Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Glimpse into what we do pt. 2

My highest scoring Praxis reflection paper: 9/10!!!!!

Emotions Run High
Praxis 3
Weeks 9 through 11

The past three weeks have been very exciting in the SUST program. From our travels during our Semester Break, films and readings we have discussed, and organizations doing great work in many of the “hot topic” issues that Norway is experiencing.
I had recently returned from London where I got to spend a week touring with my Mom. While in London I had the opportunity to ride the underground and see many important cultural/historical landmarks and analyze their importance in contemporary European society. At the beginning of week 9, all of us back from enjoying the breaks, experienced our first hot button issue: that of the politics surrounding asylum, which we discussed heavily at NOAS Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers. Many of us could not fathom how someone who had been tortured almost to death would be denied asylum, while someone who was drug trafficking in the USA was able to flee and claim asylum. This will be the topic I will expand on in second part of the paper. The rest of the week consisted of the Danish film Truly Human, followed by the trip to the Modern Art Museum, and then the visit by the representatives from the University of Minnesota and our discussion with Ritika Dhall whom in my opinion, has been one of our best speakers.
The next week we discussed Immigrant literature and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House with Einar followed by a trip to the Ibsen Museum. The discussion of A Doll’s House was really helpful in understanding Ibsen’s commentary about the world and the role of women. However, during the course of the discussion it sort of felt like the mood had changed from discussing the major points of the play to how evil Men are in contemporary society and how all the advantages are still predominantly male oriented, that gender equality with all its progress still gets the response “how far have we really come?” Mark and I started to feel out numbered (4 girls, 2 guys), and then all of a sudden Mark and Andrea got into a pretty strong argument in which Mark was ripped apart without much opportunity to defend himself in my opinion. This week ended with our regional home stays in Levanger where I was able to get a glimpse of the center-periphery debate first hand. What was really surprising was the amount of negativity associated with immigration on the part of our host parents.
Week 11 has turned out very nicely with some great readings on the city of Oslo, much to the interest of this Urban Studies major. The small excursions to the suburbs were very interesting and I will have fun discussing them on Thursday in our groups.
A topic I have been interested in digging into a little further is asylum and integration. This program has opened my eyes to a topic that is filled with xenophobia, overt racism, and a topic that is often pushed under the rug as if no problem existed in this perceived utopia that is Scandinavia. In Crisp’s (2003) Politics of Migration article there was a particular section stating that because of barriers erected by nations keeping people out, more people actually needing asylum had been forced to resort to more illegal methods of getting into countries including human smugglers or trafficking. This peaked my interest due to my week in London where a major human trafficker was arrested just before I left the UK. Ekberg (2004) talks about integration of refugees in Sweden and how immigrants are distributed all over Sweden to avoid the creation of concentrations. Ritika did a great job of talking about this in Norway and the specific guidelines of the “program” for integration. What was interesting was how important the program was for integration for these new comers and if they “opted-out” they would be truly left on their own with very little success.
After our discussion at NOAS I became curious as to what the qualifications for asylum in the United States. As a student at the University Minnesotan, I have interacted with those of the Somali community and the Hmong community, both that are political refugees that fled from their countries and settled in cities in the Midwest such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Chicago. However, I have never taken the opportunity to look into the procedures for asylum in the USA.
Using The Wikipedia (Accessed October, 2006) I was able to find the necessary steps and this following passage:
The United States is obliged to recognize valid claims for asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. As defined by these agreements, a refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of nationality (or place of habitual residence if stateless) who, owing to a fear of persecution on account of a protected ground, is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the state. Protected grounds include race, nationality, religion, political opinion and membership of a particular social group. The signatories to these agreements are further obliged not to return or "refoul" refugees to the place where they would face persecution. (The Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asylum_in_the_United_States)
What is interesting is that torture is not a qualifier for asylum as was discussed at NOAS. In addition to this, there was a recent article in Aftenposten on Somalis being denied Asylum because of their dialects. Southern Somalia is where most of the fighting is occurring and people from that province can apply for asylum and often escape into another country, however, those coming to other countries leaving the Northern areas do not qualify for asylum because there is no active conflict in that region. Inspectors are questioning new refugees before admittance to determine where they are from based upon their dialects, if they match the South then they are one step closer to being allowed in, if they match the North, one step closer to deportation. (Aftenposten October 16, 2006)(http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article1497115.ece?service=print)
In the post 9-11 world, it is unfortunate how many people who actually need asylum are lost in the systems and red tape or sent back because of “not fitting” with procedures or programs that would mean their survival and a better life. It is also unfortunate that because of this the black market of human trafficking has become strengthened. However, there has been no punishment or real public outcry from the Western world to reform these systems, and this in my opinion is a crime.

1 comment:

mark delaney said...

Here is a real life refugee and she needs help now.Please help.
Help Free Inga and Get Her Nationality
Created by Keith Delaney on Jun 26, 2007
Category: Human Rights
Region: GLOBAL
Target: UNHCR , U.S. Immigration, and the international communities
Web-site: http://www.myspace.com/ingamusic
Description/History:
The circumstance of Inga Berzina's case are as follows:

Inga was born in Soviet Latvia in May of 1983. When she was seven years old, she left Soviet Latvia and traveled with her mother to Denmark. Shortly after their arrival in Denmark, the U.S.S.R collapsed - leaving Latvia to become its own independent country. At this point Inga became "Stateless" a person without Nationality. Her and her parents were born in a country that no longer exists, and were not there during the registration period to get residence in the new republics.

For the past 17 years Inga has remained without Nationality. She has asked and has been denied political asylum in three countries in which she has lived, including the US and Canada.

Currently, Inga is being held in detention prison in South Florida, United States. Inga was detained after having not left the country after being served a voluntary departure order. She could not have left even if she wanted to. She is STATELESS and has no passport and no travel documents. Even though she is married to an American citizen, this does not get her status or freedom.

Early on when Inga received the deportation letter, we called UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) and several other organizations for help, however we were turned down being told she has to be detained before they can help.

Inga is now detained, so we are respectfully requesting the help of the UNCHR, the U.S. Immigration, and the international communities to arrange the resettlement of Inga to a country in which she can live and be free. Go to ingamusic or ingapetition.googlepages.com