TRAPPES, France — It all began when a high-school teacher warned that Islamists had taken over the city. The teacher went on TV, issuing alarms from inside what he called a “lost city” of the French Republic. In Trappes, he said, he feared for his life.
“Trappes, it’s finished,” the teacher said. “They’ve won.”
The mayor, a strong believer in the Republic, saw the teacher on television and didn’t recognize the city he described. He knew his city, west of Paris and with a growing population of immigrants and Muslims, had problems but thought it was being falsely maligned. The mayor also happened to be a Muslim.
“The truth doesn’t matter anymore,” he said.
For a few weeks this winter, the fight pitting the mayor, Ali Rabeh, 36, against the teacher, Didier Lemaire, 55, became a media storm that, beneath the noise and accusations, boiled down to a single, angry question that runs through the culture wars rippling through France: Can Islam be compatible with the principles of the French Republic?
Lupin.” But Trappes also saw about 70 of its youths leave for jihad to Syria and Iraq, the largest contingent, per capita, from any French city.
article about Mr. Lemaire, who said he was quitting because of Islamists.
Within a few hours, a conservative politician eyeing the presidency tweeted her support for Mr. Lemaire and “all those hussars on the front line in the fight for the Republic.” Next, the far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, attacked “certain elected officials” for failing to protect the teacher from Islamists.
That the words of a virtually unknown teacher resonated so much was a sign of the times. A few months earlier, an extremist had beheaded a middle-school teacher for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on free speech. President Emmanuel Macron was now pushing a bill to fight Islamism even as he pledged to nurture an “Islam of France.”
Mr. Lemaire’s words also resonated because of the outsized role in France of public schoolteachers, who are responsible for inculcating in the young the nation’s political values and culture. In the Republic’s mythology, teachers are the “hussars” — the light cavalry once used for scouting by European armies — fighting to preserve the nation’s sanctity.
In the article, Mr. Lemaire said he had been under police escort for months. Trappes’s mayor, he said, had called him an “Islamophobe and racist.” He said he was waiting for an “exfiltration” from deep inside “a city lost for good.”
Overnight, the soft-spoken, longhaired teacher, who said he preferred curling up with Seneca than going on Facebook, was issuing dire warnings on top television news shows.
“We have six months to a year,” he said, “because all these youths who are educated with the idea that the French are their enemies, they’ll take action one day.”
Mr. Lemaire arrived in Trappes, a banlieue, or suburb, in the outer orbit of Paris, two decades earlier. Once a village that grew around a millennium-old Roman Catholic parish, Trappes is now a city of 32,000.
Mr. Lemaire’s high school, La Plaine-de-Neauphle, stands at the heart of an area built to accommodate immigrant workers from France’s former colonies in the 1970s — a mixture of rent-subsidized high-rises, attractive five-story residences and a constellation of parks. The mosque is nearby. So is a market where vendors offer delicacies from sub-Saharan Africa and halal products.
Parti républicain solidariste, which espouses a hard line on France’s version of secularism, called laïcité. He now favors taking girls away from their parents, after a second warning, if the children violate laïcité rules by putting on Muslim veils during school field trips.
“We have to protect children from this manipulation,” of being used “as soldiers or as ideologues,” he said.
‘I See Myself In Them’
remarks to the newspaper Le Monde, the local préfet, the top civil servant representing the central government, praised Mr. Rabeh’s administration for its “total cooperation” in combating Islamism. The préfet also refuted the teacher’s claim to having been under a police escort.
The teacher’s story began wobbling. He admitted to the French news media, as he did to The Times, that he had “not received explicit death threats.” He had also accused the mayor of calling him a “racist and Islamophobe” in an interview with a Dutch television network.
But the network denied the mayor had said any such thing.
‘France Really Doesn’t Like Us’
letter to the students at the teacher’s high school.
“Don’t let anybody ever tell you that you’re worth nothing and that you’re lost to the Republic,” he wrote.
debate was scheduled that evening between Ms. Le Pen and Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister leading the government’s crackdown on Islamism. Hours before the debate, he announced that the teacher would be granted police protection.
That evening, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the national education minister, issued a statement supporting the teacher. He also accused the mayor of trespassing into the high school to distribute tracts — the letter — that morning. “Political and religious neutrality is at the heart of the operation of the School of the Republic,” the minister said.
The city officials at the school that morning told The Times that no copies were distributed inside. The regional education office and Mr. Blanquer’s office refused to make the school principal available for an interview. The minister’s office declined to comment.
The trespassing accusations led to such an avalanche of threats against the mayor that he, too, was put under police protection — a shared destiny, for a while, for the two men of Trappes, who had each lost something.
The teacher was forced to leave the school where he had taught for 20 years and, despite his criticisms of Trappes, said “you really feel you’re on a mission.” He said he should have been more careful with the facts and had made “many mistakes,” but stuck by his interpretation of Trappes as “lost.”
His words, he said, had led to a “clarification of positions today in France.”
The mayor questioned the very Republic that once inspired him. He had believed that “the people who embody the Republic will come, the government will eventually express its solidarity with me.”
“Stunned,” he said, “I find that’s not the case.”
He declined his worried father’s request to resign.
“For a moment during the crisis, I told myself, well, if this is the Republic, I’m abandoning the Republic, just as it’s abandoned me,” Mr. Rabeh said. “But the truth is they’re not the Republic. The kids of Trappes are the Republic.”
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Like many New Zealanders before her, Cat Moody chased the broader horizons of life abroad, unsure if she would ever return to a homeland she saw as remote and limiting.
But when the pandemic arrived, it “changed the calculus” of what she valued, she said. Suddenly, fresh air, natural splendor and a sparse population sounded more appealing, as did the sense of security in a country whose strict measures have all but vanquished Covid-19.
In February, Ms. Moody, 42, left her house and the life she had built in Princeton, N.J., and moved back to New Zealand with her husband, a U.S. citizen. She is among more than 50,000 New Zealanders who have flocked home during the pandemic, offering the country a rare opportunity to win back some of its best and brightest.
The unexpected influx of international experience and connections has led to local news reports heralding a societal and industrial renaissance. Policymakers are exhorting businesses to capitalize on the “fundamental competitive advantage” offered by the country’s success against the coronavirus.
have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and Australians and residents of the Cook Islands are the only non-New Zealanders who can visit.
“Shifting into how we take advantage of the way things have changed, I think having a government that is risk-averse is actually going to be damaging to New Zealand,” Ms. Moody said.
Ms. Imam, who worked in communications for the computer company Dell in the United States, said that New Zealand’s reputation abroad was better than it deserved.
Still, she said that new government policies, such as paid leave for women who have miscarriages, had convinced her that the “project that is New Zealand” was worth returning for.
“At least we’re doing something right,” she said. “I want to be part of that.”
The Biden administration on Saturday extended special protections to Haitians living temporarily in the United States after being displaced by a devastating 2010 earthquake, reversing efforts by the previous administration to force them to leave the country.
The decision, announced by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, makes good on President Biden’s campaign promise to restore a program that shields thousands of Haitian migrants from the threat of deportation under the restrictive policies put in place under President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Mayorkas said the new 18-month designation, known as temporary protected status, would apply to Haitians already living in the United States as of Friday.
“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mr. Mayorkas said in a statement on Saturday.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Obama administration granted the temporary protected status to Haitians living in the United States illegally after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in January 2010.
Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the new designation could protect as many as 150,000 Haitians from having to return to the political and security crisis in their home country.
“The last thing our country should be doing is forcing an entire community in the U.S. to decide between packing up their lives and tearing their families apart by self-deporting, or becoming undocumented and forced into the shadows of our society,” Mr. Menendez said in a statement on Saturday.
As part of its hard-line efforts to curb legal and illegal immigration, the Trump administration sought to end protections for about 400,000 immigrants living in the United States, including Haitians. Officials at the time said that the emergency conditions that had compelled the immigrants to flee their countries — earthquakes, hurricanes, civil war — had occurred long ago and that most of the immigrants no longer needed the haven provided by the United States.
Lawsuits blocked the cancellations, but in September a federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration, putting hundreds of thousands of immigrants on notice that they would have to leave the country or face deportation. Many of the people affected had been living in the United States for years. The Trump administration agreed to keep the protections in place at least through early 2021, meaning a new administration could decide to continue the policy.
wrote on Twitter.
In March, the Biden administration issued special protections for as many as 320,000 Venezuelans living in the United States, citing the extraordinary humanitarian crisis in the country under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro.
But some said more needed to be done to give many of those immigrants permission to live in the United States permanently.
“Haitians have been living in uncertainty for the past several months,” Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for the nonprofit organization Raices, said in a statement. “In the future, that uncertainly could be solved by a permanent fix through legislation that puts T.P.S. holders on the path to citizenship,” she added, using the abbreviation for the program.
This month, the House passed a bill that would create a path to citizenship for an estimated four million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including those granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons. The bill passed mostly along party lines, and getting it through the more evenly divided Senate is likely to be a challenge.
The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email.
Over the past four years, ever since we opened the Australia bureau, I’ve often been impressed with the thoughtfulness and global savvy of our regular readers. This newsletter has always drawn together a far-flung community of Australians and those who love them.
But after Besha Rodell wrote in last week’s letter about Australia’s decision to keep its international borders closed until the middle of 2022, the floodgates opened in a way I’ve rarely seen. Her heartfelt account was well read the world over, and when we asked for your take on the travel ban, we received hundreds of replies from all over the world.
Though the opinions varied, and there was some support for restricting travel, most of what we received expressed a mix of disappointment, frustration and confusion.
Yan Zhuang wrote about these feelings in a news article this week, but even that may not be enough to capture the volume of emotion. So we decided to share a few more responses below (they’ve been edited for brevity and clarity).
Thank you to everyone who contributed — and we hope you get to see your loved ones soon.
I’m like thousands of expats from all over the world; we are grief-stricken, confused, and completely exasperated by the government’s lack of communication, unwillingness to commit to metrics or a timetable, and lack of empathy. There seems to be almost no capacity for nuance, no willingness to consider the many points on the spectrum between hard closure and flinging the gates wide open, and a seeming inability to distinguish between travel for pleasure or holidaying and family reunification, vaccinated versus unvaccinated travel, and any way forward for Australia other than ‘zero cases at any cost.’
— Monica Elith
We are U.S. citizens who would typically travel once or twice a year to Perth to visit our daughter, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia. We are both in our 70s, fully vaccinated, and cannot understand why parents do not fall within the Australian definition of “immediate family” for exceptions from the travel limitations. Our son and his fiancé are planning their wedding, postponed from 2020, for April 2022. Will our daughter not be able to travel to the US to be in her only sibling’s wedding? Can a reasonable risk-based approach be considered by the Australian government for resuming international travel sooner?
— Paul Hamer
We moved to San Francisco and then to New York from Geelong/Melbourne seven years ago to pursue careers in tech and the arts. Our oldest is almost 4 and our youngest is almost 1. We have no family here. Our entire family live in Geelong/Melbourne and Canberra.
I cried reading your article, but as with so many things this past year I steeled myself against another setback. We had thought my parents might visit in October, then we might fly back together and quarantine with their help with the kiddos, maybe see my sister, her family and my darling nephew.
Now, that seems so naïve! The idea that my son will be 2 before he meets his grandparents and aunt is one of those thoughts I can’t dwell on.
— Olivia Jones
I moved here last year from the U.S. with my Australian husband (and dual citizen children), and while of course we’re extremely grateful for the normalcy here, it seems ludicrous to imagine we can freeze the country under glass for years. We feel a bit, well, trapped in paradise. I hope the government soon puts a higher priority on figuring out how to safely open its borders instead of acting like we can wall ourselves off from the world indefinitely.
— Arwen Griffith
My only son chooses to live in New York. I am quadriplegic and miss his company but we can FaceTime as often as we like or even, perish the thought, engage in meaningful correspondence — where is the hardship compared to the greater good?
— Ron Irish
My two grandsons live in Sydney, they are almost 5 and 2. Oh the hugs we have missed. I know that many people missed hugs during the pandemic but once they were vaccinated they got their hugs. Will Australia open up in 2022 like they say or will the pandemic continue for years to come? Will I be around to hug my grandchildren again? I had tucked my feelings somewhere deep inside me knowing that it is what it is and I can’t do anything about it but I saw myself in Besha Rodell’s article and it brought me to tears.
— Elizabeth Gundlach
This travel ban has ruined my life! I haven’t seen my fiancé in 16 months. For the past year I have lived every day depressed, angry, hopeless, irritated, lonely and confused. I feel completely abandoned by my country, the people who are completely OK with the travel ban and just see the tens of thousands of Australians suffering as a necessary sacrifice.
The level at which the Australian government has taken people like me, and our concerns, seriously is near nil. Most of us have just become accustomed to the fact that our lives will not change in the foreseeable future, that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of days just like this one waiting for us. We carry on like ghosts, our lives on hold, waiting to be with our loved ones, our children, our parents — many with few years left; we wait to be normal again.
MELBOURNE, Australia — When Australian officials announced last week that the country was unlikely to fully reopen its borders until mid-2022 because of the coronavirus, the backlash immediately began building.
Critics warned that Australia risked becoming a “hermit nation.” Members of the Australian diaspora who had been struggling to return home for months saw it as another blow. The announcement drew dire warnings from business, legal and academic leaders.
Polls show that keeping the borders shut is a popular idea. But the opposition sees political opportunism on the part of the government. Others predict that a continued policy of isolationism means young people could “face a lost decade” because of prolonged economic loss and social dislocation.
Australian officials contend that the restrictions on international travel — some of the strictest in the world — are the main reason the country has been so successful in crushing the virus. The government is resisting pressure from many quarters to consider an earlier reopening, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring on Tuesday, “I’m not going to take risks with Australians’ lives.”
report, titled “A Roadmap to Reopening,” of long-lasting damage to the country, and especially its young people.
“There is an illusion that Australia can go at it alone and be this Shangri-La in the South Pacific,” Tim Soutphommasane, a political expert at the University of Sydney and co-sponsor of the report, said in an interview. “But I think that’s a misguided view. Other countries that do have a vaccinated population will be able to attract skilled migrants, have their universities open up to international students.”
recent poll showing that three-quarters of Australians support it.
Many were barred for weeks from flying home from India because of the Covid crisis raging there. Tens of thousands have been separated from their families or have put their lives on hold as the country refused to budge on travel restrictions.
For Madeleine Karipidis, an Australian solicitor living in London, the travel hurdles have driven her to take a drastic step. She moved to London from her native Australia seven years ago. After a year of being unable to get home to see her family, and after the government announced the extended closure last week, she began the process of applying for British citizenship.
Government data released on Monday showed that 1.5 million vaccine doses — a quarter of those distributed — had not been used.
Vaccine complacency is also a growing concern, with some Australians seeing the perceived risks of a shot as outweighing the danger of getting sick from the coronavirus.
Still, the government predicts that most people will be vaccinated by the end of the year. But that in itself will not be enough to trigger the reopening of borders, Mr. Morrison has said, because it excludes “millions” of children and those who choose not to be vaccinated. The vaccines may also not be equipped to deal with new variants and mutations, he added.
For Owais Ahmed, an Australian permanent resident and a cybersecurity consultant, the border closure has put his life in limbo. His family and his fiancée are in Pakistan, and though he has been trying to leave Australia to see them, his requests for an exemption have been denied.
Mr. Ahmed said he had been happy to wait out the border closure last year, but that the extended lockdown now seemed more political than medical. His plans to get married and start a family in Australia have all been put on pause.
Spain deployed troops, military trucks and helicopters in its North African enclave of Ceuta on Tuesday after thousands of people crossed over from Morocco, one of the largest movements of migrants reported in the area in recent years.
More than 6,000 migrants, including 1,500 minors, arrived on the beaches of Ceuta on Monday and Tuesday, mostly swimming or aboard inflatable boats, according to the Spanish authorities, who said that Spain had already sent back 2,700 people.
The sudden arrival of thousands of people in Ceuta — more than had attempted the crossing in all the rest of the year so far — comes amid a deepening diplomatic spat between Spain and Morocco over the hospitalization in Spain of the leader of a rebel group that has fought for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco.
Videos broadcast on Spanish television on Tuesday appeared to show Moroccan border guards opening fences to the Spanish enclave. While Morocco has warned of “consequences” for harboring the rebel leader, it was not immediately clear if the spike in migration was linked to the diplomatic dispute.
International Organization for Migration with the coronavirus pandemic having likely forced more migrants to migrate through that route.
“Many of those trying to reach the Canary Islands came from Senegal and were forced to leave because of the impact of the pandemic on fishing in particular,” said Julia Black, a project officer at the organization’s Global Migration Data Analysis Center and the report’s author.
Polisario Front, a separatist movement that has been fighting for Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco.
Moroccan officials have reacted with anger over the news that the leader, Brahim Ghali, had been hospitalized with Covid-19 in Spain under an alias. The Moroccan foreign ministry said this month that the authorities would “draw all consequences” from Spain’s “premeditated” decision to treat Mr. Ghali.
Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, said in a radio interview on Monday that Mr. Ghali’s hospitalization was a humanitarian response to “a person who was in a very, very fragile health situation.”
She added that Moroccan officials had told their Spanish counterparts that the sudden rise in migrant crossings was not the result of a disagreement over the hospitalization.
Estrella Galán, the director general of CEAR, a Spanish group that helps asylum seekers and refugees, said Morocco was using migration as leverage against Spain.
But she added that Morocco’s move was the consequence of the European Union’s decision after the refugee crisis of 2015 to rely on greater control of migration by countries outside the bloc.
“This is what happens when we convert other countries into gendarmes of our own borders,” Ms. Galán said.
NAGOYA, Japan — First came a high fever. Then her face and limbs turned numb. Soon, she could keep down little more than water, sugar and bites of bread as she wasted away in her cell in a Japanese detention center.
By early March, Wishma Rathnayake — a migrant from Sri Lanka who was being held for overstaying her visa — could barely make a fist and was having trouble speaking, according to government records detailing her care. Yet week after week, as she begged to be released to a hospital for treatment, her jailers refused. She and her supporters believed the authorities had already made their own diagnosis: that she was faking her illness to avoid deportation.
On March 6, at the age of 33, Ms. Rathnayake died alone in her cell.
Her case has become a source of outrage for critics of Japan’s immigration system, who say that Ms. Rathnayake was the victim of an opaque and capricious bureaucracy that has nearly unchecked power over foreigners who run afoul of it.
The tragedy has spurred a national reckoning. Japan, a country with a long history of hostility toward immigration, is now grappling with its at-times inhumane treatment of foreigners, especially people of color, and many are calling for change.
They point to a system in which most immigration decisions are made in secret, offering migrants little recourse to the courts. Those who overstay their visas or who have entered the country illegally can be held indefinitely, sometimes for years. And migrants who file asylum claims, as Ms. Rathnayake once did, are particularly unwelcome.
Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, settles less than 1 percent of applicants seeking asylum, including just 47 last year — a point of contention among other countries that have called on Tokyo to do more.
Immigration officials are “police, prosecutors, judges and jailers,” said Yoichi Kinoshita, who left the government’s immigration bureau over its lack of clear standards to guide its sometimes life-or-death decisions. He now runs an advocacy group focused on fixing the system.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government, facing growing pressure over Ms. Rathnayake’s death, made two major concessions.
The governing Liberal Democratic Party abandoned an effort to revise Japan’s immigration law, as opposition lawmakers said they would not start debate over the changes unless the government released video footage of Ms. Rathnayake taken in the detention center just before she died.
The government had argued that the revisions would improve treatment of detainees, in part by stopping lengthy detentions, which have drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups for decades. But critics took particular issue with changes that would have allowed Japan to forcefully repatriate asylum seekers, potentially returning them to dangerous situations in their home countries.
Also on Tuesday, the justice minister, Yoko Kamikawa, agreed to meet with Ms. Rathnayake’s two sisters in order to “express my condolence.” Ms. Kamikawa has repeatedly declined to address the specifics of Ms. Rathnayake’s death, whose cause has yet to be officially determined. She has said she will withhold comment until the immigration bureau has completed an inquiry into the case. The bureau, in a statement, reiterated her remarks.
Ms. Kamikawa announced the meeting as her ministry, which administers the immigration bureau, has come under regular attack in the news media for its role in Ms. Rathnayake’s death and its evasiveness about the causes. Protesters have gathered nearly every day in front of Parliament, and objections lodged by opposition lawmakers have been unusually fierce.
These lawmakers want to overhaul an immigration system in which the outcomes for those caught inside can be bleak. At least 24 detainees have died since 1997, according to the Japan Lawyers Network for Refugees. Activists have alleged government negligence in some cases, most recently the deaths in 2020 of an Indonesian man and in 2019 of a Nigerian man on a hunger strike. Official inquiries have not supported the accusations.
None of those cases have inspired the public anger engendered by the death of Ms. Rathnayake, a hopeful young woman who had come to Japan with dreams of teaching English.
In the summer of 2017, she began studying Japanese at a school in the Tokyo suburbs. On her Facebook page, she shared photos of trips to Buddhist temples and to the mountains, where she delighted in snow.
Around six months into her program, she began skipping class, said Yuhi Yokota, the school’s vice principal. Before long, she moved into an apartment with her boyfriend, another Sri Lankan student she met in Japan. The couple then disappeared, a development that school officials reported to immigration authorities, Mr. Yokota said.
Hoping to stay in Japan, Ms. Rathnayake applied for asylum status, but the government denied a request to renew her residence permit, and she withdrew her application. Officials soon lost track of her.
Then, last August, she appeared at a police station in Shizuoka, on the Pacific coast of central Japan, asking for protection from her boyfriend, who she said had abused her. She said she wanted to go home, but had less than $20 to her name.
The authorities were more interested in another problem: Her residence permit had expired and she was in Japan illegally. They sent her to a detention center in Nagoya, a few hours southwest of Tokyo, to await deportation.
Several months later, she received a letter from her ex-boyfriend. He knew that she had reported him to the police, he wrote, adding that he would seek revenge if she returned to Sri Lanka.
Ms. Rathnayake decided she would be safer in Japan. With the encouragement of a local nonprofit organization, START, she decided to try to stay.
The move irritated officials at the detention center, said Yasunori Matsui, the group’s adviser. They demanded that she change her mind, she told him during one of his frequent visits.
In late December, Ms. Rathnayake fell ill with a fever, and within weeks she was having trouble eating, according to the nonprofit.
She tried to pass the time by watching television, but the commercials for food made her unbearably hungry.
Ms. Rathnayake was suffering from extreme anxiety, doctors found. A nurse suggested dealing with it by writing a diary with all of the things she was thankful for. In late January, a doctor prescribed her vitamins and painkillers. After they made her vomit, she resisted taking more.
Care was limited at the detention center’s medical facility, which was more like an infirmary than a clinic.
Officials said her problems were caused by “stress,” she wrote in a letter to Akemi Mano, a local activist, adding that “they don’t take me to the hospital.”
The authorities took Ms. Rathnayake to a gastroenterologist in early February. The exam was inconclusive, but if she could not keep down her medicine, she should be hospitalized, the doctor wrote in a medical report reviewed by The New York Times. The comment conflicts with the official government account of the visit, which says no recommendation for hospitalization was made.
Ms. Rathnayake was returned to the detention center. Soon, she could no longer walk. When she met with her representatives of START, she was rolled out in a wheelchair with a bucket in her lap.
She had filed for a provisional release in January, citing anxiety. Detention centers had already released hundreds of healthy detainees because of concerns about the coronavirus, but in mid-February, her application was denied without explanation. Soon after, she submitted a second one on medical grounds. She was so weak she could barely sign the form, Mr. Matsui said.
Despite the severity of her symptoms, officials waited until March 4 to take Ms. Rathnayake to a hospital. A psychiatrist who examined her wrote that her sponsors had told her that being sick would improve her chances of being released, according to a medical record reviewed by The Times and first reported by TBS, a Japanese broadcaster. START denies the allegation.
The cause of Ms. Rathnayake’s illness was unclear, the doctor noted. While it was possible that she was faking, he wrote, there would be no harm in granting her request for medical release, adding that “if you think about the patient’s benefit, that’s probably best.”
Two days later, Ms. Rathnayake was dead.
At the end of April, a group of opposition lawmakers held a video meeting with Ms. Rathnayake’s mother and sisters. One after another, they conveyed their deepest apologies and asked what they could do to help assuage the family’s grief.
“I want to know why they let her suffer,” her mother said. “Why didn’t they take her to the hospital as soon as possible?”
For now, the family can only speculate. An interim report on Ms. Rathnayake’s death, released by immigration officials last month, is filled with minute detail, like blood pressure and oxygen saturation readings during each checkup, the exact time she was administered medicine for her headaches or chest pain, every bite of food she ate or rejected.
But it omits the most important information: an answer for Ms. Rathnayake’s mother.
In early April, Payal Raj accompanied her family to India to renew the visas that permit them to live in the United States. She and her husband waited until they had been vaccinated, carefully preparing their paperwork according to the advice of their immigration lawyers. But the visa itself would soon strand her in India indefinitely, separating her from her husband and daughter in Hendersonville, Tenn.
“Our family is in a crisis,” said Ms. Raj, who is one of thousands of immigrants stuck in India, in part because the Biden administration’s restrictions on most travel from the country mean that temporary visa holders are explicitly barred from re-entering the United States. “Every morning is a struggle.”
The restrictions, issued as a devastating surge in coronavirus cases has overwhelmed India in recent weeks, prohibit Ms. Raj and others like her from returning to their homes, families and jobs in the United States. Even those exempt under the ban are in limbo as the outbreak forces the U.S. Embassy and consulates to close, leaving many with no clear path home.
Ms. Raj’s husband, Yogesh Kumar, an operations manager for a multinational corporation, lives in the United States on an H-1B visa, or a temporary permit for highly technical foreign workers. As dependents, Ms. Raj and their daughter hold H-4 visas, which allow temporary workers to bring immediate family and must be renewed about every three years at an embassy or consulate outside the United States.
American citizens and permanent residents, for instance, can travel freely, while people who are fully vaccinated, test negative or quarantine before and after flying cannot. The administration has not indicated when or under what circumstances it would lift the restrictions.
“They just put the same blanket ban for India that they were using in the Trump administration,” said Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer who is suing the Biden administration over the State Department’s inability to issue visas in countries experiencing lockdowns. “This was the same style ban that President Biden said last March was ineffective and was a bad idea.”
The United States has restricted entry from a number of countries, but the most recent ban has had a disproportionate effect on Indians in the United States given that Indian citizens claim more than two-thirds of H-1B visas issued each year. Including those on other kinds of nonimmigrant visas, immigration lawyers estimate that thousands of Indians living in the United States have been affected.
Some traveled to India when coronavirus case counts were low to renew their visas or see family. Others went to care for sick or dying relatives. Now some are unable to secure even emergency appointments to renew their visas at the embassy in New Delhi or any of the four U.S. consulates in India.
In late April, Gaurav Chauhan traveled to Agra to care for his father, who was hospitalized with the coronavirus. He is now separated from his wife and two children, who live in Atlanta.
As a parent of American citizens who are minors, Mr. Chauhan is exempt from the ban, but he has been unable to make an emergency appointment on the State Department’s website to renew his visa. His employer, a software company, has temporarily allowed Mr. Chauhan, who works in human resources, to do his job overseas. But others in similar situations say they have been asked to leave their jobs.
analysis of State Department data by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Such shutdowns should not stop visa processing, Mr. Siskind said, pointing to other immigration agencies that had successfully adapted to remote work and exceptions to in-person document submission.
“One of the issues with the State Department for the last 14 months is their lack of imagination in terms of how to change their procedures in a pandemic,” Mr. Siskind said. “They have, for example, not switched to video interviewing, which is something that they have the statutory authority to do.”
The State Departmentacknowledged that “services are limited” at U.S. outposts in India but said that it would “make every attempt to continue to honor approved emergency visa appointments.” The department could not provide a specific date for when other visa services would resume.
Abhiram, a professor in Broward County, Fla., whose wife and 3-year-old daughter remain outside Hyderabad after visiting family in January, said he did not fault the government for enforcing travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But the situation has made him consider whether to stay in the United States.
“Every day my daughter asks me, ‘Daddy, where are you?’” said Abhiram, who asked to be identified only by his middle name. “I do feel sometimes like going back to my home country, rather than dealing with this.”
But for Ms. Raj and her family, home is Hendersonville.
“Our whole day-to-day life was interacting with our neighbors, going and visiting friends, getting together for backyard parties. It’s been wonderful,” she said. “I don’t want to uproot our lives.”
PARIS — Walking home one night several years ago in a suburb of Paris, Raphaël Marre was horrified to see a group of migrants and asylum seekers sleeping on the street outside his home.
Why wasn’t the government housing them? he wondered. After witnessing the same scene for several weeks, he and his wife decided to do it themselves, signing up with a nonprofit that links migrants with people in the Paris region willing to open up their homes for a few nights.
“That was a triggering moment,” Mr. Marre said. “We thought, ‘This can’t be happening, we have to do something.’”
Five years after a migrant crisis that convulsed Europe, France is still struggling to accommodate the thousands of people who have applied for asylum in France. And Mr. Marre is still welcoming them into his home.
France, and much of Europe, was facing a large influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa, driven from their homes by war and economic deprivation.
introduced an initiative that would create 4,500 new spaces in 2021. However, it is “still far from enough to meet the needs,” said Ms. Le Coz.
France’s struggle to accommodate migrants and asylum seekers has become particularly conspicuous in the streets of the Paris region. In what has become a seemingly never-ending cycle, the police regularly clear out hundreds of migrants and raze their tents and shacks, often offering them no alternative but to move somewhere else.
Utopia 56 relies on a network of volunteers, private citizens, parishes and private companies that have sheltered nearly 3,000 people during the pandemic.
Xavier Lachaume, 31, and his wife have hosted eight families in their apartment in Saint-Denis, a northern Paris suburb, since January. For now, visitors stay in their spare bedroom for a couple of nights, which they plan to turn into a room for a baby they expect in coming months.
82,000 asylum applications in 2020, according to Eurostat, Europe’s statistics agency. First-time applicants declined more than 40 percent from 2019, a drop partly attributed to the coronavirus. But Mr. Manzi predicts another surge once the pandemic passes.
President Emmanuel Macron told Brut, an online news site, in December that “the slowness of our procedures means that” asylum seekers “can indeed find themselves for weeks and months” without proper accommodation.
right-wing politicians and conservative news media increasingly drawing a link between illegal migration and terrorism. Mr. Macron’s government has adopted a tougher approach on immigration, hoping that lures voters away from the far right.
Mr. Sanogo said he had arrived in France in 2016 after fleeing Ivory Coast, citing continuing turmoil stemming from the 2011 civil war that tore apart the country, and has lived in a series of workers’ hostels, making money off the books as a construction worker. His wife and their 9-year-old daughter joined him last month, but they were not allowed to stay in his hostel, forcing them to sleep in the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris.
Mr. Sanogo, 44, said his asylum application when he arrived in 2016 had been rejected because he did not make the request in Italy, where he first arrived in Europe, as he was supposed to do under E.U. rules. But he said he had an appointment with a lawyer to make a new application in France, this time with his family.
As he boarded the Metro with his family to go to their hosts, Mr. Sanogo recounted how he had made his away from Ivory Coast to Libya, were he said he was beaten up and robbed by traffickers, and eventually made it to Italy after a perilous boat trip across the Mediterranean.
Mr. Sanogo seemed grateful for Mr. Marre’s hospitality, but mindful that it was only for a night, said he had hidden a bag full of clothes and sheets on the outskirts of Paris.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Most of Nepal is under lockdown, its hospitals overwhelmed. Bangladesh suspended vaccination sign-ups after promised supplies were cut off. Sri Lanka’s hopes of a tourism-led economic revival have collapsed.
As India battles a horrific surge of the coronavirus, the effects have spilled over to its neighbors. Most nearby countries have sealed their borders. Several that had been counting on Indian-made vaccines are pleading with China and Russia instead.
The question is whether that will be enough, in a region that shares many of the risk factors that made India so vulnerable: densely populated cities, heavy air pollution, fragile health care systems and large populations of poor workers who must weigh the threat of the virus against the possibility of starvation.
Though the countries’ outbreaks can’t all be linked to India, officials across the region have expressed growing dread over how easily their fates could follow that of their neighbor.
huge, maskless rallies in India hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even as infections rose. Likewise, both the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal held large political gatherings after the prime minister dissolved Parliament in December.
told CNN on Saturday that Nepal’s situation was “under control” but acknowledged that “political instability” had led to “some mistakes.” On Monday night, Mr. Oli lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament, throwing Nepal into further turmoil.
Aid workers have warned that the parallels between Nepal and India may continue, as hospitals turn all but the most critically ill patients away. With medical oxygen supplies running short, as they did in India, Nepal’s government has imposed quotas for each hospital, which doctors say are far from adequate. Reports of patients dying from insufficient oxygen have spread.
said in a statement last week.
Vaccines are unlikely to help immediately. Nepal paid for two million doses from India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest producer of vaccines. But as India’s crisis has escalated, its government has essentially halted exports, leaving Nepal a million doses short.
India’s pause has also scrambled vaccination plans in Bangladesh. Late last month, the authorities there announced that they would temporarily stop accepting new registrations for shots after supplies from the Serum Institute were cut off.
95 percent of its eligible population. Bhutan last month suspended entry for foreign workers, after experts cited concerns about laborers coming from India.
The border between Pakistan and India was closed even before the pandemic because of political tensions. But in Pakistan, too, cases are rising. Asad Umar, the official leading its coronavirus response, cited the fact that “the entire region is exploding with cases and deaths” to explain new lockdowns.
coronavirus response plan last May, it estimated that local facilities would be insufficient if there were more than 5,000 active cases at once. Now there are more than 100,000.
For many Nepalis, anger and sorrow have mixed with utter helplessness.
Pramod Pathak, a businessman in the border district of Kailali, has watched in anxiety and sorrow as migrant workers returned from India. They have crowded every day into overwhelmed testing centers, or — for the many for whom there are no tests — simply crammed into shared cars and returned to their villages.
“The virus is transmitting as they travel in jam-packed vehicles,” Mr. Pathak said. “There’s no safety for them no matter where they go — be it India or Nepal.”
Bhadra Sharma reported from Kathmandu, Nepal; Aanya Wipulasena from Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Vivian Wang from Hong Kong. Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Chencho Dema from Thimphu, Bhutan.