Refugees news update

This video from Canada says about itself:

Refugees Welcome! March Through Vancouver

6 September 2015

Rally held today on Coast Salish Territories, standing up with the global movement in solidarity with refugees and demanding Canada repeal exclusionary refugee policies. Part of 18 actions across the country.

By Janet Browning and Roger Jordan in Canada:

Canada: Right seeks to whip up backlash against refugees

24 November 2015

A right-wing, fear-mongering campaign has been whipped up in Canada by much of the political establishment and media in the 10 days since the Paris terrorist attacks.

Claiming that Syrian refugees constitute a “security threat,” the Conservatives and other right-wing forces are demanding the new Liberal government abandon its pledge to settle 25,000 Syrian refugees in the country by the end of 2015. Many have baldly declared that “Harper was right,” a reference to the former Conservative Prime Minister who callously resisted demands to take in more than a trickle of refugees and put in place mechanisms to effectively prohibit Syrian Muslims from finding refuge in Canada.

The latest attempt to whip up an anti-refugee backlash has included open Islamophobic appeals and has helped fuel a wave of attacks and threats against Canada’s Muslims.

By Martin Kreikenbaum in Germany:

Thousands of refugees stuck on the Balkan route

24 November 2015

Thousands of refugees have been stranded along the Balkan route with almost no care or accommodation after the Balkan countries Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia virtually closed their borders to refugees last week, only allowing asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq to cross.

The borders were shut under pressure from Germany and France so as to allegedly prevent Islamist terrorists from entering the European Union (EU). In fact, the measure, which represents a blatant violation of international agreements on the protection of refugees, is aimed at repulsing as many asylum seekers as possible at Europe’s borders.

At the weekend, the aid organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF) counted up to 6,000 refugees who were temporarily stranded near the Greek city of Idomeni at the Macedonian border and prevented from travelling further. The temporary refugee camp had places for just 900 refugees. Thousands of refugees, including the elderly, children and pregnant women, had to sleep in the open in pouring rain and freezing conditions. There was also no provision of food. Instead, the Greek government deployed additional police officers to the border region to prevent refugees from going further.

When a few hundred refugees nonetheless managed to break through police lines, they were intercepted by the Macedonian border police and sent back. Refugees subsequently occupied the only railway connecting Greece with Macedonia. The camp at Idomeni was transformed into a protest camp.

Some refugees have gone on hunger strike and sewn their mouths shut. They have rejected calls from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to return to Athens. “We will cross or die,” they cried. On quickly improvised banners, they demanded to be allowed to continue their journey. “We are not terrorists. We are just looking for a better life. Please let us go,” one stated.

The division of refugees into national groups has produced bizarre scenes. One family was refused the right to enter Macedonia because only the husband could produce an Afghan passport, while the wife and children only had Iranian citizenship. Thirty-year-old Mohammed Mirzam told news broadcaster Al-Jazeera, “We’re trapped. … They won’t let my family across. We have no money, and we’re waiting without any idea of what is to happen.” Other Afghans were not allowed to cross because they were accused of allegedly falsifying travel documents.

The humanitarian crisis now emerging along the Balkan route began on 19 November, when the Slovenian government announced it would not allow any more economic migrants into the country. A police spokesman told Reuters, “More and more people have entered the country over recent days who we have good reason to believe are economic migrants.” Slovenia would thus only accept migrants from countries where armed conflict was taking place.

But it is the governments in Germany and France who initiated the partial border closings. They are exploiting the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 to further seal off Europe from refugees.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for a “significant strengthening of measures to secure European borders” at a meeting of justice and interior ministers in Brussels last Tuesday. The ministers subsequently agreed that refugees would not only be fingerprinted during registration, but also checked against databases of the European security agencies. Police officers from Europol and the border agencies will supervise the registration at the “hot spots”.

Slovenia, unlike the neighbouring EU member Croatia, is also part of the Schengen zone. In border management, it works closely with the Austrian and German governments. It is therefore likely that the idea of a partial border closing originated with German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who has been agitating for stronger restrictions on the inflow of refugees for weeks. This is also suggested by the justification offered by the Slovenian government. It declared that only refugees from countries at war or in military conflict would gain asylum in Germany and other European countries, while all others would be rejected as “economic migrants”.

The Slovenian government’s move was part of a domino effect in Serbia, Macedonia and Croatia. According to a report by German public broadcaster ARD’s “Tagesschau”, the European Commission in Brussels pressed for the borders to be closed. “That is the intention of Juncker’s plan, that the humanitarian aspect, meaning any assistance, is limited to those affected by war.”

Serbia’s labour and social minister Aleksandr Vulin said his government had no other option but to follow the example of Slovenia and Croatia. “We need to protect our country, and that is why we have brought in reciprocal measures toward those for whom Croatia and Slovenia have no room. We will not allow into Serbia anyone who cannot continue their journey.”

Since the change in course by Slovenia and Croatia was so obviously agreed with the European Union and Germany, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski also announced the closure of the border. At the same time, he warned the EU against exploiting his country as a buffer zone against “economic migrants.”

Gruevski recently was informed at a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban about the Hungarian approach of sealing its borders. Macedonia subsequently also began the construction of a barbed wire fence made available by the Hungarian government.

The sealing of the borders for refugees not from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq represents a serious violation of human rights, since everyone is entitled to an individual review of an asylum application. For refugees who cannot produce any papers, which is hardly unusual after several weeks of travel, face checks are used to determine who will be allowed to travel further.

“What is taking place here is racial profiling instead of the individual reviewing of each case in accordance with the law,” stated Hagen Kopp from Project Moving Europe. It remains completely unclear why refugees from Eritrea or Somalia are being turned away at the borders, even though they are among those whose need for protection is high within the EU.

The spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Athens, Ketty Kehayioylou, in the Guardian criticised the claim that the rejection of refugees was a necessary measure to prevent terrorists from entering Europe. “This business of placing restrictions and erecting fences to keep terrorists out when terrorists are already in their countries makes no sense whatsoever. Profiling by nationality defies every convention”, she said.

In addition, human rights activists are contending that the conditions facing refugees worsen considerably when borders are closed and they are left in a legal no man’s land. “We fear that precisely at the onset of winter, people will be stranded without accommodation, food or assistance,” a spokesman from MSF said in Serbia.

Thousands of refugees already live homeless on the streets and squares of Athens. … Instead of accepting the refugees who are in need of protection, the EU is using batons and barbed wire against them, leaving them to their fate as winter begins.

Britain: TENS of thousands of refugees and migrants will lose English language lessons as a result of the government’s adult education cuts, it was revealed yesterday: here.

Wetland conservation for water birds and people

This video says about itself:

Conserving wetlands for water birds & people

13 November 2015

Why are wetlands so important for water birds and people? In order to ensure the survival of millions of water birds migrating between Europe and Africa every year, and sustain the health of local communities, we are identifying and protecting a critical network of wetlands that are increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate and unsustainable activities.

European Union bigwigs’ cruel plan to deport refugees to Africa

This video from the USA says about itself:

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange on Europe’s Secret Plan for Military Force on Refugee Boats from Libya

27 May 2015

WikiLeaks has just revealed secret details of a European Union plan to use military force to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. “The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure,” WikiLeaks says. “It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the EU’s plan from his place of refuge inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Plan to send refugees back to Africa considered by EU

Thursday 12th November 2015

EUROPEAN Union leaders cooked up a “desperate” plot yesterday to slash the number of refugees in the bloc by giving them EU travel papers and shipping them off to Africa.

An appalled African Union official said the idea was “unheard of” and migration experts were dismayed at its callousness.

The EU-Africa migration summit in Valletta, Malta, began yesterday and ends today.

The shocking scheme would see EU officials decide whether refugees who lack travel papers and whose asylum claims have been rejected have come from Africa.

Where the decision is that they have, the migrants will then be given EU papers just so that they can be quickly booted out of Europe.

Amnesty International acting EU director Iverna McGowan said it was yet more corner-cutting by the EU.

“People returned to countries of transit risk being faced with arbitrary detention and having their rights to asylum and to work violated,” she warned.

EU states are pressing African leaders to take in thousands of refugees whose asylum applications they have rejected.

Particularly under pressure are countries near Libya, which was torn apart with the help of a bombing campaign by Nato — made up mostly of EU states.

Many refugees, fleeing conflicts stirred up by or directly involving the West, set off on their perilous Mediterranean journey to Europe from the wrecked country’s coast.

Meanwhile, Slovenia has copied nearby states by building its own 400-mile razor-wire border fence, which it claims is only intended to funnel refugees, not close off the country entirely.

• Turkish coastguards said yesterday that 14 refugees, including seven children, had drowned when their boat sank off the country’s coast. Sailors rescued 27.

It looks like European Union bigwigs kowtow to racists like Katie Hopkins in the British Murdoch media. Or to Portuguese racists. Or to British 1980s nazi band Skrewdriver with their song When The Boat Comes In, advocating forced deportation of people of African ancestry. Or to 1960s United States nazi fuehrer George Lincoln Rockwell, whose Hatenanny record label included a song called Ship those n…ers back, by Odis Cochran and the three bigots.

EU Summit in Malta strikes dirty deal to keep refugees out of Europe: here.

The Australian government is reportedly considering the poor Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan as a dumping ground for the some of the 1,500 refugees imprisoned in its “off-shore” detention facilities: here.

Spotted flycatchers, new research

This video is about spotted flycatchers and their chicks at their nest in the Czech republic.

From the Journal of Avian Biology:

The role of western Mediterranean islands in the evolutionary diversification of the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), a long-distance migratory passerine species


We investigated the evolutionary history of the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), a long distance migratory passerine having a widespread range, using mitochondrial markers and nuclear introns. Our mitochondrial results reveal the existence of one insular lineage restricted to the western Mediterranean islands (Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia) and possibly to the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy that diverged from the mainland lineages around 1 Mya. Mitochondrial genetic distance between insular and mainland lineages is around 3.5%.

Limited levels of shared nuclear alleles among insular and mainland populations further support the genetic distinctiveness of insular spotted flycatchers with respect to their mainland counterparts. Moreover, lack of mitochondrial haplotypes sharing between Balearic birds (M. s. balearica) and Corso-Sardinian birds (M. s. tyrrhenica) suggest the absence of recent matrilineal gene flow between these two insular subspecies. Accordingly, we suggest that insular Spotted Flycatchers could be treated as one polytypic species (Muscicapa tyrrhenica Schiebel, 1910) that differs from M. striata in morphology, migration, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA and comprises two subspecies (the nominate and M. t. balearica, von Jordans, 1913) that diverged recently phenotypically and in mitochondrial DNA and but still share the same nuclear alleles.

This study provides an interesting case-study illustrating the crucial role of western Mediterranean islands in the evolution of a passerine showing high dispersal capabilities. Our genetic results highlight the role of glacial refugia of these islands that allowed initial allopatric divergence of insular populations. We hypothesize that differences in migratory and breeding phenology may prevent any current gene flow between insular and mainland populations of the Spotted Flycatcher that temporarily share the same insular habitats during the spring migration.

European farmland birds in trouble

This video from England is called WWT Welney – Wading Birds.

From BirdLife:

Red List reveals Europe’s farmland wading birds in crisis

By Daniel Brown (RSPB), Jutta Leyrer (NABU) and Finlay Duncan, Wed, 28/10/2015 – 15:42

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is out – and it’s sounding alarm bells for some of Europe’s most charismatic and cherished shorebirds (also known as wading birds).

The list highlights sharp declines in most farmland wader species across much of Europe in recent decades. In some cases, these falls are so steep that they’re pushing some species closer towards extinction. Increased conservation efforts are now urgently required.

In this latest assessment, which has been carried out by BirdLife International for IUCN, the Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Oystercatcher have now been classified as globally Near Threatened with extinction. They join the Eurasian Curlew and the Black-tailed Godwit, that have already previously been categorised as Near Threatened. These additions mean farmland waders are now one of the most threatened group of birds in Europe.

Their group name refers to the fact they breed in habitats strongly influenced by farming activities, such as grazing, mowing and drainage. For a long time many species have been provided with a safe home in farmland across Northern Europe for breeding, before the birds migrate to estuaries and mudflats in winter months.

Research is now showing the loss and fragmentation of breeding habitats as being key factors in the decline of these species. Among the causes of loss and break-up of habitats are issues with drainage and associated intensification of grasslands. Additionally, farming practices could also be having a direct impact, for example by machinery unintentionally destroying nests and chicks. Threatened populations are now also suffering more from the presence of native and non-native predators, making a difficult situation even worse.

But the picture is not entirely gloomy. Some conservation efforts are already being undertaken in many European countries to try and save these important populations. Examples includes farmers receiving payments to delay mowing their grasslands and the reinstating of wetland features in order to safeguard habitats.

The declines and worsening global statuses seen in this Red List update do show, however, that conservation efforts need to be increased. Measures must be targeted more accurately and cover a greater area of the species’ ranges. Co-ordinating activities better would also do a great deal, so that successes in one part of Europe can be shared across the continent and indeed even further afield. Many of these species are long-distance migrants that fly all the way to Africa and the Middle East in order to escape harsh European winters.

Two conservation plans for Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit have been created under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) in response to this urgent need. On top of this, the European Union, through the LIFE financial instrument, is funding the EuroSAP project (European Species Action Plan), which will see governments, experts and industry from across Europe work together to produce a protection multi-species action plan for the eight most threatened European species; Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, ‘Baltic’ Dunlin and Ruff. The project recognises that many of the species share similar habitats and face many of the same threats – meaning similar, if not the same, conservation solutions can be developed for all of them.

It’s hoped the species now under threat can avoid suffering the same fate as two of their nearest relatives. The Canarian Oystercatcher disappeared from Europe in the 1940s and the Slender-billed Curlew, which hasn’t been seen since 1995, is also increasingly looking like it may also become extinct. By working on projects such as EuroSAP, BirdLife and Partners aim to stop these important and much-treasured birds from disappearing altogether.

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the conservation status of plant and animal species, and BirdLife International is the official authority for birds. More information on this latest update can be found here>.

The MSAP (Multi-Species Action Plan) for farmland wading birds will be coordinated by BirdLife’s German partner, NABU, with support from RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), SOF (BirdLife in Sweden) and VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands). It forms part of the LIFE EuroSAP project, which is co-ordinated by BirdLife International and funded with the contribution of the European Union’s LIFE financial instrument and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Birds and climate change, new study

This video shows a lesser redpoll, drinking in the Veluwe region in the Netherlands.

From BirdLife:

Birdwatchers unravel effects of climate change on vulnerable species

By Finlay Duncan, Thu, 22/10/2015 – 09:15

New details on how birds respond to climate change have been revealed by thousands of volunteer bird watchers all over Europe, according to a study BirdLife International has contributed to.

The information gathered, in a report led by the University of Copenhagen, shows birds respond to changing conditions in different seasons of the year. While some species benefit from these changes, birds that are adapted to colder regions stand to lose out. The information gathered can help predict future bird communities in Europe and focus the effort to tackle the effects of climate change on the most vulnerable species.

For example, the evidence seen first-hand by birdwatchers indicates warmer winters benefit resident birds, such as the Short-toed treecreeper and the Collared Dove, with more productive spring times benefiting short-distance migrants such as the Goldfinch and the Wood lark. Warmer or more productive periods complemented the early or peak breeding season for these birds.

The results are based on an incredibly large dataset from 18 different countries collected by volunteers and published in Global Change Biology led by the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen, together with BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council.

“We found benefits from conditions observed under climate change for both resident birds, short-distance migrants and long distance-migrants, but at very different times of the year that complement their breeding season. So if we are to predict what the future bird community may look like in Europe, we need to understand how the conditions during breeding will change” says lead-author and Postdoctoral Researcher Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, who conducted the research from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate.

Climate change pushes cold region birds out

However, the positive effects mentioned above do not extend to species adapted to the colder regions in Europe, such as the resident birds House Sparrow and Carrion Crow and the short-distance migrants Meadow Pipit and Redpoll. They have become relatively less abundant under the respective conditions.

Birds arriving to Europe from furthest away (and therefore later in the year), such as long-distance migrants the Northern Wheatear and Common Redstart, generally benefit from warmer summers in Europe. As a group, however, they showed one of the most complex responses as they are also impacted by climate change in Africa.

Volunteers made the study possible

The results were generated with yearly data on 51 different bird species gathered by around 50,000 volunteers in 18 different European countries between 1990 to 2008.

“This study shows the power of citizen science where highly skilled volunteers collect invaluable data and help to unlock new discoveries”, says Head of Species Monitoring and Research, Richard Gregory from the RSPB.

Global Science Coordinator for Programmes at BirdLife International, Ian Burfield, says: “Of course climate change will favour some species, but studies suggest we will have more losers than winners. That is why the BirdLife Partnership is actively delivering mitigation and adaptation solutions.”

Agricultural intensification causes continuous bird decline

Unfortunately, the study also shows the widespread long-term effects of agricultural intensification in Europe, where farmland birds continue to be in decline. It found long-distance migrants may be particularly vulnerable to the combination of agricultural intensification and climate change.

“Long-distance migrants are already believed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, as they experience impacts in multiple locations along their busy travel routes that stretch two continents. We found that long-distance migrants in particular were in decline in countries with intensive agriculture expressed through high cereal yields. Our results suggest that we should take action to protect long-distance migrant birds in countries with the most intensified agriculture” says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen.

More information on the study is available from the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate here.

Meteorological data and recent events provide glaring evidence that climate change is happening and that it will particularly affect poorer and natural resources-dependant countries like Rwanda. The observed shift in the occurrence of the rainy seasons and the dry seasons in certain regions of Rwanda distorts agricultural growing seasons and causes confusion among farmers as it affects the timing of field preparation and planting, crop growth, and increasing incidences of crop diseases and pests resulting in lower agricultural yields: here.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the New York attorney general’s office has sent subpoenas to executives at the energy giant ExxonMobil. The attorney general’s office is seeking access to financial records, emails and other information relating to a period of several decades in which the company may have misled corporate investors about the effects of climate change on the oil giant’s bottom line: here.