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Catastrophe Looms If NGOs Are Forced To Halt Rescue Missions In Mediterranean, Report Warns

Aid workers pulled more than 1,000 migrants and refugees from nine floundering vessels in distress off the Libyan coast on Thursday, in another intense day for the Italian Coast Guard and humanitarian organizations operating search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea.[1]

The crews of Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish aid organization involved in Thursday s operations, said they had evacuated two rubber dinghies and a wooden boat each crammed with more than 130 men, women and children. A 2-month-old baby with asthma was among the passengers of another wooden vessel intercepted that day.[2]

Together with the Italian Coast Guard, humanitarian organizations like Proactiva, Doctors Without Borders[3] and Save the Children[4] are the only actors now running proactive rescue missions in the Mediterranean. As the number of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Europe reached new highs in the past few months, non-governmental organizations have come under fierce criticism[5] from European politicians and officials, who accuse them of hampering efforts to stem the influx. The NGOs are almost like a ferry service. It s almost as if the smugglers were putting people directly on NGO boats, an anonymous European official told Reuters last month.[6]

But new research[7] that the Goldsmiths, University of London, released last week argues that empirical analysis systematically refutes some of the main accusations leveled against humanitarian groups. [This report] is written to avert a looming catastrophe, the researchers say. If NGOs are forced to stop or reduce their operations, many more lives will be lost to the sea.

Catastrophe Looms If NGOs Are Forced To Halt Rescue Missions In Mediterranean, Report Warns

Chris McGrath via Getty Images

Refugees and migrants wait in a small rubber boat to be rescued by the crew of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station Phoenix vessel off Lampedusa, Italy, on June 10.

On October 3, 2013, more than 300 migrants and refugees drowned in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. The tragedy prompted Italy to launch Mare Nostrum a coast guard search and rescue mission that has been credited with[9] saving tens of thousands of lives.[8]

When Mare Nostrum came to an end in 2014, the European border agency Frontex launched a new operation in its place. Rather than focusing on search-and-rescue, however, the main goal of the Frontex operation was border protection. On April 12 and April 15, 2015, more than 1,200 people perished in two shipwrecks off the Italian coast. Many of the victims had been trapped in the vessels hull after they capsized.[10]

In the absence of a dedicated European search-and-rescue operation and confronted with a growing loss of migrants lives at sea, humanitarian organizations launched their own rescue efforts coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard.

In 2016, a deal between Turkey and the European Union[11] effectively closed the Balkan route[12] across the Aegean Sea. The Libyan coast, all but lawless amid the security vacuum following the fall of leader Muammar Gaddafi[13], was fertile ground for smugglers and criminal networks.

Catastrophe Looms If NGOs Are Forced To Halt Rescue Missions In Mediterranean, Report Warns

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Migrants and refugees wait to board a Proactiva Open Arms’ rescue vessel after being rescued from a wooden boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya Thursday.

The large number of boats intercepted on Thursday was no rare occurrence. In the past few months, a staggering number of migrants and refugees attempted the 70-miles crossing from Libya to Italy. More than 65,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy since January 2017, up 18 percent on the same period last year. At least 1,735 people have died trying to reach Europe this year. Many more are believed to have perished while making their way across Sub Saharan Africa to the Libyan coast.[14][15]

Faced with a growing number of arrivals, critics of the humanitarian organizations have argued in recent months that the search-and-rescue missions create a pull factor for migrants and refugees.

You are stimulating smuggling, said Belgium s Secretary for Migration, Theo Francken, blaming Doctors Without Borders in a heated Twitter exchange in March. Your rescue operations close to the coast create a pull-factor and thus more deaths, he added to the agency, also known by its French acronym, MSF.[16]

But Goldsmiths researchers say that rather than the rescue missions, worsening economic and political conditions across the African continent, including the militant group Boko Haram s[17] reign of terror in Nigeria[18] and conflict and poverty in the Horn of Africa[19], have motivated migrants and refugees to attempt the dangerous journey. Those factors pushed migrants to the Libyan coast far before the search-and-rescue missions intensified. In addition, the researchers say, worsening violence in Libya has left many migrants with little choice but to attempt the crossing, whether rescue missions were operating or not.

If NGOs are forced to stop or reduce their operations, many more lives will be lost to the sea.

The Goldsmiths report also disputes a second allegation leveled at the aid organizations collusion with smugglers. In February, a controversial prosecutor on the Italian island of Sicily launched a fact-finding investigation into ties between the humanitarian groups and Libyan smugglers. Three months later, Carmelo Zuccaro said in court he had found no evidence proving the hypothesis.[20]

While far more measured in his analysis, the head of Frontex echoed a related sentiment when telling Reuters in May that rescue efforts should be careful not to encourage smuggling operations. We have to strike the right balance between saving lives and making sure our actions don t fuel a criminal business…by encouraging criminals to adapt their modus operandi to the fact that there will be vessels approaching Libya, Fabrice Leggeri said.[21]

NGOs like Doctors Without Borders argue that when faced with people at risk of dying, aid workers cannot hesitate to respond. Let s be clear, when you see boats like this in the Mediterranean, you have only two options, you rescue them or you rescue them, MSF tweeted on June 9.

Humanitarian organizations carrying out search and rescue at sea are saving tens of thousands of people from drowning every year. Humanitarian action is not the cause of this crisis but is a response to it, MSF told HuffPost in a statement.

Let’s be clear, when you see people on boats like this in the #Mediterranean you have only two options: you rescue them or you rescue them.[22][23]

MSF Sea (@MSF_Sea) June 9, 2017[24]

Frontex spokeswoman Izabella Cooper stressed in an email that the agency had never accused aid organizations of colluding with people smugglers. Frontex-deployed vessels have helped save tens of thousands of lives, she added.

The agency said that its analyses had shown that smugglers have been loading far more people into the rickety boats. The quality of the vessels has decreased dramatically in recent years and migrants and refugees were given just enough food and fuel to make it outside Libya s territorial waters far short of what s needed to reach the Italian coast. In the past two years, the smugglers in Libya have changed their modus operandi and have become more ruthless, Cooper told HuffPost in an email.

While critics of the aid organizations operations point to those worsening conditions to argue that search-and-rescue missions close to the Libyan coast in the long run endanger migrants lives, the Goldsmiths researchers say that the crossing has become more dangerous because of the worsening violence in Libya. Since the end of 2016, the researchers say, smuggling operations have increasingly been led by militias and that shift contributed to a change in the smugglers methods. Additionally, the researchers argue, one of the reasons smugglers shifted from using safer wooden vessels to rubber boats was the EU s own practice of destroying migrant vessels. We argue that SAR NGOs responded to and were not the cause of these evolving practices that had instead been spurred by other processes and actors predating SAR NGOs intervention, the researchers write.

MSF argues that policies largely focused on anti-smuggling and stemming the influx of migrants and refugees are ineffective and don t do enough to reduce migrant death at sea.

Although we cannot expect from Frontex to change its mandate, we are shocked to see that EU investment at sea is mainly focused on deterrence and surveillance and that there is no mandate of proactive SAR, MSF said.

Finally, the report argues, migrant deaths in the Mediterranean have been on the rise since early 2016, before aid organizations stepped up their missions in the Mediterranean. Migrant deaths declined after the NGO ships deployed and rose again when the search and rescue missions decreased.

There is thus a striking negative correlation between the decreasing mortality rate and the rising number of SAR NGO vessels, which shows that the latter made the crossing safer, the researchers wrote.

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  1. ^ pulled more than 1,000 migrants and refugees (
  2. ^ said they had evacuated (
  3. ^ Doctors Without Borders (
  4. ^ Save the Children (
  5. ^ fierce criticism (
  6. ^ an anonymous European official told Reuters last month. (
  7. ^ new research (
  8. ^ a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa (
  9. ^ credited with (
  10. ^ Frontex launched a new operation (
  11. ^ deal between Turkey and the European Union (
  12. ^ closed the Balkan route (
  13. ^ Muammar Gaddafi (
  14. ^ 65,000 (
  15. ^ 1,735 (
  16. ^ heated Twitter exchange (
  17. ^ Boko Haram s (
  18. ^ Nigeria (
  19. ^ Horn of Africa (
  20. ^ launched a fact-finding investigation (
  21. ^ Fabrice Leggeri said. (
  22. ^ #Mediterranean (
  23. ^ (
  24. ^ June 9, 2017 (

G4S: When a private company is in charge of your security

Just one year after the attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016, at least one economic sector appears to be flourishing: the security sector. The Belgian subsidiary of the security multinational G4S has announced that it has hired 1,610 new employees in 2016, including temporary contracts. An exceptionally high figure according to the company, leader of the Belgian market, which provided 1000 additional recruits in 2017, of which 500 women . Its competitor Securitas hired 1400 people in the country in 2016. A trend that can be found throughout Europe, as well as in the United States, and which G4S intends to take advantage of to revive their image almost destroyed by scandals. Who is this company, which does not have much of a presence in France? G4S describes itself as the world leader in security solutions . Of British origin, listed on the stock exchanges in London and Copenhagen, it supervises airports, ports, and manages cash transports. It employs a total of more than 600,000 people in nearly 120 countries. The company s communication generally omits to mention that G4S is also present in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, where it is in charge of checkpoints and prisons, that it deals with the repatriation of persons who illegally cross the border between Mexico and the United States on behalf of the US Government, or that it carries out missions in numerous conflict zones on the behalf of repressive regimes, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia |1|.

G4S: When A Private Company Is In Charge Of Your Security The breakdown of G4S revenues in 2014 was : UK & Ireland : 23%, Europe 21%, North America 20%, Asia/Middle East 19%, Latin America 10%, Africa 7%

A company that benefits from the increase in global violence

In more ways than you might realise, G4S is securing your world , says the multinational s website. The activist and philosopher Angela Davis adds: In more ways than you might realise, G4S has insinuated itself into our lives under the pretext of security and state security: this goes from the methods of political incarceration and torture suffered by Palestinians, to racist separation and apartheid technologies; from the wall in Israel to the one stretching along the US-Mexican border, to the prison-like set up of some schools in the United States. |2| G4S is taking advantage of the threat of terrorism and an atmosphere of fear carefully maintained by our governments, to provide a security response. It does not tackle the causes, but instead generates a climate conducive to abuse, which only feeds the paranoia and the order books of companies that say they are working for our security”. In a constant state of growth since 2004, arms sales have increased by 8.4% over the last five years compared to the previous five, according to recent data[1] from SIPRI. But it s not just the weapons industry that is in good shape. A multitude of so-called security firms profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders.[2] from the calamitous management of migratory flows and the criminalisation of undocumented migrants. This is precisely one of the main fields of action for G4S.

G4S, involved in the management of detention centres for migrants and asylum-seekers in the United Kingdom, is also a subcontractor of the UK government to organise escorts for foreigners expelled from the territory. It is in this context that Jimmy Mubenga, aged 46, father of five children and who had lived in England for 16 years, died on October 12, 2010, apparently asphyxiated in an attempt to stifle his cries during his deportation under the guard of three agents working for G4S. The agents were acquitted and released on bail, and the death of Jimmy Mugemba will remain unexplained despite the damning testimony[3] from Louise Graham of British Airways who on that day was working on board the BA77 flight from London to Luanda. Ill-trained and unaccountable staff should not be carrying out enforced removals and it is little wonder there are so many reports of improper treatment, declared Oliver Sprague[4], from Amnesty International UK. Two weeks after the tragedy, the company lost the market for the repatriation of removed persons which it had had the monopoly on since 2005. The contract, which brought in approximately 110 million pounds (125 million euros) in five years, ended in favour of a competing firm, Reliance Security Task |3|. That same year (2010), the company had to face forty-eight complaints filed by persons detained in centres it manages |4|. This has not prevented it from raking in new contracts elsewhere, such as in the United States or Australia, where it was in charge of the Manus Island offshore detention centre, the scene of riots and the assassination[5] of a 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker, Reza Barati, in 2014. The firm is also well represented in Greece, where it is in charge of security at refugee camps on the behalf of the European Union.

G4S: When A Private Company Is In Charge Of Your SecurityAlthough extreme, the cases of Jimmy Mubenga and Reza Barati are not isolated. Various other cases of criminal and racist violence directly involving G4S employees have also been reported. Omar Seddique Mateen, the presumed perpetrator of the homophobic attack in the Pulse night club, mecca of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Orlando, Florida, had been a G4S employee since 2007[6]. He had been cleared by the company on two occasions, without the company finding anything of concern. The shooting on 12 June 2016 resulted in the death of 49 people and injured 53.

The UK s lucrative market for prison management

Another sector in full boom alongside that of the management of migrants: the prisons. Here again, G4S has positioned itself to take advantage of security policies and the ensuing explosion of incarceration. In the United Kingdom, where the prison population has doubled from almost 40,000 prisoners in 1980 to more than 85,400 in 2016, the private sector has sniffed out some lucrative prospects, and leaped into prison management. Currently, apart from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which manages the still-public institutions, three private companies share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings.[7] the market for the management of 14 prisons: five for G4S (Altcourse in Liverpool, Rye Hill near Rugby, Birmingham Prison, Oakwood near Wolverhampton and Bridgend in South Wales), five at the hands of competitor Serco and the other four for the French company Sodexo (read our articles here[8] and here[9]) |5|.

G4S: When A Private Company Is In Charge Of Your Security Steve Bell, The Guardian, January 2014, after the dserious disorder at HMP Oakwood, managed by G4S

The situation deteriorated sharply when the Conservatives came to power in May 2010, as a result of the austerity measures they imposed. Minister of the Interior of David Cameron s government, Theresa May, reduced the prison system s budget by 500 million pounds (600 million euros). Between 2010 and 2015, 4,990 warden positions (out of 19,910) in public institutions disappeared. Wolds prison, the first in the United Kingdom to be directly under private control from its opening in 1992, did not renew the contract with G4S in 2013 and returned to public management, but it is an exception. At the same time, several other prisons have been privatised. Birmingham prison, one of the largest in the country, was the first to be transferred to the private sector in 2011. G4S was awarded the contract for 15 years. It was recruiting security candidates without prior qualification or experience required , according to its website |6|. At the end of December 2016, in the worst prison uprising in the country since the Strangeways prison riots in Manchester in 1990, nearly 600 prisoners took control of part of the Birmingham prison after stealing a warden s keys. G4S security personnel were completely overwhelmed, so the state had to intervene and send in its special public squads, called Tornado”, to regain control of the institution. Minister of Justice Liz Truss even asked G4S[10] to reimburse the costs that this entailed for the state! In three other prisons shaken by riots, prisoners were not allowed to leave their cells for several days due to the lack of staff[11]

Already in 2012, the Secretary general of the Public and Commercial Services union, Mark Serwotka, drew attention to this scandal of one of the largest private penitentiary systems in the world: The privatisation of our prison service ought to be a national scandal and that this has happened without any public debate is shameful. ( ) It is morally reprehensible that companies are profiting from locking people up and we urgently need an independent review to look at the impact on our communities, staff and prisoners |

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US Vice President Mike Pence issued another warning to North Korea over its latest failed missile launch, telling sailors in Japan that the US would bring ‘an overwhelming and effective’ response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons

More >>[1]

US Vice President Mike Pence issued another warning to North Korea over its latest failed missile launch, telling sailors in Japan that the US would bring ‘an overwhelming and effective’ response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons

More >>[2]


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