Exclusive: Brazil facilitates deportation of its nationals after U.S. pressure

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil is making it easier for the United States to deport undocumented Brazilians by asking U.S. airlines to board deportees even when they have no valid passports, following pressure from the Trump administration, three Brazilian government sources said.

The Federal Police sent airlines a memo in June allowing them to board Brazilian deportees with just a certificate of nationality issued by a consulate if they lack a valid passport, previously needed to travel to Brazil, the sources said.

The move by right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro’s government aims to facilitate repatriation of deportees by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and efforts by the Trump administration to speed the removal of undocumented immigrants.

The officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Brazil has come under increasing pressure from the Trump administration to facilitate deportations of its detained nationals, to the point of risking sanctions.

They did not detail what kind of sanctions.

“When Donald Trump became U.S. president, illegal immigration became a central political issue. Pressure increased a lot and Brazil was even threatened with sanctions,” one of the sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Brazil was labeled as “at risk of non-compliance” with the repatriation of deportees in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report in March on the barriers ICE faces to timely removal of detained immigrants.

Trump has been cracking down on recalcitrant countries that do not accept immigrants ordered deported, under an executive order issued immediately after he took office.

The deportation of undocumented Brazilians has risen from 1,413 in fiscal year 2017 to 1,691 in fiscal 2018, with Brazilians the sixth-largest group of nationals being removed from the United States, according to ICE data.

This fiscal year there have been 1,117 removals of Brazilians through June 10, ICE said. The U.S. fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that certificates of nationality are issued by its consulates in the United States when detained deportees have exhausted their appeals process and have no passport. Brazilian passports are issued only to nationals who apply for them.

Many countries have arrangements with the U.S. government and foreign countries that allow for a document – other than a passport – issued by an embassy or consulate to serve as an authorization to travel.

Delta Airlines and American Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

As of December, there were 334 Brazilians in ICE detention awaiting trial or deportation, the ministry said.

Since he took office in January, Bolsonaro has established close ties with Trump and the two are looking to negotiate a trade agreement.

Bolsonaro has made disparaging statements about immigrants. In March, speaking on Fox News during a visit to Washington, he praised Trump’s plan for a wall on the Mexican border, adding that “most immigrants do not have good intentions.”

His son Eduardo Bolsonaro, whom he has nominated to be Brazil’s ambassador in Washington, told reporters during that visit that illegal Brazilian immigrants were “a problem for Brazil, an embarrassment to us.”

(Reporting by Lisandra ParaguassĂș; additional reporting and writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Dan Grebler)

Belgian judge orders repatriation of six children of Islamic State militants

FILE PHOTO: Kurdish-led militiamen ride atop military vehicles as they celebrate victory over Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria, October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

By Charlotte Steenackers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – A Belgian judge has ordered the government to repatriate six children of Islamic State (IS) militants and their mothers who have been detained in a camp in Kurdish-controlled Syria, the national news agency Belga said on Wednesday.

Tatiana Wielandt, 26, and Bouchra Abouallal, 25, both Belgian citizens, and their children have been held in the Al-Hol camp in since the defeat of IS in nearly all territory it once held in Syria and Iraq.

Belga quoted the court ruling as ordering the Brussels government to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure the six children and their mothers can return to Belgium.

It must do so within 40 days after being notified of the decision or pay a daily penalty of 5,000 euros for each child, up to a maximum 1 million euros, newspaper De Tijd said. The Belgian government can appeal the ruling.

No comment was available from the court on Wednesday due to a public holiday. A lawyer for the two women was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry said it would “analyze the situation together” with the justice and interior ministries.

Hundreds of European citizens, many of them babies, are being kept by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in three camps since IS was ousted last year from almost all the large swathes of territory it seized in 2014-15, according to Kurdish sources.

European nations have been reluctant to take them back, regarding children of jihadists both as victims and threats – difficult to reintegrate into schools and homes.

European diplomats say they cannot act in a region where Kurdish control is not internationally recognized. Moreover, there is little popular sympathy for militants’ families after a spate of deadly IS attacks across western Europe.

The Kurd say it is not their job to prosecute or hold them indefinitely, leaving the women and children in legal limbo.

However, mounting concern over the apparent abandonment of hundreds of children with a claim to EU citizenship – most of them under six – is pushing governments to quietly explore how to tackle the complexities of bringing them back.

(Reporting by Charlotte Steenackers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Bangladesh says Rohingya arrivals ‘untenable’ as thousands arrive daily

Rohingya refugees line up to receive humanitarian aid in Kutupalong refugees camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 23, 2017.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Bangladesh called on Myanmar on Monday to allow nearly 1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees to return home under safe conditions, saying that the burden had become “untenable” on its territory.

About 600,000 people have crossed the border since Aug. 25 when Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts were met by a counter-offensive by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state which the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

“This is an untenable situation,” Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a U.N. pledging conference. “Despite claims to the contrary, violence in Rakhine state has not stopped. Thousands still enter on a daily basis.”

Vital humanitarian aid must continue, Ahsan said, adding: “It is of paramount importance that Myanmar delivers on its recent promises and works towards safe, dignified, voluntary return of its nationals back to their homes in Myanmar.”

Bangladesh’s interior minister was in Yangon on Monday for talks to find a “durable solution”, he said.

But Myanmar continued to issue “propaganda projecting Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”, Ahsan said, adding: “This blatant denial of the ethnic identity of Rohingyas remains a stumbling block.”

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be stateless, although they trace their presence in the country back generations.

Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, later told journalists that the two countries had begun talks on “repatriation”.

Conducive conditions have to be “recreated” in Rakhine, he said. “This must include a solution to the question of citizenship, or rather lack thereof for the Rohingya community,” Grandi said.

Khaled al-Jarallah, deputy foreign minister of Kuwait, called on Myanmar authorities to “cease the practice of stripping the Rohingya minority of their right of citizenship, which as a result deprives them of the right to property and employment”.

Rohingya refugees line up to receive humanitarian aid

Rohingya refugees line up to receive humanitarian aid in Balukhali refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

“THE WALKING DEAD”

Jordan’s Queen Rania visited Rohingya refugee camps on Monday and called for a stronger response from the international community to the plight of the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to escape “systematic persecution” in Myanmar.

“One has to ask, why is the plight of this Muslim minority group being ignored? Why has the systematic prosecution been allowed to play out for so long?” she asked after touring the camps.

The United Nations has appealed for $434 million to provide life-saving aid to 1.2 million people for six months.

“We need more money to keep pace with intensifying needs. This is not an isolated crisis, it is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement,” U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the talks.

An estimated 1,000-3,000 Rohingya still enter Bangladesh daily, William Lacy Swing, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. He called them: “these most rejected and vulnerable people in the world.”

Joanne Liu, president of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders, described them as “the walking dead”.

There are only 210 hospital beds for 1 million refugees, malnutrition is on the rise and latrines are lacking to prevent contamination, she said. “The camp is a time-bomb, ticking towards a full-blown health crisis.”

Lowcock said a total of $340 million had been pledged to date, but Grandi later put the figure at $335 million.

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Rafiqur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)