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Registration gives many Rohingya refugees identification for the first time

By Alex St-Denis in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh | 17 May 2019

Nasima Aktar is among hundreds of thousand..

By Alex St-Denis in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh | 17 May 2019

Nasima Aktar is among hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya — many of whom have spent a lifetime without official documentation — for whom getting an official identity card is a significant step.

“We want documents for Rohingyas. This is our document,” says Aktar, who recently received a plastic identity card bearing her basic biodata, photo and country of origin in a registration drive in Bangladesh.

There are more than 900,000 Rohingya refugees like Nasima living in crowded settlements in southeast Bangladesh of whom an estimated 741,000 have fled a violent crackdown by the Myanmar military since August 2017.

“Having an identity is a basic human right … its also an incredible step into a more dignified life.”

Despite living in Myanmar for generations they were not able to acquire formal citizenship and documentation that comes with this, leaving them stateless and deprived of basic rights.

She is now among more than a quarter of a million Rohingya refugees who have been registered in a push since June last year by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in support of the Bangladesh government, in an effort that also helps to safeguard their right to voluntarily return home to Myanmar.

“Having an identity is a basic human right,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi during a recent visit to Coxs Bazar. “And remember: many of these people, all their life, did not have a proper identification. So, for them, its also an incredible step into a more dignified life.”

To date, a total of 270,348 refugees have been registered in the settlements of Ukhia and Teknaf Upazilas. On average, over 4,000 refugees are being registered a day in the exercise, with the aim of concluding the registration of all those in the settlements late this year.

The exercise also improves the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh, which will help the authorities and humanitarian partners to better understand the needs of the refugee population. It will allow them to plan and target assistance more effectively, particularly for vulnerable groups such as children, women, and those with disabilities.

Refugees are registered using biodata and biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans to provide them with a unique identity. At the end of the registration process, refugees receive a plastic ID card that includes a photo, and basic information such as date of birth and gender. Only refugees over the age of 12 receive the card but families also receive an attestation showing the details of all family member.

All information on the documents is in English and Bengali and indicates Myanmar as the country of origin. The documents were developed in cooperation with the Bangladesh government and carries both government and UNHCR logos.

“They understand that this exercise has nothing to do with forcible return,” UNHCR registration officer Nurul Rochayati explains. “This exercise is to establish their protection in here, and to establish their right to return. They will return when theyre safe, in safety and dignity.”

To better explain the benefits of registration, UNHCR and the Bangladesh authorities in recent months held meetings with the community including with leading Rohingya figures, such as imams, elders and teachers. Community outreach teams, that include refugees, go out regularly to talk about the registration process and encourage people to attend.

With the cyclone season underway, registration will also help reunite families in case they get separated during storms.

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List of Arabic Media Outlets

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Fact Finding Mission to Libya – Diaries by Sameh Habeeb

The ongoing instability in Libya and the complicated political situation since 2011 continue to prod..

The ongoing instability in Libya and the complicated political situation since 2011 continue to produce security and economic repercussions across the Mediterranean particularly to Southern European countries. The complexity of the situation makeσ it almost impossible to soundly diagnose and understand the “politics of division” dominatιng the east and western regions of Libya. The recent offensive of General Khalifa Haftar demonstrates that the Libyan Crisis is deepening and far from over.

To fully understand the situation in Libya, International Centre for Relations & Diplomacy (ICRD), and (IPSE) and the newspaper European Interest organised an International Fact finding mission in Tripoli, Libya ( June 7-11), with the participation of area studies experts, politicians, journalists and diplomats from fourteen countries across Europe.

The mission went to the countrys capital, the seat of Libyas Internationally recognised government, and a city under siege. The mission was organised over the course of two months, putting together a team of 30-high calibre participants, whilst taking measures to ensure security and planning meetings with a broad spectrum of government and civic stakeholders on the ground.

Bearing in mind that Tripoli is currently under attack and many governments regard it as a no-go zone, ICRD also faced a number of bureaucratic obstacles, from issuing visas for delegates to ensuring the security of all participants.With the help of the Libyan government, national and international NGOs present on the ground, ICRD was able to secure safe access to a wide array of stakeholders, including civil society, political parties, local councils and local governments, and top government officials.

June 9

After a long journey on the evening of the 8th of June 2019, via Tunis, the mission started its first round of consultations with Libyan local government representatives from across the country, particularly conflict-afflicted regions. The Libyan delegates spoke on length about the challenges they face due to lack of funding and resources from the central government. They also voiced their concerns on security challenges. Interestingly, they also added that in many locations they cant fully operate due to different loyalties of tribes, armed groups to different sides in the east and west of Libya.

Later in the day, the mission met with the political leadership of various political parties. There was a consensus over the condemnation of violence as the means to manage existing power cleavages, while a number of informants spoke at length about the international dimension of the conflict, through local proxies and arms sales, by powers that are seeking part of the oil and gas wealth of Libya. There was also condemnation of the UN position that seeks to retain a balance between the international recognised government and the forces of General Haftar. The term “incompetence” was used on more than one occasion.

A third round of consultations was with civic society organisations, where there was expressed disapproval for foreign involvement that fuels the conflict, especially as regards to encouraging the siege of Tripoli. The condemnation of specific EU member states and Arab Gulf countries was especially vehement. A number of Libyan delegates talked about the need for a Libyan war tribunal, especially in reference to General Haftar.

The mission took note of all speakers, committed only to the principle that conflict resolution must adhere to democratic principles, respect the need to protect civilians, and avoid the use of violence that can irreparably damage the social fabric in Libya. The mission also conveyed a rise in concern over the spillover of national security threats to Europe, particularly via radicalisation and human trafficking from Africa.

Meeting with UN Special Envoy, Ghasan Salame

The delegation held an eye-opening meeting with UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame to discuss the situation in Libya and the role of the UN. The delegation was briefed about the role of the UN and statistical picture of the ongoing conflict, particularly as regards to internally displaced and casualties. Special Envoy Salame reiterated the UN position of neutrality and invited all parties to find a non violent solution for the current crisis. The ensuing conversation took place off the record.

Field Visit

By the end of the day, our delegation carried out a field visit to a number of sites on the outskirts of Tripoli, including bombarded locations such as the Parliament and residential houses. The field also included a visit to a school that is now converted into a shelter for Internally displaced persons. Our delegation had the chance to speak to the IDPs and listen to their plight such as lack of support, displacement, failure to attend schools and war Trauma.

June 10

Meeting with Al Meshri

The second day of our visit commenced with a briefing and consultation with the President of the High Council of Libya, Khaled Al Meshri, essentially the speaker of parliament.

Al Mashri briefed the delegation about the current situation in Tripoli following the Haftar Offensive. He ruled out talks with General Haftar due to lack of trust, describing the leader of the forces besieging Tripoli as “untrustworthy” that failed to abide by previous agreements made during 6 rounds of negotiations. His view reflects a hardened position, suggesting a point of no return in the conflict. Al Meshri focused on the anger in Tripoli and other cities where people cant get along with their lives due to ongoing fighting and constant attacks on civilian areas on the outskirts of the capital. He also blamed some European and Arab countries who support Haftar in the ongoing offensive.

In response to a question from the delegation about the support the Tripoli government receives from some countries, including weapons or financial support, he clarified that the Government has only imported weapons that are not banned under the UN arms embargo on Libya.

Meeting with Fayez al-Sarraj

The last meeting for our mission was an open discussion with the Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and prime minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez Al Sarraj, who condemned the offensive of Haftar against Tripoli and called for an immediate end to all types of hostilities. Sarraj proclaimed the attack illegal and called on international community to step up its efforts to contain the Tripoli offensive. He also asserted that Haftar failed to commit to agreements made during a number of successive rounds of negotiations continuing with an offensive despite his agreement to a ceasefire during negotiations in Abu Dhabi. Al Sarraj also commented on the economic situation and that need for stability thus the Libyans could continue building their country.

Meetings In Tunis

Tunis is the closet neighbour to Libya and experiences the first impact from the ongoing conflict. Since 2011, the country has experience an influx of Libyan refugees and the flow continues, almost uninterrupted, with the flow surging during the peak of the conflict. The small North African country has taken millions of refugees both Libyans; and illegal African refugees, who use the country as Transit point in their journey to Europe.

Our delegation concluded its consultations with meetings at the Tunisian parliament, meeting both MPs and the national security advisor for Tunisias President. These consultations took place in confidence at the Tunisian Parliament, hosted by Ms. latifa Hbashi, chair of Committee For Freedoms and International Relations. The discussion gravitated towards the Libyan Crisis and the impact on Tunis. The meeting concluded that Tunis has not received enough support from European Union in dealing with the Libyan refugees nor illegal immigrants. Tunsian MPs added that the country is increasingly vulnerable to terrorism due to crisis in Libya and needs additional support from the International community.

Finally, the delegation then met with the National Security Advisor of the President, Kamel Akrout, to discuss the implications of Libyan conflict on Tunisia. The consultation broadly resulted in the conclusion that a resolution of the conflict in Libya can only be achieved through diplomatic means. He also added that Libyan Government in Tripoli must take the initiative in improving the domestic situation, pointing to a number of lost opportunities since 2016.

By Sameh Habeeb

Sameh Habeeb is a British Journalist and Middle East Expert. He is the founder and director of think tank organisation “International Centre For Relations & Diplomacy. Habeeb is also a co-founder of various media projects and has long history of working with Governments, Politicians and Parliamentarians across Europe and other parts of the world.

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Domestic Abuse: MPs urge Government to introduce measures so migrant women access adequate protection

A group of cross-party MPs – including Diane Abbot, Jess Phillips, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Caroli..

A group of cross-party MPs – including Diane Abbot, Jess Phillips, Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Caroline Lucas, Dawn Butler and Harriet Harman – have written a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid raising concerns that the current draft of the Domestic Abuse Bill “will fail to protect migrant women”.

In the letter, the MPs say that migrant women “find it virtually impossible to access protection from the police or doctors for fear they will be reported to the Home Office and detained or even deported” and “are falling through the gaps and further harmed by our current system that treats them as suspects rather than victims”. They urge the Home Secretary and the Government to “address the specific needs of migrant women” in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

The letter comes alongside the publication of the Joint Parliamentary Committees report on the draft Bill today (14 June), which recommends the Government takes steps to ensure all survivors are protected without discrimination, including access to refuge and welfare and the creation of a firewall between support services and immigration control.

Amnesty International UK – which is campaigning alongside the Step Up Migrant Women coalition for better protections for migrant and BME women victims and survivors of domestic abuse – has welcomed the “timely” intervention.

Karla McLaren, Amnesty Internationals Government and Political Relations Manager, said:

“This is a timely and much needed intervention from a diverse and cross-party group of MPs, many of whom will have supported migrant women in their constituencies who are unable to access protection from abuse because of a system which discriminates against them.

“That system must change, and the government now has an opportunity to act. They must listen to migrant women themselves, to the MPs who signed this letter, and to the Domestic Abuse Bill Committee, who have also been clear.

“The Bill must provide equal protection for all survivors, no matter who they are or where they are from.”

Full letter

Dear Home Secretary,

Domestic abuse affects 2 million people – mostly women – every year. As MPs, weve all met constituents whove experienced this violence. Weve heard their devastating stories, weve listened to their needs, and weve vowed to ensure their voices are heard in parliament.

Thats why were compelled to raise our concerns about the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which, as it currently stands, will fail to protect migrant women from this terrible violence.

We know from meeting people in our surgeries that some of the most vulnerable women experiencing or trying to escape domestic abuse are migrant women.

These women find it virtually impossible to access protection from the police or doctors for fear they will be reported to the Home Office and detained or even deported. These women are unable to find safety in a refuge bed because they have no recourse to public funds. These women are often blocked from securing their immigration status because of a dependence on their abusive partner.

These are the women who are falling through the gaps and further harmed by our current system that treats them as suspects rather than victims. They face a hopeless choice: homelessness, destitution, detention or deportation on the one hand, or returning home to a violent or abusive partner on the other.

The Domestic Abuse Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our government to ensure all women are offered proper protection, and its the vehicle through which the Government hopes to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing violence against women.

But it will fail in these goals if neglects to address the specific needs of migrant women.

We support calls from across the BME, womens and human rights sectors for the Bill to guarantee adequate and equal protection for all survivors of domestic abuse. The Government must take this opportunity to listen to migrant women survivors and ensure the Bill leaves no woman behind.

Signed

Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Home Secretary, Labour Party

Jess Phillips MP, Chair of All Party Group on Domestic Abuse, Labour Party

Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Treasury Committee, Conservative Party

Anna Soubry MP, Leader, ChangeUK

Carolyn Harris MP, Shadow Home Office Minister, Labour Party

Heidi Allen MP, Independent

Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Labour Party

Harriet Harman MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Labour Party

Baroness Burt, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Liberal Democrat Party

Liz Saville-Roberts MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Plaid Cymru

Diana Johnson MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Labour Party

Alex Norris MP, Member of the Joint Committee on Draft Domestic Abuse Bill, Labour Party

Tom Brake MP, Brexit and International Trade Spokesperson, Liberal Democrat Party

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat Party

Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party

Stella Creasy MP, Labour Party

Sarah Champion MP, Labour Party

Christine Jardine MP, Work and Pensions Spokesperson, Liberal Democrat Party

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Labour Party

Catherine West MP, Labour Party

Virendra Sharma MP, Labour Party

Kate Green MP, Labour Party

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