I’ve said this many, many times. But the government don’t speak for me on the issue of asylum seekers.
Unfortunately, they’re still the government with an entitlement infallibility complex, so we have to bring them to account in other ways. The UN aren’t happy…newsflash, Australian government: neither are many of the people!
There have been some heartbreaking cartoons released from Manus recently, also.
Here are a couple. The rest can be found here.
Further links at the bottom.
On Tuesday Australians woke up to discover that their country had been damned in a report published only hours before at a special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and attended by representatives from around the world. The reports included page after page of abuses. An unprecedented 110 countries lined up to give their views on Australia’s human rights record. Below, we reproduce screenshots of those sections of the main compilation document that examines Australia’s asylum-seeker program and operations, as well as provide links to submission documents.
Note: To see a recording of the entire UNHRC session regarding Australia’s record of human rights and violations, click here.
Over 100 countries commented and made 300 recommendations on Australia’s human rights record at the UNHRC session. Just under half of the submissions were on Australia’s policies regarding asylum-seekers and refugees. Thesesubmissions included demands that Australia cease its boat turnbacks policy, that mandatory detention should end or be used only when strictly necessary. There was also concern about Australia’s breach of the principle of non-refoulement. Note that Australia is the only country in the world to use offshore processing and mandatory detention.
The review also included indigenous rights, disability rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, racism and Islamophobia as well as marriage equality.
A report on which recommendations have been formally adopted will be issued this coming Thursday. Australia, especially if it still wishes to take a seat at the UNHRC from 2018, is expected to accept and act upon the recommendations.
To see details of the Australian NGO Coalition recommendations, click here. To see the Joint Australian NGO submission to the UNHRC, click here. To see Australia’s NGO Coalition Fact Sheet on Refugees and Asylum Seeker, click here.
Extracts from the Report of the Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Twenty-third session, 2-13 November 2015. Summary prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 and paragraph 5 of the annex to Council resolution 16/21. Australia…
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers section (extract):
The document (protected pdf) as a whole can be seen by clicking here then click on the ‘E’ next to “Compilation of UN information”.
This annoys me, it really does. There are so many things wrong with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers right now. A few examples (and a few ‘counter-measures’) are listed below in the article. We should be saying #welcome – instead, asylum seekers and refugees are condemned to remain in concentration camps as the government attempts to break their spirits….or alternatively, they anxiously wait in the community on bridging visas and the like, with no assurance of safety and no hope for the future – even children (see this article from The Age today). Actual acceptance of their claim for asylum seems rare and must be fought for. This should NOT be the case. It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed.
There remains the option for third party countries – e.g. New Zealand, Canada or European countries – to take in asylum-seekers illegally imprisoned on Rape Island (Nauru) or Murder Island (Manus), though the current Australian Government refuses to consider such an option as its policy is about exacting punitive measures on asylum-seekers as deterrence. This policy, however, could spectacularly backfire given that Australian lawyers are now signalling that asylum-seekers will be able to lodge claims for millions of dollars in damages against the Australian Government for both unlawful detention and for abuse sustained…
Between 2001 and 2005 New Zealand took in 401 asylum seekers who had been detained by the Australian Government. Also, 208 people rescued by the Norwegian MV Tampa were taken in by New Zealand. Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway took in asylum-seekers too and it’s likely that if formally approached these countries or other European countries that have a track record of taking in refugees in their hundreds of thousands – e.g. Germany and Austria – or smaller numbers – e.g. Iceland – could offer to help again. But offers of help are no good if the Australian Government refuses to entertain them from the outset, simply because its objective is to punish (the asylum-seekers).
Meanwhile the Australian Government could face hundreds of law suits or a class action by asylum-seekers, seeking punitive damages for illegal detention, sustained abuse and negligence. In July the Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) finally confirmed what lawyers such as Julian Burnside and Greg Barns had been saying all along: that Australia has ultimate legal responsibility for what is happening in the offshore detention facilities. At a Senate inquiry a DIBP official stated clearly that “the ultimate accountability for the operation of the centres sits with the Australian Border Force”; consequently, the Senate inquiry declared that Australia – not Nauru or PNG – is legally responsible for the abuses in Nauru and Manus detention centres, because Australia has “effective control” of those centres.
Recently there has been the well-publicised cases of two Somalian women on Nauru, in regard to rape. With one of these cases – that of the Somalian woman, ‘Abyan’ – an article by Greg Barns summed up well what happened…
“This is a young woman who has suffered trauma – she has been accepted as a refugee from war-torn Somalia. She is pregnant in the most awful of circumstances, and English is not her first language. To simply give her access to nursing staff and a GP is well below what a woman in her position is entitled to as a patient. But it gets worse. Abyan is sent back to Nauru, still pregnant, and finds a journalist from The Australian newspaper wanting to interview her. Surely the Commonwealth would understand that to fail to protect Abyan from further mental health deterioration and exposure to the media is not just morally but legally wrong. The treatment of Abyan is symptomatic of the Australian government’s cavalier attitude to its legal duty of care to asylum seekers.”
The Australian Government’s former (?) propaganda specialist, Chris Kenny (see photo above) is the so-called journalist (Assistant Editor, The Australian) who was allowed to go to Nauru – the first Australian journalist to do so for 18 months. His ‘interview’ with ‘Abyan’ was clearly an attempt to discredit her. To do so was, of course, utterly reprehensible and his brief meeting with her not unexpectedly left her in tears.
Also this week the Australian Government confirmed that 80 children were subject to return to Nauru after receiving medical treatment in Australia. This comes only a week after a statement was issued by doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne (endorsed by the Australian Medical Association) that they will refuse to hand over any child to Border Force guards if that child is to be transported to an offshore facility.
It was also revealed this week that the Save the Children offices on Nauru wereraided a second time by Nauruan police, on the orders of the detention centres’s commandant, Berilyn Jeremiah, who attempted to justify the raids by referring to Nauruan laws that are clearly not appropriate – i.e. the raids were illegal. (One wonders how the Nauruan Government’s PR agency, Mercer PR, will spin that story, or the story about how a man convicted of rape was allowed to join the Nauruan police reserves!)
The Border Force Act, which was introduced in July in Australia, criminalises the disclosure of information by staff who work in immigration detention centres. Indeed, the Guardian revealed that over the last 12 months journalists who had reported on the federal government’s asylum-seeker policies had been repeatedly referred to the police in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers.
The new data retention law will also make it easier for the authorities to identify whistleblowers. However, there are precautions that whistleblowers can take to avoid detection (even if the authorities raid media offices too). For example, the Guardian uses SecureDrop, a facility that a whistleblower can use to safely pass on information without his/her identity being detected (and providing certain precautions are also taken) as well as an encrypted email service. (See images below from the Guardian’s website and click here for instructions on what else to do.)
Alternatively, whistleblowers can always try The Intercept (see image below).
I support this group. Wholeheartedly. Strip away the labels and what remains are people – locked up in appalling conditions as a deterrence measure. They deserve to be free. All they’ve done is try to find a safer place to live, reluctantly leaving behind their homelands which have turned to hellholes in one way or another.
Companies support this inhumane bull. So we have to fight back and show them that we don’t. The way to hit companies is through their profits unfortunately. We’ve got to hit them where they hurt. I believe the campaign is based on the anti-apartheid campaign…..
A group targeting companies profiting from offshore detention won’t be stopped by taunts or legal risks. Max Chalmers reports.
A group of activists, lawyers, unionists and church groups causing increasing headaches for immigration detention contractor Transfield Services say they are prepared to kick on with the fight despite the ‘real risk’ of legal action being launched against them.
The group, which has taken the name No Business in Abuse, has seen a coalition of refugee action and support groups come together to heap pressure on the lead contractor in Australia’s offshore detention facilities by trying to ensure there are broader business ramifications for those who partake in the detention network.
Shen Narayanasamy, Executive Director of No Business in Abuse – who is also the Human Rights Campaign Director at GetUp! – said the campaign was seeking to “dry up” Transfield’s opportunities for expansion by signing individuals and businesses up to a pledge not to work with businesses that profit from the detention industry.
“We’re not only talking to people about a particular company, we’re talking about the values basis on which detention is currently enshrined, which is based on the human rights abuses of vulnerable people,” Narayanasamy said.
No Business in Abuse’s campaign shifts the focus to future projects, trying to encourage those working in other sectors where Transfield provides services – including health care, schools, and hospitals – not to do business with the company.
Read more here at winston close – original article from new matilda.
On another note:
Check out this page. The kids are all right, people! This kid is awesome. Joel, aged 9, saw something and was moved to help. One of the important takeaways is what Joel says about the kids on the news just being “other children”. Children like him. Refugees are like us. They have similar wishes and hopes: for a safe happy future, a good place to raise their kids, a steady job. The big difference: they have to fear for their life. We don’t. So why not help out? I’ve mentioned ways to do so several times now. 🙂
Hats off to you, Joel. You rock mate. 😀
From the fundraising website:
“I’m walking 115 miles from my house to Hope Square, London, to help child refugees. I’m 9 years old.
…and I live in Oakham, Rutland with my Mum, Dad and little brother. I’m 9 years old and like cars, football, playing my guitar, Minecraft and Lego. I go to school each day where I learn, play and hang out with my mates. I’m an ordinary English kid living in a safe town.
Lately, I have heard stories on telly about other children that have had to leave their home towns and go on dangerous journeys because there are bad people around that are fighting in wars. The news calls them refugee children. Some of these kids have had to walk a long way sometimes without their parents to find a safe place to live. A lot of them are even younger than me.
Five (very cute) Syrian refugee children pose for a photo at Domiz Camp in Iraq
I want to do something to help them, so in half-term I am walking 115 miles from my house to the Kindertransport statue in Hope Square, Liverpool Street Station, London so that people can give money to help these children get food, water and somewhere warm and safe to sleep.”
I agree 100% with what Kaye Lee, and through her, Julian Burnside say here. This is what I’m talking about when I speak of a real “regional solution” which is truly multilateral. It would be lovely if this idea gained traction with the politicians. After all, some people have been advocating something like this for years. Please look beyond your own concerns, people. It’s not “someone else’s problem – it is our problem, a global member of society.
After all, in Australia we’re supposed to have “boundless plains to share”, aren’t we?
Show your support and attend an event in support (I gave links to other forms of support on Friday):
While the Liberals gloat over stopping the boats, and Labor wrings its hands pretending concern about drownings, other more enlightened people are offering practical advice, if only our politicians would listen.Julian Burnside, who knows more than most about the plight of refugees, makes the following eminently sensible suggestions.“I suggest an alternative, genuine, form of offshore processing, which is for Australia to process asylum claims offshore (in Indonesia, before they get on a boat) and, for those assessed as refugees, promise resettlement in a finite, specified time.
The essential elements of this proposal include:
• Our annual refugee intake would need to be increased. It is presently set at 13,750. It should be increased to 30,000 per year.
• The processing has to be fair. Experience suggests that, when processing is not subject to judicial oversight, the result of the process owes more to political considerations than to the merits of the particular claims. Experience on Nauru from 2001 to 2005 threw up some notorious examples of grossly unfair processing.
• The increase in refugee places has to be sufficient to keep their waiting time in Indonesia to a reasonable length: one year at the most. A longer waiting time than that may prompt some to try a quicker route.
• We would have to enlist Indonesia’s cooperation so that the refugees could live without harassment while they waited in Indonesia for resettlement. In particular, it is desirable that they be allowed to work while in Indonesia awaiting resettlement.
• We would have to warn them about the risk of getting on a smuggler’s boat.
This sort of offshore processing would in fact solve the problem of people risking their lives at sea. By processing refugee claims in Indonesia, and increasing our refugee intake, we would create a system for safe, orderly resettlement. We can do it. But we won’t do it unless our concern about people drowning at sea is genuine.
A real regional solution
I do not advocate an open borders policy. Initial detention for people who arrive without papers is reasonable. But it should be limited to one month, for preliminary health and security checks. After that, release them on interim visas with four crucial conditions:
• they must stay in touch with the Department until their refugee status has been determined;
• they are allowed to work or study;
• they are allowed access to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;
• they are required to live in a regional town until their refugee status has been determined.
There are plenty of country towns which are slowly shrinking as people leave. The National Farmers Federation estimates that there are 96,000 unfilled jobs in country areas. It is highly likely that many asylum seekers would get jobs.
How this would work can be tested by making some assumptions.
First: numbers. The average arrival rate of boat people over the past 20 years is about 2,000 per year. In 2001 (the year of the Tampa episode), just over 4,000 boat people arrived. (It is a striking thing how the arrival of 4,000 frightened people threw the country into a panic). In 2012, 25,000 boat people arrived. That is roughly equivalent to the annual arrival numbers in the late 1970s, as we resettled Indo-Chinese refugees, with no observable social difficulty. The arrival rate has fallen away again, but let us assume that the 2012 figure becomes the new normal.
And second, let us assume that all of them stay on full Centrelink benefits.
These are both highly unlikely assumptions.
It would cost us about $500 million a year. All that money would be spent in the economies of regional towns on rent, food and clothing, to the great benefit of the economy of the regional towns where they lived. It is not difficult to see the benefits to the economy of towns which are slowly losing population to the capitals.
By contrast, we are presently spending about $5 billion a year mistreating refugees. In other words, by treating them decently we could reduce the cost of the system by about $4.5 billion a year.
It is not hard to think of national infrastructure projects which might be funded from the savings. A billion dollars a year could be turned to creating more public housing for homeless Australians; another billion dollars a year could be applied to building schools or hospitals, or used to reduce the deficit or reverse tertiary education funding cuts.
There are many ways these ideas could be implemented. A few billion dollars a year can be used to damage asylum seekers profoundly, or it can be used for the benefit of the community in which asylum seekers live pending refugee status determination and for the benefit of the wider community. But it won’t happen until someone shows enough leadership that we are behaving badly because we have been misled about the character of the people who wash up on our shores.
Let us hope that, one day soon, Australia will show that it can return to its true character.”
*Yes, the title is paraphrased from a quote in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Good guess. I thought it appropriate.
Can you hear the whispers? It’s a movement, a gathering storm of change. While the less-altruistic may dismiss it as simply noise, or try to only do the bare minimum possible, others know better.
The simple, sad photo of “The Boy on the Beach”: Aylan Kurdi, is waking people up. Perhaps in the long run, this collective recognition of the plight, our empathy, will come to nothing. But I dare to dream and hope for better.
Arise from your slumber, oh people! Wake up to the devastation of the world. Then, see that all is not lost or hopeless.
Everything is interconnected. Our inaction, or action, on various fronts (however small or large our contribution) helps sway the balance one way or another. This relates to the current wars, rising conflict between groups at home, distribution of weapons and dropping bombs etc. vs. giving real help…
In short, how we deal with social, economic and environmental pressures, globally and regionally, separately or together, matters.
Here and now, we have to stand up – we have to fight back, with words and ideas. We must say a firm, “No!” to one way and a strong, “YES!” to the other.
More than anything, we have to come together and talk about this. Slogans and pointless politicising just doesn’t cut it.
It’s something we take for granted isn’t it? That each of us has a country – a place to put our feet – on a planet where 71% of the surface is covered by ocean.
Like having air to breathe, we assume that having somewhere to stand, to walk – is a basic right of existence. Our bodies aren’t exactly ocean-friendly – not for anything longer than a shortish swim in any event. And without a place on this planet to safely put your feet so that you can find shelter, get food, water and continue to breathe air – you die. It’s as simple as that.
This “stop the boats” rubbish must stop.Both major parties, and the people who condone this rhetoric, should be ashamed of themselves.
In 1959, during the opening of World Refugee Year, Prime Minister Robert Menzies said
“It has not been easy for organised world opinion in the United Nations or elsewhere to act directly in respect of some of the dreadful events which have driven so many people from their own homes and their own fatherland, but at least we can in the most practical fashion show our sympathy for those less fortunate than ourselves who have been the innocent victims of conflicts and upheavals of which in our own land we have been happy enough to know nothing.
It is a good thing that Australia should have earned a reputation for a sensitive understanding of the problems of people in other lands; that we should not come to be regarded as people who are detached from the miseries of the world.”
More later, as there’s an article from The AIMN which deserves to be republished in full.
As I said on Friday and others have said before that, those making these journeys are desperate. They’re not going to be deterred by treacherous seas, barbed wire, guards or other measures. The measures only induce fear and confusion.
We are strong enough to help. If we share the load properly, then it won’t seem so bad. Just the same, though, if some (e.g. Gulf states) refuse to take in many, that doesn’t mean we (Australia, etc.) have an excuse to continue our poor behaviour.
Edmund Burke once said (among numerous other good things): “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
After all, to go back to Dumbledore and Rowling again (but this time the Chamber of Secrets): “It is our choices that define us far more than our abilities.”
We are so lucky, living in Australia. Most of us, anyway.
My heart is bleeding and I feel so sad. Thousands of refugees are making their way by whatever means possible to Europe and other places. They are desperate. Desperate people who feel that the risks of the water are safer than those on the land they left. A large number of those refugees are Syrians, fleeing the crisis. According to a spokesperson from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) last night (interview link here), part of the reason we’re “suddenly” seeing such an influx is that the countries closest to warzones like Syria and Iraq have, over the past few years, themselves become overwhelmed by the sheer number of people fleeing across the borders.
In the first six months of this year, 137,000 refugees and migrants crossed the central Mediterranean Sea route from Libya to Italy, travelling in appalling conditions in unseaworthy wooden boats and rubber dinghies. That number has now topped 150,000.
Syrians are the largest single group of refugees trying to get to Europe. More than 4 million Syrians have been forced to flee a war that is now in its fifth year. Of those refugees, at least 1.6 million are children.
Eritreans have accounted for 12 per cent of maritime arrivals, while Afghans have made up 11 per cent. Citizens of Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq also made up a significant number of those trying to find a safe place to call home.
Tied to this (according to the UNHCR spokesperson mentioned earlier, Ariane Rummery) is the fact is that many of these Syrian refugees, for example, thought at first that the conflict wouldn’t last long. But’s been going on for five years now, with still no apparent end in sight really. All the refugees want to do is go home – but they can’t. It’s too dangerous. So they gather their families and scrape together money, then leave with only as much as they can carry in their pockets or on their backs. They begin the dangerous journey not knowing if they’ll make it but knowing that it’s better to take the risk than to remain behind.
It’s truly a situation of being caught between a rock and a hard place.
So what do we in our comfortable ivory towers do? Do our governments – across the world – recognise this rock/hard place dilemma?
On the most part, they don’t. Or so it seems. (Bravo Germany, for being better than most about this!)
This crisis shows that the refugee situation needs a global response. A truly global one, not just one that pretends to be. (I refuse to call it a ‘problem’ or ‘issue’ – people are not the problem, but the situation is.) I do mean global, not just regional. The situation belongs to everyone, not just those closest. Its solution does too. That is the thing that people do not seem to get.
Although, having said that, quite a few “ordinary” people do seem to “get it”. I’ve seen quite a few posts over the past few days showing this. The harrowing pictures – especially of that little boy called Aylan Kurdi – have swept across our screens leaving us shocked, sad and angry. We cannot look away from these images, even if – when – they are so distressing.
We must convert this anger to action. As UNICEF have said: “…The plight of these children is neither by their choice nor within their control. They need protection. They have a right to protection.
Migrant and refugee kids must be given health care, food, shelter and support from trained child welfare experts. Search and rescue operations need to continue on both sea and land, and there must be adequate protections against abuse and exploitation. The best interests of these children have to come first in all decisions that affect them.
As the debates on policies proceed, we should never lose sight of the deeply human nature of this crisis. And we should never forget what lies behind so many of the stories of families seeking sanctuary in Europe: terrible conflicts such as that in Syria, which already has forced some 2 million children to flee their country. Only an end to these conflicts can bring an end to the misery of so many.”
In Australia (Victoria), The Age has published a list of ways to help:
It includes links to groups seeking donations like International Red Cross, Red Cross Australia, UNHCR, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, Oxfam and Médecins Sans Frontières.
It also gives links of grassroots groups (local to Australia & Victoria/ Melbourne particularly) if you want to donate time as well as money: Save the Children’s early learning support programs, Amnesty International’s local action groups and Welcome Dinners, the West Welcome Wagon, Montmorency Asylum Seeker Support Group (linked with the ASRC, below) and the Brigidene Asylum Seeker Support Program.
If you want to give items, then look up the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
If you’re affected by today’s train strike in Melbourne? Instead of grizzling, you can even donate your myki fare to helping refugees: see the article here and direct link here. It’s already raised almost $20,000. It may only run for 24 hours though, I’m not 100% certain.
Finally, here’s a link to a petition run by GetUp. It’s an open letter asking the European countries to have decency rather than following our horrendous model.
A Facebook page set up in the wake of Aylan Kurdi’s death has a suggestion. What do you think?
“Hey world community, here’s an idea:
All turn up to the UN for a special sitting an agree on a refugee intake formula. Based on population, natural resources, GDP etc.
Actually agree on that formula.
Complete a one-off intake as per formula of however many thousands of suffering people.
When they get here, make them feel very very welcome.
Watch those people turn into some of your most grateful, patriotic and dedicated citizens who will take a vehement stand against radicalism in the generations to come.
Each time fundamentalism in any form rears its head, repeat steps 1-5.
Watch fundamentalism decline.
Please share this message if you agree. If enough people share, you never know what may happen.” (Emphasis added.)
How about it, everyone? Can we spread the above message and make it loud enough that the people who need to know will hear?
I’d like to end with this poem, created by Somali poet Warsan Shire. It’s called, “Home.”
no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls under fences no one wants to be beaten pitied
no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough
the go home blacks refugees dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone than your child’s body in pieces. I want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now I don’t know what I’ve become but I know that anywhere is safer than here.
Why do we selectively choose to forget some things, while focusing too much on others?
Paraphrased from the Planet Syria team:
Two years ago, the Syrian regime used the chemical agent sarin to gas hundreds of civilians in Ghouta. Entire families foamed at the mouth after the dawn attack, shaking in shock, and hundreds died. … The pictures from Ghouta shocked and angered people all over the world. Bashar al-Assad had joined the only two leaders in 90 years to have used chemical weapons against their own people: Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. Barack Obama said a red line had been crossed and a threat of force by the US led Assad to agree to destroy his chemical stockpiles.
Fast forward two years later to today, and Syrians are still being gassed. Barrel bombs are being filled with chlorine and dropped onto family homes, turning them into gas chambers. Yet it’s not the chemicals killing most Syrians – it’s the bombs themselves. There were nearly 7,000 airstrikes by the Syrian regime in July alone.
This time the silence from the world is deafening. A few days ago a market in the besieged town of Douma outside Damascus was bombed from the sky. More than 100 people were killed and 500 were injured. It’s in the same area – Ghouta – that was gassed two years ago. Editors kept the news off their front pages and diplomats’ empty condemnations were toothless. So the same site was bombed 24 hours later.
This will go on and on unless the world is prepared to stop it. We have countless UN resolutions and statements from countries and organisations around the world. But words alone will not protect these innocent civilians.
We need your help to break the silence now and show support for a no-fly zone that will clear our skies of the bombs.
Right now countries are debating deeper military involvement in Syria. Whether in Australia or the UK, politicians and publics are talking about increasing strikes against Isis. But nobody is talking about the fact that the Syrian regime is killing seven times more civilians than Isis. The public needs to know the core truths, otherwise we will see more failed Middle East policies and more innocent lives lost.
To break the silence and spread the truth we are asking people around the world to join or organise a #ClearTheSky action on the anniversary of the Ghouta attack.
Go outside and take a picture of yourself looking up at the sky. Then change your profile picture to it and spread the word. Please reblog – I’m a bit late on posting my picture, but better late than never. The civilians are the forgotten victims in this conflict.
5 things everyone should know about what is happening in Syria today.
1 – The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is killing at least 7 times more civilians than Isis.
2 – More than 11,000 barrel bombs made of scrap metal and high explosives have been rolled out of regime helicopters onto hospitals, homes and schools since the UN banned them. These aerial attacks are the biggest killer of civilians. They drive extremism.
3 – These barrel bombs are the leading cause of displacement, forcing refugees to cross the Mediterranean and other borders.
4 – Many of the barrel bombs are dropped on areas under siege. More than half a million people in Syria live in areas with no access to food, water or medicine since 2013, including the areas of Ghouta that were targeted by the sarin gas attacks in the same year.
5 – The international anti-Isis coalition is flying in the same airspace where many of these barrel bombs are dropped, choosing to look the other way
There is no military solution to the fighting in Syria. But like in Bosnia, a no-fly zone can help protect civilians from the worst of the violence and encourage the fighting parties to come to the negotiating table.
Too many Syrians spend their days looking up at the sky, wondering when the next barrel bomb will drop and what it will hit. Today we are asking you to look up in solidarity with all those who continue on and join the call to #clearthesky.
Recently, Greens leader Richard Di Natale stepped up to the plate and called for bipartisan support for drug law reform. He believes we can start by adopting the Portugal approach which involves treating drug addiction as a medical issue rather than a criminal matter.Calling for bipartisan support for drug law reform among our current political representatives these days would be like asking ISIS to join the Vatican in calling for marriage equality. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
One might have thought it would be on the agenda for this weekend’s ALP National Conference given Bill Shorten’s gallantry in proposing both an RET and the adoption of the Coalition’s appalling boat turn-back policy.
But don’t hold your breath on drug law reform. And as for the Coalition, they would never do it; it’s far too visionary for them.
The Greens leader is one of the convenors of the Australian Parliamentary Group on Drug Law Reform that includes some 100 State and Commonwealth MPs from all political parties. He made the call while on a self-funded, fact finding exercise meeting with a number of Portuguese policy makers.
Self-funded? Now there’s an original idea.
In 2001, the Portuguese government did something the Abbott government would regard as anathema. After many years of waging its war on drugs, it decided to reverse its strategy entirely: It decriminalised all drugs.
If someone is found in the possession of less than a 10-day supply of anything from marijuana to heroin, he or she appears before a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, typically made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker.
The commission recommends treatment or a minor fine; otherwise, the person is sent off without any penalty. A vast majority of the time, there is no penalty.
So why has this initiative not gained traction here? Why have both major parties ignored it? I suspect the answer has something to do with wedge politics.
Neither side will speak for fear of giving the other an opportunity to create a scare campaign. How pathetic. What failed leadership.
What the Portuguese initiative has proven beyond doubt is that if we, here in Australia, decriminalised all drugs and transferred the savings in law enforcement to education and rehabilitation, we would be no worse off than we are today and, in all probability, sow the seeds of a reduction in drug use among our youth, over time.
The Portuguese model confirms this. Initially they experienced a small increase in usage which quickly evaporated followed by a reduction, which, over the past ten years, has continued.
Not only has drug use declined but there has been a sharp decrease in drug related deaths and a reduction in HIV infections.
Alex Stevens, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Kent thinks the global community should learn from Portugal. “The main lesson to learn decriminalizing drugs doesn’t necessarily lead to disaster, and it does free up resources for more effective responses to drug-related problems,” he said.
Former NSW director of public prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery QC is one of several prominent Australians who have called for drug law reform along similar lines. Their Australia 21 report of 2012 quoted him as being “strongly in favour of legalising, regulating, controlling and taxing all drugs”.
Former Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, former West Australian premier Geoff Gallop, Howard government health minister Michael Wooldridge as well as Cowdery were part of the University of Sydney think tank recommending reform in 2012.
That report, now three years old, seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Yet the benefits from the Portuguese initiative are clearly evident.
It would be hard to find anyone today who thinks the war on drugs has succeeded. The cost in law enforcement, health and lost productivity is a tragedy.
Yet the parliamentary group looking into drug law reform appears to be dragging its heels. It was established in 1993 and appears to have done nothing of significance in over 20 years.
Senator Di Natale wants to change that. On his Facebook page he says, “Criminal penalties for drug use doesn’t deter people from taking drugs, but it does stop people seeking treatment. That’s in no one’s best interest.”
He’s right of course, but I can’t see too much support coming his way from either of the two major parties. Drug law reform will have to come from people power.
You can read the top five things the senator learnt from his trip to Portugalhere. Or, better still, try to guess them before looking.
One thing I am glad about which has come from the ALP conference is the promise to have 50% of Australia’s electricity generated by renewable sources by 2030. About time, I say. The current government has already tried to say that this will mean a “new tax”. Pah. Don’t they have anything new? Something must be done and it’s pointless to try and say otherwise.
Even if Labor’s move is partly motivated by political tactics, to be seen as a clear alternative to the current mob on this front anyway. I don’t care. I just want action
Food for thought: reblogged from http://theaimn.com/global-food-shock-may-be-very-close/
By Dr Anthony HortonA new peer reviewed risk assessment produced by Lloyd’s of London shows that humanity may be on the verge of collapse by 2050 unless significant effort is implemented to slow down the effects of global warming. The risk assessment discusses a scenario of three simultaneous disasters-a heatwave in South America, a windblown wheat stern rust pathogen across Russia and a very strong El Nino southern oscillation cycle-all of which are possible given the current trends. The result would essentially cripple global food security.Lloyd’s commissioned food security and sustainable development economics experts to develop this plausible scenario of a global production shock to some of the world’s staple food crops and to describe the impacts to investigate the implications for both insurance and risk. Members of the UK/US Task Force on Resilience of the Global Food Supply Change to Extreme Events (supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) assisted in the development of the scenario and a group of leading academics peer reviewed the risk assessment prior to its presentation to the insurance industry.
The risk assessment model used in the report estimates that wheat, soybean and maize prices will quadruple and rice prices may increase by 500% on those from 2007/8. Wheat and rice production would fall 7%, maize would fall 10% and soybean would decrease 11%. The resulting scarcity would precipitate riots in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East and the EU and US stock markets falling 5 and 10% respectively. The degree of shock to each commodity is based on Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data from 1961 to 2013. Three de-trending methods were applied to global aggregated and country data to address changes in crop area, yield, technology and other critical factors over this period. Midpoints of the range of percentage reduction in production for specific years caused by specific historical events were selected as the basis for the components of the scenario.
Global food demand is rising as a result of unprecedented population growth and shifting consumption patterns. The FAO has predicted that agricultural production will need to increase by more than double by 2050 to close the gap between supply and demand. The existing vulnerability of the world’s food systems is exacerbated by a number of factors including increases in the intensity and frequency of floods, droughts and wildfires along with a rise in conditions that are amenable to the spread of agricultural pests and diseases. Water scarcity is another very important factor, given predictions that approximately 66% of the world’s population may live under water stress conditions by 2025.
Agriculture is the world’s largest employer as it provides livelihoods for 40% of the world’s population. It is also fundamental to the global food system. Most of the discussions around food security have focused on long term pressures which heighten the vulnerability to supply shocks. Crop production shocks are likely to pose a systematic threat to food security if they impacted on any of the world’s traditional surplus production areas or “breadbaskets”.
Businesses are likely to invest more heavily in comprehensive risk transfer structures as they become more aware of the threat of disruption to food systems. Shocks to global food supply could represent significant opportunities for the insurance industry which has a key role in assisting clients to understand their risk exposure and to tailor appropriate solutions in response.
The scenario in the Lloyd’s assessment is based on a “business as usual” approach under which human induced climate change leads to increased flooding and drought and to agriculture functioning under water stress in a decade. If carbon emissions are reduced dramatically and the world’s agricultural systems can adapt, such a dramatic scenario will no longer be on the table.
(I thought I’d published this already. Ooops. Stay tuned for more posts like this, as it’s Refugee Week here.)
It was the fishermen from Aceh who prompted the politicians to act, by rescuing the asylum seeking Rohingya. Since I last wrote, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have talked and agreed to stop turning the boats away and met for talks.
Indonesia even scolded Australia for not acting. But Abbott just said, “Nope, nope, nope.”
As an article from the Guardian says:
Australia has a responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in the Bay of Bengal because it is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, according to the Indonesian government.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to offer resettlement to Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar on the grounds it would encourage people smuggling.
Asked earlier on Thursday whether the Australian government would help resettle those who have been stranded at sea, Mr Abbott replied “nope, nope, nope”.
“I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door,” he said.
But Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Australia could not ignore the humanitarian crisis.
“My point is this: countries that are parties to the convention on refugees have a responsibility to ensure they believe in what they sign,” Mr Nasir said.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN convention.
However Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to 7000 Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugees still stranded at sea and provide temporary shelter for up to a year.
This was on the provision that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.
“I hope all the countries that signed the refugee convention address the issue,” Mr Nasir said.
“If you believe it when you sign it, you should act upon it.”
Now, former refugees in Australia are afraid to speak out:
Refugees in Australia fear speaking out about asylum, ex-detainee says Surgeon who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime says many former detainees ‘fear they will be persecuted’ if they speak publicly
Many refugees who have settled in Australia are too afraid to speak out about the country’s treatment of refugees, with some fearful their immigration status would be jeopardised, surgeon and former refugee Munjed Al Muderis has told Guardian Australia.
Earlier Al Muderis shared his experiences at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday during the ideas festival TEDxSydney 2015. After fleeing war-torn Iraq, he spent 10 months at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia in 1999 before being granted refugee status.
Al Muderis said many of his colleagues who had also been in detention “have this fear they will be persecuted if they talk”. One colleague warned him against speaking to the media, saying it might jeopardise his immigration status.
He also acknowledged a feeling of shame existed in the refugee community because of a view perpetuated by the government that Australians don’t welcome refugees, and said another friend – a “high-profile radio frequency engineer” – kept his refugee history a secret.
Al Muderis said during his time in detention he was deemed a troublemaker after he attempted to expose the conditions of the camp to the public. He befriended a guard who helped him smuggle in a camera and wrote letters to Amnesty International calling for the Human Rights Commission to investigate.
“I was falsely accused of being a ringleader and inciting problems in the detention centre,” he said.
The former refugee said it was important the Australian public realise “not all refugees are sucking taxpayer money and living on the dole. It’s very important to know asylum seekers and refugees are human like any other. We’re a slice of society: there is the bad, good and ugly.
“And it’s our duty as a country to work on people who are bad, to make them good.”
Even Gambia has offered to help out with the Rohingya refugee crisis and the US are looking into options. But not Australia, “nope”!
South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees
The impoverished west African nations says it is its ‘sacred duty’ to help fellow Muslims and will set them up in refugee camps
Gambia says it will take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding south-east Asia to escape oppression.
The government of the impoverished west African nation asked countries of the region to send them and it will set them up in refugee camps.
“The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – especially those referred to as ‘boat people’ –currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia andIndonesia,” it said on Wednesday.
“As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with.”
The statement appealed to the international community to send tents, bedding, household materials and medicine to help the Muslim-majority Gambia set up “habitable camps with decent sanitary conditions”.
The US has also said it would help in resettlement.
A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said the US would take a leading role in any multi-country effort, organized by the United Nations refugee agency.
“I think the Malaysians and the Indonesians have requested some help resettling people. We’re taking a careful look at the proposal,” Harf said. “It has to be a multi-country effort. We obviously can’t take this all on ourselves. But we are prepared to play a leading role in this effort.”
How far does our love reach? Oddny asks:
How far does your love reach?
by oddnygumaer on May 20, 2015
It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.
The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.
The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated 25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.
Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.
My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.
The dreadful tragedy suffered this past week by Rohingya asylum seekers trapped at sea prompted an eventual softened response from Australia’s neighbours.
But there was no change from Australia’s PM, who resolutely declared late on Thursday: ‘I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.’
The week’s events provide a fresh challenge to Labor to rethink its support for the Abbott Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) ‘stop the boats’ policy, which has successfully used strong-arm methods to stop boat people reaching Australia or entering Australian custody, by means that so seemingly has not involved loss of life.
The current government’s record stands in sharp contrast to that of Labor Governments between 2007 and 2013, when around 1100 people died while trying to reach Australia or Australian custody. We need to ask ourselves honestly how and why this happened, and if Labor in government could prevent it from happening again?
If, on regaining government, Labor did what most of its supporters would like it to do – instruct OSB to end its regime of aggressive, secret, internationally illegal forced returns of all asylum-seeker boats or their passengers to Indonesia, and close down the offshore detention camps now housing around 1500 men, women and children in terrible punitive conditions in Nauru and Manus, and letting those people out into the Australian community – what would be the consequences?
Clearly, the Abbott Government, for as long as it is in power, will continue to run Operation Sovereign Borders maritime operations under the present forced return protocols, and will keep everyone now in offshore detention locked up there indefinitely. The latter is a dreadful prospect which Labor must oppose vigorously.
But I would like Labor, as a first step towards fruitful public policy discussion of this issue, to be more honest about why those 1100 people died in the years of Labor in power. They only have to study the history of each awful drowning event in our adjacent waters. Those 1100 people did not die because they were sent in unsafe overcrowded boats by ruthless irresponsible people smugglers – the 97 per cent who arrived safely were sent by the same kinds of people smugglers in the same kinds of boats.