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Thursday:  July 24, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in human trafficking (2)

Monday
Oct172011

UN Member States 'Hypocrites' in Dealing With Sexual Exploitation & Abuse - Top Jordanian Diplomat (REPORT)

Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan(HN, October 18, 2011) -- In astonishingly undiplomatic and candid language, senior Jordanian diplomat, Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, said UN member states shoulder much of the blame for the lack of action on curbing abuses by UN peace keepers.

"To put it bluntly, we are cowardly hypocrites," he said.

Zeid, who has served as his country's ambassador to the US and as Permanent Representative to the UN, said that while the UN leadership often gets targeted for not taking action for abuses by UN peace keepers, UN member states often escape accountability.

Following allegations of widespread abuse being committed by UN peace keepers in the summer of 2004, Zeid was appointed as ‘Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.’ In the spring of 2005, he produced a report on this subject; praised subsequently by international civil society for having been ‘revolutionary’ in its approach. It provided, for the first time, a comprehensive strategy for the elimination of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peace Keeping Operations.

Zeid, who spent three years examining what he described as "every angle" of the topic, said "I know the script all too well" and expressed "intense frustration" when discussing the subject.

"The (UN) Secretariat over the last four or five years, has done as much as it can be expected to do...it's not perfect but has essentially hit a wall.

"It is us, the member states, who have created that wall. To put it bluntly, we are cowardly hypocrites.

Rachel Weisz in the film, The Whistleblower. CREDIT: Andrei Alexandru/Samuel Goldwin Films"We go to the Security Council with our foreign ministers, and we speak of Resolution 1325 (the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addresses the impact of war on women, and women's contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace, but at the same time we are instructing our lawyers, who should be negotiating a convention to create a legal regime..to extend jurisdiction extra-territorially to our nationals. We tell our lawyers to basically usurp any result in that regard. 

"And essentially no one holds us to account for it.

Zeid made the riveting comments at a panel convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon following the screening of the film, The Whistleblower, which documents the true story of sexual exploitation and trafficking by UN peace keepers in post-conflict Bosnia (see story below).

"I am very pleased that a movie has been produced. Because unless a movie has been produced, or unless there is press comment on our conduct, we are not reliable, as member states, to do the right thing...all of the governments are responsible. There isn't one quarter or other that is more responsible than the other.

"And this effects the abuses across the board, in every area of illicit activity - by civilians and by military. And in actual fact, the civilians, the quality of their abuse was perhaps ever worse than the militaries."

Zeid referenced research that suggested the existence of an extensive pedophile ring in the eastern Congo. "God only knows how long the ring had been in place for."

Zeid said the UN is not a sovereign body, and hence, is limited in prosecuting staff - even for those commit murder, saying the worst penalty it can dish out is termination of service and revocation of pension contributions. "It is the member states that must exercise jurisdiction."

He complained that his recommendations made in 2005 were all rejected - for example, that court martials could take place in situ (in the country where the crime was committed) and that every peace keeper serving in the field give a sample of DNA for possible future legal action, that an independent investigative body be set up.

"We see a colossal failure of states to do the right thing," Zeid said, adding that even his own peace keepers have been found to have committed abuses.

"It is always very strange how when the UN has to answer to these questions (of abuse), the UN officials concerned has to field these rather testing inquiries..and the ambassador is no where to be found - hiding under that desk. And it's really shameful.

"You, members of the media, and members of the film industry, must keep lighting the fire under us. We are not reliable otherwise. You must do this."

Indeed, in the story portrayed in The Whistleblower, after stonewalling by UN officials, the allegations were taken to the BBC for public airing.

In a closing remark, Zeid said it was difficult for him to speak on the issue, and that he had given up a dinner with his mother-in-law to attend the panel. The Prince's remarks were made after the departure of Ban.

Because the panel was held in the evening and on a Friday, there were apparently few members of the media present.

- HUMNEWS staff

 

Tuesday
Aug162011

Foreign Migrant Labour Being Exploited - in Iraq (NEWS BRIEF)

In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion. International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, CREDIT: IOM(HN, August 16, 2011) - As western nations withdraw from Iraq amid a flurry of reconstruction projects, shocking tales are emerging of abuse of foreign migrant workers.

In some cases the situation is so dire that the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been forced to step in to assist the victims.

In the latest case, the IOM provided humanitarian assistance to a group of 35 Ukrainian and Bulgarian workers left in desperate straits by their employer in Iraq.

In another case this month, more than two dozen boys from Punjab approached the Indian mission in Baghdad for help, saying they were trafficked into Iraq and forced to clear defused and live ammunition for preparing fields for agriculture. The young victims were promised $800 every month, but were not paid any money for months and forced to live in inhumane conditions, India Today reported.

Earlier today, at a media briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS, the IOM appealed to private companies to honour their obligations to take care of their workers and follow national immigration, labour and human rights norms.

IOM staff found the abuse during several visits a day to a construction site where the migrants are living in crowded, dark, dirty and unventilated conditions. Staff brought food, water and medical assistance. 

The Ukrainians and Bulgarians being assisted by IOM are part of an original group of 217 migrants, including Nepalese, recruited to work on a construction project inside the international zone in Baghdad in December 2010. 

According to IOM, the men, who had been promised salaries of US$2,500 when hired, have so far only received a few hundred dollars despite having worked very long hours for months. When a sub-contractor absconded, work on the construction site stopped, leaving the migrants without money or clean water and little access to food. 

With their employer also having failed to get them the necessary residency permits as promised, the migrants automatically became undocumented workers. 

Some of the 217 migrants have been moved to work on another site while others have succumbed to pressure by the employer and agreed to leave the country for a one-time payment of US$1,000. However, after being forced to pay their transport home and charges for overstaying a 10-day visa, the migrants were left with little money. 
 
The 35 migrant still at the site are living in unsanitary conditions and without electricity. Some of the migrants have health problems related to poor food intake and drinking unsafe water. Having borrowed money to pay recruitment agents to get the job in Iraq in the first place, the migrants are in debt which they are unlikely to pay off unless they are paid their salaries.

"As an immediate step, their salaries need to be paid, for the employer to stop threatening them to leave the country without due remuneration and for the migrants to eventually be assisted home in a safe and dignified way," says Livia Styp-Rekowska, from IOM Baghdad. "In this particular case we are fortunate that the migrants are in the International Zone and we have direct access to them. This is not true of the vast majority of the migrant exploitation cases we know about."

IOM says the case highlights the need for more long-term responses to foreign labour exploitation in Iraq as contractors, many of them foreign, take advantage of reconstruction efforts. 

While many are aware of the problem of internal displacement in Iraq, the same cannot be said of human trafficking for labour or for migrant exploitation. 

"This is a very serious problem in the country. Many if not most of the foreign workers in Iraq are undocumented through no fault of their own, leaving them in an extremely vulnerable position," Styp-Rekowska adds. "We are talking of many tens of thousands of foreign workers. What is needed to stop this kind of exploitation is a comprehensive labour migration policy in Iraq and for the new counter-trafficking law to be passed by parliament combined with an effective system that protects trafficked or stranded migrants."

Labour mobility, says IOM, is a key feature of globalization with a significant impact on the global economy. In 2007, migrant workers from developing countries sent home through formal channels more than US$240 billion.

International migrants could number 405 million by 2050 if migration continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, IOM says.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM