Spanish authorities lie about immigrant tragedy

Background

Spain has two enclaves in Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla, and migrants from all over Africa regularly try to reach them, mostly by climbing the border fence that separate them from Morocco.

The border fence consists of 6.8 miles of parallel 10 feet high fences with razor-wire, regular watch posts, CCTV, spotlights, noise and movement sensors, and a road running between them for police patrols. Deaths and injuries are common and have increased since razor wire was installed.

There are more migrants now who attempt to reach a seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco, as seen in this map published by El Pais:

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from elpais.com

The seawall that separates the Spanish territory from Morocco. An info graph from elpais.com

The news

On February 6 fifteen immigrants died off the coast while trying to swim around the seawall to reach the Spanish enclave. Spanish Civil Guard, who was alerted by Moroccan security forces that the migrants were approaching, didn’t admit any responsibility in the tragedy.

Migrants who survived accused the Civil Guard of firing their weapons at them while they were in the water, rubber bullets included, which caused the panic that resulted in the tragedy. Head of Civil Guard and Spanish Government denied it and lied about the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

Some reactions

1. NGOs released videos, pictures and interviews with surviving migrants showing that panic set in as Civil Guards began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at those attempting to swim. [Examinations by the Northern Observatory for Human Rights on some of those who died confirm that some had marks indicating they had been shot by rubber bullets. The observatory also stated that the Civil Guards did not assist the migrants or alert the rescue coastguards].

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

One of the survivors shows wounds caused by rubber bullet. Image was distributed by Caminando Fronteras NGO

2. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström immediately said on twitter that European Commissions wanted an explanation about why police fired rubber bullets in warning.

Captura de pantalla 2014-04-08 a la(s) 23.06.00

She got tons of replies, mainly from Spanish people, saying things like these:

Captura de pantalla 2014-04-08 a la(s) 23.09.36

EU has asked Spain for an independent investigation.

3. People organized themselves online and protests took place in 15 Spanish cities to condemn the death of the migrants. Placards proclaimed, “They didn’t drown, they were murdered,” “Natives or foreigners, we’re all the same”, “No one is illegal,” and “Where are the pro-lifers now?” (In reference to those who support the new restrictive Abortion Law being prepared by the Spanish government run by the Conservative Party).

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for Publico.com

Madrid protest. a picture of Jairo Vargas for Publico.com

4. Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz was forced to appear at the Parliament. He acknowledged that Civil Guard officers fired their anti-riot weapons, contradicting an earlier version.

5. Almost 200.000 people have signed a petition demanding the minister resignation because of the tragedy and manipulation carried out by state forces to cover his speech.

Posted in Uncategorized

Syrian families are running out of food

The issue

The United Nations announced yesterday it will have to cut down on food aid to Syrian families in need because of a lack and delay of funding from donor countries. It is estimated that half of the Syrian population currently needs humanitarian aid for survival and that 6 million persons are internally displaced.

Last January 15, relief agencies organized a second “Pledging Conference” under the auspices of the UN to rally financial support for the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria. The donor countries initially pledged US$ 2.3 billion at the conference which took place in Kuwait, however, UN officials claim that they have received only 1.1 billion so far.

As a result, the standard food basket for a family of five, which is composed of rice, bulgar wheat, sugar, salt and wheat flour, has now been cut by 20 percent in March, according to officials from the World Food Programme (WFP).

UNHCR also claims that it has experienced delays in donor pledges to Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. The agency expressed concerns over worsening economic and security conditions in many refugee camps.

Why should you care? Or more practically, how does this affect you?

  • Aside from the obvious ethical reasons, many ordinary Syrian citizens might die of hunger – especially when war, conflict, and political violence traps innocent bystanders and strips them of their livelihoods. So, maybe we could all gain to help the hungry and the helpless – whether they are in our immediate circle or not –  and make the world a better place (a somewhat better place).
  • The more civilians suffer from conflict, the more likely they are to turn to violence as a survival strategy. It’s no secret that economic hardships, unemployment, and deprivation breeds violence and instability (and turns ordinary individuals into terrorists or extremists). The more innocent Syrians suffer, in and outside of Syria, the more likely the conflict will endure and radicalize the rest of the region. Accordingly, neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey have already witnessed spillover effects from the civil war in Syria. The international community does not stand to benefit from an increasing volatile and turbulent Middle East, which may – or may not – develop hostile attitudes towards the US, Russia and the European Union.
  • The increasing economic pressures on Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, as illustrated by the head of UNHCR, pushes refugees to flee to developed countries in search of better opportunities. Sweden, the U.K., Norway and other European countries have already received waves of resettlement requests from Syrian nationals. If these requests are accepted, it will add further economic pressure on European economies.

What you can do

  • Donate! So you make sure that the funds get directly distributed to the beneficiaries. You can either make a monthly or a single contribution to UNHCR or the WFP. Your contributions will provide a number of Syrian families with drinking water, vaccinations and tents.
  • Click here to donate to UNCHR and here to help the WFP.

OR you could:

  • Send a letter to your country’s delegation at the UN to comply with their pledges. The main donor countries are: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, France and Canada. Click here to find out whether your country took part in the 2014 pledge for humanitarian assistance in Syria.
Posted in Uncategorized