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Thursday 28 March 2013

David Miliband and refugees: some context

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2010 about Labour's record on LGBT international human rights and LGBT refugees. To contextualize, we had just come off an election campaign in which Labour had paraded its LGBT credentials and I had tried to take them down a peg or two, see this article. Having worked closely with Iraqi refugees their reaction on that issue in particular made my blood boil. Hence the tone.

Just after that time I spoke with a lesbian woman who made a lot of allegations regarding the IRC (International Rescue Committee, one of the world's big refugee support groups), the organisation that David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary, Labour leadership candidate and Ttony Blair prodigy, is going to work for. In particular she talked about an appalling episode of mismanagement similar to the one experienced by two Iraqi gay refugees sent to Texas. Nothing ended up resulting from her allegations, as usually occurs, though I had connected her with interested American journalists and a whistleblower support organisation.

On a side note, a journalist friend of mine told me that the IRC had a long and unsavory history during the Cold War as a major front group for the CIA, which all came out on the public record during the 1974 Senate special committee investigating intelligence abuses hearings. This is covered in Eric Thomas Chester's book 'Covert Network: Progressives, the International Rescue Committee, and the CIA'.

Groups like IRC have an enormous potential to aid LGBT refugees, as LGBT specific aid groups are tiny in comparison. And that is worldwide potential. There are LGBT refugees in the biggest refugee camps in the world, like Daabab in Kenya.

The big refugee assistance groups have shifted at the top over the past few years to recognition of that LGBT assistance role but it may be different at the coalface, hence an episode like the one reported to me regarding the Iraqis can repeat. So that makes leadership important. And so in that respect Miliband still has an opportunity to effect LGBT issues internationally, just as he did at the Foreign Office. Remains to be seen whether he follows through. Here's a bit of alternative history on Miliband's record for consideration if you're punting.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Foreign Office and LGBT human rights: fake concern from shameless Labour

David Miliband, the current Secretary of State...
By Paul Canning

Labour really is shameless in hoping we'll all forget the gaping, gigantic, ginormous gaps in its LGBT record isn't it?

On asylum it's taken months before one solitary leader has acknowledged their appalling record - something completely and deliberately ignored during the election campaign in favour of a 'forget that, look over here' approach of 'keep pointing at the domestic legislative record' and 'yell loudly whenever some odd right-wing Tory 'misspeaks''.

On LGBT rights overseas, as I've documented, under Labour it was all about EU members with the occasional stretch to Africa and never about the world's biggest LGBT rights catastropy - Iraq. During the election the leading contender for the leadership David Miliband even told someone to shut up about Iraq during an LGBT event. The international record for Labour is actually thin, weak and late but you wouldn't know it from them banging on about it. What Hillary Clinton has done in less than two years puts their 13 to shame. Or rather it should.

Now LGBT Labour is joining in with Amnesty International amongst others blasting William Hague's Foreign Office on the new government's record internationally on human rights in general and LGBT specifically. The reason? Because of the generalised cost-cutting effort, they're looking at stopping publishing the annual human rights report as a glossy brochure and instead just publishing it online.

That's it. That's the big 'sell out'.

LGBT Labour Co-Chair Katie Hanson rails via Pink Paper:

It is unconscionable for the Con-Dems to even think about scrapping the Human Rights Report which is a vital tool for speaking up for human rights and LGBT equality the world over.

The previous Government was steadfast in its support for LGBT rights abroad by condemning human rights abuses affecting LGBT citizens and using its embassies to promote our own positive record in solidarity with those fighting for the rights we now take for granted.

Tell that to the LGBT Muscovites sold out by both Miliband when he was Foreign Secretary and now Hague. Tell that to the asylum seekers told by the Labour government that Jamaica and Uganda are 'safe' countries so 'f+++ off home'. But most of all tell that to the LGBT Iraqis murdered by the hundreds. The annual report they're rushing to defend claimed, under Miliband, that Iraqi "official figures do not show a significant overall increase in violence against, or systematic abuse of, the homosexual community by fundamentalists or militia groups".

Miliband consistently refused to offer any criticism of Iraq's government, even when evidence mounted of their direct involvement in the killing of LGBT.

Where was LGBT Labour when Miliband was selling out foreign LGBT? In hiding. Nowhere to be found. "Steadfast in its support"? You're kidding me, right?

There's little reason to think the Coalition will be any better, though LGBTory are loudly calling for support for international LGBT rights, but come on! Have some humility! Labour are just shameless.

The retired diplomat Oliver Miles has it correct when he writes in The Guardian that the question of whether the annual survey does any good is much more important than whether it's printed on glossy paper.

He points out that the countries section covers 22 selected "countries of concern" in 90 pages. Inevitably, he says, the choice reflects (doh!) some political compromises and countries like Congo or Tajikistan (both very nasty places for LGBT by the way) are omitted; "what is perhaps more surprising is that neither is even mentioned in the index". He goes on to examine past attempts to rank and prioritise resources and engagement using human rights as one factor by the Foreign Office from his long years of experience. All end up being abandoned - most notably and recently Robin Cook's 'ethical foreign policy'.
"Can anybody show that the reports have actually contributed to anybody's human rights?", Miles asks.
Perhaps Katie Hanson can point out some documented usefulness for this report's LGBT content? The obvious connection from this website's point of view to any potential usefulness is, assuming it actually had some decent breadth of coverage on LGBT rights, that then feeding into the country reports used by UK Border Agents to help decide asylum case. And there is none, there's no relationship.

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