Mali, one of the poorest countries in West Africa, is nonetheless resource-rich in global commodities such as oil and gold. Gold is Mali’s primary export, and the industry surrounding it attracts many at-risk migrant laborers to work in “artisanal mining.” This “mining” consists of women, children, and men panhandling in rivers for meager quantities of gold. Many of these migrants are also refugees from ongoing conflicts in Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. They are lured to Mali with promises of good-paying work and relocation to Europe but are subsequently trapped by gangs, including some religious extremist groups such as Al Qaeda “affiliates.” Job seekers are forced to work to “pay off” false debts to these gangs. Many laborers are trafficked and forced to become sex workers. Civil society and NGOs like Caritas Mali and the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) may be best positioned to address the needs of Mali’s trafficked workers and prevent labor abuse.
In spite of the prevailing security dynamics in Yemen and Libya, both states continue to serve as areas of transit along some of the world’s largest mixed migration routes, leaving migrants caught in the crossfire of the two conflicts. This article examines the legal framework governing the protection of migrants in armed conflict under international humanitarian and human rights law. It also identifies two adverse incentives produced by the conflict situations that impede the exercise of these legal protections: (1) profits derived from migrant smuggling and trafficking, and (2) the use of migrants to support armed groups. In the absence of stable conditions in Yemen and Libya, individuals have little reason to respect international legal protections and discontinue migrant abuse connected with the lucrative businesses of smuggling and trafficking. The intractable nature of the two conflicts has also led to the strategic use of migrants as armed support, and more specifically as combatants, weapons transports, and human shields. Given these realities, the article outlines several recommendations to address the issue of migrant abuse in conflict. It recommends that states, particularly those neighboring Yemen and Libya, strengthen regular migration pathways to help reduce the number of migrants transiting through active conflict zones. It further advises that the international community increase the cost of non-compliance to international humanitarian law through the use of accountability mechanisms and through strategic measures, including grants of reciprocal respect to armed groups that observe protections accorded to migrants in conflict situations.
This episode of CMSOnAir features an interview with Josiah Heyman, Professor of Anthropology, Endowed Professor of Border Trade Issues, and Director of the University of Texas, El Paso’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies. CMS’s communications coordinator Emma Winters asks Josiah Heyman about a CMS Essay he authored with Jeremy Slack and Daniel E. Martínez. The essay, titled “Why Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers,” examines findings from the Migrant Border Crossing Survey and concludes that US Border Patrol agents and other CBP officers should not serve as asylum officers because they “abuse migrants, physically and verbally, with significant frequency.” In the episode, Josiah Heyman also presents a positive vision of the US-Mexico border and lifts up Annunciation House as an example of the openness and generosity of border communities.
Despite the largest immigration enforcement budget in US history, the Border Patrol is set to apprehend the highest number of border crossers in more than a decade. This essay argues that the administration’s enforcement-only approach cannot successfully address this humanitarian crisis, and does not deserve any additional funding. Instead, the administration should respond to the conditions driving Central American and Venezuelan asylum seekers, provide protection for those fleeing violence and other impossible conditions, and create a strong, well-resourced US asylum system.
Kathryn Finley, managing attorney for the Tahirih Justice Center’s greater Washington, DC office, writes on the particularly high hurdles and barriers faced by immigrant survivors of violence in accessing the US legal system. This paper relies on examples gathered from Tahirih Justice Center’s direct work with immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. It also reviews the dynamics of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking for immigrant victims, and the immigration remedies available to victims of these crimes. Additionally, this paper explores the detrimental impact of the administration’s enforcement initiatives on immigrant victims of crime and on public safety.