Conflict Weekly

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Conflict Weekly
Europe's other migrant crisis, and Protests in Cuba and Thailand

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #97, 18 November 2021, Vol.2, No.33
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and KAS-India Office

Vaishnavi Iyer, Porkkodi Ganeshpandian, and Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

Europe's  other migrant crises: The United Kingdom and Italy 
In the news
On 8 November, following days of waiting in the central Mediterranean, a boat carrying more than 800 migrants, including 200 minors and five pregnant women, was allowed to dock at Trapani, off the Sicilian coast. The ship was allowed to dock after rejections from Lampedusa and Malta. The Sea-Eye charity complained about the "appalling" state of the country's inability to assist.
On 14 November, around 1,185 migrants arrived in the UK, crossing the English Channel in boats and kayaks. The arrival marked the highest single-day crossing record. The Home Office termed the new number crossings "unacceptable." Whitehall sources accused France of "losing control of the situation". On the same day, Italy rescued more than 550 migrants in Calabria.
On 15 November, France retaliated against British comments on migration, stating: "we don't have any lessons to take from the British." He stated that, despite the British government's desire to blame the French, the French government is effectively managing the migrant issue in Calais and Dunkirk.
On 16 November, France cleared the Dunkirk camps, clearing 1500 migrants and 35 people smugglers. The French police said that: "663 people had already been transported on 23 buses to a shelter." The actions have been described by French officials as an attempt to "shelter" refugees over the winter months.
Issues at large 
First the number and nature of daily crossings. Over this year, nearly 23,000 people have reached the UK via France. While for Italy, around 53,000 migrants arrived between January and October. Around 98 percent of migrants reaching the UK apply for asylum, while most migrants reaching Italy are pushed back to Slovenian borders.
Second, the state response. Italy has sent out 1300 migrants informally. A bilateral deal with Slovenia permits it to return unlawful migrants who cross their shared border. The UK government has introduced a plan for immigration to dissolve criminal gangs that enable cross-channel migration. The UK government has firmly maintained that migration journeys would soon be made unviable.
Third, a humanitarian perspective. As the countries push back against the migrants, they remain stranded between borders facing European winters, sexual abuse, and health hazards. Rejections from both Italy and Slovenia force migrants to move to Croatia scrutinized for their migrant abuse. During the pandemic, the Italian quarantine system included halting refugees in the open sea. The head of the Immigration Service Union in the UK mentioned that migrants slept on concrete floors, and more than 490 migrants shared two portable toilets for 24 hours. Most practices followed to restrict migrations are harsh and discriminatory.
In perspective 
First, a European pattern. The EU has clarified for years that it will not allow migrants or refugees to cross its borders. This allows countries on the perimeter the ability to utilize refugees as "pawns". The EU has made concessions to Libya, Sudan, and Turkey to prevent refugees from entering Europe. This often entails grave human rights violations against refugees in order to deter them. The system broke this year.
Second, prevention of border entry. International law recognizes the right to seek asylum and the provision of an asylum option. The EU has made the journey more inaccessible, curtailing rescue and search operations and humanitarian aid.
Third, the difference with Belarus. Refugee numbers have lowered by two-thirds since 2015. However, the Global crisis still remains. The EU has merely succeeded in transferring the crisis to poorer and more autocratic countries on its perimeter, thereby absolving itself of legal responsibility and the burden of having to confront the significant human cost of its policies. The crisis has been exploited by dictators and right-wing parties that have made use of the situation to promote their anti-establishment and anti-immigration ideologies.

Cuba: Between bouts of demonstrations
In the news
On 15 November, demonstrators had carried out a peaceful but somewhat diminished demonstration in Cuba, calling for greater recognition of human and civil rights in Cuba. The peaceful protests had been planned for weeks, despite the lack of permission from the Cuban government for the protests. The anticipatory and preventive move of the state included the besieging of homes of activists and the denunciation of prominent protesters. The Cuban government had also stated that the protests were the results of the illegal interference of the United States into Cuban affairs.
In spite of these measures, protesters had shown their opposition by dressing up in white and displaying white objects around their homes, and posting the scenes on social media platforms like Facebook. Forty protesters have been arrested for protesting in Cuba. The state has declared these protests illegal as per Cuba's 2019 constitution.
Issues at large
First, the increasing repression of the state. One of the primary agenda behind the peaceful protests in Cuba is the demand for greater recognition of civil rights and freedom. This demand has been particularly boosted due to the fate of the protesters of the July protests. Activists had intended to hold another massive, peaceful demonstration similar to the July event to demand more freedom, and the release of those unfairly arrested in July. However, the state's swift repression of any dissent has vastly subdued the intensity of the protests of 15 November.
Second, the negative impact of the covid19 pandemic. Due to the covid19 pandemic, the tourism industry, one of the key revenue sources for Cuba with 10 percent GDP deriving from this sector, was severely impacted. Moreover, the handling of the pandemic was dismal, with deaths per million in Cuba at least six times higher than the global average.
Third, the failing economy. Cuba is also subjected to the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump during his presidency, and the continuous trade embargo since 1960. This impacts its economic recovery. This has exacerbated the crisis of the Cubans in procuring even the essentials for daily life due to a raging inflation. Illegal migration to neighboring countries, particularly the US, has also increased due to these conditions in Cuba.
In perspective
The fear of the swift and ruthless crackdown of any dissent in Cuba largely undermines the impact of the 15 November demonstrations in the state. However, analysts have stated that the repression, bordering on suppression, is an indication of the disquiet of the Cuban government regarding its security and stability in Cuba. Furthermore, with the dismal status quo in the economic and civil rights conditions in Cuba, the protests would undoubtedly recur. Activists had sought to reenact the intensity of the July protests in November, and this trend is set to continue in Cuba, with the opposition calling for prolonged protests till 27 November.
It should also be noted that the frequency of protests in Cuba would require a constant deployment of Law-and-Order forces to quell dissent, which may prove impractical in the long run. Furthermore, the vast international support to the Cuban protests, as indicated by the leaders of the Facebook group Archipelago, is bound to grow, further boosting the efforts of demonstrators in demanding their rights and freedom. These factors would undoubtedly sow the seeds for a more tolerant and lenient regime in Cuba in the future.

Thailand: Escalating protests, persisting economic crisis, proposed constitutional reforms 
In the news
On 10 November, Thailand's Constitutional Court passed a judgment that stated, the speeches made on August 2020 by three activists had hidden intentions of toppling the monarchy. These reforms proposed, amounts to 'a judicial coup'.
On 14 November, protestors gathered in hundreds at the primary shopping district in Bangkok to criticize the ruling government. In the evening, the protestors began mobilizing towards the German embassy in Bangkok. The mobilization led to the police firing rubber bullets at the protestors to stop them from nearing the embassy. Three protestors were injured with one protestor sustaining significant wounds.
On 17 November, lawmakers in Thailand rejected the bill that was aimed at weakening the military's political role. The lower house of the Parliament and the Senate voted to reject the bill that called for a clear separation of powers and a change in the constitution that was passed in 2017.
Issues at large
First, protests for an accountable government. Mismanagement of the government in dealing with the economic crisis and the health crisis has resulted in an economic contraction of about 12.2 percent in the third quarter of Thailand's economy. This has affected the country's stocks, currency and has diminished work opportunities for the youth. Covid-19 restrictions have added to the woes of the country who used to generate a USD 60 billion revenue from tourism in 2019, which was about 18.21 per cent of its GDP with now it contributing to only about 6.78 per cent of its GDP in 2020.
Second, the shortcoming of the political system. The students have been pushing for reforms in the constitution and have struggled to form a system where everyone is equal. But, the Constitutional Court passed the judgment stating that this amounted to an attempt to overthrow Thailand's monarchy. This reaction of the judiciary further led to the protests on 14 November outside the German embassy.
Third, questioning the legitimacy of constitutional monarchy's and the military government. The recent protests have defied the court orders and proposed to reform the powers of the Thai Monarchy. While also questioning the political role of the military regime that has been in power since 2014. The protestors have been demanding a "No absolute monarchy" and a change in the 2017 constitution to strengthen democracy.
Fourth, international response. The protests last week mobilized international support from countries in North America and Europe that called out on Thailand to amend or review its 'Lese Majesty Law' in the United National Human Rights Council. Amnesty International is worried about the human rights situation in Thailand, while the US is concerned about the law, and its use to impact freedom of expression. Thailand's human rights record was being reviewed at the UNHCR in Geneva on 10 November. Thailand defended its 'Lese Majesty Law' by stating national security, culture and history of Thailand.
In perspective
First, the government could increase its intensity on crackdowns. This would lead to similar incidents that happened in the past, like in 1973, 1976, 1992, and 2010 that resulted in several casualties.
Secondly, with the increasing protests, looming economic crisis, and rising Covid-19 cases, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will take steps to remain in power with his falling popularity.
Third, the Royalists and the Student groups will have growing contentions with the student groups now targeting the Monarch, which was said to be a taboo in the past.
Fourth, the protests could shimmer down if the economic situation in the country gets better with Thailand opening up to "Quarantine free tourism" and may bring revival to the economy and opportunities for the people of Thailand.

Also from around the World
By Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez
Peace and Conflict from East and Southeast Asia 
China: World Uyghur Congress an absurd farce, says Xinjiang regional government spokesperson
On 12 November, an assembly of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) commenced in Prague. Global Times, describing the WUC as a "violent, terrorist and separatist organization," reported on the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region's response to the assembly. The spokesperson for Xinjiang said: "In recent years, the WUC, under the inspiration and support of anti-China forces in the US and the West, has maliciously smeared and attacked Xinjiang." He termed the assembly a farce with this statement and described it as "an entirely ugly act of collusion and aggregation of anti-China forces in the US and the West."
South Korea: Minister suggests declaring the end of Korean War to the US
On 17 November, the Foreign Ministry said that South Korean and American diplomats had discussed ways to resume nuclear talks with North Korea. This includes South Korea's willingness to declare the end of the Korean War. The development comes amid the First Vice Foreign Minister's visit to Washington and meeting with the US Deputy Secretary of State. However, The Korea Herald reports that the State Department's statement does not include Seoul's suggestion to formally end the war, thereby indicating that the US and South Korea have differences over the issue.
North Korea: Pyongyang criticizes US exercise; UN rapporteur concerned over China's repatriation of North Korean defectors
On 17 November, North Korea condemned the US for conducting a nuclear command training exercise, which commenced 1 November. The Korea Herald quoted from the North Korean Foreign Ministry, which said the drill was "clearly an exercise for nuclear war against the entire world." In a separate development, a United Nations special rapporteur criticized China for repatriating North Korean defectors. The UN official said: "I urge once again the People's Republic of China to contemplate the application of the principle of 'non-refoulement' to North Koreans who may face torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon repatriation."
Cambodia: 26 environmental and political prisoners released  
On 17 November, the Justice Ministry spokesperson commented on the release of 26 prisoners, including environmental, youth and opposition activists, terming it a normal court procedure. The 26 prisoners were released amid calls for improving the state of human rights under Prime Minister Hun Sen's governance which spanned for over three decades. The spokesperson said the 26 persons were released irrespective of their activism, saying: "This is a campaign to help solve cases that are stuck in courts and reduce the capacity in crowded prisons." Meanwhile, the charges against the activists have not been dropped; the Asia director at Human Rights Watch welcomed the release but warned that "there is nothing to stop the Cambodian authorities from rearresting them at any time."
Myanmar: Election body charges Suu Kyi, 15 others with election fraud; resistance forces kill junta troops, attack the ministerial convoy
On 16 November, The Irrawaddy reported that the Election Commission had charged Aung San Suu Kyi, former president U Win Myint, and 14 others with electoral fraud in the 2020 elections. However, the news report says that despite the Election Commission charging 16 people, only eight have been named. In another development, the People's Defense Forces (PDFs) claimed that it had killed over 70 junta troops on 14 and 15 November. Similarly, in another attack claimed by the Pathein Western Defence Force (PWDF), the convoy of the Hotels and Tourism Minister and the Ayeyarwady Chief Minister was attacked. As of 16 November, the Ministers' whereabouts remain unknown.
Peace and Conflict from South Asia
India: Seven killed in an ambush by militants in Manipur
On 13 November, the Commanding Officer (CO) of 46 Assam Rifles (Khuga Battalion) along with his wife, son, and four Quick Reaction Team (QRT) personnel were killed in an ambush by militants in Manipur's Churachandpur district. The convoy was attacked with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) before heavy firing from both sides of the road started. In a joint statement, Manipur-based militant groups People's Liberation Army (PLA) and Manipur Naga People's Front (MNPF) claimed responsibility for the attack.
India: Supreme Court grants protection against arrest to those booked under UAPA
On 17 November, the Supreme Court ruled that no coercive action must be taken until further orders against journalist Shyam Meera Singh and two lawyers who were booked by Tripura Police under the anti-terror law UAPA. The court issued a notice to the Tripura government on the petition challenging the First Information Report registered under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for reports and posts during violence in the state including a tweet by Singh that said, "Tripura is burning." Similarly, on 15 November, Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in the Gomati district in Tripura granted bail to two journalists who were arrested over their reporting of the recent communal clashes in Tripura.
Sri Lanka: Thousands protest against deteriorating economic conditions
On 16 November, thousands took to the street in Colombo against the deteriorating economic conditions amid shortages of fuel and other essentials. The demonstrations were led by the main opposition political party, the United People's Force, who have blamed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's government for the economic crisis. Opposition Sajith Premadasa said, "I urge the people of this country to get ready to work under a new vision and a new programme. We shall get together to build this country by creating a government free of corruption." Further, these demonstrations took place as the Sri Lankan Parliament debated the national budget for 2022.
Afghanistan: Two explosions in Kabul; WFP reports that 24 million Afghans are facing acute hunger; UN to hold a meeting on Afghanistan
On 17 November, two explosions took place in the western part of Kabul. The first explosion targeted a vehicle in western Kabul in Police District 13, while a second explosion was reported in PD3. One civilian was killed, and several others were wounded in the explosions. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
On 8 November, the World Food Program (WFP), in a report, stated that over 24 million people are facing acute hunger, including 8.7 million who are in a current state of emergency. A spokesperson for WFP in Afghanistan said, "The WFP started efforts to provide food and other aid for 24 million people that will run into 2022. As our assessment shows, the situation is critical in Afghanistan," adding, "The WFP started efforts to provide food and other aid for 24 million people that will run into 2022. As our assessment shows, the situation is critical in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, the United Nation's Security Council is scheduled to hold a meeting in Afghanistan on 17 November. Ahead of the meeting, the Taliban spokesperson reiterated the calls for a seat in the UN.  
Peace and Conflict from Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Armenia-Azerbaijan: Clashes erupt along bordering districts; Armenia announces Russian-brokered ceasefire 
On 17 November, the Armenian Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani forces had 13 Armenian soldiers and added that 24 Armenian servicemen had gone missing. The Ministry said one Armenian soldier had lost his life in the clashes. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that on 16 November, fighting had resumed, and seven of its soldiers had been killed and 10 injured in the fighting. The Azerbaijani Ministry said its forces were defending against "large-scale provocations" by Armenia along with the bordering districts. Meanwhile, on 17 November, Armenia announced a ceasefire with Azerbaijan, mediated by Russia.
Iran: UN raises concern over a new law to boost population growth  
On 15 November, the Youthful Population and Protection of the Family law came into force, increasing Iran's population to address its increasingly aging population. On 16 November, UN experts said that the law's vague language hints at criminalizing abortion and warned that it could have "crippling" impacts on the right to health of women and girls. The experts termed this a "regressive U-turn by a government that had been praised for progress on the right to health." Similarly, the Human Rights Watch also called for a repeal of the law.
Syria: US Central Command takes responsibility for Baghuz airstrike
On 15 November, The New York Times reported that the US Central Command had, for the first time, acknowledged the Baghuz airstrike in Syria by a US military drone, which led to nearly 70 deaths in 2019. Most of the casualties were women and children. On 13 November, the Central Command said: "We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. In this case, we self-reported and investigated the strike according to our own evidence and take full responsibility for the unintended loss of life." The Central Command said the number of civilian casualties could not be estimated, maintaining that in videos of the events, a large number of women were armed and at least one child was also identified to be armed. 
Yemen: UN calls for talks in Hodeidah city; 90 Houthi fighters killed in two provinces
On 15 November, the UN called on the warring sides in Yemen to hold talks over the Hodeidah port city after air raids began in the area for the first time since 2018. The development came after Yemeni forces started to withdraw from the city and Houthi rebels advanced to the areas. In a separate development, on 17 November, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition said that over 90 Houthi rebels had been killed in air raids over the Marib and Al-Bayda provinces. This comes after the coalition claimed that it had intercepted two Houthi drones targeting southwestern Saudi Arabia.
Ethiopia: At least 1,000 detained since emergency; the US calls on its citizens to evacuate immediately
On 16 November, a UN spokesperson said that since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency earlier on 2 November, at least 1,000 people have been detained, including UN staff and its subcontracted drivers. The spokesperson called for an impartial tribunal to look into the cause for all the detainees. Meanwhile, on the same day, the US State Department called on its citizens in Ethiopia to leave the country, and said that Washington had no plans to arrange an evacuation; Reuters quoted a State Department official: "There are no plans to fly the US military into Ethiopia to facilitate evacuations or replicate the contingency effort we recently undertook in Afghanistan, which was a unique situation for many reasons."
Uganda: Three killed in twin blasts in capital city
On 16 November, three people were killed and 33 injured in two separate suicide attacks in capital city Kampala near the parliament and police headquarters. The blasts took place within a span of five minutes and two people died in the first blast wherein a man detonated himself near the Central Police Station; three minutes later, two men detonated themselves along the Kampala Parliament Avenue. The police spokesperson outlined that the blasts seemed to be the work of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). However, BBC reports that the Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sudan: At least ten killed in anti-coup protests, says doctors' body 
On 17 November, the Sudanese Central Doctors Committee posted on Facebook that the security forces had shot dead at least ten anti-coup protesters in the capital city Khartoum and Bahri and Omdurman cities. Security forces reportedly used live bullets and teargas during the demonstrations, which were organized despite a military crackdown launched after the coup in October. Demonstrators carried slogans that read: "Legitimacy comes from the street, not from the cannons."
Peace and Conflict from Europe and the Americas 
Russia: Moscow's A-Sat test draws international outrage because the threatening debris
On 16 November, the Russian defence ministry announced that it had "successfully conducted a test, as a result of which the Russian spacecraft 'Tselina-D', which had been in orbit since 1982, was destroyed," adding, "The fragments that formed do not pose any threat to space activity." Following the Direct-Ascent Anti-Satellite (DA-ASAT) test, the United States accused Russia of "dangerous and irresponsible behavior" which could threaten the lives of the International Space Station (ISS) and satellites in low-Earth orbit.
Poland: Authorities use tear gas against migrants trying to cross from Belarus 
On 16 November, Polish forces used water cannons and tear gas against migrants who were reportedly throwing stones and other objects at the forces guarding a fortified crossing at the border with Belarus. Additionally, the issue at the border came just as there were signs of de-escalation. However, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko once again rejected accusations of engineering the crisis stating that they have deported about 5,000 illegal migrants from Belarus in recent months.
Ecuador: Prison violence leaves 62 dead
On 16 November, violence at the Penitenciaria del Litoral prison in the city of Guayaquil left 62 inmates dead. Following the incident, the head of Ecuador's prison system and the chief of the armed forces resigned. Meanwhile, the government blamed gang competition to control jails and drug trafficking routes as reasons for the incident. President Guillermo Lasso stated that Ecuador would confront the prison crisis with a "pacification process" among rival gangs, a military presence and legal reform. Previously, in September, a similar incident took place where 119 inmates again due to gang warfare.
Bolivia: Government repeals controversial Law 1386
On 16 November, the parliament voted in favour of repealing the National Strategy to Combat the Legitimization of Illicit Profits and the Financing of Terrorism law also known as Law 1386 which had sparked an indefinite strike of merchants, transporters, civic and opposition sectors, who argued that it violated civil liberties. On 13 November, President Luis Arce announced that Law 1386 was to be repealed, following a meeting with leaders and other officials who raised objections to four of the law's seven provisions. However, despite the government's decision, protests continued across several regions including, Santa Cruz, Sucre, and Cochabamba and Potosí. 

About the authors
Porkkodi Ganeshpandian and Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan are research interns at the School of Conflict and Security Studies in NIAS. Vaishnavi Iyer is a Research Assistant at the School of Conflict and Security Studies in NIAS. Apoorva Sudhakar and Abigail Miriam Fernandez are Research Associates at the School of Conflict and Security Studies in NIAS.

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