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.

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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.

Wedding guests killed in NATO’s ‘new’ Libya


This 3 July 2019 vifdeo is called Airstrike hits migrant detention centre in Libya.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

“At least 40 dead in bombing of Libya wedding”

At least 43, AFP news agency writes.

At least 40 people were killed in an air strike in southern Libya. AFP news agency and the British broadcaster BBC report that, based on Libyan government sources.

The BBC writes that the victims fell at a wedding in Murzuq, a city located in the southwest of the North African country.

The bombs were said to have been dropped by General Haftar’s troops. News channels affiliated with Haftar confirm that Murzuk has been bombed …

It looks life Haftar is a diligent pupil of his sponsors in Washington and in Saudi Arabia, sponsoring his bloody war in Libya. As both the United States government and the Saudi government habitually bomb weddings; from Afghanistan to Yemen.

EX(?)-CIA asset Haftar, by the way, calls himself higher than general: ‘field marshall’.

In April, Haftar launched an offensive to also take the capital Tripoli. According to World Health Organization WHO, at least 1,000 people have died in those fights since then.

French-backed Libyan militia airstrike kills 42 civilians: here.

NATOs ‘new’ Libya, refugees raped


This 1 August 2019 video says about itself:

Held in a Libyan detention centre and raped by one of the guards at the tender age of 17 is the horrid tale that Joy shares of her dreams of going to Europe.

Joy is one of more than 14,000 Nigerians who agreed to return to Nigeria after experiencing horrors in Libya.

Faith has a rather similar story, getting pregnant after being sold into sexual slavery by human traffickers in Libya.

Both women, with a third of the other women returnees, carry with them their children born out of rape. A reminder of their torment in the war-ravaged north African nation but also a light that guided them back home.

“When they come with children that are not wanted. Especially children that have been brought back being raped. Their identity is not there. It’s a lot of trauma for the mothers. We have cases where the mothers are very aggressive to these children,” said Jennifer Ero, National Coordinator of the Child Protection Network. …

Libya still holds a majority of migrants that are too scared to return to their families with the extra mouth to feed. The United Nations estimates that about 60,000 Nigerian migrants are still in Libya.

Another refugee tragedy off Libya


This 27 July 2019 video says about itself:

62 bodies of dead migrants recovered off Libya

At least 62 bodies of migrants that went missing after their boat sank off the Libyan coast on Thursday have been recovered.

With still more migrants believed to be lost at sea, there are conflicting numbers of those that are still missing.

The International Organization for Migration has given estimate of 145 migrants surviving the ordeal and 110 missing.

While the Libyan navy has reported 134 survivors and 115 missing and on the other hand, Médecins sans frontières estimates that nearly 400 migrants were on board the two boats.

It is hard for the time being to give the exact numbers of the migrants even as search and rescue operations continue.

By Alex Lantier in France:

The mass drownings off Libya and the fight to defend refugees

27 July 2019

The ongoing wave of atrocities against refugees demonstrates that it is impossible to defend immigrants without a mass, international movement against the capitalist system. Despite mounting outrage at crimes committed against refugees by the world’s wealthiest states, these governments are determined to continue anti-immigrant policies condemning tens of thousands of innocent people to death.

On Thursday, a ship carrying 270 to 300 refugees fleeing Libya capsized and sank in the Mediterranean, en route to Italy. Fishermen who spotted the boat called the Libyan coast guard, who rescued around 140 refugees from the waves. The remaining are missing and presumed drowned.

Sabah Youssef, a survivor of the shipwreck devastated by the drowning of her seven-year-old child, declared: “I don’t want anything now except to go back to my country, Sudan, to die there.”

An Eritrean survivor made an international appeal for help: “We rescued ourselves. No one could help us, and no one came to rescue us, and here we are in a big problem, so we need your help.”

The refugees who survived the shipwreck are still in grave danger. Like all refugees delivered to Libya’s coast guard—a force built and funded by the European Union (EU), after the 2011 NATO war against Libya destroyed that country’s government and armed forces—they risk internment in EU-funded concentration camps. There, they face assault, rape, being sold into slavery, or murder, as the United Nations, human rights groups and major media have repeatedly documented.

Those who survive the abuse meted out by camp guards risk falling victim to the civil war that has devastated Libya since the NATO war. Earlier this month, dozens died when aircraft loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman backed by French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, bombed a refugee camp in Tajoura as they attacked the Italian-backed official Libyan government in nearby Tripoli.

Yesterday, UN High Commission on Refugees Spokesman for Africa Charlie Yaxley tweeted shocking news that of the survivors of the shipwreck, “84 were taken to Tajoura detention camp, where more than 50 died trapped inside during an airstrike just weeks ago. … They must be released and action taken so that no one is brought back to detention centers.”

Responsibility for refugee drownings in the Mediterranean, which have claimed 14,000 lives since 2016, lies with the European Union (EU) and the capitalist system. Faced with a global upsurge of the class struggle—mass protests in Puerto Rico, US teachers’ strikes, “yellow vest” protests in France, and strikes against EU austerity in Portugal, Germany and Poland—the capitalist class is viciously stoking anti-refugee chauvinism to divide the workers. At the same time, it builds up a police state for mass repression of the entire working class.

Imperialist governments on both sides of the Atlantic pour hundreds of billions of dollars into their military machines, and impose austerity to enrich billionaires like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (net worth $165.6 billion) and LVMH owner Bernard Arnault ($104.2 billion) at workers’ expense. Yet, echoing the fascist regimes of the 20th century, governments and bourgeois parties of all political colors insist that everyone must blame their troubles on immigrants.Militarism, racism in German parliament

America’s fascistic president, Donald Trump, has detained hundreds of thousands of immigrants in a network of US concentration camps and is threatening police raids on US cities to deport millions of undocumented immigrants. The Democratic Party has played a key role in supporting Trump’s far-right policy, voting $4.6 billion to fund the US concentration camp system in the US House of Representatives despite protests against immigration raids across the United States.

The drownings off Libya have provoked outrage in Europe at Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who proclaims his admiration for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Salvini, who has threatened mass raids to deport illegal immigrants and the Roma people, blocks all ships bearing refugees from Italy. He ignored protests by 200,000 people this spring in Milan in defense of refugees. Having arrested German captain Carola Rackete of the Sea Watch 3 vessel for landing refugees in Italy, and released her amid a wave of protests in Germany, he now refuses to allow an Italian coast guard ship bearing refugees to land until other EU states agree to accept all immigrants aboard.

Yet responsibility lies with the entire EU. In 2015 it launched “Operation Triton”, ending rescue operations and stepping up warship deployments in the Mediterranean, and accelerated construction of a vast network of concentration camps. Millions of Middle East and African refugees are imprisoned in horrific conditions in EU-funded camps stretching from Italy and Greece to Turkey, Libya and Niger.

Statements of Berlin and Paris criticizing Salvini’s fascistic outbursts reek of hypocrisy. While the Macron government has called Salvini “disgusting,” Macron has hailed fascist dictator Philippe Pétain and his officials boast to their fascistic base in the security forces and the financial elite about grounding the migrant rescue ship Aquarius in Marseille, to keep refugees from reaching France. Its police brutally broke up a protest by African refugees in Paris on July 14, the anniversary of the French revolution, as they savagely attacked “yellow vests” protesting social inequality.

Having briefly extended an open door in 2015 to migrants fleeing the Syrian war via the Balkans to Germany, Berlin has adopted an anti-immigrant policy. As it rearms, and right-wing extremist German professors call to rehabilitate Hitler and German militarism, violent neo-Nazi groups are flourishing in the police apparatus. The unsolved murder of politician Walter Lübcke, who faced multiple death threats from neo-Nazis after publicly defending refugees, amounts to a barely veiled threat against anyone supporting refugees in Germany.

In 1940, two years before European fascism launched the genocide of the Jews, the great Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote: “Today decaying capitalist society is striving to squeeze the Jewish people from all its pores; seventeen million individuals out of the two billion populating the globe, that is, less than 1 percent, can no longer find a place on our planet! Amid the vast expanses of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for man as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison.”

Eighty years later, Trotsky’s words sound as a warning. After three decades of imperialist war in the Middle East and Africa since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and a decade of economic crisis since the 2008 Wall Street crash, tens of millions have fled bloodshed and poverty across the planet. Last year, 70.8 million people were displaced around the world, the most since World War II.

The relentless state repression and police-state build-up are signs that the ruling class are firmly set on a fascistic course.

The way forward is the fight to mobilize ever broader layers of the international working class in the developing struggles, and to arm these struggles with a socialist and internationalist program. This means rejecting attempts to blame immigrants for the social crisis produced by capitalism, and defending their right to travel, live and work in any country of their choosing. …

Only a perspective for mobilizing the working class internationally for the socialist transformation of society can free humanity from the diktat of the corporate oligarchy, defend democratic rights and guarantee a high standard of living to all.

LIBYA’S MIGRANT ‘HOLDING AREAS’ HAVE BECOME DEATH CAMPS The smell of decomposing human flesh is what Amal, a young Eritrean man, remembers most about the days after the Tajoura migrant detention center was struck by a missile earlier this month in the midst of Libya’s worsening civil war. [HuffPost]

Saving refugees off Libya


This 22 July 2019 video says about itself:

NGOs to resume migrant rescue operations

Humanitarian organizations SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières have decided to resume rescue operations for migrants off the Libyan coast, after a 7 months debar.

The organizations were forced to stop their rescue operations due to pressure from some [European Union] countries. In a statement issued on Sunday, MSF and SOS Méditerranée said they will continue their search and rescue operations at sea to save lives, and also condemned the indifference of the European governments.

One of the 20 people who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea die according to estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

The two charities have announced that their new ship, Ocean Viking, will sail to the Central Mediterranean Sea at the end of July.