Category: Blog

‘Netherlands: Ours Again’

The defeat of Geert Wilders — leader of the Dutch Partij Voor de Vrijheid (PVV) “Party for Freedom” — in the March general elections of the Netherlands was hailed as a triumph by European politicians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented the result ‘was a good day for democracy’, and French President François Hollande expressed the defeat of the PVV as a ‘clear victory over extremism’. While this sentiment of relief among European politicians is understandable in the jittery post-Brexit climate — it is clear that these politicians have missed the true nature of the Dutch elections. Not only did the PVV — champion of anti-refugee politics in the Netherlands — gain enough seats in parliament to become the second largest party in the country, but its xenophobic message permeated through to other parties and their public stances. Dutch Prime Minister Rutte’s infamous ‘be normal, or be gone’ message to asylum seekers is indicative of the anti-refugee shift in Dutch politics caused by the PVV. In truth, the Dutch election result is a victory for the politics of PVV — anti-refugee views have been normalised and legitimised.

Palestine Under Trump

There is no doubt that Trump’s incoming administration is going to drastically alter the relationship between Israel and the United States, with seemingly dire effects for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Obama, to his credit, worked hard to highlight Israel’s illegal activity in the treatment of its Occupied Territories, culminating in an historic UN Resolution denouncing the building of settlements on private Palestinian land. However, he failed to match this with any semblance of dialogue initiatives or diplomatic pressure to reach an accord, exposing a significant lacuna in his Middle East policy. Detrimentally, the Obama administration’s policy of denunciation has increased the strength of right-wing factions in Israel who thrive on international marginalisation and antagonism to support their claims of victimhood. Simultaneously, these actions have alienated the US in the eyes of the Israeli right, making them a less suitable partner for facilitating an agreement. In this light, Obama’s last ditch attempts to underline support for a two-state solution and to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in his final month as President smack of desperation.

Refugee Education: A Big Challenge

When a child is forced to flee their country, their educational process is interrupted and rarely continued. In September 2016, UNHCR launched “Missing out: Refugee Education in Crisis”, a report that indicates the decline in learning opportunities when children are forced to flee their homes. The majority of the world’s refugees – 86% – are sheltered by developing countries, with over a quarter of them hosted by the world’s least developed countries.  More than a half of the refugee children who do not attend school are located in just seven countries: Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey.  They live in areas where governments can barely afford to educate their own children.

Closure of Dadaab poses serious concerns for refugees

Dadaab, the largest refugee base in the world, is set to close by May 2017. Set up in 1991 to accommodate refugees fleeing from the Somali civil war, Dadaab has been hosting refugees for over 25 years.  The complex holds around 280,000 refugees, of which 260,000 are Somali. Plans to close the camp by the end of November were recently pushed back a further six months due to appeals from the UN and aid groups on the basis of humanitarian grounds.

Over 1 Million Afghan Refugees Returned to Afghanistan

Over 1 million Afghan refugees have returned to their country of origin. This is the largest influx of refugees returning to Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fell in 2011. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one-fifth of refugees returned involuntarily from neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.