[News] The Migrant Crisis Thread

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A thread for news stories about the ongoing global migrant crisis.

I said I thought this subject deserved its own thread. From the Mediterranean to the English Channel to the U.S.-Mexico border, things are... not great.

In New York City, the city's basically out of space and migrants are now sleeping on the street.

The line of asylum seekers outside the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan has gotten shorter, but city officials are now calling on the federal government for help.

The city has to provide shelter to anyone who requests it and the Legal Aid Society is threatening to file litigation to enforce the law, since it looks like the city is failing to meet its obligation in a timely manner if people are sleeping on the streets.

"The federal government could also solve the problem tomorrow by allowing people to work," Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society said.

The hotel has a dual purpose -- it is an arrival center for migrants where they can get access to vaccines, food and other resources -- but it is also a humanitarian relief center that is housing families with children.

Most of the people in line on Tuesday and over the last several days have been single men. They have been waiting in line to register for shelter on sidewalks winding around the hotel's block at 46th and Vanderbilt.

"They don't allow them to go anywhere, no shower, no bathroom," one person said.

Mayor Eric Adams' office says scenes like this could be more common as the city continues to grapple with the number of migrants who are here and continue to arrive. He warned the strain on the city will only get worse.

The mayor's office says the city is currently caring for 50,000 migrants but more than 93,000 asylum seekers have come through the city's intake system since last spring. The city continues to fill up its emergency shelters and the federal funding won't cover the $4 billion the city is expected to spend by next year.

And all indications are that the numbers aren't going to slow down anytime soon.

Honestly the rate will inevitably increase from equatorial regions as global warming ramps up. Not just because the heat will endanger human life, but also the breakdown of those regional economies and resulting breakdown of human societies. We're already seeing it, but it will continue to worsen.

I wish we had the collective will to effect change in a manner that will help, but we can't even sum up sufficient societal-level empathy to effect change to improve the average US resident's life as it is.

UN bodies call for urgent action over Panama’s Darién Gap migration route

International bodies have called for urgent intervention in the Darién Gap to prevent a further escalation of a humanitarian crisis as new figures showed that record numbers of people are risking their lives to cross the lawless 100-mile stretch of rainforest between Panama and Colombia.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also called for the creation of more legal pathways to migrate to the US in order to help reduce irregular migration.

The calls come after the Panamanian government revealed on Monday that 250,000 people took the perilous journey in the first seven months of 2023 – more than the entire total for last year.

About 52,000 people crossed the Darién in July alone, prompting concern among regional authorities as the beginning of the rainy season normally brings a fall in migration.

Civil society groups have been warning of the grave humanitarian and human rights crisis in Darién since the flow of migrants surged in 2021 but the continued increase in numbers – predicted to reach 400,000 this year – means action is even more pressing.

Forty-one migrants die in shipwreck off Lampedusa

Forty-one migrants have died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, survivors told local media.

A group of four people who survived the disaster told rescuers that they were on a boat that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia and sank on its way to Italy.

The four survivors, originally from the Ivory Coast and Guinea, reached Lampedusa on Wednesday.

More than 1,800 people have lost their lives so far this year in the crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Local public prosecutor Salvatore Vella said he had opened an investigation into the tragedy.

The survivors - a 13-year-old boy, two men and a woman - told rescuers that they were on a boat carrying 45 people, including three children.

They said the boat, which was about 7m (20ft) long, left Sfax on Thursday last week, but sank within hours after being hit by a big wave. Only 15 people are understood to have been wearing lifejackets, but this apparently failed to save their lives.

The Italian Red Cross and German charity Sea-Watch said the four managed to survive the shipwreck by floating on inner tubes and lifejackets until they found another empty boat at sea, in which they spent several days drifting before being rescued.

The four survivors arrived in Lampedusa suffering from exhaustion and shock, but the doctor who treated them, Adrian Chiaramonte, said they had only minor injuries.

"What really struck us was the story of the tragedy," he said.

"They said they had encountered a first ship, which had apparently ignored them.

"An hour later they were spotted by a helicopter, and an hour after that sighting, they were picked up by an oil tanker."

The Italian coast guard reported two shipwrecks in the area on Sunday, but it is not clear whether this vessel is one of those.

The United Nations migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the migrants would have had little chance of survival.

"Sub-Saharan migrants [leaving from Tunisia] are forced to use these low-cost iron boats which break after 20 or 30 hours of navigation. With this kind of sea, these boats capsize easily," IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo told AFP.

Hundreds of migrants killed by Saudi border guards - report

Saudi border guards are accused of the mass killing of migrants along the Yemeni border in a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The report says hundreds of people, many of them Ethiopians who cross war-torn Yemen to reach Saudi Arabia, have been shot dead.

Migrants have told the BBC they had limbs severed by gunfire and saw bodies left on the trails.

Saudi Arabia has previously rejected allegations of systematic killings.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, titled They Fired On Us Like Rain, contains graphic testimony from migrants who say they were shot at and sometimes targeted with explosive weapons by Saudi police and soldiers on Yemen's rugged northern border with Saudi Arabia.

Migrants contacted separately by the BBC have spoken of terrifying night-time crossings during which large groups of Ethiopians, including many women and children, came under fire as they attempted to cross the border in search of work in the oil-rich kingdom.

"The shooting went on and on," 21-year-old Mustafa Soufia Mohammed told the BBC.

He said some in his group of 45 migrants were killed when they came under fire as they tried to sneak across the border in July last year.

"I didn't even notice I was shot," he said, "but when I tried to get up and walk, part of my leg was not with me."

On patrol with Tunisia's coast guard: Nine boats in 24 hours

Tethered to a small speedboat and being towed towards us was the first of nine migrant boats we would encounter during our 24-hour patrol with the Tunisian coast guard.

More than 180 people were rescued, all wearing rubber rings, but no life jackets, from what is now the world's busiest migrant route into Europe.

Within half an hour of our departure from the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax and boarding the national coast guard patrol boat, the radar had intercepted its first signal.

Working in tandem with two speed boats, these smaller, more agile vessels were deployed first to find the migrant ship.

Once located, their captain was ordered to turn off the engine and submit to being towed back to the larger patrol vessel where six Tunisian coastguards stood ready to assist.

Sfax, which is less than 200km (124 miles) across the Mediterranean from the Italian island of Lampedusa, has long been a transit hub for sub-Saharan Africans wishing to travel illegally into Europe - as well as a network of smugglers seeking to profit from them.

Many migrants used to go by road to Libya, and from there catch a boat to Greece.

But last year, after the Libyan authorities deported thousands of them and intensified patrols along the coast, the preferred route for migrants wishing to travel to Europe switched to Tunisia.

In July, the European Commission offered to contribute $115m (£90m) towards Tunisian efforts to intensify its border controls, search-and-rescue operations and anti-smuggling initiatives.

The $115m is part of a larger aid package being offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Tunisia has not yet agreed to the terms of how exactly the money should be spent.

The UN reported that in the first six months of this year, 54,049 people were picked up by the Italian or Tunisian coast guard - a figure close to double the number who attempted the crossing during the whole of 2022.

It has also been an exceptionally perilous start to the year with the loss of more than 2,000 lives, according to the UN.

The coast guards were met with a wave of anger as the 46 passengers began to disembark from the migrant boat that had been towed.

"Let me go to Italy," one man shouted. "I'll only try again," screamed another.

All hailing from Ivory Coast and Guinea, they told us it was their third and even fourth attempt to cross this stretch of sea.

Although we were allowed to witness everything that went on during the operation, the crew on board had been told not to answer any of our questions. Instead, their spokesman Hossam El-Din El-Jababli, spoke to us once we were back at the port.

"There are those who threaten to throw themselves back overboard. To even pour petrol over themselves and set it alight," said Mr El-Jababli.

These troubles are only going to grow more severe in the coming decades.

I wish I had something, anything, to contribute but it's such a monstrous issue for so many people around the globe trying to seek relief from a cavalcade of factors in the face of systems that are stacked against them and that have the tacit support of comfortable citizenry who would prefer to turn a blind eye.

Four sons set out on a perilous migration route. Only one came home

Nobody in Fass Boye seemed to blame the migrants for taking the risk. More than a third of the country lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. The young see few opportunities at home. "Macky Sall sold the ocean," said Assane Niang, a 23-year-old fishing captain, referring to the Senegalese president. Fishermen in Fass Boye say the government has granted too many licences to foreign trawlers, which overfish their waters and deplete the catch.

Niang was sitting on the beach in the shade of a pirogue, knitting generator covers he can sell to help make ends meet. "If we had other alternatives we would stay, but we cannot sit here and do nothing," he said. "We are trying to support our families."

There is social pressure on the young to try to leave on the boats, and there can be stigma attached to those who fail or never try.

So much so that the sea route to Spain has earned its own grim slang in Senegal's Wolof language: "Barcelona or death."

The wooden pirogues the smugglers use are not suitable for the voyage. They are often poorly constructed. They lack navigation technology and are liable to run out of petrol and be pushed off course. And yet the number of migrants using the route to reach Spain has been rising every year.

Mayor Adams ignites controversy after saying the migrant crisis will 'destroy' NYC

Mayor Eric Adams is earning praise from Republicans and criticism from members of his own party after telling an audience of Upper West Side residents that the weekly influx of thousands of migrants “will destroy New York City.”

“I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said during a town hall event Wednesday night. “This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.”

“Everyone is saying it is New York City’s problem. Every community in this city is going to be impacted,” he added. “Every service in this city is going to be impacted, all of us.”

Adams’ comments marked some of his most aggressive rhetoric yet on a crisis that threatens to become a potent political issue in a key election cycle. Republicans have blamed the crisis on President Joe Biden and his administration’s failure to manage the southern border.

I mean, he's not wrong, he just needs to clarify it by saying the migrant crisis isn't due a crisis because of the migrants, it's a crisis because Republican led states are sending all the migrants they get to NYC in a deliberate (and successful) attempt to overwhelm them. We had (still have, honestly) the same issue in my state, where one city was where all the asylum seekers want to go, and it was just too many for that one city to handle all at once by themselves. They needed the state government to assist and for other cities to step up and be willing to accept some of the migrants so that one city would get overwhelmed, which has somewhat happened. It's not a solved problem, but it's less dire now than it was a few years ago.

Prederick wrote:

“I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this”

So... basically, he's a f*cking moron?

Stengah wrote:

I mean, he's not wrong, he just needs to clarify it by saying the migrant crisis isn't due a crisis because of the migrants, it's a crisis because Republican led states are sending all the migrants they get to NYC in a deliberate (and successful) attempt to overwhelm them.

It's f*cked up, but it's genius. NYC doesn't have the space (or the money) to handle this kind of influx, and as we said, it's not stopping. And Adams is fairly infuriating that the Biden admin isn't stepping up to help get these people work permits or something so they're not just a burden on the city.

I'm really not sure what the federal, or even state plan on this is. Because it will lose them votes, anti-migrant/asylum seeker sentiment is not hard to drum up (anywhere, FWIW) and there doesn't seem to be any actual, stated methodology for dealing with the ongoing crisis.

NYC migrant crisis intensifies as calls grow for work permits to be issued

Being driven insane as I watch this unfold. From the local to the state to the federal level, no-one's working together, everyone's just pointing fingers at each other, and watching things get worse without proactively working to come up with a plan to deal with the issue.

You can loudly shout your ideals are whatever you want, but you've GOT to be able to figure out a competent plan of what to do should someone force you to live up to those stated ideals.

Instead, it feels like everyone's kind of hoping the crisis with no end in sight will be handled by someone else. Which, speaking purely from a political perspective, seems borderline suicidal.

Unrelated note, I am endlessly amused that, no matter the culture of the restaurant, if you took all the Spanish-speaking people away, the entire NYC restaurant industry would collapse overnight.

I don't know if I'd agree everyone is just pointing fingers at someone else to fix things. The fingers all seem to pointing the right way, at the feds, who have the power to actually help but are only making token gestures instead. The state's has to follow the federal rules about work permits, if they don't, it would likely result in every refugee the state issued an early work permit to having their asylum case rejected because they broke a federal law by technically working illegally, and they all end up deported. So the state's hands are tied by the feds, and the feds are just sending people to help refugees file for the work permits. They still have to wait 180 days, so it does nothing to relieve the pressure the state is facing right now. In 180 days the problem will likely be much worse, so the help being provided isnt actually reducing the problem at all, it's just making the problem grow at a slightly lower rate.

Stengah wrote:

I don't know if I'd agree everyone is just pointing fingers at someone else to fix things. The fingers all seem to pointing the right way, at the feds, who have the power to actually help but are only making token gestures instead.

To be fair, there are other people who have the power to actually help but are too busy making gestures - the people sending all the migrants to NYC in the first place.

Thankfully, anyone who's ever driven in NYC is quite familiar with the kind of gesture they're making.

Why So Many Migrants Are Coming to New York

Last week, Mayor Eric Adams told a roomful of people that the recent influx of migrants “will destroy New York City.” More than a hundred and ten thousand have arrived in the city in recent months, and more than half are currently staying at shelters and other emergency sites. Although some of the most high-profile arrivals have been sent on buses by Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, as part of a Republican plan to shift the burden of migrant crossings onto blue states, nearly ninety per cent of the migrants who have come to New York since last spring have arrived in other ways. Meanwhile, Adams has denounced the Biden Administration for not providing enough resources for the city to resolve what he describes as a dire crisis. (According to Adams, it will cost twelve billion dollars to house the migrants over the next three years.)

I recently spoke by phone with Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, and an expert on how immigration policies at the federal, state, and local levels intersect. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed why so many migrants have chosen to come to New York City specifically, why the Biden Administration cannot necessarily fulfill the Mayor’s requests, and how congressional inaction on immigration policy has exacerbated the problems that immigration hawks say they care about most.

“They Didn’t Know That We Were Here”: New York’s African Asylum Seekers

City government officials say that at least a hundred and ten thousand asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since last summer. Some sixty thousand are being housed in the city’s homeless shelters, at an astronomical cost. Many are from Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Peru, and Ecuador, but thousands have also come from Mauritania, Senegal, Burundi, Chad, and other African countries. For years, African migrants have been reaching the U.S. by flying first to Latin American countries with laxer visa rules, and then embarking on the long overland journey north from there.

Every week since the start of 2023, hundreds of newly arrived African migrants have found their way to A.C.T.’s office in Harlem, which is on the second floor of a former public-school building on West 127th Street. Many migrants hear about the organization through friends of friends, or on social media. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, A.C.T.’s dedicated drop-in days, the line to get into the office stretches down the school’s linoleum hallways. When I stopped by recently, three young West African men were hovering near Kouyate as she did paperwork. She made a joke in French, and the men laughed.

This year, A.C.T. staff have helped Muslim immigrants obtain halal food in the shelters and space for prayer. They have helped parents (and not just African parents) enroll children in school. Kouyate spoke with pride about two young Guinean men A.C.T. had worked with who had applied for asylum, obtained work permits, found an apartment together, and signed up to be delivery-app workers. The nice stories, however, were outnumbered by the grim ones. This past June, A.C.T. staff helped sound the alarm after hundreds of African immigrants were transferred to a shelter in outer Brooklyn that had limited running water and air-conditioning. “No restroom, no shower,” Kouyate said. “They call that shelter? No, that was a commercial building.” Kouyate has many clients who are languishing in the shelters, running out of money, running out of patience, and pining for home. “African people, they’re very private,” she said. She remembered recognizing a pained look in one young man’s eyes. “I talked to him,” she said. “He cried. So we cried together. And I told him, ‘You’re going to be fine. You need to be strong. What you did already, you did the hardest part.’ ”

Latin Americans continue to make up more than eighty per cent of the new arrivals in the city, and Kouyate said that many African immigrants have come to feel frustrated and excluded by a system that wasn’t necessarily set up with their needs in mind. Language barriers have been the most fundamental problem. New York City offers information about its social services in many languages, most robustly in English and Spanish. Help is harder to come by in French, Arabic, Wolof, Mandinka, or Fula—to say nothing of smaller languages and regional and ethnic dialects spoken by many African migrants. (Some African migrants do speak a little Spanish, having picked it up in Latin America on their journey north.) “They say, ‘Oh, but we have Google Translate,’ ” Kouyate said, adopting the overoptimistic tone of a New York City homeless-shelter operator. “Have you tried to communicate with someone with Google Translate? The frustration.”

Many African migrants in New York feel that they are treated worse than Latin Americans because of the color of their skin. “Political things happen, and certain borders open up,” Electra Weston, another Harlem activist who runs a nonprofit called the International Child Program, told me. “When Syria was having problems, everyone was, like, Come, come, come. When Haitians were struggling, and trying to cross the border, we saw images of Border Patrol agents whipping them.” Latin Americans make up the vast majority of asylum seekers, but in August, when hundreds of migrants were forced to sleep on the sidewalk outside the city’s emergency migrant-intake shelter, in midtown, many of those laying their heads on the concrete were Africans. Kouyate hasn’t been particularly surprised that African immigrants in New York City have been neglected. “I say all the time, if you dance with someone who’s blind, if you don’t put your feet on his feet, he is not going to know that you are there,” she said. “They didn’t know that we were here.”

Keldar wrote:
Stengah wrote:

I don't know if I'd agree everyone is just pointing fingers at someone else to fix things. The fingers all seem to pointing the right way, at the feds, who have the power to actually help but are only making token gestures instead.

To be fair, there are other people who have the power to actually help but are too busy making gestures - the people sending all the migrants to NYC in the first place.

Those people won't stop and their voters won't punish them for it, so the feds really need to put their asses in jail.

Prederick wrote:

I missed the Italian deputy prime minister describing the situation as an "act of war".

Meloni tells EU to blockade migrants and save ‘future of Europe’

Giorgia Meloni said the future of Europe depends on how the bloc handles a growing migration crisis, as she demanded EU leaders create a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop the flow of small boats.

The Italian prime minister’s remarks were directed at Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, who was visiting the tiny island of Lampedusa, off North Africa. More than 10,000 migrants arrived there last week alone, more than the entire 6,000-strong population of the island.

“What is at stake is the future of Europe because the future of Europe depends on its capacity to deal with the huge challenges of our time,” Ms Meloni said, speaking to reporters with Mrs von der Leyen.

She said that the only “serious” way to address the issue is to stop the migrants from departing from North African countries, especially Tunisia.

In return, Mrs von der Leyen pledged the swift return of “irregular” migrants and a crackdown on the “brutal business” of migrant smuggling.

During the visit Ms Meloni repeated her calls for the EU to support the launch of a naval mission to block migrants from reaching Italian shores.

A thing that annoys me about migrant discourse is that, while I do not deny that there is a very obvious racial portion to a great deal of the response in many parts of the world, drumming up anti-foreigner sentiment is pretty easy, anywhere in the world.

Inside South Africa's Operation Dudula: 'Why we hate foreigners'

In a school kitchen in Kwa Thema, a township east of Johannesburg, Dimakatso Makoena is busy making sandwiches. The 57-year-old single parent of three has been a cook there for more than 10 years.

"To tell you the truth, I hate foreigners. How I wish they could just pack and go and leave our country," she says, fighting back tears.

It is hard to understand the strength of this hate until Ms Makoena pulls out her phone to show a picture of her son. Emaciated with a glazed look in his eyes, angry burn scars spread over his body, up his arms and across his face.

"He started smoking drugs when he was 14 years old," she says, explaining how her son often goes out to steal things to feed his habit. One day he had tried to take some power cables to sell when he got electrocuted and burned.

Her son uses crystal meth and nyaope, a highly addictive street drug that has devastated communities across South Africa. It is not until she blames foreigners for selling the drugs that her reasoning and support for Operation Dudula becomes clear.

"Dudula, that's the only thing that keeps me going," she tells the BBC.

Operation Dudula was set-up in Soweto two years ago, the first group to formalise what had been sporadic waves of xenophobia-fuelled vigilante attacks in South Africa that date back to shortly after white-minority rule ended in 1994. It calls itself a civic movement, running on an anti-migrant platform, with the word "dudula" meaning "to force out" in Zulu.

Soweto was at the forefront of anti-apartheid resistance and home to Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president. Now, the township has become the home of the country's most-prominent anti-migrant group.

With one in three South Africans out of work in one of the most unequal societies in the world, foreigners in general have become an easy target.

But the number of migrants living in South Africa has been grossly exaggerated. According to a 2022 report by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), an independent research organisation based in the capital, Pretoria, there are about 3.95 million migrants in South Africa, making up 6.5% of the population, a figure in line with international norms. This number includes all immigrants, irrespective of legal status or where they come from.

The xenophobic rhetoric used by some public officials, politicians and anti-migrant groups has helped fuel the myth that the country is overrun with migrants. The South African Social Attitudes Survey for 2021 found that almost half of the population of 60 million people believed there were between 17 and 40 million immigrants in the country.

Current polling suggests support for the governing African National Congress (ANC), the party once led by Mr Mandela, could fall below 50% for the first time.

Operation Dudula has ambitions to fill that vacuum and has now transformed itself from a local anti-migrant group into a national political party, stating its aims to contest next year's general election.

Zandile Dabula, who was voted in as president of Operation Dudula in June 2023, is calm, charismatic and emphatic about the group's message: "foreigners" are the root cause of South Africa's economic hardship.

When it is put to her that this campaign is based solely on hate, she tells the BBC: "We must be realistic here that most of the problems that we have are caused by the influx of foreign nationals.

"Our country is a mess. Foreign nationals are working on a 20-year plan of taking over South Africa."

When challenged on the veracity of this 20-year plan, she admits it was a rumour but says she believes it is true.

"You see drugs everywhere and most of the drug addicts are South African rather than foreign nationals. So, what's happening? Are they feeding our own brothers and sisters so that it can be easy for them to take over?" she says.

It all rhymes, doesn't it?

Read on for the people pining for apartheid.

Ferromex: Mexican railway operator suspends routes amid migrant deaths

A company which operates some of Mexico's railways has suspended 60 of its routes after a surge of migrants hitching rides on freight trains.

Ferromex said services would be halted on the trains travelling towards Mexico's border with the US, in order to "avoid accidents or loss of life".

It added that the number of migrants trying to hitch rides on its freight trains was "unprecedented".

Hundreds of thousands clamber onto the roofs and cling to the sides each year.

Grupo México, which owns Mexico's biggest rail operator, Ferromex, said in a statement published [in Spanish] on Tuesday that there had been "half a dozen cases of injuries or death in recent days".

The network of freight trains is referred to by migrants as La Bestia (The Beast) and many risk jumping on board to speed up their 3,000km-journey (1,860 miles) from Mexico's southern to its northern border.

As the wagons are usually filled with freight, most ride on the train roof or hang from its sides.

If they fall, they risk losing life and limb. The trains are also targeted by gangs who rob, rape and extort migrants.

Ferromex said more than 1,500 people had gathered on top of a train and inside a train depot in Torreón, from where freight services depart for a number of Mexican cities on the US border.

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