Executive Summary for January 25th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including a survey revealing that most Afghan returnees are forced to flee anew, a U.S. diplomat resigning his Myanmar role over a ‘whitewash’ and Amnesty hypnotizing Low Countries folk in search of empathy.

Published on Jan. 25, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Most Afghan Returnees Are Forced to Flee Their Homes, Survey Finds

Three out of four Afghans returned to the country are forced to flee again. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) made the claim as it called for an end to Afghan deportations.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been returned to the conflict-ridden country, mainly from Pakistan and Iran but also from Europe, where they sought asylum. An NRC survey of 2,500 families found 72 percent of Afghan returnees were then displaced anew. The aid agency said that “war and poverty” were waiting for them back in Afghanistan.

“They were immediately engulfed in the conflict and pushed to flee again,” NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland told Reuters.

Violence in Afghanistan has been continual, and the Taliban is now estimated to control roughly 40 percent of the country. Some 360,000 people have been forced from their homes since 2017.

Afghans in Europe have among the highest rates of rejected asylum claims and face constant pressure, including cash payments, to go home. In Pakistan, a drive by the government to repatriate some of the estimated 1.3 million U.N.-registered refugees there has seen large numbers return. A similar push is underway in Iran.

“It’s wicked(ly) unsafe to be in Afghanistan … it is more unsafe [than] ever,” Egeland said. “This is not the time to return anyone.”

U.S. Diplomat Quits Myanmar Adviser Role, U.N. Official Warns Against Returns

A veteran U.S. diplomat has resigned from a Myanmar panel, denouncing it as a “whitewash.” Bill Richardson also accused the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of lacking “moral leadership.”

The former Clinton-administration official said he quit after an argument with Suu Kyi over two Reuters reporters on trial, accused of breaching official secrets.

The former governor of New Mexico said the advisory board was a “whitewash” and that he no longer wished to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government.”

His departure from the 10-member panel came as a high-ranking U.N. official said it was too soon for Rohingya refugees to be returned to Myanmar.

Some 700,000 Rohingya, whom the government refers to as Bengali foreigners, have been the target of what the U.N. has called ethnic cleansing. Most are stuck in refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh.

Justin Forsyth, UNICEF deputy executive director, said members of the Muslim minority were right to fear going home: “The situation isn’t safe for the returns to begin.”

He added, “I spoke to one young woman, who had been on the phone to her aunt, in Rakhine in Myanmar. And they were attacking villages even today.”

Hypnosis Deployed to Help Europeans Understand Syrian Refugee’s Experience

Amnesty International has hypnotized a small group of Europeans to help them understand a refugee’s plight. The experiment, with five people from the Netherlands and Belgium, was turned into a short film.

Brought into a trance by a professional hypnotist, the group were taken through the journey of a 29-year-old Syrian, Marwa.

“For most people, the hardship inflicted on refugees on their way to safety is hard to imagine,” said Eduard Nazarski, executive director of Amnesty International Netherlands. “When people really experience what it is like to be forced to flee, this can create understanding and could fundamentally change the way we speak about refugees.”

One of the participants said of the experience, “I’m glad I did this, because now I have a better understanding of what these people go through. When you see this on television, it doesn’t affect you as much.”

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