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.”

Fukushima disaster causing children’s cancer, new research

This video says about itself:

The Thyroid Cancer Hotspot Devastating Fukushima‘s Child Survivors

10 March 2014

Radiating the People: Worrying new claims say childhood cancer cluster has developed around Fukushima radiation zone

It’s what post-Fukushima Japan fears the most; cancer. Amid allegations of government secrecy, worrying new claims say a cancer cluster has developed around the radiation zone and that the victims are children.

In a private children’s hospital well away from the no-go zone, parents are holding on tight to their little sons and daughters hoping doctors won’t find what they’re looking for. Thyroid cancer. Tests commissioned by the local authorities have discerned an alarming spike here. Experts are reluctant to draw a definitive link with Fukushima, but they’re concerned.

“I care because I went to Chernobyl and I saw each child there, so I know the pain they went through”, says Dr Akira Sugenoya, a former thyroid surgeon. What terrifies parents most is a government they feel they can’t trust. It’s created a culture of fear; one which has led a number of women post-Fukushima to have abortions because they were worried about birth defects.

“The doctors in Fukushima say that it shouldn’t be coming out so soon, so it can’t be related to the nuclear accident. But that’s very unscientific, and it’s not a reason we can accept”, Dr Sugenoya insists. “It was disclosed that the Fukushima health investigation committee was having several secret meetings. I feel the response has been unthinkable for a democratic nation“, Dr Minoru Kamata from the Japan Chernobyl Foundation says.

From Associated Press:

Researcher: Children’s cancer linked to Fukushima radiation


Oct. 8, 2015 4:25 AM EDT

TOKYO — A new study says children living near the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a rate 20 to 50 times that of children elsewhere, a difference the authors contend undermines the government’s position that more cases have been discovered in the area only because of stringent monitoring.

Most of the 370,000 children in Fukushima prefecture (state) have been given ultrasound checkups since the March 2011 meltdowns at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The most recent statistics, released in August, show that thyroid cancer is suspected or confirmed in 137 of those children, a number that rose by 25 from a year earlier. Elsewhere, the disease occurs in only about one or two of every million children per year by some estimates.

“This is more than expected and emerging faster than expected,” lead author Toshihide Tsuda told The Associated Press during a visit to Tokyo. “This is 20 times to 50 times what would be normally expected.”

The study was released online this week and is being published in the November issue of Epidemiology, produced by the Herndon, Virginia-based International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. The data comes from tests overseen by Fukushima Medical University.

Making sense of the relationship between radiation and cancer is precarious: It’s scientifically impossible to link an individual cancer case to radiation. Looking harder with routine check-ups, like the one in Fukushima, leads to quicker discovery of tumors, inflating the tallies in a so-called “screening effect.”

Right after the disaster, the lead doctor brought in to Fukushima, Shunichi Yamashita, repeatedly ruled out the possibility of radiation-induced illnesses. The thyroid checks were being ordered just to play it safe, according to the government.

But Tsuda, a professor at Okayama University, said the latest results from the ultrasound checkups, which continue to be conducted, raise doubts about the government’s view.

Thyroid cancer among children is one sickness the medical world has definitively linked to radiation after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. If treated, it is rarely fatal, and early detection is a plus, but patients are on medication for the rest of their lives.

Scientists are divided on Tsuda’s conclusions.

David J. Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, took a different view. While he agreed individual estimates on radiation doses are needed, he said in a telephone interview that the higher thyroid cancer rate in Fukushima is “not due to screening. It’s real.”

Conclusions about any connection between Fukushima radiation and cancer will help determine compensation and other policies. Many people who live in areas deemed safe by the government have fled fearing sickness, especially for their children.

An area extending about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the nuclear plant has been declared an exclusion zone. The borders are constantly being remapped as cleanup of radiated debris and soil continues in an effort to bring as many people back as possible. Decommissioning the plant is expected to take decades.

Noriko Matsumoto, 53, who used to work as a nurse in Koriyama, Fukushima, outside the no-go zone, fled to Tokyo with her then-11-year-old daughter a few months after the disaster. She had initially shrugged off the fears but got worried when her daughter started getting nosebleeds and rashes.

“My daughter has the right to live free of radiation,” she said. “We can never be sure about blaming radiation. But I personally feel radiation is behind sicknesses.”

Andrew F. Olshan, professor at the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, noted that research on what follows a catastrophe is complex and difficult.

“Dr. Tsuda’s study had limitations including assessment of individual radiation dose levels to the thyroid and the ability to fully assess the impact of screening on the excess cases detected,” he said.

“Nonetheless, this study is critical to initiate additional investigations of possible health effects, for governmental planning, and increasing public awareness.”

See also here.

Volkswagen pollution scandal causes police raid

This video from the USA says about itself:

Volkswagen’s diesel scandal, explained

24 September 2015

The EPA announced that Volkswagen was using a “defeat device” to side-step emission laws. Here’s what that means.

From Agence France Presse:

German Police Raid Scandal-Hit Volkswagen‘s Headquarters: Prosecutors

October 08, 2015

The EPA announced that Volkswagen was using a “defeat device” to side-step emission laws. Here’s what that means.

Berlin: German police raided auto giant Volkswagen‘s headquarters and other sites today, as part of an investigation into a massive pollution-cheating scandal engulfing the group.

“Today, in connection with the so-called emissions scandal, raids were carried out at Volkswagen in Wolfsburg and other locations,” prosecutors from the state of Lower Saxony said in a statement.

Volkswagen uses emissions crisis to impose deep cuts: here.

‘Afghan hospital bombing was deliberate, not a mistake’

A Doctors Without Borders worker, injured by the Uniited States air force attack on the Kunduz hospital in Afghanistan

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“Signals for targeted attack on Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz

Today, 20:21

President Obama has apologized to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) for the attack on the hospital in Kunduz. Yesterday United States General Campbell already said that the attack was a mistake.

Anonymous sources from around ​​the general reported today to the New York Times that he was also convinced that the Americans did not follow their own guidelines.

Although the Americans have largely withdrawn from Afghanistan, they are still present with combat aircraft and 10,000 troops. Only in three cases the US Americans may carry out air strikes: there must be intervention to eliminate terrorists, or to protect United States troops or to assist the Afghan army and prevent land being lost.

NOS correspondent Arjen van der Horst says that according to General Campbell in the bombing of the MSF clinic not any of these three conditions was met. Van der Horst: “The picture emerges of a bombardment that deliberately targeted this hospital. had There are more and more puzzle pieces confirming this.”

The report that the MSF clinic was under fire for thirty minutes and was the target of several waves of attacks, according to Van der Horst has not been contradicted by the Pentagon. The hospital was also the only building in the area which was hit.

Puzzle pieces

One of the other pieces of the puzzle is the fact that the Americans used the so-called AC-130 aircraft; because of its firepower it is sometimes called a flying tank. Van der Horst: “The plane is flying pretty low, operates always at night and therefore always support is needed on the ground. Units designating a target and that was the case in Kunduz. That information came from the Afghan army. One wonders whether the Americans relied blindly on their coordinates.”

The Afghan government have called the attack justified because the Taliban supposedly used the hospital for warfare. This is strongly denied by MSF, but they do point out that the Afghans actually admit that the hospital was a target. According to Van der Horst, this is further evidence that it was not a mistake, not collateral damage.

As a possible motive for the attack he names the friction that exists between the charity and the Afghan government. MSF is a neutral organization and treats injuries of all warring parties, including Taliban fighters. The Afghan army had a bone to pick with MSF. In June the military had already invaded the hospital to arrest wounded Taliban fighters.

Van der Horst: “Over the past fourteen years, there have often been innocent Afghan casualties, but their voices are rarely heard, and when they are heard, then they are bulldozed by statements from the Pentagon which are adopted uncritically by the US American media. This time the victim is a western organization with eloquent spokespersons, an organization for which also in the USA respect exists. They do get listened to.”

THE international Red Cross joined Doctors Without Borders (MSF) yesterday in calling for an investigation of last week’s US bombing of a hospital in northern Afghanistan: here.

US officials seek to contain fallout from hospital massacre in Afghanistan: here.

Afghan hospital bombed, Doctors Without Borders distrusts Pentagon investigation

This Reuters video says about itself:

MSF says Kunduz hospital bombing could be a ‘war crime

6 October 2015

Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres dismisses claims that an air strike on an Afghan hospital was targeting militant fighters. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Suspicious MSF/Doctors Without Borders demands independent investigation about Kunduz

Today, 13:36

MSF demands an independent investigation into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. The organization has no faith in the investigations which the United States, NATO and Afghanistan have announced.

When the bombardment happened last Saturday, 22 people were killed. US warplanes targeted the clinic. Initially it was said that this occurred at the request of the Afghan government, but now the US has said that the US military itself commanded this. General Campbell has acknowledged that the attack was a mistake.

Special commission

MSF calls the attack a war crime and wants a special committee to do the fact-finding. This committee, the IHFFC, was established in 1991 to investigate serious violations of international law and derives from the Geneva Conventions. Up to now, the committee has never been deployed.

The founding treaty of the committee is signed by 76 countries. The United States and Afghanistan are not amongst them. The committee can only get to work if all parties agree.

See also here.

Doctors Without Borders: we received no advance warning of US airstrike. Such action would be a violation of the US Defense Department’s own manual governing the rules of war, as President Obama calls MSF president to apologize: here.