ROME — In a rather tragic circumstance, it is being reported that the bodies of 26 young Nigerian women and girls have been retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend and taken to Italy.
According to the New York Times , officials have launched an investigation into how the young Nigerian women died.
A official in the port city of Salerno says, “It is a tragedy for mankind.” He says local prosecutors will start work quickly to determine if the deaths were homicides. The bodies of the deceased and nearly 400 migrants who were also rescued from the Mediterranean Sea were taken to Salerno.
Marco Rotunno, the communications officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy estimates that the young women were between the ages of 14 and 18.
According to the New York Times report, the bodies were found floating in the water by the Spanish Navy on Nov. 3, and survivors on nearby rubber dinghies, which had partly capsized, told the authorities that they were Nigerian and had departed from Libya.
No one has claimed any of the bodies and it is still unknown if any of the surviving migrants are related.
Hundreds of Africans make the perilous journey through north Africa, especially Libya, to Europe in search of a better life. European navy officials say they have seen an increase in migrants in the last few years but with tragic results too.
Meantime, latest reports now say 2 arrests have been made. Al Mabrouc Wisam Harar from Libya and Mohammed Ali Al Bouzid from Egypt were arrested later on Tuesday.
The were captains of the boat on which the nearly 400 migrants were crammed.
Liberian beneficiaries of Deferred Enforced Departure also known as DED in the United States may have reason to be apprehensive about their own future given the decision of the Trump Administration to end Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for thousands of citizens from Central America and Haiti.
It can be recalled that the current TPS designation for Liberians was extended by President Barack Obama but now expires on March 18, 2017.
In a memorandum issued on September 16, 2016 to then Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, President Obama directed him “to extend for an additional 18 months the deferred enforced departure (DED) of certain Liberians and to provide for work authorization during that period.”
According to the Memorandum, “Pursuant to his constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States, President Obama has determined that there are compelling foreign policy reasons to again extend Deferred Enforced Departure (“DED”) to Liberian nationals who are currently residing in the United States under the existing grant of DED. The President accordingly directed that Liberian nationals (and eligible persons without nationality who last resided in Liberia) who are physically present in the United States, have continuously resided in the United States since October 1, 2002, and who remain eligible for DED through September 30, 2016, be provided DED for an additional 18-month period. See Presidential Memorandum—Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians, September 28, 2016 (“Presidential Memorandum”).
Note that only individuals who held Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on September 30, 2007, the date that a former TPS designation of Liberia terminated, are eligible for DED, provided they have continued to meet all other eligibility criteria established by the President. The President also directed the Secretary to implement the necessary steps to authorize employment authorization for eligible Liberians for 18 months, from October 1, 2016 through March 31, 2018.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a provisional immigration status granted to eligible nationals of designated countries suffering the effects of an ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. During the period for which the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated a country under the TPS program, beneficiaries are not required to leave the United States and may obtain employment authorization.
TPS does not lead to permanent resident status, however, when the Secretary terminates a country’s designation, the alien will return to the status he/she had prior to TPS or to any other status he/she may have obtained while registered for TPS.”
In the case of Liberia, since 1991 the U.S. granted TPS to thousands of Liberians citizens who fled the brutal civil war.
Liberians in the U.S. benefitted from a series of extensions to their initial TPS designation until expiration on September 28, 1999 based on a determination of the then U.S. Attorney General the late Janet Reno who stated that “Based upon a more recent review of conditions within Liberia by the Departments of Justice and State, the Attorney General finds that conditions no longer support a TPS designation. A Department of State memorandum concerning Liberia states that “[t]he divisive civil war in Liberia which began in 1990 ended with the Abuja Peace Accords in 1996. Since 1997, the country in general has not experienced ongoing armed conflict. In September 1998, violence erupted suddenly in Monrovia. * * * Since then, however, no further general conflict has occurred.” The memorandum also states that “Although conditions in Liberia remain difficult, the overall situation is not sufficiently adverse to prevent most Liberian nationals in the U.S. from returning to Liberia in safety.” It concludes, “The Department of State finds that sufficient grounds to recommend a further extension of TPS for Liberia do not exist. We therefore recommend that TPS for Liberia be terminated on its current expiration date of September 28, 1999.”
Following the expiration of TPS designation for Liberians, then President Bill Clinton, made the determination that for “foreign policy reasons, protection from removal should be extended for a year after that date.” Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status was extended to Liberians and subsequently extended. The last extension was issued in September, 2016 by President Obama and expires in March, 2018.
According to the DHS, DED is similar to TPS in that it allows aliens of a particular nationality to remain and work in the United States without the threat of deportation. The President issues a DED directive based on his constitutional authority related to foreign policy, whereas the Attorney General has statutory authority to designate a country for TPS.
Apprehension amongst Liberian DED beneficiaries was heightened late on Friday, November 3, when the Washington Post reported that on last Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on last Tuesday, dispatched a a letter to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke informing her that for over 300,00 nationals of Central America and Haiti, conditions which had been used to justify their Temporary Protective Status in the U.S. no longer existed to warrant the continuation of this designation and protection.
Many of the Central American and Haitian migrants, in addition to their TPS status were allowed to live and work in the U.S.
Reports say scores of Central American and Haitian nationals, in anticipation of the revocation of their TPS status have been making their way north through unofficial border crossings to seek sanctuary in Canada.
Liberian activists and some members of the U.S. Congress have been lobbying the new Trump Administration to continue the extension of DED designation upon expiration in March of next year. However, the Trump Administration has shown no inclination to further extension and protection. Any cue from the new US government can be found in its latest decision to terminate protection of Central American and Haitian nationals when protections end early next year. Another indication of the leaning of the U.S. Government was its decision to terminate the 2014 – 2016 Ebola-related TPS designation in May of this year for some nationals of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Many Liberians on DED have put down roots, held long term jobs, purchased homes and businesses and have children and grand children who are American citizens. If DED status is revoked for these Liberian nationals, individuals with no other lawful immigration status on March 19, 2018, will no longer be protected from removal or eligible for employment authorization in the U.S.
Gambia’s Minister of the Interior says about 165 nationals have voluntarily returned home from the north African nation of Libya.
Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty disclosed that the batch of Gambians returned home on Thursday.
Gambian returnees now total 1,467, the Interior Minister said.
Earlier this year, another group of Gambian migrants returned home.
Scores of Gambians often leave home to attempt the perilous journey to Europe and other parts of the world because of tough economic conditions back home.
Help is being provided to resettle and re-integrate the returnees, the Interior Minister said.
Africanews. reports that the Gambian government, has, meantime, has entered a deal with the European Union in the area of irregular migration. Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty signed the 3.9m euro deal on behalf of the government.
If U.S.President Donald Trump has his way, the ending of the immigration lottery program will close the opportunity to hundreds of thousands of African nationals to join family members who are either American citizens or permanent residents in the United States.
The U.S. Diversity Visa Program popularly known as “DV” allows 50,000 people into the U.S. every year under the State Department program, which tilts toward “countries with historically low rates of immigration.”
According to the State Department, the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program, as provided for by law “is to promote immigration from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States.” The program is an internet-based “lottery” system that randomly selects individuals from a global pool of eligible entrants and qualifies them to apply for immigrant visas.
Nationals of 53 African countries are eligible to apply fot the 2019 fiscal year. According to the U.S. State Department, natives of the West African country of Nigeria are not eligible to apply for 2019 ” because they are the principal source countries of Family-Sponsored and Employment-Based immigration or “high-admission” countries.”
President Trump’s call to end the DV Program was the direct consequence of the most recent terror attack in New York on Tuesday by an Uzbek national who immigrated to the U.S. in 2010 under the program.
Many African families take advantage of the DV program to re-unite their families in the U.S. and take advantage of the opportunity of realizing the ‘American dream” and a better life.
Diversity visa recipients are given lawful permanent residence status also known as “green card residents” and work permits which then allow them work and live permanently in the U.S. with the eligibility option of become U.S. citizens, if they choose.
According to the Pew Research, a U.S. based fact think tank, quoting the most recent data of fiscal 2015 from the State Department, “…about 12% of the 14.4 million people who applied for the visa lottery were citizens of Ghana (1.7 million)…”
Other African countries are also cited in the data, according to Pew. “In some countries, a marked share of the population has applied for the program. In the Republic of Congo, for example, 10% of the country’s citizens applied for the program in fiscal 2015. Other African countries with high shares of applicants included Liberia (8%), Sierra Leone (8%) and Ghana (7%).”
The Washington Postreports that the DV Program was “originally conceived as a way to help Irish citizens fleeing an economic crisis back home, the only requirement is that entrants be adults with a high school diploma or two years of recent work experience. Winners can bring their spouses and minor children. There is no application fee.
Millions apply each year. Fewer than 1 percent are randomly selected to undergo background checks and receive a green card, which grants them permanent residency in the United States and puts them on a path to American citizenship. There were 11,391,134 applicants in fiscal 2016, the most recent data available…”
Conservatives in the U.S. have targeted the program for years and are currently supporting legislation that favors a “merit-based” immigration system. Since 2005, the U.S. Congress has tried but failed to end the DV Program including cutting off funding, Many conservatives blame an increase in terrorism and violent crime in the US. on immigration laws
In remarks on Wednesday at the White House, the U.S. President who has taken a tough stance on immigration since a candidate in the 2016 Presidential elections said he would ask on Congress “to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program.”
“I am today starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program. It sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good,” Trump said to reporters just prior to a midday Cabinet meeting,
President Trump later tweeted that “We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems.”