Refugees in trouble, Greece, Libya


African refugees are rescued from a dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea

From daily News Line in Britain:

Lesbos: epicentre of refugee crisis

12th October 2019

WARS in Syria and Afghanistan are driving refugees through Turkey as they make their way to Greece. Many land on the Greek island of Lesbos, which is now an epicentre of the country’s migrant crisis.

It’s a dangerous journey – but one made slightly easier by Refugee Rescue, the last remaining humanitarian rescue boat in the area. 16,000 refugees have fled to a Greek island this year.

With a crackdown on refugees in Turkey, and tough immigration policies elsewhere in Europe, the number of people fleeing to Lesbos by sea has soared to more than 16,000 this year, according to the UN.

That’s the biggest influx since 2016. As the only NGO left in Lesbos with a rescue boat, the group is working overtime, all the time.

‘We are tired, we are tired,’ said Giannis Skenderoglou, a crew coordinator for the group. ‘But that, that’s our job.’

Refugee Rescue said: ‘Refugee Rescue is a grassroots NGO operating a skilled Search and Rescue (SAR) team on the North Shore of Lesbos, Greece. Our boat crew and rescue vessel “Mo Chara” are on call 24 hours per day, ready to assist those in distress at sea.

‘Onshore, our land teams man spotting operations that keep watch along the treacherous coastline, and work alongside partners to provide emergency relief for those who have just arrived.

‘Refugee Rescue was founded in response to inadequate SAR infrastructure in 2015 when thousands of people were arriving to the island by boat, having been displaced by war, conflict and persecution.

‘Dinghies often directly navigate towards dangerous rocks or shallows that can easily break the floor of these flimsy rubber boats, causing them to sink or capsize.

‘Smugglers abandon groups of refugees on rocks and inaccessible beaches. Many boats also land on treacherous rocks and people are then stranded in locations that are difficult to reach. There is no cliff rescue here, no helicopter to come and help them, and people are often impossible to reach from land.

‘Hundreds have already lost their lives and people are still crossing the perilous stretch of water between Turkey and Lesbos every day. As long as people are denied safe passage to Europe, they will continue risking their lives unnecessarily, forced to take what is now one of the world’s most dangerous migratory routes in search of refuge.

‘By offering a consistent and skilled emergency response along this treacherous coastline, we seek to make this journey a little less deadly, with the hope of stopping any more lives being needlessly lost to The Aegean.’

Meanwhile, Médécins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) issued its own statement on Libyan refugees and migrants.

MSF said: ‘MSF is currently working to provide medical help to people trapped in appalling conditions in Libyan detention centres.

‘People are detained simply because of their migration status in overcrowded conditions, with a lack of access to sufficient food, water or medical treatment.

‘A recent assessment of just one of these centres found alarming levels of malnutrition, with some people held in a room so small there was no space to lie down. Worse still, one third of the people detained indefinitely in this centre were children.

‘But in recent days, things have got even worse. Fighting in and around Libya’s capital Tripoli led directly to the deaths of 40 vulnerable migrants and refugees after a detention centre in Tripoli was hit by an airstrike on 2 July.

‘Trapped in these centres, and at severe risk of being caught in the crossfire, migrants and refugees are unable to flee the fighting and are suffering from increased disruption to food and other supplies – some report not having eaten for days.’

Just seven of the 28 EU member nations agreed to launch a new system to help those rescued in the Mediterranean. A large majority of European Union member countries have refused to back a plan to quickly get migrants off boats in the Mediterranean Sea and distribute them among willing EU partners.

At a meeting of EU interior ministers, only Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal offered to take part in the ‘fast-track’ plan drawn up by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, which would screen migrants, relocate asylum seekers and return people who do not apply or qualify for asylum, all within four weeks.

‘We were seven yesterday, seven this morning and seven this evening. So things haven’t changed much,’ said a downbeat Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s minister responsible for migration. ‘Why us, and why no one else?’

For more than a year, humanitarian ships that have picked up migrants from Libya in unseaworthy boats were blocked from docking or disembarking passengers in Italy or Malta. Italy’s former anti-migrant interior minister even threatened to jail the crews of charity-run rescue ships.

The stance taken by the two countries resulted in standoffs that kept rescued migrants at sea for weeks until other EU nations pledged to take at least some of the people seeking safety or better lives in Europe.

Tuesday’s meeting in Luxembourg had been meant to gauge enthusiasm for the temporary plan, in which countries would make ‘pre-declared pledges’ on how many asylum seekers they would accept. Details of the scheme are sketchy, but it would operate for at least six months, unless migrant arrivals increase dramatically.

Earlier, France’s European affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, had claimed that several countries were willing to accept asylum seekers.

‘I think there are around ten countries that are ready to play the game. Perhaps others,’ she told reporters. ‘We are going to be able to say that when a boat arrives, we know who to call and that there are countries ready to send teams in.’

But Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said that those who agreed to take part ‘are those three or four states that had already said they were available, like Luxembourg and Ireland.’ She said she hoped that more EU partners would sign on by the end of the year.

Asselborn said that … those opposed to migrant-sharing quotas in the past – countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – ‘remain against it’.

Well over a million migrants arrived in the EU in 2015, most of them refugees from countries at war like Syria or Iraq, sparking one of Europe’s biggest political crises as nations bickered over who should take responsibility for them and how much others should be forced to help.

New arrivals have now dropped to their lowest levels in about seven years, particularly between Libya and Italy, but EU countries are still unable to agree on the best way forward, and far-right and anti-migrant parties have taken advantage of the confusion.

Journalism, hardly possible in NATO’s ‘new’ Libya


AFP news agency says about this 15 September 2019 video:

Practicing journalism has almost become impossible in Libya. Hostility towards the media and journalists continues to increase. At least that is what this group of Libyan journalists claims. The journalists attended an programme known as the “Kon Chahed” application or “Be a witness”.

It was developed by the Libyan Centre for Press Freedom, which aims to enable journalists to report attacks without fear. Political and security crisis has plunged the country into chaos since 2011.

“At the moment, the situation in Libya is that of clashes, conflict areas and war. There are many cases of violations against journalists working in conflict areas’‘, said We’am al-Alem, Coordinator of activities at the Libyan center for freedom of press.

Mohamed al-Najem is the Executive Director of the centre.

“Unfortunately, many journalists are leaving the country and others have stopped practicing the profession inside Libya. At the same time, there is an increase in self-censorship by journalists about the content of their work”, he said.

Libya is ranked 162 out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

At least 19 journalists have been killed in the country since 2011 and many have gone missing.

Refugees’ plight, in computer game, Libyan reality


This 28 August 2019 video says about itself (Associated Press):

Video game takes gamers through perilous journey of refugees

A video game that helps tell the story of a Syrian refugee’s perilous journey of escape. Abdullah Karam is the main character of this video game called ‘‘Path Out’‘. The game takes gamers through his escape from the war-torn country in 2014.

“I’ve faced mines, I faced soldiers. We got shot at one point, we ran away. But you see the decision you make, it’s not like you sit on the couch, you’re there, you’re in it. It’s like in a video game, your reflex is like in the video game. You’re like; ‘Okay well, I have to run now. This is the level where I run’‘, he said.

Karam now lives in Austria after harrowing experiences through Turkey. He arrived in Austria in 2015 and met George Hobmeier who runs a small independent video game studio, Causa Creations..

“We wanted to do something intentionally cute that displays something that is not cute at all. In the beginning, this is not so obvious, but later on in the levels where you meet ISIS soldiers and they are these tiny 32 by 32-pixel beings that kind of bumble around the screen, it becomes like; ‘Oh, this is really awful.’ But it’s cute, which makes it even more awful. So, that was the aesthetic reason behind it. And the other one was actually that we did want the game to be very accessible”, Hobmeier said.

So what informed the choice of a video game to draw attention on the plight of refugees?

“Games actually are a format where people are willing to spend sometimes a ridiculous amount of time. So for them, I’m just going to play this one hour a game, it’s nothing, but it’s still compared to other like a short newspaper article about migration, it’s a lot of information on a subject. Packaged in a funny game’‘, Hobmeier added.

Karam now works in marketing and hopes the video game will serve a noble cause.

“I really personally hope that people will change their mind about refugees and how they get approached. It’s very wrong interpretation what we have as refugees here. You see, I had to face a lot of wrong interpretations about us”, Karam said.

‘‘Path Out’‘ is currently available on video game distribution sites Steam and itch.io.

The creators say they hope to produce more detailed, bigger budget version of the game in the future.

This 28 August 2019 video says about itself:

“We’re in a Crisis of Deaths”: Migrant Death Toll Tops 900 in Mediterranean as 40 Die Off Libya

At least 40 refugees and migrants are feared dead off of the coast of Libya after a boat carrying dozens of people en route to Europe capsized Tuesday morning in the Mediterranean Sea. … With Tuesday’s tragedy, the number of migrants and refugees who have lost their lives this year in the Mediterranean en route to Europe is up to 900. Meanwhile, far-right European leaders like Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini continue to criminalize refugees and migrants, as well as humanitarian aid workers who often lead search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. We speak with Charlie Yaxley, spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency.