Humanitarian Ship seeks European Port for Rescued Migrants

More than 650,000 migrants have come to Italy’s shores since 2014, but the numbers of new arrivals have plunged over the past year, with Rome encouraging the Libyan coastguard to carry out most of the rescues.

Human rights groups called on European governments on Sunday to tell a charity ship where it can dock and let more than 140 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean disembark in safety.

RELATED: Spain Takes in Drifting Migrant Ship Aquarius as UN, EU Slam Italy Over Refusing It

The Aquarius, run by Franco-German charity SOS Mediterranee and Doctors without Borders (MSF), rescued 141 people in two separate operations off the Libyan coast last week.

The boat had just started heading north on Sunday toward Europe when Libyan coastguards called it back to pick up 10 migrants spotted aboard a small fiberglass boat.

As that rescue was underway, SOS Mediterranee and MSF asked for guidance on where to take those they had saved.

“What is of utmost importance is that the survivors are brought to a place of safety without delay, where their basic needs can be met and where they can be protected from abuse,” said Nick Romaniuk, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee.

SOS Mediterranee and MSF accused the Libyan coastguard on Sunday of endangering lives by not telling the Aquarius there were boats close to it that were in distress. They also said other ships in the area had apparently ignored the migrants.

“Ships might be unwilling to respond to those in distress due to the high risk of being stranded and denied a place of safety,” said Aloys Vimard, MSF’s project coordinator on board the Aquarius. “Policies designed to prevent people from reaching Europe at all costs are resulting in more suffering and forcing those who are already vulnerable to take even riskier journeys to safety.”

The Aquarius has operated in the central Mediterranean since early 2016 and says it has helped more than 29,000 people in distress, many of them African migrants, who, until this summer, were brought swiftly to Italy without any incident.

However, when a populist government took office in Rome in June, it immediately shut its ports to all NGO boats, accusing them of encouraging illegal immigration and helping human smugglers — charges the charities deny.

In June, the orange-hulled Aquarius picked up 629 migrants, including scores of children and seven pregnant women, but first Italy and then Malta refused to let it dock, provoking a row within the heart of the European Union over immigration policy.

Spain eventually agreed to take in the boat, but there was no indication of where the Aquarius might head on Sunday, with Malta immediately refusing it access and Italy saying at the weekend it would not be welcome at any of its ports.

  • Published in World

ICE denies hunger strike by immigrants at Texas detention center

(Reuters) - A group of immigrant fathers, recently reunified with their sons and detained in Texas, have gone on a hunger strike to demand their release, an immigrant rights group representing them said on Thursday.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said there had not been a hunger strike by residents of the Karnes County Residential Center, about 51 miles (82 km) southeast of San Antonio.

Sponsored

“On Aug. 2, a small group of fathers and their children (fewer than 50 total) staged a brief sit-in and expressed their concerns about their immigration cases,” ICE said in a statement. The residents “appreciated the information and dispersed.”

It was not immediately clear how many fathers were in the group.

The immigrants said they were being held at the detention center with no notification from authorities on their immigration status, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) said.

Fathers had staged sit-ins, children were refusing to take part in school activities, and some fathers had started a hunger strike, RAICES spokeswoman Jennifer Falcon said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“The dads are on a hunger strike and they are refusing to obey any directions from ICE and GEO guards,” she said, referring to private contractor GEO Group Inc (GEO.N) which runs the center. The hunger strike was said to have begun on Wednesday.

GEO did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked later to respond to the ICE statement, Falcon told Reuters: “There’s definitely a strike.”

She added that the group had audio recordings of the fathers saying they were on hunger strike.

U.S. President Donald Trump has made a hard-line stance on immigration an integral part of his presidency and has promised to keep immigrants targeted for deportation locked up “pending the outcome of their removal proceedings.”

Some 2,500 children were separated from their parents as part of a “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration that began in early May. Many of them had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, while others had sought asylum. The U.S. government said last week it had reunited just over half of them.

Fathers at the Karnes center said they were misled into agreeing to deportation as a condition of seeing their children again, RAICES said. Others said they had not been given the opportunity to apply for asylum.

A federal judge in San Diego indefinitely suspended deportations last month.

  • Published in World

Migrants In US Custody Describe Life In 'Ice Boxes' And 'Dog Pounds'

During their detention last month in a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Laredo, Texas, Karen and her two young sons were constantly cold. The family, which fled violence in Honduras, slept on a hard floor in a holding cell without mattresses, she said, their clothes still wet from crossing the Rio Grande.

"I can only hold one at a time to keep them warm. Whoever I am not holding is cold," she said in one of more than 200 sworn statements filed this week in a long-running lawsuit challenging conditions for children in immigration custody.

The statements, which were taken in June and July and identify immigrants only by their first names, provide a rare window into life in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. Migrants like Karen and her children who crossed into the United States illegally, as well as those who applied for asylum at the border, are often held in such facilities before being released or transferred to longer-term detention centres.

A nursing mother named Serafin, who said she fled Mexico after a cartel member threatened to rape her and kill her baby, said she was given too little food at a facility in San Ysidro, California.

"I am not producing enough breast milk to feed my baby because I am not eating enough," she said in her statement. "My daughter cries a lot because she is hungry."

A woman named Mayra said her 9-year-old son became fearful after their detention in Nogales, Arizona, where he saw children separated from their parents.

"He saw someone bound with chains and asked me whether I would be chained in the same way," she said. "He wonders when we will get to the United States. I do not tell him that we are already here. He wouldn't believe that the United States would treat us this way."

4ronbkrgFew immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food.

LONG-RUNNING LAWSUIT

The statements were taken by attorneys for plaintiffs in a case brought against the U.S. government in 1985 on behalf of 15-year-old Jenny L. Flores. A 1997 settlement in the lawsuit set standards for humane treatment of children in detention and ordered their prompt release in most cases.

This week, the plaintiffs filed papers alleging that the detention conditions described in the declarations violate the humane treatment standards set out in the settlement, including speedy release of children.

"We now see many in CBP custody for three to six days," up from two to three days in prior months, said Peter Schey, the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the Flores case.

Reuters was unable to speak directly to the migrants who gave declarations because they weren't fully identified in the filing, and most of them are still in detention.

CBP referred requests for comment on the migrant statements to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. In the past, CBP has defended conditions in its facilities.

In a report filed in the Flores case last month, CBP juvenile coordinator Henry Moak Jr. said that the department makes extensive efforts "to ensure all minors in CBP custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors."

He said parents and children he interviewed had "received meals and snacks; had access to drinking water, functioning toilets, and functioning sinks; and were held in rooms that were maintained at an appropriate temperature."

He also noted, however, that CBP should ensure that food was not kept past its expiration date and that custodial data was consistently entered into records.

Moak referred requests for comment to CBP.

'ICE BOXES' AND 'DOG POUNDS'

Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years, including again recently when the government began separating children and parents. The new declarations are remarkable both for the number of detainee voices and the consistency of detail in what they report.

While a few immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food, difficult separations from their children and crowded cells without enough sleeping mats. They said latrines were dirty and lacked privacy and that lights stayed on day and night.

James Tomsheck, who served as assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, told Reuters that the facilities were designed for brief stays.

oejtjgm8Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years. (Reuters)

"There is no question that the amount of time persons are being held at these, what are designed to be temporary detention facilities, has become much longer than it was intended."

Detainees refer to some of the facilities as "hieleras," Spanish for "ice boxes" because they are so cold. Larger spaces with indoor fencing are referred to as "perreras" or "dog pounds."

Children in the facilities were often held in separate cells from their parents, according to the statements.

A woman named Leydi, held in Chula Vista, California, described watching young children trying to touch their parents through metal fences.

"The mothers tried to reach their children, and I saw children pressing up against the fence of the cage to try to reach out," she said. "But officials pulled the children away and yelled at their mothers."

John Sandweg, acting director of ICE from 2013 to 2014, said the problems stem from the fact that holding areas were designed to lock up adults for just a few hours while CBP processed paperwork.

"They're inappropriate, frankly, for children," he said.

  • Published in World

Banksy Needles France's Macron on Migrants with Mural Blitz

The mysterious British street artist Banksy appears to have taken aim at the French government's crackdown on migrants in a series of new murals in Paris.

The world's best-known graffiti painter apparently "blitzed" the French capital over the last few days, leaving as many as six works on walls across the city.

In one mural, a young black girl sprays a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and teddy bear in an attempt to make her patch of pavement cozier.

The image is on a wall in northern Paris next to an official refugee shelter which was controversially closed in March despite protests from the city's Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo. Since then around 2,000 migrants, including children and teenagers, have been sleeping rough along canals and under motorway bridges. Migrants were still sleeping next to the mural on Sunday.

Experts said the image echoes the artist's 2009 painting "Go Flock Yourself."

Banksy, a long-time supporter of the refugee cause, has not yet confirmed the works are his. However, he has often traveled to make powerful political points with his art about everything from Brexit to the fate of the Palestinians.

In 2015, he painted a mural on the edge of the Calais "jungle" camp built by migrants trying to get to Britain, which has since been razed by the authorities.

"The Son of a Migrant from Syria" depicted Apple co-founder Steve Jobs — who was of Syrian descent — carrying a knapsack and an Apple computer.

He sprayed another, his take on Gericault's "The Raft of the Medusa", on the wall of a house in the northern French port — a reference to the shipwrecked hopes of migrants trying to cross the English Channel.

Art historian and street art expert Paul Ardenne told AFP that the Paris murals were very much in Banksy's style. "The colour, the line, the subject and the way he has adapted the images from photos ... all point to them being Banksy's style. There is a very particular signature. If (the mural of the girl) is not by Banksy, it is a very good copy," he said.

Ardenne said it does not matter if the murals are by Banksy, but they do "show that the Banksy effect, and its ability to manipulate the media, works," he argued. "We will look at them far more now thinking they are by Banksy rather than if it had been by any old artist."

Another of the new works appears to touch on the equally sensitive subject of the ban on the niqab in France. It shows Napoleon rearing his horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800, his face and body wrapped in his red cloak.

The pastiche of David's canvass, one of the most iconic in French 19th-century art, appeared on a wall in an ethnically-mixed district of northern Paris. Others have seen it as a metaphor for a lack of political leadership, the general blinded by his own hubris.

And a third image near the Sorbonne University on the Left Bank — which was rocked by a student uprising 50 years ago — appeared to be a dig at the death of French revolutionary spirit.

One of Banksy's trademark rats — his avatar for wronged ordinary people — sits under the legend "May 1968" wearing a Minnie Mouse bow. The Disneyland Paris theme park just outside the French capital is now one of its biggest employers. Two more Banksy rats appear in further images discovered this weekend, one dynamiting a road sign and another riding a popped cork from a champagne bottle.

  • Published in Culture

Italy: Diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

CATANIA, Sicily — Italy escalated its standoff with France over migration Wednesday, challenging Paris to take in more asylum-seekers and demanding an apology after the French president accused the new populist Italian government of cynical, irresponsible behavior by refusing entry to a rescue ship with 600 people aboard.

Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini chided French President Emmanuel Macron by name during a speech before Parliament’s upper chamber.

Salvini said France had taken in only a fraction of the 9,816 migrants it had pledged to welcome under a 2015 EU relocation plan to relieve frontline countries Italy and Greece of the burden of caring for newly arrived migrants.

“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,000 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” Salvini said to applause in the Senate chamber.

“I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity,” he said.

Italy has defended its decision to refuse to allow the Aquarius rescue ship to dock, saying it has never abandoned the ship and is escorting it to Spain. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor in Valencia after Italy and Malta both refused.

The standoff over the Aquarius appeared a clear tactic by Italy’s new government to force Europe’s hand at the upcoming summit of EU leaders in Brussels June 28-29. Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe’s migrant crisis, but the new government says its tactics have finally gotten the point across.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

The Diciotti was greeted in Catania’s port by activists criticizing the new policy, with a banner draped at the port saying “Stop the attack on refugees.”

French President Emmanuel Macron had blasted what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius, which is operated by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and the French-founded Doctors Without Borders.

Macron’s office said Tuesday that France doesn’t want to “start a precedent” that would allow some European countries to breach international laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

In his speech, Salvini shot back and said France had turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy’s northern border since January “including women, children and disabled people.” The border crossing point at Ventimiglia has been the scene of protests and desperation for years as France has refused to let in migrants, many of whom are seeking to reach family in France or Germany.

Under the EU’s asylum laws — currently the subject of revision amid a major political dispute — migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe. In practice, this has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people have entered in recent years. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere.

Salvini also demanded that France make good on its pledge to relocate migrants under a 2015 EU scheme that never fully got off the ground.

France was to have accepted a total of 19,714 migrants from Italy and Greece; in all, it accepted 4,677. Across the European Union, only a third of the 98,255 migrants that were supposed to be relocated under the scheme had been relocated by the time it ended last year.

Salvini’s League campaigned during the March 4 national election on a strong anti-migrant agenda that included promises of mass expulsions of migrants already here. According to government figures, Italy has accepted 640,000 migrants since 2014, but the number of arrivals this year is at a five-year low: 14,441 since January.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy began plummeting last year after the Italian government under the center-left Democratic Party negotiated controversial deals with Libya that beefed up its capacity to better patrol its coasts and discouraged land-based smugglers.

Earlier Wednesday, Salvini accused France of having caused the instability in Libya that has allowed smuggling networks to thrive by spearheading the 2011 NATO-led military campaign that led to the downfall of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The Aquarius and two Italian ships that have taken some of the migrants are now expected to arrive in Valencia on Saturday night, weather conditions permitting, said SOS Mediterranee’s co-founder Sophie Beau. The port is some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from where the ship had been on standby since Saturday night.

“It’s a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe,” Beau told reporters in Marseille, France.

  • Published in World

France Increases Migrant Expulsions in 2017

Paris, Jan 16 (Prensa Latina) The expulsions of migrants in France have increased by 14.6 percent in 2017 to reach 14,859, according to figures released today by the Ministry of the Interior.

While the number of expulsions from the national territory in 2016 was 12,961, they almost reached 15,000 last year, the General Directorate of Immigration said in a report.

The announcement comes when the French government is boosting a new asylum law aimed at toughening immigration policy, so that humanitarian associations fear that these numbers can continue to grow.

According to data published today, the number of undocumented people rejected trying to enter the country also increased by 34 percent last year, going from 63,732 in 2016 to 85,408 in 2017.

The French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) stated that France recently responded positively to only 36 percent of asylum claims filed in 2017, less than 38 percent reported in 2016.

According to disclosed figures, refugee applications also grew by 17 percent, reaching 100,412.

  • Published in World

‘Indiscriminate use of violence’: Police clash with migrants protesting eviction in Rome (VIDEO)

Riot police with water cannons in Rome clashed with stone-throwing migrants at a makeshift camp where they were protesting their eviction from a building they have occupied for years. MSF says 13 people were injured in “indiscriminate use of violence.”

Scuffles broke out in central Rome early Thursday, as officers tried to squeeze out around a hundred refugees from Independence Square, which they have occupied since the weekend. Police in riot gear deployed water cannon against the migrants, who used pepper spray and threw stones and bottles at the officers, La Reppublica reports. Two people were arrested, according to Reuters.

Italian police unleash water cannons on migrants in Rome

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says that 13 people have been injured, most of them women. On its Twitter feed, the organization said the “indiscriminate use of violence” followed the eviction, without specifically blaming the police or protesters.

Police, citing the risk that some refugees had gas cylinders and flammable liquids, say force was used in order to remove them from the square, which they refused to do. Protesters have camped inside an office building for the past five years, and have defied an eviction order since last week. According to Italian media, the refugees refused to accept the housing proposed by the municipality yesterday.

On Saturday, 500 police officers cleared the Palazzo Curtatone building, where around 800 refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Ethiopia, had lived since 2013. According to Il Post, the migrants were not offered alternative lodgings immediately after the eviction. As hundreds of displaced people had to sleep on the pavement outside the building, the authorities allowed women and children onto the first floor, Reuters reports.

READ MORE: Tent city: Refugees crowd Paris after ‘Jungle’ closure, residents don’t recognize own city

With most of the squatters having been granted asylum in Italy, banners reading “We are refugees, not terrorists” or “We are not terrorists. We want a house to live in” were hung on the building.

“This is a very sad situation: we are talking about 800 people with refugee status, survivors of wars, persecution or torture, which in some cases have also obtained Italian citizenship, thrown into the streets in inhuman conditions without a real sustainable alternative by the city of Rome, which we have in vain expected in the square,” UNICEF Italy spokesman Andrea Iacovini wrote in a Facebook post.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Italy previously issued a statement, voicing “deep concern” over the eviction, calling on the authorities “to ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection.”

One of the Eritrean squatters, named Simon, told Internazionale newspaper that two women were beaten after police entered the building to take the refugees to the station.

Saturday’s eviction is said to be the fourth such operation since July, conducted as a security measure, AP reported.

As of July, nearly 84,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea this year in an almost 20 percent spike, compared to the same period of last year. Almost 200,000 accommodation places across Italy are nearly filled, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said.

 

  • Published in World

Donald Trump is not Superman

Life is stubbornly showing that a country like U.S. cannot be run in the style of a large capitalist enterprise.

Thus starts to understand it, by the force of blows, who thought the opposite, its current billionaire president, Donald Trump.

Over sixty days ago, he took office, and has already faced two serious political setbacks, so deep that they’re still floating in the international public opinion.

In the first case, he decided to close the doors of the United States to travelers from six Muslim-majority nations.

Balance? That a sort of wildfire spread across the world to challenge the move.

Even in his own national territory there were demonstrations rejecting it and some turned violent.

Last week, Trump and his men could not repeal the Obamacare health plan (also known as Affordable Care Act).

It was a failure because they bombed it without knowing how to replace it properly.

Since then, the current president had turned it into one of his main banners to gain supporters, especially from the far-right.

Now they believe the time had come to, using the scenario of the House of Representatives dominated by them, remove the aforementioned plan.  

But in the face of significant clashes even with their allies in the Capitol building, they withdrew the bill.

That is, an assertive political setback that deeply hit both, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Another concern joins this new exhausting fact: the expensive wall to be built in the US-Mexico border.

AP journalist Alicia A. Caldwell wrote last Saturday that such a huge work “has its own obstacles”.

And she details some:

For example, Trump does not know how he would pay for that huge 30-foot-high wall and with a wonderful view for those who watch it from the north.

Caldwell also writes that Washington will have to contend with an unfavourable geography and “many legal problems”.

Then she takes a look at those obstacles:

Trump vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall, demand that the Mexican government has repeatedly rejected.

The first cost estimate sent to Congress requested $2.6 billion for the wall.

Nevertheless, an internal report prepared by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly concluded that a wall for the whole border would cost about $21 billion.

For his part, Trump assures the cost would be around $12 billion. Chaos within the bigger chaos?

AP notices that, at this point, it is not defined yet how much money the Congress would approve in that regard.

Nearly 50 percent of the 2000-mile (3200-km) the US-Mexico border is in Texas and marked by the Bravo River.

According to AP, Trump will be forced to deal with treaties maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission, as well as several environmental regulations that limit certain type of construction areas.

Moreover, almost the whole land on the Texas border is privately held and most of it belongs to families settled in the area for several generations.

So, observers warn, based on historical experience, that buying their land won’t be easy.

Another unfavourable sign for the Trump collection was the following:

After gathering opinions on Trump’s debacle in Congress, two AP journalists, Michael Warren and Sudhin Thanawala, wrote on Saturday:

Americans benefited with Obamacare “breathed a sigh of relief” with the failure of the Republican attempt to repeal it.

Even more importantly, what happened with the bill corroborates, so to say, that Donald Trump is not superman.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff


Subscribe to this RSS feed