Archive for August 31st, 2015

31/08/2015

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.”

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31/08/2015

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.

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31/08/2015

The Molten Three

Human Wrongs Watch

By Uri Avnery*

29 August 2015

I MUST admit that Moshe “”Bogie” Ya’alon did not top the list of my favorite politicians. The former army Chief of Staff and present Minister of Defense looked to me like a mere lackey of Netanyahu and a one-dimensional militarist. Many people call him a “bock”, a non-complimentary German-Yiddish term for billy goat.

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Yuval Steinitz, the present minister for I-don’t-know-what, was also not at the top of the list of politicians I admire. He, too, seemed to me one of the servants of Netanyahu, without a recognizable personality of his own.

Even the former army Chief of Staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, was not one of my ultimate heroes.

When he was appointed, some malicious people claimed that he owed his advancement to his Oriental origin, since the Minister of Defense, at the time, was also of Oriental origin.

Ashkenazi’s father was from Bulgaria, his mother from Syria. The Minister of Defense at the time, Shaul Mofaz, was from Iran. Ashkenazi was in charge of one of the serial wars against Gaza. He was and remains popular.

Now I admire all three. More than that, I am deeply grateful to all three.

WHAT HAS brought about such a profound change?

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31/08/2015

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

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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.
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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.

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31/08/2015

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.”

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31/08/2015

‘Sign, Ratify Nuclear Test Ban… Now’ – UN Urges All States

Human Wrongs Watch

For the fifth International Day against Nuclear Tests on 29 August 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed voluntary moratoria on testing imposed by nuclear-armed states but stressed that these cannot substitute for a legally-binding treaty.

An atmospheric nuclear test conducted by the United States at Enewetak Atoll, Marshall Islands, on 1 November 1952. Photo: US Government | Source: UN News Centre

“The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is essential for the elimination of nuclear weapons,” Ban said in a message. “It is a legally-binding, verifiable means by which to constrain the quantitative and qualitative development of nuclear weapons.”

The UN General Assembly declared 29 August the International Day against Nuclear Tests in December 2009, adopting a unanimous resolution that calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.” 2010 marked the inaugural commemoration of the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

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31/08/2015

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.

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