African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".


  • African Press International Daily Online News Channel

  • * * API on Facebook

  • January 2012
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec   Feb »
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • Total Visitors

    • 5,357,911 HITS
  • Flag tracker

    web counter
  • RSS BBC News – Africa

    • Reeva Steenkamp shot in 'rapid fire' April 16, 2014
      A forensics expert contradicts police ballistics testimony by telling the trial of Oscar Pistorius that his girlfriend was shot in quick succession.
    • Remittance fees 'hurt Africans' April 16, 2014
      Communities in sub-Saharan Africa are being "hurt" by high fees charged by money transfer operators, charity Comic Relief says.
    • 'Last' Chadian soldier leaves CAR April 16, 2014
      Chad has withdrawn all its peacekeepers from the Central African Republic, an official confirms, after accusations they sided with Muslim rebels.
    • Head of oldest African park shot April 16, 2014
      The Belgian director of Africa's oldest national park - Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo - is shot and wounded in an ambush.
    • UN mulls medal for peacekeepers April 16, 2014
      The UN Security Council hears a proposal to create a medal for bravery in UN peacekeeping, to be named after a Senegalese soldier who saved lives during the Rwandan genocide.
    • Search after Nigeria school kidnap April 16, 2014
      The Nigerian military joins the search for dozens of teenage girls abducted from a school in the remote north-east.
    • South Sudan rebels 'seize' oil hub April 15, 2014
      Rebel forces in South Sudan say they have recaptured the oil hub of Bentiu and want oil companies to halt operations.
    • Elite marathon runner misses flight April 15, 2014
      A London Marathon runner from Sierra Leone is missing after she disappeared and failed to catch a flight home.
    • Jordanian envoy kidnapped in Libya April 15, 2014
      Masked gunmen kidnap Jordan's ambassador to Libya in the capital, Tripoli, in an attack that left his driver wounded, officials say.
    • More than 70 killed in Nigeria blast April 14, 2014
      More than 70 people are killed in a powerful explosion at a crowded bus station near Nigeria's capital, Abuja, officials say.
    • Rwandan musician and journalist held April 14, 2014
      One of Rwanda's best-known musicians and a leading journalist are arrested over their alleged links to an opposition group and rebels.
    • Video link trial for Gaddafi's son April 14, 2014
      A Libyan court rules that the late Colonel Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, and other Gaddafi officials being held outside Tripoli, can be tried via video-link.
    • VIDEO: Abducted Nigerian girls still missing April 16, 2014
      Security forces in Borno State in Nigeria are searching for 100 teenage girls abducted by suspected members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
    • AUDIO: 'Killing books' in Libya April 15, 2014
      Libyan author Mansour Bushnaf says Libya does not have much of reading culture because under Col Muammar Gaddafi, people were afraid of books.
    • VIDEO: At site of Nigeria bus station blast April 14, 2014
      A powerful bomb blast has ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, killing at least 71 people.
    • VIDEO: Cleaning up Cairo's waste system April 14, 2014
      The Egyptian government is turning to its traditional rubbish collectors - the Zabaleen - to revolutionise Cario's waste disposal industry.
    • VIDEO: Pistorius trial day 21 - in 60 secs April 14, 2014
      The prosecutor at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial suggests the South African athlete is using his emotions "as an escape".
    • VIDEO: Ghana's 'waste to wealth' initiative April 12, 2014
      Suzanne Vanhooymissen reports on the large and smaller-scale enterprises set up to segregate waste and encourage recycling in Ghana.
    • VIDEO: Stalemate for SA's platinum miners April 12, 2014
      Lerato Mbele reports on the impact of the platinum workers' strike in South Africa, which has so far lasted for almost three months.
    • VIDEO: Kenya first lady in marathon quest April 11, 2014
      Kenya's first lady is in London, but she is not here for a state visit. Instead, Margaret Kenyatta is training for the London Marathon which is taking place on Sunday.
  • RSS BBC News – Home

    • Search for S Korea ferry passengers April 16, 2014
      Emergency services continue to search overnight for almost 300 people unaccounted for after a ferry carrying 459 people sank off South Korea.
    • Blakelock family 'must feel angry' April 16, 2014
      Nicholas Jacobs, the man cleared of killing PC Keith Blakelock in 1985, says he would feel "angry and disappointed" if he was a member of the police officer's family.
    • Ukraine military column 'disarmed' April 16, 2014
      Ukraine's defence ministry says six of its armoured vehicles have been seized by pro-Russian militants, amid mounting tension in eastern Ukraine.
    • Two killed in M26 five-vehicle crash April 16, 2014
      Two people are killed - and seven others are taken to hospital - after a five-vehicle crash which closed the M26 in both directions.
    • First Heartbleed 'hacker' arrested April 16, 2014
      A 19-year-old Canadian citizen is charged with hacking into the Canada Revenue Agency's website, becoming the first arrest in relation to the Heartbleed security breach.
    • Virgin apologises for email glitch April 16, 2014
      Virgin Media has apologised after some of its customers received hundreds of unwanted emails because of a distribution list error.
    • Wage rises catch up with inflation April 16, 2014
      After nearly six years of falling real wages, rises in weekly earnings have finally caught up with inflation, according to the Office for National Statistics.
    • Coulson 'heard Blunkett voicemails' April 16, 2014
      Ex-editor Andy Coulson reveals in court for the first time he did listen to private voicemail messages relating to former home secretary David Blunkett.
    • Iraqi murder claims a 'conspiracy' April 16, 2014
      Allegations that 20 Iraqis were murdered by British troops in 2004 were the result of a "conspiracy" to pervert the course of justice, the UK claims.
    • Primary places revealed amid squeeze April 16, 2014
      A teachers' leader says there is a growing crisis over places at primary schools as parents discover which their children will attend.
    • Marathon runner's family 'shocked' April 16, 2014
      The family of a runner who died after completing the London Marathon thank the public for their support.
    • Brazil troops guard strike-hit Bahia April 16, 2014
      Brazil sends thousands of federal troops to maintain order in the north-eastern state of Bahia after police there went on strike over pay.
    • Row erupts over removed Banksy work April 16, 2014
      A row breaks out over the ownership of a work of art by "guerrilla artist" Banksy after it was taken from a Bristol street.
    • Beard trend 'guided by evolution' April 16, 2014
      The boom and bust of men's beard fashions may mirror Darwinian selection, scientists say.
    • Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland April 16, 2014
      Manchester City drop points in the title race but they recover from a goal down to salvage a late draw with Sunderland.
    • Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace April 16, 2014
      Everton hand the initiative back to Arsenal in the race for fourth as they suffer a surprise 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.
    • The inside story of Lara's record 375 April 16, 2014
      How Brian Lara's world record innings against England in Antigua unfolded - from those who witnessed it first hand
    • VIDEO: Glory and agony - a Chinese GP guide April 16, 2014
      BBC Sport's Ben Edwards previews the 11th Chinese Grand Prix, running at the Shanghai International Circuit this Sunday.
    • England World Cup contenders - Carter April 16, 2014
      England will be major contenders for World Cup 2015 and a win in New Zealand this summer is possible, says Dan Carter.
    • UK unemployment rate falls to 6.9% April 16, 2014
      The number of people out of work in the UK has fallen by 77,000 to a five year low of 2.24 million in the three months to February, official figures indicate.
  • RSS Reuters: Politics

  • RSS CNN.com – Africa

    • Luxury shoes made in Ghana April 15, 2014
      Fred Deegbe was standing outside a shop window five years ago, marveling at the shiny pair of wing-tip Oxfords he'd just bought, when he started wondering whether such beautiful designer shoes could ever be produced in his country, Ghana.
    • Meet Nigeria's 'Mark Zuckerberg' April 3, 2014
      At 23, many people around the world are still at university -- at that age, Gossy Ukanwoke had already started one.
    • Why we need more geek girls April 3, 2014
      "It was like taking a big leap of faith."
    • 'Uncle Ebo' revives Ghanaian theater April 15, 2014
      African Voices meets James Ebo Whyte a passionate storyteller with a series of successful plays to his credit.
    • How medics saved lives at Westgate April 9, 2014
      When gunmen stormed into Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders on the scene. As head of Kenya's Red Cross, he was in charge of coordinating services for people in need.
    • Embracing Ghana's natural beauty April 1, 2014
      She started her business with just £100, lugging her beauty bag from door to door, but some 25 years later Grace Amey-Obeng has built a multi-million dollar cosmetics empire that's helping change the perception of beauty for many.
    • Secrets of 'gorilla whisperer' March 25, 2014
      Zain Verjee visits Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park -- the home of half of the world's endangered mountain gorilla population.
    • Savannah from the sky March 13, 2014
      It's almost impossible for a photographer to find fresh visual perspectives these days. Brooklyn-based Zack Seckler had to travel to a different continent and strap into an ultra-light aircraft to find one. His Botswana series presents the country from between 50 and 500 feet, providing a unique and captivating view of the savannah.
    • Holy water at baptism festival March 25, 2014
      France has Lourdes, but Ethiopia has Gondar -- with thousands of pilgrims swimming in its holy waters to celebrate the baptism of Jesus.
    • Pop art condoms saving lives April 15, 2014
      The Center for African Family Studies in Nairobi has teamed up with Kenyan artist Michael Soi to create eye-catching condom wrappers to promote safe sex and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among young people.
    • Africa's most endangered April 16, 2014
      Africa is home to much unique wildlife, but many of its iconic species are threatened. Find out more about its most endangered animals.
    • Ebola: A swift and bloody killer April 16, 2014
      It took only moments to feel the impact of what was happening here.
    • 'I lost my fingers, made new ones' April 14, 2014
      A South African carpenter lost his fingers in an accident -- now he's making mechanical fingers and hands for others.
    • Kenya double in London Marathon April 13, 2014
      World record-holder Wilson Kipsang completed a Kenyan double at the London Marathon Sunday as home hope Mo Farah disappointed on his debut over the 42km distance.
    • Pistorius at mercy of 'bull dog?' April 11, 2014
      He's known as the "bull dog" in South Africa's legal circles, and just two days in to Gerrie Nel's merciless cross-examination of Oscar Pistorius, it's easy to see why.
    • 'Now is the time for Afro-realism' April 11, 2014
      Over the last 20 years, the narrative on the African continent has shifted from Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism. The truth lies somewhere in between. Now is the time for Afro-realism: for sound policies based on honest data, aimed at delivering results.
    • Africa's tastiest street food April 11, 2014
      Here are your photos of the tastiest -- and most unusual -- African street food.
    • Most stylish tribe in Africa? April 10, 2014
      A South African designer is making sure that when Xhosa boys come of age, they're dressed to the nines.
    • Egypt's sex pest epidemic? April 9, 2014
      A university student cowers in a pharmacy as a mob outside threatens her with sexual violence. A law student is groped by her classmates, the dean cites her "inappropriate attire." Frightening allegations but advocates say this is an everyday reality for women in Cairo.
    • Day that changed Kenya forever April 9, 2014
      When gunmen stormed into Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders on the scene. As head of Kenya's Red Cross, he was in charge of coordinating services for people in need.
  • Country Stats

    free counters

Archive for January 29th, 2012

Legal issues are often invisible in emergencies

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2012

GLOBAL: Why international disaster law matters

Legal issues are often invisible in emergencies

BANGKOK, – More countries should follow international disaster law to ensure efficient delivery of international aid, say experts.

“Too often, this life-saving assistance is delayed by bureaucratic bottlenecks,” Elyse Mosquini, a Geneva-based senior advocacy officer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told IRIN.

International disaster law, the legal instruments that provide guidance on how disaster assistance should work, “is the closest thing we have to a rule book on how disaster response operations should be managed across borders”, says Oliver Lacey-Hall, Asia head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA)

The IFRC’s International Disaster Response Laws, Rules and Principles (IDRL) programme developed the Guidelines for the Domestic Facilitation and Regulation of International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance, introduced in 2007.

“The guidelines aim to provide guidance to governments on how to reduce red tape and strengthen accountability,” adds Lacey-Hall.

But unfortunately countries do not think about needing external help until it becomes an immediate reality, experts say. Only nine countries have passed IDRL-based domestic legislation – Finland, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, the Philippines and US.

Experts say more countries need to act fast and follow their examples.

Lacey-Hall said the recent floods in the Philippines showed that strong disaster laws meant response operations proceeded smoothly.

“Sadly it seems that usually it requires a disaster to focus minds on putting such regulations into place,” he told IRIN.

Mosquini urged states to move before the next disaster strikes.

“One only has to look at the increasing number and scale of natural disasters over the past several years to recognize the urgency of action in this area,” she warns.

Among the stumbling blocks covered are issues such as visas for aid workers, customs and taxes, and an overall need for coordination.

Visas

“There have been a number of cases where visas have taken time to obtain,” says Sarah Ireland, regional director for Oxfam East Asia.

Myanmar notoriously refused to give visas to aid workers for weeks following Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

“We want to bring in legitimate resources like people and goods quickly, to get these in within the first two weeks,” Ireland said. 


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Visa facilitation can prove key in getting assistance to those who need it most

Problems with visas can also arise once the immediate disaster response has passed: “It is often easier to get a visa during the first week of an emergency, but weeks into the response operations the procedures are not only back to basics, but the system is often clogged up by the many requests from international organizations,” notes Jesper Lund, humanitarian affairs officer at the Emergency Services Branch of UN-OCHA, based in Geneva.

The IDRL recommendations include granting or waiving visas and work permits for aid workers; recognizing driver’s licences and qualifications of doctors, engineers; and making an effort to hire local staff as much as possible.

Customs and taxes

“Stories of relief shipments delayed at customs processing points for months after they would have been useful are well known,” Mosquini says.

“There are two issues in customs,” adds Ireland. “One is being allowed to bring in things, and sometimes you have to import things like vehicles and communications equipment, which can be sensitive. And then some of the challenges are with taxation – because sometimes taxes are 100 percent.”

“In Haiti, water trucks were parked for months because of the registration process in the country, which created substantial expenditures in renting local water trucks,” says Isabelle Sechaud, IFRC’s field logistics manager.

The IDRL guidelines propose exempting relief shipments from customs and taxes; permitting re-exportation once they are no longer needed; temporarily recognizing foreign registered vehicles; and reducing barriers to import of communications equipment and medicines.

Lack of coordination

“A large part of the assistance in the first phase of a new emergency is donated with the heart rather than based on sound humanitarian needs assessments,” says Lund.

In 2004, many agencies sent inappropriate or even harmful items, such as expired food and medicines, in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, according to Mosquini.

“There was pretty much a free-for-all at the start of the aid operation,” says Lacey-Hall, referring to the tsunami aftermath in Indonesia. “[Lack of coordination] meant there were no clear rules of engagement, that turf battles broke out between aid agencies on who worked where.”

The IDRL guidelines say affected states should have primary responsibility and sovereign rights to regulate relief operations, and the right to decide whether to invite in international assistance. International actors are advised to calculate aid priorities based on need alone, not interfere in internal affairs of the affected state and coordinate with domestic actors.

ms/ds/mw
source www.irinnews.org

About these ads

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Discovery of unsafe levels of arsenic in Nepal’s groundwater more than a decade ago

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2012

Analysis: When aid meets arsenic in Nepal

A girl drinks from a public tap installed last year in Nepal’s Nawalparasi District

PARASI,  – After the discovery of unsafe levels of arsenic in Nepal’s groundwater more than a decade ago, government officials and aid groups are finally taking a critical look at whether their efforts have made a difference.

“We didn’t raise money for broken filters,” said US-based geologist Linda Smith, expressing frustration during a recent visit to Nawalparasi District in the southern Terai region, one of Nepal’s hardest-hit areas by arsenic-contaminated groundwater, when she came across abandoned water filters.

At one home, two broken cement water filters were being used as planters, while another filter distributed by the NGO she heads, Filters for Families (FFF), sat dismantled in the yard.

At a neighbouring home, parts were missing from a two-bucket filtration system from Bangladesh known as a Sono. The filter stand had been converted to a clothes-drying rack.

Smith retrieved unused filters and reimbursed families for the US$5 they had paid per filter, which has an actual cost of $70.

“There are people who need filters, and they need to realize this,” she said.

Some 2.7 million people in Nepal – nearly 10 percent of the population – are drinking water with arsenic concentrations above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 10 parts per billion (ppb), according to 2011 government estimates.

In Nawalparasi District alone, a 2008 government survey of tube wells (shallow wells 14-24m deep controlled by hand pumps) found almost 4,000 wells had arsenic that exceeded national standards (50ppb).

Another 4,418 met national standards, but not the international 10ppb threshold – altogether affecting nearly 140,000 people who depend on those tube wells for drinking water.

Not a priority?

More than half of the country’s 33,000 tube wells that contain unsafe levels of arsenic have been addressed with the distribution of filters, but it does not mean the filters are used or maintained properly, said Madhav Pahari, water and sanitation specialist for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Kathmandu, which supports the government with arsenic containment.

“We have been providing temporary solutions through filters, but that requires changing behaviour, [which does not] occur overnight.”

A 2007 UNICEF-funded study of 1,000 tube wells in Nawalparasi found that while the filters technically worked, people were not maintaining them properly, which then rendered them faulty and then, ultimately, useless.

Little has been done to address the problem, in part because arsenic is not seen as a high priority for the government, said Pahari.


Photo: Shamsuddin Ahmed/IRIN
Hands of an arsenicosis patient in southern Bangladesh

“Microbial parasites are more important,” says Pahari. “Because if your kids have diarrhoea today, they’ll die tomorrow. But arsenic, of course, will take 10 years. It’s dangerous, but slow.”

Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of the metal arsenic in drinking water can lead to poisoning, or arsenicosis.

Symptoms include skin problems, cancers of the skin, bladder, kidneys and lungs; diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet; and possibly, diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders – but the cancer can lay dormant without spreading for years, even decades, notes WHO.

According to a senior engineer in the government’s Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS), Dan Ratna Shakya, arsenic is indeed a priority, but the government has lacked funding and the right technology to figure out what works best.

What works?

Pahari as well as Shakya said UNICEF and the government have both lagged in evaluating the filters, used for the past six years.

DWSS has never conducted a comprehensive water quality testing programme before, said Shakya.

“It’s not a one-time business. It should be periodical. But this is also linked to funding. There are so many… districts that are affected by arsenic and to go to each household for monitoring would be expensive.”

Pahari said there is a plan to compare the efficacy of Sono filters produced in Bangladesh with locally produced Kanchan arsenic filters.

Today, the Sono filter remains one of six technologies certified for sale in Bangladesh – one of the most affected countries worldwide in terms of arsenic-tainted drinking water, according to WHO; the Kanchan one failed local certification.

Until there are scientific tests, Pahari said, he cannot pass judgment on the best way to contain the arsenic crisis, but those tests have languished, as has the government committee in charge of water quality.

Deeper wells

The government’s recently reconfigured National Water Quality Steering Committee has only in recent months started “thinking about” permanent solutions to solve arsenic contamination, said Ram Lakhan Mandal, the head of water quality at DWSS.

“We thought the arsenic problem had been solved because of all these organizations that have implemented temporary mitigation measures like filters.”

The committee, which includes 19 government and civil society members, has been “passive” and has not met in the past three years, said the government engineer Shakya.

But things will change soon pledged Mandal.

“In the past, everyone came for mitigation and they did as they wished. But there was no set distribution of responsibilities. Now we are defining what we must do: tube wells and piped deep boring.”


Photo: Marcus Benigno/IRIN
A 29-year-old man in Nawalparasi District shows his blotched chest, a symptom of arsenic poisoning

The government is investing in a pilot project of “deep boring” wells that go at least 100m deep, below the arsenic threshold, estimated to be at most 55m deep in Nepal, according to Smith.

An entire deep boring (up to 150m) and water tank (25,000 litres capacity) construction can cost $16,000, of which 20 percent is paid by the community, which is also responsible for building the water tank which funnels the water to village public taps.

At one water tank construction site IRIN visited in a section of Nawalparasi known as Kunwar-Ward 13, villagers complained that without cash incentives, volunteers who were supposed to be building the tank were, instead, in their fields harvesting sugar cane.

As permanent solutions still prove elusive, families continue to line up for subsidized filters, said Smith.

“At the moment we have a waiting list of 700 [requests for] Sono filters,” said Smith.

Since 2007, FFF has assembled and delivered up to 1,000 filters to households and schools in villages across the district, replacing Kanchan filters previously installed by FFF and DWSS – an example of how a solution can become part of a greater problem, noted Pahari from UNICEF.

Poor coordination

Pahari said the number of agencies working to fight arsenic is unclear – as well as the total aid invested in arsenic containment – and the government has little oversight.

Mandal told IRIN a law in place for the past 20 years requires that any agency or NGO working in the water sector report its activities to the district office, which then informs DWSS.

“But this is not happening,” he said, while his colleagues cited stumbling on a Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-funded project of which they were not aware that is raising awareness about arsenic contamination in Nawalparasi.

“The government is not aware of how this money comes and how it goes. There are no reporting channels… JICA and ENPHO [local NGO, Environment and Public Health Organization] have a mutual understanding, but they don’t pass on the information.”

But a senior programme manager with ENPHO, which is implementing a 28-month $400,000 local capacity building project for arsenic mitigation, said government officials at both the national and local levels had signed off on the project and have been apprised at every step.


Photo: Marcus Benigno/IRIN
An abandoned arsenic water filter stand- turned-planter

“We had informed [the water quality improvement and monitoring section at DWSS] about our project to responsible personnel there. As far as I know, the chief [of the section] has changed a few months back. At DWSS there are many staff, so it is important whom you had contact with.”

Meanwhile, in Manari village in Nawalparasi, Smith and her NGO’s technicians visited the family of Ramesh Chaudhary, who died last November from stomach cancer at age 32, six months after his brother Ram Chaudhary, 40, died from similar causes.

In 2011, arsenic levels in tube-wells in Manari were 600 ppb, 60 times the limit WHO deems safe to drink.

FFF tested the water filter in use in front of surviving family members to quell their doubts as to its efficacy. Ramesh’s mother, widowed wife and son stood by as a technician tested the water.

A slip of paper sensitive to arsenic fumes alters in colour to measure the metal in parts per billion. The result was clean, indicating arsenic at less than 10 ppb.

As the group left the village, a 29-year-old man approached Smith and showed her what has become an image far too familiar in the district: dark spots blotting his chest, a visible symptom of arsenicosis.

In an August 2011 survey by ENPHO in three sections of Nawalparasi, including Manari, 25 percent of those surveyed had similar symptoms.

DWSS estimates solving the arsenic crisis here and elsewhere in the country, including the health fallout, will cost an estimated $18.6 million.

mb/pt/cb
source www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

Hunger strike – Australian immigration policy remains a contentious debate

Posted by African Press International on January 29, 2012

MIGRATION: Asylum-seekers in Australia suspend hunger strike

Australian immigration policy remains a contentious debate

BANGKOK,  – About 150 asylum-seekers in Australia have suspended their hunger strike after accusing the government of reneging on a promise for community detention and bridging visas for long-term detainees who posed no risk, activists confirm.

At least 34 of the participants had been on hunger strike for a week.

“The ball is now in the government’s court,” Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), told IRIN from Sydney. “I hope this will be followed by action and not just words.”

The suspension follows a meeting between an official from Australia’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship and 12 elected hunger strikers from the group on 24 January, with an agreement for both sides to meet again a week later.

More than 3,000 boat people – mostly Sri Lankans, Afghans and Iranians – are now in detention in eight high security immigration detention centres (IDCs) across the country, many for extended periods of time.

According to the government’s own statistics, 38 percent of asylum-seekers had been in detention for over a year.

Policy shift

On 25 November, the government announced a shift in policy that boat arrivals who did not pose risks would be considered for placement in the community on bridging visas, following initial health, security and identity checks.

Priority would be given to those who had spent the greatest amount of time in detention.

Under the plan, asylum-seekers on bridging visas have the right to work and support themselves while their claims for asylum are processed, as well as have access to necessary health services.

“This will be an ongoing, staged process to ensure an orderly transition to the community and that only suitable people are released,” Chris Bowen, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, said at the time of the announcement, noting he expected at least 100 asylum-seekers to be released per month.

But two months on and only 107 bridging visas issued, detainees and activists have grown frustrated by the slow pace of the process.

More than half the Afghan asylum-seekers, many of them ethnic Hazara, at the Pontville centre, joined the recent hunger strike which ultimately resulted in the hospitalization of at least three.

“There is nothing like 100 visas a month being issued and tensions are growing in all the detention centres,” Rintoul said, describing the government announcement as a “cruel hoax”.

Element of hope

“The process may not be going as fast as we would like, but we acknowledge that it’s a difficult process and one that needs to be done properly,” Alex Pagliaro, a refugee campaign coordinator for Amnesty International, told IRIN, describing the government’s plans to release more asylum-seekers into the community as “genuine”.

“They need to ensure that all necessary services are available to them when they are released,” she said, adding: “Once the process speeds up, this will take the pressure off the detention centres, which are already overcrowded.”

“Issuing bridging visas for asylum-seekers who arrive by boat is an important first step towards ending the suffering of thousands of vulnerable people experiencing extended and needless detention,” Paul Power, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council of Australia, added.

“We encourage the Federal Government to continue releasing more people into the community while their claims for asylum are being assessed,” he said, citing the importance of having a single system of processing, regardless of whether asylum-seekers arrive by boat or by plane.

According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, there are more than 5,000 asylum-seekers in Australia today, including 3,464 in the IDC system on the mainland, 945 in immigration detention on Christmas Island off the southern coast of Indonesia, as well as 1,324 living in community detention.

Under Australian immigration law enacted in 1992, any asylum-seeker arriving in the country without a visa by boat can be detained indefinitely, while those arriving by plane with a visa can be processed in the community.

ds/mw
source www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Leave a Comment »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,224 other followers

%d bloggers like this: