OK, so, it’s been a long day and I’m getting started on this very late, so no time to dilly dally. Of course, if I don’t finish this by midnight I’ll just post it and then keep adding stuff to it after midnight, per my usual routine.
Oh, you didn’t know I did that? I’m revealing trade secrets.
This was not a super day for refugee rights. First, I think on Wednesday I badly undersold the plight currently facing migrants who are trapped in the Balkans because no European country will take them in. These people are in a desperate situation:
Thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are enduring “appalling” conditions in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and have been left camped in temperatures that have dropped well below freezing, aid groups have said.
Serbia is currently hosting an estimated 7,200 refugees, according to the UNHCR. Although the majority are being sheltered in government-run camps, aid workers estimate that around 2,000 are still on the streets or sheltering in an abandoned warehouse behind the main bus station in Belgrade.
The International Rescue Committee estimates “several hundred” of those trapped are children. One of those is 17-year-old Ajmal. The teenager has been living in Belgrade for a month after making the tough journey from Afghanistan.
“At the moment it is very difficult here, my life is very hard here,” Ajmal (not his real name) told BuzzFeed News over the phone from Serbia. “It is very cold, I have so many problems with different things: the food, the clothing, everything.”
Ajmal continued: “I sleep where I can. I am just homeless here. I don’t have a home or a tent to sleep here, it is very difficult. We are making fire every night but I can’t keep myself warm.”
The teenager attempted the border from Turkey three times. He’s desperate to move on, and to continue studying to be a doctor or an engineer to “help my country and all people.” Ajmal was forced to flee Afghanistan after his school near Kabul was targeted by insurgents. “I didn’t want to leave but I couldn’t learn,” he said. “If I go back, they will kill me.”
It is utterly appalling that Western society can allow this to happen and not even blink. We’re constantly told that American foreign policy has failed because we’re not bombing enough parts of the world at the moment, or not bombing them frequently enough. Bullshit. This is the failure.
Second, the EU is continuing to try, and fail, to cut a deal with the Libyan government (I’m using that term very loosely) to prevent more migrants from crossing the Mediterranean. This is because the EU would prefer that these people be stuck in Libya, a country in chaos, torn apart by a civil war that the EU helped cause, than that they sully the pristine shores of Europe with their gross refugee cooties. The irony here is that even if the EU could get a deal for the Libyan government to help it screw these migrants over, it wouldn’t mean anything because the government that the Europeans have helped to install in Libya doesn’t even control Tripoli, let alone the rest of the country.
Third, the Obama administration officially ended the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, which said that Cuban refugees trying to flee the island would be turned back if they were intercepted in the water but given asylum if they made it to American land. Now anybody attempting to get to the US from Cuba will be treated like anybody trying to get to the US from anywhere else–i.e., not well. Whatever you may think of America’s Cuba policy, which has been impossibly fucked up for decades and is only now starting to unfuck itself, this is a decision that makes it harder for Cuban refugees to find refuge.
Finally, in Myanmar–oh yes, you knew this was coming–4000 Myanmar civilians have been blocked by Chinese authorities from taking refuge in China after attempting to flee fighting between the government and separatist rebels in the northern state of Kachin. An estimated 23,000 people have been displaced in Kachin since fighting broke out a few weeks ago. Also, and here’s the part you knew was coming, representatives from Bangladesh and Myanmar have begun negotiations on how best to continue eradicating the Rohingya. Should the 65,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar in the past three months stay in ramshackle camps in Bangladesh, the country that doesn’t want them? Or should they be sent back to ramshackle villages in Myanmar, the country that’s actively trying to slaughter them? Choices, choices.
The biggest news here is something that is still developing, which is Russia’s decision to invite the United States–Donald Trump’s United States–to its January 23 Syrian peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. Moscow is refusing to confirm this, but it seems pretty clear that an invitation has been made, and the reason I note that it was made to Donald Trump’s America is because it wasn’t made through regular diplomatic channels: Continue reading