NEWS - Archive April 2015

MEDITERRANEAN MIGRANT CRISIS week 18

The Migrant Dead

Thousands of people have perished trying to migrate to Europe since 2005.
By Andrew Kahn and Chris Kirk

30/4/2015- In April, a boat carrying as many as 950 migrants en route to Europe capsized off the coast of Libya, killing nearly all of its passengers. The shipwreck, which may be the worst maritime disaster in the Mediterranean since World War II, is just one in a long series of incidents that have left tens of thousands of migrants dead in recent years. Nobody knows exactly how they all died or even how many have died. But the Migrant Files, a dataset of migrant deaths and disappearances that a group of European journalists have stitched together through government, media, and nonprofit reports, provides a useful though incomplete picture. Below, we display an icon for every Europe-bound migrant who has died or disappeared since 2005, based on data from the Migrant Files. Click the icons to learn more about each incident.
21,736 people have died or gone missing trying to migrate to Europe since 2005.
Click a person for more information about how he or she died.
© Slate

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EU leader: Too little too late to deal with migrant crisis

29/4/2015- A top European Union leader conceded in unusually candid comments Wednesday that the EU response to the deadly Mediterranean migrant crisis was too little, too late, and said offers to do more in the immediate future are inadequate. Beyond the willingness to come up with instant humanitarian aid to deal with the tragedies of hundreds of dead at sea, the EU has continued to turn a cold shoulder to most of the thousands that attempt to make the Mediterranean crossing to build a better life in Europe. To force a change, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Parliament called for the imposition of a mandatory quota system for the 28 EU nations to take care of the refugees and not leave it to frontline countries like Italy, Greece and Malta, or those like Germany and Sweden that are sheltering a disproportionate amount of asylum seekers.

"We need to share solidarity," Juncker told EU lawmakers, and also give more consideration to legal immigration. "We have to open the doors to make sure they don't come in through the windows." A parliament resolution approved by a 449-130 margin, with 93 abstentions, called for a quota plan. It also urged EU nations to provide more places for refu-gee resettlement and to issue more humanitarian visas to asylum seekers before they depart, allowing them to travel to Europe by traditional means instead of using the dangerous sea route. EU nations have proved reluctant to share the burden of lodging asylum seekers — some do not even have the reception lodgings required for them under EU law— but Juncker and the parliament are trying to find ways to bind countries to their commitments. The quota plan is likely to be controversial, as it could see a maximum limit for refu-gees set for each member state. When that limit is reached, the migrants would have to be shared among other EU partners.

Some 280,000 illegal border crossings were detected in Europe last year, a new record. More than 170,000 came through the Mediterranean, mostly Syrians and Eritreans leaving via strife-torn Libya to find better lives in the rich EU. Around 1,700 are feared to have died in the last few weeks, yet the high-season for sea migration does not start till June. But in times of increasing anti-foreigner sentiment, economic crisis and inward-looking politics in several EU nations, Juncker did not have a popular message. Highlighting the pro-blems, a key British legislator with immigrant roots immediately came out and said the doors could not be flung wide open. Syad Kamall said that "when I see poverty and tragedies like this, my heart wishes we were able to offer that opportunity to everyone. But my head tells me we cannot." Kamall is from Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conserva-tive Party, which is in the closing stages of a tight campaign ahead of the May 7 British elections where immigration is a major theme. "Seeking new forms of legal migration will not solve this problem," said Kamall.

Juncker promised that he would be coming up with a plan for relocation of refugees across the whole EU on May 13. The immediate concern, though, is how to deal with the thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean in rickety ships during doomed missions set up by unscrupulous traffickers who leave them to drown after the refugees have set off. Juncker said that pledges made at an emergency summit last Thursday to boost a European border operation dealing with the unprecedented wave of migrants "were inferior to the ambitions that we should have." He also told the lawmakers that the decision to phase out Italy's Mare Nostrum operation late last year was wrong. "It was a grave mistake," Juncker said during a tense debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "It cost human lives." The Italian emergency operation was expensive and politically unpopular in Italy even though it helped pluck tens of thousands from the Mediterranean in 2013-2014.

At the EU summit, leaders pledged to double the number of ships and aircraft in the Triton border operation in the Mediterranean, which followed Mare Nostrum, and to triple its budget to 9 million euros a month. But some of the assets for the expanded operation, which include border and migration experts, will not be available for several months, and many are only being offered for a month or two.
© The Associated Press

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U.N. chief to paper: No military solution to boat migrant crisis

26/4/2015- There is no military solution to migrants drowning in the Mediterranean, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said on Sunday, as European leaders search for ways to manage the flow of people leaving North Africa in rickety boats. Ban's comments came a week after more than 700 people drowned in the worst shipwreck in decades of dange-rous seaborne migration. The disaster has shocked the European Union into pledging more money for rescues. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Ban said the United Nations was ready to help tackle the problem. Asked about a proposal by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to "capture and destroy" the boats that traffickers use, Ban said the U.N. focused on security and protecting human rights. "There is no military solution to the human tragedy playing out in the Mediterranean," Ban said. "It is crucial that we take a holistic approach that looks at the root causes, at security and the human rights of migrants and refugees, and have legal and regulated immigration networks."

EU leaders agreed on Thursday to triple funding for its naval searches in the Mediterranean. But it is still not clear how they will cope with longer-term issues, ranging from dealing with people smugglers to redistributing asylum seekers around the 28 EU nations. Ban is due to visit Italy on Monday and meet politicians, including Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief. Mogherini told La Repubblica newspaper on Sunday she would discuss with Ban the proposal to destroy the boats, saying it "does not mean preparing a military intervention in Libya". EU leaders are also under pressure to manage housing migrants once they arrive on the continent without angering their voters, among whom opposition to immigrants has grown as years of recession strangled public spending.

Italy's location makes it a prime destination for would-be immigrants, most of whom are fleeing the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Under the EU's Dublin treaty, migrants become the responsibility of the first European country they arrive in. Many do not intend to stay in Italy, but asylum requests can take more than a year and the recession-hit state looks after many of them while they wait in reception centers. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told Il Messaggero newspaper on Saturday that Italy was working on a substi-tute for the Dublin treaty, calling it "obsolete". "We are working to construct a common system which goes beyond the Dublin treaty, which is now obsolete in practice, making the mechanism less rigid and more collaborative," Alfano said. Last weekend's disaster came after a migrant boat collided with a merchant ship and then capsized. The Italian navy said on Sunday that 274 rescued migrants were due to arrive in the southern port of Taranto on Monday.
© Reuters

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UK: Royal Navy to send drones to the Mediterranean to save migrants

Unarmed surveillance drones could be sent to search for dangerously overloaded boats packed with people making the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe

27/4/2015- Royal Navy ship-launched surveillance drones could be sent to scour the Mediterranean as part of Britain’s effort to combat the migrant crisis, under plans being considered by defence chiefs. The Navy’s new ScanEagle remote-controlled aircraft would search for dangerously overloaded boats packed with people making the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe. David Cameron has already offered HMS Bulwark, two Border Force cutters and three Merlin helicopters for search and rescue efforts after international outcry at the loss of life in the Mediterranean this year. More than 1,750 migrants have perished trying to make the crossing in 2015, a 30-fold increase on the same period last year. Sources said the Type 23 frigate HMS Kent, currently in the Gulf, could be moved to take part in the operation and bring its new ScanEagle drones for use in the search.

The unarmed drone is catapulted into flight by a 14ft ramp and can remain airborne for 12 hours. The aircraft can fly at ranges of up to 40 miles from its ship and beams back live video, day or night, directly into the ship’s operations room. One Whitehall source described the ScanEagle as a potential “life saver”. He said: “We are operating the ScanEagle in the Gulf. It is a well-established system. Frigates are designed to take them”. ScanEagle is operated by 700X Naval Air Squadron, nicknamed the X Men, and has been used to hunt for pirates, mines and drug runners since it was introduced in 2013. HMS Bulwark, an amphibious command and control ship, will help coordinate the effort in the Mediterran-ean’s busy sea lanes. The source said: “Bulwark will be good at directing assets towards a vessel that needs rescuing. It is about co-ordination.”

EU leaders last week said they would triple funding for rescue operations aimed at migrant boats in the Mediterranean, following outcry after a boat capsized killing as many as 850 people. Only 28 survivors were recovered from the overloaded fishing boat that had set sail from Libya. European countries scaled back search and rescue operations last year and Britain said it believed they were acting as a “pull factor”, encouraging more people to attempt the dangerous voyage. Libya has become a main thoroughfare for migrants trying to reach Europe and a haven for people trafficking gangs. Thousands pass through the country each week from countries including Syria, Eritrea, Mali and Nigeria.

David Cameron and other EU leaders have said they will smash the people trafficking gangs, but have given little detail of how it might be done. One Naval source said any kind of blockade to try to turn migrants back would be an “enormous task”. Meanwhile, the family of the Tunisian man accused of piloting the migrant boat that sank off Libya have said he was forced at gunpoint to captain the doomed vessel. Italian authorities say the man named in court as Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, was in charge of the heavily overloaded fishing boat that capsized shortly before midnight on April 18 with hundreds of African and Bangladeshi migrants locked below deck.
© The Telegraph

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Greece: Migrant boat crisis: the story of the Greek hero on the beach

One compelling image has come to represent all the Greek people who treated desperate migrants like fellow human beings.

26/4/2015- It was an image that came to symbolise desperation and valour: the desperation of those who will take on the sea – and the men who ferry human cargo across it – to flee the ills that cannot keep them in their own countries. And the valour of those on Europe’s southern shores who rush to save them when tragedy strikes. Last week on the island of Rhodes, war, repression, dictatorship in distant Eritrea were far from the mind of army sergeant Antonis Deligiorgis. The world inhabited by Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old Eritrean in the cabin of a yacht sailing towards the isle, was still far away. At 8am on Monday there was nothing that indicated the two would meet. Stationed in Rhodes, the burly soldier accompanied his wife, Theodora, on the school run. “Then we thought we’d grab a coffee,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview recounting what would soon ensue. “We stopped by a cafe on the seafront.”

Deligiorgis had his back to the sea when the vessel carrying Nebiat struck the jagged rocks fishermen on Rhodes grow up learning to avoid. Within seconds the rickety boat packed with Syrians and Eritreans was listing. The odyssey that had originated six hours earlier at the Turkish port of Marmaris – where thousands of Europe-bound migrants are now said to be amassed – was about to end in the strong currents off Zefyros Beach. For Nebiat, whose journey to Europe began in early March – her parents paid $10,000 for a voyage that would see her walk, bus and fly her way to “freedom” – the reef was her first contact with the continent she had prayed to reach. Soon she was in the water clinging to a rubber buoy. “The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes,” the father-of-two recalled. “It was as if it was made of paper. By the time I left the café at 10 past 10, a lot of people had rushed to the scene. The coastguard was there, a Super Puma [helicopter] was in the air, the ambulance brigade had come, fishermen had gathered in their caiques. Without really giving it a second’s thought, I did what I had to do. By 10:15 I had taken off my shirt and was in the water.”

Deligiorgis brought 20 of the 93 migrants to shore singlehandedly. “At first I wore my shoes but soon had to take them off,” he said, speaking by telephone from Rhodes. “The water was full of oil from the boat and was very bitter and the rocks were slippery and very sharp. I cut myself quite badly on my hands and feet, but all I could think of was saving those poor people.” In the chaos of the rescue, the 34-year-old cannot remember if he saved three or four men, or three or four children, or five or six women: “What I do remember was seeing a man who was around 40 die. He was flailing about, he couldn’t breathe, he was choking, and though I tried was impossible to reach. Anyone who could was hanging on to the wreckage.”

Deligiorgis says he was helped by the survival skills and techniques learned in the army: “But the waves were so big, so relentless. They kept coming and coming.” He had been in the water for about 20 minutes when he saw Nebiat gripping the buoy. “She was having great problems breathing,” he said. “There were some guys from the coastguard around me who had jumped in with all their clothes on. I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea. They helped and then, instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.” On Friday it emerged that he had also rescued a woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Rhodes general hospital. In a sign of her gratitude, the Eritrean, who did not want to be iden-tified, told nurses she would name her son after him. While Deligiorgis’s heroism has raised the spirits of a nation grappling with its worst economic crisis in modern times, he is far from alone. All week there have been stories of acts of kindness, great and small, by islanders who rushed to help the emigrés. One woman stripped her own child to swaddle a Syrian baby, hundreds rushed to donate food and clothes.

“They are souls, like us,” said Babis Manias, a fisherman, breaking down as he recalled saving a child. “We couldn’t believe it at first. We thought it was a tourist boat, what with all the hotels along the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it, the terror that can haunt a human’s eyes.” The incident has highlighted the extraordinary sacrifice people on the frontline of Fortress Europe will often make as the humanitarian disaster unfolding on the continent’s outer reaches becomes ever more real. Last week close to 2,000 migrants were reported entering he country with the vast majority coming through its far-flung Aegean isles. Most were said to be Syrian students and other professionals able to afford passage to the west. “As long as there are crises in their own countries and desperation and despair, they will look to Europe,” said Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, who heads the United Nations refugee mission in Athens. “And as long as there are no legal alternatives they will take these great risks to get here.”

Like other passengers, Nebiat, who would spend most of the week in hospital being treated for suspected pneumonia, has no desire to stay in Greece. Sweden is her goal. And on Thursday she boarded a ferry bound for Piraeus, the continuation of a journey that began in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, took her to Sudan and from there to Turkey travelling on a fake passport. “I am lucky,” she said as she was reunited with those who made the journey with her. “Very lucky to be alive.” Deligiorgis falls silent at the mention of heroism. There was nothing brave, he says, about fulfilling his duty “as a human, as a man”. But recounting the moment he plucked the Eritrean from the sea, he admits the memory will linger. “I will never forget her face,” he says. “Ever.”
© The Guardian

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Italy: Tunisian accused in migrant boat disaster appears in Italian court

25/4/2015- An Italian judge on Friday ordered that the presumed captain of a migrant boat that sank with the loss of more than 700 lives should remain in custody after prosecutors asked for him to be charged with multiple homicide and people-trafficking. Mohammed Alì Malek, 27, denies that he was in charge of the heavily overloaded fishing boat that capsized off Libya late on Saturday with hundreds of African and Bangladeshi migrants locked in its lower decks. "He says he's a migrant like all the others and he paid his fare to go on the boat," his lawyer, Massimo Ferrante, said outside the courtroom. However Catania chief prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said the judge had ordered both Malek and 25 year-old Syrian Mahmud Bikhit, who is accused of being a member of the crew, to be detained in custody. Both men were arrested on Monday night when they arrived in Sicily with other survivors of the shipwreck, who identified the two to Italian police.

The Tunisian showed little emotion as the preliminary hearing began behind closed doors in a court in the Sicilian city of Catania where he will come face to face with a number of survivors who will be giving testimony. Prosecutors say he mishandled the fishing boat and caused it to collide with a Portuguese merchant ship which was coming to its assi-stance. As the passengers rushed away from the side of the boat which had struck the merchant ship, "King Jacob", the grossly overloaded vessel capsized and sank within minutes. They have also heard testimony from witnesses who said they were beaten and abused by club-wielding traffickers before they were embarked. The survivors indicated that Malek had been in control of the 20-metre-long vessel, assisted by Bikhit and that they kept in contact by Thuraya satellite telephone with two associates in Libya, identified as Jaafar and Has, who had managed the voyage. Bikhit's lawyer, Giuseppe Russo, said his client accused Malek of being in charge of the vessel but denies being a crew member and said he was on the ship as a migrant.

Clandestine Immigration
Prosecutors are not asking for homicide charges to be brought against him but he may face charges of favouring clandestine immigration. Only 28 people survived the disaster, believed to be the heaviest loss of life on the Mediterranean in decades and which underlined the scale of the migrant crisis facing Europe. The sea is one of the main routes into the European Union for tens of thousands of mostly Asian and African migrants fleeing war and poverty, with almost 40,000 people having arrived this year already. The scale of the disaster has also raised pressure for action by EU countries, who pledged this week to step up search and rescue operations in the southern Mediterranean. After interviewing the survivors, prosecutors have concluded that more than 750 people are likely to have been aboard the 20-metre-long fishing boat, but with most locked in the hold and lower deck, only 24 bodies have been recovered.

Prosecution documents show that one survivor said the locked doors on the lower deck had been watched by two Somali crew members, both of whom appeared to have drow-ned and Salvi said none of the other survivors was being investigated. Prosecutors have requested that Malek face kidnapping charges in addition to multiple counts of homicide, causing a shipwreck and facilitating clandestine immigration. Friday's preliminary hearing was intended to allow judges to establish the basic facts before a decision is taken on whether to file charges and take the case to trial.
© Reuters

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Ghanaians move on after shattered migrant dreams

The European Union wants to boost Mediterranean sea patrols to try and prevent further loss of life among migrants desperate to reach Europe. In Ghana, a group of ex-migrants has a simple message. Stay at home.

27/4/2015- 35-year-old Ghanaian Eric Opoku Ware began dreaming at an early age of the life he would like to lead in some more glamorous, prosperous corner of the world. "When I was in school, I had classmates who had parents abroad and they came with nice stuff. It enticed me it induced me, to say one day, I have to travel abroad," he told DW. Ware didn't have a family member abroad to sponsor him and attempts to secure a visa for Europe led nowhere. Opting for the illegal route, he left Ghana for Libya in the year 2000. "The journey was very dangerous. As a matter of fact, I wanted to turn back, but I had taken a decision. Eating - we couldn't even eat, all that we needed was water, we drank urine along the line, we needed water so badly," he said. The experiences of Ernest Lawey, another ex-migrant who returned home, were equally harrowing; the demands of the traffickers evidently extortionate. "We started this journey from Ghana, Bawku to be precise, to Gabon, on long vehicles. We sat on top with the goods and we got to Gabon. There we had someone we called chief, [we were told] all those who go to Libya - they will stay with that person and he will be organizing. We will have some money you pay to keep you there, and you will pay again for directions," he told DW.

Rebuilding lives
Ware and Lawey were arrested by immigration officials in Libya and deported. They are now rebuilding their lives. Curiously, many of those who have returned from such failed trips have found that their lives in Ghana have improved in the meantime, Ware said. They now think they shouldn't have embarked on the trip in the first place and believe they can realize their ambitions at home. Critics in Ghana say the government isn't doing enough to dissuade Ghanaians from undertaking such hazardous journeys, but the foreign mini-stry says officials are doing their best. Ware and other ex-migrants have recounted their experiences in a television documentary which has been screened in various communities across the country. Ware compares illegal migration and the deaths it causes at sea to malaria, road accidents and Ebola. "Illegal migration should be preached about. Because it is killing a lot of people that people are not aware of," he said.

'I will go'
Ghana faces economic problems. The growth that propelled it to 'middle income' status in 2010 has stalled. The country faces high levels of public debt, a currency that has depreciated sharply, and an inflation rate that has risen to as high as 17 percent. The West African nation recently signed a deal for a bail-out loan from the International Monetary Fund. It's amid this scenario that some Ghanaians wonder whether life wouldn't better elsewhere. "I would like to go outside, especially to the developed countries. Ghanaian David Agblor said. "If I get the chance to go, I will go," Nii Allotey told DW.
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Ireland: Humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean (opinions, letters)

27/4/2015- A chara, – The European Network Against Racism in Ireland, a network of 47 civil society organisations committed to combating racism, urges the Government and the leaders of our European Union partners to ensure that the response to the ongoing human tragedy in the Mediterranean is one focused on humanitarian, rather than military, solutions. Ireland, like all European countries, must recognise its responsibility at this crucial moment and do everything in its power to avoid further mass loss of human life. We hope the Taoiseach in his discussions with other European leaders shows leadership in resisting the temptation to opt for populist responses, and instead offer concrete solutions that will, to use Amnesty International’s term, put people before borders.

We urge all European member states, including Ireland, to make financial pledges towards the expansion and continuation of search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, in a way that is transparent and ensures democratic oversight. This humanitarian crisis is a European crisis, and the responsibility must be borne by all, on a fair basis. We urge the creation of a Europe-wide programme for large-scale resettlement for people in need of international protection, to be allocated on a fair basis, in line with each country’s GDP. We have a responsibility to act in solidarity with other EU member states, and we are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and let us not forgot that nor why it was drafted.

We call for the opening of safe and legal channels to Europe, acknowledging the reality that numerous ongoing wars and crises are displacing huge numbers of people. Smuggling is not the only reason behind these perilous journeys. The crisis did not start with the deaths in the Mediterranean, rather what we are witnessing is a symptom of a deeper crisis. It must be acknowledged that this crisis is borne out of years of instability in sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East, instability for which some EU countries bear sig-nificant responsibility. If the response of EU heads of state is to push people back into dire situations and conflict, we will not only move the “problem” down the line and perpetuate it, but also fail to understand this as a global problem, one which requires Europe to show courageous leadership.

Let our policy in this area reflect the founding principles of the European Union. Of one thing we can be sure. people will continue to risk their lives by embarking on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean, not knowing what awaits them but certain that there is no hope behind them. We need proactive, effective and humane strategies in place now to stop people dying at our shores. We must acknowledge the part Europe has played in creating this crisis and act to rectify it, by whatever humanitarian means possible. – Is mise,
SHANE O’CURRY, Director, ENAR Ireland
Dublin 2, for Age Action Intercultural Nursing Home Project; Akidwa Migrant Women’s Network; Anti Racism Network; Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project; Cairde; Canal Communities Partnership; Canal Communities Regional Youth Service; Canal Communities Intercultural Network; Comhlámh; Community Workers Cooperative; Conference of Religious of Ireland; Cultúr; Doras Luimní;European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland; Galway Traveller Movement; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Missionary Union; Immigrant Parents & Guardians Support Association; Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation; Irish Refugee Council; Irish Traveller Movement; Mayo Intercultural Action; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; NASC Immigrant Centre; National Traveller; Mabs; National Youth Council of Ireland; Rialto Community Network; ROI Against Racism; Roma Integration Association; Show Racism the Red Card; Sport Against Racism Ireland; Siptu; Union of Students in Ireland (USI
).

Sir,
– The plight of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean is not new, neither unfortunately is our inaction – whether due to ignorance or plain lack of concern
for the “other” – and most Europeans have done very little so far but pay lip-service to the problem. At its closest point to Gibraltar, north Africa is less than 15km from southern Europe. North Africa has a geospatial impact on Europe and vice versa, whether we like it or not. Unlike Ukraine, Europe cannot presume that the US will row in; this is our problem and on our doorstep. The plight of these desperate migrants has shone a light on the fallacy of unity within the EU. African migrants have been seen as a problem for southern states; northern Europeans were happy to let Italy, Spain and tiny but hugely significant Malta bear the brunt of this problem. The attitude is that what happens on the periphery can stay on the periphery.

This crisis has left European Politicians with no option but direct action. Having lived under the umbrella of US security since the end of the second World War, Europeans have decided that expeditionary action is something done by the US. As much as Britain and France may espouse the idea of European self-assertion, their defence cuts in particular say otherwise. While it may not be to everyone’s liking, the most suitably equipped and trained personnel that Europe has available to deal with the sea-borne portion of this emergency are its militaries. Europeans must look to our duplicity in circumstances like this. We will shed tears for drowning Africans but do we ask what causes these people to risk their lives and those of their children? We must accept that approximately 70 years of independence has not gone very well in many African states. Some of this is down to the after-effects of European colonialism.

This issue alone has hamstrung us in two basic ways – while some of us still feel guilt over the white man’s legacy others are still involved in Africa for their own gain, the latter being particularly damaging when it comes to aiding or propping up ruling elites. Lastly there is the contentious area of trade and advantages in production. Africa is not entirely barren, and sub-Saharan Africa has immense agricultural potential, so why is it that it cannot seem to compete on the world stage? Agriculture in the EU, US and Japan is so heavily subsidised that there is little chance for an African farmer to produce and sell at market prices. As long as there is economic and political turmoil in Africa, the people of that continent will seek a better future in another homeland.

I wonder how long this problem will stay in the current news cycle. We will shift focus to the next big thing, but desperate people will still be drowning. I urge Europeans to take the problems of north Africa seriously, if not for a humanitarian reason then for a selfish one. We need a secure and stable north Africa. – Yours, etc,
ANNE QUINLAN, Clondalkin
© The Irish Times.

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European Union (EU) leaders this week held a meeting to urgently discuss the influx of refugees trying to illegally reach their continent via the Mediterranean Sea.
By Takura Zhangazha


27/4/2015- Despite the fact that a majority of these emigrants are African, there are no reports of the African Union’s (AU) Council of Foreign Ministers doing the same, though there are some comments attributed to the AU commission. Sadly so, the problem therefore appears to be more urgent for Europe than for Africa. The reasons for the differences in urgency between the two continental bodies probably relate to the fact that we, as Africans, are not treating this as an urgent humanitarian crises or those seeking to emigrate as people that have lost confidence in their respective African governments, economies and the entirety of the continent in serving their interests. European governments, wary of their citizens’ anti-immigrant sentiments and how it affects electoral outcomes want to be seen to be acting to fortify Europe from us, African ‘others’. So their intentions are not about the Africna continent, but ensuring that they stem the ‘African tide.’

This is not the same for African governments that in most cases will not identify the problem as stemming from their bad economic and political policies at home and abroad. In other instances, some African leaders attribute this to the NATO intervention in Libya, an intervention which has left that country with porous borders and no clear central government. The overall muted AU current response is however a cause for concern and has been noted in some sections of the media. Not that the AU has not made some efforts to deal with migrant routes and the affected countries. It has done so but is unable to respond as a continental body to this current and urgent crisis probably for lack of funding or lack of further prodding by affected member states. The elephant in the room however is to be found in the reasons as to why people from African countries such as Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Libya itself are really trying so hard to leave. And that even if their first attempts fail, they will try again and again, barring death on the sea.

Some of the reasons our African brother and sister give for doing so are given as either war, unemployment, political repression, Ebola outbreaks and the general impression of Europe as being a place where everything is good or works. These same reasons are cited not only by those that decide to undertake the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in crowded boats (a journey that also includes being trafficked across the Sahel and Sahara deserts). Even those few well off Africans that manage to purchase air tickets or official ship rides to get to mainland Europe also claim to do so for the same reasons. So in both cases it is therefore the reasons for this stubborn and perennial intention to emigrate that are of paramount importance for for Africa to address much more concertedly. This may seem a token point given the fact that there is already the AU’s strategic plan, Agenda 2063.

It however becomes even more important where one takes into account the maxim, ‘African solutions for African problems.’ At the moment there is no sign of any urgency in finding solutions to this specifically African problem of people risking their lives to get to what in any event is ‘fortress Europe’. Apart from giving the impression that those fleeing the continent are confirming the myth of the ‘dark continent’ where life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’, the current lack of coherent messages and action from the AU creates the impression that this particular challenge can only be solved by those that in any event prefer that Africans don’t burden their political economies. It is not only tragic but dehumanizing for many an African to see and know that an increasing number of us are willing to die rather than live here. It is even more distressing to know that our elected or appointed representatives do not take this issue as seriously as they should.

Even if some African leaders wanted to blame NATO and its liberal interventionism in Libya, the fact of the matter is that it is our continent’s inhabitants that are dying watery deaths. Or, even if they survive these perilous journeys, will inevitably be sent back to the continent, only to try and leave again. The point is not that we must hide our continent’s problems. It is however imperative that those that are elected to lead or represent the concerns of the continent need to act upon these problems with the greatest of urgency and at the highest possible level. For Europe, the Africans emigrating from our continent may be a burden they must stem, but we are the ones who must treat it more as a continental emergency. We must work concertedly toward a better Africa, not only via strategic reports and plans or at AU summits but in our ability to respond to the challenges the people of the mother continent are facing. We must return to the Pan African path not only in words and meaning but moreso in action.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. You can visit his blog: Takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com
© Nehanda Radio

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CZECH REP, N.IRELAND & UK News week 18

Police detained 57 opponents for interfering with the march

1/5/2015- Some 1,500-2,000 people blocked the access roads to the square at which a May Day rally of the extremist Workers’ Youth (DM) was held today, chanting “Nazis out of Brno.” The police at first separated the two camps, deploying hundreds of riot squad members, mounted police and a helicopter. Tough skirmishes eventually occurred between the police and the protesters. Organizers of the protest have said the police had repeatedly used tear gas and rubber bullets without any previous warning. However, they also admitted that the crowd had gone out of control at the close of the protest rally. “The crowd acquired a sort of its own dynamism, but in my view, the anti-conflict team and the police themselves did not cope with it,” organizer Václav Pecl has told the Czech News Agency. Pecl said the police ought to have dissolved the DM march as its organizers were unable to secure a safe passage through the town.

The police detained 57 opponents of the march, as they blocked it, but only one of them is still held in a prison cell, regional police president Leoš Tržil said. Now they will face prosecution over minor offences, he added. No one of the protesters was injured, Tržil said. The DM rally called Europe, Get Up believed that some 500 people would come to it, but the participation was eventually smaller. The crowd was addressed by Tomáš Vandas, leader of the extra-parliamentary Workers’ Party of Social Justice (DSSS). Vandas was speaking about immigrant hordes flooding Europe who set shops on fire, harming its population. The protesters said the DM was evidently linked with neo-Nazi circles. Some 150 people eventually managed to stop the DM march at a street corner. The police drove them away, but in the clash, several people were injured. The skirmishes continued in the neighboring streets. The DM is closely affiliated with the DSSS.

The DSSS’s predecessor, the Workers’ Party (DS), was established in 2003. In 2010, the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) outlawed it. The DS contains xenophobic and chauvinist elements and racist subtext, and it follows up Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism, the NSS ruled. Representatives of the dissolved party, including DS chairman Vandas, then establish-ed the DSSS.
© The Prague Post

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