The Global Digest



Refugee

Decline of Human Rights Protection Regime

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

The National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC)

The recent summoning of Chhattisgarh officials by the National Human Rights Commissions (NHRC) for abuse of power is significant due to the expectations from human rights protection institutions in the country to deliver on their mandate. However, concerned officials may never appear before the commission to explain their conduct indicating a steep decline in human rights protection regime in the country.

Like many other countries, the human rights regime was initiated in India in the aftermath of 1993 Geneva world conference on human rights. Consequently, the Protection of Human Rights Act (PHRA) was passed by the parliament for “better protection of human rights” paving way for setting up the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and a number of State Human Rights Commissions (SHRC) in the states.

Reality

Though the task of protection of human rights was to be carried out under the leadership of NHRC, but it has failed to do justice to its mandate. It is evident from a recent Supreme Court observation in Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association versus Union of India case when the court censured the commission for inefficient functioning. The court criticized it for closing down some of the cases of encounter killings “without any application of mind’’ and on the basis of a magisterial inquiry which is essentially an administrative finding. The observations of the court were not unfounded given that the commission has an investigation wing headed by a DGP rank officer. The court went on to describe the commission as a toothless tiger.

The court’s comments echo a general feeling amongst the human rights activists in the country that the NHRC has failed to fix accountability for serious human rights violations, inspire SHRCs and send messages to the government on important issues related to human rights.

For many years now, the NHRC has failed to take a concrete stance on death penalty despite documented studies (Lethal Lottery: The Death Penalty in India; Amnesty India-PUCL) that it is closely related to one’s access to justice and is usually awarded to the poorest, without leading to any deterrence to crime. While the outgoing chairman of the commission, Justice Balakrishnan supported the death penalty, the commission never clarified its position on it.

The commission failed to take remedial measures when the government cancelled several human rights organisation’s licenses under Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, without which they cannot solicit funds from abroad. It is alleged that the government’s move was vindictive and a violation of the UN declaration on HRDs that confers on CSOs the right to solicit, receive and utilize resources.

Reason

The commission has come to this pass because the government, irrespective of political party, seems to have lost interest in human rights’ protection and promotion, thereby, encouraging and maintaining only a fa├žade rather than substance on this matter. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to appoint credible people to these institutions if any improvement in the situation of human rights is to be realized. But the government’s actions have only been disappointing.

In 2010, the government appointed a chairman of NHRC who faced serious allegations of corruption. The matter dragged in the Supreme Court for years and was subsequently withdrawn by the government on the plea that the judge concerned had retired from the office.

It has chosen to appoint retired police officers to the commission. While the previous government appointed a former chief of anti-corruption bureau , CBI and a former director of anti-terror agency, NIA as the member of the NHRC, the present government nominated a BJP leader to be its member. By this count under the category of ‘persons having knowledge of human rights’ the present commission has one former police officer who is a terrorism expert and other, if confirmed, would be an active politician.

The government has not cared to put NHRC annual reports before the parliament for discussion, so much so that commission has now even stopped preparing them on a regular basis. It has caused dilution of its accountability inbuilt under the legislation under which it was setup.

Repercussion

This cynical approach to these important institutions has reduced the human rights regime in the country to a farce and sent a damaging message across the country. Out of 24 SHRCs, 10 are without chairpersons, nine have vacancy of members and some, including Maharashtra- with consistently high police custodial deaths- have retired police officers as members on their bench.

As majority of the complaints made to these commissions relate to police, appointment of retired police officers to these institutions have dealt a serious blow to their credibility, eroding people’s faith in these institutions. For example, Soni Sori, a victim of police atrocity and sexual violence did not expect a fair hearing from the Chhattisgarh SHRC, and when she approached the NHRC it was quick to give a clean chit to the state government (The Hindu, 15 April 2013).

The erosion of authority of human rights institutions is a major blow to the preservation and promotion of human rights in the country. It is a matter of grave concern in light of expenses involved in approaching the judiciary reeling under millions of pending cases. Clearly, the government has a lot to explain and do if it cares for its constitutional and international obligations.

******* The writer is Melbourne-based researcher and author who earlier taught political science in Delhi University and was the national general secretary of the PUCL. He can be reached at raajpushkar@gmail.com
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PPFA demands a concrete refugee policy for India



Great Calcutta killing

To, Shri Banwarilal Purohit, Honourable Governor of Assam, Raj Bhawan, Kharghuli, Guwahati-781004
Dated: Guwahati, 31 October 2016

Your Excellency,

Warm greetings from the Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA). We would like to bring to your kind attention some of the recent misleading and manipulative statements by some individuals and organizations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 issue. We are shocked that these groups of vested interests are trying to communalise the issue instead of helping to find an amicable solution.

The extremely volatile utterances targeting the Hindu minority community of Assam is deplorable and condemnable to say the least. We are from this land of glorious civilization & culture and we feel that our spirit should be that of accommodation of Hindu, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and other religious minorities who have had to face extreme suppression in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and also West Pakistan and have been the true victims of partition of India. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight the historical truth that cannot and should not be forgotten and which will attempt to build an honest perspective on the issue of who is a ‘foreigner’ in Assam (India) which has been a touchy and thorny issue since long.

Hence, we must all look back and see what transpired in 1942 when Mahatma Gandhi called for the 'Quit India' movement. The Muslim League raised another slogan 'Divide India And Quit'. In 1946, the 'Pakistan' demand of Muslim league, supported by the undivided Communist Party of India (CPI), was accompanied by 'Direct Action' or the violent communal riots like the 'Great Calcutta killing' where nearly 5000 people were killed or massacred in only 4 days. Assam's eminent poet Amulya Barua was one of the victims in that killing field.

History bears witness to the fact that Muslims of undivided India that followed the ideology of Muslim League and who wanted a separate homeland for the Muslims were granted Pakistan and thus they became ‘foreigners’ to Indians. In fact the moment they created a foreign land for themselves they lost their rights to get into India again without passports or related legal documents. So, post 15 August 1947 India, all those who demanded and chose to live in Pakistan (including East Pakistan) was legally foreigners.

However, history is also witness to the fact that the minority Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists who were left behind in Pakistan were continuing to face brutal suppression at the hands of the new non-secular government, which prompted the Prime Minister of Independent India Jawaharlal Nehru to issue a historic statement in Parliament that non-Muslims would be safe and secure in Pakistan as both the new nations pledged to be good and friendly neighbours. However, Nehru also declared in the Parliament that if, in future, non-Muslims felt unsafe and insecure in Pakistan due to religious or communal persecutions, they would be always welcome in India and they would not be treated as 'foreigners' in India.

It is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that the Union government in New Delhi has taken steps lately to provide shelter to these 'Victims of Partition' all over the country following a process of equal distribution. In fact, it is a long pending moral responsibility which India should have shouldered much earlier (soon after Nehru made the promise in the Parliament).

But better late than never, and we must all support the government’s action to give citizenship rights to the victims of Partition who have taken shelter in India from Pakistan and Bangladesh till 2014. We must not forget that among these people are many whose ancestors also fought and sacrificed their lives along with many others for an independent India, which has made us free citizens of an independent nation today. Let all of us be grateful to them.

We are also fully aware that since the formation of Bangladesh and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Bangladesh made Islam the State religion setting into motion the persecution of minority non-Muslims. In Bangladesh, the Hindus include Bengali, Rajbongshi, Hajong, Adivasi, Jayantiya and Bishnupriya communities, Buddhists (represented by Chakmas) and some Assamese people also, who fled to the Chittagong hill areas during the Burmese invasion. The Christians include Bengali, Garo, Khasi and Adivasi people. All these people became the victims of 'Pakistan Plan' & 'Partition’ and had to therefore live in a 'foreign land,’ for the creation of which they were not at all responsible.

So, under no circumstances these people can be termed as 'foreigners'. The foreigners are those who created the 'foreign land’ in the name of religion, but again these are the same group of people who are infiltrating into India, the country they hated to live in, before 1947 for reasons best known to them. If the history of Partition is properly studied, we can clearly understand who these ‘Foreigners’ are and who are the actual 'Victims of Partition' and who came to India to protect their religions, cultures and their lives.

However, we have no intention of communalizing the issue but we want to provide a clear understanding of how history unfolded lest some vested interests and parochial mindsets for their own narrow political gains and cheap mileage would continue to resort to disturb the peace and tranquil atmosphere of Assam. There is a need for a solution to this vexed issue and we would fully agree if those that have been truly victimized owing to Partition and religious persecution are given a place not just in Assam but in all other States of India, a country where the underlying tenets of democracy are tolerance, secularism and freedom of religion, faith, practice and freedom of expression.

Finally, we also raise our voices for a concrete refugee policy for India so that we can deal with the issue of immigrants logically and legally. We sincerely believe India should sign the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. Moreover, our government has to ratify the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees.

With Regards, Dhirendra Nath Chakrabarty (Guwahati) Dr Rabin Dev Choudhury (Guwahati) Giripada Dev Choudhury (Guwahati) Dr Nirode K Barooah (Cologne, Germany) Dr AK Rai (BHU, Varanasi) Rupam Barua (Gauripur) Nava Thakuria (Tihu) Jagadindra Ray Choudhury (Barpeta) Anup Sarma (Guwahati) Manju Bora (Guwahati) Pranjal Saikia (Guwahati) Utpal Dutta (Guwahati) Dipannita Jaiswal (Guwahati) Jitul Sonowal (Guwahati) Bobita Sarma (Guwahati) Bidhayak Das (Bangkok, Thailand) Vavani Sarmah (Washington, USA) Kalyan Dutta-Choudhury (Berkeley, USA) Pranab Kr Sharma (Guwahati) Prasenjit Chakrabarty (Agartala) Dr Subhra Kinkor Goswami (Nalbari) Gourishankar S Hiremath (IIT, Kharagpur) Anjanil Kashyap (New Delhi) Jahnabi Goswami (Guwahati) Girindra Kumar Karjee (Guwahati) Bibekananda Choudhury (Guwahati) Ravindranath (Dhemaji) Namrata Dutta (Guwahati) Bhagawat Pritam (Guwahati) Braja Jyoti Sharma (Nagaon) Gitika Talukder (Colombo, Srilanka) Devjyoti Saikia (Tezpur) Onkareshwar Pandey (Noida) Tarali Chakrabarty (Guwahati) Akhyamala Bora (Dergaon) Nripen Dutta (Chamata) Arun Sarkar (Nagarbera)
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Interesting to help migrant and foreign community Mr. Jeong Heejo

By Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Nov 25, 2015

Mr. Jeong Heejo at his office

Mr. Jeong Heejo founded a Public Attorney office, as an Administrative Joint Public office two years ago. His office has a connection with Ministry of Administrative Government and Home Affair. According to South Korean law, it permitted him to run the office for joint public service, so he gathering more administration works, Jeong enthusiastically explained.

In this conservative Korean society, foreigners are firstly facing problem with Korean language, in a conversation and filling a form in office. For example, immigration office asked foreigner to show house lease original document, which is a problem for many of foreigners who have no house. Moreover, some landlord doesn't easily provided the leased document and asked more than a million for deposit money from foreigners. For many poor foreigners are especially in trouble with a lease document and house address. In consequence, immigration will not provide a visa, it makes a problematic for foreigners in South Korea.

So Mr. Jeong office is serving especially to migrants and foreigners, including international marriages and refugees, etc. They are helping migrants' paper works, accommodation, deposit money for house rent, hospitalization and so on. For accommodation, his office used to support up to six months or one year. Mr. Jeong said he has so far helped about a thousand of foreigners.

Mr. Jeong is planning to do a special support for refugees. He told the Global Digest to support Myanmar refugees and a shelter for them (approximately $500 a month). His office will ask that project fund from the government. Right now his small office in Gwanghwamun has seven staff members, and Mr. Jeong expresses he wants to have more staff members.

Mr. Jeong is a faithful Christian and he attends regularly at the International Lutheran Church (ILC). Before this job, he used to work with ILC pastor Steve for helping foreigners too.
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THE REFUGEE DAY IN KOREA

By Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Jun 21, 2014

Volunteer staffs at Refugee Day event in Insadong-Gil

South Korea based refugee NGOs organized Refugee week and Refugee Day at Kwanghwamon Square and Insadong-Gil in downtown Seoul city, on June 20th. A head of Refugee Day on 20th June, the group organized Refugee week for the whole week for more activities.

This year evet is fewer participants than last year, said a staff member. The participants are included Jumma, Korean, Tibetan, Congolese and other. The event is to promote and awareness among Korean people about refugee. The organizer displayed as their title called "Refugee: is one of us". There were various activities to send the message to the conservative Korean society that we can all get along together as one, regardless of our different walks of life.

Volunteer staffs at the Refugee Day event in Insadong-Gil

The Republic of Korea is among a few Asian countries, adopted the 1951 Refugee Convention in 1992. In 2014 statistic, the South Korean government so far recognized 547 refugee and asylum seekers 2,397, and 194 stateless persons.

The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea has passed a new refugee law and entered into forced in July 2013. Hopefully, more rights for refugee, including basic living assistance.

UNHCR in South Korea spend USD 2,109,146 in 2014, and its 2015 budgest is USD 2,109,146.
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Forum on Reception Standards for Refugees held in Seoul

By Salai Thang
Staff Reporter
Nov 30, 2013

Attendees at the forum

Forum on Reception Standards for Refugees was held in Seoul at the Sookmyueng Women University, on November 28, 2013, co-organized by Korea Immigration Service of Ministry of Justice and UNHCR Korea. The forum started with an opening remark by Dirk Hebecker, UNHCR Representative in Korea.

Senior Regional Legal Officer, UNHCR Geneva, Liv Feijen presented the title called “Refugee protection and reception standards.” According to Global displacement trends 2012, there were 479,300 asylum applications in 44 industrialized countries. Top five countries of origins are 1) Afghanistan (36,600), 2) Syria (24,800), 3) Serbia and Kosovo(24,300), China (24,100) and 5) Pakistan (23,200). On the other hand, top five host countries are 1) USA (83,000), 2) Germany (64,500), 3) France (54,000), 4) Sweden (43,000) and 5) UK (27,400). In Asia, Australia, Japan and South Korea hosted 15,790, 2,540 and 1,140, respectively.

Liv Feijen

Feijen pointed out asylum seekers should enjoy an adequate standard of living throughout the asylum procedure. For example, certain basic rights such as living and food according to international law article 25 of UDHR, ICESCR and ICCPR. Feijen further elaborated minimum living standard by country such as medical assistance, work permit and vocation training (which is even they go back home can continue for work).

According to UNHCR Executive Conclusion No. 92(LIII) of 2002 on Reception of Asylum Seekers, Feijen explained regardless of asylum seeker person should treat as potential refugee, if recognized, the person should get a chance for naturalization in respective host country. UNHCR used to take joint decision by consensus, said Feijen. The primary responsibility for those assistances lies with state government.

However, if a refugee committed crime, the person should faced under court judgment, in this sense, apply to local law, Feijen clarified. Feijen strongly warns asylum seekers should not be detained or deport to their origin country. She also emphasize important of media role advocating refugee in local community and around the world. She further explained UNHCR used to train and work together with host government for accepting and facilitating asylum seekers.

Jae Hyun Lee

From South Korea government side, Refugee Division, Korea Immigration Service, Jae Hyun Lee presented the title called “Management of the Immigration Reception Center and refugee reception in Korea Refugee Law.” In South Korea, only 8% rate of refugee applicants are recognized. Refugee status application at the airport is possible, Mr. Lee added. At the moment, government allocated budget for refugee applicant is about 6 months, ministry of justice may be consider for further extension, said Mr. Lee. Employment permit certificate will issue by ministry of justice, health check up and emergency service provided it can extend for 3 months, further said Mr. Lee.

Mr. Lee acknowledges lack of counseling center for refugee applicant such as psychology problems due to the terrify environment back in their origin country. Mr. Lee also agreed refugee applicant's employment permition is important. Related to refugee applicant’s registration and identity card extension, it should be enough by just requesting a recommendation letter or certificate for resident address verification.

Mr. Lee feels xenophobia issue among Koran society is the most obstacles for integration and hosting refugee in the peninsula. Government even not called refugee center but called as immigration reception center for refugee service in Yeoujung island, which can also used by recognized refugee. Recognized refugee children can go elementary, middle and high schools for free. For higher education and university stipend are not yet arranged but will find out any other support through such as ministry of education, so, refugee can just inform at Refugee division at Immigration office, said Mr. Lee. Moreover, ministry of education and HRD with cooperation with foreign affair can handle refugees’ academic qualification recognition, for those who have no academic certificate. Recognized refugee can also go for Korea Integration program for 6 months for twice a week Korean language classes. For refugee employment and health issues, it is need registration at and cooperation from ministry of labor and ministry of health, said Mr. Lee. And he argued local government might be not actively participated for supporting refugee. Mr. Lee also confesses the important of media for advocating refugee issue in South Korea. He welcomes experts to write on newspaper about refugee issues and public awareness program.

Anne la Cour Vagen, Head of Asylum Department, Danish Red Cross explained about how asylum reception arrangements in Denmark. In Denmark, an average 50% of the asylum seekers are recognized refugee. The Danish Red Cross provided accommodation to asylum seekers in Denmark since 1984, currently there are 14 centers, and 9 other centers are also run by local authority. Danish Red Cross provides dignified daily life to the asylum seekers, while they await the authorities’ decision to their asylum application. After registration at the reception centre, provided accommodation, clothes, hygienic supplies and household equipments, medical examination, sport, school and training services, even cash allowances provided. Moreover, Danish government provided flight ticket for refugee family uniting program with their family in Denmark.

For integration with local Denish people, Anne suggests communicate each other with local people is important. For example, local people worried there is a location of asylum seeker center with single 100 African men near to girl riding training center, but one of the African gentleman assured and explained they respect girl nearby their center, so its fine and no any problem happened, said Anne. Further, Anne recommends important of cooperation between civil society and authority.

Attorney at Law, Gong-Gam, Pill-Kyu Hawng pointed out Korean government lack of refugee applicant reception and assistance for refugee, there was less recognition and high application withdrawal 1 out of 4, and no more assistance can apply for this year. Currently, government budgets for controlling refugee center called immigration assistance center, but not provided assistance for other existing centers, and still lack of assistance for center service facility, staff and so on. He further mentioned the need of more balance policy for refugee reception in the peninsula, especially of xenophobia case. Actually, there are statistic and data where twice Korean criminal than foreigner, Hwang revealed.

Park Song-hee also identified isolation of refugee from local community and refugees are called as other foreign society. Local government has no specific regulation for refugee resident here. Gyeonggi government created refugee act, but still refer to them as other foreigner and very little support.

Kyung Ock Chun, Chair of Amnesty International Korea, lectures related refugee issue as part of human rights. For example, poverty violates a lot of human rights, it’s also becomes global issue and created international law. Also she called it as human insecurity, consequent of political violence, culture and religious conflict. Therefore, people should have a sense of responsibility, as well as, community responsibility for social welfare and employment right for refugee, she explained. During the meeting, Chinese asylum seekers have also voiced on the issue of Falungon religion followers persecution in China.
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