Tag Archives: migrants

Mermaids and Sea shores

This morning I caught up with my Saturday paper. I love my weekend paper but it’s so big that I tend to read sections during the week as well. In the Guardian Review, Jeanette Winterson reviewed The World’s Wife, a collection by Carol Ann Duffy. I enjoy the work of both authors, so it was a real pleasure. As usual, I was struck by Winterson’s turn of phrase. She described poetry thus:

“Poetry is a pleasure.

Sometimes people say to me, “why should I read a poem?” There are plenty of answers, from the profound – a poem is such an ancient means of communication that it feels like an evolutionary necessity – to the practical; a poem is like a shot of espresso – the fastest way to get a hit of mental and spiritual energy.

We could talk about poetry as a rope in a storm. Poetry as one continuous mantra of mental health. Poetry as the world’s biggest, longest-running workshop on how to love. Poetry as a conversation across time.”

She’s right. Later in my day I would stumble across a work by one of my favourite poets, Hollie McNish, Mermaids and Sand (Ocean Floor)As the best art points us towards truth, she highlights the compassion deficit in Europe towards those who die on the seas trying to make it to safety. The International Organization for Migration announced last week the the numbers last year topped 170,000. Syrians were the most numerous, followed by Eritreans.

“The emergency is not in the number of people involved or a risk that they will overburden Europe, a bloc of countries with a population of about 500 million people…the emergencies are the conflicts, instability and great uncertainty in a number of countries close to Europe, which people are fleeing. If we put these numbers in perspective, we’ll see that Turkey is hosting about 1.8 million Syrian refugees, and Lebanon (a very small country of 4 million people) is dealing with over one million.”

“We say go back. There’s no space for you here.” – Hollie McNish


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Check it out: I wrote about the #Dontletthemdrown campaign for Media Diversified.

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A sorry business

While speculation raged over David Cameron’s weakness in the face of 100 Tory rebels which forced him to rely on Labour to see off a rebel amendment to the Immigration Bill that would see the UK basically bar foreign criminals from using European human rights law to avoid deportation, certain potentially discriminatory practices were given the weight of law:

Such as the phenomenon of the never-ending border check:

1. Landlords will have to check the immigration status of tenants, facing large fines if they fall foul of the law.

2. So will banks.

3. Students will have to pay temporary levy towards the NHS.

4. The rules on appeals against immigration decisions have been drastically altered, to the detriment of the migrant.

And this is before we look at the effects on the most vulnerable- refugees, migrant women fleeing domestic violence.

While my MP was thankfully one of the 16 MPs with the courage of their convictions to vote against this bill, so many abdicated their responsibility. I knew this was coming but it’s so disheartening nonetheless. Too many reports are on process – the political winners (the rebels? Whatever – no one who matters anyway) and losers (Cameron and May – and I’d add decency and justice), but this Bill will have implications for us all.

The takeaway from this? Be mindful of who you love (and hope you earn enough to stay together in Britain if your beloved is from outside the EU.)Be mindful not to get tangled up in the system if you can help it – you may have no space to appeal. Try not to sound too foreign, look too foreign (apologies to all who look a little too dusky) or have a complicated name or weird accent – especially when renting housing, going to the bank or the hospital.

Oh, and just in general now – try not to be poor.

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Decision time at the AU

Today the African Union may withdraw from the International Criminal Court, which will effectively collapse it. Two days ago Desmond Tutu appealed to African nations not to do it, warning that:

“African leaders could kill off a great institution, leaving the world a more dangerous place.”

He launched a petition urging African countries not to break the ICC. The AFP news agency reported:

Tutu said the ICC was the world’s first and only court to try crimes against humanity, and accused the leaders of Sudan and Kenya, “who have inflicted terror and fear across their countries” of trying to “drag Africa out of the ICC, allowing them the freedom to kill, rape, and inspire hatred without consequences.”

This is all true. However, the ICC’s fate should not rest with Africa. There are some notable countries not party to the Rome Statute, not least America. Furthermore, the system of referrals means that some states will never appear before the court because they have signed up to it or have a defender in the Security Council protecting their interests. (SC members get to refer States and they all have to agree. See the problem?)

The reason that African countries feel persecuted by the ICC is because, well, they’re the only ones there. However, they deserve to be there. For African countries eager to shake off the shackles of the ICC, the question remains: what are you* going to do about justice? Lest we forget, the reason Kenyan politicians ended up there is because they failed to prosecute the perpetrators of the election violence in 2007 and 2008, as per the mediation agreement brokered by Kofi Annan. They handed him a sealed envelope with the names of the people responsible for inciting or facilitating violence, which was to be handed over to the ICC in the event that Kenya failed to hold these people to account on its own terms. Kenyan parliament could not agree to prosecute.

Meanwhile progress on the AU alternative to the ICC is slow and I don’t know** if it would be able to succeed where national systems have failed. Will African states club together to get Bashir et al off the hook at the ICC only to turn them over to another court, albeit an African one, eventually?***

In the midst of all this though is a tragedy, not remarked upon by the mighty AU, that illustrates why international justice matters for Africa: the hundreds of lives lost in Lampedusa recently. And not just the most recent tragedy; this has been going on for years. A lot of refugees are fleeing regimes like Eritrea, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, but the AU isn’t concerned with that. It’s worth reading Simon Allison’s take at the Daily Maverick: Lampedusa tragedy: We were all African refugees once | Daily Maverick.

These are the people a court concerned with international justice should defend. It could be an African court; but until that is a reality, and a working reality at that, I’d rather have the flawed ICC than nothing at all.

It shouldn’t rest on Africa to keep the ICC alive, maybe it’s time the rest of the world started to take ownership of it and, I don’t know, get some of the many, many other global war criminals in there. But until African states are even remotely bothered by the mistreatment of Africans by fellow Africans (or even their own people) and the imperatives of justice for the persecuted, I don’t think we should kill the one mechanism that tries to grapple with the issue.

*Call me a cynic, I just don’t think they care.

** I doubt it

***see above

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