterday about drones and warm bodies. That’s what I said to him. That I am not a drone.”

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