Category Archives: Refugees

Fighting the First UK-Rwandan Refugee Flight

June 10 bore witness to a valiant effort on the part of refugee groups and a trade union to stop what promises to be the first journey of many as part of the UK-Rwanda plan.  Their attempt to seek an injunction failed to convince the High Court.  Next Tuesday, the first flight from the UK to Rwanda filled with asylum seekers will, unless the Court of Appeal rules otherwise, take off.  Some 31 people of Iraqi and Syrian background have been told they will be on board with one-way tickets.

The UK-Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, hammered out by the Home Secretary Priti Patel and her counterparts in Kigali, has one central purpose: to deter the arrival of asylum seekers by boat across the English Channel.  Its genesis lies in a range of sources, none more insidious than the Australian model of offshore processing.  At its core is a rejection of international refugee law and its obligations.  In its place is the sentiment of convenience, callousness and cruel stinginess.

This conduct is only appealing to the insecure and the smug.  In a piece by Sam Ashworth-Hayes, a former director of studies at the conservative Henry Jackson Society, we see the old nostalgic refrain that Britain is glorious, people want to travel there, but that, unfortunately, transport has become easier and cheaper in a world where refugee laws simply have not kept up.  Borders needed to be firmed; regulations tightened.  And praise be showered upon Rwanda, who can profit from the refugee industry and market model so maligned by Patel.   The plan had to “surely rank as among the most generous development aid schemes ever devised.”  Apart, of course, for those unfortunates seeking asylum.

The policy has irked a goodly number, and not just the steadfastly committed campaigners.  The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, has made mutterings about it, expressing the view that the “whole approach is appalling.”  Admittedly, this revelation was spilled by an anonymous source to the Daily Mail and Times.  When asked for comment from Clarence House, a spokesperson said that: “We would not comment on supposed anonymous private conversations with the Prince of Wales, except to restate that he remains politically neutral.  Matters of policy are decisions for the government.”

Multinationals, on even more slippery ground, have also taken issue with the policy.  Ben and Jerry’s took to Twitter to stormily urge “folks” to “talk about Priti Patel’s ‘ugly’ Rwanda plan and what this means.”  The dispenser of ice cream products took issue with the UK’s “plan to forcibly send people to a country thousands of miles away, simply for seeking refuge in the UK” as “cruel and morally bankrupt.”

In the High Court, various arguments by the legal team representing the charities Detention Action, Care4Calais and the PCS Union were made hoping to block the first flight scheduled to leave on June 14, calling the plan unsafe and irrational.  According to the court submission from Raza Hussain, the barrister representing the three groups, Patel’s “assessment … that the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees] is giving this plan a green light is a false claim.”

Government lawyer Mathew Gullick countered the criticisms of the UK-Rwandan arrangement.  They were “backward-looking” and did not genuinely take into account the way migrants were to be treated.  Deterring illegal immigration was a matter of “important public interest”.

Husain’s point was confirmed by a last minute intervention from the UNHCR, which argued in its submission to the court that the UK-Rwanda scheme failed to meet the standards of “legality and appropriateness” in terms of transferring asylum seekers from one state to another.  Laura Dubinsky, QC, representing the UNHCR, told the court that the agency believed there were “risks of serious irreparable harm to refugees” inherent in this “unlawful” plan.  The UK Home Office has peddled “inaccuracies” in claiming that the agency endorsed the scheme.

The court document from the UNHCR revealed “serious concerns that asylum seekers transferred from the UK to Rwanda will not have access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status, with consequent risks of refoulement.”

Refoulement, a term Patel breezily buries when considering asylum seeker claims, remains a canonical precept of refugee law outlined in Article 33 of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.  Contracting states have an obligation not to “expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in a manner whatsoever to the frontiers or territories where his [or her] life or freedom would be threatened on account of his [or her] race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

In the agency’s view, there was also a grave risk “that the burden of processing the asylum claims of new arrivals from the UK could further overstretch the capacity of the Rwanda national asylum system, thereby undermining its ability to provide protection for all those who seek asylum.”

The UNHCR was being fleet footed in avoiding any description of Kigali’s less than impressive record on refugees and human rights.  In its 2022 report on Rwanda, Human Rights Watch noted the iron hand of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in stifling dissent and criticism, the detention and disappearing of opposition members and critics, the liberal use of torture, arbitrary detention and a scanty observance of the rule of law.

Disturbingly enough, Rwanda has produced its own refugees and asylum seekers, who continue being threatened, harassed and, in some instances, “forcibly disappeared and returned to Rwanda, or killed.”

None of the arguments were enough to convince Judge Jonathan Swift in his June 10 decision to reject the application to block the removal of the asylum seekers.  There was a “material public interest in the Home Secretary (Priti Patel) being able to implement immigration decisions.”

Resorting to that ancient method of reasoning when faced with a tight conundrum, Judge Swift could only dismiss the concerns voiced by the applicants as insignificant or lying “in the realms of speculation”.  In their submission to the Court of Appeal, and in the fuller judicial review of the plan to take place later in the month, the appellants have much to prove otherwise.

The post Fighting the First UK-Rwandan Refugee Flight first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Election Gambit: Australia, Sri Lanka and Politicising Asylum

When it comes to the tawdry, hideous business of politicising the right to asylum, and the refugees who arise from it, no country does it better than Australia.  A country proud of being a pioneer in women’s rights, the secret ballot, good pay conditions and tatty hardware (the Hills Hoist remains a famous suburban monstrosity) has also been responsible for jettisoning key principles of international law.

When it comes to policy Down Under, the United Nations Refugee Convention is barely worth a mention.  Politicians are proudly ignorant of it; the courts pay lip service to the idea while preferring rigid domestic interpretations of the Migration Act; and the United Nations is simply that foreign body which makes an occasional noise about such nasties as indefinite detention.

It should therefore have come as no surprise that, in the dying days of the Morrison government, another chance to stir the electorate by demonising refugees arose – somewhat conveniently.  As voters were, quite literally, heading to the polls, the commander of the Joint Agency Task Force Operation Sovereign Borders, Rear Admiral Justin Jones, revealed that a vessel had “been intercepted in a likely attempt to illegally enter Australia from Sri Lanka.”

The Rear Admiral’s statement insisted that Australian policy on such arrivals had not changed.  “We will intercept any vessel seeking to reach Australia illegally and to safely return those on board to their point of departure or country of origin.” Shallow formalities are observed: the implausible observance of international laws, consideration of safety of all those involved “including potential illegal immigrants”.  Nothing else is deemed worthy of mention.  “In line with long standing practice, we will make no further comment.”

With only a few more hours left being Australia’s most jingoistic Defence Minister in a generation, Peter Dutton tweeted a warning, referring to the statement from Jones: “Don’t risk Australia’s national security with Labor.”  In another comment, Dutton decided to peer into the minds of those aiding the asylum process.  “People smugglers have obviously decided who is going to win the election and the boats have already started.”

The Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, was also mining the message for its demagogic potential, raising the spectre of emboldened people smugglers.  They, she squeaked, “are targeting Australia.”  The “people smuggling vessel” had been intercepted “off Christmas Island.”

Andrews might as well have been using the same language to condemn drug traffickers and their commodities which, in terms of analogy, Australian politicians have implicitly done for decades. But for the occasion, the obvious target was the opposition vying for government.  “Labor’s flip flopping on border protection risks our border security.  You can’t trust them.”

The Liberal Party’s electioneering machinery picked up on the Sri Lankan connection, bombarding voters in marginal seats with text messages about this newfound discovery.  “Keep our borders secure by voting Liberal today,” came the prompt.  As things transpired, the entire operation, from Cabinet to the distribution of phone messages, had the full approval of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Revealing the existence of ships moving on mysteriously convenient schedules (another, according to the Saturday Newspaper, was also intercepted by Sri Lankan authorities) raised two burning questions.  The first goes to the troubling relationship with Sri Lanka, which the Australian government had gone some ways to promoting as a safeguard against asylum seekers.  Canberra has tended to skirt over issues of human rights, not least those associated with that country’s long civil war.  In fact, Australian officials have done their best to encourage Colombo to prevent individuals leaving Sri Lanka with a view of heading to Australia by boat.  In 2013, 2014 and 2017, Bay-class naval vessels were gifted to the Sri Lankan Navy to aid the interception of smuggling operations.

During his time in office, Dutton has made more than the odd trip to Colombo.  In May 2015, he made a visit as then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection to discuss “continued cooperation regarding people smuggling and to further strengthen ties between our two countries.”  He duly rubbished people smugglers – they had been “cowardly and malicious” for aiding individuals to pursue their right to asylum – and praised the success of Operation Sovereign Borders.  “Since we started turning back boats there have been no known deaths at sea.”

In June 2019, he paid another visit to shore up the commitment.  It was prompted by a report that a vessel carrying 20 Sri Lankan asylum seekers had been intercepted off Australia’s north-west coast, with the possibility of six others on route.  Then, as now, Dutton could only blame his Labor opponents for somehow encouraging such journeys while reiterating the standard, draconian line.  “People are not coming here [to Australia] by boat and regardless of what people smugglers tell you, the Morrison government, under the Prime Minister and myself, will not allow those people to arrive by boat.”

The second question goes to the supposed success of Operation Sovereign Borders.  This military grade, secretive policy had supposedly “stopped the boats” and remains a favourite Coalition mantra.  But why reveal a chink in the armour, a breach in the fortress unless it was manufactured with the aid of the Sri Lankan authorities or a failure to being with?  As comedian and political commentator Dan Ilic observed in a pointed remark to Dutton: “This happened on your watch dude.”  The Sri Lankan revelation demonstrated, when it comes to such matters, mendacity oils the machine of border protection.

No side in Australian politics has been able to avoid politicising the issue of refugee and asylum arrivals via boat.  The moment Australia’s Labor government made the arrival of individuals without formal authorisation a breach of law warranting mandatory detention, the issue became a political matter.  It took the Liberal National Coalition led by Prime Minister John Howard to turn the issue into a form of feral, gonzo politics.

That form remains unforgettably marked by the use of SAS personnel against 400 individuals, rescued at sea by the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa, in August 2001.  In defiance of maritime conventions and in blatant disregard for human safety, the Howard government held the asylum seekers at sea off Christmas Island for almost ten days.  Those on the vessel were accused of piracy and economic opportunism.  From this barbarism issued the Pacific Solution, a tropical concentration camp system which has had a few iterations since.

Governments, both Coalition and Labor, have drawn political capital from harsh policies against unwanted naval arrivals, smearing the merits of asylum and ignoring the obligations of international refugee law.  The new Albanese government has the chance, however unlikely it is to pursue it, to extract the political and replace it with the humanitarian.

The post Election Gambit: Australia, Sri Lanka and Politicising Asylum first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Report from Germany: Refugees Welcome … Sometimes

Posted on streetlamps all over Germany are stickers showing fleeing silhouettes with the caption, “Refugees welcome – bring your families”. Some have been blacked out with felt markers or ripped partially away. The Germans have mixed feelings about refugees, as demonstrated in the earlier waves from the Mideast and the current one from the Ukraine.

Germany took in over two million refugees from the Mideast wars, far more than any other country. The equivalent for the US population would be eight million.

This has created an enormous financial and cultural strain in a country that historically has had little immigration. It comes at a time when poverty is increasing and social services are being reduced. The once-generous welfare state is gradually being dismantled. This financial squeeze is worsening now because of expenses for the refugees. The two million newcomers receive enough money to live on plus free healthcare, education, and access to special programs. Some cheat on this, registering in several places under different names and getting multiple benefits. Many Germans resent paying for all this with high taxes while their own standard of living is declining.

The trauma of war and displacement has caused a few refugees to lose their moral compass. They do things here they wouldn’t do at home.

Two-thirds of the refugees are young men, some of them convinced Allah has ordained males to dominate females. In their view, women who aren’t submissive need to be punished. Since being male is the only power many of them have, they feel threatened by women in positions of power, and they sometimes react with hostility. Over a thousand women have been physically attacked — some murdered and raped and many aggressively grabbed on the breasts as a way of showing dominance. Many more have been abused — insulted, harassed, spat upon.

Many refugees are aware that Germany, as a member of NATO, supports these wars that have forced them to flee their homes. They’re not fooled by the rhetoric of “humanitarian intervention.” They know NATO’s motives are imperialistic: to install governments agreeable to Western control of their resources and markets. Although they are now safe, their relatives and friends are still being killed with weapons made in Germany and oppressed by soldiers and police trained and financed by Germany. Rather than a grateful attitude, some have come with a resentful one.

Crime has increased, especially violent crimes such as knife attacks. Police and others have been killed and wounded by refugees. Organized criminal clans have become established in Germany’s lenient legal atmosphere. A few ISIS and al-Qaeda members slipped in with the refugees. They have bombed a Christmas market, attacked synagogues, murdered Jews on the street, recruited new members in mosques.

In the past 75 years Germany has become a peaceful country. The current violence is profoundly disturbing to them. It brings back terrible memories.

The violent refugees, though, are only a small minority. Most of the newcomers have a positive attitude. They are getting a fresh start in life, recovering from trauma, getting an education, learning new skills. They’ve been introduced to other cultural possibilities.

Women in particular are responding favorably to this new environment. Seeing how women here live, some of them are beginning to free themselves from patriarchal bondage. With help from German feminists they are developing the energy and determination to challenge male rule and change the conditions of their lives. And they’ll inspire their sisters back home.

The situation with the Ukrainian refugees is much different. The cultures are similar, so there’s less clash. The war hasn’t been going on for long, so there are few of them and problems have not yet developed. They are being celebrated as brave heroes standing up to an aggressive Russia intent on dominating Europe. Anti-Russian feelings have been strong in Germany for two centuries, so this propaganda finds ready acceptance. During the Cold War the German government beamed out the constant danger of Russian attack in order to justify the presence of US troops and nuclear weapons on their soil. Now they condemn Putin as the new Hitler. Atrocity stories of Russian troops get enormous coverage, those of Ukrainian troops against separatists in Donbass are ignored. Every small Ukrainian victory is cheered with blood-thirsty enthusiasm. Welcoming these refugees is part of the strategy for maintaining NATO dominance.

But, of course, it is important to take them in, to shelter them from this latest capitalist butchery. Like the Arabs, most of them are fine people, and many will stay and contribute to the society in their new home.

Germany still has anti-foreign, anti-Semitic, right-wing extremists, but since World War Two the West German government has systematically pushed them out of public life. Unfortunately that wasn’t true in East Germany. There the Stalinist regime ignored the problem, as did Stalinist governments in the eastern European countries. They didn’t want to risk provoking uprisings against their dictatorships. In the former East Germany, which is much smaller than the West, right-wing extremists are a small minority, but a hateful, well-organized, and sometimes violent one. In eastern Europe they are much stronger, sometimes the most powerful political force.

The establishment press in the USA, Britain, and France jump at every opportunity to exaggerate right-wing incidents in Germany in order to divert attention from problems in their own country. The right wing in the USA is much more powerful and dangerous than that in Germany. That’s why our resistance to it is so important.

 

The post Report from Germany: Refugees Welcome … Sometimes first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Peter Dutton’s Defamation Defeat

The occasions when an activist, writer or commentator triumph over defamation lawsuits launched by a thin-skinned politician are rare in Australia.  When it comes to matters regarding the law of reputation, Australia remains a place where parliamentarians, as a species, thrive in the knowledge they can use favourable provisions to protect their hurt feelings and soiled reputations.

The country, in also lacking a bill of rights protecting free speech and the press, has further emboldened politicians.  At best, the Australian High Court has only left an anaemic implied right “to protect freedom of communication on political subjects”, which should really be read as a restraint on executive and legislative power, never to be personally exercised.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton, ever the nasty enforcer of the Morrison government, was one who had every reason to feel confident when he took refugee activist Shane Bazzi to court in April last year.  In February 2021, Bazzi published a six-word tweet: “Peter Dutton is a rape apologist.”

The tweet was made some hours after Dutton had told a press conference that he had not been furnished with the finer details of a rape allegation made by former Coalition staffer Britney Higgins.  The context here was also important.  Dutton had, when Home Affairs Minister, characterised refugee women being held on Nauru, one of Australia’s carceral domains, as “trying it on” to get access to the Australian mainland for medical treatment.

The following month, this sadist-in-chief promised that he would start to “pick out some” individuals who were “trending on Twitter or have the anonymity of different Twitter accounts” posting “all these statements and tweets that are frankly defamatory.” It was an informal declaration of war against critics.

In instigating proceedings against Bazzi, Dutton claimed in the trial that he was “deeply offended” by the contents of the tweet.  He accepted that, “As a minister for immigration or home affairs … people make comments that are false or untrue, offensive, profane, but that’s part of the rough and tumble.”  But Bazzi had gone one step too far.   “It was somebody that held himself out as an authority or a journalist.”  His remarks “went beyond” the tolerably bruising nature of politics. “And it went against who I am, my beliefs … I thought it was hurtful.”

In finding for Dutton in November and awarding $35,000 in damages, Justice Richard White ruled that the tweet had been defamatory, and that Bazzi could not resort to the defence of honest opinion.  Dutton failed to gain damages in three of the four imputations, while also troubling the judge with his hunger in pursuing the defendant for the full legal bill.  But in his remarks on Bazzi’s claim of honest opinion, White was dismissive.  “Bazzi may have used the word ‘apologist’ without an understanding of the meaning he was, in fact conveying.”  If this had been the case, “it would follow that he did not hold the opinion actually conveyed by the words.”

On May 17, Bazzi found that he had convinced the Full Court of the Federal Court that the reasoning behind the six-word tweet, and the purportedly defamatory imputations it conveyed, was flawed.  Justices Steven Rares and Darryl Rangiah, in a joint judgment, found that Justice White had erred in not explaining “how the reader would understand the whole (or any part) of the tweet to convey the imputation.”  They also noted that Justice White had found the meaning of the word “apologist” was not that of an excuser but of a defender.  “When the material is read with Mr Bazzi’s six words, the reader would conclude that the tweet was suggesting that Mr Dutton was sceptical about claims of rape and in that way was an apologist.”  It was “very different from imputing that he excuses rape itself.”

The judges put much stock in the context of the tweet, and the need to read it alongside Dutton’s previous remarks on the women held on Nauru as recorded in The Guardian.  “The reader would perceive that the message in the tweet consisted of both parts, Mr Bazzi’s six word statement and The Guardian material, read together.”  When read together, the reader “would understand that the point that the tweet was conveying was that a ‘rape apologist’ behaves in the way Mr Dutton had in expressing scepticism about the claims of rape.  That is a far cry from conveying the meaning that he excuses rape itself.”

Justice Michael Wigney also found that the primary judge had erred in finding the tweet defamatory and “substantially agreed” with the two other justices.  It was “tolerably clear” that Bazzi’s statement “was about, or responsive to, the extract from The Guardian article.”  The primary judge had erred in how the ordinary reasonable Twitter user would have read the tweet, downplaying, for instance, the significance of the link to the article.

Accordingly, “It was wrong for the primary judge, in analysing whether Mr Bazzi’s tweet conveyed the alleged imputation, to dissect and segregate the tweet in the way he did.”  While the tweet did convey “an impression that is derogatory and critical of [Dutton’s] attitude to rape or rape allegations,” it did “not go so far as to convey the impression that [Dutton] is a person who excuses rape”.

Dutton’s litigious boldness was much in keeping with the Morrison government’s general hostility to social media outlets and the internet, in general.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shown a willingness to do battle with social media and making the platforms assume greater responsibility for material hosted on their sites.  Taking advantage of the killings in Christchurch in March 2019, he exploited the chance to pursue a global agenda of online censorship.  “We urge online platforms to step up the ambition and pace of their efforts to prevent terrorist and VECT (violent extremism conducive to terrorism) content being streamed, uploaded, or re-uploaded.”

In the latter part of last year, the government announced that it was drafting laws that would make social media companies gather user details and permit courts to force the divulging of user identities in defamation proceedings.  While a re-elected Morrison government will be a dark day for internet freedoms and expression, Dutton’s defeat is a cause for genuine celebration.  It also heralds the need to water down the persistently draconian nature of laws that do all too much in protecting that strange animal known as the offended politician.

The post Peter Dutton’s Defamation Defeat first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Obscene Outsourcing: The UK-Rwandan Refugee Deal

This month, the government of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined an ignominious collective in announcing a refugee deal with Rwanda, seedily entitled the UK-Rwanda Migration Partnership.  The fact that such terms are used – a partnership or deal connotes contract and transaction – suggests how inhumane policies towards those seeking sanctuary and a better life have become.

In no small measure, the agreement between London and Kigali emulates the “Pacific Solution”, a venal response formulated by the Australian government to deter asylum seekers arriving by boat and create a two-tiered approach to assessing asylum claims.  The centrepiece of the 2001 policy was the transfer of such arrivals to Pacific outposts in Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru, where they would have no guarantee of being settled in Australia.  Despite being scrapped by the Labor Rudd government at the end of 2007, the policy was reinstated by a politically panicked Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012 under what was billed the Pacific Solution Mark II.

The victory of the conservative Liberal-National Party coalition in the 2013 elections led to its most cruel manifestation.  Operation Sovereign Borders, as the policy came to be known, cast a shroud of military secrecy over intercepting boats and initiating towaways.  The crude, if simple slogan, popularised by the Abbott government, was “Stop the Boats”.  Such sadistic policies were justified as honourable ones: preventing drownings at sea; disrupting the “people smuggler model”.  In truth, the approach merely redirected the pathways of arrival while doing little by way of discouraging the smugglers.

More measures followed: the creation of a specifically dedicated border force kitted out for violence; the passage of legislation criminalising whistleblowers for revealing squalid, torturous camp conditions featuring self-harm, suicide and sexual abuse.

Inspired by such a punitive example despite its gross failings and astronomical cost (the Australian policy saw a single asylum seeker’s detention bill come to $AU3.4 million) , the Johnson government has been parroting the same themes in what the UK Home Office called, misleadingly, a “world first partnership” to combat the “global migration crisis”.  The partnership sought to “address” the “shared international challenge of illegal migration and break the business model of smuggling gangs.”  Not once did it refer to the right to asylum which exists irrespective of the mode of travel or arrival.

Johnson also reiterated the theme of targeting those “vile people smugglers” who have turned the ocean into a “watery graveyard”, failing to mention that such individuals serve to also advance the right of seeking asylum.  More on point was his remark that compassion might be “infinite but our capacity to help people is not.”

If one is to believe the Home Office, sending individuals to Rwanda or, as it puts it, “migrants who make dangerous or illegal journeys” is a measure of some generosity.  Successful applicants “will then be supported to build a new and prosperous life in one of the fastest-growing economies, recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants.”

Rwanda is certainly going to benefit with a generous bribe of £120 million, slated for “economic development and growth”, while it will also receive funding for “asylum operations, accommodation and integration similar to the costs incurred in the UK for these services.”

The country will also take some pride in sidestepping its own less than savoury human rights records, which boasts a résumé of extrajudicial killings, torture, unlawful or arbitrary detention, suspicious deaths in custody and an aggressive approach to dissidents.  In 2018, Rwanda security forces were responsible for killing at least 12 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.  They had been protesting a cut to their food rations.  Various survivors were then arrested and prosecuted for charges ranging from rebellion to “spreading false information with intent to create a hostile international opinion against the Rwandan state.”

The UK-Rwandan partnership also perpetuates old libels in discrediting cross-Channel crossers as purely economic migrants who somehow forfeit their right to fair assessment.  Emilie McDonnell of Human Rights Watch UK dispels this myth, noting Home Office data and information gathered via freedom of information laws that 61% of migrants who travel by boat are likely to remain in the UK after claiming asylum.  The Refugee Council, in an analysis of Channel crossings and asylum outcomes between January 2020 and June 2021, noted that 91% of those making the journey came from 10 countries where human rights abuses are acknowledged as extensive.

Refugees and asylum seekers are the stuff of political value, rising and falling like stocks depending on the government of the day.  For Johnson, the agreement with Rwanda was also a chance to preoccupy the newspaper columns and an irate blogosphere with another talking point.  “Sending refugees to Rwanda,” claimed The Mirror, “is the political equivalent of a distraction burglary, only less subtle and infinitely more criminal.”

The event in question supposedly warranting that hideous distraction was serious enough.  Johnson, along with his wife Carrie and UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, were all found to have breached government COVID-19 emergency laws and fined by the police.  In the history books, this is already being written up as the “partygate affair”, which featured a number of socialising events conducted by staff as the rest of the country endured severe lockdown restrictions.  Those same history books will also note that the prime minister and chancellor are both pioneers in facing police-mandated penalties.

Johnson’s own blotting took place on June 19, 2020, when he held a birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street.  “In all frankness, at that time,” he reasoned, “it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules”.  With such a perspective on legality and breaches, the Rwanda deal seems a logical fit, heedless of human rights, a violation of dignity, a potential risk to life and a violation of international refugee law.

The post Obscene Outsourcing: The UK-Rwandan Refugee Deal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Nine-Year Obscenity: The Australia-NZ Resettlement Deal

Obscenities occupy the annals of State behaviour, revolting reminders about what governments can do.  One of Australia’s most pronounced and undeniable obscenities is its continuing effort to gut and empty international refugee law of its relevant foundations.  Instead of being treated as a scandal, populists and governments the world over have expressed admiration, even envy: If they can get away with that, what might we do?

Along the way, Australia has also made its greatest contribution to deterring unwanted arrivals, creating the most ruthless, tropical detention network for individuals who, unblessed by paperwork, arrive by boat with the aid of people traffickers and are duly told they will never settle in Australia.  These “unlawful” arrivals – language itself in contravention of the UN Refugee Convention – are duly passed on the refugee camp conveyor belt, where they face ruination, despair and sadistic prison wardens.  To Manus Island or Nauru they go, awaiting settlement in another country.

In 2013, New Zealand offered some mitigation to these ghastly conditions.  Australia might have expressed no interest in resettling such arrivals, but New Zealand did.  Thus, that great tradition of outsourcing obligations and responsibilities was continued, with Australia preferring to let others do the heavy lifting.

That agreement involved Australia’s neighbour accepting 150 of its annual intake of refugees from Australian detention centres.  But the fall of the Labor government, and the coming to power of a conservative Coalition crazed by “turning back the boats”, all but killed the arrangement.

This did not stop other inglorious attempts on Canberra’s part to abdicate human rights responsibilities with the connivance of other countries.  In 2014, a resettlement deal was struck with Cambodia costing in the order of AU$55 million.  Unsurprisingly, only a few refugees availed themselves of this less than impressive arrangement.  The next year, Australia tried, in vain, to coax the Philippines with an offer worth AU$150 million.

The 2016 agreement with the United States, hammered out in the last days of the Obama administration, was seen as a diplomatic coup, obliging Washington to take between 1,250 to 2,000 refugees.  All would be subject to stringent US vetting.  Australia, in turn, would accept a much smaller complement of refugees from Central America.

These arrangements, with much justification, were rubbished by the newly arrived President Donald J. Trump.  In a now notorious phone call between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the President suggested that this “stupid deal” might facilitate the import of terrorists into the United States.  “I do not want to have more San Bernadinos or World Trade Centres.  I could name 30 others, but I do not have enough time.”

In another action that could only be seen as ingratiating, Australia agreed, in 2017, to resettle 17 Cubans who were found desperately clinging to a lighthouse off the Florida Keys.  The pattern here should be obvious: Australia will do everything it can to evade, circumvent and subvert a refugee processing scheme that is humane and generous.

Under the current, revived understanding, New Zealand will accept 150 refugees from Australia each year for three years, but only those who are already in detention.  Canberra has made it clear that the deal will not apply to those subsequently making an effort to travel to Australia by sea.  “Australia remains firm,” stated Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, “illegal maritime arrivals will not settle here permanently.  Anyone who attempts to breach our borders will be turned back or sent to Nauru.”

Another nasty proviso is also applicable.  Those refugees resettled in New Zealand will be looked at as a special category should they wish to enter Australia.  According to the Australian Department of Home Affairs, they will be allowed “to apply for visas to enter Australia on a short-term or temporary stay basis only”. This would also apply even after the grant of New Zealand citizenship.

Government acceptance of this plan was only reached after what were described as “bullish” and “intimidating” negotiations between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and non-government parliamentarians in 2019.  Independent Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie even claims that she was threatened with jail were she to reveal any details of the plan.  “So, for the sake of humanity, I had no other choice but to shut up anyway to make sure that job was done.”

Lambie’s sense of humanity should not be exaggerated.  Negotiations with the government centred on securing her support for the repeal of laws permitting the evacuation of gravely ill refugees to the Australian mainland for medical treatment.  Compassion for refugees tends to be in short supply in the nation’s capital.

The opposition Labor Party, hardly a shining light in the refugee debates, have tried to make hay from the Morrison government’s change of heart.  “This is an absolutely humiliating backflip,” cheered Shadow Assistant Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles.  “It should not have taken nine years and that is the other big thought in my mind, the cost to those individual lives and the cost to all of us in this pointless, cruel intransigence by Mr Morrison.”

While Australian Labor mocked, New Zealand Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was self-congratulatory and business-like of his country’s record.  “New Zealand has a long and proud history of refugee resettlement and this arrangement is another example of how we are fulfilling our humanitarian international commitment.”  In marketing speak, Faafoi expressed his pleasure that NZ could “provide resettlement outcomes for refugees who would otherwise have continued to face uncertain futures.”

While 450 refugees will find safety and sanctuary in New Zealand, that does little for 500 others.  The beastly, cruel system remains in place, and promises to cost AU$2 billion next year.  If anything, this revived agreement shows how far countries have pitifully fallen in their responsibilities in providing safety for the vulnerable and damaged.

The post A Nine-Year Obscenity: The Australia-NZ Resettlement Deal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Julian Assange is Not above the Law, but He Shouldn’t be Beneath Justice

Hewn in to human rights legislation borne of fascism’s decline in the mid twentieth century is a pool of glorious protections of civil liberties and press freedoms. It is deep, but it is not entirely immune from attack. Political opportunists undermine it in regular waves, repressing dissidence in their states and satellite states, even and especially in the West. Victims pile up, the criminalisation of journalism gathering steam, the propaganda to justify this awful retrenchment of civil liberties rising in the background. This is fascism resurgent.

Glasnost translates to ‘transparency’, and it was assumed to be a core value of western government when Gorbachev’s administration began to dismantle socialism in Russia in the 1990s. The liberal democratic system prevalent in the world today is in theory buoyed by open, transparent government, and in every area where it is practised as the predominant form of government, gives rise to the rule of civil liberties said to be inalienable, universal, and non-negotiable. Being as old as democracy itself, they’re deeply rooted in history, representing progress and democratic status. Insofar as it remains worth defending, there remains no better way to adhere to “civilised” culture than to defend civil liberty and constitutional freedoms. While it may be a world away from the current zeitgeist among western leaders for criminalising dissent, journalism, and whistleblowing, reaching its zenith in the prosecution of Julian Assange, it’s nonetheless only a few fights away from restoration.

All around the world are corrupt governments torturing and oppressing citizens critical of the regimes that rule, not serve, them. True to Orientalist stereotypes, this type of place is reflexively assumed by the privileged commentariat to be an anomaly, in some remote region of the East, where the rule of law is alien and everybody’s neighbour knows someone in the gulag. Taking the American tradition of world policing to new heights, however, the most advanced superpower in the advanced industrial west will supply everything you could want if you were seeking examples of archetypal tyranny, and its satellites are all too happy to turn this practice from an isolated infraction to standard, common practice. Being emboldened in power, the US jurisdiction, and those under its spell, practice extraterritorial prosecutions, extraordinary renditions, in which foreign citizens are either extradited to the empire state for trial and punishment bordering on and oft crossing the rubicon into illegal torture, or have it enforced upon them in US bases overseas.

Unluckily, the CIA oversee these cases and will bend over backwards to accommodate torture, and to offend the constitution. Set in the context of the Patriot Act (an unconstitutional abomination of law rafted through congress during the hysteria after 9/11) they have unlimited powers to break non-refoulement law in the human rights convention. The principle of non-refoulement forms the crux of many internationally binding contracts in which signatory states agree to uphold and abide by the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution.

Despite power’s collective disgrace of the law by breaking the principles enshrined in non-refoulement law, missing the irony, the Tory government has said the arrest of Julian Assange is just and serves to show he is not above the law. Likewise the official line from Ecuador that Assange’s work constitutes “cyber-terrorism.” Such talk from the government evidences not the culpability of Assange for any crime, but precisely the establishment’s desire to invert the real narrative: ironically, Assange has been arrested for exposing corruption that posits powerful organisations and politicians above the law, and for so doing he is now deemed beneath justice.

Assange had previously said it was not the prospect of answering to British or Swedish justice that worried him and put forward a robust case for the proximity of a British or Swedish trial to a US extradition during the debate about the moral ambiguity of his self-imposed exile, in which he credibly suggested he feared a kangaroo court in the US which would punish him to life, or gruesome death, for abiding by first amendment ethics, a claim that many thought was paranoid but has been vindicated.

Like all young people looking out to the world today, I am acutely conscious we are growing up in a times of extreme volatility and complex global politics marred by violence, war and corruption, one yet borne aloft by revolutionary dreams of a better world that have come to fruition in hopeful global rebellions, which I cheered on as a socially conscientious teenager.

Perhaps the defining note of optimism for me is that I am emboldened by hope in the face of an insurgency of brave truth telling, of righteous civil disobedience against corrupt and ossified power, but at once, the defining note of pessimism for me is that I am equally as worried by the way insurgent bearers of truth are being treated like mice in the maze of a Goliath American state, one that treats the whole world order as if it were its sole domain, its entire extraterritorial jurisdiction, a caliphate, whose subjects are treated with increasingly wanton whim at the behest of the senate, military and intelligence agencies in the empire state.

Notorious names — Schwartz, Assange, Lauri, Manning, Winner — correspond to notorious cases. While the case specifics encompass a varied range of actions and activities associated with subversion of US imperial strategy, they encompass and are united by concerted efforts to subvert imperial activism of the US state decidedly through electronic means — whistle blowing, data dumping, hacking — activity which, rendered through the realpolitik filter with which hawk politicians have been conditioned in the corridors of Yale and The Pentagon, is tantamount to treason. Thinking logically it is obvious treason is an untenable accusation against those who — with the exception of Manning, Schwartz, Winner — have never been American citizens. Indeed such charges sullying the names of these renegades seems designed to inculcate fear and obedience to American objectives not just within but beyond domestic spheres of influence. Silencing dissent, then, can be seen as core imperial strategy, and one with terrifying, unprecedented extraterritorial reach.

Hard working, principled journalists — who’d be legends and treasures in a long lost era of good press ethics in society — and their sources are paying a high price out of their human rights under the aegis of a craven new age of US imperialism. Most modern states bar the integration of legitimate journalistic activity with the penal code, like those currently being deployed to get Julian Assange. But in the data age, with less developed laws around the link between technology and sources, criminalisation is being embraced, or at least is being seized upon in the moment before laws and regulation are clarified and tightened up to get Assange.

But it stinks. For one evidence cited in attempts to justify his arrest and pursuit under the law are at best dubious, at worst slanderous. Moreover in a zeitgeist defined by Brexit negotiations steeped deep in the rhetoric of protecting parliamentary sovereignty it ought to worry us British courts are willing to yield to the whims of US courts who are willing to put Assange away for life, or kill him, for the crime of doing journalism.

It’s time that the establishment drops pretences and stops using the phrase “no man is above the law” as if the mantra is still meaningful. Either justice is a right or its not. For so many, conspicuously all in the business of exposing corruption, they don’t get it. It’s time to reform society’s treatment of whistleblowers and remove all legal obstructions to their freedoms.

In theory, we are equal under the law. In practice, some are beneath justice. Equality under the law — from which the maxim “no one above the law” — is a bastion of liberal democracy. It is oft cited in defence of the moral superiority of the western way of life over other systems that have preceded it or stand in opposition. A fair legal system is seen to be the sign of an ethically mature democracy. Yet it is precisely because the law is administered to prosecute whistleblowers on elite crimes and reward elite corruption that this truism about our equivalence in the contemporary justice system is an anachronism with a diluted meaning. In war, justice is always the biggest casualty.

The post Julian Assange is Not above the Law, but He Shouldn’t be Beneath Justice first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Ukraine War and the “Good” Refugee

These people are not people we are used to… these people are Europeans.

— Kiril Petkov, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Associated Press, March 1, 2022

In the history of accepting refugees, countries have shown more than an erratic streak.  Universal human characteristics have often been overlooked in favour of the particular: race, cultural habits, religion.  Even immigration nations, such as the United States and Australia, have had their xenophobic twists and turns on the issue of who to accept, be they victims of pogroms, war crimes, genocide, or famine.

The Russian attack on Ukraine has already produced refugees in the hundreds of thousands.  By March 2, with the war one week old, 874,000 people were estimated to have left Ukraine.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that up to four million may leave, while the European Union adds a further three million to the figure.

This is already producing a growing capital of hypocrisy on the part of receiving states who have shown deep reluctance in accepting refugees of other backgrounds from other conflicts.  Tellingly, some of these conflicts have also been the noxious fruit of campaigns or interventions waged by Western states.

Offers of generosity – least to fair Ukrainians – are everywhere.  Poland, which will be a major recipient and country of passage for many Ukrainians, is showing ample consideration to the arrivals as they make their way across the border.  They find themselves playing moral priests of salvation.

A report from the UNHCR notes facilities at various border crossings stocked with “food, water, clothes, sleeping bags, shoes, blankets, nappies and sanitary products for people arriving with only what they can carry.”  Anna Dąbrowska, head of Homo Faber, notes the sentiment.  “Our two peoples have always had close relations… Of course, we help our neighbours!”

Such solidarity has been selective. Those of African and Middle Eastern background have faced rather different treatment at the border – if and when they have gotten there.  The number of accounts of obstructions and violence both within Ukraine and at the border, are growing.

Polish authorities have also been accused of explicitly targeting African students by refusing them entry in preference for Ukrainians, though the Polish Ambassador to the UN told the General Assembly on February 28 that this was “a complete lie and a terrible insult to us.”  According to Krzysztof Szczerski, as many as 125 nationalities have been admitted into Poland from Ukraine.

The sceptics have every reason to be doubtful.  Only last year, Minister of the Interior Mariusz Kamiński, and the National Defence Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, gave a very different impression of welcome, suggesting that refugees of swarthier disposition – those from the Middle East, in particular – were immoral types tending towards bestiality.  Such arrivals were also accused of being weapons used by the Lukashenko regime in Belarus as part of a program of “hybrid warfare”.  President Adrzej Duda also signed a bill into law to construct what has been described as “a high-tech barrier on the border with Belarus to guard against an influx of irregular migrants.”

It’s all well to accuse the Russians of disinformation, but Polish authorities have not been averse to sowing their own sordid variants, targeting vulnerable arrivals and demonising them in the process.  In 2021, those fleeing Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen were left stranded by their hundreds in the freezing woods along the Polish-Belarusian border.  Eight individuals perished.

In this cruel farce of inhumanity, the European Union, along with Poland and the Baltic States, notably Lithuania, must shoulder the blame.  The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has been openly calling Lukashenko’s fashioning of irregular arrivals as “a hybrid attack, a brutal attack, a violent attack and a shameful attack.” Doing so makes it easier to care less.

Globally, the war in Ukraine is now giving countries a chance to be very moral to the right type of refugee.  They are fleeing the ravages and viciousness of the Russian Bear, the bully of history; this is an opportunity to show more accommodating colours.  If nothing else, it also provides a distracting cover for the more brutal policies used against other, less desirable irregular arrivals.

This is a strategy that is working, with media outlets such as USA Today running amnesiac pieces claiming that Ukrainian families, in fighting “Putin’s murderous regime”, were engaged in a “battle … for life and death; there is no time for debates about political correctness.”

Countries in Western Europe are also showing a different face to those fleeing Ukraine.  The UK, which is seeking to adopt an Australian version of refugee processing – the use of distant offshore islands and third countries, lengthy detention spells and the frustrating of asylum claims – has now opened arms for 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.

Distant Australia, whose participation in the illegal war against Iraq which produced refugees and asylum seekers that would eventually head towards the antipodes, is now offering to accept a higher intake of refugees from Ukraine and “fast track” their applications.  The same politicians speak approvingly of a system that imprisons asylum seekers and refugees indefinitely in Pacific outposts, promising to never resettle them in Australia.  The subtext here is that those sorts – the Behrouz Boochani-types – deserve it.

In the words of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), “The Morrison Government has presided over the dismantling of Australia’s refugee intake, leaving Australia unable to adequately respond to emergencies”, with 2022 “marking the lowest refugee intake in nearly 50 years.”  True, the global pandemic did not aid matters, but COVID-19 did little in terms of seeing a precipitous decline in refugee places.  Australia’s refugee intake cap was lowered from 18,750 persons in 2018-2019 to 13,750 in 2020-2021.

The reduction of such places has taken place despite Canberra’s role in a range of conflicts that have fed the global refugee crisis.  Australia’s failure in Afghanistan, and its imperilling of hundreds of local translators and security personnel, only saw a half-hearted effort in opening the doors.  The effort was characterised by incompetence and poorly deployed resources.

The grim reality in refugee politics is that governments always make choices and show preferences.  “Talk of moving some applications ‘to the top of the pile’ pits the most vulnerable against each other,” opines the critical founder of the ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis. “This is a moral aberration and completely out of step with the Australian public.”

Sadly, the good people at the ASRC are misreading public sentiment.  This is an election year; accepting Ukrainian refugees will be seen as good politics, just as indefinitely detaining boat arrivals from impoverished and war-ravaged lands – many Muslim majority states affected by the policies of Western states – will continue to be praised.

The post The Ukraine War and the “Good” Refugee first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Tapping Fortress Australia: Priti Patel’s Border Force Review

When in opposition, Alexander Downer, destined to become Australia’s longest serving foreign minister in the conservative government of John Howard, was easy to savage.  The Australian Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating was particularly keen to skewer an establishment individual prone to donning fishnet stockings and affecting a plummy disposition.  Never, he suggested, had there been a more conceited piece of fairy floss ever put on a stick.

During the Howard years, Downer served in the role of a position that has become all but irrelevant, outsourced as it is to the US State Department and the fossil fuel lobby.  It was during that time that Australia supercharged its draconian approach to refugees and border security, repelling naval arrivals and creating a network of concentration camps that has since been marketed to the world.  The UK Home Affairs Minister Priti Patel is positively potty for it but has only managed to adopt aspects of the “Australian model”, including the relocation of arrivals to offshore facilities and co-opting the Royal Navy in an intercepting role.

Efforts to use third countries to process asylum claims have been frustrated, though Patel has opted for a legislative route in stymieing the process and limiting the settlement rights of unwanted migrants.  While she has authorised the use of push backs on paper, these have yet to take place and are the subject of a legal challenge by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and charity, Care4Calais.

The government of Boris Johnson has made something of a habit in mining the old quarry of Australian conservative politics.  Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was approved for a role as trade advisor for Global Britain, an appointment which did not sit well with critics worried that a reactionary dinosaur had been brought into the fold.  With Abbott offering advice, Global Britain risked becoming a Nostalgic Britannia of pink gins and wallahs, Union Jack flying high.

Downer, for his part, has settled into the soft furnishings of British public life, occupying the role of High Commissioner for some years, becoming a presence around Australia House and King’s College, London as founding chairman of the international school of government.  Evidently, he is regarded as very clubbable, a member of the Royal Over-Seas League and chairman of trustees at the right wing think tank, Policy Exchange.

Of late, he has been tapped to undertake a review of Britain’s border forces, a task he is likely to relish.  In this field, reform can only mean a few things: harsher policies, hardened feelings, and the tweaking, if not total circumvention, of international law.  The number of migrants attempting to make the crossing from France in 2021 was estimated to be 28,431.  In 2020, it was 8,417.  There are fears in the Home Office that the number could reach 65,000.  A siege mentality has well and truly seeded.

A statement from the Home Office noted Patel’s commissioning of “a wide-ranging, independent review of our Border Force to assess its structure, powers, funding and priorities to ensure it can keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and continue to protect the border, maintain security and prevent illegal migration.”

Patel doesn’t stoop to considering the right to asylum, or the safety and welfare of those making the crossing.  It’s all security and border protection.  “Since Border Force was set up in 2011, its remit has grown to meet the changing border threats we face, and in recent years has supported delivery of the government’s Brexit commitments and COVID-19 measures.”

According to statements from the UK government, Downer was “delighted” to be leading the review, one mislabelled as independent.  “As an independent reviewer, I plan to lead a review that is robust, evidence-based and outcome-orientated.”

Downer is unlikely to be troubled by the evidence.  For him, the outcomes are already determined and bound to offer Patel comfort.  The clue was in a piece written for the Daily Mail last September openly praising Patel’s efforts.  Despite the Home Secretary being “widely ridiculed on both sides of the Channel … I know that a ‘push-back’ policy can work.”  Never one for the finer details, the Australian suggested a sly approach verging on deception.  “My advice to Ms Patel would be to introduce a ‘push-back’ policy without fanfare, and to keep the French informed on a need-to-know basis only”.

The views of those at the Policy Exchange think tank are also shot through with such presumption. In a report released on February 16, the authors consider the need for a “Plan B” which would involve removing people attempting to enter the UK on small craft “to a location outside the UK – whether the Channel Islands, Sovereign Bases in Cyprus or Ascension Island – where their asylum claims would be considered.”  Ideally, “Plan A” would involve the French shouldering the responsibility of preventing the arrivals in the first place.

Downer’s anti-refugee resume is long, though he seems to have been overly credited with the copyright of the original Pacific Solution implemented by the Howard government from 2001.  The same goes for the general policy of turning vessels laden with asylum seekers and refugees back to Indonesia and potential watery graves.  That said, he was an important figure in leading negotiations with countries such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea, both becoming indispensably bribed in aiding Canberra’s sadistic solution.

This is enough to have the PCS worried.  One spokesperson noted Downer’s role as “a prime architect of Australia’s inhumane immigration policy” claiming that his recent support for the push back solution made “him a wholly inappropriate choice to lead this review”.  General Secretary Mark Serwotka has also expressed his opposition to any push back policy “on moral and humanitarian grounds, and we will not rule out industrial action to prevent it being carried out.”

The one saving grace in this needless review with pre-determined findings is the difficulty Britain faces in implementing any turn-back policy that does not violate international law.  French officials are incessant in reminding their British counterparts about that fact.  And without French cooperation in this endeavour, any proposed harshness will be mitigated.

The post Tapping Fortress Australia: Priti Patel’s Border Force Review first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Coming This 2022: Refugees, Democracy and Human Rights

Although 2021 is now behind us, there are many issues that will linger for a while, or much longer, and will certainly dominate much of the news in 2022, as well. These are but a few of the issues.

NATO-Russian Brinkmanship 

Exasperated with NATO expansion and growing ambitions in the Black Sea region, Moscow has decided to challenge the US-led Western alliance in an area of crucial geopolitical importance to Russia.

Ukraine’s quest for NATO membership, especially following the Crimea conflict in 2014, proved to be a red line for Russia. Starting in late 2021, the US and its European allies began accusing Russia of amassing its forces at the Ukrainian border, suggesting that outright military invasion would soon follow. Russia denied such accusations, insisting that a military solution can be avoided if Russia’s geopolitical interests are respected.

Some analysts argue that Russia is seeking to “coerce the west to start the new Yalta talks,” a reference to a US, UK and Russia summit at the conclusion of World War II. If Russia achieves its objectives, NATO will no longer be able to exploit Russia’s fault lines throughout its Western borders.

While NATO members, especially the US, want to send a strong message to Russia – and China – that the defeat in Afghanistan will not affect their global prestige or tarnish their power, Russia is confident that it has enough political, economic, military and strategic cards that would allow it to eventually prevail.

China’s Unhindered Rise 

Another global tussle is also underway. For years, the US unleashed an open global war to curb China’s rise as a global economic power. While the 2019 ‘Trade War’, instigated by the Donald Trump administration against China delivered lukewarm results, China’s ability to withstand pressure, control with mathematical precision the spread, within China, of the Covid-19 pandemic, and continue to fuel the global economy has proved that Beijing is not easy prey.

An example of the above assertion is the anticipated revival of the Chinese tech giant, Huawei. The war on Huawei served as a microcosm of the larger war on China. British writer, Tom Fowdy, described this war as “blocking exports to (Huawei), isolating it from global chipmakers, forcing allies to ban its participation in their 5G networks, imposing criminal charges against it and kidnapping one of its senior executives”.

However, this is failing, according to Fowdy. 2022 is the year in which Huawei is expected to wage massive global investments that will allow it to overcome many of these obstacles and become self-sustaining in terms of the technologies required to fuel its operations worldwide.

Aside from Huawei, China plans to escalate its response to American pressures by expanding its manufacturing platforms, creating new markets and fortifying its alliances, especially with Moscow. A Chinese-Russian alliance is particularly important for Beijing as both countries are experiencing strong US-Western pushback.

2022 is likely to be the year in which Russia and China, in the words of Beijing’s Ambassador to Moscow, Zhang Hanhui, stage a “response to such overt (US) hegemony and power politics”, where both “continue to deepen back-to-back strategic cooperation.”

The World ‘Hanging by a Thread’

However, other conflicts exist beyond politics and economy. There is also the war unleashed on our planet by those who favor profits over the welfare of future generations. While the Glasgow Climate Pact COP26 began with lofty promises in Scotland in November, it concluded with political compromises that hardly live up to the fact that, per the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “we are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe”.

True, in 2022 many tragedies will be attributed to climate change. However, it will also be a year in which millions of people around the world will continue to push for a collective, non-political response to the ‘climate catastrophe’. While Planet Earth is “hanging by a thread” – according to Guterres – political compromises that favor the rich become the obstacle, not the solution. Only a global movement of well-integrated civil societies worldwide can compel politicians to heed the wishes of the people.

Refugees, Democracy and Human Rights

The adverse effects of climate change can be felt in myriad ways that go beyond the immediate damage inflicted by erratic weather conditions. War, revolutions, endemic socio-economic inequalities, mass migration and refugee crises are a few examples of how climate change has destabilized many parts of the world and wrought pain and suffering to numerous communities worldwide.

The issue of migration and refugees will continue to pose a threat to global stability in 2022, since none of the root causes that forced millions of people to leave their homes in search of safer and better lives have been addressed. Instead of contending with the roots of the problem – climate change, military interventions, inequality, etc. – quite often the hapless refugees find themselves accused and demonized as agents of instability in Western societies.

This, in turn, has served as a political and, at times, moral justification for the rise of far-right political movements in Europe and elsewhere, which are spreading falsehoods, championing racism and undermining whatever semblance of democracy that exists in their countries.

2022 must not be allowed to be another year of pessimism.  It can also be a year of hope and promise. But that is only possible if we play our role as active citizens to bring about the coveted change that we would like to see in the world.

Happy 2022!

The post Coming This 2022: Refugees, Democracy and Human Rights first appeared on Dissident Voice.