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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What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have committed to helping them settle in and integrate. One group who have made this commitment are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in Cork City who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

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?

Samantha Power’s Book Review: The Ideal Woman for the Job

Samantha Power’s Book Review: The Ideal Woman for the Job

On one of the rainiest days of this rainy season, Samantha Power arrived at her home city of Dublin and was greeted in Trinity College Dublin’s Regent’s House to rapturous applause. Maybe it’s because of her Irish roots, or maybe it’s her warm and affable nature, but there is a real sense of pride for Power’s achievements in the room. The students who managed to secure tickets are upright, hoping to imbibe some of her career secrets. 

I have not long finished reading Power’s political memoir The Education of an Idealist, which tells the story of her incredible career to date. After emigrating to Pittsburgh from Dublin at the age of 9, Power attended Yale before becoming a war correspondent, based in Croatia and Bosnia during the Siege of Sarajevo. After her journalism and research won her a Pulitzer Prize, she taught at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. In 2006, she joined Barack Obama, then a newly elected Congressman, as an advisor. Soon, Power left Harvard to work with Obama on his election campaign, and when he became President of the United States, worked as his Human Rights Advisor for his first term and as the United States Ambassador to the UN from 2013-2017. 

Although Power is perhaps 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. She writes about how witnessing the Tiananmen Square protests as a nineteen year-old completely swerved her career path. Some of the most colourful sections of the book come from her time as a freelance journalist during the Balkan war, and the close-calls she faced in trying to help victims. She campaigned for victims in Darfur and spent time on the ground in West Africa at the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014.

Much of The Education of an Idealist centres on the tensions between acting on human suffering and the bureaucracy that dictates government action. This is especially climactic in the ten days in August 2013 after the news of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Damascus, Syria, broke, where the Obama administration had to decide whether to respond with military intervention. The nitty-gritty scenes in the White House Situation Room, and Power’s rallying cry to Obama to respond in honour of the suspected 1,429 dead from this one attack, reads like a thriller novel but with all the more poignancy, because it raises questions about what could have happened in Syria in the ensuing years if Obama had intervened (or at the very least, asks the reader to consider if he was right to not intervene). Power is asked during her interview in Trinity College Dublin whether she believes one can achieve more progress through activism or government, and while she pays homage to both forms of action, she is loyal to the achievements possible in a government structure.  

Overall, The Education of an Idealist is a political memoir with heart. Power does not attempt to use the platform as political ammo to prop up the decisions of Obama’s administration, nor does she use it in a game of one-upmanship against those she has disagreed with throughout her career. Instead, Power offers a warm, candid and gripping read. She tells her story her way, with a touch of self-deprecating humour which feels quite uniquely Irish. 

Standing in line for Power to sign my dog-eared copy of her book, I am struck by the nerves in my stomach. I tell her of my time in Sarajevo this summer, and how I especially enjoyed her descriptions of the camaraderie between correspondents there.  The ambience in the room is one of hope for a safer and better future, of political stability and action on climate change, and so it feels particularly fitting when I realise she has signed my copy ‘With hope, Samantha Power’.

 

Picture by Gerald R. Ford school on Flickr

 

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What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is a Mob Drama of Epic Proportions

Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have committed to helping them settle in and integrate. One group who have made this commitment are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in Cork City who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize win is deplorable

For the general public, literary prizes are not of particular importance. They boost sales for nominees and winners, and increase public knowledge of certain new releases. Of course, the judges of such literary prizes, and the institutions they represent, can use their elevated position to promote authors and works which inspire progressiveness, inclusivity, empathy, and unrepresented voices. This year the Nobel Prize for Literature, one of the world’s most respected and renowned literary prizes, chose not to do so. 

By awarding the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke, the Swedish Academy are by default giving merit and support to a writer who has controversially supported the Serb campaign during the Balkan War and fall of Yugoslavia. The Austrian playwright, publically supported former president of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević during his UN tribunal trial for war crimes, and performed a eulogy at his funeral in 2006. 

Swedish Academy member Mats Malm has reported that the Prize is awarded on “literary and aesthetic ground. It is not in the Academy’s mandate to balance literary quality against political considerations”. Politics aside, to reward an €825,000 prize (and the literary canonisation that goes with it) to someone who has publically declared that the Bosnians massacred each other and denied the Srebrenica genocide is shameful. It promotes a un-humanitarian agenda of exclusion. 

The news has been received with criticism by leaders of countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Kosovo, and other literary institutions such as PEN America. 

Some of the work which Handke has been awarded the Nobel Prize for, an award received by the likes of Hemingway and Beckett, include A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia, a travelogue which portrays Serbia as the victim of the Yugoslav Wars. 

The Mothers of Srebrenica, an activist group based in the Netherlands who represent the 6,000 survivors of the Srebrenica massacre, have called for this award to be revoked. Handke, in response to winning, has commented: “I feel a strange kind of freedom, I don’t know, a freedom, which is not the truth, as if I were innocent.” 

In my opinion, it is more than controversial to publicly reward Handke with such prestige: no literary merit can undo his vocal atrocities. 

 

 

Photo by Nobel Prize on Twitter

 

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New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

FGM: A Multifarious Practice Deeply Ingrained in Somalia

While FGM is frequently justified as a religious practice preserving the purity of women, it is, in reality, an extremely resilient customary practice which predates the conception and arrival to the Horn of Africa of Islam.

Students in Action: A Stem of Hope for Sinead

Shauna Costello, a Coolock native, is currently trying to raise €50,000 for her Aunt Sinead who is suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a continuous, immune-mediated disorder which means that the disease causes your immune system to attack the healthy parts of your body that are imperative to a functioning body. As a result, the spinal and brain cords can decline.

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.

The kurdish: a history

The kurdish: a history

To help you understand the recent military attacks against the Kurdish population at the Syrian border, STAND News takes a look back at the history of the Islamic ethnic group.

It is difficult to underestimate the bitter history of the Kurds, an Irianian ethnic group of approximately 36 million people living mostly in various regions of the Middle East – namely Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. About 25% of the Kurd population currently live in western Turkey, while up to 15% live in northern Syria. This Islamic minority have once more held front pages across the world after Trump’s White House stood back to allow Turkey to launch attacks on their former allies at the Syrian border, displacing over 130,000 Kurds in just a few days. 

The Kurdish people have been stateless since the 1800s, with the closest resemblance of Kurdistan borders being considered after World War I. Since then, Kurdish kingdoms have been crushed by Iraqi, British and French forces. They faced genocide from Iranian forces in the 1980s during Reagan’s office, and fought for thirty-five years in a guerrilla war against Turkey. 

Since 2014, Kurdish fighters took control of key cities in Syria to defend them from a rising Islamic State. The Kurdish population of Syria have long been vocal about their infringed human rights in the country, staging the Rojava revolution to establish the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria in 2016 – an area deemed to have a social revolution of democratic confederalism. In doing so, they have fostered a growing allyship with the United States, which alarmed Turkey, 

By standing back and allowing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to send his army into northern Syria, Trump has bitterly betrayed those who were once the US’s most purposeful allies in the fight against the Islamic State. Rallies have taken place across Europe over the weekend – including in Dublin – to protest against Trump’s action, and to encourage alliance with Sweden’s plans to embargo weapons with Turkey at an upcoming EU summit. 

 

 

Photo by Hilary Ellary on Twitter

 

 

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What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Could Community Sponsorship be the Answer to Refugee Integration in Ireland?

Community Sponsorship is a pathway to resettlement that involves refugees being welcomed directly into a community by a group of people who have committed to helping them settle in and integrate. One group who have made this commitment are the St Luke’s Welcomes group in Cork City who realised they all shared a desire to act regarding the ongoing refugee crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Genocide at the International Criminal Court

In the realm of international politics, few world leaders have incited such hope and then despair as Myanmar’s president Aung San Suu Kyi. Amidst allegations of genocide against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, Suu Kyi has been summoned to the International Court of Justice to answer for her nation’s transgressions.

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?

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Why Are World Hunger Levels Increasing?

Recent reportage suggests that world hunger, one of the most pressing (and – arguably – preventable) humanitarian crises of today, is on the increase. The UN has said that over 820 million people worldwide remain hungry, and that its current target of zero hunger by 2030 will be ‘an immense challenge’. 

The increase in hunger is due to a number of factors, including rapid population increase, economic instability and income inequality. The UN says the increase jeopardises achieving other sustainable goals including climate action, as this hunger impacts all from farmers to newborn babies.

The increase in hunger is being mainly blamed on the general decrease in the level of aid deployed from richer areas to poorer areas, and specifically to certain African countries. According to Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, humanitarian organisations are currently receiving only 27% of what they need to provide relief to those affected by the hunger crisis. In 2018, this included a 3% decrease in overseas development assistance than in 2017 – including a 4% decrease in African aid, and 8% decrease in humanitarian aid.  

Speaking in the Guardian, Egeland says: “It is a question of priorities. The world’s total military expenditure has increased to a whopping $1.8tn. The cost of closing the humanitarian funding gap and providing people with basic support equals to just about 1% of this”. 

It appears that if political will matched the sense of humanitarian duty, much of this hunger could be easily prevented. 820 million adults and children across the globe would not go hungry tonight. If hunger is eradicated, in tandem would be less illness, increase production in agriculture, and a monumental increase in the quality of life for many. The (perhaps chosen) inability to prevent this hunger is one of the great tragedies of our age.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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Weinstein New York Trial Begins

The New York trial of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein commenced in the past week and is estimated to last two months. Weinstein is charged with five sex crime charges. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty and denies all allegations of nonconsensual sexual encounters. If convicted of these acts, he will likely face the rest of his life behind bars.

What Do You Know About Direct Provision?

As the 2020 General Election is fast approaching, why not test your knowledge on one of Ireland’s biggest human rights issues of the last two decades; Direct Provision. Brush up on your facts and figures so you can quiz your local candidates and help keep Direct Provision at the front of the new Dáil’s minds!

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Naomi Klein is as accessible as ever as she dissects the scientific and economic jargon of climate change, while simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable. On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, has the possibility to unite the movement once again and inspire action on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before.

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. In this article in our Brexit series, Rachel gives us an update on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and the future of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the story about Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. The publication of the first piece on Weinstein led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism.

Is Political Reform on the Horizon for Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has been under autocracy since it first began to be taken over by the Russian Empire in the 18th century, throughout its years as part of the Soviet Union, and since its independence in 1991. After all that time, could it be possible that the country is heading towards future democracy?