The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

It is a dangerous time to be living in Europe. As of 29 March 2020, of the ten countries with the most covid-19 related deaths in the world, seven are European, and medical experts and epidemiologists believe the continent could be as far as two weeks away from the peak. The EU has produced a €37 billion emergency fund for sectors impacted by the coronavirus. The outbreak of this virus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. Measures like social distancing, or indeed, cocooning, are necessary and have obvious and immediate implications to ‘flatten the curve’. It is understandable that citizen’s rights such as free movement and public assembly have been temporarily curtailed.

 

But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency? In China, citizens have been instructed to install an app which tracks one’s movement and proximity to others using facial recognition, while in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has frozen courts, including postponing his own trial concerning three counts of corruption. Across the world, from Somalia to Lesbos to the Mexican border, those living in refugee camps await with bated breath for the potential arrival of the coronavirus. 

 

This month, concerns have been raised regarding the emergency measures introduced by some European democracies. Six European countries – Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Moldova and Romania – have notified the Council of Europe that during this outbreak they will forgo commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) under Article 15 which allows derogation during “public emergency threatening the life of the nation.” Yet it seems unlikely that non-compliance with the ECHR will, in any case, save more lives than continuing compliance. Derogation by these countries could be seen as attempts to limit freedom of the media or freedom of information. 

 

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, of the right-wing populist Fidesz party, is straddling the line between democracy and authoritarianism after the introduction of an Emergency Powers bill was passed into law this week. It allows Orbán, individually, to rule by decree. He can single-handedly override any existing legislation. As well, the new bill states that the spreading of ‘false’ or ‘true but distorted’ information could lead to a five-year prison sentence, and that all public information concerning government actions must come through him. This clause directly targets freedom of thought and expression, namely anyone – journalist, citizen – critical of Orbán’s actions. Parliament is suspended and there will be no elections while this law is in place. Orbán has been Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010, and in that time has curtailed NGO activity and media independence in Hungary. It is likely his party is taking the ‘opportunity’ afforded by the coronavirus pandemic to implement tighter civic control in line with their populist stance. Because the law has no time period attached to it, MEPs are worried that these measures could continue past the outbreak and curb freedoms for years to come.

 

 

In France, Emmanuel Macron’s new doctrine passed on 22 March has specifically targeted workers’ rights, or “acquis sociaux”, including the right to vacation pay, delaying salary bonuses for low-paid workers, and the power for employers to force overtime work on staff. In Britain, Boris Johnson’s lockdown measures allow for the arrest and detaining of those believed to be infectious, including children, by state authorities. Those detained can be placed in custody facilities for up to 14 days. Doctors can sign death certificates without seeing the patient’s body. Measures like these are a large jump from the Prime Minister’s previous “herd immunity” tactic. For those living hand to mouth across the continent, lockdown measures directly cut through a right to livelihood, food and shelter. In recent days, as Italy enters week 3 of lockdown, a notable increase in social unrest has been reported, stemming from those living in the poorer southern regions where hunger is increasingly rampant. 

Alongside emergency powers aiming to prevent the spread of coronavirus, governments must implement social security measures to help the most vulnerable populations. Citizens can only comply with social distancing and lockdown measures should they have food, shelter, and peace of mind that they will have a livelihood to support themselves and their loved ones once this epidemic is over. We are living in an age of anxiety – and, should you follow President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, a time of war. Covid-19 is the invisible enemy. But, governments should not take this pandemic as an opportunity to over-extend power structures, or exploit humanity. 

 

 

Photo from freepik

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

In recent years the Greek island of Lesbos has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Moria, the largest refugee camp on Lesbos, has now far exceeded its capacity, and its living conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny.

7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

The Uyghurs in the northwestern region of China have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party. Millions of them are currently imprisoned in “re-education camps” and aren’t given any protection from the novel coronavirus.

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Conversations from Calais: The Poster Project Bringing Humanity Back Into the Refugee Crisis

In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

“Marry-Your-Rapist” Bill to Be Passed in Turkey

“Marry-Your-Rapist” Bill to Be Passed in Turkey

In rape cases, there is a victim and there is an aggressor. For some members of the Turkish ruling party however, this distinction doesn’t appear to matter. The government is currently attempting to progress a horrific “Marry-Your Rapist” law as part of a controversial new “judicial package” – as Berfu Şeker and Ezel Buse from the Turkish NGO Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways explained to STAND in a recent interview. This Bill would allow rapists to escape any judicial penalty through marrying their under-aged victims if the age difference between them is less than ten years (for this reason, the legislation is also being called a “child rape law”). Turkey’s current civil code views child marriages as illegal. 

 

This regressive legal step is largely inspired (according to Human Rights Watch researcher Rothna Begum) by Article 357 of the 1810 French criminal law, written under Napoleon, which states that if a girl is kidnapped and married to her ‘seducer’, he can only be prosecuted if the family declares the marriage void. Such laws consider rape not as a crime that should be punished in its own right, but as an act which is disrespectful to religious or moral laws. Besides increasing the risk of child abuse, passing this law could mean Turkey will witness similar situations to those seen in Morocco before it repealed Article 475 of its Penal Code. In Morocco, the suicide of Amina Filali, a 16-year-old girl who killed herself with rat poison after being forced to marry her rapist, shocked the country and acted as a catalyst for change. 

 

Child marriage is extremely damaging and, according to UNICEF, “often results in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupts schooling, limits the girl’s opportunities and increases her risk of experiencing domestic violence”. Approximately 15 million adolescent girls worldwide have experienced forced sex at some point in their lifetime (UNICEF). Under “marry your rapist” laws, victims, including children and teenagers, are considered to have a certain degree of responsibility for having been raped, even when they have not reached the legal age of consent (18 years of age).  This normalisation and downplaying of rape often prevents the victims from seeking professional help after enduring such trauma, with victims facing pressure from family members in some cases. General Recommendation 35, adopted in 2017, of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW) has called on states to combat social attitudes which falsely “make women responsible for their own safety and for the violence they suffer.” Sadly, these laws are not that uncommon, and in about ten countries worldwide rapists can avoid prosecution if the victim is underage or ‘forgives’ the rapist. 

 

In December 2019, some female members of the Turkish parliament protested the lack of action on penalizing and prosecuting violence against women by Turkish society, and specifically by the male-dominated political elite. They sang “Un Violador en Tu Camino” (’A rapist in your path’), the Chilean protest song which has been adopted by women worldwide to denounce the role various state actors (judges, the police, and other decision-makers) play in enabling a system that perpetuates rape and rape culture. By forcing women and children to marry their rapists, Turkey’s legislation is just one of many global examples of how women’s protection is not being taken seriously by governments. 

 

Kate Dannies, assistant professor of Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University, writing for The Washington Post, highlights how this bill is part of Turkey’s general aim of encouraging population growth. “As soon a woman is married, [the sooner] she can have children”, explains Berfu Şeker from WWHR – New Ways. Turkey’s ruling party uses excuses like religion and conservatism in an attempt to erase women as individual subjects and as economic and social actors, in order to constrain them to the role of mothers, she explains. 

 

As Turkey struggles with a severe economic crisis, the government is attempting to limit the increasing number of women joining the labour force and to advance a more traditional and nuclear vision of the family. While women are already disadvantaged within Turkish society, this shift would make them even more dependent on their husbands with even fewer  opportunities to be financially independent – yet another regressive step and a major attack on gender equality. 

 

Even if Turkish society and the international community manages to rally against attempts to pass the bill, another major issue Turkey faces is the lack of efficient and trustworthy democratic institutions and the absence of press freedom. Since the 2017 Turkish constitutional referendum, the parliament has lost almost all of its legislative power. WWHR – New Ways shared its concerns with STAND that, even if the parliament is blocked by protestors, bills can be passed “behind closed doors in the middle of the night” by the ruling party, allowing it to impose “its hidden agenda” on the Turkish population.                                      

 

The patriarchal attitudes which “Marry-your-rapist” laws are built around must be combated, and the line between victims and their aggressors should not become blurred. For Turkish women and their allies, the fightback might take the form of direct protest, or by becoming a member of a women’s rights organisation working on these issues; it might happen in the ballot box, or through difficult discussions with family and community members, or even through a tweet.  Even small acts of protest can spark change – but the message is clear – change needs to come! 

 

 

Photo from Piqsels

 

 

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

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Coronavirus And Women

Like most things in life, coronavirus has a gendered impact. Previous experience with viruses like Ebola and Zika has shown how these crises tend to have particularly harmful effects on women and girls and reinforce gender inequality. Now we can see similar patterns emerging regarding the coronavirus – including within Ireland.

New Emojis to Highlight Diversity

Emojis play an important role in digital communication, allowing us to express our emotions and convey meaning through cute little symbols. However, our ability to communicate is limited by the pictures and symbols on offer, and so emojis can make a big difference!

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision. Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue here.

“Marry-Your-Rapist” Bill to Be Passed in Turkey

In rape cases, there is a victim and there is an aggressor. However, the Turkish government is currently attempting to progress a horrific “Marry-Your Rapist” law that will allow rapists to escape any judicial penalty.

Victim of the Magdalene Laundries Seeks Justice from UN Committee Against Torture

Elizabeth Coppin, a seventy-year-old survivor of the Magdalene laundries, is taking her case to the United Nations in a landmark move. Ms Coppin says that she has been denied justice by the Irish State for over twenty years. This could potentially have resounding implications for the State’s approach to historical abuse.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Have you ever wondered what our life would be like without chocolate? It is hard to imagine such a scenario when you consider how many of today’s products either consist of or contain the beloved food. For Ireland, this would mean an especially great deal. After all, according to Fairtrade figures, Irish people are the third-largest chocolate consumers in the World. Only surpassed by Austria and Switzerland, the average person in Ireland ate about 17 pounds of chocolate in 2017.

 

While chocolate is generally associated with feeling good, there is a side to it that speaks a different truth. The difficulties that many cocoa farmers have to face to produce our chocolate have been repeatedly called out over the last few decades. Hazardous working conditions, exploitation and oppression, a lack of health care and even child labour define the daily lives of thousands of workers and their families. Even though many people are aware of the problem, it often seems difficult to actually do something about it as an individual.

 

Fairtrade Fortnight, a campaign organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the conditions in which many people in developing countries work to produce our food. For two weeks each year, hundreds of individuals, companies, and groups across Ireland come together to tell others about farmers’ and workers’ stories. In doing so, they want to demonstrate the positive impact of Fairtrade and hope to encourage people to buy more goods made to Fairtrade standards. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight’s focus is on – as you might have guessed – chocolate. Particular attention will be paid to the women farmers who supply companies with cocoa, seeing that women often make only little profit from the food they grow compared to men. 

 

The campaign takes place from February 24th to March 8th and features a large number of guest speakers, such as Arjen Boekhold and Nicola Matthews from the Netherlands. Their chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely pursues the mission to make chocolate completely slave-free and create fair conditions for all cocoa farmers. At the event’s opening night in Dublin, Boekhold spoke amongst other things about inequality in the chocolate industry, pointing out the power of the few multinational companies. “How can we talk about a fair economy or a free economy where you can negotiate prices? We have, one the one hand, two and a half million farmers and they have to negotiate with only two companies” Boekhold explained. The chocolate bar also has a unique design. Divided into parts of different sizes rather than even squares, the composition is meant to reflect the inequality between those who produce the chocolate and those who eventually profit from it. Boekhold stated his belief in Fairtrade saying, “I think Fairtrade is one of the few initiatives which really try to strengthen the position of farmers and make cooperatives work […] At this moment, around 6 to 7% of all cocoa worldwide is sold under Fairtrade terms. So that is a minority. But you see an impact, you see change.”

 

Allison Roberts, founder of the chocolate company Exploding Tree and one of the three bean-to-bar chocolate producers in Ireland, is a speaker at Fairtrade Fortnight as well. Located in Cork, her company handcrafts chocolate bars with 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming cooperatives like Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Running only a small company, Roberts says she feels freer to experiment with her chocolate and likes to create new flavours that don’t necessarily speak to the mainstream: Salt & Seaweed, Goats’ Milk, Dark Orange or 100% Cocoa are just some of them. And did you know that her company produces the only artisan milk chocolate bar made with Irish milk?  

 

It’s encouraging to see that progress has already been made. According to Fairtrade International, cocoa was the fastest-growing Fairtrade product category in 2017 with revenue rising by 57% in volume, and growth still continuing in 2018. But what is it that makes Fairtrade products so special? Why are they different from others and how does the label work?  

 

Fairtrade can be described as a trading partnership with the objective to promote greater justice in international trade. It serves as a certification scheme that ensures socially and economically fair production standards for goods from developing countries, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, cotton, fruits, sugar and also gold. Since these products are high in demand and consumed all around the world, a key mission is to make their production as sustainable as possible. International fair trade networks like Fairtrade International or World Fair Trade Organization have defined standards regarding workers’ rights, fair labour practices and environmental responsibility that organisations are required to follow in order to be labelled ‘Fairtrade’. 

 

First of all, farmers and workers must be paid a minimum price for their products, which guarantees them a stable income. FLOCERT, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade standards, regularly checks that this is implemented. In such a way, workers are given a safety net as they are protected from exploitation and can use income to save money for the future. Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money that goes to a communal fund of their choice. This fund helps workers improve their social, economic or environmental conditions through investment in things like better infrastructure, their children’s education or drinking water supplies. Another important aspect of Fairtrade is sustainable production, which involves farms and plantations avoiding pesticides and fungicides since these often cause great damage to people, wildlife and natural resources. If it’s impossible to circumvent toxicants, their usage has to be reduced to a minimum and resources like soil and water need to be kept clean. Additionally, all employees who might get in contact with the substances are required to wear protective clothing. But that’s not everything that Fairtrade is invested in. Other important issues that are being dealt with include child labour, climate change and gender inequality.

 

All in all, buying Fairtrade chocolate may not be the solution to every problem in the trading industry but it’s a good place to start and it proves that it’s not hard to make a positive impact, even if it’s small. As one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Ireland has the chance to go ahead and make sure that Fairtrade products will be even more widespread and consumed in the future.

 

 

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

In recent years the Greek island of Lesbos has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Moria, the largest refugee camp on Lesbos, has now far exceeded its capacity, and its living conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny.

7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

The Uyghurs in the northwestern region of China have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party. Millions of them are currently imprisoned in “re-education camps” and aren’t given any protection from the novel coronavirus.

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Conversations from Calais: The Poster Project Bringing Humanity Back Into the Refugee Crisis

In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

10000 students working towards a more equal future

10000 students working towards a more equal future

February 20th marks the World Day of Social Justice 2020, and young people across Ireland are finding themselves facing an uncertain future on all fronts. Fighting against ever-increasing university fees, and laden down with the knowledge that just 20 companies worldwide are responsible for one third of all global emissions, it can be hard to believe that any individual can take action to truly level the playing field. 

One person alone might feel as though they can’t make a change, but what happens when 10000 third-level students come together to take one small action each for a better world? This is what STAND, a Suas Educational Development initiative, and the Unions of Students in Ireland (USI) are trying to encourage by partnering on a new platform called 10000students.ie. 

The 10000 students website, which provides examples on how to take action for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in every USI affiliated college across Ireland, allows students to pledge to take one action on their campus. It also counts how many actions are being taken across Ireland as a whole, with the idea being that students will see strength in numbers when it comes to taking action collectively. 

Speaking from the launch event at GMIT, Mayo, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick had the following to say:

“Pledging to take any action on 10000students.ie is an easy way to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals and to see how simple it can be to make a difference through implementing these changes in their daily lives. Students have always been at the forefront of positive change in Ireland and it is no different when it comes to the SDG’s. Last year, USI was announced as one of the twelve Sustainable Development Goal Champions and we are delighted to partner with STAND to launch this campaign to make it easy for students to make a difference while challenging their friends to do the same.”

Want to see how you can get involved? Visit 10000students.ie today and pledge to take one small action on your campus for a more sustainable planet.

An Examination of Statelessness

An Examination of Statelessness

It’s often the things you take for granted in life that are the most important. The passport you use when going on holidays, the birth certificate sitting in the back of your filing cabinet, the PPSN that you use to do your taxes. But, imagine your life if you didn’t have those documents – no going abroad, not being able to register for school, not being able to get a job. This is the reality of life for up to 10 million people globally, who do not have a nationality, who have none of those documents. These people are stateless, meaning that they do not have any official nationality. Often trapped in poverty, there is no way of improving their situation due to difficulty accessing healthcare, education, and employment. Overall, this can be a very difficult situation to solve. 

 

Statelessness can happen in a few ways. Some people become stateless due to purposeful discrimination by governments, while others may be affected by accident, when country boundaries change or when there are gaps in nationality laws. Other people may become stateless because they are refugees, which can make it difficult to prove where they or their parents were born due to a lack of documentation. Some children experience statelessness because of nationality laws which disallow their mothers from passing on citizenship, such as in Qatar. This means that if the child’s father is unknown or from a country with laws keeping him from passing on citizenship for some reason, the child will be unable to receive a nationality. Often entire groups of people end up stateless, just like how lots of people became stateless after the Soviet Union dissolved into multiple countries and their Soviet nationality ceased to exist. As well as groups affected by geographic changes, the UNHCR estimates that up to 75% of stateless people are members of minority groups, who are often explicitly discriminated against by the state they should be nationals of. An example of a stateless minority group are the Rohinga in Myanmar. While this group is best known for the intense violence it suffered and the huge refugee crisis which followed, few people know that citizenship laws passed in 1982 effectively denied the Rohinga (alongside some other minority ethnicities) the right to a nationality in Myanmar.

 

What is being done to prevent statelessness and to reduce the number of people currently stateless? The right to a nationality is enshrined in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and two United Nations international legal conventions exist to provide standards that states should stick to in order to reduce and prevent statelessness. Unfortunately, many states routinely ignore these international laws. Some success has been seen, such as with the elimination of the issue from Kyrgyzstan, where the last 13,700 people who were stateless were granted citizenship between 2014 and 2019. However, many countries maintain discriminatory laws which will be difficult to convince them to change. Last month, India changed the law to make it easier for followers of all of the subcontinent’s religions, except Islam, to acquire citizenship. At the same time, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to compile a register of all India’s 1.3 billion citizens, as a means to hunt down illegal immigrants. With many of the country’s 200 million Muslims not having the papers to prove that they are Indian, they risk being made stateless. Further, the government has expressed the desire to build camps to detain those that are caught. 

Increasing numbers of refugees could also lead to an increase in the numbers of stateless people. Ultimately, it will be important for states to cooperate to try to reduce and prevent statelessness – for example by reforming their citizenship laws to allow newborn children who would otherwise be stateless to acquire citizenship. Colombia is setting a great example in this regard, living up to its international obligations by granting the children of all Venezuelan refugees the right to be Colombian citizens. The UNHCR recommends countries set up statelessness determination procedures to ensure that stateless people are able to get recognised.  In order to encourage other nations to follow this example and work to help statelessness and its harms become a thing of the past, both international and domestic pressure will be necessary. The UNHCR is running a campaign, #IBelong, to raise awareness of statelessness in the hope that governments will feel the need to change their ways. We will need governments that are willing to reform their laws to prevent children from being born stateless and to increase the ease with which stateless people can naturalise. Only then will we be able to remove this major barrier to the access of basic human rights.

 

 

 

Photo by Sarah-Rose on Flickr

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Crumbling Humanitarian Situation on Lesbos

In recent years the Greek island of Lesbos has become a gateway for hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge from war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan. Moria, the largest refugee camp on Lesbos, has now far exceeded its capacity, and its living conditions are coming under increasing scrutiny.

7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

The Uyghurs in the northwestern region of China have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party. Millions of them are currently imprisoned in “re-education camps” and aren’t given any protection from the novel coronavirus.

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Conversations from Calais: The Poster Project Bringing Humanity Back Into the Refugee Crisis

In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Former Google Executive Calls Out Company Over Human Rights

Ross Lajeunesse, Google’s former Head of International Relations, has claimed he was pushed out of the company for his human rights advocacy. In his recent blog post, Lajeunesse spoke out against Google’s exclusionary workplace culture, as well as the company’s suspected co-operation with human rights abuses in China and Saudi Arabia. Google’s human rights and inclusion record has been repeatedly called into question over the last number of months and Lajeunesse is the most recent of many employees who claim they faced retaliation against workplace activism.

 

A major criticism of Google over the last number of years has been its co-operation with the governments of China and Saudi Arabia with their human rights abuses. The development of Google’s ‘Dragonfly’ project, a search engine that would comply with China’s censorship and surveillance laws, faced much objection until it was eventually terminated in December of 2018. Google has also been heavily condemned for hosting certain applications of the Saudi government, including ‘Absher’, an app which enables men to track and control female family members. In response to the development of these projects, Lajeunesse claims he advocated for the integration of a human rights based approach in decision making, but that this suggestion was repeatedly dismissed. He argues that human rights concerns where overshadowed by the drive for “bigger profits and higher stock prices”. 

 

Further to its poor international human rights record, Google’s internal workplace relations have also invited criticism. According to Lajeunesse, workers from marginalised backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to unfair treatment at Google. He described young female employees being bullied and screamed at by senior colleagues, as well as “diversity” exercises in which workers were separated by race and sexuality and encouraged to shout slurs at each other. Lajeunesse says he repeatedly raised these issues with HR, but they were never meaningfully responded to. In February 2019, despite being highly rated within the company, Lajeunesse was told he no longer had a job. While Google claims this was down to company “reorganisation,” Lajeunesse holds that it was his advocacy for human rights and inclusion that cost him his career. Since leaving Google, LaJeunesse has spoken out about the importance of government intervention in the area of human rights and is currently running in the Democratic Senate primary in Maine. 

 

LaJeunesse is not the first to accuse Google of punishing worker activism. In October 2018, over 20,000 Google employees around the world staged a walkout, protesting the companies handling of sexual harassment. In June 2019, Claire Stapleton, one of the walkout leaders, retired after twelve years with the company. She says this decision came after facing months of structural retaliation against her activism, including being demoted, isolated and gaslit. Since leaving, Stapleton has spoken out publicly about Google’s systematic discrimination of women and minorities, as well as the culture of retaliation she claims is being used to quash employee action. 

 

Despite reports of punitive backlash, collective worker action continued to grow throughout 2019. A network of employee activists has tackled a vast range of issues, from promoting the rights of part-time workers to petitioning Google to rule out working with agencies such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In November, amidst a climate of growing labour unrest, it was revealed that the company had hired an anti-union consulting firm. Shortly after, four employee activists announced they were filing federal charges against the company, claiming they had been fired due to their role in labour organizing. The four activists believe that their termination was intended to act as a warning to other employees. Cases like these are especially threatening to Google’s contract and temporary workers, who make up 54% of its workforce and are uniquely vulnerable to this kind of retaliation. Nonetheless, it is clear that labour unrest at Google has continued to escalate in light of the firings.

 

Google’s repeated controversies in the areas of inclusion, human rights compliance, minority rights and labour relations pose serious questions about the power of Big Tech in our society. Evident in the records of companies such as Amazon and Facebook, these issues are not unique to Google and are perhaps symptomatic of a more fundamental problem. Can the profit-driven business model which dominates our economy be compatible with human rights? Or, as suggested by Lajeunesse, are these issues “the inevitable outcome of a corporate culture that rewards growth and profits over social impact and responsibility”?

 

 

Photo by Google Inc. [Public domain]

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Seanad Candidate Could Be the First Traveller Woman in the Oireachtas

Eileen Flynn has been nominated to the Labour panel for the upcoming Seanad elections, receiving nominations from Thomas Pringle TD as well as the three People Before Profit TDs. If successful, Flynn, who grew up in the Labre Park Traveller housing site in Ballyfermot, would be the first female Traveller in either House of the Oireachtas.

Ireland’s First Security Summit Addresses the Need for Increased Safety Measures

On February 25th and 26th 2020, the first National Security Summit met at Dublin City University in the Helix building. The summit focused on four main branches of security to allow for a variety of keynotes, panels, and debates.

Coronavirus: The Lived Experience Throughout Europe

COVID-19 is dominating the news at the moment. It can be quite easy to detach from the current crisis we find ourselves in, even as the panic and restrictions that accompany the spread of COVID-19 slowly seeps into the daily lives of almost every European country. I set out to gain a better understanding of how the virus, and the accompanying measures in place, have altered the daily lives of different people living across Europe.

Airlines’ Responsibility on Climate Change

Aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It generates 600 million tonnes of CO2 a year and other factors are estimated to have an impact even higher than that of CO2. Ryanair claims to be Europe’s “greenest” airline, however, the low-cost carrier was named in a list of Europe’s top 10 CO2 emitters.

The Irish Environment to Have its Day in Court

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), an Irish charity committed to tackling climate change, have become significant players in Irish climate litigation. Now, they have been granted special permission to go straight to the Supreme Court, to demand that the government do better to protect our environment.