Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Ex-President Leaves ILO after Corruption Scandalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 09:06:07 +0000 Ivar Andersen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155688 Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

By Ivar Andersen
STOCKHOLM, May 9 2018 (IPS)

There is a compact silence surrounding how the corruption scandal affects ILO’s work on developing a plan to change the UN body.

In August 2017, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the then President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​were appointed to lead the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Their mission was to develop an overall strategy for how the ILO would ensure that the gains of globalization are more equally shared, and how the global labour market shall deal with challenges such as climate change, digitization and aging populations.

The Commission brought together twenty-one experts and politicians from all over the world, under the lead of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

”It’s time for everyone to take part in globalization. This is done by addressing the problems in the global labour market and building social cohesion and creating confidence that benefits everyone and does not oppress anyone,” said Stefan Löfven when the Commission was presented in Geneva in August 2017.

”When we look at the future, we must do it from many different perspectives and situations. We must place people’s well-being first and build the agenda around it,” added Ameenah Gurib-Fakim .

But the Commission barely had time to start working before one of its chairpersons found herself mixed up in a corruption scandal.

 

 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO


Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO

 

The Mauritanian newspaper L’Express was able to publish documents that showed that Gurib-Fakim ​​had bought jewels and apparel for USD 26,000 during a shopping trip to London.

ILO

On May 28th , the ILO will launch its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where leading representatives of states, employers’ organizations and trade unions will discuss how they want to shape the global labor market.
On May 15th, the Global Commission on the Future of Work, led by Stefan Löfven, will meet in Geneva.
The ILO, or International Labour Organization, is a UN body that has existed since 1919 and brings together 187 countries.

Source: ILO
She paid for the luxury items with a credit card that she had received for an NGO for which she did pro bono work. The chairperson of the NGO, an Angolan businessman, had been granted permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius – prompting allegations of corruption.

Gurib-Fakim claimed to have used the NGO’s credit card by accident, and that she had paid back the full amount. But faced with harsh criticism Gurib-Fakim eventually decided to resign from the largely ceremonial president post earlier this spring.

When Arbetet Global writes to the Swedish Prime Minister’s Office to ask whether the controversy surrounding Gurib-Fakim in Mauritius is affecting the work of the Commission’s, the reply is a brief one.

”Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​has resigned as co-chair of the ILO Commission. If you have any other questions, I have to refer to the ILO,” states Dan Lundqvist Dahlin, press secretary to the Prime Minister.

The ILO appears equally unwilling to comment. In an e-mail, the Director-General’s cabinet writes that the decision to resign from the Commission was Gurib-Fakim’s own.

Would it have been inappropriate for Gurib-Fakim to stay on as co-chair after having resigned as president of Mauritius?

“We cannot comment on this hypothetical question since she took the decision to resign.”

The chairmanship of the Commission is attached to the person elected, and is not affected by changes in the chairpersons home country.

Stefan Löfven will remain chairperson regardless of whether the Social Democratic Party stay in power after the Swedish general election in September. In theory, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​could have stayed on as co-chair despite having stepped down in Mauritius.

However, a source with intimate knowledge of the internal politics of the ILO describes the appointments as being “incredibly sensitive”.

“There is a lot of politics behind the appointments and the composition of delegates is supposed to keep everyone happy and make sure the Commission has legitimacy. That she resigned was most probably politically motivated.”

Asked whether a new chairperson will be appointed or if Stefan Löfven is to lead the Commission by himself, the Director-General’s cabinet responded that ”consultations are ongoing based on this new situation”.

At the time of publication of this article, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​was still presented as Chairperson of the Commission, and President of Mauritius, on the ILO’s website.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Excerpt:

Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Economic & Social Costs of Gun Violence Appallinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 14:35:00 +0000 Izumi Nakamitsu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155675 Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

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Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

By Izumi Nakamitsu
UNITED NATIONS, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Every day, hundreds of lives are lost due to gun violence worldwide. Guns are responsible for about half of all violent deaths – nearly a quarter million each year.

But the dire consequences of gun violence are not limited to those slain by guns. For every person killed by a gun, many more are injured, maimed, and forced to flee their home and community. Still many more live under constant threats of gun violence.

UN Under Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu. Credit: UN

Economic and social cost of gun violence is appalling. It is estimated that nearly 2 trillion US dollars could be saved – equivalent to 2.6 per cent of the global GDP1 -, if the global homicide rates were significantly reduced.

If we were to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – which explicitly links sustainable development and security-, we need to tackle this scourge of gun violence head-on.

The pandemic of gun violence has many roots. These range from legal, political, to socioeconomic, to cultural factors. Lack of adequate legislation and regulation on gun control, insufficient resource and capacity to enforce such legislation, lack of employment and alternative livelihood for youths, ex-gangs and ex-combatants, and a culture that glorifies violence and equates guns with masculinity – all exacerbates gun violence.

Such complex, multi-faceted problems require equally multi-faceted, sustainable solutions that address root causes. Governments, while primarily responsible for controlling guns, cannot do it alone.

To end the crisis of gun violence, we must work together. The Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence is a conduit for fostering cooperation on this critical issue among all stakeholders – government, international, regional and sub-regional organizations, research institutes, private companies, and civil society organizations-, to come together and pool our experience, strength and expertise.

And we must address the human factor behind the gun violence. It is essential that we recognize that gun violence affects women, men, girls and boys differently and that we need to seek different strategies to address all dimensions of gun violence.

Next month, States will gather at the United Nations in New York for the Third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on small arms – the key global instrument that has guided international efforts in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms over the past two decades.

The Conference will provide an important opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to silence the guns that affect so many innocent lives, and to continue its work towards achieving our common goal of peace, security and development for all.”

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Excerpt:

Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

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How Do You Attain “Sustainable Peace” Amidst Rising Military Conflicts?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/#comments Tue, 08 May 2018 14:00:08 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155672 The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.” But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the […]

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The opening panel of the Forum, 'The urgency and logic of investing in violent conflict'. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 8 2018 (IPS)

The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.”

But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the Middle East— all of them amidst rising global military spending triggering arms sales running into billions of dollars.

In his opening address, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Jan Eliasson set the theme for the three day meeting when he declared: “No peace without development and no development without peace”.

“And none of the above without human rights,” said Ambassador Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The three-day meeting, May 7-9, was attended by more than 350 political leaders, high-level policy makers, academics and representatives of civil society organizations.

In his keynote address to the plenary, the President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) Miroslav Lajcak underlined the new UN concept of “sustaining peace” which has been the focus of two resolutions, one by the Security Council and the other by the General Assembly.

“It has spurred new initiatives. It has got us all talking – and acting,” he said.

And, two weeks ago, the UN hosted a High-Level Meeting on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”.

The meeting showcased some best practices. “We learned about how we are moving from stand-alone actors or activities for peace, to pooling our assets”, said Lajcak, who is also the Foreign Minister of Slovakia.

Providing one concrete example, the PGA said he actually saw this in action, when he travelled to the Colombian town of Totoró. “There, I saw a real commitment to peace – from the various United Nations Agencies, from government officials and from indigenous communities.”

“And, I saw how all these stakeholders could come together – under a United Nations inter-agency programme –for a common goal: to make the peace agreement stick.”

Secondly, he said, “we talked a lot about partnerships. Years ago, the United Nations was like an island. Too often, it acted alone. But, we have all, now, realised something important: Sustaining Peace is not owned by any one entity. It can only be achieved, if we all work together. “

“We heard, during the Meeting, that partnerships with regional organisations are particularly crucial. And, given where we are, today, this Forum is a good opportunity to look at how we can build up stronger links between the European Union and the United Nations, for Sustaining Peace.”

“Thirdly, I want to say this – very clearly: Not one discussion failed to have a gender dimension. And, I mean that. Not one.”

The other featured high-level participants at the Forum included Margot Wallstrom, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Change, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Foreign Minister of Liberia, Adela Raz, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and Hassan Hussein Hajji, Minister of Justice of Somalia.

Meanwhile, a new SIPRI report, released last week, highlights the rise in global military spending at a time when there is widespread speculation about a new cold war between the United States and Russia.

And US President Donald Trump’s public war-mongering and military threats against countries such as Iran, and until recently, North Korea -– is also likely to escalate military spending further.

And, most visibly, the continued conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the instability in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, have triggered a rise in arms spending and bolstered US and Western arms sales to the war zones in Asia and the Middle East.

Asked if there are any hopes of a decline in arms spending in the foreseeable future, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS “right now there is little hope that global military expenditure will decrease in the near future.”

For 2017, he said, global military spending remained stable for yet another year.

However, this happened at a time that Russia had to decrease its military spending due to the bad economic situation in the country and the year after Saudi Arabia had cut its spending a lot, he explained.

“If those two countries will maintain ambitions to improve their armed forces, we can expect they will increase military spending as soon as their economies improve,” Wezeman predicted.

Saudi Arabia started to increase its spending in 2017, despite the continuing low oil prices. At the same time there are no indications that China will end the long lasting steady annual increases in its spending.

The decrease in US spending ended in 2016, according to Wezeman.

Trump has pushed for increases and a substantial increase in 2018 is likely. Finally, many states in Europe have started to increase their spending in response to heightened threat-perceptions towards Russia, and in relation to the conflicts in the Middle East.

On the contrary, doesn’t it appear that spending will also keep rising in the context of a “new cold war between the US and Russia?

He pointed out that the heightened tensions between the US and most of Europe on one side and Russia on the other are a clear motive for increased military spending.

However, rivalry between major states in the Asia Pacific region, roughly China on the side and the USA, India Japan on the other are also a major element, he declared.

In its report, released May 2, SIPRI said total world military expenditure rose to $1.7 tillion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016.

“Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern”’ warned Ambassador Eliasson. It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world.”

After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military expenditure rose again in 2017.* Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $230 per person.

‘The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to the substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,’ said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. ‘”At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Protests, Strikes, Solidarity – France Revisits May ‘68http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 11:44:19 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155633 “It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.” Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were […]

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Nanterre conference poster. Credit: SAES

By A. D. McKenzie
NANTERRE, France, May 5 2018 (IPS)

“It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.”

Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were the speakers at the free public event, “Solidarité et Alliances”, to commemorate 50 years since the massive May 1968 civil unrest, which paralysed the French economy through nation-wide strikes and demonstrations.

As they spoke at a packed theatre, students were blocking buildings at nearby Paris Nanterre University, hence Ali’s comments. Similar action has been taking place at universities in Paris and other cities such as Toulouse and Rennes.

Echoing 1968, France is currently gripped by a series of strikes involving railway employees and other workers, while students are demonstrating against the government’s higher-education reforms that would make admittance to public universities more selective.

American civil rights icon Dr. Angela Davis. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

The students say the changes are contrary to the French tradition of offering all high school graduates a place at public universities and would adversely affect poorer students, who are already underrepresented on campuses. The government’s stance is that reform is necessary to deal with a high drop-out rate and overcrowded institutions.

Rail workers, meanwhile, object to the restructuring of the national railway company, the SNCF. On Labour Day, May 1, street marches in Paris erupted in violence, with masked far-Left “anarchist” agitators burning vehicles and smashing shop windows.

The widespread protests coincide with several conferences and cultural programmes that are reflecting on themes of revolution in remembrance of “May ‘68”.

Davis, for instance, will be back in France next month as the keynote speaker at a conference at Paris Nanterre University titled “Revolution(s)”. The organizers – La Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) – are hoping the campus will by then be accessible to the 400 expected participants.

“Nanterre as a town doesn’t have much of a historical aspect; it’s not like Paris or Bordeaux. The one thing we have here is the university and the ’68 protests,” said Bernard Cros, the main organizer of the meeting and a lecturer in British and Commonwealth studies.

The 1968 student demonstrations actually started at Nanterre, when students occupied an administrative building to protest class discrimination and other societal issues. Subsequent confrontations with the university administration and law enforcement agents led to additional universities and the public joining the protests, and, at the height of the May ’68 movement, more than 10 million workers were on strike in France.

Fifty years later, the current protests at Nanterre began when a group of students occupied a classroom in April to voice disapproval of the government’s reforms. The situation escalated when the university’s president called in the police to remove them, and officers in riot gear descended on the university. That in turn caused others to join the protest in solidarity.

Since then, students have shut down the campus. Visitors can see iron barricades in front of doorways, along with graffiti such as “Make Nanterre great again”, a paraphrasing of the slogan used by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and that used by French President Emmanuel Macron to show his support for climate action (“Make our planet great again”).

The conference with Davis may not make the university “great again” but her presence in France generates huge interest among students, faculty and the public.

Cros said that Davis’s name was the “first that came to mind” when Nanterre was chosen as the 2018 site of the annual congress of the SAES – an academic association for those researching and teaching English language, literatures and culture. The university awarded Davis an honorary doctorate in 2014, so she is “already linked” to the institution, he added.

“What is not revolutionary about Angela Davis is what you have to ask,” Cros said in an interview. “Where would the world be without people like her? She put her own safety on the line. It raises questions about what it means to be politically committed. Whether you agree with all her views or not, this is something that attracts support.”

Doorways barricaded at Paris Nanterre University. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Indeed some 900 people filled the Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre at the May 3 event where Davis and Ali spoke (the event is separate from the coming university conference). As the activists walked onto the stage, there was deafening applause and several young people leapt to their feet with shouts of appreciation.

“I’m not a person who tends to be inspired by nostalgia, but sometimes I find myself wanting that closeness (from 1968) again,” said Davis, in response to a question from one of the evening’s moderators about whether the “historical memory of ‘68” could help the world to imagine a better future.

“I don’t know if you know my story, but I needed some solidarity myself … I take solidarity very seriously,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be here this evening.”

Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and active in the civil rights movement before and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in April 1968. Later, in 1970, guns she had bought were used by a high-school student when he took over a courtroom to demand the freeing of black prisoners including his brother, and left the building with hostages, including the judge.

In a subsequent shootout with police, the perpetrator, two defendants he had freed and the judge were killed, and Davis was arrested following a huge manhunt, and charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder” of the judge, although she had not been in the courtroom.

She declared her innocence, and sympathisers in the United States and other countries, including France, mobilised to demand her freedom. After being incarcerated for 16 months, she was released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges in 1972.

During the theatre discussion, Davis described the civil rights struggles in which she had participated, highlighting the gender battles in particular, and pointing out that the U.S. civil rights movement was “very much informed” by what was happening around the world at the time.

For Tariq Ali, the ’68 movement was a time of international solidarity. In contrast, “there is very little solidarity with the Arab countries” at present, he said.

Speaking of conflicts in the Middle East, Ali said: “All these wars create refugees … then you give the refugees a kick in the backside and say ‘we don’t want you’.”

He said that citizens should demand of countries that if they start a war they should “take 100,000” refugees.

Many in the audience reacted with applause to these words. (In another university near Paris -at Saint Denis – migrants have occupied a building for several months, largely with the support of students who’re also demonstrating).

Outside the theatre, the “revolutionary” fervor is continuing. General strikes are expected to last throughout May and June, and the Nanterre students have voted to continue the protests until May 7 for now.

“The university is a very mixed population, and some support the demonstrations while others don’t,” Cros told IPS. “But nearly everyone understands the reasons for the protests. If you tell students: ‘we’re not spending money on you’, what is the message you’re sending them?”

With more than 2 million students in higher education, France ranks 19th among 26 developed countries for the quality of the sector, according to statistics from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other observers note that funding for public universities is decreasing. (The government has promised increased financing).

Meanwhile, some students just want to get on with their lives. One third-year student said that while he understood the motivations of his protesting peers, his concern was to take his exams and finish his programme.

“I’ve been preparing for a long time,” he said. “For me personally, all this is tough.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

 

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Exhibition of Artifacts Stolen From Ethiopia Revives Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:01:08 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155390 A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest. The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle […]

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A manuscript from Maqdala now at the British Library. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
LONDON, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest.

The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, when a British force laid siege to the mountain fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros.  “We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard.” -- Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library

After their victory, the British force was at liberty to take what it wanted. The scale of the treasures stolen by the army isn’t widely known—inside the British Library are hundreds of beautiful Ethiopian manuscripts taken too.

While the argument for returning such artifacts appears strong, and perhaps obvious to most, legal issues surrounding a museum’s responsibility as a global custodian, as well as how best to make items available to the public, make the matter more nuanced than it seems.

“Museums have a global responsibility to better understand their collections, to more fully uncover the histories and the stories behind their objects, and to reveal the people and societies that shaped their journeys,” says Tristram Hunt, the Victoria and Albert museum’s director. “To this end, we want to better reflect on the history of these artifacts in our collection – tracing their origins and then confronting the difficult and complex issues which arise.”

The V&A website describes the museum’s collection of Ethiopian treasures as an “unsettling reminder of the imperial processes which enabled British museums to acquire the cultural assets of others.”

Hence efforts over the years by those like Richard Pankhurst, recognised as arguably the most prolific scholar in the field of Ethiopian studies, who helped found the Association for the Return of the Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET), and focused his efforts on the roughly 350 Maqdala manuscripts that ended up in the British Library.

“It is not widely known what happened,” said Pankhurst before his death in 2017. “The soldiers were able to pick the best of the best that Ethiopia had to offer. Most Ethiopians have never seen manuscripts of that quality.”

Tewodros had the country scoured for the finest manuscripts and collected in Maqdala for a grand church and library he planned to build.

“They are so lavish as they were made for kings,” says Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient studies at the British Library, whose staff take their duties of guardianship as seriously as those trying to get the manuscripts returned to Ethiopia.

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It’s true that the level of care and quality in Briton is much better than ours, but if you come to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies where we have a few Maqdala items previously returned you can see how well they are kept and made available to the public,” says Andreas Eshete, a former president of Addis Ababa University—which houses the institute—and another AFROMET co-founder. “These manuscripts are among the best in the world and one of the oldest examples of indigenous manuscripts in Africa, and they need to be studied carefully by historians here.”

Tewodros had actually admired Britain, even hoping they would help develop his country. But a perceived snub when Queen Victoria didn’t reply to a letter of his, led to him imprisoning a small group of British diplomats, resulting in General Robert Napier mounting a rescue mission with a force of 32,000.

On Easter Monday, 13 April 1868, with the British victorious in the valleys surrounding his mountaintop redoubt Maqdala and about to launch a final assault, Tewodros bit down on a pistol—a previous present from Queen Victoria—and pulled the trigger.

In Ethiopia today, Tewodros remains revered by many for his unwavering belief in his country’s potential, while the looting of Maqdala continues to spur the efforts of AFROMET and others continuing the activism of Richard Pankhurst.

“Though Richard was unsuccessful with the British Library manuscripts, there was the return of a number of crosses, manuscripts from private collections,” says his son, Alula Pankhurst, himself a historian and author.

Alula Pankhurst notes that the family of General Napier recently returned a necklace and a parchment scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

“My father would have argued that the items should be returned as they were wrongly looted,” Alula Pankhurst says. “There is now the technology available to make copies [of the manuscripts] that are indistinguishable from the originals and microfilms mean that copies could be retained.”

But such technology is also seen by those at the British Library as a reason why the manuscripts can remain where they are.

“We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The British Library is continuing its efforts to make the manuscripts accessible to the public through new exhibits. And during the next two years the library plans to digitise some 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, with 25 manuscripts already available online in full for the first time through its Digitised Manuscripts website.

“The artwork suffers when it is digitalised, plus many of the manuscripts have detailed comments in the margins—there are many reasons scholars need to attend to the originals and which are not met by digital copies,” Andreas says.

But the return of the manuscripts is actually out of the library’s hands. New legislation would have to be passed by the British Parliament for the manuscripts, or any artefacts held in British museums, to be returned.

“While some restitutionists may grumble that the majority of items have not been returned, much has been done to spread knowledge of their existence – and great artistry – to Ethiopian scholars, and to the world at large,” says Alexander Herman, assistant director of the Institute of Art and Law,  an educational organisation focused on law relating to cultural heritage. “This has been made possible by the willingness of the British Library to invest in this once-overlooked part of its collection.”

The complex issue of repatriating looted objects has rumbled on in Europe and the United States for years without much resolution, though now there appears an increasing openness to engage with the issue, both on the part of major Western museums and governments.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in November that the restoration of African artefacts was a “top priority” for his country, and at a speech in Burkina Faso said that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”

In the meantime, other options treading a middle ground are beginning to be talked about more openly. Hunt says he is “open to the idea” of a long-term loan of the objects to Ethiopia, a move Alula Pankhurst says “would be a step in the right direction.”

But that’s still not good enough for others.

“The restitution of Ethiopian property is a matter of respecting Ethiopia’s dignity and fundamental rights,” says Kidane Alemayehu, one of the founders of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, and executive director of the Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause.

“Looting another country’s property and offering it on loan to the rightful owner should evoke the deepest shame on any self-respecting country.”

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Brexit Reopens Old Wounds in Northern Irelandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 09:04:46 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155286 In less than 12 months, the United Kingdom will leave the EU. One of the hardest issues to solve is how to handle the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Border shop employees are particularly worried about what's going to happen with their jobs.

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Excerpt:

In less than 12 months, the United Kingdom will leave the EU. One of the hardest issues to solve is how to handle the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Border shop employees are particularly worried about what's going to happen with their jobs.

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Getting Away with Murder in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-away-murder-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:57:17 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155283 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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World Press Freedom Day: A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Apr 16 2018 (IPS)

Sitting in a cafe in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, Zuzana Petkova admits that like many other investigative journalists in the country today, she is scared.

She explains how she and colleagues investigating possible links between the country’s politicians, businessmen and the Italian mafia, have started using special methods to remain as anonymous as possible in their work – encrypting emails, using anonymous communication groups and foregoing bylines, among others.“The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.” --Ilya Lozovsky

She recalls how just days before she had been walking down a dimly-lit alley when she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see a man in a hooded top walking towards her. Scared, she froze until he had walked past her and she realized he was just a passerby.

Until a few weeks ago, Petkova, a well-known investigative journalist at the Slovak current affairs and news weekly ‘Trend’, would probably not have paid any attention to the footsteps.

A seasoned reporter – “I’ve been through a few things,” she says – she has been taken to court numerous times, had the country’s serious crime squad investigate her, and had anonymous threats made to her in the past. However, she has brushed all these off with little real fear for herself.

But the murder in late February of her some-time colleague Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27, at Kuciak’s home in Velka Maca, 40 miles east of Bratislava, changed things.

Across Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in recent years, highlighting how governments in some countries have used legislation, takeovers and shutdowns of media outlets, criminal libel cases, crippling fines and repeated denigration of media and individual journalists to silence critics.

In Slovakia, investigative journalists had got used to what some dub ‘psychological’ pressure from the government in the form of repeated police hearings and court summonses over articles into corruption, as well as public attacks on their integrity.

But few had really thought that anyone would use physical force to try and stop them doing their work. After Kuciak’s murder, they fear that may no longer be the case.

“None of us ever thought something like this would happen. Doing investigative journalism, there’s always some kind of risk, I knew that. But it’s only now that I, that all of us doing it, are fully aware of it,” she tells IPS.

At the time of his death, Kuciak had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the governing coalition. In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Investigating police say they are working on the assumption the killing was connected to Kuciak’s work.

But while local journalists have their own varied theories about who may have been behind the murder, they largely agree that years of government hostility towards journalists and public attacks on critical media may have emboldened the killers.

Just after the murder, the Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) released a statement saying the killing had been “a dire consequence of the climate engendered by systematic long-term aggressive verbal attacks on journalists by various leading state representatives“.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was forced to resign in a political crisis in the wake of the murder, had repeatedly insulted and criticised journalists while in office. Just last year he was attacked by international press watchdogs for labelling local journalists “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” and only days after Kuciak’s murder publicly insulted one of the dead journalist’s colleagues.

Ilya Lozovsky, Managing Editor of the international investigative reporting platform, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), told IPS the problem of hostile rhetoric against journalists should not be underestimated.

He said: “When a politician publicly mocks or threatens journalists, often other actors will take things into their own hands, without the government having to do anything. Russia is well known for this – various independent actors -(individuals, institutions – will often do something as a ‘gift’ to Putin, without him having to direct anything himself. Journalists and opposition leaders are often killed this way.”

Worryingly, verbal attacks and other intimidation of journalists by politicians are far from uncommon in other parts of Central Europe, especially in countries with governments widely seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian, and corrupt.

In Hungary, critics say that since coming to power in 2010, the government led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken a tight grip on the media, using legislation, taxes on independent media and takeovers and forced closures of opposition media outlets to silence critics.

After a political rally last summer at which Orban spoke of the need to “battle” local media outlets which he said were actively working against his party, government-friendly media launched a campaign against individual journalists, publishing lists of reporters who had been critical of the government and denigrating them and their work.

Local journalism associations said the list was reminiscent of the practices under the communist regime.

In Poland, where since the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015 the country’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index has plummeted from 18 to 54 out of 180, local journalists have spoken of facing unprecedented state pressure.

The PiS has issued reporters with threats of legal action, cut off their access to some officials, taken control of public media, and cut advertising and subscriptions to various news publications. Some Polish journalists also believe they are being spied on by state security agencies.

Meanwhile, Czech President Milos Zeman has never tried to hide his antipathy for journalists. He has sparked controversy with comments likening journalists to animals, jokingly calling for them to be “liquidated” during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and appearing at a press conference last October soon after investigative journalist Daphne Galizia was killed in Malta with a Kalashnikov and the words “for journalists” written on it.

Recent comments accusing public broadcaster CT of bias also infuriated many, prompting thousands of Czechs to join street protests demanding he respect journalists.

The attacks are not, though, simply politicians getting angry with critics, experts say.

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS: “Populist and nationalist politicians like those who run Slovakia and the Czech Republic do not like journalists acting as watchdogs.

“They’ve learned from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and others that the best way to deal with them is to publicly blame the journalists, attack them, demean them and try to undermine their credibility.”

Corruption scandals are far from uncommon across the region and the links between government corruption and intimidation of those trying to expose it are clear, says Lozovsky.

“As a government grows more authoritarian and secretive, journalists come under more pressure. At the same time, that government will almost always become less accountable to its people and more corrupt. When it becomes more corrupt, there will be greater entanglement with organized crime, and when a corrupt government has connections with organized crime, that’s when the threat of physical violence against journalists starts to grow.

“Both Jan Kuciak and Daphne Galizia were working on the same theme – the nexus between corrupt politics and organized crime. This is no coincidence. When criminals ‘buy’ politicians, they feel more empowered to intimidate and attack journalists because they feel immune from the consequences. “

And he warned: “The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.”

In Slovakia, investigative journalists are determined to continue their work, despite having to operate in a new climate of fear. Petkova says some journalists considered walking away from the profession after the killing and while none have left yet, many had considered police protection.

However, issues of trust between journalists and police have complicated matters.

There is a widespread perception among the Slovak public that police and other justice institutions are endemically corrupt. Indeed, the mass protests across the country after Kuciak was killed and which eventually forced Fico out of office were driven in large part by the fact many felt the murder would never be investigated properly as any links between the killers and government would be covered up by politically-nominated senior police chiefs.

After Kuciak was killed, it emerged that he had contacted police over a threat made to him by a local businessman with links to the government. Kuciak had said in a Facebook post months after contacting them that the police never investigated.

And Petkova is adamant that the perception of a corrupt or politically-influenced police executive may have prompted the killers to act. “They probably came to the conclusion that they could get away with anything and that they’d get away with this murder,” she says.

Sullivan questioned what effect this has on local journalists’ willingness to approach police for either protection or giving up information to investigators in sensitive criminal cases.

“Many journalists know that elements of their governments are protecting criminal groups, drug traffickers, arms traffickers and others. Nobody knows who is on whose side. The Slovak government is corrupt and has been corrupt. There are many Eastern European and Balkan criminals operating out of Bratislava and the police do nothing.  [A journalist] cannot feel safe in that environment,” he said.

While a new government has been appointed in Slovakia, journalists hold little hope of any improvement in politicians’ approach to them. The new Prime Minister, Peter Pelligrini, was directly appointed by his predecessor, who will now head the ruling Smer party.

Juraj Porubsky, former Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily Pravda, told IPS: “Will politicians treat journalists better after this? No, why would they?”

Meanwhile, as the investigation into Kuciak’s murder continues, Slovak journalists are sceptical anyone will be brought to justice for the killing.

“I don’t think it will ever be properly investigated,” Petkova says, shaking her head sadly. “I don’t think Jan’s killer will ever be found.”

The post Getting Away with Murder in Slovakia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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For Many Migrants, No Land Is Sweeter Than Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 05:36:01 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155200 Most migrants to Europe, Australia and the United States from Rangpur in northern Bangladesh leave home at a young age and return when they have just passed middle age. Intensely connected and immersed in family bonds and Bangladeshi cultural values, they tend to return to their birthplace despite obtaining citizenship from a second country. For […]

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Poland Sues Argentine Newspaper Under New Holocaust Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 01:53:40 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155041 Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim. An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own […]

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The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim.

An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own neighbours in a Polish town during World War Two (1939-1945), which was not ordered by the Nazi occupiers, prompted a lawsuit in the Polish courts against the newspaper Página 12 in early March.

Just a few days earlier, an unusual law that caused an international controversy had entered into force in the eastern European country, creating penalties of up to three years in prison for those who claim, anywhere around the world, that Poland or the Poles were responsible for the crimes committed against the Jews in their territory during the Nazi occupation.

“The lawsuit was filed by a group linked to the Polish government. We are going to make an international case of this, not to make ourselves famous, but because they are trying to impose a kind of global censorship for which there are not many precedents around the world,” the chief editor of Página 12, Martín Granovsky, told IPS.

“The article published in Página 12 did not mean to say that all Poles were anti-Semitic or that there were no non-Jewish Poles killed under Nazism. We told about a case of neighbours who tortured and killed other neighbours,” he added.

Granovsky said the lawsuit – of which the newspaper has not yet been notified – will be fought in the courts as well as in the court of public opinion. To this end, Página 12 is contacting organisations that defend journalism and freedom of expression around the world.

The complaint against Página 12, a centre-left newspaper that was founded in the 1980s, after Argentina’s return to democracy following the 1976-1983 dictatorship, was filed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a non-governmental organisation created in 2012 with the aim of “initiating and supporting actions to correct false information about the history of Poland, in particular about the role of the Poles in the Second World War, their attitudes towards the Jews and the German concentration camps,” according to its website.

There is a patent similarity between the organisation’s aims and the philosophy that inspired the bill passed by the Polish parliament on Feb. 1 and signed into law by ultraconservative President Andrzej Duda five days later.

The law, according to a statement issued by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, seeks to “combat all forms of denial and distortion of the truth about the Holocaust, as well as attempts to underestimate (the responsibility) of the real perpetrators.”

“Accusing the Polish State and nation of complicity with the Third German Reich in Nazi crimes is wrong, deceptive and hurtful for the victims,” the text continues.

The U.S. State Department had released a statement, when the Polish parliament was about to sanction the law, saying that it “could undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The questioning by the United States is of particular significance since it is the main ally of Poland, a country that has been accused of violations of the rule of law by the European Union, of which that country is a member.

In December, the EU began to take steps to sanction Warsaw for the enactment of laws that, it argued, sought to weaken judicial independence.

The U.S. State Department suggested that the attempt to restrict opinions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust will lead the country to greater international isolation, as it pointed out that the law could have repercussions “on Poland’s strategic interests and relations, including with the United States and Israel.”

For Damián Loreti, former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, the Polish law on the Holocaust “violates all international standards in the field of freedom of expression and scientific research.”

“This is because it tries to impose an official historical truth, against which there can be nothing said to the contrary,” Loreti told IPS.

The academic said that “a country’s honour is not a legitimate legal subject to be protected by imposing restrictions on free speech, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, and it also violates United Nations resolutions.”

The op-ed that triggered the lawsuit was published by Página 12 on Dec. 18, 2017, under the title “Familiar Faces”. It was written by Federico Pavlovsky, a psychoanalyst who told IPS that he preferred not to make public statements while the case was making its way through the courts.

In his column, Pavlovsky describes “one of the cruelest and most incredible events recorded in the Second World War,” which occurred on Jul. 10, 1941 in Jedwabne, 190 km from Warsaw.

“That day, 1500 people killed or watched another 1600 being killed, the latter of whom were of Jewish origin,” reads the article, adding: “One of the peculiarities of this massacre is that in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Germans did not order the killing or participate in it, they merely authorised the sequence of events and took photographs.”

The op-ed basically collects the information made public in 2001 by historian Jan Gross in his book “Neighbours: the destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland”, which had a strong impact both in that country and in the United States.

Gross is a Pole born in 1947, the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother, who in 1969, during the communist regime, went into exile in the United States.

The Polish law punishes in particular anyone who speaks of “Polish concentration camps”, instead of clarifying that they were in Polish territory but were the responsibility of the Nazi regime, which was occupying the country.

“It is true that the Polish state had ceased to exist and that there was only a Polish government in exile in London, which fought the Nazis,” psychotherapist and writer Diana Wang told IPS. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she was born in Poland in 1945 and has lived in Argentina since the age of two.

“However, Poland has a long tradition of anti-Semitism at a cultural level, and hundreds of thousands of Poles participated in the murder of Jews and appropriated their property,” added Wang, who heads Generations of the Shoah, an organisation dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust in Argentina.

“It’s true that to talk about Polish concentration camps does not exactly represent the historical truth, because they were under the control of the Germans, but everyone has the right to say what they want,” said Wang, who after hearing about the lawsuit published an op-ed in Página 12 titled: “Poland can sue me too.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, the newspaper has published daily articles about the legal case and about the history of Jewish people in Jedwabne.

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Writers Talk Literary Activism at Paris Book Fairhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/writers-talk-literary-activism-paris-book-fair/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=writers-talk-literary-activism-paris-book-fair http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/writers-talk-literary-activism-paris-book-fair/#respond Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:35:48 +0000 SWAN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154993 The 2018 Paris Book Fair (Livre Paris) took place against the backdrop of demonstrations in Mayotte that echoed similar protests a year ago in French Guiana, putting the topics of literary activism and popular disaffection high on the agenda at the March 16-19 event. Writers from France’s overseas regions and departments, which include Mayotte in […]

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By SWAN
PARIS, Mar 22 2018 (IPS)

The 2018 Paris Book Fair (Livre Paris) took place against the backdrop of demonstrations in Mayotte that echoed similar protests a year ago in French Guiana, putting the topics of literary activism and popular disaffection high on the agenda at the March 16-19 event.

Writers from France’s overseas regions and departments, which include Mayotte in the Indian Ocean, spoke out about their role and contribution to French literature, highlighting the social and economic conditions in their territories.

Launching an anthology of short stories titled Guyane: Nou gon ké sa (We’re fed up), Guyanese authors said they felt compelled to address on-going struggles.

Writers Talk Literary Activism at Paris Book Fair

Literary representatives from French Guiana at Livre Paris.

“The demonstrations were for better security, healthcare, infrastructure, transportation, all of which affects everybody,” said Joël Roy, one of the contributors. “Writers aren’t separate from this.”

In March 2017, strikes and protests in Guiana blocked streets, caused the temporary closure of schools and some businesses, and delayed the launch of a rocket from the aerospace centre that is run by France and the European Space Agency.

Reports of the demonstrations filled the airwaves in mainland France, with some commentators making it seem as if the population was being unreasonable (“We can’t keep sending money there,” said one Parisian). But writers have been among those spotlighting the hypocrisy in government policy, where money can be found to launch rockets but not to improve access to healthcare or to control crime.

French President Emmanuel Macron eventually visited Guiana to address the concerns of the 250,000 residents, and to make a number of pledges; but there was no political representation at the launch of Nou gon ké sa in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron eventually visited Guiana to address the concerns of the 250,000 residents, and to make a number of pledges; but there was no political representation at the launch of Nou gon ké sa in Paris, despite invitations having been extended, said Tchisséka Lobelt, who chaired the literary panel at the fair.

While the authors and activists present (such as Sylviane Vayaboury and France Nay) evoked the grievances and injustice that led to the protests, they aren’t just waiting around for political support, although this would be welcome.

Lobelt, for instance, is one of the movers behind promoting the literature of Guiana and providing a platform for writers. In 1996, she founded an association called Promolivres, which in turn created the Salon du Livre de Cayenne – a biennial book fair that had its 10th “edition” last November.

The Salon attracts participants from neighbouring countries such as Brazil and Suriname, and the 2017 “guest of honour” was Colombia.

For Lobelt, intra-regional literary cooperation is important, and she believes translation can help to pave the way for readers to know more about the literature of France’s overseas departments and regions.

“Translation is key, and we have to develop a real policy to get books translated from French and Creole into other regional languages and vice versa,” she said in an interview.

Anglophone Caribbean writers such as Guyana’s Pauline Melville and Jamaica’s Alecia McKenzie (founder of the Caribbean Translation Project) have been able to participate in the Cayenne book fair because of translation, Lobelt said. Both have been winners of the Prix Carbet des lycéens, a prize awarded by French high-school students in Guadeloupe, Guiana, Martinique and (now) London.

In addition, French writer Jean-François Tifiou, who has written an absorbing and well-researched book about the women prisoners sent to Guiana when it was a notorious French penal colony, is looking at getting his work translated into English and Spanish. Tifiou visited schools in the region to present De Quimper à Cayenne (From Quimper to Cayenne), and many readers believe that the book deserves to be more widely known.

Writers Talk Literary Activism at Paris Book Fair

A visitor checks out some titles at Livre Paris.

“Even if we translated one book per year, that would already be something,” said Lobelt. “We can do a lot on our own, but we still need institutional help.”

At the Paris Book Fair, the French “Outre-Mer” Ministry emphasized support for writers and publishers from the overseas departments and regions, which are traditionally grouped at a special pavilion. The ministry cited the international stature and unique “witnessing” of writers such as Maryse Condé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Aimé Césaire, among others.

“Literature from the overseas departments has a true specificity, far from clichés and stereotypes,” said an official brochure. “As Chantal Spitz (Tahiti) has declared: ‘My country is not a postcard’.”

This was certainly borne out by some of the debates at Livre Paris (which, uncomfortably, had Russia as the 2018 “guest of honour”).

More than anything, what was notable was that many writers and publishing professionals seemed determined to open the eyes of those who would perhaps prefer not to see certain social situations.

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A ‘Multicultural Jewel’ in Rome: Migrants and Italians Mingle at Esquilino Markethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/multicultural-jewel-rome-migrants-italians-mingle-esquilino-market/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=multicultural-jewel-rome-migrants-italians-mingle-esquilino-market http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/multicultural-jewel-rome-migrants-italians-mingle-esquilino-market/#comments Thu, 08 Mar 2018 00:11:32 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154693 The Esquilino market, built at the end of the 1800s, is a pillar of Roman traditional daily shopping. It managed to survive the Fascist period and two world wars: it’s a veteran of the city. After being outdoors in the square of Piazza Vittorio for more than a century, on Sep. 15, 2001 it moved […]

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I Am a Migrant and I Work in Romehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/migrant-work-rome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-work-rome http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/migrant-work-rome/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 20:07:31 +0000 Jordan McCord http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154603 – Mika, age 35, arrived in Italy five years ago from Bangladesh, and actually came to Rome on a flight in search of work for a better life. He now works alongside other Romans in the outdoor food market in Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere, selling food products, such as pasta, olive oil, spices and […]

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A stall selling regional food specialties on a Piazza in Rome. Credit: Jordan McCord

By Jordan McCord
ROME, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

– Mika, age 35, arrived in Italy five years ago from Bangladesh, and actually came to Rome on a flight in search of work for a better life. He now works alongside other Romans in the outdoor food market in Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere, selling food products, such as pasta, olive oil, spices and after dinner liquors, mostly from southern Italy. He is well versed in their ingredients, origins in Puglia and preparation process. He is there every day and feels good about the life he has created here.

Migrants from Bangladesh are on nearly on every corner in the center of Rome. They work in alimentari (small grocery shops), trinket shops, restaurants or in outdoor markets like Mika does. Some walk around the city selling hand held gadgets, umbrellas or jewelry. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) the stabilization of the Bangladeshi population is ongoing and as of 2016, nearly 54 percent of the 142,403 Bangladeshi migrants in the country hold EU long term residence permits.

“Although my name is Mika, in Italy my name is Michele,” he says, adding “ I am a migrant and I work in Rome”. He attended Italian language school when he first arrived and lives near the Piazza with several other workers from Bangladesh in a three-bedroom apartment.

One stall away is one of his compatriots who is still learning Italian. His Roman co-worker corrects his grammar as he loads mandarins into a basket. They take turns serving customers from all angles of the open stall as the market fills up during its late morning rush.

“There is no work for me in Bangladesh, but here there is,” Mika says.

Uddin, 33 has found it too, at a Korean restaurant near Piazza Vittorio where he works six days a week. He has been in Rome for nearly four years and hopes to move his wife and two young children here from Comilla, Bangladesh, within the next few years. He manages to put aside about 500 euros per month from the money he earns at his job to send to them at the end of each month.

“I came to Italy for a better future and I plan to stay,” he said.

Before relocating to Rome, Uddin lived in South Korea where he studied, and then in England where he worked for a short time. He recently obtained his stay permit in Italy.

The communities of these migrants are especially tightly knit at the outdoor market in one of the most vibrant and historically important areas of the city, Campo de Fiori square. Some migrants work for other Italians, managing the stalls for them.

Known as ‘angels’, the migrants from Bangladesh spring to action to protect Romans from the first drops of rain. Credit: Jordan McCord

Many mentioned having tight working relationships with the Italian owners who entrust them with a great deal of responsibility in running their business. This is a well-known characteristic of Italian culture, the importance of interpersonal relationships in work life. This interdependence between migrants and Italians favors both parties and might not prove as easy to find in other European cultures.

Here, Romano, also from Bangladesh, has lived in Rome for 19 years. Now in his fifties, he runs his own stall where he sells Italian food products that arrive from Milan and Torino. He has studied these products meticulously over the years which has been the key to his success.

Romano lives just outside of the Italian capital and likes the day to day life in the city.
“I like Italy, especially Rome, not so much for the history but for its culture, habits and its people. Life and the people in Rome are just fine” he says.

Being here for nearly two decades, he is able to follow the Italian model in entrusting another close friend to work for him, Jewel, 30. He arrived in Rome just two years ago and works at Romano’s stall, pouring samples of oils and liquors for tourists to taste. His daily work and interaction with customers is steadily improving his knowledge of the Italian language and his expertise on the products he sells.

Jewel came to Italy alone from the town of Brahmanbaria in eastern Bangladesh. His parents as well as sister and brother are still living there. Working at the market he earns 35 euros per day, six days a week.

Many migrants from Bangladesh also take on unusual working shifts that wouldn’t normally attract Italian workers. These migrants occupy shifts on Sundays or throughout the whole month of August when locals go on vacation for the Italian holiday of Ferragosto.

Arif, who arrived in Rome six years ago works in a tourist shop in the centre of the city, Trastevere. The shop sells postcards, figurines and other trinkets. Although he claims to earn less than seven euros an hour, which is the standard minimum salary determined by unions in Italy, he works daily just to keep an income coming to him.

“I felt very good and happy when I arrived in Rome, he said. “I always see the light in the city, along the streets which is different than in my country. Even if there is chaos with trams, buses and traffic, I always see the light.”

He doesn’t have any family back in Bangladesh and plans to continue building his life here. He lives with several roommates nearby in an apartment in the Monteverde area.

While Arif is an employee in the shop, just down the street, Tanzil owns a stall that sells Italian and Roman items. His parents helped him to purchase the stall nearly 20 years ago where they now sell items like handbags and t-shirts, marketing these in areas with a lot of pedestrians like Via Lungaretta in Trastevere.

Like Tanzil, long term residence in Italy have helped other migrants to be independent of their Italian employers and facilitated intra-EU mobility (IOM) which is a bonus that these migrants seek.

“We are open every day until about 10p.m., even on Sundays,” he said. “I’ve been here since I was little, so now Rome is my home.”

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The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/silent-victims-domestic-violence-georgia/#respond Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:19:58 +0000 Sopho Kharazi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154574 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

By Sopho Kharazi
ROME, Mar 2 2018 (IPS)

As a student in Rome, the closest event that left a mark in my life was the Women’s March in the Italian capital. The march allowed me to contribute to the empowerment of women and to demonstrate that no woman is free– even if one’s rights are being violated. #MeToo.

Domestic violence thrives in a culture of silence. A broad-based campaign in Georgia aims to bring the issue out into the open. Credit: UNFPA

As a woman born and raised in Georgia, I know what it is like to live in a patriarchal society where women have to fight for self-identification. Despite the fact that Georgian women have received more voice in society and filled more workplaces, the problem of gender inequality still exists. And this problem is the most significantly expressed in domestic violence.

Even though the issue of domestic violence has received public attention and few shelters have opened for the victims, the problem still remains unspoken. Until 2014, I myself believed that domestic violence was non-existent in Georgia because nobody talked about it.

However, little I knew how actively present it is in Georgian women’s lives. I remember one day, listening to my parent’s conversation while they were talking about their mutual male friend. My mother suddenly jokingly mentioned how this male friend physically abused his wife only because she ironed his shirt poorly. This is when I felt astonished, angry and frustrated at the same time.

First, I was shocked to hear about domestic violence happening in the friend’s family. Second, I was angry that my mother mentioned the story in a funny way, completely ignoring women’s solidarity and basic human rights. Finally, I was frustrated that my parents were inactive while acquiring this kind of information.

This event forced me to think how Georgian society treats domestic violence and allowed me to open my eyes wider in order to see other instances happening in front of me. For example, later I found out that my Godmother was physically abused by her ex-husband too. However, she was smart enough to leave after the first instance.

The problem of domestic violence has gone viral only in 2014, after 33-year old female lecturer, Maka Tsivsiradze, was shot dead by her ex-husband at Ilia State University in Tbilisi. The UN-funded research suggests that one in every eleven married woman in Georgia is a victim of domestic violence.

At the same time, it should be recognized that this number is depicted from the cases which have been reported while there might be thousands of victimized women who stay silent. In accordance to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), 75% of Georgian women see domestic violence as a private matter which prevents the resolution of the problem and the acquisition of the exact data.

In order to solve the problem, it is important to find the cause. According to the psychologist Lela Tsiskarashvili, who works in the Centre for Victims of Torture, low self-esteem of unemployed Georgian men is one of the main reasons of domestic violence. She states that the economic crisis brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union shifted the gender roles, leaving men unemployed while transforming women into street vendors. Despite the fact that women have become the sources of income, the social structure of Georgian family remained the same with men on the top.

The 2015 Report on Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence in Georgia incorporates information received from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia (MoIA). This information suggests that in 2014 there were 92,901 emergency calls to “112” regarding domestic violence.

Apart from this, there were 350 prosecutions for domestic violence, 902 restrictive orders approved, and 87 protective orders issued. These numbers are very high for the nation with the population of 3,718,200.

Even though, there is no report of 2017, the Deputy Public Defender, Eka Skhirtladze, notes that out of eleven cases of attempted murder, eight were identified as domestic violence which demonstrates that the problem is still serious.

However, despite this fact, there is also positive news. For instance, in 2016, the first domestic violence crisis centre opened in Georgia while more and more women start to report about the cases.

According to President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who spoke at the international conference on ‘Femicide Cases Monitoring Tools and Mechanisms: “We should realize that femicide is an issue for our entire society. Many problems can be prevented by adopting legislative amendments or carrying out new policies; however, today I would like to address Georgian society: you play a crucial role in preventing violence against women.”

The post The Silent Victims of Domestic Violence in Georgia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Can Drought Be Prevented? Slovakia Aims to Tryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/#respond Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:01:01 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153960 A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said. The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to […]

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Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Jan 22 2018 (IPS)

A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said.

The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to be approved by the Slovak government this Spring, includes a range of measures which, unlike many plans for drought, is proactive and focuses on prevention and mitigation instead of reacting to drought once it has occurred.Southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

Richard Muller, Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe at the Global Water Partnership, an international network of organisations working to promote sustainable management and development of water resources, helped draft the plan.

He told IPS: “A few of the measures in this plan have been adopted in other countries as part of climate change adaptation, but Slovakia is the first country in the region to have this kind of action plan to combat drought.

“It is a landmark plan…other countries could look at this and be inspired and say, yes, this is something we should copy.”

The focus of the plan is on preventive measures in a number of areas, specifically agriculture and forestry, urban landscape, water management, research and environmental education.

The measures involve projects to modernise irrigation systems and change forest structure towards better climate change resilience as well as rainwater harvesting, tree planting, development of green spaces, green and vertical roofs and rainwater infiltration in urban landscapes.

It also covers water management, dealing with preparatory work for reconstruction of smaller reservoirs of water and green infrastructure, including wetlands restoration.

There is also a crisis plan to supply water to different sectors of national economy during prolonged drought while it also involves programmes for public education and raising awareness of drought and water scarcity.

Together, these measures should, Muller explained, mean that even if and when there are long, dry spells, there will be some mitigation of the effects.

“Other countries have plans for drought, but in some, such as the USA, measures are related to dealing with drought after the event. But the Slovak plan is focused on prevention and action beforehand,” he said.

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Slovakia, like many other countries around the world, has seen an increased frequency of extreme weather events in recent years, including record heat and drought.

Last year, some parts of the country saw the driest first half of the year in over six decades while there was a very severe drought during 2015 when there were 23 days classified as super-tropical, i.e. with maximum temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius. This was compared to a maximum of five such days per year in years prior to 1990.

Similar droughts have been experienced across the wider central European region – in the Czech Republic conditions in last year’s drought were particularly severe with serious water shortages reported – and intergovernmental talks on drought, other extreme weather events and the environment have taken place over the last year.

The Slovak plan has already drawn interest from other governments, being praised by officials at a meeting last November of the Visegrad Four group – a political alliance of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic – in Budapest.

As the plan is focused on prevention, its effectiveness during times of drought may not be immediately noticed by many. But even when there is no drought, it has the potential to effect a positive change.

“Some of the measures in the plan will improve people’s quality of life, for instance in towns and villages, through things like rainwater harvesting, tree planting, the development of green spaces, vertical and ‘green’ roofs and rainwater infiltration” explained Muller.

But while the adoption of the plan has been welcomed and it seems set to benefit Slovaks even in times when there is no drought, the need for it at all highlights growing concerns over the rapid changes in the country’s climate and what they could mean for its water supplies and use.

Slovakia has a relative wealth of groundwater sources due its specific geology and, historically, droughts have been infrequent and water shortages rare.

But the drought in 2015, which was the worst in more than 100 years, was, largely, what prompted the Slovak government to begin work on the action plan – “the government wants to be prepared if it happens again,” said Muller. And the drought last year only reinforced its determination to push on with it.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the plan in November last year, Environment Minister Laszlo Solymos said: “If anyone has had doubts about global warming, this summer has offered a lot of opportunities to eliminate them. You just had to look into wells in the Zahorie area or talk to farmers. Slovakia isn’t spared from drought.”

More frequent and intense droughts are almost certain in the future, climatologists predict, as the climate in Slovakia changes.

Local climatologists agree that Slovakia’s climate zones are pushing northward and that southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

According to the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, the average annual air temperature in Slovakia rose 1 degree Celsius between 1991-2014 compared to 1961-1990.

With these higher temperatures comes not just greater demand for water but a higher risk of more frequent, intense and widespread drought. Indeed, official data from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute shows that in the last three years some part of Slovakia has been affected by drought.

Speaking to the Slovak daily newspaper Hospdarske noviny this month (JAN), Milan Lapin, a climatologist at the University of Comenius in Bratislava, said: “Since we expect that in the future there won’t be greater rainfall in Slovakia, the country will be drier, there will be more frequent drought with dramatic consequences and we’ll have serious problems with water.”

Muller admits that the current action plan may not be enough if worst-case scenarios of climate change come to pass and extra measures might be needed decades in the future.

“We might need new, innovative technology and large-scale infrastructure for water retention and distribution.”

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Left Behind: Families of Migrants Wait in Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/#respond Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:48:50 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153958 Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy. Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad […]

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A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam Sarker
NANKAR, Bangladesh, Jan 20 2018 (IPS)

Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy.

Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad (Union Council) and an influential person in the community, told IPS in Mithapukur how in 2008, the army-led caretaker government demolished his son’s shop in Nankar village, along with many other shops, in a drive to push out unauthorized commercial businesses.

Nankar has a population of about 3,000 people, most of them dependent on agriculture. It is in Mithapukur Upazilla (sub-district), south of Rangpur, a northern city some 300 km from the capital of Dhaka, Bangladesh where in the commercial section of the sub-district, prices are as high as 600,000 dollars for one acre of land.

Having lost his source of income after the shop was demolished, Nayeem contacted his cousin Ahmed Mustafa in Venice, Italy who had been living there for many years. Nayeem was impressed that Ahmed earned about 1,500 Euro per month as a street vendor and decided to try his luck entering Italy. With help from Ahmed, who managed to sponsor an Italian visa for him on training in electronics, Nayeem made his way to Italy, making an initial stop in Romania.

To organize this visa and Nayeem’s air ticket, Ahmed charged approximately 15,000 dollars, which was paid by Nayeem’s father-in-law. Nayeem was barely 20 when he married Zulekha and had two children. Zulekha’s father was not cash-rich but owned some land that he agreed to sell at the urging of his daughter, his only child, to finance Nayeem’s voyage to Italy.

Nayeem left Nankar some seven years ago. His children are now 10 and 7 years old and they, along with their mother Zulekha, have not seen Nayeem since. But with the money Nayeem sends home through a local bank, Zulekha lives in a rented house in Nankar. In the meantime, Nayeem has been working as a street vendor selling trinkets in Venice. In the summers, he shifts to the beaches for the lucrative tourist season.

He has a legal visa to stay, which requires renewal every six months. But under his current status, he cannot leave Italy to see his wife, children and parents in Bangladesh as he won’t be able to enter Italy again.

Nayeem’s father Wahid says, “That’s not a problem at all. She is a good girl and she can wait a few more years for her husband.”

Zulekha might feel differently, but IPS was not able to reach her to seek her views on what this means for her future – an absentee husband with no assurance that he will be able to get permission to visit her and his children in the near future.

Wahid told IPS another story about Imran, a 34-year-old man from a neighbouring village who crossed the Mediterranean on a boat but died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival in Italy some two hand half years ago. His father Alim Uddin, 80, and mother Roushanara, 65, refuse to accept their son’s death.

IPS spoke to Alim Uddin and Roushanara at their home in Sathibari, an adjoining village of Nakar. “Can you tell me if Imran is well?” Alim Uddin asked.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 199 people have already died this year attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

In 2017, IOM reported that 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, with just under 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the rest divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported a total of 3,116 deaths in the Mediterranean last year.

Imran was the second of seven siblings – three brothers and four sisters. Agriculture was his family’s sole livelihood. He used to support his father by cultivating crops like rice, maize and potatoes on two acres of their ancestral land in the village. But the income wasn’t enough to support the family, consisting of eleven people including Imran’s wife and daughter.

In the hope of earning more money, Imran flew to Libya with a valid visa in 2007. As an unskilled labourer, he was earning about 200 dollars a month. He worked with a construction company in Tripoli for five years and saved 2,500 dollars over that period.

But Imran lost his job soon after the civil war erupted in Libya and he faced a tough situation to stay in Tripoli.

“Meanwhile, many of Imran’s colleagues left Libya for Italy by crossing the Mediterranean,” Imran’s widow Roksana told IPS.

Akbar Ali, a man from Sylhet, an eastern district of Bangladesh who lived in Libya, offered Imran a trip by sea to Italy at a cost of 1,000 dollars, said Roksana. He agreed and set out by boat in 2012 along with 400 other people from Asian and African countries.

A few days later, “I received a phone call from an unknown telephone number and someone at the other end informed me that Imran had died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival at the Italian port,” Roksana said. “He never came home, not even his dead body that we could see and bury.”

Imran and Roksana had been married for only one year before he went to Libya. She gave birth to a girl the same year he left. They named her Rebeka Begum. She is now ten years old. Rebeka doesn’t know what her father looked like.

Although a widow, Roksana did not leave her father-in-law’s house after Imran died. She said, “I could have remarried but did not do so because of my little daughter. Fortunately, my in-laws are good people. Their granddaughter is a solace for them now that their son is gone forever.”

Roksana ekes out a living laboring in the fields at Sathibari.

“I’ve no alternative to hard work in the field,” she said. She choked up when she told IPS about another relative from Nankar who after spending four days at sea, was detained by the Italian Coast Guard and was eventually moved to a camp. Later, he was able to get all his papers in order and was granted a permit to stay. He is now visiting his family near Mithapukur and making arrangements to take his wife to Italy.

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To Be a Latin-American Migrant in Madridhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-migrant-madrid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:46:17 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153635 If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital. There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule […]

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In a main street between Plaza del Ecuador and Plaza de la República Domenicana, in Barrio de Hispanoamérica” neighbourhood, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 20 2017 (IPS)

If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital.

There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule (1939-1975) and sold to military officials at token prices. You will also see many shops run by Chinese migrants, selling cheap but nice cloth in what used to be boutiques frequented by wealthy middle-aged women.

But what you will often see are old Spanish men and women, some of them in wheelchairs, who are patiently accompanied and taken care of by Latin American migrants, going for a walk, sitting in a small park to breath some fresh air and take the sun.

Before that, these very same migrants would have walked the dogs of the elderly persons for whom they work, went shopping for food, read books or newspapers to them, and helped them wash their faces before dressing them up to go out.

Back home, the accompanying migrants will clean the house, wash, iron, cook, give them their medicine, answer the phone calls of their very busy, very short of time working sons and daughters.

“Good People”

“They are good people, all old people are good people,” Nancy*, a 33-year old Ecuadorian migrant, told IPS. “It is a tough job because they [the elderly] spend their time either complaining or saying confused words or speaking to their late husbands or wives,” she tells IPS.

In spite of that and of some prejudices against migrants in general, such as “they come to Spain to take our jobs” or “to cheat our elderly people and take their money,” Nancy* does not complain.

“Yes, we hear these things but when you look at the old people we assist and see their resigned look or watch them sleeping like babies, you feel more pity than anger.”

Nancy* gets 620 euro a month (some 700 dollars) helping her pay her rent and send a little money to her own elderly parents in Ecuador. She is now looking for two part-time jobs to earn a bit more.

Vladomiro* (37) is Colombian and assists don Jaime, an 87-year-old man who did well running a small grocery. Like Nancy*, Vladimiro* feels compassion.

“In our country we all respect elderly people… they have worked hard all their lives, they built up their families and did all what they could for their daughters and sons to have studies and a better future that what they had,” Vladomiro tells IPS.

Both Nancy* and Vladomiro* confess to feeling homesick for their families, their countries, their food, their habits and traditions. But they are relieved as they can send some money to their families and help their sons and daughters have a better life.

By the way, this neighbourhood full of elderly people accompanied by Latin American migrants is called Barrio de Hispanoamérica and its streets all bear the names of Latin American countries and capital cities.

If you instead go to the popular Malasaña neighbourhood, you will see many ethnic restaurants run by Latin American migrants, serving traditional dishes though moderating the taste to adapt it to the Spanish clientele’s eating habits.

Jose* is a 39-year Peruvian. He works as waiter and partner at a small restaurant. His wife Alicia (35), also from Peru, works in the kitchen.

He tells IPS that they met in Madrid and married here, and do not want to have children for now as they’re working hard to save money that can allow them both help their parents and also one day return to their country to have a “decent” life.

Potosi street, walking from Colombia street to La Habana avenue, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

The Big Boom

Jose* is proud as they managed to resist the temptation of buying a flat in Madrid’s outskirts, like other migrants did a decade ago or so.

It was a time of prosperity due to a spectacular construction boom. Developers were offering jobs to thousands of people, many of them migrants, in a singular marathon to build high-rise blocs, paying up to 3,000 euro (some 3,500 dollars) to even unskilled bricklayers, without even questioning if those migrants had legal residency permits.

During that boom, banks immediately rushed to offer easy, fast, attractive credit to everybody, migrants included, to buy property, furniture and cars. “Many migrants did,” says to IPS Dominican Danny* (45) who was visiting his friend Jose*.

Then came the 2008 global financial crisis. “The workers lost their jobs, they could not pay their monthly instalment, the banks sued them, the judges ordered their eviction, and they lost all the money they had paid to the banks, apart from their flats, furniture and cars,” he explains.

The result is that hundreds of them found themselves on the street and had to return to their countries of origin, almost empty-handed.

In fact, recent data published by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de EstadísticaINE) reveals that a growing number of Latin Americans have been returning to their countries.

Latin Americans in Spain

In Spain, it is estimated that there are some 1.8 million Latin American immigrants, with Colombians, Argentinians, Bolivians and Peruvians representing the main groups, with an increasing number of Andean people residing in this country.

On average, they transfer around 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, especially in the case of Ecuadorians and Colombians.

In the Andean region, migrants’ remittances amounted to 9,200 million dollars in 2006, according to the Andean Community. Colombia is the country with the largest remittances received with 3,890 million dollars in 2006; followed by Ecuador, with 2,916 million dollars; Peru, with 1,825 million dollars; and Bolivia, with 569 million dollars.

Data related to the first quarter of 2017 confirms that Latin American immigrants in Spain have been sending about 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, with an average close to 270 euros per month.

But the fact that migrants are returning does not put an end to migration challenges. “Rather than being viewed as an isolated phenomenon, return migration is an integral part of international migration,” UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) senior Migration specialist Ana Fonseca had explained in a related event in Ecuador.

Spanish to Latin America

Meanwhile, the Spanish statistics agency INE estimates the number of Spanish citizens residing abroad has reached 2,406,611 as of January 1, 2017, evidencing an increase of 4.4 per cent (101,581 people) with respect to data for the same period of the previous year.

An IOM 2015 report showed that since the beginning of 2010, more Spanish citizens emigrated to Latin America than Latin Americans who do the opposite.

As for the countries of destination, the UK received 13,281 Spanish more than in 2015, followed by the US (11,675), France (10,889), Argentina (8,814), Germany (8,656), Mexico (7,643), Cuba (6,136), Ecuador (4,107), Colombia (2,835) and the Dominican Republic (2,095).

Back to Madrid—according to a study on migration in this region, migrants are beneficial also from a purely economic perspective. “For each euro Madrid region spends in services for migrants, it gets back 2 euros in |taxes and social] benefits.”

Perhaps many Spanish unemployed people are not aware of this study—otherwise they would not be blaming migrants but rather their own government and rich corporations for the lack of jobs.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identities.

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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Migrants in Italy: “Shame Is Keeping Us Here”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:40:04 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153510 Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return. “Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.” Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of […]

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Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
RIGNANO GARGANICO, Italy, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return.

“Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.”“I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.” --Bismark Asoma

Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of the so-called European migrant crisis. He was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. That same month, 370 died during an attempt to reach Europe. With a total of 4,713 fatalities, the Libyan corridor would become the deadliest crossing in the world and 2016 the deadliest year at sea.

Trailer on the east side

After a year and a half of traveling around Italy, Bamba Drissa ended up in the ‘Granghetto’ of Rignano Garganico, an illegal settlement of several hundred mostly West Africans without documents. The camp consists of tents and barracks and is located in the middle of the Southern Italian Capitanata plane, only accessible after eight kilometers on dilapidated, potholed streets.

The barracks now only cover a fraction of the original surface of the illegal settlement. On March 1 of this year, police and army started a mass evacuation of the site. It led to a fire that left the bulk of the camp in ashes and killed two Malians in their thirties. The evacuation had been ordered by the anti-Mafia Brigade in Bari due to reported criminal infiltration in the camp. Despite the police action, the brothel, operated by victims of Nigerian smuggling, today is still there.

Residents whose campers or barracks were burnt in the fire bought tents. The tents are still there, on the western side of the camp, protected from the strong wind on the Capitanata plane by the remaining barracks.

When he arrived here six months ago, Bamba Drissa still had enough money to purchase a moldy caravan on the east side of the camp. A month ago he was making money working on Italian farms. Now the harvest is over, the temperature on the plain drops day by day, and the fields where the barracks are built have turned into a sea of mud.

Returning empty-handed

“Life here is much harder than where I come from,” he says. “I have a lot of regrets of coming here.” But returning, the young Ivorian adds, is impossible. “I made my choice to come here. Others chose to stay and build their lives there. I cannot return home empty-handed, this was my choice and now I have to make it happen.”

“It is shame that is keeping me here,” he concludes. “I cannot disappoint my family. They are the reason why we are here. We are here to help them confront their problems. Before we succeed in doing that, we can’t go back.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, from Ghana has been on European soil for three years. He is constantly looking for work and lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans in the area around the village of Cerignola, about an hour’s drive south from Rignano Garganico.

The Ghanaian tells a similar story: his father died when he was five. Because his mother struggled to take care of him, his five-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister, he chose to travel to Europe to help her.

“Working and sending money home was the only thing I thought about before leaving,” he says. “I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Remittances

The scale and importance of remittances for the African continent can’t be underestimated. The 2017 Economic Outlook Report of the African Development Bank states that remittances are a ‘major and stable source of external finance for Africa.’ In Western African countries like Liberia and Gambia, money transfers even account for twenty percent of GDP. From 2000 to 2016, remittances grew from 11 billion dollars to 64.6 billion.

While being less volatile than development aid and foreign direct investment the report states, migrant remittance flows also have the advantage of ‘increasing inversely with the economic situation of recipients.’ In other words: migrants are likely to send more money when difficult situations arise in their country of origin.

A son in Europe

Not only in Brong-Ahafo, the region where Bismark Asoma comes from, but in many other West African countries and regions, the prospect of remittances has made the fact of having a son in Europe a matter of prestige.

“The money sent from Europe to Africa improves the economic situation of the family and substantially increases their status in the community,” says Senegalese migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, economic consultant for the African Development Bank Group and research affiliate at IZA, the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn*.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Migration confirms the logic mentioned by Mbaye and even points out that in some cases, families who do not have children in Europe are looked down upon.

From rural to urban

Though a matter of prestige in African communities, the majority of migrants still leave home out of poverty. A study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya last year showed that 80 percent of migrants left home because of economic hardship. Seven percent left because of a lack of basic services such as education or health care in their home country, and only five percent fled violent conflicts.

An analysis of interviews with migrants who had just arrived at Lampedusa that was published earlier this year by the World Food Program (WFP) confirmed these findings. When speaking to West Africans, the WFP noted that they mainly left home because of a lack of job opportunities. Young men interviewed by the WFP told similar stories to those of Bamba Drissa or Bismark Asoma: they were sent out, “leaving their family with the promise of remittances and hopes of a future reunion.”

The path most migrants follow from the moment of departure is summarized as follows: they “firstly moved within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas or the capital city. In general, they moved one or two times before migrating across the border.”

According to the report, the search for stable employment leads them increasingly further from home. “On the way, they would locally collect information about transiting routes and following steps. The journey continued in this incremental way, following a general path that eventually brought them towards Europe.”

Three factors

Of course there is a subgroup that wants to make the trip to Europe immediately. According to migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, this migration is triggered by three separate factors: “First, the perception that you cannot achieve anything in your own country. You see with your own eyes how much money is sent home by cousins ​​or friends who do make it, while you keep struggling to get a job.

“Secondly, there is a biased perception of salaries in Europe,” says the researcher. “My research shows that the expectations are much higher than the actual wages in for instance France or Spain.”

Thirdly, there is the effect of networks and family members abroad, “who can give all information about where to go and how to fund migration.”

Poverty reduction is not the solution

Contrary to what intuition suggests, relieving poverty will not necessarily lead to a decline in migration. “On the contrary,” says Mbaye. “Research shows that people who are richer have more aspirations and more resources at their disposal to start the journey.”

“Reducing poverty is of course an aim in itself,” she adds, “but there are other factors to consider if we want to decrease illegal migration. Moving away is sometimes seen as the only way to be successful in life. So the only way to help reduce migration pressure is by making it one of the many options in life. We must create a situation in which a person can choose either to migrate safely or invest in a productive activity at home.’

Linguere Mbaye underlines that in this discussion, migration should not be considered “a bad thing it itself. And for many people it is a way to deal with adverse shocks. It is thus important to find ways to make migration safe and regular.”

*All opinions expressed here are hers and do not represent those of the African Development Bank.

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Aid Workers Under Pressure in Calaishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-workers-pressure-calais/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-workers-pressure-calais http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-workers-pressure-calais/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 17:28:49 +0000 Helen Griffiths http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153263 Helen Griffiths (@GriffithsH_) is with the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

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Unaccompanied children in the Calais migrant camp await interviews with the UK Home Office, October 22, 2016. © 2016 Zalamai/Human Rights Watch

Unaccompanied children in the Calais migrant camp await interviews with the UK Home Office, October 22, 2016. © 2016 Zalamai/Human Rights Watch

By Helen Griffiths
Nov 30 2017 (IPS)

It was mid-morning in late June, but the warehouse in Calais was dark, cold, and drafty. I sat on the ground with “Marie,” a tall, slim French woman in her early twenties. Bent forward with a look of concentration, she described how the French police are not only harassing the hundreds of migrants in Calais, they are targeting aid workers too. “They put pressure, stopping what we are doing.”

Marie is one of dozens of aid workers, many of them volunteers, providing vital services to migrants who depend largely on humanitarian organizations for survival.  I followed them over two nights as they distributed bento boxes of food, sleeping bags, blankets, and clothes to migrants who have returned to Calais, still hoping somehow to reach the UK or because they don’t know where else to turn.

This year, International Volunteers Day recognizes those who are first responders in crises, who are there to help in desperate times. I have been able to meet many of them since I started tracking the conditions for migrants in France in October 2016.

The authorities want to prevent construction of another makeshift settlement in Calais, but migrants have returned. Conditions are desperate. Currently, between 700 and 1000 migrants, most from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, are living and sleeping out in the open, including between 100 and 200 unaccompanied children.
Most of the aid workers in Calais are French or British–but others come from around the world. Some come for short stints, others have been there for months, working for a variety of local and international associations. They prepare and give migrants food, replace confiscated bedding and clothing, and take migrants who have been injured or are sick to the hospital. Others provide legal advice and support.

Nongovernmental organizations have played an increasingly crucial role since French authorities closed the so-called “Jungle” camp in Calais in October 2016, and migrants and asylum seekers were taken to reception centers across France.

The authorities want to prevent construction of another makeshift settlement in Calais, but migrants have returned. Conditions are desperate. Currently, between 700 and 1000 migrants, most from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, are living and sleeping out in the open, including between 100 and 200 unaccompanied children.

Child and adult migrants have told Human Rights Watch that police routinely spray them with teargas while they  sleep or in other situations where they pose no threat, trying to get them to leave the area. Police also regularly spray or confiscate sleeping bags, blankets, clothing, and shoes, and have sprayed food and water.

The police harassment extends even to humanitarian workers. They described the systematic nature of police actions: traffic tickets for minor infractions such as insufficient windscreen liquid, phones seized when workers are filming police actions, and frequent checks of identity documents.

Checks are not unlawful, of course, but it happens so often that there is little–if any–basis to justify them. One aid worker described how a police officer came up behind her at a distribution and said in a deep voice, “Good evening Ms. Smith. Could I please see your documents?” I have changed her name, of course, to avoid causing her further harassment.

Aid workers also described being physically pushed by police, and in mid-July, the police sprayed volunteers when they stopped to help an injured migrant in need of water. When they went to report what happened to them, they felt like they were being interrogated. “It really felt like […] we were criminals,” one told me. Another worker told me that one police officer had asked if she would rather be sprayed or hit with a baton.

Under the best conditions, trying to meet the needs of hundreds of desperate migrants is difficult, requiring long hours, skill, dedication, and compassion.  In the tense atmosphere of Calais, the police harassment is taking its toll.  Some volunteers spoke of the emotional and psychological effect on them. Others have learned to brush it off and say they are far more concerned about the treatment of migrants.

The pattern of harassment suggests that police are trying to intimidate aid workers. The somewhat cynical rationale seems to be that humanitarian workers will leave if enough pressure is applied, and migrants will stop coming to Calais. “When the police are there trying to stop us–migrants leave…” Marie told me. “So, the pressure is working.”

From what I saw, though, most humanitarian workers are not about to give up. As I watched them reload a van at midnight, music blaring, they were in good humor. They remain determined to provide the crucial assistance migrants need to survive, despite the obstacles.

They need support. In October, an independent inquiry by the French administration and security forces’ internal investigations department found convincing evidence that police abused migrants in Calais. One of the recommendations is for the local authorities and police officers to meet regularly with aid organizations to make sure that migrants get the help they need. That is especially important now with winter weather setting in. And that includes providing full information about services available and the asylum process in France.

I’m still in touch with Marie, who, along with others, works tirelessly despite the ongoing police harassment. Today, everyone should celebrate the work these brave people are doing day after day in such difficult conditions.

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Excerpt:

Helen Griffiths (@GriffithsH_) is with the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

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Uncertain Future for “Diabolic” Free Trade Pacts Between EU and Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:55 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153207 In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a […]

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Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Nov 27 2017 (IPS)

In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a moratorium on all EPAs.

Ever since independence, Europe’s former colonies have enjoyed preferential (duty-free) access to the European market. In turn they didn’t need to open their own markets. When in 2000 the World Trade Organization deemed this one-sided market opening unlawful, Europe and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) started negotiating reciprocal trade deals."Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa." --Gunther Nooke

The resulting deals, coined Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs, are not pure free trade deals. Under the agreements, ACP countries are allowed to keep protecting 20 percent of their products – mostly agricultural products – with import tariffs. The other 80 percent will be liberalized gradually over the course of 20 years after the signing and ratification of the deal. The deals were negotiated between the European Commission and seven regions of several countries engaged in economic integration processes.

Stalling the implementation

Seventeen years later only two of the seven negotiated deals have been signed, ratified and implemented, one with the South African Development Community (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) and one with the Caribbean. The EPA with West Africa is currently blocked by Nigeria, Gambia and Mauritania who refuse to sign, while in the East African region, last year Tanzania sued Kenya for signing while Uganda wants to address more concerns – President Museveni travelled to Brussels on a three-day work visit at the end of September for talks.

Almost all ACP countries fear the possible negative impact of the EPAs on their economies and therefore stall its implementation. “They already had the right to export to Europe duty-free,” said Joyce Naar, a lawyer and activist with the ACP Civil Society Forum. “Now they are expected to open up their markets to Europe without getting anything back.”

Especially in Africa, governments and analysts fear an encore of the tomato and chicken scenario. In Ghana, for instance, after IMF and World Bank-enforced tariff reductions, import surges caused the market share for domestic chicken to fall from 100 percent to a mere three percent today in less than three decades. The chicken industry, once the second largest employer in the country, has now been taken over by competing imports from Canada, Brazil, Europe and China.

As for tomatoes, after lowering tariffs Ghana became the second largest importer of tomatoes in the world and according to FAO data, market share for domestic produce dwindled from 92 to 57 percent in only five years.

Industrialization at risk

Aside from agricultural produce, NGOs also fear that entire industrialization of the continent is at risk. At a recent international trade union conference on the issue of EPAs in Togo, this point was repeatedly made. “To industrialize, we need to protect and develop the internal market until we’re ready for international competition, as has been demonstrated by China,” says Georgios Altintzis of he International Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

At the conference, Mariama Williams, senior program officer at the South Center in Geneva, also stressed that increased competition would lead to increasing feminization of work.

“Women do the worst jobs in the worst conditions,” she stated at the conference. According to Williams, EPAs will have the greatest impact on labour-intensive industries where women are disproportionately employed. An increase of competition would raise the pressure on these sectors while the internal standards and labour conditions remain unchanged.

“Diabolic” agreements or success story?

“There has always been a diabolic whiff about EPAs,” former EPA chief negotiator Sandra Gallina said a few weeks ago at a meeting of trade ministers from all ACP countries in Brussels. “There is nothing diabolic about them, they were just extremely badly communicated. For the last five years I have been fighting a misinformation campaign.”

On the first day of the Brussels meeting, the European Commission published numbers on its website meant to illustrate the benefits of EPAs. In 2012 an agreement entered into force between Madagascar and the EU. By 2016, exports to the EU had risen by 65 percent. The same for South Africa, which signed an agreement one year ago. The last year, exports of processed fish increased by 16 percent and flowers by 20 percent.

According to Marc Maes, trade policy officer at the Flemish North South Movement 11.11.11, the figures should be taken with a grain of salt. “Madagascar is recovering from a period of total chaos,” he said. “Do these numbers show the influence of the EPA or mere economic recovery? In the case of South Africa, the mentioned period consists of just one year. It’s a bit premature to talk about a steady, reliable impact.”

Migration crisis

The criticism isn’t limited to the content of the agreements. The way in which the European Commission concludes them is also widely condemned. As agreements with entire regions are stalled, the Commission now makes agreements with individual states. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire signed and ratified such interim EPAs a year ago, fearing they would lose preferential access to the European market.

“That’s crazy,” says Gunther Nooke, personal representative in Africa of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and one of the staunchest critics of the EPAs. “Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa. ”

According to Nooke, in the midst of a migration crisis the only things that benefits Europe and Africa is more employment in Africa. “This can only be done by protecting the entire African market with the creation of an African Customs Union led by the African Union. African products can be made here and be freely traded across the continent without having to compete with European goods. But now, because of differences in opinion about EPAs, African countries aren’t making any progress in forming a customs union.”

Moratorium

According to Merkel’s envoy, the African Union Commissioner for Trade has already announced that he will call for a moratorium on all EPAs. “And we must respect that,” says the advisor.

Germany is in the perfect position to make its opinion be heard. The country delivers the greatest contribution to the European Development Budget: just over 6.2 billion euros in the period 2014-2020, accounting for 20.6 percent of the total. It is doubtful whether Berlin and Brussels will be able to voice their opinions in unison at the Nov. 28-29 EU-Africa Summit in Abidjan.

The post Uncertain Future for “Diabolic” Free Trade Pacts Between EU and Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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