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Humpback whales and northern lights video

This video says about itself:

7 October 2015

A group of humpback whales basking under the Northern Lights has been captured on camera by Norwegian TV. The video was filmed off the coast of Kvaløya (Whale Island) near the city of Tromsø.

Syrian refugee interviewed in Germany

The refugee camp in Jenfeld, Hamburg, Germany

By Ute Reissner and Benjamin Hader in Germany:

“Nobody can live like this”: A young refugee in Hamburg speaks out

9 October 2105

Around 800 refugees have been living in a tent city since July in the outlying and impoverished Hamburg suburb of Jenfeld. The tents were erected in a park on the edge of a residential area, one of several temporary camps in which 10,000 people have been confined in the northern German city this year. The majority of the people, around one third, come from Syria, followed by refugees from Albania, Iraq and Eritrea.

While a right-wing initiative protested against the establishment of the refugee camp in Jenfeld’s Moorpark, receiving high-profile coverage from the media and politicians, many local residents and local institutions are making great efforts to assist the new arrivals.

A local school set aside one of its rooms at its own initiative as a store for donated clothing. By contrast, a sign hangs at the camp’s entrance refusing donations.
A sign at the Hamburg refugee camp rejects donorsIn the large tents put up by the German Red Cross, lines of fold-up beds are available for sleeping. There is no other space for the refugees.

In August, all camp residents had to be sealed off from the outside to treat the skin condition scabies because the outbreak had been ignored for weeks until medical treatment was provided. Doctors and other helpers have repeatedly protested over the inadequate treatment available for other infectious diseases.

The camp is surrounded by fences and heavily guarded. Visitors and the media are not allowed to enter. Through the material covering the fences, it is possible to see shameful conditions: small groups sitting around on wooden benches and others walking around. Prams are pushed across the square, while older children ride bicycles or tricycles. Several washing lines have been put up, and blankets and sleeping bags hang on the fences. Inside the fence, several containers have been set up where offices for the camp’s administrators and sanitary facilities are accommodated. Uniformed guards patrol the location and control the only entrance.

On the ground in front of the gate, some young men pass the time by playing ball. Others sit under solitary trees or on the ground, obviously trying to get some space to themselves, since there is no privacy in the camp.

Here we spoke to a young man who told us that he comes from Syria. He fetched Lieth, his friend, who speaks English and told us his story.

Lieth is only 19 years old, but appears younger. The young man made it from Damascus to Hamburg with his 16-year-old brother. He said that, in a year, he would have been finished school.

“We didn’t want to join the Syrian army, that’s why we fled,” he explained. Government officials came to his house and confiscated his passport so that he could not flee the country and avoid military service. His parents subsequently said, “If you have to go to war, you will die, either in the government’s army or one of the militias. Someone will force you to fight. There is only one way out, you have to get out of here.”

The two boys travelled first to Turkey and searched for a ship to take them to Greece. They took a train from Athens to Macedonia. The local police sold them expensive train tickets to travel towards Serbia. Roughly 6 kilometres before the border, they were offloaded in a small town.

In the middle of the night, they crossed the Macedonian-Serbian land border on foot. Then they waited for three days until they had the necessary papers to travel further. Again on foot, they walked across Serbia to Hungary.

They had barely arrived when they were detained by the Hungarian police, who wanted to identify them. When they refused to give their fingerprints out of fear, they were threatened with six months in jail. So they eventually relented. It was all in all a very bad experience, Lieth said.

After a few difficult days in Budapest, they were able to travel to Vienna on a packed train. They then obtained a ticket to Munich with great difficulty.

Friends had advised them to travel on from Munich to Hamburg. It was surely better there, not so overcrowded as in Munich. Lieth never expected to end up in a tent camp in Hamburg.

“In Damascus,” the 19-year-old said, “it was dangerous, but we at least had a house. We had a roof over our heads. I did not expect this from Germany—that one isn’t allowed to live in a house here. Twenty people are accommodated in one tent—men, women and children, all together. There is even a small baby in my tent. It is six months old.

“It is so cold at night that we cannot sleep. We walk around the whole night so we do not freeze. Many can’t cope. Every day between five and six people are taken to hospital. If one needs a doctor, it takes a long time before someone comes, if at all.

“We get something to eat here, but no money. Therefore, we can’t do anything. We can’t leave the camp, we can’t even go into the city, because we have no money for the travel ticket.

“We have no idea what is going to happen next. I always say I would like to learn German. But they always put me off—not now, another time. That’s what happens all the time. Nobody tells us about anything, they say something different each day. This is not only my experience. Friends I have made here are in the same position. We just want to learn and work.

“After all the money we spent, all the effort, after the difficult journey, we are sitting here in a tent camp and have absolutely no idea what will happen. Nobody can live like this. Occasionally I am able to speak with my mother in Damascus. She now regrets sending us to Germany.”

Save Pacific petrels

This video says about itself:

Murphy’s Petrel (chick), 7th September 2013, Henderson Island, SE Pacific

There were many chicks on Henderson and Oeno.

From BirdLife:

Pacific’s Petrels in Peril: a new initiative to save these iconic birds

By Mike Britton, Wed, 07/10/2015 – 02:24

For generations of sailors and those who love the sea, seabirds have been their companion, entertainment and shared the times when the seas turn angry. They can be majestic, funny, noisy, mysterious and spectacular. Sprinkled across the tropical Pacific, the innumerable islands of Oceania are home to some of the most unusual bird communities on the planet. The Pacific is the sea-bird capital of the world.

But these companions of travellers, fishers and visitors to the coast are in trouble, especially in the Pacific. They are more threatened than any other comparable group of birds. And their status has deteriorated faster over recent decades. Many of the birds that live in this region are endangered. Many more have become extinct as a result of human activity, in both recent and prehistoric times. And some really special sea birds are right on the brink of joining the legions of ghosts of past birds.

Over the years BirdLife and its partners have taken actions to protect (and find) different species but the problem is so big we want a Pacific wide strategy for the conservation of this critically endangered group of seabirds. We are calling it ‘Pacific Petrels in Peril’.

The petrels, which conventionally include the petrels, shearwaters and storm-petrels belonging to the families Procellariidae, Oceanitidae and Hydrobatidae, have lost far more populations in Oceania than any other bird family. That is why this new programme gives emphasis to this group – the ‘Petrels’. Specific projects that are being developed as part of the strategy for different flagship petrel species will also help other seabird species.

Priority actions will be to find the breeding sites of Fiji Petrel, Beck’s Petrel and Heinroth’s Shearwater. Overall there are more than 18 species for whch action is needed including Vanuatu Petrel, Collared Petrel, Polynesian Storm-petrel, Tahiti Petrel, Phoenix Petrel and Tropical shearwaters. And probably more.

Most islands in Oceania have not had systematic surveys of breeding seabirds. While there are some threats at sea for seabirds breeding in the region, the primary threats are on land. Until we can eliminate predation pressure and the degradation of nesting/roosting colonies and establish these as secure sites there will be no improvement in their conservation status.

The help of sea bird lovers the world over is needed to develop the first coherent and comprehensive plan for the conservation of Pacific seabirds. With your support we will find the breeding sites to allow conservation action to make them safe, confirm the population status of species and develop conservation plans for each of them. We will also improve the current conservation work, and where we need to start new actions. This intiative is bigger than BirdLife and we will work with other organisations, develop networks for improved communication, resource sharing, capacity building and further project development.

Jeremy Corbyn and British Labour Friends of Israel

Shlomo Anker from Britain says about this video he made:

Jeremy Corbyn speech at pro-Israel event

29 September 2015

The event was by Labour Friends of Israel. The organizers invited Palestinians and their supporters too. The atmosphere was wonderful and pro-Palestinians and pro-Israel people were chatting.

One heckler got attention from the media, but he was drunk as red wine was served.

Many Jews like myself voted for Corbyn and many more who did not vote for him now fully support him as leader.

By Shlomo Anker in Britain:

Labour Friends of Israel warm to Corbyn

Friday 9th October 2015

The new party leader and his pro-Palestinian views both had a surprisingly friendly reception from the group, found SHLOMO ANKER

BEFORE Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Party leader, there was talk of tension within the party — especially from the right-wing media. People suggested that some in the party would even leave and form a SDP style split.

So the reaction of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) is interesting, especially with so much discussion of Corbyn’s views on the Middle East and his record of being very sympathetic to the Palestinians.

At the Labour Party conference, LFI had two main events and its reaction to Corbyn was surprising. Instead of fostering tension and paranoia towards him, the atmosphere was positive and Jewish Labour members both in and outside of LFI are really starting to warm to him. Or to put it another way: Jewish Labour members realise that what the media has said about Corbyn is not true.

One LFI event was a broad discussion about a two-state solution. The speakers in general only spoke in defence of Israel, which included the usual exaggeration of the threat from Iran. It was disappointing that the oppression of the Palestinians was hardly mentioned.

In the discussion afterwards I decided to commment on the suffering of those in Gaza. The reaction I received was unexpected. Instead of people being upset with me, the Chair of LFI, Joan Ryan MP, very much liked my question and the organisers even came to shake my hand.

Pro-Palestinian activists later asked challenging questions and the organisers and pro-Israel members of the audience enjoyed the discussion — although one woman with a Free Palestine badge did get upset with the replies and walked out of the meeting.

The second event for LFI was their annual reception where high-level members of the Labour Party come to drink, eat and discuss the Middle East.

LFI invited plenty of people involved in Labour Friends of Palestine, as well as Corbyn and Hilary Benn. They both spoke alongside Errel Margalit (an Israeli Knesset member) and the deputy ambassdor of Israel. In his speech, Corbyn called for the end of the siege of Gaza but also praised the Jewish community for its work in defending refugees.

The Telegraph and the Times reported on this event but only mentioned a heckler who shouted “Oi oi, say the word Israel!” after Corbyn’s speech. The newspapers forgot to mention that the heckler had partaken heavily in the wine served at the event and is well known as a bit of an “eccentric” who gets so agitated that even the Daily Mail had an article on his bad behaviour.

The improvement of relations between Corbyn and LFI is partly down to the most pro-Israel of all the Labour MPs, Luciana Berger, being appointed to the shadow cabinet. Luciana was formerly the chair of LFI and unlike other pro-Israel voices in the parliamentary party, she is actually Jewish.

But I should not exaggerate. LFI still has strong disagreements with Corbyn and in my opinion LFI’s work needs reform.

Their priority seems to be mainly about Israel’s national security and they do not do enough to stand up for Palestinians.

The rank and file people in LFI are often peace activists but the speakers they invite at events tend to not be as left-wing.

Although while LFI are not supporters of Netanyahu and do formally oppose the occupation, the brutal reality of the occupation is generally not talked about at their events.

I wish that LFI could reform and be focused on peace activism and not on defending the actions of the Israeli military and sometimes its government.

Yet I must also criticise Labour Friends of Palestine too. I spoke with Graeme Morris MP who is the chair of the group and he seemed pessimistic about working with LFI. While he may be right about politics and is a charming fellow, Labour Friends of Palestine need to reach out more to LFI and begin to organise more joint events which will improve relations.

If we are going to have peace and justice in the Middle East, let us at least start with friendship between these two sides within the Labour Party.

Good news for seabirds in Portugal

This video from Britain is called BBC Natural World – Saving Our Seabirds – Full Documentary.

From BirdLife:

New protected areas announced for seabirds in Portugal

By SPEA/BirdLife Europe, Thu, 08/10/2015 – 13:43

Good news for seabird conservation in Portugal, as the country’s government approves the designation of two new Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

As well as the approval of the Cabo Raso and Aveiro/Nazaré sites, two existing SPAs are also being expanded at Cabo Espichel and Costa Sudoeste. The decision was based on seabird monitoring data, collected along the Portuguese coast over the past ten years. BirdLife’s Portuguese Partner SPEA, the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, says the Portuguese Government’s decision is the first step towards comprehensive marine conservation and seabird protection in Portugal.

The new marine protected areas are designated under European legislation (the Birds Directive) and will enhance the conservation of migrating seabirds along the Portuguese coast. This is also a boost to the Natura 2000 network, the EU-wide network which safeguards wildlife protection and habitats. It comes at a crucial time for the network, with the Birds and Habitats Directives (the laws that led to the network’s creation) both under the microscope as the European Commission carries out a ‘Fitness Check’ on them. Nature conservation groups have already urged the Commission not to re-open the directives and also to make sure they are better implemented.

These new and expanded sites will add to the existing Portuguese marine SPA network, offering protection to important feeding and resting areas used by the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater and other seabirds.

Joana Andrade, SPEA’s Marine Conservation Department Co-ordinator, said: “The identification of the proposed sites for SPA designation is based on the work developed by SPEA and different partners who, over the past decade, have focused on seabird monitoring and on the study of their behaviour at sea, under different projects co-financed by the European Union.”

“Seabirds are the most endangered group of birds in the world and the legal protection of these marine areas is essential for seabirds conservation. However, this work can only be achieved through the establishment of appropriate management plans and through a model of public participation, engaging with stakeholders such as fishermen and economic agents among others, since they will be the key agents for the practical implementation of management plans.”

There are around 30 seabird species regular occurring along the Portuguese mainland coast. In addition to the breeding species (such as Cory’s Shearwater and Audouin’s Gull), many other birds use Portuguese waters during their migratory routes and as feeding grounds, resting and wintering areas. Some of these species occur in significant numbers when compared with their European or global populations, including the Northern Gannet and the Balearic shearwater (the most endangered seabird in Europe).

British government jails raped, tortured refugee woman

This video says about itself:

12 September 2015

Many tens of thousands of people marched through London, past 10 Downing Street and up to Parliament in solidarity with refugees. They demand Britain grants asylum to more refugees. Jeremy Corbyn joined and addressed the crowds. London2Calais report.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Raped. Tortured. And locked up in Britain

Friday 9th October 2015

Judge slams Theresa May for ‘truly disgraceful’ asylum regime

A SUDANESE woman who sought safety in Britain after being repeatedly raped and tortured only to be treated “truly disgracefully” by immigration officials won her legal bid in the High Court yesterday.

Mr Justice Collins condemned the “utterly unreasonable and truly disgraceful” treatment of the woman, known only as IKM, and allowed her to claim damages from the government.

The damning ruling comes just days after Home Secretary Theresa May’s rabidly xenophobic anti-immigration and asylum speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

In it, Ms May said the supposedly “wealthiest, fittest and strongest” people who claimed asylum having already reached Britain — like IKM and 97 per cent of those who seek refuge here — were less deserving than people stuck in refugee camps.

Justice Collins said there was clear medical evidence that IKM had been repeatedly raped and tortured in Sudan.

And she suffered further when she was locked up in an English immigration prison from December 7 2013 to January 2014, the court heard, and had to spend three weeks in hospital to recover.

Ordering damages to be assessed either by the High Court or a county court, the judge said: “Very properly the secretary of state has conceded her detention was unlawful.

“It is well known that she was someone who in all probability had sustained torture and that meant she was someone who should not be detained unless there were very exceptional circumstances. There were none.

“It is, I hope, a unique case because the behaviour of those responsible was utterly unreasonable and truly disgraceful.”

IKM, a non-Arab from Darfur, initially came to England to study but then decided to claim asylum in the Republic of Ireland, believing that she could not claim in England because she possessed a student visa.

Her asylum claim was rejected and her appeal dismissed in 2010.

She made her way back to England via Belfast to an area in north-east England where a local Sudanese community came to her aid.

However, the Home Office ordered that she be dumped in Dublin, pointing to the Dublin Convention asylum rules which state that the country where the claim was lodged bears the responsibility.

But the judge said that was rubbish — IKM’s story was solid and five doctors agreed she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“In circumstances such as these, it is difficult to see this as other than a cast-iron case for asylum in this country,” he said.

Ms May “should seriously consider whether it really is humanitarian to require” an unbending following of the rules “rather than adopting a compassionate approach in the particular circumstances of this case.”

David Mitchell, applying for permission to appeal on behalf of the Home Office, claimed the ruling “emasculated” the Dublin Convention.

But Justice Collins dismissed the claim, saying the government had the choice whether or not to stick strictly to it.

Ms May still has the option to go to the appeal court directly.

Wildlife and water in eastern Europe, Rotterdam festival films

This video series is called The Danube – Amazon of Europe.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam in the Netherlands write about this:

Influenced by weather and climatic extremes, the Danube is in constant motion. Floods and drought determine life just as much as the seasons. They influence migration, mating and breeding, as well as hunting and hibernation of animals. Wherever the Danube flows, it impacts nature and people’s lives. The mighty river ends in a unique labyrinth of water, mud and reeds: the Danube delta. It is the last remaining major river delta in Europe and the largest reed bed on earth, used by huge colonies of pelicans, cormorants, sea eagles and spoonbills for breeding and nesting.

This video says about itself:

The cinema trailer of our natural history film “Wild Hungary – A Water Wonderland“.

The organisers of the Rotterdam festival write about this film:

A country like no other in Europe, Hungary is influenced by the rhythms of its rivers. White-tailed eagles, otters and enormous catfish share the wetlands with many other species living close to the local people often unnoticed. Wild Hungary is their intimate story.