43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

43 people have died as a result of a fire that broke out in a garment factory in New Delhi while 16 others are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation. 

The fire brigade received the call alerting them to the blaze at 05:22 local time on Sunday, 8th December (23:52 GMT on Saturday). The cause of the blaze is unknown but is thought to have been the result of an electrical short circuit. 

The workers died as a result of the inhalation of poisonous gases. They were sleeping in the factory between their shifts. They were being paid 150 rupees a day (€1.91) and working in extremely poor conditions. The factory, which mainly manufactured handbags, did not have a proper fire license and was operating illegally. The factory owner and manager have been arrested.  

The victims were mostly Muslim migrants from the impoverished border region of Bihar in eastern India. Barbar Ali, a family member of a woman who was rescued from the building, explained that the workers had to endure extremely poor conditions in the factory and they had been seeking better wages. “Their only fault was they were poor. Why else would someone work and sleep in such a congested place?” Mr Ali said

The Prime Minister of India has described the disaster as “extremely horrific” and offered his condolences to family members in a tweet.

It would appear that nothing has changed since the infamous collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in the Dhaka District of Bangladesh in 2013, in which 1,134 people were killed. After this devastating event brands and trade unions signed the Bangladesh Accord, which was intended to regulate the safety of working conditions in these factories by means of inspection. 

However, the garment industry remains dangerous and exploitative. According to the 2015 documentary The True Cost, of the 40 million people who work in the garment industry only 2% are paid a living wage.  Not only are illegal factories with substandard working conditions in operation, but workers in these factories suffer abuse. 

80% of garment workers are women, but the vast majority of factory managers are men, while women occupy low-level positions in factories – a structure which often leads to gender-based abuse. Global Labour Justice published a report last year which gave an overview of gender-based violence which occurs in the factories of H&M, one of the most popular fast fashion brands in the world. 

The reality is that these brands outsource the manufacture of their products to such an extent that it becomes nearly impossible to regulate. On top of that, there is no incentive for them to look into the working conditions in their factories or offer garment workers a living wage while there is no accountability and their profit margins remain so high. 

Today, people are becoming increasingly aware of ethics and sustainability when it comes to fashion, and fast fashion brands are beginning to feel the pressure. We as consumers have to be able to tell the difference between when a brand is actually being ethical, or when they are simply slapping a word like “conscious” on to a product in an attempt to appear ethical without providing an explanation of what that means to them. To put it plainly, if a brand is not transparent about their means of production, it’s probably because they would rather you didn’t know. 

That is why it is increasingly important that we shop consciously. This can start with something as simple as asking ourselves who makes the clothes we wear, and why their exploitation should feed our consumerism. The devastating case of this New Delhi factory which has burned down is not unique. In most cases, the people who make our clothes work in similar conditions, and risk their lives every day in order to make a wage which they can’t even survive on. We have been given the privilege of a consumer vote, and with it comes the responsibility to exercise it correctly.

 

Picture: DiplomatTesterMan 

 

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43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

At least 43 people were killed in a devastating fire that spread through a bag factory in the old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping workers who were sleeping inside. Authorities say they do not yet know the cause of the blaze but it has been reported that the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.

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UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

Recent investigations from Euronews into the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, in Libya has revealed a culture of neglect. The UNHCR, which claims it can only register asylum seekers and refugees  originating from Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia, is under fire by human rights activists for its operations in the Northern African state. The UN successfully brokered the Libyan Political Agreement in 2015, but since then militias have remained at battle across the state. 

The UNHCR’s mandate is to find a safe solution for refugees. Therefore, the UNHCR’s main mission in Libya is to register people as refugees and find a solution to evacuate these people out of the country and into a safe space. The EU Trust Fund for Africa counts on the UNHCR to ensure that asylum procedures and policies are in line with human rights standards. 

Many refugees and migrants seeking asylum end up in militia-run detention centres with little to no help from the UNHCR. Since September 2018, six detention centres in Libya have been involved in militia clashes, causing refugees and migrants detained to  seek safety again. Abdelnaser Mbarah Ezam, a Captain at the Ministry of the Interior, Government of National Accord in Libya told Euronews that many migrants in these centres are suffering from depression after believing that registering with the UNHCR would guarantee them acceptance into Europe. 

Euronews spoke directly with many refugees who witnessed and suffered human rights atrocities in these camps, while registered with the UNHCR. Testimonies included instances of abuse, torture and extortion. Libyan coastguards automatically re-incarcerate anyone found trying to cross the Mediterrean, due to provisions under an EU and Libyan agreement signed in 2017. One detention centre, Zintan, reported 700 human beings crammed in one room  without access to adequate food or water. This included approx 120 minors. Since September 2018, twenty-two people in the centre have died of TB. 

Protests at Zintan in June 2019 have included refugees showing banners  stating “We are victims by UNHCR in Libya” and “We are abused by a human rights organisation”.

A whistleblower who previously worked for Libya’s UNHCR agency told Euronews that the UNCHR resembled “ an agency overstretched and out of its depth, with asylum seekers left homeless, deprived of medical care and in legal limbo in an increasingly violent and unstable Libya”. The whistleblower also detailed cases of UNCHR staff accepting bribes from refugees in a (failed) effort to speed up their asylum claims. Additionally, an internal audit found that the UNHCR in Libya  had purchased laptops at inflated prices (eight laptops for just under $50,000) and spent almost $200,000 on flights without making use of competitive bidding. 

According to Euronews, refugees were paying money to get inside the UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in Tripoli.  One refugee awaiting evacuation explained: “The guards who are working at the gate, brought inside Somalian and Eritrean women; they paid 2000 dinars (around 430€) each. We told this to UNHCR, and they asked us not to tell anyone.”

Investigations like this one in Libya should lead to government action and justice for the victims impacted.

 

Photo by Magharebia on Flickr

 

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43 People Die In Factory Fire In New Delhi

At least 43 people were killed in a devastating fire that spread through a bag factory in the old quarter of the Indian capital New Delhi, trapping workers who were sleeping inside. Authorities say they do not yet know the cause of the blaze but it has been reported that the site had been operating without the required fire safety clearances.

UNCHR’s impact in war-torn Libya?

Recent investigations from Euronews into the work of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, in Libya has revealed a culture of neglect. The UNHCR is under fire by human rights activists for its operations in the Northern African state. Many refugees and migrants seeking asylum end up in militia-run detention centres with little to no help from the UNHCR.

What is Russia doing in Africa?

On October 23rd and 24th, Russia hosted representatives from all 54 African countries at the first ever Russia-Africa summit, with the aim of improving partnership and trade links. This event shows that Russia is clearly seeking to further its influence in Africa. But why is Russia so interested in improving ties with African states?

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Samantha Power arrived at her home city of Dublin and was greeted in Trinity College Dublin’s Regent’s House to rapturous applause. Although she’s best known for her government career in diplomacy, it is her staunch moral compass and dedication to humanitarian issues which have underpinned her career, and do so again in her memoir.

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Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

What’s new with the Queen?

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly,  Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free! In her memoir, “The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe”, Kelly explained that “if Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onward fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. Many activist organisations dedicated to the well-being of animals, such as PETA UK, welcomed the news. Claire Bass, executive director of animal charity Humane Society International, was said to be “thrilled by the move”.

If you’ve paid attention to the way the Senior Dresser announced the news, you can read between the lines that The Queen will continue to wear the fur robes required for duty. Also, in what might be seen as a logical method of  sustainability, she won’t throw away the pieces of clothing made with fur she already owns. But when used, those shall be replaced with faux fur. 

 

Why is it good news? 

Over 100 million animals around the world are killed each year for their fur. As you can imagine, their living conditions are far from ideal, and let’s not even mention the way they’re killed. To give you an insight, when those fur animals are killed by electrocution, neck breaking or drowning, these are the lucky ones. In addition, the whole fur process contributes to climate change because of land pollution and devastation, but mainly because of water contamination.

Let’s be honest then, anyone quitting fur is good news. How can we not to welcome The Queen’s commitment? Well, I guess by having mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur. I’ll explain.

The Queen’s Guards, famous for their uniforms including their hats, are not going faux fur. All the Guards are still wearing the so-called “bearskins”. As their name suggests it, these hats are made with bear skin. Each year, the British army take 100 bear skins from the Black Bear Cull in Canada. 

We know that, since 2005, the British Ministry of Defence is trying to find an alternative to the bear fur. Tests have been done, but so far artificial fur is said to be unable to fit the same rigorous criteria than the original. Unfortunately, I don’t think that saving animals is really what motivates the Ministry or the Army to try and change such a tradition. The fact that in a decade the price of that bear skin rose by 500% might more likely be the reason they aspire to find alternatives. 

 

What’s the public’s opinion in the UK? 

Since 2000, the UK has banned fur farming on its soil. It was the first country worldwide to implement that ban. Claire Bass has asked the Government to go further and ban the sale of fur, making the UK the first country to do so. Today, the country is continuing to import fox, mink and rabbit fur.

Bass stated that “Queen Elizabeth’s decision to go “faux fur” is the perfect reflection of the mood of the British public, the vast majority of whom detest cruel fur and want nothing to do with it.” More than 2/3 of the British population support fur prohibition. 

 

What is the debate in Ireland, the EU and more?

In Ireland, three fur farms are still in activity, all of them mink. Located in Donegal, Laois and Kerry, these farms combined kill about 150,000 minks a year. Their main arguments to keep fur farming is based on three – to be proven incorrect – pillars. Firstly, they say they employ permanent staff and give jobs to the locals, when reality shows that on average they have only three permanent workers per farm. Secondly, they try to convince us that fur farming is Irish heritage. Oh surprise, it’s not. Only one of the three fur farms in Ireland belongs to an Irish family. Thirdly, fur farming is said to actively support the national economy. Well again, as shown in other countries including the UK, bans on fur farming have had no negative impacts on the economy. 

According to a Red C Research published in October 2018, 80% of the Irish population agree that fur farming and killing should be banned. This is not even the highest rate in Europe. Italy culminates with 91%, followed by Belgium and Germany with 86%. However, some European countries remain more split such as France, with 51% of its nationals agreeing on a ban, or Denmark with 55%.

The UK opened the way in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000. Then, went along Austria (2004), Denmark (2009 – for fox farming only), Slovenia (2013), the Republic of Macedonia (2014) to name a few. 

The European Union passed regulations regarding fur farming, namely European Directive 98/58/EC (concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes) in 1998 and the Council of Europe Recommendation Concerning Fur Animals in 1999. Fur farming as it’s done today simply does not comply with these regulations, twenty years later. 

Worldwide, a few brands decided to drop fur from their collections, including Prada, Gucci and DKNY. In the USA, Macy’s Inc – one of the biggest American retailers – announced that it would stop selling fur by the end of 2020 fiscal year. California state, ahead of the rest of the US and most of the rest of the world, banned the manufacture and sale of animal fur. We can only hope to see more commitments heading in this direction.

 

 

Photo by Kutan Ural on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Queen of England going “fur-free” is a step in the right direction

We’ve learnt it from Angela Kelly, Senior Dresser of Queen Elizabeth II of England: The Queen is going fur-free. By “going faux”, The Queen is setting a strong example and sending a powerful message, encouraging an ethical fashion trend that we should all follow. But we have mixed feelings about the lack of coherence between the Country’s statements about fur.

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies, with the EIB positioning itself as the leading ‘Climate Bank’. The President-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, commended the transition and, last week, the European Parliament declared a ‘Climate Emergency’. Two moves that signal Europe aims to take the reigns as leader of climate action, as other world powers shirk the responsibility. 

Cutting financial flows to fossil fuel companies is a necessary step in the transition to clean and renewable energy. Less money in the bank for fossil fuel companies means that less exploration projects will secure funding and less oil rigs, coal plants and fracking-infrastructure built. As Bill McKibben outlines in his essay; “Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns”, this will ultimately lead to fossil fuels being kept in the ground. McKibben, who is the founder of 350.org, has long been campaigning for divestment in the fossil fuel industry. He outlines the three financial sectors that need to divest; banking, asset management, and insurance. Once the purse-strings are cut and these companies have to self-fund to insure themselves, they will not be able to survive on financial reserves for long. There are also Government subsidies to think about, but that would require a whole other article. 

The financial industry is conservative and calculated in nature, and when it begins to make large changes the whole world takes heed. To stop investing in fossil fuels is to signal the beginning of the end. Closer to home, AIB in Ireland is positioning itself as the ‘Green Bank’ of Ireland. It has launched a ‘Green Bond Framework’ whereby it will greatly increase the investment available for green projects, and it has also introduced a lower green mortgage rate for houses that meet the highest energy-efficiency standards. 

Critics of the EIB’s decision to move away from fossil fuels have said that 2021 is too far away and that in the meantime, new fossil fuel projects can be funded which would lock the European Union into a ‘dirty future’. Angela Merkel also voiced her concerns that the EIB would not fund natural gas projects as a transition fuel on the way to renewables. This is certainly the beginning of something – but it remains to be seen how long it takes to reach the end. 

 

Photo: Ian Sharp (Flickr)

 

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The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

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Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

2019 has witnessed the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. The one common factor is that young people have decided to stand up! 

Political autonomy, corruption, powerlessness, poor economies, climate change and social media seem to be the chief contributors to the mass protest rage that has taken over the mood of 2019. The large anti-government demonstrations have not been peaceful with the number of human losses increasing as every day goes by. From Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Pakistan and more, the story seems to be the same: voices that were never heard are gathering together for a scream to bring about a much needed change! Does it mean the people’s voice will finally be heard, after months of uprising? Editor Deepthi Suresh gives her analysis largely focusing on the protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bolivia and Iran.

 

Umbrella Protests of Hong Kong (2014)

Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony until it returned under China’s control in 1997. The city, under a “one country, two systems” arrangement, is considered to have more autonomy than the mainland, and its people enjoy more rights. Beijing is responsible for the city’s defence and foreign affairs. However, Hong Kong witnessed protests (also referred to as an Occupy Movement or Umbrella Movement ) that occurred from 26 September to 15 December 2014. The protests began after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) issued a decision regarding proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system. This decision was seen as a widely restrictive and almost equivalent to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP’s) pre-screening of the candidates for the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Thousands of Hong Kong residents from all spheres of the population occupied major  streets across the city, shuttering businesses and bringing traffic to a halt. Their claim was that Beijing had reneged on an agreement to grant Hong Kong open elections and their demand was “true universal suffrage”. 

 

2019 Protests

Five years since the Umbrella Movement, Hong Kong witnessed yet another massive protest in June 2019. Demonstrations began this summer over a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China in certain circumstances. Hong Kong, despite being part of China, enjoys special freedom. This bill erupted a sense of fear among the residents that Beijing was bent on exerting greater control over Hong Kong and would largely endanger judicial independence and target social activists and journalists in Hong Kong.

Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. On July 1st 2019, after an hour long siege, protesters stormed into the parliament and defaced parts of it. Protest action at Hong Kong international airport in August also saw renewed clashes and led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

The problematic bill was withdrawn in September, but the demonstrations have continued and now the demand has been for full democracy in addition to an inquiry into police actions.

Also, protesters feared that the bill could be revived. Protesters have formulated the following demands:

  • This movement should not be categorised as a riot
  • Amnesty should be granted for arrested protesters
  • An independent inquiry into the police brutality should take place
  • Complete universal suffrage should be implemented

 

Recent Developments

Protesters have continued their protests which include train disruptions and university occupations. However, these protests have subsided and the election on 24th November took place quite peacefully. Democratic candidates have secured about 90 per cent of 452 district council seats, which clearly has shown the public support for democracy. The landslide win has put immense pressure on Hong Kong’s leader who has pledged to listen to public opinion. Although the elections may have been local in nature, a result such as this where Democrats have secured the maximum number of seats is a sign that the protesters have the complete support of the public. The current head of Hong Kong has agreed to take public opinion into account but to what degree, only time will tell.

As a timely thanksgiving gift to Hong Kong, President Trump has signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of the pro-democracy protest movement. This will definitely lead to a backlash from Beijing further derailing the delicate US-China trade talks. The act was unanimously passed by both houses of the US Congress. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents including the elderly marched carrying the US flag as a sign of gratitude aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong. In response, China has suspended the review of requests by US military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong as of December 3, 2019, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. She also announced that Beijing would impose sanctions on several US non-governmental human rights organisations that have been monitoring and reporting the state of protests in Hong Kong.

The relative calm over the past week is definitely not a sign of the protests losing momentum, but looks like players of the world have heard the voices and path-breaking changes may be fashioned in the new year.

 

Photo by Joseph Chan on Unsplash

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

The European Investment Bank’s decision to divest from fossil fuels

The European Investment Bank (EIB) recently announced that it would be phasing out investment in fossil fuel companies by 2021. The EIB is the biggest public lender globally and the move was celebrated by those within the banking industry and the environmental movement. It sends a clear message that markets are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energies.

Leaderless Protests of 2019 and Hong Kong

2019 has witnessed the kindled spirit of the youth across the world. The one common factor is that young people have decided to stand up! Editor Deepthi Suresh gives her analysis largely focusing on the protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Bolivia and Iran in a new STAND series. This first piece focuses on the situation in Hong Kong.

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