Europe
SOS Mediterranee

Italy detains another migrant rescue ship

Italian authorities detained another NGO-operated search-and-rescue vessel—the fourth to have fallen foul of “technical irregularities” since the beginning of the pandemic. The move fits a pattern of authorities using administrative procedures to block the work of search-and-rescue NGOs in the central Mediterranean, according to human rights groups. At the end of June, the Ocean Viking, operated by NGO Onboard SOS Mediterranee, rescued 180 asylum-seekers and migrants who had departed from Libya. Authorities in Italy and Malta refused to assign the ship a safe harbor for eight days, leading to a severe deterioration in the mental health conditions of those on board, manifesting in suicide attempts and fights. After the rescued people finally disembarked in Sicily, the Ocean Viking observed a 14-day quarantine before it was inspected and impounded. (Photo: Onboard SOS Mediterranee)

Europe
Lesvos

Greece: violent ‘pushbacks’ of asylum seekers

Documentation is mounting of Greek authorities carrying out violent “pushbacks” of asylum-seekers and migrants at the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey. The practice violatesEU and international law, but in the past four months rights groups and media have documented an uptick in its use at the Greece-Turkey land border. Monitors have also documented the abandonment of asylum-seekers in “floating tents” without any means of propulsion in the Aegean Sea, and masked men sabotaging boats carrying asylum-seekers. The UN Refugee Agency has urged Greece to investigate. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Europe
refugees in italy

Italy’s COVID-19 ‘amnesty’: hope and skepticism

The Italian government passed a measure allowing some 200,000 undocumented workers to apply for six-month residency permits, as part of the coronavirus pandemic recovery effort. But the initial atmosphere of hope has quickly faded. The amnesty only applies to workers in “essential” industries such as agriculture—a sector that relies on undocumented migrants for some 25% of its labor force. It excludes those who were stripped of humanitarian protection or legal status by the anti-migrant “security decrees” issued under former far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini. And after six months, applicants will be in the same situation as before the pandemic. (Photo: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flickr)

Europe
Psyche

Podcast: Eros and Psyche revisited

In Episode 52 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses CS Lewis‘ last novel, Till We Have Faces, a reworking of the myth of Eros and Psyche, comparing it to its ancient source material, The Golden Ass of Apuleius. The pagan roots of the novel, as well the influence of Lewis’ first real love interest, Joy Davidman, make the work his most richly layered with meaning—and perhaps even unintentionally feminist. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Psyche Revived by Cupid’s KissAntonio Canova, 1787, at the Louvre, via Grethexis)

Europe
refugees

COVID-19 port closures leave migrants stranded at sea

Migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa have been left stranded on the Mediterranean Sea after Italy and Malta closed their ports due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Alarm Phone, which acts as a hotline for refugees and migrants in distress on the Mediterranean, says that it has lost contact with boats that requested assistance in Malta’s search-and-rescue zone. Maltese authorities have failed to respond. The Aita Mari, a rescue ship run by a Spanish NGO, has been dispatched in an attempt to reach them, but it is only authorized to provide life vests, food and water. Meanwhile, the Alan Kurdi, a rescue ship run by a German charity, has been in Italian waters for a week, but has been prevented from docking. The ship has 150 people aboard. (Photo: callmonikm/Flickr via TNH)

Europe
refugees

EU court rules three countries violated asylum deal

The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo: UNHCR/H.Holland)

Europe
Italy prison revolt

Italy: prisons in revolt over COVID-19 restrictions

A total of 12 inmates have been killed in prison riots across Italy, triggered by emergency restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The riots began in response to regulation changes that include the suspension of family visits. Uprisings have been reported at facilities from Bologna in the north to Sicily in the south. At Santa Ana prison, outside Bologna, fires were started and guards taken hostage. Soldiers and Carabinieri surrounded the facility to prevent inmates from escaping. Relatives of the inmates have also staged demonstrations outside the prisons. Protests and riots have been reported at a total of 27 prisons across Italy. (Image: Anarchists Worldwide)

Europe
Lesbos

Grim milestone for the Mediterranean

Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)

Europe
Crimea Canal

Ukraine to lift ‘water blockade’ of Crimea?

Ukrainian lawmakers from the ruling party have proposed resuming the water supply to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, leading to public outrage. After Russia’s 2014 seizure and unilateral annexation of Crimea, Ukraine ceased supplying water to the arid peninsula. Before the occupation, water was supplied from the Ukrainian mainland through the North Crimean Canal. Today, a dam blocks the canal on the de facto border with Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast. The shortage of water has hurt Crimean agriculture and industry, although most households rely on local wells. MPs from the ruling Servant of the People party proposed either selling the water to Crimea or using it to leverage a withdrawal of Russian military forces from the conflicted Donbas region in Ukraine’s east. But Refat Chubarov, the Crimean Tatar leader who was exiled from the peninsula by Russia after the take-over, responded that any agreement to supply water to Crimea, regardless of the conditions, would be a betrayal of the 500,000 Tatars living in the peninsula. (Map: EuroMaidan Press)

Europe
Sicily migrants

Salvini to face charges over migrant detention

The Italian Senate voted to lift former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s parliamentary immunity over his treatment of asylum seekers. Under Italian law, Salvini had immunity from criminal prosecution over actions he had taken while serving in the cabinet. But, at the request of prosecutors in Sicily, the Senate voted 152-76 to strip Salvini of his immunity, thus formally authorizing prosecutors to press charges against him for his decision to refuse entry to approximately 131 asylum-seeking migrants last July. Salvini will likely be charged with aggravated kidnapping for illegally keeping the migrants aboard a coastguard ship and refusing to let them disembark. (Photo: UNHCR via The New Humanitarian)

Europe
PKK flag

Belgian high court: PKK not ‘terrorist’ organization

The Court of Cassation of Belgium upheld a lower court’s judgement and ruled that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not a “terrorist organization.” The case, one of several in Belgium relating to the nature of the PKK, stems from an investigation into three local Kurdish supporters of the party by Belgian judicial authorities. The legality of the investigation was challenged, and in May 2017 the Court of Appeals ruled for the three activists. The Federal Prosecutor’s appeal of this ruling has now been rejected. One of the three targeted leaders, Zübeyir Aydar of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, said: “The Court of Cassation ruling recognizes the fact that the Kurdistan freedom struggle cannot be accused of terrorism, that what is in question is not terror but a war, and the PKK is a party of this war. This is a first in Europe and we hope it will set an example to other countries.” A case has been pending since November 2018 before the European Court of Justice challenging the European Union’s listing of the PKK as a “terrorist organization.” (Photo: ANF)

Europe
ATR

Exiled Crimean Tatar TV threatened with silence

The only Crimean Tatar TV channel is facing a new threat to its existence—this time not from the Russian occupiers of Crimea, but the Ukrainian authorities. A dramatic cut in state funding for ATR TV has coincided with Kiev’s decision to drop Tatar-language services on the state network UATV in favor of a new Russian-language channel to be broadcast into rebel-held territory in Ukraine’s heavily Russophone east. ATR has reduced production of its own programs by 90% due to underfunding, and the station’s debts forced it to turn off its satellite signal this month—the only means of actually reaching the Crimean Peninsula. It has been able to restart its satellite service thanks to emergency aid from the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Yaakov Dov Bleich. (Photo: European Federation of Journalists)