June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in IOM (18)


International Organization for Migration and Partners Relocate Displaced Malians from Niger's South-western Border (Report) 

(PHOTO: The ICRC registers Mali refugees returning from Niger/ICRC)IOM, in partnership with the Government of Niger and UNHCR, has relocated more than 500 vulnerable Malian families from insanitary and overcrowded makeshift settlements in and around the south-western border village of Sinegodar to a safe site away from the volatile border region.  

The operation, which was launched on March 17, has so far succeeded in relocating 2,114 individuals from Sinegodar to Abala, some 80 kilometres to the south.     

"Some of the Malians in Sinegodar have told IOM they are reluctant to be relocated further south since they hope to return home to Mali as soon as security conditions permit," says Abibatou Wane, IOM's Chief of Mission in Niger.

"Apart from security considerations, this relocation is essential to alleviate the pressure on local populations living in food insecure areas and villages such as Sinegodar, which simply cannot meet the needs of so many newly arrived people," she adds.  

Prior to departure, IOM staff registered the departing families and ensured that everyone was fit to travel. It also provided water and high energy biscuits. IOM medics were on hand to assist vulnerable people with special needs.

Some 28,000 people, including at least 4,500 Niger nationals, have crossed the border into Niger to escape fighting in northern Mali between government forces and fighters from the Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azawad (MNLA.)  

IOM is now working with international and local partners to continue the registration of Malians who are scattered across inhospitable desert border areas and to organize their relocation further south.

Despite the assistance provided by humanitarian agencies, living conditions in the border area continue to be difficult for Malians and the local population alike. According to Niger's Early Warning System (SAP), more than six million Nigeriens are in need of food aid.

"A combination of drought, insecurity and population inflows from neighbouring Mali and Libya has further aggravated the situation in a region which is already facing severe food shortages and malnutrition. To cope with increased food prices and shortages, families are now having one meal a day. Others have sold whatever they had and migrated to urban areas in search of jobs," says Wane.

--- Find more of IOM's work at www.iom.int


South Pakistan Flood Victims Still Struggling (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, November 25, 2011) - Three months after the worst floods in southern Pakistan's history, nearly three quarters of a million people remain displaced in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, and a third of the affected area remains under water.IDPs at a relief centre at the Sindh Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority College in Badin. Credit: IOM

According to aid agencies, of some 800,000 homes severely damaged, some 328,000 were totally destroyed.

Pakistan's government believes that up to twice as many households may have been affected. 

A recently released aid cluster report estimates that just over half of affected families have received tents or plastic tarpaulin shelter kits.

Thousands of people are still living in the open with little or no shelter facing falling temperatures with the onset of winter," says International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Pakistan Emergency Manager Tya Maskun.

"Shelter cluster agencies have about 45% of the funding that they need, but most of that money is focused on emergency shelter. We calculate that we are only meeting about 10% of the need for NFIs like kitchen sets, blankets and sleeping mats, most of which were swept away in the floods," she adds.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM


UN, Children's Group Slams Italy Decision to Close Migrant Port (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, September 30, 2011) - Using strong language somewhat uncharacteristic of the United Nations, the world body joined with the respected Save the Children to slam an Italian Government decision to close a port that has become a crucial transit point for refugees fleeing the violence and unrest in North Africa.

Lampedusa was declared an unsafe port by the Italians yesterday, meaning that aid groups are unable to transport refugees there.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Save the Children have been working together since 2006 at the Reception and Rescue Centre of Lampedusa.

The three groups said in a news release Friday: "This decision could undermine the entire rescue at sea system for migrants and asylum seekers and at the same time could make rescue operations much  more hazardous and complex.

"Since it is no longer  possible to dock in Lampedusa, the ability of the Coast Guard and the "Guardia di Finanza" to carry out rescue at sea will be compromised by the distance they will have to travel to reach the next safe port, e.g Porto Empedocle, 120 nautical miles away. This would have severe implications on rescue operations when the weather is bad, or when it involves transporting people in need of urgent medical assistance, minors and other vulnerable individuals."
Aid groups say that migrants are hosted in the centre only for a minimum period of time to allow for assistance and identification before being transferred to appropriate facilities elsewhere in Italy.
"It is important that Lampedusa remains a safe harbour in order to save lives," the release said.

For its part, Italy says it cannot cope with the high numbers of migrants ending up on its shores. More than 48,000 have reached the shores of southern Italy since the start of the year.

Recently, 11 people were injured after refugees clashed with riot police on Lampedusa after hundreds of protesters -trying to resist repatriation - burned the reception centre down.

The organizations are also expressing their concern over the recent de facto detention of migrants on ships and question its legal basis and the conditions under which the migrants are kept.  The groups said they want the practice stopped, that "appropriate solutions" are found as soon as possible in line with existing provisions in Italian and  international law.

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


Late Monsoon Rains Pound Pakistan; Millions Affected (NEWS BRIEF)

A year after the devastating floods in Pakistan, families are trying to rebuild their lives, homes and livelihoods. CREDIT: UN(HN, September 13, 2011) - Just a few weeks after the commemoration of the one year anniversary of the worst floods in Pakistan's history, the South Asian country is again bracing itself for another humanitarian disaster from late and heavy monsoon rains.

The percipitation began a month ago and have to date affected some 5.3 million people, according to government estimates. 

An estimated 279,300 displaced people are now living at some relief sites, including public buildings and other temporary settlements.

Over a million homes have been destroyed or damaged, 4.2 million acres of agricultural land has been inundated and over 200 people have died, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The latest floods come as the country is still recovering from the worst floods in its history just a year ago in which 20 million people lost their homes. So far 200 deaths have been recorded, and UN aid agencies are stepping up their response.

Heavy rains resumed at the weekend and are forecast to continue through the next three days, affecting districts including Badin, Mirpur Khas, Tharparkar, Umar Kot, Thatta, Hyderabad, Shaheed Benazirabad, Dadu and Larkana, as well as Karachi and eastern parts of Balochistan.

Karachi, the country's commercial capital and largest city with more than 13 million people, has endured several times the normal rainfall for September. A HUMNEWS correspondent said her family in Karachi is suffering the effects of "a total shut-down and washout."

According to GEO News, all schools, colleges and universities are closed in Karachi; one Internet consultant said his area has been without power for 12 hours.

"The rains are showing no sign of abating and this disaster is still evolving. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people already need emergency shelter and, as in 2010, the inaccessibility of flooded areas is going to be our biggest challenge," says Arshad Rashid, an official with the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM).

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


Foreign Migrant Labour Being Exploited - in Iraq (NEWS BRIEF)

In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion. International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, CREDIT: IOM(HN, August 16, 2011) - As western nations withdraw from Iraq amid a flurry of reconstruction projects, shocking tales are emerging of abuse of foreign migrant workers.

In some cases the situation is so dire that the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been forced to step in to assist the victims.

In the latest case, the IOM provided humanitarian assistance to a group of 35 Ukrainian and Bulgarian workers left in desperate straits by their employer in Iraq.

In another case this month, more than two dozen boys from Punjab approached the Indian mission in Baghdad for help, saying they were trafficked into Iraq and forced to clear defused and live ammunition for preparing fields for agriculture. The young victims were promised $800 every month, but were not paid any money for months and forced to live in inhumane conditions, India Today reported.

Earlier today, at a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS, the IOM appealed to private companies to honour their obligations to take care of their workers and follow national immigration, labour and human rights norms.

IOM staff found the abuse during several visits a day to a construction site where the migrants are living in crowded, dark, dirty and unventilated conditions. Staff brought food, water and medical assistance. 

The Ukrainians and Bulgarians being assisted by IOM are part of an original group of 217 migrants, including Nepalese, recruited to work on a construction project inside the international zone in Baghdad in December 2010. 

According to IOM, the men, who had been promised salaries of US$2,500 when hired, have so far only received a few hundred dollars despite having worked very long hours for months. When a sub-contractor absconded, work on the construction site stopped, leaving the migrants without money or clean water and little access to food. 

With their employer also having failed to get them the necessary residency permits as promised, the migrants automatically became undocumented workers. 

Some of the 217 migrants have been moved to work on another site while others have succumbed to pressure by the employer and agreed to leave the country for a one-time payment of US$1,000. However, after being forced to pay their transport home and charges for overstaying a 10-day visa, the migrants were left with little money. 
The 35 migrant still at the site are living in unsanitary conditions and without electricity. Some of the migrants have health problems related to poor food intake and drinking unsafe water. Having borrowed money to pay recruitment agents to get the job in Iraq in the first place, the migrants are in debt which they are unlikely to pay off unless they are paid their salaries.

"As an immediate step, their salaries need to be paid, for the employer to stop threatening them to leave the country without due remuneration and for the migrants to eventually be assisted home in a safe and dignified way," says Livia Styp-Rekowska, from IOM Baghdad. "In this particular case we are fortunate that the migrants are in the International Zone and we have direct access to them. This is not true of the vast majority of the migrant exploitation cases we know about."

IOM says the case highlights the need for more long-term responses to foreign labour exploitation in Iraq as contractors, many of them foreign, take advantage of reconstruction efforts. 

While many are aware of the problem of internal displacement in Iraq, the same cannot be said of human trafficking for labour or for migrant exploitation. 

"This is a very serious problem in the country. Many if not most of the foreign workers in Iraq are undocumented through no fault of their own, leaving them in an extremely vulnerable position," Styp-Rekowska adds. "We are talking of many tens of thousands of foreign workers. What is needed to stop this kind of exploitation is a comprehensive labour migration policy in Iraq and for the new counter-trafficking law to be passed by parliament combined with an effective system that protects trafficked or stranded migrants."

Labour mobility, says IOM, is a key feature of globalization with a significant impact on the global economy. In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion.

International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, IOM says.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM


Thousands Fleeing Conflict in Sudan's Disputed Abyei Region (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN May 27, 2011) - Thousands of people are fleeing the conflict in the disputed Abyei region between north and south Sudan, prompting aid agencies to rush support to neighbouring areas and triggering a harsh condemnation by the UN's human rights chief.

As the security situation in the area continues to be volatile, the UN and other agencies are providing trucks, essential non-food relief items, fuel and medicines to support humanitarian operations. However continued violence has forced some mission back.

Northern troops, aircraft and tanks overran the border town of Abyei on Saturday, sending 40,000 residents fleeing and drawing condemnation from the international community, saying the action is a threat to peace between north and south.

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today called on both sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and respect international human rights and humanitarian law. “I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sides – this is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan,” she said.

“I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir bridge. I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.”

Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at a press briefing today in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS that it was also possible – but not confirmed – that UN offices and stocks in Abyei have been looted. 

Reports suggest that tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have poured into Southern Sudan's Warrap, Unity and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many are in need of food and water and, with the recent heavy rains, may be vulnerable to water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections. 

IOM says it has registered four truck loads of IDPs who arrived in Turalei in Warrap State on May 25th.  A further 1,000 IDPs arrived yesterday, May 26th , in Wunrok, south of Turalei. 

IOM, which has registered some 6,500 IDPs in the past two days, has also provided transport for 138 IDPs who were walking towards Gogrial West, south west of Wunrok.

IOM is also distributing 1,000 kits containing non-food relief items, including plastic sheeting, jerry cans, mosquito nets, soap, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking utensils in Mayen Abun, and Turalei in Warrap State. It is also helping to construct emergency latrines.

Tracking and assessing the displaced population has been difficult because many people are still on the move or are hiding in the bush.  The continued heavy rainfall has made some roads impassable and this has impeded access to areas where IDPs may be sheltering.

Also in the works for longer term assistance, which will include providing trucks to humanitarian organisations, coordinating the distribution of non-food relief items, procuring equipment to treat and distribute clean water, and organising the return of IDPs back to Abyei, once the crisis is over.  

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


As IOM Rescue Operation for Migrants Stranded in Misrata Continue, Many Thousands More Migrants Need Urgent Help Elsewhere (NEWS BRIEF)

(April 20,2011) A third IOM-chartered boat bringing more humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata is due to arrive in the port later today with the aim of rescuing more stranded migrants.

The boat, the Ionian Spirit, left Benghazi on Tuesday night carrying 500 tons of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and non-food items donated mainly by the Libyan private sector with some aid provided by Qatar and the U.A.E. Red Crescent. 

A Libyan non-governmental organization Libaid has donated the hygiene kits, medical supplies, hospital wheelchairs and four generators for hospital use.

Also on board are a team of 13 doctors with differing specializations. Two of the doctors who will relieve colleagues working in the hospital in Misrata will also refer critical but stable cases to IOM for evacuation to Benghazi.

"The presence of a large group of doctors with different specializations means greater capacity and more flexibility to assist those critically wounded or sick on board for the return journey to Benghazi," said IOM operational leader Jeremy Haslam as the boat departed.

However, the main focus of this third IOM operation to rescue stranded migrants in Misrata is to bring as many migrants as possible to safety.

In particular, the Organization is hoping to target a large number of migrants from Niger. Of the estimated 5,000 migrants around the port area, more than 3,200 are believed to be Nigeriens. 

"We don't know whether we will be able to reach them, however. If they are not close to the port, then it will be extremely hard to access them given the security conditions in the city," Haslam added. 

In two previous missions funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), IOM has rescued more than 2,100 people from Misrata, nearly 100 of them Libyans. 

New funding of one million Euros from the German government and £1.5 million (US$2.4m) from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) will allow IOM to continue its rescue operations from Misrata where about 5,000 migrants are still believed to be stranded, to the eastern port city of Benghazi.

However, a critical shortage of funds means that while the migrants are brought to relative safety in Benghazi, they will remain stranded there without additional means.

"Taking the migrants out of the line of fire is life-saving, but by not being able to take them out of Libya and safely home means their plight has simply been transplanted to another location," says IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker. 

"This is true for all the migrants who we need to help inside Libya and for those who have managed to cross Libya's borders with its neighbours."

More than 5,000 migrants on the Egyptian, Tunisian and Nigerien borders with Libya are still in need of evacuation to their home countries.

Among the many identified groups of migrants needing urgent evacuation from inside Libya are a group of nearly 30,000 Chadians, including women and children, marooned in Gatroun. IOM is in discussions with the Libyan and Chadian authorities on accessing the group.

It comes as the number of Chadians crossing into Chad from Libya has dramatically increased with a growing number of the migrants stranded in northern towns such as Faya and Kaliyit. The migrants are all dehydrated, extremely tired and in need of food.

An IOM transit centre at Faya, where UNHCR has provided tents to accommodate arrivals, which has a capacity of 750 people is now overflowing.  

"An airlift to Ndjamena is the only option. But again this is a costly operation," Abdiker states. "We are in a position where we have beefed up our operational presence at the Chadian border points to cope with the number of arrivals but we have no money to evacuate the migrants from these isolated desert areas to the Chadian capital."

Working with various Embassies, an IOM operation begun some weeks ago to evacuate stranded migrants in Tripoli by bus to the Tunisian border will be difficult to continue.

Only yesterday, 19 April, IOM evacuated a group of 100 Beninois migrants from the Libyan capital, including women and infants. 

IOM appealed for about US$160 million dollars for its response to the Libyan crisis with much of the funding to provide evacuation assistance from both inside and outside Libya. The Organization has received to date US$65 million, all of it except the new funding spent on operations that have helped return more than 115,000 migrants return to their home countries and evacuate many thousands from inside Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.

- Source:  International Organization for Migration 


Exodus Increases as Violence Flares in Abidjan (NEWS BRIEF)

Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia. CREDIT: UNHCR(HN, March 20, 2011) - As the situation in Ivory Coast deteriorates due to post-election violence, the flow of displaced people from the commercial capital of Abidjan continues to grow.

UN agencies now estimate that as many as 30,000 people have been displaced in Abidjan alone. At the same time an increasing number of migrants and Ivorians are fleeing the country, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In recent days, fighting between the internationally recognized President, Alassane Ouattara and his rival for the presidency, Laurent Gbagbo, has escalated and more people are being killed and injured. Officials say it has been the worst week since the post-elkection crisis began in December.

After Nigeria, Mauritania has one of the biggest migrant populations in the country. An estimated 40,000 Mauritanians are living and working in Ivory Coast, 10,000 of whom are in Abidjan, according to the Mauritian Embassy in Abidjan.

The vast majority of them either own or work in small business and are men without accompanying families. Mauritanian migrants say they feel particularly threatened and targeted and as a result, want to return home. Some have had their shops looted while many have witnessed much violence.

The Mauritanian Embassy had already evacuated 2,200 of its nationals by bus but still has several hundreds of its nationals remained camped out in the embassy compound and on surrounding streets. Another 1,000 were schedule to be moved this weekend.

- HUMNEWS staff


As Exodus of Migrants Continues From Libya Gaddafi Asks Them to go Back to Work (NEWS BRIEF)

A Nigerian migrant worker who fled the unrest in Libya waits at the Libyan and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdi CREDIT: AlertNet(HN, March 19, 2011) - As thousands of foreign migrant workers continue to stream out of war-torn Libya, the marginalized leader of the country has pleaded for oil field workers to come back to work.

In another bizarre news conference, Colonel Gaddafi said: "We need the workforce to come back and work in the oil fields so that we can resume production."

The plea comes as UN officials say thousands of distressed migrant workers - mostly from Sub-Saharan African countries - continue to stream across Libya's borders.

The latest batch to cross were thousands of Niger nationals who arrived by a convoy of trucks.

On Friday alone, at least 2,000 migrants crossed over the border to Niger and to the Dirkou transit camp, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). They arrived in 18 trucks and extremely hungry after a long trek across the desert. Reports are coming in of another 70 trucks of Nigerien migrants headed towards the border.

The exodus has overwhelm border towns like Dirkou - which only has 4,000 residents but now hosts a population of stranded migrants numbering 4,200. Long waits to get home and difficult conditions has sparked occasional violence, the IOM said.

Yesterday a large group of 204 Mauritanians - including 37 women and 48 children - were evacuated by the UN to their homeland. They had been stranded in the transit camp for more than two weeks.

"The situation for the migrants has been understandably difficult," said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM's Director of Operations. "They are impatient to go home and reach safety. They have already lost their money and possessions after in addition to having fled Libya in difficult circumstances."

- HUMNEWS staff


Horror Stories Emerge as Migrants Fleeing Libya Reach Safety (Report)

(HN, March 5, 2011) - UPDATED 0930GMT - As migrants attempt to flee an increasingly dangerous Libya, horror stories are beginning to filter out about desperate measures taken to escape the carnage.

It was previously believed that most of the exodus of more than 100,000 people in the last 10 days consisted of fit young men - but there are also many vulnerable women and children, it has emerged.

On Thursday, 40 particularly vulnerable West African migrants - fearing for their lives given the targeting of Sub-Saharan Africans and desperate to leave Libya - said they had paid a human smuggler to take them to Egypt in a sealed and refrigerated truck.

For African migrants - many from poor, small countries that lack the ability or desire to repatriate their nationals - there are countless bitter tales of targeted treatment in Libya.

Some Eritreans said that in the 160 kms from Tripoli to the Tunisian border, they had been stopped 20 times and totally dispossessed of all their money and belongings.

A Chadian migrant recounted the increasing violence at night-time in Tripoli that had led to great terror among him and others.

Many arrive at border crossing with just a blanket and few belongings. Aid agencies say that as the migrants flee, employers refuse to pay them weeks or months of owed back wages.

"The problem is that there are a number of them arriving at the border without proper documents and without a visa to enter Egypt," said UN  official Roberto Piteo.

But the most horrifying account is that of Ike Emanuel, a 35-year-old Nigerian migrant, who interrupted his journey to bury his 6-month-old baby girl in the desert last week after she died of exposure on a desperate trek to escape Libya.

"I lost my baby. She died and we buried her in the desert," Emanuel told Reuters. "We spent three days in the desert and she was a little baby of six months and she could not endure the cold," he said. "I am going home with nothing, going home again without my baby which can be my future."

Reports also quote many Bangladeshi migrant workers complaining harshly about the lack of any response from their government. In an appeal written on a bed sheet, they urged Tunisia and the world to "save the lives of 30,000 Bangladeshis".

Some returnees have been quoted in the Bangladeshi media as saying that they faced starvation due to the lack of consular assistance.

Shaheed Uddin, a Bangladeshi migrant worker from a camp in Tripoli, said Libyans set fire to a labour camp and looted valuables Thursday night. The camp housed around 1,000 Bangladeshi workers. One Bangladeshi was killed and some others got injured, he claimed.

"Those Bangladeshis then fled wherever they could," he told The Daily Star of Dhaka, adding that such incidents have become regular and his camp housing 300 workers could be next.

In response to an official request from the Government of Bangladesh, the UN has had to step in to fill the lack of responsiveness from Dhaka. There were at least 60,000 Bangladeshis in Libya prior to the uprising.

More than 640 Bangladeshi migrants were evacuated from the Libyan port city of Benghazi Thursday via a road convoy by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and escorted by the Libyan Red Crescent to the Egyptian border crossing at Salum. IOM will then organize for their return home to Bangladesh in the days to come.

Sadly, some African migrants have no hope of assistance from their governments. Giovanni Martinelli—a Catholic bishop and the vicar of Tripoli—says hundreds of Eritreans showed up at St. Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli last Sunday seeking help, according to one published report. Many of the Eritreans are Christians that fled persecution in their home country.

Even for Egypt, which had an estimated 1.5 million of its nationals working in Libya, the sudden burden of hosting the returnees is not an easy task for the interim military governments. What is more, the flow of remittances from these migrants will come to a sudden halt - creating a knock-on effect for vulnerable families back home.

In the past few days, IOM staff had located several thousand migrant workers from many nationalities in the port at Benghazi and the surrounding warehouses with the largest groups comprising Bangladeshi, Indian and Sudanese migrants. This morning, another 500 Bangladeshi migrants arrived at the port compound in a two-hour period.

IOM staff in Ras Ajdir report that an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis already on the Tunisian side of the border, decided to walk the 8km distance to a UNHCR camp today. In a five kms long column, the migrants carried their luggage as best they they can. Some of them, all young men, say they had walked from Tripoli to the Tunisian border.

In Egypt, where IOM is also providing registration and humanitarian assistance to migrants at the Salum border crossing, has so far evacuated 1,079 migrants, mostly Bangladeshi but also including

Ghanaian, Malians and Filipinos.

IOM staff in Ras Ajdir report that an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis already on the Tunisian side of the border, decided to walk the 8km distance to a UNHCR camp today. In a five kms long column, the migrants carried their luggage as best they they can. Some of them, all young men, say they had walked from Tripoli to the Tunisian border.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM


Displacement of Migrants From Libya Now Full-Blown Humanitarian Crisis (Report)

(HN, March 2, 2011) - UPDATED 1440 GMT - The situation at the Libya-Tunisia border is at a crisis point, with as many as 15,000 people crossing a day from Libya.

"We can see acres of people waiting to cross the border. Many have been waiting for three to four days in the freezing cold, with no shelter or food," said Ayman Gharaibeh, head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) emergency response team at the border. "Usually the first three days of the crisis are the worst. This seems to be getting worse by the day," he added.

More than 75,000 people have crossed the Tunisian border since 19 February, the vast majority Egyptian nationals. An estimated 40,000 more are waiting to enter from the Libyan side of the border. The majority are from developing countries such as Niger, Chad, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, and Vietnam.

There are also sizeable populations of migrant workers stuck in Tripoli, which is becoming increasingly tense and dangerous.

Some 2,500 Somali migrants are holed up in the violence-affected city and unsure what to do, say Somali migrants there.

“We have not left our house in the last 12 days. If we go out we are liable to be attacked," one of the Somalis, Mohamed Aweys, told IRIN by phone from Tripoli. "A friend who went out on 1 March to get some supplies has not returned. We have not seen or heard of him since; his mobile is switched off."

Humanitarian presence in Libya as well as numbers of people crossing into neighbouring countries. CREDIT: ReliefWebThere are also another 500 Somali migrants in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, Aweys said, had been targeted as suspected pro-Gaddafi mercenaries. "We spoke to some of them on the phone in Benghazi and they are hiding in their homes."

Another Somali in Tripoli, Mahamud Ahmed, told IRIN: "We have nothing to do with their [Libyans'] problems. Most of us came here to escape our own problems and look for a better life and now we are caught up in a life-and-death situation."

In a sign of the increasing scope of the humanitarian crisis on the borders, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR are urgently appealing to governments for a massive humanitarian evacuation of tens of thousands of Egyptians and other third country nationals who have fled Libya. They want a supply of massive financial and logistical assets to a joint humanitarian programme they established today - including planes, boats and expert personnel.

With tens of thousands of them stuck at the border, and more expected, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva that it was "becoming critically important that onwards transport becomes quickly available to avoid a humanitarian crisis."

Many of the people fleeing Libya are vulnerable women and children according to UNICEFBy last night, shelter with tents was expected to have been given to a total of about 12,000 people. Two airlifts are planned for Thursday with tents and supplies for up to 10,000 people.

The water and hygiene situation at the border remains precarious. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been asked to help with improving these facilities - providing relief to over-stretched Tunisian civilians, the Tunisian Red Crescent and the military.

There are huge numbers of migrants stranded on the Libyan side. Fleming in Geneva said the refugee agency was particularly concerned "that a large number of sub-Saharan Africans are not being allowed entry into Tunisia at this point. UNHCR is in negotiations with self-appointed volunteers from the local community who are guarding the border."

The emergency response leader Gharaibeh said most of those crossing the border were fit young men. "This is the only reason why the situation has not degenerated into a huge crisis so far."

Migrants from sub-Sahara Africa are seen as particularly vulnerable, as they may be targeted as suspected mercenaries. "We have heard several accounts from refugees who tell us their compatriots have been targeted and killed. Others tell us about forced evictions and attacks on their homes," Fleming said in Geneva.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Libya, the Egyptian government reported that some 69,000 people had crossed into Egypt from Libya since February 19.Lack of public facilities are border crossing makes the transit excruciating

"The majority of those who have crossed are Egyptians, most of whom have already been transported to other towns and cities. Around 3,000 people remain in the arrival/departure area awaiting onward transportation," Fleming said.

Today, the Egyptian Red Crescent was due to transport a consignment of UNHCR medical supplies and food into eastern Libya. The food and medicine is being sent in response to requests from tribal leaders who UNHCR met over the weekend, and is expected to arrive tomorrow. Further convoys are being prepared.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for immediate and safe access to western Libya.

It has an emergency team that includes surgeons and nurses, as well as medical supplies, on the Tunisian border waiting to enter western Libya as soon as security conditions permit.

Another emergency team, which also includes medical staff, is already at work in hospitals in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

"This crisis has been going on for 14 days. It's high time, and absolutely vital, that the needs of people affected are met. We call on everyone taking part in the violence to respect the right of the wounded and sick to seek medical care, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need," said the ICRC's director general, Yves Daccord.

"Right now, the situation is far too unstable and insecure to enable much-needed help to enter western parts of the country," he added. "Health and aid workers must be allowed to do their jobs safely. Patients must not be attacked, and ambulances and hospitals must not be misused. It's a matter of life and death."

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


LIBYA: Mass Evacuation of Nationals From Developing Countries Underway (REPORT)

As Libya falls further into chaos, a mass evacuation of migrant workers is underway(HN, March 1, 2011) - UPDATED 1145GMT - In one of the largest humanitarian exercises of its kind in recent memory, tens of thousands of migrants are streaming towards Libya's borders and ports as humanitarian agencies and governments scramble  to evacuate them from an increasingly chaotic and dangerous environment.

More than 100,000 migrants from many nationalities have escaped into Tunisia and Egypt, with a growing number now stranded at Libya's borders with Egypt and Tunisia. There are reports that thousands are still stranded inside Libya - among them several hundred Nigerians without money or the ability to move.

The trafiic flow is so heavy that aid agencies are finding it extremely difficult to cope.

Said one field worker from the United Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): "Just as we stabilize thousands of new arrivals - providing food, shelter and blankets - thousands more arrive. Usually the first three days of the crisis are the worst. This seems to be getting worse by the day."

Reports coming in say thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans are holed up inside their homes in Libya without any assistance at various places including Moursouk, Sabah, Misrata, Tripoli and Benghazi, desperately searching for vehicles to escape the targeted violence they feel is coming their way.

The Philippines alone has 13,000 migrant workers stranded in Libya, of which only 2,000 have been evacuated. But, Egypt, by far, has the largest contingent at about 1.5 million.

On Sunday, Nigeria managed to fly two planes into Tripoli to evacuate stranded nationals.

There are reports of chaotic scenes at the border. CNN correspondent Ivan Watson said thousands of refugees are caught in the "no-man's land" between Tunisia and Libya. "The scene on the Libyan border is getting ugly," he Tweeted at 1141GMT.

Field staff from the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) managed to identify other Third Country Nationals (TCNs) in urgent need of assistance, at the borders - including Nepalese, Ghanaians and Nigerians who were sleeping rough in freezing temperatures.

About 12,000 non-Tunisian migrants alone crossed the Tunisian border at Ras Adjir on Sunday. The BBC reports the flow of migrants into Tunisia at an astonishing 1,000 per hour.

Yesterday, the IOM managed to evacuate 900 Egyptian migrants from Tunisia to Egypt through five charter flights. Earlier today, a group of 1,450 Egyptians left overcrowded facilities at Ras Adjir on their way to the sea port of Sfax, where they will board an IOM-chartered vessel that will take them to Alexandria in Egypt.

The Organization is also evacuating a group of 361 Bangladeshi migrants and 174 Malians from Tunisia with more planned for today.

IOM is working with the Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare for the arrival of a group of some 2,000 Bangladeshi nationals who remain stranded on the Libyan side of the border. Reports say the Bangladeshis are exhausted and are in urgent need of food, water and shelter.

"With thousands of migrants still awaiting authorization to enter Tunisia, there is an urgent need to decongest the border area which lacks adequate facilities to host large numbers of people," says Marc Petzold, IOM's Chief of Mission in Tunisia. 

Tunisian citizens who had been living in Libya returned to Tunisia at the Ras Jedir border crossing on Wednesday. Other foreigners were heading for Egypt (NYT)A sea evacuation of about 2,000 Egyptian migrants from the port at Djerba has also been planned but bad weather has so far hampered efforts. IOM expects this operation to get underway in the coming days as the weather improves.

In addition, IOM is looking to evacuate thousands of Egyptians stranded in the Libyan port city of Benghazi by sea to Alexandria in Egypt.

"IOM urgently needs donors to fund its initial appeal for US$11 million launched last week as soon as possible. We are using our reserves to provide immediate assistance, so desperately needed by the many tens of thousands of migrants who have already fled and many, many more still inside Libya desperately calling us for help," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

"We urge all parties in Libya to refrain from targeting migrants who have for decades contributed to the growth and well-being of Libyan economy and to let those who wish to leave, to do so safely and in dignity."

With the large outflows putting enormous strain on the local infrastructure, in Tunisia in particular, it is imperative to be able to evacuate the migrants as soon as possible, IOM says.

IOM is establishing two transit centres for 800 migrants at Ras Adjir to help ease the pressure on another centre currently being managed by the Tunisian Red Crescent.

With very low temperatures at night and strong desert winds, shelter as well as water and sanitation assistance is critical, aid agencies say.

An IOM team found a group of about 600 Vietnamese migrants without papers at the border point trying to find some element of shelter from the elements but in the end forced to sleep in the open. The Organization is making arrangements to evacuate this group of migrants shortly. Although the Vietnamese migrants told IOM another 1,000 of their compatriots were on their way, at least 5,000 Vietnamese of an estimated 10,500 in Libya are still stuck inside the country.

In Egypt, where close to 22,000 Egyptian migrants alone are at a reception and processing centre at the border at Salum and another 7,000 migrants stranded in a compound in no-man's land between the two countries without papers or food or water, the situation is also difficult.
IOM, with teams working on the border at Salum and at Marsa Matroh further inland, has begun registration of the non-Egyptian migrants in no-mans land in order to organize their evacuation.

The majority of the migrants there are Bangladeshi nationals with a first group of over 450 due to depart in the next few days.

In coordination with the Egyptian authorities, IOM is also providing the migrants with humanitarian assistance including blankets, food and water.

Meanwhile, nearly 800 Nigerien migrants have been taken to Agadez in northern Niger from IOM's reception and transit centre in Dirkou. Another 432 Nigeriens have arrived today and will be transferred to Agadez as soon as possible.

With the capacity of the centre fully stretched, IOM is currently working with local authorities and the Nigerien Red Cross to increase it in order to accommodate the new arrivals. Tents will be set up on an adjacent plot of land. However, there is an urgent need for food, water and sanitation assistance.

This will become even more essential as Nigerian authorities in this northern part of the country have told IOM that there are more than 30 trucks carrying more than 2,000 Nigeriens and other Africans on board on Niger's border with Libya. They are expected in Dirkou within the next 24 hours.

The migrants being taken to Agadez have told IOM that they have escaped from Tripoli, Misrata and Sabah.

IOM is regularly receiving calls and messages from migrants and refugees inside Libya in a desperate situation.

The Organization is calling for migrants and refugees in Libya not to be targeted and for the safe passage for all those seeking to leave the country.

"We would urge migrants still in Libya fearing violence against them to stay put for the moment if they are in a safe place and out of sight," says IOM's Director of Operations, Mohammed Abdiker.

--- HUMNEWS staff, IOM


Developing Nations Feel Powerless as Danger to Their Nationals Escalates in Libya (Report)

African migrants often use Libya as a transit point for destinations in Europe. They are among the thousands of Africans stranded in chaotic Libya. CREDIT: Human Rights Watch(HN, February 27, 2011) UPDATED 1100GMT--- As the increasingly isolated Colonel Gaddafi threatens to crackdown on dissent "to the last bullet," tens of thousands of expatriates from developing countries - mostly sub-Sahara Africa - remain stranded in Libya as their governments scramble to implement evacuation plans.

In recent hours and days, the situation has been exacerbated with a rapidly-deteriorating security situation. Some evacuees landing back in the UK last night described the violence as a "living hell," and some African migrants say they have faced open hostility in Libya because many people associate them with brutal mercenaries hired by the Qaddafi regime.

Libya is also a major transit point for sub-Saharan Africans fleeing to Europe (see map below).

One international observer describes the situation for African migrant workers as utterly dire.

"I tell you, these people, because of their scheme, they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up. I think it is urgent to do something about it now, otherwise, a genocide against anyone who has black skin and who doesn't speak perfect Arabic," Saad Jabbar, Deputy Director, North Africa Center at Cambridge University, told NPR.

Indeed, one Turkish evacuee told western journalists that he personally saw the bodies of as many as 80 Sudanese and Chadian nationals working for his oil company. "They cut them dead with pruning shears and axes, attacking them, saying you're providing troops for Gadhafi. The Sudanese, the Chadians were massacred. We saw it ourselves," said the unidentified oil worker.

Options even for wealthy nations with expatriates in Libya are limited. The international airport in Tripoli is reported to be in a state of chaos and, according to published reports, the British Foreign Office was forced to pay airport operators astronomical fees for aircraft and passenger handling.

Tens of thousands of sub-Saharan Africans are employed in Libya's oil industry and in other sectors. Countries with large number of migrant workers in the country include: Nigeria, Chad, Ghana, Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The chaotic scene at Tripoli Airport CREDIT: CTVEgypt alone has more than one million migrant workers in Libya. With its proximity next to the country, it's been able to receive many evacuees by land and then transport them by bus to Cairo and other inland points. Egypt is also benefiting from relatively good relations with Tripoli as well as plenty of spare aircraft owned by Egypt Air that have been grounded by the sharp downturn of business and tourist travel to Egypt.

Though Egypt is also trying to figure out how to repatriate 10,000 Egyptians who have crossed over Libya's western border with Tunisia. A BBC correspondent on the border reported Sunday that at least 20,000 refugees from Libya are stranded at the border, and suggested they could be stuck for days - perhaps even weeks, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis.

World superpowers India and China have 18,000 and 30,000 workers respectively in Libya, and Beijing has also come in for criticism for a slow response. (Though in the past few hours, Chinese state media has been reporting that 3,000 stranded Chinese nationals have been moved from Benghazi to Crete via two chartered Greek ferries).

One of the countries in the worst situation is Nigeria - the regional power in West Africa which admits it is virtually powerless to extricate at least 2,000 Nigerians from Libya. The two countries have had strained relations for the last decade, with Tripoli having closed its embassy in Abuja several years ago.

On Wednesday Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the immediate evacuation of Nigerians stranded in the troubled country. However the Gaddafi regime has so far refused to grant landing rights to Nigerian aircraft. Libya still controls its own airspace, so if any government wants to land in the country then permission must be sought from Libyan officials.

The Jonathan Administration came under intense pressure earlier this month when it ignored the pleas of thousands of Nigerians stranded for days at Cairo International Airport amid chaos in that city. Faced with a similar situation in Libya, officials in Abuja even considered asking stranded Nigerians to cross the border into neighbouring Niger or Egypt - but that plan was shelved when it became clear the evacuees would be exposed to fighting and that moving them from border areas would be a logistical nightmare.

As the days drag on, a fuelled aircraft has been waiting for clearance in Nigeria since Thursday - with a large team of immigration officials, foreign affairs and medical personnel. A spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Yushau Shuaib, said Nigeria will keep on trying for clearance.

Ukraine says its has about 2,500 of its nationals in Libya. (Among them are at least five Ukrainian "nurses" are reported to be working for Gaddafi - including his personal nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska (Галина Колотницкая), who has decided to abandon the eccentric leader and return to Kyiv, according to Segodnya (Сегодня) newspaper in Ukraine).

Nepal has asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help repatriate about 600 of their nationals who had been working in the Libyan town of Derna and who are now waiting to cross at Salum border crossing. It also reports that 900 of their nationals currently stranded in Tripoli and Benghazi would need assistance if the situation deteriorates further. 

In Tripoli, about 350 Sri Lankans are taking shelter at the Sri Lankan Embassy with several hundred other Sri Lankans spread around the country, the IOM says. Meanwhile, about 750 Bangladeshis out of an estimated population of 50,000 are also now heading for the Egyptian border and who will also need food, water and shelter assistance upon arrival.

Vietnamese authorities have told IOM that there are about 10,500 of their nationals in Libya. Although they say some have left, most are still in the country, many without travel documents which were probably kept by their employers.

"The situation for migrants inside Libya is extremely difficult and we are deeply concerned about their plight," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. 

This week, the IOM voiced concern about the large number of migrant workers from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia stuck in Libya.

Large numbers of Sub-Saharan irregular migrants in Libya work informally in the service sector or as manual labour. Poorly paid and in irregular work, it is unlikely they have the resources to rent vehicles to get to border areas and reach safety, IOM says.

"Of the tens of thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans and South Asians working in Libya, only a handful have managed to reach the border so far. This is probably because they do not have the resources to pay for transport," says Laurence Hart, IOM's Chief of Mission for Libya.

"We are very concerned for all those migrants who may wish to leave, but cannot. Many countries without the adequate resources to evacuate their nationals are now asking IOM for help.  We are therefore urgently appealing to donors for funding to allow us to intervene," he adds.

- From HUMNEWS Africa Bureau


Displaced in Haiti Drops Below One Million, A Year After Earthquake - IOM

(HN. January 11, 2011) - Close to 1-million people are still living in temporary shelters in Haiti one year after a major earthquake struck.Temporary shelter in Haiti CREDIT: IOM

However, according to the International Organization on Migration (IOM), this represents a "significant drop" in the number of Haitians living in displacement camps and is a welcome sign of progress in recovery efforts.

The UN agency said at a media briefing in Geneva today that still remaining is the massive task of finding durable housing solutions in the most challenging aspect of the humanitarian response.

An IOM country-wide assessment conducted between last November and January 2011 found 810,000 people are still living in informal sites in Port-au-Prince and provinces. This is nearly half the figure last July of an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced Haitians. It is also the first time that the camp population in Haiti has dropped to well below one million.

"While these figures seem a positive development, there is a long way to go. The displacement crisis in Haiti is the most visible and intractable issue. Getting people out of camps and into durable housing is key to long term recovery. However, there are many obstacles to doing this quickly and for Haitians, solutions can't come quickly enough," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

The assessment, part of IOM's work in leading and coordinating camp management efforts in post-earthquake Haiti and regularly carried out, suggests a downward trend in the camp population of about 100,000 people a month. The largest declines are being witnessed in the south of the country in rural or semi-urban areas where housing options are more easily available.

Although an estimated 200,000 people have left the camps for transitional shelters, returned to damaged or rebuilt homes or simply left to live elsewhere, issues over land tenure, rubble, the lack of land preparation for construction as well as environmental concerns and risk mapping, are blocking more significant progress in resolving the displacement crisis.

"We have to acknowledge that life in camps will continue to be a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the near future. In the meantime, the greatest possible efforts are being made to ensure that the displaced get the continued assistance and protection they need. As more camps continue to close down, this includes helping people without homes or livelihoods into more durable accommodation and into jobs," adds Swing.

Until more permanent houses can be built, transitional shelters which can last up to five years are the best option. IOM is complementing its work to assist the displaced by building 8110 shelters in the most affected areas. To date, 3000 shelters have been completed by IOM.

Although camp management activities have been the least funded of any humanitarian response in Haiti (43%), IOM and partners are regularly monitoring 100 per cent of all spontaneous settlements to track levels of service and to raise awareness on difficulties that the displaced face. For 2011, the camp management cluster of humanitarian agencies has appealed for $93 million.

According to UNICEF, the 12 January earthquake affected 1.5 million children and 63,000 pregnant women. As of 29 December, 3,481 people had died of cholera -- including 210 children below the age of five -- and over 157,000 cases of cholera had been reported, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.

Also today, Nigel Fisher, the United Nations’ Humanitarian Coordinator, will present a UN report on 11 January in Port-au-Prince, along with the Haitian authorities. And tomorrow, various commemorative ceremonies such as the unveiling of a statue will be held in the capital in memory of the Haitians and the UN staff who had perished in the earthquake.

The UN response is still hobbled by lack of funding. According to UN-OCHA, the $1.5 billion appeal launched in 2010 has been funded to 72 per cent at the end of 2010. The $174 million cholera emergency appeal launched in late 2010, for its part, is only funded to 25 per cent.

- HUM staff, IOM


Central Asian Migrants Facing Uncertain Year in Russia (Report)

(HN, January 7, 2011) - Fardin Saidulayev manages a newspaper kiosk in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where he is one of the few Tajik laborers to hold a coveted work permit. Yet he faces an uncertain new year. As of January 1, new Russian legislation bans foreigners from working in trade. Saidulayev says he now lives in constant fear he will be fired, or even deported.Young Tajik men, returning home on a 97-hour train ride from Moscow, arrive at the main station in Dushanbe in February 2009. Russia is tightening immigration procedures, saying the country only needs skilled, Russian-speaking laborers. The change could have a drastic effect in Tajikistan, where migrant-worker remittances comprise up to half the country's GDP. CREDIT: David Trilling/EurasiaNet.org

“I am not sure what I will do,” Saidulayev, 26, said recently. Originally from the town of Ishkashim in the Pamir Mountains, Saidulayev has been in Russia for three years. “I may try to keep working here or I may have to start working on a building site, but competition for jobs there is fierce and the pay is lower,” he added.

Though its economy is rebounding from the 2008 global financial crisis, Moscow, the scene of recent ethnic rioting, is tightening immigration procedures. Russian officials now say the country only needs skilled, Russian-speaking laborers. The changes could have a drastic effect in Tajikistan, where migrant-worker remittances comprise up to half the country’s GDP.

Around 98 percent of Tajik migrants in Russia work as unskilled laborers, Viktor Sebelev, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service’s office in Tajikistan, said recently in Dushanbe. Many fail to integrate into Russian society. The Moscow-based Center of Migration Studies says that only 50 percent of labor migrants are literate enough in Russian to complete official documents; 20 percent have no command of the language at all.

In November, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed the decree banning foreign laborers from working as traders in outdoor kiosks and markets and from selling alcohol or pharmaceuticals. Foreigners still have the right to work in markets as loaders, cleaners, wholesalers or managers.

Since Putin signed the legislation, official rhetoric justifying the measure has intensified.

In early December, newly appointed Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new restrictions on migration to Moscow. The mayor called for “firm control” over immigration and declared the quota of foreign workers in the city would be decreased to 200,000, an almost 50 percent drop in 2011 from the previous year’s total. "I have nothing against migrants, the city needs them. I just want to understand what kind of specialists are needed and in what areas," he said in comments carried by the state news agency, RIA Novosti.

Similarly, the government has cut its migrant work permit quota again this year to 1.5 million, a significantly smaller number than in 2007 when 6 million migrants obtained work permits, RIA Novosti reported.

The Federal Migration Service also announced in early December that it would compile a list of all migrants from the CIS in Russia, a process expected to take two years. Proponents claim that legalizing a migrant’s status guarantees more rights, including access to healthcare. But the number of unregistered migrants far exceeds the number of permits. Some estimates place the number of migrant workers in Russia at 12 million.

A reduction in unskilled labor migration could have serious repercussions for Tajikistan’s feeble economy. In 2009, according to the International Organization of Migration (IOM), 18 percent of the working-age population migrated abroad; their remittances accounted for 49.6 percent of GDP. Tajik government officials estimate that 900,000 Tajiks work in Russia, 30 percent in trade like Saidulayev.

There is skepticism, however, whether Putin’s new decree is enforceable. In Dushanbe, the IOM’s Malika Yarbabaeva expects it "won’t result in the mass return of migrants from Russia." A similar law from 2007 was never effectively implemented, she argues, noting that only 17 percent of all migrants live legally in Russia, highlighting the Moscow’s weak control over the state bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, the new law will simply augments the black market for foreign labor, pushing more migrants into unsafe conditions, said an official from Tajikistan’s migration service. “I do not think we will see many Tajiks return. The migrants will find loopholes in the law and continue to work in Russia. For instance, they will register their stalls in the names of Russian citizens,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity out of concern for vexing his Russian counterparts. The Tajik official argued that many Tajiks will continue to work illegally in the trade sector.

That is bad news for Saidulayev, who feels that, because he is legally registered, he has a higher profile than many migrants and could be singled out and made an example of. “I am being punished for living here legally when many people from my country live here illegally. I think this new policy will compel many Tajiks to continue living outside the Russian laws,” he said by telephone from Novosibirsk.

“At the moment I am waiting,” Saidulayev said, calling the distinction between skilled and unskilled laborers arbitrary. “I expect the police will come to close me down soon. If this happens, I don’t know what I will do.”

Edward Lemon is a freelance journalist based in Dushanbe. This article originally appeared in EurasiaNet.org