Janvieve Williams Comrie will discuss the historical, social and cultural dimensions of successive migration of Afro-Latinos/as and Afro-Caribbeans to the U.S. She will also shed light on the experience of these immigrants as they navigate the racial landscape of the U.S. society.
Janvieve Williams Comrie is the founder of the Latin American and Caribbean Community Center, she is dedicated to improving the conditions and opportunities for socially excluded and marginalized groups. Janvieve has worked throughout the Americas with communities on the ground and organizations to address the division and isolation faced by many of African descent and indigenous people, including low wageworkers, undocumented families and immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean in the United States, by building a political and critical consciousness while using a human rights framework.
TO JOIN THE CALL:
1. Dial into the conferencing service
Toll-Free US/Canada: 1-866-931-7845
International Dial-in: 1-310-374-4949
2. Enter your conference code: 904167
Background to teleconference series: The United Nations has declared 2011 as the “International Year for Peoples of African Descent”. Ten years ago, landmark recommendations were made at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban South Africa. In a four-part series of teleconferences that looks at the span of Black presence in the U.S. over the centuries, we will examine the unique migration experiences of the African Diaspora within the context of U.S. history and the current debate over immigration. The series brings provocative frameworks and analyses into the discussion about race and immigration that are seldom considered.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Goree Island, Senegal
Posted by Gerald Lenoir, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Nunu Kidane of Priority Africa Network, Colin Rajah of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and I traveled from Oakland, California to Dakar Senegal to attend the World Assembly of Migrants (WAM) on Goree Island and the World Social Forum (WSF) at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar.
|A statue of freed slaves on
Goree Island donated by the
government of Guadeloupe.
Today, we took the 20-minute ferry ride to the infamous Goree Island where enslaved Africans were imprisoned, brutalized, led shackled through the “Door of No Return” and shipped en masse to the New World. We were there to attend the opening session of the World Assembly of Migrants. The Assembly was initiated by a migrant rights organization in France, Sans Papier (Without Papers) to provide the opportunity for migrants from all over the world to give input into the draft of the World Charter of Migrants. The opening session, attended by over 100 migrants, started with a panel that included the Mayor of Goree Island, a representative from WAM and a member of the leadership of the WSF leadership group.
The Mayor reminded us that the event was taking place on the spot where the first brutal forced migration of Africans took place. The WSF representative spoke about the importance of migrant rights as a central theme of the Social Forum scheduled to take place February 6-11.
|Migrants from all over the world listen
to the opening panel presentations at
the World Assembly of Migrants.
The WAM speaker spoke to the need of the rights of migrant to be recognized. The draft charter, he said, builds upon the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People. As an Austrian, he talked about the “wave of xenophobia sweeping across Europe.” He indicated that process of input into the charter will make sure that it’s ratified by the people and that it is a people’s document. The aim is to get the charter ratified by United Nations.
The 2-page draft charter reads, in part:
“We Migrants declare to the world that: MIGRATION WILL BE A FREE AND WORTHY CHOICE FOR ALL AND IN EVERY CORNER OF THE PLANET…” (emphasis in the original document)
(To read the entire draft of the World charter of Migrants, go to www.cmmigrants.org.
Tomorrow, the day will be spent pouring over the draft document. There will opportunities for the migrants assembled to give their input. By the end of the day, the charter will be adopted by those assembled. On Friday, migrants, along with their allies, will consider the future of the charter. for many, the future for migrants is depending upon migrants themselves articulating their rights and, together with their allies, fighting for them.
My colleagues and I will continue to blog from the WAM and the WSF until February 11. For photos of today and throughout the week, go to Priority Africa Network’s D2D – World Social Forum web page at http://d2dworldsocialforumdakar2011.blogspot.com/
Bamako, Mali, West Africa
July 17, 2010
Gerald Lenoir, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (www.blackalliance.org) and Nunu Kidane, Director of Priority Africa Network (www.priorityafrica.org) were in Bamako, Mali to attend the inaugural gathering of the Pan African Network in Defense of Migrant Rights hosted by Institute for the Research and Promotion of Alternative Development (IRPAD) and funded by Open Society Institute, West Africa (OSIWA). The following blog describes the conditions of African migrants who are deported from North Africa and end up in Mali.
We went by taxi more than 10 miles from the center of Bamako across the Niger River to meet with Ntamag Francois Romero, the director of the Association des Refoulés d’Afrique Centrale au Mail, or ARACEM (Association of Deported Central Africans in Mali). The cab let us out on a main street where we were met by an ARACEM staff member who led us the one block down a potholed dirt road muddied by the morning rain.We entered the gate of the rust brown, adobe-like two-story building that housed offices and a shelter for deportees. The shelter residents greeted us with handshakes and “Bonjours” as we entered the courtyard. We made our way into Ntamag’s office where we introduced ourselves and told him that we were interested in knowing about the migration and deportation experiences of the people who come to the shelter. He graciously told us his own story and about the work of the ARACEM.
Ntamag himself left his home country of Cameroon six years ago. He was deported to Mali from Morocco four years ago. He and other migrants who had experienced deportation founded ARACEM in July 2006. It is funded by Caritas, a Catholic relief agency, and other international funding agencies. The funding is often inadequate to feed and pay for unexpected expenses such as hospitalization when one of the refugees is ill. The center therefore requests donations to purchase additional rice and supplies to feed the increasing number of individuals that depend on it.
An astounding 100 deportees a month come to ARACEM for shelter, food and clothing. They are expelled from Libya, Morocco and Algeria as they make the way from Central and West Africa in an attempt to find work. These three North African countries have signed agreements with European countries to act as external border control agents to prevent migrants from reaching Europe.
Ntamag told us that migrants come to the shelter at the first of the month and in the middle of the month. They have been stripped of their money, identification papers and all of their possessions by the police or border patrol and dropped in the middle of the desert on the border with Mali with no food or water. Some are extremely traumatized by the entire experience, having spent several months and even years in detention before being deported. The difficulty of their situation is too much for some and they “lose their heads,” unable to cope.
The supposed three-day stay usually gets extended to up to ten days after which they must leave because the staff has to make room for the next group of expelled migrants. This leaves the young men in desperate situation with no ability to get resources or identification and no hope of going back or forward. While they are “free” to leave the compound and to look for employment, they have no way to sustain themselves. The government of Mali is one of the few that does not incarcerate refugees in detention centers and they can remain within the country if they so wish.
Many of the migrants are ashamed to return home after being deported and will try desperately to find their way to Europe again. Their families are often destitute and are depending upon them to reach Europe, find work and send part of their earnings home. So they spend their three to ten days weighing their options. If they decide to return home, the staff of ARACEM helps them to contact their family and figure out how to get back to their country—Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic or another country. Some find a way to earn money in Mali and try again to reach Europe. Others, like Ntamag, remain in Mali.
When we asked Ntamag why he left Cameroon, he pointed to government corruption and the exploitation of the natural resources of Cameroon by multinational companies from France, the United States and other countries of the West. Although the vast majority of the people of Cameroon are poor, “Cameroon is not a poor country,” Ntamag tells us.
“The young never have hope,” he says. “You go to Europe to take care of family.”
As we ended our visit, we discussed with Ntamag a project to document the abuses suffered by migrants and a process from them to take their collective cases to the African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international and governmental bodies. We agreed to work with him on developing the project and to help to seek justice for people whose only crime was to cross borders.
To hear Ntamag in his own words, click on the link and view the videotaped interview on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8nzAkoPlTM
Bamako, Mali, July 18, 2010
Four years ago, in an international conference on migration in Brussels, a small group of activists from various African countries gathered to compare experiences and share stories about migration within and out of Africa. Two years ago, at a similar conference in Manila, a larger group of African civil society members gathered to affirm a similar commitment and hold the first meeting focused on African migrants’ rights.
Another meeting was held in the city of Bamako, Mali in West Africa four days ago. Representatives from over 40 organizations from Africa as well as allies from Europe and the U.S. gatheredto establish the Pan African Network in Defense of Migrants’ Rights.
Priority Africa Network and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration were honored to have been invited to this historic gathering which was coordinated and hosted by Mamadou Goita from IRPAD-Afrique (Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives for Development) with a grant from OSI-WA (Open Society Institute West Africa).
One of the issues discussed at the meeting was the current bilateral agreements between European and African governments to collaborate in the expulsion of African migrants. In essence, a country in Africa – for example Nigeria or Cameroon – sign an accord with France, to deport all the individuals – back to the poverty and persecution they fled from in the first place. In exchange, the Africa country receives “development aid” compensation which never reaches those most in need, especially not the migrants. These agreements are never transparent and are often times in violation of human rights conventions.
If there is a single country in Africa with the highest number of incidents of repression, it is Libya. In the least known bilateral agreement (also never made public), Libya and Italy signed an
The most recent demonstration of this abuse is Libya’s detention and expected deportation of some 245 Eritreans from a nation known for the imprisonment, torture and death of its citizenry. These refugees are currently fighting for their lives and asking for international support.
Other participants in the historic gathering and formation of the Network were members of a deported group of Malians who had organized themselves into a strong grassroots advocacy front. AME (Association Malienne des Expulsés). Similar organizations all over Africa are setting new trends of mobilization of those who have been the primary victims of the most harmful policies. Over the coming months, the Network will ensure that abuses against migrants will not go unnoticed, unreported or unheard. It will bring unprecedented collaboration from organizations who are doing similar work but have not shared and coordinated their work before.
At the conclusion of the gathering, participants affirmed to bring an Africa perspective to the next World Social Forum on Migration, scheduled to be held in Quito Equador (October 8 — 12, 2010), the next People Global Action on Migration and Development in Mexico City (November 3 – 5, 2010) and the next World Social Forum in Dakar Senegal (February 6 – 11, 2011).