country:bangladesh

  • An Apology of Enclaves - The New York Times
    https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/an-apology-of-enclaves

    Article de 2011 - Pour les archives

    No, “apology” is not the collective noun for enclaves. The accepted term is a complex of enclaves — although more imaginative suggestions are welcome. Nor do I feel the need to apologize for enclaves. Yes, these geopolitical anomalies — for the uninitiated, a chunk of one political or ethnic unit lying wholly within another — have caused their fair share of misery and grief. But fascination with a subject does not equal approval of all its phenomena; herpetologists need not apologize for snakebites.

    In keeping with the original meaning of the word, this apology is a defense of enclaves, a fascinating but endangered border phenomenon. Yet at the same time, this piece is also an apology of sorts for enclaves [1], for two examples in particular: Baarle, Belgium, and Cooch Behar, India/Bangladesh, both of which involve not one or two but dozens of atomized enclaves spread throughout, respectively, Dutch and Bangladeshi/Indian territory. It’s fair to ask why these lands, which by all accounts feed daily bureaucratic nightmares, have been allowed to survive.

    #enclaves #frontières

  • #Huawei ban: why Asian countries are shunning Trump’s blacklist despite concerns about China’s influence | South China Morning Post
    https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3012820/huawei-ban-why-asian-countries-are-shunning-trumps

    “Some if not all regional countries may harbour concerns about the security ramifications of using Huawei, but there are real pragmatic considerations,” said Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Cost-wise in particular, Chinese offers for infrastructure development present more attractive propositions.”

    Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan sought to address funding worries in his speech, mentioning that the US roughly doubled a competing infrastructure fund to US$60 billion. He contrasted the American vision of a “ free and open ” region with one “where power determines place and debt determines destiny”.

    For many Asian countries, however, US funding isn’t enough to meet their needs and generally comes with too many strings attached . Myanmar, for instance, found that China was the only country willing to finance a deep-sea port and industrial estate on its coastline near Bangladesh.

    “In the end, the decision to accept or not to accept such financing rests with the recipient country and not with Beijing,” said Thaung Tun, Myanmar’s national security adviser, dismissing the notion that China would indebt the country for strategic gains.

    #Chine #Etats-Unis

  • U.S. is using unreliable dental exams to hold teen migrants in adult detention

    The young Bangladeshi sitting in the dentist’s chair last October thought he was getting checked for diseases.

    Dental staff examined his teeth, gave him a cleaning and sent him back to the juvenile facility where he had been held for months since illegally crossing the border in July.

    But a checkup wasn’t the real purpose of the dental work. The government wanted to figure out if “I.J.,” as the young migrant has been identified, really was 16, as he said, or an adult.

    The use of dental exams to help determine the age of migrants increased sharply in the last year, one aspect of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration and illegal border crossings.

    The accuracy of forensic testing to help determine the age of migrants is very much a subject of the debate. And with the stakes so high, the exams are becoming another legal battleground for the government.

    Federal law prohibits the government from relying exclusively on forensic testing of bones and teeth to determine age. But a review of court records shows that in at least three cases – including I.J.’s – the government did just that, causing federal judges to later order the minors released from adult detention.

    In a case last year, a Guatemalan migrant was held in adult detention for nearly a year after a dental exam showed he was likely 18, until his attorneys fought to get his birth certificate, which proved he was 17.

    For I.J., the results had serious ramifications. Based on the development of his teeth, the analysis showed an 87.70% probability that he had turned 18.

    An immigration official reported that it was apparent to the case manager that I.J. “appeared physically older than 17 years of age,” and that he and his mother had not been able to provide a second type of identification that might prove his age.

    The next month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him away in shackles and placed him in a medium-security prison that houses immigrant detainees.

    He spent about five months in adult detention and 24 of those days in segregated custody. Whenever he spoke with an officer, he would say he was a minor — unaware for more than a month that his teeth had landed him there.

    “I came to the United States with a big dream,” I.J. said. “My dream was finished.”

    But when the Arizona-based Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project took I.J.’s case to federal court, a district judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s age re-determination violated federal law and the agency’s own guidelines.

    In April, the judge ordered I.J. released back into Office of Refugee Resettlement custody, a program responsible for unaccompanied migrant children. He has since reunited with his family in New York. The Florence Project also filed another case in federal court that resulted in the government voluntarily returning a Bangladeshi minor to ORR custody and rescinding his age re-determination.

    As the government grappled with an influx of the number of families and children arriving at the border in fiscal year 2018, approvals of ORR age determination exams more than doubled.

    These handful of cases where a minor was released from adult detention is almost certainly an undercount, as most migrants held in adult detention do not have legal representation and are unlikely to fight their cases.

    It is unclear how often migrants pretend to be minors and turn out to be adults. In a call with reporters earlier this year, a Customs and Border Protection official said that from April 2018 to March 25 of this year, his agents had identified more than 3,100 individuals in family units making fraudulent claims, including those who misrepresented themselves as minors.

    Unaccompanied minors are given greater protections than adults after being apprehended. The government’s standard refers migrants to adult custody if a dental exam analysis shows at least a 75% probability that they are 18 or older. But other evidence is supposed to be considered.

    Dr. David Senn, the director of the Center for Education and Research in Forensics at UT Health San Antonio, has handled more than 2,000 age cases since 1998.

    A program that Senn helped develop estimates the mean age of a person and the probability that he or she is at least 18. In addition to looking at dental X-rays, he has also looked at skeletal X-rays and analyzed bone development in the hand and wrist area.

    He handled a larger number of cases in the early 2000s, but last year he saw his caseload triple — rising to 168. There appears to be a slowdown this calendar year for Senn, one of a few dentists the government uses for these analyses.

    He said making an exact age determination is not possible.

    “We can only tell you what the statistics say,” Senn said. “I think the really important thing to note is that most people who do this work are not trying to be policemen or to be Border Patrol agents or immigration …. what we’re trying to do is help. What we’re trying to do is protect children.”

    In 2007 and again in 2008, the House Appropriations Committee called on the Department of Homeland Security to stop relying on forensic testing of bones and teeth. But it was the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that declared age determinations should take into account “multiple forms of evidence, including the non-exclusive use of radiographs.”

    In a Washington state case, an X-ray analysis by Senn showed a 92.55% probability that Bilal, a Somali migrant, already had reached 18 years of age. ICE removed him from his foster home and held him in an adult detention center.

    “Not only were they trying to save themselves money, which they paid to the foster family, but they were wrecking this kid’s life,” said Matt Adams, legal director for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, which represented Bilal. “They were just rolling the dice.”

    In 2016, a federal judge found that the Office of Refugee Resettlement relied exclusively on the dental exam and overturned the age determination for the young Somali.

    Last year, in the case of an Eritrean migrant who said he was 17, Senn’s analysis of dental X-rays showed a 92.55% probability that he had turned 18, and provided a range of possible ages between 17.10 and 23.70.

    It was enough to prompt his removal from a juvenile facility and placement into an adult one.

    Again, a district judge found that the government had relied exclusively on the dental exam to determine his age and ordered the migrant released back into ORR custody.

    Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman, said the agency “does not track” information on such reversals.

    “We should never be used as the only method to determine age,” Senn said. “If those agencies are not following their own rules, they should have their feet held to the fire.”

    Similar concerns over medical age assessments have sprung up in other countries, including the United Kingdom and Sweden.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ guidance about how adolescent migrants’ ages should be analyzed says that if countries use scientific procedures to determine age, that they should allow for margins of error. Michael Bochenek, an attorney specializing in children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said that for adolescents, the margin of error in scientific tests is “so big that it doesn’t tell you anything.”

    An influx of Bangladeshi migrants claiming to be minors has contributed to the government’s recent use of dental exams. From October through March 8, more than 150 Bangladeshis who claimed to be minors and were determined to be adults were transferred from the Office of Refugee Resettlement to ICE custody, according to the agency.

    In fiscal year 2018, Border Patrol apprehensions of Bangladeshi migrants went up 109% over the year before, rising to 1,203. Similarly, the number of Bangladeshi minors in ORR custody increased about 221% between fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018, reaching 392.

    Ali Riaz, a professor at Illinois State University, said Bangladeshis are leaving the country for reasons including high population density, high unemployment among the young, a deteriorating political environment and the “quest for a better life.”

    In October, Myriam Hillin, an ORR federal field specialist, was told that ICE had information showing that a number of Bangladeshi migrants in their custody claiming to be underage had passports with different birth dates than on their birth certificates.

    Bochenek said it’s common for migrant children to travel with fake passports that make them appear older, because in some countries minors are more likely to be intercepted or questioned by immigration agents.

    While I.J. was able to regain status as a minor, three Bangladeshi migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in the San Diego area in October 2018 are still trying to convince the government they are underage.

    Their passports didn’t match their birth certificates. Dental exams ordered by immigration officials found that each of them had about an 89% likelihood of being adults.

    “Both subjects were adamant that the passports were given to them by the ‘agent’ (smuggler), however, there is little reason to lie to any of the countries they flew into,” wrote one Border Patrol agent, describing the arrest of two of the migrants. “Also, it is extremely difficult to fake a passport, especially for no reason. I have seen [unaccompanied children] fly into each of the countries (except for Panama and Costa Rica) and pass through with no problem. This is a recent trend with Bangladeshis. They do it in order to be released from DHS custody faster.”

    During interviews, the young migrants, Shahadat, Shahriar and Tareq, told asylum officers that smugglers had given them the passports, according to records from the interviews.

    When asked why they had been given those birth dates, they said it had something to do with smugglers’ plans for their travel.

    “I don’t have that much idea,” Shahadat told an asylum officer, according to the officer’s notes in a summary-style transcript. “When I asked why, they told me that if I don’t give this [date of birth] there will be problems with travel.”

    Shahriar told the officer that the smuggler became aggressive when questioned.

    The migrants have submitted copies of birth certificates, school documents and signed statements from their parents attesting to their claimed birth dates. An online database of birth records maintained by the government of Bangladesh appears to confirm their date of birth claims.

    Shahriar also provided his parents’ birth certificates. If he were as old as immigration officials believe him to be, his mother would have been 12 years old when she had him.

    In each case, immigration officials stood by the passport dates.

    Shahadat and Shahriar are being held in Otay Mesa Detention Center. Tareq was held at the facility for months before being released on a $7,500 bond. All three are moving through the immigration system as adults, with asylum proceedings their only option to stay in the U.S..

    At least one of the migrants, Shahadat, was placed in administrative segregation, a version of solitary confinement in immigration detention, when his age came into question, according to documents provided by their attorney.

    A judge ordered him deported.

    https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-immigrant-age-migrants-ice-dental-teeth-bangladesh-20190602-story.
    #tests_osseux #os #âge #USA #Etats-Unis #mineurs #enfants #enfance #rétention #détention_administrative #dents #migrations #asile #réfugiés #USA #Etats-Unis

  • As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/taxi-medallions.html

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    At a cramped desk on the 22nd floor of a downtown Manhattan office building, Gary Roth spotted a looming disaster.

    An urban planner with two master’s degrees, Mr. Roth had a new job in 2010 analyzing taxi policy for the New York City government. But almost immediately, he noticed something disturbing: The price of a taxi medallion — the permit that lets a driver own a cab — had soared to nearly $700,000 from $200,000. In order to buy medallions, drivers were taking out loans they could not afford.

    Mr. Roth compiled his concerns in a report, and he and several colleagues warned that if the city did not take action, the loans would become unsustainable and the market could collapse.

    They were not the only ones worried about taxi medallions. In Albany, state inspectors gave a presentation to top officials showing that medallion owners were not making enough money to support their loans. And in Washington, D.C., federal examiners repeatedly noted that banks were increasing profits by steering cabbies into risky loans.

    They were all ignored.

    Medallion prices rose above $1 million before crashing in late 2014, wiping out the futures of thousands of immigrant drivers and creating a crisis that has continued to ravage the industry today. Despite years of warning signs, at least seven government agencies did little to stop the collapse, The New York Times found.

    Instead, eager to profit off medallions or blinded by the taxi industry’s political connections, the agencies that were supposed to police the industry helped a small group of bankers and brokers to reshape it into their own moneymaking machine, according to internal records and interviews with more than 50 former government employees.

    For more than a decade, the agencies reduced oversight of the taxi trade, exempted it from regulations, subsidized its operations and promoted its practices, records and interviews showed.

    Their actions turned one of the best-known symbols of New York — its signature yellow cabs — into a financial trap for thousands of immigrant drivers. More than 950 have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records, and many more struggle to stay afloat.

    Remember the ‘10,000 Hours’ Rule for Success? Forget About It
    “Nobody wanted to upset the industry,” said David Klahr, who from 2007 to 2016 held several management posts at the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that oversees cabs. “Nobody wanted to kill the golden goose.”

    New York City in particular failed the taxi industry, The Times found. Two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Michael R. Bloomberg, placed political allies inside the Taxi and Limousine Commission and directed it to sell medallions to help them balance budgets and fund priorities. Mayor Bill de Blasio continued the policies.

    Under Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio, the city made more than $855 million by selling taxi medallions and collecting taxes on private sales, according to the city.

    But during that period, much like in the mortgage lending crisis, a group of industry leaders enriched themselves by artificially inflating medallion prices. They encouraged medallion buyers to borrow as much as possible and ensnared them in interest-only loans and other one-sided deals that often required them to pay hefty fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up most of their monthly incomes.

    When the medallion market collapsed, the government largely abandoned the drivers who bore the brunt of the crisis. Officials did not bail out borrowers or persuade banks to soften loan terms.

    “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children.

    “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said.

    The Times conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed thousands of records and built several databases to unravel the story of the downfall of the taxi industry in New York and across the United States. The investigation unearthed a collapse that was years in the making, aided almost as much by regulators as by taxi tycoons.

    Publicly, government officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Lyft.

    In interviews with The Times, they blamed each other.

    The officials who ran the city Taxi and Limousine Commission in the run-up to the crash said it was the job of bank examiners, not the commission, to control lending practices.

    The New York Department of Financial Services said that while it supervised some of the banks involved in the taxi industry, it deferred to federal inspectors in many cases.

    The federal agency that oversaw many of the largest lenders in the industry, the National Credit Union Administration, said those lenders were meeting the needs of borrowers.

    The N.C.U.A. released a March 2019 internal audit that scolded its regulators for not aggressively enforcing rules in medallion lending. But even that audit partially absolved the government. The lenders, it said, all had boards of directors that were supposed to prevent reckless practices.

    And several officials criticized Congress, which two decades ago excepted credit unions in the taxi industry from some rules that applied to other credit unions. After that, the officials said, government agencies had to treat those lenders differently.

    Ultimately, former employees said, the regulatory system was set up to ensure that lenders were financially stable, and medallions were sold. But almost nothing protected the drivers.

    Matthew W. Daus, far right, at a hearing of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2004. CreditMarilynn K. Yee/The New York Times
    Matthew W. Daus was an unconventional choice to regulate New York’s taxi industry. He was a lawyer from Brooklyn and a leader of a political club that backed Mr. Giuliani for mayor.

    The Giuliani administration hired him as a lawyer for the Taxi and Limousine Commission before appointing him chairman in 2001, a leadership post he kept after Mr. Bloomberg became mayor in 2002.

    The commission oversaw the drivers and fleets that owned the medallions for the city’s 12,000 cabs. It licensed all participants and decided what cabs could charge, where they could go and which type of vehicle they could use.

    And under Mr. Bloomberg, it also began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    At the time, the mayor said the growing city needed more yellow cabs. But he also was eager for revenue. He had a $3.8 billion hole in his budget.

    The sales put the taxi commission in an unusual position.

    It had a long history of being entangled with the industry. Its first chairman, appointed in 1971, was convicted of a bribery scheme involving an industry lobbyist. Four other leaders since then had worked in the business.

    It often sent staffers to conferences where companies involved in the taxi business paid for liquor, meals and tickets to shows, and at least one past member of its board had run for office in a campaign financed by the industry.

    Still, the agency had never been asked to generate so much money from the business it was supposed to be regulating.

    Former staffers said officials chose to sell medallions with the method they thought would bring in the most revenue: a series of limited auctions that required participants to submit sealed bids above ever-increasing minimums.

    Ahead of the sales, the city placed ads on television and radio, and in newspapers and newsletters, and held seminars promoting the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

    “Medallions have a long history as a solid investment with steady growth,” Mr. Daus wrote in one newsletter. In addition to guaranteed employment, he wrote, “a medallion is collateral that can assist in home financing, college tuition or even ‘worry-free’ retirement.”

    At the first auctions under Mr. Bloomberg in 2004, bids topped $300,000, surprising experts.

    Some former staffers said in interviews they believed the ad campaign inappropriately inflated prices by implying medallions would make buyers rich, no matter the cost. Seven said they complained.

    The city eventually added a disclaimer to ads, saying past performance did not guarantee future results. But it kept advertising.

    During the same period, the city also posted information on its website that said that medallion prices were, on average, 13 percent higher than they really were, according to a Times data analysis.

    In several interviews, Mr. Daus defended the ad campaigns, saying they reached people who had been unable to break into the tight market. The ads were true at the time, he said. He added he had never heard internal complaints about the ads.

    In all, the city held 16 auctions between 2004 and 2014.

    “People don’t realize how organized it is,” Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, a lender to medallion buyers, said in a 2011 interview with Tearsheet Podcast. “The City of New York, more or less, is our partner because they want to see prices go as high as possible.”

    Help from a federal agency

    New York City made more than $855 million from taxi medallion sales under Mayor Bill de Blasio and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

    For decades, a niche banking system had grown up around the taxi industry, and at its center were about half a dozen nonprofit credit unions that specialized in medallion loans. But as the auctions continued, the families that ran the credit unions began to grow frustrated.

    Around them, they saw other lenders making money by issuing loans that they could not because of the rules governing credit unions. They recognized a business opportunity, and they wanted in.

    They found a receptive audience at the National Credit Union Administration.

    The N.C.U.A. was the small federal agency that regulated the nation’s credit unions. It set the rules, examined their books and insured their accounts.

    Like the city taxi commission, the N.C.U.A. had long had ties to the industry that it regulated. One judge had called it a “rogue federal agency” focused on promoting the industry.

    In 2004, its chairman was Dennis Dollar, a former Mississippi state representative who had previously worked as the chief executive of a credit union. He had just been inducted into the Mississippi Credit Union Hall of Fame, and he had said one of his top priorities was streamlining regulation.

    Dennis Dollar, the former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, is now a consultant in the industry. 

    Under Mr. Dollar and others, the N.C.U.A. issued waivers that exempted medallion loans from longstanding rules, including a regulation requiring each loan to have a down payment of at least 20 percent. The waivers allowed the lenders to keep up with competitors and to write more profitable loans.

    Mr. Dollar, who left government to become a consultant for credit unions, said the agency was following the lead of Congress, which passed a law in 1998 exempting credit unions specializing in medallion loans from some regulations. The law signaled that those lenders needed leeway, such as the waivers, he said.

    “If we did not do so, the average cabdriver couldn’t get a medallion loan,” Mr. Dollar said.

    The federal law and the N.C.U.A. waivers were not the only benefits the industry received. The federal government also provided many medallion lenders with financial assistance and guaranteed a portion of their taxi loans, assuring that if those loans failed, they would still be partially paid, according to records and interviews.

    As lenders wrote increasingly risky loans, medallion prices neared $500,000 in 2006.

    ‘Snoozing and napping’

    Under Mr. Bloomberg, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission began selling 1,000 new medallions.

    Another agency was also supposed to be keeping an eye on lending practices. New York State banking regulators are required to inspect all financial institutions chartered in the state. But after 2008, they were forced to focus their attention on the banks most affected by the global economic meltdown, according to former employees.

    As a result, some industry veterans said, the state stopped examining medallion loans closely.

    “The state banking department would come in, and they’d be doing the exam in one room, and the N.C.U.A. would be in another room,” said Larry Fisher, who was then the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders. “And you could catch the state banking department snoozing and napping and going on the internet and not doing much at all.”

    The state banking department, which is now called the New York Department of Financial Services, disputed that characterization and said it had acted consistently and appropriately.

    Former federal regulators described a similar trend at their agencies after the recession.

    Some former employees of the N.C.U.A., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said that as medallion prices climbed, they tried to raise issues with loans and were told not to worry. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Board also oversaw some lenders and did not intervene.

    A spokesman for the Federal Reserve said the agency was not a primary regulator of the taxi lending industry. The rest of the agencies declined to comment.

    “It was obvious that the loans were unusual and risky,” said Patrick Collins, a former N.C.U.A. examiner. But, he said, there was a belief inside his agency that the loans would be fine because the industry had been stable for decades.

    Meanwhile, in New York City, the taxi commission reduced oversight.

    For years, it had made medallion purchasers file forms describing how they came up with the money, including details on all loans. It also had required industry participants to submit annual disclosures on their finances, loans and conflicts of interest.

    But officials never analyzed the forms filed by buyers, and in the 2000s, they stopped requiring the annual disclosures altogether.

    “Reviewing these disclosures was an onerous lift for us,” the commission’s communications office said in a recent email.

    By 2008, the price of a medallion rose to $600,000.

    At around the same time, the commission began focusing on new priorities. It started developing the “Taxi of Tomorrow,” a model for future cabs.

    The agency’s main enforcement activities targeted drivers who cheated passengers or discriminated against people of color. “Nobody really scrutinized medallion transfers,” said Charles Tortorici, a former commission lawyer.

    A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement that during the mayor’s tenure, the city improved the industry by installing credit card machines and GPS devices, making fleets more environmentally efficient and creating green taxis for boroughs outside Manhattan.

    “The industry was always its own worst enemy, fighting every reform tooth and nail,” said the spokesman, Marc La Vorgna. “We put our energy and political capital into the reforms that most directly and immediately impacted the riding public.”

    Records show that since 2008, the taxi commission has not taken a single enforcement action against brokers, the powerful players who arrange medallion sales and loans.

    Alex Korenkov, a broker, suggested in an interview that he and other brokers took notice of the city’s hands-off approach.

    “Let’s put it this way,” he said. “If governing body does not care, then free-for-all.”

    By the time that Mr. Roth wrote his report at the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2010, it was clear that something strange was happening in the medallion market.

    Mr. Daus gave a speech that year that mentioned the unusual lending practices. During the speech, he said banks were letting medallion buyers obtain loans without any down payment. Experts have since said that should have raised red flags. But at the time, Mr. Daus seemed pleased.

    “Some of these folks were offering zero percent down,” he said. “You tell me what bank walks around asking for zero percent down on a loan? It’s just really amazing.”

    In interviews, Mr. Daus acknowledged that the practice was unusual but said the taxi commission had no authority over lending.

    Inside the commission, at least four employees raised concerns about the medallion prices and lending practices, according to the employees, who described their own unease as well as Mr. Roth’s report.

    David S. Yassky, a former city councilman who succeeded Mr. Daus as commission chairman in 2010, said in an interview that he never saw Mr. Roth’s report.

    Mr. Yassky said the medallion prices puzzled him, but he could not determine if they were inflated, in part because people were still eager to buy. Medallions may have been undervalued for decades, and the price spike could have been the market recognizing the true value, he suggested.

    Meera Joshi, who became chairwoman in 2014, said in an interview that she was worried about medallion costs and lending practices but was pushed to prioritize other responsibilities. Dominic Williams, Mr. de Blasio’s chief policy adviser, said the city focused on initiatives such as improving accessibility because no one was complaining about loans.

    Worries about the taxi industry also emerged at the National Credit Union Administration. In late 2011, as the price of some medallions reached $800,000, a group of agency examiners wrote a paper on the risks in the industry, according to a recent report by the agency’s inspector general.

    In 2012, 2013 and 2014, inspectors routinely documented instances of credit unions violating lending rules, the inspector general’s report said.

    David S. Yassky, the former chairman of the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission.

    The N.C.U.A. chose not to penalize medallion lenders or impose extra oversight. It did not take any wide industry action until April 2014, when it sent a letter reminding the credit unions in the taxi market to act responsibly.

    Former staffers said the agency was still focused on the fallout from the recession.

    A spokesman for the N.C.U.A. disputed that characterization and said the agency conducted appropriate enforcement.

    He added the agency took actions to ensure the credit unions remained solvent, which was its mission. He said Congress allowed the lenders to concentrate heavily on medallion loans, which left them vulnerable when Uber and Lyft arrived.

    At the New York Department of Financial Services, bank examiners noticed risky practices and interest-only loans and repeatedly wrote warnings starting in 2010, according to the state. At least one report expressed concern of a potential market bubble, the state said.

    Eventually, examiners became so concerned that they made a PowerPoint presentation and called a meeting in 2014 to show it to a dozen top officials.

    “Since 2001, individual medallion has risen 455%,” the presentation warned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The presentation suggested state action, such as sending a letter to the industry or revoking charters from some lenders.

    The state did neither. The department had recently merged with the insurance department, and former employees said it was finding its footing.

    The department superintendent at the time, Benjamin M. Lawsky, a former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said he did not, as a rule, discuss his tenure at the department.

    In an emailed statement, the department denied it struggled after the merger and said it took action to stop the collapse of the medallion market. A department spokesman provided a long list of warnings, suggestions and guidelines that it said examiners had issued to lenders. He said that starting in 2012, the department downgraded some of its own internal ratings of the lenders.

    The list did not include any instances of the department formally penalizing a medallion lender, or making any public statement about the industry before it collapsed.

    Between 2010 and 2014, as officials at every level of government failed to rein in the risky lending practices, records show that roughly 1,500 people bought taxi medallions. Over all, including refinancings of old loans and extensions required by banks, medallion owners signed at least 10,000 loans in that time.

    Several regulators who tried to raise alarms said they believed the government stood aside because of the industry’s connections.

    Many pointed to one company — Medallion Financial, run by the Murstein family. Former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, the current governor’s father, was a paid member of its board from 1996 until he died in 2015.

    Others noted that Mr. de Blasio has long been close to the industry. When he ran for mayor in 2013, an industry lobbyist, Michael Woloz, was a top fund-raiser, records show. And Evgeny Freidman, a major fleet owner who has admitted to artificially inflating medallion prices, has said he is close to the mayor.

    Some people, including Mr. Dollar, the former N.C.U.A. chairman, said Congress excepted the taxi trade from rules because the industry was supported by former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York, who was then the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

    “The taxi industry is one of the most politically connected industries in the city,” said Fidel Del Valle, who was the chairman of the taxi commission from 1991 to 1994. He later worked as a lawyer for drivers and a consultant to an owner association run by Mr. Freidman. “It’s been that way for decades, and they’ve used that influence to push back on regulation, with a lot of success.”

    A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said Medallion Financial was not regulated by the state, so the elder Mr. Cuomo’s position on the board was irrelevant. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said the industry’s connections did not influence the city.

    Mr. Murstein, Mr. Woloz, Mr. Freidman and Mr. D’Amato all declined to comment.

    The aftermath
    “I think city will help me,” Mohammad Hossain, who is in deep debt from a taxi medallion loan, said at his family’s home in the Bronx.

    New York held its final independent medallion auction in February 2014. By then, concerns about medallion prices were common in the news media and government offices, and Uber had established itself. Still, the city sold medallions to more than 150 bidders. (“It’s better than the stock market,” one ad said.)

    Forty percent of the people who bought medallions at that auction have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records.

    Mohammad Hossain, 47, from Bangladesh, who purchased a medallion for $853,000 at the auction, said he could barely make his monthly payments and was getting squeezed by his lender. “I bought medallion from the city,” he said through tears. “I think city will help me, you know. I assume that.”

    The de Blasio administration’s only major response to the crisis has been to push for a cap on ride-hail cars. The City Council at first rejected a cap in 2015 before approving it last year.

    Taxi industry veterans said the cap did not address the cause of the crisis: the lending practices.

    Richard Weinberg, a taxi commission hearing officer from 1988 to 2002 and a lawyer for drivers since then, said that when the medallion bubble began to burst, the city should have frozen prices, adjusted fares and fees and convinced banks to be flexible with drivers. That could have allowed prices to fall slowly. “That could’ve saved a lot of people,” he said.

    In an interview, Dean Fuleihan, the first deputy mayor, said the city did help taxi owners, including by reducing some fees, taxes and inspection mandates, and by talking to banks about loans. He said that if the City Council had passed the cap in 2015, it would have helped.

    “We do care about those drivers, we care about those families. We attempted throughout this period to take actions,” he said.

    Federal regulators also have not significantly helped medallion owners.

    In 2017 and 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed or merged several credit unions for “unsafe business practices” in medallion lending. It took over many of the loans, but did not soften terms, according to borrowers. Instead, it tried to get money out as quickly as possible.

    The failure of the credit unions has cost the national credit union insurance fund more than $750 million, which will hurt all credit union members.

    In August 2018, the N.C.U.A. closed Melrose in what it said was the biggest credit union liquidation in United States history. The agency barred Melrose’s general counsel from working for credit unions and brought civil charges against its former C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, saying he used company funds to help industry partners in exchange for gifts.

    The general counsel, Mitchell Reiver, declined to answer questions but said he did nothing wrong. Mr. Kaufman said in an interview that the N.C.U.A. made up the charges to distract from its role in the crisis.

    “I’m definitely a scapegoat,” Mr. Kaufman said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

    Glamour, then poverty
    After he struggled to repay his taxi medallion loan, Abel Vela left his family in New York and moved back to Peru, where living costs were cheaper. 

    During the medallion bubble, the city produced a television commercial to promote the permits. In the ad, which aired in 2004, four cabbies stood around a taxi discussing the perks of the job. One said buying a medallion was the best decision he had ever made. They all smiled. Then Mr. Daus appeared on screen to announce an auction.

    Fifteen years later, the cabbies remember the ad with scorn. Three of the four were eventually enticed to refinance their original loans under far riskier terms that left them in heavy debt.

    One of the cabbies, Abel Vela, had to leave his wife and children and return to his home country, Peru, because living costs were lower there. He is now 74 and still working to survive.

    The city aired a commercial in 2004 to promote an upcoming auction of taxi medallions. The ad featured real cab drivers, but three of them eventually took on risky loans and suffered financial blows.
    The only woman in the ad, Marie Applyrs, a Haitian immigrant, fell behind on her loan payments and filed for bankruptcy in November 2017. She lost her cab, and her home. She now lives with her children, switching from home to home every few months.

    “When the ad happened, the taxi was in vogue. I think I still have the tape somewhere. It was glamorous,” she said. “Now, I’m in the poorhouse.”

    Today, the only person from the television commercial still active in the industry is Mr. Daus. He works as a lawyer for lenders.

    [Read Part 1 of The Times’s investigation: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers]

    Madeline Rosenberg contributed reporting. Doris Burke contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • ‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/nyregion/nyc-taxis-medallions-suicides.html


    Mohammed Hoque with his three children in their studio apartment in Jamaica, Queens.

    May 19, 2019 - The phone call that ruined Mohammed Hoque’s life came in April 2014 as he began another long day driving a New York City taxi, a job he had held since emigrating from Bangladesh nine years earlier.

    The call came from a prominent businessman who was selling a medallion, the coveted city permit that allows a driver to own a yellow cab instead of working for someone else. If Mr. Hoque gave him $50,000 that day, he promised to arrange a loan for the purchase.

    After years chafing under bosses he hated, Mr. Hoque thought his dreams of wealth and independence were coming true. He emptied his bank account, borrowed from friends and hurried to the man’s office in Astoria, Queens. Mr. Hoque handed over a check and received a stack of papers. He signed his name and left, eager to tell his wife.

    Mr. Hoque made about $30,000 that year. He had no idea, he said later, that he had just signed a contract that required him to pay $1.7 million.

    Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. Over more than a decade, they channeled thousands of drivers into reckless loans and extracted hundreds of millions of dollars before the market collapsed.

    These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. The leaders of nonprofit credit unions became multimillionaires. Medallion brokers grew rich enough to buy yachts and waterfront properties. One of the most successful bankers hired the rap star Nicki Minaj to perform at a family party.

    But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.

    The practices were strikingly similar to those behind the housing market crash that led to the 2008 global economic meltdown: Banks and loosely regulated private lenders wrote risky loans and encouraged frequent refinancing; drivers took on debt they could not afford, under terms they often did not understand.

    Some big banks even entered the taxi industry in the aftermath of the housing crash, seeking a new market, with new borrowers.

    The combination of easy money, eager borrowers and the lure of a rare asset helped prices soar far above what medallions were really worth. Some industry leaders fed the frenzy by purposefully overpaying for medallions in order to inflate prices, The Times found.

    Between 2002 and 2014, the price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million from $200,000, even though city records showed that driver incomes barely changed.

    About 4,000 drivers bought medallions in that period, records show. They were excited to buy, but they were enticed by a dubious premise.

    What Actually Happened to New York’s Taxi DriversMay 28, 2019

    After the medallion market collapsed, Mayor Bill de Blasio opted not to fund a bailout, and earlier this year, the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, shut down the committee overseeing the taxi industry, saying it had completed most of its work.

    Over 10 months, The Times interviewed 450 people, built a database of every medallion sale since 1995 and reviewed thousands of individual loans and other documents, including internal bank records and confidential profit-sharing agreements.

    The investigation found example after example of drivers trapped in exploitative loans, including hundreds who signed interest-only loans that required them to pay exorbitant fees, forfeit their legal rights and give up almost all their monthly income, indefinitely.

    A Pakistani immigrant who thought he was just buying a car ended up with a $780,000 medallion loan that left him unable to pay rent. A Bangladeshi immigrant said he was told to lie about his income on his loan application; he eventually lost his medallion. A Haitian immigrant who worked to exhaustion to make his monthly payments discovered he had been paying only interest and went bankrupt.

    Abdur Rahim, who is from Bangladesh, is one of several cab drivers who allege they were duped into signing exploitative loans. 
    It is unclear if the practices violated any laws. But after reviewing The Times’s findings, experts said the methods were among the worst that have been used since the housing crash.

    “I don’t think I could concoct a more predatory scheme if I tried,” said Roger Bertling, the senior instructor at Harvard Law School’s clinic on predatory lending and consumer protection. “This was modern-day indentured servitude.”

    Lenders developed their techniques in New York but spread them to Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere, transforming taxi industries across the United States.

    In interviews, lenders denied wrongdoing. They noted that regulators approved their practices, and said some borrowers made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. They said some drivers were happy to use climbing medallion values as collateral to take out cash, and that those who sold their medallions at the height of the market made money.

    The lenders said they believed medallion values would keep increasing, as they almost always had. No one, they said, could have predicted Uber and Lyft would emerge to undercut the business.

    “People love to blame banks for things that happen because they’re big bad banks,” said Robert Familant, the former head of Progressive Credit Union, a small nonprofit that specialized in medallion loans. “We didn’t do anything, in my opinion, other than try to help small businesspeople become successful.”

    Mr. Familant made about $30 million in salary and deferred payouts during the bubble, including $4.8 million in bonuses and incentives in 2014, the year it burst, according to disclosure forms.

    Meera Joshi, who joined the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2011 and became chairwoman in 2014, said it was not the city’s job to regulate lending. But she acknowledged that officials saw red flags and could have done something.

    “There were lots of players, and lots of people just watched it happen. So the T.L.C. watched it happen. The lenders watched it happen. The borrowers watched it happen as their investment went up, and it wasn’t until it started falling apart that people started taking action and pointing fingers,” said Ms. Joshi, who left the commission in March. “It was a party. Why stop it?”

    Every day, about 250,000 people hail a New York City yellow taxi. Most probably do not know they are participating in an unconventional economic system about as old as the Empire State Building.

    The city created taxi medallions in 1937. Unlicensed cabs crowded city streets, so officials designed about 12,000 specialized tin plates and made it illegal to operate a taxi without one bolted to the hood of the car. The city sold each medallion for $10.

    People who bought medallions could sell them, just like any other asset. The only restriction: Officials designated roughly half as “independent medallions” and eventually required that those always be owned by whoever was driving that cab.

    Over time, as yellow taxis became symbols of New York, a cutthroat industry grew around them. A few entrepreneurs obtained most of the nonindependent medallions and built fleets that controlled the market. They were family operations largely based in the industrial neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.

    Allegations of corruption, racism and exploitation dogged the industry. Some fleet bosses were accused of cheating drivers. Some drivers refused to go outside Manhattan or pick up black and Latino passengers. Fleet drivers typically worked 60 hours a week, made less than minimum wage and received no benefits, according to city studies.

    Still, driving could serve as a path to the middle class. Drivers could save to buy an independent medallion, which would increase their earnings and give them an asset they could someday sell for a retirement nest egg.

    Those who borrowed money to buy a medallion typically had to submit a large down payment and repay within five to 10 years.

    The conservative lending strategy produced modest returns. The city did not release new medallions for almost 60 years, and values slowly climbed, hitting $100,000 in 1985 and $200,000 in 1997.

    “It was a safe and stable asset, and it provided a good life for those of us who were lucky enough to buy them,” said Guy Roberts, who began driving in 1979 and eventually bought medallions and formed a fleet. “Not an easy life, but a good life.”

    “And then,” he said, “everything changed.”

    – Before coming to America, Mohammed Hoque lived comfortably in Chittagong, a city on Bangladesh’s southern coast. He was a serious student and a gifted runner, despite a small and stocky frame. His father and grandfather were teachers; he said he surpassed them, becoming an education official with a master’s degree in management. He supervised dozens of schools and traveled on a government-issued motorcycle. In 2004, when he was 33, he married Fouzia Mahabub. -

    That same year, several of his friends signed up for the green card lottery, and their thirst for opportunity was contagious. He applied, and won.

    His wife had an uncle in Jamaica, Queens, so they went there. They found a studio apartment. Mr. Hoque wanted to work in education, but he did not speak enough English. A friend recommended the taxi industry.

    It was an increasingly common move for South Asian immigrants. In 2005, about 40 percent of New York cabbies were born in Bangladesh, India or Pakistan, according to the United States Census Bureau. Over all, just 9 percent were born in the United States.

    Mr. Hoque and his wife emigrated from Bangladesh, and have rented the same apartment in Queens since 2005.

    Mr. Hoque joined Taxifleet Management, a large fleet run by the Weingartens, a Russian immigrant family whose patriarchs called themselves the “Three Wise Men.”

    He worked 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. On a good day, he said, he brought home $100. He often felt lonely on the road, and he developed back pain from sitting all day and diabetes, medical records show.

    He could have worked fewer shifts. He also could have moved out of the studio. But he drove as much as feasible and spent as little as possible. He had heard the city would soon be auctioning off new medallions. He was saving to buy one.

    Andrew Murstein, left, with his father, Alvin.CreditChester Higgins Jr./The New York Times
    In the early 2000s, a new generation took power in New York’s cab industry. They were the sons of longtime industry leaders, and they had new ideas for making money.

    Few people represented the shift better than Andrew Murstein.

    Mr. Murstein was the grandson of a Polish immigrant who bought one of the first medallions, built one of the city’s biggest fleets and began informally lending to other buyers in the 1970s. Mr. Murstein attended business school and started his career at Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers, the investment banks.

    When he joined the taxi business, he has said, he pushed his family to sell off many medallions and to establish a bank to focus on lending. Medallion Financial went public in 1996. Its motto was, “In niches, there are riches.”

    Dozens of industry veterans said Mr. Murstein and his father, Alvin, were among those who helped to move the industry to less conservative lending practices. The industry veterans said the Mursteins, as well as others, started saying medallion values would always rise and used that idea to focus on lending to lower-income drivers, which was riskier but more profitable.

    The strategy began to be used by the industry’s other major lenders — Progressive Credit Union, Melrose Credit Union and Lomto Credit Union, all family-run nonprofits that made essentially all their money from medallion loans, according to financial disclosures.

    “We didn’t want to be the one left behind,” said Monte Silberger, Lomto’s controller and then chief financial officer from 1999 to 2017.

    The lenders began accepting smaller down payments. By 2013, many medallion buyers were not handing over any down payment at all, according to an analysis of buyer applications submitted to the city.

    “It got to a point where we didn’t even check their income or credit score,” Mr. Silberger said. “It didn’t matter.”

    Lenders also encouraged existing borrowers to refinance and take out more money when medallion prices rose, according to interviews with dozens of borrowers and loan officers. There is no comprehensive data, but bank disclosures suggest that thousands of owners refinanced.

    Industry veterans said it became common for owners to refinance to buy a house or to put children through college. “You’d walk into the bank and walk out 30 minutes later with an extra $200,000,” said Lou Bakalar, a broker who arranged loans.

    Yvon Augustin has been living with help from his children ever since he declared bankruptcy and lost his taxi medallion.

    Some pointed to the refinancing to argue that irresponsible borrowers fueled the crisis. “Medallion owners were misusing it,” said Aleksey Medvedovskiy, a fleet owner who also worked as a broker. “They used it as an A.T.M.”

    As lenders loosened standards, they increased returns. Rather than raising interest rates, they made borrowers pay a mix of costs — origination fees, legal fees, financing fees, refinancing fees, filing fees, fees for paying too late and fees for paying too early, according to a Times review of more than 500 loans included in legal cases. Many lenders also made borrowers split their loan and pay a much higher rate on the second loan, documents show.

    Lenders also extended loan lengths. Instead of requiring repayment in five or 10 years, they developed deals that lasted as long as 50 years, locking in decades of interest payments. And some wrote interest-only loans that could continue forever.

    “We couldn’t figure out why the company was doing so many interest-only loans,” said Michelle Pirritano, a Medallion Financial loan analyst from 2007 to 2011. “It was a good revenue stream, but it didn’t really make sense as a loan. I mean, it wasn’t really a loan, because it wasn’t being repaid.”

    Almost every loan reviewed by The Times included a clause that spiked the interest rate to as high as 24 percent if it was not repaid in three years. Lenders included the clause — called a “balloon” — so that borrowers almost always had to extend the loan, possibly at a higher rate than in the original terms, and with additional fees.

    Yvon Augustin was caught in one of those loans. He bought a medallion in 2006, a decade after emigrating from Haiti. He said he paid $2,275 every month — more than half his income, he said — and thought he was paying off the loan. But last year, his bank used the balloon to demand that he repay everything. That is when he learned he had been paying only the interest, he said.

    Mr. Augustin, 69, declared bankruptcy and lost his medallion. He lives off assistance from his children.

    During the global financial crisis, Eugene Haber, a lawyer for the taxi industry, started getting calls from bankers he had never met.

    Mr. Haber had written a template for medallion loans in the 1970s. By 2008, his thick mustache had turned white, and he thought he knew everybody in the industry. Suddenly, new bankers began calling his suite in a Long Island office park. Capital One, Signature Bank, New York Commercial Bank and others wanted to issue medallion loans, he said.

    Some of the banks were looking for new borrowers after the housing market collapsed, Mr. Haber said. “They needed somewhere else to invest,” he said. He said he represented some banks at loan signings but eventually became embittered because he believed banks were knowingly lending to people who could not repay.

    Instead of lending directly, the big banks worked through powerful industry players. They enlisted large fleet owners and brokers — especially Neil Greenbaum, Richard Chipman, Savas Konstantinides, Roman Sapino and Basil Messados — to use the banks’ money to lend to medallion buyers. In return, the owners and brokers received a cut of the monthly payments and sometimes an additional fee.

    The fleet owners and brokers, who technically issued the loans, did not face the same scrutiny as banks.

    “They did loans that were frankly insane,” said Larry Fisher, who from 2003 to 2016 oversaw medallion lending at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry. “It contributed to the price increases and put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to keep up.”

    Evgeny Freidman, a fleet owner, has said he purposely overbid for taxi medallions in order to drive up their value.CreditSasha Maslov
    Still, Mr. Fisher said, Melrose followed lending rules. “A lot of people tend to blame others for their own misfortune,” he said. “If they want to blame the lender for the medallion going down the tubes the way it has, I think they’re misplaced.”

    Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner and the broker and lender who arranged Mr. Hoque’s loans, said every loan issued by his company abided by federal and state banking guidelines. “I am very sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families who are seeking a better life in this country and in this city,” said Mr. Konstantinides, who added that he was also an immigrant.

    Walter Rabin, who led Capital One’s medallion lending division between 2007 and 2012 and has led Signature Bank’s medallion lending division since, said he was one of the industry’s most conservative lenders. He said he could not speak for the brokers and fleet owners with whom he worked.

    Mr. Rabin and other Signature executives denied fault for the market collapse and blamed the city for allowing ride-hail companies to enter with little regulation. “It’s the City of New York that took the biggest advantage of the drivers,” said Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and chief executive of Signature. “It’s not the banks.”

    New York Commercial Bank said in a statement that it began issuing medallion loans before the housing crisis and that they were a very small part of its business. The bank did not engage in risky lending practices, a spokesman said.

    Mr. Messados said in an interview that he disagreed with interest-only loans and other one-sided terms. But he said he was caught between banks developing the loans and drivers clamoring for them. “They were insisting on this,” he said. “What are you supposed to do? Say, ‘I’m not doing the sale?’”

    Several lenders challenged the idea that borrowers were unsophisticated. They said that some got better deals by negotiating with multiple lenders at once.

    Mr. Greenbaum, Mr. Chipman and Mr. Sapino declined to comment, as did Capital One.

    Some fleet owners worked to manipulate prices. In the most prominent example, Evgeny Freidman, a brash Russian immigrant who owned so many medallions that some called him “The Taxi King,” said he purposefully overpaid for medallions sold at city auctions. He reasoned that the higher prices would become the industry standard, making the medallions he already owned worth more. Mr. Freidman, who was partners with Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, disclosed the plan in a 2012 speech at Yeshiva University. He recently pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud. He declined to comment.

    As medallion prices kept increasing, the industry became strained. Drivers had to work longer hours to make monthly payments. Eventually, loan records show, many drivers had to use almost all their income on payments.

    “The prices got to be ridiculous,” said Vincent Sapone, the retired manager of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, an owner association. “When it got close to $1 million, nobody was going to pay that amount of money, unless they came from another country. Nobody from Brooklyn was going to pay that.”

    Some drivers have alleged in court that lenders tricked them into signing loans.

    Muhammad Ashraf, who is not fluent in English, said he thought he was getting a loan to purchase a car but ended up in debt to buy a taxi medallion instead.

    Muhammad Ashraf, a Pakistani immigrant, alleged that a broker, Heath Candero, duped him into a $780,000 interest-only loan. He said in an interview in Urdu that he could not speak English fluently and thought he was just signing a loan to buy a car. He said he found out about the loan when his bank sued him for not fully repaying. The bank eventually decided not to pursue a case against Mr. Ashraf. He also filed a lawsuit against Mr. Candero. That case was dismissed. A lawyer for Mr. Candero declined to comment.

    Abdur Rahim, a Bangladeshi immigrant, alleged that his lender, Bay Ridge Credit Union, inserted hidden fees. In an interview, he added he was told to lie on his loan application. The application, reviewed by The Times, said he made $128,389, but he said his tax return showed he made about $25,000. In court, Bay Ridge has denied there were hidden fees and said Mr. Rahim was “confusing the predatory-lending statute with a mere bad investment.” The credit union declined to comment.

    Several employees of lenders said they were pushed to write loans, encouraged by bonuses and perks such as tickets to sporting events and free trips to the Bahamas.

    They also said drivers almost never had lawyers at loan closings. Borrowers instead trusted their broker to represent them, even though, unbeknown to them, the broker was often getting paid by the bank.

    Stan Zurbin, who between 2009 and 2012 did consulting work for a lender that issued medallion loans, said that as prices rose, lenders in the industry increasingly lent to immigrants.

    “They didn’t have 750 credit scores, let’s just say,” he said. “A lot of them had just come into the country. A lot of them just had no idea what they were signing.”

    The $1 million medallion
    Video
    Mrs. Hoque did not want her husband to buy a medallion. She wanted to use their savings to buy a house. They had their first child in 2008, and they planned to have more. They needed to leave the studio apartment, and she thought a home would be a safer investment.

    But Mr. Hoque could not shake the idea, especially after several friends bought medallions at the city’s February 2014 auction.

    One friend introduced him to a man called “Big Savas.” It was Mr. Konstantinides, a fleet owner who also had a brokerage and a lending company, Mega Funding.

    The call came a few weeks later. A medallion owner had died, and the family was selling for $1 million.

    Mr. Hoque said he later learned the $50,000 he paid up front was just for taxes. Mega eventually requested twice that amount for fees and a down payment, records show. Mr. Hoque said he maxed out credit cards and borrowed from a dozen friends and relatives.

    Fees and interest would bring the total repayment to more than $1.7 million, documents show. It was split into two loans, both issued by Mega with New York Commercial Bank. The loans made him pay $5,000 a month — most of the $6,400 he could earn as a medallion owner.

    Mohammed Hoque’s Medallion Loans Consumed Most of His Taxi Revenue
    After paying his two medallion loans and business costs, Mr. Hoque had about $1,400 left over each month to pay the rent on his studio apartment in Queens and cover his living expenses.

    Estimated monthly revenue $11,845

    Gas $1,500

    Income after expenses $1,400

    Vehicle maintenance $1,300

    Medallion loan 1 $4,114

    Insurance $1,200

    Car loan $650

    Credit card fees $400

    Medallion loan 2 $881

    Other work-related expenses $400

    By the time the deal closed in July 2014, Mr. Hoque had heard of a new company called Uber. He wondered if it would hurt the business, but nobody seemed to be worried.

    As Mr. Hoque drove to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s downtown office for final approval of the purchase, he fantasized about becoming rich, buying a big house and bringing his siblings to America. After a commission official reviewed his application and loan records, he said he was ushered into the elegant “Taxi of Tomorrow” room. An official pointed a camera. Mr. Hoque smiled.

    “These are little cash cows running around the city spitting out money,” Mr. Murstein said, beaming in a navy suit and pink tie.

    He did not mention he was quietly leaving the business, a move that would benefit him when the market collapsed.

    By the time of the appearance, Medallion Financial had been cutting the number of medallion loans on its books for years, according to disclosures it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Murstein later said the company started exiting the business and focusing on other ventures before 2010.

    Mr. Murstein declined numerous interview requests. He also declined to answer some written questions, including why he promoted medallions while exiting the business. In emails and through a spokesman, he acknowledged that Medallion Financial reduced down payments but said it rarely issued interest-only loans or charged borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    “Many times, we did not match what our competitors were willing to do and in retrospect, thankfully, we lost the business,” he wrote to The Times.

    Interviews with three former staffers, and a Times review of loan documents that were filed as part of lawsuits brought by Medallion Financial against borrowers, indicate the company issued many interest-only loans and routinely included a provision allowing it to charge borrowers for repaying loans too early.

    Other lenders also left the taxi industry or took precautions long before the market collapsed.

    The credit unions specializing in the industry kept making new loans. But between 2010 and 2014, they sold the loans to other financial institutions more often than in the previous five years, disclosure forms show. Progressive Credit Union, run by Mr. Familant, sold loans off almost twice as often, the forms show. By 2012, that credit union was selling the majority of the loans it issued.

    In a statement, Mr. Familant said the selling of loans was a standard banking practice that did not indicate a lack of confidence in the market.

    Several banks used something called a confession of judgment. It was an obscure document in which the borrower admitted defaulting on the loan — even before taking out any money at all — and authorized the bank to do whatever it wanted to collect.

    Larry Fisher was the medallion lending supervisor at Melrose Credit Union, one of the biggest lenders originally in the industry, from 2003 to 2016.
    Congress has banned that practice in consumer loans, but not in business loans, which is how lenders classified medallion deals. Many states have barred it in business loans, too, but New York is not among them.

    Even as some lenders quietly braced for the market to fall, prices kept rising, and profits kept growing.

    By 2014, many of the people who helped create the bubble had made millions of dollars and invested it elsewhere.

    Medallion Financial started focusing on lending to R.V. buyers and bought a professional lacrosse team and a Nascar team, painting the car to look like a taxi. Mr. Murstein and his father made more than $42 million between 2002 and 2014, disclosures show. In 2015, Ms. Minaj, the rap star, performed at his son’s bar mitzvah.

    The Melrose C.E.O., Alan Kaufman, had the highest base salary of any large state-chartered credit union leader in America in 2013 and 2015, records show. His medallion lending supervisor, Mr. Fisher, also made millions.

    It is harder to tell how much fleet owners and brokers made, but in recent years news articles have featured some of them with new boats and houses.

    Mr. Messados’s bank records, filed in a legal case, show that by 2013, he had more than $50 million in non-taxi assets, including three homes and a yacht.

    The bubble bursts

    At least eight drivers have committed suicide, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans.
    The medallion bubble burst in late 2014. Uber and Lyft may have hastened the crisis, but virtually all of the hundreds of industry veterans interviewed for this article, including many lenders, said inflated prices and risky lending practices would have caused a collapse even if ride-hailing had never been invented.

    At the market’s height, medallion buyers were typically earning about $5,000 a month and paying about $4,500 to their loans, according to an analysis by The Times of city data and loan documents. Many owners could make their payments only by refinancing when medallion values increased, which was unsustainable, some loan officers said.

    City data shows that since Uber entered New York in 2011, yellow cab revenue has decreased by about 10 percent per cab, a significant bite for low-earning drivers but a small drop compared with medallion values, which initially rose and then fell by 90 percent.

    As values fell, borrowers asked for breaks. But many lenders went the opposite direction. They decided to leave the business and called in their loans.

    They used the confessions to get hundreds of judgments that would allow them to take money from bank accounts, court records show. Some tried to get borrowers to give up homes or a relative’s assets. Others seized medallions and quickly resold them for profit, while still charging the original borrowers fees and extra interest. Several drivers have alleged in court that their lenders ordered them to buy life insurance.

    Many lenders hired a debt collector, Anthony Medina, to seize medallions from borrowers who missed payments.

    The scars left on cabs after medallions were removed.

    Mr. Medina left notes telling borrowers they had to give the lender “relief” to get their medallions back. The notes, which were reviewed by The Times, said the seizure was “authorized by vehicle apprehension unit.” Some drivers said Mr. Medina suggested he was a police officer and made them meet him at a park at night and pay $550 extra in cash.

    One man, Jean Demosthenes, a 64-year-old Haitian immigrant who could not speak English, said in an interview in Haitian Creole that Mr. Medina cornered him in Midtown, displayed a gun and took his car.

    In an interview, Mr. Medina denied threatening anyone with a gun. He said he requested cash because drivers who had defaulted could not be trusted to write good checks. He said he met drivers at parks and referred to himself as the vehicle apprehension unit because he wanted to hide his identity out of fear he could be targeted by borrowers.

    “You’re taking words from people that are deadbeats and delinquent people. Of course, they don’t want to see me,” he said. “I’m not the bad guy. I’m just the messenger from the bank.”

    Some lenders, especially Signature Bank, have let borrowers out of their loans for one-time payments of about $250,000. But to get that money, drivers have had to find new loans. Mr. Greenbaum, a fleet owner, has provided many of those loans, sometimes at interest rates of up to 15 percent, loan documents and interviews showed.

    New York Commercial Bank said in its statement it also had modified some loans.

    Other drivers lost everything. Most of the more than 950 owners who declared bankruptcy had to forfeit their medallions. Records indicate many were bought by hedge funds hoping for prices to rise. For now, cabs sit unused.

    Jean Demosthenes said his medallion was repossessed by a man with a gun. The man denied that he was armed.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, has asked the city to bail out owners or refund auction purchasers. Others have urged the city to pressure banks to forgive loans or soften terms.

    After reviewing The Times’s findings, Deepak Gupta, a former top official at the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the New York Attorney General’s Office should investigate lenders.

    Mr. Gupta also said the state should close the loophole that let lenders classify medallion deals as business loans, even though borrowers had to guarantee them with everything they owned. Consumer loans have far more disclosure rules and protections.

    “These practices were indisputably predatory and would be illegal if they were considered consumer loans, rather than business loans,” he said.

    Last year, amid eight known suicides of drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming loans, the city passed a temporary cap on ride-hailing cars, created a task force to study the industry and directed the city taxi commission to do its own analysis of the debt crisis.

    Earlier this year, the Council eliminated the committee overseeing the industry after its chairman, Councilman Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, said the Council was “controlled by the homosexual community.” The speaker, Mr. Johnson, said, “The vast majority of the legislative work that we have been looking at has already been completed.”

    In a statement, a council spokesman said the committee’s duties had been transferred to the Committee on Transportation. “The Council is working to do as much as it can legislatively to help all drivers,” the spokesman said.

    As of last week, no one had been appointed to the task force.

    On the last day of 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Hoque brought their third child home from the hospital.

    Mr. Hoque cleared space for the boy’s crib, pushing aside his plastic bags of T-shirts and the fan that cooled the studio. He looked around. He could not believe he was still living in the same room.

    His loan had quickly faltered. He could not make the payments and afford rent, and his medallion was seized. Records show he paid more than $12,000 to Mega, and he said he paid another $550 to Mr. Medina to get it back. He borrowed from friends, promising it would not happen again. Then it happened four more times, he said.

    Mr. Konstantinides, the broker, said in his statement that he met with Mr. Hoque many times and twice modified one of his loans in order to lower his monthly payments. He also said he gave Mr. Hoque extra time to make some payments.

    In all, between the initial fees, monthly payments and penalties after the seizures, Mr. Hoque had paid about $400,000 into the medallion by the beginning of this year.

    But he still owed $915,000 more, plus interest, and he did not know what to do. Bankruptcy would cost money, ruin his credit and remove his only income source. And it would mean a shameful end to years of hard work. He believed his only choice was to keep working and to keep paying.

    His cab was supposed to be his ticket to money and freedom, but instead it seemed like a prison cell. Every day, he got in before the sun rose and stayed until the sky began to darken. Mr. Hoque, now 48, tried not to think about home, about what he had given up and what he had dreamed about.

    “It’s an unhuman life,” he said. “I drive and drive and drive. But I don’t know what my destination is.”

    [Read Part 2 of The Times’s investigation: As Thousands of Taxi Drivers Were Trapped in Loans, Top Officials Counted the Money]

    Reporting was contributed by Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Suzanne Hillinger, Derek M. Norman, Elisha Brown, Lindsey Rogers Cook, Pierre-Antoine Louis and Sameen Amin. Doris Burke and Susan Beachy contributed research. Produced by Jeffrey Furticella and Meghan Louttit.

    Follow Brian M. Rosenthal on Twitter at @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Les antibiotiques polluent désormais les rivières du monde entier
    https://www.latribune.fr/entreprises-finance/industrie/energie-environnement/les-antibiotiques-polluent-les-rivieres-du-monde-entier-818590.html


    Crédits : Pixabay

    Quatorze antibiotiques ont été retrouvés dans les rivières de 72 pays, d’après une étude britannique inédite révélée lundi 27 mai. Les concentrations d’antibiotiques trouvés dépassent jusqu’à 300 fois les niveaux « acceptables ». Un risque majeur puisque ce phénomène accentue le phénomène de résistance aux antibiotiques qui deviennent moins efficaces pour traiter certains symptômes.

    Aucune n’est épargnée. Une étude présentée lundi 27 mai révèle que, de l’Europe à l’Asie en passant par l’Afrique, les concentrations d’antibiotiques relevées dans certaines rivières du monde dépassent largement les niveaux acceptables. La nouveauté de cette étude résulte du fait qu’il s’agit désormais d’un « problème mondial » car si, autrefois, les niveaux tolérés étaient le plus souvent dépassés en Asie et en Afrique - les sites les plus problématiques se trouvent au Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan et Nigeria - l’Europe et l’Amérique ne sont plus en reste, note le communiqué de l’équipe de chercheurs de l’université britannique de York responsable de l’étude.

    Les scientifiques ont ainsi analysé des prélèvements effectués sur 711 sites dans 72 pays sur six continents et ont détecté au moins un des 14 antibiotiques recherchés dans 65% des échantillons. Les chercheurs, qui présentaient leurs recherches lundi à un congrès à Helsinki, ont comparé ces prélèvements aux niveaux acceptables établis par le groupement d’industries pharmaceutiques AMR Industry Alliance, qui varient selon la substance.

    Résultat, le métronidazole, utilisé contre les infections de la peau et de la bouche, est l’antibiotique qui dépasse le plus ce niveau acceptable, avec des concentrations allant jusqu’à 300 fois ce seuil sur un site au Bangladesh. Le niveau est également dépassé dans la Tamise. La ciprofloxacine est de son côté la substance qui dépasse le plus souvent le seuil de sûreté acceptable (sur 51 sites), tandis que le triméthoprime, utilisé dans le traitement des infections urinaires, est le plus fréquemment retrouvé.

    • Est-ce que c’est des antibiotiques qu’on prescrit aux humain·es ou aux non-humain·es ?
      J’ai trouvé une liste des médicaments réservé aux humains et la métronidazole et la ciprofloxacine n’en font pas partie.

      ANNEXEII -MEDICAMENTS HUMAINS CLASSES AIC NON AUTORISES EN MEDECINE VETERINAIREFAMILLE D’APPARTENANCE DE LA SUBSTANCENOM DE LA SUBSTANCECéphalosporinesdetroisièmeoudequatrièmegénérationCeftriaxoneCéfiximeCefpodoximeCéfotiamCéfotaximeCeftazidimeCéfépimeCefpiromeCeftobiproleAutrescéphalosporinesCeftarolineQuinolones de deuxième génération (fluoroquinolones)LévofloxacineLoméfloxacinePéfloxacineMoxifloxacineEnoxacinePénèmesMéropènèmeErtapénèmeDoripénemImipénème+inhibiteurd’enzymeAcidesphosphoniquesFosfomycineGlycopeptidesVancomycineTeicoplanineTélavancineDalbavancineOritavancineGlycylcyclinesTigécyclineLipopeptidesDaptomycineMonobactamsAztréonamOxazolidonesCyclosérineLinézolideTédizolideRiminofenazinesClofaziminePénicillinesPipéracillinePipéracilline+inhibiteurd’enzymeTémocillineTircacillineTircacilline+inhibiteurd’enzymeSulfonesDapsoneAntituberculeux/antilépreuxRifampicineRifabutineCapréomycineIsoniazideEthionamidePyrazinamideEthambutolClofazimineDapsone+ferreuxoxalate

      http://www.ordre.pharmacien.fr/content/download/346633/1695541/version/2/file/Fiches-pratiques_pharmacie-v%C3%A9t%C3%A9rinaire.pdf

    • Le site de l’équipe qui a coordonné les travaux, Université d’York

      Antibiotics found in some of the world’s rivers exceed ‘safe’ levels, global study finds - News and events, The University of York
      https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2019/research/antibiotics-found-in-some-of-worlds-rivers
      https://www.york.ac.uk/media/news-and-events/pressreleases/2019/Global rivers feat.jpg

      Concentrations of antibiotics found in some of the world’s rivers exceed ‘safe’ levels by up to 300 times, the first ever global study has discovered.
      […]
      Researchers looked for 14 commonly used antibiotics in rivers in 72 countries across six continents and found antibiotics at 65% of the sites monitored.

      Metronidazole, which is used to treat bacterial infections including skin and mouth infections, exceeded safe levels by the biggest margin, with concentrations at one site in Bangladesh 300 times greater than the ‘safe’ level.

      In the River Thames and one of its tributaries in London, the researchers detected a maximum total antibiotic concentration of 233 nanograms per litre (ng/l), whereas in Bangladesh the concentration was 170 times higher.

      Trimethoprim
      The most prevalent antibiotic was trimethoprim, which was detected at 307 of the 711 sites tested and is primarily used to treat urinary tract infections.

      The research team compared the monitoring data with ‘safe’ levels recently established by the AMR Industry Alliance which, depending on the antibiotic, range from 20-32,000 ng/l.

      Ciproflaxacin, which is used to treat a number of bacterial infections, was the compound that most frequently exceeded safe levels, surpassing the safety threshold in 51 places.

      Global problem
      The team said that the ‘safe’ limits were most frequently exceeded in Asia and Africa, but sites in Europe, North America and South America also had levels of concern showing that antibiotic contamination was a “global problem.”

      Sites where antibiotics exceeded ‘safe’ levels by the greatest degree were in Bangladesh, Kenya, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria, while a site in Austria was ranked the highest of the European sites monitored.

      The study revealed that high-risk sites were typically adjacent to wastewater treatment systems, waste or sewage dumps and in some areas of political turmoil, including the Israeli and Palestinian border.

      Monitoring
      The project, which was led by the University of York, was a huge logistical challenge – with 92 sampling kits flown out to partners across the world who were asked to take samples from locations along their local river system.

      Samples were then frozen and couriered back to the University of York for testing. Some of the world’s most iconic rivers were sampled, including the Chao Phraya, Danube, Mekong, Seine, Thames, Tiber and Tigris.

    • Le résumé de la présentation à Helsinki, le 28 mai

      Tracks & Sessions – SETAC Helsinki
      https://helsinki.setac.org/programme/scientific-programme/trackssessions

      3.12 - New Insights into Chemical Exposures over Multiple Spatial and Temporal Scales
      Co-chairs: Alistair Boxall, Charlotte Wagner, Rainer Lohmann, Jason Snape 

      Tuesday May 28, 2019 | 13:55–15:30 | Session Room 204/205 

      Current methods used to assess chemical exposures are insufficient to accurately establish the impacts of chemicals on human and ecosystem health. For example, exposure assessment often involves the use of averaged concentrations, assumes constant exposure of an organism and focuses on select geographical regions, individual chemicals and single environmental compartments. A combination of tools in environmental scientists’ toolbox can be used to address these limitations.

      This session will therefore include presentations on experimental and modelling approaches to better understand environmental exposures of humans and other organisms to chemicals over space and time, and the drivers of such exposures. We welcome submissions from the following areas:
      1) Applications of novel approaches such as source apportionment, wireless sensor networks, drones and citizen science to generate and understand exposure data over multiple spatial and temporal scales,
      2) Advancements in assessing exposures to multiple chemicals and from different land-use types, as well as the impact of an organism’s differing interactions with its environment, and
      3) Quantification of chemical exposures at regional, continental and global geographical scales.

      This session aims at advancing efforts to combine models and measurement to better assess environmental distribution and exposure to chemical contaminants, reducing ubiquitous exposures and risks to public and environmental health.

  • Record High #Remittances Sent Globally in #2018

    Remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached a record high in 2018, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief.

    The Bank estimates that officially recorded annual remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries reached $529 billion in 2018, an increase of 9.6 percent over the previous record high of $483 billion in 2017. Global remittances, which include flows to high-income countries, reached $689 billion in 2018, up from $633 billion in 2017.

    Regionally, growth in remittance inflows ranged from almost 7 percent in East Asia and the Pacific to 12 percent in South Asia. The overall increase was driven by a stronger economy and employment situation in the United States and a rebound in outward flows from some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Russian Federation. Excluding China, remittances to low- and middle-income countries ($462 billion) were significantly larger than foreign direct investment flows in 2018 ($344 billion).

    Among countries, the top remittance recipients were India with $79 billion, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico ($36 billion), the Philippines ($34 billion), and Egypt ($29 billion).

    In 2019, remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries are expected to reach $550 billion, to become their largest source of external financing.

    The global average cost of sending $200 remained high, at around 7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, according to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide database. Reducing remittance costs to 3 percent by 2030 is a global target under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.7. Remittance costs across many African corridors and small islands in the Pacific remain above 10 percent.

    Banks were the most expensive remittance channels, charging an average fee of 11 percent in the first quarter of 2019. Post offices were the next most expensive, at over 7 percent. Remittance fees tend to include a premium where national post offices have an exclusive partnership with a money transfer operator. This premium was on average 1.5 percent worldwide and as high as 4 percent in some countries in the last quarter of 2018.

    On ways to lower remittance costs, Dilip Ratha, lead author of the Brief and head of KNOMAD, said, “Remittances are on track to become the largest source of external financing in developing countries. The high costs of money transfers reduce the benefits of migration. Renegotiating exclusive partnerships and letting new players operate through national post offices, banks, and telecommunications companies will increase competition and lower remittance prices.”

    The Brief notes that banks’ ongoing de-risking practices, which have involved the closure of the bank accounts of some remittance service providers, are driving up remittance costs.

    The Brief also reports progress toward the SDG target of reducing the recruitment costs paid by migrant workers, which tend to be high, especially for lower-skilled migrants.

    “Millions of low-skilled migrant workers are vulnerable to recruitment malpractices, including exorbitant recruitment costs. We need to boost efforts to create jobs in developing countries and to monitor and reduce recruitment costs paid by these workers,” said Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director of the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank. The World Bank and the International Labour Organization are collaborating to develop indicators for worker-paid recruitment costs, to support the SDG of promoting safe, orderly, and regular migration.

    Regional Remittance Trends

    Remittances to the East Asia and Pacific region grew almost 7 percent to $143 billion in 2018, faster than the 5 percent growth in 2017. Remittances to the Philippines rose to $34 billion, but growth in remittances was slower due to a drop in private transfers from the GCC countries. Flows to Indonesia increased by 25 percent in 2018, after a muted performance in 2017.

    After posting 22 percent growth in 2017, remittances to Europe and Central Asia grew an estimated 11 percent to $59 billion in 2018. Continued growth in economic activity increased outbound remittances from Poland, Russia, Spain, and the United States, major sources of remittances to the region. Smaller remittance-dependent countries in the region, such as the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, benefited from the sustained rebound of economic activity in Russia. Ukraine, the region’s largest remittance recipient, received a new record of more than $14 billion in 2018, up about 19 percent over 2017. This surge in Ukraine also reflects a revised methodology for estimating incoming remittances, as well as growth in neighboring countries’ demand for migrant workers.

    Remittances flows into Latin America and the Caribbean grew 10 percent to $88 billion in 2018, supported by the strong U.S. economy. Mexico continued to receive the most remittances in the region, posting about $36 billion in 2018, up 11 percent over the previous year. Colombia and Ecuador, which have migrants in Spain, posted 16 percent and 8 percent growth, respectively. Three other countries in the region posted double-digit growth: Guatemala (13 percent) as well as Dominican Republic and Honduras (both 10 percent), reflecting robust outbound remittances from the United States.

    Remittances to the Middle East and North Africa grew 9 percent to $62 billion in 2018. The growth was driven by Egypt’s rapid remittance growth of around 17 percent. Beyond 2018, the growth of remittances to the region is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace of around 3 percent in 2019 due to moderating growth in the Euro Area.

    Remittances to South Asia grew 12 percent to $131 billion in 2018, outpacing the 6 percent growth in 2017. The upsurge was driven by stronger economic conditions in the United States and a pick-up in oil prices, which had a positive impact on outward remittances from some GCC countries. Remittances grew by more than 14 percent in India, where a flooding disaster in Kerala likely boosted the financial help that migrants sent to families. In Pakistan, remittance growth was moderate (7 percent), due to significant declines in inflows from Saudi Arabia, its largest remittance source. In Bangladesh, remittances showed a brisk uptick in 2018 (15 percent).

    Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa grew almost 10 percent to $46 billion in 2018, supported by strong economic conditions in high-income economies. Looking at remittances as a share of GDP, Comoros has the largest share, followed by the Gambia , Lesotho, Cabo Verde, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Togo, Ghana, and Nigeria.

    The Migration and Development Brief and the latest migration and remittances data are available at www.knomad.org. Interact with migration experts at http://blogs.worldbank.org/peoplemove

    http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2019/04/08/record-high-remittances-sent-globally-in-2018?cid=ECR_TT_worldbank_EN_EXT
    #remittances #statistiques #chiffres #migrations #diaspora

    #Rapport ici :


    https://www.knomad.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/MigrationandDevelopmentBrief_31_0.pdf

    ping @reka

    • Immigrati, boom di rimesse: più di 6 miliardi all’estero. Lo strano caso dei cinesi «spariti»

      Bangladesh, Romania, Filippine: ecco il podio delle rimesse degli immigrati che vivono e lavorano in Italia. Il trend è in forte aumento: nel 2018 sono stati inviati all’estero 6,2 miliardi di euro, con una crescita annua del 20, 7 per cento.
      A registrarlo è uno studio della Fondazione Leone Moressa su dati Banca d’Italia, dopo il crollo del 2013 e alcuni anni di sostanziale stabilizzazione, oggi il volume di rimesse rappresenta lo 0,35% del Pil.

      Il primato del Bangladesh
      Per la prima volta, nel 2018 il Bangladesh è il primo Paese di destinazione delle rimesse, con oltre 730 milioni di euro complessivi (11,8% delle rimesse totali).
      Il Bangladesh nell’ultimo anno ha registrato un +35,7%, mentre negli ultimi sei anni ha più che triplicato il volume.

      Il secondo Paese di destinazione è la Romania, con un andamento stabile: +0,3% nell’ultimo anno e -14,3% negli ultimi sei.
      Da notare come tra i primi sei Paesi ben quattro siano asiatici: oltre al Bangladesh, anche Filippine, Pakistan e India. Proprio i Paesi dell’Asia meridionale sono quelli che negli ultimi anni hanno registrato il maggiore incremento di rimesse inviate. Il Pakistan ha registrato un aumento del +73,9% nell’ultimo anno. Anche India e Sri Lanka sono in forte espansione.

      Praticamente scomparsa la Cina, che fino a pochi anni fa rappresentava il primo Paese di destinazione e oggi non è nemmeno tra i primi 15 Paesi per destinazione delle rimesse.
      Mediamente, ciascun immigrato in Italia ha inviato in patria poco più di 1.200 euro nel corso del 2018 (circa 100 euro al mese). Valore che scende sotto la media per le due nazionalità più numerose: Romania (50,29 euro mensili) e Marocco (66,14 euro). Tra le comunità più numerose il valore più alto è quello del Bangladesh: ciascun cittadino ha inviato oltre 460 euro al mese. Anche i senegalesi hanno inviato mediamente oltre 300 euro mensili.

      https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/notizie/2019-04-17/immigrati-boom-rimesse-piu-6-miliardi-all-estero-strano-caso-cinesi-spa
      #Italie #Chine #Bangladesh #Roumanie #Philippines

  • Filmart: Bangladeshi Filmmaker Documents the Plight of the #Rohingya People: “A Tragedy With a Very Human Face”

    Documentary director #Abid_Hossain_Khan ’s debut feature ’#Belonging' is told from the perspective of a six-year-old girl as she searches for her missing family in the sprawling Rohingya refugee camps across the border from Myanmar in #Bangladesh.


    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/abid-hossain-khan-documents-plight-rohingya-people-a-tragedy-a-ve
    #film #documentaire #réfugiés #camps_de_réfugiés #Myanmar #Birmanie #réfugiés_rohingya #frontières

  • Could #facebook and #whatsapp Become Major Players in the Remittance Market with #crypto?
    https://hackernoon.com/could-facebook-and-whatsapp-become-major-players-in-the-remittance-marke

    It is safe to assume that anyone with a working internet connection has heard of Facebook and its subsidiary, Whatsapp. Bloomberg reported on Dec 21, 2018, that Facebook is working on a cryptocurrency that will let users transfer money on its Whatsapp messaging app. Are Cryptocurrencies at the precipice of mass adoption?Facebook boasts of the largest active user base of 1.7 billion after more than a decade of existence. That number could have been more if countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Bangladesh had not banned Facebook. On the other hand, Whatsapp has 1.5 billion users in 109 countries. The most popular countries include India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, and many other countries. Facebook is primed to become a major player in the remittance market due to the sheer number (...)

    #remittances #blockchain

  • UN envoy fears ’new crisis’ for Rohingya Muslims if moved to remote Bangladesh island

    A United Nations human rights investigator on #Myanmar has voiced deep concern at Bangladesh’s plan to relocate 23,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island, saying it may not be habitable and could create a “new crisis”.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-12/un-envoy-fears-new-crisis-for-rohingya-muslims/10890932
    #réfugiés #îles #île #Bangladesh #rohingya #réfugiés_rohingya #asile #migrations #Birmanie

    • Polly Pallister-Wilkins signale sur twitter (https://twitter.com/PollyWilkins/status/1105366496291753984) le lien à faire avec le concept de #penal_humanitarianism (#humanitarisme_pénal)

      Introducing the New Themed Series on Penal Humanitarianism

      Humanitarianism is many things to many people. It is an ethos, an array of sentiments and moral principles, an imperative to intervene, and a way of ‘doing good’ by bettering the human condition through targeting suffering. It is also a form of governance. In Border Criminologies’ new themed series, we look closer at the intersections of humanitarian reason with penal governance, and particularly the transfer of penal power beyond the nation state.

      The study of humanitarian sentiments in criminology has mainly focused on how these sensibilities have ‘humanized’ or ‘civilized’ punishment. As such, the notion of humanism in the study of crime, punishment, and justice is associated with human rights implementation in penal practices and with normative bulwark against penal populism; indeed, with a ‘softening’ of penal power.

      This themed series takes a slightly different approach. While non-punitive forces have a major place in the humanitarian sensibility, we explore how humanitarianism is put to work on and for penal power. In doing so, we look at how muscular forms of power – expulsion, punishment, war – are justified and extended through the invocation of humanitarian reason.

      In the following post, Mary Bosworth revisits themes from her 2017 article and addresses current developments on UK programmes delivered overseas to ‘manage migration’. She shows that through an expansion of these programmes, migration management and crime governance has not only elided, but ‘criminal justice investment appears to have become a humanitarian goal in its own right’. Similarly concerned with what happens at the border, Katja Franko and Helene O.I. Gundhus observed the paradox and contradictions between humanitarian ideals in the performative work of governmental discourses, and the lack of concern for migrants’ vulnerability in their article on Frontex operations.

      However, in their blog post they caution against a one-dimensional understanding of humanitarianism as legitimizing policy and the status quo. It may cloud from view agency and resistance in practice, and, they argue, ‘the dialectics of change arising from the moral discomfort of doing border work’. The critical, difficult question lurking beneath their post asks what language is left if not that of the sanctity of the human, and of humanity.

      Moving outside the European territorial border, Eva Magdalena Stambøl however corroborates the observation that penal power takes on a humanitarian rationale when it travels. Sharing with us some fascinating findings from her current PhD work on EU’s crime control in West Africa, and, more specifically, observations from her fieldwork in Niger, she addresses how the rationale behind the EU’s fight against ‘migrant smugglers’ in Niger is framed as a humanitarian obligation. In the process, however, the EU projects penal power beyond Europe and consolidates power in the ‘host’ state, in this case, Niger.

      Moving beyond nation-state borders and into the ‘international’, ‘global’, and ‘cosmopolitan’, my own research demonstrates how the power to punish is particularly driven by humanitarian reason when punishment is delinked from its association with the national altogether. I delve into the field of international criminal justice and show how it is animated by a humanitarian impetus to ‘do something’ about the suffering of distant others, and how, in particular, the human rights movement have been central to the fight against impunity for international crimes. Through the articulation of moral outrage, humanitarian sensibilities have found their expression in a call for criminal punishment to end impunity for violence against distant others. However, building on an ethnographic study of international criminal justice, which is forthcoming in the Clarendon Studies in Criminology published by Oxford University Press, I demonstrate how penal power remains deeply embedded in structural relations of (global) power, and that it functions to expand and consolidate these global inequalities further. Removed from the checks and balances of democratic institutions, I suggest that penal policies may be more reliant on categorical representations of good and evil, civilization and barbarity, humanity and inhumanity, as such representational dichotomies seem particularly apt to delineate the boundaries of cosmopolitan society.

      In the next post I co-wrote with Anette Bringedal Houge, we address the fight against sexual violence in conflict as penal humanitarianism par excellence, building on our study published in Law & Society Review. While attention towards conflict-related sexual violence is critically important, we take issue with the overwhelming dominance of criminal law solutions on academic, policy, and activist agendas, as the fight against conflict-related sexual violence has become the fight against impunity. We observe that the combination of a victim-oriented justification for international justice and graphic reproductions of the violence victims suffer, are central in the advocacy and policy fields responding to this particular type of violence. Indeed, we hold that it epitomizes how humanitarianism facilitates the expansion of penal power but take issue with what it means for how we address this type of violence.

      In the final post of this series, Teresa Degenhardt offers a discomforting view on the dark side of virtue as she reflects on how penal power is reassembled outside the state and within the international, under the aegis of human rights, humanitarianism, and the Responsibility to Protect-doctrine. Through the case of Libya, she claims that the global north, through various international interventions, ‘established its jurisdiction over local events’. Through what she calls a ‘pedagogy of liberal institutions’, Degenhardt argues that ‘the global north shaped governance through sovereign structures at the local level while re-articulating sovereign power at the global level’, in an argument that, albeit on a different scale, parallels that of Stambøl.

      The posts in this themed series raise difficult questions about the nature of penal power, humanitarianism, and the state. Through these diverse examples, each post demonstrates that while the nation state continues to operate as an essential territorial site of punishment, the power to punish has become increasingly complex. This challenges the epistemological privilege of the nation state framework in the study of punishment.

      However, while this thematic series focuses on how penal power travels through humanitarianism, we should, as Franko and Gundhus indicate, be careful of dismissing humanitarian sensibilities and logics as fraudulent rhetoric for a will to power. Indeed, we might – or perhaps should – proceed differently, given that in these times of pushback against international liberalism and human rights, and resurgent religion and nationalism, humanitarian reason is losing traction. Following an unmasking of humanitarianism as a logic of governance by both critical (leftist) scholars and rightwing populism alike, perhaps there is a need to revisit the potency of humanitarianism as normative bulwark against muscular power, and to carve out the boundaries of a humanitarian space of resistance, solidarity and dignity within a criminology of humanitarianism. Such a task can only be done through empirical and meticulous analysis of the uses and abuses of humanitarianism as an ethics of care.

      https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2019/03/introducing-new

    • Most Rohingya refugees refuse to go to #Bhasan_Char island – Xchange survey

      Nearly all Rohingya refugees asked about relocating to a silt island in the Bay of Bengal refused to go, a new survey reveals.

      According to a new report published by the migration research and data analysis outfit Xchange Foundation, the vast majority of their respondents (98.4%) ‘categorically refused’ to go to Bhasan Char, while 98.7% of respondents were aware of the plan.

      From the over 1,000 respondents who expressed their opinion, concerns were raised about their safety, security and placement in a location further from Myanmar.

      Decades long limbo

      The findings obtained by the recent Xchange Foundation Report entitled ‘WE DO NOT BELIEVE MYANMAR!,’ chart the protracted living conditions and uncertain future of almost three quarters of a million recent Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh. Accumulated together with previous generations of Rohingya, there are approximately 1.2m living across over a dozen camps in the region.

      This is the sixth survey carried out by the Xchange Foundation on the experiences and conditions facing Rohingya refugees.

      The region has been host to Rohingya refugees for just over the last three decades with the recent crackdown and massacre by the Myanmar military in August 2017 forcing whole families and communities to flee westward to Bangladesh.

      While discussions between the Bangladeshi and Myanmar government over the repatriation of recent Rohingya refugees have been plagued by inertia and lukewarm commitment, the Bangladeshi government has been planning on relocating over 100,000 Rohingya refugees to the silt island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal. This process was expected to take place in the middle of April, according to a Bangladeshi government minister.

      State Minister for Disaster and Relief Management Md Enamur Rahman, told the Dhaka Tribune ‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed last week to complete the relocation 23,000 Rohingya families to Bhashan Char by Apr 15.’

      Is it safe?

      Numerous humanitarian organisations including Human Rights Watch, have expressed their concerns over the government’s proposals, saying there are few assurances that Rohingya refugees will be safe or their access to free movement, health, education and employment will be secured.

      HRW reported in March that the Bangladeshi authorities had issued assurances that there wouldn’t be forcible relocation but that the move was designed to relieve pressure on the refugee camps and settlements across Cox’s Bazar.

      The move would see the relocation of 23,000 Rohingya families to a specially constructed complex of 1,440 housing blocks, equipped with flood and cyclone shelter and flood walls. The project is estimated to have cost the Bangladeshi government over €250 million.

      To prepare the island, joint efforts of British engineering and environmental hydraulics company HR Wallingford and the Chinese construction company Sinohydro, have been responsible for the construction of a 13km flood embankment which encircles the island.

      When asked by the Xchange survey team one Male Rohingya of 28 years old said, ‘We saw videos of Bhasan Char; it’s not a safe place and also during the raining season it floods.’ An older female of 42 said, ‘I’m afraid to go to Bhasan Char, because I think there is a risk to my life and my children.’

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM8wlvLddnw

      Threat of flooding

      Bhasan Char or ‘Thengar Char,’ didn’t exist 20 years ago.

      The island is understood to have formed through gradual silt deposits forming a island around 30km from the Bangladeshi mainland. Until now, human activity on the island has been very minimal with it being largely used for cattle and only reachable by a 3.5 hour boat trip.

      But, the island is subject to the tides. It is reported that the island loses around 5,000 square acres of its territory from low to high tide (15,000 – 10,000 acres (54 square kilometres) respectively).

      This is worsened by the threat of the monsoon and cyclone season which according to HRW’s testimony can result in parts of the island eroding. This is recorded as being around one kilometre a year, ABC News reports.

      Golam Mahabub Sarwar of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Land, says that a high tide during a strong cyclone could completely flood the island. This is exemplifed by the 6 metre tidal range which is seen on fellow islands.

      New crisis

      The UN Envoy Yanghee Lee has warned that the Bangladesh government goes through with the relocation, it could risk creating a ‘new crisis’.

      Lee warned that she was uncertain of the island was ‘truly habitable’ for the over 23,000 families expected to live there.

      The Special Rapporteur to Myanmar made the comments to the Human Rights Council in March, saying that if the relocations were made without consent from the people it would affect, it had, ‘potential to create a new crisis.’

      She stressed that before refugees are relocated, the United Nations, ‘must be allowed to conduct a full technical and humanitarian assessment’ as well as allowing the beneficiary communities to visit and decide if it is right for them.

      https://www.newsbook.com.mt/artikli/2019/05/07/most-rohingya-refugees-refuse-to-go-to-bhasan-char-island-xchange-survey/?lang=en

  • Patrick Brown won the 2019 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo for his work No Place on Earth
    FotoEvidence | Documenting Social Injustice
    http://fotoevidence.com


    Photo: Patrick Brown © 2019 Panos/UNICEF

    Photographer Patrick Brown won the FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo for his project “No Place on Earth,” documenting the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis and one of the most rapid human exodus in recent history. Risking death at sea or on foot, more than 700,000 #Rohingya fled the destruction of their homes and persecution in the northern Rakhine State of #Myanmar. Arriving in Bangladesh at the makeshift camps, most refugees reported harrowingly consistent stories of murder and rape, all of which testify to a deliberate campaign of eradication. “No Place on Earth” provides an intimate portrait of the Rohingya survivors and their bleak conditions in overcrowded refugee camps.

    • No Place on Earth by Patrick BrownFotoEvidence | Documenting Social Injustice
      http://fotoevidence.com/award-detail/no-place-on-earth/2019_winner_Patrick+Brown


      Patrick Brown ©2019 Panos/UNICEF

      Winner of the 2019 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo
       
      The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim minority group in Rakhine State, western Myanmar. They number around one million people, laws passed in the 1980s effectively deprived them of Myanmar citizenship. Violence erupted in Myanmar on 25 August after a faction of Rohingya militants attacked police posts, killing 12 members of the Myanmar security forces. Myanmar authorities, in places supported by groups of Buddhists, launched a crackdown, attacking Rohingya villages and burning houses. In late August 2017, I starting hearing reports from friends and colleagues in Bangladesh that Rohingya Muslims were flooding across the border with horrific stories perpetrated by the Myanmar military and vigilantes.

      The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the crackdown in Rakhine State, Burma, “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. There is nothing clean about Ethnic cleansing – up close and on the ground, it’s murder, it’s rape, it’s people being slaughtered in the most systematic and barbaric way. It’s people. While euphemisms and diplomatic language can obscure the true horror inflicted by oppressive regimes, photography cuts through all the cold clinical terminology. Through photographs we’re forced to confront the cruel reality of what ethnic cleansing really looks like.

      Although I’ve worked in tough environments before, nothing could have prepared me for the raw misery I saw and heard over the following months: orphan children carrying their younger siblings through flooded paddy fields; wounded men and women who had walked for 10 days with nothing more than their shirts on their backs. Soon the hundreds of desperate people became thousands, and then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands. Amid the crush of humanity and gathering monsoon rains, they tried to make shelters with anything that could give them some cover.

      Today, the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar is the world’s largest - a city of nearly a million people, more densely populated than Manhattan and the size of Copenhagen. Trapped on the edge of a foreign country and rejected by their ancestral homeland, the Rohingya have nothing there but their will to survive and whatever support we provide for them. Their needs are total: for clean drinking water, schools, health care, jobs. But most of all, a safe and dignified place to call home.

  • Bangladeshis being killed 20km inside India, says BGB chief

    Border Guard Bangladesh director general major general Md Shafeenul Islam on Wednesday said Bangladeshi people were being killed 20 kilometres inside India and he condemned those incidents as ‘killings’ in the name of fighting petty crimes while refusing to accept the conventional category — ‘border killing.’
    Border Guard Bangladesh chief came up with a new definition at a programme held at the border force headquarters in Peelkhana during the inaugural ceremony of a Data Centre.
    The BGB chief went on to add, ‘Human life is very important whether it is our citizen or theirs. Our force is cognizant of human rights. No killing is acceptable to us.’
    ‘But the term border killing is a misnomer. It implies that the killing has taken place on the border,’ the BGB chief told the reporters and hastened to ask, ‘Can we term these murders “border killings” when they take place 15 to 20 kilometres inside [Indian] border?’
    He pointed out to the journalist that a spade should be called a spade and termed every murder as ‘killing.’ He further said that it is killing in the name of fighting ‘petty crimes’.
    If the killing took place within 200 yards of the border or on the no man’s land it could be termed as border killing, he argued.
    Asked whether he had any statistics on such killings inside the Indian territory or in areas proximal to the border, he said this year eight Bangladeshis were killed so far.
    BGB chief took issue with such incidents. ‘Why do members of Indian Border Security Force are killing Bangladeshis instead of arresting them. Bangladeshi people were getting killed when the Indian force were supposed to use non-lethal weapons instead of lethal ones,’ he added.
    The BSF troops join the rank from various regions across India including Kashmir, and they need more time to become sensitised to the people living near the border areas. They easily become ‘trigger-happy’ when Bangladeshis are involved, said the BGB chief.
    Last year, he said border killing was reported until October. It increased slightly during the winter.
    ‘Due to the fog in winter, the illegal trespassing usually increases. People cross the border even by cutting the barbed wire fences,’ said BGB chief.
    He said they have intensified their vigilance along the western frontier so that none can cross the border.
    ‘We are arresting people every day when they set out to cross the border,’ he added.
    According to the Border Guard chief, they have now a digital surveillance system in place on Putkhali border to check the border crime while another surveillance system was under trial on Tekhnaf border.
    They have started getting benefits of the surveillance systems, he said, adding, ‘We expect that human trafficking and smuggling will reduce in the border regions.’
    He said their troops were facing extreme hardship to protect the borders. ‘We can give better protection of borders once we will have border road that are yet to be constructed,’ he said, adding, ‘There are many border outposts which need seven days to reach.’
    Binoy Krishna Mallik, executive director of Rights Jessore, said it doesn’t matter how far the place of incident is from the border, it is important whether it is related to the border or border forces. These are nothing but border killings,’ he told New Age.
    As of February 3, 2019, the Indian Border Security Force shot dead seven Bangladeshi in less than five weeks along the Bangladesh-India border.
    According to Ain o Salish Kendra six Bangladeshis were shot dead by BSF along border in January, four of them on the Thakurgaon frontier and one each on Nilphamari and Rajshahi border.
    In 2018, ‘trigger-happy’ BSF killed 14 Bangladeshis, according to the Kendra.
    According to Odhikar, at least 1,144 Bangladeshi were killed by the Indian border force between 2001 and 2018. Bangladesh and India share a border of 2,429 miles.

    http://www.newagebd.net/article/64063/bangladeshis-being-killed-20km-inside-india-says-bgb-chief
    #meurtres_aux_frontières #frontières #mobile_borders #frontières_mobiles #décès #mort #murs #barrières_frontalières #Bangladesh #Inde #zone_frontalière

    –-> et la question sur les #mots :

    ‘But the term border killing is a misnomer. It implies that the killing has taken place on the border,’ the BGB chief told the reporters and hastened to ask, ‘Can we term these murders “border killings” when they take place 15 to 20 kilometres inside [Indian] border?’

    #terminologie #vocabulaire

  • Hundreds sacked after Bangladesh garment strikes - Channel NewsAsia
    https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/hundreds-sacked-after-bangladesh-garment-strikes-11130318

    The country’s US$30-billion clothing industry is the world’s second-largest after China. Its some four million workers at 4,500 factories make garments for global retail giants H&M, Walmart and many others.

    Protests by thousands of employees over low wages began earlier this month, prompting scores of manufacturers to halt production.

    One worker was killed and more than 50 injured last week after police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in a key industrial town outside the capital Dhaka.

    The demonstrations died down this week after the government agreed to raise salaries, but many returned to work on Wednesday to discover they had been laid off.

    A top union leader said at least 750 workers at various companies in the manufacturing hub of Ashulia had found notices hanging on factory gates informing them of their dismissal along with photos of their faces.

    “This is unjust. The owners are doing it to create a climate of fear so that no one can dare to stage protests or demand fair wages,” the leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    “Police told me not to create trouble. Otherwise I’ll be disappeared.”

    Police and a senior factory manager gave a lower total of around 400 workers fired for damaging equipment during the strike - with more than half from one Ashulia plant called Metro Knitting and Dyeing.

  • And Yet We Move - 2018, a Contested Year

    Alarm Phone 6 Week Report, 12 November - 23 December 2018

    311 people escaping from Libya rescued through a chain of solidarity +++ About 113,000 sea arrivals and over 2,240 counted fatalities in the Mediterranean this year +++ 666 Alarm Phone distress cases in 2018 +++ Developments in all three Mediterranean regions +++ Summaries of 38 Alarm Phone distress cases

    Introduction

    “There are no words big enough to describe the value of the work you are doing. It is a deeply human act and it will never be forgotten. The whole of your team should know that we wish all of you health and a long life and the best wishes in all the colours of the world.” These are the words that the Alarm Phone received a few days ago from a man who had been on a boat in the Western Mediterranean Sea and with whom our shift teams had stayed in touch throughout the night until they were finally rescued to Spain. He was able to support the other travellers by continuously and calmly reassuring them, and thereby averted panic on the boat. His message motivates us to continue also in 2019 to do everything we can to assist people who have taken to the sea because Europe’s border regime has closed safe and legal routes, leaving only the most dangerous paths slightly open. On these paths, over 2,240 people have lost their lives this year.

    While we write this report, 311 people are heading toward Spain on the rescue boat of the NGO Proactiva Open Arms. The travellers called the Alarm Phone when they were on a boat-convoy that had left from Libya. Based on the indications of their location, Al-Khums, the civil reconnaissance aircraft Colibri launched a search operation in the morning of the 21st of December and was able to spot the convoy of three boats which were then rescued by Proactiva. Italy and Malta closed their harbours to them, prolonging their suffering. Over the Christmas days they headed toward their final destination in Spain. The successful rescue operation of the 313 people (one mother and her infant child were flown out by a helicopter after rescue) highlights the chain of solidarity that activists and NGOs have created in the Central Mediterranean Sea. It is a fragile chain that the EU and its member states seek to criminalise and tear apart wherever they can.

    Throughout the year of 2018, we have witnessed and assisted contested movements across the Mediterranean Sea. Despite violent deterrence policies and practices, about 113,000 people succeeded in subverting maritime borders and have arrived in Europe by boat. We were alerted to 666 distress situations at sea (until December 23rd), and our shift teams have done their best to assist the many thousands of people who saw no other option to realise their hope for a better future than by risking their lives at sea. Many of them lost their lives in the moment of enacting their freedom of movement. Over 2,240 women, men, and children from the Global South – and probably many more who were never counted – are not with us anymore because of the violence inscribed in the Global North’s hegemonic and brutal borders. They were not able to get a visa. They could not board a much cheaper plane, bus, or ferry to reach a place of safety and freedom. Many travelled for months, even years, to get anywhere near the Mediterranean border – and on their journeys they have lived through hardships unimaginable for most of us. But they struggled on and reached the coasts of Northern Africa and Turkey, where they got onto overcrowded boats. That they are no longer with us is a consequence of Europe’s racist system of segregation that illegalises and criminalises migration, a system that also seeks to illegalise and criminalise solidarity. Many of these 2,240 people would be alive if the civil rescuers were not prevented from doing their work. All of them would be alive, if they could travel and cross borders freely.

    In the different regions of the Mediterranean Sea, the situation has further evolved over the course of 2018, and the Alarm Phone witnessed the changing patterns of boat migration first hand. Most of the boats we assisted were somewhere between Morocco and Spain (480), a considerable number between Turkey and Greece (159), but comparatively few between Libya and Italy (27). This, of course, speaks to the changing dynamics of migratory escape and its control in the different regions:

    Morocco-Spain: Thousands of boats made it across the Strait of Gibraltar, the Alboran Sea, or the Atlantic and have turned Spain into the ‘front-runner’ this year with about 56,000 arrivals by sea. In 2017, 22,103 people had landed in Spain, 8,162 in 2016. In the Western Mediterranean, crossings are organised in a rather self-organised way and the number of arrivals speaks to a migratory dynamism not experienced for over a decade in this region. Solidarity structures have multiplied both in Morocco and Spain and they will not be eradicated despite the wave of repression that has followed the peak in crossings over the summer. Several Alarm Phone members experienced the consequences of EU pressure on the Moroccan authorities to repress cross-border movements first hand when they were violently deported to the south of Morocco, as were several thousand others.

    Turkey-Greece: With about 32,000 people reaching the Greek islands by boat, more people have arrived in Greece than in 2017, when 29,718 people did so. After arrival via the sea, many are confined in inhumane conditions on the islands and the EU hotspots have turned into rather permanent prisons. This desperate situation has prompted renewed movements across the Turkish-Greek land border in the north. Overall, the number of illegalised crossings into Greece has risen due to more than 20,000 people crossing the land border. Several cases of people experiencing illegal push-back operations there reached the Alarm Phone over the year.

    Libya-Italy/Malta: Merely about 23,000[1] people have succeeded in fleeing Libya via the sea in 2018. The decrease is dramatic, from 119,369 in 2017, and even 181,436 in 2016. This decrease gives testament to the ruthlessness of EU deterrence policies that have produced the highest death rate in the Central Mediterranean and unspeakable suffering among migrant communities in Libya. Libyan militias are funded, trained, and legitimated by their EU allies to imprison thousands of people in camps and to abduct those who made it onto boats back into these conditions. Due to the criminalisation of civil rescuers, a lethal rescue gap was produced, with no NGO able to carry out their work for many months of the year. Fortunately, three of them have now been able to return to the deadliest area of the Mediterranean.

    These snapshots of the developments in the three Mediterranean regions, elaborated on in greater detail below, give an idea of the struggles ahead of us. They show how the EU and its member states not only created dangerous maritime paths in the first place but then reinforced its migrant deterrence regime at any cost. They show, however, also how thousands could not be deterred from enacting their freedom of movement and how solidarity structures have evolved to assist their precarious movements. We go into 2019 with the promise and call that the United4Med alliance of sea rescuers has outlined: “We will prove how civil society in action is not only willing but also able to bring about a new Europe; saving lives at sea and creating a just reception system on land. Ours is a call to action to European cities, mayors, citizens, societies, movements, organisations and whoever believes in our mission, to join us. Join our civil alliance and let us stand up together, boldly claiming a future of respect and equality. We will stand united for the right to stay and for the right to go.”[2] Also in the new year, the Alarm Phone will directly engage in this struggle and we call on others to join. It can only be a collective fight, as the odds are stacked against us.

    Developments in the Central Mediterranean

    In December 2018, merely a few hundred people were able to escape Libya by boat. It cannot be stressed enough how dramatic the decrease in crossings along this route is – a year before, 2,327 people escaped in December, in 2016 even 8,428. 2018 is the year when Europe’s border regime ‘succeeded’ in largely shutting down the Central Mediterranean route. It required a combination of efforts – the criminalisation of civil search and rescue organisations, the selective presence of EU military assets that were frequently nowhere to be found when boats were in distress, the closure of Italian harbours and the unwillingness of other EU member states to welcome the rescued, and, most importantly, the EU’s sustained support for the so-called Libyan coastguards and other Libyan security forces. Europe has not only paid but also trained, funded and politically legitimised Libyan militias whose only job is to contain outward migratory movements, which means capturing and abducting people seeking to flee to Europe both at sea and on land. Without these brutal allies, it would not have been possible to reduce the numbers of crossings that dramatically.

    The ‘Nivin case’ of November 7th exemplifies this European-Libyan alliance. On that day, a group of 95 travellers reached out to the Alarm Phone from a boat in distress off the coast of Libya. Among them were people from Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Eritrea. Italy refused to conduct a rescue operation and eventually they were rescued by the cargo vessel Nivin. Despite telling the rescued that they would be brought to a European harbour, the crew of the Nivin returned them to Libya on November 10th. At the harbour of Misrata, most of the rescued refused to disembark, stating that they would not want to be returned into conditions of confinement and torture. The people, accused by some to be ‘pirates’, fought bravely against forced disembarkation for ten days but on the 20th of November they could resist no longer when Libyan security forces stormed the boat and violently removed them, using tear gas and rubber bullets in the process. Several of the protestors were injured and needed treatment in hospital while others were returned into inhumane detention camps.[3]

    Also over the past 6 weeks, the period covered in this report, the criminalisation of civil rescue organisations continued. The day that the protestors on the Nivin were violently removed, Italy ordered the seizure of the Aquarius, the large rescue asset operated by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières that had already been at the docs in France for some time, uncertain about its future mission. According to the Italian authorities, the crew had falsely labelled the clothes rescued migrants had left on the Aquarius as ‘special’ rather than ‘toxic’ waste.[4] The absurdity of the accusation highlights the fact that Italy’s authorities seek out any means to prevent rescues from taking place, a “disproportionate and unfounded measure, purely aimed at further criminalising lifesaving medical-humanitarian action at sea”, as MSF noted.[5] Unfortunately, these sustained attacks showed effect. On the 6th of December, SOS Med and MSF announced the termination of its mission: “European policies and obstruction tactics have forced [us] to terminate the lifesaving operations carried out by the search and rescue vessel Aquarius.” As the MSF general director said: “This is a dark day. Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.”[6]

    And yet, despite this ongoing sabotage of civil rescue from the EU and its member states, three vessels of the Spanish, German, and Italian organisations Open Arms, Sea-Watch and Mediterranea returned to the deadliest area of the Mediterranean in late November.[7] This return is also significance for Alarm Phone work in the Central Mediterranean: once again we have non-governmental allies at sea who will not only document what is going on along the deadliest border of the world but actively intervene to counter Europe’s border ‘protection’ measures. Shortly after returning, one of the NGOs was called to assist. Fishermen had rescued a group of travellers off the coast of Libya onto their fishing vessel, after they had been abandoned in the water by a Libyan patrol boat, as the fishermen claimed. Rather than ordering their rapid transfer to a European harbour, Italy, Malta and Spain sought out ways to return the 12 people to Libya. The fishing boat, the Nuestra Madre de Loreto, was ill-equipped to care for the people who were weak and needed medical attention. However, they were assisted only by Proactiva Open Arms, and for over a week, the people had to stay on the fishing boat. One of them developed a medical emergency and was eventually brought away in a helicopter. Finally, in early December, they were brought to Malta.[8]

    Around the same time, something rare and remarkable happened. A boat with over 200 people on board reached the Italian harbour of Pozzallo independently, on the 24th of November. Even when they were at the harbour, the authorities refused to allow them to quickly disembark – a irresponsible decision given that the boat was at risk of capsizing. After several hours, all of the people were finally allowed to get off the boat. Italy’s minister of the interior Salvini accused the Maltese authorities of allowing migrant boats to move toward Italian territory.[9] Despite their hardship, the people on the Nuestra Madre de Loreto and the 200 people from this boat, survived. Also the 33 people rescued by the NGO Sea-Watch on the 22nd of December survived. Others, however, did not. In mid-November, a boat left from Algeria with 13 young people on board, intending to reach Sardinia. On the 16th of November, the first body was found, the second a day later. Three survived and stated later that the 10 others had tried to swim to what they believed to be the shore when they saw a light in the distance.[10] In early December, a boat with 25 people on board left from Sabratha/Libya, and 15 of them did not survive. As a survivor reported, they had been at sea for 12 days without food and water.[11]

    Despite the overall decrease in crossings, what has been remarkable in this region is that the people escaping have more frequently informed the Alarm Phone directly than before. The case mentioned earlier, from the 20th of December, when people from a convoy of 3 boats carrying 313 people in total reached out to us, exemplifies this. Detected by the Colibri reconnaissance aircraft and rescued by Proactiva, this case demonstrates powerfully what international solidarity can achieve, despite all attempts by EU member states and institutions to create a zone of death in the Central Mediterranean Sea.
    Developments in the Western Mediterranean Sea

    Over the past six weeks covered by this report, the Alarm Phone witnessed several times what happens when Spanish and Moroccan authorities shift responsibilities and fail to respond quickly to boats in distress situations. Repeatedly we had to pressurise the Spanish authorities publicly before they launched a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation. And still, many lives were lost at sea. On Moroccan land, the repression campaign against Sub-Saharan travellers and residents continues. On the 30th of November, an Alarm Phone member was, yet again, arrested and deported towards the South of Morocco, to Tiznit, along with many other people. (h https://alarmphone.org/en/2018/12/04/alarm-phone-member-arrested-and-deported-in-morocco/?post_type_release_type=post). Other friends in Morocco have informed us about the deportation of large groups from Nador to Tiznit. Around the 16th of December, 400 people were forcibly removed, and on the 17th of December, another 300 people were deported to Morocco’s south. This repression against black residents and travellers in Morocco is one of the reasons for many to decide to leave via the sea. This has meant that also during the winter, cross-Mediterranean movements remain high. On just one weekend, the 8th-9th of December, 535 people reached Andalusia/Spain.[12]

    Whilst people are constantly resisting the border regime by acts of disobedience when they cross the borders clandestinely, acts of resistance take place also on the ground in Morocco, where associations and individuals are continuously struggling for the freedom of movement for all. In early December, an Alarm Phone delegation participated at an international conference in Rabat/Morocco, in order to discuss with members of other associations and collectives from Africa and Europe about the effects of the outsourcing and militarisation of European borders in the desire to further criminalise and prevent migration movements. We were among 400 people and were impressed by the many contributions from people who live and struggle in very precarious situations, by the uplifting atmosphere, and by the many accounts and expressions of solidarity. Days later, during the international meeting in Marrakesh on the ‘Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration’, the Alarm Phone was part of a counter-summit, protesting the international pact on migration which is not meant to reduce borders between states, but to curtail the freedom of movement of the many in the name of ‘legal’ and ‘regulated’ migration. The Alarm Phone delegation was composed of 20 activists from the cities of Tangier, Oujda, Berkane, Nador and Fes. One of our colleagues sums up the event: “We have expressed our ideas and commitments as Alarm Phone, solemnly and strongly in front of the other organisations represented. We have espoused the vision of freedom of movement, a vision without precedent. A vision which claims symbolically all human rights and which has the power to help migrants on all continents to feel protected.” In light of the Marrakesh pact, several African organisations joined together and published a statement rejecting “…the wish to confine Africans within their countries by strengthening border controls, in the deserts, at sea and in airports.”[13]

    Shortly after the international meeting in Marrakesh, the EU pledged €148 million to support Morocco’s policy of migrant containment, thus taking steps towards making it even more difficult, and therefore more dangerous for many people on the African continent to exercise their right to move freely, under the pretext of “combating smuggling”. Making the journeys across the Mediterranean more difficult does not have the desired effect of ending illegalised migration. As the routes to Spain from the north of Morocco have become more militarised following a summer of many successful crossings, more southern routes have come into use again. These routes, leading to the Spanish Canary Islands, force travellers to overcome much longer distances in the Atlantic Ocean, a space without phone coverage and with a heightened risk to lose one’s orientation. On the 18th of November, 22 people lost their lives at sea, on their way from Tiznit to the Canary Islands.[14] Following a Spanish-Frontex collaboration launched in 2006, this route to the Canary Islands has not been used very frequently, but numbers have increased this year, with Moroccan nationals being the largest group of arrivals.[15]
    Developments in the Aegean Sea

    Over the final weeks of 2018, between the 12th of November and the 23rd of December, 78 boats arrived on the Greek islands while 116 boats were stopped by the Turkish coastguards and returned to Turkey. This means that there were nearly 200 attempts to cross into Europe by boat over five weeks, and about 40 percent of them were successful.[16] Over the past six weeks, the Alarm Phone was involved in a total of 19 cases in this region. 6 of the boats arrived in Samos, 3 of them in Chios, and one each on Lesvos, Agathonisi, Farmkonisi, and Symi. 4 boats were returned to Turkey (3 of them rescued, 1 intercepted by the Turkish coastguards). In one distress situation, a man lost his life and another man had to be brought to the hospital due to hypothermia. Moreover, the Alarm Phone was alerted to 2 cases along the Turkish-Greek land border. While in one case their fate remains uncertain, the other group of people were forcibly pushed-back to Turkey.

    Thousands of people still suffering in inhuman conditions in hotspots: When we assist boats crossing the Aegean Sea, the people are usually relieved and happy when arriving on the islands, at least they have survived. However, this moment of happiness often turns into a state of shock when they enter the so-called ‘hotspots’. Over 12,500 people remain incarcerated there, often living in tents and containers unsuitable for winter in the five EU-sponsored camps on Lesvos, Samos, Chios, Kos, and Leros. In addition to serious overcrowding, asylum seekers continue to face unsanitary and unhygienic conditions and physical violence, including gender-based violence. Doctors without Borders has reported on a measles outbreak in Greek camps and conducted a vaccination campaign.[17] Amnesty International and 20 other organizations have published a collective call: “As winter approaches all asylum seekers on the Aegean islands must be transferred to suitable accommodation on the mainland or relocated to other EU countries. […] The EU-Turkey deal containment policy imposes unjustified and unnecessary suffering on asylum seekers, while unduly limiting their rights.”

    The ‘humanitarian’ crisis in the hotspots is the result of Greece’s EU-backed policy of containing asylum seekers on the Aegean islands until their asylum claims are adjudicated or until it is determined that they fall into one of the ‘vulnerable’ categories listed under Greek law. But as of late November, an estimated 2,200 people identified as eligible for transfer are still waiting as accommodation facilities on the mainland are also severely overcrowded. Those who are actually transferred from the hotspot on Lesvos to the Greek mainland are brought to far away camps or empty holiday resorts without infrastructure and without a sufficient number of aid workers.

    Criminalisation along Europe’s Eastern Sea Border: A lot has been written about the many attempts to criminalise NGOs and activists carrying out Search and Rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Much less publicly acknowledged are the many cases in which migrant travellers themselves become criminalised for their activist involvement, often for protesting against the inhuman living conditions and the long waiting times for the asylum-interviews. The case of the ‘Moria 35’ on Lesvos was a case in point, highlighting how a few individual protesters were randomly selected by authorities to scare others into silence and obedience. The Legal Centre Lesvos followed this case closely until the last person of the 35 was released and they shared their enquiries with “a 15-month timeline of injustice and impunity” on their website: “On Thursday 18th October, the last of the Moria 35 were released from detention. Their release comes one year and three months – to the day – after the 35 men were arbitrarily arrested and subject to brutal police violence in a raid of Moria camp following peaceful protests, on July 18th 2017.” While the Legal Centre Lesbos welcomes the fact that all 35 men were finally released, they should never have been imprisoned in the first place. They will not get back the 10 to 15 months they spent in prison. Moreover, even after release, most of the 35 men remain in a legally precarious situation. While 6 were granted asylum in Greece, the majority struggles against rejected asylum claims. Three were already deported. One individual was illegally deported without having exhausted his legal remedies in Greece while another individual, having spent 9 months in pre-trial detention, signed up for so-called ‘voluntary’ deportation.[18] In the meantime, others remain in prison to await their trials that will take place with hardly any attention of the media.

    Humanitarian activists involved in spotting and rescue released after 3 months: The four activists, Sarah Mardini, Nassos Karakitsos, Panos Moraitis and Sean Binder, were released on the 6th of December 2018 after having been imprisoned for three months. They had been held in prolonged pre-trial detention for their work with the non-profit organization Emergency Response Center International (ERCI), founded by Moraitis. The charges misrepresented the group as a smuggling crime ring, and its legitimate fundraising activities as money laundering. The arrests forced the group to cease its operations, including maritime search and rescue, the provision of medical care, and non-formal education to asylum seekers. They are free without geographical restrictions but the case is not yet over. Mardini and Binder still face criminal charges possibly leading to decades in prison.[19] Until 15 February the group ‘Solidarity now!’ is collecting as many signatures as possible to ensure that the Greek authorities drop the case.[20]

    Violent Pushbacks at the Land Border: During the last six weeks, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two groups at the land border separating Turkey and Greece. In both situations, the travellers had already reached Greek soil, but ended up on Turkish territory. Human Right Watch (HRW) published another report on the 18th of December about violent push-backs in the Evros region: “Greek law enforcement officers at the land border with Turkey in the northeastern Evros region routinely summarily return asylum seekers and migrants […]. The officers in some cases use violence and often confiscate and destroy the migrants’ belongings.”[21] Regularly, migrants were stripped off their phones, money and clothes. According to HRW, most of these incidents happened between April and November 2018.[22] The UNHCR and the Council of Europe’s Committee for Prevention of Torture have published similar reports about violent push backs along the Evros borders.[23]
    CASE REPORTS

    Over the past 6 weeks, the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone was engaged in 38 distress cases, of which 15 took place in the Western Mediterranean, 19 in the Aegean Sea, and 4 in the Central Mediterranean. You can find short summaries and links to the individual reports below.
    Western Mediterranean

    On Tuesday the 13th of November at 6.17pm, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a relative to a group of travellers who had left two days earlier from around Orán heading towards Murcia. They were around nine people, including women and children, and the relative had lost contact to the boat. We were also never able to reach the travellers. At 6.46pm we alerted the Spanish search and rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (SM) to the distress of the travellers. For several days we tried to reach the travellers and were in contact with SM about the ongoing rescue operation. We were never able to reach the travellers or get any news from the relative. Thus, we are still unsure if the group managed to reach land somewhere on their own, or if they will add to the devastating number of people having lost their lives at sea (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1085).

    On Thursday the 22nd of November, at 5.58pm CET, the Alarm Phone received news about a boat of 11 people that had left Nador 8 hours prior. The shift team was unable to immediately enter into contact with the boat, but called Salvamento Maritimo to convey all available information. At 11.48am the following day, the shift team received word from a traveler on the boat that they were safe (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1088).

    At 7.25am CET on November 24, 2018, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat of 70 people (including 8 women and 1 child) that had departed from Nador 3 days prior. The shift team was able to reach the boat at 7.50am and learned that their motor had stopped working. The shift team called Salvamento Maritimo, who had handed the case over to the Moroccan authorities. The shift team contacted the MRCC, who said they knew about the boat but could not find them, so the shift team mobilized their contacts to find the latest position and sent it to the coast guard at 8.55am. Rescue operations stalled for several hours. At around 2pm, the shift team received news that rescue operations were underway by the Marine Royale. The shift team remained in contact with several people and coast guards until the next day, when it was confirmed that the boat had finally been rescued and that there were at least 15 fatalities (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1087).

    On Friday the 7th of December 2018, we were alerted to two boats in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. One boat was brought to Algeria, the second boat rescued by Moroccan fishermen and returned to Morocco (see for full report: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1098).

    On Saturday, the 8th of December 2018, we were informed by a contact person at 3.25pm CET to a boat in distress that had left from Nador/Morocco during the night, at about 1am. There were 57 people on the boat, including 8 women and a child. We tried to establish contact to the boat but were unable to reach them. At 4.50pm, the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) informed us that they were already searching for this boat. At 8.34pm, SM stated that this boat had been rescued. Some time later, also our contact person confirmed that the boat had been found and rescued to Spain (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1099).

    On Monday the 10th of December, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to three boats in the Western Med. Two had left from around Nador, and one from Algeria. One boat was rescued by the Spanish search and rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo, one group of travellers returned back to Nador on their own, and the boat from Algeria returned to Algeria (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1101).

    On Wednesday the 12th of December the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted two boats in the Western Med, one carrying seven people, the other carrying 12 people. The first boat was rescued by the Spanish search and rescue organization Salvamento Maritimo (SM), whilst the second boat was intercepted by the Moroccan Navy and brought back to Morocco, where we were informed that the travellers were held imprisoned (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1102).

    On December 21st, 2018, we were informed of two boats in distress in the Western Mediterranean Sea. The first had left from Algeria and was probably rescued to Spain. The other one had departed from Tangier and was rescued by the Marine Royale and brought back to Morocco (for full report, see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1110).

    On the 22nd of December, at 5.58pm CET, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat of 81 people (including 7 women) that had left the previous day from Nador. The motor was not working properly. They informed that they were in touch with Salvamiento Maritimo but as they were still in Moroccan waters, Salvamiento Maritimo said they were unable to perform rescue operations. The shift team had difficulty maintaining contact with the boat over the course of the next few hours. The shift team also contacted Salvamiento Maritimo who confirmed that they knew about the case. At 7.50pm, Salvamiento Maritimo informed the shift team that they would perform the rescue operations and confirmed the operation at 8.15pm. We later got the confirmation by a contact person that the people were rescued to Spain (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1111).

    On the 23rd of December 2018, at 1.14am CET, the Alarm Phone received an alert of a boat with 11 men and 1 woman who left from Cap Spartel at Saturday the 22nd of December. The Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to this rubber boat in the early hours of Sunday the 23rd of December. The shift team informed the Spanish Search and Rescue organisation Salvamento Maritimo (SM) at 4:50am CET about the situation and provided them with GPS coordinates of the boat. SM, however, rejected responsibility and shifted it to the Moroccan authorities but also the Moroccan Navy did not rescue the people. Several days later, the boat remains missing (see for full report: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1112).
    Aegean Sea

    On Saturday the 17th of November the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two boats in the Aegean Sea. The first boat returned back to Turkey, whilst the second boat reached Samos on their own (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1086).

    On the 19th of November at 8.40pm CET the shift team was alerted to a boat of 11 travelers in distress near the Turkish coast on its way to Kos. The shift team called the Turkish Coastguard to inform them of the situation. At 9.00pm, the Coastguard called back to confirm they found the boat and would rescue the people. The shift team lost contact with the travelers. At 9.35pm, the Turkish coast guard informed the shift team that the boat was sunk, one man died and one person had hypothermia and would be brought to the hospital. The other 9 people were safe and brought back to Turkey (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1090).

    On the 20th of November at 4.07am CET, the shift team was alerted to a boat with about 50 travelers heading to Samos. The shift team contacted the travelers but the contact was broken for both language and technological reasons. The Alarm Phone contacted the Greek Coastguard about rescue operations. At 7.02am, the shift team was told that a boat of 50 people had been rescued, and the news was confirmed later on, although the shift team could not obtain direct confirmation from the travelers themselves (see:http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1089).

    On the 23rd of November at 7.45pm CET, the Alarm Phone was contacted regarding a group of 19 people, (including 2 women, 1 of whom was pregnant, and a child) who had crossed the river Evros/ Meric and the Turkish-Greek landborder 3 days prior. The shift team first contacted numerous rescue and protection agencies, including UNHCR and the Greek Police, noting that the people were already in Greece and wished to apply for asylum. Until today we remained unable to find out what happened to the people (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1091).

    On the 26th of November at 6:54am CET the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a group of 30 people (among them 7 children and a pregnant woman) who were stranded on the shore in southern Turkey, close to Kas. They wanted us to call the Turkish coastguard so at 7:35am we provided the coastguard with the information we had. At 8:41am we received a photograph from our contact person showing rescue by the Turkish coastguard (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1092).

    On the 29th of November at 4am CET the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat carrying 44 people (among them 19 children and some pregnant women) heading towards the Greek island of Samos. Shortly afterwards the travellers landed on Samos and because of their difficulties orienting themselves we alerted the local authorities. At 9:53am the port police told us that they had rescued 44 people. They were taken to the refugee camp (see: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1093).

    On Monday, the 3rd of December 2018, the Alarm Phone was alerted at 5.30am CET to a boat in distress south of Chios, with 43 people on board, among them 14 children. We were able to reach the boat at 5.35am. When we received their position, we informed the Greek coastguards at 7.30am and forwarded an updated GPS position to them ten minutes later. At 8.52am, the coastguards confirmed the rescue of the boat. The people were brought to Chios Island. On the next day, the people themselves confirmed that they had all safely reached Greece (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1095).

    On Tuesday the 4th of December 2018, at 6.20am CET, the Alarm Phone was alerted to a boat in distress near Agathonisi Island. There were about 40 people on board. We established contact to the boat at 6.38am. At 6.45am, we alerted the Greek coastguards. The situation was dangerous as the people on board reported of high waves. At 9.02am, the Greek coastguards confirmed that they had just rescued the boat. The people were brought to Agathonisi (see for full report: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1096).

    On Wednesday the 5th of December 2018, at 00:08am CET, the Alarm Phone was alerted by a contact person to a boat in distress near Chios Island, carrying about 50 people. We received their GPS position at 00.17am and informed the Greek coastguards to the case at 00.30am. At 00.46am, we learned from the contact person that a boat had just been rescued. The Greek authorities confirmed this when we called them at 00.49am. At around 1pm, the people from the boat confirmed that they had been rescued (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1097).

    On Friday the 7th of December 2018, the Alarm Phone was contacted at 5.53am CET by a contact person and informed about a group of 19 people who had crossed the Evros river to Greece and needed assistance. We assisted them for days, but at some point contact was lost. We know that they were returned to Turkey and thus suspect an illegal push-back operation (see for full report: http://watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1109).

    On Thursday the 13th of December the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two boats in the Aegean sea. In both cases we were not able to reach the travellers, but we were in contact with both the Turkish and Greek coast guard and were in the end able to confirm that one boat had arrived to Lesvos on their own, whilst the others had been rescued by Turkish fishermen (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/reports/view/1100).

    On the 17th of December, 2018, at 6.39am, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to a boat of 60 travellers. Water was entering the boat, and so the travelers were in distress. Though the shift team had a difficult time remaining in contact with the boat, they contacted the Greek Coastguard to inform them of the situation and the position of the boat. Although the team was not able to remain in contact with the travelers, they received confirmation at 8.18am that the boat had been brought to Greece (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1103).

    On the 18th of December at 2.11am CET, the Alarm Phone was alerted to two boats. The first, of 29 travellers, had landed on the island of Symi and needed help to exit the place of landing. The second was a boat of 54 travellers (including 16 children, and 15 women) that was rescued by the Greek Coastguard later (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1104).

    On the 21st of December, our shift teams were alerted to 2 boats on the Aegean. The first boat was directed to Chios Island and was likely rescued by the Greek Coastguard. The second boat was in immediate distress and after the shift team contacted the Greek Coastguard they rescued the boat (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1105).

    On the 23rd of December 2018 at 6am CET, the Alarm Phone received information about a boat in distress heading to Samos with around 60 travellers (including 30 children and 8 women, 4 pregnant). The shift team made contact with the boat and was informed that one of the women was close to giving birth and so the situation was very urgent. The shift team then called the Greek Coast Guard. At 8.07am, the shift team received confirmation that the boat had been rescued (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1106).
    Central Mediterranean

    On Monday the 12th of November at 6.57pm, the Alarm Phone was called by a relative, asking for help to find out what had happened to his son, who had been on a boat from Algeria towards Sardinia, with around 11 travellers on the 8t of November. Following this, the Alarm Phone was contacted by several relatives informing us about missing people from this boat. Our shift teams tried to gain an understanding of the situation, and for days we stayed in contact with the relatives and tried to support them, but it was not possible to obtain information about what had happened to the travellers (see: http://www.watchthemed.net/index.php/reports/view/1094).

    On November 23rd at 1.24pm CET, the Alarm Phone shift team was called by a boat of 120 travelers that was in distress and had left the Libyan coast the night before. The shift team remained in touch with the boat for several hours, and helped recharge their phone credit when it expired. As the boat was in distress, and there were no available NGO operations near the boat, the shift team had no choice but to contact the Italian Coast Guard, but they refused to engage in Search and Rescue (SAR) activities, and instead told the Libyan Coastguard. The boat was intercepted and returned to Libya (see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1107).

    On December 20th, 2018, the Alarm Phone shift team was alerted to two cases in the Central Mediterranean Sea. The first was a boat of 20 people that was intercepted and brought back to Libya. The second concerned 3 boats with 300 people in total, that were rescued by Open Arms and brought to Spain (for full report see: http://watchthemed.net/reports/view/1108).

    https://alarmphone.org/en/2018/12/27/and-yet-we-move-2018-a-contested-year/?post_type_release_type=post

  • How language problems bedevil the response to crises

    SITTING ON A muddy floor beneath a tarpaulin roof, Nabila, a 19-year-old Bangladeshi, fiddles with her shoelaces as she listens to Tosmida, a Rohingya woman in her mid-30s. Both are crying. Nabila, a student-turned-interpreter, says awkwardly: “She had it from all of them in her secret place.”

    The struggle to tell the story of Tosmida’s gang-rape is not just an emotional but a linguistic one. Since some 700,000 Rohingyas escaped persecution in Myanmar and fled to Bangladesh over a year ago, many Bangladeshis like Nabila have suddenly found themselves with new jobs, as interpreters. Tosmida’s Rohingya and Nabila’s Chittagonian are related but not identical. Interpreters, quickly trained, must try their best to understand another language, and fill in the gaps left by cultural differences—including taboos about what victims can say.


    https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/11/17/how-language-problems-bedevil-the-response-to-crises?fsrc=scn/tw/te/rfd/pe
    #langue #interprétation #interprètes #traduction #trauma #traumatisme #tabou #réfugiés #viol

  • WATCH | “There is a minefield sign and the migrants will go into this area because they know the police won’t be there”. Hans von der Brelie (@euronewsreport) is reporting from the Bosnia-Herzegovina border.

    https://twitter.com/euronews/status/1058409250043633671

    #Bonsie_Herzégovine #Bosnie #migrations #asile #réfugiés #mines_anti-personnel #frontières #Croatie

    Ici le reportage:
    On the ground at the Bosnian-Croatian border where migrant tensions are rising

    Tensions are rising on the Bosnian-Croatian border, where scores of migrants are demanding entry to the European Union, amid reports this week of fresh police clashes, plummeting temperatures and inadequate living conditions.

    Thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing wars and poverty in North Africa and Asia are sleeping rough near the border, which they hope to cross to gain access to the EU.

    Several people were injured on Wednesday in clashes with Croatian police, with migrants accusing officers of beating them and smashing their phones.

    Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders warned that “as temperatures drop the situation becomes more difficult and tensions are rising.”

    Euronews correspondent Hans von der Brelie is at the scene. Take a look at his pictures and videos below to find out what is really happening on the ground:
    https://twitter.com/euronews/status/1058409250043633671
    Matiola and Nazir want to enter the European Union without visas. However, they can’t cross the well-protected Bosnian border with Croatia.

    They are stuck in the northwestern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Bihac, sleeping rough — protected against rain by plastic sheets.

    Tensions are rising on the Bosnian-Croatian border, where scores of migrants are demanding entry to the European Union, amid reports this week of fresh police clashes, plummeting temperatures and inadequate living conditions.

    Thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing wars and poverty in North Africa and Asia are sleeping rough near the border, which they hope to cross to gain access to the EU.

    Several people were injured on Wednesday in clashes with Croatian police, with migrants accusing officers of beating them and smashing their phones.

    Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders warned that “as temperatures drop the situation becomes more difficult and tensions are rising.”

    Euronews correspondent Hans von der Brelie is at the scene. Take a look at his pictures and videos below to find out what is really happening on the ground:

    Matiola and Nazir want to enter the European Union without visas. However, they can’t cross the well-protected Bosnian border with Croatia.

    They are stuck in the northwestern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Bihac, sleeping rough — protected against rain by plastic sheets.

    A torn EU umbrella lays on top of destroyed tents and garbage in a public park of #Bihac.

    Hundreds of migrants had put their tents here, but they are no longer tolerated and the camp was dismantled.


    Migrants rebuild a shelter in Bihac park.

    These friends from the Kurdish part of Iraq have stayed together throughout the difficult journey. They dream of building a future in Germany or France.

    This is 24-year-old Muhamed Suliman. He worked as a taxi driver in Dubai before heading towards Europe. It was "too hot to stay there. Not enough pay. Too many fines,” he said.

    Suliman said his dream is to reach Italy, but there is no way to cross into Croatia.

    “I will try again. Again and again,” he said.

    Wearing plastic sandals, he said Croatian police took his shoes.


    The remains of a dismantled tent camp in Bihac park.

    Kurdish Iraqi migrants discuss their broken smartphone. “The Croatian police smashed it,” they said.

    Ageed, Muhemed, Jalal, Karwan, Lawin, Ahmad, Tahiro are from Iraq. They speak Kurdish.

    They have been staying for many weeks in the public park of Bihac, the starting point to cross illegally over the external EU border.

    They have tried several times to enter Croatia but were always caught by border guards.

    Muhamed claims he was surrounded by seven Croatian policemen and beaten up.

    This is a former students dormitory building in Bihac park, where almost 1,000 migrants and refugees sleep rough. They mainly come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern Africa, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq.

    People cook on an open fire in front of a former students’ dormitory in Bihac.

    The migrants from Pakistan are aiming to cross the nearby external EU border illegally into Croatia and travel further towards Italy, Germany, France and Spain.

    This official tries to detect migrants crossing into Croatia illegally every day and night.

    Ivana and Josip are two of 6,300 police officers controlling the Croatian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    As it prepares to join the EU’s Schengen zone soon, Croatia has invested heavily in human resources.

    “We have really a lot of colleagues around here at the external border of the EU”, Ivana and Josip told Euronews.

    This is just one out of many watchtowers and observation posts on the Croatian side of the external EU border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    “No need to build a border fence here,” says Damir Butina, head of the border police unit in Cetingrad.

    This is the famous “#green_border” between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tiny creek marks the exact borderline.

    The left side of the picture is Croatia, the right is Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Dozens of migrants try to cross the border every day and every night. While there is no fence, there is hidden high tech surveillance all around. You move — and you will be detected.

    https://www.euronews.com/2018/11/02/on-the-ground-at-the-bosnian-croatian-border-where-migrant-tensions-are-ri
    #frontière_verte #militarisation_des_frontières

  • Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward

    Uganda’s refugee policy urgently needs an honest discussion, if sustainable solutions for both refugees and host communities are to be found, a new policy paper by International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) reveals.

    The paper, entitled Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward puts the “Ugandan model” in its historical and political context, shines a spotlight on its implementation gaps, and proposes recommendations for the way forward.

    Uganda has since 2013 opened its borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan, bringing the total number of refugees to more than one million. It has been praised for its positive steps on freedom of movement and access to work for refugees, going against the global grain. But generations of policy, this paper shows, have only entrenched the sole focus on refugee settlements and on repatriation as the only viable durable solution. Support to urban refugees and local integration have been largely overlooked.

    The Ugandan refugee crisis unfolded at the same time as the UN adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and states committed to implement a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Uganda immediately seized this opportunity and adopted its own strategy to implement these principles. As the world looks to Uganda for best practices in refugee policy, and rightly so, it is vital to understand the gaps between rhetoric and reality, and the pitfalls of Uganda’s policy. This paper identifies the following challenges:

    There is a danger that the promotion of progressive refugee policies becomes more rhetoric than reality, creating a smoke-screen that squeezes out meaningful discussion about robust alternatives. Policy-making has come at the expense of real qualitative change on the ground.
    Refugees in urban areas continue to be largely excluded from any support due to an ongoing focus on refugee settlements, including through aid provision
    Local integration and access to citizenship have been virtually abandoned, leaving voluntary repatriation as the only solution on the table. Given the protracted crises in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, this remains unrealistic.
    Host communities remain unheard, with policy conversations largely taking place in Kampala and Geneva. Many Ugandans and refugees have neither the economic resources nor sufficient political leverage to influence the policies that are meant to benefit them.

    The policy paper proposes a number of recommendations to improve the Ugandan refugee model:

    First, international donors need to deliver on their promise of significant financial support.
    Second, repatriation cannot remain the only serious option on the table. There has to be renewed discussion on local integration with Uganda communities and a dramatic increase in resettlement to wealthier states across the globe.
    Third, local communities hosting refugees must be consulted and their voices incorporated in a more meaningful and systematic way, if tensions within and between communities are to be avoided.
    Fourth, in order to genuinely enhance refugee self-reliance, the myth of the “local settlement” needs to be debunked and recognized for what it is: the ongoing isolation of refugees and the utilization of humanitarian assistance to keep them isolated and dependent on aid.


    http://refugee-rights.org/uganda-refugee-policies-the-history-the-politics-the-way-forward
    #modèle_ougandais #Ouganda #asile #migrations #réfugiés

    Pour télécharger le #rapport:
    http://refugee-rights.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IRRI-Uganda-policy-paper-October-2018-Paper.pdf

    • A New Deal for Refugees

      Global policies that aim to resettle and integrate displaced populations into local societies is providing a way forward.

      For many years now, groups that work with refugees have fought to put an end to the refugee camp. It’s finally starting to happen.

      Camps are a reasonable solution to temporary dislocation. But refugee crises can go on for decades. Millions of refugees have lived in their country of shelter for more than 30 years. Two-thirds of humanitarian assistance — intended for emergencies — is spent on crises that are more than eight years old.

      Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle. “You keep people for 20 years in camps — don’t expect the next generation to be problem-free,” said Xavier Devictor, who advises the World Bank on refugee issues. “Keeping people in those conditions is not a good idea.” It’s also hard to imagine a better breeding ground for terrorists.

      “As long as the system is ‘we feed you,’ it’s always going to be too expensive for the international community to pay for,” Mr. Devictor said. It’s gotten more and more difficult for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to raise that money; in many crises, the refugee agency can barely keep people from starving. It’s even harder now as nations turn against foreigners — even as the number of people fleeing war and violence has reached a record high.

      At the end of last year, nearly 70 million people were either internally displaced in their own countries, or had crossed a border and become a refugee. That is the largest number of displaced in history — yes, more than at the end of World War II. The vast majority flee to neighboring countries — which can be just as badly off.

      Last year, the United States accepted about 30,000 refugees.

      Uganda, which is a global model for how it treats refugees, has one-seventh of America’s population and a tiny fraction of the wealth. Yet it took in 1,800 refugees per day between mid-2016 and mid-2017 from South Sudan alone. And that’s one of four neighbors whose people take refuge in Uganda.

      Bangladesh, already the world’s most crowded major nation, has accepted more than a million Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. “If we can feed 160 million people, then (feeding) another 500,00-700,000 …. We can do it. We can share our food,” Shiekh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, said last year.

      Lebanon is host to approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, in addition to a half-million Palestinians, some of whom have been there for generations. One in three residents of Lebanon is a refugee.

      The refugee burden falls heavily on a few, poor countries, some of them at risk of destabilization, which can in turn produce more refugees. The rest of the world has been unwilling to share that burden.

      But something happened that could lead to real change: Beginning in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees crossed the Mediterranean in small boats and life rafts into Europe.

      Suddenly, wealthy European countries got interested in fixing a broken system: making it more financially viable, more dignified for refugees, and more palatable for host governments and communities.

      In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution stating that all countries shared the responsibility of protecting refugees and supporting host countries. It also laid out a plan to move refugees out of camps into normal lives in their host nations.

      Donor countries agreed they would take more refugees and provide more long-term development aid to host countries: schools, hospitals, roads and job-creation measures that can help both refugees and the communities they settle in. “It looked at refugee crises as development opportunities, rather than a humanitarian risk to be managed,” said Marcus Skinner, a policy adviser at the International Rescue Committee.

      The General Assembly will vote on the specifics next month (whatever they come up with won’t be binding). The Trump administration pulled out of the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration, but so far it has not opposed the refugee agreement.

      There’s a reason refugee camps exist: Host governments like them. Liberating refugees is a hard sell. In camps, refugees are the United Nations’ problem. Out of camps, refugees are the local governments’ problem. And they don’t want to do anything to make refugees comfortable or welcome.

      Bangladesh’s emergency response for the Rohingya has been staggeringly generous. But “emergency” is the key word. The government has resisted granting Rohingya schooling, work permits or free movement. It is telling Rohingya, in effect, “Don’t get any ideas about sticking around.”

      This attitude won’t deter the Rohingya from coming, and it won’t send them home more quickly. People flee across the closest border — often on foot — that allows them to keep their families alive. And they’ll stay until home becomes safe again. “It’s the simple practicality of finding the easiest way to refuge,” said Victor Odero, regional advocacy coordinator for East Africa and the Horn of Africa at the International Rescue Committee. “Any question of policies is a secondary matter.”

      So far, efforts to integrate refugees have had mixed success. The first experiment was a deal for Jordan, which was hosting 650,000 Syrian refugees, virtually none of whom were allowed to work. Jordan agreed to give them work permits. In exchange, it got grants, loans and trade concessions normally available only to the poorest countries.

      However, though the refugees have work permits, Jordan has put only a moderate number of them into jobs.

      Any agreement should include the views of refugees from the start — the Jordan Compact failed to do this. Aid should be conditioned upon the right things. The deal should have measured refugee jobs, instead of work permits. Analysts also said the benefits should have been targeted more precisely, to reach the areas with most refugees.

      To spread this kind of agreement to other nations, the World Bank established a $2 billion fund in July 2017. The money is available to very poor countries that host many refugees, such as Uganda and Bangladesh. In return, they must take steps to integrate refugees into society. The money will come as grants and zero interest loans with a 10-year grace period. Middle-income countries like Lebanon and Colombia would also be eligible for loans at favorable rates under a different fund.

      Over the last 50 years, only one developing country has granted refugees full rights. In Uganda, refugees can live normally. Instead of camps there are settlements, where refugees stay voluntarily because they get a plot of land. Refugees can work, live anywhere, send their children to school and use the local health services. The only thing they can’t do is become Ugandan citizens.

      Given the global hostility to refugees, it is remarkable that Ugandans still approve of these policies. “There have been flashes of social tension or violence between refugees and their hosts, mostly because of a scarcity of resources,” Mr. Odero said. “But they have not become widespread or protracted.”

      This is the model the United Nations wants the world to adopt. But it is imperiled even in Uganda — because it requires money that isn’t there.

      The new residents are mainly staying near the South Sudan border in Uganda’s north — one of the least developed parts of the country. Hospitals, schools, wells and roads were crumbling or nonexistent before, and now they must serve a million more people.

      Joël Boutroue, the head of the United Nations refugee agency in Uganda, said current humanitarian funding covered a quarter of what the crisis required. “At the moment, not even half of refugees go to primary school,” he said. “There are around 100 children per classroom.”

      Refugees are going without food, medical care and water. The plots of land they get have grown smaller and smaller.

      Uganda is doing everything right — except for a corruption scandal. It could really take advantage of the new plan to develop the refugee zone. That would not only help refugees, it would help their host communities. And it would alleviate growing opposition to rights for refugees. “The Ugandan government is under pressure from politicians who see the government giving favored treatment to refugees,” Mr. Boutroue said. “If we want to change the perception of refugees from recipients of aid to economic assets, we have to showcase that refugees bring development.”

      The World Bank has so far approved two projects — one for water and sanitation and one for city services such as roads and trash collection. But they haven’t gotten started yet.

      Mr. Devictor said that tackling long-term development issues was much slower than providing emergency aid. “The reality is that it will be confusing and confused for a little while,” he said. Water, for example, is trucked in to Uganda’s refugee settlements, as part of humanitarian aid. “That’s a huge cost,” he said. “But if we think this crisis is going to last for six more months, it makes sense. If it’s going to last longer, we should think about upgrading the water system.”

      Most refugee crises are not surprises, Mr. Devictor said. “If you look at a map, you can predict five or six crises that are going to produce refugees over the next few years.” It’s often the same places, over and over. That means developmental help could come in advance, minimizing the burden on the host. “Do we have to wait until people cross the border to realize we’re going to have an emergency?” he said.

      Well, we might. If politicians won’t respond to a crisis, it’s hard to imagine them deciding to plan ahead to avert one. Political commitment, or lack of it, always rules. The world’s new approach to refugees was born out of Europe’s panic about the Syrians on their doorstep. But no European politician is panicking about South Sudanese or Rohingya refugees — or most crises. They’re too far away. The danger is that the new approach will fall victim to the same political neglect that has crippled the old one.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/opinion/refugee-camps-integration.html

      #Ouganda #modèle_ougandais #réinstallation #intégration

      avec ce commentaire de #Jeff_Crisp sur twitter :

      “Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle.”
      Has this prizewinning author actually been to a refugee camp?

      https://twitter.com/JFCrisp/status/1031892657117831168

    • Appreciating Uganda’s ‘open door’ policy for refugees

      While the rest of the world is nervous and choosing to take an emotional position on matters of forced migration and refugees, sometimes closing their doors in the face of people who are running from persecution, Uganda’s refugee policy and practice continues to be liberal, with an open door to all asylum seekers, writes Arthur Matsiko

      http://thisisafrica.me/appreciating-ugandas-open-door-policy-refugees

    • Ouganda. La générosité intéressée du pays le plus ouvert du monde aux réfugiés

      L’Ouganda est le pays qui accueille le plus de réfugiés. Un million de Sud-Soudanais fuyant la guerre s’y sont installés. Mais cette noble intention des autorités cache aussi des calculs moins avouables : l’arrivée massive de l’aide internationale encourage l’inaction et la #corruption.

      https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/ouganda-la-generosite-interessee-du-pays-le-plus-ouvert-du-mo

    • Refugees in Uganda to benefit from Dubai-funded schools but issues remain at crowded settlement

      Dubai Cares is building three classrooms in a primary school at Ayilo II but the refugee settlement lacks a steady water supply, food and secondary schools, Roberta Pennington writes from Adjumani


      https://www.thenational.ae/uae/refugees-in-uganda-to-benefit-from-dubai-funded-schools-but-issues-remai

    • FUGA DAL SUD SUDAN. LUIS, L’UGANDA E QUEL PEZZO DI TERRA DONATA AI PROFUGHI

      Luis zappa, prepara dei fori per tirare su una casa in attesa di ritrovare la sua famiglia. Il terreno è una certezza, glielo ha consegnato il Governo ugandese. Il poterci vivere con i suoi cari non ancora. L’ultima volta li ha visti in Sud Sudan. Nel ritornare a casa sua moglie e i suoi otto figli non c’erano più. É sicuro si siano messi in cammino verso l’Uganda, così da quel giorno è iniziata la sua rincorsa. É certo che li ritroverà nella terra che ora lo ha accolto. Quella di Luis è una delle tante storie raccolte nei campi profughi del nord dell’Uganda, in una delle ultime missioni di Amref, in cui era presente anche Giusi Nicolini, già Sindaco di Lampedusa e Premio Unesco per la pace. 



      Modello Uganda? Dell’Uganda il mondo dice «campione di accoglienza». Accoglienza che sta sperimentando da mesi nei confronti dei profughi sud sudanesi, che scappano da uno dei Paesi più drammaticamente in crisi al mondo. Sono 4 milioni le persone che in Sud Sudan hanno dovuto lasciare le proprie case. Chi muovendosi verso altri Paesi e chi in altre regioni sud sudanesi. In questi ultimi tempi arrivano in Uganda anche persone che fuggono dalla Rep. Democratica del Congo.

      https://www.amref.it/2018_02_23_Fuga_dal_Sud_Sudan_Luis_lUganda_e_quel_pezzo_di_terra_donata_ai_pro

    • As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them

      President Trump is vowing to send the military to stop migrants trudging from Central America. Europe’s leaders are paying African nations to block migrants from crossing the Mediterranean — and detaining the ones who make it in filthy, overcrowded camps.

      But Solomon Osakan has a very different approach in this era of rising xenophobia. From his uncluttered desk in northwest Uganda, he manages one of the largest concentrations of refugees anywhere in the world: more than 400,000 people scattered across his rural district.

      He explained what he does with them: Refugees are allotted some land — enough to build a little house, do a little farming and “be self-sufficient,” said Mr. Osakan, a Ugandan civil servant. Here, he added, the refugees live in settlements, not camps — with no barbed wire, and no guards in sight.

      “You are free, and you can come and go as you want,” Mr. Osakan added.

      As many nations are securing their borders and turning refugees away, Uganda keeps welcoming them. And they keep coming, fleeing catastrophes from across this part of Africa.

      In all, Uganda has as many as 1.25 million refugees on its soil, perhaps more, making it one of the most welcoming countries in the world, according to the United Nations.

      And while Uganda’s government has made hosting refugees a core national policy, it works only because of the willingness of rural Ugandans to accept an influx of foreigners on their land and shoulder a big part of the burden.

      Uganda is not doing this without help. About $200 million in humanitarian aid to the country this year will largely pay to feed and care for the refugees. But they need places to live and small plots to farm, so villages across the nation’s north have agreed to carve up their communally owned land and share it with the refugees, often for many years at a time.

      “Our population was very few and our community agreed to loan the land,” said Charles Azamuke, 27, of his village’s decision in 2016 to accept refugees from South Sudan, which has been torn apart by civil war. “We are happy to have these people. We call them our brothers.”

      United Nations officials have pointed to Uganda for its “open border” policy. While the United States, a much more populous nation, has admitted more than three million refugees since 1975, the American government settles them in the country after they have first been thoroughly screened overseas.

      By contrast, Uganda has essentially opened its borders to refugees, rarely turning anyone away.

      Some older Ugandans explain that they, too, had been refugees once, forced from their homes during dictatorship and war. And because the government ensures that spending on refugees benefits Ugandans as well, younger residents spoke of how refugees offered them some unexpected opportunities.

      “I was a farmer. I used to dig,” Mr. Azamuke said. But after learning Arabic from refugees from South Sudan, he got a better job — as a translator at a new health clinic that serves the newcomers.

      His town, Ofua, is bisected by a dirt road, with the Ugandans living on the uphill side and the South Sudanese on the downhill side. The grass-thatched homes of the Ugandans look a bit larger and sturdier, but not much.

      As the sun began to set one recent afternoon, a group of men on the Ugandan side began to pass around a large plastic bottle of waragi, a home brew. On the South Sudanese side, the men were sober, gathered around a card game.

      On both sides, the men had nothing but tolerant words for one another. “Actually, we don’t have any problems with these people,” said Martin Okuonzi, a Ugandan farmer cleaning his fingernails with a razor blade.

      As the men lounged, the women and girls were still at work, preparing dinner, tending children, fetching water and gathering firewood. They explained that disputes did arise, especially as the two groups competed for limited resources like firewood.

      “We’ve been chased away,” said Agnes Ajonye, a 27-year-old refugee from South Sudan. “They say we are destroying their forests.”

      And disputes broke out at the well, where Ugandan women insist they should be allowed to skip ahead of refugees.

      “If we hadn’t given you the land you live on, wouldn’t you be dying in Sudan?” said Adili Chandia, a 62-year-old refugee, recounting the lecture she and others got from a frustrated Ugandan woman waiting in line.

      Ugandan officials often talk about the spirit of Pan-Africanism that motivates their approach to refugees. President Yoweri Museveni, an autocratic leader who has been in power for 32 years, says Uganda’s generosity can be traced to the precolonial days of warring kingdoms and succession disputes, when losing factions often fled to a new land.

      This history of flight and resettlement is embedded in some of the names of local groups around western Uganda, like Batagwenda, which means “the ones that could not continue traveling.”

      The government encourages the nation to go along with its policy by directing that 30 percent of foreign aid destined for refugees be spent in ways that benefit Ugandans nearby. So when money for refugees results in new schools, clinics and wells, Ugandans are more likely to welcome than resent them.

      For Mr. Museveni, hosting refugees has given him relevance and political capital abroad at a time when he would otherwise have little.

      A former guerrilla fighter who quickly stabilized much of his country, Mr. Museveni was once hailed as an example of new African leadership. He was relatively quick to confront the AIDS epidemic, and he invited back Ugandans of Indian and Pakistani descent who had been expelled during the brutal reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s.

      But his star has fallen considerably. He has clung to power for decades. His security forces have beaten political opponents. Freedom of assembly and expression are severely curtailed.

      Even so, Uganda’s openness toward refugees makes Mr. Museveni important to European nations, which are uneasy at the prospect of more than a million refugees heading for Europe.

      Other African nations also host a significant number of refugees, but recent polls show that Ugandans are more likely than their neighbors in Kenya or Tanzania to support land assistance or the right to work for refugees.

      Part of the reason is that Ugandans have fled their homes as well, first during the murderous reign of Mr. Amin, then during the period of retribution after his overthrow, and again during the 1990s and 2000s, when Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader who terrorized northern Uganda, left a trail of kidnapped children and mutilated victims.

      Many Ugandans found refuge in what is today South Sudan. Mark Idraku, 57, was a teenager when he fled with his mother to the area. They received two acres of farmland, which helped support them until they returned home six years later.

      “When we were in exile in Sudan, they also helped us,” Mr. Idraku said. “Nobody ever asked for a single coin.”

      Mr. Idraku has since returned the favor, loaning three acres to a South Sudanese refugee named Queen Chandia, 37. Ms. Chandia said the land — along with additional plots other Ugandans allow her to farm — has made all the difference.

      Her homestead of thatched-roof huts teemed with children tending their chores, grinding nuts into paste and maize into meal. Ms. Chandia is the mother of a girl and two boys. But over the years, as violence hollowed out her home country, Ms. Chandia started taking in the orphaned children of relatives and friends. Now 22 children call her “mom.”

      A refugee for nearly her entire life, Ms. Chandia arrived in Uganda as a young girl nearly 30 years ago. For years, she worried about being expelled.
      Image

      “Maybe these Ugandans will change their minds on us,” she said, describing the thought that plagued her. Then one day the worry stopped.

      But Mr. Osakan, the administrator who oversees refugee affairs in the country’s extreme northwest, is anxious. There is an Ebola outbreak over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Osakan fears what might happen if — or when — a refugee turns up in Uganda with the dreaded illness.

      “It would destroy all the harmony between refugees and host communities,” he said, explaining that it would probably lead to calls to seal the border.

      For now, the border is very much open, although the number of refugees arriving has fallen significantly. In one of the newer settlements, many of the refugees came last year, fleeing an attack in a South Sudanese city. But some complained about receiving too little land, about a quarter acre per family, which is less than previous refugees had received.

      “Even if you have skills — in carpentry — you are not given a chance,” said one refugee, Simon Ludoru. He looked over his shoulder, to where a construction crew was building a nursery school. The schoolhouse would teach both local Ugandan and South Sudanese children together, but the workers were almost entirely Ugandan, he said.

      At the construction site, the general contractor, Sam Omongo, 50, said he had hired refugees for the job. “Oh, yes,” he exclaimed.

      How many?

      “Not a lot, actually,” he acknowledged. “I have about three.” Mr. Omongo called one over.

      “Are you a refugee?” Mr. Omongo asked the slight man.

      “No, I’m from Uganda,” he said softly. His name was Amos Chandiga, 28. He lived nearby and owned six acres of land, though he worked only four of them. He had lent the other two to a pair of refugees.

      “They asked me, and I gave it to them,” Mr. Chandiga explained. He patted his chest. “It comes from here, in my heart.”


      https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/28/world/africa/uganda-refugees.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

    • Uganda: a role model for refugee integration?

      Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa and is, after Turkey and Pakistan, the third-largest refugee recipient country worldwide. Political and humanitarian actors have widely praised Ugandan refugee policies because of their progressive nature: In Uganda, in contrast to many other refugee-receiving countries, these are de jure allowed to work, to establish businesses, to access public services such as education, to move freely and have access to a plot of land. Moreover, Uganda is a pilot country of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). In this Working Paper the authors ascertain whether Uganda indeed can be taken as a role model for refugee integration, as largely portrayed in the media and the political discourse. They identify the challenges to livelihoods and integration to assess Uganda’s self-reliance and settlement approach and its aspiration towards providing refugees and Ugandan communities receiving refugees with opportunities for becoming self-reliant. Drawing on three months of field research in northern and southern Uganda from July to September of 2017 with a particular focus on South Sudanese refugees, the authors concentrate on three aspects: Access to land, employment and education, intra- and inter-group relations. The findings show that refugees in Uganda are far from self-reliant and socially integrated. Although in Uganda refugees are provided with land, the quality and size of the allocated plots is so poor that they cannot earn a living from agricultural production, which thus, rather impedes self-reliance. Inadequate infrastructure also hinders access to markets and employment opportunities. Even though most local communities have been welcoming to refugees, the sentiment has shifted recently in some areas, particularly where local communities that are often not better off than refugees feel that they have not benefitted from the presence of refugees....

      https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/handle/document/62871

  • Salvini: chiusura entro le 21 dei negozi etnici. Confesercenti: no a discriminazioni

    Nel #decreto_sicurezza ci sarà un emendamento per prevedere «la chiusura entro le 21 dei negozietti etnici che diventano ritrovo di spacciatori e di gente che fa casino». Lo ha detto il ministro dell’Interno Matteo Salvini in diretta Facebook sottolineando che «non è un’iniziativa contro i negozi stranieri ma per limitare abusi».

    Market etnici, Confesercenti: no a norme discriminatorie
    Contro l’iniziativa annunciata da Salvini si schiera Confesercenti. «Non si può fare una norma che discrimina determinati imprenditori rispetto ad altri. Chi ha un’attività commerciale ha diritti e doveri: il dovere di rispettare le regole e il diritto di restare aperti, sia che siano esercizi gestiti da stranieri, sia che siano esercizi gestiti da italiani» dichiara Mauro Bussoni segretario generale della Confesercenti nazionale.

    Codacons: negozi etnici utili per acquisti “last minute”
    Per il Codacons la chiusura dei “negozietti etnici” deve essere prevista solo nei centri storici delle città italiane e in tutti quei casi in cui gli esercizi in questione
    creino degrado. «Crediamo che in materia di commercio e sicurezza non sia corretto generalizzare - spiega il presidente Carlo Rienzi -. Tali negozi etnici sono molto utili ai consumatori, perché rimangono aperti più a lungo degli altri esercizi e commercializzano una moltitudine di prodotti di diverse categorie, consentendo ai cittadini di fare acquisti “last minute”. Certamente la loro apertura va vietata in tutti quei casi in cui gli esercizi in questione creino disordini, e in modo assoluto nei centri storici delle città, perché la loro presenza alimenta il degrado urbano e danneggia le bellezze artistiche come nel caso di Roma, dove alcune vie del centro sono state trasformate in #suk» conclude Rienzi.


    https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/notizie/2018-10-11/salvini-dl-sicurezza-chiusura-entro-21-negozi-etnici--160739.shtml?uuid

    #magasins_ethniques #ethnicité #negozi_etnici #fermeture #it_has_begun #discriminations #géographie_culturelle #Italie #criminalisation #Italie #sécurité #drogue #magasins #negozi_stranieri #magasins_étrangers #terminologie #mots #vocabulaire

    #lois_raciales?

    • Italy’s Matteo Salvini says ’little ethnic shops’ should close by 9pm

      Minister calls late-night stores mostly run by foreigners ‘meeting place for drug deals’

      Italy’s far-right interior minister has come under fire for a proposal that would force what he calls “little ethnic shops” to close by 9pm.

      Matteo Salvini added the measure to his immigrant-targeting security decree, arguing late-night grocery stores, mostly run by foreigners, are “a meeting place for drug deals and people who raise hell”.

      He claimed the initiative was not specifically aimed at foreigners and was merely a way to “limit the abuses of certain shops”.

      Thousands of grocery stores across Italy are run by immigrants, mainly people from Bangladesh and India, many of whom bought premises for a low price during the financial crisis.

      Mauro Bussoni, the general secretary of Confesercenti, a retail association, said: “You can’t make a law that discriminates some entrepreneurs over others.

      “Those who have a commercial activity have rights and duties: the duty to respect rules and the right to remain open, whether the activity is managed by a foreigner or an Italian.”

      Carlo Rienzi, the president of Codacons, a consumer association, said it was unfair to “generalise”, while noting shops that stayed open late were essential for people seeking “last-minute” purchases. But he agreed there should be a clampdown on outlets that have “created disorder” or “degraded” historical town centres.

      Andrea Marcucci, a politician from the centre-left Democratic party, said imposing curfews was among the premises of “a regime”.

      If the proposal became law, an industry source said, it should also apply to Italian-owned outlets, including bars, while security measures must also extend to foreign business owners.

      “Some say that Italian people go into their shop late at night and try to extort money from them,” said the source. “But they are too afraid to report such incidents to the police.”

      Salvini’s security decree, unveiled in September, includes plans to abolish key protections for immigrants and make it easier for them to be deported.

      On Thursday, he reiterated a plan to hire 10,000 more police officers, an initiative funded by money that previously paid for migrant reception and integration projects. Parliament has until mid-November to debate and modify the decree before it becomes law.

      Salvini’s latest proposal comes after Luigi Di Maio, his coalition partner, said measures would be introduced by the end of the year to limit Sunday trading in an attempt to preserve family traditions.

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/12/italy-matteo-salvini-little-ethnic-shops-foreigners?CMP=share_btn_tw
      #désordre #couvre-feu #décret
      ping @isskein

  • Inside Italy’s Shadow Economy

    #Home_work — working from home or a small workshop as opposed to in a factory — is a cornerstone of the #fast-fashion supply chain. It is particularly prevalent in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, where millions of low-paid and predominantly female home workers are some of the most unprotected in the industry, because of their irregular employment status, isolation and lack of legal recourse.

    That similar conditions exist in Italy, however, and facilitate the production of some of the most expensive wardrobe items money can buy, may shock those who see the “Made in Italy” label as a byword for sophisticated craftsmanship.

    Increased pressure from #globalization and growing competition at all levels of the market mean that the assumption implicit in the luxury promise — that part of the value of such a good is that it is made in the best conditions, by highly skilled workers, who are paid fairly — is at times put under threat.

    Though they are not exposed to what most people would consider sweatshop conditions, the homeworkers are allotted what might seem close to sweatshop wages. Italy does not have a national minimum wage, but roughly €5-7 per hour is considered an appropriate standard by many unions and consulting firms. In extremely rare cases, a highly skilled worker can earn as much as €8-10 an hour. But the homeworkers earn significantly less, regardless of whether they are involved in leatherwork, embroidery or another artisanal task.

    In #Ginosa, another town in Puglia, Maria Colamita, 53, said that a decade ago, when her two children were younger, she had worked from home on wedding dresses produced by local factories, embroidering gowns with pearl paillettes and appliqués for €1.50 to €2 per hour.

    Each gown took 10 to 50 hours to complete, and Ms. Colamita said she worked 16 to 18 hours a day; she was paid only when a garment was complete.

    “I would only take breaks to take care of my children and my family members — that was it,” she said, adding that she currently works as a cleaner and earns €7 per hour. “Now my children have grown up, I can take on a job where I can earn a real wage.”

    Both women said they knew at least 15 other seamstresses in their area who produced luxury fashion garments on a piece-rate basis for local factories from their homes. All live in Puglia, the rural heel of Italy’s boot that combines whitewashed fishing villages and crystal clear waters beloved by tourists with one of the country’s biggest manufacturing hubs.

    Few were willing to risk their livelihoods to tell their tales, because for them the flexibility and opportunity to care for their families while working was worth the meager pay and lack of protections.

    “I know I am not paid what I deserve, but salaries are very low here in Puglia and ultimately I love what I do,” said another seamstress, from the attic workshop in her apartment. “I have done it all my life and couldn’t do anything else.”

    Although she had a factory job that paid her €5 per hour, she worked an additional three hours per day off the books from home, largely on high-quality sample garments for Italian designers at roughly €50 apiece.

    “We all accept that this is how it is,” the woman said from her sewing machine, surrounded by cloth rolls and tape measures.
    ‘Made in Italy,’ but at What Cost?

    Built upon the myriad small- and medium-size export-oriented manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of Europe’s fourth largest economy, the centuries-old foundations of the “Made in Italy” legend have shaken in recent years under the weight of bureaucracy, rising costs and soaring unemployment.

    Businesses in the north, where there are generally more job opportunities and higher wages, have suffered less than those in the south, which were hit hard by the boom in cheap foreign labor that lured many companies into moving production operations abroad.

    Few sectors are as reliant on the country’s manufacturing cachet as the luxury trade, long a linchpin of Italy’s economic growth. It is responsible for 5 percent of Italian gross domestic product, and an estimated 500,000 people were employed directly and indirectly by the luxury goods sector in Italy in 2017, according to data from a report from the University of Bocconi and Altagamma, an Italian luxury trade organization.

    Those numbers have been bolstered by the rosy fortunes of the global luxury market, expected by Bain & Company to grow by 6 to 8 percent, to €276 to €281 billion in 2018, driven in part by the appetite for “Made in Italy” goods from established and emerging markets.

    But the alleged efforts by some luxury brands and lead suppliers to lower costs without undermining quality have taken a toll on those on those operating at the very bottom of the industry. Just how many are affected is difficult to quantify.

    According to data from Istat (the Italian National Institute of Statistics), 3.7 million workers across all sectors worked without contracts in Italy in 2015. More recently, in 2017, Istat counted 7,216 home workers, 3,647 in the manufacturing sector, operating with regular contracts.

    However, there is no official data on those operating with irregular contracts, and no one has attempted to quantify the group for decades. In 1973, the economist Sebastiano Brusco estimated that Italy had one million contracted home workers in apparel production, with a roughly equal figure working without contracts. Few comprehensive efforts have been made to examine the numbers since.

    This New York Times investigation collected evidence of about 60 women in the Puglia region alone working from home without a regular contract in the apparel sector. Tania Toffanin, the author of “Fabbriche Invisibili,” a book on the history of home working in Italy, estimated that currently there are 2,000 to 4,000 irregular home workers in apparel production.

    “The deeper down we go in the supply chain, the greater the abuse,” said Deborah Lucchetti, of #Abiti_Puliti, the Italian arm of #Clean_Clothes_Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group. According to Ms. Lucchetti, the fragmented structure of the global manufacturing sector, made up of thousands of medium to small, often family-owned, businesses, is a key reason that practices like unregulated home working can remain prevalent even in a first world nation like Italy.

    Plenty of Puglian factory managers stressed they adhered to union regulations, treated workers fairly and paid them a living wage. Many factory owners added that almost all luxury names — like Gucci, owned by Kering, for example, or Louis Vuitton, owned by #LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — regularly sent staff to check on working conditions and quality standards.

    When contacted, LVMH declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for MaxMara emailed the following statement: “MaxMara considers an ethical supply chain a key component of the company’s core values reflected in our business practice.”

    He added that the company was unaware of specific allegations of its suppliers using home workers, but had started an investigation this week.

    According to Ms. Lucchetti, the fact that many Italian luxury brands outsource the bulk of manufacturing, rather than use their own factories, has created a status quo where exploitation can easily fester — especially for those out of union or brand sightlines. A large portion of brands hire a local supplier in a region, who will then negotiate contracts with factories in the area on their behalf.

    “Brands commission first lead contractors at the head of the supply chain, which then commission to sub-suppliers, which in turn shift part of the production to smaller factories under the pressure of reduced lead time and squeezed prices,” Ms. Lucchetti said. “That makes it very hard for there to be sufficient transparency or accountability. We know home working exists. But it is so hidden that there will be brands that have no idea orders are being made by irregular workers outside the contracted factories.”

    However, she also called these problems common knowledge, and said, “some brands must know they might be complicit.”

    The ‘Salento Method’

    Certainly that is the view of Eugenio Romano, a former union lawyer who has spent the last five years representing Carla Ventura, a bankrupt factory owner of Keope Srl (formerly CRI), suing the Italian shoe luxury behemoth Tod’s and Euroshoes, a company that Tod’s used as a lead supplier for its Puglian footwear production.

    Initially, in 2011, Ms. Ventura began legal proceedings against only Euroshoes, saying that consistently late payments, shrinking fee rates for orders and outstanding bills owed to her by that company were making it impossible to maintain a profitable factory and pay her workers a fair wage. A local court ruled in her favor, and ordered Euroshoes to pay the debts, which, after appealing unsuccessfully, the company did.

    Orders dried up in the wake of those legal proceedings. Eventually, in 2014, Keope went bankrupt. Now, in a second trial, which has stretched on for years without a significant ruling, Ms. Ventura has brought another action against Euroshoes, and Tod’s, which she says had direct knowledge of Euroshoes’ unlawful business practices. (Tod’s has said it played no role in nor had any knowledge of Euroshoes’ contract issues with Keope. A lawyer for Euroshoes declined to comment for this article.)

    “Part of the problem down here is that employees agree to forgo their rights in order to work,” Mr. Romano said from his office in the town of Casarano, ahead of the next court hearing, scheduled for Sept. 26.

    He spoke of the “Salento method,” a well-known local phrase that means, essentially: “Be flexible, use your methods, you know how to do it down here.”

    The region of Salento has a high unemployment rate, which makes its work force vulnerable. And although brands would never officially suggest taking advantage of employees, some factory owners have told Mr. Romano that there is an underlying message to use a range of means, including underpaying employees and paying them to work at home.

    The area has long been a hub of third-party shoemakers for luxury brands including Gucci, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo and Tod’s. In 2008, Ms. Ventura entered into an exclusive agreement with Euroshoes to become a sub-supplier of shoe uppers destined for Tod’s.

    According to Ms. Ventura’s lawsuit, she then became subject to consistently late payments, as well as an unexplained reduction in prices per unit from €13.48 to €10.73 per shoe upper from 2009 to 2012.

    While many local factories cut corners, including having employees work from home, Ms. Ventura said she still paid full salaries and provided national insurance. Because the contract required exclusivity, other potential manufacturing deals with rival brands including Armani and Gucci, which could have balanced the books, could not be made.

    Production costs were no longer covered, and promises of an increased number of orders from Tod’s via Euroshoes never came, according to the legal papers filed in Ms. Ventura’s case.

    In 2012, orders from Tod’s via Euroshoes stopped completely, one year after Ms. Ventura first took Euroshoes to court for her unpaid bills. Ms. Ventura said that eventually put Keope on the road to bankruptcy, according to legal documents. Ms. Ventura was declared insolvent in 2014.

    When asked for comment, a Tod’s spokeswoman said in a statement:

    “Keope filed a lawsuit against one of our suppliers, Euroshoes, and Tod’s, to recover damages related to the alleged actions or omissions of Euroshoes. Tod’s has nothing to do with the facts alleged in the case and never had a direct commercial relationship with Keope. Keope is a subcontractor of Euroshoes, and Tod’s is completely extraneous to their relationship.”

    The statement also said that Tod’s had paid Euroshoes for all the amounts billed in a timely and regular manner, and was not responsible if Euroshoes failed to pay a subcontractor. Tod’s said it insisted all suppliers perform their services in line with the law, and that the same standard be applied to subcontractors.

    “Tod’s reserves the right to defend its reputation against the libelous attempt of Keope to involve it in issues that do not concern Tod’s,” the spokeswoman said.

    Indeed, a report by Abiti Puliti that included an investigation by Il Tacco D’Italia, a local newspaper, into Ms. Ventura’s case found that other companies in the region sewing uppers by hand had women do the work irregularly from their homes. That pay would be 70 to 90 euro cents a pair, meaning that in 12 hours a worker would earn 7 to 9 euros.

    ‘Invisible’ Labor

    Home working textile jobs that are labor intensive or require skilled handiwork are not new to Italy. But many industry observers believe that the lack of a government-set national minimum wage has made it easier for many home workers to still be paid a pittance.

    Wages are generally negotiated for workers by union representatives, which vary by sector and by union. According to the Studio Rota Porta, an Italian labor consultancy, the minimum wage in the textile industry should be roughly €7.08 per hour, lower than those for other sectors including food (€8.70), construction (€8) and finance (€11.51).

    But workers who aren’t members of unions operate outside the system and are vulnerable to exploitation, a source of frustration for many union representatives.

    “We do know about seamstresses working without contracts from home in Puglia, especially those that specialize in sewing appliqué, but none of them want to approach us to talk about their conditions, and the subcontracting keeps them largely invisible,” said Pietro Fiorella, a representative of the CGIL, or Italian General Confederation of Labour, the country’s largest national union.

    Many of them are retired, Mr. Fiorella said, or want the flexibility of part-time work to care for family members or want to supplement their income, and are fearful of losing the additional money. While unemployment rates in Puglia recently dropped to 19.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018 from nearly 21.5 percent in the same period a year ago, jobs remain difficult to come by.

    A fellow union representative, Giordano Fumarola, pointed to another reason that garment and textile wages in this stretch of southern Italy have stayed so low for so long: the offshoring of production to Asia and Eastern Europe over the last two decades, which intensified local competition for fewer orders and forced factory owners to drive down prices.

    In recent years, some luxury companies have started to bring production back to Puglia, Mr. Fumarola said. But he believed that power is still firmly in the hands of the brands, not suppliers already operating on wafer-thin margins. The temptation for factory owners to then use sub-suppliers or home workers, or save money by defrauding their workers or the government, was hard to resist.

    Add to that a longstanding antipathy for regulation, high instances of irregular unemployment and fragmented systems of employment protection, and the fact that nonstandard employment has been significantly liberalized by successive labor market reforms since the mid-1990s, and the result is further isolation for those working on the margins.

    A national election in March swept a new populist government to power in Italy, placing power in the hands of two parties — the Five Star Movement and the League — and a proposed “dignity decree” aims to limit the prevalence of short-term job contracts and of firms shifting jobs abroad while simplifying some fiscal rules. For now, however, legislation around a minimum wage does not appear to be on the agenda.

    Indeed, for women like the unnamed seamstress in Santeramo in Colle, working away on yet another coat at her kitchen table, reform of any sort feels a long way off.

    Not that she really minded. She would be devastated to lose this additional income, she said, and the work allowed her to spend time with her children.

    “What do you want me to say?” she said with a sigh, closing her eyes and raising the palms of her hands. “It is what it is. This is Italy.”


    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/fashion/italy-luxury-shadow-economy.html
    #fashion #mode #industrie_textile #travail #exploitation #Italie #esclavage_moderne #Pouilles #made_in_Italy #invisibilité #travail_à_la_maison #mondialisation #luxe #MaxMara #Gucci #Kering #Louis_Vuitton #LVMH #Salento #Carla_Ventura #Keope_Srl #CRI #Euroshoes #Tod's #Salento_method #Prada #Salvatore_Ferragamo

    via @isskein

  • Autour des #gardes-côtes_libyens... et de #refoulements en #Libye...

    Je copie-colle ici des articles que j’avais mis en bas de cette compilation (qu’il faudrait un peu mettre en ordre, peut-être avec l’aide de @isskein ?) :
    https://seenthis.net/messages/705401

    Les articles ci-dessous traitent de :
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Méditerranée #push-back #refoulement #externalisation #frontières

    • Pour la première fois depuis 2009, un navire italien ramène des migrants en Libye

      Une embarcation de migrants secourue par un navire de ravitaillement italien a été renvoyée en Libye lundi 30 juillet. Le HCR a annoncé mardi l’ouverture d’une enquête et s’inquiète d’une violation du droit international.

      Lundi 30 juillet, un navire battant pavillon italien, l’Asso Ventotto, a ramené des migrants en Libye après les avoir secourus dans les eaux internationales – en 2012 déjà l’Italie a été condamnée par la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme pour avoir reconduit en Libye des migrants secourus en pleine mer en 2009.

      L’information a été donnée lundi soir sur Twitter par Oscar Camps, le fondateur de l’ONG espagnole Proactiva Open Arms, avant d’être reprise par Nicola Fratoianni, un député de la gauche italienne qui est actuellement à bord du bateau humanitaire espagnol qui sillonne en ce moment les côtes libyennes.

      Selon le quotidien italien La Repubblica, 108 migrants à bord d’une embarcation de fortune ont été pris en charge en mer Méditerranée par l’Asso Ventotto lundi 30 juillet. L’équipage du navire de ravitaillement italien a alors contacté le MRCC à Rome - centre de coordination des secours maritimes – qui les a orienté vers le centre de commandement maritime libyen. La Libye leur a ensuite donné l’instruction de ramener les migrants au port de Tripoli.

      En effet depuis le 28 juin, sur décision européenne, la gestion des secours des migrants en mer Méditerranée dépend des autorités libyennes et non plus de l’Italie. Concrètement, cela signifie que les opérations de sauvetage menées dans la « SAR zone » - zone de recherche et de sauvetage au large de la Libye - sont désormais coordonnées par les Libyens, depuis Tripoli. Mais le porte-parole du Conseil de l’Europe a réaffirmé ces dernières semaines qu’"aucun navire européen ne peut ramener des migrants en Libye car cela serait contraire à nos principes".

      Violation du droit international

      La Libye ne peut être considérée comme un « port sûr » pour le débarquement des migrants. « C’est une violation du droit international qui stipule que les personnes sauvées en mer doivent être amenées dans un ‘port sûr’. Malgré ce que dit le gouvernement italien, les ports libyens ne peuvent être considérés comme tels », a déclaré sur Twitter le député Nicola Fratoianni. « Les migrants se sont vus refuser la possibilité de demander l’asile, ce qui constitue une violation des accords de Genève sur les sauvetages en mer », dit-il encore dans le quotidien italien La Stampa.

      Sur Facebook, le ministre italien de l’Intérieur, Matteo Salvini, nie toutes entraves au droit international. « La garde-côtière italienne n’a ni coordonné, ni participé à cette opération, comme l’a faussement déclarée une ONG et un député de gauche mal informé ».

      Le Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR) a de son côté annoncé mardi 31 juillet l’ouverture d’une enquête. « Nous recueillons toutes les informations nécessaires sur le cas du remorqueur italien Asso Ventotto qui aurait ramené en Libye 108 personnes sauvées en Méditerranée. La Libye n’est pas un ‘port sûr’ et cet acte pourrait constituer une violation du droit international », dit l’agence onusienne sur Twitter.

      http://www.infomigrants.net/fr/post/10995/pour-la-premiere-fois-depuis-2009-un-navire-italien-ramene-des-migrant

    • Nave italiana soccorre e riporta in Libia 108 migranti. Salvini: «Nostra Guardia costiera non coinvolta»

      L’atto in violazione della legislazione internazionale che garantisce il diritto d’asilo e che non riconosce la Libia come un porto sicuro. Il vicepremier: «Nostre navi non sono intervenute nelle operazioni». Fratoianni (LeU): «Ci sono le prove della violazione»

      http://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/07/31/news/migranti_nave_italiana_libia-203026448/?ref=RHPPLF-BH-I0-C8-P1-S1.8-T1
      #vos_thalassa #asso_28

      Commentaire de Sara Prestianni, via la mailing-list de Migreurop:

      Le navire commerciale qui opere autour des plateformes de pétrole, battant pavillon italien - ASSO 28 - a ramené 108 migrants vers le port de Tripoli suite à une opération de sauvetage- Les premiers reconstructions faites par Open Arms et le parlementaire Fratoianni qui se trouve à bord de Open Arms parlent d’une interception en eaux internationales à la quelle a suivi le refoulement. Le journal La Repubblica dit que les Gardes Cotes Italiennes auraient invité Asso28 à se coordonner avec les Gardes Cotes Libyennes (comme font habituellement dans les derniers mois. Invitation déclinés justement par les ong qui opèrent en mer afin de éviter de proceder à un refoulement interdit par loi). Le Ministre de l’Interieur nie une implication des Gardes Cotes Italiens et cyniquement twitte “Le Garde cotes libyenne dans les derniers heures ont sauvé et ramené à terre 611 migrants. Les Ong protestent les passeurs font des affaires ? C’est bien. Nous continuons ainsi”

    • Départs de migrants depuis la Libye :

      Libya : outcomes of the sea journey

      Migrants intercepted /rescued by the Libyan coast guard

      Lieux de désembarquement :


      #Italie #Espagne #Malte

      –-> Graphiques de #Matteo_Villa, posté sur twitter :
      source : https://twitter.com/emmevilla/status/1036892919964286976

      #statistiques #chiffres #2016 #2017 #2018

      cc @simplicissimus

    • Libyan Coast Guard Takes 611 Migrants Back to Africa

      Between Monday and Tuesday, the Libyan Coast Guard reportedly rescued 611 migrants aboard several dinghies off the coast and took them back to the African mainland.

      Along with the Libyan search and rescue operation, an Italian vessel, following indications from the Libyan Coast Guard, rescued 108 migrants aboard a rubber dinghy and delivered them back to the port of Tripoli. The vessel, called La Asso 28, was a support boat for an oil platform.

      Italian mainstream media have echoed complaints of NGOs claiming that in taking migrants back to Libya the Italian vessel would have violated international law that guarantees the right to asylum and does not recognize Libya as a safe haven.

      In recent weeks, a spokesman for the Council of Europe had stated that “no European ship can bring migrants back to Libya because it is contrary to our principles.”

      Twenty days ago, another ship supporting an oil rig, the Vos Thalassa, after rescuing a group of migrants, was preparing to deliver them to a Libyan patrol boat when an attempt to revolt among the migrants convinced the commander to reverse the route and ask the help of the Italian Coast Guard. The migrants were loaded aboard the ship Diciotti and taken to Trapani, Sicily, after the intervention of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella.

      On the contrary, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has declared Tuesday’s operation to be a victory for efforts to curb illegal immigration. The decision to take migrants back to Africa rather than transporting them to Europe reflects an accord between Italy and Libya that has greatly reduced the numbers of African migrants reaching Italian shores.

      Commenting on the news, Mr. Salvini tweeted: “The Libyan Coast Guard has rescued and taken back to land 611 immigrants in recent hours. The NGOs protest and the traffickers lose their business? Great, this is how we make progress,” followed by hashtags announcing “closed ports” and “open hearts.”

      Parliamentarian Nicola Fratoianni of the left-wing Liberi and Uguali (Free and Equal) party and secretary of the Italian Left, presently aboard the Spanish NGO ship Open Arms, denounced the move.

      “We do not yet know whether this operation was carried out on the instructions of the Italian Coast Guard, but if so it would be a very serious precedent, a real collective rejection for which Italy and the ship’s captain will answer before a court,” he said.

      “International law requires that people rescued at sea must be taken to a safe haven and the Libyan ports, despite the mystification of reality by the Italian government, cannot be considered as such,” he added.

      The United Nations immigration office (UNHCR) has threatened Italy for the incident involving the 108 migrants taken to Tripoli, insisting that Libya is not a safe port and that the episode could represent a breach of international law.

      “We are collecting all the necessary information,” UNHCR tweeted.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/santiago-anti-abortion-women-stabbed-chile-protest-a8469786.html
      #refoulements #push-back

    • Libya rescued 10,000 migrants this year, says Germany

      Libyan coast guards have saved some 10,000 migrants at sea since the start of this year, according to German authorities. The figure was provided by the foreign ministry during a debate in parliament over what the Left party said were “inhumane conditions” of returns of migrants to Libya. Libyan coast guards are trained by the EU to stop migrants crossing to Europe.

      https://euobserver.com/tickers/142821

    • UNHCR Flash Update Libya (9 - 15 November 2018) [EN/AR]

      As of 14 November, the Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) has rescued/intercepted 14,595 refugees and migrants (10,184 men, 2,147 women and 1,408 children) at sea. On 10 November, a commercial vessel reached the port of Misrata (187 km east of Tripoli) carrying 95 refugees and migrants who refused to disembark the boat. The individuals on board comprise of Ethiopian, Eritrean, South Sudanese, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali nationals. UNHCR is closely following-up on the situation of the 14 individuals who have already disembarked and ensuring the necessary assistance is provided and screening is conducted for solutions. Since the onset, UNHCR has advocated for a peaceful resolution of the situation and provided food, water and core relief items (CRIs) to alleviate the suffering of individuals onboard the vessel.

      https://reliefweb.int/report/libya/unhcr-flash-update-libya-9-15-november-2018-enar
      #statistiques #2018 #chiffres

    • Rescued at sea, locked up, then sold to smugglers

      In Libya, refugees returned by EU-funded ships are thrust back into a world of exploitation.

      The Souq al Khamis detention centre in Khoms, Libya, is so close to the sea that migrants and refugees can hear waves crashing on the shore. Its detainees – hundreds of men, women and children – were among 15,000 people caught trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats in 2018, after attempting to reach Italy and the safety of Europe.

      They’re now locked in rooms covered in graffiti, including warnings that refugees may be sold to smugglers by the guards that watch them.


      This detention centre is run by the UN-backed Libyan government’s department for combatting illegal migration (DCIM). Events here over the last few weeks show how a hardening of European migration policy is leaving desperate refugees with little room to escape from networks ready to exploit them.

      Since 2014, the EU has allocated more than €300 million to Libya with the aim of stopping migration. Funnelled through the Trust Fund for Africa, this includes roughly €40 million for the Libyan coast guard, which intercepts boats in the Mediterranean. Ireland’s contribution to the trust fund will be €15 million between 2016 and 2020.

      Scabies

      One of the last 2018 sea interceptions happened on December 29th, when, the UN says, 286 people were returned to Khoms. According to two current detainees, who message using hidden phones, the returned migrants arrived at Souq al Khamis with scabies and other health problems, and were desperate for medical attention.


      On New Year’s Eve, a detainee messaged to say the guards in the centre had tried to force an Eritrean man to return to smugglers, but others managed to break down the door and save him.

      On Sunday, January 5th, detainees said, the Libyan guards were pressurising the still-unregistered arrivals to leave by beating them with guns. “The leaders are trying to push them [to] get out every day,” one said.

      https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/rescued-at-sea-locked-up-then-sold-to-smugglers-1.3759181

    • Migranti, 100 persone trasferite su cargo e riportate in Libia. Alarm Phone: “Sono sotto choc, credevano di andare in Italia”

      Dopo l’allarme delle scorse ore e la chiamata del premier Conte a Tripoli, le persone (tra cui venti donne e dodici bambini, uno dei quali potrebbe essere morto di stenti) sono state trasferite sull’imbarcazione che batte bandiera della Sierra Leone in direzione Misurata. Ma stando alle ultime informazioni, le tensioni a bordo rendono difficoltoso lo sbarco. Intanto l’ong Sea Watch ha salvato 47 persone e chiede un porto dove attraccare

      https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2019/01/21/migranti-100-persone-trasferite-su-cargo-e-riportate-in-libia-alarm-phone-sono-sotto-choc-credevano-di-andare-in-italia/4911794

    • Migrants calling us in distress from the Mediterranean returned to Libya by deadly ‘refoulement’ industry

      When they called us from the sea, the 106 precarious travellers referred to their boat as a white balloon. This balloon, or rubber dinghy, was meant to carry them all the way to safety in Europe. The people on board – many men, about 20 women, and 12 children from central, west and north Africa – had left Khoms in Libya a day earlier, on the evening of January 19.

      Though they survived the night at sea, many of passengers on the boat were unwell, seasick and freezing. They decided to call for help and used their satellite phone at approximately 11am the next day. They reached out to the Alarm Phone, a hotline operated by international activists situated in Europe and Africa, that can be called by migrants in distress at sea. Alongside my work as a researcher on migration and borders, I am also a member of this activist network, and on that day I supported our shift team who received and documented the direct calls from the people on the boat in distress.

      The boat had been trying to get as far away as possible from the Libyan coast. Only then would the passengers stand a chance of escaping Libya’s coastguard. The European Union and Italy struck a deal in 2017 to train the Libyan coastguard in return for them stopping migrants reaching European shores. But a 2017 report by Amnesty International highlighted how the Libyan authorities operate in collusion with smuggling networks. Time and again, media reports suggest they have drastically violated the human rights of escaping migrants as well as the laws of the sea.

      The migrant travellers knew that if they were detected and caught, they would be abducted back to Libya, or illegally “refouled”. But Libya is a dangerous place for migrants in transit – as well as for Libyan nationals – given the ongoing civil conflict between several warring factions. In all likelihood, being sent back to Libya would mean being sent to detention centres described as “concentration-camp like” by German diplomats.

      The odds of reaching Europe were stacked against the people on the boat. Over the past year, the European-Libyan collaboration in containing migrants in North Africa, a research focus of mine, has resulted in a decrease of sea arrivals in Italy – from about 119,000 in 2017 to 23,000 in 2018. Precisely how many people were intercepted by the Libyan coastguards last year is unclear but the Libyan authorities have put the figure at around 15,000. The fact that this refoulement industry has led to a decrease in the number of migrant crossings in the central Mediterranean means that fewer people have been able to escape grave human rights violations and reach a place of safety.
      Shifting responsibility

      In repeated conversations, the 106 people on the boat made clear to the Alarm Phone activists that they would rather move on and endanger their lives by continuing to Europe than be returned by the Libyan coastguards. The activists stayed in touch with them, and for transparency reasons, the distress situation was made public via Twitter.

      Around noon, the situation on board deteriorated markedly and anxiety spread. With weather conditions worsening and after a boy had fallen unconscious, the people on the boat expressed for the first time their immediate fear of dying at sea and demanded Alarm Phone to alert all available authorities.

      The activists swiftly notified the Italian coastguards. But both the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, and in turn the Maltese authorities, suggested it was the Libyan coastguard’s responsibility to handle the distress call. And yet, eight different phone numbers of the Libyan coastguards could not be reached by the activists.

      In the afternoon, the situation had come across the radar of the Italian media. When the Alarm Phone activists informed the people on board that the public had also been made aware of the situation by the media one person succinctly responded: “I don’t need to be on the news, I need to be rescued.”

      And yet media attention catapulted the story into the highest political spheres in Italy. According to a report in the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera, the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, took charge of the situation, stating that the fate of the migrant boat could not be left to Alarm Phone activists. Conte instructed the Italian foreign intelligence service to launch rapid negotiations with the Libyan coastguards. It took some time to persuade them, but eventually, the Libyans were convinced to take action.

      In the meantime, the precarious passengers on the boat reported of water leaking into their boat, of the freezing cold, and their fear of drowning. The last time the Alarm Phone reached them, around 8pm, they could see a plane in the distance but were unable to forward their GPS coordinates to the Alarm Phone due to the failing battery of their satellite phone.
      Sent back to Libya

      About three hours later, the Italian coastguards issued a press release: the Libyans had assumed responsibility and co-ordinated the rescue of several boats. According to the press release, a merchant vessel had rescued the boat and the 106 people would be returned to Libya.

      According to the survivors and Médecins Sans Frontières who treated them on arrival, at least six people appeared to have drowned during the voyage – presumably after the Alarm Phone lost contact with them. Another boy died after disembarkation.

      A day later, on January 21, members of a second group of 144 people called the Alarm Phone from another merchant vessel. Just like the first group, they had been refouled to Libya, but they were still on board. Some still believed that they would be brought to Europe.

      Speaking on the phone with the activists, they could see land but it was not European but Libyan land. Recognising they’d been returned to their place of torment, they panicked, cried and threatened collective suicide. The women were separated from the men – Alarm Phone activists could hear them shout in the background. In the evening, contact with this second group of migrants was lost.

      During the evening of January 23, several of the women of the group reached out to the activists. They said that during the night, Libyan security forces boarded the merchant vessel and transported small groups into the harbour of Misrata, where they were taken to a detention centre. They said they’d been beaten when refusing to disembark. One of them, bleeding, feared that she had already lost her unborn child.

      On the next day, the situation worsened further. The women told the activists that Libyan forces entered their cell in the morning, pointing guns at them, after some of the imprisoned had tried to escape. Reportedly, every man was beaten. The pictures they sent to the Alarm Phone made it into Italian news, showing unhygienic conditions, overcrowded cells, and bodies with torture marks.

      Just like the 106 travellers on the “white balloon”, this second group of 144 people had risked their lives but were now back in their hell.
      Profiteering

      It’s more than likely that for some of these migrant travellers, this was not their first attempt to escape Libya. The tens of thousands captured at sea and returned over the past years have found themselves entangled in the European-Libyan refoulement “industry”. Due to European promises of financial support or border technologies, regimes with often questionable human rights records have wilfully taken on the role as Europe’s frontier guards. In the Mediterranean, the Libyan coastguards are left to do the dirty work while European agencies – such as Frontex, Eunavfor Med as well as the Italian and Maltese coastguards – have withdrawn from the most contentious and deadly areas of the sea.

      It’s sadly not surprising that flagrant human rights violations have become the norm rather than the exception. Quite cynically, several factions of the Libyan coastguards have profited not merely from Europe’s financial support but also from playing a “double game” in which they continue to be involved in human smuggling while, disguised as coastguards, clampdown on the trade of rival smuggling networks. This means that the Libyan coastguards profit often from both letting migrant boats leave and from subsequently recapturing them.

      The detention camps in Libya, where torture and rape are everyday phenomena, are not merely containment zones of captured migrants – they form crucial extortion zones in this refoulement industry. Migrants are turned into “cash cows” and are repeatedly subjected to violent forms of extortion, often forced to call relatives at home and beg for their ransom.

      Despite this systematic abuse, migrant voices cannot be completely drowned out. They continue to appear, rebelliously, from detention and even from the middle of the sea, reminding us all about Europe’s complicity in the production of their suffering.

      https://theconversation.com/migrants-calling-us-in-distress-from-the-mediterranean-returned-to-

    • Libya coast guard detains 113 migrants during lull in fighting

      The Libyan coast guard has stopped 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as boat departures resume following a lull in fighting between rival forces in Libya.

      The western Libyan coast is a major departure point for mainly African migrants fleeing conflict and poverty and trying to reach Italy across the Mediterranean Sea with the help of human traffickers.

      Smuggling activity had slowed when forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli, home to Libya’s internationally recognized government.

      But clashes eased on Tuesday after a push by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) back by artillery failed to make inroads toward the center.

      Shelling audible in central Tripoli was less intense on Wednesday than on previous days. Three weeks of clashes had killed 376 as of Tuesday, the World Health Organization said.

      The Libyan coast guard stopped two boats on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, carrying 113 migrants in all, and returned them to two western towns away from the Tripoli frontline, where they were put into detention centers, U.N. migration agency IOM said.

      A coast guard spokesman said the migrants were from Arab and sub-Saharan African countries as well as Bangladesh.

      Human rights groups have accused armed groups and members of the coast guard of being involved in human trafficking.

      Officials have been accused in the past of mistreating detainees, who are being held in their thousands as part of European-backed efforts to curb smuggling. A U.N. report in December referred to a “terrible litany” of violations including unlawful killings, torture, gang rape and slavery.

      Rights groups have also accused the European Union of complicity in the abuse as Italy and France have provided boats for the coast guard to step up patrols. That move has helped to reduce migrant departures.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security/libya-coast-guard-detains-113-migrants-during-lull-in-fighting-idUSKCN1S73R

    • Judgement in Italy recognizes that people rescued by #Vos_Thalassa acted lawfully when opposed disembarkation in #Libya. Two men spent months in prison, as Italian government had wished, till a judge established that they had acted in legitimate defence.
      Also interesting that judge argues that Italy-Libya Bilateral agreement on migration control must be considered illegitimate as in breach of international, EU and domestic law.

      https://dirittopenaleuomo.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/GIP-Trapani.pdf

      Reçu via FB par @isskein :
      https://www.facebook.com/isabelle.saintsaens/posts/10218154173470834?comment_id=10218154180551011&notif_id=1560196520660275&n
      #justice

    • The Commission and Italy tie themselves up in knots over Libya

      http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-344-Commission-and-Italy-tie-themselves-up-in-knots-over-libya.pdf

      –-> analyse de #Yasha_Maccanico sur la polémique entre Salvini et la Commission quand il a déclaré en mars que la Commission était tout a fait d’accord avec son approche (le retour des migrants aux champs logiques), la Commission l’a démenti et puis a sorti la lettre de Mme. Michou (JAI Commission) de laquelle provenaient les justifications utilisées par le ministre, qui disait à Leggeri que la collaboration avec la garde côtière libyenne des avions européennes était legale. Dans la lettre, elle admit que les italiens et la mission de Frontex font des activités qui devrait être capable de faire la Libye, si sa zone SAR fuisse authentique et pas une manière pour l’UE de se débarrasser de ses obligations légales et humanitaires. C’est un acte de auto-inculpation pour l’UE et pour l’Italie.

  • Activist Arrests in India Are Part of a Dangerous Global Trend to Stifle Dissent | Alternet
    https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/activist-arrests-india-are-part-dangerous-global-trend-stifle-dissent

    On Tuesday morning, the police from the Indian city of Pune (in the state of Maharashtra) raided the homes of lawyers and social activists across India and arrested five of them. Many of them are not household names around the world, since they are people who work silently on behalf of the poor and oppressed in a country where half the population does not eat sufficiently. Their names are Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao. What unites these people is their commitment to the working class and peasantry, to those who are treated as marginal to India’s state. They are also united by their opposition, which they share with millions of Indians, to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The “raw numbers of this terror” are best counted from Turkey. Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016, the government has arrested, detained or dismissed about 160,000 government officials, dismissing 12,000 Kurdish teachers, destroying the livelihood of thousands of people. The editor of Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar, called this the “biggest witch-hunt in Turkey’s history.” In the name of the war on terror and in the name of sedition, the government has arrested and intimidated its political opponents. The normality of this is astounding—leaders of the opposition HDP party remain in prison on the flimsiest of charges, with little international condemnation. They suffer a fate comparable to Brazil’s Lula, also incarcerated with no evidence.

    Governments do not typically like dissent. In Bangladesh, the photographer Shahidul Alam remains in detention for his views on the massive protests in Dhaka for traffic reform and against government corruption. Condemnation of the arrest has come from all quarters, including a British Member of Parliament—Tulip Siddiq—who is the niece of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The avalanche of criticism has not moved the government. Alam is accused of inciting violence, a charge that is equal parts of ridiculous and absurd.

    Incitement to violence is a common charge. It is what has taken the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to an Israeli prison. Tatour’s poem, “Resist, my people, resist them” (Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum), was the reason given by the Israeli government to lock her up. The Egyptian government has taken in the poet Galal El-Behairy for the lyrics he wrote for the song “Balaha”—the name a reference to a character in a 1980s film who sees the world in a topsy-turvy manner, a name now used colloquially in Egypt for President Sisi. The Ugandan government has arrested the radio show host Samuel Kyambadde, who merely allowed his talk show to become a forum for a conversation that included items labeled by the government as seditious—such as the arrest of journalists and the arrest of the opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine).

    All of them—photographers, poets, radio show hosts—are treated as voices of sedition, dangerous people who can be locked up under regulations that would make any fair-minded person wince. But there is not even any public debate in most of our societies about such measures, no genuine discussion about the slide into the worst kind of authoritarianism, little public outcry.

    #Néo_fascisme #Inde #Turquie #Liberté_expression

  • Photographe du jour.
    Shahidul Alam est appréhendé depuis le 5 août 2018 sous l’inculpation de « diffusion de propagande et de fausses informations contre le gouvernement du Bangladesh. »
    https://www.thedailystar.net/tags/photographer-shahidul-alam
    Shahidul Alam n’a pas seulement pour ambition de transformer la photographie, il est aussi pour transformer le monde. Il réclame avec passion un vrai gouvernement mondial, un gouvernement de la majorité des peuples, en lieu et place de la domination des superpuissances. Je suis d’accord avec lui, si ce n’est la majorité des choses qu’il peut dire. Son livre My Journey as a Witness, est rageur, intentionnellement provocateur. Il contient des images chargées de sens et beaucoup sont belles. C’est surtout un livre qui doit être lu.


    #photographe_du_jour #Shahidul_Alam #freeshahidulalam #bangladesh

  • #Birmanie. Les #Rohingyas sont victimes d’un génocide selon l’ONU

    Un rapport des Nations unies accuse les généraux birmans de commettre un génocide contre la minorité musulmane du pays. 700 000 Rohingyas ont fui vers le Bangladesh depuis l’an dernier.

    https://www.courrierinternational.com/article/birmanie-les-rohingyas-sont-victimes-dun-genocide-selon-lonu
    #Rohingya #génocide #mots #terminologie #ONU #Myanmar #minorités

    v. le #rapport :

    Report of the Independent International Fact - Finding Mission on Myanmar

    The Mission concluded, given these considerations on the inference of genocidal intent, that there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of s enior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State.

    https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/FFM-Myanmar/A_HRC_39_64.pdf?smid=nytcore-ios-share

    cc @reka

  • China as a conflict mediator: Maintaining stability along the Belt and Road | Mercator Institute for China Studies
    https://www.merics.org/en/china-mapping/china-conflict-mediator

    y Helena Legarda and Marie L. Hoffmann

    Recent years have seen significant changes in China’s international mediation activities. In countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Syria and Israel, among others, diplomats from China increasingly engage in preventing, managing or resolving conflict. In 2017 Beijing was mediating in nine conflicts, a visible increase compared to only three in 2012, the year when Xi Jinping took power as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

    The increase in Chinese mediation activities began in 2013, the year that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched. Before that, Beijing was relatively reluctant to engage in conflict resolution abroad. As the MERICS mapping shows, the year 2008 is an outlier in that regard. China’s activities at the time – such as its efforts to mediate between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, or between Sudan and South Sudan – were probably part of Beijing’s charm offensive and its drive to gain more international visibility in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

    #route_de_la_soie #belt_road #chine #eurasie #europe #transport #corridor #corridor_multimodal