WASHINGTON, June 19, (AFP): President Donald Trump vowed Monday that the United States would not become a “migrant camp,” as he faced soaring pressure to end the separation of immigrant families on America’s southern border. While top administration officials stood by Trump’s policy of “zero tolerance” towards unauthorized border crossers, and insisted children were being held in humane conditions, criticism swelled from rights groups and within the president’s own Republican Party. With the US border crisis shaping up as a critical challenge of his presidency, Trump stood defiant even as Democratic lawmakers accused authorities of keeping children in “cages” separate from their incarcerated parents and Amnesty International likened the practice to “torture.”
“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said at the White House. “You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places, we can’t allow that to happen to the United States,” he said. “Not on my watch.” Earlier, Trump barged into an immigration row rocking Europe, where countries have clashed on the issue, saying the continent made a “big mistake” by allowing in migrants. The US leader has repeatedly stoked fears of migrantdriven crime to advance his anti-immigration agenda. On the home front, Trump has said he wants family separations to end, but has refused to take responsibility — instead blaming Democrats, the minority party in Congress, for blocking legislation on the broader issue of illegal immigration. “CHANGE THE LAWS!” Trump bellowed on Twitter.
New Department of Homeland Security data shows that 2,342 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the administration said it would arrest and charge all migrants illegally crossing the Mexican border, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum. Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated from them.
In heartbreaking audio released by transparency group ProPublica, several Central American children separated from their parents are heard desperately sobbing and wailing, some so hard they almost cannot breathe. “Mommy! I want to go with dad,” a young girl is heard crying out. The United Nations slammed the practice as unconscionable, while rights group Amnesty International blasted a “spectacularly cruel” policy which has resulted in frightened children pried from their parent’s arms and taken to overfl owing detention centers.
“This is nothing short of torture,” said Amnesty’s Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas. US public opinion appears divided along partisan lines on the family separations, with two-thirds of all American voters opposed, but 55 percent of Republicans supporting the policy, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll. Meanwhile, President Trump’s policy of separating migrants entering the US from Mexico from their children shows that the United States and Europe do not share the same “model of civilisation,” France’s government spokesman said Tuesday. “I don’t want what’s happening in the United States to happen in Europe, we don’t have the same model of civilisation, clearly we do not share certain values,” spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told France 2 television. Trump is facing mounting pressure over his policy of separating families that illegally cross the Mexican border, with reports showing dozens of children being held in large metal enclosures.
“These images are obviously shocking, and obviously our job is to defend a European ideal, an ideal of peace, of freedom,” Griveaux said. A record 68.5 million people have been forced fl ee their homes due to war, violence and persecution, notably in places like Myanmar and Syria, the UN said on Tuesday. By the end of 2017, the number was nearly three million higher than the previous year and showed a 50-percent increase from the 42.7 million uprooted from their homes a decade ago, according to a report by the UN refugee agency. The current figure is equivalent to the entire population of Thailand, and the number of people forcibly displaced equates to one in every 110 persons worldwide, it said. “We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
But around 70 percent of that number are people from just 10 countries, he told reporters in Geneva ahead of the report’s launch. “If there were solutions to confl icts in those 10 countries, or in some of them at least, that huge figure, instead of rising every year, could start going down,” he said, calling for more political will to halt the crises driving so many from their homes.
The report showed that 16.2 million people were freshly displaced last year, and included those forced to fl ee for the first time as well as those who had been previously displaced. This equates to some 44,500 people being pushed out of their homes every day — or one person every two seconds, UNHCR said. Most people fl ee within their own country, and are defined as internally displaced people, or IDPs. By the end of 2017, there were some 40 million IDPs worldwide, down slightly from previous years, with Colombia, Syria and Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for the greatest numbers. Another 25.4 million people — more than half of them children — were registered as refugees last year.
That is nearly three million more than in 2016, and “the highest known total to date”, it said. Syria’s seven-year confl ict alone had, by the end of last year, pushed more than 6.3 million people out of the country, accounting for nearly one-third of the global refugee population. Another 6.2 million Syrians are internally displaced. The second largest refugee-producing country in 2017 was Afghanistan, whose refugee population grew by five percent during the year to 2.6 million people. The increase was due mainly to births and more Afghans being granted asylum in Germany, UNHCR said.