New whistleblower site on the European Union


This 13 March 2020 video says about itself:

Why #Euroleaks and why now? Because there is no transparency in the European Union | DiEM25

We are just a few hours away from the release of #Euroleaks! To find out more, watch Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25 co-founder and ΜeRA25 MP, explain why we’re releasing the files and why now.

European Union fossil fuel deal with Azerbaijan dictatorship


This video says about itself:

Why Azerbaijan Is Getting Poorer Despite An Oil Revolution

All the President’s Oil (2001): After the fall of the Soviet Union, millions poured into Azerbaijan’s oil industry. But only a select few reaped the rewards. Presented by Marcel Theroux.

The oil-rich Azerbaijan ought to be a textbook example of the benefits of globalisation. Multinationals from across the globe have poured in cash to exploit its oil wealth, and now a tidal wave of money is hitting Azerbaijan. But who are the winners? The oil companies of course – but the comfortable contemporary wisdom says that riches will also trickle down to the whole Azeri population, creating a contented, prosperous nation at the centre of a troublesome region that includes Iran and Russia. But it isn’t happening. Forget the cosy platitudes of globalisation. Think corruption, nepotism, despotism, warlords…

By Ben Cowles:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

EU approves funding for fossil fuel projects linked to Azerbaijan’s dictatorship

THE European Parliament voted in favour of funding gas infrastructure projects today, including a controversial pipeline linked to the brutal dictatorship in Azerbaijan, a day after a fresh crackdown on civil rights activists in the country.

MEPs rejected a resolution that would have blocked the European Union from providing upwards of €25 million (£21m) for cross-border fossil fuel infrastructure.

“This a hypocritical decision that fails to reflect the scale of the climate impacts that we are already experiencing and the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Clemence Dubois of environmental charity 350.org.

“The EU has made a number of big announcements over the past few months, declaring a climate emergency and proposing a green deal, but today’s vote shows that many MEPs and EU institutions are not yet ready to walk the talk,” Mr Dubois said.

“In November, the European Investment Bank pledged to end fossil fuel finance by 2022, but today’s decision activates a loophole that will allow the world’s largest international public lender to pump billions of euros into new climate-wrecking fossil gas projects.”

One such fossil gas project that the EU has pumped millions of euros into is the Southern Gas Corridor, a 2,200-mile enterprise costing around £34 billion, bringing gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.

Snap parliamentary elections held in the small south Caucasian country on Sunday produced another majority for the party of President Ilham Aliyev, whose family has ruled since 1993.

Around 30 people who gathered outside the Electoral Commission yesterday to protest at the dubious election results were beaten by police.

Ulviyya Guliyeva, an independent journalist at the scene, told the Star what she saw.

“For the first two hours, [the police] did nothing. And then they saw that a lot of people were joining the protest, so they began to kick and punch everyone. They beat and detained everyone.”

Ms Guliyeva was bundled into the back of a police van along with protesters and other journalists.

“When we were in the police bus, they said that we were opposition journalists.

“To them, criticising the police or the state is on equal terms with being a member of the opposition.”

INVESTIGATIONS are under way into today’s suicide attempt by a woman who was hounded after displaying a feminist slogan at an International Women’s Day demonstration in Azerbaijan: here.

European Union attack on Greta Thunberg


This 19 September 2019 video says about itself:

There is a natural solution to the climate breakdown: protecting forests. Climate activist Greta Thunberg and writer and climate activist George Monbiot explain.

The movement against climate change in general and Greta Thunberg in particular have been attacked by, eg, the Trump administration in the USA, the billionaires gathering at the Davos World Economic Forum, the richest billionaire of France and Tony Blair.

Now, the European Union foreign affairs boss has joined in.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Josep Borrell, the European Union‘s foreign chief, has apologized for a statement about young climate activists. The Spaniard said on Thursday that they are suffering from ‘Greta syndrome’, referring to 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

He was criticized by Borrell’s remark. The European Greens called the statement unacceptable. …

Greta Thunberg started in 2018 with a school strike for the climate. Her campaign for the Swedish parliament grew into the worldwide movement Fridays For Future.

Many European Union politicians are not as openly climate denialist as Donald Trump. They often pay lip service to the need to do something against climate change. However, they don’t really want to break with the global warming causing billionaires of the fossil fuel industry, of the cars industry, etc; who are sometimes donors to their election campaigns.

European Union returns refugees to Libyan slavery


This November 2017 video is called SLAVE TRADE IN LIBYA | SHOCKING DOCUMENTARY.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Sunday, February 2, 2020

EU refugee policy condemned on the 3rd anniversary of Libyan Coastguard deal

Around 40,000 people have been intercepted at sea and brought back to war-torn Libya since the EU’s 2017 Malta Declaration

MONDAY marks the third anniversary of a deal struck between the European Union and Libya which has caused tens of thousands of refugees to be pushed back to a war zone — in contravention of international human-rights law.

At a meeting in Valletta, Malta, on February 3 2017, EU leaders met to discuss human trafficking and “measures to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy.”

The result of the meeting was the Malta Declaration, part of which states that “priority will be given to … training, equipment and support to the Libyan national coastguard and other relevant agencies.”

According to analysis by migrant researcher Matteo Villa at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, “around 40,000 people have been intercepted at sea and brought back to Libya” since the 2017 agreements with Libya.

The civil refugee-rescue fleet — a small collection of NGOs that have been the main actors carrying out search-and-rescue missions in the central Mediterranean since April 2019 — condemned the EU’s support for the Libyan Coastguard.

Sophie Beau, international vice-president of SOS Mediterranee — which, along with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), operates the rescue ship Ocean Viking — said that the declaration “laid the foundation for a massive breach of international law, financed by European taxpayers’ money.

“While the European Union pulled back from saving lives at sea over the past years,” Ms Beau said, “they simultaneously financed, trained and equipped the Libyan Coastguard to intercept people fleeing the country.

“They are returning them to a cycle of violence and abuse in war-torn Libya.

“Rescued people on board endlessly report to us shocking experiences of torture, rape, slavery and even executions, and most of the survivors are hurt or traumatised.”

Axel Steier, co-founder of the German refugee rescue charity Mission Lifeline, told the Morning Star that Europe’s interests are clear: keep refugees away.

“Europe’s incantations of ‘We fight the smugglers’ are of no use,” Mr Steier said.

“As long as there are no legal entry routes, people will continue to flee across the sea.”

Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, of which all EU member states are signatories, states: “No contracting state shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where [their] life or freedom would be threatened on account of [their] race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

Alarm Phone, an activist network providing support to people attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, was equally damning.

“We do not doubt that Italy and Europe will continue to be the major collaborator with the cruel practices of the so-called Libyan Coastguard, thereby financing human-rights violations, making sea crossings even more dangerous, and forcibly pushing people back to a war zone and torture,” an Alarm Phone spokesperson told the Star.

“Italy and Europe are therefore fully responsible for the violence, deaths at sea and human-rights violations. By delegating to Libya they hide and deny their responsibility.

“But people on the move do not have a choice. In January alone, despite bad weather conditions, thousands of people made the deadly journey across the sea to flee war and violence.

“They do not have a voice in the conferences and deals between the EU and Libya, but many still bravely succeed in reaching Europe.

“We listen to them calling us in their hardest moments, struggling at sea in unseaworthy boats. We will continue to organise ourselves as part of the civil fleet for freedom of movement.”

Oxfam has accused the EU of using its aid money to Africa, particularly its emergency trust fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa, as a policy tool to lower migration to Europe.

“Since July 2017,” a report released last week states, “nearly €90 million [£75.6m] has been released through the EUTF for Africa to train, equip and support the capacity of the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants at sea and land borders …”

Filmmaker Ken Loach on Brexit, European Union


This 8 December 2018 video from Portugal says about itself:

Jeremy Corbyn: EU support for austerity opens door to far-right

Jeremy Corbyn urged Europe’s Socialists Friday to challenge the political establishment and team up with like-minded leftists to check the rise of “fake” right-wing populists.

It is correct to speak of ‘fake populists’; as racists are not populists.

EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe”, Corbyn said in a speech to the annual congress of the Party of European Socialists in Lisbon. It had “damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit.”

He added that Europe must come together to fight against the rise of right-wing and neoliberal policies. Failing to do so “will smooth the path to power of the fake populists“, Corbyn said in a speech to the annual congress of the Party of European Socialists in Lisbon.

By Marcus Barnett:

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Film director Ken Loach urges European socialists to ‘clarify’ their stance on the EU

KEN LOACH has said that the European Union “works in the interests of big business” as he urged socialists to “clarify” their stance on the issue of Europe.

Addressing over 400 delegates in a video played at the Party of the European Left’s Congress on Sunday, the film-maker claimed that the left suffers from a muddled position when it approaches the question of the EU.

Mr Loach said that the June 2016 [British referendum] vote to leave the European Union came “out of austerity, out of alienation, out of inequality, out of despair, out of cynicism.”

Mr Loach said that last week’s general election result, where Labour lost 59 seats in mostly Brexit-voting areas, was an example of this, and claimed that “the desire to leave” Brussels was a “big problem” for the left.

He also warned that the left’s voice on Europe hadn’t been heard by voters, adding that the analysis was “that the union is an economic organisation in the interests of big business.”

Mr Loach then urged socialists in Europe to “clarify” their analysis on Europe, and said that the international left must organise if it decides to not campaign against EU membership.

He said: “If we decide that we should remain and transform the [EU] then we have to have a plan that is clear, that we can all unite behind and which the left in every country can proclaim.

‘Remain and transform’ in itself sounds like an attractive slogan. However, the problem is that often, there is vagueness about how to transform. And about transforming to where.

And too often, remainers and transformers have allied with right-wing remainers who want to transform the European Union into an even more Thatcherite capitalist, xenophobic and warmongering organisation than it is already now: with Thatcherite Conservatives, Thatcherite Liberal Democrats, and Thatcherite right-wing Labourite Blairites like Iraq war criminal spin-doctor Alastair Campbell. That drove voters straight into the arms of Boris Johnson‘s right-wing Brexit.

A bit comparable to the Scottish independence referendum. The then Blairite right-wing leader of the Labour party in Scotland, Jim Murphy, decided to campaign against Scottish independence, jointly with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, instead of waging a clearly separate campaign. That drove many Labour voters into the arms of the Scottish nationalists. That way, Jim Murphy, with a little help from Tony Blair and other Blairites, managed to destroy Scotland as a bulwark of Labour party voters. Labour in Scotland has still not recovered from that Murphy-Blair blow.

LEN McCLUSKEY has said that it is “wilful blindness” to deny that Labour lost the election because of Brexit. The Unite general secretary stated that it is “pretty obvious” that the reason for Labour losing 59 seats — including in traditionally Labour-voting areas — was because of its Remain-leaning stance on Brexit: here.

The dog whistle message from hardcore Remainers was heard loud and clear – Leavers were ‘thick and racist,’ writes RHEIAN DAVIES (herself a Labour member who had voted Remain).

TRADE union figures in the north-east have mocked Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge that he will “repay the trust” placed in him by working-class voters in the region who switched their support from Labour to the Tories in the general election. Alan Mardghum, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, told the Morning Star today: “When he made statements about the lazy unemployed, single mothers and the feckless working class, that is what he believes. That is the contempt he has for working people: here.

“Our Future Our Choice” is seen as a spontaneous “youth” movement against Brexit. But latest figures from the Electoral Commission show that, as the “second-referendum” campaign fell apart, it gave £20k to a group run by former New Labour hatchet man Alastair Campbell (62 years old) and Tory Peer Patience Wheatcroft (68 years old). Wheatcroft is a former Sunday Telegraph editor, one-time Barclays director and lifelong Tory activist: here.

British Conservatives win, making election Brexit referendum


This 19 June 2019 video from the British parliament says about itself:

Boris Johnson has been labelled ‘racist’ in the House of Commons by the Scottish National party’s Westminster leader, who said the Conservative leadership frontrunner was ‘unfit’ to be prime minister. Ian Blackford asked [then still Conservative Prime Minister] Theresa May if she agreed with Johnson that the Scottish people were a verminous race who should be ‘exterminated’, referring to a poem published in the Spectator when Johnson was the magazine’s editor.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 13 December 2019, when there were still only exit polls about the British election:

Brexit backlash hits Labour hard, exit poll suggests

EXIT polls have suggested a Tory landslide, with Leave-voting areas switching away from Labour according to predictions.

A visibly shocked [Labour party] John McDonnell told the BBC that “Brexit has dominated” the election.

Meanwhile, results have confirmed the predictions.

How did Boris Johnson’s Conservatives win more seats, giving them an absolute majority of MPs?

Not by increasing their number of votes. That was 43,6%, only 1,2% more than the 2017 election. And voter turnout was lower than in 2017. Maybe because of voters not turning up out of disgust about politicians talking for or against Brexit, Brexit, Brexit and very little else. Instead of about peace; of Conservative attacks on disabled and other poor people; about stopping racism and homophobia; etc.

The Conservatives won seats because Labour, after their biggest progress, with their new leader Jeremy Corbyn, in votes since 1945 in the 2017 election, lost. They fell back to 32.2%. Still more than their share at the 2015 election: 30,5%, under their then leader Ed Miliband, less leftist than Corbyn.

“We thought other issues could cut through and there would be a wider debate, from this evidence there clearly wasn’t,” the shadow chancellor [John McDonnell] said.

Sadly, true.

Labour’s bad result was

following its decision to campaign for a second referendum on EU membership. …

The Brexit issue is more complex than it seems. Both European Union Brexiteers and European Union Remainers really have two contradictory tendencies. Among Remainers, there are Thatcherite Conservatives, right-wing Labour Blairites and other champions of austerity, anti-refugee xenophobia and neocolonial wars all over the world. On the other hand, there is the ‘Remain and transform’ tendency. It says that, by staying inside the European Union, British socialists can transform the European Union pro-austerity capitalism to socialism (a task maybe only slightly less enormous than transforming NATO from a nuclear-armed warmongering organisation into a pacifist and socialist organisation. But that is another issue).

Then, Brexiteers. Boris Johnson won this election by saying little else than Get Brexit done. That seems to have appealed not only to hard-core Brexiteers, but also maybe to some people who are not strongly against European Union membership, but who are tired of politicians endlessly talking about up with Brexit, down with Brexit and very little else.

Johnson cleverly hid during the campaign WHAT kind of Brexit should be ‘done’ by the electorate. He and other right-wingers want a Brexit making Britain a hard-line Thatcherite country, slave to Donald Trump’s USA. When Trump visited Britain recently, Johnson, as a clever but hypocritical election campaign tactic, avoided Trump.

There are also many working-class people who helped Brexit to a majority in the 2016 referendum. Not out of love for Johnson’s Thatcherism. But because they don’t like austerity imposed by Brussels. Or don’t like European Union anti-refugee policies.

Unfortunately, the Remain and transform tendency was powerless against their ‘Remain and make the European Union even more capitalist and militarist’ ‘allies’. As unfortunately, in this election people who want to leave the European Union to make Britain more socialist, lost out to Boris Johnson’s Brexiteers who want to leave to make Britain more Trumpist capitalist.

Many working-class voters, it seems, especially in northern England, were so repelled by Blairite pro-European Union Labour MPs, millstones around Corbyn’s neck, that they stayed at home. Or, in some cases, even voted Conservative ‘to get Brexit done’. Unfortunately, not realizing that Johnson’s Brexit is not their Brexit.

Many are in the north-east of England, [traditionally Labour] constituencies which voted predominantly for Leave, such as historical mining constituency Blyth Valley.

The Labour party were not the only losers in this election. The most pro-European Union party, the Liberal Democrats, lost. Their leader Jo Swinson lost her seat.

All pro-European Union Blairite Labour and Thatcherite Conservative MPs who had left their parties lost their seats in this election.

Not all was gloom and doom for Remainers. In Scotland, there was a big victory for the Scottish National Party. An argument for Scotland becoming independent and thus remaining in the European Union.

In Northern Ireland, for the first time ever, pro-union with Britain parties like the DUP, lost their majority of MPs. Parties supporting a united Ireland, remaining in the European Union, won.

Mr McDonnell added that he had doubts “Brexit will be done as a result of this.”

“I think what will happen… people, I think, almost in despair, wanted to get Brexit over and done with because they’ve had enough of what’s been going on.”

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgeon also suggested that Brexit dictated the vote.

He Tweeted: “If, as it seems, this was a Brexit election then the next one won’t be given Johnson’s Thatcherite agenda.”

But he vowed to continue the fight against the Tories.

Mr McDonnell warned that the result would put “the most right-wing extreme cabinet that we’ve seen in our history” in power who would have the mandate to introduce “reactionary policies.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced that he won’t be the leader at the next election. One should hope that his successor won’t be some Blairite. That would make Labour even smaller than the Liberal Democrats. Corbyn’s successor should be at least as left-wing as he.

European Union returns refugees to Libyan slavery


This 23 January 2018 video says about itself:

New videos expose torture of African refugees in Libya

New videos have emerged showing African refugees being abused in Libya. Illegal detention centres, extortion and slavery have become common as many people trying to reach Europe are either caught or returned to Libya.

Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid reports.

By Ben Cowles:

Monday, December 2, 2019

Europe suggests NGO rescuers hand refugees back to Libya’s ‘criminal groups’

THE European maritime authorities are ducking their responsibility for refugees crossing the Mediterranean and, worse, are referring NGO rescue ships to “criminal groups”, the refugee rescue fleet has told the Star.

Two NGO-operated ships, the Alan Kurdi and the Ocean Viking, saved over 100 people from unseaworthy boats during three separate missions in the central Mediterranean last Thursday after the refugees had fled human rights abuses in Libya.

Both ships contacted the Libyan maritime authorities, as international law dictates, but their calls were ignored.

Maltese and Italian authorities have been asked to provide the rescue ships with a port of safety, but none had been offered by the time the Star went to press.

Conditions on board the Alan Kurdi — operated by German charity Sea Eye and named after a three-year-old Syrian-Kurdish boy whose dead body washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015 — have deteriorated dramatically since it rescued 84 people last week.

“It’s insane. No-one is taking responsibility for this,” Sea Eye’s head of communication Julian Pahlke told the Star.

Sea Eye's crew pull refugees from an unseaworthy boat in the central Mediterranean

This photo shows Sea Eye’s crew pulling refugees from an unseaworthy boat in the central Mediterranean.

“Four people collapsed on board the ship on Sunday. Two people have collapsed today. A woman tried to kill herself on Saturday by jumping overboard. She was evacuated to Malta.

“Everyone on board is exhausted. It’s cold and it’s windy and people are sleeping on deck covered in blankets. Our team is so stressed that it’s getting hard for them to look after the rescued.”

When the Alan Kurdi’s crew contacted the maritime rescue co-ordination centres in Malta, Rome and even Bremen in Germany, the latter suggested that the ship should contact the Libyan coastguard.

“We are not going to do that,” Mr Pahlke said. “We are not going to break international law by handing refugees over to criminal groups and back to a war zone.”

The Ocean Viking — jointly operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) — was in international waters between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa with 60 refugees on board as the Star went to press. Its crew also refused to break international law.

Libya cannot be considered a place of safety,” SOS Mediterranee director of operations Frederic Penard told the Star.

“Everybody says this every day, including European leaders and their governments. The situation in the country is very well documented.

“But at the same time, European leaders refuse to accept responsibility for the co-ordination of some of our cases, including the designation of a port of safety, and they keep referring us back to the Libyan coastguard, which is unable to provide a place of safety because their country is not safe.

“The European Union’s policies here are grossly incoherent. On the one hand, they clearly acknowledge that the situation in Libya is a problem, which clearly disqualifies the country as being safe. But on the other hand they refuse to abide by international maritime conventions.”

The EU withdrew all of its search and rescue ships in April after pressure from Italy’s then far-right … coalition government. Since then, a small number of NGO ships have been the only vessels in the Mediterranean carrying out the humanitarian work formerly done by the bloc.

Many NGO activists have been persecuted for their efforts and charities such as Sea Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Mission Lifeline and Jugend Rettet have had their ships seized by the Italian and Maltese authorities.

MSF UK humanitarian representative Liz Harding warned that despite the EU’s extremely limited dedicated search and rescue presence in the Mediterranean, people continue to attempt to cross the world’s deadliest migration route.

Ms Harding told the Star: “MSF calls on EU member states, including the UK, to urgently provide proactive and sufficient search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as to end punitive actions against NGOs trying to provide life-saving assistance.

“Additionally, there must be sustainable, reliable and predictable disembarkation mechanism for survivors in safe places where they will be treated humanely and will be able to seek asylum. Libya is not, and cannot be considered, a place of safety.”

You can follow the Star’s coverage of the civil refugee rescue fleet here.

A FIVE-DAY standoff that left over 100 refugees stranded at sea finally came to an end today when the EU authorities allowed two NGO rescue ships to dock in Italy. The Alan Kurdi, operated by German charity Sea Eye, and the Ocean Viking, crewed jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), saved the lives of 144 refugees last Thursday in three separate missions. It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon, however, when the Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando responded to the Alan Kurdi’s plea for shelter on Twitter that the two ships were granted a port of safety: here.

‘It shouldn’t be civil society versus European governments’. SOS Mediterranee’s DAVID STARKE tells the Star how EU member states have abandoned their commitments to international maritime and refugee laws when it comes to rescues carried out by the civil rescue fleet.

German Protestant Church raising funds to join civil refugee rescue fleet in the Mediterranean: here.

Brazilian Bolsonaro’s poisonous products in Europe


This 12 May 2019 video says about itself:

Water contaminated by pesticides causes fear in Brazil

A recent study found high levels of pesticides in the drinking water of about 25% of Brazil’s cities. These results have activists worried, with Brazilian agriculture heavily dependent on one chemical component. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports from Sao Paulo.

Translated from Peter Speetjens in the Netherlands, 1 November 2019:

Now the European consumer is also getting poison from Brazilian products

Brazil sprays food with products banned in the EU

Brazil was already the largest pesticide user in the world, but under President Jair Bolsonaro the country is becoming increasingly toxic. And that is also a danger to public health in Europe.

Forbidden to spray in Europe, but Brazilian farmers are still allowed to use them: a whole list of pesticides. They are used on Brazilian agricultural fields, and that also endangers the health of Europe. The European Union (EU) and the South American trade bloc Mercosur recently concluded a free trade agreement principle. If all member states ratify that principle, it opens the door wide for the European import of Brazilian agricultural products. The question is: do we want that?

The regulations for using pesticides are much more flexible in Brazil than in the EU. Numerous substances banned in Europe are permitted in Brazil. And it certainly doesn’t get any better with the governments of recent years.

Since President Dilma Rousseff was deposed in 2016 and a right-wing government came to power (first under Michel Temer, then under Jair Bolsonaro), more than 1200 new pesticides have been approved. 193 of those pesticides contain ingredients that are banned in the EU. Before 2016, just over a hundred new pesticides entered the Brazilian market every year. In the first six months of this year alone, there were 239. That is more than in the entire EU in the last eight years.

“It is not the only indication that the situation is deteriorating,” says Larissa Mies Bombardi, professor of social geography at the University of São Paolo. “Between 2007 and 2014 there were 3,100 acute pesticide poisoning annually. In 2017 there were 5238, an increase of 45 percent. The number of people who died from it rose from 148 to 194 a year. ”

“We also see the largest increase in pesticide use in areas that are part of the Amazon biotope,” she continues. “It illustrates how Brazilian agriculture invades more and more north into the rainforest.”

A poison atlas

Larissa Mies Bombardi published the Geografia do Uso do Agrotoxicos no Brasil e Connexaoes com o Uniao Europa two years ago. It is an atlas that maps Brazilian pesticide use in agriculture in all sorts of ways and the links with Europe.

According to the Brazilian Institute for Environment and Sustainable Natural Resources (IBAMA), Brazil spent more than $ 10 billion in 2017 on nearly 540,000 tons of pesticides. That is one-fifth of the global demand. More than half (52 percent) was intended for Brazilian soy cultivation. It has increased tenfold in the last fifty years. The majority of the soy is destined for export to China and the EU.

Moreover, in 2017, 20 percent of all Brazilian pesticides were destined for maize and sugar cane. In other words, 72 percent of the 540 million tons of agricultural poison was destined to spray only three Brazilian crops. …

About 30 percent of all pesticides in Brazil are banned in the EU and Switzerland.

150 types of poison are permitted in Brazilian soy cultivation, 35 of which are banned in the EU. Nevertheless, in 2018 Brazil already exported around 3 million tonnes of soy to European farmers. 121 pesticides were permitted in coffee growing, 30 of which were banned in the EU. Yet Brazil exports almost a million tons of coffee beans to Europe.

Brazil is the world’s largest producer of oranges and orange juice. Of the 116 pesticides allowed in the sector, 33 are banned in the EU. Nevertheless, in 2016 Brazil already exported around 1.5 million tonnes of fruit and juice to Europe.

‘European Union anti-refugee policy is racist’


The remains of an inflatable rubber dinghy off Libya that was carrying 15 people, all of whom were rescued by rescue ship Open Arms

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

EU accused of ‘institutional racism’ in the way it handles Mediterranean rescues

‘If white Europeans had been on the boat, they probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long’, NGO says after EU nations ignored the boat’s distress call

THE European Union was accused of institutional racism for the way it handles rescues in the Mediterranean today after calls about another refugee boat in distress went unanswered.

German charity Sea Watch discovered an inflatable boat with 15 people on board adrift in the Mediterranean yesterday from its reconnaissance plane, Moonbird.

“Our crew accompanied the boat for hours and tried to inform the merchant ship Vos-Aphrodite, only a few miles away, about the acute sea emergency, and to coordinate a rescue”, Sea Watch tweeted yesterday afternoon.

“Several contacts failed and none of the ships in the vicinity attempted to rescue [the people].

“We received information from the so-called Libyan Coastguard that their ships would remain in port due to ‘bad weather’. We’ll search for the boat tomorrow, with the sad expectation that EU authorities are once again responsible for the death of people by refraining from assistance.”

Fortunately the Spanish NGO migrant rescue ship Open Arms was in the area and tweeted today that it had found and rescued the 15 people on board.

Open Arms said the refugees‘ dinghy was taking on water and was about to sink. “15 people: six men, two women, two children and five minors. Everyone is safe,” the charity tweeted this afternoon.

Both Sea Watch and Open Arms condemned the EU’s inaction as well as its relationship and funding of the Libyan Coastguard.

“If Libya is not a safe place and its ‘coastguards’ do not go out to rescue lives in danger if there is bad weather, they should stop calling themselves coastguards”, the charity’s founder Oscar Camps tweeted yesterday.

Sea Watch said: “A Libyan Coastguard that doesn’t send a boat for weather reasons; merchant ships who refuse any communication with our [search and rescue] reconnaissance aircraft Moonbird and official maritime rescue co-ordination centres who value formal responsibilities more than human lives.

“If white Europeans had been on the boat, they probably wouldn’t have had to wait so long. That is institutional racism. Fortunately, our crew was able to find the small rubber dinghy again this morning and co-ordinate a rescue with our friends from Open Arms.”

Meanwhile the Alan Kurdi and the Ocean Viking — civil refugee rescue ships operated by German charity Sea Eye and French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) respectively — were today finally given permission to disembark the refugees they rescued in the Mediterranean in the past two weeks.

The Alan Kurdi rescued 91 people in Libyan waters on Saturday as armed, Libyan-flagged speedboats attempted to disrupt the operation by firing bullets into the air and the sea.

The Sea Eye’s chairman Gorden Isler said Berlin’s silence to the armed attack on the Alan Kurdi was deafening. “If we were a merchant ship and had transported diesel engines or crude oil, then there would certainly be reactions from the federal ministries,” he tweeted.

The Ocean Viking rescued 104 people on October 18 and has since spent 11 days at sea with nowhere to go and no word from Europe.

Michael Fark, MSF head of mission for Libya and Mediterranean, said the charity was relieved France, Germany, and Italy finally agreed to relocate all of the 104 survivors on board the Ocean Viking, and the 90 people on board the Alan Kurdi.

“These prolonged, inhumane standoffs must not continue. It is unacceptable to strand people at sea, waiting days and weeks while European states debate whether and how to fulfil their humanitarian and legal obligations.

“It’s disappointing that only three states were part of this solution. All European states must live up to their principles.

“This means agreeing on the implementation of a predictable and humane disembarkation mechanism for everyone rescued at sea, that also shares responsibility, easing the burden on coastal states.”

European inaction condemned as NGOs rescue over 100 people in the Mediterranean: here.

Saving refugees from drowning, rescuer interviewed


Hannah Wallace Bowman, communications manager on board the Ocean Viking (right)

By Ben Cowles in Britain:

Friday, October 4, 2019

‘It will not be easy to reconcile how Europe is allowing this to happen

HANNAH WALLACE BOWMAN speaks to the Star about her time on board the Ocean Viking, an NGO migrant rescue ship that has saved hundreds of lives despite Fortress Europe’s dogged efforts to stop them

“I CAN’T even begin to describe how overwhelming the situation in Libya and the Mediterranean is,” says Hannah Wallace Bowman, communications manager on board the Ocean Viking, a migrant rescue ship operated by French charities Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee.

“I don’t think I will really be coming to terms with it anytime soon,” she says after having spent close to two months at sea and saving the lives of over 650 people.

The Ocean Viking, which launched in August, is MSF and SOS Mediterranee’s return to sea-based migrant rescues. The charities had been operating the Aquarius for several years before, but were forced to stop in December 2018 after what MSF Sea described as “sustained attacks on [its] search and rescue [operations] by European states.”

Once again, instead of allowing the crew to safely carry the rescued to a safe port — as international maritime law requires all sea captains to do — Italy, Malta and the European Union made every effort to prevent the Ocean Viking, and other ships of the civil migrant rescue fleet, from doing so.

Bowman had been on board the Ocean Viking since the beginning. She spoke to me right after disembarking for the first time in over three weeks.

“We’ve seen people who have wounds from melted plastic that has been burnt onto their skin. We had people who were made to call their families to ask for money while they were having physical violence inflicted upon them.

“I can only begin to imagine how devastating that must be to have your brother, your sister, your child on the phone, hearing them going through that pain and not being able to do anything.

“When I actually get a chance to sit and think about what it is that I have experienced with these people, I’m not entirely sure how easily I’ll be able to reconcile the fact that Europe is allowing this to continue and that we are demonising the people who are doing the work to save these people.”

A lone life jacket floats in the Mediterranean (Pic: Hannah Wallace Bowman)

The EU responded to the so-called “migrant crisis” in 2015 not with rescues but by launching an anti-human-trafficking naval mission called Eunavfor Med, which later became known as Operation Sophia. Though its primary mission was to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, the mission’s ships are estimated to have saved the lives of 45,000 migrants from a watery Mediterranean grave.

However, in April, after pressure from Italy’s then far-right … coalition government, the EU agreed to pull Operation Sophia’s SAR ships and increase funds to the so-called Libyan coastguard (LCG), which has been pushing refugees back to the war-torn country ever since.

“As it stands, Operation Sophia has placed all its emphasis on aerial assets,” Bowman says. “So they don’t have any rescue capacity, which means they can watch people from the sky and they can also direct interceptions.

“They can empower the LCG in order to intercept boats. But if they see a shipwreck, they’re pretty powerless to do anything.”

Worse, the Libyan coastguard and Operation Sophia do not collaborate with the civil fleet, even when their ships are in the vicinity of a boat in distress, Bowman says.

“When we’ve tried to contact the relevant authorities, they simply don’t respond. If they do pick up the phone, they don’t speak English, which is a requirement of your co-ordination centre.

“So we’re pretty alone out there. At least that’s what it feels like.”

The inhumanity of Europe’s handling the crisis was illustrated on September 20 when the Ocean Viking rescued 35 people in a wooden boat from waters within Malta’s search and rescue area.

The Maltese authorities later sent a vessel to the Ocean Viking to transfer the 35 people picked up in its waters but would not take in the 182 other refugees — including a newborn baby, several children and a pregnant woman — who the crew had saved just a few days before in Libyan waters.

“It was a really difficult moment. We had to explain the reason some people were allowed to get off and others weren’t was simply down this fairly arbitrary division in terms of search and rescue regions.

“We were really worried as to how people were going to respond. But I was incredibly impressed with the level of dignity that people received the news. I certainly wouldn’t have taken it as they did.

“Some of them took off to lay down and cry. Others just took themselves inside and had a quiet moment. It was a really sombre atmosphere on the ship.

“This decision really revealed the level to which this system is so entirely dysfunctional.”

Members of the Maltese Armed Forces take a group of migrants to a Maltese military ship in the Mediterranean Sea

Terrible as this situation was, and how utterly demoralising it must have been for the migrants left on board, it seems it wasn’t as bad as what happened in August on the Open Arms, a NGO migrant rescue ship operated by a Spanish charity.

The vessel went 19 days with close to 100 refugees crammed on board. Italy’s then interior minister Matteo Salvini’s stubborn refusal to allow the rescued into Lampedusa left the boat languishing for days within sight of land.

The charity’s founder Oscar Camps shared videos of the tense situation on board as arguments broke out between the crew, the Italian coastguard and the rescued people. In one clip, nine refugees throw themselves overboard in an attempt to either reach the island or end their own lives.

Eventually, after several emergency medical evacuations, an Italian court ordered the ship’s temporary seizure and brought the migrants to land.

“We also endured a very horrific standoff at the same time as the Open Arms incident,” Bowman reminds me.

At the time, the Ocean Viking was carrying 356 refugees and had also been denied a port of safety by Italy and Malta. Other EU nations ignored its calls for help.

“People were throwing themselves overboard on the Open Arms and we had people threatening to go on hunger strike.

“They were absolutely terrified that we were going to send them back to Libya. They were asking us every day what’s going to happen and where we were going. And we couldn’t tell them anything.

“We had to say we’re really sorry, we don’t know, we’re working as hard as we can, but we promise we won’t take you back to Libya.

“Fourteen days at sea waiting in very cramped conditions in the middle of the summer really pushes people to breaking point.

“These people had been through so much already. And they were now in a situation where they were being told once again that they’re not wanted, they’re not welcome, that people don’t see them as human beings.

“One of the things the crew wondered was how we got into this state. It was only a year ago that the Aquarius was prevented from entering a harbour for just a few days and the world took notice. And now we were weeks on end and it was just commonplace. It was the new normal.”

I ask Bowman how she feels about Europe’s handling of the crisis. She says the overriding emotion is one of sadness.

“We’ve literally just got off the ship, just touched ground for the first time in over three weeks. But for the people that we have rescued, their journey is not over.

“They’re entering into a context where there are a lot of misconceptions about who refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers are. The asylum system process they’re about to go through is incredibly arduous.

“The fact remains that no-one knows how many people, as I speak to you now, are trying to make that journey across the central Mediterranean. We know it’s the deadliest migratory route in the world, but we don’t really know exactly how deadly it is.

“On this last rotation, we had a family: a father, mother and four kids, who’d been detained in Libya. They tried to make the crossing twice previously and had been intercepted by the LCG and forced back into detention.

“They had been treated by MSF while they were in detention, which they were incredibly grateful for because they said there were other people who weren’t as fortunate, who lost children.

“They told me this was their last attempt. They said: ‘Look, we don’t even know what we would have done. Honestly, if we hadn’t made it, then we would rather have been dead in the water. At least then it would be over. At least then we would be able to rest.’

“I understand that is really difficult for people to put themselves in the shoes of an individual for whom their reality is so incredibly removed from their own. But I think we’ve gotten to a point where we’re so lacking in a sense of shared humanity. What world are we creating? Where are we heading?”

Children wave at a boat from aboard the Ocean Viking as it reaches the port of Messina, Italy

It sometimes feels like we’re heading towards a kind of eco-fascism, comes my response. As our ecosystems are increasing devastated by climate change, I worry that it will be those forced to flee from the worst effects that will bear the brunt of, and the blame for, climate destruction.

“We can just keep building the walls higher,” Bowman says, “but they can only go so high.

“Unless we really address the root causes as to why it is these people are forced onto the move, unless we address the situation in Libya and provide legal options in order that they can escape, then nothing is going to change and we’re still going to be a necessity in the central Mediterranean Sea.

“The very organisations, the very people who are simply trying to do the job that Europe has left by removing its search and rescue capacity are also now the organisations and individuals that are being singled out as criminals.”

With alt-right poster boy Salvini no longer in government, perhaps things could change for the civil migrant rescue fleet. Indeed, late last month the governments of Malta, Italy, France and Germany met in Valletta and agreed to set up “regulations for a temporary emergency mechanism” to help Italy and Malta deal with the crisis — note the word “temporary”.

Bowman says it’s too early to tell if any of this will have a positive effect, but she does hold out hope for the future. She says she has to.

“If I didn’t believe we have the possibility to shift the way people see what we do and the way that we deal with one another as humans, I wouldn’t be doing the job that I do.

“The situation now is quite literally leaving people to die at sea. It’s leaving people with a totally impossible choice whereby they are having to decide between staying where they are and suffering or risking their lives at sea.

“I feel the shift will come from civil society, from people once again embracing what it means to be a human being with shared responsibility, with community, with compassion.

“I have to believe that things could be different. And I believe that part of that change comes from people having the tools to understand the reality that is playing out there.”

Hannah Wallace Bowman is a communications manager for MSF.

The Civil Fleet

SINCE the EU abandoned its search and rescue missions in the central Mediterranean sea in April, a number of NGOs have stepped up to do the humanitarian work Europe should be doing.

These NGO migrant rescue ships have become known as the civil fleet. Here is a brief rundown of the most active ships in the central Mediterranean since April 2019.

Ocean Viking: Operated by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders, this ship has saved up to 650 lives since April. It returned to sea on Thursday.

Alan Kurdi: This ship, named after the Syrian Kurdish boy who was found dead on a Turkish beach, is operated by the German Charity Sea Eye. It has saved around 182 lives. The charity is currently raising funds to return to sea. You can donate here.

Alex: Operated by the Italian charity Mediterranea Saving Humans, this ship saved 54 people in July. The Alex is still being held by the Italian authorities after it docked in Lampedusa.

Mare Jonio: Also operated by Mediterranea Saving Humans, the Mare Jonio has saved the lives of 106 refugees in August. The ship has also been siezed in Italy.

Sea Watch III: Operated by German charity Sea Watch, this ship has saved the lives of roughly 117 people since April. The boat has remained in the hands of the Italian authorities since June when Captain Carola Rackete disembarked 52 migrants in Lampedusa in defiance of Matteo Salvini.

Open Arms: Operated by the Spanish NGO Open Arms, the ship has saved 124 lives in August. The ship set sail again for the central Mediterranean on October 2.

Eleonore: Operated by German charity Mission Lifeline. The ship has saved 104 lives in August. The Elenore has been seized by the Italian authorities in Sicily since it finished its last mission on September 2.