June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

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)



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



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


San Marino     Mongolia
Vancouver     Ghana





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Entries in migrants (6)


UN, Children's Group Slams Italy Decision to Close Migrant Port (NEWS BRIEF)

(HN, September 30, 2011) - Using strong language somewhat uncharacteristic of the United Nations, the world body joined with the respected Save the Children to slam an Italian Government decision to close a port that has become a crucial transit point for refugees fleeing the violence and unrest in North Africa.

Lampedusa was declared an unsafe port by the Italians yesterday, meaning that aid groups are unable to transport refugees there.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Save the Children have been working together since 2006 at the Reception and Rescue Centre of Lampedusa.

The three groups said in a news release Friday: "This decision could undermine the entire rescue at sea system for migrants and asylum seekers and at the same time could make rescue operations much  more hazardous and complex.

"Since it is no longer  possible to dock in Lampedusa, the ability of the Coast Guard and the "Guardia di Finanza" to carry out rescue at sea will be compromised by the distance they will have to travel to reach the next safe port, e.g Porto Empedocle, 120 nautical miles away. This would have severe implications on rescue operations when the weather is bad, or when it involves transporting people in need of urgent medical assistance, minors and other vulnerable individuals."
Aid groups say that migrants are hosted in the centre only for a minimum period of time to allow for assistance and identification before being transferred to appropriate facilities elsewhere in Italy.
"It is important that Lampedusa remains a safe harbour in order to save lives," the release said.

For its part, Italy says it cannot cope with the high numbers of migrants ending up on its shores. More than 48,000 have reached the shores of southern Italy since the start of the year.

Recently, 11 people were injured after refugees clashed with riot police on Lampedusa after hundreds of protesters -trying to resist repatriation - burned the reception centre down.

The organizations are also expressing their concern over the recent de facto detention of migrants on ships and question its legal basis and the conditions under which the migrants are kept.  The groups said they want the practice stopped, that "appropriate solutions" are found as soon as possible in line with existing provisions in Italian and  international law.

- HUMNEWS staff, UN


Migrants Terrified in Nearly-Liberated Tripoli (NEWS BRIEF)

Migrants fleeing Libya several months ago. CREDIT: UN(HN, September 3, 2011) - As rebel groups fight to liberate Tripoli, the UN and other aid agencies are receiving an increasing number of reports of migrants in need of assistance and protection.

Individual migrants say they are scared to leave their homes for fear of being arrested or killed, claiming that even documented migrants are afraid to go out and find food and water because others have done so and have not returned home. 

Part of the problem may be that some migrants are being mistaken as mercenaries employed by Libya's former leader Moammar Gadhafi - many of whom are from other African nations.

“Sub-Saharan Africans, they are either perceived to have been mercenaries or associated with mercenaries. So that is a possible reason for why they would be targeted. I’m not sure. I cannot really say that this is the case for every single story that we have heard.  But certainly it is a factor,” IOM spokesperson Jemini Pandya said at a news briefing in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), despite a slow improvement of the situation in Tripoli where there is limited access to food, potable water and fuel, the security situation nevertheless remains potentially volatile. 

Although there are no reliable figures on the existing migrant population in Tripoli and from growing number of anecdotal reports, it is clear there are a high number of very vulnerable migrants in the city. Other organizations are also alerting IOM to migrant groups they have come across and who are in need of help. 

Most of the migrants are from African countries such as Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Ghana, Niger, Mali and Ethiopia. A maid employed by one of Gadhafi's sons and tortured almost beyond recognition is Ethiopian.

Most migrants are deliberately not congregating in large numbers to avoid being conspicuous or targeted. Access to Sub-Saharan migrants is still being hampered by security issues and individually-constructed check-points or because the migrants are afraid to meet.

While many of the migrants want IOM to help them leave Libya, others don't. Among them are a group of 800 Sub-Saharan Africans stranded at a fishing port who are either too scared to return to their home countries and want asylum or who have no prospect of a livelihood upon returning. 

The significant increase in food prices and either limited or no access to funds to buy what is available means there are ever-growing numbers of migrants in need of humanitarian assistance. 

"Access to food is clearly a major issue for migrants in Tripoli. The first group of migrants IOM evacuated from Tripoli last week were really hungry. As a result we increased our food supplies on subsequent evacuations," says IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Pasquale Lupoli.

Meanwhile, IOM staff in Tripoli are continuing to work to access vulnerable migrants. For those who want to leave Libya, the Organization is now working on an evacuation operation by road. 

Nearly 1,600 migrants and vulnerable Libyans have been evacuated by IOM by boat from Tripoli so far.

- IOM, HUMNEWS staff


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


Sex, The Migrant Laborer and the City (NEWS BRIEF/BLOG) 

Migrant Laborer's PHOTO CREDIT: AlJazeeraby Imran Garda

“Today is my girlfriend's birthday sir...”

I wince, eyes reflexively open and shut again at the “sir”, but try instead to focus on the content of the statement.

“Really? Great. Which one?”

He blends a Cheshire cat smile meets the Keralite it’s-unclear-whether-my-head-bobbing-means-yes-or-no into a cheeky boyish smirk. A Casanova symphony. Let’s call him the “Keralite Cat”, for future reference.

“Sir, the Filippina. The hot one, old one, but hot one. The maid.”

“The prettiest, sexiest one?” I asked, already possessing the knowledge that she was one of three in a collection of girlfriends, that included an Indonesian and Nepali too. 

South East Asian unity that would make the UN proud, if it weren't for the fact they were each oblivious to the existence of the others. Smooth. 

“No sir, hot, hot, hawwwt. You understand? She like to do hawwwt things sir...crazy things sir...maybe I’m not enough for her!”, the giggle and resurfacing of the bobbing head-smile symphony. 

And then he made a gesture to me, one that this innocent writer, mind hitherto undefiled, just can’t quite blog about. I could sketch a picture maybe. Or maybe not. But let’s concede that I would never again look at his car’s hand-break, or any car’s hand-break in the same way. Then he showed me a picture of her on his mobile, she looked 15 years his senior. Hello Mrs Filipina Robinson...

“Where do you guys do this, erm, stuff?” I blushingly asked.

“In my accommodation. In the car sometimes, but we must be very very careful. If police catch us...”, his hand assumed a Karate chop shape at his neck, and he swiped across. Then laughter.

Another cabbie story

Yes, I’ve got another cabbie story, so my fellow AJE blogger Evan Hill can look away, spit three times to his left and maybe say, “astaghfirullah” - I’ve heard he finds my taxi driver stories problematic. Sorry Evan. 

Plus, after Michael Paterniti’s GQ feature about Al Jazeera had quoted me giving an analogy about politicians and the men who drive them, I think I’m developing a bit of a reputation as the “man-who-talks-a lot-of-BS-about-men-behind-the-wheel”.

So, pardon my insatiable obsession. I’ll try my best to show how this story has relevance to setting the global news agenda. Evan, if you’re still reading, I’m trying.

This time, I wasn’t in Washington DC talking to immigrant cabbies about Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad lair, and this time I promise my subeditor won’t place a picture of a street scene from a completely different city to the one I’m writing about (a picture of New York City in the winter accompanied my article set in Washington DC in the spring). 

It might be simpler this time, they could just step outside of our air-conditioned hub and into the heat (a different heat/hot/hawwwt to the previously referenced of course) with a camera and click. I’m talking about Doha. 

My driver friend officially works on call 24/7, for a far-eastern businessman, running the Middle Eastern operation of some far-eastern company, whose penchant for herculean spells of imbibing the stuff you can only get at 5-star hotels in Qatar (so I’ve heard) after work, tends to give the Keralite Cat some free time to do some “illegal” driving on the side. He earns QR900 (roughly $250) a month, so I’m happy to  contribute to some of the illegality.

Hence, when providence doth bless this humble writer to embark on another spell of work in the Doha desert, devoid of my 4X4 in days of old when I actually lived here, he’s the first person I call. We talk a lot. We talk about work, sometimes politics, sometimes cricket, sometimes football. We talk a lot about inequality too.

Would you believe it?

But this is not the platform for another “the horrors of the Gulf” splash.

Johann Hari and Nesrine Malik have written about Dubai in particular, the latter calling it a “place where the worst of western capitalism and Gulf Arab racism meet in a horrible vortex”

I could tell you about the labour camps I visited where 10 men sleep in a cramped room that they cook in too; of the many I spoke to over the years whose employers choose (on a whim, not for want of money) not to pay them their salaries, or ever return their passports to them; of the hundreds of thousands of these migrants from overpopulated nations further east - those who build this modern day materialist paradise, where once only the folk-songs of bedouins and malnourished pearl-divers echoed through the whirling grains of sand - and little else existed, until oil and gas reared their controversial, sticky, bubbly heads from the sleepy infertile surface.

I could tell you of “Family Day” signs at the entrances to the malls across the country on the weekends, designed to keep the wretched of the earth out so Arabs and Westerners can savour their Krispy Kreme Donuts and carry their oversized shopping bags from Armani Exchange without the experience being soiled by those smelly Indians, or Nepalis.

While Qatar considers reforming labour laws and scrapping it’s “sponsorship” system that even the prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor al-Thani once called “unacceptable and close to slavery”; while Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch play catchup and get some amnesty themselves from reporting about Darfur or Libya or Syria or China or North Korea and one day hope to raise the issue of workers’ rights in the Gulf; while those of us who earned our tax-free salaries cried crocodile tears for the workers that by default allowed us to assume our roles as lords and “madams” and “sirs”, and while we drove our 4X4s past the little men in one size-fits-all blue jumpsuits bought in bulk from Carrefour, drilling a foundation for a new phallic tower in the blazing 49 degree celsius midday heat, we forgot something. We forgot something important. 

The Keralite Cat's tales, in all its frivolity, made a profound point about the drivers, construction workers, the maids and cleaners:

Can you believe that these people make love?

Can you believe they even cheat on each other? 

Can you believe that they buy each other birthday presents too?

And one day, just one day, these subhumans, like the Keralite Cat and Mrs Filipina Robinson, might even take the “hawwwt” stuff to a new level, might even have the audacity to pull up the hand-break on their own destiny, despite the macro constraints of an unequal “globalised economy” that makes them travel to dusty places far away, where the rule is simple - they must work so we can eat.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on June 3, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 


As IOM Rescue Operation for Migrants Stranded in Misrata Continue, Many Thousands More Migrants Need Urgent Help Elsewhere (NEWS BRIEF)

(April 20,2011) A third IOM-chartered boat bringing more humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Misrata is due to arrive in the port later today with the aim of rescuing more stranded migrants.

The boat, the Ionian Spirit, left Benghazi on Tuesday night carrying 500 tons of food, medical supplies, hygiene kits and non-food items donated mainly by the Libyan private sector with some aid provided by Qatar and the U.A.E. Red Crescent. 

A Libyan non-governmental organization Libaid has donated the hygiene kits, medical supplies, hospital wheelchairs and four generators for hospital use.

Also on board are a team of 13 doctors with differing specializations. Two of the doctors who will relieve colleagues working in the hospital in Misrata will also refer critical but stable cases to IOM for evacuation to Benghazi.

"The presence of a large group of doctors with different specializations means greater capacity and more flexibility to assist those critically wounded or sick on board for the return journey to Benghazi," said IOM operational leader Jeremy Haslam as the boat departed.

However, the main focus of this third IOM operation to rescue stranded migrants in Misrata is to bring as many migrants as possible to safety.

In particular, the Organization is hoping to target a large number of migrants from Niger. Of the estimated 5,000 migrants around the port area, more than 3,200 are believed to be Nigeriens. 

"We don't know whether we will be able to reach them, however. If they are not close to the port, then it will be extremely hard to access them given the security conditions in the city," Haslam added. 

In two previous missions funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office (ECHO), IOM has rescued more than 2,100 people from Misrata, nearly 100 of them Libyans. 

New funding of one million Euros from the German government and £1.5 million (US$2.4m) from Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) will allow IOM to continue its rescue operations from Misrata where about 5,000 migrants are still believed to be stranded, to the eastern port city of Benghazi.

However, a critical shortage of funds means that while the migrants are brought to relative safety in Benghazi, they will remain stranded there without additional means.

"Taking the migrants out of the line of fire is life-saving, but by not being able to take them out of Libya and safely home means their plight has simply been transplanted to another location," says IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker. 

"This is true for all the migrants who we need to help inside Libya and for those who have managed to cross Libya's borders with its neighbours."

More than 5,000 migrants on the Egyptian, Tunisian and Nigerien borders with Libya are still in need of evacuation to their home countries.

Among the many identified groups of migrants needing urgent evacuation from inside Libya are a group of nearly 30,000 Chadians, including women and children, marooned in Gatroun. IOM is in discussions with the Libyan and Chadian authorities on accessing the group.

It comes as the number of Chadians crossing into Chad from Libya has dramatically increased with a growing number of the migrants stranded in northern towns such as Faya and Kaliyit. The migrants are all dehydrated, extremely tired and in need of food.

An IOM transit centre at Faya, where UNHCR has provided tents to accommodate arrivals, which has a capacity of 750 people is now overflowing.  

"An airlift to Ndjamena is the only option. But again this is a costly operation," Abdiker states. "We are in a position where we have beefed up our operational presence at the Chadian border points to cope with the number of arrivals but we have no money to evacuate the migrants from these isolated desert areas to the Chadian capital."

Working with various Embassies, an IOM operation begun some weeks ago to evacuate stranded migrants in Tripoli by bus to the Tunisian border will be difficult to continue.

Only yesterday, 19 April, IOM evacuated a group of 100 Beninois migrants from the Libyan capital, including women and infants. 

IOM appealed for about US$160 million dollars for its response to the Libyan crisis with much of the funding to provide evacuation assistance from both inside and outside Libya. The Organization has received to date US$65 million, all of it except the new funding spent on operations that have helped return more than 115,000 migrants return to their home countries and evacuate many thousands from inside Libya to Egypt and Tunisia.

- Source:  International Organization for Migration 


As Exodus of Migrants Continues From Libya Gaddafi Asks Them to go Back to Work (NEWS BRIEF)

A Nigerian migrant worker who fled the unrest in Libya waits at the Libyan and Tunisian border crossing of Ras Jdi CREDIT: AlertNet(HN, March 19, 2011) - As thousands of foreign migrant workers continue to stream out of war-torn Libya, the marginalized leader of the country has pleaded for oil field workers to come back to work.

In another bizarre news conference, Colonel Gaddafi said: "We need the workforce to come back and work in the oil fields so that we can resume production."

The plea comes as UN officials say thousands of distressed migrant workers - mostly from Sub-Saharan African countries - continue to stream across Libya's borders.

The latest batch to cross were thousands of Niger nationals who arrived by a convoy of trucks.

On Friday alone, at least 2,000 migrants crossed over the border to Niger and to the Dirkou transit camp, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). They arrived in 18 trucks and extremely hungry after a long trek across the desert. Reports are coming in of another 70 trucks of Nigerien migrants headed towards the border.

The exodus has overwhelm border towns like Dirkou - which only has 4,000 residents but now hosts a population of stranded migrants numbering 4,200. Long waits to get home and difficult conditions has sparked occasional violence, the IOM said.

Yesterday a large group of 204 Mauritanians - including 37 women and 48 children - were evacuated by the UN to their homeland. They had been stranded in the transit camp for more than two weeks.

"The situation for the migrants has been understandably difficult," said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM's Director of Operations. "They are impatient to go home and reach safety. They have already lost their money and possessions after in addition to having fled Libya in difficult circumstances."

- HUMNEWS staff