Harrowing Tales


A rather disheartening tale in the NY Times:

On the evening of Nov. 2, a young corporate lawyer in New Jersey received a frantic call from a charity client, a 46-year-old Harlem grocery clerk with a history of petty crime. He was in custody on an airplane in Newark on his way to Mogadishu, the capital of his native Somalia, a country so dangerous that to the lawyer’s knowledge, no one had been deported there in years.

The courts were closed, and a federal judge who heard an emergency motion the next day ruled that the clerk, Mohamad Rasheed Jama, was already outside United States jurisdiction.

So, after a stop in Nairobi, where he was handed over to Kenyans, Mr. Jama stepped off an airplane in Mogadishu — and into the hands of Islamist militants, who soon accused him of being an American spy and began demanding money.

“They were extremely angry,” said his lawyer, Emily B. Goldberg, relating the last frightened call she got from Mr. Jama, who had spent four years in immigration detention in New Jersey awaiting deportation to the land he left at 18. “He asked me if there was anything I could do. I told him in the American system, there was nothing more I could do.” …

If Jama, a refugee from a society broken by anarchy, cannot get a fair hearing, why should other immigrants? The administrations policy may point to increasing the number of immigrants in this country, but deportations also reveal that they are willing to jettison anyone on a moment’s notice, without recourse to the judicial system, without regard to what they might face at home. Indeed, the rights of immigrants, illegal and otherwise, are constantly undermined and obscurred. Their dependence on the government’s charity has become the sword of Damocles. However, the article suggests that attempting to exercise rights will only hasten deportation:

In the United States, lawyers for Somalis are asking whether Mr. Jama’s deportation signals the start of a mass deportation or a warning to those facing indefinite detention that “if you use habeas, you’ll be on the next flight,” said Jeffrey Keyes, the Minneapolis lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case.

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Polish Diaspora: As Poles are taking advantage of EU’s single employment market, employers at home find that they need to import labor from other parts of Europe. Another situation in which economic growth really benefits those with moderate education (see the U-Curve below).

This is the “second” Poland, a diaspora of 800,000 Poles estimated by officials here to have left the country since it joined the European Union in May 2004. The exodus is believed to be one of the largest migrations by Europeans since the 1950s, when a wave of Irish crossed the Atlantic to escape poverty. But in Poland, this huge movement of people has created a labor shortage so severe that the government may not be able to spend the money that is due to begin arriving in January from the European Union for projects like improving roads and the water supply.

[One] factor in the unemployment rate is the mismatch between jobs and workers. Krystyna Iglicka, a migration expert and sociologist at the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, says that Poland’s education system failed in the 1990s to train enough skilled workers, including engineers and craftsmen. “The trendy professions were marketing and services, not focusing on vocational or technical skills,” Ms. Iglicka said. “Vocational and technical schools were closed, teachers were made redundant. We are now paying the price.”

So critical is the shortage of welders and shipbuilders for Poland’s shipping industry that Poland and Germany are close to an accord that would allow unemployed workers from northern German ports to work in Poland.

(more…)

The Guardian reports on the industry that has grown around clandestine immigration from West Africa to Spain.  Areas of Senegal are becoming ports of call for Africans who, throwing caution to the wind, board flimsy vessels with the hope of reaching the nearest piece of European soil.

 Now the village [of Diogue] economy has found a new source of income: emigration. The hopefuls have to stock up on water, food and other supplies for the voyage, which can take two weeks. There are bargains to be had as the young men who are leaving sell anything they will not be needing where they are going – local currency is exchanged for euros at less than the going rate and mobile phones are dirt cheap. Many struggling fishermen have sold their pirogues to people-smugglers. But once the money has been spent, they find themselves with no way to make a living.

Africans are making harrowing journeys out into the ocean, hoping to find their way to the Canary Islands.  These trips are make-or-break propositions, costing a lifetime’s savings, and threatening lives themselves.

Forsten, Edward and Isaac are a little less fearless. They are from Ghana, but have been in Gambia for the past year, working on a building site to save the 400,000 CFA francs, the currency of Senegal and other former French colonies, charged for the trip to Europe (about £400).

All Forsten has with him is a half-filled plastic bag of his belongings. He is aware of the dangers of going to Spain in a pirogue, but he says that he has no choice – his life in Ghana is little more than a day-to-day struggle for survival, ‘and I can’t see that ever changing’.

Edward and Isaac managed to get on a boat leaving from Diogue, and were off the coast of Mauritania when a huge storm blew up. Everyone in the boat – including the ‘captain’ – was so terrified that they decided to head back to Senegal. Two people died in the course of the voyage from exhaustion and sickness. Their bodies were thrown overboard. ‘It was like we had become animals,’ Edward says afterwards. ‘I realised that it wasn’t worth degrading ourselves, and risking our lives just to get to Europe, even though it means the end of our hopes of finding a way out of the dead end we are in. There is no work for us back home.’ They know that the jobs they left in Gambia to go to Diogue will have been filled by others.

Not only have they lost their dream of a better life, Edward and Isaac have also lost the money that they had worked for a year to save up – the man who organised the voyage refused to reimburse them. Now they set off on the long journey back to Ghana. Isaac has a Spanish phrasebook tucked into his plastic bag. Will they make another attempt, once they have got some more money together? ‘When we were on that boat we saw into the pit,’ he says. ‘We were so tightly packed in there that no one could move. There were a number of us who couldn’t speak to anyone, because we didn’t share the same language. After the storm the supplies of food and water began to run out. Most of us had never been at sea before. We were ill and scared, and then the people started dying…’ His voice trails off. ‘I can’t describe how awful it was. Nothing is worth that.’

Read the article for more testimonials.