US border agents fire tear gas at Central American migrants

Migrants trying to cross with an improvised rope made of clothing faced Border Patrol agents and after a few minutes clash — wet sand against pepper spray — they gave up in their attempt. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2019
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US border agents fire tear gas at Central American migrants

  • A group of migrants, including children, used an improvised rope to try to scale fencing installed on the beach between Tijuana and San Diego
  • They were forced back with tear gas

TIJUANA, Mexico: US Border Patrol agents on Thursday fired tear gas at Central American migrants attempting to cross the border from the Mexican city of Tijuana, AFP journalists saw.
A group of migrants, including children, used an improvised rope to try to scale fencing installed on the beach between Tijuana and San Diego, California — but were forced back with tear gas, which agents had not deployed since January 1.
An AFP journalist witnessed only one migrant cross the border, where he was immediately detained.
It marked the third time in a week that a group of Central Americans had tried to cross the border to ask for asylum on the grounds their lives were threatened by violence at home.
On the first occasion, a week ago, around 50 people made it across, with about 10 more crossing on Tuesday. All were detained by authorities.
“Someone brought them here, they train them because they know that upon crossing they must ask for asylum and that way they won’t be deported and they have to be processed according to US laws,” said one Tijuana policeman, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak.
Last November, hundreds of Central Americans that arrived from Honduras as part of a large caravan tried to cross en masse — but only a few succeeded as the crowd was met with tear gas.
In recent months, thousands of Central Americans have arrived in Mexico in several caravans in the hope of finding a better life in the United States.
US President Donald Trump has branded such migrants a threat to national security, demanding billions of dollars from Congress to build a wall on the southern US border.


Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

Updated 20 June 2019
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Rohingya greet UN refugee day amid doubts on return

  • Muted celebrations in crowded Bangladesh camps, home to 1.1m Myanmar exiles
  • Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities

COX’S BAZAR: More than 1.1 million Rohingya exiles in heavily congested camps at Cox’s Bazar observed UN World Refugee Day on Thursday despite continuing uncertainty over their return to Myanmar. 

Since 2000, UNHCR has observed June 20 as World Refugee Day and this year appealed to participants to “take a step with refugees around the world.” 

War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are the main causes of refugees fleeing their countries, with two-thirds of all exiles worldwide coming from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.

Cox’s Bazar — site of the world’s largest refugee settlement — observed the day with programs and festivities, although there is still no sign of an end to the Rohingya plight. 

A colorful rally at Kutupalang camp was attended by US envoy Earl Miller, UNHCR country representative Steven Corliss and government officials. Later, dignitaries met with Rohingya community leaders and discussed their demands. 

About 750,000 Rohingya have fled their northern Rakhine homeland since August 2017 when a so-called “clearance operation” orchestrated by the Myanmar military forced them to take shelter at Kutupalang camps in Cox’s Bazar. 

In 1977 and 1978, about 200,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar. 

Between 1989 and 1991, an additional 250,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh when a military crackdown followed a popular uprising and Burma was renamed Myanmar. In 1992, Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a repatriation deal that led to thousands of Rohingya returning to Rakhine. 

The Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh resumed in 2016 when a military crackdown followed an attack on a border post in which several police offers were killed. About 87,000 refugees fled to Bangladesh. 

A repatriation deal was signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar in late 2017, but not a single Rohingya returned. 

Finally, Nov. 15, 2018, was agreed as the new date to start repatriation, but the Rohingya said that conditions made it impossible for them to return. 

Recent violence in Rakhine between the Myanmar military and a militant Buddhist group has cast fresh doubts on the refugees returning in the near future. 

The Rohingya exodus has changed the demographic of Ukhia and Teknaf subdistricts of Cox’s Bazar. 

In 2011, around 500,000 people lived in the two areas. Now more than double that number of Rohingya refugees shelter there, turning the host community into a minority. 

The Bangladesh government and UN aid agencies together asked for $920 million to run humanitarian operations in the camps this year. But only a quarter of this amount has been raised. 

Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said that authorities are hoping for an increase in funding in coming days. 

“Some big donors such as the EU, UK, Japan and so on are yet to come up with their pledges. I believe it will happen soon and humanitarian operations here at Cox’s Bazar will not decline,” he told Arab News.