Two million risk becoming stateless after Indian state releases final list of citizens

NEW DELHI – Nearly two million people risk statelessness and detention after they were left off the final version of a registry of Indian citizens, part of a controversial exercise to identify suspected illegal migrants in the northeastern state of Assam.
The National Register of Citizens released Saturday morning included the names of 31 million people and excluded 1.9 million. The state had required citizens to provide original documents proving their residency and parentage going back decades.
The citizenship registry exercise has gained fresh impetus since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. Many of the migrants in Assam are Bengali-speaking and hail from neighboring Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country. Such migrants have proven a potent political issue for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
In the recent election campaign, Modi’s powerful right-hand man Amit Shah referred to such migrants as “termites” and vowed to expel them from India as a matter of national security. Shah recently became the country’s Home Affairs Minister and has pledged to take the citizenship registry exercise nationwide.
While the exercise was meant to identify migrants who had entered the country illegally, activists say the opaque and complex process made it difficult even for genuine citizens to prove their nationality. The poor and uneducated have had particular difficulty navigating the exercise and providing the required documents.
Those excluded from the final registry will have four months to appeal their status before quasi-legal tribunals and higher courts. If their bids fail, they face potential detention. The state of Assam is creating hundreds of such tribunals and building new detention centers to handle the aftermath of the citizenship list.
For those whose names were not on the list, the future is an anxious question mark. Many of them have already tried to prove their citizenship repeatedly and doubt they will receive a reprieve from the quasi-judicial bodies known as “foreigner’s tribunals.”
They fear they may be separated from their families, detained, or even deported to Bangladesh, with which Assam shares a border. Those left off the list could also become a disenfranchised population within India, unable to vote or access crucial government services.
“Assam is on the brink of a crisis which would not only lead to a loss of nationality and liberty of a large group of people but also erosion of their basic rights – severely affecting the lives of generations to come,” said Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement.
A provisional list of citizens published last year left out 4.1 million people. Media reports said spelling errors and mistaken identities led to erroneous conclusions about people’s citizenship. Among those excluded were military veterans and relatives of a former Indian president. Several families reported their members had committed suicide after being left off earlier versions of the list.
Unchecked migration from neighboring Bangladesh into Assam has been a hot-button issue for decades – and the release of the final list may not end the battle.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam said Saturday that the final citizenship registry did not go far enough. The party will devise a fresh strategy “on how we can drive out illegal migrants,” he said. Local BJP leaders have expressed dissatisfaction at the way the list has excluded Bengali-speaking Hindus as well as Muslims.
On Saturday morning, families gathered at local government centers and huddled around computers to check their final status – with relief for some and anguish for others. Ahead of the release of the list, thousands of additional law enforcement officers and paramilitary troops were sent to Assam to prevent potential unrest. The state police put out messages urging people not to panic if they were left out of the registry, emphasizing that they would be able to appeal their exclusions.
www.samigration.com

Expat blunders: One man’s way of dressing was affecting how SA farmers perceived him, so this is what he did

For people living and working abroad, something as simple as greeting a new colleague or business partner can become a challenge. When pursuing a career abroad, there are many potential pitfalls. From communication blunders to time management and business lunches, different cultures handle all aspects of business life in many different ways.
Even with a lot of preparation, misunderstandings are not uncommon and can, in the worst case, even harm your career.
As the latest Expat Insider survey, one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, indicates, some business cultures are easier to get used to than others. While expats in countries like Singapore, Ireland, and Estonia find it easy to understand the local business etiquette, those in Japan, Saudi Arabia, and China generally struggle more.
The survey is conducted annually by InterNations, the world’s largest expat community with 3.5 million members in 420 destinations around the world.
What’s appropriate in one country, might not be in another
While business etiquette in the UK seems relatively easy to get used to — the country ranks 9th in the Expat Insider 2018 survey — expats struggle more in Germany. Coming in 40th out of 53 countries for this factor, close to three in ten expats living there for less than two years (29%) find this hard. Just like your words and body language, the way you dress in a business setting carries meaning.
The formal attire that is appropriate in one country or field of work may not be expected after your move abroad.
In the UK, Terry worked as the director of a Swedish company’s subsidiary. Although the company culture was relatively informal — smart slacks, sports jackets, and neat shirts were the norm, rather than suits — keeping up this dress code while working in the agricultural sector in South Africa caused some issues.
“For the first few months of being in South Africa, I found it very difficult to pitch up at a facility and get to meet the farm manager or senior grower. It took a while to discover that, when they saw me arriving, they assumed I was the bank manager and promptly disappeared.”
Finally, one of his friends suggested a more casual dress code, and as soon as Terry had changed into chinos and open-neck, short-sleeved shirts, all went well.
His new business contacts were much more relaxed and open to discussing the systems Terry’s company was offering. Aside from the usual business etiquette rules, local customs and traditions have their way of seeping into expats’ work life.

Business etiquette blunders
In Thailand, the wai, a bow with hands clasped, is the common form of greeting. Here, the position of the hands is adjusted to reflect the position of the person you’re greeting. When doing business in Japan, it is best to do a bow before shaking hands.
In Latin American countries, on the other hand, a hug and even a kiss on the cheek is common, once you have established a relationship with your business partners.
Cathy, an expat from the USA, has experienced this after her move to Costa Rica, “As the American, I always go for the hand to shake and about half the time, this is correct. Other times, people lean in for the cheek kiss or extend one arm for the half hug, where I go to find their hand for a shake,” she says.
“It ends up being this awkward hug/kiss/shake showdown where all of us get confused and doubt our original actions, so we have to decide what’s appropriate.”
Luckily, these greeting showdowns have never caused any problems for her, and her colleagues are ready to navigate these situations together with her. “As the ‘new one’, I’m normally able to laugh it off and the team is gentle with me, so it’s funny. They have pretty much gotten used to it.”
According to the latest Expat Insider survey, Qatar is in fact one of the countries where it is hardest to get used to the local business etiquette. The country lands in the bottom 10 of the ranking, with more than three in ten expats (31%) saying that they find it hard to understand the etiquette (vs. 24%globally).Discussing business topics or holding interviews during lunch has become a common practice. The setting is more informal than in the conference room or at the office, and there’s the added bonus of enjoying some delicious food.
Beer during lunch?
Despite the casual environment, however, there are many faux pas that can happen. During an interview lunch in the USA, one newly returned expat ordered himself a beer, which is common practice in the UK.
“When the others interviewing me ordered iced teas, I suddenly realized I was back in the US where drinking alcohol at lunch was not the done thing.” Luckily, the interviewers were impressed by his confidence and boldness, and he got the job in the end.
This ease of doing business is also reflected in the Expat Insider 2018 ranking for business etiquette: the US ranks 7th out of 53 for this factor.
For another expat from the US, business lunch did not go over quite as smoothly. He was invited to the interior of Paraguay by the female owner of a farm.
Not thinking much of it, he decided to bring his newly arrived Italian wife along, forgetting that in Paraguay, women (though owners and decision makers) are not allowed at the table.
“My wife was sitting at a large table being the only woman, while the men were served by the owner.”
Although his faux pas created a quite uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, he was forgiven, and business went on as usual. In some countries, employees are expected to be extremely punctual, while you have some more flexibility with your working hours and lunch breaks in others. What seems like a small issue takes a lot of adjustment for some expats and can be the source of some major conflict at work.
Misunderstandings are not uncommon
If you’re working in the Middle East, for instance, you might notice that office hours are limited during the month of Ramadan. And expats in India might just be lucky enough to be part of Diwali celebrations at the office. Although Singapore is the easiest country to work in in terms of business etiquette according to the latest Expat Insider survey — 75% find it easy to get used to them compared to 46% globally —misunderstandings are not uncommon.
Arriving shortly before the Chinese New Year, one expat from the US was excited to experience this popular holiday. The secretary at their workplace handed out festive oranges to all employees for the occasion. However, it was only after eating the fruit, that they realized that all the other employees had displayed the oranges on their desks in pairs.
“I discreetly asked if I was supposed to eat them and found out that they should be left out as an auspicious sign of prosperity. I had only one left and had to figure out if I should eat it and get rid of the evidence or try to buy a second and pretend I hadn’t eaten the symbol of a prosperous new year!”
Gift giving in general can be another cause for misunderstanding. Especially in a business setting, gifts carry meaning, from the color of the wrapping paper to the actual item being gifted.Tony, a British-Australian expat got a job with the government in Hong Kong in 1972. To his delight,he was invited to a colleague’s wedding just a few months later.
“So, what did I do? Well, I went out and bought them a toaster. I thought it was the right thing to do!” He soon realized that all the other guests gave little red envelopes full of money instead, as is customary in China and Hong Kong.
Such a hóngbao should contain enough money to cover the costs of the guest at the wedding and to appropriately represent the relationship to the recipient. It might be partly due to these rigid societal rules that Hong Kong achieves mediocre results for business etiquette, ranking 28th in the ExpatInsider 2018 survey, while China even comes in 51st, only ahead of Saudi Arabia and Japan.
www.samigration.com

Where are the foreign language guides?

A shortage of capable foreign language tour guides is hurting the South African tourism industry and preventing businesses from making progress in key markets.
“The impact of not having capable foreign language guides is that we cannot really grow inbound tourism numbers, especially during peak season,” says Juliane Loubser, MD of Fairfield Tours. “Now, whenever we get a peak season request from The Netherlands or Germany, we have to tell the group that we can only offer the tour with an English-speaking guide.” Loubser says this often puts the clients off coming to South Africa. “There has also been an increase in demand for privately guided tours, which we immediately have to decline because we know we are short-staffed on guides.”
Brendan McCarthy, National Head of Operations, ILIOS Travel, says: “For us to remain a viable destination to emerging markets we need to cater for their needs, and this includes catering for their language requirements.” McCarthy says there is an increased need to cater for emerging markets, specifically Portuguese and Spanish speaking markets. Other languages, such as Vietnamese, Russian, and Arabic, remain as specialist languages, according to McCarthy but he also points out that German- and Italian-speaking guides remain in high demand.
Alisha Kirk, Guide Academy Manager of Tourvest Destination Management, says: “There is a language gap, and has been for years. Our ability as South Africans to be able to speak in our 11 official languages doesn’t assist us in hosting foreign guests who cannot communicate in any of our official languages. There needs to be a greater drive to introduce foreign languages at school level with the ability of introducing exchange programmes with countries that form part of that programme.” Julie Mackenzie, Operations Manager of Tourvest DMC, adds: “Most of the guides in-country with these languages are aged from 40 to 70+ and there are simply not enough to facilitate the market we already have and definitely hinder any growth of these markets. The older guides are by far the most experienced and, often, enthusiastic, but of course there will come a time in the not too distant future when they are no longer willing to travel for extended lengths of time.”
Francois Collin, Media Relations at the National Federation of Tourist Guides and Affiliates, says the guides who are coming up do not have the same work ethic as previous generations. According to Collin, the older generation of guides accepted that they would be working 16-hour days and driving long distances. “There was no certificate in those days. All the training was done on the job.” Now Collin says that young guides do the necessary courses, get the certificates, and come into the industry thinking they are qualified.
“They want to walk straight into the top-level guiding jobs, despite not having the practical experience for it,” he says, adding that when the realities of the job become apparent, many of the younger guides decide to leave the industry rather than work their way to the top
www.sami.co.za

African Migrants Protest Denial of Passage Through Mexico to U.S.

Hundreds of African migrants are finding themselves trapped in Mexico’s southern border region after new immigration rules no longer allow them safe passage to the U.S. The rule changes now say they must naturalize in Mexico or exit through its southern border.
A Cameroonian migrant, Esteban Azu, 37, said he paid human smugglers $8,000 to get him into the U.S. He said his journey took him from his home country to Turkey, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and finally to Mexico, Animal Politico reported.
“I arrived in Tapachula a month ago. I left Cameroon and went directly to Ecuador. From there to Colombia. I climbed mountains, walked through the jungle, to find this shit,” Azu expressed. “This shit! They don’t feed me. They don’t give me anything. I am very angry with the government of Mexico. This is not normal. This is bullshit. We need a solution. We just want to get out of here.”
The man who claims to be a plumber by trade, now finds himself trapped in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
A June 7 rule change that stems from an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico no longer allows safe passage to the United States. Mexico deployed thousands of its newly formed National Guard to enforce the new laws and deter migration through the country, Breitbart Texas reported. Since that time, migration through Mexico has dropped by about 40 percent.
Prior to the rule change, more than 1,100 African migrants arrived in a single Texas Border Patrol sector in a five-week period, Breitbart Texas reported in July.
In a press call in June, Brian Hastings, U.S. Border Patrol Chief of Law Enforcement Operations, told reporters this was the first large group “ever recorded in Border Patrol history solely from Central and South Africa. We’ve never seen that demographic in a large group of that size before.”
Prior to the rule change, migrants — African or others — received a 20-day passage through the country and were required to leave via any border. Obviously, the goal was the northern border of Mexico.
The new document being provided to migrants in southern Mexico states that the migrant may not “travel freely.” The document says they now must leave the country in 20 days “through a place destined for the international transit of people on the southern border closest to the place where said document was issued.”
Animal Politico interviews dozens of migrants — mostly Africans — who told the same story. They stated they were ordered to go to the regularization office or they may apply for asylum in Mexico. Neither option is said to be acceptable as their stated goal is entry into the United States.
“They do not want to request refuge in Chiapas because they want to do so in the United States,” Animal Politico stated.
Mexican immigration authorities reported that 3,712 people from Africa appeared between January and June 2019. The majority of those came from Cameroon. Most of the balance came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Similar demographics were reported by Del Rio Sector Border Patrol officials in June when more than 500 African migrants appeared along the U.S. side of Mexico’s northern border in a one-week period, Breitbart Texas reported.
Two weeks before the illegal crossings began in the Del Rio Sector, hundreds of African migrants gathered near an international bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, to protest not being allowed entry into the U.S. through a legal port of entry, Breitbart News reported. The group complained that Cuban migrants were given preferential treatment.
Since that time, multiple groups of African migrants, mostly family units, crossed in the same area in large numbers. On June 5, agents apprehended another group of 34, bringing the total to more than 500 in less than a week.
In June and July, U.S. officials reported sharp decreases in the number of migrants being apprehended after crossing the border illegally.

German businesses to SA: Protect wildlife, relax Visa regulations and improve diversity in tourism sector

Stand up for wildlife protection, improve black ownership in the tourism space and make it easier for families to travel together, German businesses told stakeholders in SA’s tourism industry.
German trade partners had an opportunity to raise their concerns about their experiences operating in SA’s tourism industry at a roundtable discussion at the 53rd Internationale Tourismus-Borse (ITB) world trade show in Berlin, Germany on Wednesday.
SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona opened the discussion and said SA was starting to think differently about tourism to cater for the modern-day tourist who seeks authenticity, life-changing experiences and tailored offerings.
He said the things that worked 30 years ago won’t necessarily be useful in successfully growing the industry going forward. The round-table discussion provided an opportunity for feedback on the experience of German tourists so that SA could better respond to client needs, Ntshona explained.
Knowledgeable guides
Ingo Lies, founder of German tour operating company Chamäleon-Reisen, put forward that SA needed to work on the quality of its guides, and said it is not enough for guides to speak German. They also have to be knowledgeable.
“There is more to [being a guide] nowadays. If you want to attract the younger generation, there are different issues to address,” he said.
Ntshona responded by saying steps are being taken to redefine what a tour guide means to attract new clients.
Lies also called for more diversity in SA’s tourism space, specifically in terms of locally-owned and operated business and especially in terms of black business. Similarly Andre Thomas, senior product manager for Africa at German tour operator FTI Touristik, also raised concerns about the diversity in the tourism sector and said that more black businesses should be brought into mainstream tourism.
“I think that tourism needs to be made sexy and [needs to be] brought into schools. Students and scholars need to be educated on how the tourism chain works and industry works,” Thomas said.
“We need to have more black faces in the tourism industry as business owners and business providers with access to the international market.”
Thomas said that it was not just up to bodies like SA Tourism to address diversity challenges, but all stakeholders including private companies and government departments had a role to play too.
In response, Ntshona explained that the lack of black ownership was due to the country’s legacy.
Visa requirements also made it difficult for tourists to travel with their families, Lies pointed out. In his response Ntshona said the Visa regulations were an “own goal” and had not been well thought out in terms of legislation.
“It was done with the right intention, but the execution had consequences,” Ntshona admitted. “We are in the process of undoing it to make it simple for people to travel with children. At the very least, we want to be on par with the rest of the world in terms of … travel with children,” he explained.
Environmentally friendly
Lies also raised issues related to the environment. “We would like to see SA stand up for wildlife protection,” he said. Lies explained this would help attract a younger market.
He also asked for the SA industry to take steps to reduce plastic consumption particularly at various tourist accommodation options. “As tour operators, we try to make trips plastic free,” he said.
Ntshona said that wildlife protection would start with consumer education. As an example he referred to how circuses stopped using animals after consumers became aware of the cruelty towards animals, eventually circuses stopped incorporating animals in shows because consumer demand dropped.
As for plastic use, Ntshona said plastic straws could hardly be found in Cape Town and that South Africans used social media to actively name and shame businesses which still use plastic straws.
Between 2015 and 2018, German arrivals grew by 33%, and of these 40% were repeat visitors, Ntshona highlighted.
“You love us very much, we want to thank you very much for loving us, please continue to love us,” he said.
Germany is one of the three key markets to South Africa, the others being the UK and the US.
www.sami.co.za

Visa easing is a ray of light in a spooky time

I have news. “As from today [August 15], travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit SA for holidays, conferencing, and business meeting visits,” Aaron Motsoaledi, the minister of home affairs, declared.
It might seem a small thing in the middle of being spooked about an imminent Moody’s downgrade, falling into the deathly grip of an IMF rescue and the end of life as we know it. But the announcement marks the first signs of life in a home affairs department that has done its utmost, for years, to make it as difficult as possible for people to come and spend their money here.
www.sami.co.za

US Embassy sees heavy visa demand, warns SA travellers to apply ‘as early as possible’

How quickly a visa is granted often varies – while some embassies or consulates can turn a visa application around in 10 days to six weeks, a backlog of applications or peak season travel can impact the process considerably.
For South Africans undeterred by the onerous process of applying for visas, some local travel agents have reported waiting up to six months to secure an appointment at the Consulate General of the United States.
While recent US Consulate processing times are unusual, appointment access isn’t going to improve any time soon, as the US Mission in South Africa has issued a statement encouraging all locals “considering travel to the United States to apply for their visa as early as possible”.
If you’re planning to head to the US for December then now is the time to apply, in order to secure an appointment for a visa interview in time for the planned travel.
The US Embassy says “heavy demand for US visas has currently led to a longer than usual wait time in South Africa. And there is nothing like a refused or failed visa application to stump your travel plans.
If you plan to apply for a non-immigrant visa to go to the United States as a temporary visitor, you can review the current wait time for an interview using the tool available on this Department of State website here. Questions regarding the appointment process also may be directed to 087-550-2160.
A quick check on the US Consulate’s website shows that an application in Cape Town for a visitors visa can see a wait time of 35 calendar days, while in Joburg is can be as much as 58 Calendar days and in Durban, the wait is the longest at 60 calendar days according to the search at the time of publishing.
There is no straight answer in terms of the availability of visa appointments, and in most cases the speed in which a decision is reached remains out of applicants’ hands. While some authorities take less than one week to process a visa, others can take more than six weeks.
“We encourage all potential travellers to apply for their visas several months before the planned travel date. The US Mission does make every effort to accommodate emergency travel and humanitarian situations, though not every request for an expedited appointment can be accommodated,” says the embassy.
If you already have a valid visas, a renewal application can be submitted at any time. But don’t wait until your current visa expires warns the embassy.
“If a visa is still valid or has expired within the last 12 months, the traveller may be eligible to renew by mail without an interview.”
However, advance travel planning and early visa application are important. As there is nothing like a failed visa application to stunt your travel aspirations.

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