GRAMNet Film Series Launch Event

Wednesday 15th October 2014
Centre for Contemporary Arts, 350 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD
Doors open 5.30pm, screening starts 6.00pm

We are very excited to be launching GRAMNet’s annual Film Series this month with a very special double-bill screening…

The Film Series launch welcomes you along with members of GRAMNet and BEMIS Scotland to introduce the world premier of Pieter van der Houwen’s ‘Multicultural Homecoming’ as well as Basharat Khan‘s excellent ‘Future Memory in Red Road’.

The audience is warmly invited to join us in the CCA cafe following the screening to continue our informal discussion session over some refreshments and light snacks.

The screening is free of charge and everyone is welcome.
To guarantee a seat, tickets can be booked by visiting the CCA website: http://www.cca-glasgow.com. Tickets must be collected from the CCA Box Office by 5.45pm, otherwise they will be released back into the system.

Multicultural Homecoming
Directed by Pieter van der Houwen (2014)

Multicultural Homecoming option A

2014 is the year of Scotland: The Commonwealth Games, the Referendum, the Homecoming. All eyes have turned to this land of history and culture, stories and tradition. This is an opportunity for the Scots from all backgrounds to showcase that they are proud to live in Scotland, land of welcome. This documentary, shot during the Multicultural Homecoming 2014 initiated by BEMIS and the Scottish Government, shares an illustration beyond the clichés and makes us discover and celebrate the Heart of Scotland as a multicultural tapestry, a meshing of dances, music, sports and food. It gives the opportunity to reflect on notions such as identity and home where nationality is not a question of borders but it is a question of where the heart is.

Future Memory in Red Road
Commissioned by GRAMNet and Street Level Photoworks
Filmed by Basharat Khan (2013)

Future Memory in Red Road still (1)

2013, leading to a unique public event in May 2013 at the Red Road flats, North Glasgow.

The project was a collaboration that involved artists, academics, ex-residents of the flats and primary school, FE and University students in a series of creative workshops exploring the history of the Red Road Flats and the bond between memory, home and place.

The event included a sound-scape projected out from speakers located within the skeletal steel framework of 10/20/30 Petershill Court – offering the ultimate ghetto blaster! Photographic portraits were installed on fencing and garage doors and multi-coloured fabric sheets formed part of the visual interventions on the day.

Download our brochure here: GRAMNet Film Series Booklet 2014-15.

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‘We want to exchange our personal experiences of war, Sir’ *


by Nazmi Al-Masri

Children look at the rubble remnants of homes in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1121/El Baba)

Children look at the rubble remnants of homes in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. (Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2014-1121/El Baba)

 

This day is carved in my memory.

As all academics in Gaza, I had given much thought to my students who were suffering all sorts of agonies and worries caused by Israel’s aggression. After 40 days of atrocities caused by heavy bombardment and random artillery shelling, which destroyed thousands of houses and devastated countless families, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) did everything it could to make use of the three-day temporary ceasefire, which was extended for five days and then for another 24-hour period before it ended at midnight on August 19th, 2014. They decided to resume the classes on Saturday, August 16 that had so crudely interrupted summer semester.

I was unsure what to say to my students in my lecture class. Many agonizing questions occupied my mind, among them: Were all my students and their families safe or were any of them injured or maimed? Would they be mentally able to come to class? Were they still living at home, or displaced in some shelter? How did they feel about resuming class in the midst of such agony and grief? What tragedies had each of my students been through and how much were they comfortable talking about? Overwhelmed by these concerns and well aware of the deep wounds, loss, and hardship every single Palestinian in Gaza has suffered, I was not able to enter the classroom with a big smile on my face as I had always done in the past.

I noticed immediately that about 40% of the students were absent, they could well have lost their father, mother, brother, sister. However, as is custom in Palestine I greeted my class of 40 students with the idiomatic expression used in such circumstances: “Hello and Salam (Peace upon you all), all praise to Allah for your safety and welcome back to IUG.”

In low, sad voice the students replied: “Hello and Salam, all praise to Allah for your safety, Sir.”

I continued speaking, “Today we are not meeting to discuss a particular task or project. We’re here to exchange…”

Before I could finish, a student interrupted me: “We want to exchange our personal experiences of war, Sir.”

Without any hesitation I replied: “Yes, and that’s exactly what we’ll do. I am here to listen to you and for us to share our experiences. Who would like to start?”
One of the best students in class, Naji, began to speak: “I want to talk about three of my peers who are my partners in our graduation project, which we were supposed to submit last month.” Story-telling is part of the healing process that people go through in order to recover from bereavement and grief. I automatically responded “Please go ahead, Naji.”

In a broken voice, struggling to breathe normally, Naji began narrating his own tragedy.

“Before the Israeli attack on July 7th three of my friends and I were working hard to finish our joint graduation project due at the end of July, but we couldn’t. The problem was not getting the work done in time to graduate, but what happened to my partners, to my best friends. Approaching our final exams, we were all confident that we’d pass them all as we had done the past four years. We were keen to finish our graduation project and were looking forward to our new life afterwards. We worked hard, planned and talked about our life after graduation and how we wanted to help our families and build our future.”

Quietly, his eyes became heavy with tears and the words stuck in his throat. A few seconds later, he continued narrating his story of loss.

“It’s a unique tragedy that is different to any of the many tragedies we have learnt of so far. It isn’t a science fiction story, but something real that happened to my three friends at this university.”

Khalid – killed

“Khalid is one of my best friends, and the best of our project team. Khalid can never be forgotten; he has an amazing personality full of fun and life and energy. He is a fantastic and lovable friend and friendly to everyone.

“About two weeks after the attacks had started and during the most extreme atrocities in Shujai’iya on 20 July, I was listening to the news on the radio when I suddenly learned that Khalid had been killed when an Israeli rocket hit his house around midnight. His 55 year old father was buried under the rubble and severely injured his spine. Two days later I learned that his father was fully paralysed. Some of his other family members are still in the hospital and others are staying in the hospital yard used by hundreds of Palestinians families as a makeshift shelter.”

Saber – 2 legs amputated

“My friend Saber, who lives in the neighbourhood of Shijayia, was forced to flee his home with his family due to the random and intensive shelling of hundreds of houses in Shijayia. An Israeli artillery shell hit him as he fled. His two legs had to be amputated above the knees.”

Naji couldn’t finish narrating the tragedy of his friend Saber, because he began to cry. He wiped the tears from his eyes and released an extended sigh. Looking up at the ceiling, in a choked voice he said: “I can’t imagine what has happened to Saber. We used to play football and tennis together and used to go to the library, to the cafeteria, to the beach for a walk, to the sea to swim. We went everywhere on foot. . . . no more . . . no more. . . . I can’t bear to see my best friend without legs while I still have mine. I have not seen him yet, it hurts so much. To see my best friend in such agony, I can’t sleep for the constant nightmares and I can’t visit him.”

His anger rising Naji, started firing off questions; “Why do Israelis commit such unspeakable crimes against thousands of our civilians and families? Why do they massacre hundreds and hundreds of our children? Why do America and Europe support Israel blindly? Why do America and Europe provide Israel with such lethal weaponry to kill thousands of Palestinians? Why do they have the right to self defense but we have no rights at all? Why? Why? Why?!

I tried in vain to answer his questions but Naji cut me off: “I can’t understand! I understand nothing in this silent world of double standards!”

Salman – Displaced

Naji then began speaking of his friend and colleague Slaman from Beit Hanoon, which suffered extensive destruction of hundreds of homes. But this time as he spoke of the tragedy it was in the first person narrative, in Slaman’s voice.

“I will narrate his tragedy as he told it to me.

“At 2 am, while we were sleeping, a drone fired a warning missile on the roof of our 2-storey house of 17 people, my family and my uncle’s. With the help of my 2 teenager sisters, I desperately tried to move my 87-year old grandmother from her bed to her wheelchair. My mother carried my 5-month old brother and my father carried my 3-year old sister. Both fled the house in unprecedented panic. I don’t know how we got my grandmother into her wheelchair and onto the main road. We ran into the street barefoot and in our pyjamas. We ran like madmen down the main street for about 150 meters when we heard a huge explosion. Our home, all our happy memories, our belongings, our savings and all my academic work were destroyed.

“We are living in misery. In seconds we became homeless, like hundreds of thousands of others. We’re at a shelter in one of the UNRWA schools which lacks everything, nothing is sufficient. There’s no privacy, no hygiene, no water, no showers, no clothes. Mostly women and children, about 3000 of us here.”

After learning of these tragedies which happened to three Palestinian university students I know very well, my mind went totally blank. Then I’m reminded of Jane Austen: Ah! There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. Looking at the sad and pale faces of the other students in class, I saw no-one wanted to utter anything.

The only response to these three true heart-breaking tragedies was SILENCE, which turned into tears of sorrow, at the many passive people and governments in the face of Israel’s frequent and flagrant violations of international law in Palestine. Ironically, deafening SILENCE is to be heard everywhere except from people of conscience.

Upon hearing this real sample of the countless Palestinian tragedies, will SILENCE remain silent?

It is hoped that SILENCE would decide not be silent anymore.

It is hoped that SILENCE’s good, clear conscience would give and honor this eternal benevolent promise:

“I will never be passive or silent any more about Gaza, Palestine and any place in which international human right laws are violated”.

 
 
 

* This article was originally published on Mondoweiss on 26th August 2014.

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Thinking critically about power through Ketso


by Amy Watson*

Learning about Ketso and helping others to use it in their own work has, for me, been an exploration of the ways groups and individuals interact, the positives and negatives in some of these interactions, and how reflecting on and learning from this can lead to more egalitarian outcomes.

Ketso was developed in Lesotho and South Africa by Dr Joanne Tippett, through her work helping to better involve local people in the planning of their villages. Holding workshops and discussions with different communities, Joanne observed the reluctance of women to speak when men were present, despite the well-informed and insightful contributions these women made when not in a mixed gender group. To include multiple perspectives, Joanne began putting together an interactive ‘hands-on’ kit which focused on mapping and communicating ideas through writing and drawing rather than just through speaking. This approach does not privilege confidence, power, status in a decision-making hierarchy, or the ability to vocalise arguments in front of others. It instead represents each contribution as equal in the form of writing or an image on identical leaf pieces that are all necessary to construct a complete whole.

 

Ketso© participatory research method

Ketso© participatory research method

 

Ketso cannot erase the inequalities and hierarchies that it seeks to manage, but its process heightens awareness of them. This is one step towards wider and bigger change that can lead to these inequalities and categories ceasing to organise the social world. More immediately this awareness is crucial for ethical practice across a whole range of industries, projects and disciplines, and has helped me to think more critically about my own research and my role as a researcher.

Part of my research considers gendered experiences of post-socialism in the Czech Republic, and does so from qualitative perspective, using a mix of interviews, observation and questionnaires. Post-socialist states have not traditionally been afforded the prestige of many wealthier Western states, and this has often limited their political influence in spaces like the European Union. Whilst I think some of this asymmetry is now shifting, mindfulness of how this history and its legacies might affect my presence as a researcher from a ‘Western’ location has ongoing importance for the way I interact with my participants. My familiarity with Ketso and running of Ketso workshops has helped me to reflect more carefully on this.

For example, part of the Ketso process emphasises silence. The room is quiet whilst each workshop participant thinks about and writes down their contributions, giving space for each person to formulate their own ideas. After all contributions are laid out, discussion follows. Those who find talking about their ideas easier must then base their conversation on every contribution present, including the ones made by those who are more reserved in discussion. During this period of silence, some participants become restless and start talking to those around them – looking for confirmation of their opinion, asking what someone else has written down, what they think.

 

Artwork on the Museum of Romani Cultures†, Brno, Czech Republic. Photo: Amy Watson.

Artwork on the Museum of Romani Cultures†, Brno, Czech Republic. Photo: Amy Watson.

 

Whilst conducting interviews with some of my own research participants, I sometimes had a nervous temptation to fill a silence in our conversations with suggestions based on my own perspectives. I view this compulsion as problematic, and my resistance of it as important – why did I struggle to cede control and allow a pause to lead to my participant speaking, if that was what they wanted to do? Through speaking, was I asking my (Czech) participant to defer to my (‘Western’) opinions? A misunderstanding of someone’s thought process, and of the manners through which they express themselves, can lead to the restriction or erasure of their perspectives. Ketso has helped me to think more seriously about different routes to self-expression, and how these can be encouraged rather than omitted.

With Ketso, I have seen workplace hierarchies be disrupted as a less senior member of staff is finally able to articulate an idea in a forum where they feel they will be listened to. Ketso makes ignoring opinions difficult: they are right in front of you, written down. You have to face them. The harder part then becomes ensuring that this variety of perspectives continue to be faced once the workshop is over. In this sense, I view Ketso as just the start of a much bigger process. In the same way that my experiences with Ketso made me think and act differently in my own research practice, so a Ketso workshop can begin to shift the attitudes and behaviours of all those who participate, towards listening to and respecting all others as equals.

 

Artwork across from the Museum of Romani Cultures, Brno, Czech Republic. Photo: Amy Watson.

Artwork across from the Museum of Romani Cultures, Brno, Czech Republic. Photo: Amy Watson.

 
 

*Amy Watson is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow and a postgraduate intern at GRAMNet. She can be contacted via twitter.

More information about the Museum of Romani Cultures can be found here.

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You can’t keep emotions out of the Israel-Palestine issue, so don’t try

By Naomi Head, University of Glasgow

While an open-ended ceasefire agreement is currently holding between Israel and the Palestinian factions, it is clear that the rule of international law has failed in Gaza. The international community did little to prevent the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians –- mostly civilians – and the destruction of countless buildings, homes and core infrastructure.

I want to suggest we turn to the debate that has been taking place in the public sphere in Israel and the UK on the role of emotions and empathy. Recent public expressions of empathy with Palestinians have been met with very different responses in the two countries. In the UK the controversy has centred on journalistic objectivity and impartiality while in Israel such public and private expressions have been silenced and presented as illegitimate.

The UK reaction

The debate in the UK following the outbursts of veteran journalists covering the war ran in parallel with tensions around British policy towards Israel and Palestine, and increased protests and expressions of solidarity with Palestinians in the public sphere. The clearest example of empathy and compassion in journalistic reporting emerged in Channel 4 anchorman Jon Snow’s decision to film a YouTube clip recording his heartfelt and emotional reaction to the scenes he witnessed while reporting from Gaza.

While some commentators argued strongly that Snow’s intervention breached the journalistic code of objective reporting, others praised his open display of humanity. They suggested that behind such outrage lay a set of values and principles which our politicians would do well to heed.

This concern over objective journalism is indeed an important one and is premised on professional ethics which should not be undermined. It also raised a deeper question around the degree to which objectivity is ever possible. As reflected in criticisms of BBC coverage of the war for being pro-Israel, for example, impartiality is hardly apolitical.

In philosophy and, more recently in international relations, a strong rebuttal has emerged regarding the privileged position granted to reason, objectivity, and the rational mind of the individual. In its place, we have neuroscientific evidence which points to the intertwined nature of emotion and reason in decision-making, philosophical and psychological evidence indicating the importance of emotion in making moral judgements, in shaping beliefs and values, and in forming our identity.

The Israeli reaction

Alongside this debate in the UK was a rather more antagonistic – and equally emotional – one in Israel. It has focused on the fact that artists, journalists or academics who have voiced concern, sympathy, empathy or grief for Gazans in the recent war, let alone those who questioned the policies of the Israeli government, have been attacked personally and professionally. They have been intimidated; accused of betrayal, treason and being anti-Israel; and been the victims of incitements to violence. This silencing of dissent and the suffering created on all sides reveals deeply worrying trends within Israeli society.

These developments raise a fundamental question about the role of emotions in politics. While emotions may contribute to destructive behaviour and beliefs, lead to the incitement of violence and harmful speech, they also contribute to forms of moral judgement, solidarity, resistance and revolution which are core to traditions of democracy and vibrant political life. In different ways, this was visible over the summer in both the UK and in Israel.

I am not suggesting that emotion should substitute for analytical news reporting nor that it always leads people to the correct political decisions. The point is that if we remove from public life the elements of humanity that journalists like Snow draw attention to, we move a step closer to greater dehumanisation of others.

The impartiality debate might be fading in the UK, but now that the ceasefire is in place, the question remains whether the empathy, anger and outrage which has been voiced so clearly in the public sphere in the UK and in other countries will have a longer term impact on western policies towards Israel and Palestine.

The Conversation

Naomi Head does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.


We re-post this article as a contribution to the series of voices and reflections about Gaza from GRAMNet members and colleagues, which is hosted on this site.

 

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What goes with Dual Nationality? Valuing integration and equality.

by Sarah Craig*

The UK’s long-standing tolerance of dual citizenship, and the indications that, in the event of Scottish independence, r-UK would change its policy, and withdraw British citizenship from some Scottish citizens has been discussed previously on this blog and elsewhere.1 As explored further below, the likelihood that British citizenship would be withdrawn from those with ties to other countries (including rUK) is small, and rulings on the withdrawal of EU citizenship could be invoked to protect the British citizenship of those who would be affected (Barber (above), Tierney and Boyle).

For potential Scottish citizens, the threat of losing dual citizenship seems less of a worry than it might have been. However, by questioning the application of dual citizenship to the independence referendum context, the UK Government risks losing sight of the benefits of dual citizenship in terms of the integration of migrants and gender equality. It lays itself open to the charge that the UK Government, rather than the Scottish Government, is abandoning British values of communitarianism. It has also missed the opportunity to question other aspects of the Scottish Government’s citizenship proposals, such as its downplaying of the sovereignty aspects of citizenship.

Signs of a change in policy.

If the referendum results in a “yes” vote, it would of course be up to the r-UK Government to decide what its approach to dual nationality would be. In June 2013 the Home Secretary said that the UK Government’s decisions on the retention of UK citizenship by Scottish citizens after independence would be affected by future Scottish Government policy decisions.2 This signals the possibility, for some Scottish citizens post-independence, that their British citizenship could be withdrawn.

Existing UK policy and its benefits

The Home Secretary’s approach here marks a U-turn in existing UK policy on dual nationality which has been wholly accepting of dual (and multiple) nationality for the past sixty years.3

According to Fransmann, the UK accepted dual nationality because it stood for good race relations and integration. If retention of their citizenship of origin on becoming a British citizen would assist eligible migrants in the process of settling down in the UK, then this was seen as a good reason for not requiring them to renounce it.4 There are substantial numbers of people in the UK who have, or are eligible for the nationality of another country, although the precise numbers are difficult to assess because some countries of origin allow dual nationality and others do not.5 Dual citizenship reduces the barriers which eligible migrants face if they wish to naturalise as UK citizens, and strengthens their bond with the UK.

The policy of allowing dual or multiple nationality also benefits women because it can enable a married woman to retain her nationality, separate from that of her husband, and also transmit it to her children, rather than relinquish her nationality in favour of his. 6

Which Scottish citizens would be affected?

The possibility that they might lose their British citizenship is an issue which would be of greatest immediate concern to those Scottish citizens who acquire their citizenship automatically. The main groups of people to whom the Scottish Government proposes to grant automatic Scottish citizenship are British citizens who are (1) habitually resident in Scotland immediately before Independence Day or (2) were born in Scotland. Scottish citizens will be able to hold dual (or multiple) nationalities. (Draft Scottish Independence Bill, the Scottish Government, June 2014, clause 18).

HM Government’s Scotland Analysis document on Borders and Citizenship (January 2014) says that individuals who had, or were entitled to, British citizenship on the date of independence may have that right protected, although they also say that this right could be dependent on any residence requirements or proof of affinity to the continuing UK ( paragraph 4.9). That document also states that the approach taken would be likely to be consistent with that taken to former citizens of the Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland in the British Nationality Act 1981 ( paragraph 4.8), for whom dual citizenship is available under certain conditions. Bernard Ryan has suggested that British citizenship could be withdrawn from Scots born and continuously resident in Scotland who don’t have an appropriate legal connection to r-UK. He also indicates that the more conventional voluntary types of dual citizenship – such as those which apply to migrants- would be protected. 7

A real risk?

While the category of Scottish citizens who risk losing their British citizenship is unknown, it could be limited to those without a connection to the r-UK (e.g. by birth, descent or residence). They may also be able to elect to opt out of Scottish citizenship. Furthermore, CJEU rulings on withdrawal of citizenship could be invoked to protect their British citizenship rights. This could happen if Scotland’s membership of the EU took longer than the Scottish Government currently anticipates, and Scottish citizens thereby risked losing their EU citizenship rights if their British citizenship were withdrawn. As has been explained on this blog, (Barber, Tierney and Boyle above) the C JEU could be asked to protect the EU citizenship rights which Scots derive from their British citizenship. Looked at this way, the threat to British citizenship seems more imagined than real, at least in the medium term.

This begs the question – why raise the issue?

Yes and No perspectives

From the “Yes” camp’s perspective, the UK Government’s approach looks unfair. Why allow dual British and Indian or British and Canadian nationality, but not British and Scottish? For them, it provides another example of the UK Government being unwilling to think of the UK as a union of countries sharing some, but not all, patterns of governance and institutions, and progressing in that relationship.

From the “Better Together” perspective, choosing between Scottish and British citizenship flows from voting “yes” in the referendum. It makes sense because it sees Britain as a unitary state, part of which is choosing to leave.
The “Better Together” perspective might explain why the issue was raised. The problem is that, from the “yes” perspective, this looks like strong-arm tactics, a case of “this is what you can’t have”, rather than a deeper look at what the creation of a new state involves.

Conclusion

In its approach to dual citizenship in the referendum, the UK risks losing sight of the benefits – for integration of migrants and gender equality – of dual citizenship. But by threatening to change its approach, the UK Government has also created a space for the Scottish Government to occupy, which it has done by explicitly welcoming dual citizenship and the inclusive approaches that it brings. In so doing the UK Government has left itself open to the same charge that it has faced in its approach to the NHS: namely that it is the UK Government which has lost sight of British values of communitarianism, while the Scottish Government offers a chance to embrace them.

Of course it may be that the UK Government is not concerned about losing sight of integration or equality. Developments such as the extended possibilities for withdrawing citizenship on national security grounds, 8 and the recently introduced regulations on renting accommodation to migrants indicate as much. Whatever the reason, the UK Government has missed an opportunity to draw attention to the Scottish Government’s downplaying of the sovereignty aspects of citizenship, and its emphasis on soft borders. It has missed the chance to make the longer term point that soft borders now may not remain soft in ten or twenty years’ time, and that inclusive citizenship rules can change.

 
 

*Sarah Craig is a Senior Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Glasgow and Convenor for Law, Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration network (GRAMNet). This blog was originally published on the Scottish Constitutional Futures Forum on the 29th August 2014.

 
 

1. B Ryan “ At the Borders of Sovereignty: Nationality and Immigration Policy in an Independent Scotland” 2014 Journal of Immigration Asylum and Nationality Law 146

2. Theresa May, House of Commons Debates 10 June 2013, col 16.

3. Fransmann’s British Nationality Law 3rd edn, Bloomsbury, 2011 p27; C. Sawyer and H.Wray Country Report United Kingdom, EUDO Citizenship Observatory, November 2012.

4. Fransmann n3 above

5. Sawyer and Wray, n3 above p14.

6. Fransmann, opcit n3 above, pp27-28, Sawyer and Wray opcit n2 above.Fransmann, opcit n3 above, pp27-28, Sawyer and Wray opcit n2 above.

7. B Ryan,op cit, n1 above.

8. See e.g. Fransmann op cit n3 p31

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Bound by law to aid refugees*

by Linda Rabben

Pressured by the most xenophobic elements of American society, the Obama administration has asked Congress to expedite the detention and deportation of Central American children and families to countries where they may be in danger of torture and death. This is the administration’s panicked response to tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who are coming across the southern border, fleeing violence and persecution in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

Last month, the U.S. government acknowledged the terrifying violence these children are trying to escape, calling their migration a “humanitarian crisis.” Under such circumstances, the government has a clear obligation under national and international law to care for refugees while determining whether they qualify for asylum or other protections. It is our responsibility to treat them humanely and not return them to the countries they fled without due process.

Asylum seekers are eligible for such protection under a principle of international law called non-refoulement. It holds that governments can’t send refugees home if they are likely to be persecuted, tortured, or killed there. Governments have pledged to uphold this principle in treaties and other instruments of international law. But they often try to avoid enforcing it.

Why don’t governments like this idea? Because it means they have to decide, on a case-by-case basis and at great expense of time and money, if people asking for asylum or other protections are eligible for them. Often, these aren’t the kind of people many of us want in our country, so there may be a political price for doing the right thing.

Non-refoulement became well established after World War II. Before and during the war, governments turned away desperate Jews and others who tried to flee Germany and other countries controlled by the Nazis. Only a small proportion of the hundreds of thousands who tried to escape were able to find refuge in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. The United States and other governments repeatedly refused to admit Jews and other persecuted people.

Apparently shamed by countless stories of defenseless people sent back home to their deaths, the World War II victors included a non-refoulement provision in the Refugee Convention of 1951 and other international agreements. Article 33 of the Refugee Convention says: “No contracting state shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

Later documents, such as the Convention against Torture of 1984, built on earlier agreements. Article 3 of the torture convention says: “No state party shall expel, return (‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) – which only the United States and Somalia have not ratified – says: “States parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure that a child who is seeking refugee status or who is considered a refugee … shall, whether unaccompanied or accompanied by his or her parents or by any other person, receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance.” This and other international agreements consider detention or deportation of children to be a last resort.

Like other nations that have signed or ratified these agreements, the United States has put non-refoulement provisions in national law and then tried not to implement them. Yet time and again, governments look bad and provoke public outcry when they practice refoulement – especially if they proclaim themselves protectors of human rights at home and abroad.

For example, the U.S. government’s refusal to grant asylum to thousands of desperate Central Americans during the 1980s led to the Sanctuary Movement, comprising hundreds of religious congregations, universities, city governments, and advocacy groups. They gave refuge to asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras while campaigning to end U.S. support for repressive regimes in those countries.

Now our government is acting as if this history never happened and our obligations under international law do not exist. This is a scandal, a disgrace, and a betrayal of the principles we claim to stand for. So activists and good Samaritans are helping Central American asylum seekers once again. The Statue of Liberty still lifts her lamp beside the golden door.

Linda Rabben is a faculty fellow at American University’s School of International Service and the author of “Give Refuge to the Stranger: The Past, Present and Future of Sanctuary”.

*This article was published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, July 25, 2014, p. A27.

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Refugee Week 2014

by Ruth McKenna, GRAMNet intern for Refugee Week 2014

Scottish Refugee Council banner

Scottish Refugee Council banner

 
It has been around eight weeks since Refugee Week 2014 drew to a close, offering much needed time for reflection after the excitement, joy and sorrow of the weeklong celebrations. Under the Refugee Week 2014 theme of ‘welcome’, GRAMNet organised, or collaborated in, eleven events; from research symposia to film screenings, art exhibitions to language taster sessions. Members from across the Network were involved, as well as a variety of guest speakers from the Universities of St Andrews, Oxford and Plymouth, to name but a few.

Preparations for Refugee Week began in the spring, against an ever wearying backdrop. A few weeks before our first planning meeting, news broke of the death of Reza Barati, a 23 year old asylum seeker killed in an Australian offshore detention centre on Manus Island. Closer to home, it seemed that every week another boat would sink in the Mediterranean, killing hundreds of migrants and, indeed, this Tuesday, the UNHCR indicated that 1900 people have died this year in such incidents. Just a month before the beginning of Refugee Week, and right on our doorstep, the Immigration Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Immigration Act 2014 which, amongst other equally unpleasant provisions, places further limitations upon the immigrations appeals process and ‘[makes clear that] the right to a family life is not to be regarded as absolute and unqualified’. Juxtaposed against such disheartening conditions was the theme of ‘welcome’, selected by the Scottish Refugee Council to ‘send a strong message that refugees and those seeking asylum are welcome in our communities.’ Our task was therefore to compile a positive and celebratory calendar of events that would both extol the value and importance of refuge, whilst recognising the brutality and inhumanity faced by many refugees and asylum seekers.

Our event calendar began with a focus on the latter of these goals, with two seminars delivered by Professor Michelle Foster from the University of Melbourne. In the first of her seminars, Professor Foster discussed the difficulties associated with interpreting the term ‘membership of a particular social group’, within the context of determining whether someone should be treated as a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention. In the second of her presentations, Professor Foster focused on Australian Refugee Law, specifically with reference to the treatment of people who arrive in boats, as well as the use of offshore detention. A point that stuck with me from this presentation was the cruel irony of the fact that, whilst Australia accepts female refugees from Papua New Guinea upon the basis of gender based violence, it simultaneously maintains detention facilities on Papua New Guinean territory.

Whilst certainly embracing the academic elements of GRAMNet engagement with migration and asylum concerns, our Refugee Week calendar also reflected the community-focused aspects of the GRAMNet agenda. We continued the celebration with ‘Welcoming Languages’, a fantastically fun session that invited multilingual members of the local community to share their skills in langauge taster sessions. That evening, some GRAMNet members were also lucky enough to attend the Refugee Week Scotland launch event, which, by all accounts, was a burst of creative brilliance to formally launch the week of festivities.

 

Refugee Week Scotland launch

Refugee Week Scotland launch. (Photo: Katja Frimberger)

 
 
Our Refugee Week calendar continued with a ‘Social Media and Activism’ seminar, bringing together the social media coordinators from a variety of migrant support organisations, as well as interested members of the public, to discuss strategies for spreading information and encouraging action. We concluded our fourth day of events with a screening of the comical, but informative, short films produced by the Ethical Interpreting in Healthcare Settings project, to assist healthcare providers in effectively engaging with patients and their interpreters. These clips can be viewed here.

In a fusion of academic research and personal experience, the midpoint in our busy schedule was marked with a daylong session exploring ‘Migration and Initiate Lives’. Francesca Stella has spoken in more depth about this event in an earlier blog post, and I would reiterate her sentiment that the panel session involving Beverley Kandjii and Angeline Mwafulirwa, from the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, and Tanjeel Maleque, a solicitor from SILPA, was one of the most distressing, as the panelists reflected upon the various ways in which they have experienced, or witnessed, the intrusion upon, and destruction of, the private lives of asylum seekers and refugees.

Whilst hosting a variety of presentation and discussion based events, we also utilised a range of visual mediums to celebrate Refugee Week, including a film screening of Hamedullah: the Road Home and Future Memory in Red Road at the CCA. Hamedullah tells the story of Hamedullah Hassany, an Afghan teenager who sought refuge in the UK and who, shortly after his eighteenth birthday, was detained and deported back to Afghanistan. Future Memory told a different story of sanctuary, documenting a public event at the Red Road Flats in May 2013, which celebrated the various inhabitants of the flat, both historical and current. This screening perhaps best encompassed the dualistic ethos of Refugee Week; showcasing both the trauma and the positivity that can result from seeking refuge.

Our penultimate day of events was the busiest on the GRAMNet Refugee Week schedule, kicking off with a symposium on ‘Interculturalism and Translating Cultures’, organised by the Higher Education Academy. This fascinating event explored the benefits and challenges of multilingual teaching and learning, and had the added benefit of being held in the same building as the wonderful Narratives of Change exhibition, featuring the artwork of children on a range of themes related to asylum, refugee and migration issues.

 

Artwork from the Narratives of Change exhibition

Artwork from the Narratives of Change exhibition. (Photo: Ruth McKenna)

 

GRAMNet’s research open day began later in the afternoon and showcased a selection of research engaging with migration, asylum and refugee issues, including papers on the history of refugee camps, ethnic diversity in the UK and English language teaching in the Middle East. From this rather upbeat start, we progressed into a more solemn and thoughtful evening, as Mary Bosworth and Sarah Turnbull from the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford presented some of the findings of their work with former detainees. With minimal exception, the stories they shared reflected the wholly destructive effect that detention can have on all facets of life, from personal relationships to mental and physical health.

 

GRAMNet Research Open Day

GRAMNet Research Open Day (Photo: Ruth McKenna)

 

Our final event of the week was a Syria Briefings session, which developed from the work of the Syria Briefings group at the University of Glasgow. We were delighted to welcome Rana Khalaf, a researcher from the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews to present the keynote paper at this event. GRAMNet also established connections with Uniting Nations in Scotland (UNIS), a community group set up by members of the Syrian community in Glasgow, as we were keen to include a diverse spectrum of voices and perspectives. Despite the sweltering heat of the decidedly un-Scottish evening, the audience was crowded with University staff, students, and people from the local community, including a large number of UNIS members who had recently arrived in Glasgow from Syria. Rana talked at length about the role of civil society in Syria, and the way in which forms of such society have thrived, even during conflict.

Despite the traditionally academic format of the session – a PowerPoint presentation followed by a panel discussion – upon the completion of Rana’s paper, the room exploded into a vibrant cacophony of questions and comments in both English and Arabic. All of our panelists were bi-lingual and skillfully negotiated the discussion in both languages. Alongside the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group presentation at the Migration and Intimate Lives event, I found this session to be one of the most gut-wrenching, as audience members shared their experiences of the conflict in Syria. One teenage participant talked about seeing some of his school friends shot dead. Another interrupted Rana’s largely critical discussion of rebel group al-Nusra to explain that, despite their negative associations, al-Nusra had paid for his family to escape from Syria and he therefore regarded them with gratitude. For me, this event best represented the ethos of GRAMNet, in the bringing together of academic and non-academic communities, for the purpose of translating, in every sense of the word, research into an accessible, meaningful and person-centered format.

In that vein, the questions that were asked with most frequency at our events were ‘what I can do to help?’ or ‘what can I do to change things?’ Therefore, I have concluded this post with a few answers to these questions, suggesting different ways in which we can maintain the momentum of Refugee Week 2014 and work to improve the position of asylum seekers and refugees within Scotland and the UK.

 

The Scottish Refugee Council is currently recruiting for a variety of voluntary posts, including a Refugee Integration Volunteer (Holistic Integration Service) and a Third Country Nationals Project Casework Volunteer.

Scottish Detainee Visitors are currently recruiting volunteer visitors to provide emotional and practical support to people currently detained in Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre.

The Unity Centre is currently recruiting voluntary caseworkers, shop managers and café staff. If you are unable to volunteer, the Centre also collects donations of clothes, toys and other items for their charity shops. They also welcome donations of food to distribute to destitute asylum seekers.

In July 2014 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees launched an inquiry into the use of immigration detention. If you are an individual or group with experience of immigration detention, you can find out more about submitting evidence to inquiry here.

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Imagine you are a Palestinian academic or a student

by Nazmi Al-Masri* – Gaza

Imagine your university is bombed twice by the most advanced F-16 war planes on the planet, made and donated to Israel by the USA.

Imagine your office, computer, documents, books and files are completely destroyed or burned as a result of a heavy bomb deliberately hitting a six floor building in the middle of the university campus.

Imagine you can only travel for a maximum of 35 miles from south to north or 6 miles maximum from east to west for almost 8 years.

Imagine your home is completely destroyed and you lost EVERYTHING: your savings, happy memories, furniture, clothes, computer, books, etc.

Imagine, imagine and imagine more and more ……

These introductory scenarios are not science fiction at all – they are real and happening now in the bleeding and besieged but defiant Gaza.

For example, on Saturday 2nd August 2014, the Islamic university of Gaza (IUG) was deliberately attacked as described by the Israeli “Defense” Minister Moshe Yaalon in a press conference held on the same day. The arts and education faculties, the university personnel and finance departments and other departments were reduced to rubble in a matter of minutes. This is not the first time Israel has destroyed higher education facilities in Gaza: in December 2008, two other buildings hosting the engineering and science faculties were leveled to the ground.

All academic readers are kindly invited to use their imagination and reflect deeply on these nine real situations, which can also be used as real problem-solving and cognitive development activities.

Situations of domestic destruction

1. Your home is one of more than 10,800 homes bombed and destroyed or severely damaged1 (so far in this current assault) by Israeli F-16 warplanes. Your study room, laptop, books, documents, files, and personal belongings are all completely destroyed in seconds.

2. You are a member of thousands of Palestinian families deliberately made to suffer the murder of one or more of its members as a result of Israel bombing your home with such warplanes. Even worse, you are one of more than 70 families who have lost three or more member, i.e. eliminated.

3. You are one of about 10,000 Palestinian students who have completed all their courses required to graduate as an engineer, nurse, teacher, economist, IT specialist, etc., but you are not allowed to take your certificate for months or even more than a year until you pay the remaining tuition fees for the courses taken. (To assist needy students, Palestinian universities in Gaza allow students to register for courses without full payment of fees but their certificates are withheld until all fees are paid).

The inability of students to pay their fees is due to the increasingly deteriorating economic situation in Gaza as a direct result of the siege and the three destructive Israeli attacks on Gaza in the past six years. Many Palestinian parents cannot pay the remaining tuition fees for their sons and daughters because of the high rate of unemployed Palestinians, currently c. 40%. If students cannot obtain their certificates, they cannot apply for a job.

Travel-related situations

4. You are a university professor who has conducted a study and prepared a paper to present in an international conference. Eager, you have prepared everything needed to exchange ideas and experiences with other professors from other countries, but you are prevented from travelling because of the illegal siege and the attacks. Imagine you are one of these academics!

Over the one-year period from July 2013 to July 2014, I was supposed to participate in six international academic conferences and meetings as a partner in four international projects: three EU-funded projects (2 Erasmus-Mundus, one Tempus) and one British AHRC-funded project. Because of the siege and the current war, I could not participate in any of these academic gatherings, which were held in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Jordan, and Cyprus. Many other colleagues have similar problems.

5. You are a student who has worked hard under extremely difficult economic, academic and social circumstances to graduate from a local university. Despite the odds, you are dedicated to supporting your family and building your future. You obtain a bachelor’s degree, get accepted to a European university and win a full scholarship, despite the strong local and international competition for funding, to get a master’s or doctoral degree.

So far so good, but the agonizing journey begins with the draconic travel restrictions. First, you are lucky if you even get a visa in the space of a month after you have submitted all the required documents to one of the EU consulates located either in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Practically all Gazans are not allowed to exit Gaza to get to the relevant consulate. But let’s imagine you do manage to get a visa and start finding ways to leave Gaza.

According to Gisha, an Israeli-Based human rights organization, “more than 1,000 Gazan students apply to universities around the world each year but there is no official body or channel to coordinate their requests or exits.”2

To give a real current example, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) is currently a partner in four Erasmus Mundus exchange projects and c. 50 students and staff members have won full scholarships to join c. 30 universities in 14 European countries including the UK, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Cyprus, Belgium, Austria and Czech Republic. All these grant holders were supposed to get visas in July and join their orientation and study programs in August or September, but it seems this is not going to happen.

The besieged Gaza strip has no airport (Israel destroyed the only 3-year old airport in Gaza in 2001), no seaport and no control of its borders with Israel and Egypt. Palestinians in Gaza have to go through Cairo or cross Israel into Jordan to travel to any other country. To simplify this reality, imagine your country had no airport or seaport and you could only travel to other countries by crossing through two neighboring countries that border you.

Power/electricity-related situations

Over the last 8 years, Israel has bombed Gaza’s only power plant not once, but twice: on 28 June 2006 and 23rd July, 2014 respectively. What effect does this immoral bombardment have on academic life?

1. Imagine that you are an English language professor who has prepared a teaching video about British or American culture. You have spent a lot of time selecting your material and preparing tasks and exercises to be shown on an LCD projector. After just two minutes of the show, the power suddenly goes off without any prior notice and you do not know how long the outage will last for. Thirty minutes later, the power is back on for five minutes and then off for another 10 minutes, and so on. Imagine and reflect what this is like!

2. Imagine that you are a student in your final year of university. You have a final exam or important assignment to submit tomorrow and you need to use light and internet to study, but since 2008, the power has been off for least 12 hours per day, as Israel has prevented the import of sufficient fuel for the power plant.

It has taken me five days to finish and email this article because Palestinians in Gaza are denied electricity. During the past 2 weeks, we have internet access for around 1-2 hours per day for an unknown period of time.

3. Imagine that you are an academic or a student, and you have a lecture on the 6th floor of the university. You take the lift with 13 colleagues. While the lift is ascending, the power suddenly goes off and you get stuck and suffocated in complete darkness for an unknown period of time. Female students in the lift keep screaming and crying, including a pregnant lady. How do you feel?

To sum up, subjecting c. 2 million Gazan Palestinians (out of about 11 million Palestinians) to live under Israeli military occupation for almost seven decades, besieging and imprisoning them for more than seven years, and launching 3 destructive attacks in less than seven years, has numerous academic, economic, mental and psychological consequences for academics, students and parents. Discussing these alarming consequences in full is beyond the scope of this article. However, below are just a few effects which one cannot measure effectively but which hamper the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza strip.

Firstly, many academics, students and parents have developed chronic anxiety and hyper-tension. Understandably, they suffer from lack of motivation, are angry and frustrated.

The bitterness felt toward the international community, which takes no significant steps toward relieving the oppression, repression and injustice results in severe negative attitudes towards others. There is a serious lack of confidence in the international community, especially the governments of the so-called free and democratic world who have been watching constant violations of all sorts of human rights for years without taking effective actions to stop these violations.

The Palestinian academics and students have many legitimate questions. These include the following:

1. How long do we have to suffer to lead a normal academic life like other academics and students in other countries?
2. How long do we have to suffer to have a stable academic calendar, where we know we can plan to attend conferences and keep all academic dates?
3. How long do we have to suffer to have freedom of movement via our own airport, seaport or border crossings?
4. How long do we have to suffer to have power for 24 hours a day?
5. How long do we have to suffer the destruction of our homes, universities, schools, airport, hospitals, water desalination plants, power plant and other infrastructure?

Nobody knows when these unbearable restrictions and this suffering will become history apart from Israel, its strongest ally, the USA, and the EU governments who could force Israel to end its inhumane and illegitimate military measures – which plant seeds of hatred, violence and extremism – by lifting the siege, respecting human rights and above all ending the occupation. These steps would plant the seeds of tolerance, co-existence and peace.

I conclude this article with a quotation cited in the aptly titled humanitarian campaign, “Education in Gaza, a seed for peace”, intended to support Gaza’s education system. The campaign is an undertaking by the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia – Unescocat:3

In the long term, the profound psychological consequences and the pain deeply affecting children and young people makes it difficult for us to imagine a future with citizens educated within a culture of peace and free of violence for at least two generations.

As defenders of Human Rights in general and, specifically, the universal right to education (defined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child), we cannot remain impassive in the present situation.


1. UNRWA – Gaza Situation Report 33 – 10 August 2014
2. Gisha-Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, “Obstacle Course: Students Denied Exit from Gaza,” July 2009.
3. Campaign by the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia – Unescocat to support the right to education in Gaza “Education in Gaza, a seed for peace” http://www.unescocat.org/en/docs/GazaEducationCampaignEN.pdf.

*Dr. Nazmi Al Masri is Dean at Islamic University of Gaza.

This article was originally published by Mondoweiss on August 12, 2014. We re-post it here as part of the series of voices and reflections from GRAMNet members and colleagues in Gaza, or those with direct experience of researching in Gaza, which we will be publishing on this site over the coming weeks.

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belong

by tawona sithole*

Photo: Alison Phipps

Photo: Alison Phipps


 
where does a raindrop belong
resting in a cloud in the sky
when even a cloud can become overwhelmed
and burst into tears

where does a raindrop belong
whizzing through the atmosphere
at the speed of nature
before hitting the ground

hitting a roof, a treetop
a window pane, a blade of grass
hitting you in the face
before hitting the ground

then trickling and rippling
then rushing and gushing
at the speed of nature
before finding the river

before becoming the river
then flowing
and flowing
then to gather
together
to gather
together
before becoming the lake

where does a raindrop belong
resting in a lake in the earth
when even a lake can become overwhelmed
and let off some steam

where does a raindrop belong
floating through the atmosphere
at the speed of nature
before kissing the sky

ready to go
ready again to go again
it’s a cycle
a rain cycle

i am a raindrop
i am a raindrop
i am a raindrop
 

Protest in Glasgow City Centre

Protest in Glasgow City Centre


 

This poem is part of a series of voices and reflections from GRAMNet members and colleagues in Gaza, or those with direct experience of researching in Gaza which we will be publishing on this site over the coming weeks.

*Tawona Sithole is poet in residence at GRAMNet
 
 

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Lifelong Learning in Palestine

by Keith Hammond

This short update is part of a series of voices and reflections from GRAMNet members and colleagues in Gaza, or those with direct experience of researching in Gaza which we will be publishing on this site over the coming days.

One of our partners on the Lifelong Learning in Palestine (LLIPs) project was the Islamic University of Gaza. The good news is that all our colleagues are fine but the University has taken a little bit of a bruising (below) and many students and staff have been killed or seriously injured …
 

Islamic University of Gaza. Source :http://www.hanimortaja.com

Islamic University of Gaza. Source :http://www.hanimortaja.com


44.7% of the population are fourteen years of age and under. Many schools have also been destroyed but kids are back to their classes already. A much more detailed report will be posted on the GRAMNet blog as soon as we have more news.
 
Source: Palestine Chronicle

Source: Palestine Chronicle


 

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