Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 21 Sep 2018 15:51:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:02:29 +0000 Carl Soderbergh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157666 Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Sub Saharan Africans - Israel
Female African asylum-seekers during a protest march where they called on the government to recognise African migrants as refugees, and for the release of Africans who are held in detention facilities.

By Carl Söderbergh
LONDON, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Migration has become a focus of debate in recent years. From United States President Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to Denmark’s new ‘ghetto laws’, the language has become increasingly heated.

The Danish government adopted these measures in 2018, specifically targeting low-income immigrant districts and including compulsory education on ‘Danish values’ for children starting at the age of one. In the United Kingdom, while still Home Secretary, Prime Minister Theresa May instituted a ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012 that was intended to catch undocumented migrants whenever they came into contact with public services.

The policy particularly affected members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, the tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbean men, women and children who came over to the UK after World War Two and settled there legally. It is thought that the number of those deported runs into the hundreds, while many thousands more have had to live for several years in considerable uncertainty.

While a public outcry led to an official apology by the UK government, other leaders and governments have been resolutely unapologetic. Indeed, Trump’s travel ban for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries was approved as constitutional by the US Supreme Court in June 2018.

Such policies – and the often vitriolic language accompanying them – have had a direct and negative impact on migrant and refugee communities. According to data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the annual number of hate crimes against US Muslims recorded by the organization rose 15 per cent in 2017, following on from a 44 per cent increase the previous year – an increase it attributed in part to Trump’s divisive language and the discriminatory measures put forward by his administration.

Muslim woman – Thailand
A Thai policeman checks the papers of a Muslim woman at a checkpoint in Pattani.

On 11 September 2018, Minority Rights Group International launched its annual Minority and Indigenous Trends report by hosting a seminar for journalists in Krakow, Poland. This year, we focused the report on migration and displacement. We chose the theme for two reasons.

One is what I have outlined above – the casual disregard that we have repeatedly witnessed by people in power for the immediate impact of their actions and their words on minority and indigenous communities. Whenever politicians chase voters or news outlets seek to increase their readerships and advertising revenues by targeting migrants, they ignore the very real consequences in terms of increased hatred towards those same communities.

The other reason is that we sought to reflect the lived realities of migrants and refugees themselves – in particular, how discrimination and exclusion drive many people to make the very hard choice to leave their homes. It remains very difficult to arrive at a total percentage of minorities and indigenous peoples among the world’s migrants and refugees.

This is partly due to lack of interest – after all, much of the reporting on migration remains fixated on overall numbers rather than on the individual stories. More particularly, migrants and refugees who belong to minorities or indigenous peoples may well feel a need to remain silent about their ethnicity or religious faith, for fear of further persecution in transit or upon arrival in their new homes.

However, there are many clear indicators from around the world of an immediate causal link between marginalization and movement. The horrifying targeting of Yezidis by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as more recently of Rohingya by the military and its allies in Myanmar, are by now well-documented. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of the communities have been displaced.

Migrant workers – Russia

But there are many other examples of membership in minority and indigenous populations and displacement. In Ethiopia, the government’s crackdown on political dissent, aimed particularly at the Oromo population, contributed directly to an upsurge in migration from that community. Data collected by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) showed that by the beginning of 2017 as many as 89 per cent of arriving Ethiopian migrants in the key nearby transit country Yemen stated that they belong to the Oromo community. In Colombia, displacement by armed groups has continued despite the 2016 peace accord.

This disproportionately affects Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities who made up more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the more than 139,000 forcibly displaced in the country between January and October 2017, double their share of the national population as a whole.

In fact, the Colombian example is important as it highlights how, while global attention shifts away from a particular situation, the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples continues. Here, the distinction governments and UN agencies seek to make between refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other becomes blurred and even unhelpful.

The US government denies asylum to victims of Central American gang violence. However, much of the brutal gang-related violence in Guatemala, for instance, has affected indigenous communities disproportionately: decades of conflict and discrimination have left them impoverished and marginalized, with little recourse to protection from police or the judiciary. Indeed, in many cases their situation has been aggravated by official persecution.

The discrimination that caused many migrants and refugees to leave their homes often follows them while in transit. While the abusive treatment of asylum seekers and their families crossing into the US has been widely reported, the crackdown within Mexico on Central American migrants, particularly indigenous community members, has received less coverage.

Significantly, it has resulted not only in the targeting of foreign nationals, including many women and children, but also the arrest and intimidation of indigenous Mexicans by police. Over the past year, reports have emerged from Libya of sub-Saharan Africans trapped by the containment policies of the European Union, who now find themselves targeted by security forces, militias and armed groups. There have been widespread reports of torture, sexual assault and enslavement of migrants, many of whom are vulnerable not only on account of their ethnicity but also as non-Muslims.

The situation is further complicated for groups within minority or indigenous communities, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI people, who contend with multiple forms of discrimination and as a result face heightened threats of sexual assault, physical attacks and other rights abuses – in their places of origin, whilst in transit and upon arrival at their destinations.

What then is needed?

Firstly, all those participating in national and international debates on migration need to tone down their rhetoric. The Danish government could, for instance, have devised policies supporting marginalized urban districts without resorting to the historically loaded term, ‘ghetto’, which immediately stigmatizes residents while giving a green light to racists.

Secondly, governments need to abide by fundamental human rights principles, including the basic right to live with dignity. And finally, all those who are contributing to the debate – including media – must get past the numbers and reveal the individual stories. In order to discuss migration, one needs to understand it fully.

While the way forward may appear challenging, I was inspired by the many Polish journalists who attended our launch event in Krakow and who are already rising to the challenge by seeking out the stories that migrants and refugees have to tell us.

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Excerpt:

Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Global Warming Threatens Europe’s Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:16:43 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157598 Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent. This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are […]

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Parched olive groves in northern Croatia, where West Nile Virus has already claimed one victim this year. West Nile Virus infections have sharply increased in Europe this year, the World Health Organisation says, largely due to a longer transmission season in the region which this year saw high temperatures and extended rainy spells followed by dry weather, helping mosquito breeding and propagation. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent.

This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are left parched.

It has also, though, seen a spike in cases of the West Nile Virus – which by early September had claimed 71 lives – and the dramatic spread of the potentially lethal vibrio bacteria in an exceptionally warm Baltic Sea. The West Nile Virus is a viral infection spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease and death. Various species of vibrio bacteria cause Vibriosis, which can sometimes lead to deadly skin infections or gastrointestinal disease.“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.” -- Anne Stauffer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

And there have been warnings that global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases on the continent and that the geographical range of mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, is also expanding.

While disease experts are keen to stress that climate change is just one factor involved in the greater incidence of tropical diseases in Europe – increasing global travel, unplanned urbanisation and others factors are also involved – they do, however, agree that changes to temperature, rainfall and humidity make it easier for mosquitoes and other vectors to spread, survive and pass on infections.

Meanwhile, the incidences of vibrio infections – which can cause lethal illnesses in some people with compromised immune systems – reported in the Baltic Sea this year do appear to be directly linked to higher temperatures.

Jan Semenza, acting head of Section Scientific Assessment at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told IPS: “The warming of the Baltic Sea is clearly related to global climate change and the increase in sea surface temperatures there is linked to [the increase in] vibrio bacteria.

“There seems to be a link with a warming climate and vibrio infections in the Baltic Sea.”

He added: “Climate change projections for sea surface temperature ….. indicate a marked upward trend during the summer months and an increase in the relative risk of  these infections in the coming decades.”

Groups dealing with the impact of climate change on health say that this year has been a watershed in European perception of climate change and its effects.

Anne Stauffer, director of Strategy at the non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) group which addresses the effects of climate change on human health, told IPS: “In terms of public awareness this summer’s heatwave has really made people see that climate change is happening in Europe and that we are facing threats.

“In previous years people thought about the effects of climate change only in terms of what’s happened in Africa and other places, not Europe, but now they see that Europe is affected and that Europe is facing challenges.”

But while public awareness of the health threats of climate change in Europe has improved over the last decade, it is still lacking, she says.

Experts on tropical diseases agree that in some countries, people are, perhaps understandably, ignorant of even the presence of certain diseases in Europe.

Rachel Lowe, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told IPS: “It would probably not occur to a lot of people in, say the [United Kingdom], to think about West Nile Virus when they go to Romania.”

Indeed, some tropical diseases have been present in Europe for many years, but confined to very southerly latitudes, while ticks, some of which can carry lyme disease (results in flu-like symptoms and a rash) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain through an infection), are present in many parts of the continent.

But this year has seen a rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis in central and southern Europe.

But with temperatures rising, that could change in the future. Cases of West Nile Virus, which have been reported in some parts of Europe for many years now, were much higher this year than in recent years and were seen much earlier than previously. This has been put down, in large part, to higher temperatures earlier in the year.

At the same time, there has been a documented expansion in the range of disease-carrying ticks in recent years to more northerly latitudes and higher elevations. Hot summers and mild winters have also been reported to be linked, along with other factors, to high incidence of tick-borne disease in certain parts of central and northern Europe.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS: “Increases in temperatures in Europe might allow the establishment of tropical and semitropical vector species, permitting transmission of diseases in areas where low temperatures have hitherto prevented their over-wintering.”

Facing this potential threat, the WHO’s European Region Office has devoted increasing attention over recent years to what it says is the “emerging challenge of vector-borne diseases”.

It has developed a regional framework for surveillance and control of mosquitoes and recommends involving a mix of action, including, among others, political commitment supported with adequate financial resources as well as community engagement for both personal protection against insect bites and vector control activities.

But experts say that general awareness of the presence and threat of tropical diseases in Europe needs to be raised, especially as climate change models see similar long, hot summers as well as milder winters becoming more common across the continent in future and countries could suddenly face outbreaks of diseases they have not had to deal with in the past.

The WHO spokesperson told IPS: “Due to globalisation, increasing volume and pace of travel and trade and weather patterns, vector-borne disease may spread to new areas, thus affecting new populations never exposed to them before.

“In these areas, low general awareness about diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue or chikungunya among the public and both human and animal health professionals might challenge early detection of cases.”

And Lowe told IPS: “People need to be more aware of this [tropical diseases in Europe]. People are becoming more aware of infectious diseases in general, but probably not so aware of the fact there are certain infectious diseases in Europe.”

It is not just public awareness, though, which will help Europe deal with the health threats posed by a changing climate. Whether, for example, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, would be successfully contained, would depend on a number of factors. “This would include factors such as surveillance of mosquito spread, mosquito control as well as general public awareness,” Lowe told IPS.

The WHO told IPS that public health advice needs to be communicated to people for self-protection and while authorities need to make sure mosquito breeding sites are drained so that they do not become breeding grounds for mosquitos while doctors need to be regularly trained to recognise diseases which were uncommon in Europe.

But what some other experts suggest is, rather than trying to deal with outbreaks of diseases, governments should be working to halt climate change and prevent disease outbreaks happening in the first place.

Stauffer told IPS: “There are still unknowns with regards to the health threats potentially posed by climate change and we do not know how they will play out… but the lesson learnt from this summer is that we need to strengthen efforts to tackle climate change – not just adapting healthcare to cope with a warmer climate but also acting to reduce emissions.

“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.”

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2018 11:41:32 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157538 This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

“The Italian and other European authorities are engaging – on the migration issue – in a policy which has the foreseeable results of numerous deaths.” It is a grim warning from expert on international law, refugees and migration issues, and member of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Itamar Mann.

In February 2017, Italy entered into an agreement with Libya to provide funds to Libyan authorities for the coordination of relief operations in the central Mediterranean. Since the agreement, the Libyan Coast Guard has returned migrants to Libya who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

However, according to a recent Amnesty International report both “Italy and the European Union (EU) are bolstering their policy of supporting the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure it prevents departures and carries out interceptions of refugees and migrants on the high seas in order to pull them back to Libya. This is also contributing to rendering the central Mediterranean route more dangerous for refugees and migrants, and rescue at sea unreliable.”

When IPS asked Mann if he thought there was a direct link between the “pull back” of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and the increased number of migrant deaths, Mann described this policy as “killing by omission.”

Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates.

According to Amnesty International:

• From January to July 2018, 1,111 people were reported dead or missing along the central Mediterranean route,

• The death rate among those attempting the crossing from Libya has surged to 1 in 16 in the period June-July, 2018,

• This was four times higher than the rate recorded from January-May 2018, which was 1 in 64.

Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

Moral responsibility lies not only with Italy, but Europe too

In May, GLAN filed an application against Italy with the European Court of Human Rights for a 2017 incident where the Libyan Coast Guard allegedly intervened in the rescue, by an non-governmental organisation, of a sinking dinghy. At least 20 people died, including two children, when the vessel sunk. But the Libyan Coast Guard is reported to have engaged in “pull back” and returned the survivors to Libya, where they reportedly endured detention in inhumane conditions and were beaten, starved and raped.“While Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.” -- Itamar Mann, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).

According to Violeta Moreno-Lax, a senior lecturer in law from Queen Mary University of London, and legal advisor to GLAN: “The Italian authorities are outsourcing to Libya what they are prohibited from doing themselves. They are putting lives at risk and exposing migrants to extreme forms of ill-treatment by proxy, supporting and directing the action of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.”

Mann, however, pointed out that, “while Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.”
“The EU, for example, has tried to advance migrant processing centres in Libya, engaged in training of Libyan forces, and turned a blind eye to continued violations. So beyond the legal case, simply blaming Italy and ignoring the larger context would be misleading,” he told IPS via email.

The Italian government is expected to respond in due course to the legal papers.

Italy’s response to irregular migration

Italy’s stance on migrants has been reported previously. The country’s interior minister Matteo Salvini was reported by the Telegraph as saying his country would no longer be “the doormat of Europe” as it had been left to largely deal with the migrant crisis on its own. The newspaper reported that in May he had called for Italy’s coast guard and naval ships to be pulled back from patrolling the Mediterranean and brought closer to home.

There have been a number of other reported incidents of alleged “pull back”.

At the end of July, Italian authorities reportedly rescued migrants at sea and returned them to Libya. Also in July, the story of how migrants on the Italian coast guard ship, the Diciotti, were reportedly blocked from disembarking by the country’s ministry of interior generated much criticism and gave rise to a heated debate in Europe. The migrants were eventually allowed to disembark in Trapani, Sicily, after intervention by Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella. 

“The repatriation of refugees to Libya is illegal, as international law prohibits the transfer of people, who encounter distress at sea, to ‘unsafe havens,’” Benjamin Labudda, an expert on migration issues and housing conditions of refugees in the European context and a PhD Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Sociology of University of Muenster, told IPS.

Non-refoulement’, a well-known fundamental principle of international law, no country receiving asylum seekers can expel or return them to territories where their lives or freedom could be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Concern for migrants sent back to Libya

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, told IPS he was also concerned about the return of migrants to Libya.

“If a boat is rescued in international waters and returned to Libya, we are facing a ‘pull back’. The fact that we are referring relief operations in international waters to Libya is ambiguous because the migrants would probably be taken to an unsafe port,” he said.

He said the issue should be kept under close observation, as according to international law migrants rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, which was “not a safe harbour.”

“We must promote legality, through more residence permits and integration policies,” said Di Giacomo. “A simple closure would be misunderstood by the countries of origin of these migrants. They would only see ‘the rich Europe that sends back the poor Africans.’”

Labudda added that agreements for the distribution of refugees among EU countries must be institutionalised and enforced, as many countries still refuse to welcome refugees.
“A solution regarding the structure of a process of distribution has to be found as soon as possible in the upcoming months,” he added.

The post International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

The post International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the Northhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:53:42 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157468 “This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending […]

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A drought stressed maize crop on Leo De Jong's farm, in the Netherlands. De Jong says he spends between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

“This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation.”

While most reports point to developing nations being the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is slowly emerging that farmers in the North who generally have more resources are feeling the heat too.

From incessant wild fires and powerful hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to record-breaking high temperatures and droughts in Europe and Asia, the scientific community is unanimously in agreement that climate change is the more likely cause of these extremes in weather.

And it is causing severe disruptions to agricultural production systems, the environment and biodiversity.

This is troubling as, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in temperature of more than 2°C could exacerbate the existing food deficit and prevent the majority of African countries from attaining their Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

While De Jong can afford spending thousands of Euros on irrigation each week, he knows it is no longer sustainable for his farming business. He currently grows potatoes, onions and wheat, among other crops, on 170 hectares of reclaimed land.

Leo De Jong in his potato field, in the Netherlands. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Soil health emerges as key

With 18 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated. Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, but part of the sea was reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

After a flood in 1916, the Dutch government decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland sea within the Netherlands, would be enclosed and reclaimed. And later, the Afsluitdijk was completed—a 32 kilometre dyke which closed off the sea completely. Between 1940 and 1968, part of this enclosed inland sea was converted into land and in 1986 it became the newest province of the Netherlands—Flevoland.

Soil health in the Flevopolder, Flevoland, which sits about four meters below sea level, is of particular importance. De Jong sees it as a hallmark for every farmer in this era of climate change, regardless of their location.

He believes the answer to the climate challenge lies in farmers’ ability to “balance between ecology and economy.” This, he tells IPS, can be achieved through various ways such as improved and efficient irrigation technology, research and innovation, as well as farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges like the one to which he belongs—the Skylark Foundation. At the foundation he exchanges knowledge with a group of colleagues, mainly focusing on soil health.

“I have a feeling that the climate is getting extreme but consistent usage of manure, cover crops and other efficient sustainable practices guarantees good soil health, and soil health is the hallmark on which sustainable crop production is built.”

Similarly, Peter Appelman, who specialises in farming broccoli and cabbage, agrees with the soil health argument.

Appelman says that farmers should not be preoccupied with the various systems (conventional and organic farming) currently being propagated by researchers. He says that farmers should rather adopt systems that work for them depending on the type of soils on their farms.

“We have stopped feeding the crop but the soil,” he tells IPS, pointing at a pile of composite manure. “I am not an organic farmer but I try to be sustainable in whatever way because this comes back to you. You can’t grow a good product in bad soil.”

Market access for sustainability

In addressing the production cost side of the business, Appelman points to consumer satisfaction and predictable markets as key enablers to farmers’ sustainability in this era of climate stress.

As consumer preferences become more obvious, Appelman says farmers should not expend their energies complaining about market access and growing consumer demands but should rather work hard to satisfy them.

“I think my fellow farmers complain too much, which is not the best practice for the business,” he says. “As farmers, we should exert this energy in looking for customers, and work to satisfy them—I believe better farmer-to-customer relations should be the way forward.”

According to Appelman, production should be determined by consumer/market preferences. “I travel around the world looking for markets, and through these interactions, I learn and do my work according to the needs of my customers. Look for customers first and then proceed to produce for them, because it is tough in the production stage,” says Appelman, whose farm has an annual turn-over of about two million Euros.

The Appelman family grow broccoli on 170 hectares and red and white cabbage on 60 hectares.

Research and innovation

According to Professor Louise Fresco, president of the research executive board of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the answer to the global food challenge lies in ensuring that the contribution of agriculture to climate change is positive rather than negative.

This, she says, is only possible through investment in research and innovation in order to achieve maximum efficiency for food production and to minimise waste.

“The agriculture sector therefore needs to do more than produce food—but produce efficiently,” she said in her opening address to the 2018 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in the Netherlands in July. “Food has to be produced not as a chain, but in a circular way. Water and energy use are highlights.”

Under the theme: Dutch roots—small country, big solutions; the congress highlighted what lies at the centre of the Netherlands’ agricultural prowess.

“Productivity through innovation and efficiency is the answer to why the Netherlands,ca small country, is the second-largest agricultural exporter [in the world],” said Wiebe Draijer, chief executive officer and chairman of Rabobank.

Draijer said Rabobank, which was founded as a cooperative, was happy to be associated with the Dutch agricultural prowess, which is anchored in sustainable and innovative practices.

“In response to the global food challenge, we keep refining our lending modalities to support environmental sustainability. For example, we track farmers that we give loans to to monitor their environmental sustainability practices, and there is an incentive in the form of a discount on their loans.”

Sustainability is the buzz word globally. However, it seems there is much more to be done for farmers to achieve it, especially now that negative effects of climate change are similarly being felt in both the north and the global south.

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Crisis alla Turcahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crisis-alla-turca/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-alla-turca http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crisis-alla-turca/#respond Tue, 28 Aug 2018 11:05:40 +0000 Yilmaz Akyuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157380 Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

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Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

By Yilmaz Akyüz
GENEVA, Aug 28 2018 (IPS)

The meltdown of the Turkish currency over a matter of a few days in August 2018 has elicited various reactions and interpretations both at home and abroad, and created widespread concern that it could mark the beginning of a series of crisis in emerging economies exposed to a reassessment of risks by international investors and lenders as well as a rapid normalization of monetary policy in the United States.

Some commentators have attributed the crisis to the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration discontent with the foreign policies pursued by Turkey on many fronts.  The Erdogan government has been too happy to put the blame on “the economic warfare launched by the United States”, rather than years of misguided policies that rendered the economy highly susceptible to political and economic shocks.  It has even enjoyed support from some western governments weary of Trump’s errant foreign policy. Others drew parallels with previous crises in emerging economies, notably the East Asian crisis, placing particular emphasis on the role of external debt in dollars, notably excessive short-term borrowing.

Yilmaz Akyüz

In reality Trump sanctions only acted as a trigger as the economy was sitting on a time bomb.  The currency was already under pressure before the sanctions came into force because of growing awareness of the fragility of the economy.  The lira had lost a quarter of its value against the dollar between January and July 2018.

On the other hand, there are some crucial differences between the underlying vulnerabilities culminating in Turkish and East Asian crises, particularly with respect to the size of current account deficits, the foreign presence in domestic securities, credit and deposit markets, the extent of dollarization and the scope for capital flight by residents.  In all these respects Turkey has been much more vulnerable to currency turmoil than were the East Asian economies in the 1990s.

In a book published by OUP last year, I identified Turkey as the most fragile emerging economy highly vulnerable to external financial crisis after examining, as of end 2013, various sources of potential pressure on its currency and drain on its international reserves in the event of a sharp turnaround in market sentiments and a sudden stop of capital inflows.  It was clear that in such an event, Turkey could not at the same time finance its current account deficit, remain current on its external debt payments in dollars and allow a rapid exit of non-resident portfolio investors from domestic financial markets even in the absence of capital flight by residents.  It was also remarked that capital flight for residents often constituted greater pressure on the currency and international reserves. This was a serious potential threat in Turkey as residents could freely buy and sell dollars, hold forex deposits in local banks and transfer their assets abroad.

The economy has become even more fragile since then.  The current account deficit has remained unchecked as the government sought consumption/construction-led, debt-driven economic expansion which has added very little to productive capacity and export potential.  Persistent deficits have been financed by massive sale of national assets and external borrowing, leading to a rapid deterioration of the net international investment position, from around ‒42 per cent of GDP in 2013 to over ‒54 per cent by 2018.

External debt as a proportion of GDP rose from 41 per cent in 2013 to 63 per cent on the eve of the crisis.  A large proportion of this debt, over 25 per cent of GDP, had a remaining maturity of up to one year. The sum total of short-term debt and current account deficits was more than twice as much as international reserves.  Furthermore, the presence of non-resident portfolio investors in domestic markets became more visible and capital flight by residents remained an even more serious source of pressure on the currency and reserves for political as well as economic reasons.

Turkey, as most other major emerging economies, is highly averse to recourse to the IMF for international liquidity because of its appalling record in interventions in past crises in emerging economies

Sovereign external debt now accounts for some 20 per cent of the total while the rest is equally divided between banks and non-financial corporations.  The latter have been allowed to borrow in dollars both at home and abroad irrespective of their potential to earn foreign currency to service it. Such debt poses greater threat to stability than sovereign debt since, at times of currency turmoil, private debtors attempt to close their open positions by purchasing foreign currency in order to avoid further losses and this in turn accelerates the decline of the currency.

Turkey has thus practised an extreme form of laissez faire in financial affairs and, in effect, become a highly dollarized, dual-currency economy.  Not only liabilities and assets are increasingly denominated in the dollar, but also an important part of property prices, incomes and rents, as well as government contracts in public private partnership projects are fixed in dollars.

In such an economy, a significant loss of confidence can exert intense pressure on the currency irrespective of volume and terms of external debt.  With Trump sanctions the lira started a free fall primarily because of flight of residents, both asset holders and dollar debtors, from the currency, sudden stop of capital inflows and the exit of non-residents from local markets.  Besides, the decline was accentuated by speculators, shorting liras in swap operations in anticipation of a significant drop in the currency. The short-term dollar debt to international creditors has not yet come into play. Still, the outcome has been steep falls in the lira and stocks and a hike in yields on local-currency sovereign debt.  The cost of insuring Turkish debt (Credit Default Swaps – CDS) has shot up, reaching 500 basis points compared to 240bp for Brazil and 315bp for Greece.

In view of stern opposition of the President, the Central Bank avoided a hike in lending rates, but closed its low-cost repo funding, forcing banks to borrow at its more expensive overnight rate ‒ something aptly described as “stealth” tactic to hike borrowing costs.  Further, it has limited currency swap transactions to curb speculation against the lira.

Turkey, as most other major emerging economies, is highly averse to recourse to the IMF for international liquidity because of its appalling record in interventions in past crises in emerging economies.  As anticipated in an earlier IPS article, it thus sought help from its close allies, securing a pledge of $15 billion from Qatar.

These measures, together with 9-days respite from Muslim Eid Al-Adha brought some calm to currency and financial markets.  But all is not over yet. The underlying structural fragilities remain unabated and cannot be remedied overnight because they involve severe balance sheet distortions and imbalances.

Even if the lira remains relatively stable from now on, the sharp decline it has so far undergone ‒ by some 40 per cent since the beginning of the year ‒ could impinge heavily on unhedged debtors, resulting in serious debt servicing difficulties and even defaults.  As Bloomberg reports the CDS curve is inverted ‒ as it was in Greece in the worst days of its debt crisis ‒ not only for sovereign debt but also for the debt of some of the biggest commercial banks; that is, it costs more to insure one-year default than to buy five-year protection.  This suggests that markets are expecting imminent debt-servicing difficulties.

As loans and bonds mature in coming months, the country may find it very difficult to persuade creditors to roll over debt or to replace maturing bonds with new ones even at significantly higher rates.  An important part of syndicated bank loans is due for renewal in September 2018. The dispute with the US involving the state-owned Halkbank over Iranian sanctions can make the renewal process complicated (I thank Hakan Ozyildiz for this point).  Thus, with short-term debt coming into play, the crisis could cease to be a currency crisis but a full-blown debt and banking crisis, leading to a deep and protracted economic contraction.

The crisis could also generate severe contagion to the rest of the world.  Defaults by Turkish debtors could squeeze some European creditors, mainly a number of banks in Spain, Italy and France who have relatively high exposure directly or through subsidiaries in Turkey.  This would also have a serious impact on global risk appetite. A sharp reassessment of risks, together with monetary tightening in the US and Trump follies in trade, could wreak havoc in several emerging economies who have gone out of bounds in the years of easy money since 2008.

When so many policy mistakes are committed and so much debt is accumulated and assets are lost, there is no easy way out.  But, it is always possible to ease the pain. It is not clear if the Turkish government will be able to move from populist rhetoric to effective economic measures to address the root causes of the crisis.  On the other hand, should the crisis spread globally, the international community is unlikely to be able to manage it in an orderly and equitable way, rather than muddling through it as in the past, because it is no more prepared to respond to such crises than it had been in previous episodes.

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Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

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I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 09:41:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157316 This is the first part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Jim arrived in Italy via an ocean port in 2010. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

Jim*, a 34-year-old Nigerian, has been living in Italy for the last eight years. And even though he has a legal permit to reside in the country, he is yet to find steady employment. Instead, for three days a week you will find him begging for alms in front of a supermarket in Rome.

“Nobody is giving me a job even if I go four days a week to give my resume all around the city,” he tells IPS.

Before leaving Nigeria in 2009, he was president of a Christian youth congregation in his hometown. One day, his church was bombed. Jim blames the bombing on a major, central-right political party in Nigeria.

He says the party was against the donation of a generator to his church by another political party."More closure creates only more illegality and consequently the impossibility of promoting and applying integration policies for those migrants, who do not have a legal permit to stay in Europe.” -- Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM.

“We were not subtly colluding with any party,” says Jim.

“Simply, a certain party that had been successful in the last elections, had given us an electric generator and this was not good with the [major central-right political party] because it was afraid of losing its influence.”

As an important figure-head at the church, Jim’s life was at risk.

“One day I was beaten by some militants of the [central-right political party],” Jim tells IPS, closing his eyes when he describes those moments.

He eventually fled the country. And when he arrived in Libya in 2009, Gaddafi was still in power.

When IPS asks him if it was a good place to live, Jim does not hesitate: “It was a terrible place. There was no freedom. I could not walk freely on the streets. [If I did] I would have been stopped by the Asma boys, the criminal gangs who would have robbed me and called the police to lock me up. This was daily life there.”

He says in order to feel safe he would pay to travel by taxi. In 2009, it cost him between USD 7 to USD 144.

“Walking in the streets for a black African was too dangerous.”

Jim worked for five months as a car washer in Libya and saved the USD 1,200 he needed to pay for the trip to Italy.

“The journey is not easy at all, my friend,” he says, his eyes full of emotion.

“I remember that big wave.”

The boat’s captain, a young Algerian man, was able to navigate the wave without any losses.

“Everyone was alone with himself [in that moment], praying to God not to die.

“And when they came to rescue us, I just felt so relieved.”

Nigerian migration to Italy: trends and facts

Jim is one of the 106,069 Nigerians, according to the Italian ministry of interior, who are residing in Italy as of the start of the year. These numbers do not include the many irregular migrants, estimated by the ministry to be in the thousands.

According to the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), although the number of Nigerian migrants entering Italy decreased between 2017 and the first half of 2018; from 2015 to 2017 Nigerian migrants were the largest single group entering the country, largely via ocean ports.

These are the numbers:

  • In 2015: out of 153,842 arrivals, 22,337 were from Nigeria;
  • In 2016: out of 181,436 arrivals, 37,551 were from Nigeria;
  • In 2017: out of  119,369 arrivals, 18,158 were from Nigeria.
  • In the first six months of 2018 Nigerian arrivals numbered only 1,229.

The sharp decrease in 2018 is mainly due to the new closure policies regarding the migration flows, which was initiated in April 2017 by the previous Italian government and supported by the current one.

According to data from the Italian National Institute of Statistics, which is the main producer of official statistics in Italy, Nigerians living in country have risen from:

  • 48,220 registered as of January 2012,
  • to 88,527 in 2017,
  • and to 106,069 in 2018.

“More closure creates only more illegality”

It seems incredulous that Jim, who has a legal permit to stay and work in the country, is still begging for money almost a decade since his arrival.

The only job he was ever able to secure, he tells IPS, was one selling drinks at the Stadio Olimpico. But that had been only for a few months, and the salary was incredibly low.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, tells IPS that something has to change in terms of integration policies.

“Today we are witnessing the management of immigration by European countries marked by closure. This is very wrong: we need to reopen the legal routes,” Di Giacomo says.

“Let’s not forget that an efficient immigration policy, must include everything, even forced repatriations. More closure creates only more illegality and consequently the impossibility of promoting and applying integration policies for those migrants, who do not have a legal permit to stay in Europe.”

In Italy, thousands of migrants struggle to find a regular job that will allow them to legalise their documents.

So in Jim’s case, the paradox is a bitter one. While he has legal rights to stay in Italy, he just cannot find employment.

And struggles to feed himself, let alone his wife and son who live back in Nigeria.

IPS asks him if he ever though about doing something illegal to earn money. But he says: “I am a good Christian, I could never do that.”

*Not his real name.

The post I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is the first part of our series about migration to Italy.

The post I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 16:13:41 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157209 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 61,517 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 12 August. This compares with 118,436 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 265,640 in 2016. Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 […]

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Aug 14 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 61,517 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 12 August. This compares with 118,436 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 265,640 in 2016.

Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 through less than two weeks of August, or nearly the entire volume (2,476) to Spain through this date in all of 2016. By contrast, arrivals to Italy – 19,231 through 12 August of this year – are lower than arrivals recorded during certain individual months in the years 2015-2017 (see chart below).

 

Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 through less than two weeks of August, or nearly the entire volume (2,476) to Spain through this date in all of 2016. By contrast, arrivals to Italy – 19,231 through 12 August of this year – are lower than arrivals recorded during certain individual months in the years 2015-2017

 

Read on: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524

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Save the Children Warns Untraceable Minors in Italy May be Traffickedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:08:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157020 Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked. A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy […]

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The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from some EU member countries. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked.

A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy are untraceable as of May.

Once they escape the facilities, their vulnerable position—having no money, not knowing the language and being often traumatised after their trip to Italy—places them at the mercy of traffickers and exploiters.

Many of these children end up in networks of sexual exploitation, forced labour and enslavement. Save the Children reported that some girls are forced to perform survival sex—to prostitute themselves in order to pay the ‘passeurs’ to cross the Italian border or to pay for food or a place to sleep.

“I left Nigeria with a friend and once we arrived to Sabha (Libya) we were arrested,” Blessing, one of the victims, told Save the Children.

“I stayed there for three months and then I moved to Tripoli. For eight interminable months I was forced to prostitute myself in exchange for food,” she added.

Blessing then reported that her nightmare continued in Italy where she was sexually exploited by a compatriot. She ultimately was able to enter a protection programme thanks to Save the Children. But her story is a rare case of rescue as many other children find themselves enslaved with no end in sight.

According to testimonies collected by the NGO, minors leave reception facilities because they judge the processes of entering the child protection system as a useless slowing down towards the economic autonomy they aspire to and usually leave the centres a few days after identification.

This has been occurring largely in the southern regions of Italy.

But according to the report, “the flow of minors in transit through Italy to northern Europe is, by its own nature, difficult to quantify.” Though it noted that minors transiting through Italy between January and March, make up between 22 percent and 31 percent out of the total transitioning migrants across the country. The minors are mostly Eritrean (14 percent), Somalis (13 percent), Afghans (10 percent), Egyptians (9 percent) and Tunisians (8 percent).

“The fact that the European Union relocation programme was blocked in September 2017, has contributed in an important way to forcing children in transit to re-entrust themselves to traffickers, or to risk their own lives to cross borders, as well as it continues to happen for those minors who transit through the Italian north frontier with the aim of reaching the countries of northern Europe,” Roberta Petrillo, from the child protection department of Save the Children, Italy, told IPS.

The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from the EU member countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.

The EU’s initial plan provided for the relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries within two years. As of May, 12,690 and 21,999 migrants were relocated from Italy and Greece respectively. To date, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 refugees, Slovakia 16, with Hungary and Poland having taken no refugees.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 10 million children and youth across the world were forced into slavery, sold and exploited, mainly for sexual and labour purposes in 2016.

They make up 25 percent of the over 40 million people who are trafficked, of which more than seven out of 10 are women and girls. According to the ILO estimates, nearly one million victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 were minors, while between 2012 and 2016, 152 million boys and girls aged between five and 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour. More than half of these activities were particularly dangerous for their own health.

“When we talk about data of this kind we must be very cautious because we are dealing with numbers that only concern the emergence of the phenomenon, without keeping track of the submerged data,” Petrillo added.

There were 30,146 registered victims of trafficking and exploitation in 2016 in the 28 EU countries with 1,000 of them minors.

However, according to 2016 figures from the ILO, 3.6 million people across Europe were reportedly modern day slaves.

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade. It is estimated to be an industry worth USD32 billion annually.

The most targeted

Nigerian and Romanian girls are amongst the most targeted by the trafficking networks.

According to Save the Children, for the journey that will take them to Italy, the Nigerian girls contract a debt between 20,000 and 50,000 euros that they can only hope to repay by undergoing forced prostitution.

Like their peers from Romania, they enter a mechanism of sexual exploitation from which they cannot get free easily.

While Nigerians escape mainly for security issues and political instability, Romanian girls flee their country because of a total lack of opportunities and economic autonomy there. Their deep economic deprivation makes them highly vulnerable and easy targets for traffickers, who deceive or coerce them to enter into networks of sexual exploitation. 

According to the Save the Children Report, in 2017 there were a total of 200 minor victims of trafficking and exploitation who were put into protection programmes. The vast majority of these, 196, were girls with about  93.5 percent Nigerian girls aged between 16 and 17 years.

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy,  told IPS that migrant men were welcomed with open arms because they were useful for working under exploited conditions.

However, migrant women were welcome only because they were used for prostitution.

“By not guaranteeing legal and safe paths for those fleeing wars and persecution, by not organising and recognising the presence of migrant workers, we just do a favour to the criminal groups, who build real fortunes on trafficking in human beings,” Noury told IPS.

While Petrillo said that “the Italian and the EU legal framework is solid and a good one,” she cautioned that  “what is needed, instead, is a unitary intervention that closely links the issue of anti-trafficking reality with that of minors in transit. And we must be able to guarantee universal protection for the victims.”

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Global Compact & the Art of Cherry-Picking Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/global-compact-art-cherry-picking-refugees/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 13:41:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156949 When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was asked about the legality of the UN’s much-ballyhooed Global Compact for Migration, he was initially evasive in his response. “I’m not a lawyer”, he told reporters July 12, “and I presume that this question might be better asked from a lawyer”. Still, he pointed out that “if I remember well […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was asked about the legality of the UN’s much-ballyhooed Global Compact for Migration, he was initially evasive in his response.

“I’m not a lawyer”, he told reporters July 12, “and I presume that this question might be better asked from a lawyer”.

Burundian refugees arriving from a transition camp in Nyanza are processed at Mahama camp in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. Credit: UNHCR / Anthony Karumba

Still, he pointed out that “if I remember well in my past capacity (as UN High Commissioner for Refugees), I don’t think this can be considered as customary law in the sense, like, for instance, the 1951 Convention (on Refugees), even for countries that have not signed it, is valid as customary international law.”

In the case of something that is not legally binding, (which the Global Compact is), he said: “I don’t think it can be considered directly as customary international law”.

Guterres chief Spokesman Stephen Dujarric added a note of levity when he intervened: “We’ll get a lawyer”. [Laughter]

But the growing humanitarian crises, which triggered the Global Compact for Migration, is no laughing matter.

The lingering question, however, remains: If countries such as the US, Australia, Hungary and the Gulf nations, who have signed and ratified the 1951 Convention, continue to restrict or bar political refugees, what good is the Global Compact, whose implementation is only voluntary?

At the same time there are growing political movements in countries such as UK, Italy and Germany challenging the entry of political refugees and migrants in violation of the Convention.

Asked about the shortcomings of the Compact, Charlotte Phillips, Advisor/Advocate, Refugee and Migrants’ Rights team at the London-based Amnesty International (AI) , told IPS: “As you rightly point out, the Compact is non-binding, which means there is no legal obligation for states to put the Compact into action.:

She said this is one of the key problems with the Compact. It effectively means that states can cherry pick which aspects of the Compact they want to implement.

This reflects and entrenches the current status quo whereby wealthier states can pick and choose what, if any, measures they take to share responsibility, leaving major hosting nations in developing regions to shoulder the lion’s share of refugees, she pointed out.

“Having said that, the Compact is supposed to express a consensus commitment and member states have spent months negotiating the details of the Compact, showing that states do take its content seriously.

“The real question now is whether the political will needed from governments to implement the Compact is there?,” she said.

It is also worth noting, she pointed out, that many of the states negotiating the Compact have already ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which is legally binding and these obligations are still relevant and the Convention is referenced in the Compact’s guiding principles.

“Despite this, whilst negotiations have been in full swing, we have seen the rights of refugees violated by governments. For example, we have seen European governments attacking NGOs’ capacity to rescue refugees stranded at sea and adopting policies of deterrence and border control that expose refugees to abuses”.

“We have seen Australia continue to justify its cruel and torturous detention practises on Manus Island and Nauru. For the Compact to be worth the paper it is written on, we need to see the principles laid out in the Compact translated into real action to protect refugees,” she declared.

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and an independent consulting demographer, told IPS: “The Global Migration Compact is a step in the right direction, but it will not resolve major problems, including the refugee crisis.”

Why?
Fundamentally, he argued, the Compact is non-binding and voluntary and while various factors are at play, four key elements are human rights asymmetry, global demographics, limited migration options and growing opposition.

Firstly, Human rights asymmetry: you have a right to leave your country, but you don’t have a right to enter another country. (See: “Knock, Knock …. Who’s There? Many Migrants!“).

Secondly, Global demographics: the demand for migrants in receiving countries is far less than the growing pool of potential migrants in the sending countries. (See: “Prepare for the 21st Century Exodus of Migrants“).

Thirdly, Limited migration options: the large majority of people wishing to emigrate basically have no legal means available to them other than illegal migration. (See: “Understanding Unauthorized Migration“).

Fourthly, Growing opposition: countries worldwide increasingly aim to reduce immigration levels and stem record flows of refugees by erecting fences and barriers, strengthening border controls, tightening asylum policies and restricting citizenship. (See: “Mind the Gap: Public and Government Views Diverge on Migration“).

A New York Times report on July 22 said thousands protested in cities across Australia to mark five years of a controversial government policy under which asylum seekers and migrants have been turned away and detained in Pacific Islands such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru for years –triggering criticisms from human rights groups and UN refugee agencies.

The fate of over 1,600 people remains in limbo due to this practice of “off shore processing” of asylum seekers.

The Global Compact for Migration, which is expected to be adopted at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in December, is unlikely to resolve their key problems.

The United Nations is expecting 192 countries to participate in the Morocco conference, minus the US which pulled out of the negotiations back in December, with the Trump administration hostile towards cross border migrations and with a ban on migrants from six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.

An estimated 258 million people are categorized as international migrants, and since 2000, about 60,000 people have died while crossing the seas or passing through international borders.

The European Union (EU) is taking one of its members, Hungary, to the European Court of Justice because of its anti-immigrant laws in violation of several EU treaties.

Iverna McGowan, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, was critical of Hungary’s decision to prohibit civil society organizations (CSOs) from advocating the cause of migrant and refugees.

“Hungary’s attempts to prohibit the legitimate and vital work of people and civil society organizations working to protect the rights of migrants and asylum-seekers are unacceptable.”

“By challenging a legislative package that flagrantly breached EU human rights law, the European Commission has sent a clear and unambiguous message that Hungary’s xenophobic policies will not be tolerated” she said, pointing out that European leaders who have remained largely silent over the human rights crackdown in Hungary must now follow the Commission’s lead and call for these laws to be shelved.

“With new restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly also on track for adoption by the Hungarian parliament tomorrow, it is more important than ever to challenge the Hungarian government loudly and clearly,” said McGowan.

According to Amnesty International, the new infringement procedure by the European Commission concerns a package of xenophobic measures that came into effect in Hungary on 1 July 2018.

Under these laws people providing assistance to asylum seekers and migrants, including lawyers and international and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), can have their access restricted to asylum-processing areas and may even face criminal proceedings if they facilitate claims that are unsuccessful.

The measures make it impossible for people who passed through another country before arriving in Hungary to claim asylum, said Amnesty in a statement released last week.

The European Commission found these measures to be in violation of the Union’s Asylum Procedures, Reception Conditions and Qualifications Directives and of the right to asylum. It also pointed out inconsistencies with the EU’s provisions on the free movement of Union citizens and their family members.

Hungary’s policies and practices on refugees, asylum seekers and migrants cause unnecessary human suffering, while the government has increasingly sought to silence critical voices, Amnesty warned.

Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the Global Compact is the biggest step the world has taken to cooperatively face the defining policy challenge of our time: how to better regulate international migration in this century.

The Compact offers a clear mandate and roadmap for countries to work together to get more of what they want from migration and less of what they do not want, he noted.

Unfortunately, he warned, there is currently a political movement ascendant in the U.S., UK, Italy, and elsewhere promising to address the many problems of migration by restricting or eliminating it altogether.

This new Compact is the defining alternative to that movement. It is a treasure chest of the best ideas on how to address the many challenges of migration with hard work and a pragmatic cooperative approach, he said.

“While the Compact is now final, the real work is just beginning. As countries prepare to adopt the Global Compact for Migration in December, discussions will revolve around how to operationalize and implement the commitments agreed to in this document”.

One innovation endorsed by the Compact, he said, is the idea to create Global Skill Partnerships. Other innovations should also be piloted and tested out, as countries and their partners work to identify sustainable solutions to today’s migration challenges and opportunities.

“The road ahead will be difficult and many of the challenges and points of contention that arose during the Compact’s negotiations will not disappear with its adoption”.

Rather, countries will need to tackle these challenges head-on as they work toward pragmatic, evidence-based, and coordinated migration policies and practices that fulfill the objectives and commitments of the Compact, he declared.

Chamie told IPS while the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol are legally-binding, implementation remains problematic, even when countries are in violation.

The trend is clear: governments are increasingly resisting taking in refugees and those who seek asylum. Why?

Global demographics play a central role because of the sheer record-breaking levels of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons.

Claiming refugee status: further complicating the refugee situation is as many unauthorized migrants seek to improve their lives and those of their children. (See: “The Dilemma of Desperation Migration“).

Implicit message: the de facto message and understanding of men, women and children including smugglers as well as the implicit principle guiding many governments of receiving countries is: If you can get in and keep a low profile, you can stay. (See “Illegal Immigration Illogic“).

Ineffective policies: due to the complexity of the issue, limited resources, human rights concerns and heated public sentiments, government policies have been ineffective in coping with surges of unwanted migration.

In the end, although invariably contentious, deferred action, amnesty and regularization are frequently used to address large numbers of unauthorized migrants. (See: “Unwanted Migration: How Governments Cope?“).

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Migration/Pages/GlobalCompactforMigration.aspx

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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‘Agromafia’ Exploits Hundreds of Thousands of Agricultural Workers in Italyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agromafia-exploits-hundreds-thousands-agricultural-workers-italy/#comments Fri, 27 Jul 2018 08:59:20 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156912 In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato. The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, […]

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Bitter gourds, or “ampalayas” are difficult to find in Italy, but easy to find in the Esquilino market in Rome. In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions. Credit: Maged Srour/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

In Italy, over 400,000 agricultural labourers risk being illegally employed by mafia-like organisations, and more than 132,000 work in extremely vulnerable conditions, enduring high occupational suffering, warns the fourth report on Agromafie and Caporalato.

The report, released this July by the Italian trade union for farmers, Flai Cgil, and the research institute Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, sheds light on a bitter reality that is defined by the report itself as “modern day slavery”. The criminal industry is estimated to generate almost five billion euros."We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy." -- Susanna Camusso, secretary general of CGIL

“The phenomenon of ‘Caporalato’ is a cancer for the entire community,” Roberto Iovino from Osservatorio Placido Rizzotto, told IPS. “Legal and illegal activities often intertwine in the agro-food sector and it ultimately becomes very difficult to know who is operating in the law and who is not.”

The criminal structure is called Caporalato or Agromafia when it touches a number of aspects of the agri-food chain. It is administered by ‘Caporali’, who decide on working hours and salaries of workers. The phenomenon is widespread across Italy. From Sicilian tomatoes, to the green salads from the province of Brescia, to the grape harvest used for producing the ‘Franciacorta’ sparkling wine in Lombardia, to the strawberries harvested in the region of Basilicata—many of these crops would have been harvested by illegally-employed workers, according to the report.

Miserable salaries and excessive working hours

The average wages of the exploited, warns the report, range between 20 and 30 euros per day, at an hourly rate of between three to four euros. Many reportedly work between eight to 14 hours per day, seven days a week. The majority of the collected testimonies show that many workers are paid less than their actual time worked and their salaries are 50 percent lower than the one outlined by the national contract for farmers.

In some areas like Puglia or Campania in southern Italy, most salaries are paid on a piecework basis or per task.

Some workers reported to Flai-Cgil that they were paid only one euro per hour and that they had to pay 1.5 euros for a small bottle of water, five euros for the transportation to reach the field and three euros for a sandwich at lunchtime each day. Day labourers are also required to pay between 100 to 200 euros for rent, often in abandoned, crumbling facilities or in remote and less-frequented hotels.

The money was paid to the ‘Caporale’ or supervisor.

According to the report, a ‘Caporale’ earns between 10 to 15 euros a day per labourer under their management, with each managing between 3,000 to 4,000 agricultural workers. It is estimated that their average monthly profit fluctuates between tens to hundreds of thousands of euros per month, depending on their position in the pyramid structure of the illegal business. It is alleged in the report that no tax is paid on the profits and this costs the state in lost income and also impacts on companies operating within the law.

“Those people [‘Caporali’] are not naive at all,” one of the workers told the trade union’s researchers. “They know the laws, they find ways of counterfeiting work contracts and mechanisms to [circumvent] the National Social Security Institute.” The institute is the largest social security and welfare institute in Italy.

“They have a certain criminal profile,” the worker explained.

Migrant victims

The ‘Caporali’ are not just Italians but Romanians, Bulgarians, Moroccans and Pakistanis, who manage their own criminal and recruiting organisations. The report warns that recruitment not only takes place in Italy but also in the home countries of migrants like Morocco or Pakistan.

In 2017, out of one million labourers, 286,940 were migrants. It is also estimated that there are an additional 220,000 foreigners who are not registered.

African migrants also reportedly receive a lower remuneration than that paid to workers of other nationalities.

These victims of Agromafia live in a continuous state of vulnerability, unable to claim their rights. The report points out that some workers have had their documents confiscated by ‘Caporali’ for the ultimate purpose of trapping the labourers. It also highlights the testimonies of abuse, ranging from physical violence, rape and intimidation. One Afghan migrant who asked to be paid after months without receiving any pay, said that he had been beaten up because of his protests.

The report also estimates that 5,000 Romanian women live in segregation in the Sicilian countryside, often with only their children. Because of their isolation many suffer sexual violence from farmers.

Luana told Flai-Cgil of her abuse. “He offered to accompany my children to school, which was very far to reach on foot,” she said. “If I did not consent to this requests, he threatened not to accompany them any more and even to deny us drinking water.”

“We have to put humanity first, and then profit”

Many of the victims hesitate to report their exploiters because they are fearful of losing their jobs. A Ghanaian boy working in Tuscany told Flai-Cgil that Italians have explained to him how to lay a complaint, but he holds back because he still has to send money to his family.

During the report release Susanna Camusso, secretary general of the country’s largest trade union, CGIL, said: “We must rebuild the culture of respect for people, including migrants. These are people who bend their backs to collect the food we eat and who move our economy.

“We must help these people to overcome fear, explaining to them that there is not only the monetary aspect to work. A person could be exploited even if he holds a decent salary. We have to put humanity first, and then profit .”

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Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigration-lot-myths-little-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:03:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156748 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest statistics, the total flow of immigrants that reached Europe so far in 2018 is 50.000 people, compared with 186,768 last year, 1,259,955 in 2016 and 1,327,825 in 2015. The difference between reality and perceptions is so astonishing, we are clearly witnessing one of the most brilliant manipulations in history.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The latest survey carried out of 23,000 citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows an enormous level of disinformation. In five of those countries, people believe that immigrants are three times higher than they actually are.

Italians believe they account for 30% of the population when the figure is actually 10%, an average which is lower than the media of the European Union. Swedes are those closest to reality: they believe immigrants account for 30%, when in fact the figure is 20%.

Italians also believe that 50% of the immigrants are Muslim, when in fact it is 30%; conversely, 60% of the immigrants are Christian, and Italians think they are 30%.

In all six countries, citizens think that immigrants are poorer and without education or knowledge, and therefore a heavy financial burden. Italians think that 40% of immigrants are jobless, when the figure is close to 10%, no different from the general rate of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the 7th report on the economic impact of immigration in Italy from the Leone Moressa Foundation, which based its research on Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) data, has presented some totally ignored facts.

The 2.4 million immigrants in Italy have produced 130 billion euros, or 8.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – an amount larger than the GDP of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. In the last five years, out of a total of nearly 6 million Italian companies, 570.000 – or 9.4% of the total – were started by immigrants. Tito Boeri, president of Italy’s national pension agency INPS, has told Parliament that immigrants give 11.5 billion euro to the system, more than what they cost. He also stressed that Italy is going through a demographic crisis, with only seven births for every eleven deaths.

The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

Well, Matteo Salvini, the emerging Italian leader, who has based all his political success on making immigrants the greatest threat facing Italy, answered on Twitter: Boeri lives on Mars. And that was the end of the story. For more than 50% of Italians, Salvini’s tweet was more conclusive than real statistics.

The same happened with the outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Swing, who quoted a study conducted by the IOM and McKinsey Global Institute which “determined that although only 3.5% of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of the global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is more than four percent than if they stayed at home”. This made no impact on Trump electors, white rural and red collars, who are convinced that immigration is a threat to the country, even though they all have immigrant roots.

In other words, facts are irrelevant. Perceptions count more.

Let us take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is being weakened by the immigration issue, barely escaping a revolt of her Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s party.

The shy and timid Trump was glad to come to Seehofer’s help, tweeting that the people of Germany are “turning against” their government over the issue of migration, which has led to an increase in crime. The fact that Germany has witnessed a strong decrease in crime is, of course, irrelevant for someone who has made more than 3,750 false statements over his 38.187 tweets (as of July 14).

Now, Trump’s tweets have 53,111,505 followers (as of July 15). The total circulation of the 1,331 dailies newspapers in the United States is close to 62 million, but the total circulation of the 100 largest dailies is below 10 million copies. So, whatever they write is massively overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets.

Trump is not alone in his campaign … he has allies in Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kazynscky, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini and the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman, all in power. Then, in the wings, we have Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in Great Britain and so on for nearly every European country, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. All together, they have been using immigration, nationalism and xenophobia as the tool of the new “alternative right” for success.

Let us go back to the case of Germany. Bavaria, which is threatening Berlin’s government, is the richest state in Germany, with a population of 12.2 million people. Munich is the third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg, with 1.4 million people, is the second largest employer in the country, and has attracted immigrants, which are all together less than 200,000. The local daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung, estimates Muslims at 32.000.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), the extreme right-wing party that won 13% of the vote (and 92 seats in parliament) in the last elections, is essentially based on an anti-immigrant platform. In a poll in March it narrowly surpassed the centre-left Social Democrats for the first time in history. The poll, by INSA and commissioned by the newspaper Bild, showed AfD support at 16% compared with the SPD’s 15.5% – a  new low for what has traditionally been one of Germany’s largest parties.

In the last polls, AfD appears to win over CSU in Bavaria, where Muslim immigrants are rare. But the main base for AfD comes from the old East Germany, where immigrants are one-quarter of those in West Germany. So, there is no rational link between reacting to the presence of immigrants and votes. AfD wins more votes where there are fewer immigrants.

The CDU is now running frantically towards extreme right-wing, xenophobic positions in order not to lose out to the AfD. It will probably lose anyway since history shows that voters always prefer to vote the original than copies. But Germans, and Bavarians, are thought to be rational people.

The statistics are clear. Each year there are 300,000 less working people. Of the 80.6 million Germans, only 61% is of working age. In 2050, this will shrink to 51%, and those older than 65 will increase from 21% to 33%. The birth rate in Germany is 1.5%, while a birth rate of 2.1% is necessary to keep the population at the same level. The huge influx of immigrants has increased the birth rate to a modest 1.59%. Immigrants tend to imitate local trends and do not have many children.

Therefore, it is clear to all that within two decades productivity will decline dramatically (some say by 30%) because of less people working, and there will be not enough payers to keep the pension and social security systems going. It will be the end of the German locomotive.

The same consideration applies throughout Europe, which has a statistical birth rate of 1.6, meaning that it will lose close to one million people each year. The UN Population Division considers that Europe should have an influx of 20 million immigrants just to maintain its course. This is clearly impossible in today’s political system.

With impeccable observation, Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina has noted that football players, artists and rich people, even those who are Muslims, like princes are most welcome in Europe. Those who are not welcome are the poor. So, she wrote a book on why we are not faced with real xenophobia. What we face, she wrote, is aporofobia, a term she coined using the word ‘apora’, the Greek word for ‘poor’. In fact, this defence of European civilisation is an updated version of colonialism.

And yet we have plenty of data about the positive impact of immigration. The last is a very complex study over 30 years of immigration, carried out by the very respected French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and published by Science Advances, on the 15 European countries which received 89% of demands for asylum in 2015, the year of the great influx from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After four years, partly due to the length of the bureaucratic process, GNP rises by 0.32%. Impacts on the fiscal system are also relevant. Prof. Hippolyte D’Albis, one of the authors, observes that initially immigrants are of course a cost, but this public money is reinvested in society, and for ten years they produce more wealth than the general population. After ten years they melt into the general statistics.

It is obvious that the dream of people who come in Europe to escape hunger or war is to find a job as soon as possible, pay taxes and contributions to ensure their stability and future, and work hard. At least for a decade.

And it is interesting to see the difference between the new right and the old right. The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

 

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

 

Reality is fake news. Trump has claimed that the 250,000 demonstrators opposed to his visit to Great Britain and kept him out of the centre of London, were in fact his supporters. You need not be only a narcissist, you also need to reverse reality.

The question, therefore, is what has happened to people? Trump’s changing the intention of 250,000 demonstrators would once have attracted ridicule. Not now: for Trump’s supporters, his tweets are undisputed truth.

His meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought the vaguest of results, He walked out of the Iran deal, which had several pages of agreement, saying it did not address issues. At the July NATO summit in Brussels, he attacked everybody, and then said that all had engaged to increase to their military budget  to 4% (the United States stands at 3.6%). In his visit to the United Kingdom, he scolded beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, defended a hard Brexit and saluted resigning Minister of Foreign Affairs and hard Brexiter Boris Johnson as his favorite. He told May that he had not come to negotiate, but to obtain what he wanted. He then met Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States was responsible for the bad relations between the two countries, that Putin was to be believed when he said that there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and that the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, with the probe into those elections by special counsel Robert Mueller, were an American disgrace. When in US history has a president scolding his allies and praising enemies of the United States raised not even an eyebrow from the Republican US electorate, which is now Trumpian over and above anything else?

The fact of the matter is that, as a survey released in June last year by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) shows, the concept of democracy itself is in danger.

The survey asked more than 3,000 scholars and country experts to evaluate each of 178 countries on the quality of core features of democracy. At the end of 2016, most people lived in democracies. Since then, one-third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, have gone through “autocratisation”, in which a leader or group of leaders begins to limit democratic attributes and rule more unilaterally.

Four of the most populous countries – India, Russia, Brazil and the United States – have been affected by autocratisation. Other large countries in democratic decline in the past !0 years include Congo, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland.

The United States fell from 7th to 31st place in just two years. The US Congress does not like to be able to put reins on the president, the opposition party appears unable to have any influence over the governing party, and the Judiciary is becoming much more partisan than balanced. The US Supreme Court looked like a counterweight to the Executive, but now its ranking has slipped to 48th place.

A poll by the McKinsey Institute found that today a full 41% of Americans would not mind not living in democracy if the leader they liked were to remain in power beyond the constitutional term.

It is fact that people elect those they like, and therefore any country has the leader its voters elect, be it Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Trump … and not centuries ago Mussolini and Hitler. If they want to listen to saviours sent by God, who care nothing about reality, that is their right. We can only mourn the growing somnambulism of people.

The serious problem is that this view of the world will only bring with a disaster in the not too distant future. It is really urgent, for example, to create an immigration policy, to establish criteria for those that the industrialised countries need to be able to to remain in global competition.

This will not happen. All immigrants are presented as a threat, just as a cynical road to power, regardless of reality. Africa’s population will double in the next few decades. Nigeria will grow to 400 million, the present population of Europe. Sixty percent of Africa’s population is now under 25, compared with 32 percent in the United States and 27 percent in Europe.

Are Europeans going to machine gun the immigrants, (as some xenophobes are already asking) and decline to a region of old people, with little if no pension and a non-existent social system? Is Europe going to lose its original identity, and the values that are enshrined not only in the European constitution, but also in those at national level?

The French Parliament has eliminated the term “race” from its constitution, and the Portuguese government will give Portuguese citizenship to immigrants who have a stable job after one year.

On the other hand, the government of the Netherlands, with the support of parliament, has decided that will refuse to allow children born by Dutch parents enrolled with ISIS to return on the grounds that those children have been born and raised in a climate of hate and violence, and thus constitute a danger for Dutch society.

The Netherlands was once a symbol of tolerance, and for centuries refugees went there, fleeing from religious or political conflicts. Today, the Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people, with a high standard of living. How many such ISIS children are there? The astounding number of 145! Would it not be possible to find 145 families where those children – who have no responsibility for their situation – could forget the horrors they went through and enjoy the benefits of their nationality which, by international law, is considered non-waiverable? Meanwhile, the United States is separating more than 5.000 children from their immigrant parents.

Under this unprecedented face of the West, is this the new Europe and United States that their citizens want?

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Europe Needs to Stop the Criminal Business Behind Immigrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2018 09:03:35 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156618 Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert. Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency […]

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According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about 42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. The number of migrants entering Europe have reduced in comparison to previous years. Courtesy: Laura Verduci/Doctors Without Borders.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert.

Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency funds being squandered or embezzled.

Verduci, who currently works for Doctors Without Borders and is now based in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, says: “Once you consider it as an emergency, this implies the allocation of extra [financial] resources … I realised during my experience in Sicily, that they are subcontracted to private entities that bring the entire process into illegal and unfair activities.”

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about  42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. It may still be early to compare this with last year’s figure of about 172 000 migrants, but if the overall migration in previous years is anything to go by the numbers seem to be decreasing from a high of just over one million migrant arrivals in 2015 to almost a third that in 2016. In comparison to Europe’s total population of about three quarters of a billion people, some see this as a drop in the ocean and not an emergency situation. 

The reduced numbers do not explain the long delays many migrants experience.

In Italy, most migrants are still trying to obtain political asylum or, in some cases, be included on official asylum lists.

A cultural mediator who works in a refugee centre in the north of Italy and wanted to speak anonymously, tells IPS that in some cases the bureaucratic procedures to obtain asylum in Italy are intentionally slowed by authorities in order to prolong the residence time of migrants in those centres, purely for the allocation of public funds. The International Press Foundation has previously reported on the issue.

Verduci has experienced the wasteful spending firsthand.

“I remember while I was working in Trapani, that we had to wait for slippers for migrants that were purchased from a supplier in Messina, which is on the other side of Sicily. We could buy slippers anywhere close to Trapani but the [purchase of the slippers] had been subcontracted to that specific seller,” she tells IPS.    

Last year, an Italian court convicted 41 people, including personalities and politicians both from right-wing and left-wing parties, for stealing money from public contracts. The Mafia-like system used intimidation to win contracts in Rome. 

The racket controlled many municipal services, such as rubbish collection and management, public spaces’ maintenance and refugee centres. The investigation revealed that most of those financial resources were never spent for what they were intended — to improve living conditions in the refugee centres — but were siphoned off.

“I can see clearly a link between criminality and some political parties in Italy,” says Verduci.

“There are criminal organisations are interested in prolonging the economic and social uncertainty of migrants who, if unemployed and isolated from society, risk to enter into illegal activities,” says Verduci.

Verduci refers not only to the alleged links between criminal organisations and Italian politics but also to the more transnational aspect of human trafficking that has been taking place between Libya and Italy.

There have been reports in the media accusing the previous Italian government of striking a deal with Libyan militias involved in human trafficking to stop migration flows to Italian shores. The government had denied the reports at the time. But it was reported that after the alleged agreements were made, migrants arrivals dropped significantly.

Analysts like Den Boer from the University of Kent and Valerie Hudson from Texas A&M University believe that it would be a mistake to consider only the benefits of migration, which also brings some negative effects if not addressed with the suitable policies.

There is also the risk that migrants could remain trapped in a limbo of inadequacy in European societies if countries do not offer suitable integration policies. 

Migrants, if forced to live in poverty, without the chance of gaining employment or an education, risk being exploited by criminal organisations.

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United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

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People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

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Tackling Goal 8 and Modern Day Slavery through Technologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:55:50 +0000 GSN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156355 Pursuant to the ‘Joint Declaration of Faith Leaders Against Modern Slavery’ signed under the auspices of Pope Francis at the Vatican on 2 December 2014, the ‘Global Sustainability Network – GSN’ and ‘Rani’s Voice’, commemorate and reaffirm support for the victims in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’ on July […]

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By GSN
Vatican City, Jun 22 2018 (GSN)

Pursuant to the ‘Joint Declaration of Faith Leaders Against Modern Slavery’ signed under the auspices of Pope Francis at the Vatican on 2 December 2014, the ‘Global Sustainability Network – GSN’ and ‘Rani’s Voice’, commemorate and reaffirm support for the victims in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’ on July 30th, 2018

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo – Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences hosts the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) gathering on Tackling Goal 8 and Modern Day Slavery through Technology and in conjunction with ‘Rani’s Voice’ commemorate the ‘Freedom of Former Victims’ and announce the ongoing support of the GSN to those at the coal-face of battling Modern Day Slavery in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’, on July 30, 2018.

The GSN is a network of over 700 global change-makers across the Government, Business, Faith, Media, Community & NGOs and Academia sectors committed to achieving Goal 8 ( with special emphasis on Goal 8.7 of tackling Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking ) of the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals.

Rani Hong, is the CEO of Rani’s Voice, and President of the Tronie Foundation and a survivor of child slavery and has had the privilege of speaking at the Pontifical Academy on their plans to place a focus on refugees and how to keep them from being at risk of falling into slavery or forced labor. She advocates, campaigns and tells her personal story in lectures and presentations to bring a voice to the voiceless as an advocate for those who are still enslaved around the world. “This is why I’m telling my story today,” Hong explains, “There are millions of other individuals, like that little girl I was — imprisoned, enslaved, and silenced — unable to tell my story. I therefore speak for those without a voice”.

“Today, the GSN is providing its further endorsement and support of Rani’s Voice in the call upon all that recognize the ongoing need to protect the rights of the victims of human trafficking. The GSN will continue to engage in supporting those, whom like Rani, are taking concrete action aimed at permanent and sustainable change” says Romy Hawatt – Founding Member – Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ).

 

SOME HISTORY

In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which urges governments around the world, as well as the UN’s programs to integrate and encourage integrate human trafficking awareness, security, and an establishment of a trust fund for victims of trafficking.

Due in part to Rani’s advocacy, in 2013, the United Nations designated July 30th as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. On this powerful day, individuals and communities are invited to gather together, consider the lives of victims, and share the facts and truths about human trafficking, in order to honor and recognize those who still suffer from modern day slavery while also spreading awareness of this global issue. “I call upon all of you to commit yourselves-to create a world we know is possible: a world in which every person has the right to human dignity,” says Hong,

In 2014, the UNDOC and world leaders spread the awareness of human trafficking and slavery through social media campaigns and other events that engaged the community and the world, Continuing to 2015, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was adopted by the world and embraced goals that targeted the eradicated of modern day slavery. Target 8.7 of the Agenda commits States to take strong, immediate measures to eradicate forced labor in all its forms.

In 2016, the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking collaborated with the UNDOC and the Tronie Foundation organized a high-level event to discuss the topic of slavery and the eradication of the issue.

Following up in 2017, the Trust Fund created for victims of human trafficking showed that it had produced positive and hopeful results, assisting an average of 2,500 victims per year.

 

ABOUT THE GSN

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is a network of over 700 global change-makers across the Government, Business, Faith, Media, Community & NGOs and Academia sectors committed to achieving Goal 8 ( with special emphasis on Goal 8.7 of tackling Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking ) of the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals.

Global Sustainability Network ( GSN )

Contact: Romy Hawatt – Founding Member
Tel: +447788200528
Email: romy@rianagroup.com

 

ABOUT THE TRONIE FOUNDATION

The Tronie Foundation is an organization that mentors survivors of slavery to both help them become leaders and empower them to work with global leaders in the movement to end human trafficking. The organization was co-founded by Rani and Trong Hong, both survivors of child trafficking and two of the world’s leading voices in the fight against modern-day slavery. For more information please visit www.troniefoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RanisVoice.

Rani’s Voice

Contact: Rani Hong, CEO of Rani’s Voice International
C: 360-790-5159 (media only)
email: rani@ranisvoice.com

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Ukraine Puts Water Strategy High on Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156328 A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources. After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government […]

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A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources.

After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government in Kiev, the issue of water security is now a top development priority for the government.“Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes." --Andriy Demydenko

Anna Tsvietkova of local NGO MAMA-86, a partner of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) intergovernmental organisation, and which was involved in the campaign, told IPS this was an example of how expert knowledge combined with awareness-raising could move water, or potentially other topics, to near the top of a country’s development agenda.

“Our work could be an inspiration for groups in other countries. We were active and we gave the best advice. Our government had to accept our proposals [on water security],” she said.

Like many countries, the issue of water security is becoming increasingly important for Ukraine.

Groups like GWP Ukraine have said that the state of water resources and water supply in Ukraine is a serious threat to national security, with its effects exacerbated by economic and political crisis, military conflict and climate change.

The country has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas and studies have shown that surface and ground water resources are unequally distributed between seasons and across the country.

The inefficient management of available water resources, including excess abstraction and pollution, has led to depletion and contamination of water resources, according to local environmental groups.

Meanwhile, ageing and poorly-maintained infrastructure and outdated water and wastewater treatment and technology have caused further problems, including serious sanitation and related health issues.

But until relatively recently, water security in Ukraine was not viewed by the authorities as a concept on its own and was dealt with as part of wider, overarching environmental protection legislation. Authorities – and the wider public at large – were fixed on the concept of water protection rather than risk-based management.

“One of the main threats to water security is that water management is perceived by the people managing it as management of water infrastructure and extracted water, which leaves all other sources of water unmanaged,” Dr Andriy Demydenko of the Ukrainian Center of Environmental and Water Projects told IPS.

“As a result authorities just control water quality and quantity parameters without having any responsibility to reach water targets,” he explained.

He added: “Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes.

“Also, a lack of a scientific basis for decision making and management, shortages in in knowledge and capacity building leave Ukraine very vulnerable and unprepared for events such as water scarcity, droughts and floods.”

However, through campaigns and national stakeholder dialogues over the last five years, GWP and local partner groups introduced and promoted the new concept of risk–based or proactive water management.

In 2016 GWP Ukraine organized four stakeholder consultations on the strategic issues of water policy entitled “Rethinking of Water Security for Ukraine”.

As a result, GWP Ukraine prepared a publication presenting a proposed set of national water goals, targets of sustainable development, and indicators to assess the progress in achieving goals on the water-energy-food nexus.

And in the last year, multi-stakeholder consultations have taken place to push Ukraine to an integrated water resources management approach.

Indeed, the GWP Ukraine’s work has helped change the Environment Ministry’s policy on water strategy.

Having initially said its water sector development programme was covered under other state programmes and strategic documents for water sector development, after seeing GWP’s proposals for a water strategy the ministry decided to approach the EU Water Initiative+ project to help develop its strategy.

Of GWP Ukraine’s original proposals in its consultation document, the Ukrainian government has already accepted proposals on some targets and indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

The group continues to work with the government to accept other SDG 6 indicators and include them in the country’s development strategy.

It is hoped a concept paper on water sector reforms will be formulated this summer and then passed to government for approval. A draft of the country’s water strategy is to be presented and discussed at the next National Water Policy Dialogue, which is expected to take place sometime at the end of this year.

But, stresses Tsvietkova, the importance of GWP Ukraine’s work is not confined to Ukraine.

The group’s success in pushing change in Ukraine has led to other groups within the GWP CACENA network – covering Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia – to ask for support in the development of their countries’ water policies as part of national development programmes.

“They have been very interested,” she said.

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Europe, Sharing the Love?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-sharing-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:42:42 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156249 Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries. On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly […]

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Mediterranean waters in Spain. Credit: Photo by David Aler on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries.

On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly operated by the NGOs‘SOS Mediterranée’ and ‘Doctors Beyond Borders’ (MSF), from docking at Italian ports. There were 629 migrants on the ship. Among them where 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue operation but after moving the migrants to the Aquarius, the new Italian government denied access to Italian harbours. Malta, similarly when asked by Italy to accept the boat and take care of the relief, denied responsibility.

In recent years Italy has been at the forefront of a constant wave of migration from North Africa and has provided a huge amount of support by allowing the vessels into Italian ports. Malta also, with its relatively small population has accepted a large number of migrants despite its fewer than 450 000 inhabitants and small land size.

While public opinion, activists, policymakers, local officials and news agencies have criticised the latest decision by the Italian Government, the Government has also given to understand that it is working towards a solution with other European governments, given the very real humanitarian concerns involved in migration to its shores and those of other Mediterranean countries.

Similarly several local officials in Italy have condemned the hardline stance, such as the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando and the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the latter stating that “…the port of Naples is ready to welcome” the migrants. “We are humans, with a great heart. Naples is ready, without money, to save human lives” he tweeted on June 10.

A breakthrough in the situation occurred only when Spain’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, decided to welcome the 629 migrants after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people” Sánchez’s office said.

As of 15 June, 792 migrants have either died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean, says the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This number represents a decrease compared to the last three years, as deaths in the same period, were 1,836 in 2017, 2,899 in 2016 and 1,806 in 2015.

However, this situation is still represents a shameful paradox in our century. In 2017, migrants dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean waters were 3,116 and the EU initiatives and allocations of funds have not been able to avoid these tragedies. In 2018 alone, of the 52,389 people who attempted to cross the Mediterraneam rim, 792 died, making the death rate 1.5%. The deadliest route in 2018 is – as of June 15 – the central route (503 deaths), as opposed to going by the western route (244) or the east (45).

 

 

The timing of the Aquarius’ events may not be completely coincidental, as there is an EU meeting at the end of June that will consider changing the rule that asylum must be claimed in the country of first entry.

That is the rule that has put Italy on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. If considered in this light, the latest Italian decision, could be viewed as a bid for a domestic political win, as dissatisfaction of Italian public opinion towards migration flows has been steadily increasing in recent years. It remains to be seen what will be the political outome at the EU level.

While France’s government deeply criticized Italy’s decision to deny Aquarius’ docking, other countries, such as Hungary, praised Rome’s decision. Viktor Orban, the anti-migration prime minister said that Salvini’s decision is a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”

After being abandoned for four days, those migrants feared they were going back to Libya, a nightmare that obviously any of them wanted to consider. On November 2017, a CNN report on slave auctions in Libya had prompted international outrage over a slave market operating in the country.

Ben Fishman, an analyst from The Washington Institute, has highlighted what are the root causes of the growth of this general abuse of African migrants in Libya. “First” he wrote in a policy paper right after the CNN report was published, “many traffickers exploit migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, often trapping them in Libya. These traffickers enjoy free rein in Libya exploiting the country’s lawlessness in the same manner that the Islamic State did in 2015-2016 when it took control of Sirte.

Smugglers and gangs overlap with the militia landscape, making it extremely difficult to curtail the activities of one group without impacting the overall profit stream”. Fishman also added that “the main push factors that compel migrants to risk these treacherous journeys – namely, poverty, and lack of opportunities […] have not been adequately addressed”. In 2015 the EU had established a 3.2 billion euros fund to facilitate migration management at the point of origin in Africa but this EU-led initiative clearly needs to be greatly expanded.

Many analysts and activists urge the EU to address the migration crisis in an adequate and sustainable manner. Migration flows will continue, especially if policy responses remain as weak as they are at the moment. The EU needs to implement a comprehensive framework that deals both with the situation in Libya and with the points of origins in Africa, as well as with the welcoming policies implemented by the receiving countries in Europe.

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From Fake News to a Fake Deathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fake-news-fake-death http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:01:38 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156225 When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised. When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country […]

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Arkady Babchenko. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised.

When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country were raised."Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times." --Anna Babinec

Now, say global press freedom advocates, efforts to keep journalists in Ukraine and other parts of the world safe have only been hampered by the deception.

Johann Bihr, Head of the East European and Central Asian Desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS: “This discredits journalists and hampers efforts to effectively protect them.

“The global impact of this story means that it will have an effect in other countries. Whenever something similar happens, doubts will be raised.”

Babchenko, a former Russian soldier who had fought in Chechnya, had been a vociferous critic of the Kremlin for years. He fled Russia last year fearing for his life and eventually moved to Kiev where he had been working for the Tatar TV channel ATR.

When reports of his death first emerged, there was immediate speculation of Russian involvement – a theory Ukrainian authorities swiftly confirmed.

In the hours after the killing was reported, Moscow denied any involvement and, after Babchenko appeared alive, claimed it was evidence of Kiev’s anti-Russian propaganda.

But as soon as Babchenko appeared at a press conference held by the Ukrainian security services (SBU) the day after his apparent death, revealing he had been co-operating with the SBU in an operation to expose people apparently planning to kill him, press freedom watchdogs were outraged.

In a statement, Philippe Leruth, President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), described it as a “complete circus” and told the Ukrainian authorities it was “intolerable to lie to journalists around the world and to mislead millions of citizens”.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said there “could be no grounds for faking a journalist’s death”. He said staging the killing “would not help the cause of press freedom,” adding in a tweet: “It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive…for the stunt.”

And the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned it could potentially “undermine public trust in journalists and to mute outrage when they are killed”.

The SBU, and Babchenko, have continued to defend the operation. In posts on Facebook, Babchenko said he did not care about criticism questioning the journalistic ethics of what he and the SBU had done, saying he was grateful that the operation had saved his life.

But groups like RSF, CPJ and IFJ say while they are relieved Babchenko is alive, they question whether the mass deception, and subsequent damage to journalists’ and the Ukrainian authorities’ credibility, was worth it.

“We are glad that Babchenko is alive and are in no doubt that the threats he had been facing were real. However, what we are waiting for is the Ukrainian government to present hard evidence that this was worth it and it has really led to some results. So far, they have failed to do so,” Bihr told IPS.

Ukraine has a poor record on journalist safety. Journalists regularly face harassment and physical attacks as well as ‘doxing’ – the publication of their personal information.

Seven journalists have been killed in the last four years in Ukraine, the most recent being Belarusian-born Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet who died in a car bomb assassination in July 2016.

The investigation into his murder has stalled amid claims of a lack of effort from investigators and Ukrainian involvement in the killing.

After Babchenko’s staged murder, Larysa Sargan, spokesperson for Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, drew up a list on her Facebook page of journalists she claimed had been “traitorous” for criticising the operation.

In the wake of the faked murder, while all local journalists have been quick to stress their relief that Babchenko is alive, their opinions on the merits of the operation differ.

Some have praised it as the best way to save a threatened journalist’s life and expose a Russian plot, but many others have been critical of it and some have linked it back to what they say are serious shortcomings among institutions of power towards journalists‘ safety and freedom of speech.

Olga Rudenko, deputy editor-in-chief at the Kyiv Post newspaper, told RFE/RL: “Ukrainian journalists feel even less safe than they used to. To make it a safer place for journalists, the authorities need to investigate crimes against journalists.

“The whole plot to kill Babchenko, if we presume there was one, was only possible in the first place because so many earlier murders and attacks on journalists remain un-investigated, making for an atmosphere of impunity. Who’d sign up to kill a high-profile journalist if they knew all previous killers had been found and punished?”

Anna Babinec, co-founder of the investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info, said the incident had, for many journalists, stripped them of what trust they had left in Ukrainian authorities.

She told IPS: “Many journalists who lacked trust in the Ukrainian government before now have absolutely no trust in it.

“As an investigative journalist, working the whole night at the scene of the ‘crime’ was a great test of my skills. Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times. We need to check not only if the police are doing their work properly, but whether they are lying about crimes.”

She added: “As a journalist and human being I’m happy that my colleague is alive, but there are still a lot of questions that the security service and Arkady [need to answer] about this special operation.”

This distrust has deepened in the days since the operation with the SBU reluctant to give further details and both the alleged killer and man who hired him claiming to have been working with the SBU all along.

The leak of a reported ‘hit list’ of 47 people, supposedly discovered by the SBU during the operation, has added to the confusion.

The list, which includes journalists and political activists, contains the names of many critics of the Ukrainian authorities, among others, but, pointedly, does not include Babchenko.

Some local journalists believe it is genuine, but others doubt its veracity. Speaking to RFE/RL, three journalists on the list said they had been contacted by the SBU and shown a list with their names on. They said what they had been shown was similar to the list leaked in Ukrainian media, but had a different order of names and, in some cases, spellings.

One of the journalists said they had been questioned by the SBU about their political opinions.

Whether the SBU will give any further details on the operation and show it was, as the RSF said ‘worth it’, anytime soon is uncertain.

But the fact that local and global media were misled by authorities, with the willing help of a journalist, means this is likely to be a boon for those looking to repress free speech or spread propaganda as it leads to questions about the skills and credibility of those who are supposed to be presenting unbiased facts, critics say.

Russian journalist Tanya Felgenhauer told British daily newspaper The Independent: “This story has been a victory of the post-factual world and it makes our jobs even more difficult.

“One of the only advantages we have over social media and state media is accuracy and fact-checking. Here, our fact-checking model wasn’t sufficient, and our credibility has suffered badly.”

The RSF’s Bihr told IPS: “It provides help for organisations who sow doubt and spread misinformation, who blur the lines between truth and fiction. It provides fuel for repressive governments and propaganda media working to hamper freedom of speech.”

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Nepali Mothers and an Irish Daughterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:50:25 +0000 Tej Thapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156183 Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002

Adolescent girls in Nepal continue to suffer severe disadvantages, discrimination and exclusion. Credit: UNFPA Nepal

By Tej Thapa
Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

I am the daughter of a formidable campaigner for women’s reproductive rights in Nepal. Decades ago, when such issues were not part of the playbook for development activists, my mother, a medical doctor, started setting up family planning programs after seeing women die in childbirth, shifting from hospital work into public health.

She established health posts for maternal and infant care. She fought for the reproductive rights of women and girls including access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education. And most important, she instituted a network of female health workers all over Nepal.

Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.
For a woman raised at a time when it was unusual for girls to be educated, my mother has travelled long distances. Not only did she fight for Nepali women to have a choice, but she ensured that her two daughters had the same privilege.

I am myself now the mother of a daughter, who will soon enter adulthood.  She will then make her own decisions, including about her reproductive choices. My daughter is an Irish national.

So I spent the weekend of 26 May, during the Irish referendum on abortion rights, vacillating between crying with joy in one moment, and overwhelmed with anxiety about the outcome at another. My colleague Aisling Reidy, who is Irish, wrote movingly about her own experience of emotion and exhilaration that weekend. And about the need for other countries to move toward that arc of justice for girls and women.

Many Irish women and men travelled back to Ireland to cast their yes votes. The hashtag #HomeToVote was trending on Twitter that weekend. The resolve to give women rights over their bodies was quite incredible.

I write this not only because I care about my daughter’s rights. I write because the rights of so many women and girls in Ireland will hopefully change as a result of this vote. But above all, I write this also because it is occasion to be proud of my own country.

Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002.

Women who had been imprisoned for abortion were released. Women today who want to exercise their choice over their bodies can legally do so, without restriction and with access to safe health care. Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.

But today I celebrate my Nepali mother. And I rejoice for my Irish daughter.

 

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Excerpt:

Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Greece: SDGs a Way to End Economic Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:50:43 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156119 Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis. During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. […]

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Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

A Greek flag waving in the locality of Oia, Greece. Credit: Matt Artz on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis.

During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. It is the first time, since 2011, that economic accounts of Greece are so encouraging that the country is looking with some optimism to the month of August 2018 when the last phase of European aid will be over definitely.

The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people

The surplus during the first nine months of 2017 was 2.2% higher related to the 1.75% imposed by the European Union. The GDP growth was 1.9% in 2017 and estimates show it will reach 2.5% in 2018.

Among the most significant levers of the Greek recovery is the increase of its exports. In particular, the production and sale of liqueurs, as well as the car industry are both stimulating growth. Tourism remains a pillar of the Greek economy. In 2017, it was 17% higher than the year before.

However, despite these positive signs, the reality on the ground is bitter sweet. The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people. Greece might not risk that default that was feared a few years ago but the ordinary people are facing tough challenges even to meet some basic needs such as covering rents and paying bills.

The people in general are far from being out of the crisis. However, while living this situation of high unemployment and uncertainty about their future, the Greeks have started, during these past few years, to turn back to the land in order to earn money.

Agriculture is the main sector that has not suffered in a substantial way and, has been constantly showing (relatively) positive signs. According to the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, during the first years of the crisis, between 2008 and 2010, agriculture created 32,000 new jobs and the majority of these jobs were taken up by Greek nationals.

Those who owned a plot of land, in some cases inherited, on a small island or in the countryside, decided to leave the dramatic situation in Athens and return to their lands to work on ecotourism or farming.

Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

Credit: Vesela Vaclavikova on Unsplash

Additionally, many young people started to show interest in the faculties of agriculture, as applications for such courses tripled in the past few years. However, among those who decided to abandon the urban areas to live and work in the rural ones, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years old. The majority of these people had lost their jobs just before retirement, waiting to receive their pension.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, which was developed in collaboration between the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit with the objective to “promote knowledge on food sustainability”, Greece earned a positive score in sustainable agriculture.

The FSI ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. It aims to highlight issues across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. Despite having only a mid-level score for food loss and waste, and minimal scores for the policy response to food loss, “Greece earned a high score for sustainable agriculture, with a strong performance for the air category (GHG emissions), and for sub-indicators such as diversification of agricultural system, land ownership and sustainability of water withdrawal serving to bring up the score in the land and water categories”.

When considered in conjunction with the water scarcity situation of the country, this high score in the agricultural sector gains an additional prize. Indeed, according to the FSI, the average number of months of freshwater scarcity in Greece is six and despite that, the country has been able to maintain a high level of performance in the sector.

Not surprisingly, Greece has recently showed interest in sharing its high expertise and level of innovations in agro-technology with Qatar in a bid to develop and support the tiny Gulf country’s agriculture sector and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Greece’s third bailout is due to expire in August 2018 and the Hellenic country aims to return to a path of growth after years of crisis and uncertainty. During the Fourth Agricultural Business Summit, which took place in Larissa on May 3, 2018, organized by The Economist under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, experts and policymakers gathered to discuss the priorities and challenges that need to be resolved as of 2018 and beyond in the field of agriculture in relation to business.

The analysts discussed if Greece could play a leading role in South-East Europe and whether the Greek Agribusiness sector will be able to transform uncertainty into stability, competitiveness and growth.

It is hard to forecast with accuracy the outcome of the next following months and years but, the fact that the Greek establishment (academia, businesses, policymakers, etc.) is showing its willingness to act and implement a concrete roadmap to end the crisis through the SDG Agenda, means that the country strongly believes in Agenda 2030which is the driving force to start growing again.

In addition, a study, published by SEV Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted by the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice of Ernst & Young in Greece highlighted “to identify the current status in Greece, regarding the level of awareness, readiness and willingness of Greek companies towards integrating the SDGs in their strategy”. One of the key findings of the study brings some optimism for the future of Greece.

For example, regarding awareness and readiness on SDGs among Greek companies, the study revealed that “senior executives, regardless of company size, have a high level of knowledge of sustainable development issues related to the Goals. The engagement and awareness of middle management executives on sustainable development issues related to the Goals constitute a crucial factor for their successful implementation”.

Beginning in August 2018, the economic system of Greece will once again have to walk on its own legs. Many analysts believe that the commitment of Greek authorities in the past few years in planning and implementing a sustainable agenda will help Athens to develop in the next future without the support of the EU and IMF.

By the end of 2018, we will undoubtedly have the first answers to this dilemma and the 2019 elections will also tell us if the Greek people view the government’s efforts of the past few years as the best it could do and achieve.

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