Archive for ‘Africa’


Tony Blair Could Face Grilling for ‘Trying to Save Gaddafi’ During Libya War

Human Wrongs Watch

**Tony Blair, 50th Munich Security Conference 2014 | Author: Marc Müller Link back to Creator infobox template | Source:, direct link | Wikimedia commons

**Tony Blair, 50th Munich Security Conference 2014 | Author: Marc Müller Link back to Creator infobox template | Wikimedia commons

A forthcoming biography of Prime Minister David Cameron claims Blair telephoned Downing Street during the Libyan war to explain he had been contacted by “a key individual close to Gaddafi.

Blair allegedly told the PM’s office the Libyan dictator wanted to “cut a deal” with Britain, but Cameron did not take up the offer.

Former Foreign and Defense Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Blair should face questions from MPs over the claim.

There is no reason at all why [MPs] shouldn’t pursue it,” the Conservative minister under John Major said.

He added that while he thought it was “entirely reasonable” for Blair to pass a message on from Gaddafi, it was not Britain’s place to negotiate a deal with the Libyan leader because it was an international military campaign.


Number of Women and Children Crossing Macedonia to Seek Refuge in Europe Triples in Three Months

Human Wrongs Watch

GENEVA/SKOPJE (UNICEF)* – The number of women and children fleeing violence in their countries of origin and passing through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia seeking refuge in Europe has tripled in the past three months, UNICEF on 1 September, 2015 said.

Source: UNICEF

Source: UNICEF

An estimated 3,000 people are transiting through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia daily. A third of them are women and children – up from 10 per cent in June. Some 12 per cent of the women are pregnant.

According to figures from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Interior, 80 per cent originate from Syria, while 5 per cent are from Afghanistan and another 5 per cent are from Iraq.


‘Refugee’ or ‘Migrant’ – Which Is Right?

Human Wrongs Watch

By Adrian Edwards*

GENEVA, August 2015 (UNHCR)*  With almost 60 million people forcibly displaced globally and boat crossings of the Mediterranean in the headlines almost daily, it is becoming increasingly common to see the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ being used interchangeably in media and public discourse. But is there a difference between the two, and does it matter?

© UNHCR | Refugee or Migrant – word choice matters.

Yes, there is a difference, and it does matter. The two terms have distinct and different meanings, and confusing them leads to problems for both populations. Here’s why:

Refugees are persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution.

There were 19.5 million of them worldwide at the end of 2014.

Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as “refugees” with access to assistance from States, UNHCR, and other organizations.


Survivors Tell Harrowing Tales of Fight for Air on “Boat of Death” Off Libya

Human Wrongs Watch

By Alice Philipson*

PALERMO, Italy, 28 August 2015  (UNHCR)*  Abdel pushed his face up to the cracks between the wooden floorboards, gasping for air.

© UNHCR/A. Penso | Hsna, 45 , cradles her two-year-old son Abdu as they wait for a bus to take them to a reception centre.

Next to him between 200 and 300 migrants and refugees who departed Zuwarah, Libya in the early hours of Tuesday morning on a rickety wooden boat were suffocating in the pitch-black hold.

“We didn’t want to go down there but they beat us with sticks to force us,” said Abdel, 25, from Sudan. “We had no air so we were trying to get back up through the hatch and to breathe through the cracks in the ceiling. But the other passengers were scared the boat would capsize so they pushed us back down and beat us too.

“Some were stamping on our hands.”


Confessions of a Frustrated “Soil-hugger”

Human Wrongs Watch

By Professor David Powlson*

29 August 2015 (Greenpeace)* – As a soil scientist you would expect me to be enthusiastic about the benefits that soil gives to humanity and very happy that the United Nations designated 2015 as International Year of Soils.

Photo credit: Emile Loreaux/Greenpeace

Photo credit: Emile Loreaux/Greenpeace

During this year there have been numerous activities throughout the world to draw attention of a wider public to the value of soil. In the UK, the British Society of Soil Science has been active in organising events in schools – recognising the need to enthuse future generations.

The properties of natural soils under forest or grassland are especially impressive; by “natural” I mean soils largely unaltered by humans by processes such as ploughing.

In these soils the interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes are particularly amazing.


So Much for Sanctuary: How an EU Asylum Rule ‘Results in Death’

OXFORD, 28 August 2015 (IRIN)* – On Thursday, Austrian police opened the back of a truck abandoned on the side of a motorway to find the bodies of 71 migrants. They had suffocated after paying smugglers to transport them across the border from neighbouring Hungary. The bodies were so decomposed it took a day to determine the number of dead.

Some, perhaps all, were Syrian refugees, most likely trying to reach Germany. Despite having made it into the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, they still felt the need to travel clandestinely to avoid being fingerprinted and registered for asylum in Hungary, which would have offered them few opportunities to work or integrate.

“This tragedy comes as a cruel reminder that the Dublin Regulation results in death,” commented Hungarian NGO Migszol in a blog posted shortly after the news broke.


More than 300,000 Make Perilous Mediterranean Crossing in 2015

Human Wrongs Watch

The United Nations refugee agency on 28 August 2015 said that the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe has surpassed 300,000 this year, up from 219,000 during the whole of 2014.

A group of Afghans arrive on the island of Lesbos after travelling in an inflatable raft from Turkey to Greece. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants used the dangerous sea route across the Mediterranean in 2015. Photo: UNHCR/A. McConnell

“Some 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year while attempting the crossing to Europe – compared to 3,500 who died or went missing in the Mediterranean in 2014” said Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), at a press briefing

This number, which includes almost 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy, represents a substantial increase from last year. “In the last few days,” Fleming continued, “more people have lost their lives in three separate incidents.”


Potato (and Other ‘Ancient’ Crops) to Be Deposited in Norway’s Arctic Seed Vault for Future Generations

Human Wrongs Watch

As a significant step towards preserving the world’s most important ancient crops for future generations, the head of the United Nations agriculture agency, together with scientists and delegations from Peru, Costa Rica and Norway, on 27 August 2015 witnessed a ceremony during which potato seeds were deposited to the “safety box” in Arctic seed vault.

View of the main entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, the largest populated area on the territory of Svalbard, in the high Norwegian Arctic. UN Photo/Mark Garten

“In a few decades, our planet’s food systems will need to feed an additional 2 billion people,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), adding that “producing more and more nutritious food will be made all the more challenging as a result of climate change.”

750 potato seeds, as well as other wild potato relatives, were deposited by representatives of indigenous Andean communities from Peru, scientists from Costa Rica, FAO and Norwegian officials at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle.


Photo Feature: The Race to Beat Hungary’s Border Fence

Human Wrongs Watch

Röszke , 25 August 2015 (IRIN)* – As Hungary rushes to complete the first phase of a controversial fence along its Serbian border, migrants – mainly refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – have been desperately trying to reach the country, which marks the beginning of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone. When the fence is up, entry will become much harder.

A new surge is expected as Macedonia has re-opened its border with Greece, which was closed for several days last week after the government declared a state of emergency due to the numbers of migrants and refugees entering the country.

Thousands of refugees are now crossing Serbia and heading for Hungary, where they are likely to encounter more border guards.


UN Urges ‘Humane Treatment’ for Refugees

Human Wrongs Watch

GENEVA, 25 August 25 (UNHCR)*  The UN refugee agency stressed on Tuesday [24 August] that it was working closely with the Serb authorities to help meet the needs of more than 10,000 refugees and others who have arrived in Serbia in recent days following dramatic scenes at the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

© UNHCR/I.Szabó | Influx of refugees from FYR Macedonia to Serbia includes exhausted mothers with children resting in any kind of shade they can spot.

At the Greece-FYR Macedonia border itself — reported calm after chaotic scenes late last week — people are now crossing in groups of up to 300-400 and then travelling onwards by train or bus to Serbia.

“Currently, we anticipate these arrivals continuing over the next few days at a rate of up to 3,000 people per day,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a press briefing in Geneva.

She added that UNHCR was still concerned about the conditions for people making this journey, many of whom are from countries affected by on-going conflicts, such as Syria and Afghanistan.


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