The Andes
arauca

Anti-war protests in northeast Colombia

Rural communities in Colombia’s northeastern Arauca department held anti-war protests amid inter-factional guerilla violence that has been terrorizing the region. Demanding attention from the government and international human rights organizations, some 1,200 marched in the hamlets of Puerto Jordan and BotalĂłn. Recent days had seen an outbreak of fighting in the area between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and “dissident” factions of the demobilized FARC guerillas that have refused to lay down arms, in defiance of a 2016 peace agreement. At least 23 were killed in the clashes, which were said to be over control of smuggling routes across the nearby Venezuelan border. About a dozen local families were also forced to flee their homes. (Photo: Arauca Online via Colombia Reports)

Europe
Riace

Italian mayor imprisoned for sheltering immigrants

Hundreds of residents in the southern Italian town of Riace took to the streets to express support for their mayor, Domenico (Miimmo) Lucano, after he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges related to his policy of providing safe harbor for immigrants. Following a probe dubbed “Xenia” (ironically, the ancient Greek word for hospitality), Lucano was charged with “aiding and abetting illegal immigration” among other crimes. Riace, on the Ionian coast of Calabria region, was facing population decline, like many small towns in Italy’s South, and Lucano sought to arrest this trend by welcoming migrants and asylum-seekers to settle there. Under his proclaimed modello di accoglienza (model of welcoming), the municipal government helped hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers from Africa and the Middle East to establish themselves in Riace. Despite his conviction, Lucano remains a candidate for regional president in Calabria’s upcoming elections. (Photo: Wikipedia)

North Africa
Libya detention

Migrants ‘disappearing’ in Libya

Of more than 24,000 asylum seekers and migrants intercepted at sea this year by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard, only 6,000 are accounted for in Libya’s official detention centers, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told the Associated Press. The fate of thousands of others returned to the country remains unknown. The situation has been worsening for months. The IOM warned last year of returnees vanishing from Interior Ministry “data-collection facilities,” and said it suspected that thousands are being sold to human traffickers. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

North Africa
Libya detainee

Libya: ‘horrific violations’ in migrant detention

Fresh evidence of harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya, highlights the grave consequences of Europe’s ongoing cooperation with Libyan authorities on migration and border control, said Amnesty International in a report. Since late 2020, Libya’s Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration, a department of the interior ministry, has “legitimized abuse” by integrating two new detention centers under its structure where hundreds of refugees and migrants had been “forcibly disappeared” in previous years by militias. Amnesty is calling on European states to suspend cooperation on migration and border control with Libya. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Europe
migrants

UN report blames EU and Libya for migrant deaths

Policy decisions of European Union member states and Libya have caused thousands of deaths along the central Mediterranean migrant route, according to a report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. At least 2,239 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe last year. In 2021 alone, at least 632 have died along the route. According to the report, the deaths were not a “tragic anomaly,” and could have been prevented. The lack of human rights protection for migrants during their journey is a consequence of the “concrete policy decisions and practices” of Libyan authorities, the EU, and its member states. (Photo: US Navy via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
openarms

Italy: Salvini to stand trial on kidnapping charges

Former deputy prime minister and current leader of Italy’s right-wing League party Matteo Salvini must stand trial for kidnapping, a Palermo judge ruled. The charges concern an incident in August 2019 in which he barred 147 migrants who had been rescued by Barcelona-based NGO Open Arms from disembarking at a Sicilian port. An indictment of the former minister was requested by Open Arms and nine migrants who were on board the vessel, which had been blocked for 19 days off the coast of Lampedusa. (Photo via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Rule of the Strongmen

In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump’s evident preparation for a coup d’etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via Macmillan)

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
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 FarrĂșs via Flickr)

Watching the Shadows
estado de emergencia

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism II

In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming “total” executive power and threatening to “adjourn” Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to “normality,” it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state. Yet at this grim moment for humanity, there are utopian as well as apocalyptic potentialities. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Peruvian Ministry of Defense via Flickr)

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)