Pregnant women refugees Maryam and Tahere refuse Australia’s prisons

Maryam and Tahere, two Iranian women, each heavily into the eight month of pregnancy, are spending a third night on a bus outside the Wickham Point Detention Centre, in the blistering heat of Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia, Australia’s refugee detention capital. They refuse to get off the bus and subject themselves to the indignities of the Australian prison system. Their story is the latest chapter in Australia’s shameful trade in refugees and asylum seekers.

Maryam and Tahere are Iranians who, with their families, have spent the last fifteen months in detention on Nauru. The Australian government found them to be `credible’ refugees, and so were “resettled” within Nauruan communities earlier this year. When their pregnancies turned out to be too complex for the hospital on Nauru, they were flown to Australia … where they were put on a bus headed for the detention center. Their families offered to pay for a motel in the area, and the authorities refused. Apparently, the women are more valuable as `guests of the State’ than on their own. And so the women said, “Enough. No more. No!” They refused to leave the bus and enter, or better re-enter, confinement.

No good news comes from inside the walls of Wickham Point. At the beginning of the year, it was the focus of a campaign protesting the humiliating treatment of women asylum seekers and refugees. The treatment of asylum seekers in Wickham Point is often called dehumanizing, inhumane and shameful, and each report highlights the particular indignities that women are forced to undergo. Suicides, such as that of Haidar Ali Ikhtiyar last year, and self harm, such as that of the 17-year-old woman asylum seeker who jumped from a second story window three months ago, are regular features at Wickham.

Maryam and Tahere may or may not know the details of what’s been transpiring at Wickham Point, but they know. They know it’s a bad place. They know they deserve better. And so they have said, “Either take me to a hospital here or ship me back to Nauru. Better a hellhole than this.” They know. They know that the desperate one here is the State, desperate to incarcerate and cage by any and all means. And they say, loudly and clearly, No!

No good news comes from inside the walls of Wickham Point Detention Centre, but perhaps something like good news will come from outside the walls, the news of women’s refusal and of women’s insistence on their dignity.

 

(Photo Credit: Refugee Action Coalition)

Australia’s shameful trade in refugees and asylum seekers

What’s the going rate, the market value, for refugees and asylum seekers these days? Ask the Australian government.

Australia and Cambodia are close to finalizing a deal on refugees. No one seems to know the details of this arrangement, because both countries are keeping it very hush-hush. But what we do know is it involves refugees and asylum seekers being moved from Australia’s catastrophic adventure in Nauru, to Cambodia. Some, in the Cambodia opposition, say this could involve as many as 1000 refugees, and they are most likely going to be `relocated’ on a remote island off the coast of Cambodia.

We also know that Australia is one of Cambodia’s largest aid donors. Over the past four years, for example, Australia has donated over $329 million to Cambodia. We know that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. We also know that Australia has criticized Cambodia’s human rights record, more than once and most recently at the United Nations.

We are told that refugees will be `relocated’ only if they volunteer, but if they refuse to volunteer, their refugee status will be reviewed.

In both Cambodia and Australia, opposition to this deal has been fierce and intense. Much of it has centered on the conditions in Cambodia and the folly of sending refugees, many of them fleeing the violence of conflict zones, to an area just emerging from a long and brutal civil war. Others point to the economic hardship of life in Cambodia and others to the difficult political, civil and human rights situation.

What about the marketization of refugees and asylum seekers? Australia won’t be `relocating’ refugees. It will be dumping human beings, like so much cargo, and wiping its hands clean … or dirty. One thousand human beings who have asked for help and have already been dumped on one inhospitable island are now to be dumped again on another, even more inhospitable island? This `deal’ takes the privatization of `care’ for asylum seekers and refugees to a new, and yet very old, place: offshoring.

Cambodia will `volunteer’ to take the refugees because Australia has offered it cold, hard cash, or financial benefits. And so the entire region will become one giant marketplace for human cargo, not quite slaves, not quite not slaves.

 

(Photo Credit: TheDiplomat.com)

Eritrean and Sudanese women asylum seekers protest in Israel

 

Thousands of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese women and children asylum seekers marched through the streets of Tel Aviv today, protesting Israel’s new `immigration policies’ and new `open’ immigrant detention center, Holot.

In September, the Israeli Supreme Court declared Israel’s 2012 Prevention of Infiltration Law unconstitutional. Under that law, an undocumented resident, including asylum seekers and refugees, could be held without trial for up to three years. They were previously held in the notorious Saharonim prison. One of the reasons Saharonim is notorious is the number of infants, toddlers and young children, held for what were basically indefinite periods.

When the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional, the State swung into action and, first, passed a new amendment to the law. Under the new legislation, the undocumented, again including asylum seekers and refugees, can only be `detained’ for one year … but they can be held in an `open’ facility indefinitely. Welcome to Holot `open’ facility, where `residents’ can walk outside, but must report for roll call three times a day and can’t seek work. And it’s in the middle of the Negev Desert. It’s a prison.

Last week, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers went on a three day strike. This affected primarily restaurants, hotels, cafes, and cleaning services. One of the strike organizers, twenty-eight-years-old Eritrean Kidane Isaacs, explained: “The new law basically gives us two choices: be a prisoner indefinitely or self-deport. We have been here for years without any sort of human treatment. We are forgotten, neglected.” In Eritrea, Isaacs experienced torture, imprisonment, forced labor, and more.

Today, the women, and children, by thousands, resumed the public struggle. They chanted, “We are refugees!” They carried placards that read, “We need freedom” and “Stop racism!” As one Eritrean woman, Zabib, explained, “We are seeking asylum. We’re not criminals. Our kids have no legal documents so they don’t have any basic rights. We have no kind of support for us and the kids … we’re in survival mode.”

The women’s formal statement read, “The Israeli government treats us like we aren’t people. We live here without states, without basic rights, without hope and without the ability to support our children with honor. We are not criminals. The Israeli government summons the heads of families to the Holot detention facility in the south, separates women from their husbands, fathers from their children, and breaks families apart. The detention and arrests of asylum seekers destroys the one support we have – the support of our family and our communities.”

No one disputes that Sudan and Eritrea are under repressive regimes, but these women, children, men, somehow, despite that consensus, pose `a threat’ to the State’s Jewish character. Indefinite detention, torture, racism, inhumanity, is the threat, not the “negligible number” of Black African bodies.

 

(Video Credit: YouTube.com)

 

Perception matters. Ask Australia’s women asylum seekers.

Recently, Geena Davis noted, “We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17 percent women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

Perceptions matter, and perceptions of those in control are typically sexist and racist, especially when the `tipping point’ is involved, when those in power feel the threat of a `new majority’. That’s why perception can’t be the motor for public policy and, even less, for the pursuit of justice, Take Australia … please.

A key plank of Australia’s asylum policy has been deterrence. This has resulted in brutality, torture, horror, despair … and big profits for the private security corporations, most infamously Serco, who run the immigrant `detention’ and `transfer’ installations. With the shift in government over the past week, some wonder if anything will change in terms of Australia’s racist and sexist asylum policies.

If anything, it looks like they will get worse. Within hours of the new government’s installation, the new “de facto Immigration Minister” declared that most refugee applicants are “economic refugees”. There’s no evidence for that statement, but who needs evidence when `perception’ is on your side?

And what is the perception? The boats. The boats keep coming, and sinking. The refugees keep `swarming’. It’s a human tsunami bearing down on Australia. These images are merely part of the `ferocity’ of the anti-refugee anti-asylum-seeker discourse. Meanwhile, the women and children pile up in the `detention centers’. They’re prisons. Detention is too fine a word. Ask the children who go on hunger strike. Ask the 16-year-old Afghan boy who ended a five-day hunger strike yesterday. Why was he barreling towards his own death? He’s an unaccompanied child, in prison, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by every form of hostility, with no visible end in sight to his torment. Perhaps that’s the reason.

The treatment of asylum seekers, and in particular of women and children asylum seekers, has been a mounting succession of cruel jokes. Each step of the way, the asylum seeker’s vulnerability and precariousness are intensified.

But here’s the thing: Australia is not drowning in asylum-seekers. Pesky numbers keep denying the `perception’. Yes, the numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers are rising. Yes, the numbers coming by boat are, for the first time, exceeding those coming by plane. BUT Australia takes a very small percentage of the world’s refugees, around 3 percent. Officially, there are 30,083 refugees currently living in Australia. That means, if you consider the size of the country, Australia has one of the lowest rates in the industrialized world. Australia has 1.4 refugees per 1,000 people. Germany has 7.3; Canada has 4.7; the United Kingdom has 2.4. (The United States has .8.)

There is no flood. Australia can stop building sea walls, prison colonies, and worse. It can. But it won’t. Rather, the new government will opt to continue, and probably fortify, the “`hard bastard’ approach.” Perception matters, as does patriarchy.

 

(Photo Credit: AAP / Julian Smith)

Welcome, asylum seeker, to the society of the queer spectacle

In the United Kingdom, gay asylum seekers increasingly feel pressured to prove they are gay. In the last three years, the United Kingdom Border Agency rules, and application of rules, for those seeking asylum based on persecution of sexual minorities in their home countries have changed.

Previously, the policy was one of `discretion’, in which gay asylum seekers’ applications were rejected because, it was felt, the asylum seeker merely needed to act with greater discretion. If she or he was tortured, it was her/his fault. If she or he was killed, again, her/his fault. If she or he was kicked out of family and community and left to suffer the ravages of the streets, she or he should have known better. It was a policy of shut up, go away.

In 2010, a Supreme Court decision changed that. In the case of HJ(Iran) and HT (Cameroon) vs. Secretary of State for the Home Department, an Iranian gay man feared imprisonment and lashing, while a Cameroonian gay man was terrorized by his neighbors. The Court rejected discretion: “An interpretation … which denies refugee status to gay men who can only avoid persecution in their home country by behaving discreetly (and who say that on return this is what they will do) would frustrate the humanitarian objective of the Convention and deny them the enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination. The right to dignity underpins the protections afforded by the Refugee Convention.”

Since then, with mounting austerity-led, privatization-pushed campaigns by the State to close the non-existent asylum pipeline so as to protect the country from the non-existent tsunami of asylum seeking detritus, that compassionate “opening” has been translated into a cross between a peep show for the State.

Gay? Lesbian? Transgender? From a dangerous, toxic place, which could be your household, could be your neighborhood or `community’, could be your country, because you’re gay or lesbian? Prove it. Hunted down by the State and/or Civil Society because of your sexual minority status? Prove it. If you don’t have the scars to prove it, well … show us some skin.

It’s the society of the spectacle, in which gay and lesbian asylum seekers, who have not only suffered so much but have had to work strenuously to finally make it to “safe haven” are told they must labor some more … now to prove their sexual identity. In 1967, Guy Debord described a new society of the spectacle, in which labor and capital were shifted from production of goods to production of spectacle. He began writing and thinking of an “integrated spectacle (that) has transformed the world economically … using police methods to transform perception”. In 1992, Debord wrote: “The same formidable question that has been haunting the world for two centuries is about to be posed again everywhere: How can the poor be made to work once their illusions have been shattered, and once force has been defeated?”

How? Make them work to prove their claims to identity. Make them work to prove their claims to existence. This is where the spectacle of queer asylum seekers makes economic sense.

A lesbian woman from Uganda fled for her life to the UK. Upon arrival, “the UKBA officials wanted me to prove that I was lesbian but they wouldn’t tell me how I could.” Her application was denied. She spent months in Yarl’s Wood. She brought copies of Ugandan newspapers that called for her murder if she should be seen in Kampala. These were disregarded. Finally, she was given asylum. But first she had to do all the work. The State said no, sat back, and watched.

There all sorts of legal debates about the implications of the Supreme Court decision, touching on `queer cases’ and the law, the legal meaning of discretion, where lines should and shouldn’t be drawn, assessment protocols for LGBTQ asylum seekers, good sense and common sense, the centrality of LGBTQ rights on the map of human rights, the rights of gay men and lesbians to live freely, openly and on equal terms. The list goes on.

But there’s something else, something not of the courthouse but rather of the everyday world of work. Major investments are made in prisons and their outlying service networks for asylum seekers. It costs money to house a Ugandan lesbian asylum seeker for months. It costs money to threaten her with deportation, day in and day out. Major profits emerge from those investments. At the same time, there’s a newer form of extraction, that of making the asylum seeker work to prove identity claims. So … welcome gay man, lesbian woman. You have traveled so far and struggled so much. Welcome to your new workhouse, your new poorhouse … your body, your self, the new, and not so new, queer spectacle.

 

We don’t burn children anymore. We send them to prison.

 

Monday, November 21, 2011, must have been Juvenile (In)Justice Day. Juvenile (In)Justice appeared everywhere, in the news.

In Kashmir, there’s juvenile (in)justice. Children charged with throwing stones are treated, formally, as terrorists. They can be jailed, caged, for up to two years without a trial. Children are placed in adult prisons, while awaiting trial and when convicted. And they will be convicted. Yes, there are laws that protect juveniles. But those laws don’t matter in a state of emergency. Children don’t matter in a state of emergency. They aren’t `juveniles’, and they aren’t `youth’. They’re children.

The state of emergency, the so-called public safety crisis, is always an alibi. States abuse children. In Kashmir, there’s juvenile (in)Justice, and the excuse is crisis. In Malawi, where there is no state of emergency, juvenile (in)justice is simply business as usual, the price of maintaining order. The law says children under 18 deserve special treatment and protection. In fact, children are tried in adult courts and then sent to overcrowded adult prisons. That is the rule of law… everywhere. Take children and maximize their vulnerability.

And then lie about it.

That’s what the United Kingdom has been doing, systematically lying about the abuse of children of asylum seekers and, worse, of asylum seeker children. Sexual abuse. Other forms of physical abuse. Psychological abuse. Spiritual abuse. Of course, there are no laws that address the crimes of breaking the spirit of a child. What’s going on in the United Kingdom is not `merely’ officials lying. It’s Official Lying. The State defines democracy by lying and then chants, “This is what democracy looks like.”

The ministers lie, the professors lie, the television lies, the priests lie. . . .
These lies mean that the country wants to die.”

And then finally, in the name of security, stability, sovereignty, and, of course, peace, the State, in this instance the United States, proposes a budget that would gorge on prisons and gouge youth of resources, of hope, of life itself. Again, the youth, the juveniles, they’re children.

Meanwhile, cities, like New York, work on plans to increase the use of solitary confinement. It’s called “punitive segregation”, and it preys in particular on `juveniles’, those prisoners living with mental disabilities, and those awaiting trial. Maximize vulnerability. It’s a kind of efficiency that brings education, mental health care, and justice itself to a screaming, screeching halt.

None of this is new or news, of course. The abuse of children in prison is systemic. In the United States, for example, photographer Richard Ross has been exposing juvenile (in)justice for years, and it’s everywhere. It’s the fabric of national democracy. It’s today’s version of burning children, as Robert Bly wrote, some four decades ago:

“But if one of those children came near that we have set on fire,
came toward you like a gray barn, walking,
you would howl like a wind tunnel in a hurricane,
you would tear at your shirt with blue hands,
you would drive over your own child’s wagon trying to back up,
the pupils of your eyes would go wild—

If a child came by burning, you would dance on a lawn,
trying to leap into the air, digging into your cheeks,
you would ram your head against the wall of your bedroom
like a bull penned too long in his moody pen—
If one of those children came toward me with both hands
in the air, fire rising along both elbows,
I would suddenly go back to my animal brain,
I would drop on all fours, screaming,
my vocal chords would turn blue, so would yours,
it would be two days before I could play with my own children again.”

The news Monday was this. We don’t burn children anymore. We send them to prison.

 

(Image Credit: Open Democracy)

 

Queen Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola’s autonomy

 

Queen Nzinga refuses to sit on the floor

A week ago, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day since the proclamation of independence, November 10, 1975. So, how better to acknowledge the day than to focus on … Angola asylum seekers? By and large, the Western media paid no attention to Angola today, but then again what else is new.

The great exception was Radio Netherlands Worldwide, which sported a piece entitled, “The `Mauros’ who could not stay.” `Mauro’ is Mauro Manuel, an 18 year-old Angolan lad who was recently informed he could stay in the Netherlands, where he’s lived, with a foster family, for the last eight years. Mauro wasn’t given asylum, but, on Tuesday of this week, he was allowed a reprieve. The Dutch Parliament gave him a student visa. What happens next is up in the air.

The “other `Mauros’” are women.

Amalia is 17, Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities, and the older sister was raped. That’s when they fled Angola. They lived in the Netherlands for five years. Then, they were denied asylum and, after five years, shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was 16 at the time, a minor. No matter that no one knows where their relatives are or even if they are. A year on, they still don’t know if their mother is dead or alive.

“At the other end of the scale”, according to RNI, is Engracia. 33 years old. Completed her education in the Netherlands, where she lived for 14 years. No political violence. Supported by middle class kin in Angola and the Dutch Refugee Council, who paid for her ticket back and gave her 2000 euros.

So that’s the RNI Angola Scale: weeping, terrorized, impoverished failed asylum seeking girl, on one end; successful, entrepreneurial woman, on the other. On one end, desperately poor and with no apparent means of securing income; on the other, `gifted’ handsomely, as a `returning refugee’, by the largesse of Europe.

Really? That’s the scale?

What about all those other women in Angola? What about the ones who organize, struggle, and keep on keeping on? Women like Teresa Quarta, chairwoman of the Association of Angolan Women and Sports (AMUD), who argued this week that women athletes is all fine and well, but Angola needs to attend to developing and supporting women sports managers. What about women like primary school Maria Emelia and Rosa Florinda, women who don’t deny that things are tough, that classes are overcrowded, that the country lacks sufficient numbers of trained teachers, that too many children are too hungry. Women teachers, across the country, who keep teaching, keep pushing, keep pulling. Factory workers, farmers and farm workers, nurses and doctors, women. Ordinary women. Women not defined by their encounter with the European state. Women defined as simply Angolan.

When they look for a model, when they look for a Queen, for example, they need not look to Queen Beatrix, of the Netherlands, nor to her mother, Queen Juliana. Instead, they could look closer to home. They could look to Queen Nzinga, Nzinga the Warrior Queen of the Ndongo and Matamba, that woman who overcame local structures, who defied and often defeated the Portuguese, who almost single handedly created a new state. Nzinga was not a saint, was not some pure or ideal woman. She cut deals. She allied with the Dutch against the Portuguese. She provided safe haven for runaway slaves while at the same time engaging in the slave trade. That’s life. “It’s complicated.”

Nzinga was not a heroine nor is she an icon. She was a leader. Nzinga led in war, peace, commerce, politics, and life. Nzinga was an Angolan woman who led Angolans into action. Nzinga was an Angolan woman, who presaged not only Angola’s national independence but also its national autonomy. Nzinga haunts the `scales’ of Angola, and Amalia, Tucha, Engracia, Teresa Quarta, Maria Emelia, Rosa Florinda, and so many others, are her descendants. Tell that as the story of Angolan independence.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly different form and under different title, here http://africasacountry.com/2011/11/16/angolan-independence/

 

(Image of Queen Nzinga: Amazing Women in History)

The children just can’t stop crying

Makenda Kambana - Jimmy Mubenga's wife - (left) with family and supporters

Makenda Kambana – Jimmy Mubenga’s wife – (left) with family and supporters

Today, November 10, 2011, Angola marked its 36th Independence Day. How does Europe mark Angola’s independence?

Jimmy Mubenga was on a `hit list’ in Angola, and so he fled to England. He applied for asylum. Denied asylum, he was put on a plane. His wife and five children remained in England. Mubenga resisted deportation. He was forcibly placed on a plane and, according to witnesses, killed by G4S escorts. His widow, Makenda Kambana, reported, “The children just can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to say to them.” That was then. A year later, Makenda Kambana reports that little has changed, except, perhaps, for her education. Now she knows that her husband was not an anomaly, that he was part of a culture of mistreatment and abuse of people of color by the so-called escorts. What does she say to her children now?

That was 2010.

Five years earlier, Manuel Bravo, suffered a related fate. Bravo had arrived in England, with his wife Lidia and two sons, in 2001. He had been imprisoned for pro-democracy activities, and his parents and sister had been killed. In 2004, his wife took their son, Nelio, and returned to Angola, to take care of ailing relatives. She was arrested, and, upon release, fled to Namibia. Manuel Bravo was denied asylum, and then, in the middle of the night, border agents came to the house, took him and his son, Antonio, to the notorious, privately run Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, and told them to prepare for deportation the next day. That night, Manuel Bravo hanged himself, leaving a note that read, in part, “I kill my self, because I don’t have life for live any more. My son Antonio stay here in UK to continue his studying. When he grow up, he [illegible] your decision. I really sorry because I can’t return to Angola.”

Antonio did in fact stay in England. He did pursue his studies. He grew up to be a fine young man. And his reward, now that he’s an adult? The government seeks to deport him. Happy birthday, Antonio, welcome to adulthood.

And then there’s Amalia and Tucha. Amalia is 17; Tucha is 19. Their father was killed, for political activities. Tucha was raped. In 2005, alone and unaccompanied, they fled Angola. Last year, after living in the Netherlands for five years, they were denied asylum and peremptorily shipped back to Angola. No matter that Amalia was a minor. No matter that no one can locate their relatives.

Amalia explains, “A group of policemen entered our bedroom in the middle of the night. They said: ‘Pack your stuff.’ I said: ‘Why, why, why? I’m not yet 18!’ But they grabbed us and put us on a plane. Five people accompanied us; I don’t know who they were. I just cried and cried.”

I just cried and cried.

This is the narrative of empire: The children just can’t stop crying.

 

(Photo Credit: Socialist Worker)

 

Who will write a requiem for Josefa Rauluni?

Once upon a time a man named Josefa Rauluni left the island nation of Fiji for Australia, where he applied for asylum, or “protection”. He was turned down. He was taken to Villawood Detention Centre, a private facility run by Serco. He continually appealed the decision. He continually appealed to the State for asylum, for protection. He maintained he feared for his life if he returned to Fiji. The State responded with a deportation notice. The State told Josefa Rauluni that he would be deported on September 20, 2010.

The night of September 19, Josefa Raulini sent two faxes to the Ministerial Intervention Unit at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. They read, ”If you want to send me to Fiji, then send my dead body”. The State did nothing.

And so, on the morning of September 20, 2010, Josefa Raulini informed the guards, “I’m not going, if anyone goes near me, I will jump“. The guards did nothing. They did not try to reason with him. They did not try to calm him down. Finally, they tried to use force. As they moved in, Josefa Raulini jumped from a first floor balcony railing. He dove, head first, hit the ground, and died.

And the State did nothing to stop him.

It turns out the State could only do nothing because the Villawood staff has no suicide prevention training. Imagine a prison for asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected and who are awaiting imminent deportation.

Now imagine no one with suicide prevention training. The State `forgot’.

Today is the second day of an inquest into Josefa Rauluni’s death. It is the first of three such inquests into Villawood `suicides’. Josefa Rauluni did not commit suicide. He was pushed. Not by a physical hand but rather by a State whose efficiencies include the absence of mental health care providers in a place designed to drive its residents suicidal and mad.

“”If you want to send me to Fiji, then send my dead body”.

Who will write a requiem for Josefa Raulini and for all the imprisoned asylum seekers  who have perished in State custody? Who will write a requiem for the terrible years?

Fifty years ago, in 1961, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova concluded writing “Requiem”, an account of “the terrible years of the Yezhov terror”, 1935 – 1940, during which she spent seventeen months, every day, waiting in a line outside the Leningrad prison, waiting for someone who would never return.

The poem begins:

“No foreign sky protected me,
no stranger’s wing shielded my face.
I stand as witness to the common lot,
survivor of that time, that place.”

Who will stand for the time and place, who will give witness to the life and death, of Josefa Raulini? Will we have to wait thirty years, and more, for the foreign sky that offers haven rather than death? Until then, Josefa Raulini haunts the contemporary prison-State.

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.matavuvale.com)

Women and girl refugees haunt the world

Refugee statistics from the UNHCR

Today, June 20, 2011, is World Refugee Day. To honor this, the United Nations Refugee Agency released a report, UNHCR Global Trends 2010: 60 Years and Still Counting. According to the report, there are no 43.7million refugees and internally displaced persons. That’s the highest number in 15 years. 27.5 million people are internally displaced persons, the highest number in a decade. Globally, fewer than 200,000 refugees voluntarily returned home, the lowest number in twenty years.

Children make up more than 50% of the global displaced population. 55% of stateless people are children. 55% of returnees are children. 48% of Internally Displaced Persons are children. 44% of refugees are children. 31% of asylum seekers are children.  55% of “others of concern” are children. If children are the future, what is the present?

Women and girls? “Women and girls represented, on average, 49 per cent of persons of concern to UNHCR. They constituted 47 per cent of refugees, and half of all IDPs and returnees (former refugees).”

On July 28, 1951, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In 2000, the United Nations adopted June 20 as World Refugee Day. It chose that day so as to coincide with Africa Refugee Day, June 20. Starting in 2001, June 20 has been `celebrated’ as World Refugee Day.

From 2001 to 2011, ten years is too many. From 1951 to 2011, sixty years is too many too many. Last week, in a nationally broadcast public forum, Dan Pfeiffer, White House Director of Communications, was asked, directly and repeatedly, “Is there a war on women?” He equivocated and obfuscated and generally avoided the question. The question can’t be avoided. Is there a war on women? Yes, there is a war on women. Part of that war is the production of huge populations of refugee and internally displaced women and girls. Stakeholders must be called to account. When asked the question, answer directly. Yes, there is a war on women. Yes, sixty years is too many too many. But hey … who’s counting?

(Photo Credit: The Guardian)