Refugees everywhere are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are legally under the protection of the UN and Israel. Are these authorities meeting their obligations? Amahl Bishara talks to Badil director Nidal Al-Azza to find out and to learn how communities are coping.
Pharmacists in Turkey, like the author’s parents, are working overtime to serve their communities and to adapt quickly to shifting government orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. While steps are being taken to mitigate the impact of the virus on the most vulnerable, various forms of inequality entrenched across the country mean that certain groups suffer much more than others.
Jordan’s strict nationwide curfew and ban on car traffic in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is complicating crucial aid delivery to refugees. Amanda Lane, executive director of the Collateral Repair Project, explains how they are coping with the new restrictions and why the situation was already so precarious for refugees.
The Jordanian government’s severe restrictions on movement to contain the spread of COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting refugees and low-income Jordanians. While the government has established a national fund for needy Jordanian families, resources for the large population of already insecure refugees are drying up as international agencies scramble to shift gears.
The Israeli government is keeping many of the state’s archival documents classified, censored and out of the reach of potentially critical historians. But determined scholars continue to uncover tantalizing paper trails that challenge Israel’s air-brushed official narratives.
Catherine Besteman analyzes the new form of global intervention that is taking shape in the rise of militarized borders, interdictions at sea, detention centers, indefinite custody and the generalized criminalization of mobility around the world. The Global North—the United States, Canada, the European Union (EU), Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the Gulf states and East Asia—is investing in militarized border regimes that reach far beyond particular territories to manage the movement of people from the Global South.
Lisa Bhungalia Jeannette Greven and Tahani Mustafa argue that the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against the Palestinians—which gives Israel free reign to violently dispossess Palestinians while simultaneously withdrawing US aid for food, schools and hospitals—has both worsened Palestinian lives and has had the unintended consequence of weakening some levers of influence the United States holds over Palestinians.
Syrians experienced the largest single-day exodus of the war on March 15, 2018. Seven years to the day since the start of the uprising in Syria, some 45,000 civilians fled their homes in besieged Eastern Ghouta. The fact that such large-scale displacement took place over the course of a single day as the conflict entered its eighth year is a stark reminder that the displacement caused by the war has not abated and will not end any time soon.
The expansion of humanitarian aid in Syria and its neighboring states has gone hand-in-hand with a growing restriction on refugees’ right of movement and ever-stricter control over refugees’ personal information and biometric data. UNHCR and the Syrian and Jordanian governments share two interests in particular: to raise humanitarian funds and to centralize information and control over refugee populations.
On January 26, 2017, video footage surfaced of 22-year-old Gambian national Pateh Sabally thrashing around in the middle of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. Hundreds of onlookers were caught on camera jeering, gawking, waiting on the scene’s dénouement. As Sabally’s torso slowly disappeared under the wet, the water reached up to his neck. As his arms shot straight up, with nothing visible below the elbows, at least one person shouted, “Africa! Africa, oh!” Another demanded, “Butta il salvagente!” (Throw the life preserver!) as a boat full of tourists bobbed mere yards from Sabally who dipped and resurfaced with slowing frequency
On May 31, 2017, Fatah commander Col. Bassam al-Saad was juggling three telephones—two mobile phones and one landline—at his office in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, Ain al-Hilweh. As the commander of the Joint Palestinian Security Force (JPSF), the defacto military police of the self-governed camp, the colonel was in the process of overseeing the deployment of his roughly 100-strong force. Entering a particularly sensitive area in the war-torn Tiri neighborhood following devastating clashes in April between the JPSF and a local Islamist group, he was also juggling the ratio of police from each political faction to ensure a smooth operation.
It was a sunny and warm day in February 2015, in the midst of an otherwise atypically rainy and cold Sicilian winter. Awate and Drissa sat next to one other on the edge of the covered balcony at the small reception center for asylum seekers where they lived. Both wore headphones but their bodies moved out of sync as they followed the different rhythms that pumped into their ears. Driving past the center with his car window down, Roberto commented as I sat next to him: “They always seem so relaxed, with their headphones and flashy shoes. They are taken care of. I wish someone would think about me, too.” Roberto is an unemployed graduate in his mid-twenties, who was born in Sicily and lives with his parents just a couple of blocks away from the center. Roughly the same age as Roberto, Awate escaped indefinite forced military service in Eritrea, and Drissa fled abuses of both armed groups and state security forces in Mali. They both reached Sicily in 2014 after surviving a sea journey along the deadly central Mediterranean route departing from Libya. Unlike many migrants who arrive in and quickly leave Sicily, Awate and Drissa decided not to embark on another uncertain journey toward a northern European destination, and instead entered the institutional maze of Sicilian reception centers for asylum seekers. Awate was forcibly fingerprinted and thus obliged to apply for asylum in Italy according to the Dublin Regulation. Drissa felt exhausted after years on the move and a particularly traumatic sea experience—the boat he was on capsized and he was rescued by the Italian navy just when he thought he had no strength left to stay afloat. His plan was to stay put and try to find what he called “peace and stability” in Italy. However, what Awate, Drissa and many other asylum seekers mainly have found so far is a widespread climate of suspicion and resentment. The comment made by Roberto, their new Sicilian neighbor, is just a small sign of such tension.
In late 2015, hundreds of Sudanese staged a sit-in outside the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Amman, Jordan. Their hope was to obtain recognition of their rights as refugees and asylum seekers, and to receive better treatment from the agency. A previous protest in 2014 had ended when Jordanian police persuaded (or compelled) the Sudanese to leave the site. This time, however, after the Sudanese had camped out for a month in the posh neighborhood of Khalda, the police arrived in force in the early hours of a mid-December morning. They dismantled the camp and transported some 800 protesters and others—men, women and children—to a holding facility close to Queen Alia International Airport.