Monday, September 17, 2012

Canada cracks down on Namibian immigration violators

New Era - Canada cracks down on Namibian immigration violators

17 Sep 2012 - Story by Lorraine Kazondovi

WINDHOEK - Canada has singled out Namibians as the biggest violators of Canadian immigration laws. Namibians are fingered along with Batswana and Swazis for alleged human trafficking and presenting fraudulent documents.
This has prompted the Canadian government to put up visa requirements for Namibians travelling to Canada, revising its previous visa exemption for Namibians.

"In the case of Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, human trafficking, especially of minors, and fraudulent documents are of significant concern," Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney announced on September 11.

"These changes are necessary because all the countries concerned have an immigration violation rate of over 30 percent, well above the level we deem acceptable for countries benefiting from a visa exemption," said Kenney.

Namibia's violation of Canadian immigration laws was at 81 percent in 2011 compared to other African countries.
It has also emerged that nearly 71 percent of Namibian passport holders who travel to Canada claim asylum status.

Hence, citizens of Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland now require a visa to travel to Canada.

New Era previously reported that Namibia was the third largest source of new refugee protection claims with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada in 2011. 

IRB's Senior Communications Advisor Melissa Anderson confirmed this, although she could not confirm the actual number of Namibians who have claimed refugee protection status in Canada. There were however more than 1 000 pending claims submitted by Namibians on December 31, 2011.

Executive Producer at the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) of the Otjiherero radio service Uzeraije Tjazerua, who visited the North American country in April this year to do a story on the issue, estimates the number of Namibians in Canada to be above 3 000.

Namibians seeking asylum in Canada submit a number of fraudulent claims in support of their purported need for asylum status. These include reasons that education is not free in Namibia, that homosexuals are discriminated against, the disputed 51 percent unemployment rate, as well as domestic violence.

The High Commission of Canada to South Africa also confirmed the new requirement, stating that beginning September 11, all citizens of Namibia will require a visa to travel to Canada. They can apply at the visa office in Pretoria.
 "We continue to welcome genuine visitors to Canada," said Kenney, adding that the changes are necessary to protect the integrity of Canada's fair and generous immigration system by helping to reduce an unacceptably high number of immigration violations.

These changes will allow Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and its partners to ensure that those seeking to visit Canada intend to return to their country of origin, rather than overstaying or committing other immigration violations, according to the minister.
Kenney said Canada regularly reviews its visa requirements towards other countries and that countries are aware that they have a responsibility to satisfy certain conditions to receive a visa exemption.
"It is up to the applicants to satisfy visa officers that their visit to Canada is temporary; they will not overstay their authorised stay; they have enough money to cover their stay; they are in good health; they do not have a criminal record; and they are not a security risk to Canadians," he emphasised.

The High Commission of Canada to South Africa further clarified that any person intending to travel to Canada can apply by mail, by courier or in person, however in the coming months travellers will be able to apply online for all temporary resident visas.

The commission advised frequent travellers to apply for a multiple-entry visa, which is valid for up to 10 years.
In addition, individuals already in Canada can remain in that country subject to the terms of their authorised stay.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Summer training enrichment for African immigrant women

Summer training enrichment for African immigrant women

African women at a summer training session offered by the Minnesota African Women's Association (MAWA). Photo: Ken Forbin/Mshale

The Minnesota African Women's Association (MAWA) this past  summer, engaged women from different parts of Africa across the Twin cities, in a series of training programs and activities that  made the summer very enriching.

On Saturday August 18th 20012, about fifteen women from different African countries attended a two- hour training program at the MAWA office conference room in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

The training, which is part of the "Community Power Project", was funded by the Solid Waste Management Coordination Board. The focus was health-related: Smart choices: Creating Non Toxic Environments for Children.

At the training session, female community leaders from different African communities were trained on how to effectively educate women groups in African communities to make smart choices when using cleaning products that contain harmful chemicals at home. Participants at the training, were from various health and human service professions, and came from African countries, like Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria and Togo.

Mostly made up of nurses, dental hygienists and social workers from across the Twin cities, the participants learned and engaged each other in information sharing on how best they can each transfer the knowledge and skills gained, to their respective communities in a culturally competent manner.

According to one of the participants, Mrs. Maureen Tambi, the most exciting and educational part of the training was the hands-on Activity session where the women learned how to make non toxic cleaning products by themselves. She said the training provided both useful information on how to avoid toxic chemicals at home and a skill set on how to make homemade cleaning supplies that are cheap and environmentally friendly.

Julia Earl, the trainer and presenter of the Smart Choices session said that the training was both useful and timely because of the increase in children's exposure to toxic materials, especially from cleaning supplies used at home. She added that the prevalence of some illnesses like; autism and hyper activity in children have now been associated with exposure to toxic chemicals.
Commenting on the fact that the group consisted mostly of health professionals, Julia said it was an added advantage because the women grasped the knowledge faster and engaged each other in really resourceful conversation.

But the Smart choice training session was only one of the several other programs MAWA is offering this summer. On August 11th 2012, MAWA sponsored a Shoulder-to-Shoulder training for parents of Amakolo participants and other African refugee and asylee community leaders.  "Shoulder to Shoulder" is an approach that teaches parents some innovative ways of dealing with their teenage children.

Last year, the training session was offered only to MAWA staff that in turn carried the message to the various African communities. This year however, thanks to more funding, MAWA extended the training to involve leaders of community based organizations. Participants came from Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and Cameroon and in the course of the training; these parents learnt that the best way to deal with their teenage children, is through Positive Parenting.
The Positive Parenting approach is where one the parents are warm, supportive and encouraging while being firm, consistent and clear with limits and boundaries. The training is particularly important to African mothers because due to cultural differences, child up bringing in America has now become a little more challenging.

A third workshop offered by MAWA was a health-related one for young people. MAWA is offering the nationally acclaimed curriculum, BART: Becoming A Responsible Teen, to 180 African teenagers. This training targets teenagers from African immigrant families and its first session begins  August 28th through the 31st. MAWA's objective for this program is to respond to a growing need.

Explaining the structure of the program to Mshale, Nambangi of MAWA noted that the BART program is gender based. There will be groups of 8 to 15 teenagers for girls and another for boys. Also commenting on the relevance of the program, she said that with the rise in teen pregnancy among African teenage girls, such a program is not only necessary but urgent. Statistics from the Minnesota HIV/AIDS Surveillance System on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among African teens also reiterates the urgency for such a program that responds to building HIV/AIDS awareness as well as teen pregnancy prevention education.

A total of 144 girls and 36 boys are anticipated to benefit from the program. While three African Community groups have already indicated their interest in having their teenagers go through this training,  MAWA is willing to extend the program beyond its own AGILE participants to include more teenagers from  two more African community groups. Leaders of teen initiatives in African communities are encouraged to put together groups of 12-15 girls and boys and register with MAWA.

Sudanese refugee: Eight years in Egypt and still no status

Sudanese refugee: Eight years in Egypt and still no status

A Sudanese woman from the Nuba Mountains cradles her son in South Sudan wait outside the YIda refugee camp registration centre

Hassan,* a political activist from Sudan told us his story and spoke of the living conditions Sudanese refugees face here in Egypt.

Where do you come from in Sudan?

Originally I am from the North of Sudan, Darfur specifically. I have been in Egypt since 2004. Throughout this period, living in Egypt has been tough, especially for foreigners and above all for refugees. It is hard to find work; this is generally one of the biggest problems refugees face. Many people in Egyptian society do not understand what a refugee is, why we as refugees are here, and why we left our country.

Sometimes you face harassment that is lighthearted but at times it is to do with skin colour. This harassment usually comes from simple people with a modest educational background who do not know why we are here or think we came to take their jobs.

The challenge is in one's ability to overcome this harassment; some people try to integrate in and assimilate with Egyptian society, while others find it extremely hard to get over the harassment which affects their lives on a daily basis and their level of interaction within their communities. For me, living here for eight years and not knowing about my future constantly puts a psychological burden on me.

Why did you flee Sudan?

I was detained in Sudan for political reasons in a famous prison called "Kobar." The Sudanese government persecuted those who criticised its policies and if you were someone who was critical of it and outspoken, then you could be convicted for breaking the law and conspiring against the interests of the country. This is how Sudan lost many of its people. Some were kept in detention, some lost their lives, and some escaped to other neighbouring countries such as Uganda, and Chad. The people who left the country have suffered in two ways; internally in Sudan from the government's persecution and externally in the recipient countries where Sudanese refugees suffer as well.

To be completely honest, of course staying in Sudan was worse than living in Egypt because in Sudan the persecution is both verbal and physical; in Egypt it is mostly verbal harassment and sometimes bad attitudes. However, the Sudanese who chose to come to Egypt had certain expectations that this country that had long historical and cultural bonds with Sudan would be a better refuge for them. The question remains, have their expectations been fulfilled? The answer is relative, but at the time when the whole world condemned the war in Darfur, when over one million people lost their lives, we came to Egypt to find no sympathy or understanding of the conflict we escaped. The old Egyptian regime used to look at the Sudanese government and not the people and that's why the Sudanese refugees who come to Egypt are frustrated.

After eight years in Egypt, what is your status as a Sudanese refugee?

I am not a refugee yet! I still carry a yellow card which means I am a protected person and that I should not be returned to Sudan, but I am not yet a refugee. In 2004-2005, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees made a decision to stop conducting interviews for Sudanese people who want to be recognised as refugees. In 2009, I think they went back on that decision and started to conduct some interviews and granted a blue card to those in need or with dire medical needs. However, the percentage is tiny.

You were in Egypt when the revolution happened. How did the revolution change conditions for you on a personal level and for your refugee community?

When the revolution happened many refugees of different nationalities fled Egypt fearing the insecurity in the country. However, this does not apply to Sudanese refugees; they stayed. They were optimistic about what the Egyptian people did and they expected that Egypt after the revolution would be a better place for them. Many of the Sudanese refugees are politically aware and that's why they understand the transitional stage Egypt is going through. Now, we feel that the country is changing, even though it is not affecting us yet, but we are noticing it.

However, I also observe and hear many complaints about harassment that some Sudanese faced after the revolution, particularly women. Many of these incidents take place in slum areas that are harsh to live in.

Also, Sudanese refugees observe how the Egyptian people and civil society organizations are reacting towards the adversities that are taking place in Syria by organising workshops for the number of Syrian refugees who came to Egypt and wonder if these efforts have to do with racial discrimination. When Sudanese refugees came to Egypt, there was very little awareness about the war in Darfur and the millions who lost their lives.

Little help was provided to them. We did not want monetary help; we wanted psychological workshops to help refugees get over the traumas they experienced. It is saddening to see very different reactions for the same crimes against humanity and unfortunately colour is the first thing that comes to mind.

Currently Egypt is drafting its new constitution and soon new laws will be passed. What issues would you want to see addressed within the new constitution with regards to refugees?

There are priorities. We realise that the country is going through transition; this is not the right time to raise our demands. We should wait for Egypt to be more stable and for all institutions to be working at full capacity. Only then can we demonstrate our desire to revise the different agreements and processes applied to refugees in Egypt. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Racism 'harms children's learning'

Racism 'harms children's learning'

(UKPA) – 4 hours ago 

Children from families subjected to racist abuse are more likely to struggle in school, according to new research.

The study, by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, found that racial prejudice had an impact on children as young as five.

Youngsters from the families affected were found to be more likely to struggle with cognitive tests and faced more socio-emotional problems than other children their ages.

The findings were based on a study of 2,000 five-year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds and their mothers.

Of the women, more than one in five had experienced racist abuse, with 23% suffering verbal insults in the past 12 months, 20% reporting unfair treatment and 23% reporting unfair treatment of a family member.

Researchers found that their children were more likely to have socio-emotional issues - such as hyper-activity or problems interacting with their peers.

They also received lower scores in cognitive skills tests - a key influence on academic achievement - while the results also showed a small increased risk of obesity.

Professor Yvonne Kelly of Essex University, who carried out the research, said the findings showed how racism could affect the way families brought up their children. "Our findings suggest experienced racism or feeling fearful about racist victimisation might impact on what parents allow their children to do, and constrain their capacity to provide the conditions to foster healthy child development," she said.

"Living in an area where racist attacks are perceived to be common may lead to children spending less time outside the home environment than might otherwise be the case, thus limiting the breadth and interactions and experiences with others outside the home setting.

"This may be further compounded by the impact of poor parental mental health, linked to experienced racism and discrimination, which is in turn likely to lead to non-favourable parent-child interactions and parenting behaviours." for Social and Economic Research)

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