America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo review a hero at the Golden Gate

One Filipino migrants struggle to live her American dream after two years in a prison camp induces for a blazingly fearless debut novel

While serving as a medic in the revolutionary New People’s Army in the 1980 s, Geronima, called Hero for short, is captured by the Filipino military. After two years in a prison camp she weighs less than 90 lb and cannot bear to be touched. Hero’s mutilated thumbs and cigarette-burn scars are not easy to hide but she maintains her emotional meanders to herself after joining her uncle’s family in California at the beginning of America Is Not the Heart .

Hero guards another secret too: she favor daughters. In this blazingly fearless debut fiction, Elaine Castillo renders a faggot hero with a history of suffering on a par with tragic Jude from Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life ( 2015 ). She also probes the same disconcerting topic: can such a profoundly traumatic past ever actually be redeemed by love?

Much of the fiction is set at the start of 1990 s. Heaving with digressive sub-stories, untranslated dialect and jarring gearshifts in style, at first America Is Not the Heart somewhat resembles the hyperactive maximalist fiction that reached its zenith with David Foster Wallace during that decade.

In a startling opening riff in the second person, we gratify nurse Paz as she makes the leap from the Philippines to the San Francisco Bay Area in the hope of a better life( and so paving the route for new spouse Pol, and eventually his niece Hero, to follow on family visas ). For a Filipino generation who spent their lives” dreaming of America, singing its lyrics” the hardships of settling in their adoptive country are powerfully voiced here:” As for loving America or not loving America, these aren’t your problems, either. Your term for love is survival. Everything else is a story that isn’t about you .”

The American dream offers a salvation myth, which lures seekers to a country where a surgeon like Pol can become a” poorly paid security guard at a computer chip company “. Frequently harking back to the privilege of the clan in the Philippines, we feel girded for a panoramic household saga about the disillusionment of the Filipino-American diaspora.

After resolving on Hero, however, the novel observes its feet, all the better for planting them on modest ground. Hero’s new life in America is confined to cleaning Paz’s house and ferrying her daughter Roni to school until she satisfies a beguiling makeup artist named Rosalyn. Swapping exuberances for manga comics and British indie rock leads in time to red-hot sex crashes in vehicles and kitchens.

Hero’s circle slowly expands. Despite her broken thumbs, she can manage work in a eatery thanks to some dextrous adaptations, but it remains to be seen whether she can open her damaged heart to the besotted Rosalyn. Flashbacks to her stint in the guerrilla insurgency leave us in no doubt about why this is so excruciating for Hero. The novel is a possibility set in an unpicturesque part of the Bay Area- and Hero takes her sweet time to even visit the” glamorous red-bridged seaside city” to the north- but Castillo infuses their fragile fag romance with a luminous naturalism.

At a period when the US president is making ominous swipes against” chain migration”, the hugely talented Castillo provides a nuanced and persuasive take from the other side. America, to many disenchanted settlers, may not be the heart, but it sometimes provides a more hospitable corner where someone like Hero can begin to regain her own:” It was only that a small, small door inside of her had been left ajar , not thrown open, and things started to emerge, sluggish and night-blind .”

America Is Not the Heart is at its most moving when tracking the smaller, arduous steps by which consolidation actually happens, whether social, culture or emotional. It seems that some dreamings, albeit the ones not outsized enough to be blazoned in neon, can come true in America after all.

* America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is published by Atlantic( PS14. 99 ). To order a transcript for PS12. 74 go or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over PS10, online orders merely. Phone orders min p& p of PS1. 99

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No food, no water: African migrants recount terrifying Atlantic crossing

Men rescued off Brazil after 35 days at sea tell of harrowing 3,000 -mile journey on which some drank urine to survive

In the working day after the food and water had run out, as the catamaran floated helplessly in the Atlantic with a snapped mast and broken motor, there was nothing left to do but pray, told Muctarr Mansaray, 27.

” I pray every day. I pray a lot at that particular moment. I don’t sleep at night ,” he told.

Mansaray and 24 other African migrants had set out from the African nation of Cape Verde in April, on what they were told by the two Brazilian crewmen would be a comparatively quick and easy voyage to a new country where they hoped to find work.


This weekend, they were rescued by fishermen 80 miles off the coast of Brazil, after an incredible 3,000 -mile journey across the Atlantic.

The humen, from Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau had been at sea for 35 days- the last few days without food and water.

Details have now begun to emerge of the men’s terrifying and chaotic voyage in a 12 -metre catamaran scarcely big enough for them to squeezing on. When food and water operated out, some even drank sea water and urine.

” After 35 days of journey in these conditions it is really lucky that nobody succumbed ,” told Luis Almeida, head of the federal police’s immigration department in Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhao state.

” There was not a cabin for all of them, so they were exposed to a lot of sun and solar radiation during these 35 days ,” he told. The rescued humen were disorientated, dehydrated and some had problems seeing after so long exposed to second-hand glare of sunshine reflected on the waves.

Almeida said the case was unprecedented: African stowaways have been found on cargo ships in Maranhao ports before, but this was the first time a boatload of migrants had arrived in the nation. The two Brazilians also on the boat were arrested for promoting illegal immigrations.

The journey began in the island nation of Cape Verde, 400 miles west of Senegal.

Mansaray, a Muslim from Freetown in Sierra Leone, had moved there five years ago to study science and technology with hopes of becoming a educator. He analyse for two years but was struggling to pay his university fees and running as a cellphone repairman.

” They called me the cellphone doctor ,” he told the Guardian by phone from Sao Luis.

A friend who is a student in Sao Paulo told him he could study for free in Brazil’s biggest city and would be able to send fund home to his elderly parents and sister in Freetown.” I said, cool, that’s why I got that barge ,” he said.

The small catamaran used for the intersect. Photo: Handout

He said he had been introduced to a Brazilian on the street and then paid $700( PS521) for what he was told would be a 22 -day passage.

He became scared when he saw the size of the vessel he was about to cross the Atlantic on.

” I am the last to arrive, when I enter on the boat, a lot of guys, oh my God, is this going to be safe all of us ?” he told.” How can I do this journey? Because I am already in, I cannot discourage other people, so I find heroism and run .”

‘The motor transgressed, and the sail broke’

Others had paid more on the promise that they would be given food, but within 10 days the food had run out, so the three men survived on two biscuits or a few spoonfuls of food each day. One day, one man caught a fish with a rope.

” We simmered a fish, and everybody eat ,” Mansaray said.

But the mast snapped when one of the boat’s crew was trying to tie it to the other side of the barge, he told, and the motor would not work because the crew had mixed kerosene and diesel. A storm came as a relief because at least there was rainwater to drink.

Elhadji Mountakha Beye, 36, was hit on the head when the mast contravene and has been left with a scar. The mechanic from Dakar in Senegal had previously lived in Cape Verde , and paid EUR1, 000( PS877) for his passage in the hope of finding work in Brazil where he hoped to meet up with a Senegalese friend in Sao Paulo.” There is better work there than in Senegal ,” he said.

Hora 1 (@ hora1)

Barco com imigrantes africanos e resgatado por pescadores na costa brasileira.Vinte e cinco africanos que estavam a deriva em alto mar foram resgatados por pescadores cearenses e levados para o litoral do Maranhao: https :// sgUnMGEnuP #Hora1 4XJCGF8Sqj

May 21, 2018

He described a hellish journey.

” It was tiring, there was no food, the food ran out, the water ran out ,” he said.” Just on that sea. The motor broke, and the sail violated. Now just wait for someone to help us .”

Just as the situation was becoming dire, the men aboard the drifting ship spotted a fishing barge and signalled that they were in distress. The anglers, from nearby Ceara state, towed the catamaran to the nearby port of Sao Jose de Ribamar.

” The next day person would have died ,” Moises dos Santos, one of the fishermen, told reporters when the men landed.” They said they eat two cookies a day. They even drank urine, that’s what they say, they told us. We felt very honoured to save the lives of a lot of people .”

‘ We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys .’ Photograph: Handout

The humen were met by a medical squad from the Maranhao state government’s secretariat of human rights, taken to a health post for checks and then housed in a local gymnasium.

” All of them said life was precarious in their origin countries and they all have relatives or people they know living in Brazil. They were looking for a better life and to work in Brazil ,” said Jonata Galvao, the state’s adjunct secretary for human rights.

Federal police said they were now assessing a” migratory answer” for the men to stay in Brazil.

” We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys. So I believe that the government will help us to do that ,” Mantsaray said.” It is my dreaming, and I believe my dreaming will come true with the help of God, and I can support my family back home .”

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Germany to roll out mass holding centres for asylum seekers

Anchor camps will undermine countrys reputation for being welcoming, say critics

Mass holding centres that Germany’s interior ministry wants to roll out across the country will stoke social tension between locals and migrants and undermine the welcome image the country has gained in the eyes of the world, assistance organisations have said.

So-called anchor centres- an acronym for arrival, decision, return- are designed to speed up deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers, by containing large groups of people and the authorities concerned who rule on their asserts inside the same holding facility.

Until now, Germany’s policy has been to embed new arrivals in communities across the country. But Angela Merkel’s government is seeking to reverse its strategy, as a populist backlash builds against the chancellor’s handled in the refugee crisis.

” We all know how difficult it is to deport people without protected status once they have been spread out across the country and put down roots in our cities and communities ,” the home minister, Horst Seehofer, told the German parliament last week.

” In the future the end of an asylum application will coincide with the start of the deportation procedure ,” said the leader of the CSU and former Bavarian state premier, adding that he wanted to see nations set up the new centres this autumn.

But the transit centre in Seehofer’s home state that is meant to work as a prototype for the strategy has experienced high crime rates, mass protests and rising tensions between asylum seekers and security forces, the Guardian find during a visit to the Max-Immelmann barracks in Manching.

The converted army compound is part of a complex outside Ingolstadt, Upper Bavaria, that holds about 1,100 people, principally from the west Balkans, Ukraine, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

” It is like a prison ,” told Lucky Raphael, 24, from Nigeria, who said inmates were not allowed to lock their rooms, cook their own food, or go outside to seek run or attend school.” We can go outside, but always in the fear that we could be arrested ,” told Raphael, who said he left his home country because of his dire economic and social situations, and arrived in Bavaria via Italy.

Raphael told had been living in the Manching transit centre for 11 months, though authorities say the average length of remain for people who have arrived here since September 2015 is four-and-a-half months.

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‘The Germans sneeze loudly’: refugees on their adopted homelands – video

Bavarian authorities hope to accelerating the checking process with technology. They analyse metadata on smartphones and operate speech samples through a” voice geometry” programme to determine the travel route and ethnic background of applicants who do not have passports.

They are reacting to an increasingly heated political debate about Germany’s failure to deport asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Anis Amri, a Tunisian who in December 2016 killed 12 people by driving a truck into a mob at a Berlin Christmas market, had been rejected but not deported. In 2017, about half a million unsuccessful asylum seekers remained in the country.

Anchor centres” send out a signal to people who have low chances of being allowed to stay ,” told Daniel Waidelich of the Upper Bavarian government.” It’s not worth coming to Germany, because your claim is processed very quickly here .” Since September 2015, the centre in Manching has carried out 1,000 expulsions, while 2,500 inmates have left voluntarily.

Critics say the new centres create an absurd double-bind on those inmates at the transit centres who have realistic chances of being granted asylum: while they are actively impeded from integrating into German society while their application is pending, they are expected to immediately integrate as soon as they get the all-clear.

Of asylum applications from Nigeria in Upper Bavaria, 17% was successful in gaining the applicants protected status, many of them women who have been forced into prostitution, others Christian minorities persecuted by Boko Haram in the country’s north-east.

” Integration is like a four-legged table ,” told Willi Draxler of the Catholic aid charity Caritas, which has four people doing regular voluntary work at Manching.” Language, contacts in the local community, a chore and a home are all vital ingredients. If you watched off one leg, the table is going to wobble. Within these transit centres, however, integrating isn’t happening at all .”

A former army base in Manching, utilized a a transit center for asylum seekers Photograph: Philip Oltermann for the Guardian

Inside the centres, frustration with long waits often boils over.” We are not told why we are here ,” said Kelvi Batin, also from Nigeria.” It would be better if they told us straight away when we arrived that we cannot bide “.

While Manching has not seen incidents like the one at a centre in Ellwangen, Baden-Wurttemberg, where 200 asylum seekers tried prevent the deportation of one inmate, police have to intervene at the compound on a daily basis. In 2017 the police were called 355 periods to the Manching transit centre complex.

During a recent media tour of the premises, a group of Nigerians staged an impromptu protest, chanting” We want our liberty” and holding up handmade signs read:” We’re tired of living in camps. Please, we need transfer .”

Draxler told:” Protests about seemingly small issues like food are oftens actually protests about the conditions in these centres as a whole. The main source of troubles is that the people inside have no view and aren’t allowed to work .”

The inability of the migrants inside the centre to engage themselves in the community was also stoking bitternes and racism among the local population, told Gabriele Storkle of the Caritas centre in Pfaffenhofen.” These transit centres are like black boxes; the local population isn’t allowed to go inside, so they project all their greatest fear into what is going on inside them .”

” Three years ago, Germany was globally admired for its welcoming culture- the pictures from train stations in Munich travelled around the world ,” said Draxler.” What has happened to that culture? Now there is only dread of refugees .”

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Spanish firefighters in court accused of trying to help migrants enter Greece

Spanish firefighters and Danish volunteers on trial on Lesbos could face 10 years in prison

Three Spanish firefighters and two Danish volunteers have appeared in tribunal accused of trying to help migrants enter Greece via the island of Lesbos.

The firefighters- Manuel Blanco, Jose Enrique Rodriguez and Julio Latorre, all from the southern Spanish city of Seville- had taken part in various rescue missions in the Aegean.

All five accused were in court on Monday in the island’s capital, Mytilene, along with advocates to hear the charges against them, which could carry a jail term.

The five were arrested in January 2016 after rescuing migrants travelling from Turkey to Greece.

The Spaniards worked as volunteers for business associations Proem-AID and the Danes for Team Humanity as they sought to aid thousands of migrants, mostly Syrians, risking their lives to reach Europe via Lesbos and other Greek islands.

” This trial is important because humanitarian assistance can not and should not be criminalised ,” one of the Danish defendants, Salam Aldin, said.

Many anglers from the smaller port of Sykaminia, one of the main landing sites for migrant boats at the time, were at the court to support Aldin.

The defendants is no more than helping to save lives while the Greek coastguard was overwhelmed, said a lawyer for the Spanish firefighters, Haris Petsikos.

The Spanish defendants satisfied their country’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, in Madrid in early April. He tweeted that the trio had undertaken rescue and humanitarian aid work.

The five could face up to 10 years in prison, with a verdict expected by Wednesday.

About 5,100 migrants died in 2016 crossing the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.

More than 1,000, including many children, drowned in 2015 and 2016 in the narrow stretching of sea dividing the Turkish coast from the Aegean islands.

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Ai Weiwei on the US-Australia refugee deal: ‘Its exactly like slave trading’

Chinese artist brings three tackling runs about refugee crisis to Australia with a message

The internationally renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei believes the US and Australia are engaging in a slave trade.

His claim comes amid a discussion of worldwide refugee movements, the impact of globalisation on human suffering and a lack of humanity in the west- which form the context of his contribution to this month’s Sydney Biennale exhibition.

Ai is well aware of Australia’s refugee policies, including its most recent chapter- a deal with the US to take up to 1,200 refugees languishing in offshore detention centres.

” That is a complete insult to the understanding of refugees ,” he says.” It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human being by violating their[ rights ].”

Ai is in Australia this week to launch three of his runs- two exhibiting at Sydney’s Biennale. All confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis gripping the world.

One, Crystal Ball, is a two-tonne installing made of crystal and lifejackets, offering a chance of reflection on the chaos of the crisis.

The other, Law of the Journey, is an imposing 60 -metre-long rubber boat crammed with almost 300 gigantic faceless figures. It fills a warehouse on Cockatoo Island.

Ai Weiwei in front of Law of the Journey, a statement on the therapy of refugees, at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island. Photo: Ben Rushton/ EPA

The oversized life raft and its occupants are all black, made of the same rubber and by the same company that manufactures the barges most often used by refugees for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Ai built it to sit in the National Museum of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic- which accepts no refugees- and it was coincidence that it resolved so perfectly into an Australian space, one with its own history of displacement and detention.

Ai will also deliver a keynote address to launch his refugee documentary, Human Flow, for Australian audiences.

He spent two years traveling the world, visiting 23 countries and more than 40 refugee camps, to generate the confront movie and he remains shocked by what he saw.

” You just couldn’t believe it’s in Europe. It’s not shocking to find people escape, from fire, killing- this is natural. People bring their loved ones and just leave ,” he says.

” But it’s not natural to see Europe, which has been so superior in every aspect- not only economically but morally … their work on human rights has been the foundation of our modern society .”

Instead they are building walls and fences and camps, and changing migration laws and chasing down the boats, Ai says.

” It’s so cold, virtually pushing them back in the ocean if they can ,” he says.” Greece said … it’s just not possible for us to push them back to the ocean, otherwise they would do it .”

Australia does. For many years the Australian government has operated the legally contentious policy of boat turnbacks in the seas to its north, sending asylum seekers back to where they last came from- usually Indonesia- in purpose-built barges to stop them landing in Australia.

The numbers are tiny as compared with Europe, but the governmental forces tells it has stopped people drowning at sea in their thousands. Thousands of others are in the offshore camps or on tenuous temporary visas in Australia.

Ai appears to target countries with his exhibitions, displaying the Law of the Journey first in the Czech Republic and now in Australia. But he says he has thought about boycotting to send his message and has done it at least once- pulling down his show in Denmark in protest against the government’s decision to confiscate the belongings of refugees.

” I tried both ways, but most of the time I want my voice to listen to ,” he says.” I guess, as artists, to give just a gesture is sufficient to. The fight takes a real conflict. To devote a moral kind of superiority presents a problem, because we have to see that we’re all together. The struggle builds the meaning. I prefer to have a real fight than withdraw from the fight .”

‘ You simply couldn’t believe it’s in Europe ‘: Ai Weiwei at a refugee camp between Greece and Macedonia. Photo: Valdrin Xhemaj/ EPA

Ai has been arrested, jailed and beaten for his activism. Friends and coworkers have been arrested, some have disappeared.

” It’s always personal ,” he tells.” When I run very personal, it always becomes political, all my work is like that. I’m always searching for answers: “whats happened to” my father’s generation, what would it be if a writer lost his chance to express himself ?”

Twice during the interview, Ai brings up those pre-dawn hours on Lesbos, watching a mob spill from a refugee boat. His own background is one of displacement and exile, and his research clearly affected him.

” Very often people say,’ what can we do ?’ … I think if we as individuals- all those tragedies are made by humen- we are genuinely can solve it if we want to ,” he tells.” If it’s not solved, it’s simply because we don’t want to solve it, because we is beneficial for the situation. Other people’s suffering and desperation is beneficial, so if those questions are not being answered, we will never solve the problem .”

He hopes people who ensure his run will be moved towards activism.

” I think everybody who respects “peoples lives” should be activists, because liberty is struggle ,” Ai concludes.” If for a long time you’re not used to fight, it is because you don’t care and you don’t treasure the freedom .”

* The Sydney Biennale opens on 16 March and operates until 11 June

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US border patrol routinely sabotages water left for migrants, report says

Humanitarian groups report agents routinely destroy furnishes left in Arizona desert, condemning people to die of thirst

Netanyahu asks if African infiltrators can be forcibly removed from Israel

PM reportedly orders analyse of new proposal as cabinet meet to approve plan to tell migrants to leave or face indefinite jail

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reportedly asked officials to examine the feasibility of forcibly deporting thousands of African migrants, in the latest escalation of an anti-migrant campaign.

According to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu instructed “the member states national” security consultant, Meir Ben Shabbat, to look into forced expulsion as his cabinet satisfied to approve a plan to offer 40,000 people the choice of being deported with a cash pay or being incarcerated indefinitely.

Despite controversy around the existing plan, Netanyahu, following concerns over cost and prison space, asked officials to go a step further and ask if the migrants could be expelled by force- a proposal that would almost certainly be challenged in the courts.

On Tuesday, details were disclosed of a much-criticised scheme starting in April to persuade people to leave through a combination of the threat of prison and the incentive of a cash pay of $3,500.

Most of the migrants in question- largely Sudanese and Eritrean people- arrived in Israel in the second half of the past decades, crossing from Egypt before new security on the border sealed the route.

Many people settled in poor neighbourhoods of south Tel Aviv, inspiring a campaign against them by local Israeli residents, which attracted the purposes of Netanyahu despite at times being heavily coloured by racism.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting that approved the strategy, Netanyahu said the “mission” was ” to deport the illegal infiltrators who entered Israel prior to the construction of the new hurdle with Egypt “.

He said:” Today the cabinet will approve the plan for deporting the infiltrators from Israel. We will step up enforcement and we will apportion budgets and personnel to implement the scheme. I think that it is important that people understand that we are doing something here that is completely legal and altogether essential.

” The infiltrators have a clear selection- cooperate with us and leave voluntarily, respectably, humanely and legally, or we will have to use other tools at our disposal, which are also according to law .”

The plan has been opposed by human rights groups including the Centre for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, who recently signed a letter demanding the deportations be halted.” Anyone who has a heart must resist the expulsion of the refugees ,” the letter says.

Referring to a widely reported deal to pay Rwanda $ 5,000 per person to accept the migrants, the groups added:” Rwanda is not a safe place. All the evidence indicates that anyone expelled from Israel to Rwanda determines himself there without status and without rights, exposed to threats, abducts, torture and trafficking .”

The latest move comes amid a rash of right populist moves by Netanyahu’s coalition, which some have suggested is being pursued ahead of expected police recommendations against the Israeli “ministers ” in two corruption cases.

Earlier this week Israel’s Knesset voted to avoid Jerusalem being divided, despite similar legislation already being on the statute books.

Then, in the consequences of the the cabinet session that discussed the fate of the African migrants, Israel’s parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill attaining it easier for “terrorists” to be sentenced to death after Netanyahu said it was necessary in extreme cases.

That proposed legislation involves three more votes in parliament to become law and is being pursued despite the fact the death penalty- although never applied in Israel since the hanging of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann- is also on the statute book.

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Israel to tell African migrants: leave or face indefinite imprisonment

Rights groups condemn plan to return the individuals who entered Israel illegally and who do not have a refugee application pending

Israel is set to inform thousands of Africans who entered the country illegally that they have three months to leave or face indefinite imprisonment.

The decision, opposed by rights groups, follows months of speculation over the future of both the migrants and the Holot detention facility in the Negev desert, which the government says it intends to close.

There has been often heated debate about the presence of around 40,000 African migrants in Israel, many from Eritrea and Sudan.

It is proposed that migrants who do not have a refugee application pending will receive a notice the next time they are obliged to appear at an interior ministry office to renewed their residency permits, telling them to leave Israel or face indefinite imprisonment.

Details of the scheme were disclosed the coming week in a statement by Israel’s interior minister, Arye Deri, and the public security minister, Gilad Erdan. They said the migrants would have” two options merely: voluntary deportation or sitting in prison .”

Critics have pointed out that the option to leave is far from voluntary if the alternative is prison.

It is not clear whether Israel’s supreme court, which has intervened in the migrant issue before, will do so again.

Most of the migrants arrived in Israel in the second half of the past decades, traversing from Egypt before new security on the border sealed the route.

Groups including the Centre for Refugees and Migrants, Amnesty International Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel have signed a letter demanding the expulsions be stopped.” Anyone who has a heart must resist the expulsion of the refugees ,” the letter says.

Referring to a widely reported deal to pay Rwanda $ 5,000 per person to accept migrants, it adds:” Rwanda is not a safe place. All the evidence indicates that anyone expelled from Israel to Rwanda observes himself there without status and without rights, exposed to threats, kidnaps, torture and trafficking .”

Rwanda has said it could take as many as 10,000 people. An investigation by the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an NGO, determined people who had already agreed to leave for Rwanda were vulnerable to a number of threats including imprisonment, violence and extortion.

Recently the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, criticised the emerging plan.” The Israeli government’s decision to expelled 40,000 African asylum seekers is of great concern ,” he said.” Israel has a painful history for migrants and exile. New generations must not forget that refugees do not flee out of choice but because they don’t have any other choice .”

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The best of the Long Read in 2017

Our 20 favourite pieces of the year

Every year, it seems like the world gets even worse and the Guardian publishes a hundred long reads about it. But this is only an illusion. In fact, we publish 150 long reads each year- there are three every single week!- and most of them are not about the failures of globalisation or the ecological devastation caused by mankind.

Catching up with all of our tales from this year would take about 36 hours, if you finished each one in 15 minutes and didn’t take any infringes. But for those of you who can’t spare that kind of period, we have chosen our 20 best articles of 2017- designed to provide you with at least a few hours of excellent vacation read.

Here they are, organised in order of the total number of minutes spent reading each story.( The No 1 spot is a possibility no astound .) Happy reading!

‘London Bridge is down ‘: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death– Sam Knight

She is venerated around the world. She has outlasted 12 US chairwomen. She stands for stability and order. But her kingdom is in turmoil, and her topics are in denial that her reign will ever end. That’s why the palace has a plan.

Why we fell for clean eating– Bee Wilson

The oh-so-Instagrammable food motion has been thoroughly debunked- but it demonstrates no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it.

The race to build the world’s first sex robot– Jenny Kleeman

The $ 30 bn sexuality tech industry is about to unveil its biggest blockbuster: a $15,000 robot companion that talks, learns, and never says no

The ungrateful refugee– Dina Nayeri

Dina Nayeri was just a child when she fled Iran as an asylum seeker. But as she settled into life in the US and then Europe, she became suspicious of the idea that refugees should shed their old identities and be eternally thankful

After the freeing of Mosul, an orgy of killing– Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

In the succumbing days of the combat of Mosul, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad followed Iraqi soldiers during the last move against Isis. But following their victory, a new wave of savagery was unleashed

Operation Car Wash: Is this the biggest corruption scandal in history ?~ ATAGEND- Jonathan Watts

What began as an investigation into fund laundering rapidly turned into something much greater, uncovering a vast and intricate web of political and corporate racketeering.

‘Reality withers. This is your life now ‘: 88 days trapped in bed to save a pregnancy– Katherine Heiny

Months before she was due to give birth, catastrophe struck for Katherine Heiny. Physicians ordered her to lie on her side in bed and not move- and gave her a 1% chance of carrying her baby to term

PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain– Andy Beckett

Oxford University graduates in philosophy, politics and economics make up an astounding proportion of Britain’s elite. But has it rendered an out-of-touch ruling class?

How the sandwich ingested Britain– Sam Knight

The world-beating British sandwich industry is worth PS8bn a year. It transformed the route we eat lunch, then did the same for breakfast- and now it’s coming for dinner.

Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science ?~ ATAGEND- Stephen Buranyi

It is an industry like no other, with profit margins to rival Google- and it was created by one of Britain’s most notorious tycoons: Robert Maxwell.

Total recall: the ones who never forget– Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

How an extremely rare condition may transform our understanding of memory

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world– Stephen Metcalf

The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era- one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that attain us human

Where oil rig go to die– Tom Lamont

When a drilling platform are planned for destruction, it must go on a thousand-mile final journey to the breaker’s yard. As one rig demonstrated when it crashed on to the rocks of a remote Scottish island, this is always a risky business

Orbiting Jupiter: my week with Emmanuel Macron– Emmanuel Carrere

Is France’s new president a political miracle, or a mirage that is already fading away?

How rich hippies and developers went to war over Instagram’s favourite beach– Rachel Monroe

With its Mayan ruins and moonlight raves, Tulum has become Mexico’s hippest holiday destination. But a spate of violent evictions exposes a darker side

How statistics lost their power- and why we should dread what comes next– William Davies

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‘Welcome to prison’: winter hits in one of Greece’s worst refugee camps

Patience is running out on Lesbos, where thousands live in the packed Moria camp, but the government is finally taking action

High in the hills of the Greek island of Lesbos, in a former military camp now filled with containers and tents, the onset of wintertime has elicited particular dread.

In the countdown to its official arrival, protests have become louder both inside and outside the facility, whose wall is graffitied with the menacing message: therefore welcomed Moria prison.

For the men, women and children forced to call Moria their home, the refugee camp is a daily combat for survival in conditions so desperate that even the Greek migration minister has warned they could be life-threatening.

For human rights groups, who have long voiced the alarm, the vastly overcrowded camp is a misfortune waiting to happen and an embarrassment for Europe. Now, as the rains begin to fall and riots erupt, authorities in Athens are taking action, pledging to transfer 5,000 asylum seekers to the mainland.

For the first time in more than a year, Moria’s population has dipped beneath 6,000, it was announced the coming week. The camp, originally constructed as a temporary measure at the high levels of the refugee crisis in 2015, was designed to accommodate 2,000. Most of its occupants live in flimsy tents whose merely preparation for wintertime has involved employing wooden pallets to elevate tarpaulins above the mud.

At all hours the air is pungent with thick, acrid smoke- the outcomes of plastic bottles being burned by detainees to keep warm in the is a lack of readily available wood.

Mounds of litter lie along pathways of slush and excrement, the latter spillover from lavatories unable to cope with a population that for the last 18 months has been three times over camp’s capacity.

” Moria[ is] the worst ,” says Saleh Alhussein, a Syrian refugee, explaining that it took days before a doctor could properly attend to a wound on the head of his baby son, Mohammed.” There are holes in our tent. This isn’t Europe .”

Syrian refugee Saleh Alhussein and his son Mohammed. Photo: Helena Smith for the Guardian

After last year’s accord between the EU and Turkey– a landmark agreement intended to curb the number of people attempting to induce the perilous journey to Europe– an estimated 15,000 migrants and refugees have amassed on Greece’s eastern Aegean islands, the vast majority marooned by the intricacies of an overwhelmed asylum services that are denounces them to remain there until requests are processed.

Lesbos is not alone. Similar settlements exist on Chios, Leros, Samos and Kos, all within sight of smuggler networks on Turkey’s Asia minor coast. But none is worse than Moria.

Lesbos’s mayor, Spyros Galinos, has for months been issuing increasingly panic-stricken appeals for the camp to be decongested.

Officially inmates are free to come and go. Unofficially, says Galinos, it is a” national disgrace”, a giant detention centre where medication cope, alcohol abuse and prostitution are rampant and clashes between rival ethnic group rife.

” I’ve run out of ways of describing conditions that are beyond deplorable ,” he says.” I lately compared what they are doing here to Guantanamo but of course I’ve never been to Guantanamo. Perhaps concentration camp would be better .”

Those deemed “vulnerable” including pregnant women and unaccompanied minors are currently among the hundreds being moved to the mainland as the operation to relieve pressure on islands steps up.

A homemade rain next to the Moria camp. Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/ Reuters

Greece’s leftist-led government had previously resisted such transfers, fearing they could promote traffickers.

Galinos exudes soothe despite facing mounting criticism from both the left and right in a country still reeling from economic crisis. The mechanics of frustration are in overdrive. Refugee anger is spiralling, but so too is exasperation among locals who at the high levels of the refugee drama saw more than 800,000 people traverse the island.

Foreigners, he claims , now constitute a one-third of the population of Mytilene, Lesbos’s main township, and he knows many who are afraid to venture out at night.

” This is an emergency situation that requires emergency answers ,” Galinos says.” Since the summer we have been saying:’ Do something in Moria .’ People are going to die if something isn’t done, if the infrastructure isn’t improved .”

The Moria camp on Lesbos. Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/ Reuters

Last week, the government rushed in emergency aid in the form of containers- enough to house between two and three hundred refugees.

With EU member states still wrangling over their duty to accept mandatory refugee quotas, Greece and Italy remain on the frontline of migration routes to Europe. Though the numbers are far lower than they were at the height of the crisis in 2015, boatloads of people continue to land on Lesbos’s coasts. Most are fleeing areas that were Isis-controlled strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

For Moria, their arrival entails further pressure- on space, resources and goodwill. The camp’s workers and volunteers say it is now more packed than Manila, the mostly densely populated city in the world.

There have been outbreaks of scabies but nowhere to isolate people. With space at a premium and clashes often erupting at night, females have taken to wearing adult nappies because they are too fearful to venture from their tents.

Standing beside the camp’s razor wire-topped inner courtyard, where asylum requests are processed, Said Asidi attributed the explosive mood to the annoyance of waiting for a notoriously slow-moving system.

The 45 -year-old Afghan acts as the interface between his community and authorities and has spent almost two years waiting for an answer to his asylum request.” I have no notion why ,” he says.” I’ve had three interviews, my last six months ago, but still no decision .”

Rubbish at the camp in Moria. Photo: Petros Tsakmakis/ AP

For many Moria has come to embody policy-making at its worse- nearly three years into a migration crisis that has prompted the most expensive humanitarian response in history.

Volunteers such as Jeremy Holloman say the conditions on the Greek islands are comparable with emergencies in Haiti and Honduras. Surrounded by mounds of rubbish, the American describes how the drainage behind him erupted when a pipe in the camp’s overloaded sewage system burst last week.

” If this is the best Europe has to offer, I am shocked ,” he says.” In 2015 it was an onslaught[ in terms of arrivals] and very difficult to respond to, but two years later in 2017, we should know better .”

As well as transfers to the mainland, the Greek government is now pinning its hopes on Turkey accepting more deportees following an historical visit by the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Athens earlier this month.

But the intricacies of diplomacy entail little to those holed up in Moria.

Andrew Foley, an Irish volunteer, is far from optimistic.

” It will[ still] be a case of damage limitation, with NGOs struggling to meet needs that far surpass their capacity ,” he says.

” Moria undermines everything Europe stands for. If you maintain people in conditions like this, if you rob them of hope and denounce them to suffer , nothing good will come of it .”

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