OXFORD, 20 April 2015 (IRIN)* – Every time a migrant boat capsizes on its way to Europe, a death toll is estimated by aid agencies and reproduced in media reports. But what about that other number? What about all those who die before ever setting foot on a boat? That number may be far higher.
Photo: Alfredo D’Amato/UNHCR | A boat carrying refugees off the coast of Italy in summer 2014.
Some 1,600 migrants have died or are missing after trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, including almost 700 who perished in last weekend’s tragedy off Libya, the worst on record.
The risks these migrants took when boarding smugglers’ boats in the hope of reaching Europe are well known, but this is only one of the many perilous steps in a journey that for many never reaches the shores of North Africa.
“Crossing the sea is just the last tiny bit,” noted Meron Estafanos, an Eritrean journalist and human rights activist who regularly listens to harrowing accounts from Eritrean asylum-seekers at different stages of their odysseys.
20 April 2015 (RT)* – To solve the refugee problem the EU countries, many of which are NATO-members, should criminalize the arms trade and abolish war in Syria and Libya, Jan Oberg from the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research told RT.
RT:The EU has called for an emergency summit over the deaths of illegal immigrants trying to get into Europe. What do you think might come out of that?
Jan Oberg: I really don’t know but it has to lead to some serious self-reflection. EU countries, many of which are NATO countries, always can find money for warfare and they can’t find the money to rescue the people running away from the war zones where the European countries are involved.
Following the loss of some 700 lives after a boat carrying migrants capsized and sank over the weekend, the UN human rights chief has urged European Union (EU) governments to take a “more sophisticated, more courageous and less callous approach” to coping with the flows of migrants towards Europe.
Maltese emergency workers in Senglea collect bodies from the Mediterranean disaster which happened overnight Saturday-Sunday 18-19 April 2015. Photo: UNHCR/F. Ellul
“As we learn of yet more men, women and children who have lost their lives in their search for better and safer lives abroad, I am horrified but not surprised by this latest tragedy. These deaths and the hundreds of others that preceded them in recent months were sadly predictable,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on 20 April 2015 said in astatement.
“The [deaths] are the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion,” he added.
According to latest estimates, around 700 human beings would have lost their lives trying to reach European coasts. The tragedy, which occurred overnight (18 to 19 April) comes just days after a similar maritime incident took another 400 lives. Some 1600 people would have died already this year attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
Risking their lives to reach Europe from North Africa, a boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. Photo: UNHCR/A. D’Amato
The head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has expressed shock at the news of the latest boat capsizing in the Mediterranean Sea in which hundreds of people are feared lost, adding that such a catastrophic event provides yet another indication of the need for a “robust” rescue-at-sea mechanism aimed at preventing future tragedies.*
“This disaster confirms how urgent it is to restore a robust rescue-at-sea operation and establish credible legal avenues to reach Europe,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres confirmed in a press release issued on 19 April 2015.
“Otherwise people seeking safety will continue to perish at sea.”
Geneva, 14 April 2015 (IRIN)– Drones are already doing a lot of killing on behalf of certain governments, but a human being still has to make a conscious decision somewhere and press a button. What if killing machines were programmed to take such decisions all by themselves?
**Photo: Campaign to Stop Killer Robots | The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots has support from a number of British MPs | Source: IRIN
“Killer robots” may sound like fodder for dystopian fiction, but they are exactly what weapons technology experts, human rights groups and United Nations’ member states are meeting in Geneva this week to discuss.
The five-day gathering, taking place within the context of the UN’s Convention on Conventional Weapons, is looking at the legal and moral implications of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, LAWS for short, and assessing how advanced their development already is.
‘Experts estimate that 10-30 per cent of this illegal trade (around US$ 72-426 million per annum) goes to transnational organized criminal networks based outside eastern DR Congo.’
Nairobi, 16 April 2015 — Organized crime and the illegal trade in natural resources continues to increasingly fuel the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners.*
The Government of DRC, supported by the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) – the largest UN peacekeeping mission with 20,000 uniformed personnel – is confronting not only a political insurgency but an increasing number of illegal operations conducted by militarized criminal groups with transnational links involved in large-scale smuggling and laundering of natural resources.
Every year gold, minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife products such as ivory, valued between US$ 0.7-1.3 billion annually, are exploited and smuggled illegally out of the conflict zone and surrounding areas in eastern DRC.
Lampedusa Island, Italy, 17 April 2015 (UNHCR)– A baby as young as six months, with severe burns across half of her face, was among traumatized survivors of the latest sea rescue off the coast of southern Italy’s Lampedusa Island.
The infant was one of 70 refugees and migrants on board a half-inflated rubber dinghy that had set sail from Libya and been rescued by the Italian coastguard after two days on the Mediterranean Sea. Many people had been badly burned before even setting foot on the vessel, after a gas canister exploded while they were being held by smugglers on land.
Among the island’s newest arrivals on Thursday [16 April 2015] night were 20 women, 47 men and two children. One 25-year-old woman did not survive the hazardous journey, and lay in a black body bag before being placed in a coffin.
The United Nations agency tasked with the ensuring the well-being of Palestinian refugees is appealing for $30 million to carry out life-sustaining assistance to 18,000 civilians from besieged Yarmouk refugee camp, including 3,500 children.
UNRWA distributing aid in Yalda, an area adjacent to Yarmouk, Syria, hosting displaced civilians. Photo: UNRWA
Over the past days, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has significantly expanded its response in areas neighbouring Yarmouk, on the southern edge of Damascus, where civilians have sought shelter amid a deteriorating security situation since armed groups began fighting in and around the camp.
“This remains a volatile, rapidly changing environment of armed conflict and we must be prepared to respond to those in need, wherever they are,” on 17 April 2015 said Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, UNRWA Director in Syria, in a statement to the media.
JERUSALEM/KAMPALA, 16 April 2015 (IRIN) – For Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers facing deportation from Israel’s Holot detention centre, the future is bleak. Those who have gone before describe a hand-to-mouth existence in Uganda or no freedom of movement in Rwanda.
**Photo: Kate Shuttleworth/IRIN | A view through the fence of Holot “open” detention centre
“There was no difference with the life in Israel,” Abush Mekonen, one of eight Eritrean asylum-seekers deported to Rwanda in July 2014, told IRIN. Mekonen said they had been promised jobs in Rwanda but instead were confined to a hotel. “We were not allowed to move or go out.”
Israel has been encouragingasylum-seekers to leave the country for the past year by offering them one-off grants of $3,500 and one-way tickets home or to “safe” third countries in Africa.
16 April 2015 (RT)– Over past decades, the pre-fabricated myth of an elusive “Iranian bomb” was never the real issue between the US and Iran; the issue was how to subdue – or “isolate” – a powerful, independent nation that refused to toe the exceptionalist line.
Now that the “rehabilitation” of Iran – at least for some exceptionalists and their minions – may be imminent, pending a nuclear deal to be clinched in June, various Washington factions still can’t get their act together.
The Pentagon has all but admitted the perennial wet dream of neocons and corporate media remains on the table; the military option.
The US Congress will go no holds barred in trying to scotch the deal. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a bill that would give Congress the right to interfere with anything related to the removal of sanctions.