Monthly Archives: November 2020

Asylum seekers seeking refuge in the United States

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A former Colombian police officer had spent his career fighting rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — also known as FARC — and now that he was retired, they promised to hunt him down.

The first death threat came in the form of a note slipped under the front door. “Now that you’re out of the police we will take care of the pending issues,” read the note. “We are returning to the area.” The paper bore the FARC logo. Over the next few months, FARC would send four more death threats to Edier de Jesus Rodriguez Bedoya.

Bedoya and his family lawfully entered the U.S. in May 2013, and applied for asylum. He told an immigration judge that FARC was systematically targeting retired Colombian police officers who had fought against them. He feared if he returned to Colombia, FARC would make good on its threats. But that wasn’t enough for the U.S. Department of Justice, whose Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected his asylum request.

This week, federal appeals court overturned that decision: “As we have repeatedly explained, a threat of death qualifies as past persecution,” wrote Judge Robert King for the unanimous three-judge panel. Although the written threats never explicitly said they would “kill” the officer, “their meaning is plain and unambiguous,” the court wrote.

It’s a rebuke of the BIA at a time when more and more claims are being denied. An analysis earlier this year by the nonpartisan human rights organization Human Rights First found far fewer people are being granted asylum than in the past. The current grant rate is 40 percent lower than the average during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, the group said.

Joe Biden has criticized the Trump Administration’s asylum policies, and has promised to increase the number of asylum officers, to take the burden off overwhelmed immigration courts.

This federal appeals court decision will help others who seek asylum in that jurisdiction, said immigration attorney Jim Hacking. “No aspect of legal immigration has been under greater assault than our asylum system,” he told NPR. “Hopefully, this case represents a solid first step to restoring sanity to the asylum process.”

[NPR]

Alarm over world’s hunger crisis

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U.N. agencies have warned that some 250 million people in 20 countries are threatened with sharply spiking malnutrition or even famine in coming months.

The United Nations humanitarian office this week released $100 million in emergency funding to seven countries most at risk of famine—Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Congo, and Burkina Faso.

But David Beasley, head of the World Food Program, says billions in new aid are needed. Without it, “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021,” he said in an Associated Press interview last week.

In multiple countries, the coronavirus pandemic has added a new burden on top of the impact of ongoing wars, pushing more people into poverty, unable to afford food. At the same time, international aid funding has fallen short, weakening a safety net that keeps people alive.

[AP]

Ethiopia’s multiple crises: War, COVID-19, even locusts

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Ethiopia could hardly bear another emergency, even before a deadly conflict exploded in its northern Tigray region this month. Now, tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing into Sudan, and food and fuel are running desperately low in the sealed-off Tigray region, along with medical supplies and even resources to combat a major locust outbreak.

The United Nations warns of a “full-scale humanitarian crisis.” Food can’t get into the Tigray region of some 6 million people because of transport restrictions imposed after the fighting began. Humanitarian officials say long lines have appeared outside bread shops, prices have soared, and banks dispense only small amounts of cash.

“At this stage there is simply very little left, even if you have money,” according to the internal assessment by one humanitarian group contacted by The Associated Press.

[AP]

Global coronavirus case total tops 50 million

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The coronavirus has hit another sobering milestone: more than 50 million positive cases worldwide since the pandemic began.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reported more than 50.2 million COVID-19 cases globally as of Sunday.

There have been more than 1.2 million deaths from the disease worldwide since the pandemic started.

[AP]

U.S. refugee admissions

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President Joe Biden has promised to increase annual refugee admissions to 125,000.

Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees that would have been allowed into the United States in the coming year would have been at its lowest level in modern times, just 15,000 refugees.

According to a Trump administration White House memo, 5,000 of those 15,000 places were to go to refugees facing religious persecution, 4,000 reserved for refugees from Iraq who helped the United States, and 1,000 for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; leaving 5,000 open slots remaining, although refugees from Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are banned unless they can meet special humanitarian criteria.

[Foreign Policy]