Daily Dispatch 12/2/2019: ICE Deports Witness, UN/EU pushing out refugees in Libya

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Daily Dispatch

December 2, 2019

 The Hard Rock hotel in New Orleans after the collapse on 12 October. Construction worker Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma, who had reported lapses in construction safety to his supervisors before the collapse, was deported to Honduras by US immigration authorities on Friday. Photograph: Scott Threlkeld/AP

ICE deports potential witness in Hard Rock construction site collapse

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was deported to Honduras despite a request from the secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission to stay his deportation because Palma was part of an investigation into worker safety in the wake of the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel site in New Orleans in October. From the Post:

A metal worker considered a “crucial witness” in the collapse at the Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans last month was deported Friday to his native Honduras.

Lawyers for Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma said the 38-year-old may have been targeted for deportation because he voiced concerns about the project — a claim immigration officials have denied.

Palma escaped the 18-story structure by jumping between floors as the steel and concrete from the upper floors came crashing down around him. The Oct. 12 catastrophe left three workers dead and dozens injured.

Two days later, as he was recovering, federal immigration agents arrested Palma while he was fishing at a national wildlife refuge.

The request from the Louisiana Workforce Commission made clear the Palma was a crucial witness in this investigation. From the Guardian,

In a 27 November letter addressed to William P. Joyce, the New Orleans field office director of Ice, Dejoie implored the agency to release Ramirez Palma, stay his deportation and “commit to neutrality in ongoing labor investigations for all witnesses and victims.” The letter was seen by the Guardian.

“In the aftermath of a disaster of this scale, the public needs all available information to understand what happened at the worksite, including information from Mr. Ramirez Palma and workers like him who witnessed safety violations before the collapse,” Dejoie wrote. “If he is deported, the public may never know what key information is being deported with him. The investigations will undoubtedly suffer.”

Palma is married and has three children. He has lived and worked in New Orlean for the last 17 years. He was issued a removal order in 2016, but has been in the process of appealing that decision and has checked in regularly with ICE offices in the interim. 

Libya is the EU’s Mexico

The Trump administration has come under much fire for its policies that have essentially offshored immigration enforcement to Mexico. This includes the disastrous Remain in Mexico policy and the various pressures Trump has put on the Mexican government to step up enforcement in order to keep migrants, especially asylum seekers, from reaching the U.S. border. Trump deserves all the fire he’s received for these policies – they are a human rights disaster and completely unnecessary.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union is doing the same thing with Libya. The EU has funded the Libyan Coast guard in an effort to keep migrants from crossing the Mediterranean, while supporting Libyan government efforts to keep migrants in detention. Detention sites in Libya are a complete disaster – often under the control of different militias on competing sides in the nation’s ongoing civil war. Even official camps exist in dangerous settings, especially in Tripoli, which has been under siege for months. 

Now the UN is asking migrants in one of these official camps to leave – where they are supposed to go is far from clear. From the Associated Press:

The U.N. refugee agency plans to cut the number of migrants staying at an overcrowded transit center in Libya’s capital, a spokesman said Saturday.

Libya is a major waypoint for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

“The situation is very difficult, and we do not have the resources” because the center in Tripoli is at about twice its capacity, with some 1,200 migrants, Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesman, told The Associated Press.

The UNHCR has asked those refugees not registered with the agency to leave the European Union-funded Gathering and Departure Facility, offering an assistance package that includes cash for an initial two months.

“You will not be considered for evacuation or resettlement if you stay at the GDF,” the agency warned the migrants, according to a document obtained by the AP. It added that those seeking registration with the agency could only do so “outside” the facility.

The UNHCR said it would phase out food distribution for the unregistered migrants, including dozens of tuberculosis patients, from Jan. 1.

Yaxley said the agency also offered to facilitate returning the migrants to their home country or to a country they previously registered as asylum-seekers.

Migrants, however, decried the move fearing they would end up at detention centers or at the mercy of human traffickers.

“The migrants are reluctant and have their concerns about leaving the GDF,” one person seeking shelter at the facility said, who spoke on condition of anonymity for his safety. The surrounding areas of Tripoli have seen heavy fighting between armed factions since April.

Read the full story here. There are more than 40,000 asylum seekers, most from other countries in Africa, registered in Tripoli.  

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