A March To San Fransisco Hall

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 23:03 Written by

demo may 11 1

Italy says 10 migrants die, 5,800 rescued in ongoing mission











Rome: Another 5,800 migrants desperate to reach Europe were rescued this weekend as they tried to cross the Mediterranean on rickety boats, more than 2,150 of them on Sunday, the Italian coastguard said.


The number rescued this weekend was one of the highest recorded in recent years, raising fears that the tide of people risking their lives to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East has not been slowed by recent disasters.

On April 12 and 13 alone, more than 6,000 people were rescued.

Not all those trying to reach Europe made it, as the bodies of eight migrants were found on board two of the vessels on Sunday, the coastguard said.

It was unclear how they died, but migrants face many dangers and extreme conditions on board overcrowded, flimsy vessels that set sail from Libya to Italy.

Two other people drowned after they jumped into the sea to rush towards the rescue teams, the coastguard said.

Sunday`s rescues came as the Libyan coastguard intercepted five boats carrying 500 people and ordered them to return.

Another 50 migrants reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, the closest to north Africa`s shores, on Sunday.

The Italian navy said its patrol ship Bettica picked up more than 570 migrants from four vessels on Sunday, among them some 60 women and around 15 children.

The MV Phoenix, a ship operated by the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), also rescued 369 on Sunday, a day after setting sail from Malta for a six-month aid mission, MSF said.

Meanwhile the Libyan coastguard intercepted five boats with some 500 people on board, some eight nautical miles off the coast, and ordered them to head back for the city of Misrata east of the capital Tripoli.

Colonel Reda Issa of the Libyan coastguard told AFP that most of the migrants were Africans. He did not say what would happen to those intercepted, but Libya has a detention centre for migrants in Misrata.People smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

On April 19, some 750 migrants were killed when their trawler sank between Libya and southern Italy, sparking global outrage and demands for action.

Four days later EU leaders tripled the bloc`s budget for patrols off Libya.

EU leaders are now seeking UN Security Council approval for military action against smugglers in chaos-ridden Libya. But rights groups have blasted the Europe for focusing on patrols rather than humanitarian efforts.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has also urged the European Union to refrain from resorting to force.

Video released by the Italian coastguard on Sunday showed people crammed onto a small boat. The migrants are later seen clambering aboard a rescue vessel.

Saturday`s operations in the Mediterranean involved four Italian coastguard vessels, two Italian navy ships and two customs boats, as well as four cargo ships and tugs.

French patrol boat Commandant Birot, which was sent last week to boost the EU`s Operation Triton patrols dealing with the influx of migrant boats, also picked up 219 people off the coast of Libya Saturday.

Most of the migrants rescued Saturday were being taken to Sicily or southern Italy, while some had already landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

However two suspected people traffickers were to be handed over to police at the port of Crotone in Calabria in southern Italy.

Several hundred migrants, mostly Africans but also including many fleeing the civil war in Syria, set out from Libya every day, hoping to make it to Europe to start a new life.

The number of migrants entering the EU illegally in 2014 almost tripled to 276,000, according to Frontex, nearly 220,000 of them arriving via the Mediterranean.

Some 1,750 migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe this year, 30 times more than during the same period in 2014, according to the International Organization for Migration.


EU plans to provide Eritrea's oppressive regime with new funding



Reporters Without Borders calls on the European Union to condition additional aid to Eritrea via the European Development Fund (EDF) on a significant improvement in fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information.

The EDF is the main instrument for EU development assistance. Under the 11th EDF, the EU’s Eritrean “partner” is to get 312 million euros in aid between now and 2020 – three times what it was awarded in 2009 for the following five years – although it continues to flout freedom of expression and information, and human rights in general.

An Italian delegation that visited Eritrea from 24 to 26 March met with PresidentIssayas Afeworki, his political adviser Yemane Ghebreaben, and several ministers. Ghebreaben assured the delegation that Eritrea would carry out democratic reforms “in its own way” during the next three to five years.

Such promises have been made in the past without any significant improvements ever being seen. The Eritrean authorities continue to be inflexible as regards the detention of political prisoners, including many journalists, claiming that high treason and national sovereignty issues are involved.

“It is astounding that the European Union provides Issayas Afeworki’s regime with so much aid without seeking anything in return in the areas of human rights and freedom of expression, although Eritrea’s constitution guarantees the right to free speech,”said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.

“This country, which has never had democratic elections, is subject to a single man’s will. How can the European Union, which defends the rule of law and democratic values, support such a regime? While it is important to maintain a dialogue, there is a limit to how far you can go in accommodating a dictatorship that does not keep its promises".

“Wouldn’t it be in the EU’s own interest, as the recent deaths of hundreds migrants in the Mediterranean have reminded us, to encourage the development of a government that respects human rights and allows young Eritreans to see an alternative to a future of forced conscription of indeterminate duration?”

Kahn-Sriber added:“We call on the European Union to condition its funding on Eritrean government guarantees for more respect for human rights, including the release of imprisoned journalists who are political prisoners and authorization for media pluralism.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned the five-year EDF funding that the European Union awarded Eritrea in 2009although the situation of political prisoners had worsened considerably and more journalists had been arrested.

Contrary to its repeated promises to improve respect for human rights, the Eritrean regime has become steadily more oppressive and, although a small country, detains more journalists than any other African nation.

Since closing down all privately-owned media outlets in 2001, the government has exercised complete control over news and information, repeatedly cracking down on independent journalism andtrying to jam independent news radio broadcasts from outside the country.

The least critical opinion can lead to permanent incarceration without trial in unbearable conditions in one of the country prison camps. Of the 11 journalists arrested in 2001, at least seven have died or taken their own lives in detention.

Eritrea is ranked last in theReporters Without Borders press freedom indexfor the eighth year running.

(Photo: Italian Deputy foreign minister Lapo Pistelli in Asmara with President Afeworki)


The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 503rd meeting held on 30 April 2015, was briefed by the Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to the AU on the xenophobic attacks against foreign migrants in South Africa and the measures taken by the South African authorities to address this situation.

Council expressed its rejection of xenophobia in all its forms and manifestations. In this respect, Council welcomed the press release issued by the Chairperson of the Commission on 15 April 2015, which strongly condemned the attacks, expressed her concern for the safety of foreign nationals and called for the immediate halt of these unacceptable attacks. Council further expressed strong condemnation of these acts carried out by isolated groups against innocent foreigners. Council expressed its heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and wished prompt recovery to the injured.

Council commended the Government of South Africa for the steps it has taken to address the situation, notably the concerted leadership of President Jacob Zuma and the South African Cabinet. Council noted that the situation is beginning to return to normalcy. Council expressed its confidence that the South African authorities would do all in their power to fully address the issues at hand, to ensure that there is no repeat of this xenophobic violence in the future, including bringing to justice the perpetrators of these heinous acts. Council further called for steps to compensate for the loss of life and property.

Council acknowledged that the incidents that have taken place in South Africa are a reflection of larger social, economic and political challenges facing the continent, which are further reflected in the attempts by African migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, notably through Libya, with the attendant massive loss of life. In this respect, Council underlined the need for a comprehensive approach to these challenges, taking into account the constraints of Member States, the imperative to respect the rights of migrants and ensure their humane treatment, as well as the overall objective of achieving freedom of movement across the continent, as one of the main components of the integration agenda of the Union.

Council recommended that the relevant policy organs convene a special session devoted to the issue of migration and its related challenges, with a view to agreeing to an enhanced African collective effort, on the basis of a report to be submitted by the Commission.


London, April 28, 2015

As most of you are acutely aware, there are thousands of Eritrean refugees in Israel awaiting a decision from the Israeli government for their application to be given the status of political refugees. Much to our dismay, we have recently learned that the Israeli government has made a definite plan and is preparing to deport the thousands of Eritrean political refugees to Uganda and Ruanda in exchange for financial rewards and arms. In order to justify the planned illegal deportation of Eritrean refugees, the Israeli government has stated and forwarded fallacious and quasi-racist arguments, such as that the presence of the thousands of Eritrean refugees in Israel is a threat to the Jewish character of the Israeli State. 

We, the members of the Eritrean refuge communities in Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and elsewhere consider the planned action of the Israeli government to deport Eritrean refugees against their will to Uganda and Ruanda in exchange for arms and money to be not only an indefensible and immoral act, but also illegal. It is illegal because it clearly and crudely violates the letter and spirit of the 1951 Geneva Convention governing refugees, and is incompatible with the international norms set by the United Nations, to which the Israeli government is a signatory.

Furthermore, it also illegal because the 1951 Refugee Conventions clearly state that “No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where the freedom and safety of a refugee would be threatened.”

We therefore call upon all Eritreans in Europe and elsewhere, and other democrats and human rights organisations, to join us at the planned protest demonstration on the 19th May 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland, to show active solidarity to our stressed compatriots and stringently oppose the planned deportation of Eritrean refugees by the Israeli government.

Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis

Spokesperson and Coordinator of the Geneva Demonstration


EPDP Information Office

On Saturday, 25 April, over 500 Geneva residents staged a silent demonstration in memory of those hundreds of Eritreans, Ethiopians and others who were drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and those beheaded by Islamist extremists in Libya simply because of their religion.

Jointly organized by Eritrean and Ethiopian civil society groups, the demonstration walked for kilometer and gathered in front of the statutes of Calvin and other historic leaders of the city of Geneva. The demonstration participants were called for a moment of silence by Ms Huda Omar Bekhit, one of the young Eritrean organizers of the event.

victims memorial Swiss2Young Verona Almedom of the Anti-Slavery Campaign, Tedros Teklemariam, chair of a newly formed civl movement in Geneva, coordinated the speeches presented by Geneva city representatives and Eritrean and Ethiopian civil society members deeply regretting the failure of Europe to save lives in its doorsteps and condemning the brutal beheadings of Eritrean and Ethiopians asylum seekers for the simple reason of their being Christians.

The speakers emphasized the most urgent need of addressing the push factors that are forcing so many Eritreans and others to leave their home in search of safety and better live.

It was reported by UNHCR officials that not less than 350 Eritreans perished when a rickety boat carrying up to 800 persons capsized in the Mediterranean Sea five days ago.  A survivor of the IS beheadings in Libya also estimated that the vast majority of those beheaded by the fanatic group in Libya were from Eritrea.

One compelling image has come to represent all the Greek people who treated desperate migrants like fellow human beings

Boat migrant being rescued

Antonis Deligiorgis saving Negasi Nebiat: ‘I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea, then instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.’ Photograph: Argiris Mantikos/AP


It was an image that came to symbolise desperation and valour: the desperation of those who will take on the sea – and the men who ferry human cargo across it – to flee the ills that cannot keep them in their own countries. And the valour of those on Europe’s southern shores who rush to save them when tragedy strikes.

Last week on the island of Rhodes, war, repression, dictatorship in distant Eritrea were far from the mind of army sergeant Antonis Deligiorgis. The world inhabited by Wegasi Nebiat, a 24-year-old Eritrean in the cabin of a yacht sailing towards the isle, was still far away.

At 8am on Monday there was nothing that indicated the two would meet. Stationed in Rhodes, the burly soldier accompanied his wife, Theodora, on the school run. “Then we thought we’d grab a coffee,” he told the Observer in an exclusive interview recounting what would soon ensue. “We stopped by a cafe on the seafront.”

Deligiorgis had his back to the sea when the vessel carrying Nebiat struck the jagged rocks fishermen on Rhodes grow up learning to avoid. Within seconds the rickety boat packed with Syrians and Eritreans was listing. The odyssey that had originated six hours earlier at the Turkish port of Marmaris – where thousands of Europe-bound migrants are now said to be amassed – was about to end in the strong currents off Zefyros Beach.

For Nebiat, whose journey to Europe began in early March – her parents paid $10,000 for a voyage that would see her walk, bus and fly her way to “freedom” – the reef was her first contact with the continent she had prayed to reach. Soon she was in the water clinging to a rubber buoy.

“The boat disintegrated in a matter of minutes,” the father-of-two recalled. “It was as if it was made of paper. By the time I left the café at 10 past 10, a lot of people had rushed to the scene. The coastguard was there, a Super Puma [helicopter] was in the air, the ambulance brigade had come, fishermen had gathered in their caiques. Without really giving it a second’s thought, I did what I had to do. By 10:15 I had taken off my shirt and was in the water.”

Deligiorgis brought 20 of the 93 migrants to shore singlehandedly. “At first I wore my shoes but soon had to take them off,” he said, speaking by telephone from Rhodes. “The water was full of oil from the boat and was very bitter and the rocks were slippery and very sharp. I cut myself quite badly on my hands and feet, but all I could think of was saving those poor people.”

In the chaos of the rescue, the 34-year-old cannot remember if he saved three or four men, or three or four children, or five or six women: “What I do remember was seeing a man who was around 40 die. He was flailing about, he couldn’t breathe, he was choking, and though I tried was impossible to reach. Anyone who could was hanging on to the wreckage.”

Deligiorgis says he was helped by the survival skills and techniques learned in the army: “But the waves were so big, so relentless. They kept coming and coming.” He had been in the water for about 20 minutes when he saw Nebiat gripping the buoy. “She was having great problems breathing,” he said. “There were some guys from the coastguard around me who had jumped in with all their clothes on. I was having trouble lifting her out of the sea. They helped and then, instinctively, I put her over my shoulder.”

The rescue operation on the Greek island of Rhodes. Photograph: Xinhua /Landov / Barcroft Media/Xinhua /Landov / Barcroft Media

On Friday it emerged that he had also rescued a woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy in Rhodes general hospital. In a sign of her gratitude, the Eritrean, who did not want to be identified, told nurses she would name her son after him. While Deligiorgis’s heroism has raised the spirits of a nation grappling with its worst economic crisis in modern times, he is far from alone. All week there have been stories of acts of kindness, great and small, by islanders who rushed to help the emigrés. One woman stripped her own child to swaddle a Syrian baby, hundreds rushed to donate food and clothes.

“They are souls, like us,” said Babis Manias, a fisherman, breaking down as he recalled saving a child.

“We couldn’t believe it at first. We thought it was a tourist boat, what with all the hotels along the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it, the terror that can haunt a human’s eyes.”

The incident has highlighted the extraordinary sacrifice people on the frontline of Fortress Europe will often make as the humanitarian disaster unfolding on the continent’s outer reaches becomes ever more real. Last week close to 2,000 migrants were reported entering he country with the vast majority coming through its far-flung Aegean isles. Most were said to be Syrian students and other professionals able to afford passage to the west.

“As long as there are crises in their own countries and desperation and despair, they will look to Europe,” said Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, who heads the United Nations refugee mission in Athens. “And as long as there are no legal alternatives they will take these great risks to get here.”

Like other passengers, Nebiat, who would spend most of the week in hospital being treated for suspected pneumonia, has no desire to stay in Greece. Sweden is her goal. And on Thursday she boarded a ferry bound for Piraeus, the continuation of a journey that began in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, took her to Sudan and from there to Turkey travelling on a fake passport. “I am lucky,” she said as she was reunited with those who made the journey with her. “Very lucky to be alive.”

Deligiorgis falls silent at the mention of heroism. There was nothing brave, he says, about fulfilling his duty “as a human, as a man”. But recounting the moment he plucked the Eritrean from the sea, he admits the memory will linger. “I will never forget her face,” he says. “Ever.”


The EU’s de facto policy is to let migrants drown to stop others coming. How many more deaths can we stomach?
A dinghy packed with migrants off the Libyan coast

A dinghy packed with migrants off the Libyan coast. ‘Five hundred people have already died this year; the figure for the equivalent period in 2014 was 15.' Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

These are the people we are allowing to die in the Mediterranean. The EU’s de facto policy is to let migrants drown to stop others coming. Last year nearly four thousand bodies were recovered from the Med. Those are just the ones we found. The total number of arrivals in Italy in 2014 went up over 300% from the year before, to more than 170,000. And the EU’s response, driven by the cruellest British government in living memory, was to cut the main rescue operation, Mare Nostrum.

The inevitable result is that 500 people have already died this year. The figure for the equivalent period in 2014 was 15. There are half a million people in Libya waiting to make the crossing. How many more deaths can we stomach?

Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life, which is malice by proxy. Like drones and derivatives, migration policy allows the powerful to inflict horrors on the powerless without getting their hands dirty. James Brokenshire, the minister who defended cutting Mare Nostrum on the nauseatingly hypocritical grounds that it encouraged migration, never has to let the deaths his decision helped to cause spoil his expensive lunch with lobbyists. It doesn’t affect him.


But it does affect us. Right now we are a diminished and reduced society, bristling with suspicion and distrust of others even as we perversely struggle with loneliness and alienation. We breathe the toxic smog of hatred towards immigrants pumped out by Nigel Farage and Katie Hopkins, and it makes us lesser people.

Forget the fact that this society wouldn’t work without migrants, that nobody else will pick your vegetables and make your latte and get up at 4am to clean your office. Forget the massive tax contribution made by migrants to the Treasury. This is not about economics. Far too often, even the positive takes on migration are driven by numbers and finance, by “What can they do for us?”. This is about two things: compassion and responsibility.

Lampedusa, my play currently running at the Soho Theatre, focuses on two people at the sharp end of austerity Europe. Stefano is a coastguard whose job is to fish dead migrants out of the sea. Denise is a collector for a payday loan company. They’re not liberals. They don’t like the people they deal with. They can’t afford to. As Stefano says: “You try to keep them at arm’s length. There’s too many of them. And it makes you think, about the randomness of I get to walk these streets, and he doesn’t. The ground becomes ocean under your feet.”

Migration illustrates one of the signal features of modern life: malice by proxy

But eventually, the human impact of what they do breaks through. And in their consequent struggles, both Stefano and Denise are aided by a friendship, reluctant and questioning, with someone they formerly thought of as a burden. This is compassion not as a lofty feeling for someone beneath you, but as the raw reciprocal necessity of human beings who have nothing but each other. This is where we are in the utterly corrupted, co-opted politics of the early 21st century. The powerful don’t give a shit. All we have is us.

But equally important is responsibility. In all the rage about migration, one thing is never discussed: what we do to cause it. A report published this week by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveals that the World Bank displaced a staggering 3.4 million people in the last five years. By funding privatisations, land grabs and dams, by backing companies and governments accused of rape, murder and torture, and by putting $50bn into projects graded highest risk for “irreversible and unprecedented” social impacts, the World Bank has massively contributed to the flow of impoverished people across the globe. The single biggest thing we could do to stop migration is to abolish the development mafia: the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Investment Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

A very close second is to stop bombing the Middle East. The west destroyed the infrastructure of Libya without any clue as to what would replace it. What has is a vacuum state run by warlords that is now the centre of Mediterranean people-smuggling. We’re right behind the Sisi regime in Egypt that is eradicating the Arab spring, cracking down on Muslims and privatising infrastructure at a rate of knots, all of which pushes huge numbers of people on to the boats. Our past work in Somalia, Syria and Iraq means those nationalities are top of the migrant list.

Not all migration is caused by the west, of course. But let’s have a real conversation about the part that is. Let’s have a real conversation about our ageing demographic and the massive skills shortage here, what it means for overstretched public services if we let migrants in (we’d need to raise money to meet increased demand, and the clearest and fairest way is a rise in taxes on the rich), the ethics of taking the cream of the crop from poor countries. Migration is a complex subject. But let’s not be cowards and pretend the migrants will stop coming. Because they won’t. This will never stop.


Two Eritrean men smuggled across the Med from Africa to Europe said they knew the risks but had no choice but to make the journey.

19:31, UK, Tuesday 21 April 2015


Two Eritrean asylum seekers have told how they relived their own nightmare of journeying across the Mediterranean when they heard how hundreds of people died in a single boat tragedy.

Habtom Hadish, 31, and Essay Fitiwi, 36, both took smuggler boats across the Mediterranean last year and had to be rescued by the Italian coastguard when their vessels broke down.

Speaking about the disaster off Libya at the weekend, Mr Hadish told Sky News: "I very sad that so many men and women died."

Mr Fitwi added: "I'm hurt, I'm sad and I'm crying. The situation is so dangerous."

Although they travelled separately, they both told how their boats broke down at sea - leaving them fearing they were going to drown.

Video: Migrant Ship Captain Facing Charges

Mr Hadish said: "The journey from Libya to Italy was very dangerous. It was in a small boat, about 350 people, in the middle of the sea. Unfortunately the pumping of water stopped and I felt like we were going to die, all of us."

He said two people on board suffocated below deck before the coast guard arrived.

Mr Fitwi said of the desperate conditions: "Inside there is heightened pressure and intensification. There is no air.

"Travelling without food, without water for 26 hours and the captain didn't know the direction for the GPS."

Video: How Can UK Tackle Migrant Crisis?

He said the boat ran out of fuel and it ended up drifting.

He added they were so desperate that they drank their own urine and said: "I thought we were going to die". The coastguard then arrived after 10 hours.

Both men were fleeing instability in Eritrea. Mr Fitwi travelled to Libya via Sudan in a truck, and Mr Hadish went via Ethiopia.

They both paid people smugglers $2,000 each but say they knew the risks they were taking.

Video: Where Are The Migrants Coming From?

Having arrived in Italy they then made it to France where they paid more people smugglers to get them to Britain in a lorry.

After claiming asylum, the Home Office sent them to Glasgow while their applications are being processed.

Mr Hadish said: "I had no choice. I had to take the risk. Eritrea is very corrupt. There is no freedom of speech or movement. Life is very dangerous. I chose to flee."

His colleague said his cousin paid the money to smugglers, adding: "Eritrea is a political dictatorship. There is only one party. No right to speak. No freedom of movement.

Speaking about living in Glasgow, Mr Fitwi, who gets £5 a day in benefits, said: "It's nice. You can learn and speak whatever you like. It is free. I'm going to college, learning English and working with a charity."

The men both think that more should be done to stop the smugglers.

But they believe the focus should be on improving the countries from where people flee.