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Archive for March 16th, 2013

“One on One” with 4-times Mr Universe- Proff. body builder Mr Charlie Abboh

Posted by African Press International on March 16, 2013


Mr Abboh is originally from Nigeria and now lives in Norway.
End

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Monitoring deportee abuses

Posted by African Press International on March 16, 2013

Chinese asylum seekers at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Australia went on a hunger strike to protest their deportation back to China where they said they would face severe persecution
 HIGHLIGHTS
• “Broken” asylum systems deport people in need of protection
• Governments reluctant to do post-deportation monitoring
Civil society monitoring efforts given a boost by new network
• Recording of abuses could influence deportation policies

JOHANNESBURG,  – The principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the return of asylum seekers and refugees to a country where their lives or freedom would be threatened, is often referred to as the cornerstone of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Even individuals whose bids for asylum have been rejected are protected by the Convention Against Torture and the European Convention of Human Rights, which forbid the extradition of people to areas where their freedom or safety are at risk.

In reality, however, states that are party to these conventions frequently return unsuccessful asylum seekers to countries where they are likely to experience detention, persecution and even torture at the hands of authoritarian regimes.

Governments have shown little interest in what happens to rejected asylum seekers after they have been returned, often insisting that individuals are never deported to countries where they would be at risk. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) for example, has said that the UK’s asylum system delivers fair and high-quality decisions and that individuals determined to not need protection are returned to “a home country that has been found safe for them to live in”.

But limited research by civil society organizations has found not only that individuals in need of protection often are deported, but that some of the countries they are returned to are far from safe.

Unsafe Return, a report by Catherine Ramos of the UK-based NGO Justice First, documented what happened to 17 Justice First clients who were returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 2006 and 2011. Ramos found that two of the returnees had disappeared without a trace, nine had been in prisons where they experienced beatings, sexual abuse and inhumane conditions, and six had fled their homes and remained in hiding.

Post-deportation monitoring

“To deport people is one way of showing that an immigration system has teeth,” said Friederike Vetter of the Fahamu Refugee Programme, which links refugee-assisting organizations all over the world through online forums and resources.

Fahamu is in the process of setting up the Post-Deportation Monitoring Network. “Governments aren’t monitoring [post-deportation] simply because they don’t have to,” she said.

Vetter and her colleague, Leana Podeszfa, who are managing the network, disagree with the UKBA’s contention that all asylum decisions made in the UK are just and correct. They argue that cuts in government funding to the legal aid system, starting in 2011, have put many legal aid providers out of business, significantly reducing the legal advice available to asylum seekers. A 2012 survey by Refugee Action, a nonprofit that provides legal aid to refugees, found that asylum seekers who received no legal advice ahead of their interview with the UKBA were 30 percent more likely to be refused asylum.

“People needing protection are removed simply because they haven’t been recognized by a broken [asylum] system”

“There’s this cyclical argument of the Home Office, that they don’t remove people in need of protection,” said Lisa Matthews of the UK-based National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. “But in fact people needing protection are removed simply because they haven’t been recognized by a broken [asylum] system. The only way to prove that false logic is to follow what happens to people when they are removed.”

While the need for post-deportation monitoring has long been recognized, monitoring efforts have been constrained by a number of factors, including a lack of communication between organizations in host countries and those in countries of origin.

Using its wealth of contacts in the refugee sector, Fahamu is in the process of identifying and recruiting organizations in both deporting and receiving countries to form an online directory. This will serve as the foundation of the Post-Deportation Monitoring Network.

“We’re in touch with a number of organizations that were already doing some monitoring before, but the issue was they didn’t know when [deportees] were coming… Now we’ve linked them with organizations in the UK that will contact them when someone’s being deported,” said Podeszfa.

Beyond providing an expected date and time of arrival, NGOs in sending countries may also share details of the individual’s asylum case. “The more information an NGO [in the receiving country] has, the more they can do a risk assessment for themselves,” said Podeszfa.

Jailed on arrival

Barbara Schuler, manager of the torture programme at Rights For All, a human rights organization in Cameroon that joined the network a few months ago, said her organization would not be able to intervene without the information they receive through the network. “We need to have information [about the deportee] ahead of time to ensure our own security and to be able to make a good argument in their defence,” she told IRIN.

Even armed with this information, Rights For All has struggled to gain access to deportees who are usually whisked away by authorities soon after touching ground in the capital, Yaoundé. “They mostly make us wait outside [arrivals], or when we mention a name, they deny they’re on the passenger list,” said Schuler, who said four recent attempts to meet deportees at the airport had failed.

She added that Cameroonian police were informed about the arrival of failed asylum seekers by Interpol, and that the returnees are often viewed as criminals.

According to Schuler, after being questioned by police at the airport, they are usually transferred to Kondengui Central Prison, where they are charged with a crime, often forgery of documents, which is punishable by up to three years in jail. Those not immediately imprisoned often go into hiding and are difficult to trace. “We were in touch with one individual [who was deported] from the UK who has been back for two years and has not even seen his own children,” said Schuler.

Ramos of Justice First said NGOs trying to monitor and assist asylum seekers deported to DRC have experienced similar problems. “People are very frightened,” she told IRIN. “Also, anything that’s going to happen to [the deportees] doesn’t happen at the airport, it will happen elsewhere.”

According to Ramos’ report, several of the returnees she interviewed were allowed to leave the airport but were arrested soon afterwards.

Proving harm

A year after the publication of Ramos’ report, UKBA conducted a fact-finding mission in DRC that confirmed many of Ramos’ findings. Several respondents noted that returnees from the UK are viewed as “against the government” and often arrested and detained by the intelligence services.

Deportation of failed asylum seekers to DRC have nevertheless continued, with the latest country policy from the UKBA stating that “failed asylum seekers per se do not face a real risk of persecution or serious harm on return to the DRC” and that “monitoring of returns on foreign territory is impractical”.

One of the aims of Fahamu’s network is to document post-deportation human rights violations in order to lobby host country governments to change their asylum and deportation policies. Podeszfa cited the example of deportations to Eritrea, which have virtually halted from most countries since a 2009 report by Amnesty International found that returnees were routinely tortured until they admitted to having committed treason. Recently, however, Israel has reportedly coerced Eritrean asylum seekers to sign “voluntary repatriation” forms or accept deportation to a third country (Uganda).

Vetter noted that reports of abuses against deportees can also influence case law when they are cited by lawyers appealing individual asylum decisions.

On the ground, in countries such as Cameroon, DRC, Sri Lanka and Uganda, Fahamu’s partner organizations have reported that their presence at airports indicates to authorities that returnees are being watched over.

“This can actually help,” said Podeszfa. “Ideally, we’d like to see our partner organizations give [returnees] cheap cell phones and tell them to stay in touch and visit them from time to time.”

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Waste management challenge in Kenya

Posted by African Press International on March 16, 2013

Living amid waste

NAIROBI,  – As the urban population in Nairobi and elsewhere in East Africa grows, so does the solid waste management burden – a situation worsened by poor funding for urban sanitation departments and a lack of enforcement of sanitation regulations.

At least 100 million people in East Africa lack access to improved sanitation, according to UN sources.

“Due to budgetary deficiencies, town authorities find it difficult to address solid waste management in a sustainable manner. In addition, insufficient public awareness and enforcement of legislation is also a hindrance,” Andre Dzikus, coordinator of the urban basic services section of the UN Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT), told IRIN.

In Nairobi, a large percentage of solid waste is managed by the private sector and NGOs due to public-private partnerships, says Dzikus.

The city council’s solid waste department, like those in Kampala and Dar es Salaam, is not well equipped, with transport vehicles few and often poorly serviced, despite increasing waste quantities due to rapid urbanization, he added.

Understaffing and a lack of skilled staff in waste management is also a challenge.

Without proper controls, solid waste is often dumped in abandoned quarries or similar sites. In Nairobi, for example, municipal waste is taken to the Dandora dumping site, a former quarry some 15km east.

Dandora slum residents who live close to the dumpsite are therefore exposed to environmental and disease risks, said Dzikus.

“Burning plastic produces very toxic fumes, such as furans and dioxins, which are very harmful to human beings and the environment. Most of the uncontrolled dumpsites are some of the major sources of greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change,” he added.

Although Nairobi has a sanitation policy, the Environmental Sanitation and Hygiene Policy 2007, which recognizes the role of NGOs, community-based organizations (CBOs) and the Kenya Water and Sanitation Network (KEWASNET), often there is little collaboration in service delivery, according to a February report, Comparing urban sanitation and solid waste management in East African metropolises: The role of civil society organizations.

“Sanitation service delivery for the urban poor is a disconnected pluralism between government and NGOs/CBOs institutions,” it states.

Living with waste

More often than not, the urban poor have to make do with living amid waste despite the health risks; child mortality in the slums is 2.5 times higher than in other areas of Nairobi, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

A stream in the Kibera slum which is used as a dumpsite for trash and human waste

In the Mathare slums, for example, the sight of children playing among plastic bags full of human excrement, referred to as “flying toilets”, is common.

“We use plastic bags to relieve ourselves because the few toilets that are there are too expensive,” Mama Annah, a resident of Mathare, told IRIN.

“If I have to choose between paying for the toilet and buying food, the choice is easily made.”

The improper disposal of faecal matter within settled areas is a major public health problem. “We throw the plastic bags in the streets because there is no other alternative. Our children have no [other] place to play,” added Mama Annah.

Insecurity and a lack of hygiene awareness are other problems.

“I have built toilets and bathrooms several times, but every time it rains, or there is a conflict, they are destroyed. Because of the instability, I take my time before I build a new one,” Simon Macharia, a slum property owner, told IRIN.

“We also have to work together, because every time some of us try to keep clean, someone defecates in front of your door.”

Health risk

According to WHO, open defecation was the only sanitation practice available to 33 percent of the population in East Africa in 2006. Lack of access to proper sanitation, including clean water, is a major cause of diarrhoea, the second biggest killer of children in developing countries, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Many slum dwellers in East African cities pay five to seven times more per litre of water than the average North American, notes WHO.

And it is children and women who suffer the most due to poor sanitation, according to Akiba Mashinani Trust, an NGO focusing on the rights of slum dwellers in Nairobi.

“One of the health risks women have is [with] reproductive health because they use public toilets that are not properly maintained. Some of them have suffered from urinary [tract] infections,” Edith Kalela, a communication officer at Akiba Mashinani Trust, told IRIN.

The biggest challenge to waste management in the slums is the lack of disposal space, added Kalela. “Since these people live in informal settlements, the government has failed to manage their solid waste.”

Lack of land tenure

Slum residents often do not own the land they live on, risking eviction.

In the Huruma slum area, also in Nairobi, Akiba Mashinani Trust has helped residents obtain some land by negotiation with the government and the city council, for which a communal title deed was issued. “If you have land, you have more prospects to do developments,” said Kalela.

“We help these people build houses that are self-contained. Even if we build toilets, there are over 200,000 households, so how many toilets will we build for public use? A sustainable solution is to help them build a house that is self-contained.”

In the past, the government has attempted to improve living conditions in the slum areas under the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP), but without much success. KENSUP has recently completed a sanitation project in the Kibera slum, handing over seven water sanitation facilities to community groups there, but there are concerns over the project’s sustainability.

lam/aw/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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