Construction workers queue for buses back to their accommodation camp in Doha, Qatar. Photo Credit: EPA

Fifa faces legal challenge over Qatar migrant workers

Article in the Guardian by Owen Gibson
10 October, 2016

“Fifa is facing legal action in the Swiss courts over its alleged complicity in the mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup, the Guardian can reveal.

Since Fifa voted in December 2010 to hold the World Cup in the tiny Gulf state,Qatar has faced intense criticism over the plight of an army of migrant workers that soared to 1.7 million as the country embarked on a construction spree to build the stadiums and infrastructure required.

But the legal challenge, brought by the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) on behalf of a Bangladeshi migrant worker called Nadim Sharaful Alam, is the first time that Fifa has been made directly accountable in the Swiss courts.”

Labour unions could play a major role in enhancing the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers if only they decided to step up to the plate as strongly as they have in the past for their traditional members. Migrant workers are actually in the same exploited situation today as the industrial workers of the 19th century by whom and for whom labour unions were created in the first place. Migrant workers should be a natural membership for labour unions.

To read the full article, please click here.

  On 2 October 2016, the Ministers of Finance, Refugees and Foreign Affairs briefed the parliament on the Brussels conference and the readmission agreement with the EU. Photo credit: Afghanistan Analysts Network

EU and Afghanistan Get Deal on Migrants: Disagreements, pressure and last minute politics

Article on the Afghanistan Analysts Network's website
8 October, 2016

“At a major conference in Brussels this week, foreign governments agreed to provide Afghanistan with $3.75 billion in aid over the next four years – but not without some strings attached. The EU unveiled its migration agreement with Afghanistan, which effectively made aid contingent upon the return of Afghans who have fled war and economic ruin and made it to Europe but had their asylum applications denied. Unsurprisingly, the deal was not a popular one in Afghan political circles. In this article, the Afghanistan Analysts Network’s Jelena Bjelica explains what the agreement actually says, and gives us the inside view on the last-minute politicking in Kabul that made it possible.”

Another mistaken avenue. Once again, results will be “disappointing”, in that, despite enormous costs, not many Afghanis will effectively be repatriated. Such a waste of money, energy, goodwill and political capital, which could be productively employed for integration programmes and mechanisms. So many lives being messed up.

To read the full article, please click here. 

Tragedy Strikes Hundreds of Migrants Bound for Italy

National Geographic Photo Reportage
7 October, 2016

In the National Geographic of this month, a photographic account of a rescue operation in the Mediterranean between Libya and Italy. Warning: some pictures are disturbing.

To view the pictures, click on the following link.

  British troops in Iraq. A series of court cases have focused on military actions there and in Afghanistan. Photo credit: David Cheskin/PA

Plan for UK military to opt out of European convention on human rights

4 October, 2016

“Controversial plans for the military to opt out from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) during future conflicts will be introduced by ministers, to see off what the prime minister described as an “industry of vexatious claims” against soldiers.

The long-mooted idea will be announced on Tuesday at the Conservative party conference by Theresa May and the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, although it was immediately criticised by human rights groups who said it was based on a false narrative of spurious lawsuits.”

This announcement of a systematic partial and temporary withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights is a terrible message to all concerned: foreigners don’t deserve our human rights standards. Apart from being mostly ineffective at preventing lawsuits and from appearing to encourage human rights abuse by the military, it also invites similar behaviour by enemies of British troops, thus endangering UK’s soldiers, allies and the civilians working for them, and destroying the trust needed for efficient warfare.

In the bigger picture, this long-held populist grudge of a part of the British political establishment against “foreign judges” and the ECHR (initially voiced by Tony Blair in 2002 when he threatened to withdraw the UK from the ECHR if the number of asylum claims did not come down, and quickly repressed by then Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine who told Blair and the home secretary, David Blunkett: “I don’t know why you guys don’t just adopt the Zimbabwean constitution and have done with it”) sends out the message that “we” are the only ones deserving of human rights: it is direct encouragement to racial discrimination, xenophobia and violence against migrants.

To read the full article in The Guardian, please click here.

  Jihan Sheikh Mohammed, center, with some of her children, including Mariya bint Loqman Abdlkarim, 9, at a refugee camp in Oraiokastro, Greece. They fled from Syria. Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times

Plan to Let Migrant Children Attend School Enrages Many Greeks

Article in the NY Times
25 September, 2016

“But as with many aspects of Europe’s effort to cope with the huge numbers of migrants who have come to its shores, the plan quickly ran into intense opposition, in this case from parents in a number of communities near camps in northern Greece. The refugee children, the parents said, might have contagious diseases. Cultural differences, they said, might disrupt learning.

Last week, an association representing the parents of schoolchildren in the small town of Filippiada in western Greece sent a letter to local officials and the Education Ministry, saying “explicitly and categorically that we will not accept, under any circumstance and without any compromise, that the children of so-called irregular immigrants” attend local schools, referring to migrants entering the country illegally.”

Children have a right to education and the best system is to integrate them in the normal school stream. Reactions are foreseeable, although there is a steady part of the Greek population which remains welcoming of refugees and migrants and continues to support and help and donate. This is where countries like Greece – which bears the brunt of arrivals from Turkey, without much help from other EU countries – need help. All Greek schools which receive refugee children should be funded by the European Union to do so, including for the hiring of “cultural interpreters” who would be the go-to person in helping smooth out the transition. Unfortunately, integration strategies are still in their infancy in Europe.

To read more about this issue in the NY Times, please click on the following link.