Abuses in Nigerian Islamic Schools Spark Regulation Demands

Pretty horrifying:

Nearly 1,000 people have been freed in the past month from Islamic schools in northern Nigeria where they reportedly experienced abuse.

In one such case, police sources said hundreds of men and boys had been freed from a school in Katsina, many of whom had been chained to walls, beaten and sexually abused.

The four raided schools, all in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, have much in common.  All had managers who portrayed themselves as Islamic clerics teaching students how to be good Muslims.

All the facilities also operated as reform centers to discipline misbehaving children. And all were in poor communities, drawing little attention — until now.

Activists have sought regulation of private Islamic schools for years, but strong traditions have stood in the way.

One such tradition involves a concept among Nigerian Muslims called almajiri.

“Almajiris, according to Islam, means those who migrated to somewhere in search of Islamic knowledge,” said cultural historian Bukar Chabbal. “That is the original conception — one under a strict teacher who teaches them.”

Almajiris are usually boys. A parent will send a son to live with an Islamic scholar, known as a mallam, for many years in the hope that the child will receive a sound education in Islamic doctrine.

There are an estimated 10 million almajiris in Nigeria, often seen on the streets begging for food. According to their Islamic teachers, begging helps the students learn humility.

But Chabbal and others say parents are abusing the system, giving their children away to Islamic clerics because they can’t afford to raise them themselves.


Sending unruly children to Islamic schools to be disciplined is another traditional practice.

Aliyu Mohammed Tonga, an activist for almajiri children, said that “as I can recall, when we were young, what our parents used to tell us is that someone has been taken to so-and-so person and has been corrected.”

Muslim groups in Nigeria are condemning the raided schools, saying the owners are not real clerics and the schools are not true almajiri schools.

Activists like Aliyu say regulation is necessary, to separate the good from the bad.

“Anybody can come in, even the criminal can come in in disguise and say, ‘I’m a mallam,’ and he can do what he can do, and that is what happened,” Aliyu said.

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Nigerian police to find abusive so-called Islamic schools and disband them.

Source: Abuses in Nigerian Islamic Schools Spark Regulation Demands

From UK ex-pat to EU citizen: A huge rise in Brits getting another EU passport

Good summary of the numbers. Would be interesting to see the percentages of UK citizens applying for EU member citizenship:

A new study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the WZB – Berlin Social Science Center has revealed that the number of Brits receiving German citizenship has risen by over 1000% since the Brexit referendum in 2016: While 622 British citizens received German citizenship in 2015, numbers jumped dramatically to 7,493 ‘naturalisations’ in 2017 and predictions for 2019 are higher than all previous years.

Figures released by the OECD for the whole continent show a similar trend of Brits acquiring another EU citizenship with a rise of 600% in ‘naturalisations’. With Brexit, deal or no–deal, all British citizens living in the UK or elsewhere stand to lose their European citizenship rights such as freedom of movement or recognition of qualifications. Obtaining the nationality of an EU member state is a way for British citizens to guarantee maintaining EU citizenship rights that many peoples professional and personal livelihoods over the years have come to depend on.Rachel from Loughborough who gained dual citizenship in 2018 and now lives in Berlin says:

Getting German citizenship has given me a whole new confidence and security that I had lost.

The study conducted by Oxford in Berlin and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) interviewed British citizens who have arrived in Germany over the last decade with a wide sample in social background, age and profession. The huge spike in post-2015 naturalisations (both UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK) is marked by the survey data as almost entirely motivated by the Brexit referendum.

According to migration researcher and co-author of the study Dr. Daniel Auer:

These dramatic jumps tell us we’re onto a significant social phenomenon here whose implications are yet to be understood.

If there were to be a no-deal Brexit at the end of this month, new applications for German citizenship from British citizens would require them to give up their UK citizenship because German law stipulates that only EU citizens can acquire dual-nationality.    Therefore, those Brits that want to maintain their European citizenship rights will have to give up their British citizenship, a heart-breaking and impossible prospect for many.

Alex, a start-up business owner who moved with his wife and two children from the UK to Germany in 2013 said:

We are being hung out to dry by the politicians from both sides. With my German language level, I’d have no chance of securing German citizenship and even if I could in the future, I wouldn’t want to give up my British passport. I just have to trust the German Government to keep their word and not kick us out.

While the legal consequences of Brexit remain so uncertain, people like Alex and Rachel – along with more than 5 million other EU or UK migrants on both sides of the channel – are taking often large risks to do whatever they can to mitigate the pending impact of Brexit on their lives.

Source: From UK ex-pat to EU citizen: A huge rise in Brits getting another EU passport

Mexico’s Immigration Institute Commissioner Accused Of Racism, Xenophobia

Unfortunate comments but one can only imagine the pressure he must be under:

The leader of Mexico’s immigration office is under fire after giving statements with racial and xenophobic connotations.

Francisco Garduño is the commissioner of Mexico’s National Institute of Immigration. He stated that Mexico will deport every single transcontinental migrant and that they should take the last massive deportation as a warning.

“Even if they’re coming from Mars, we are going to send them back,” Garduño said. The audio comes from a recorded provided by Reforma newspaper.

The commissioner said the cost for having migrants from India and Africa in Mexico is high, even on a political level with the United States.

“It’s unacceptable that immigration officers are being attacked and held hostage in their own country by African men,” Garduño added, referring to the recent migrant protests at Mexico’s southern border.

Immigrant rights defenders and nonprofit organizations like Sin Fronteras are demanding the Mexican government sanction Garduño for his comments.

Source: Mexico’s Immigration Institute Commissioner Accused Of Racism, Xenophobia

More accidental Americans are ending their US citizenship over tax fears: BNR

Ongoing pattern in many countries:

Some 1,700 ‘accidental’ Dutch Americans may have applied to give up their US nationality this year, a six-fold rise on three years ago, BNR radio reported on Tuesday.

Accidental Americans are ditching their American nationality because of US fiscal regulations which have led Dutch banks to threaten to close the accounts of people with American nationality by the beginning of next year, unless they can furnish them with a US tax number.

But there are thousands of Dutch nationals in the Netherlands with American nationality who do not have a tax number because they have never lived in the country and may not even have realised they are also American.

BNR bases its claim on figures from tax consultancy Americans Overseas, which says the number of requests for help in ditching American nationality has gone up six fold in three years. Such requests now account for up to 60% of the 3,000 to 5,000 inquiries for help they receive every year, the company said. The waiting list at the American embassy for the procedure has also increased from two to three weeks to up to a year, BNR said.

The cost of renouncing American nationality, a complicated procedure, is $2,350 and people aiming to do so must also submit five years worth of income tax filings in the US.


It is unclear how accurate the BNR estimate is. According to the IRS in the United States, some 1,600 people from all over the world gave up their US citizenship in the first six months of this year, so the BNR figure is likely to be an over-estimation. And the American embassy in The Hague told DutchNews.nl they do not have figures about how many people have renounced their US nationality.

Bank accounts

The legislation, known as FATCA – Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – requires all US citizens to supply the government with information about any assets they hold abroad, including bank accounts, houses and more. It also requires non-US banks with American clients to furnish the IRS with information about those holdings. Although the IRS in the US has made some changes, ‘no complete solution’ has been found for the problem, Dutch tax minister Menno Snel told MPs in a briefing in September. An approximate 1,000 ‘accidental’ Americans in the Netherlands have been told by their banks that they will lose their accounts unless they comply.

Source: More accidental Americans are ending their US citizenship over tax fears: BNR

Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

More on MP diversity:
In many ways the incoming Parliament looks quite similar to its predecessor, with 240 returning MPs, the same number of MPs who are Indigenous or a visible minority, and 10 more women.
A third of the 60 MPs representing ridings that flipped were won with less than five per cent of the vote.

Eight former MPs, seven lawyers, five farmers, two Olympic athletes, a financial adviser, a musician, and an actor are all among the 98 new MPs headed to the Hill this fall.

Two-thirds of that group helped change the face of the new Parliament, flipping the ridings in their party’s favour during the Oct. 21 election that propelled Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) back to Ottawa with a minority government made up of 133 incumbents, like him, holding the Liberals’ 157 seats.

Many of the ridings that flipped were hard-fought battles, with a third won by margins of five percentage points or less of the vote, and Quebec and the Bloc Québécois figuring prominently in that group. Among those who lost their seats are a cabinet minister, the Conservatives’ deputy leader, and the NDP’s Orange Wave legacy in Quebec.

Conservative candidates switched the most seats across the country, at 27, stealing mainly from the Liberals in the Western provinces and often winning by the widest margins. Former MPs John Williamson (New Brunswick Southwest, N.B.) and Rob Moore (Fundy Royal, N.B.) were among those who took their ridings back in decisive victories, more than 20 points ahead of their closest competitors.

Some Bloc Québécois candidates also scored convincing wins to not only return their party to official status in the House, but also rocket past the NDP to a third-place finish. The traditionally sovereigntist party brought the next biggest bloc of flipped seats at 22, mostly to the NDP’s detriment, taking 10 of the 14 seats the NDP lost in the province.

One-third of the Bloc’s caucus of 32 are women—a proportion the House is close to achieving this year.

Election after election, women are eking out greater representation at the federal level. The 43rd Parliament will include 98 women MPs, up from the 88 in 2015, but three shy of the 30 per cent mark championed by Equal Voice and others as a threshold for adequate representation. That bumped Canada’s international standing by four from 61 to 57 for women’s representation in political office.

Sixty-six women are returning MPs, 10 are new but helped their parties hold existing ridings, while 22 are among the 60 ridings that flipped.

The number of Indigenous and visible minority MPs elected Oct. 21 did not change the totals elected in 2015.

Four new Indigenous MPs were elected—three in ridings that switched parties, including Conservative MP-elect Marc Dalton (Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, B.C.), and NDP MPs-elect Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre, Man.) and Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (Nunavut)—but their number remains static in the House. As in 2015, 10 Indigenous MPs were elected to the House, though this year representing different parties, including six Liberals, one Conservative, two NDP, and one Independent.

The number of MPs who are visible minorities also remained static at 47, according to a preliminary analysis. The Liberals have four fewer MPs who have been identified as visible minorities, with 35, followed by nine Conservatives, and three NDP MPs.[Note: Expect that the large number of Bloc MPs impeded an increase as other parties are more diverse than the Bloc, which all appear to be “pure Laine”]

All numbers are pulled from candidate demographic profiles built by The Samara Centre for Democracy and The Hill Times, in partnership with researchers Jerome Black and Andrew Griffith, based on biographies and other online sources.

Tories lead flipped seats

The Conservatives led in flipped seats and also among former MPs trying to make it back to Parliament.

Political experience was a common thread among the successful new candidates—nearly half of the 98 new MPs cited past work as political staffers or representatives, with at least 10 sitting in provincial or territorial legislatures, and at least 14 on city council.

Of the 30 former MPs who appeared on ballots in the general election, five of the successful eight were Tories, including Mr. Williamson and Mr. Moore, Kerry-Lynne Findlay (South Surrey–White Rock, B.C.), Kyle Seeback (Dufferin-Caledon, Ont.), and Tim Uppal, who took back Edmonton Mill Woods, Alta., from Liberal cabinet minister Amarjeet Sohi.

Eight of the party’s 27 new seats came from B.C., followed by four apiece for Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.

Bloc victorious over NDP, Grits

Several of the new Bloc MPs come to Parliament with backgrounds in education.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet led his party’s reversal of fortunes, helping stamp out the last seats that remained from the NDP’s Orange Wave in 2011. Over two elections, the New Democrat’s 59 seats has dwindled to one, held by the popular Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, Que.).

Mr. Blanchet beat two-term NDP MP Matthew Dubé in Beloeil-Chambly as one of 10 NDP seats it flipped.

Also among the Bloc’s new cohort is Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, the son of former Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, who took Lac-Saint-Jean, Que., from Liberal MP Richard Hébert. It was among the nine seats the party took from the Grits.

The Liberals, meanwhile, carved a further three of its four seats from the NDP in Quebec, where many of the ridings that flipped were close races.

The NDP took three ridings back from the Liberals, including St. John’s East, N.L., after a successful bid from two-term former MP Jack Harris, who was defeated in 2015.

Human rights activist and educator Ms. Gazan beat one-term MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette by eight per cent to take Winnipeg Centre, Man., while 25-year-old Ms. Qaqqaq is representing Nunavut as one of this Parliament’s youngest MPs, and the first NDP MP to represent the region since it became a territory.

Of the seven seats the Liberals managed to flip (while losing four times that amount), Olympic medallist Adam van Koeverden’s victory in Milton, Ont., over deputy party leader Lisa Raitt was by far the biggest of the night.

And Fredericton’s new Green Party MP Jenica Atwin made history at the Liberals’ expense, when she took the seat from one-term MP Matt DeCourcey and gave the Greens its first federal seat outside of B.C.

Source: Nearly 100 new MPs offer new face of Parliament, including 60 in flipped seats

Nothing but a ‘vanity project’: People’s Party of Canada is likely dead, experts say

Hard not to agree. And it did not seem to have any effect of pulling the Conservatives further to the right:

In the lead-up to this week’s federal election, media outlets around the world wondered whether right-wing fringe candidate Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party represented an expansion of the populist, nationalist and anti-establishment sentiment sweeping the United States and Europe.

“A ‘Mad Max’ candidate offers a far-right jolt to the Canadian election,” read a headline in the New York Times. “Can populism become popular in Canada?” asked the BBC.

Judging from Monday night’s results, the answer appears to be a resounding no. The dismal outcome — the People’s Party clinched zero seats and less than 2 per cent of the popular vote — did not come as a surprise to political watchers, who said Tuesday our first-past-the-post system “inoculates” us from fringe parties. Plus, they said, Bernier’s brand of populism was just too extreme, particularly when it came to his views on immigration.

While Bernier, who lost in his own riding of Beauce, Que., insisted in a concession speech that the movement was “only getting started,” experts said the People’s Party likely would not survive.

“The PPC is rather easily seen now as a vanity project of Bernier’s, and as a very ineffectual attempt to come up with a latter-day Reform Party challenge to more moderate conservatism,” said David Laycock, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University.

Bernier, who held the Beauce riding since 2006, had served under the Conservative banner until last year when he narrowly lost the leadership contest to Andrew Scheer and then formed his own party. On Monday night, he garnered 28 per cent of the vote and placed second to Conservative Richard Lehoux.

Some of the party’s other higher-profile candidates, such as Renata Ford, widow of the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and Lee Harding, former Saskatchewan director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, barely made a dent — coming in fourth in their respective ridings of Etobicoke North and Cypress Hills-Grasslands and capturing only 2.8 per cent of the vote.

Bernier blamed “nasty and shameless attacks” from opponents for the PPC’s poor showing. (Late last week, The Globe and Mail reported that strategist Warren Kinsella and his firm Daisy Group had been hired by the Conservatives to “seek and destroy” Bernier’s party and portray its supporters as racist. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer refused to confirm or deny the allegation. Bernier filed a complaint with Elections Canada over the affair).

But experts suggested it was the party’s policies that did them in. While certain aspects of the PPC platform — support for libertarian principles, small government and a repeal of the carbon tax — dovetailed with the Conservatives, the party’s stances on immigration were controversial.

Bernier vowed to repeal the Multiculturalism Act and severely curtail immigration levels. Stealing from Donald Trump’s playbook, he even suggested building a fence along parts of the Canada-U.S. border to thwart irregular migration. Critics accused the party of providing a home to people peddling hate.

“Canadian voters don’t and won’t soon support the kind of overt racism that Bernier courted,” Laycock said. “Comparative public opinion data on immigration and multiculturalism show that while Canada isn’t the multicultural utopia that some commentators contend, Canadians don’t feel comfortable with explicit attacks on minority groups, and value ethnic diversity far more than most Europeans do.”

If Bernier had discussed multiculturalism in a more nuanced way with specific policy proposals, his messaging may have resonated more, said Tamara Small, a political science professor at the University of Guelph.

“The idea of multiculturalism is very important to people — definitely in English Canada,” she said.

Bernier had initially not been invited to take part in televised leaders’ debates, but that decision was reversed by former governor general David Johnston, head of the Leaders’ Debate Commission, who cited the party’s  “organizational capacity,” legitimate chance of electing more than one candidate and the media attention the party had received.

But Laycock and Small said the party received more news coverage than it deserved.

“I can’t think of a party in recent history that has polled at less than 3 per cent that got the amount of attention that he got, frankly,” Small said.

But if the media had ignored the PPC during the campaign, they would have been accused of not giving attention to the broad spectrum of political parties, said Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo.

“Frankly, populists would have used the absence of coverage … as a way to suggest that the media is overtaken by liberal interests.”

Asked what message the defeat of the PPC now sends to the Conservative Party as it rebuilds after failing to topple the Liberals, Small said there is nothing to be gained by pushing further to the right.

“There’s no more people there. There’s none,” she said.

“If there’s going to be a leadership race, a Kellie Leitch type of candidate probably doesn’t dominate,” Small added, referring to the one-time Conservative leadership hopeful who had controversially proposed screening immigrants for “Canadian values” and setting up an RCMP tip line so people could report “barbaric cultural practices.”

However, there is a chance, Momani said, that backers of right-wing populism may still want to work with the Conservative Party, in the same way the Tea Party movement in the U.S. worked with the Republican Party to elect Donald Trump.

The People’s Party itself though is “probably” dead, Laycock said. Bernier’s poor showing in Quebec indicates there isn’t a regional base for his conservative alternative.

Furthermore, “it is very hard to attract media attention without any MPs, especially when your leader can’t win his own seat.”

Source: Nothing but a ‘vanity project’: People’s Party of Canada is likely dead, experts say

Immigration NZ partnership visa policy labelled ‘racist’ [spouses]

Main issue in Canada appears to overall delays although Canada also faces challenge in determining whether a relationship is “genuine and stable” or just for immigration purposes:

Indian migrants are angry at a sudden, and unexpected, change to the interpretation of immigration rules, which is barring their spouses from moving to New Zealand.

Newsroom has reported extensively on the delays in the processing of partnership category visas. Now, New Zealand residents and citizens, mostly from India and other South Asian countries, are having their visas processed.

But dozens, if not hundreds, of these partnership visa applications are being declined, as they don’t meet Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) new interpretation of the partnership test.

These changes come under a Government that’s now making significant changes in immigration policy, after two years of continued strong migration and residency application that outstripped lowered targets.

But those in the Indian community are angry with the changes, with some being forced to sell up, pack up, quit their jobs and move back to India.

Others talk about hopelessness, financial and mental health issues, as well as stress put on new marriages and relationships.

And one immigration lawyer has labelled the sudden and unexpected change racist.

Change to pragmatic policy

Since 2009, following a ruling from the ombudsman, INZ has taken a somewhat pragmatic approach to granting partnership visas to those from India, who commonly engage in non-resident Indian (NRI) marriages.

These marriages are not the same as a traditional arranged marriage, but usually come about through a conversation between parents, extended families, and the parties looking to marry.

It isn’t uncommon for the pair to meet for the first time upon their engagement.

Those familiar with Indian culture, who spoke to Newsroom, said this was common practice, and did not reflect negatively on whether the relationship was genuine, or whether it would last.

However, it did create a difficulty for immigration officers applying the test to determine whether the partnership was “genuine and stable”.

Immigration instructions for partnership applications not only require INZ to determine whether the couple is genuine, and the relationship stable, but that the couple is “living together” in the same home at the time of the application.

This is often impossible for the sponsor partner who is working or studying in New Zealand.

While the New Zealand-based partner will often visit India for a few weeks or months at the time of the marriage and for brief holidays, it is often not possible to live with their new spouse long-term.

In the past, if INZ was not satisfied the couple had enough evidence to meet the relationship test, they would often grant a temporary visitor visa, which allowed the pair to live together in New Zealand, with the view to later apply for a partnership visa.

However, in the past fortnight, those applying for visas, and others working in the sector, say this workaround has been effectively removed as an option.

A stricter interpretation of immigration instructions is stopping those partners from gaining a temporary visitor visa, because they did not meet those specific tests, including having a strong enough incentive to return to their own country and prove their primary reason for travel was as a visitor.

While INZ said general short-term visitor visas would still be looked at on a case-by-case basis, those impacted say the approach from INZ has changed.

They say this more hardline interpretation of the instructions has left many from India, and other countries, with no path to joining their spouse.

While it’s hard to draw a trend from such a recent change in policy interpretation, the percentage of all approved applications for patrons of New Zealand residents or citizens was slightly down last month to 88.7 percent (from an average of 89.8 percent over the previous eight months). For applications where the applicant held an Indian passport, that approval percentage was at 77.4 percent last month (from an average of 91.2 percent over the previous eight months).

Policy ‘racist’, ‘Eurocentric’

Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont said INZ was no longer looking for a pragmatic solution, and was instead strictly applying the policy.

He had written to senior managers at INZ and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, but unless INZ changed its interpretation of how to apply its partnership tests, things weren’t looking good for applicants and their partners.

“I don’t know what to advise my clients either, I don’t know what they can do, apart from quitting their jobs, leaving their homes, selling up and going and living in India with their partner,” he said.

“This is why I’ve said that it is racist, at its core – it’s determining what kind of relationship someone can have. And it’s a European relationship, not an Indian relationship.”

“It’s really almost like saying: there is only one kind of partnership we recognise and that is a European, Kiwi-type marriage, and if you don’t enter into a relationship of that type, you can’t bring your partner to this country.”

The immigration instructions were “completely Eurocentric”, he said, adding that it sent a message that unless someone was married “the white, Kiwi way” they wouldn’t be able to get a visa.

“This is why I’ve said that it is racist, at its core – it’s determining what kind of relationship someone can have. And it’s a European relationship, not an Indian relationship.”

Since the change in policy a couple of weeks ago, McClymont’s practice has dealt with more than two dozen clients affected.

McClymont said while he was speculating, it was convenient the changes came at a time when INZ was under pressure to clear the massive backlog of partnership visa applications.

Last month, Newsroom reported New Zealand residents and their partners were suffering mental health issues, with some returning to India due to lengthy delays in visa processing.

High application volumes, coupled with the closure of offshore processing offices, had led to a massive backlog in the processing of partnership visa applications, particularly those coming from India.

In response, INZ has recruited more staff to its Mumbai and Hamilton offices, with 28 officers processing applications in Mumbai, and 140 in Hamilton working on partnership visa applications alone. INZ planned to expand to 170 in the coming months.

INZ business and specialist visa services national manager Peter Elms said INZ was working to provide certainty to applicants and their partners and was continuing with its recruitment drive.

Average visa processing times for partners of New Zealanders is currently nine months.

An angry community

While McClymont suggested the visa application backlog could be the driving force, National Party MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi said he believed it was an effort by the Government to curb immigration numbers.

While both New Zealand First and Labour campaigned on cutting immigration at the 2017 election, the number of people coming into New Zealand have remained high, and the number of people applying for residency was outstripping the Government’s lowered planning range.

“There is a lot of anger and people are frustrated.”

Bakshi said the Government needed to be upfront about plans to change immigration policy, and consult communities rather than making decisions from their Wellington offices.

The current approach from INZ showed a lack of sympathy, he said.

Bakshi was overseas when he got the call from his parents to tell them they had found him a good match.

The first time he met his wife was on their engagement, and they’ve been happily married for 30 years.

The latest changes to the INZ interpretation of the partnership instructions had caused worry within the Indian community, Bakshi said.

“There is a lot of anger and people are frustrated.”

INZ’s Elms said the department was mindful of cultural complexities and sensitivities when dealing with visa applicants.

“However, INZ must observe immigration policy as set by the Government.

“Immigration officers must consider all applications, regardless of the applicant’s background or country of origin, against the guidelines set out in immigration instructions,” he said.

“An immigration officer must be satisfied the applicant meets these instructions. It is also the responsibility of applicants to satisfy the immigration officer that the requirements of immigration instructions have been met.”

‘Our lives are on hold’

About a dozen people contacted Newsroom to share their experiences, many of whom had waited months to be assigned a case officer, only to have their applications declined within days.

Others had been declined multiple times.

Many of these people received the same reasoning from INZ: “We are not satisfied that you meet immigration instructions V3.10 as you have not demonstrated that you and your partner are living together in a genuine and stable relationship.”

While most who contacted Newsroom were from India, others had partners from Egypt or Thailand.

Ankur Shokeen married his wife in January and she applied for a partnership visa in February. Their case was assigned to an officer early last month, and declined three weeks later.

INZ told the pair while they had been married for 10 months, they had spent just a month together, and therefore did not meet the test.

Gagandeep and Jaspreet (who did not want their surnames used) were married last year and applied for a partnership visa in January, and after almost nine months of waiting to be assigned a case officer, their application was declined on the same day.

They WhatsApp for two hours every day, but have spent a total of five weeks together since their wedding.

Ehsanul (Sunny) Bashar married his wife in May 2016, and has had her visa application declined six times.

They have lived together for four months but that timeframe did not satisfy the requirement, and INZ said their partnership could not be categorised as “genuine and stable”.

Bashar is a New Zealand citizen, living in the country for 24 years, and said he believed this treatment was “unfair and unjust”.

“I wonder do we give up our jobs, our lives, desert our parents in New Zealand, face financial ruin? Is this what Immigration NZ wants?

“If there is a deliberate ploy to reduce numbers (of) migrants why have a policy where we can pay fees and apply for visas multiple times, to get the same negative result?

“Our lives are on hold, pained, traumatised, mentally and emotionally scarred,” he said.

Source: Immigration NZ partnership visa policy labelled ‘racist’

Trump’s hard-line immigration rule could disproportionately hurt Asian immigrants

Not the first article examining the likely effects on particular groups and likely not the last:

A hard-line Trump administration immigration policy that would deny immigrants residency if they are deemed likely to become a “public charge,” or need public assistance, could significantly affect the Asian American community.

The Department of Homeland Security rule, which was published in August, greatly expanded the definition of who is considered a public charge. Given the community’s use of certain social services, high rates of limited English proficiency, and heavy reliance on the family reunification system to come to the United States, immigration advocates fear that the rule would create serious barriers for Asian immigrants or those who wish to change their status.

Research from the Migration Policy Institute reveals more than 941,000 recent green card holders would have fallen under the Trump administration rule had it been in effect when they applied. Of those, 300,000 are from Asian countries.

A federal judge temporarily blocked the rule earlier this month, allowing a total of 15 days — which ends Friday — for parties to submit filings. The policy is currently enjoined and cannot be implemented by the administration, but it has already impacted many in the community who fear their use of public benefits could compromise their immigration status.

“The policy itself, the mere suggestion that the administration was considering the policy, has resulted in Asian immigrants and other immigrants pulling out of public benefits,” John C. Yang, executive director of the civil rights nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, told NBC News.

Yang added: “This [rule], to us, is just a made-up reason to exclude certain classes of immigrants.”

The current definition of public charge is rather specific. Those who would need cash assistance or institutionalized care would fall under the category. However the Trump administration’s expanded definition would include individuals who would need food stamps, Medicaid, and Section 8 housing. The administration rationalized the rule, claiming that “self-sufficiency has long been a basic principle of U.S. immigration law.”

Roughly 70 percent to 80 percent of Asian immigrants come to the U.S. through family-based immigration, which means they would be scrutinized under the Trump administration rule. Of the more than 420,000 green cards that were granted to Asian immigrants in Fiscal Year 2017, almost 40 percent were given to immediate family members, while more than 20 percent were given to family-sponsored waiting list registrants.

In some urban areas, the Asian American community experiences particularly high rates of poverty. In New York City, Asian Americans have the highest poverty rate compared to all other racial groups. The racial group has one of the fastest growing populations in poverty. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of Asian Americans in poverty grew by 37 percent and Pacific Islander poverty ballooned by 60 percent, higher compared to any other group. The national increase was significantly lower at 27 percent.

Almost 18 percent of those who participate in government assistance programs are Asian Americans. However those in the community already underuse social services, Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the New York City-based social services nonprofit Asian American Federation, said. Not only would underprivileged immigrants meet challenges in obtaining permanent residency, but Yoo said that the proposed rule would further intimidate them from utilizing public services.

According to the new public charge rule, immigrants would also be assessed on English proficiency. The Asian American population already has the highest proportion of residents who speak a language other than English at home. And more than one-third of Asian American and Pacific Islanders have limited English proficiency.

“The Trump administration has a very narrow view of what types of immigrants are so-called desirable in the United States and frankly it is a racist and xenophobic view,” Yang told NBC News. “That view is that only people who are desirable are already proficient in English, already have a certain level of wealth or high skills.”

Since the rule was proposed back in 2018, roughly 13 percent of immigrant adults are reported to have withdrawn their use of public benefits out of fear of risking their future green card status, according to a report by Urban Institute. Yang added that some individuals who would not be subject to the rule have actually pulled out of public services due to misinformation.

“It does not affect refugees. It does not affect existing citizens,” he said. “We don’t want people to be fearful of using public benefits when they are entitled to use them.”

Asian Americans have long confronted restrictive immigration policies tied to the potential use of social services. The first public charge rule in U.S. history coincided with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The two separate legal rules ultimately carried the same function.

“There’s an absolute linkage between the discrimination of Asians and public charge,” Yang said. “[The first public charge rule and the Chinese Exclusion Act] were rooted in the same thing: which was this notion that Chinese immigrants were coming into the country in numbers that were too large and that they were somehow deemed to be undesirable.”

Yang pointed out that since that time, public charge has been used to exclude other immigrant communities, including Mexican immigrants and those in the Jewish community.

Source: Trump’s hard-line immigration rule could disproportionately hurt Asian immigrants

There is No Room in Islam for Clerics Who Abuse Women—Not in Iraq, Not Anywhere | Opinion

Of note:

Child abuse revelations have rocked the Catholic church in the last generation, leading to lasting damage to how the Church is viewed worldwide and even shaking the faith of some believers.

Some speculate that a similar scandal is brewing in Shia Islam, with abusers exposed to be using egregious misrepresentations of religious law to facilitate their attacks.

The limelight has been shone on this in a recent BBC documentary, provocatively titled “Undercover with the Clerics.” Girls as young as 13 were essentially pimped out by Iraqi men who claimed religious legitimacy. Specifically, the men stated they were followers of Grand Ayatollah Syed Sistani, despite the fact that the cleric has condemned their actions as abhorrent not only to Islam’s values but to Iraqi law and human rights.

Those human rights have come on in leaps and bounds in Iraq since the toppling of Saddam and his dictatorship in 2003.

Civil society has gone from being all but non-existent to becoming one of the more vibrant examples of life in the region. Iraq’s constitution guarantees that at least a quarter of the country’s members of parliament are women (a slightly higher percentage than in the current U.S. House of Representatives.)

This renaissance is most pronounced when it comes to Iraq’s Shia Muslims.

Despite being a religious majority in the country, the community’s members are still recovering from decades of repression under Saddam. But in in the mere 16 years since Saddam’s removal, Iraq’s Shia, including Shia clerics, have gone from being brutally persecuted to forming the backbone of Iraq’s civil society. This makes it all the more shocking that what is an overwhelmingly progressive, democratizing institution is now being accused of providing cover for abusers.

The man who bears no small amount of responsibility for this progress is Ayatollah Ali Sistani, one of the leading global authorities in Shia Islam with perhaps 200 million followers. The 89-year-old cleric is the antithesis of Islamophobic ideas of a Muslim scholar: he has single-handedly driven the embrace by Iraq’s largest confessional community of elections and democracy, and has relentlessly campaigned for human rights in general, and women’s rights in particular.

I have visited Iraq several times every year since 2003. On many of those visits I have had private meetings with Ayatollah Sistani. I cannot remember ever meeting him without him mentioning women’s rights.

In Iraq, these issues are not an ideological luxury; they are a societal necessity. There are over a million war widows in Iraq, many of whom have no access to welfare or assistance. This has become exacerbated in recent years as the international community’s attention has shifted towards Syria, and policy makers tend to view Iraq through a security, rather than a humanitarian, lens.

Iraq’s largest charity, the Al-Ayn foundation, was formed and is supervised by Syed Sistani’s office. It is funded directly from within the Shia community, allowing it a continuity of service that is difficult when dependent on international donors and NGOs.

It looks after more than 57,000 orphans and widows in everything from healthcare to education to psychotherapy. The potential of Iraq’s Shia clerics for social good has become clear since they were allowed to function independently in post-Saddam Iraq.

Al-Ayn also has safeguarding procedures to internationally recognized standards, far beyond what some Western aid volunteers adhere to. All staff undergo thorough background checks and only contact beneficiaries through official channels. Syed Sistani has personally insisted, for example, that only female members of staff deal with vulnerable women beneficiaries.

This makes it all the more infuriating to see the allegations the BBC report that so-called Shia Clerics are using the cover of religious institutions to coax Iraqi women and children into prostitution.

Any abuse of vulnerable women and girls, anywhere, must be absolutely stamped out. When it is done in the cloak of religion, it is even more repugnant. Syed Sistani has issued an absolute and unequivocal disavowal of those acts, and instructed his followers to root out these behaviours wherever they are found.

It is not entirely clear what claim the abusers can make to being clerics themselves, or if this religious affiliation is as deceptive as the rest of their trafficking scam. The main abuser’s most demonstrable link to religion was his title of “Syed” which can, as the program noted, mean that he is a descendant of the Prophet’s family, but can also mean “Mister.” Based on decades of intimate knowledge of the Iraqi Shia clergy, I would like to believe that these men are imposters. But whether they are or not doesn’t substantially change how the Shia community should respond to these revelations: if they are imposters, they need to be exposed as such; if they are—or ever were—clerics, they deserve condemnation all the more.

Reports like these, where religious legal instruments such as fixed-term marriage, or mut’ah, are abused, disgust me and all Muslims.

That those abuses repeatedly victimize vulnerable women and children is bad enough. But they also feed into Islam’s worst sectarian divides. Distortions and actual malpractices of the mut’ah concept are also seized on by fanatical anti-Shia jihadists like Daesh. Fixed-term marriage between consenting adults exists in Shia religious teachings as a way, for example, for an engaged couple to get to know each other without contravening gender boundaries. It is a marriage relationship with strict requirements, and rights, for both parties. As Syed Sistani’s office stated in their own comments to the BBC team, they are not mean to pimp out women, least of all underage girls.

To some extremists, however, the notion of mut’ah marriages is falsely used to feed their narrative that Shia Muslims are not Muslims at all, but infidels, who do not believe even in the sanctity of marriage.

It is essential that the most vulnerable in every society, whether they are Iraqi widows seeking assistance, parishioners in the far-flung world of the Catholic church or British children appearing on popular BBC shows, are protected. And at the same time, we must protect important institutions from those criminals and charlatans who abuse not only their innocent victims, but also the organizations to which they claim to be affiliated and whose values they so obviously betray.

Source: There is No Room in Islam for Clerics Who Abuse Women—Not in Iraq, Not Anywhere | Opinion

Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds

Good piece by Mike Morden of Samara:

After the votes are counted tonight, 338 candidates will be headed to Ottawa to claim their seats as members of Parliament. The other 1500-plus candidates will be headed home. For some of them, that will mean coming to terms with a rough financial picture.

Running for office in a competitive campaign is very expensive. Serious candidates have to leave or quit their jobs, forgoing income for weeks or months. Some won’t have jobs to return to, if they weren’t fortunate in having flexible employers. The self-employed will have to make up for lost time and lost clients.

Drumming up sympathy for politicians is a difficult business. But it’s important to see the costs of standing for election, because those costs mean that few of us will ever be in a financial position to run — or to do so seriously. Our political class is drawn from those who have the means. The result is a form of underrepresentation in our national politics that often goes unnoticed or unchallenged. We need to find ways to make running for office more accessible.

The Samara Centre has been working with research partners and a team of volunteers to compile demographic profiles of all 2019 federal candidates in the major parties, based on information made public in candidates’ biographies. This data, which is not yet published, reveals the predicted underrepresentations — of women, Indigenous people and people of colour. But it also reflects class- and occupation-based underrepresentations. We can’t identify the income levels of candidates, of course, but we can make some inferences based on the information available to us.

For example, on the basis of publicly available information alone, it becomes clear that most candidates hold one or more university degrees; by comparison,  fewer than 30 percent of working-age Canadians have those credentials. Lawyers, entrepreneurs and private sector executives are well represented among candidates. So are office holders from other levels of government, and some middle-class professionals like teachers. But what about service workers in retail or hospitality? What about child care workers, or tradespeople? They’re largely absent from Canada’s political class.

None of this is remotely surprising. But it should bother us more than it does.

Education and income are strong predictors of Canadians’ attitudes toward political issues and of their general views of Canadian democracy. They are stronger predictors, in many cases, than the other identities we carry. There’s evidence that working-class politicians behave differently in office, that their life experiences inform different priorities. Our white-collar parties and Parliament make substantively different decisions than they would with a more economically diverse membership. And working-class Canadians don’t see themselves reflected in their leaders, strengthening the existing tendency toward greater political dissatisfaction and distrust.

These demographic absences are reflected in how politics is done, and for whom. Indeed, the lack of a lived experience of the working class is apparent in the political discourse today, which has become peculiarly conscious of just a single class: the middle class (whoever that is). It’s also reflected in the woolly notions held by political elites about what a working-class Canadian is in 2019 (it almost always involves a hard hat).

Much of the responsibility for recruiting a more diverse candidate slate falls to the parties. But fixing economic underrepresentation, deliberately and through policy, is not easy. It involves wrestling with social and economic structures that are pervasive and deeply entrenched — beyond the reach of most available political reforms.

Nevertheless, we can think creatively about policy avenues to make political candidacy more affordable and more accessible. We can start by replacing some of the income that is lost when someone seeks office. Employment insurance provides income support for people who are unexpectedly unemployed. But it is also a tool to replace income for people who have to step away from work temporarily, to do something that is personally costly but beneficial to society — like raising a baby or caring for a sick family member. This logic can be applied to political candidacy.

The federal government should consider a new carve-out in the Employment Insurance Act, to allow registered (non-incumbent) candidates for federal, provincial and municipal elections, if they are otherwise eligible for EI, to collect it for a limited period (say, for a maximum of 50 days, which is also the maximum length of a federal campaign). Right now, candidates aren’t formally disqualified from collecting EI. But they have to be available for work and job-searching in the usual ways while collecting the benefit. Anyone who is truly campaigning full-time, with the goal of actually winning and holding office, is essentially ruled out.

This should be changed. There would be some potential for abuse, but that’s no different from the conventional uses of EI. In fact, when it becomes necessary, distinguishing between real and fake candidates would be, relatively speaking, easier to adjudicate.

It’s really important that good people put their hands up to run in our elections. It’s really important that those people aren’t only the relatively wealthy. Replacing candidates’ income is a small change. Obviously, it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the huge structural obstacles facing working-class Canadians: precarious employment, lack of time and a want of political resources like personal access and fundraising networks, to name a few. The take-up would likely be small. And it may prove that more targeted measures are needed to move the needle on working-class representation.

But it’s a simple policy step to help relieve the immediate financial costs of candidacy. It would also send a message to some of the people who most need to hear it: that whatever the political class looks like today, it’s supposed to be of you, and for you — and, in fact, it needs you.

Source: Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds