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Ed Webb

Syrian women refugees humiliated, exploited in Turkey - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Mi... - 0 views

  • Women refugees from Syria are being sexually harassed by employers, landlords and even aid distributors in Lebanon, reported Human Rights Watch Nov. 27, 2013. The organization “interviewed a dozen women who described being groped, harassed and pressured to have sex.” According to Dima, young Syrian women are facing the same difficulties in Turkey, including early marriages, abuse and even prostitution. She personally knows of many Syrian girls who were forced to marry older Turkish men for money. This mainly happens in families where there is no father or older brother to support them financially. Young Syrian women, therefore, are becoming the most vulnerable citizens, many of them having lost everything during the war and struggling to survive. Although Turkey is arguably one of the best countries to be a Syrian refugee, gender-related problems are on the rise, a female employee of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Turkey, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al-Monitor. “Especially in the camps and in villages, women are suffering. A lot of 15- or 16-year-olds are forced to marry because it provides financial stability and protection," she said. “Parents think that this is the best option, but in fact it causes a lot more problems, because they don’t know the future husband that well." She also mentioned that because of the lack of room inside refugees' houses and tents, domestic violence, including sexual violence, is rising as well. She has heard about several recent cases of men abusing their wives and older brothers sexually harassing their sisters.
  • Early and forced marriages are happening in all the neighboring countries where Syrian refugees are seeking safety. However, it is also part of their traditions to marry early, the United Nations reported. A study concluded that 44% of Syrian refugees identified the normal age of marriage for girls between 15 and 17 years. For example, in camps like Za’atari, in Jordan, girls as young as 14 are being married off, fearing attacks in the world’s second-largest refugee camp.
  • Most of the young Syrian refugees marry out of a sense of duty to their parents. The parents are struggling to cope financially with immense hardships caused by the war, and the daughter sacrifices herself by agreeing to marry.  “In Syria, I would have never allowed it. But here … Well, it is really hard to be a Syrian woman over here," Zeina said. The sense of humiliation for Syrian families struggling to survive is inescapable. “Please don’t judge us," Zeina pleaded.
Ed Webb

Why Do People Flee During War? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Think. - 0 views

  • When armed forces uproot people, the act tends to be characterized by journalists, politicians, and policymakers as ethnic cleansing. This suggests that the primary purpose is to expel or eliminate the targeted population. Strategic displacement takes different forms and can serve multiple purposes, from interdicting enemy supply lines to facilitating territorial annexation. What my research suggests, however, is that combatants, particularly state forces, often displace civilians to sort the targeted population—not to get rid of it.
  • This strategy mimics the use of strategic hamlets, regroupment centers, and so-called protected villages during civil wars in Burundi, Indonesia, the Philippines, Peru, Rwanda, Uganda, and Vietnam, where government forces ordered people living in conflict areas to relocate to particular locations. In addition to denying rebels access to the population, these methods were used to help counterinsurgents distinguish friend from foe while fighting shadowy guerrillas who hid among civilians. Areas outside relocation sites were transformed into free-fire zones where those remaining were assumed to be rebel fighters or supporters. The sites themselves served as instruments of identification. Occupants were screened and catalogued—making the population more “legible” to the state—and their movements were used as continuous indicators of their political loyalties.
  • “The good people were in the camps” and so “anyone found out of the camp was seen as a rebel or collaborator automatically.”
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  • A similar dynamic can be seen in Syria. Throughout the conflict, the government of Bashar al-Assad and its allies have engaged in a ferocious campaign to expel civilians from cities and towns controlled by Syrian rebels. These displacement tactics have undermined rebels’ ability to govern and deprived them of civilian support. But they have also been used to weed out those considered disloyal to the Assad regime. The government has sought to lure the displaced to its territories and employed civil registration, property claims, and other administrative procedures to screen returning refugees and IDPs. As part of evacuation and reconciliation agreements in areas retaken from opposition groups, the Assad regime has given residents a choice of moving to government areas or to other rebel-held parts of Syria. Electing the latter is seen as signaling allegiance to the opposition. Many of those who moved are now being relentlessly targeted by regime forces in Idlib province, the only remaining opposition stronghold. When I spoke to a defector from the Syrian army, he conveyed the logic through a chilling metaphor: “Think of a dumpster where you gather garbage to finally burn it.”
  • Viewing displacement as a sorting mechanism is essential to understanding the drivers and consequences of wartime migrations, and for improving efforts to manage them. The United Nations and international NGOs typically set up and manage displacement camps; provide food, shelter, health care, education, and other services; advocate on behalf of the displaced; and help governments adopt domestic policies on displacement-related issues. While this assistance has done much good, it has also raised the specter of moral hazard. It is one thing for the international community to assist those who flee to another country in order to ease the strain on refugee-hosting governments. It is quite another for it to shoulder the burden of displacement within a country on behalf of a government or nonstate actor that is directly responsible for the displacement in the first place. In Syria, for instance, the Assad regime has steered massive amounts of humanitarian assistance to areas it controls, which has helped the government lure IDPs and address some of their needs.
  • If humanitarian agencies show they are willing to offset the costs of uprooting civilians, they could perversely incentivize armed groups to engage in these practices. This is not hypothetical. There are multiple instances where international aid, while providing crucial life-saving assistance to people in conflict zones, has also enabled combatants to implement, sustain, or expand policies of forced displacement.
  • The widespread use of sorting displaced people demonstrates that fleeing in wartime can be perceived as a political act. But the presumption of guilt by location is often embraced by combatants and civilians alike, and not just in cases where displacement is used as a weapon of war. As Stephanie Schwartz argued in a previous article in Foreign Policy, post-conflict societies commonly experience hostility between people who fled during a conflict and those who stayed.
  • Conflict resolution and reconciliation efforts need to treat displacement and return as a political phenomenon, not just a humanitarian one
  • if combatants purposely compelled people to flee during the conflict, then victims will need greater security assurances to return, along with accountability mechanisms that recognize these violations and provide restitution and justice. Rarely are state or nonstate actors held responsible for displacement.
  • an international refugee system that is increasingly seen as feckless and disconnected from the realities of modern migration. That’s because in civil wars, civilians are valuable assets for armed groups. If people are given the ability to escape conflict-affected countries, then they are not compelled to “pick a side” through their movements. Armed groups are deprived of vulnerable recruits and propaganda pawns. Leaving the country may still be perceived as treachery, but at least crossing the border puts civilians beyond the reach of all warring parties and makes them eligible for international protection. Limiting the possibility of exit only stands to embolden combatants while forcing people to decide between bad options.
  • strategic value in enacting more generous asylum policies as a tool of conflict management
  • hostility toward immigrants and surges of nationalist sentiment have been accompanied by political leaders recognizing the advantages of welcoming refugees from other countries. A prominent example is the Cold War. For the United States, accepting emigres from the Soviet Union and allied countries was a foreign-policy priority meant to signal the discontents of communist rule and the relative merits of American values and institutions. Today, the refugee system is in desperate need of reform, which could gain some momentum if more emphasis is placed on articulating and promoting the strategic benefits of asylum and refugee resettlement.
Ed Webb

In Libya, the U.N. and EU Are Leaving Migrants to Die as Civil War Rages - 0 views

  • a seemingly endless series of scandals across a network of detention centers ostensibly run by the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration, which is associated with the U.N.-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). In reality, many of the detention centers are controlled by militias.
  • Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been locked up indefinitely in Libyan detention centers over the past two and a half years, after they were intercepted by the Libyan coast guard trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2017, the Libyan coast guard has been supported with equipment and training worth tens of millions of dollars by the European Union. This money comes from the Trust Fund for Africa—a multibillion-dollar fund created at the height of the so-called migration crisis, with the aim of preventing migration to Europe by increasing border controls and funding projects in 26 African countries
  • EU’s deal with Libya—a country without a stable government where conflict is raging—has been repeatedly condemned by human rights organizations. They say the EU is supporting the coast guard with the aim of circumventing the international law principle of non-refoulement, which would prohibit European ships from returning asylum-seekers and refugees to a country where they could face persecution
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  • In January, dozens of migrants and refugees were sold directly to human traffickers from the Souq al-Khamis detention center in Khoms, soon after they were delivered there by the Libyan coast guard.
  • Since the latest conflict began in Tripoli in April, after eastern Gen. Khalifa Haftar ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army to advance on the capital, refugees and migrants say their lives have become even worse. Detainees in five detention centers told Foreign Policy they have been forced to assist GNA-associated militias by loading or moving weapons, cleaning military bases on the front lines, and even—in a few cases—fighting with guns.
  • In July, at least 53 detainees were killed in the Tajoura detention center, in eastern Tripoli, when a bomb dropped by Haftar’s forces directly hit the hall they were locked in, close to a weapons store. Survivors accused the GNA government of using them as “human shields.”
  • while UNHCR and IOM do some important work, they are actively involved in whitewashing the devastating and horrific impacts of hardening European Union policy aimed at keeping refugees and migrants out of Europe. “They are constantly watering down the problems that are happening in the detention centers,” said one aid official. “They are encouraging the situation to continue. … They are paid by the EU to do [the EU’s] fucking job.”
  • While UNHCR has helped 1,540 refugees leave Libya in 2019, this is only a small percentage of those stuck in a cycle between detention centers, smugglers, and the Libyan coast guard, some of whom have waited years to be considered for evacuation. In May alone, nearly as many refugees (1,224) were returned from the Mediterranean Sea and locked up in detention
  • While the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have been pointedly critical, UNHCR and IOM regularly thank the EU for funding through their social media accounts, without mentioning that the EU plays a central role in sending refugees and migrants to detention centers in the first place
  • According to Crisp, the problems include: “dependence on EU funding and inability to change EU policy; a government that is supported by both the UN and EU; weak government institutions that are closely linked to militias; desperate refugees who don’t understand why UNHCR can’t do more for them; irregular and limited access to the refugees; concerns over staff safety and security,”
  • it was clear the U.N. is “totally overwhelmed” with the situation, yet it has management who are always “on the defensive.” 
  • “In almost every country where there is an emergency there are always complaints, there are always issues and critics, but what we see in Libya is a complete mess,”
  • When asked about the European Union’s role in facilitating the exploitation, torture, and abuse of thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya, EU spokespeople regularly point to the presence of the U.N. in detention centers, saying the EU is trying to improve conditions through these means and would like the centers closed.
  • the bombing survivor said he has lost hope in UNHCR and is ready to return to smugglers. “I will try the sea again and again. I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said, adding, “I want the world to know how people are suffering in Libya, because many people die and lose their minds here.”
Ed Webb

Pushed out by Israel, asylum seekers find only limbo in Uganda | +972 Magazine - 0 views

  • Our small delegation is made up of members of Knesset Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin of Meretz, two of their spokespeople, refugee rights attorney Asaf Weitzen, and myself.
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      Meretz is a secular left party in Israel, further left than Labor.
  • Our plan is to trace the path of the asylum seekers whom Israel plans to deport — and those it has already pushed out — and try to learn any information we can about the secret agreements reportedly reached between Israel and both Rwanda and Uganda. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments deny that any such deals even exist
  • During our time in Kampala, I spoke with eight refugees who were forced out of Israel. Their stories are nearly identical: when they arrived at the airport in Uganda they were greeted by an unidentified official who confiscated the travel documents they received in Israel and then sent them to a hotel for two or three days. There, they were instructed to fill out asylum applications, but explicitly told not to write that they came from Israel. After several days, they were instructed to call someone to pick them up from the hotel, or to find another way out themselves. Without any documents, from then on, they were on their own — foreigners in a strange country, without any legal status or safety net.
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  • Tesfay says he left Eritrea at a young age to escape forced military service. Eritreans can be conscripted for decades at a time, which is often indistinguishable from slave labor. After five years in Israel, he was imprisoned in Holot for a year. That’s when he decided to leave. Since arriving in Uganda he has struggled to survive without any legal status or support. His savings, as well as the money he received as a departure grant from Israel, didn’t last him very long. Today he lives on the street. He says he has been robbed five times since he arrived. As a foreigner, he is easy prey.
  • Uganda, a country of 40 million people, actually takes in a large number of refugees — around 1.4 million of them. The thousands of “Israeli” refugees, however, cannot go to refugee camps. They are undocumented, and their chances of finding even the most menial kind of work are almost nonexistent.
  • “Either the agreement involves transfer through the country, without the possibility of residency, or the government is so embarrassed by the existence of this agreement with Israel that it has not set up any system for absorbing the refugees and will not give them legal status.”
  • “I understood that Israel is simply committing crimes. According to all of the testimonies from people who were deported, as well as from international aid organizations and local groups, people arrive in Rwanda and are basically smuggled into the country from the airport. They don’t even pass border control in an orderly way. They have no means of appealing to a court. They cannot request status or anything like it. Then they are smuggled again. They are stuck in these two countries without any status.”
  • “They told me ‘welcome,’ and gave me a month-long visa,” Dawit recalls. He says he moved to Petah Tikva and spent most of his time working for a local grocer. Dawit was on good terms with his boss and made friends with a number of Israelis, many of whom he still keeps in touch with by telephone, he says, smiling, but with a sense of loss. “I lived with Israelis and [Israel] is like my second country. They love me and I love them. I was successful at my job. I loved life.” “After four-and-a-half years [in Israel],” Dawit continues, “I was told that I had to go to Holot or to a third country. I did an interview at Holot, but then decided not to go. I continued to work.” Dawit’s boss kept him on for three more years but the deportations, the new laws targeting asylum seekers, and pressure from the government all took their toll. A few months ago, Dawit’s boss told him he couldn’t work there anymore.
  • The detained refugees seem moved by the fact that two Israeli parliamentarians traveled to see with their own eyes what awaits them there.
  • “Why should Uganda take in the people Israel doesn’t want?” asks Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, a Ugandan member of parliament
  • “Uganda will not become a dumping ground that whoever thinks they cannot host people — that you throw them in another country.”
  • Rwanda is not a final destination for the refugees Israel is sending there. There is a well-oiled machine that pushes them out of the country as soon as possible. Of the several thousand asylum seekers that Israel has already deported to Rwanda, we are told that only eight remain there. The rest crossed the border into neighboring Uganda
Ed Webb

Domestic politics, Idlib sway timing of Turkey's Syrian operation - 0 views

  • Urgent necessities of a domestic nature have determined the timing of Operation Peace Spring that Turkey launched Oct. 9 along the Syrian border east of the Euphrates against the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been building a self-rule in the region thanks to US protection and military support.
  • the operation came in the wake of the local elections earlier this year in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered major losses. The economic crisis bruising Turkey proved a major factor in the party’s debacles in big cities in the March 31 polls and the June 23 rerun of the mayoral vote in Istanbul, giving impetus to rupture trends within the AKP.
  • Ankara is greatly concerned over the prospect of a new refugee influx from Idlib that would further entangle Turkey’s Syrian refugee problem. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned in September that Turkey cannot tolerate another refugee wave atop the 3.6 million Syrians it is already hosting
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  • the Syrian refugee problem has proved increasingly costly for the AKP in terms of domestic politics
  • Across Turkey and in big cities in particular, most of the Syrian refugees live in close proximity to AKP voters, either in the same neighborhoods or adjoining ones. Under the impact of the economic crisis, tensions between locals and refugees have grown, contributing to a gradual disenchantment with the government among AKP voters
  • While announcing the launch of Operation Peace Spring, Erdogan said the campaign would “lead to the establishment of a safe zone, facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homes.” The political motive underlying this pledge rests on the fact that the Syrian refugee problem is becoming unbearable for the government.
  • Syrians who could be forced to flee Idlib in the near future could perhaps be placed in tent cities in this “security belt” without being let into Turkey at all and instead transferred via Afrin and al-Bab, which are already under Turkish control.
  • Ali Babacan, the AKP’s former economy czar who has already quit the party, is expected to create a new party and join the opposition ranks by the end of the year. Ahmet Davutoglu — the former premier and foreign minister who, together with Erdogan, designed and implemented the failed policies that spawned the grave “Syria crisis” that Turkey is experiencing today, both domestically and in its foreign policy — is gearing up to get ahead of Babacan and announce his own party in November. These political dynamics have already triggered a spate of resignations from the AKP, and the formal establishment of the new parties could further accelerate the unraveling
  • The intensive employment of a nationalist narrative, in which the operation is depicted as a struggle of “national survival” against terrorism and quitting the AKP is equated to treason, would not be a surprise. 
  • already omens that this state-of-emergency climate, nurtured through the operation, will be used to further suppress the opposition, free speech and media freedoms. 
  • the web editor of the left-leaning BirGun daily, Hakan Demir, and the editor of the Diken news portal, Fatih Gokhan Diler, were detained on the grounds that their coverage of the operation amounted to “inciting hatred and enmity” among the people. The two journalists were released on probation later in the day.
  • prosecutors launched an investigation into the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, on charges that their critical comments about the operation constituted “spreading terrorist propaganda” and “openly insulting” the government. 
  • Erdogan already lacks any political ground to try to win over the Kurds, but Kurdish voters are likely to develop resentment against the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as well over its support for the military campaign. This, of course, could be one of the side objectives the government seeks from the operation, given that the backing of HDP voters was instrumental in CHP victories in big cities such as Ankara, Istanbul and Adana in the local polls after the HDP opted to sit out those races.
  • Trump's threats to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if Ankara goes “off-limits” in the operation offers Erdogan the chance to blame the economy’s domestic woes on external reasons and portray the ongoing fragility of the Turkish lira as an American conspiracy.
Ed Webb

Compassion of the many: Indifference of the few - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • While the welcome given to refugees by so many ordinary Greek people has been extraordinary, paradoxically the further one gets from the beaches of Lesbos and Chios, the more attitudes towards refugees calcify. Indeed, among those furthest removed from the crisis - in the parliaments of Europe - compassionate words are seldom matched by action.
  • While the Greek authorities and the European Union have repeatedly insisted that all Syrian refugees arriving in Greece were having their asylum claims properly assessed, the evidence in this case strongly suggests otherwise. Not only were Haji and his family denied the right to apply for asylum, but no risk assessment was undertaken on the danger they would face if returned to Turkey. They were also denied access to legal advice during the critical hours of their deportation.
  • a further 62,000 refugees and migrants are stranded in Greece, living in a state of constant fear and uncertainty. This is the result of the EU-Turkey migration deal and the failure of European leaders to relocate the promised numbers of refugees from Greece.
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  • the failure of world leaders to adequately address the wider global refugee crisis.
Ed Webb

When rescue at sea becomes a crime: who the Tunisian fishermen arrested in Italy really... - 0 views

  • On the night of Wednesday, August 29, 2018, six Tunisian fishermen were arrested in Italy. Earlier that day, they had set off from their hometown of Zarzis, the last important Tunisian port before Libya, to cast their nets in the open sea between North Africa and Sicily. The fishermen then sighted a small vessel whose engine had broken, and that had started taking in water. After giving the fourteen passengers water, milk and bread – which the fishermen carry in abundance, knowing they might encounter refugee boats in distress – they called the Italian coastguard, who told them they’d be coming soon. After hours of waiting, though, the men decided to tow the smaller boat in the direction of Lampedusa – Italy’s southernmost island – to help Italian authorities in their rescue operations. At around 24 miles from Lampedusa, the Guardia di Finanza (customs police) took the fourteen people on board, and then proceeded to violently arrest the six fishermen. According to the precautionary custody order issued by the judge in Agrigento (Sicily), the men stand accused of smuggling, a crime that could get them up to fifteen years of jail if the case goes to trial. The fishermen have since been held in Agrigento prison, and their boat has been seized.
  • Criminalising rescue, a process that has been pushed by different Italian governments since 2016, will continue to have tragic consequences for people on the move in the Mediterranean Sea
  • Among those arrested is Chamseddine Bourassine, the president of the Association “Le Pêcheur” pour le Développement et l’Environnement, which was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year for the Zarzis fishermen’s continuous engagement in saving lives in the Mediterranean.
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  • The fishermen of Zarzis have been on the frontline of rescue in the Central Mediterranean for over fifteen years. Their fishing grounds lying between Libya – the place from which most people making their way undocumented to Europe leave – and Sicily, they were often the first to come to the aid of refugee boats in distress. “The fishermen have never really had a choice: they work here, they encounter refugee boats regularly, so over the years they learnt to do rescue at sea”, explained Gammoudi. For years, fishermen from both sides of the Mediterranean were virtually alone in this endeavour.
  • In the months following the revolution, hundreds of boats left from Zarzis taking Tunisians from all over the country to Lampedusa. Several members of the fishermen’s association remember having to sleep on their fishing boats at night to prevent them from being stolen for the harga. Other fishermen instead, especially those who were indebted, decided to sell their boats, while some inhabitants of Zarzis took advantage of the power vacuum left by the revolution and made considerable profit by organising harga crossings. “At that time there was no police, no state, and even more misery. If you wanted Lampedusa, you could have it”, rationalised another fisherman. But Chamseddine Bourassine and his colleagues saw no future in moving to Europe, and made a moral pact not to sell their boats for migration.
  • the association also got involved in alerting the youth to the dangers of boat migration, as they regularly witnessed the risks involved and felt compelled to do something for younger generations hit hard by staggering unemployment rates. In this optic, they organised training for the local youth in boat mechanics, nets mending, and diving, and collaborated in different international projects, such as NEMO, organised by the CIHEAM-Bari and funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Directorate General for Cooperation Development. This project also helped the fishermen build a museum to explain traditional fishing methods, the first floor of which is dedicated to pictures and citations from the fishermen’s long-term voluntary involvement in coming to the rescue of refugees in danger at sea
  • When we see people at sea we rescue them. It’s not only because we follow the laws of the sea or of religion: we do it because it’s human”,
  • The situation deteriorated again though in the summer of 2017, as Italian Interior Minister Minniti struck deals with Libyan militias and coastguards to bring back and detain refugees in detention centres in Libya, while simultaneously passing laws criminalising and restricting the activity of NGO rescue boats in Italy. Media smear campaigns directed against acts of solidarity with migrants and refugees and against the work of rescue vessels in the Mediterranean poured even more fuel on already inflamed anti-immigration sentiments in Europe.
  • the fishermen opposed wholeheartedly the racism propagated by the C-Star members, and that having seen the death of fellow Africans at sea, they couldn’t but condemn these politics. Their efforts were cheered on by anti-racist networks in Sicily, who had in turn prevented the C-Star from docking in Catania port just a couple of days earlier. It is members from these same networks in Sicily together with friends of the fishermen in Tunisia and internationally that are now engaged in finding lawyers for Chamseddine and his five colleagues.
  • The fishermen’s arrest is the latest in a chain of actions taken by the Italian Lega and Five Star government to further criminalise rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, and to dissuade people from all acts of solidarity and basic compliance with international norms. This has alarmingly resulted in the number of deaths in 2018 increasing exponentially despite a drop in arrivals to Italy’s southern shores. While Chamseddine’s lawyer hasn’t yet been able to visit him in prison, his brother and cousin managed to go see him on Saturday. As for telling them about what happened on August 29, Chamseddine simply says that he was assisting people in distress at sea: he’d do it again.
Ed Webb

Lebanon is struggling to cope with Syrian refugees, but young people are pushing the co... - 0 views

  • When the war in Syria broke out eight years ago, I was barely a teenager. Almost overnight, my small home country of Lebanon, with a population of only five million, saw a huge influx of people fleeing violence, terror and persecution. Most needed urgent humanitarian assistance. Now around one in four people in Lebanon is a refugee.
  • Even before the Syrian crisis, the Lebanese economy was suffering. When the Syrians came, it created additional pressure. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, and the proportion of Lebanese nationals living below the poverty line has just topped 30 per cent.
  • many people in Lebanon blame the refugees for our problems – especially economic problems
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  • the solutions, the opportunities, that have arisen from this dire situation
  • I began taking part in an EU MADAD trust fund “Youth Resolve” project close to my home. It was run by UK aid agency CAFOD and Caritas Lebanon. Its main objective is to bring Syrian and Lebanese youth together.
  • We have been able to change some of the perspectives on both sides – among Lebanese people and refugees – and it inspired me to do more. People around me have started to understand that the Syrians did not come here by choice; they were forced to come here, and if they could go home, most of them would. These are all steps on the path to equal treatment.
  • We will be the ones raising the next generation, and we don’t need to do that based on opinions from another time. In the future, I hope to create a youth council back in Lebanon, where young people can share their views and be represented.
Ed Webb

IRIN | Niger sends Sudanese refugees back to Libya - 0 views

  • Niger has deported at least 132 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers back to Libya, drawing criticism that it is flouting international law by sending them back to dangerous and inhumane conditions from which they recently escaped.
  • Human rights advocates expressed alarm at what they said was a violation of non-refoulement, the international law that prohibits states from sending refugees and asylum seekers back to countries where they may be in harm’s way.
  • a worrying precedent for hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who are increasingly trapped in Libya with no route of exit to safety.
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  • Agadez is a major transit hub for migrants travelling from West Africa to Libya en route to Europe. But since last December, more than 1,700 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers have fled from Libya to Niger, according to the latest UNHCR figures. This is a significant reversal of the trend of people travelling north from east and west Africa to the Libyan coast, to cross the sea and seek protection in Europe.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard says it has returned almost 19,000 people to Libya. A recent lawsuit filed with the European Court of Human Rights alleges that these people were returned against their will and subjected to inhumane treatment, including beatings, rape, and torture.
  • The majority of the Sudanese who have come to Agadez are from Darfur, which has been embroiled in conflict since 2003. Many had previously been registered with the UNHCR in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Sudan, or in refugee camps in Chad. They travelled to Libya in recent years in search of economic opportunity, or with the intention of crossing the sea to Europe, but got caught in the lawlessness and violence that has characterised the country since the 2011 revolution.
  • The Nigerien government has been wary of the presence of the Sudanese since they began to arrive in December, and has characterised many of them as mercenaries in Libyan militias. “We understood that there was a real danger because you have some people who were fighters in [the] south of Libya,” Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s interior minister, told IRIN in March. “They came here because now they expect to go to Europe.”
Ed Webb

Crossing the river: Black Mauritanians haunted by mass expulsion to Senegal | Middle Ea... - 0 views

  • Thirty years ago Mariame, along with tens of thousands of Black Mauritanians, was violently expelled in what survivors have called a “genocide”. More than 14,000 people now live in a series of dusty refugee camps near the Senegal river that separates the two countries, a matter of kilometres away from their former homes. A similar number live in Mali.
  • after independence, Mauritania embarked on aggressive “Arabisation” policies, securing the racial supremacy of a tiny Arab-Berber elite at the expense of the much larger black population, many of whom it expelled en masse in 1989
  • Ethnic Fulani people, as most here are, have ancient ties to both sides of the river, which throughout the ages has connected, but at other times acted as a barrier between, the riverine communities that live upon its banks.
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  • Fearing the return home, they are now struggling to keep their identity alive, refusing to take on Senegalese citizenship and melt into society, because they see themselves as indigenous to Mauritania, a country which has tried to erase its black population.
  • Offering a respite from the harsh Sahara, the fertile river valley had historically been a meeting point between Arabs, Berbers and Black Africans. Gilded African kingdoms like Takrur and Walo, straddling both banks, sealed its reputation as the “river of gold” described by medieval Arab geographers, its glittering lure proving irresistible to European explorers, traders, and later slave traders. Arab-Berbers, also known as beydanes  - literally "white men" -  were the descendants of local ethnic Berbers conquered by a succession of Arab tribes arriving on camel back from the Arabian peninsula. One of those tribes, the Bani Hassan, gives its name to their language: Hassaniya Arabic.
  • Relations between the riverine communities were mixed. Arab-Berber raiders were known to sweep down from the right bank across the river, carrying back young women, men and children into the desert as slaves. This legacy of slavery still haunts Mauritania to this day.
  • While French colonialism had the impact of opening the river up once again - allowing Arab Berber merchants and clerics to head south and for Black Africans to settle in the north - it also bred tensions.
  • While slavery was officially abolished in 1981, there are an estimated 90,000 enslaved Haratin.
  • A gradual purge of Black Mauritanians from official posts had started at independence but it gathered pace during the 1980s under the rule of military ruler Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taye, a Pan-Arab nationalist who had strong ties to Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Rising at the same time was the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM), a black militant organisation, which in 1986 published the Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian, vowing to destroy the country’s “apartheid” system.
  • The execution of three Fulani army officers following an abortive coup the following year gave authorities the justification needed to present Black Africans in general, and Fulanis in particular, as being enemies of the state.
  • Many Fulanis, whose Islamic heritage stretches back a millennium, were particularly resentful of the way Islam was equated with being Arab.
  • Mauritania was also now in the business of projecting an exclusively Arab image both at home and abroad, reflected on everything from banknotes to stamps to holiday brochures. It joined the Arab League in 1973. But this masked an uncomfortable demographic reality: Arab-Berbers were a minority. They make up 30 percent of the population today, as do Black Africans.
  • The balance is made up by Haratins, the poor descendants of Black African slaves once owned by the Arab-Berber population. They sit at the foot of the steep socio-economic pyramid despite their number. Black-skinned, but also Arabic-speaking, integrated into the Arab-Berber tribal system while at the same time bearing the brunt of racial discrimination, they occupy a precarious position, caught between the hold of their erstwhile masters and the potential of black solidarity.
  • Mauritania therefore faced an identity crisis by the time of its independence in 1960. Black Africans saw the country’s future as lying in a pluralistic state of Arab-Black unity merged together with neighbouring Black francophone nations Mali and Senegal. But many Arab-Berbers supported a union with Morocco, wanting to exclusively emphasise the country’s Arab character. The country became independent in November 1960 under president Moktar Ould Daddah, an Arab-Berber, who quickly instituted one-party rule and made Arabic the country’s official language.
  • After a catastrophic drought through the 1970s and a costly war in the Western Sahara which ended with a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Polisario Front in 1979, the Mauritanian government took a keen interest in exploiting the Senegal river valley. With 90 percent of the country already desert, the riverine farmland was by then seen as an especially precious commodity. Who owned the farms controlled the food supply.
  • The land grabs only added to a sense of impending doom among the country’s Black population. The Manifesto of the Black Mauritanian observed in 1986: “They aim to break all ties between the inhabitants of the two shores inhabited by the same families, Wolofs in the Lower Valley, Fulani-speakers and Soninke in the Middle Valley, Soninke in Upper Senegal.”
  • An “air bridge” was agreed between the two neighbours, repatriating each other's citizens. Instead of just repatriating Senegalese nationals as agreed, Mauritanian authorities used the opportunity to systematically expel its Black African population. Underlying this move was the idea that Black Africans were not Mauritanian but actually Senegalese.
  • in April 1989, Diop left the country on a plane meant to be repatriating Senegalese back home. It was full of Black Mauritanian policemen like him
  • Mauritanian authorities drew up lists targeting the urban leadership and potential leadership of the black community. Intellectuals, civil servants, businessmen, professionals and students were put onto overcrowded trucks and driven down to the river where they were made to cross by boat.
  • Entire villages were burnt or destroyed by the army. In the four Mauritanian regions abutting the Senegal river 236 villages were either destroyed or abandoned.
  • According to Human Rights Watch, over 50,000 people had been displaced by the end of 1989, as much as eight percent of the country's Black African population, enough to drastically alter the racial politics of the country.
  • Between 1990-91 up to 600 black political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces.
  • Repopulating the abandoned villages, seizing prized cattle and the possessions left by those fleeing the pogroms, were the Haratin, who had earned their share of the spoils by carrying out much of the state’s dirty work - the rape, the torture and the theft
  • The gains they made would go some way to sealing their political allegiance to their erstwhile Arab-Berber masters for years to come, while driving a painful wedge between Mauritania’s two black communities.
  • By the early 90s, a new order had taken shape along the river. Along Mauritania's increasingly militarised river border facing Senegal, Haratins now formed a first line of defence. Opposite, swelling the population of Senegal’s riverside towns, were tens of thousands of bewildered Mauritanian refugees, who only had to look a few hundred metres into the distance to see their homeland. Gone was the dynamic riverine community.
  • A constant source of anxiety has been a lack of job opportunities, owing in part to the limitations placed on refugees, affecting their ability to pay for healthcare and education.
  • many here dream of travelling to find work to support their families. But Senegal, which is responsible for issuing travel documents to the refugees, has yet to produce the machine readable travel documents which became required document for international refugee travel back in 2015
  • Senegalese authorities have pressed the community to accept its nationality. Abdoulaye Diop, and many here, reject this based on principle, as an infringement on their identity. “I am as Mauritanian as the president is, and Mauritania is the place where I know, where I was born and grew up,” Diop said.
  • But according to a survey conducted by the UNHCR last year, of the Mauritanian refugees, 67 percent said they would be willing to become Senegalese.
Ed Webb

Afghan refugees in Iran: Go back home | The Economist - 0 views

  • Thirty years of war in Afghanistan have left Iran with perhaps the largest urban refugee population in the world. More than 1m Afghans are registered as refugees in the Islamic Republic, which is also home to another 1.5m-plus illegal Afghan migrants. But a mixture of Iran’s worsening economic malaise and its government’s policies has prompted an exodus of Afghans back home or westward to Turkey and Greece. Some 200,000 of them are reckoned to have gone back in the past seven months; 5.7m—15% of Afghanistan’s population—have returned in the past ten years, most of them during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that began in 2005
  • During the Soviet invasion of 1979, hundreds of thousands of Afghans fled to Iran, though it was itself in the throes of revolution. For a decade they were ignored by the government, denied dignified work and often derided in the press as violent criminals and drug dealers. During the “construction period” of the 1990s under Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, the government sought to naturalise them
  • Children of an illegal immigrant have no legal status, barring them from education and health care
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  • Referring to illegal refugees, he says “everything is about money. The police look for their houses, steal savings and then deport them.”
Ed Webb

Tunisia: An 'open air prison' for migrants - 1 views

  • When the war in Libya broke out in 2011, refugees flocked to the Tunisian border. Although Libyan families had the resources and the ability to obtain accommodations or be hosted by Tunisian families, migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa were in an altogether more complex situation.Tunisia reacted to the humanitarian emergency, but over the long term nothing has been done to clarify the administrative status of these people.
  • Repatriations were conducted by the embassies and international organisations for some foreigners fleeing Libya. For others, a refugee camp was opened in 2011, five kilometers from the Libyan border, near the Tunisian town of Ben Gardane: the Choucha camp, designed to hold several thousand people.As Tunisia currently has no asylum legislation, it is the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) that investigates applications and grants the status of refugees.In June 2013, the UNHCR, in charge of the camp, decided to close it as even back then the situation in Syria demanded additional resources. Hundreds of migrants found themselves in the street with no solution. With their applications for refugee status refused, they did not wish to return to their home countries, claiming that their lives were in danger.The Tunisian authorities nevertheless promised them residence permits but, more than two years later, these have still not been issued.
Ed Webb

U.N. Is Preparing for the Coronavirus to Strike the Most Vulnerable Among Refugees, Mig... - 0 views

  • United Nations is preparing to issue a major funding appeal for more than $1.5 billion on Wednesday to prepare for outbreaks of the new coronavirus in areas suffering some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, including Gaza, Myanmar, Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen, according to diplomatic and relief officials familiar with the plan
  • the request—which would be in addition to ongoing humanitarian operations—comes at a time when the world’s leading economies are reeling from the economic shock induced by one of the most virulent pandemics since the 1918 Spanish flu
  • “Some of the biggest donors are seeing global recession about to hit them,” said one senior relief official. “How generous are they going to be when they have a crisis looming in their own backyards?”
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  • U.N. relief officials and aid organizations are bracing for what they fear could be a cataclysmic second phase of the pandemic: spreading in the close-quarters encampments of the world’s more than 25 million refugees and another 40 million internally displaced people.
  • More than 3 billion people lack access to hand-washing facilities, depriving them of one of the most effective first lines of defense against the spread of the coronavirus, according to UNICEF
  • the effort to ramp up an international aid response is being hampered by the quest to ensure the safety of international staff. Those concerns have been amplified by the announcement last week that David Beasley, the executive director of the Rome-based World Food Program, had been infected with the coronavirus. Some international relief agencies have recalled senior field officers, fearing they could be infected.
  • Konyndyk, who worked on the response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that U.N. and relief agencies are having to balance ensuring the health of their own staff with delivering care to needy communities.
  • “You would have a hard time designing a more dangerous setting for the spread of this disease than an informal IDP settlement,” he said. “You have a crowded population, very poor sanitation … very poor disease surveillance, very poor health services. This could be extraordinarily dangerous … and I don’t think that’s getting enough global attention yet.”
  • In conflict-riven countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan to Yemen, dismal health care infrastructures are already overburdened after years of fighting
  • After five years of war, with millions of people on the brink of famine, Yemen’s population is more vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak than those of most other countries. The conflict has left most of the country’s population effectively immunocompromised,
  • “For many population groups, living in overcrowded conditions, social distancing is a challenge or impossible,” according to the Assessment Capacities Project report. Many countries that host refugee camps, such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, are likely to be overwhelmed by the health needs of their own citizens. Nations with weak health systems “may struggle to screen, test, and contain the epidemic for the host population let alone the refugees,”
  • In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides primary care for about 70 percent of the territory’s more than 1.8 million people, is bracing for the likely arrival of the coronavirus in one of the most densely populated place in the world. The U.N. agency—which the Trump administration defunded last year and has sought to dismantle—has some 22 medical clinics in Gaza, putting it on the front lines of the defense of the coronavirus.
  • “I’m told that there are 60 ICU beds in the hospitals,” Matthias Schmale, the director of Gaza’s UNRWA operations, told Foreign Policy. “If there is a full-scale outbreak the hospital sector won’t cope.”
  • The leaders of major relief organizations are pressing donors to grant them greater flexibility to redirect funding from existing programs that are likely to be paralyzed by the pandemic and use that money for programs—including clean water and sanitation projects—that could help stem the crisis.
  • “As bad as it is now in the well-organized and affluent north, with health systems, good sanitation, and big infrastructure, imagine how it will be when it will hit crowded camps with refugees and displaced people,” said Egeland, who spoke by telephone from quarantine in Norway.
  • sweeping U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions imposed on governments in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela are hampering relief efforts.
  • Egeland acknowledged that most U.N. sanctions regimes, including those for Iran and North Korea, include exemptions for the import of humanitarian goods. But the sanctions have scared financial institutions from providing vital financial services to relief agencies. “Not a single bank had the guts to transfer money, because they were all afraid to be sued by the U.S. government,”
  • The World Health Organization announced earlier this year that more than $675 million will be required through April—including $61 million for its own activities—to mount an international campaign against the virus. Though WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that more money would be needed. On Feb. 17, UNICEF issued an urgent request for $42.3 million to support the coronavirus response. It will be used to reduce transmission of the virus by promoting distance learning for kids who can’t attend school and public information aimed at shooting down misinformation.
  • Guterres, meanwhile, expressed concern that the pandemic could claw back decades of efforts to raise international health standards and to scale back the most extreme levels of poverty, and undercut U.N. sustainable development goals, which are designed to improve the standard of living around the world by the year 2030.
  • “COVID-19 is killing people, as well as attacking the real economy at its core—trade, supply chains, businesses, jobs,” Guterres said. “Workers around the world could lose as much as $3.4 trillion.”
  • “We need to focus on people—the most vulnerable, low-wage workers, small and medium enterprises,” Guterres said. “That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss. That also means designing fiscal and monetary responses to ensure that the burden does not fall on those who can least afford it. The recovery must not come on the backs of the poorest—and we cannot create a legion of new poor. We need to get resources directly into the hands of people.”
Ed Webb

Border Security Doesn't Make Europe Safer. It Breeds Instability. - 0 views

  • While it is natural be outraged by the locking up of children in Donald Trump’s United States or the criminalization of rescues in Italy during Matteo Salvini’s reign as interior minister, this deadly game is sadly not just being played by a few erratic and callous politicians. Rather, it is systematic.
  • For many years now, a key part of the game has been to get poorer neighbors to do the dirty work of deterring migration
  • outsourcing of migration and border controls represents a spectacular own goal not just in humanitarian terms, but also politically
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  • From the indefinite containment in what Amnesty International called “insecure and undignified” camps in Greece to de facto pushbacks of migrants toward the hell of Libya, from increasingly perilous routes across the Sahara to the avoidable mass drownings in the Mediterranean, Europe’s so-called fight against illegal migration has fueled abuses that undermine the EU’s global role and its avowed values
  • the EU, just like the United States, has doubled down. In its strategic agenda for the next five years, it has coalesced around a project straight out of the hard right’s playbook—of protecting borders, not people. And the way forward, in the words of the agenda, is “fighting illegal migration and human trafficking through better cooperation with countries of origin and transit.”
  • deaths owing to Fortress Europe since 1993 now adds up to well over 30,000 human beings and counting
  • The suffering is kept at a distance until spectacular violence hits the news, such as in the July killing of at least 44 people in the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s airstrike on a Tripoli detention center. The general silence means the suffering festers, infecting European countries’ relations with their neighbors. And some among the neighbors are taking note of the cynicism. As a leading West African voice on migration, former Malian Culture Minister Aminata Traoré put it succinctly: “Europe is subcontracting violence in Africa.”
  • by temporarily pushing the problem away, it is sowing the seeds for abuse, repression, and even instability on a much larger scale
  • Once migration has been elevated into an existential threat to the “European way of life,” those on the other side of the EU’s borders will know how to leverage that threat effectively, with destabilizing consequences
  • Playing his cards cleverly within the rules set by Europe’s growing obsession with migration, Erdogan then explicitly threatened this October to “open the gates” for refugees to head toward Europe if EU leaders failed to support his military incursion and resettlement plans for northern Syria
  • consider Sudan, where the country’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group formerly linked to the genocidal janjaweed in Darfur, have trumpeted their credentials in fighting migration. This is the same force that killed dozens of protesters in Khartoum earlier this year and whose leader had by this summer by most accounts become the de facto, Saudi-backed ruler of Sudan.
  • The RSF, like Erdogan, has played a clever game within the rules set in part by the EU and has presented itself as helping the EU to fulfill its priorities—while simultaneously acting as a smuggling conduit. In effect, border security has been given a premium in the political marketplace, helping the guys with the guns to capture a larger market share.
  • across the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, where the EU is now lavishing migration-related funds and political recognition on shady regimes and their frequently repressive security personnel. One of the countries targeted is Niger, which has become a laboratory for border security, with dire consequences.
  • The draconian law on migrant smuggling that the EU pushed has hit not just cross-border human smuggling but all sorts of cross-country transport, and it has involved Niger’s authorities selectively targeting members of certain ethnic groups. This risks fueling ethnic and political grievances while depriving northern Niger of its economic lifeblood, which includes not just irregular migration but also ordinary cross-border trade with, and travel to, Libya.
  • Amid growing popular discontent, and with an emboldened security state and a reeling economy, Niger is today a tinderbox thanks in no small part to the very security measures imposed by Europe.
  • Building on former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi’s sordid deal-making with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi a decade earlier, Italy and the EU have since 2015 tried to get around legal responsibilities at sea by funding and training a so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which in large part is simply a front for dolled-up militias.
  • the assumption of the EU’s strategic agenda, for one—that “fighting illegal migration” in this way is key to defending “the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens”—is plain wrong. A quick glance at the longer trend shows 2015—when an estimated 1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea—to be an exception: Most immigrants enter Europe by air, and most sub-Saharan African migrants stay within their own region.
  • human mobility is in itself not a threat to anyone’s safety. In fact, the risks associated with its most chaotic manifestations are perversely caused in large part by the very security measures rolled out to stop it. But even these manmade risks pale in comparison with the risk of strengthening authoritarian regimes and repressive forces, while undermining the EU’s clout and values, in the name of European citizens’ security.
  • the EU must rekindle positive projects of collaboration and opportunity—including, not least, by working with the African Union on its incipient plans for boosting free movement across the continent. And it must ensure that the EU and member states don’t fuel instability and abuses, as has been the case with Libya since well before NATO’s disastrous intervention there.
  • migration toward the U.S.-Mexico border can be addressed by Washington through genuine attempts at reversing long-standing U.S. complicity in the instability racking Central America—both in terms of support to violent groups and abusive leaders and in the export of gang members into El Salvador. Similar reversals are needed in the drug war that is racking Mexico, where U.S. arms and incentives have helped fuel violence that has claimed thousands of lives.
  • Today’s tug of war between rights and security, or between open and closed borders, paints those in the former camp as naive idealists and those in the latter as hard-headed realists. However, this is a false dichotomy.
  • If policymakers and voters really want to be “realistic,” then it is essential to appreciate the full future costs of the path on which they are currently set and to acknowledge the dangerously perverse incentives for escalating violence, extortion, and authoritarian rule that it entrenches. Meanwhile, the fantasy of protecting Western democracies through the outsourcing of migration controls feeds the damaging delusion that these countries can seal themselves off from problems such as conflict and global warming to which they are themselves strongly contributing.
Ed Webb

Is Tunisia Abandoning Morocco for Algeria? - 0 views

  • Power balances in North Africa are shifting. The latest indication that Algeria’s star is rising—along with European demand for its natural gas—as Moroccan influence wanes was all but confirmed by Tunisia’s decision to include the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front in an investment conference, a move seemingly designed to ruffle feathers in Morocco.
  • For decades, Tunisia has looked on, maintaining its neutral stance as both sides jockeyed for dominance. However, by appearing to have unilaterally invited Brahim Ghali, the Polisario leader and president of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to a conference it was holding in tandem with Japan, that neutrality has come into question. Moreover, for many observers, the invitation confirmed what many suspected: that Tunisia is growing increasingly close to Algeria, potentially at the expense of its historically close ties with Morocco, while Rabat’s relations with Japan, which Tunis enjoys a burgeoning relationship with, are cast into doubt.
  • His presence appeared to take many by surprise, not least Morocco, which swiftly issued furious missives of the “hurt” caused to the Moroccan people by Tunis’s action. Ambassadors were withdrawn by both countries while Morocco’s newspapers denounced Tunisia’s shortcomings.
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  • Saied and his foreign ministry claimed surprise at the reaction, citing a circular from the African Union, which extended the invitation to all leaders, including Ghali. A statement was issued by the foreign ministry, reaffirming the country’s total neutrality in line with international law, stating, “This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI used a televised address to send what he said was a clear message to the world, telling viewers, “The Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”
  • with European gas prices soaring, Algeria—Europe’s third-largest gas supplier (after Russia and Norway) and the Polisario Front’s chief backer—is also enjoying a diplomatic renaissance. European politicians and regional power brokers are all enjoying a renewed interest in Algiers, with Tunisia’s Saied among them
  • Tunis also relies on Algeria for its own gas, buying it at a discounted price, as well as receiving revenue for the transport of Algerian gas across its territory, bound for Sicily and then the rest of Europe.
  • “The war in Ukraine and its impacts on Europe in terms of gas supplies reposition Algeria as an important player in the western Mediterranean,”
  • The plight of the Sahrawis is one of the world’s longest-standing refugee crises. Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawis have been sheltering in the Algerian desert, waiting for the opportunity to return home.
  • the U.N. estimates that around 90,000 “vulnerable refugees” are sheltering in the desert, relying on international aid just for their daily food and shelter.
  • “Weather conditions are especially adverse in this part of southern Algeria, where temperatures in summer can reach up to more than of 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), which causes casualties among the elderly, children, and pregnant women.”
  • with both Algeria and Morocco having relatively static leaderships, where there is little change in personnel, the dispute was allowed to rumble on
Ed Webb

Mapping the Journeys of Syria's Artists | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Last year, wondering what it means to be a Syrian artist when Syria in many ways no longer exists, I began to map the journeys of a hundred artists from the country. As I discovered, a large portion of the older guard of artists has ended up in Paris, thanks to visas issued by the French Embassy in Beirut. Many of the younger generation headed for the creative haven of Berlin, where rent is relatively cheap. Only a scant few remained in the Middle East, which proved expensive or unwelcoming.
  • A few artists remain loyal to the Assad regime, which has long seen itself as a great patron of the arts. Some of the artists who were still in Syria asked not to be mapped, even anonymously, for fear that the regime would perceive them as disloyal and punish their families. A few took issue with the label “Syrian artist” altogether. “I don’t want to become part of the Syrian-refugee industry,” Sulafa Hijazi, a visual artist now living in Berlin, told me
  • the Syria Cultural Index, “an alternative map connecting the Syrian artistic community around the globe and showcasing their work to the world.”
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  • in Germany she found herself crippled with shame at leaving her family behind. She couldn’t sit in the grass without feeling such crushing grief that she had to go inside. Eventually, she went into denial. “You try to pretend that you don’t miss the country and you’re totally O.K. with the idea of not going back,” she said. In some ways, it has worked, but she has also found that leaving Syria has cost her some of her power as an artist. “I feel like I signed an unwritten contract where I gave up part of my skill in exchange for safety,”
  • With the war now entering its eighth year, Barakeh is unable to return to Syria. He has chosen to settle among his fellow-artists in Berlin, and is practicing what he calls “artivism.” Among the projects he is working on is the first Syrian Biennale, a mobile exhibition, currently in pre-production, that will follow the route of Syrian refugees from Lebanon to central Europe and Scandinavia
  • For Zeid, Lebanon was a terrifying experience. The child of Palestinian refugees, she had no passport. Her fear of being sent back to Syria manifested in intense anxiety. While Salman trekked to and from Aleppo to take pictures, Zeid began to have panic attacks. When she learned that Lebanese security forces were tracking her, she knew that she had to get out of the country or risk being deported. A friend told her that the French Consulate in Beirut was allowing artists to enter France as political refugees. She managed to secure safe passage for herself and Salman, and in April, 2014, they left for Paris
  • Living in Berlin among the younger generation of artists, Beik is now concerned with a different kind of revolution. The opening credits of “The Sun’s Incubator” read, “The future of cinematography belongs to a new race of young solitaries who will shoot films by putting their last pennies into it and not let themselves be taken in by the material routines of the trade.”
  • Kaprealian, whose family survived the 1915 Armenian genocide by fleeing to Syria, left the country in 2014, soon after finishing “Houses Without Doors.” He saw no reason to stay; as an artist, he said, he was out of ways to work. He crossed the Lebanese border and now lives in Beirut. “All of my friends are in Europe, in America, or Canada,” he said. “Some of them went on boats. Some of them walked for ten days through Ukraine and other countries.” He added, “All of us are angry.”
Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 1 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.“Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.
  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

The Cypriotization of Northern Syria - JISS - 0 views

  • Turkey is turning northern Syria – Jarabulus and Afrin – into the “Turkish Republic of Northern Syria,” just as it has turned northern Cyprus into a Turkish protectorate through military and economic domination.
  • Turkey’s military interventions in northern Syria’s Jarabulus and Afrin have turned these two enclaves into Turkish military and economic protectorates. Turkish involvement in these cantons has increased the regions’ economic and political dependency on Ankara which has nearly reached the level of Turkey’s position in Northern Cyprus.
  • Turkish anxiety grew when the Pan-Kurdish maps reaching the Mediterranean Sea began to float on the social media and internet. Kurdish access to the sea would constitute a game changer as it would end the landlocked status of the Kurdish entity and will limit Kurdish dependency on Turkey and other surrounding neighboring states. Moreover, a self-sufficient independent Kurdistan could trigger spillover effects in Turkey that would shake the country’s territorial integrity.
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  • Operation Euphrates Shield. Despite that IS was declared as the operation’s main objective, the main aim was to prevent the Kurdish geographical contiguity between the Kobani and Afrin cantons that could later expand to the west and reach the Mediterranean. Indeed, Euphrates Shield’s hidden agenda surfaced when Turkey launched the “Operation Olive Branch” against the PYD-controlled Afrin region.
  • Turkey began to re-settle some of its Syrian Arab refugees (their official number reached to 3.5 million in July 2018) in the occupied zone of Northern Syria. While Turkey seeks to solve its refugee problem, it also aspires to Arabize the region by settling Syrian Arab refugees to the Kurdish canton of Afrin diluting its Kurdish character.
  • in order to boost Turkmens’ influence in the region who constitute only 8% of the whole Afrin province population, Turkey facilitated the formation and deployment of the Turkmen Muntasır Billah brigades to Afrin under the umbrella of Free Syrian Army.
  • Turkey began to re-build the infrastructure in order to encourage its Syrians refugees to re-settle. Turkey has opened the Zeytin Dalı (Afrin), Çobanbey (Al-Rai), and Karkamış (Jarabulus) crossings to connect the region to Turkey like a swing door
  • Turkey is paving wide highways to these crossings inside Syria to facilitate transport from Al-Bab and Jarabulus to Turkey. It also plans to link Manbij (currently under PYD control) to this network in the future. This will accelerate the Arabization of the region and encourage Turkish and Syrian businessmen living in Turkey to invest in the region – most likely in textile and olive sector.
  • Turkish influence in the economy of the cantons is reflected also in the use of its currency. Given the fact that most of the goods are sent into the region by Turkey, the civilian population who has little access to the Syrian Lira, began using the Turkish Lira to provide themselves their daily needs such as food and oil.
  • The situation in northern Syria clearly reflects the traditional Ottoman colonizing model that can also be seen in Cyprus. While settling loyal population to the region the Ottomans also provided welfare and other socio-economic infrastructures to the regions that they conquered.
  • Signs in Turkish can be seen on hospitals, schools, fire and police stations. Turkey is paying the salaries of the doctors, teachers, fire fighters and the policemen as well as providing electricity to the region by laying a 3 km. long power cables. Ambulances, fire brigade trucks and police vehicles are all brought from Turkey.
  • Turkey also repaired and provided equipment to Afrin schools. While putting Arabic back into the curriculum at the expense of Kurdish language, Turkish flags, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s posters alongside with July 15, 2016 military coup attempt martyr Ömer Halisdemir’s portraits can be seen in Afrin’s schools.
  • Despite Turkey’s official statements favoring a united Cyprus in 2004 (in the framework of the Annan Plan), and its 2018 statement supporting the territorial integrity of Syria, its actions are not reflecting the rhetoric
Ed Webb

Drought and misuse behind Lebanon's water scarcity | Middle East Eye - 1 views

  • Lebanon should not suffer from water scarcity. Annual precipitation is about 8,600 million cubic metres while normal water demand ranges between 1,473 and 1,530 million cubic metres per year
  • the country’s inability to store water efficiently, water pollution and its misuse both in agriculture and for domestic purposes, have put great pressure on the resource
  • According to Bruno Minjauw, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative ad interim in the country as well as Resilience Officer, Lebanon “has always been a very wet country. Therefore, the production system has never looked so much at the problem of water.” Referring to the figures for rainfall, Minjauw says that “what we are seeing is definitely an issue of climate change. Over the years, drought or seasons of scarcity have become more frequent”. In his opinion, the current drought must be taken as a warning: “It is time to manage water in a better way.”
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  • Minjauw believes that there is a real danger “in terms of food insecurity because we have more people [like refugees] coming while production is diminishing.” Nevertheless, he points out that the current crisis has increased the interest of government and farmers in “increase the quantity of land using improved irrigation systems, such as the drip irrigation system, which consume much less water.”
  • Digging wells has long been the main alternative to insufficient public water supplies in Lebanon and, according to the National Water Sector Strategy, there are about 42,000 wells throughout the country, half of which are unlicensed.
  • The drought is also exacerbating tensions between host communities and Syrian refugees. The rural municipality of Barouk, for example, whose springs and river supply water to big areas in Lebanon, today can count on only 30 percent of the usual quantity of water available. However, consumption needs have risen by around 25 percent as a result of the presence of 2,000 refugees and Barouk’s deputy mayor Dr. Marwan Mahmoud explains that this has generated complaints against newcomers.
  • So far, a cabinet in continuous political crisis has promoted few and ineffective measures to alleviate the drought. One of the most recent ideas was to import water from Turkey, with prohibitive costs. “Soon, you will also hear about projects to desalinate sea water,” says Farajalla. “Both ideas are silly because in Lebanon we can improve a lot of things before resorting to these drastic measures.” 
Ed Webb

Displaced Iraqis and Syrians in Philly try to shift the 'refugee narrative' through art... - 0 views

  • Al-Obaidi said he would be satisfied if they reach at least one person with the message that refugees didn't leave their home countries by choice -- and that they have much to share with their new countries. "This one person can maybe talk to family, this family maybe can talk to someone else," he explained. "The community is like this. Even the stereotypes started like this."
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