Category Archives: politics

Refugees’ rights are ‘under attack’ at Europe’s borders, warns UN

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has reported that migrants are facing violence from immigrations officials in Europe.

Despite being protected under refugee law, many are refused the right to settle or held in poor conditions while they claim asylum.

Just recently, the UK Home Office has been criticised for placing asylum seekers in ex-army barracks where they slept in cramped communal areas despite the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Back in January, 178 migrants tested positive for the virus at Napier barracks in Kent, according to the BBC.

But just across the Channel in France, conditions could be considered to be even worse. I was there back in February, when temperatures were below freezing and men were still sleeping outdoors.

Check out the news story below to see what it’s like to be camping in Calais.

Many of the migrants I spoke to were hoping to make it to London. They had heard about our world attractions, job opportunities and perhaps most importantly, our football clubs.

Their faces lit up at the thought of getting to live here. But the UK’s new asylum reforms will make that even more difficult. Check out our explainer on these new restrictions here.

Despite all the barriers they face, refugees at Europe’s borders remain hopeful and grateful to those who help them.

Operations Manager at Care4Calais, Imogen Hardman, can attest to that: “They’ve all escaped unimaginable trauma and journeys just to get here, but they are kind, they are generous and they’re funny.

Imogen moved to Calais from London to work on the frontlines of the refugee crisis. Click here to hear about her experience.

‘I moved from London to Calais to tackle the refugee crisis’

The ongoing refugee crisis has led to many people dedicating their time and resources to helping those in need.

Imogen Hardman did just that when she moved from London to Calais to become the new Operations Manager at the refugee charity Care4Calais.

She’s been there since October 2020 and works everyday to provide food and clothing to migrants camping in and around Calais.

“Living in London, knowing that just over the Channel there were people living in really horrible situations, being treated badly, it felt like a way to come over and show people that we do care.”

Imogen Harman, Operations Manager at Care4Calais

Check out the video below to hear more from Imogen:

Want to learn more about the global refugee situation?

Check out our explainer on the UK’s new asylum reforms.

Watch our video on what it’s like to be a refugee camping in Calais.

What will UK’s new asylum plan mean for London?

Home Secretary Priti Patel has just announced asylum reforms that will make it tougher for migrants to settle in the UK.

Immigration officers will now “make every effort to remove those who enter the UK legally having travelled through a safe country first”, Patel said in the Commons last week.

But for many migrants, travelling through “safe” European countries is the only way to reach the UK.

Take Eritrea for example. The small East African country has a totalitarian government, meaning there are no elections and no free press, says Help Refugees.

At 18 years old, citizens are forced to partake in military service to fight against Ethiopia in an extremely dangerous war.

These young Eritreans can’t just hop on a plane to avoid the conflict. Many aren’t even granted passports until they’ve completed their military duties.

So, they are forced to make ‘illegal’ journeys to the UK. Here, they are supposed to be protected by refugee law.

This basically suggests that migrants must be protected by other countries when they face persecution in their homeland.

Many flee to European countries like Germany and France for this protection.

Patel’s asylum reforms will make it harder for refugees who have crossed the Channel to be granted refugee status, because France is not a particularly dangerous country.

While it may seem like a “safe” country to you and me, the UNHCR has warned that French police are violent towards refugees and evict their camps every few days.

So, can we really blame them for wanting to come to the UK?

The capital, in particular, is popular amongst refugees. Immigrants are the backbone of our city, often taking on the low-paying and essential jobs that keep London running.

According to London First, 37% of Londoners were born outside the UK and 25% of NHS workers here are migrants.

So, it’s clear that London thrives on its diverse population. But where is everyone actually from and what made them want to move here?

This map, created using information from the 2011 Census has all the information you need.

If you want to find out even more, check out our interactive map. It includes statistics and the reasons why people emigrate from specific countries.

Interact with the map here

It’s unlikely London would look so diverse if these reforms had been brought in earlier.

It’s predicted that our new “points-based system” might favour the people with the highest skills, rather than those fleeing conflict.

Either way, London benefits massively from the diversity and skills brought by immigration. As our map shows, this city has been shaped by migrants and Patel’s new asylum reforms could put an end to that.

Want to find out more about the global refugee situation?

‘I moved from London to Calais to tackle the refugee crisis’: Listen to Imogen’s story here.

Watch our video on what it’s like to be a refugee camping in Calais.

Disclaimer: these statistics come from the latest census information that is available from 2011. Global events, such as the Arab Spring, have occurred since then and so demographics will have changed. The most recent census was carried out in March 2021 but the information is not available to the public yet.

Julian Assange’s case as pandemic unfolds

Assange has been at the Belmarsh prison since May 2019. His lawyers and family say his mental and physical health are deteriorating dramatically. A group of 60 doctors have stated in a letter to UK authorities that Julian Assange could potentially die in prison. They “have serious concerns about Mr Assange’s fitness to stand trial in February 2020.”

Video Credit: Belmarsh prison footage by Carolina Lupanciuc
and footage by Ruptly at https://www.facebook.com/Ruptly at the Westminster Magistrates court

For more than 10 years protesters demand for Julian Assange to be freed. We can see them back in January 2020 in front of the Belmarsh Prison chanting. A group of protestors called the Gilets jaunes came all the way from Paris to support the movement.

As the global pandemic unfolds, journalists and Assange supporters alike are continuing their efforts to spread the message of Assange’s condition. The British government states that mass gatherings should not take place.

There aren’t strict regulations that prohibit citizens from protesting, however the UK government has issued an advice note for people participating in protests that you could read here :

http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/20201105_stac_advice_note_-_participating_in_protests.pdf

“The current advice in the UK is that due to the coronavirus, mass gathering events should not take place.”

The right to protest is imbedded in many international treaties as a human right. Many consider that Jualian Assange’s case is also tied to our freedom of expression. Our foundational freedoms are currently being defied by a public health threat on a global scale. The question remaining is, how this threat will shape the future of democratic governance?

Featured Image credit: Spanish protesters wear masks of the ‘Anonymous’ group and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photograph: Jon Nazca/REUTERS

Update from Germany

Yesterday May 6th 2020, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had a crisis meeting with the Minister Presidents of the 16 federal states in Germany about easing lockdown restrictions and how individual states should deal with it.

In the following press conference, the Federal Chancellor announced, that the following easing measures had been adopted by the government: 

1. All shops are allowed to open again from next week under strict hygiene conditions and social distancing. Until now, only shops with a floor space of less than 800 square metres had been allowed to do so.

2. The ban against social contact will remain until the 5th of June at the least, to prevent the meeting of groups in a private area. 

3. Outdoor sports, such as tennis or football should be possible from next week under strict condition. It is still unclear when gyms and other sports clubs that offer indoor sports can reopen. According to Merkel “the risk is too high.”

4. Restaurants and bars can look forward to open their doors again. But there are also conditions here. Only half of the tables may be occupied due to social distancing and mask obligation applies. In order to be prepared in the event of a second wave, costumers are required to provide their contact details, so that the government are able to trace an infection chain. 

5. Restrictions have also been eased in the area of culture. Galleries and museums can now show their exhibitions again. Zoos and playgrounds can also rejoice life. 

6. Social contacts are also being considered. From now on you can meet with people from a second household 

7. The responsibility for new easing and how to proceed with the pandemic will now be in the hands of the federal states. 

Merkel named the positive development but on the same time warned for caution.

She furthermore assured if Germany is close to a second wave, the easing would be withdrawn again.  

sources: BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52557718

OWL 24: https://www.owl24.de/owl/angela-merkel-per30389/coronavirus-nrw-obergrenze-lockerungen-deutschland-nrw-armin-laschet-covid-19-zr-13748828.html

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrywGkMRbSU

feature image: private

Restaurant owners fear the future

Since the year 2000, Geatano “Tonino” Copia runs the restaurant “Pinocchio” in Gummersbach (Germany). The native Sicilian has cooked his way into the heart of many customers with his big heart, lots of humour and good food. But now he must fear for his existence.

source: https://stockata.de/bild/0006060-tisch-boden-rahmen-restaurants.html
A lot of restaurant owner across Europe must now fear for their existence

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus he has to fight with financial cells. Fewer and fewer people have come because of the risk of infection. “I really noticed that since the beginning of February the costumers are missing. When I served in January at the weekend about 500-1000 costumers for lunch and dinner, it was only half of it in February. Of course, this had also a financial impact ” he said.

source: https://stockata.de/bild/0002950-stuhl-tisch-sitzmoebel-restaurants.html
serving food to costumers is now forbidden

Almost three weeks ago, the public health service closed down all restaurants and prohibited serving customers across Germany. The only way to earn money now is the delivery and pick up service his restaurant offers. But he remains sceptical: “It is good that my restaurant has a good reputation in this area and that I have so many loyal customers. But I fear the future. The cost remain the same, but the proceeds are only 50% compared to normal times. I had to send 90% of my employees in short-time work”, he says.

source: Private
Normally costumers would enjoy the sun outside on the terrace while eating their food

Besides the fear of existence, the fear for family and friends in Italy is in the foreground.“I brought my mother, who actually wanted to enjoy her retirement in Italy, already home. However, I have more relatives and friends there and when I see the pictures from Italy, I am really worried and scared. This is only natural”.

source:https://stockata.de/bild/0000350-venedig-italien-venezia-wasser.html
Tonino is worried about friends and family as the situation in Italy is very dramatic

The federal government of North-Rhine Westphalia has approved a 25 billion- Euros rescue package for people like Tonino. It is designated to safe small businesses such as driving schools, restaurants or hotels from financial ruin and to avert the consequences of the crisis. It should be possible to obtain the permits quickly and easily.

“This help is really good and comes in very handy. I could probably close my business, because I don’t earn enough money to pay my rent, employees or the car I need for my delivery” complains the father of three and grandfather of two.

source: https://stockata.de/bild/0110745-haus-dasgovernmenthouse-casarosada.html
The German government want to help people with small businesses

Geatano Copia is one example of many, who will be hit very hard by the crisis. The friendly pizza maker has one last appeal: Stay at home and do not lose your heart.

source: private
although times are hard now, Tonino hasn’t lost this humor

featured image: https://stockata.de/bild/0000779-cheeseburger-hamburger-speck.html

10 tipps how to survive during the Corona crisis

Since its outbreak in Wuhan (China) in December 2019 the Corona virus or Corvid 19 has set the world in fear. Nearly every country is affected and has cases. The number is extremely rising.

According to Channel 4 news, 563 people have died in the UK from the 1st to the 2nd of April 2020. That’s why countries are under lock down and public life is set onto zero.

The most important thing is to contain the virus, so that the health care system does not collapse, and the care of all sick people in hospitals is guaranteed.

The question is how to behave and what rules and advices are given by the governments across Europe? Through a press release, the Robert-Koch institute, has given 10 rules for  people to follow:

1:STAY AT HOME:
This is the most important rule! People are advised not to leave their home if they do not need to buy food, go to work or to the doctor. Especially elderly people or people with health problems are asked not to leave their house at all. They can ask family or friends to do the shopping for them. If this is not possible, they can use delivery service

2:DO NOT HAVE ANY SOCIAL CONTACT APART FROM PEOPLE YOU ARE LIVING WITH
The next very important thing is to reduce your social contact. The governments across Europe advised people not to meet friends, work colleges or other people you are not living with. They also warned that grandparents shouldn’t have any personal contact to their grandchildren, as elderly people are mostly in danger.

3: HOMEOFFICE
If you have the possibility to work from home, you should do it. It will keep you safe.

4: AVOID LARGE CROWDS
In these times you should not go into parks or other public places. Most of the governments have already closed public places likes parks, restaurants or hotels.

5: DO NOT BUY TOO MANY GROCERIES
This is a very big  problem in Germany. People are buying too much food for themselves. The governments said that the supply of food is guaranteed at all times. Panic shopping is unnecessary and lacks solidarity towards your fellow men.

6: SNEEZ AND COUGH INTO THE CROOK OF ONES ARM AND ALWAYS WEAR A MASK
This is important not to infect anyone. No one can know if the others are not carrying the virus.

7: ONLY GO TO THE HOSPITAL IF IT IS A REAL EMERGENCY
The resources in the hospital are now used up to the point of exhaustion. Doctors and nurses are now working tirelessly. In order not to burden these people even more you should only go to hospital, if there is no other way.

8: KEEP DISTANCE
Keep at least two meter distance if you do not want to get infected or infect somebody.

9: WASH YOU HANDS AND DISINFECT YOUR HANDS REGULARLY
The government advices people to wash your hands at least 20 seconds and as often as you can. Furthermore, you should disinfect your hands if you touch something that somebody might have touched before you.

10: KEEP CALM
The last advice the government has given is to stay calm. The situation will only get worse, if everybody is freaking out. Take a breath and relax, go for a walk in the forest or watch a movie to think about something else. If everybody is taking the virus  seriously and listens to the advices, the situation will get normal as soon as possible.

Source: Robert-Koch Institue (Berlin, Germany): https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/nCoV.html

Channel 4 News: https://www.channel4.com/news/uk-coronavirus-hospital-deaths-rise-by-563-in-a-day-as-government-urged-to-increase-testing

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/coronavirus-2019ncov-novel-concept-resposible-asian-1625951248?irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Pixabay+GmbH&utm_source=44814&utm_term=https%3A%2F%2Fpixabay.com%2Fde%2Fimages%2Fsearch%2Fcoronavirus%2F

featured image: https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/coronavirus-china-novel-2019ncov-people-white-1629512083?irgwc=1&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=Pixabay+GmbH&utm_source=44814&utm_term=https%3A%2F%2Fpixabay.com%2Fde%2Fimages%2Fsearch%2Fcoronavirus%2F

National Palestinian demonstrations planned in London on Saturday

A national demonstration for Palestinians will be taking place in London tomorrow afternoon. Assembling at 12 noon in Portland Place, demonstrators will march to Whitehall carrying signs and banners in support of Palestinians.

Organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the demonstration is calling for global protests to protect Palestinian’s collective rights. They say they hope to ‘hold Israel to account and push for an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people.’

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Previous rallies by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Source: PSCupdates

The demonstrations are in partnership with Stop the War Coalition, Palestinian Forum in Britain, Friends of Al- Aqsa, and Muslim Association of Britain.

The demonstration comes at the beginning of ‘Nakba week’ where the Palestine Solidarity Campaign organises a week of events to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, which was when 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Palestine War.

Their most recent London rally occurred on 31st March 2019 when hundreds gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in Central London. The protesters demanded that Palestinian refugees return to their homes, “from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.” The rally was met with a counter-protest of a small group holding Israeli flags.

Oxbridge set to increase bursaries for low-income students by 2020

The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are both currently on the track to expand inclusivity by increasing bursaries given to students from low-income backgrounds.

Starting in 2020, Oxbridge students from low-income backgrounds will be receiving up to £5,000 per year in scholarship funding. In an effort to attract students who would typically write off the university due to their high tuition fees, both leading British universities are looking to bring in students from “under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Following last years accusations of being socially exclusive and failing to recruit eligible students from public colleges, the University of Oxford claimed that they were “very aware” that they “must work harder.”

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Currently, the University of Oxford provides 25 percent of its students with £8,000,000 of financial support. Students whose guardians earn less than £27,500 are currently receiving between £3,700 and £1,700. In 2020, this figure will increase to between £5,000 and £4,200.

According to research performed by the Sutton Trust charity, between 2015 and 2017, Oxbridge enrolled more students from the eight top British schools than nearly 3,000 other English state schools put together.

Advocating for a “fair chance”, Sutton Trust’s founder Sir Peter Lampl found that students from the top eight schools in Britain filled 1,310 places at Oxford and Cambridge while 2,900 state schools filled 1,200 places between 2015 and 2017.

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In 2018, Labour MP David Lammy criticized the University of Oxford following a report that found that a mere 11 percent of undergraduate students at the university were from “disadvantaged backgrounds.” This report also found that white British applicants were twice as likely to be accepted than black applicants.

In response, director of undergraduate admissions, Samina Khan claimed that that was, “not getting the right number of black people with the talent to apply to us.”

Oxford’s Student Union stepped in and claimed, “there are large and unacceptable attainment gaps in schools, which greatly disadvantage black pupils and those from low-income backgrounds, among other under-represented groups.”

In a poll taken by 336 students, 94% said that they agreed with Oxbridge accepting more applicants from low-income environments.


“I think that giving low-income and disadvantaged students a financial boost is an effort that will greatly excel the university’s diversity and reputation.”- Morgan Howk, 20

“I really appreciate what Oxford and Cambridge are doing and I wish more university’s would follow in suit.”- Katie Trent, 21

“While I admire their efforts, I think that they are not tackling the most present issue here. Their announcement is just a coverup for the fact that they don’t really want to diversify the University in terms of race. Only [17.9%] of Oxford students are BAME and I personally think that, that should be improved upon before they focus on other flaws in their admissions system.”- Shawn Waynick, 19


Overall, Dr. Jane Gover, the university’s director of student finances, said that, “there’s been really strong feedback,” from Oxford currently enrolled undergraduate students.

Gover believes that, “this is a really huge part of the university work to attract and support undergraduates from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds. We don’t want to see students being put off because they’re worried about the cost of living or their ability to engage with university life.”


Featured Image VIA https://focusedcollection.com/stock-photos/oxford-university.html

 

“WE WANT MORE NUKES”

An ongoing protest outside Westminster Abbey received a mixed reception as members of the royal house attended a service at the Abbey.

The already high police presence was increased prior to demonstrations and a “die-in” which commenced at 12pm. 

Tourists and City workers stopped to take photographs, with one construction worker blazing “We want more nukes.” 

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Two separate demonstrations were organised. One demonstration condemned a service supposedly thanking the peace nuclear weapons had created. It consisted of vicars and clergymen and other supporters of the Anglican Church.

The second, which did not have affiliations to the church, encouraged disarmament and slated the government for their development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). The die-in condemned the collateral damage caused to human life and the environment by previous governments. 

Opponents of the protest returned with pro-nuclear weapon comments “Big up nuclear war, it’s exactly what we want.” 

People from all walks of life attended the protest, with students, pensioners and young families, and even a few pets in attendance. 

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One protestor said “I want my children, and grandchildren and their children to have a world to grow up in.” She was physically and emotionally moved by the events unfolding. 

Pointing to the Abbey, the pensioner said “I’m here because Weapons of Mass Destruction are absolutely immoral. “I don’t think they’ve (WMDs) ever been a deterrent.”

The protest had slowly been gaining momentum in the early afternoon with protesters aiming to maintain the “die-in” for as long as possible. 

Photos and text by Zubair Karmalkar

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