Category Archives: Migration, Displacement & Forced Displacement

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012
Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012

You are reading this brief disclosure because of your interests in refugees and displaced persons. No one wants to be a refugee! It is a very painful life mostly fill with lots of sufferings. So, we should continue to embrace those who are refugees and other displaced population not because we feel sorry for them, but because they are humans like ourselves with emotions, hearts, souls and spirits, desires of belonging and to call a place “home.”  Thus, we should continue to give our best to those in need, because the moment we stop doing that we miss the meaning  of humanity. It is our responsibility (believe it or not) to take care of each other in times of needs, wars and conflicts.

It is my desire and goal to keep creating awareness and education of refugees’ issues globally, but local first. In this process, it takes me great pleasure to announce today that I am almost done with the manuscript of a book based on my experiences as a refugee and those of my siblings as I reflect and recapture the many episodes of escapes from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and eventually settling in the United States.

I have tried on several occasions to avoid reflecting on my experiences and those of my siblings as we escaped together, but the desire to narrate this story with the goal of helping others learn from what we went through to help with their own stories of whatever they are going through in their own lives continue to upset me why I have delay this for so long. I started writing few months ago, sometimes staying up too late to make sure that this book is ready to come out in later part of 2017.

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announced that the table of contents, which I think best described every segment of the text is now out published here. I hope in the next few months that the remaining chapters can be completed and release to potential individuals who have contacted me with interest to help proof read the initial manuscript.

If you are interested to be one of the reviewers (which is voluntary by the way), please feel free to contact me and I will include you on my send list when the final manuscript is ready for reviewers to read and make their comments. All reviewers’ contribution to the final text will be duly acknowledged.

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Book Chapters

Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgement

Dedication

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Prior to the War: The Days Before Christmas

Chapter 3. 1st Escape: The Beginning of Life on the Run

Chapter 4. The Flight from Cape Palmas, Maryland

Chapter 5. Life at 5th Street Sinkor, Monrovia

Chapter 6. 2nd Escape: Monrovia – The Ball of Fire

Chapter 7. 3rd Escape: Providence & the Ghost of Bodies

Chapter 8. 4th Escape: The Thousands Unforgotten Steps

Chapter 9. Bomi Hills: Life in a Rebel-held Zone

Chapter 10. 5th Escape: Almost Dead at Midnight

Chapter 11. 6th Escape: The Bravery of a Sister

Chapter 12. 7th Escape: Exit from Bo to Kenema, Sierra Leone

Chapter 13. 8th Escape: The Frozen Exit from Sierra Leone

Chapter 14. The Tai Massacre: Neighbor Became Executional

Chapter 15. 9th Escape: The Light of Ghana

Chapter 16. Life at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana

Chapter 17. Resettlement to the United States of America

Why I feel the United Nations has failed the Syrian people?

Photo credit: Nilüfer Demir/AFP/Getty Images

By: Jenkins Macedo, Editor/Founder, INDESEEM; Date: 02.28.2016

The US and Russia has finally decided that they can settle their selfish difference over their so-called national security interests in Syria and the rest of the region, after a recent report suggests that over 250,000 people have been killed since the Syrian war started about 5 years ago.

Whenever I see images of the Syrian war, I can’t stop but remember the effects of the Liberian civil war, the war in Sierra Leone and the 1995 massacre of Liberian refugees in southeastern Ivory Coast.

In early September 2015, the world reacted angrily to the images of Syrian refugees that were drowned, while trying to make their way to save haven in Europe. Most especially, the world reacted angrier to the photo of a toddler (a three year old Syrian boy) – Aylan Kurdi who was drowned along with members of his family. Neatly dressed with a very nice hair cut and his shoes still on his beautiful feet, it tears my heart that if I was a man in position of authority, I would have immediately ordered my forces like that of the UN to immediately intervene in Syria militarily with the mission to protect civilians at all cost both from friendly forces and the enemies.

You may notice how deeply hurt I am by the manner in which I have written this post in reaction to the new developments that we here in the US and other folks in Russia, think we can fix problems at all times. We sit and naively develop problems, blow it up into disproportionate parts, leave and just to come back to appear like the good Samaritan. But, we should realize that for every action there is an opposite or equal reaction. The seeds of destructions we sow today will grow and hunt us in the future.

The reason that I am particularly skeptical of the staged role that we (America) is playing in the Syrian civil war is particularly informed by the role we played in the 13 – years bloody, nonsensical civil war that completely annihilated over 500,000 Liberians and displaced over 2 million people. I don’t need to narrate the genesis of the Liberian civil war, but everyone knows that America intensely facilitated the war and drew back when things got out of hand.

First, they (the US Government) provided the escape of Charles Taylor to break a maximum-security prison in Massachusetts with the brilliance of the current so-called President of Liberia who along with many other American-Liberians effectively lobbied the support of the US Congress to support the NPFL rebel forces. Taylor, who led the NPFL force backfired from the initial mission – to overthrow Samuel Doe and prepare for election, decided that he wanted to be president. His greed and evil mindset and attempts to destabilize the region led to the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, cross borders attacks against refugees in Guinea and the support of civil rebellion in Ivory Coast.

With Charles Taylor’s ambition to become president of Liberia after months of progressive and successful military offenses against government forces, which resulted to his forces capturing about 75% of the country, which included strategic natural resources including timber, gold and diamonds, rubber, etc. He became determine to violate the US-supported and “classified”mission in Liberia, which provided both military hardware and other logistical support for the NPFL rebel forces during the initial stage of the civil war. With this mindset, his forces were divided and Prince Johnson, one of the initial commanders of the NPFL forces decided that he wanted to stay with the US-led mission to overthrow the government, bring Samuel Doe to justice and facilitate a free and fair election.

Fast forward, overnight in Monrovia, Prince Johnson’s INFPL forces were airlifted with logistical support of the US and early in the morning his forces magically appeared behind lines of government forces into the heart of Monrovia and over-running the defense ministry and other government institutions in the same vicinity killing elite soldiers at dawn, looting, and raiding the government weapon depots. With military assistance from Guinea, the government forces were tactically able to repelled INPFL forces from parts of central Monrovia across one of the major bridges effectively placing the City of Monrovia, name after President James Monroe, into months of siege by rebel forces loyal to both Charles Taylor on one hand and Prince Johnson on the other hand.

Again, with the deception of ECOWAS facilitated in part by the US Embassy in Monrovia, Prince Johnson captured Samuel Doe, while trying to escape Liberia under an agreement with ECOWAS. Johnson got words from his US collaborators that plan was that Doe was trying to escape the country. With that Intel available, Johnson and some of his forces captured and killed President Doe in public.

WARNING: This video contains disturbing image. In this video, you can clearly hear Prince Y. Johnson making a radio call to his collaborators at the US Embassy beginning from 1:02.. “Tango” was the code name for the US and “Sunshine” is his (Johnson’s) code name and he indicated that he wanted to speak with the US Ambassador.

 

However, before the final execution of the president, Prince Johnson made several calls to his contacts at the US Consulate that he had captured the president and was awaiting their instruction. Foolishly, during the call there was a BBC journalist at the scene who witnessed the tortures and subsequent death, which was videotape. So, it was not surprising that his contact at the US Consulate wasn’t answering because they didn’t now want to be involved as he was commanded to capture and not kill.

But the facts remains unchanged that we (Americans) put our noses in other people’s businesses and when things fall apart, we park our luggage and leave. That is what we do and that is why the war in Syria is partly our fault and that is why President Assad has to stay to make sure that his country and people are not executed like rats when jihadist take over.

A classic example of how the traces of war are compelling in places like Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Today, Somalia and Libya are two of the most dangerous places to live. In both countries, the traces of our military industrial complexes are compelling. We sowed seeds of hatred, war and death and today those areas are total mayhem.

We facilitated the removal of folks we call – the bad guys and have practically no clue what to do next and in the so-called name of “democracy”, we create a system that becomes so vulnerable that within months and few years collapse under our feet, while we shift gears and point our fingers that other way casting the blames on others. In Somalia, extremists came and fill that gap and the same occur in Iraq after the massive army of Saddam fled.

We had no solid plan to try to bring those folks back and de-institutionalize them and try to rehabilitate them into another system, but rather, those same folks went and form jihadist group 7 times wicked. The same trend occurs in Libya under the leadership of the so-called removal of Gaddafi. Today, Libya is a fragmented state run by militias and warlords on one hand and a pseudo government with no centralized control over the militia.

So, why would anyone be surprise that Russia is trying to protect her interest in Syria. Why would it surprise anyone that we continually try to support and protect our interest in other countries like South Korea, Israel, Turkey, Taiwan, etc.? Russia has long insisted that the problem in Syria has to be solved diplomatically.

We rejected that and forged more towards facilitating a rebellion in support of the rebels that are very diverse and lack focus and clear mission. We continue to send special forces to the rebels held areas for training and the provisions of logistics and other forms of tactical support, while Russia on the other hand was talking more towards finding a diplomatic solution four years before their intervention alongside the Assad regime.

If I was to asked myself this question, who wanted a more sustain and peaceful process to the Syrian crisis prior to the escalation of the conflict or even after? Russia! We spoke one language and that was regime change when the initial language of the Syrian revolution was – reform. We effectively change the discourse of the Syrian revolution through social engineering and surgically proclaim war as the ground for regime change over peaceful and diplomatic process.

We became skeptical of that and we are still skeptical of that. Today, we realized that Syria is not Libya where we just had our own way. For most part, Gaddafi did not do a good job sustaining a great friendship with some of his key allies. If he could have done that, his removal would have taken longer or unlikely. The Syrian president maintains that if there should be a leadership change, that request must come from the Syrian people and not America, France or the UK or even Saudi Arabia or Turkey, which has the tendency of support these same jihadist groups. The war in Syria is a complex war and doing a stakeholders analysis would therefore generate a massive report with complex networks structures.

In the midst of all these perplexity there could have been one group that could have at least make a unify force that brings the mayhems in Syria to a halt if not complete and that group is the United Nations (UN).

Syria was admitted as a member of the UN on October 24, 1945 and as a member state has the legal right for the UN to intervene in matters to protect civilian. The UN over the last 5 years had done practically nothing substantial to bring the civil war to an end. As I stated in the case of Liberia, at some point, about 15,000 UN Peace Keepers from around the world were sent to Liberia (a tiny country compared to Syria) to protect civilian as well as facilitate the process of peace. Why not Syria? Why has the UN completely fell on its belly like a sleeping boa constrictor that has just swollen a fully-grown deer? Why has the UN built a completely resistant cyst against itself that it has in a way facilitated the murder and executions of 470,000 people, which include countless children like Aylan Kurdi and thousands more who’s stories go untold.

These questions and many more disturb me every now and than and I wonder to ask myself, this could be one of my children? As Aylan Kurdi lie motionless on the Turkish beach and as the waters of the Mediterranean Sea washed against his body, it sends chills throughout my body that an innocent child and his family and many others have to died this way, while we watch, wait and see and than react later.

The Syrian people do not need us to watch. They need us to act and the process of acting requires us to stop support sides and take the people at heart. It is the Syrian people that matter. Not Assad, not the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), not even IS and their collaborators.

We must change our perspective on Syria. Russia is not the enemy. The US is not an enemy to Russia. So, whatever the Plan B that John Kerry referenced yesterday, it better be something that makes sense for humanity, because we can no longer sit back and allow federalist to impose their will on us. Americans are not people who like war. We are a peaceful people and if we believe in that mentality, at least I do for most part, than it is time for us to question some of the bogus policies that is only meant to make the world unsafe not only for us – Americans, but for Libyans, Syrians, Liberians, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalian, Sierra Leonean, etc.

The UN needs to man up and take a more forceful role to effect the ceasefire not just to monitor and observe all parties observance of the ceasefire, but to have a total force presence that is capable militarily to enforce compliance, if not, combat as needed. The United Nations has truly surprise me and I am wondering if it is worth what it is called. The rest is left with you the readers to fathom in.

God bless the people of Syria and may all the little ones who are starving, thirsty, needs medicine, suffering from the untold horrors of war – find peace, love and life. For us, we are grateful that we have peace and it is our duty as shared universal citizen of planet earth to reflect this same peace to others. We need to push our governments to stop what they are doing. They have done so many things wrong and it is now time that they stop.

To the UN, do your job! It is your responsibility to facilitate the peace process in Syria and other conflict zones. Whether or not members of the UN Security Council are at war with themselves on issues of Syria, there should be a way to have a peacekeeping force in Syria irrespective of whether or not the US and her allies accepts that Assard stays or Russia.

 

Clark researchers examining relationships between U.S.-born, foreign-born Worcester residents

Lead researchers Cheryl Hamilton, left, and Anita Fabos are spearheading Clark University's Shared Worlds research project, exploring the relationship between U.
Lead researchers Cheryl Hamilton, left, and Anita Fabos are spearheading Clark University’s Shared Worlds research project, exploring the relationship between U.S.-born and foreign-born Worcester residents. T&G Staff/Christine Hochkeppel

Written By: Scott O’Connell, Telegram & Gazette Staff

Posted Nov. 15, 2015 at 5:51 PM; Updated Nov 16, 2015 at 8:41 P


 

WORCESTER – U.S.- and foreign-born residents alike call Worcester home. But are they actually interacting with each other?

That’s the question behind a novel new study being conducted by researchers at Clark University. The study is being led by professor Anita Fabos and Cheryl Hamilton, who is director of Partner Engagement at the International Institute of New England.

The “Shared Worlds” project, which the university is backing with support from the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, aims to take an unprecedented glimpse into the kinds of relationships Worcester’s diverse inhabitants have with each other, and hopefully provide valuable new data to influence policy-making decisions in the city.

“While we sometimes look at Worcester in a nostalgic way, it’s really in a state of becoming,” Ms. Fabos said, as immigration continues to reshape neighborhoods, schools and business in the city. “In a large part, it’s a story of the United States.”

But existing data about Worcester’s foreign-born residents has focused primarily on how they are integrating into the city – the types of services they need, the kinds of occupations they have – rather than on how they are intermingling with the area’s U.S.-born residents. Nor is there much information about how immigrant groups are interacting with each other, the researchers said.

As a result, there isn’t much information about “the intangible of social belonging,” Ms. Fabos said, a factor that is often an important ingredient in the “recipe for long-term well-being of a community.”

While they didn’t want to taint the responses of future participants by revealing too much about what residents have said so far, Ms. Hamilton said, a variety of experiences have been relayed in the research team’s interview groups. Some foreign-born residents have become part of a rich network of connections with other immigrants as well as native residents, while others have remained mostly isolated.

“We’re not just measuring refugees’ sense of belonging,” she added. “How do U.S.-born residents feel?”

The breakdown of people being interviewed for the project is roughly 25 percent foreign-born – foreign-born people make up about 22 percent of Worcester’s population – and 75 percent U.S.-born, and it’s the U.S.-born whose experiences are often left out of studies on the impacts of immigration, Ms. Hamilton said.

“Yet there’s two populations who are being impacted” by immigration, she pointed out. “Our main goal is to make sure people are being heard.”

As of Thursday, the Shared Worlds researchers had interviewed around 30 groups of eight to 12 people; their goal is to talk to 1,000 residents. They expect interviews will extend into early January, and are still encouraging community groups to host a session by contacting them atinfo@sharedworlds.us.

Ms. Fabos said her team has already been working closely with local groups, especially those with close links to various foreign-born populations in the city, to draw in volunteers. That strategy has proven effective, she and Ms. Hamilton said, as evidenced by the fact they have already nearly met their quota for foreign-born interviews.

“It’s been a domino effect,” Ms. Hamilton said, as foreign-born residents who participated in the project have recommended it to friends and relatives. “What I’ve heard consistently is that participants felt like they were heard for the first time. I think that’s a really wonderful outcome so far.”

The interviews are being conducted by a team of graduate students such as Mikayla Bobrow, who are working through interpreters to ask questions to the study’s subjects. There is some nuance involved, she said, in getting an accurate sense of people’s experiences.

“I noticed the younger men were dominating a lot of conversation” in one of her sessions with Rwandan and Congolese refugees, for example, she said. “And I noticed it was really hard to get the women to speak.”

One of the primary aims of Shared Worlds, Ms. Hamilton said, is to avoid letting the testimony of spokespeople represent the experiences of an entire community or nationality.

“What’s unique about the project is we’re really going for the grass-roots level,” she said. “We’re trying to get the moms and dads and neighbors.”

Considering many of those people have never shared their viewpoints before in a study like Shared Worlds, Ms. Fabos said she and her fellow researchers “have no idea what the outcome will be” of their interviews.

“It could be really interesting to see if Iraqi refugees are starting to make contact with Hmong refugees or Vietnamese immigrants, for example,” she said.

It could be equally illuminating to see whether U.S.-born residents are still maintaining relationships with each other, Ms. Hamilton said.

“I’ve heard people who’ve said they don’t even know their neighbor,” she said. “Why is that, and is it the same for a Vietnamese refugee?”

One of the study’s questions to participants, both foreign- and U.S.-born, for instance, is where they most often sees U.S.-born residents in their daily lives. For some interviewees, their only interaction comes at work, while others have a greater variety of interactions at their children’s schools, their neighborhood churches and other social gathering places. Other residents may not feel there’s even a need for such interactions, and “it’s important to understand their experiences as well,” Ms. Hamilton said.

Once they have finished their interviews, the researchers hope to put the comprehensive summary report of their findings into the hands of Worcester’s decision-makers sometime next year. “This is not research that’s going to sit on a shelf here at Clark,” Ms. Hamilton said. They said they’ve received interest in particular from Mayor Joseph Petty’s office.

“The mayor has certainly made it a priority to make Worcester as welcoming as possible to all its residents, especially foreign-born residents,” said Mr. Petty’s chief of staff, Daniel Racicot. “I think we’re always looking for best practices, and looking for as much information as possible when we make policy decisions.”

Scott O’Connell can be reached at Scott.O’Connell@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter@ScottOConnellTG


This article was published at the Telegram & Gazette and was retrieved in 11/25/2015 and posted here at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. Please cite the original and this source accordingly. The views, thoughts and information contain in the article are those of the author and research team only.


Where the Governors Got it Wrong: Resettling Syrian Refugees in the United States

Source: Jakarta Post

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Overview

In the last few days, the world witness one of the horrible terror attacks against humanity – the terrorists attack in Paris, which led to 129 people dead. Terror has no place in this world and now it is the time for us to unite to fight terror to the end. Those killed in Paris and other parts of the world were killed because they were free people. People who believe in freedom, liberty, justice, and free will.

The terror attack in Paris unearth issues that need to be addressed diplomatically to bring to an end the Syrian crisis. It is now time to unite our forces and energies against this terror, which means focusing our strategies, tactics, resources, and man power as a united force against IS.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this people are victims and Syrians and those of North Africa are the primary victims of terrorism. Syrians in particular had to go through all the hardships to escape terror at the front of their homes.

They walked thousands of miles, starve in most instances for days, weeks and months just to survive this terror. Many could not make the journey as they involuntarily fled from their homes. No one really wants to leave the place they consider home and everyone who is a refugee knows that that is a fact even if they are resettled to heaven. Home will always be home and nothing earthly can replace it. The meaning attached to home are not easily transfer to places refugees eventually seek refuge. It takes time to call a new place home.

Source: Rescue

It is not the time for us to turn away from those who fled violence and terror in their home country. The moment we stop helping others is the moment we deny our humanity and undermine our values, principles and all that we are and so dearly believe in. Today, they are refugees and seeking our help – tomorrow we could be in need of something else and we might seek help from others.

The United States is a great nation not because we have powerful weapons and large guns. We are great as a people because of the values, principles and believes that we stand and live for. I do believe that we can do this. We can shelter, provide medicine, food, clothes and peace of mind for Syrian refugees that need our help.

The United States refugee resettlement program is one of the rigorous resettlement programs in the world as far as I know and experienced. I had conducted over 10 different presentations across this country creating awareness of refugees’ issues and also about how the US Refugee Resettlement process works. If you are interested, please click below.

The US Refugee Resettlement Program

Refugees are not just taken out of a refugee camp and displaced setting and resettled to a third country. The process of resettlement takes between 1-2 years and even longer depending on several factors. The processes listed as “durable solution” to end “refugeeness” are a). local integration (in the primary host country), b). repatriation (going back home) and resettlement (relocated to a third country.

Resettlement is the last resort of all three durable solutions and the most preferred of all the three options. Thus, before discussing how the US Resettlement Program works for the benefits of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and his colleagues from other states across the political divide and for those at the senate who plans or are planning to pass a legislature to restrict or block the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States.

IT SHOULD BE KNOWN THAT STATES DO NOT HAVE ANY LEGAL OR LEGISLATIVE SIGNIFICANCE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT REFUGEES CAN BE ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND FOR THAT MATTER IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATES. The admissions of refugees in the United States is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government of the United States.

a. Local Integration

When refugees flee from their home country and enters another country in most cases bordering their home country. They are in most instances welcomed and registered by the appropriate refugee agency of the country.

Usually, this prior registration process is jointly implemented by the government of the host country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thus, the point here is that, if well coordinated, each refugee is registered and provided with some sort of identification. At that point, they officially gain refugee status. The process of local integration in the primary host country is a long process and also depends on the state hosting the refugee population and thee refugee themselves.

For the state, aspects that are considered include, but are not limited to the population, economy, national security, the refugee population itself, etc. For effective refugee management, the moment refugees are admitted, the process to find a durable solution should start immediately, because you want people to settle and live freely.

However, local integration in the host country should be encourage since refugees can easily transition back home once the situation, which caused them to flee cease to exist in their country of origin.

Also, one reason while local integration should be encouraged is because in most instances the primary host country shares similar cultural and ethnic diversity of the seeking refuge. This is not to say that the relationship is perfect, but people relationships cross national borders.

However, one reason why most refugees don’t seem to choose local integration as a durable solution is that, they are easily targeted due to cross borders attacks. I am not very sure if they might be the case in Libya and Syria, but in West Africa for example, rebels from Liberia were accused of staging attacks of refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Similar incidence were reported in the Great Lakes Region in Eastern Africa. If well planned, local integration in the primary country of refuge can be an effective solution to cease refugee status.

b). Repatriation

Unlike local integration, repatriation is done when a refugee decides to return to his or her home country when the condition of fear, which causes the refugee situation cease to exist back home. Again, like local integration, voluntary repatriation is done at the free will of the refugee.

However, if the conditions back in their home country for which they fled cease to exist and refugee population still refuse to return home voluntarily and local integration is rejected by the refugee population and the resettlement isn’t possible, their refugee status can terminated because cessation clause in the host country’s refugee policy specifies that “once the condition of fear for which the refugee fled his or her country cease to exist” their refugee status can be terminated by the government of the host country.

The good thing about voluntary repatriation is that, if well planned, returnees (i.e. former refugees) can be relocated back to their communities and start the rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction process back in their country. In most cases in the event of a voluntary repatriation, refugees returning home are provided with some assistance (financial or logistical) to help facilitate transition when they return.

c). Resettlement

Within the refugee cycle, resettlement is the optimal choice, but the most difficult stage of the durable solution to the refugee crisis. Usually, the initial determination to resettle a refugee family is a product of several processes. First, in the traditional sense; that is, resettlement that is initiated from the UNHCR is conducted after several interviews (aka counseling sections with a refugee/a refugee family) and a UNHCR Case Worker.

When it is determined by the UNHCR staff that a refugee or a refugee family life is at stake in the host country and the prospect of returning home is unlikely, that individual and his family are recommended to the consulate of a refugee resettlement country. Once that process gets started, the consulate in question takes over the process and all files relating to that individual and his/her family members are turned over to the consulate office responsible for resettlement processing. This process according to the US Refugee Resettlement Program is known as Priority I.

Secondly, for humanitarian reasons, refugees can be resettled to a third country. That is, special humanitarian concerns could warrant the US to issue the admission of refugees in the United States. The current humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees falls into this bracket of the US Refugee Resettlement program known as Priority II.

Thirdly, another way a refugee is resettled to a third country (third country in this narrative means resettlement country and usually means a developed country that can provide the needs of the refugee family that is consider for resettlement) at least for the case of the US Refugee Resettlement Program is through Family Reunification, which is Priority III.

In this refugee resettlement program,refugees are admitted to the United States through a family member (parents), spouse and unmarried child under 21 years of age, who was a refugee themselves and are either a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. Even given that, the person being applied for by his relative in the US has to demonstrate refugee status in the country where the application is sent to the US Consulate for processing.

Thus, now that we know that refugees are not just resettled once they leave their country, even though the case of Syrian refugees could challenge this convention, because we have thousands of people landing on the shores of Europe. It is paramount for countries that are interested in resettling Syrian refugees to coordinate their efforts and also work with those countries like Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, etc to see how those already undergoing some sort of biometric processing could be resettled.

Also, the massive influx of refugees in Europe is also creating a humanitarian crisis and in this case, the UNHCR and other agencies needs to work with the governments of resettlement countries to start processing refugees for resettlement, but first addressing their immediate needs.

Now, with a clear picture of what resettlement is like and the various types of resettlement listed in the US Resettlement Program, I will now focus on more specifically how the resettlement process, irrespective of which type works.

Source: US Department of State

Step # 1. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE)/UNHCR

US Refugees resettlement is a tough process. The resettlement process starts with initial interview of the refugee applicant by a UNHCR staff or a staff member of an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), a contracting firm of either the UN Refugee agency or the Department of State or the country initiating the resettlement process.

The goal of the interview with OPE or UNHCR staff is to work with the refugee seeking to be resettled to make sure that their records are right and to also determine if their case merits resettlement. This is usually called pre-screening. Some refugees get denial letters from this process if they failed to justify why they need to be resettled or denial could be if their names are red flag or had prior criminal records that could serve as a ground to deny resettlement.

All along the resettlement process, prospective refugees to be resettled get letters of approval after each stage of the resettlement process. However, the three most important stages are during the pre-screening, interview with the US Immigration staff and after the results of medical examination. Now a days, refugees don’t get deny because of their prior medical conditions. This used to be the case in the past in the early 1980s, 1990s and early part of 2000, but things change after 2003.

That is, refugee application for resettlement has to justify why resettlement is the optimal choice over local integration and repatriation. Simply put why can’t you integrate in your current host country and why can’t you return home? If the responses to these two questions along with other questions that may be asked by the interviewer are not satisfactory or there are misleading information in the story-line, they can be denied resettlement and their case will remain at that level…done!!

However, if they have a solid reason why resettlement is the optimal choice over other options, than a staff of the OPE will schedule a second interview. This time to prepare and finalize paperwork after which it will be forwarded to the US Consulate and a State Department or Department of Homeland Security staff will schedule an immigration interview, we is thorough and comprehensive and scary, at least to the refugee applicants.

Step # 2. Interview with USCIS Staff

Typically, the wait time between the last interview at OPE to the interview held by member of United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff from the US Consulate usually takes between 3-4 months interval. This off-course depends on the case load available.

This time doesn’t account for relatively 6-7 months wait period going through the OPE Pre-screening processes. Prior to meeting with the USCIS/State Department staff, name checks are conducted to make sure that the individual is not flag in anyways and has no prior arrest warrant or anything that could cause national security concerns once admitted in the United States. Once that is done, the staff of the US Consulate conducts a face-to-face interview only with the individual and or his family and member and a decision of their refugee resettlement application are verbally announced at the end of the interview follow by a letter.

Once it is determined that they have legitimate reasons of fear for which resettling in the United States surpass local integration in the primary country of refuge and repatriation is not possible, their case are approved at the scene or few days letter and an admissions letter issued by the US Consulate. If their stories are inconsistent or information became available is security concerns, the staff more reason to have their resettlement application in the US denied.

The result of such process is made know in a letter signed by the US Department of State official who conducted the interview for which you were under oath. Not every refugee is interview by the FBI and or CIA. The determination as to whether or not an individual refugee applicant seeking resettlement in the United States will be interview by one or either agency is based on the national origin and the high risk country outlined by the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS).

Step # 3. Medical Examination and Screening

This stage is where all the medical conditions for resettlement in the US are met. It is a comprehensive medical examination, which involves physical, blood works, malaria treatment (if the refugee is originating from a malaria-induced eco-region), etc. About 15-30 years ago, refugees applicants used to be denied due to HIV + status, but now with the advancement in medicine against the fight with HIV, the conditions for denial based on HIV + status is no longer effective and outdated and those refugees who are HIV positive are provided treatment starting in the country of host until to arrive in the US.

Step # 4. Cultural Orientation

Cultural orientation is usually conducted by OPE or the appropriate agency contracted to educate newly “to be resettled” refugees to the United States. The cultural orientation class usually last for 14 days at the hourly duration of 7 hours daily. Trained educators go through every aspects of the American ways of life from accessing public transportation, to banking, how to dial 911, etc. A certificate of completion is awarded to each participant. Participation and completion of all classes/sections is mandatory to the resettlement process or you forfeit eligibility.

Step # 5. Travel Arrangements

This is one of the joyous stage as a refugee when you know that you are about to travel, but not just yet. At this stage, the airline ticket(s) are booked and you signed a promissory note to repay the money used to purchase the ticket on your behalf. Usually, repayments of the airline ticket is done through the resettlement agency in the US. However, each refugee can elect to send their checks or payment directly to the collection agency, which will most likely be the resettlement agency. Each refugee and or a refugee family is given about 12 months after arrival to start repayment. At least grace period is better than that of the student loan repayment. Lol!

Step # 6. The Resettlement Agency (US Based)

This stage is done without the prior consent of the refugee applicant. Resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charity, Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigrants and Refugees Service or Ascentria Care just to name a few are assigned refugees cases to facilitate the process of integration into American ways of life.

The resettlement agency prior to the arrival date of the refugee receives all the document on each family member per refugee family and start putting things together. Once the refugee and his family arrives, the agency helps with attaining SSN, State ID, process application for the Department of Homeland Security Work Authorization Card for the next three months, healthcare or health insurance, public library cards for those interested, schools and colleges, etc. Basically, it is expected that within 9-12 months, each resettled refugee family will be able to navigate the system and gradually start to face out of the resettlement agency. However, that is just talk as most refugees take more time to get adjusted to the system and be able to stand alone.

Step # 7. Departure to the United States

Once all of steps 1 to 6 are satisfied, it is that time that we can say good bye to friends on the refugee camp or displace center. It is usually a time of joy and sadness. Joy because as you look behind you once saw mayhem, but in front you finally see peace, peace of mind, love, happiness, and safety. Sadness because many of your friends and even family members are left behind at the refugee camp.

All departures transportation services are coordinated between the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, TSA, and USDHS. Usually, refugees admitted to the United States are transported on regular transport planes accompanied by a convoy from IOM and in some cases UNHCR.

Each refugee is given a white plastic bag, which contains all their relevant documents sealed for US Immigration Official to open and evaluate for screening and verification purposes at the port of entry (i.e. where they first land in the US). At the immigration desk, each arriving refugee are further screened by the immigration official, biometrics are taken including photos and the sealed brown envelop taken and the admissions letter stamped and an I-94 issued. The I-94 is a legal entry document, which can be used until a green card/permanent resident card is mailed and returned once the refugee becomes a US Citizen.

Step # 8. In the US

At the port of entry, resettled refugees are met by a case manager or staff from the refugee resettlement agency and a family member, if they have one. From there, the resettlement agency takes charge and helps the newly resettled refugee integrate into the American society, which can be a long process depending on the individual, the resources that are available and their willingness to work things out as quickly as possible. The rest now becomes the normal routine.

In these processes, we collect significant amount of data can I share some light on whether or not someone is an extremist. The US has one of the rigorous resettlement screening processes in the world. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by fear because of IS and other islamic extremist entities, we only undermine our strengthen, the values and principles we stand for.

The Syrians people do need our fullest support and this is not the time to turn away from our neighbors when they need our hand.

So, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, while the decision to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States is out of your power. The federal government has put in place a system with years of credible work that can yet be used to provide Syrian refugees with the assistance they need to resettle in the US and also ensure the American people that their safety is at the alter-most center of the process. I have written this post because I was a product of the US Refugee Resettlement Process and I am not a Terrorist.

An Open Response to “Tony Blair’s: The clear lesson of Iraq war”

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Recently, Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of UK wrote an opinion piece in the CNN Opinions in which he still seems to maintain that the invasion of Iraq was inevitable and that he and George Bush’s acts of war were justified and that he (Tony Blair) literally found it “it hard to apologize for removing Saddam.”

We all know the main cause or causes for the invasion of Iraq and that as Blair maintains – was not because Saddam or Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that neither Saddam and his regime facilitated directly or indirectly to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The subject of the human costs of the war in Iraq was of significant interest to me, which facilitated contact with one of the senior researchers at Medact with the permission to use their published empirical data of the impacts of the war in Iraq on ordinary Iraqis.

This post is not in reflection of that work, but an open response to the recent opinion piece written by Former Prime Minister of the UK in the CNN Opinion. You can read his claims, positions and reflections leading to the war in Iraq and the consequences thereof.

With that being said, I will now focus the rest of this post to specifically address each points of reflection stated by Mr. Blair.

The source of the post that is being segmented here for discussion was taken from CNN.

Blair: “The actual lesson of Iraq is not complicated but clear. When you remove the dictator — no matter how vicious and oppressive — you end one battle only to begin another: How to stabilize and govern the country when the ethnic, tribal and particularly religious tensions are unleashed after the oppression has been lifted. This is the true lesson of both Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Macedo: I concur with you Tony that when a dictator is removed, it is more likely that a more vicious, barbaric and oppressive dictator comes into picture. That is true on so many levels because once suppressed one seems to pass on to others what they might have gone through themselves. While this view may be contested by others, we see one oppressor being replaced by another oppressor. it is just as the Bible says, if a demon is removed from you and you didn’t fill your heart and body with those of Christ, demons ten thousand times powerful and vicious than what you had before will occupy your body and spirit.

Thus, the people of Iraq did not call for their leader to be removed. You and George Bush Jr. lied on the pretext that Iraq had WMD, had links to Al-Qaeda and pose a national security threat to the US and her allies.

A war that started with lies can not end with truth. So, you can’t make what is lie true, because it isn’t. Unlike the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan had a reason, which was justified, given the terror mentality, ideology and practices of the Talibans.

Blair: “But it doesn’t mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place. Or possible. Because the lesson of what used to be called the “Arab Spring” — beginning in 2011 — is that with young and alienated populations deprived of political rights, these dictatorships no longer had the capability of maintaining control.”

Macedo: The question that one should be asking Tony is that at what period does a dictator becomes an enemy? At what point being a dictator is okay in the national security interest of the UK or the US, since as Tony suggested, “doesn’t mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place?”

The list of dictators backed by Western Countries including the US and UK. At what point we are comfortable to walk at the palaces of dictators and at what point we feel confident to take them out? A dictator is always a dictator and we can not like one over the other because their means of governing contradicts our values and principles.

The situations of Arab Spring, whether that naming was coined by those of the Middle East and North Africa or by the West was such that most of the protestors were initially requesting for reform and not revolution. With external influences, the later became the status quo and language of the protestors over the former. Revolution became the slogan rather than reform. These paradox became especially complicated in Syria, which eventually led to the current mayhem.

Blair: “The real choice for the Middle East was, and is, reform or revolution. So when we come to reassess Iraq, it is possible to disagree strongly with the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003, to be highly critical both of the intelligence on WMD and the planning for the aftermath, and yet still be glad that he is gone.”

Macedo: The decision to remove Saddam Hussein is in no way connected to the situations of the Arab Spring. First and foremost, there weren’t any protest in Iraq requesting for reform or removal? If those existed, which I believe did, the people of Iraq had the will and if they wanted such change, they could have done just that and wouldn’t request the UK and US for any assistance.

You may be gratified that removing Saddam was better and the right thing to do irrespective of whether or not WMDs were found or not is still thinking that your acts were justified even when 7+ billion people now living, know that you lied and you are an idiot who fails to acknowledge when he goes wrong.

Blair: “Indeed, had he and his two sons been running Iraq in 2011 when the regional revolts began, it is hard to see how the upheaval would not have spread to Iraq and hard to see that he would not have behaved like his fellow Baathist Bashar al-Assad rather than like the presidents of Egypt or Tunisia who stood down. The probability is that Hussein would have tried to cling to power by whatever means no matter how brutal.”

Macedo: Rightly, you can’t predict the past because it is irrelevant and insignificant; given that it is the past.Trying to argue your case by insinuating an irrelevant case building on what if in the past, demonstrates that you are not only mentally incompetent, but also a very unstable individual.

We can most certainly learn from the past and what the youth and children of today learned from your crude and unacceptable behavior and the unwillingness to accept responsibility by lying for hidden motives, is not to follow bad leaderships you and President Bush put us into.

The main reason we have upheavals today in the Middle East and elsewhere in North Africa is practically because of people like you. Failed leaders who think they can commit crimes and get away with it. I bet that the main inner reason you wrote this post is because of the desire to free yourself, but relented. You and Bush were wrong and we know that you lied!

Blair: “In Iraq, we would have had a leader from the Sunni minority keeping out the Shia majority; in Syria, of course, we have the opposite — a Shia-backed leader from the minority keeping out a Sunni majority. The consequences of this would have been vast.”

Macedo: I find it troubling reading your scripts, which speaks more into your personality when you used the words “we would have had” or “we have the opposite.” These words speak into the attitude of control. It is always what we want and that is what we should see in distant countries.

Whether or not Shia or Sunni are at war against themselves is not ours to impose who “we” think can settle the scores. Everywhere we put our soldiers and politics, we see war, conflicts, instability, more violence and terror and also more refugees and internally displaced people.

Remember, that the peoples of the Middle East lived together for thousands of years before we even existed in the west. How did they managed to survive the total mayhem and chaos you are describing is surprising.

Blair: “Of the four nations in a state of trauma today in the region — Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya — only one has a government that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (with whatever difficulty), is doing so with full international support, has its leader recognized by both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and one who visits the White House. It is correct, as Fareed Zakaria’s documentary describes, that Iraq has been hugely expensive in lives lost and money spent. I understand completely the anger and anxiety this causes.”

Macedo: It is interesting that Blair figure that the mess he and Bush instituted brought no good to anyone not even the people of Iraq. Suicide bombings happens anytime today in Iraq. No one is safe! Not even a baby that is born today.

Iraq is like a melting pot that is at the brink of collapse to islamic extremists of all sorts. All because Blair and Bush decided that starting a decade of war would be the right thing to do to remove Saddam out of the picture. Saddam has being long dead and gone and still the situations in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East (which we assumed at the time of our invasion) would have turned to be good are even worst than ever before.

In the midst of all this are the innocent people killed and displaced because of the stupidity of two empty headed individuals. Yes, the war in Iraq is expensive, but more importantly and as a reminder, it resulted into the deaths of thousands of innocent souls that could have live even with Saddam still there.

I bet you on that one. So, don’t try to romanticize your evil feelings by suggesting that you “completely understand the anger and anxiety that are associated with the games you and Bush played on us and the lives of those killed in Iraq. You should be lucky that you and Bush have not being indicted for world crimes and crimes against humanity for the atrocities committed in Iraq based on lies!!

Blair: “But we do not yet know the cost of Syria or Libya. In both cases, we sought regime change. And in Libya we achieved it through military power. I make no criticisms of these decisions. I know better than most how hard they are.”

Macedo: Yes, I agree that you know “better” than most how hard they are because you didn’t push your head hard enough to thoroughly evaluate the issues before launching attacks in Iraq.

The west sought and pushed for regime change in both Libya and Syria. The initial perspectives were reform, but the languages you use from your palaces had an influence on the moment. The cost of war or regime change in Libya is clearly known and even my little son can articulate that to me – failure, madness, mayhem, more extremisms, and eventually a failed state with the lab full of democracy failures.

All amount to waste of time and resources as we continue to see Libya shredded like toilet paper between various terror and militia groups on one side of the leadership vacuum and a failed pro-western, supposingly democracy-induced government that is practically worthless and powerless.Right in the middle you have innocent souls hurt, killed and starving.

Rightly said that you can’t make criticisms of their mistakes to remove Gaddaffi with force and now Libya turns out to be just like Iraq – mayhem, upheavals, more terrors, and killings, while the people continue to suffer more than 10 times before and you sit and write crap.

Blair: “However, it is not immediately plain that policy on Libya and Syria has been more successful than Iraq. As for ISIS, it is true that it was formed after Hussein’s removal. But it is also true by 2009, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups were largely beaten in Iraq, and it was in Syria — after 2011 — where ISIS came to prominence and became the threat it is today.”

Macedo: There isn’t any policy in Libya and Syria. There wasn’t any! All there were was regime change at the favor of the west and not ideally for the people of those countries. We needed people we could control so that we get constant supply of their oil because for some reason the oil leaking down our elbows after the gulf war were running out so we needed more.

For Libya, Ghaddafi had a long standing prize that we wanted to paid with dignity. Ghaddafi long echo that he was fighting not just against the “true” protestors, but against those of islamic extremism.We overlooked that and facilitated his quick surgical, with out any legitimate solution post-Ghaddafi and the end result today is a failed Libyan state run between several extremists groups including IS and others as well as militia in the mountains along the coastal plains and pseudo western-back regime.

Blair: “I accept some of the strictures about the planning in Iraq, which had centered on the consequences of humanitarian disaster post-invasion and what would happen to the institutions of the country or if Hussein used WMD. But, part of the reason why Iraq became very difficult was that we did not perceive the full scale of the underlying extremism and its attendant violence. Where this type of extremism operates, there is a limit to what planning can do. They need to be fought against.”

Macedo: I agree that you and Bush because of pool planning and a full assessment of the large-scale impacts of the war on ordinary Iraqis that you bear the full responsibility and not some of the responsibilities. Saddam did not use WMDs because he did not had one in the first place.

Given that you keep alluding to something that didn’t exist after the facts are now know uncovering the bunch of lies told to us, it seems like you have not fully agree with yourself on this moral responsibility.

The difficulties to fight extremisms should not limit our ability to infiltrate their intelligence to facilitate our quests to defeat them. Suggesting that the nature and manner of extremism and how they operates would limits our ability to defeat them precisely undermined our capacity to fight terror and also suggest that we are incompetent.

Blair: “Underlying all of this is something Western policy is not yet wanting to admit: There is a deep-rooted problem originating in the Middle East — the product of a toxic mix of abused religion and bad politics — that has given rise to an ideology based on radical Islamism and that is now a global challenge.”

Macedo: This is the crust of the problem and this is the very reason we should be very cautious not to see everything arising from the Middle East in the eyes of bullets. Diplomacy well played and planned could be used to work out most of all the issues we find chaotic today and most of those we sought to settle with guns. Overall, we can not impose our will and values on others and doing that exemplifies the characteristics of dictatorial regimes.

The people of the Middle East have eyes, ears, brains, etc like us and they know and understands what they want. Countries in the Middle East have battle extremism for decades and they know how to work out their problems with or without our bullets.

Blair: “Of course, some will say we should never have gone into Iraq because that gave the extremists an opportunity. But my point is that had we never removed Hussein, it is not at all clear that we would be in a better position today post-2011 — or that he would not have used the erosion of sanctions (and, back then, $100 a barrel oil) to go back to his old games. Not until the Middle East has gone through its painful transition to modernity will we be able to pass a full judgment on the effects of decision to go to war in 2003.”

Macedo: Tony, the decision to go to war in 2003 was wrong. It was the wrong war on the wrong time, place and people. Everything about going to Iraq was wrong. It is not in your power and control to decide how the people of a country or region live. You and Bush should be indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. You lie for the wrong reason and allow our ladies and gentlemen to died not mentioning the thousands of civilians who lost their lives and millions today displaced as refugees. There is nothing else that we need to wait for to determine how our involvements and roles in Iraq translate into promises we made. We failed because the war in Iraq was wrong and shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We Americans allow our leaders to go unpunished even when they lied. But those who lied and hurt others have their consciences to live with and Blair writing this post is just few steps aways to fully acknowledging that his role in the 2003 war in Iraq was wrong.

Blair: “But when I think of the hundreds of thousands of victims of Hussein — the bloodshed and instability his wars caused the region and his people — then, for all the mistakes that were made and for which those of us involved have always apologized, I think history will be more balanced in its judgment.”

Macedo: History is never balance because those things that constitute his-story are unbalance. Also, suggesting that your sins are equal to his sins makes you no different from the dictator you dethroned anyways. Tony, your closing statement is not as convincing that would be expected from a educated person like you. The war in Iraq was wrong and you must fully take responsibility for your actions.

Europe Refugee Crisis

D:DCIM110DICAMDSCI0174.JPG
Photo Credited: Jenkins Macedo, Buduburam Refugee Camp, Ghana, 2011

Over the past few months we’ve witnessed and continue to witness events unfold in Europe about the refugee crisis in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. We’ve heard and read headlines which show refugees and asylum-seekers trying to make their passages to Europe and safety through some of the hardest and dangerous means possible.

In the midst of all the headlines and challenges, we’ve seen children, women and the elderly the most vulnerable of the refugee population victims of the politics of the refugee process.

We also see images of dead migrants and refugees washed ashore off the coast of Turkey and other countries as they embarked on journey that could have been prevented, if adequate services were made available to them in the first country of refuge/asylum.

We also see in the midst of all these challenges the ineffectiveness of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to sporadically handle the problem and provide the needed assistance to refugees and migrants.

While establishing refugee status is a function of both national and international legal frameworks, the situations in Europe expose the massive problem in the UNHCR systems, which needs to be addressed accordingly. October 24, 2015 was the 70th anniversary of the United Nations.

While many good things have been done to date several challenges still remain unchallenged and unchanged and against this end, the UNHCR needs to wake up and stand up for the rights of refugees.

It is just so ridiculous that the UN and more specifically UNHCR would allow thousand of refugees (including women, children and the elderly) to walk miles without food, water, and appropriate shelter from one country to another in Europe. It appears that UNHCR didn’t exist. Where was UNHCR? All they kept doing and continue doing is talk. Talks are BS without actions!

One aspect is processing refugees who should be resettled to a third country after establishing their refugee status in the first country of refuge and if they apply to be resettled based on conditions of the status of their safety in the host country (first country of refuge) and their inability to return home.

It is politically correct to say that the process to determine who to resettle to a third country is a long process and requires a lot of resources and coordination with countries that are willing to accept refugees, UNHCR, the host country where they first sought refuge, and the refugees themselves.

Turkey and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have to go beyond their capacities to accommodate the massive influx of refugees and as well provide the needed legal, humanitarian and other logistical assistance to the refugee population.

The fact that you have massive influx of people leaving the shores of Turkey, Libya, Egypt, and other countries through unconventional means point to several reasons why the UNHCR have failed and also unintentionally contributed to current refugee crisis in Europe.

UNHCR needs to do more do address the gaps exposed by the refugee crisis in Europe. Countries of the European Union, phase with their own domestic challenges, need to take a more positive stands towards handling refugees and asylum-seekers.

It doesn’t matter whether or not they are Muslims or Christians or Jews!! What matters the most is they are humans like ourselves and deserves the right to a new place they would like to call “home.”

We should also learn to understand that refugees have no choice and their only choice is for us to accept them because they are human beings. No one for any reason other than to escape pain, humans sufferings and death would risk their lives and the lives of their children.

These events like what we continue to see in Europe and other places make me wonder how those in authority think when their actions are purely distant away from their words.

Injustice is just one dam thing after another

Dam construction. Picture: REUTERS/ROOSEVELT CASSIO

Mega-scale dams built in the developing world are often fashioned as a move towards sustainable societies. But activists argue that these projects leave many displaced, with disastrous consequences for societies. Picture: REUTERS/ROOSEVELT CASSIO


TO provide more clean energy, particularly in fast-growing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the world needs more hydropower dams and energy, experts say.

But a surge in building big dams is also leading to poor people being displaced and losing rights to water — something that needs to be addressed if more projects go ahead, community leaders and researchers say.

“When you build a mega dam your land acquisition and inundation creates a great level of displacement. This is a disastrous plan and not true development,” says Rajendra Singh, an Indian water activist and winner of this year’s Stockholm Water Prize for his efforts in protecting rivers and boosting rainwater harvesting.

Singh, speaking at World Water Week in Stockholm two weeks ago, said building small-scale dams, rather than huge ones, may be a more effective way to protect poor people, while increasing access to clean power.

“Build your dam on the river, just before the bend, and communities can still use the free flow of water,” he said, drawing a serpentine line on a piece of paper. “You can still produce energy, though on a smaller scale, and you can still ensure people’s rights to use the water.”

About 160 countries worldwide use hydropower technology for electricity generation, according to Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. The power produced amounts to just under 16% of the world’s total electricity generation, he says.

In more than 50 countries, hydropower plants provide at least half of the total electricity supply. An increase in this number, Amin says, is crucial if the world wants to shift to a sustainable society. That is particularly true in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where much of the world’s population growth is expected to occur by 2050.

Building small-scale hydropower facilities can make sense, Amin says — but he warns they may not be up to meeting the coming demand.

“There is a strong business case for small hydro projects, but we are also facing a situation where the energy demand in Africa is set to triple and in Asia Pacific it will double by 2050. So we have to explore all possibilities.

“If we look at the developing countries with large power needs, large water needs, growing populations, we have to find power and water sources that can support this growth in the future. It’s very difficult to forgo opportunities to develop clean power (and) irrigation because of some sceptics.”

But research in West Africa by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development, a research and policy group, suggests that building large-scale dams is leading to widespread displacement of people there.

Seven dams in West Africa, six of them in the Niger basin, have led to about 237,000 people losing their homes or land, researchers found. Many have had difficulty finding new ways to make a living.

In Burkina Faso, a planned tomato processing plant and fish stocking facility, promised to help provide new jobs, have yet to be built, and in Senegal and Burkina Faso, over-fishing in dam reservoirs by displaced families has led to conflict among fishermen, one study found.

Nouradine Zackaria Toure, the chief of a dam-affected village in the Gao region of Mali, says nine countries in West Africa today have 150 dams, with 40 more planned in the region. That has led to displacement, a lack of irrigated land, forced migration and conflicts over scarce food and water, he says.

Dams in West Africa, though built with the best of intentions, are failing to benefit the poorest of the communities, says Toure.

In particular, the energy and the water produced by the dams is reaching others, but not those displaced by the projects, says Toure, who also heads a network of riverside communities in the Niger Basin, the Regional Coordination Group of Users of the Niger Basin. He says the size of dams is less important than ensuring local communities share in their benefits, including access to the energy they produce and sufficient water to irrigate their fields. Dam-displaced communities must also have a genuine voice in deciding what should happen to them.

“We don’t care about the size. We just want our rights over land and water and energy to be respected,” Toure says.

Singh says the problem is that many dams and hydropower projects are designed to meet a country or region’s growing water and energy needs, but at the cost of curbing the rights of people and communities living near them.

In India and elsewhere in Asia, dams are in some cases reducing or ending community ownership or access to water and land near it, and are often the root cause of conflicts.

While the costs and benefits of building large dams need to be weighed, the “greater good” is what’s important, says Singh.


This article was published online at Business Day Live (BDlive) and was retrieved on 09/07/2015 for educational and information purposes.


 

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