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A blog about human rights in their many forms.

Europe takes a harder line on migrants

The EU is moving away from saving lives, focusing instead on keeping newcomers out.
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The grassroots organization Voix des sans-papiers speaks out at their most recent demonstration in Brussels. The group regularly organizes protests against the criminalization of undocumented migrants. (Voix des sans-papiers/Courtesy)

NEW YORK — To the dismay of human rights advocates, Italy announced the end of its Mediterranean search-and-rescue sea mission, Mare Nostrum, in October. The year-long initiative had saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from drowning.

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In Greece, young migrants fight to be considered Greek

Children of Greek migrants still face a long road to full acceptance in the country they call home.
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Greeks and immigrants raise their painted hands during a demonstration in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on March 30, 2013, as they called for Greek citizenship for migrants' children born or raised in Greece. The Greek Council of State deemed unconstitutional a law passed almost three years ago which allowed second-generation migrants to apply for citizenship and to stand in local elections. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS /AFP/Getty Images)

ATHENS, Greece — Nikos Odubitan’s friends see him as the quintessential Greek, and not just because he has one of the most common Greek first names.

He gestures like a Greek and argues like a Greek. He uses both the slang of his generation and obscure words of ancient origin. Weaving through Athens traffic on his motorbike, he greets local business owners and the odd classmate with an informal “ελα, ρε!” which means something like, “Hey, there.”

But Odubitan is not a Greek cien and until Nov. 18, when the coalition government introduced a new bill that would change citizenship requirements, had few prospects of becoming one. Although he was born in Athens in 1981, his parents are Nigerian. As a result, he, like an estimated 200,000 others with foreign-born parents, has been effectively disqualified from citizenship. That means he can’t vote or work and travel freely within the European Union, and if he doesn’t renew his visa on time, he becomes undocumented.

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For child migrants in France, growing up could mean losing it all

Thousands of unaccompanied minors face unemployment and homelessness in their adopted country as they come of age.
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Three young boys from Eritrea cross the border between Italy and France on board a regional train, on Aug. 6, 2014, near Nice, southeastern France. Immigrant minors have the right to education and foster homes in France, but transitioning to adulthood is a challenge for young migrants. (JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS — In his other life, Juman Ahmed witnessed his father’s brutal murder in an attack that left his mother beaten and put him in the hospital for 14 months. He flew alone from Bangladesh to France on April 3, 2012, just before his 17th birthday.

When he first arrived, he was angry, confused about why he was plucked from his home and sent to a strange new country where he knew no one. A call to his mother made things clear: “I saw my husband die in front of me,” she said. She didn’t want her son to be next.

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Europe’s refugee asylum systems buckling under pressure

For refugees fleeing violence and oppression, reaching Europe means facing a whole new set of challenges.
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Migrants saved during a shipwreck in the Mediterranean on Aug. 5, 2014. (Francesco Malavolta/The GroundTruth Project/GlobalPost)

ROME — Italy’s ports, overflowing with refugees escaping war and persecution, symbolize the urgency of the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s border. Yet after surviving harrowing journeys to reach Italy, few plan to stay there.

Of approximately 74,000 Syrians and Eritreans who landed in Sicily this year, less than one percent had applied for asylum in Italy by the end of November.

EU regulations theoretically require those who arrive in Europe to apply for asylum on the first soil they touch. But many migrants try to avoid regulations because most border countries, like Italy and Greece, have limited resources to absorb them. Experts say EU regulations are so loose and refugee programs so inconsistent across the 28-member bloc that many migrants are driven to evade the rules, hoping to travel to EU countries with better resettlement services and job markets.

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Smuggler gangs in the Mediterranean are big, deadly business

As the number of migrants traveling to Italy via Libya explodes, smuggling gangs stand to make a profit.

AUGUSTA, Sicily, Italy — Isma could see that the rubber dinghy he boarded with 100 other refugees was ill-equipped to carry them across the Mediterranean Sea to Sicily from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

So it was no surprise when, only eight hours into a voyage that can take three days, the inflatable boat began to take on water. A satellite phone left behind by one of the smugglers made it possible to call the Italian coast guard for rescue before it was too late.

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Torture report divides leaders at home and abroad

The controversial document has sparked debate about core US values.

America's legacy of torture

Declassified documents trace the CIA's torture program back to the 1950s, when the CIA developed a curriculum to teach Latin American militaries how to torture.
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A man holds a poster accusing CIA of torturing Iraqi war prisoners as he protests outside the White House in Washington DC on March 19, 2013, the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

Torture has been the dirty secret of US foreign policy for years.

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s numbing report of the CIA’s brutal torture practices against terrorist suspects since 9-11 has provoked a drama of would-be soul searching just two weeks before Christmas.

As the political talk shows fill with experts debating the logic of imposed suffering, we have heard no great voice of outrage from bishops, pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders.

Are they co-opted in sins of silence?

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How far can a pope go?

Francis is a change agent rivaled by few other figures in power today. Does a reform-driven pope have the power to change doctrine?
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Jorge Mario Bergoglio attends his first private Mass as Pope Francis in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on March 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (L'Osservatore Romano/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has huge popularity with rank-and-file Catholics who have hungered for a figure to transcend an age of scandal. But the advancing story line of Francis’s papacy is this: how far can a pope go in making reforms against an embedded culture of cardinals and bishops, averse to change?

“Gay clergy many times feel that their gifts as ministers flow from the experience of a homosexual orientation,” is how Father Robert Nugent explained his advocacy for gay Catholics, when I first interviewed him in 1987. 

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The future of the internet is up in the air

Big decisions about internet governance and freedom are in the making.
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Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) President and CEO Fadi Chehadé speaks on internet governance during a discussion at the Hudson Institute on April 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A plan unveiled in March would see the US relinquish its key oversight role for the Internet, handing that over to 'the global multi-stakeholder community.' (MANDEL NGAN /AFP/Getty Images)

The internet as you know it is about to fundamentally shift. While Americans are embroiled in debates over net neutrality (watch John Oliver explain it) and data surveillance, little attention has been paid to issues that affect global internet security as a whole. Big changes are ahead, and there’s been a surprising lack of discussion about how the web we’ve come to know and love will be managed, and who will be at the helm.

The organization that currently maintains the easy global flow of the internet, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is about to be released from under the US Department of Commerce. Since 1998, ICANN has been operating the global domain name system from within the US government, including setting policy and managing the functions of root name servers. But that’s all about to change.

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As religious leaders help in Ferguson, US churches remain mostly segregated

Just 13 percent of American churches are racially mixed, an increase since the late 1990s.
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Reverend Al Sharpton addresses churchgoers as he speaks about the shooting death of Michael Brown during a church service at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church Nov. 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Mo. (Joshua Lott /Getty Images)

For the vast majority of American Christians, attending church is a racially segregated experience.

Just 7 percent of all US congregations were racially mixed in 1998. By 2012 that number had climbed to 13 percent, according to Michael Emerson, professor of sociology at Rice University and author of three books on religion and race in America.

Yet Christian clergy of all backgrounds and denominations have been prominent voices within the public furor around race and police brutality sweeping the country, touched off by a St. Louis County grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. — then further ignited this week by a Staten Island grand jury decision not to indict the white officer who was videotaped choking to death Eric Garner, an unarmed black man.

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