Tag Archives: migration

The Modern Concentration Camp Approach to Migration Crises

christmas island

In 2012, Australia’s Human Rights Commission concluded that the country’s “system of mandatory detention breaches fundamental human rights.” Christmas Island, which the commission found “is not an appropriate place in which to hold people in immigration detention“, is at the centre of that system.

While little is known about what actually happened during the November 2015  riots, and after them, what preceded them is revealing.  Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian Kurd who’d been tortured in Iran and granted refugee status in Australia, still found himself in the immigration detention system.  Over four years, in which, as Fairfax Media discovered, five immigration ministers “defied repeated advice that this was the last place he should be”, the damaged and vulnerable asylum-seeker was incarcerated beyond hope and understanding.  Fazel Chegeni escaped the centre. But escaping here is not really escaping. There’s nowhere to go, and no way to get there.

His body was found two days later. How did he die? No one has said. But his death appears to have triggered a furious reaction from some of the men he was incarcerated with. Riots. $10 million worth of damage. Seven detainees, including New Zealanders, handcuffed and flown out to a maximum security prison in Perth.  And then the clean-up, and the consequences, including reports of men who hadn’t rioted, but couldn’t escape the riots, being held in cages…,,

Back in New Zealand, United Future leader Peter Dunne wrote: “The modern concentration camp approach Australia has taken is simply wrong. It was wrong when the British tried it in Northern Ireland in the 1970s; it is wrong in Guantanamo Bay, or in Israel today. Australia is no different.”

His words have had widespread coverage in Australia, with a surprising amount of agreement. But, Gordon Thomson (head of the local government at Christmas island) who wants the centre gone from his beloved island, said: “That’s the whole purpose of it. The remote location is ideal for the government’s purposes – that’s to have a secret, the most secretive regime that they can possibly achieve within our legal system, and Christmas Island is the place they can do that best.”

Excerpts from  John Campbell, Unlocking Christmas Island’s secrets, Radio New Zealand News, Nov. 16, 2015

Migrants in a Gated World

map of niger

The bodies of 92 people, almost all women and children, have been found in the Sahara desert. Rescuers said the people had died of thirst after their vehicle broke down during their attempt to reach Algeria from Niger…The group was discovered after survivors reached Arlit on foot. Local experts said that the people were victims of human trafficking and were believed to have died two weeks ago as they tried to walk 12 miles in scorching sun to reach a well after the lorry they were travelling in broke down leaving them stranded.  Sources in Niger said that the group, who began their perilous journey across the desert in late September, was comprised of local people from Zinder, the second largest city in southern Niger, close to the border with Nigeria.

One security expert stressed that the group were not economic migrants but victims of trafficking.  Moussa Akfar, a security expert based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, said: “This was in fact a case of poor people and children who were being trafficked to Algeria. There is an inquiry underway but we know that this was trafficking because economic migrants go to Libya – in Libya you find people of all nationalities, from Nigeria, Cameroon and other countries, heading to Europe.  “In this case all the victims were Nigerien from Zinder, and they were being trafficked. The questions that have to be asked now is how officials on road checkpoints did not alert the authorities about this group. There is endemic corruption at work.”..

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been rocked by repeated food crises in recent years. Last year Save the Children termed Niger the worst place in the world to be a mother amid its warnings that continuing poverty levels were driving people to undertake life-threatening journeys to higher income nations.  While many in Niger said that the October deaths were linked to trafficking, Algeria being the intended destination, Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of Arlit, said the group could have been trying to reach Europe.

Excerpt, Niger migrants died from thirst, after stranding in Sahara desert, Guardian, Oct. 31, 2011