refugees

#SOSManus: Police Evict Asylum Seekers at Australia's Former Detention Camp in Manus Island

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/11/2017 - 4:44pm in

  • “This picture is enough to wake up Australia and show how a cruel politician like Peter Dutton is using Australian people for his own political benefit.” Photo and caption by Behrouz Boochani, used with permission

    Increasing levels of violence by police appear to be bringing an end to the confrontation at Australia's former Manus Island regional detention centre in Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of asylum seekers have been refusing to move to new facilities.

    For years, Australia had sent would-be refugees who arrived by boat to the centre. But in April 2016 the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ordered its closure after finding that the detention of asylum seekers there was illegal, and it was officially closed at the end of October 2017.

    However, hundreds of detainees refused to leave, citing fears for their safety, given tension between them and the local community, as well as mistrust of the Australian authorities.

    With police moving to end the standoff, photos and video are popping up on social media, with many yet to be verified. Pakistani detainee Ezatullah Kakar posted this message with video appearing to show police wielding batons and roughly grabbing detainees:

    Iranian journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani has been one of their voices. Yesterday he was held under arrest for two hours before being forcibly relocated.

    Boochani tweeted afterwards:

    Earlier, 12 Australians of the Year had raised their concerns about the situation on Manus, calling on the Australian government to restore basic services at the centre:

    Not everyone on social media agreed with them. Robert Johnstone posted this comment on a Facebook update by Behrouz Boochani:

    Good on Minister Dutton for his tough stance on this . These so called refugees are grown up
    People and knew what they were embarking on when they jumped in a boat . No one twisted their arms , they are solely to blame for their predicament. If you want to
    come to our country come the proper way not through the backdoor like a crim.

    The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his immigration minister Peter Dutton continue to implement a tough stance on the matter. Some would like them to be held to account in court:

    The Manus standoff had already been receiving international attention and not just from the UN refugee agency:

    Meanwhile the situation is changing by the hour. Developments can be followed through the Twitter hashtag #SOSManus.

  • Help Britain Charity Film (1971)

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/11/2017 - 11:50pm in

     
    In 1971 the council released a short film which predicted the state of the nation by 2025. While the film is no longer extant, these three frames have been found in our archive.

    According to the transcript, the film anticipated Britain joining and leaving the European Union and becoming a nation of racist immigrants who intern themselves in camps and try to get themselves deported. It also predicted that Southern Britain would become a dumping ground for international toxic waste. This leads to the genetic modification of Brits who eventually become a delicacy in Japan and the only known food item that complains.

    Student bulletin: The movement we need to free the refugees

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/11/2017 - 11:06am in

    Tags 

    refugees

    Young people are flooding into the refugee movement in response to the Manus crisis, bringing passion and energy to end the abject cruelty of Australia’s government. But many questions are also being thrown up: What is needed to end this urgent crisis? What is the best thing we can do as students? Should we be rallying behind new demands and leave #BringThemHere behind? What is the role of direct action in relation to mass movements? What do we do about a Labor party’s complicity in this evil?

    The unfolding crisis

    There’s an old saying about bosses who employ migrants but instead of finding docile servants, find militant workers willing to fight: “they wanted hands, but they got workers”.
    In the case of Australia’s refugee regime, our government wanted scapegoats but they got warriors. Refugees on Manus and Nauru have fiercely resisted the government since it began attempting to force them out of the Manus detention centre into imminent danger. With food, water and power cut, health and medical services being denied, the Navy blocking food, and with threats of force, refugees have not given up. They have dug wells and collected water in bins. They have continued protesting and inspired widespread support.

    Protest spreads

    The heroic actions of the men on Manus have generated a political crisis for the government. A wave of protest is sweeping the country and ramping up the pressure on Turnbull and Dutton to end the siege, and bring them to Australia – and on Bill Shorten to speak out and join the call.

    In recent weeks thousands have rallied in major cities, streets have been blocked by sit-ins, immigration buildings have been occupied, the Melbourne Cup disrupted and the Opera house scaled with banners. Solidarity photos have also flooded out from workplaces, universities and schools.

    In Sydney students and others followed the example of Newcastle students and organised a vibrant occupation of the Immigration Department on November 3, with a simultaneous occupation happening in Canberra. The action got wall to wall media and helped amplify the growing call to #bringthemhere. It also drew together existing and new activists and laid the basis for future mass building and organising. Following the occupation there was an ad-hoc meeting called that organised 40 people to hit 15 peak hour rushes at 6 stations with 5000 leaflets for a protest on Friday November 10. This paved the way for another successful action.

    The November 10 protest was at a Tony Abbott fund-raiser where Peter Dutton was speaking. The numbers and the energy at the rally saw it develop into a rolling blockade of the event and an impromptu street march and sit-in that blocked traffic in Redfern. One participant captured the mood saying “…last night was phenomenal! Easily one of the best rallies I’ve been to.”
    And the pressure and momentum being created by the movement is tangible. In one Sky News poll 80% of respondents said the government should evacuate Manus men to Australia, NZ or the US. Bill Shorten abandoned his previous rejection of New Zealand’s offer to take 150 refugees. Celebrities like Russel Crowe have even joined the call to #bringthemhere.

    What the movement should demand?

    But the Manus crisis has also thrown up questions about what kind of solution refugee supporters should demand.

    Bill Shorten now says Turnbull should “take action”. But the ALP insists that refugees cannot be resettled in Australia and instead points to non-existent 3rd country resettlement and New Zealand’s offer to take 150 of the 1800 stranded on Manus and Nauru. This is no solution at all.

    The U.S. deal has proved that 3rd country resettlement is a lie that condemns refugees to suffer. Since the announcement of the US deal a year ago, only 54 have been taken. Even if the maximum 1250 were eventually taken- which the Trump is under no obligation to do under the terms of the agreement- that would still leave hundreds stranded in hell.

    Some have suggested that the movement should focus on demanding the New Zealand government make a direct offer to PNG instead of Australia. But to focus on New Zealand in the present crisis would take the heat off Turnbull who totally controls the refugees and asylum seekers. Illusions in the NZ deal also ignore the fact Australia’s neo-colonial domination over PNG would prevent any independent offer to PNG being taken up. Dutton has said that the NZ offer is a “back door” to Australia.

    Though PNG independence was gained in 1975, the reality is far from independence. Australian foreign direct investment, predominantly in mining and petrol, and aid packages give Australia a tight grip over PNG. PNG officials and politicians reap the benefits, breeding endemic corruption. Australian influence and another $500 million on top of the foreign aid money is the only reason the Manus camp was established in the first place. The Australian Border Force has a huge influence in the camps, recently ordering the emptying of the refugee’s water supplies.
    The only option is to #bringthemhere to Australia immediately. This has to be the central rallying cry of our movement.

    What kind of campaign can win?

    The refugee campaign under John Howard shows that offshore processing can be shut down. The movement forced the government to ease conditions in onshore detention centres and free refugee children in 2005. Kevin Rudd was elected with a pro-refugee mandate in 2007 and closed Nauru in 2008.

    In 2002 the Woomera break-out saw refugee supporters and detainees tear down detention centre fences. Such spectacular direct actions were a lightning rod for wider public anger about the treatment of refugees. But in order to channel this anger effectively we had to build a mass movement, on the streets, in unions and in communities. This was crucial to shifting public opinion. According to Newspolls between 2001 and 2004 the percentage of people that thought some or all refugee boats should be able to land went from 47 per cent to 61 per cent.

    Crucially a section of socialists in the movement had a definite strategy of targeting the ALP to break bi-partisan support for refugee bashing. Refugee Action Coalition groups around the country were won to this position. From 1996 the ALP supported all Howard’s anti-refugee policies. But by 2002 they broke with the Coalition for the first time over its plans to excise Australian islands from the migration zone. In 2007 Rudd was elected with a pro-refugee mandate.

    The shift was a product of a conscious strategy. Affiliated trade unions have 50% of the votes at the ALP national conference. Winning rank and file unionists and their unions to a pro-refugee position ramped up the pressure on ALP leaders and meant directly countering the myths and racism that the government was using to scapegoat refugees. Labor for Refugees was also formed and campaigned in branches for pro-refugee policies. By encouraging these developments the movement drove a wedge between craven ALP leaders and their rank and file members, supporters and voters.
    This history is instructive for today’s movement. We need to combine direct action and mass mobilisation as part a strategy to break bi-partisan support for offshore processing and mandatory detention, and build a base in society that can act against the government.

    To do this we need to expand and strengthen the Refugee Action Coalitions and campus groups out of every action and rally happening now. This will enable us to grow our ranks to immediately respond to the Manus crisis and continue the fight until every refugee is freed. Students’ ongoing organising and recent post-action meetings have been exemplary in this regard.

    We also need to adopt a conscious working class orientation that builds workplace actions, builds Unions for Refugees and gets contingents of unionists and dissenting ALP rank and file members to rallies and on rally platforms. This will ramp up pressure on Shorten who is looking like he will be the next PM. NTEU and CFMEU flags at the November 10 rally showed this potential is there, as did the fact a group of young ALP members attended with a banner calling on Shorten to “See us, hear us, speak up”. Shannen Potter NSW Young Labor Vice President joined the RAC platform at the rally and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus called on the Government to “immediately evacuate” Manus on the same day.

    Even more importantly, an orientation to the working class and unions builds the capacity for workers to use their unique power to fight the policy. This happened in 2016 when Lady Cilento hospital staff refused to release baby Asha from their care because she faced deportation to Nauru. Their stand saved Asha and 267 others who faced a similar fate. Bob Carnegie, secretary of the QLD Maritime Union of Australia said “If you move baby Asha, you move 15000 Maritime Union Members.”

    What role can students play?

    Students have a distinctive role to play in this struggle. We can occupy, and take direct action. We can build massive student contingents for rallies and we can help set an effective strategic course for the campaign. We can build outwards and upwards, inform students with meetings and forums and ensure that more and more are pulled into activity.

    Early this year, at USyd, the Campus Refugee Action Collective linked up with the NTEU, the staff union, to build a photo action involving dozens of students and 30-40 staff. This action was a launch-pad for biggest ever student contingent to the Palm Sunday rally, involving 100 students. This, and similar building at UTS, helped pave the road for the recent wave of very successful activity – like the immigration department occupation – organised by students. If we keep fighting we can win and force the government to bring them here and let them stay!

    The post Student bulletin: The movement we need to free the refugees appeared first on Solidarity Online.

    Against the odds, Manus fights for freedom—Bring them here

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 5:01pm in

    Tags 

    refugees

    A desperate siege is unfolding in the Manus detention centre. The 600 men inside the centre are standing up to what seem to be insurmountable odds. They are surrounded by the PNG navy; the same people that threatened the lives of refugees last Easter when shots were fired into the centre.

    The Australian government is depriving them of power, water, and food as they attempt to drive them from the detention centre into even more unsafe areas of the Lorengau settlement.

    Two of the three areas set aside by the government are not even completed. There are no arrangements for providing food or medical care should they be driven out of the detention centre. With no prospect of secure resettlement in a third country, being forced to move from the detention centre is a move to more insecurity and increased danger.

    Dutton strenuously denies that Australia has any responsibility for the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus—but that lie is more and more exposed as the crisis unravels. Even PNG government ministers are now making public statements insisting that the refugees are “Australia’s problem”, and that Australia must play a role in providing for their future.

    The courageous stand by the refugees has struck a chord. People are sick and tired of Dutton’s relentless refugee bashing. With the government badly behind in the polls, the government hopes that anti-refugee policies will maintain their popularity.

    But people are disgusted by the shocking conditions the government is inflicting on the refugees. Students have occupied immigration offices, workplaces have taken up the slogan, “We Stand With Manus”, and tens of thousands of dollars have been raised to help provide food and water to break the siege.

    Refugee resistance

    The refugees at Manus have always been a thorn in the side of successive Australian governments, their determination a constant reminder of the government’s callous disregard for refugee lives.

    In 2015, hundreds of Manus detainees staged a mass hunger strike when the government first tried to force them to East Lorengau. The year before, 2014, locals had attacked the camp and murdered an Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Barati, and injured scores of others. Some had their throats cut, others were blinded. Refugees feared for their lives if they were forced to live outside the camp.

    In 2015, the government took scores of asylum seekers labelled “ringleaders” to prison in their attempt to break the hunger strike. After several days, the government took away the drinking water in an effort to snuff their resistance. After 13 days, the hunger strike ended. But it won. Not one refugee has been forcibly transferred to East Lorengau.

    The refugees’ fears have been confirmed in blood. Since 2015, many refugees have been bashed, robbed and mutilated with knives and machetes in attacks around the Lorengau settlement.

    The refugees’ stand has exposed the naked brutality of the offshore detention policy, and the government’s politically driven motives to starve them into submission.

    Against astounding odds, the refugees have refused to move. Standing guard, securing fences, collecting rain water, digging wells—their resistance is a tribute to human endurance and determination to face down the pitiless actions of the Australian government.

    The violence of the Turnbull government is something that has become better understood. But the Labor Party is also responsible for what is happening on Manus. It was a Labor government that started the Pacific Solution II in 2013, and handed it to the Liberals.

    In the face of the humanitarian crisis on Manus, Shorten has told Turnbull, “Doing Nothing is not an option.” But that goes double for Labor. Bleating at Turnbull does not cut it, when it is the horror of Labor’s policy that is exposed on Manus.

    Shorten now says Turnbull should take New Zealand’s offer of 150 refugees a year from Nauru and Manus. Turnbull is not about to allow that.

    Neither the US deal, nor any deal with New Zealand is going to solve the crisis. There is only one alternative for those who have been tortured on Manus and Nauru: Bring them here.

    By Ian Rintoul

    The post Against the odds, Manus fights for freedom—Bring them here appeared first on Solidarity Online.

    Josh Frydenburg Sent To Manus Island

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 1:03pm in

    Tags 

    Politics, refugees

    josh-frydenberg

    The “dual citizenship” issue among Australian politicians has taken a dramatic turn with Coalition energy minister Josh Frydenburg sent to Manus Island after it was revealed he was a dual Australian citizen-stateless refugee as a result of his asylum seeking mother entering Australia from Hungary in 1950.

    The government initially tried to defend Mr Frydenburg, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull telling the press: “Australians have had a gutful of this citizenship distraction, they are not concerned about how Josh Frydenburg’s mother entered Australia, they are concerned about Labor’s plan to put people smugglers back in business and… hang on, his mum obviously used a people smuggler, oh drat…”

    After an emergency cabinet meeting, the government was forced to admit Frydenburg’s mother’s refugee status meant he had no right to set foot on Australian soil. Mr Turnbull explained: “We can not let this 67 year-old example of disregard for Australia’s borders to stand. Any other decision would only encourage people smugglers.

    Mr Turnbull said bigger issues were at stake: “We simply cannot allow foreign infiltration of our parliament, with foreign elements undermining our society and our values of decency and a fair go. That is our job.”

    Mr Frydenburg arrived at Manus Island three days into its abandonment by the Australian government, with all power and water shut off. The asylum seekers were reported to be happy to see a senior government minister finally arrive at the abandoned compound, although it was hard to tell given how weak they are from hunger and thirst.

    Carlo Sands
    http.www.twitter.com/carlogrubsands

    You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook.

    The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/11/2017 - 3:24am in

    This post originally appeared at AlterNet.

    On Oct. 4, US military personnel were on their way back to their forward operating base in Niger. They had been on a reconnaissance mission to the village of Tongo Tongo, near Niger’s border with Mali. US Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford says that 50 ISIS fighters ambushed them. The soldiers did not call for air support for the first hour, said Gen. Dunford, thinking perhaps that they could handle the attack. By the time the drones came along with French fighter aircraft, ISIS had disappeared.

    Tongo Tongo is in the middle of a belt that is ground zero for the illicit trade that defines the Sahara. West of Tongo Tongo is Gao (Mali) and to its east is Agadez (Niger). These are the main ports for South American cocaine, flown in on various kinds of aircraft (Air Cocaine, as they are called) and then driven across the Sahara Desert in trucks to be taken by small boats across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Evidence of the cocaine trade is everywhere — whether in Gao’s neighborhood known as Cocaine Bougou or in the nickname of one of the leading chiefs in Agadez — Cherif Ould Abidine — known as Cherif or Mr. Cocaine.

    Cocaine is one dramatic commodity. There are others: refugees and guns. This belt of towns just below the Sahara played a historic role as caravanserais for the old trades in gold, salt and weaponry. The creation of nation-states closed off some of these routes. In particular, Libya — under the previous regime of Moammar Gadhafi — largely shut down the illicit commerce from Mali and Niger. NATO’s war against Libya, which created chaos in that country, opened these routes up. Fleets of white Toyota trucks arrived in the desert to carry refugees and drugs to Europe and to bring weapons into central and western Africa. The trucks run from Agadez to Sabha (Libya) before they find their way to the port cities. There are several kinds of refugees — the adventurers (les aventuriers), many single young men who are leaving behind deserts of opportunity for Europe, and war refugees. Both are desperate, fodder in the hands of the smugglers who must get them — and the drugs — across the forbidding sands.


    RELATED: War & Peace


    US Army Brigadier Gen. Donald Bolduc (left) and Senegal's Army Gen. Amadou Kane review the troops during the inauguration of a military base in Thies, 70 km from Dakar, on Feb. 8, 2016, the second day of a three-week joint military exercise between African, US and European troops, known as Flintlock. (Photo by Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images)

    Mission Impossible: Keeping Track of US Special Ops in Africa

    BY Nick Turse | September 7, 2016

    Firmly opposed to the refugee traffic across the Mediterranean, the European Union (EU) has joined hands with governments in Niger and elsewhere to make this southern border of the Sahara their frontier. Niger passed a draconian law in 2015 against smuggling. The EU provided funds to Niger’s military and police, which have started an all-out war against the smugglers. In 2016, Niger arrested over a hundred smugglers and confiscated their vehicles. People in towns like Agadez, a World Heritage site for its beautiful red buildings, say openly that they are vulnerable to extremist groups. There are many to chose from — al-Qaida in southern Mali and southern Algeria, ISIS in southern Libya and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and into areas near Lake Chad. No wonder that the United States calls the belt from Mali through Niger the ‘ring of insecurity.’

    It is notable that the pressure on the traffickers has not decreased the terrible situation for the refugees and the ‘adventurers.’ They continue to come for reasons that have nothing to do with an open border or a closed border. But the new military presence has meant — as the International Organisation of Migration says — that the smugglers are abandoning the refugees at the first sign of trouble in the dangerous desert. The United Nations has rescued over 1,000 abandoned refugees and many hundreds are said to have died along this route. The Nigerien Red Cross says that one group of 40 refugees died in May when their truck broke down. It is legible to believe that the death count will never really be known as the European border moves south, from the northern edge of the Mediterranean to the southern edge of the Sahara.

    Five hours drive north of Agadez is the town of Arlit, one of the key sources of uranium. Readers might remember that the United States had accused Saddam Hussein’s government of procuring yellowcake uranium from Niger. This turned out to be a hoax, uncovered by Ambassador Joe Wilson when he went to Niger and met its former Prime Minister Ibrahim Assane Mayaki. The accusation against Iraq was false, but the Arlit mines are real. The town is a fortress of European mining companies, from Niger’s own government company to a series of French firms, most prominently Areva. The road out of Arlit is known as Uranium Highway. It is this road that was used by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb when it came and kidnapped five French employees of an Areva mine in 2010. The Areva mines were also attacked by a car bomb in 2013. French Special Forces operate to protect these mines and the close to 2,000 Europeans who live in this uranium town. “One of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” noted Oxfam in 2013. It is too precious for the French to be ignored. That is why France’s Operation Barkhane runs from across the Sahel, from Mauritania at one end to Chad at the other. It has its headquarters in Chad’s capital of N’Djamena.

    The French are not alone. The Americans not only have thousands of troops across Africa, but also have many bases. The most public base is in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier), but there are also bases in Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as forward operating positions across the Sahel. The United States is also building a massive base at the cost of $100 million in Agadez. Air Base 201 will be mainly a drone base, with the MQ9 Reapers flown out of Agadez to collect intelligence in this resource-rich and poverty-stricken area. This base is being constructed in plain sight

    It is, therefore, surprising to hear Sen. Lindsey Graham — who is on the Committee on Armed Services — say, ‘I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger.’ He meant US troops.

    There has been no evidence presented to the public that those who killed the US forces near Tongo Tongo were from ISIS. Privately, US intelligence officials say this is a guess. They are not sure about the combatants. In fact, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials concur, saying it is “inappropriate” to speculate about the incident and those who attacked the US forces.

    There is a particularly dangerous soup at work here. Certainly extremist groups operate in the region, such as the militants who freed over 100 prisoners from a prison in Mopti (in central Niger). The dreadful desiccation of the Sahel has produced various feuds amongst herder communities in eastern Niger, where these have morphed into ethnic conflicts (and where certain groups — such as the Mohamid and Peuls — have used the opportunity to accuse the Boudouma of being, therefore, part of Boko Haram). Such opportunism was frequently used in Afghanistan, where tribes used American airpower to settle scores with their old adversaries (to blame someone for being Taliban was sufficient to call in an air strike).

    The root causes of the conflicts are the same as elsewhere: environmental destruction, joblessness, war and the commodities (such as Cocaine and Uranium) that are essential to the West. None of this will be addressed. More troops will arrive in Niger. More destruction will follow. More sorrow. More anger. More war.

    There will be no interest in the newly formed North African Network for Food Sovereignty (formed in Tunis on July 5) and in its sensible charter of demands. Nor will there be any reflection on the assassination of hope for the Sahel, when Thomas Sankara — president of Burkina Faso — was killed 30 years ago on Oct. 15. “We must dare to invent the future,” said Sankara. What is before us from the American and French Special Forces and the militaries of Niger and Chad is not the future. It is wretched.

    The post The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

    TeleSur English: CIA Planned False Flag Attacks in Miami

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/10/2017 - 7:34pm in

    More on the contents of the 3,000 files relating to JFK, which have recently been declassified. This is another short video from the Latin America news broadcaster, TeleSur. They reveal that the files show that the CIA was considering carrying out a series of false flag attacks in Miami and other cities in Florida, and even Washington. One of the possible tactics was to sink a Cuban refugee boat, which the Agency stated could be real or simulated, and encourage a series of murder attempts on Cuban refugees in America. This was to fool the American people into believing that there was a Communist terrorist campaign operating in America itself, backed by the Cubans, which would serve as a pretext for invading the country.

    The files also reveal the various attempts the Americans made to assassinate Castro. But they also show that Cuba was not behind J.F.K’s assassination. The video ends by stating that the contents of these files makes you wonder what it is in the others, that have not been released.

    Czech President Threatens Journalists with Fake Kalashnikov

    More from Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks on the rising threat to freedom of the press around the world. In this clip they report on and discuss the behaviour of the Czech President, Milos Zeman, who turned up at a press conference waving around a replica gun which had ‘For Journalists’ written on it. Zeman himself hates the press, and in the past has described them as ‘manure’ and ‘hyenas’. At a meeting with Putin in May, he joked about how some of them deserved to be ‘liquidated’. As Uygur points out, there is very strong evidence that Putin has had journalists murdered, so that joke really isn’t funny. Zeman, you will not be surprised to know, is also a colossal Islamophobe. He has said that Czechs need to arm themselves against a coming ‘superholocaust’ against them, which will be carried out by Muslims. Uygur comments drily, ‘Who knew there were so many Muslims in the Czech Republic, and they were so powerful?’

    Zeman’s gun-waving comes after the death of a female journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in Malta. Galizia was dubbed a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ for her dogged pursuit of uncovering stories of corruption. She was killed a week after revealing that Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of the island nation, had been involved in offshore companies and the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the Azerbaijani government.

    Clearly, Malta isn’t anywhere near the Czech Republic, but her death was reported there. And the president, Zeman, thinks so little of the murder of journalists that he ‘jokes’ about it by waving replica firearms around at the press. Uygur also states that the Czechs have just elected a new prime minister, who is the millionaire head of a populist party. He predicts that this won’t end well.

    This is clearly a story from a small nation in the EU, but it shows the way journalistic freedoms are being eroded all over the world. The Young Turks point out that democracy isn’t just about voting – it’s also about the freedom of the press and conscience – and this is what has makes Western democracy so great. The Young Turks have also covered the prosecution of journalists and political opponents of President Erdogan in Turkey, and the persecution of another crusading journo in Azerbaijan itself. As well as the attempted assassination of another Russian journo, who was suspiciously stabbed a madman two weeks after the Putin media declared her and her radio station an agent of America.

    About ten years ago, John Kampfner wrote a book, Freedom for Hire, in which he described how countries around the world, from France, Italy, Russia, Singapore and China, were becoming increasingly dictatorial. And we in Britain had no cause for complacency, as he described how Blair had also tried to muzzle the press, especially when it came to the Gulf War. The web of corruption Galizia uncovered was so widespread, and went right to the top, so that Malta was described by the Groaniad yesterday as ‘Mafia Island’.

    As for the Czech Republic, after Vaclav Havel its post-Communist presidents have been extremely shady individuals. I can remember reading one travel book on eastern Europe, which discussed how his critics had disappeared or been murdered. And following the Fall of Communism, there has come a series of reports and scandals about rising racial intolerance there. The target of much of this is the Roma. It has been reported that the Czech medical service routinely forcibly sterilised Gypsy women in order to stop them having children, and members of various political parties have called for either their expulsion or their extermination. I am not surprised by the Islamophobia, as a little while ago Counterpunch carried a story about one of their contributor’s meeting with a Czech politician, who had very extreme, right-wing views, including a deep hatred of Muslims. There also appears to be an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in the country as well. A few years ago, the BBC’s programme, Who Do You Think You Are, explored Stephen Fry’s ancestry. As Fry himself has said many times on QI, his grandfather was a Jewish Hungarian, who worked for a sugar merchants. It was through his work that he met Fry’s grandmother, who was a member of Fry’s, the Quaker chocolate manufacturer, and settled with her in England. Thus he fortunately survived the Holocaust. Fry travelled to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, tracing the movements of his ancestors in the course of their work through the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fry was, understandably, visibly upset and shaken when he found out just how many of his grandfather’s kith and kind had been murdered at Auschwitz.

    He was also very unimpressed by the attitude of some of the Czechs he spoke to in his quest. He quoted them as saying that ‘it is very curious. They knew the Holocaust was coming, but they stayed here anyway.’ He was justifiably outraged at the implication that somehow the millions of innocents butchered by the Nazis wanted to be killed.

    It’s possible to suggest a number of causes for the rise in Islamophobia. You could probably trace it back to historic fears about the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of the Balkans by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. The Ottoman Empire still sought to expand in the 17th century, when its army was just outside the gates of Vienna. It was defeated by Jan Sobieski, the king of Poland, and his troops. The Ottoman Empire persisted until it finally collapsed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst a series of bloody massacres. The majority of these were blamed on the Turks, and specifically the irregular troops, the Bashi-Bazouks. It was their massacres that led to Gladstone calling for Turkey to be thrown ‘bag and baggage out of the Balkans’. But other journalists in the Balkans at the time also noted that the Christian nations, like the Serbs, were also guilty of horrific mass slaughter, but that this went unreported due prevailing Western prejudice.

    Part of it might be due to the Czechs being a small nation – there are about four million of them – who have had to struggle to survive against domination by larger neighbours. Their medieval kings had invited ethnic Germans into the country to settle and develop their economy. This led to the creation of what became the Sudetenland, the areas occupied by ethnic Germans, and there was friction between them and the native Czechs. This friction eventually exploded into open conflict in the 15th century in the wars following the attempt of Jan Hus to reform the Roman Catholic church. Czech nationalism was suppressed, and Moravia and Bohemia, the two kingdoms, which became Czechoslovakia, were absorbed into the Austrian Empire. The Czechs and Slovaks achieved their independence after the First world War, but the country was conquered by the Nazis during World War II, and then ‘liberated’ by Stalin. It was then incorporated into the Communist bloc. When Anton Dubcek, the president, attempted to create ‘Communism with a human face’, introducing free elections and a form of market socialism, the-then Soviet president, Anton Dubcek, sent in the tanks to quell the ‘Prague Spring’.

    Other factors also include the wave of immigrants from Syria and North Africa, that forced their way through the various international borders to come up through Greece and Serbia in their hope of finding sanctuary and jobs in the West. The Counterpunch article stated that there was a real fear that they would turn east, and swamp the small, former eastern bloc nations like the Czech Republic.

    And these racial fears are being stoked throughout the former eastern bloc by the poverty and misery that has come with capitalism. The peoples of the former Communist nations were led to believe that the introduction of capitalism would create employment and prosperity. This has not occurred, and the result has been widespread disillusionment. Counterpunch also ran another article, which quoted the statistic that 51 per cent of the population of the former East Germany had responded positively to the statement that ‘things were better under Communism’ in a poll, and wanted Communism to come back. Similar statistics could be found right across the former Communist nations of eastern Europe.

    Now, faced with rising poverty, unemployment and inequality, made worse by neoliberalism, the old fears of racial domination and extermination are rising again, and being exploited by ruthless, right-wing populists. So there are a series of extremely nationalistic, Fascistic governments and parties in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Just like in western Europe there’s Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Germany’s Alternative fuer Deutschland, and Donald Trump and the Alt Right in America.

    And across the globe, ruthless, corrupt politicians are trying to curtail freedom of speech and the press, in order to preserve their power. Hence the rising racism, Fascism and violence towards ethnic minorities and the press. These freedoms are at the core of democracy, and have to be defended for democracy to work at all, and governments held accountable by their citizens.

    Not to be forgotten: refugees still need us

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/10/2017 - 4:00pm in

    Tags 

    articles, refugees

    Winter is coming and the most vulnerable populations will experience it the hardest. Especially refugees, who are essentially trapped in the misnamed “hotspot” camps throughout the Greek islands, living under cruel conditions with scant medical and mental help, meagre food and other provisions and inadequate shelter. What is worse, to say the camps are overcrowded is a euphemism. The camp of Moria on Lesvos island has a capacity to host 2,000 people: currently, around 5,000 people live there. Six people died in Moria last winter because of inhumane living conditions. It is our responsibility not to let this happen again this coming winter.

    The EU’s inhuman and shameful deal with Turkey is still on, with money ostensibly on offer to help refugees. However, a large portion of these funds never reach the people in need, as even UNHCR has noticed. Most of the actual help comes from solidarity movements from Greece and all over Europe.

    At DiEM25 we campaign against the EU-Turkey deal and for a humane, fair and responsible and respectful treatment of people in need. We call for solidarity and support for all refugees, for an open Europe without fences. Our motto: #Let_Them_In.

     

    Aris is a member and volunteer of the DiEM25 movement.

     

    Would you like to get involved in our Migration and Refugees policy development work?

    Get in touch!

     

    Brother, where art thou? Libya, spaces of violence and the diffusion of knowledge

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/10/2017 - 2:56am in

    The decreasing number of migrants arriving on Italian shores does not mean that the people stopped fleeing persecution, violence, or poverty, but simply stopped arriving. Where are they? 

    Members of Libya's Red Crescent carry bodies of drowned migrants trying to reach Europe, in Tajura, a coastal suburb of Tripoli, capital of Libya, on June 27, 2017. Picture by Hamza Turkia/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved. The
    key political question in recent months has been how to reduce the
    number of unauthorized migrants that arrive to Europe’s shores in
    rickety vessels from politically unstable
    countries in North Africa. The overwhelming majority of the more than
    134.000 migrants that arrived by sea to Europe this year landed on
    Italian shores (approximately 103.300). Most of the migrants landing
    in Italy departed from wartorn Libya.

    Italy
    seems to have found a solution for
    reducing these
    numbers. According to figures
    released by the Italian Ministry of Interior
    , the
    numbers of migrants dropped from 23.524 (June 2017) to 5.600 (August
    2017). Last year, Italy counted more than 25.000 arrivals per month
    and in August 2015 more than 130.000.

    This
    decrease
    in
    numbers is
    largely based on a Memorandum
    of Understanding, an
    informal political agreement, between Italy and Libya
     that
    aims to “combat illegal immigration” and “reinforcing the
    border security” between the two countries. Although the agreement
    was already concluded in February 2017, it seems that technical and
    financial support, as well as training of Libyan security personnel
    became effective only a few months after its conclusion. Marco
    Minniti, Italy’s minister of interior, described the decreasing
    number of arriving migrants as a political success and wants
    Europe to pay
     its
    share. Indeed, the EU did pay its (limited) share. In February this
    year, EU member
    states
    enhanced the Malta Declaration that envisages “training, equipment
    and support to the Libyan national coast guard and other relevant
    agencies” and in April 90 million euros
    were
    earmarked for Libya in the EU Trust Fund for Africa. 

    Of
    course, the decrease
    in numbers does not mean that the people stopped fleeing persecution,
    violence, or poverty, but simply that they stopped arriving to
    Italian shores. This raises the question: where are they? 

    Strategies
    of diffusion 

    The
    answer on the whereabouts of unauthorized migrants presupposes
    knowing whom the Italian government exactly finances. It seems
    paradoxical that despite widespread media coverage, there is hardly
    any knowledge about
    which
    groups and factions are in fact financially supported. The Memorandum
    of Understanding, concluded between the National Reconciliation
    Government (NRG) in Libya and the Italian government, suggests that
    funds flow to the
    NRG.
    Yet, as control of Libyan territory is fractured between local armed
    militias, ‘city-states’, two rival governments, and Islamic
    fundamentalists, limiting the dispersion of funds to the NRG would
    not produce the effects of significantly reducing departures from
    Libya. Thus, the Italian ministry of interior broadened its strategy
    to include the local
    level, including mayors
     of
    several Libyan cities. Moreover, credible reports exist about
    financial flows to groups in other parts of Libya, including
    to tribes that control Libya’s southern border

    The
    informal agreement concluded between Italy and Libya was not the
    first of its kind. Already in 2008 the governments of the two
    countries, back then Silvio Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi, concluded
    a Treaty on Friendship, Partnership and Cooperation that set forth
    efforts to prevent irregular migration. On the basis of that treaty,
    Italy intercepted migrants on the high sea and returned them to
    Libya. In the landmark Hirsi judgment, the
    European Court of Human Rights held that the interception and forced
    return of migrants to Libya violates the prohibition of
    non-refoulement and collective expulsion.

    So,
    is the current strategy of containment merely old wine in new
    bottles? Instead of channeling funds to one dictator, isn’t Italy
    merely funding two-dozen warlords now? The fact is: we do not know
    (and possibly also the Italian government does not).

    The
    lack of knowledge could be described as a side effect of the way
    developed states globally govern (undesired) migration. Informal
    agreements largely replaced formal treaties. Cooperation between two
    governments has been supplanted by networks that consist of private
    companies, government officials of different ministries, NGOs, and
    paramilitaries. All of these actors pursue their own often
    conflicting interests. Struggles over these interests result in constant fluctuations of the actors and their importance. Particular financial interests might result in violent conflicts between different militia fractions that are part of the network, as the fighting in Sabrata demonstrates. And particular actors, such as General Haftar, might use the network to transform his image from warlord into a serious politician. No specific actor really is in charge: the network is. 

    Diffusion of responsibilities and clear structures are not merely a side effect, but a legal strategy

    This
    purposefully built complexity renders it extremely difficult to
    actually gain knowledge about the processes and acts of the network.
    An aura of secrecy prevails, as anyone passing the security check at
    the European Border Agency will confirm. This highlights another
    point: diffusion of responsibilities and clear structures are not
    merely a side effect, but a legal strategy. The Australian
    government, for instance, introduced penal sanctions (imprisonment of
    up to two years) for personnel that leak any information on the
    offshore regional processing centers in Nauru. 

    Spaces
    of unconstrained violence

    German
    legal theorist Carl Schmitt argued that the colonization of vast new
    spaces by European states constrained warfare between European
    powers. These spaces were literally beyond the international legal
    order where violence was unconstrained. Unconstrained violence used
    in these spaces provided stability to the European legal order.

    Although
    we might not have any knowledge about what exactly happens, how
    responsibilities are allocated and who exactly is part of the network
    governing migration, the ubiquity of media and civil society reports
    renders it difficult to deny awareness of the violence perpetrated
    against migrants in Libya. Italian journalist Lorenzo Cremonesi
    reported about foxholes where migrants were kept over months. Sexual
    and severe physical
    violence
    are ubiquitous and forced labor widespread. Migrants are
    regularly detained indefinitely in overcrowded cells. Even in state run
    official refugee reception centers sanitary conditions and hygiene
    are bleak, as a confidential
    EU report 
     issued
    last August described. 

    Violence serves as deterrence. The battered and raped bodies that return to the countries they fled function as signposts warning other prospective migrants.

    It
    is hard not to see the parallel between the states that contain
    migrants on Europe’s behalf and Carl Schmitt’s theory. They –
    states with factually inexistent legal protection mechanisms –
    constitute spaces of unconstrained violence and at the same time
    constrain tensions and conflicts within the European legal order that
    would otherwise arise on distribution of refugees and allocation of
    responsibility for examining asylum claims. Violence serves as
    deterrence. The battered and raped bodies that return to the
    countries they fled function as signposts warning other prospective
    migrants. 

    These
    spaces of unconstrained violence often are literally beyond the pale
    of law. De facto inexistent legal protections in Libya render
    claiming one’s rights illusory. Holding Italy responsible for
    violating its obligations under human rights law depends on the
    existence of an actual relation between the sovereign and an
    individual. Italian state agents must exercise some form of actual
    control over an individual. As the Memorandum of Understanding sets
    forth, Libya exercises control when intercepting migrants and in the
    detention centers. 

    Establishing
    legal responsibility under the rules on state responsibility seems
    equally difficult. It requires knowledge of the facts. Although in
    principle Italy could be held responsible for providing aid or
    assistance to Libyan agents who commit human rights violations
    (derived responsibility). Proving such responsibility requires a high
    evidentiary threshold: Italy must have provided aid or assistance not
    merely with knowledge of these human rights violations, but also with
    the intent that these violations are committed. This threshold might
    in some lone instances be met, but more often than not the strategy
    of knowledge diffusion will be successful. 

    In
    a sense, Italy has learned its lessons from the European Court of
    Human Rights Hirsi judgment:
    it learned how to avoid the costs of non-compliance with human rights
    and the judgment might even have served as a blueprint to
    do so. In a world of networks, the latter are always one step ahead
    of the judiciary. 

    Europe’s
    ‘costs’ 

    Italy’s
    current containment policy in Libya is, literally, buying time. It
    stands for a broader European containment policy, a policy that does
    not work. Even the most cynical argument – deterrence by violence –
    is an assumption that does not work. Abstract suffering in the future
    that individual imagination always hopes to avoid, stands against
    concrete experienced suffering in the present. Like human behavior
    adapts to changing policies of containment by changing routes, hope
    is an infinite reservoir of the human mind. These violent acts are
    policies with the aim to deter migrants. At the same time, they are
    also responses to the attempted border crossing of migrants, of
    concrete persons. These responses Europe gives shift its normative
    fault lines and thus constitute the normative core of its
    self-representation – a Europe united in the containment of the
    Other.

    Sideboxes
    Related stories: 

    Historical amnesia and Europe’s migration relations with Libya

    Migration in historical perspective

    Borderland Europe and the challenge of migration

    Migration crisis in 2017 – challenges for EU solidarity

    Interview: is rights-based ‘good migration governance’ possible?

    Country or region: 

    Libya

    Topics: 

    Equality

    International politics

    Rights: 

    CC by NC 4.0

    Pages