refugees

March to end the misery on Manus and Nauru

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/02/2018 - 10:59am in

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Plans are well underway for this year’s Palm Sunday, “Welcome Refugees” rallies.

It is more important than ever that thousands rally and march to demand the closure of Manus and Nauru, an end offshore detention and that all the asylum seekers and refugees are brought to Australia. The injustice and misery has to end.

The conditions on Nauru and Manus continue to deteriorate.

Border Force’s sick determination to maintain its offshore detention regime is seeing it condemn children to the mental hell of Nauru rather than allow them to get help in Australia.

On multiple occasions it has refused to bring psychologically damaged, suicidal children off Nauru until lawyers take them to court. And there are scores more people that Border Force has prevented getting help despite medical recommendations that they need treatment that Nauru cannot provide.

Border Force has now negotiated an arrangement to send medical patients to Taiwan, to prevent having to send anyone to Australia, where legal action can prevent them being returned offshore.

The Rohingyan refugee who Border Force refused to medivac after he was severely head-injured last November still suffers severe headaches and is too dizzy to walk very far. He has received no treatment.

The UN refugee agency has yet again condemned the conditions on Manus. Rico Saleedo, its regional protection officer, said, “it is evident since the closure of Australia’s so-called Regional Processing Centre, that the need for greater mental health support, emergency medical care and specialised torture and trauma counselling remains critical and unmet…”

It takes refugees four days to get an appointment to see an IHMS doctor at the clinic that now only operates at the East Lorengau camp during office hours. Otherwise refugees have to use the Lorengau hospital, which struggles to provide even rudimentary health care for locals.

And refugees are still exposed to violence. They are warned to “walk in groups” and be back in the camps by 6pm.

Resettlement farce

Meanwhile, the US resettlement process is glacially slow, and uncertain. Four and a half years after they were dumped offshore and 15 months after the US deal was announced, hundreds of people have not even had their first interview. Others have completed security interviews and had medical examinations in preparation for resettlement months ago but have no idea when, or if, they will ever go.

Iranian refugees are conspicuously absent from recent US resettlement approvals. After three protests on Nauru, Border Force gave them a letter, which said almost exactly nothing. “No nationalities are excluded from the US Refugee Admissions Program” it claimed but, “Nationalities [unspecified] subject to a Security Advisory Opinion may require more time to process.” More time than 15 months? It didn’t say.

But it did say, “Further visits from the Department of Homeland Security are planned in the coming months.” Months!

A January ReachTel poll recorded 58 per cent in favour of the Australian government accepting New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees from Manus and Nauru a year. But even that idea is too much for Minister Dutton who constantly resorts to the old scaremongering about people smugglers, “watching developments in Australian politics closely”.

Like the lies about “African gangs”, refugees are part of the government’s suite of racist election propaganda. The Liberals’ scapegoating will increase as the election gets closer. That is an added reason to build the biggest Palm Sunday rallies that we can, with the biggest union contingents we can organise.

We need to get rid of the Liberals. But Labor remains committed to offshore detention. The movement to “Bring Them Here” has to grow over the coming months—to take the fight to Turnbull but to also make it clear that the movement won’t settle for anything less from a Labor government.

It is a demand to immediately end the misery on Manus and Nauru. Along with ending asylum boat turnbacks, it is also a demand that goes to the political heart of the refugee movement—the right for asylum seekers to cross borders by boat and be protected when they arrive. The ruling class wants to maintain their borders to divide and rule and assert their control.

Fighting to “Bring Them Here” is part of the fight that can break that control.

By Ian Rintoul

The post March to end the misery on Manus and Nauru appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Europe, is this your face to the world?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/02/2018 - 4:00pm in

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The migrant crisis has exposed the consequences of European ignorance and prejudice. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye – our complicity threatens to undermine the entire European project.

Take the case of Nasir, an Afghan deported from the EU because his asylum application was rejected. Back in Afghanistan, he was a victim of a Taliban violence – the very violence from which he had fled. Or consider the case of Hayat Hooman, whom we paid to flee our continent, only to face further violence across the ocean.

The emerging question is simple: How can  we, Europeans, take pride in our project in the face of all the pain that Nasir goes through? Is this part characteristic of our western ‘civilization’?

We must develop a movement to combat the growing wave of xenophobia worldwide.  Countries across Europe are today engaged in a debate – though not always a fully informed one – on the number of refugees that Europe can handle, on how many asylum seekers to accept or on where refugees should be deported. DiEM25 members strongly oppose the framing of these debates.

We want to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and feel proud of our EU, not shame on its behalf. We envision an open Europe that welcomes people and supports families, instead of deporting them to unsafety. A Europe without shameful deals with neighboring countries. A Europe with compassion.

Share our vision? Join us here and volunteer with us!

 

Aris is a member and volunteer of the DiEM25 movement.

 

Merkel Claims May Begs Her to ‘Make Me an Offer’

Remember when the Tories were trying to convince everyone that Tweezer was ‘strong and stable’, and could be trusted to get us a good deal on Brexit? Oh, how times have changed!

Mike put up a story yesterday, reporting that the German Chancellor has been making jokes at our PM’s expense about her negotiating style. According to die Kanzlerin, all the negotiations between her and May go round in circles, with both of them saying exactly the same things. May will say, ‘Make me an offer.’ Merkel will reply, ‘We don’t have to. You’re leaving.’ At which point May will repeat her first request. Merkel then repeats her reply, and the conversation goes on, round and round in circles.

See Mike’s article at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/01/30/brexit-make-me-an-offer-says-may-but-nobody-wants-to-talk-with-her/

Now before we go any further, it needs to be said that domestically Merkel is in a precarious position. She’s hung on to power, but her decision to welcome the wave of Middle Eastern refugees from Syria and North Africa a few years ago has damaged her popularity, and boosted that of the Nazi AfD. I also gather that there are problems about whether or not the SPD will join her grosse Koalition. They joined a coalition with her before, only to find their share of the vote declining as Merkel’s Conservative Christian Democrats took the credit for genuine improvements in the benefits system, which had actually been done by the SPD. The pressure’s on Merkelt to make herself look strong for the voters in Germany.

But this actually shows how weak May is. If this is right, then it shows how May actually doesn’t have anything to negotiate with. As we’re leaving the EU, they don’t actually have to make any concessions to us whatsoever. But the country needs them to, as does May personally. And so her remark to Merkel, ‘Make me an offer’, sounds less like an invitation by a skilled business negotiator in a Hollywood drama to productive talks than begging by a desperate and embattled PM. It also seems to show that May can’t talk, except in clichés she’s learned from the movies. Or had programmed into her by her handlers at Tory Central Office. But the cliché, coming as it does from Hollywood, is there to convince someone that actually she’s a tough negotiator. Perhaps she’s trying to persuade Merkel that she’s going to be able to make an offer Merkel can’t refuse. In which case, she and the Tory hordes behind her are very, very sadly deluded.

May needs an offer, any offer, even if it’s one she has no option but to reject, in order to show the Tory faithful and the voting public that she is able to negotiate any kind of settlement at all. And Merkel is determined to show her the opposite: that she’s in absolutely no position to demand anything.

Thus the Brexiteers, far from leading Britain back into a resurgence of pride and sovereignty, as people like Jacob Rees-Mogg would have us all believe, have actually done the opposite. Repeated studies have shown that Brexit will damage our economy, and the process has left the Prime Minister suppliant and begging before Merkel and the other leaders of the EU.

So much for ‘strong and stable’.

Not that Young Master Rees-Mogg is upset. Mogg makes his money, or a fair part of it, from investments, and so hopes that by going outside the EU and turning Britain into a low tax, low regulated economy just outside the EU, they can make Britain into a colossal tax haven for the global financial industry. No matter that the rest of the British economy, such as manufacturing, and its working people, have already suffered because of the Thatcherite promotion of the financial sector. Mogg’s a true blue, Tory aristocrat, who has consistently voted to give him and his class generous financial rewards, while cutting welfare for the poor, the disabled and working class. This shows his priorities, and those of the Hard Brexiteers that stand behind him. Whatever deal he wants to negotiate will very definitely not benefit anyone, who isn’t a millionaire investment banker.

Rejected by Australia and Condemned to Detention in Indonesia, Refugees Protest Life in Limbo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/01/2018 - 6:24am in


Refugees Protes Photo by Asif Rahimi

Asif is a young, clever man of 28 years. Despite all the difficulties posed by life in a war-torn country like Afghanistan, he managed to study International Relations at Kabul University and become fluent in four languages, some of which he taught himself.

In a different time and place, Asif could easily have become whatever he wished—a professor, a diplomat—but not today, and not in the place in which he is currently forced to stay.

Four years ago, Asif decided to leave Afghanistan, after seeing the situation there becoming more drastically unstable year after year. He left in the hope of reaching Australia, a place to start a new life far from the war. During his journey, he found out that his wife was pregnant. He eventually reached Indonesia, and one month later, while being held captive in a detention center, he became the father of a beautiful little girl whom he has never had the chance to meet. But Asif is not a criminal—he is a refugee detained for the past four years in an immigration detention center in Balikpapan, Indonesia, along with other 183 other people.


Balikpapan detention center – Photo by Asif Rahimi

The detainees range in age from 14 to 62 years old, and include people from Somalia, Iran, among other countries. 181 of the detainees are Afghan Hazaras, an ethnic group that in the past decades has been targeted by the Taliban, and now by Daesh.

The Balikpapan detention center is a building fenced around with electrified barbed wire, originally designed to house those charged with crimes such as human smuggling, drug dealing, and cyber-hacking. The Balikpapan inmates are not allowed to study or work, and don't receive adequate medical care. Among them is at least one teenager and many adults who need urgent medical attention.

In Indonesia, there are 13 immigration detention centers with a total capacity of 1,300 detainees. These detention centers are usually unsanitary, overcrowded and prone to flooding in the rainy season. Since January 17, 2018 the refugees at the detention center in Balikpapan have been protesting against these conditions.

The refurbishing and enlarging the detention facilities was funded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), using funds received from several Australian government agencies. Australian NGOs have denounced this “Indonesian Solution”, arguing that their government is paying Jakarta “hundreds of millions of dollars to detain and warehouse asylum seekers. Indonesian law permits immigrants to be detained for up to 10 years without judicial review.

Even though the IOM is not a humanitarian organization and does not have a mandate to assist asylum seekers and refugees, the Indonesian immigration authorities or the UNHCR refer asylum seekers and refugees to its care. In Indonesia, the IOM has effectively been helping Australia manage its border controls, but this is far from the only case where the organisation seems to be going against many aspects of its mission. The IOM has been criticized by researchers for its involvement in humanitarian work and in controversial projects in different parts of the world. In Libya, a country that has yet to recover stability following a NATO-led military intervention in 2011, the IOM has received tens of millions of dollars to bolster a system intended to prevent people from departing for Europe.

Indonesia has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol, and Southeast Asia has no human rights treaty. As a result, processing asylum applications falls to the UNHCR, which provides certificates recognizing individuals and families as refugees.

Almost all the people now detained in Balikpapan have been granted asylum by UNHCR, but Indonesian law does not allow them to be recognized as refugees.

As Human Rights Watch reported:

Even with recognition from UNHCR, refugees have no viable future in Indonesia. They have no legal status under Indonesian law, cannot work, and have limited access to education (…) The impact of prolonged, indefinite immigration detention is particularly severe for children, many of whom experience post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Most unaccompanied children are detained with unrelated adults at risk of violence and exploitation. The situation is particularly harsh for children, who are arbitrarily detained in terrible conditions for months or years, without knowing how long they will be held.

Like the people in Australia's immigration detention centres in the Nauru and Manus Islands, the residents of Balikpapan remain hostages—both to a surge in anti-migrant sentiment, and to politicians keen to capitalise on that sentiment to win votes.

More refugees get to US but problems mount in new Manus compounds

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 25/01/2018 - 10:44am in

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More refugees from Manus have been flown for resettlement in the United States this month. Forty from Manus left on 23 January. Another 18 from Manus, and more than 130 from Nauru, will fly in February.

This will bring the total to just 230 people resettled in 14 months. The process is unbelievably, excruciatingly slow. In comparison, Canada resettled 25,000 Syrians in four months between November 2015 and February 2016. Hundreds of refugees have been left wondering whether the US deal will ever apply to them.

Trump’s current travel restrictions ban or limit people from Iran, Syria, Chad, Somalia, Libya and Yemen entering the US. Although there has been no official explanation, it is painfully obvious that there are no Iranians or Somalis on the next flights from Manus or Nauru.

Anyone who questioned the Resettlement Support Centre about their status got an evasive reply, “Under the Executive Order issued October 24, 2017, the United States government is currently undertaking an additional review of refugee resettlement from selected countries worldwide and we will temporarily prioritise refugee applications from other countries.”

Iranian and Somali refugees on Nauru protested on 22 January against the resettlement delays and their “temporary” exclusion from the US scheme.

But there were no answers to their questions. Another protest is planned for 29 January.

What is certain about the US deal is that there are hundreds more refugees on Manus and Nauru than the US has agreed to resettle. Yet the Turnbull government has again point-blank rejected the offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees a year.

The uncertainty on Nauru is taking its toll. Alongside the despair, there are more bashings; more robberies; more Border Force vetoes on urgently needed medical transfers off Nauru, punctuated by emergency medical evacuations.

There are growing signs of the move to consolidate Nauru as a long-term offshore detention provider to the Australian government.

A new state-owned company, the Nauru Regional Processing Centre Corporation, has been set up to “manage service contracts” in the camps and settlements, to ensure that the largesse of the Australian government contracts will go directly to the Nauruan elite.

Some refugees will get to the US—but only after many more months of the hell on Manus and Nauru. There is still an urgent need for the refugee movement to maintain the demands to evacuate Nauru and Manus and bring all the refugees and asylum seekers to Australia.

Trouble on Manus

Three months after the brutal siege of the detention centre on Manus Island, nothing is resolved. Hillside and West Haus camps are still unfinished. East Lorengau is over-crowded. Health facilities are inadequate. Mental health treatment is non-existent.

In mid-January, Hillside was blockaded by local Manus residents because of the stench and health concerns caused by an open drain carrying sewage from the compound across their land.

With the refugees no longer on the naval base, they have now become hostage to open squabbles between local landowners and Australian government-favoured companies with detention contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.

Tensions on the island have spilled into the open over the past few weeks with local landowners and companies blockading the three detention areas to try and force the Australian government to give contracts to local companies. Paladin guards were driven out of Hillside on 15 January by the local security company, Kingfisher.

Paladin Solutions has an Australian government contract for $72 million to provide Manus “garrison services” (overseeing the detention camps) for just over four months. No wonder Peter Dutton is refusing to release the details of the contracts to the Senate. Dutton claims releasing the information would damage international relations. More likely it would damage the government’s credibility. Offshore detention is a multi-million dollar scandal.

But while security companies are paid millions, the Hillside asylum seekers have not been paid their promised allowance since they were forcibly relocated there in November.

After an angry protest by asylum seekers in Hillside, Border Force has opened a canteen. But while Paladin is being paid $585,000 a day, asylum seekers are getting just 15 points a week (about $7.50) to spend at the canteen. 24 January was the 175th day of protest on Manus. And the protests will continue.

By Ian Rintoul

The post More refugees get to US but problems mount in new Manus compounds appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Belgium debates suspending human rights with migrant search law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/01/2018 - 8:43pm in

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Hébergement Plateforme Citoyenne, a spontaneous collective of 30,000 Belgian residents, have for more than a year been helping refugees and migrants left homeless and abandoned by the inefficient policies of the Belgian authorities.

In daily acts that aspire to what in DiEM25 we call constructive disobedience, they feed and provide shelter in private homes for hundreds of people who are in need, but get no support or help from the authorities.

But now, the Belgian government plans to lift the sanctity of the private home, and suspend basic human rights, by allowing police — without a search warrant —to enter the homes of the volunteers who offer those shelters. For the sake of clarity, these volunteers who offer shelter are breaking no laws!

How much more morally and intellectually bankrupt can government policy become, when it attacks the basic human rights of citizens who spontaneously self-organise to solve the problems of suffering and hardship of hundreds of people, caused by that same government?

We strongly condemn these plans of the Belgian government, and call on it to review its defunct and morally bankrupt approach to the refugee and migrant issue. We strongly support the spontaneous collective of “Hébergement  Plateforme Citoyenne”.

Through our members, we are assembling an ethical, efficient, and workable alternative to the badly failing migration and refugee policies of the governments of the EU member states. If you want to help shape Europe’s new policy on this key issue, or campaign against the political degeneration of our continent, join us.

 

Joren is a founding member of DSC Brussels and elected member of the Belgium NC of DiEM25. He’s a serial entrepreneur and investor in tech startups.

 

(Photo: Le Soir)

 

Israeli Philosophers Object To Deportation of African Refugees (updated w/ link to petition)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 11:54pm in

Over 70 Israeli philosophers have signed an open letter objecting to their government’s efforts to deport African refugees and migrants. 

“There are currently around 38,000 African migrants living in Israel, and the government argues that expelling them is necessary to maintain the Jewish character of the state,” according to Newsweek. Most of these are from Sudan and Eritrea, but the government has reportedly made arrangements with Rwanda and Uganda to accept those who are deported from Israel.

Academics, rabbis, the U.N., and others have objected to the plan.

The philosophers’ letter was written and signed in Hebrew (PDF here). The following is an unofficial translation, sent to me by David Enoch (Hebrew University of Jerusalem).

Stop the Deportation

Israel has recently embarked on the deportation of tens of thousands refugees from the Sudan and (mostly) from Eritrea to third countries—Rwanda and Uganda. This operation marks the culmination of a long process in which the State of Israel has been neglecting its moral commitment to the refugees.

Israel refuses to consider the asylum requests of the refugees, persecutes them, and indeed encourages an openly racist campaign against them. In fact, the State of Israel seeks to deport all refugees in its territory, and refuses to take part in the international effort to confront the current refugee crisis. By doing so, Israel violates its commitment to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a convention that Israel was—shortly after the Holocaust—one of its initiators. Israel thus ignores the memories of the persecutions and closed gates that faced many Jews during the Holocaust era.

In the very few cases in which asylum requests were actually reviewed, they were routinely and arbitrarily rejected. The miniscule acceptance rate of such requests in Israel is the lowest in the world. Furthermore, an on-site visit by an Israeli court in the single office where such requests can be filed resulted in an official decision that corroborates claims about bureaucratic harassment and persistent attempts to prevent refugees from even filing in such requests. In other Western countries where such requests by refugees from the Sudan and Eritrea are reviewed, almost all of them are granted, and even those whose requests are not fully granted receive protection from deportation, in lieu of the dangers they had fled.

Testimonies from Uganda and Rwanda documented by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and by other organizations indicate that refugees from Israel who had been deported in the past to these countries do not receive protection or recognition as refugees, and often become the victims of human trafficking. Israel is responsible for the safety of those within its territory, and is subject to an absolute prohibition against deporting them without guaranteeing their safety. Unfortunately, Israel has been violating this duty and in effect denying it, while propagating falsehoods in order to try and justify, at any cost, turning its back on the refugees and doing whatever it can to deport them.

In this spirit, we have seen attempts to tie the deportation with the genuine hardships of local communities where many refugees live, such as in some neighborhoods in the south of Tel Aviv. These hardships predate the arrival of the refugees, and furthermore, the impression that all Jewish inhabitants of these communities are united in their hostility towards the refugees is badly misleading. More importantly, the attempt to connect the deportation with such local hardships is to be resisted, because Israel can easily combine the much-needed targeting of the traditional, local hardships with a decent asylum policy, and also because nothing about these hardships can justify deporting thousands of innocent people to a cruel fate.

Present in Israel today are also many other undocumented immigrants, whom the State does not seek to deport. It is hard to find a relevant difference between them and the refugees from the Sudan and Eritrea, except for the color of their skin. This targeting of specifically refugees from African countries expresses a racist tide that we should all firmly resist.

We urge the Israeli government to immediately stop the deportation operation, and to initiate a fair and transparent procedure of granting the refugees acceptable status. We call public opinion, at home and abroad, as well as our colleagues in Academia, members of Jewish communities, human rights organizations and anti-racism organizations to act urgently and do whatever within their power to stop the deportation.

UPDATE: Sergio Tenenbaum, in the comments, says: “There is now a petition from Jewish academics endorsing this letter and its call for action. Please consider signing it here.


African migrants sit at the Holot open detention center in the Negev in Southern Israel. (photo credit: Finbarr O’Reilly / Reuters)

The post Israeli Philosophers Object To Deportation of African Refugees (updated w/ link to petition) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Australian Prime Minister Accused of Political Fear-Mongering After Warning of ‘African Gangs’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/01/2018 - 9:53pm in

Screen Shot - Constance on the Edge trailer

Screenshot of the trailer for ‘Constance on the Edge – What does it take to belong’, a documentary about one refugee family from South Sudan as they create a home in Australia. Click the image to watch.

The first week of the new year in Australia has been dominated by the issue of so-called African gangs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Sydneysider (as residents of the city of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, are called), kicked off a furore when he accused the government of Victoria state government of not addressing gang violence by African youths in the state's capital, Melbourne.

He was supported by the Immigration and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, from the state of Queensland, who claimed that Melburnians are scared to go to restaurants because of rising street crimes.

Both Turnbull and Dutton are members of the Liberal Party, while the Victoria state government is run by the Labor Party. The statements come ten months before elections in Victoria and at a time of rising nationalism across the country.

Allegations of fear-mongering and racism soon followed their remarks. Others, however, thought the prime minister was simply speaking plainly about an actual problem of crime.

Are African youth ‘gangs’ a real issue in Victoria?

The issue had first arisen in 2016 over the controversial Apex gang, which police declared a “non-entity” by April 2017. Later in the year, a string of recent crimes, from vandalism and assault, jumped into the national spotlight. The incidents were blamed on groups of African youths.

This perceived wave of “gang” violence fits with some people's perceptions:

However, many disputed whether there are gangs as such. Pieces of the Puzzled @chris8875 claims to be from one of the hot spot suburbs:

The Victoria-based Police Accountability Project was one of those who questioned if a spate of street crime among African young people was truly happening, arguing that “coverage of ethnicity is selective”:

[…] for crimes involving caucasian people, the suspect’s ethnic background is not relevant to mention, but for the same crimes involving people of African background, we hear conjecture and discussion about the backgrounds, culture, community, and the ethnicity of those involved.

It also cited data that challenged the notion of an African youth crime crisis:

[…] Victoria does not have a youth crime wave – ethnic or not. […] Youth crime rates in Victoria have been slowly declining for more than a decade. Crime Statistics Agency research has shown that most youth crimes are by a small proportion of repeat offenders. Despite this, there’s been a jump in aggravated burglaries and some violent crime types that has got everyone’s attention.

[…] Evidence showed that migrant youth and newly arrived migrants are not involved in criminal activity with less than 10 per cent being overseas born offenders. The second-highest country, after Australia, of alleged offenders in Victoria is New Zealand (2.8 per cent of the total offenders), followed by Indian (1.5 per cent), Vietnamese and Sudanese (both 1.4 per cent).

Victorian Crime Statistics Agency clearly show that the vast majority of offenders in Victoria are Australian born and older than 25.

The ‘gang’ narrative

The Victorian government and police appeared to falter in their handling of the issue, at first denying the existence of gangs then explaining how they were dealing with them.

In a press conference, Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton contradicted what his deputy had asserted days earlier and said the “young thugs” in question weren't organised, but are “behaving like street gangs, so let's call them that — that's what they are”:

We have for a significant period of time said that there is an issue with overrepresentation by African youth in serious and violent offending as well as public disorder issues.

Footballer and community activist Nelly Yoa has been very public in arguing that “enough is enough”. In the interview below, he told SkyNews:

There is a gang. We have a problem. Let’s solve it. […] As Melburnians, we are sick and tired of having to live in fear for the last two years.

Nelly came to Australia as a refugee from South Sudan in 2003. Much of the debate has centred on youths of South Sudanese background.

One South Sudanese community leader, Richard Deng, however, took issue with the “gang” characterization. Speaking with ABC news, he pointed out that the youth in question are Australian of African descent, not African.

He also argued that the “tiny number” involved are not members of a gang, but simply disengaged youth; the solution, he said, is reengaging them with employment and school, not further isolating them by labeling them.

Accusations of partisan politics and ‘dog-whistling’

Some commenters have taken the prime minister to task for opportunism, suggesting he is playing partisan politics in a Victorian state election year with his claims of an African gang crisis. The election is due in late November.

Sydney-based writer Osaman Faruqi maintained in an article on local news site Junkee that:

[…] if there’s one thing conservatives love doing in an election year it’s breaking the emergency glass and pushing the giant red button labelled “race”.

[…] The insidious thing about this kind of craven political campaigning is that the details and facts don’t matter. The conservatives think that as soon as the topic shifts to law and order, as opposed to things like health and education policy, they win.

Additionally, Turnbull and the politicians who have supported him have been accused of dog-whistling, with appeals to anti-immigration sentiments and racism. Wikipedia defines dog-whistling as “coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different, or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.”

John Wren presented a list of possibilities on Twitter:

‘Media and reactive politics at its worst’

Social media has been dominated by humourous responses to perceived “fear-mongering”. Twitter hashtag #MelbourneBitesBack and “Peter Dutton” trended strongly throughout the week, even against the Sydney Ashes cricket test against England.

Activist group GetUp! joined the throng with this suggestion:

Plenty of Twitter users were on the same track:

Chris Graham, editor of independent media outlet New Matilda, chipped in with “18 Of The Best Melbourne Eateries Where Gangs Of African Youths Probably Won’t Kill You” with his characteristic sarcasm:

African Youth Crime Gangs are out of control in Melbourne. People are being slaughtered. And then eaten alive, after they’ve been slaughtered. And then re-animated and slaughtered again. It’s that bad.

[…] New Matilda hit Melbourne town to find out the best places to eat where you won’t get stabbed or maimed or killed. Turns out the safest place to eat, amidst the chaos and panic, is at an African restaurant.

But not everyone agreed with this approach:

Journalist Jonathan Green, who likes to straddle old and new media, was highly critical of some of his colleagues:

However, football writer Michael Sapro’s reply confirms that it is an issue that won’t be going away soon.

The Victorian opposition has called for a recall of state parliament to debate the street crime issue.

The Upcoming Liberation of Mexico (and Parts of Africa)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/12/2017 - 12:57am in

As many academics and community activists – in fact, anyone woke – will tell you, the US is a racist society steeped in the white supremacy of its majority population. White people are haters who keep ruining things. Which is why reading this story in the LA Times about people from Africa trying to cross […]

In 2017, Stories of Resilience, Creativity and Love Were Plentiful


A collage of photos from Global Voices coverage in 2017. Created by L. Finch.

Another year, another deluge of retrospectives declaring that our latest trip around the Sun was a particularly bad one. And how could it be otherwise, when disparity, discord, and destruction abound?

Earth's state of affairs can indeed seem bleak. Nevertheless, the human spirit remains alive, kicking, and as beautiful as ever.

Need proof? Global Voices offered plenty in 2017. Our community of volunteers and partner organizations reported hundreds of stories from around the globe of ordinary people defending their rights and fostering cross-cultural understanding in the face of injustice, indifference, or even hate.

So as the clock tick-tocks toward 2018, take comfort in the following list of 40 of those stories. There's lots of good in this world — and may there be even more in the year to come.

1. Artists use Legos to restore buildings — and hope — in Beirut

An art collective named Dispatch Beirut has left a colorful mark on the Lebanese capital by “rebuilding” broken structures using Legos, calling the toys “little blocks of hope.” The artists aspire to call attention to what they say is the government's prioritizing of profit over preservation of heritage in post-civil war reconstruction efforts.

2. An indigenous singer breaks barriers at Brazil's Amazonas Theatre

Djuena Tikuna became the first indigenous singer to perform at the famous Amazonas Theatre in Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon with the launch of her album Tchautchiüãne, or “my village” in the Tikuna language. The work speaks about the Amazonian rubber boom and its massive exploitation of the region's rubber trees — and the region's people — beginning at the turn of the 20th century.

3. Parents fight for proper education for children with disabilities in Bosnia

A group of parents in Sarajevo campaigned for adequate preschool education for children with cognitive disabilities, who are faced with a public system poorly equipped to teach them skills needed to lead an independent life. If the #GdjeJeMojaSkola? (“Where is my school?”) effort succeeds, it will be the first of its kind in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

4. A dictionary offers hope for a disappearing indigenous Nepali language

Field studies show that the Kusunda language, one of several endangered languages in Nepal, has only two fluent speakers within the Kusunda community of 150 people. A recently launched book-cum-dictionary intends to preserve the language, whose origins bear no obvious relation to any other spoken language in the world.

5. Viral hashtags send love and solidarity across borders


Detail of the illustration drawn by the artist known as ‘Azúcar y Sal’. Image widely shared on social media. Taken from her public Facebook profile.

After US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, hateful rhetoric between the two governments increased. To counter the distressing turn of events, Iranians began showcasing words and images of cross-border solidarity under the hashtag #LoveBeyondFlags.

And in Mexico, an anonymous group of teenagers created a gastronomic-themed hashtag to show their support for Venezuelans fighting for democracy amidst a deepening social, economic and political crisis: #ArepaElTacoEstáContigo (Arepa, The Taco Is With You). The arepa is from Venezuela, and the taco from Mexico.

6. ‘Resistance songs’ provide the soundtrack for an Ethiopian protest movement

Amid ongoing protests fueled by a growing opposition movement, Ethiopia's government has made many efforts to censor “resistance songs” that speak out against oppression in the country. Although several popular musicians have been arrested and jailed, the popularity of the resistance songs has not waned. On YouTube, channels carrying montages of protest images linked to the resistance songs regularly attract hundreds of thousands of views.

7. ‘Open source’ seed producers stand to shake up global food production

From India to the US, a movement is taking root around the world to promote “open source” seeds. Supporters say corporations’ patents on plant material is compromising the food industry because the gene pool is continually shrinking — at a time when genetic diversity is more necessary than ever thanks to climate change.

8. ‘Smellwalkers’ map the scents of Kyiv

A small group of people, led by artist and designer Kate McLean, traversed Kyiv on foot documenting the wintertime smells of the city. Scents recorded included “the islands of summer,” “wood smoke,” “wet animal fur,” and “rusty metal.” McLean has been “mapping smells” throughout the past five years in places all over the world.

9. Donated New Year's clothes pour in for Kurdish families in need

Jili Kurdi is the traditional clothing worn by Kurds to celebrate Newroz, or the New Year, but the colorful textiles have become unaffordable for many Kurdish families in war-torn Iraq. To help the situation, activists launched the #KurdishClothesForAll campaign asking people across the region to donate the special garb. In the end, the effort provided over 450 families with new Kurdish clothes to wear for the holiday.

10. An arts festival helps a tsunami-scarred Japanese city find joy

Physical reconstruction in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, where a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 caused major damage, might be considered complete, but the area has yet to recover its former energy. The Reborn Art Festival aims to help residents appreciate the beautiful, the abstract, and the intangible, instead of focusing on material losses.

11. East African ‘kanga’ textiles send a message of equal love

A Kenyan visual artist captured the struggles for equal love in 35 different countries in a Nairobi exhibition of specially designed “kanga”, an East African textile that traditionally features Swahili proverbs. Instead, Kawira Mwirichia populated the cloths with motivational messages from queer leaders throughout Africa and beyond.


South Africa Kanga, Translation: “Black and White are Not the Colors of Love — They Never Were.” By Kawira Mwirichia, 2017

12. Construction workers in Peru take a stand against street harassment

In Peru, where gender-related violence is a matter of grave concern in Peru, one construction site defied the stereotype of the industry's workers when it posted a sign that read, “At this construction site, we don't whistle at women and we are against sexual street harassment.”

13. Theater for good, from Azerbaijan to El Salvador

In Azerbaijan, ƏSA (“walking stick” in Azerbaijani) is a first-of-its-kind theater, created to fight the characterization of people with disabilities as dependent, incompetent and unhappy. “This is not a social project, it’s not a hobby, we are working professionally,” the founder says.

In Argentina, Teatro x Identitad (Theater for Identity) explores the themes of identity and truth, all in support of efforts to locate children who were disappeared during the dictatorship of the 1970s and return them to their legitimate families.

And in El Salvador, where gang activity and police abuse claim an alarming number of victims, two new theater productions place the disappeared and their families at the center of the story.

14. A Kyrgyz female scientist becomes a symbol of resistance to sexism

Biochemist Asel Sartbaeva and the British University of Bath bagged the Biotechnology Award category at the IChemE Global Awards, just days after a prominent business in her native Kyrgyzstan publicly called female leadership “nonsense” and equated feminism with “terrorism.” Sartbaeva spearheads a project that “uses silica to protect vaccines from spoiling, and reduces the need for cold-storage equipment.”

15. Mozambique's only LGBT organization wins an important court ruling

After more than a decade of struggle to officially register as an association, Lambda, Mozambique’s only organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, celebrated when the Constitutional Council ruled that its status does not violate the country's constitution. Lambda’s executive director, Danilo da Silva, said the decision opens the door to legal recognition for the organization, calling it “not only a victory for LGBT people, but for all who are different and have different ideas.”

16. A woman-run restaurant blazes a trail in Pakistan's Quetta

A new restaurant in the western Pakistani city of Quetta is run and staffed exclusively by women, representing an important act of resistance to the deeply patriarchal region. The force behind the restaurant is Hamida Ali Hazara, who comes from the Hazara marginalized minority. Despite the challenges faced, the restaurant has proved popular so far.  

17. Indigenous Comic Con in the US does battle with Native stereotypes

The second Indigenous Comic Con, held in the southwestern US state of New Mexico, featured vendors, artists, guests and cosplay celebrating Native pop culture, so often misrepresented or under-represented in mainstream media. “You have so many stereotypes out there because there is not enough to counteract that, and to show what’s positive, productive and acceptable,” organizer Dr. Lee Francis IV says.


A young fan poses at the 2016 Indigenous Comic Con in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Screenshot from YouTube video by City Alive.

 

18. After 113 days in jail, #Istanbul10 rights defenders are released pending trial

Ten human rights defenders in Istanbul were released pending trial on accusations of membership in a terrorist organization, a rare moment of relief in a case that observers say is meant to intimidate rights advocates. The #Istanbul10 had spent four months in prison after being arrested while at an information management and wellbeing workshop.

19. A Thai pop band satirizes the censor-happy junta in a music video

In a music video for their latest release, famous pop band Tattoo Colour subtly parodied the Thai junta that grabbed power in 2014 and continues to govern the country despite its pledge to restore civilian rule. Fans praised the music group for its courage, given that the junta actively censors its critics.

20. DIY telecommunications bring a rural South Africa village online

In South Africa, where many rural areas lack internet infrastructure, the village of Mankosi now has access to more affordable telephone and internet access thanks to a community-owned, solar-powered mesh network. The project, which is a part of the Association for Progressive Communications network, seeks to create a model for the sustainable implementation of bottom-up telecommunications.

21. Trinidad & Tobago musicians say there's #NoGreaterTime to advocate change

Like many other places in the world, Trinidad and Tobago struggles with violence and societal divisions. One collaborative song featuring 35 artists, called “No Greater Time,” aims to challenge citizens “to collectively create a more peaceful, prosperous and unified Trinbagonian society.” “It isn't so much that we lost our way as much as we need to have more people taking action,” producer Keron “Sheriff” Thompson says. “Not just talking about change, but being change or being a part of that change.

22. Colombians welcome ex-fighters back into society with love letters

Latin America's longest-running armed conflict came to an end when the Colombian government reached a peace agreement with the FARC, but the challenge of reintegrating former members of the militia remains. So one campaign had young people write love letters to the ex-guerrilla fighters to welcome them. Many ex-combatants have replied.

23. A young engineer from Niger invents a device to clean up air pollution

A 22-year-old from Niger has big plans for his invention, which he says rids the air of industrial fumes. He says he hopes it will one day help his country, where air quality and climate change are urgent concerns. Abdou Barmini built his prototype anti-pollution device using local materials that he recycled, adapted and re-assembled.

24. A community in Spain rallies around a goldfish named Pesesín

In the hallway of a block of flats in Spain's Gijón, residents stumbled upon a goldfish bowl, a tin of fish food, a feeding chart, and a note asking for help caring for the creature while its owner was away. The neighbors took up the challenge with gusto, and the details of the situation soon went viral on Twitter. “There's still hope in the world,” one user declared in response to the story.

25. Serbian websites go black to resist media intimidation by tax authorities

More than one hundred media outlets and NGO websites staged a website blackout after an independent weekly magazine was forced to close. Vranje Newspaper said the publication had suffered administrative harassment and other forms of pressure from Serbia's Tax Authority, a tactic authorities have used in the past to punish “disobedient” media.

26. A displaced indigenous community in Paraguay reclaims its land

Years ago, the Ava Guarani people in Paraguay were forced to leave behind their land and the river that runs through it because of the construction of the Itaipú hydroelectric dam. In 2015, the community returned to reclaim the territory. Ever since, members have faced violent evictions by the authorities, but remain steadfast in their resolve to demand justice.

27. ‘The Blind Captain’ aims to kayak solo across the Bosphorus

Ahmet Ustunel, who lost his sight to eye cancer at 3 years old, plans to return to his native Turkey and kayak solo across the Bosphorus Strait. With the help of a grant, he will buy the kayak and the necessary equipment needed to navigate the waterway. “People should be able to see blind people using boats,” he says.

28. A Catholic Church worker documents drug killings in the Philippines

By night, a missionary at Manila's Baclaran Church photographs the lethal anti-drug operations of the Philippine police and profiles the victims to be used in future human rights abuse investigations. “Letting the world know about this legalized barbarism is a humanitarian work, before it being news,” Ciriaco Santiago says.

29. A community journalism project takes shape in Jamaica

A project in Jamaica is empowering ordinary citizens to hold authorities accountable — an important aim, given the lack of investigative journalism in the country. The training was the result of a collaboration between the USAID-funded COMET II community development programme, the anti-corruption lobby group National Integrity Action, and the independent Global Reporters for the Caribbean.

30. Russia's blind footballers defy odds to take European championship

The Russian national blind football team came out on top in the 2017 European Champions after beating Spain in an intense final. The victory is no small feat for a country where Paralympic sports receive little funding and athletes across the board have faced extra scrutiny and blanket bans in the wake of a doping scandal.

31. A Mexican activist maps femicides to keep victims’ memories alive

A woman who goes by pseudonym “Princesa” (“Princess”) maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date map of femicides in Mexico. So far, she has recorded 2,355 cases. The reason she documents the gender-related killings? To name every single one of the women so that they are not forgotten.

32. A local Macedonian referendum proves citizen participation isn't dead

Residents of the town of Gevgelija overwhelmingly voted to block the opening of gold mines in the area that they fear will harm the environment, in the first successful referendum since Macedonia became independent in 1991. The vote was an important assertion of the will of the people at a time when the country's outgoing ruling party has been implicated in election fraud.

33. Indian women dare to say their husbands’ names for the first time

In the small village of Walhe, nine women broke with tradition and spoke their husbands’ names instead of using the customary pronoun or “father of my child.” They did so as members of a club, one of 56 run by the organization Video Volunteers, meant to foster discussion and debate about the nuances of patriarchy.

34. A mobile van offers WiFi to asylum seekers and migrants in France

An initiative called InfoBus is providing asylum seekers and migrants living in deplorable conditions in the French city of Calais with WiFi access out of a van. Many of the beneficiaries fled conflict, repression or economic insecurity in their countries, and now face surveillance, harassment, language barriers, and often lack basic services like electricity. The Internet connectivity provided by InfoBus allow them to communicate with family and friends.

35. Vietnamese continue to demand justice for toxic waste spill

Thousands of Vietnamese risked the government's wrath to protest on beaches and in boats against a Taiwanese-owned steel plant, one year after a toxic spill from its operations caused a massive fish kill and lingering damage. Fishermen argue that the compensation they have received is inadequate and has not helped the people most affected.

36. Dominica's post-hurricane recovery gives reason for hope

A travel and tourism-based Facebook group called Embrace Dominica has been documenting recovery throughout the Caribbean country following the destruction of Hurricane Maria, including how one company pledged to rebuild seven primary schools and hundreds of homes. As media coverage of natural disasters usually falls off after the initial spike around the time of the event, highlighting such efforts are important for drawing attention to the challenges of recovery.

37. Syrians learn to cultivate mushrooms to survive siege

Years of siege by government forces have made traditional staples like meat unavailable to ordinary Syrians, so one group of humanitarians and academics are educating families in the area of Eastern Ghouta to grow their own mushrooms “as a lifesaving source of food.” They are using the crowdfunding platform CanDo, in coordination with the NGO Ghiras Al-Nahda, to raise funds for their initiative.

38. Despite pressure from China, Taiwan finds space on the world stage

China can frustrate Taiwanese participation in many international events. But “where there's a will, there's a way,” and Taiwanese find a way, making contributions to the Olympic Games, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and the World Trade Organization, among others. Hopes are high that the list will only grow in the future.

39. A train forges friendships between Bangladeshis and Indians

The Maitree (“Friendship”) Express is slowly bringing together more and more travelers on either side of the Bangladesh-India border. Launched nine years ago, the route unites Bengal, a large geopolitical area in the Indian sub-continent that shares a language and culture, but is divided by religion and borders.

40. ‘RESIST’ tattoos support good causes in the US

To encourage people to be more proactive in their hopes for change, a tattoo artist in the United States offered free “RESIST” themed tattoos in exchange for proof of a $100 donation or more to charities or organizations “fighting for a better world.” On Facebook, Nate Kaschak explains:

A great deal of change is heading our way and it's our collective responsibility to make sure they're positive and progressive steps towards a brighter future for E V E R Y O N E.

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