European Union guilty in refugees’ drowning, United Nations say


This 20 April 2015 video says about itself:

More migrants drown in latest shipwreck

The calls for help from the middle of the Mediterranean continued on Monday after another boat filled with migrants ran aground off Greece.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

UN attacks ‘callous’ EU over sea tragedy

Tuesday 21st April 2015

UNITED NATIONS high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein urged European Union governments yesterday to take a new and “less callous” approach to the surge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Hussein said in Geneva that recent deaths in the Mediterranean were “the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion.”

He called for the creation of a robust and well-financed European search-and-rescue effort and urged the international community to set up an independent inquiry.

The UN high commissioner said that Europe was turning its back on some of the world’s most vulnerable migrants and ran the risk of turning the Mediterranean into “a vast cemetery.”

His passion and humanity contrasted with the tired repetition of past failures by EU border surveillance agency Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri, who insisted that recent tragedies involving migrants trying to enter Europe showed the continent must do more to stop economic migration.

EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to address the crisis in the Mediterranean.

The bloc’s president Donald Tusk made the announcement yesterday after days of waffling and indecision on how to tackle the rapidly worsening tragedy of hundreds of migrants drowning during desperate attempts to reach Europe’s shores.

The situation worsened further yesterday, with rescue crews still searching for survivors and bodies while hundreds more migrants took to the sea.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been to the fore in demanding an end to seach-and-rescue operations as a supposed “pull factor” for refugees, welcomed the summit.

He said: “I think what we need is a comprehensive plan that does involve elements of search and rescue but, crucially, we have got to do more to deal with the problems in the countries from which these people are coming.”

That in itself sounds OK, Mr Cameron. However, you forgot to mention that these ‘problems in the countries from which these people are coming‘ are caused to a very large extent by the warmongering by your government and governments like yours, in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Mali etc.

DEATH TOLL FOR MEDITERRANEAN DISASTER COULD HIT 900: Only 28 survivors have been found thus far. The captain and a crew member have been arrested for “multiple homicide.” [NYT]

THE appalling death of up to 950 people fleeing the war-torn regions of the Middle East and North Africa has prompted the political representatives of European capitalism to rush to Luxembourg for an emergency meeting to discuss this ‘humanitarian’ crisis. Most of them support the ‘Australian solution’ – that the boats should be turned back at gunpoint as soon as they set sail, and to hell with the poor, the oppressed and the hungry: here.

European Union plans more aggressive measures against refugees: here.

Blood on their hands: Libya’s boat refugees and “humanitarian” imperialism: here.

Noam Chomsky about United States wars


This video says about itself:

Chomsky: ‘US invades, destroys country – that’s stabilization. Someone resists – destabilization’

9 apr. 2015

While the International Criminal Court investigates and sentences African dictators, any of the crimes the US commits like the invasion of Iraq, which has destabilized an entire region, go unpunished, philosopher Noam Chomsky tells.

700 refugees drown, European politicians guilty


This 19 April 2015 video is called Boat Carrying 700 Migrants Capsizes Off Libya.

From AFP news agency:

700 migrants feared dead in Mediterranean shipwreck

Hundreds more people are believed to have drowned when a fishing boat smuggling migrants to Europe capsized off Libya, UN’s refugee agency says

Sunday 19 April 2015 10.14 BST

From weekly The Observer in Britain:

Migrant boat disaster: ‘irresponsible’ rhetoric blamed for failure to restart rescue

UN official accuses politicians in Britain and across Europe of obstructing attempts to save migrant lives after boat sinks in Mediterranean

Mark Townsend

Saturday 18 April 2015 20.43 BST

Anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians across Europe, including Britain, is blocking attempts to introduce large search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean that would save large numbers of migrant lives, a senior UN official has warned.

In comments that reveal the growing frustration within the UN Refugee Agency over Europe’s response to the growing migration crisis in the Mediterranean, Laurens Jolles said political expediency was preventing measures being taken to reduce migrant deaths.

Jolles, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Italy, said: “In many countries in Europe at the moment, the [political] dialogue and the rhetoric is quite extreme and very irresponsible.”

Italy is experiencing a wave of hostility towards the influx of migrants before regional elections at the end of May, while in the runup to the UK general election, Ukip has been accused of forcing a toxic debate about immigration and national identity.

Jolles said: “Because of elections and because of the economic crisis, it becomes difficult for those parties who traditionally would not follow on those same lines to counter the rhetoric with the strength that they should.

“It’s a fear of foreigners, which is a logical fear, a natural fear, but it is being exploited for populist or political reasons, especially in election periods.”

An estimated 400 migrants drowned last week when their boat capsized en route from Libya to Italy. The tragedy prompted fresh calls from human rights organisations to mount large-scale search-and-rescue operations, but UNHCR officials say politicians are choosing to avoid upsetting their electorates. “The level of this dialogue compared to 20 years ago is just incredible. It wouldn’t have been possible in the past, the racist rhetoric, the rhetoric of intolerance. In the 60s, 70s and the 80s, we would never have accepted this,” said Jolles.

Critics say the cancellation last year of an Italian-run sea rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, and the launch in November of Triton, a significantly smaller border surveillance operation by the EU, have created the conditions for what many believe will lead to a record number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean this year.

EU governments believe the narrower scope of the current mission is justified, claiming that a scaled-back rescue operation will deter migrants from making the crossing.

The Foreign Office says it will not support future search-and-rescue operations because they encourage migration.

“The fact that the UK has made it clear that it does not wish to participate in contributing measures to a rescue operation, or putting in place a rescue operation in the Mediterranean, is very concerning,” said Jolles.

In December, the UNHCR appealed to the EU to provide 130,000 resettlement places for Syrians displaced by the civil war. Germany has pledged to take 30,000 and Sweden 2,700. The remaining 26 EU states are taking 5,438 between them, with Britain taking just 143. “The UK should be participating and contributing in a European context to solidarity measures and trying to fulfil its part making it easier to deal with these [migration] flows,” said Jolles.

“If one really wants to tackle the problem and ensure that there are less deaths, then the thing to do is to look at providing legal avenues to come to Europe. There is an obligation, both moral and legal, to try and do something. People will die.”

The European commission has drawn up a policy document, the European Agenda on Migration, due to be presented to member states next month, aimed at establishing a concerted European asylum policy. It more clearly defines conditions for legal migration, while formulating “a clear plan to fight smuggling and trafficking of migrants and an effective return policy”.The UNHCR is concerned that rather than helping to create a safe passage for migrants, the commission is more concerned with trying to stop people entering. “What we are hearing is that there is more dialogue on how to prevent people coming to Europe and how to stop them than how to manage the flows and what to do when these persons come into Europe,” said Jolles.

This article might also have mentioned French Prime Minister Valls, copying the anti-Roma and anti-refugee hate speech of the neo-fascist National Front.

Laurens Jolles’ criticism of European politicians, at least as summarized in this Observer article, does mention the war in Syria (encouraged by politicians like British Prime Minister David Cameron, one may add) and refugees from that war, but does not mention another important point. In 2011, European politicians like David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy enthusiastically preached and practiced ´humanitarian war´ for regime change in Libya. Warmongering hawks in the United States administration like Victoria Nuland and Samantha Power (a lot more pro-war in Libya, it seems, than President Obama, or even than the Pentagon) joined them. That ‘humanitarian’ Libya war led to an extremely un-humanitarian chain reaction of bloodshed in Libya and in other African countries. To neo-colonial war in Mali. To neo-colonial war in the Central African Republic. Etc.

Without these horrors of bloodshed and economic destruction in Africa, fewer people would try to flee Libya and other African countries. There would have been a better chance of refugees being rescued. Of course, there would be even better chances for them without the European politicians’ anti-refugee rhetoric, as Laurens Jolles notes correctly.

Bahrain and the Saudi war on Yemen


This video says about itself:

Yemen: Sanaa’s children protest Saudi-led campaign outside UN building

13 April 2015

A group of Yemeni children gathered outside the United Nations (UN) office in Sanaa, Monday, to protest against the continued Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen. One of the children, Al-Kassim ibn Hussain, condemned the Saudi [royal] family as “filthy and corrupt” and vowed that “they will witness defeat very soon”. Despite the ongoing fighting, protester Kassam al-Gharah swore to continue to smile to show that “we are not a people of hate or animosity”.

From the International Business Times:

Bahrain Grand Prix: War in Yemen will have major repercussions in Arab Gulf and beyond

By Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei

April 17, 2015 12:31 BST

Six children were among the first to die when Saudi Arabia began its war with an air strike against Yemen’s Houthi rebels on March 25.

The actions of Saudi Arabia and its allies – including Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain – are facilitating a humanitarian crisis in the fractured country.

Yemen was already in a bad enough state when Saudi Arabia declared its intervention. Internally, it was a tinder box and only a week before the war began, Islamic State-aligned terrorists bombed a mosque in Houthi-controlled Sana’a, killing at least 137 people.

For Saudi [Arabia] and its allies to intervene in Yemen is a tragedy upon an already tragically fractured country.

It isn’t the first time Saudi Arabia has intervened in the affairs of one of its neighbours. Just as President Abdrabbuh Mansour fled to Riyadh and (so the Saudis claim) asked for their help, in 2011 the Saudis sent troops into Bahrain, also on the ‘invitation’ of its ruler, where they helped the government forces crush Bahrain’s nascent democratic uprising.

In the four years between these two interventions, Saudi Arabia has also involved itself in the Syrian civil war and joined the coalition against Islamic State, the religious intolerance of which can be directly linked to Saudi Arabia’s own state ideology.

The UK, which under the current government has striven to build economic and military ties with the Gulf (the UAE and Saudi Arabia top the list of importers of British arms, spending over £10bn between them since 2010), has been quietly supportive.

The Foreign Office’s website reveals no statement on Yemen, and the war broke out the week parliament dissolved ahead of the elections, so public statements have been understandably limited.

The only statement I’ve found is on the FCO’s ‘UK in Yemen’ Facebook page which in one paragraph states: “We support the Saudi Arabian military intervention in Yemen following President Hadi’s request for support”, but in another that “the solution to the crisis must be a political one.”

It further argues: “the international community will continue to use diplomatic and humanitarian support to achieve long-term stability, avoid civil war, economic collapse and a deeper humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

‘There are 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia, making up 12% of the population. Ruled by a Sunni monarchy and under a strict interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, Shia are often portrayed as heretics or agents of Riyadh’s major rival, Iran.’

Read Orlando Crowcroft’s take on the language of hatred used against Saudi Shia here.

How these statements can be reconciled with each other is anyone’s guess. Saudi Arabia’s war is short-sighted, opportunistic and wholly self-serving. The only thing it will achieve in Yemen is to ruin any chance for stability and accelerate civil war and economic collapse.

As for a “deeper humanitarian crisis” – Yemen is already at the precipice.

Obama told the New York Times last week that the biggest threats facing the Gulf kingdoms “may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.”

That dissatisfaction is born of the autocratic models of governance in each kingdom. Bahrain, with its active political and rights movements, has already seen that dissatisfaction on the public stage.

Paranoid

The government of Bahrain is so paranoid about political discourse that it has criminalised criticism of the war in Yemen. Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is the latest victim, and is now in police custody after criticising the human cost of bombing Yemen.

Two politicians were also arrested after their party criticised the war as unconstitutional, which is an indisputable fact. Whether one sees it as an aggressive or defensive war, article 36 of Bahrain’s constitution forbids aggressive wars and requires parliamentary approval for defensive wars, and the latter was not sought in this case.

Bahrain was the first to consider criticism of the war a crime and to act on this criticism, but the other Gulf States will likely treat dissent in the same way. Does the UK remain supportive of this war in spite of its clear humanitarian and rights repercussions in Yemen and in the Gulf?

Saudi Arabia says it is supporting the legitimate government in Yemen. But it is farcical that a dictatorship should be going around deciding which government is legitimate. These are countries which must look to their own problems before they try to ‘help’ others.

The Obama administration did a good thing when they called for Nabeel Rajab’s immediate release, while the UK Foreign Office has made no statement. The US and UK must hold their Gulf allies accountable on all matters. To not do so would be a betrayal of the people of Yemen struggling to survive and to the people of the Gulf struggling for their rights.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and served six months in prison in Bahrain in 2011.

Formula 1’s annual Bahrain Grand Prix opened April 17 to global fanfare, but demonstrators in the small Gulf kingdom off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia have been protesting the motorsports event for weeks, accusing Formula 1’s management of ignoring longstanding human rights abuses in the country: here.