BY KATHERINE NOEL — Bluts Iyassu Zeru is one of thousands of African migrants living in Israel illegally who have been at the center of national debate since the beginning of the year, when the government declared that all “infiltrators” must leave the country by March 31 or face imprisonment. Though the highest Israeli court halted the deportation plan in mid-March after human rights organizations widely criticized it, the Israeli government has remained unwavering in its push to force the African migrant population out. An estimated 38,000 African migrants have crossed into Israel through Egypt’s Sinai desert in the last 5-10 years, fleeing persecution and ongoing conflict. The vast majority of these migrants arrived from Eritrea and Sudan before 2013, when the Israeli government completed construction of a 152-mile border fence.
BY MONIQUE LeBRUN — In Haiti, children from poor families become restaveks, which means to stay with in both French and Creole, because their parents can’t afford to take care of them or send them to school. Often families from rural parts of Haiti send their children to live in the city with a distant relative, family friend or a stranger. Families agree to take care of restaveks and pay for their education. But the agreement is almost never kept, according to Haitian activists, NGOs and former restaveks. The estimated 300,000 children are turned into domestic servants and abused, a situation some have compared to slavery.
BY CRISTINA SARNOFF — On a hot, humid, summer afternoon four years ago in the village of Apopa in El Salvador, a middle school teacher arrived home after classes to find her teenage daughter’s body draped across her front door with 13 bullet holes. This was the mark of a notorious and deadly gang. “I never thought this could happen to me,” the schoolteacher said in tears recently. “I’ve witnessed families losing a child to gang crimes before but somehow thought I was immune to it. I’m a schoolteacher and combat nurse. Some of my students even belong to the gangs. God help my children.”
BY MARIE PAULINE GENTRIC — It’s only 3 p.m. but Mary Limonta knows exactly what she and her daughter, Ann, will eat tonight – rice and vegetables. Yesterday, it was the same, and tomorrow, and even after tomorrow, it will be the same too. It’s been like that for a while. Since 2013, Venezuelans like Limonta have been trying to survive the most severe recession and food crisis in the country history. National production and imports have plunged and supermarket shelves are almost always empty. Prices rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months ending in February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly. In this crisis, women are the ones looking for food. They spend between eight and 14 hours a week in line to get food, according to the report “Mujeres Al Limite,” released by four Venezuelan NGOs in 2017.
BY JUSTIN MAFFETT — In February 2011, Abdul Rahman, then a longtime employee of an American food company operating in Afghanistan, was abducted, tortured, and held for 20 days at the bottom of a well by the Taliban, which had grown suspicious of Rahman’s ties to the United States. After his abduction and eventual release, Rahman was granted asylum in the United States. Today he lives in West Haven, Conn. with his wife and two young children. He was placed here in 2014 with the help of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, better known as IRIS, a non-profit resettlement agency based in New Haven, affiliated with the Episcopal Migration Ministries. Now a safe distance from the dangers of Afghanistan, Rahman is comfortable to reflect on his ordeal as a hostage of the Taliban seven years ago.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — For 66-year-old Uganda widow Pasculina Oming, the quest for farmland that is rightfully hers has cost her an arm. Two, in fact. A widow since 2014 in the Lira District of northern Uganda, Oming has been caring for herself, her seven sons and one mentally disabled daughter by farming the land she inherited from her husband. While federal law in Uganda recognizes Oming as the owner of the acreage, the customs of her local tribe, Iceme, dictate that the land belongs to her late husband’s family. In the spring of 2014, Oming was walking home from the market with her nieces when her brother-in-law attacked her with a “panga” machete, attempting to kill her for what was culturally perceived as arrogance for staking her claim over the land. Oming has received no justice from local courts for the attack, but a Ugandan legal team called Barefoot Law that is working to help rural women gain access to land in remote parts of the country has picked up Oming’s case.
BY CHRISTIAN COLON — “Fue la gota que derramó el vaso,” Spanish for the drop that overflowed the cup. That is how Mauricio Jaramillo described the morning he was kidnapped a year and a half ago on the freeway, heading to his job in Caracas, Venezuela. He parked and made a quick pit stop on the side of road. Company pickup truck still running, Jaramillo opened the driver seat door and headed for the woods. Barely two steps out of his car, two armed men ambushed him, threatened and forced him back inside and took control of his truck. “Inside, that is where it all began,” he said. Jaramillo, clueless to where they were going, arrived to his destination after they drove for what felt like hours. While captured, he was interrogated and extorted. The abduction was the final push Jaramillo needed to leave his native country and seek asylum in the United States.
BY NICOLE LAFOND — Katia Marie Ramos is experiencing depression for the first time in her life. It’s not been fueled by the loss of her home, which, last she saw it, stood in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with nothing left but a few upright walls, loose wires and a tangled tarp for a roof. It wasn’t ignited by the panic she experienced while she rode out Category Four Hurricane Maria in her friend’s home, clutching her four-year-old daughter to her chest. It’s not because she lost her job after the building where she worked as a security guard was destroyed in the storm, or the fact that she had to sell all of her belongings, including her car, in order to purchase a plane ticket to evacuate to the mainland after the storm. Ramos is one of 4,000 Puerto Rican families being put up in hotels in 41 states by the federal government after their homes were destroyed or deemed unlivable by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) when Hurricane Maria struck on September 20. She and her daughter are also one of hundreds of families who will be further displaced when FEMA cuts off their federal transitional assistance next month.
BY CECILIA BUTINI — Each Sunday, in a co-working space just a few blocks from the Capitol in Washington, DC, half a dozen men and women from Egypt meet to discuss the current state of their country and to brainstorm ideas to make an impact from afar, or to help their fellow citizens there. Mostafa Bassim, a 28-year-old with thick curly hair, lounged on a couch in the wood-floored space on a Sunday afternoon, a grave expression on his face as he started to recount the day his life changed. In November 2013, as Egypt transitioned from Mohammad Morsi’s brief presidency to the military rule of general Abdel Fattah El Sisi after a coup, Mostafa was in the middle of a protest in Alexandria, on Egypt’s coast. He wasn’t there to protest, but to take photos for a national publication named Veto. As he got closer to take photos of two police officers arresting and beating a protester, one officer turned to Bassim and started beating him too, he said.
BY MARIE CENTRIC — It’s been 26 years since Osman Chowdhury was almost killed by a gang in Bangladesh and fled to the United States. Chowdhury said he is still scared of being killed when he goes back to his native country. Chowdhury was 24 in 1991, when seven young men attacked him in Chittagong, in Southern Bangladesh, surprising him in second floor government office. They broke his nose and tried strangle him with his tie, he said. Chowdhury managed to escape, ran out to the streets and made it to a police station. “I had to save my life,” Chowdhury, now 52, said with a trembling voice. But the seven attackers pursued him inside the precinct, and officers were afraid of them and refused to press charges, Chowdhury said.
BY JINJIN LONG — Former CNN war correspondent Maria Ressa has been a target of vicious online harassment for the past two years. Following the publication of a feature series mapping the corrosive impact of organized political “cyber troops” in the Philippines; she received an average of 90 hate messages an hour for a whole month.