Author Archives: minorityrights

A word on migrants, refugees and minority rights

Emma Eastwood Press Officer_rawEmma Eastwood, Senior Media Officer, pulls together some thoughts from MRG in response to the treatment of thousands of refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe.

Europe is searching its soul about the way it treats migrants and refugees. Hundreds from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North and sub-Saharan Africa are now dying every month trying to reach Europe’s shores, Budapest is the scene of pitched battles, and drowned children are washing up on the beaches of Turkey.

So, will Europe’s governments behave any differently this time? – Sadly, probably not, with the exception of a few. Will countries in the South and at Europe’s borders still have to bear almost all the refugee burden (Iran, DRC, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have taken in millions)? – Almost certainly, yes.

But the current situation also raises questions for Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

Our work addresses the problems that make many refugees flee in the first place – a disproportionate number are members of minority communities facing persecution because of their religion or ethnicity, such as in Sudan or Iraq. However we have been reluctant to work directly on migration issues, mainly because there are many other extremely competent national and international NGOs doing just that, and we have more than enough work supporting minorities and indigenous peoples around the world; it’s a different area of international law to minority and indigenous rights (refugee law, migrant workers’ rights), and there are dangers to confusing the categories: many minorities fear being labelled migrants, and vice versa, when they are not.

But many minority communities are created through migration, the UK being a fine example of this, with millennia-long waves of immigration enriching our society. However the racism and discrimination that migrants and minorities face is often similar.

In some of our work, such as in Russia, we have included migrants’ rights NGOs. Back in 2008 we interviewed Iraqi refugees in Sweden, forced to flee their homes because of their faith. And in the Dominican Republic we are working with Dominicans of Haitian descent, who are labelled as migrant workers and denied citizenship rights despite being in the country for generations.

Maybe one way that MRG can make a contribution is to consider working not on rights of movement (including asylum) but rather on the recognition of full rights after settlement? That might not make a difference to the immediate tragedy that is currently taking place in and around the Mediterranean, but if our work can’t fully prevent persecuted peoples having to escape extermination, it could fill a gap if they are granted safe sanctuary…

In the meantime, all power to the many individuals and organisations that we know are acting in solidarity with those fleeing.

Stateless Future for Dominicans of Haitian descent?

Hundreds of thousands of Haitian migrants, as well as Dominicans of Haitian  descent, face imminent risk of deportation from the country they call home. 17th June 2015 was the deadline for them to register for the country’s regularisation plan, giving them 45 days to complete their applications, whilst those who did not register in time face being deported.

A Dominico-Haitian woman. Credit: Sofia Olins/MRG

A Dominico-Haitian woman. Credit: Sofia Olins/MRG

The plan affects the Dominican Republic’s estimated 500,000 undocumented immigrants, leaving an uncertain future for many on the island who have wrestled with Dominican bureaucracy for a chance to stay.

According to the most up to date government figures, 288,466 people have registered. Those who are deemed eligible will be able to obtain temporary migrant status. The process of registration, however, has not been easy. Even when attempting to acquire the correct documentation, the obstacles faced by Dominico-Haitians have been extreme. For example, one man MRG spoke to spent approximately 13, 000 pesos (almost $300) on paperwork alone. He went three times to the registration office, each time waiting for more than five hours, and had to sleep there to obtain a place in the queue, only to be told that the requirements had changed. He even paid lawyers for documents which he later learned were no longer necessary.

It is important to note that many Dominico-Haitians simply cannot afford to begin this tortuous process. Some say they would prefer to use their income to feed their families rather than spend all their money on a procedure which is unlikely to improve their precarious status.

Dominico-Haitian men working in the sugar cane fields. Credit: Sofia Olins/MRG

Dominico-Haitian men working in the sugar cane fields. Credit: Sofia Olins/MRG

President Danilo Medina has stated there will be no mass deportations to Haiti and that people with uncompleted registrations have 45 days (starting on 18th June 2015) to submit all documents required. However, local news report that detention centres are being expanded, and migration police squads are readying to identify illegal immigrants in the country.

This regularisation plan (Plan Nacional de Regularizacion de Extranjeros) was supposedly the Government’s solution for migrants to gain legal status in the Dominican Republic. However, MRG feels the move is rooted in systematic discrimination in the country towards darker-skinned Dominicans.

For more information about the background to this situation, see MRG’s August 2014 press release.

A Peer’s Struggle for Justice

konstantinaKonstantina Vasileva, a journalist from Bulgaria, reports back from a training in Thailand for EU13 journalists organised as part of MRG’s Minority Realities in the News programme.

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“Promise change, but make sure it always stays the same”: how “a regional pattern of authoritarian temptation” in the Balkans isn’t being tackled by Europeanization

vanessaIn late January the lecture: “The Crisis of Democracy in the Balkans. The interrelationship between Europeanization and the New Authoritarian Temptation” by Professor Florian Bieber, visiting from the University of Gratz in Austria, took place at the LSEE (Research on South Eastern Europe branch of the London School of Economics). Vanessa Mazzei, MRG’s Publications and Communications intern, reports back. Continue reading

A closer focus on Endorois women reveals strength and resilience in the face of hardship

RebeccaRebecca Marlin is currently the Legal Fellow at Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in London. She earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. During her time at MRG she will be working extensively with the Endorois to achieve implementation of the 2010 African Commission decision granting them rights to Lake Bogoria. Continue reading

Cambodia: A haunting past and an uncertain future

Headshot-Gabor-TothGabor Toth is a Hungarian television journalist. He recently travelled with MRG to Cambodia under the Minority Realities Programme. Here he recalls his journey and the harrowing stories he heard along the way.

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Can Sri Lanka’s minorities dare to hope for change from the nation’s new President?

Farah MihlarFarah Mihlar is a Sri Lankan Muslim human rights activist and academic who works as a conflict prevention co-ordinator at Minority Rights Group International and is currently on maternity leave. She started her career as a journalist and has reported on the country’s ethnic conflict for over a decade. She is currently doing a PhD on Islamic extremism in Muslim minority contexts. Continue reading