Australia to Impose “Lifetime Ban” on Anyone Caught Immigrating Illegally

you-wont-be-settled-in-australiaThe Australian government is set to introduce legislation that will set a lifetime ban on refugees trying to enter the country by boat.

Australia has some of the strictest immigration laws in the world. People who enter the country without a visa are placed in off-shore detention centers indefinitely. The country has been widely criticized for the policy and moved to close one of its largest detention camps in Papua New Guinea in August.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government want to deter refugees from even trying. By setting a lifetime ban on this form of illegal immigration, the government is sending a message to people smugglers that “Australia is not an option for you.”

“This will send the strongest possible signal to the people smugglers,” Turnbull told reporters Sunday in Sydney. “They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler. It is closed.”

Refugees will not be able to return under any circumstances, not even on a tourist visa or as a spouse of an Australian citizen. The ban will work retroactively and affect all cases after July 19, 2013.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Duttonau

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said the law will not change the outlook for refugees significantly, as the ones who are already in detention centers “are living in false hope.”

“There are still people, advocates in Australia and elsewhere, who are messaging to people on Nauru and Manaus that at some stage you are coming to Australia,” Dutton said. “Those people are living in false hope and it cannot continue.”

The government will introduce the proposal this week as an amendment to the 1958 Migration Act.

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Pakistan arrests National Geographic’s ‘Afghan girl’ Sharbat Gula

Sharbat Gula in the women's jail of Peshawar.
Sharbat Gula in the women’s jail of Peshawar.

An Afghan girl with haunting green eyes whose portrait on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 became one of the world’s most recognizable photographs has been arrested in Pakistan on charges of possessing forged identity papers, officials say.

Sharbat Gula, whose iconic image by photographer Steve McCurry earned her the title of “Mona Lisa of the Afghan war”, was taken into custody from her home in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar with two men, said to be her sons, police official Tahir Khan said.

An official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a department that deals with forgery cases, confirmed the arrest.

“Our team together with police raided her house and recovered both Pakistani and Afghan IDs,” said FIA director Imran Shahid.

Sharbat Gula - then and now
Sharbat Gula – then and now

Now in her 40s, Sharbat Gula — also known as Sharbat Bibi — was arrested in Peshawar on Tuesday for falsifying documents and staying illegally in Pakistan, officials said.

An official of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said she could face seven to 14 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 or be deported if convicted by court of fraud.

Omar Zakhilwal
Omar Zakhilwal

The top Afghan envoy in Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, who has been pursuing the case of 46-year-old Sharbat Gula with Pakistani officials, said a court in Peshawar will hear case on November 1, “in which we expect Sharbat Gula to be released”.

He said in a post on his official Facebook page that an Afghan legal team had taken up Sharbat Gula’s case with legal departments. He also took up her case with Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz.

peshawarThe arrest in Peshawar of Sharbat Gula, one of the world’s most recognized and famous and Afghanistan’s most beloved image, has deeply saddened all Afghans without exception and has hurt their emotions,” Zakhilwal wrote in his post.

The action was a “complete contradiction” of the Pakistan government’s efforts to “win hearts and minds” in Afghanistan, he added.

Zakhilwal also dismissed the charges leveled against Sharbat Gula, saying the Pakistani identity card she had “was not fake and neither was it obtained fraudulently”. He added there were more than 500,000 Afghan refugees who had been issued Pakistani IDs and the interior ministry was “very well aware” of this.

“In light of the implications Sharbat Gula’s arrest as well as release can have for Pak-Afghan people-to-people relations and also the legal weaknesses with the case on which she is charged, I requested Mr Sartaj Aziz that the Pakistan federal government issues a directive to release Sharbat Gula immediately. Mr Sartaj Aziz gave me his assurances for which I am grateful,” Zakhilwal said.

He pointed out a deadline set by Pakistan for Afghan refugees to return these ID cards was November 15, which was more than two weeks away.

If Sharbat Gula is released, the Afghan government will facilitate her family’s immediate repatriation and support her to resettle in her own country, Zakhilwal said. The envoy said Sharbat Gula’s husband and eldest daughter had died and she had sold her house just before her arrest.

Soviet army invades Afghanistan
Soviet army invades Afghanistan

Gula’s family fled to Pakistan with thousands of Afghan families when Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Some obtained identity papers in a bid to stay on in Pakistan. Some three million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, especially in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the semi-autonomous tribal areas.

ng_afghangirlIn 1984, National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry took the haunting image of Sharbat Gula, then aged about 12, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the edge of Peshawar. The photo, which became the most famous cover image in the magazine’s history, was likened to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The photograph appeared on the National Geographic cover in June 1985, and was widely used to publicize the plight of refugees.

Last year Pakistan’s government began a crackdown on Afghan refugees who allegedly used forged documents to obtain Pakistani nationality. That’s when Gula’s name surfaced.

“It is a sign of the times in Pakistan, that it has now reached someone who was something of a celebrity in the ’80s, someone more high profile than the average,” said Nicholas Bishop, project development officer for the IOM in Afghanistan.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists undocumented migrants, says the arrest — although legal if the ID card is proven to be false — is symptomatic of the mounting pressure on Afghan refugees in Pakistan to return home.

Pakistan has said that it plans to send all of the estimated 2.5 million refugees back to Afghanistan as they have become an “unbearable” burden on the economy.

Demolition of Calais ‘Jungle’ camp under way

Boarding busses in Calais
Boarding busses in Calais

The dismantling of the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais has began as its inhabitants leave by bus for other parts of France.

A group of workers started to demolish unoccupied tents and shacks by hand, according to reporters at the scene.

About 2,000 migrants left voluntarily on Monday, and hundreds more have followed in the days following.

The Jungle has become a key symbol of Europe’s migration crisis, housing some 7,000 residents in squalid conditions.

calais-migrant-camp-the-jungleThe operation to close the camp has been largely peaceful, but concerns remain that some migrants will refuse to give up their attempts to cross the Channel to the UK.

The French authorities said they were prioritizing departures on Tuesday morning, but crews in hard hats and orange jumpsuits started demolition shortly after 1500 local time.
Crews began to pull down wooden frames and tarpaulins
Crews began to pull down wooden frames and tarpaulins

They tore down wooden shacks with sledgehammers and used diggers to move away debris.

The demolition is expected to be done mostly by hand – and in a low-key manner – as officials believe sending in bulldozers at this point would send the wrong message to migrants they want to convince to get on buses voluntarily.

The Calais police commissioner says the camp will be fully cleared by Friday and that only about 200 people are expected to try to stay.

There are warnings that those determined to stay will set up camp in the surrounding countryside while the demolition takes place before returning to the area.

Children are the only group allowed to stay in Calais. They will be housed in the camp’s converted shipping containers while the rest of the Jungle is dismantled.

Almost 200 children from the camp have been brought to the UK, some of them under the “Dubs” amendment to the Immigration Act, according to UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

The amendment allows particularly vulnerable children – such as girls and those under 13 – refuge in the UK, even if they do not have family already in the country.

Dismantling the Jungle

At times the migrants have jostled with police as they wait to board buses.
At times the migrants have jostled with police as they wait to board buses.

than 1,200 police were deployed for the clearance operation.

The French interior ministry said officers “might be forced to intervene” if there was unrest during the demolition.

In a statement (in French), French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 2,318 migrants had been “given shelter” on Monday.

A total of 1,918 adults had been taken away on 45 buses to 80 reception centers, while 400 minors were transferred to “provisional reception centers” within the camp.

The first day had taken place in a “calm and controlled manner”, he said.

Once the migrants have been transferred to different parts of France, they will be given the opportunity to claim asylum, or face deportation.

where-asylum-applications-have-been-made-in-2016Last year more than one million migrants – many fleeing the civil war in Syria – arrived in Europe. Countries struggled to cope and division arose in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.

An EU-Turkey pact to try to stop migrants crossing to Greece and moves by Balkan nations to close their borders have driven down the number of people using the so-called eastern Mediterranean route.

However, migrants from African countries such as Eritrea and Somalia as well as West African nations such as Nigeria and the Gambia are continuing to attempt the crossing from Libya to Italy.

As U.S. Watches Mexico, Traffickers Slip In From Canada

US - Canada border marker
US – Canada border marker

While the Southern border with Mexico, about 2,000 miles, attracts much more attention, the 5,500-mile Northern border with Canada offers more opportunity for illegal crossing. In many places, there are few signs of where one nation ends and another begins. Some homes, farms and businesses even sit astride the two countries; in other areas, a small white obelisk is the only marker of a border. In the past year, agents made 3,000 apprehensions along the Northern border, compared with 100 times that many along the Southwestern border with Mexico. They also seized 700 pounds of marijuana and cocaine in the North compared with 1.6 million pounds along the heavily gated Southern border.

us-states-bordering-canadaBut the authorities acknowledge that they cannot say with certainty how much criminal activity occurs as a result of Northern border crossings because their means of detection are so limited.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp
Senator Heidi Heitkamp

“The problem is that we don’t know what the threats and risk are because so much attention is given to the Southwest border,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota.

This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations. Each year, Border Patrol agents catch hundreds of drug smugglers and human traffickers who use the sparsely populated and heavily wooded areas along the Vermont-Canada border to bypass the agents, cameras, sensors and other electronic devices that the Department of Homeland Security has installed to make up for the lack of personnel.

The expanse and remoteness of much of the Northern border, which includes Alaska, make the task of law enforcement daunting, said Norman M. Lague, who leads the border patrol station in Champlain, N.Y., one of the eight stations in the Swanton region that oversee border security operations in Vermont, upstate New York and New Hampshire. “We do the best that we can with the resources we have,” he said.

The border with Canada, the largest between two countries in the world, has hardly warranted a mention in a presidential campaign dominated by Donald J. Trump’s call to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. But officials and law enforcement officers say that makes the region more vulnerable in many ways to exploitation by criminal enterprises and possible terrorists.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Department of Homeland Security has increased the number of Border Patrol agents stationed along the Northern border to more than 2,000, from about 340, in addition to adding ground sensors, drones and other detection devices. Nearly 18,000 agents patrol the Southwestern border with Mexico.

Ms. Heitkamp has sponsored legislation, along with several other senators from border states, including Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan, and Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, that would require the Department of Homeland Security to assess the national security risks posed by the terrorist and criminal organizations operating on the Canadian border.
Senator Gary Peters
Senator Gary Peters
Senator Kelly Ayotte
Senator Kelly Ayotte

During a hearing last year before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, several law enforcement officials raised concerns about terrorists’ making their way to the United States through the sparsely populated areas along the border. In 2007, people from the Government Accountability Office managed to cross from Canada into the United States carrying a duffel bag with contents that looked like radioactive material, and they never encountered a law enforcement officer.

“No one is arguing that the Northern border is the same as what’s happening down on the Southwestern border, but we can’t forget about this area,” said Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. “If we take our eye off of that, they will go where the weakest link is.”

Drug smuggling is a continuing issue because the lack of security and natural barriers makes the point of entry from Canada much easier for the smugglers than the Southern border.

While marijuana is the main drug, officials say they are starting to see an increase in drugs like fentanyl, which contributes to the national opioid and prescription drug abuse crisis.

In January, Border Patrol agents arrested Cedrik Bourgault-Morin, 22, a Canadian from Quebec, after he was detected by night vision cameras and ground sensors along a railroad track near the border in the village of North Troy, Vt., pulling a sleigh with a 182-pound duffel bag. Agents said Mr. Bourgault-Morin, who was wearing white camouflage, was trying to hide the bag in the snow when he was caught.

Agents found 300 vacuum-sealed bags of Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, in the duffel bag. According to court records, the pills had a street value of $1.6 million. Mr. Bourgault-Morin was sentenced to one year in prison in August.

In addition to drugs, the smuggling of people is another challenge for law enforcement.

Bradley S. Curtis, the acting division chief for the Border Patrol Swanton Division, said agents had caught hundreds of people from dozens of countries trying to enter the United States through the dense forests and open fields.

“We’ve seen people from all over the world: Chinese, Haitians, Eastern Europeans, Brazilians, you name it,” Mr. Curtis said.

Law enforcement also faces another singular challenge in the North: Native American reservations where they have no legal authority to enter, making them attractive to drug smugglers.

Another issue is that officials here admit they do not actually know how many people and how much drugs get through. Officials acknowledge that many more people than they apprehend could be crossing the border illegally.

For example, cameras along the border recently showed four men dressed in camouflage outfits who appeared to have weapons crossing the border. Agents never caught them. Another camera image showed a group of about half a dozen people walking through the woods at night across the border. Agents said they had no information on the group.

“These guys make me nervous,” Mr. Curtis said. “My technology can show me when someone makes an entry, but it can’t tell me who they are, and we can’t always get there in time to catch them.”

Notorious refugee camp in France to be dismantled starting next week

The Calais Jungle
The Calais Jungle

The French Interior Ministry announced Friday that the Calais Jungle, the overcrowded and notorious refugee camp in Northern France, will be dismantled. There are 6,486 refugees currently in the Calais Jungle who will be moved to other camps throughout the country. “It is an operation that carries a risk,” said a French official in regards to the plan.

The official added that the evacuation plan will begin on Monday and is expected to last about a week. In the camp, there are refugees from all over the world, including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, who are requesting to enter Britain.

Migrant camp in Calais
Migrant camp in Calais

Britain usually rejects their asylum request in accordance with the EU law that states that refugees need to ask for asylum from the first country they enter. Last month, French President Francois Hollande announced the plans to close the camp. He described the situation in the camp as “unacceptable.” This week, a French court dismissed the petition to delay the evacuation until alternative housing for the refugees was found. The petition was submitted by various human rights organizations.

The refugees living in the Calais Jungle will be divided by families into several groups. The groups will then be divided among hundreds of refugee facilities in France where they will undergo medical tests and file an asylum request if they wish. 1,250 police officers and security personnel will oversee this operation, making sure that it goes smoothly.

Suicide bomber kills three at refugee camp on Syria-Jordan border

Syrians walk through the Ruqban refugee camp in Jordan's northeast border with Syria
Syrians walk through the Ruqban refugee camp in Jordan’s northeast border with Syria

The attack targeted an outpost manned by the Jaish al-Ashair rebel group at the Rakban refugee camp, said Said Saif, spokesman for the Forces of Martyrs Ahmed al-Abdo Brigades, a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel faction fighting against Islamic State.

Rakban is home to more than 75,000 people, among the millions of Syrians who have fled their homes during the country’s five-year civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of others.

Jaish al-Ashair is one of the groups that polices the camp. The blast, triggered when a bomber rammed an explosive-laden truck into the post, targeted one of its positions about 400 yards from a medical station, Saif said.

During a similar attack in July, six Jordanian border guards were killed by a suicide bomber who drove his car at speed across the border and into a military post near Rakban, which is located in a desert area near where Islamic State is present.

Obama Administration Is Quietly Delaying Thousands of Deportation Cases

obama-administrationThe Obama administration is delaying deportation proceedings for recent immigrants in cities across the United States, allowing more than 56,000 of those who fled Central America since 2014 to remain in the country legally for several more years.

The shift, described in interviews with immigration lawyers, federal officials, and current and former judges, has been occurring without public attention for months. It amounts to an unannounced departure from the administration’s widely publicized pronouncements that cases tied to the so-called surge of 2014 would be rushed through the immigration courts in an effort to deter more Central Americans from entering the United States illegally.

Central American immigrants who had been released from United States Border Patrol detention waited at the Greyhound bus station in McAllen, Texas
Central American immigrants who had been released from United States Border Patrol detention waited at the Greyhound bus station in McAllen, Texas

The delayed cases are those of nearly half of the Central Americans who entered the United States as families since 2014, and close to a quarter of the total number of Central Americans who entered during that period, according to figures from the Justice Department.

The delays are being made as a cost-saving measure, federal officials said, because of a lapse in enforcement that allowed immigrants who were supposed to be enrolled in an electronic monitoring program to go free.

Some of those affected had failed to report to government offices to be fitted with GPS ankle bracelets, according to a February memo from the chief immigration judge, Print Maggard, in Arlington, Va.

Now that the government will not have to pay the daily fee of $4 to $8 a person to monitor such bracelets, the immigrants’ cases have been pushed back for years, some until 2023, judges and federal officials said. The cases of those who met their reporting obligations are still being expedited, with some cases moving faster than lawyers and judges had expected.

“The whole thing is docket chaos,” said Paul Schmidt, who retired in June after a 30-year career working for federal immigration agencies, the last 13 years as an immigration judge.