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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The teachers of Idlib on the impossible struggle to educate their students

In a city under siege, schoolchildren take public quizs in cellars to escape the shelling, and class are conducted by WhatsApp. Their educators describe what its like to run local schools in a war zone

Abdulkafi Alhamdo is an English teacher in Syria. He loves Coleridge and Shakespeare and is currently teaching his students Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In 2016, he was evacuated from Syria’s very own heart of darkness- Aleppo- where he taught traumatised school children in cellars and bombed-out houses throughout the siege, even as they starved. Now he lives and works in the rebel-held north-west province of Idlib, where he and fellow teachers are struggling with few resources and little support to educate the next generation, those who will shape the future of Syria.

Idlib, the largest province in Syria to remain outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has assured a steady increase in violence in recent months with bombing raids by Russian and Syrian jets and the arrival of refugees fleeing from other war-ravaged zones, which- according to Alhamdo- stimulates the ongoing work of Syria’s teachers all the more vital.” We want education to continue because we don’t want these young children or students to think of handguns ,” he says.” Without schools, they would carry firearms but, because of their attendance at school, the objective is students .”

According to Anna Nolan, director of the human rights group The Syria Campaign, at least 2.5 million locals and refugees are now packed into Idlib, which has been described as” a kill box “. There is great humanitarian need and no state education, but Nolan says that remarkable attempts are afoot on the ground to conserve other members of civil society, with educators organising their own colleges and university classes, often running voluntarily without pay to build an extraordinary patchwork of DIY education.

Some have set up their own after-school clubs offering formal lessons, creative arts and vocational training, while others forced out of buildings by armed rebel groups are teaching classes in the open air and on WhatsApp.” There’s a real determination ,” says Nolan.” What we hear again and again is that they know that education is the key to the future and this is the generation that will rebuild Syria. The depth and imagination of the services being provided is unbelievable .”

The
The first day of word at local schools in Maarat al-Nu’man in Idlib province. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images

Many of the educators now working in Idlib are themselves displaced, among them Alhamdo, who fled Aleppo with his wife and young daughter and nothing else. In Idlib, the bombs are still falling-” There’s always bombing. This is our life ,” says Alhamdo- but it’s nothing like his experience in Aleppo.” Aleppo was something unusual ,” he tells.” Every day when I went to school to watch my students- they are like my children- I just check who is absent, who is alive and “whos not”, and then I start teaching them. We would stop many times because there were bombings. For one or two hours, we go to a cellar then, after the bombing stops, we go back again to our class and teach. If the bombing was heavy, we let our students go home .”

In April 2015, Saad Al-Ansari school, where Alhamdo was teaching, was hit by a rocket. He was returning from the playground when an detonation rent through the building, killing four both teachers and three students and injuring dozens more.” My heart jumped out of my body ,” he recalls.” I find the students running out, blood on their faces. They were in traumata, crying:’ Did you insure my little brother? Did you consider my sister ?’ They did not know what to do. Most of them were running out without shoes, without their volumes. I went inside and saw blood everywhere .”

From that point on, the large-scale schools were abandoned and educators organised their classes in small, makeshift schools in local neighborhoods, so that the children did not have so far to travel to school and- should another rocket hit- the number of potential victims would be fewer.

” When you teach in such circumstances, you are more psychologist than teacher ,” tells Alhamdo.” You have to be so careful about their trauma and their personal narratives. When there’s heavy bombing, you tell the children they are heroes because they are still learning. It was a very, very difficult job .”

The infants, traumatised by their experiences, found it hard to concentrate, but their teachers tried to preserve some normality for them. They still sat their public exams, hidden in cellars away from the shelling.” The conditions were very, the worst, but we could not let the war or their situation affect their progress. They are the future of Syria for us .”

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Boys played with plaything handguns in the suburbs of Idlib. Photograph: Omar Haj Kadour/ AFP/ Getty Images

Now in Idlib, he is teaching linguistics and the modern fiction at the Free Aleppo University in the Idlib countryside to students who have fled from regime-held areas. The university opened in 2016 as one of the country’s few remaining centres of higher education. On days when shelling is intense and the hazard is too great, students have lessons via WhatsApp, and some medical students have lectures online from physicians in the US.” I am proud of my students and I’m proud of teaching … My students are my heroes ,” says Alhamdo.

In one recent incident, students and teachers defied an attempted takeover of the university by the armed military clique Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham( HTS ). When they refused to sign the university over, HTS threatened the university and prevented them from employing the building for lectures, so Alhamdo and his colleagues took their lessons outside.” It might not be safe for me as a educator but we cannot surrender .”

In Atmeh, a village in the north of Idlib near the Turkish perimeter, Sawsan Abbar has opened the” Read and Rise” primary school for girls. Her spouse is the headteacher. The school is attended by 120 daughters, all of whom have been displaced from their home towns and cities by the war. There are few teach resources so Abbar and her colleagues have to be creative, sourcing materials from the internet and publishing them out for their students.

In the absence of so much else, the school has taken on a central nurturing role in the children’s lives.” Some of the children call me and other educators Mama or Auntie ,” tells Abbar, adding:” What keeps me awake at night is aerial bombardment. We have to skip school sometimes and it’s very worrying .”

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Girls in school in Idlib. Photo: Aimen Al Halabi

Meanwhile, in the city of Maarat al-Nu’man, also in Idlib province, teacher Mariam Shirout has set up her own after-school provision for children in the area. In the morning she teaches in the city schools that are still functioning- they were once country schools but have been taken over by non-governmental organisations( NGOs)- and in the afternoon she opens the doors to her own school for children aged four to 15. It is called Bilelem Nartaqi, which entails” with education, we advance “. It started small in 2013 but has grown and now educates between 150 and 200 children from all over the city.

” Education is the backbone of the region ,” she says.” No matter what happens, I will be working until the last minute. When I consider the children coming to the centre under the bombardment because they want to spend time with their friends and me, I can’t think about stopping anything, ever .”

Shirout and five colleagues teach reading, writing, maths, English and Arabic. They also offer extracurricular activities including drama and singing and vocational training such as stitch.” My school also provides psychological and social support to the children to help them deal with the traumatic experiences they are going through.

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Children playing the shelled ruining of their school in western Idlib. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/ AFP/ Getty Images

” The shelling can really affect their work ,” she tells.” They are trying to be ambitious and believe they can continue with their work, but sometimes they have to stop for a few days because the shelling is unbearable. They are really afraid. Sometimes the schools stop for around 10 days or a month because of the intensive shelling .”

Shirout, who is single and has no children of her own, says her pupils are becoming adults prematurely.” They just want to survive. They are always distracted, always thinking of something else. Their intellects are always busy. They love school. They want to come, but they are still truly confused and that makes it hard to learn.

” I worry about my students all the time- not just about their physical safety but their mental health and their future. The education services available are not enough – it’s like a sticking plaster. If the situation continues as it is, the future of the majority of members of the students will be lost.

” My students are not infants any more. We can’t ask them what they want to be in the future. The future is not clear .”

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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.

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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 .”

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‘ 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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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

The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over- and putting democracy in peril

The age of banter– Archie Bland

It used to be simply a word- now it is a way of life. But is it time to get by the banter bus?

‘A tale of decay ‘: the Houses of Parliament are falling down– Charlotte Higgins

As legislators dither over repairs, health risks of flame, flood or a spate of sewage only increases. But fixing the Palace of Westminster might change British politics for good- which is the last thing many of its residents want

Trojan horse: the real tale behind the fake’ Islamic plot’ to take over schools– Samira Shackle

In 2014, documents alleging a conspiracy to Islamise Birmingham schools were leaked to the media, triggering their own nationals scandal. The newspapers were debunked- but the narrative remains as divisive as ever. What really happened?

Being Donald Trump: the life of an impersonator– Jordan Kisner

John Di Domenico has been playing Donald Trump longer than anyone else- except Trump himself.

* Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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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 .”

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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.

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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
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 .”

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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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UK to deport Afghan torture survivor on Christmas Day

Home Office decision to forcibly remove man it accepts was tormented demonstrates complete lack of humanity, lawyer says

A 39 -year-old Afghan survivor of torture is to be forcibly removed from the UK and returned to his home country on Christmas Day, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind.

Lawyers for the man, an asylum seeker accepted by the Home Office to be a torture survivor, have mounted a last-minute legal challenge to try to prevent him from being deported.

The man has lived in the UK for virtually 11 years, but is due to be on board a Turkish Airlines flight to Afghanistan via Istanbul at 4.25 pm on 25 December.

His solicitor, Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis, lodged a judicial review in the upper tribunal of the immigration and asylum chamber on Friday.

The man was incarcerated at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport on 4 October 2017. The G4S-run centre was recently the subject of a BBC Panorama expose, which highlighted alleged abuse of detainees by guards. G4S has launched an investigation into the programme’s findings.

During the asylum seeker’s detention, the standard rules 35 evaluation was carried out to ascertain whether he was a survivor of torture or had some other vulnerability. He told the assessing doctor that he had been tortured and detained in Afghanistan.

The man described being hit with sticks and lashes, predominantly on his leg, and being scarred by hot metal on his left knee, ankle and right arm. He also said he had been beat and hung up. The human said he found it difficult to be lock the door in detention as it reminded him of the torment he had experienced.

The doctor who assessed him in the detention centre said he had many scars consistent with the forms of torture he had described. The Home office accepted the report and considered him to be an adult at risk, but said it planned to remove him from the UK rapidly so he would not have to expend an extended period of time in detention.

Bell highlights the fact that the man’s life will be in danger if he is returned to his home province of Laghman, which is very unstable, or to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, where the security situation is deteriorate. He said his client’s vulnerability as a survivor of torture induced it too dangerous to deport him.

He also said the man was at further risk of being targeted by anti-government parts in Afghanistan because he was westernised as a result of being in the UK for virtually 11 years. Home Office guidance acknowledges that there is a significant problem throughout Afghanistan with anti-government elements, including the Taliban.

” It is deeply concerning and yet sadly unsurprising that the Home Office is planning to remove my client on Christmas Day ,” Bell said.” This symbolises the complete lack of humanity in the government’s approach to refugees.

” The Home Office has taken Christmas, a period for compassion, as an opportunity to remove someone to a war zone, guessing it would be difficult to challenge them. They are wrong, on every level .”

The Home office has been approached for comment.

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Manus Island: PNG police move into detention centre and tell refugees to leave

Refugees report they have been told to hand over phones and go within hours as journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani arrested

A police operation is currently underway on Manus Island, with Papua New Guinean police and immigration officers entering the former detention centre in an effort to move detainees out, more than three weeks into a degenerating humanitarian crisis.

Refugees inside the centre have reported large numbers of officers, including the paramilitary police mobile squad, have entered and given them an hour to leave. The officers wailed at detainees and demanded they hand over their phones.

Timeline

Manus Island detention centre

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Manus Island reopened

Julia Gillard’s Labor government reopens detention centre- not utilized since 2004- and the first 19 asylum seekers arrive from Christmas island.

Damning UN report

A UNHCR report determines every asylum seeker on Manus displays signs of nervousnes and depression.

‘No chance of being settled in Australia’

New Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd announces people who seek asylum by boat will never be settled in Australia, with all sent to Manus or Nauru.

Reza Barati dies

Three days of violence leaves 70 detainees seriously injured, with some was shot dead by police, stabbed and with their throats slit. Iranian detainee Reza Barati is murdered after security guards inflict fatal head injuries during the riot.

Hamid Kehazaei dies

Iranian Hamid Kehazaei dies after a delayed medical evacuation to Australia, as a treatable bacterial infection develops into septicaemia.

Mass hunger strike

More than 500 men begin a two-week hunger strike in protest against conditions on the island. Two sew their lips together, three swallow razor blades and collapsing strikers have to be forcibly removed by security.

Healthcare failings uncovered

A Guardian investigation reveals widespread fails in the healthcare services provided by IHMS in detention centres, including Manus Island.

Rape accusation

A PNG woman employed by Transfield alleges she was raped by Australian colleagues inside the centre. The alleged perpetrators are flown out of the country.

Supreme court regulations Manus illegal

Papua New Guinea supreme court regulations the detention centre is illegal and unconstitutional and must be closed.

Manus to close

Australia corroborates Manus detention centre will close but says none of the 854 men still there will be resettled in Australia.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed dies

Sudanese refugee Faysal Ishak Ahmed diesafter six months of suffering numerous blackouts, falls and seizures inside the detention centre.

Services shut down

PNG immigration officials confirm the centre will close on 31 October, and tell detainees to ‘consider their options’. Over the following months basic services are shut down around detainees, to encourage them to leave

$70 m compensation

The Australian government settles a class action, paying $ 70 m compensation to more than 2,000 detainees for illegal detention and mistreatment, but denies any liability.

Hamed Shamshiripour dies

Iranian asylum seeker Hamed Shamshiripour is were dead, having taken his own life. His friends “says hes” pleaded with the Australian government to provide treatment for his mental health problems.

First detainees flown to US

Twenty-five men leave Papua New Guinea for the US under a resettlement bargain between Australia and the US. The total number to be transferred is still uncertain, with the US under no be obliged to take a defined amount.

Sri Lankan refugee dies

A formally recognised refugee dies in Lorengau hospital.

Detainees refuse to leave

A week before it’s due to close, it’s disclosed more than 600 detainees are refusing to leave the centre, citing fears for their safety in Lorengau.

Thank you for your feedback.

Refugees described police as intimidating and aggressive as they dismantled structures and hurled away refugees’ belongings. One policeman was considered carrying a large bush knife, which are common on Manus.

A video livestreamed from inside the facility showed men chanting” human rights help us, they want to kill us”, and two men apparently unconscious. Walid Zazai, filming the scene, said it was a medical emergency but they had no assistance.” We don’t know if he had a heart attack because he had previously problems ,” Zazai said of one.

The second unconscious human had epilepsy, he said.

Walid Zazai (@ ZazaiWalid)

https :// t.co/ BEa5yhYZXV

November 22, 2017

Abdul Aziz Adam (@ Aziz5 8825713)

We need urgent help any Dr of nurses we have one refugee in the worst conditions pic.twitter.com/ voXXtSQUYI

November 22, 2017

Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani was arrested as police and immigration officers swept through the camp, destroying furniture, property and food.

Footage demonstrates Boochani being led away, held by two uniformed policemen, and surrounded by several others. He does not physically resist.

Other refugees said police were specifically looking for him.

Boochani has been the most outspoken proponent for the refugees held on Manus Island, filing reports regularly for the Guardian and other news outlets and giving interviews with media across the world.

Abdul Aziz Adam (@ Aziz5 8825713)

They are looking for me and Behrouz they found him but they are not going to find me. These are police are taking Behrouz. pic.twitter.com/ G01bA46ETC

November 23, 2017

On Thursday morning Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, corroborated a” police operation” and accused the detainees of junking it.

” I think it’s outrageous that people are still there ,” he told 2GB radio.” They’ve junked the facility, they’re living in squalor .”

” The Australian taxpayers have paid about $10 m for a new facility and we want people to move .”

He likened the situation to building a new house for tenants who refuse to move in.

Dutton’s repeated claims that the alternative accommodation divisions are ready and suitable for detainees have been consistently debunked by observers and published videos and photos of blocked lavatories, bathrooms without water, and buildings still under building. Detainees are systematically claimed they are not safe in the new housing in Lorengau, citing frequent violent attacks and a lack of security.

The prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, recurred the messages of his immigration pastor, and said the refugees should leave the centre and go to the alternative accommodation where “several hundred” had already moved.

” They should heed the law and the lawful authorities of Papua New Guinea ,” said Turnbull.” There are alternative facilities that have been made available with food, water, security, and medical services .”

Turnbull also said those inside the centre were hoping to force the Australian government into bringing them all to Australia.” We will not be pressured ,” he said.” Our perimeter security, the integrity of our borders is maintained by my government and we will not outsource our migration policy to people smugglers .”

Some refugees have taken shelter on roofs inside the decommissioned detention centre. Some had been sleeping on top of shipping containers, in expectation the police would move in.

Walid Zazai (@ ZazaiWalid)

They destroying all our property.
They are so angry, and telling us leave our land
First they said move to town, now more angry and telling us leave our land otherwise we will kill u.
Police commissioner Yapu said: It’s an Order from Australian and PNG governments to move u out pic.twitter.com/ uyA7p 4wcsI

November 22, 2017

Abdul Aziz Adam (@ Aziz5 8825713)

The police and immigrations are destroying Australian property pic.twitter.com/ QZVuccYjRw

November 23, 2017

Abdul Aziz Adam (@ Aziz5 8825713)

This photo will show how peaceful we are and how we respond to the immigration and police to the violence and aggressive behaviour pic.twitter.com/ 9lnUQ3yXyO

November 22, 2017

Before his arrest, Boochani reported from inside the centre that immigration and police started searching rooms and telling people:” Move, move ,” and,” You only have an hour to move .”

Boochani said some refugees were constructing barriers to halt police progression, others were hiding.

Behrouz Boochani (@ BehrouzBoochani)

They are taking the phones and are very aggresive and are taking out some refugees who still remain in the rooms. Something terrible is happening right now, they are taking the refugees out of the rooms.

November 22, 2017

He added:” They are destroying everything. Shelters, tanks, beds and all of our belongings. They are very aggressive and put our belongings in the rubbish bins. The refugees still are silent are watching them so scared.

” The refugees are sitting peacefully and immigration and police are asking them to leave the prison camp. The refugees are only listening and altogether silent. They are talking on the microphone and hollering’ move, move ‘.”

The
The belongings of the refugees and asylum seekers in the Manus Island detention centre are messed up by PNG police. Photo: Anonymous

Video from the Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam demonstrated immigration officers in yellow shirts surrounded by uniformed police. It showed one PNG police officer issuing instructions over a megaphone to the 380 men barricaded inside.” This place where you are living right now is no longer legal centre for the refugees and non-refugees reside ,” the officer says.” This place will be handed back to the PNG defence force.

” It is their military base, and your staying here … would be seen as illegal and unlawful.

PNG police had originally planned to launch its “Operation Helpim Friends” on Wednesday, but it was cancelled pending a court appeal , now adjourned to 15 December. The police commissioner, Gari Baki, described the operation as “politely” asking the detainees to leave, and said no force-out would be used.

An Australian federal police spokesman denied earlier reports its officers were involved. He said their one liaison policeman there was not links between Thursday’s action.

Lynne Murphy (@ lynnemurphy1)

EMERGENCY #Manus #ManusSOS
Police navy immigration pushing us to move
‘They were so aggressive with us when they come pushing, operating behind us they pushed me on the ground wanted my phone i get up and ran
@ManusAlert pic.twitter.com/ 95 c6rVdiHt

November 22, 2017

Amnesty International said serious injuries were entirely foreseeable, and the PNG government was ” knowingly placing the refugees at risk “. Amnesty’s Pacific researcher, Kate Schuetze said:” There is no justification for this action.

” International statute and standards demand that refugees enjoy international protection. The country where they sought refuge- Australia- has infringed their rights at every turn. PNG has aided and enabled Australia’s policy of cruelty and degradation of the refugees .”

The Australian director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said Australia’s reputation was on the line.” Australia is standing idly by as PNG security force are trashing the compound, confiscating telephones, and aggressively telling refugees and asylum seekers they must leave ,” she said.

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Us vs them: the sinister techniques of Othering and how to avoid them

Rapid social change causes all humans anxiety but our response to this need not be negative, despite the best efforts of our political leaders and media

We are in the midst of a rapidly changing world. More than 300 million people are currently living outside their homelands. Ethno-nationalism is on the rise- from the Rohingya people forced out of Myanmar in what many are calling the world’s latest genocide, to neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in an action President Trump pointedly refused to condemn.

Humans can only process a limited amount of change in a short period of time without experiencing anxiety. It’s a natural human reaction- but how we respond to that nervousnes is social.

When societies experience big and rapid change, a frequent reply is for people to narrowly define who qualifies as a full member of society- a process I call” Othering “. An alternative response is watching the change in demographics as positive, and regarding the apparent other as enhancing our life and who we are. This is what I refer to as” belonging and bridging “.

Othering is not about penchant or detesting someone. It is based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that a certain identified group poses a threat to the preferred group. It is largely driven by political leaders and the media, as opposed to personal contact. Overwhelmingly, people don’t “know” those because this is Othering.

So while today’s global nervousnes has been precipitated by globalisation, technology and a changing economy, demographics play a crucial role in the process of Othering. The attributes of who gets defined as Other was different from place to place, and can be based upon race, religion, nationality or speech. It is not these attributes themselves that are the problem, of course, but how they are made salient, and how they are manipulated.

Rohingya
Rohingya refugees at a makeshift shelter after fleeing violence in Myanmar. Photo: Rehman Asad/ Barcroft Images

I am therefore particularly concerned with how Othering shows up in today’s power structure: how it is used to divide and dehumanise groups, and capture and reshape government and organizations. For society’s leaders and culture play an oversized role in helping us make sense of change- and so greatly affect our responses to nervousnes.

In the United States, politicians used to engage in what scholar Ian Haney-Lopez calls” dog whistles”- they could construct references to Others but only in a coded style; never saying ” those Mexicans” or” those Muslims”, for example. President Trump, however, has opened a space where people are emboldened to be more explicit. We now have not only our nation’s leadership but many of our information networks amplifying these explicit calls to omit and dehumanise.

The rhetoric and speech coming from Trump has begun to both define and normalise Othering. This is a threat to all the things we value. When Mexicans can be called ” rapists and drug dealers” in direct contradiction to the facts, it becomes a much easier step to call for their deportation, and for a literal wall to divide us.

Exclusion and dehumanisation

The language being used by many national leaders not only activates people’s anxiety and fear around a perceived Other, it creates new procedures of exclusion and dehumanisation.

While it is common to focus only on economic changes to explain the rise of right-wing nationalists and Othering, the loss of economic power is not the only thing stirring nervousnes around the globe. Sweden is experiencing a rise of group-based patriotism, yet its economy is not suffering. Trump voters included a large number of affluent whites , not just the poor or working class.

It’s not that the economy is unimportant, it’s just that it doesn’t tell the whole story. After a number of important civil rights victories in the US in the 1960 s, the conservative upper-class strategised how to trade on smouldering white Southern rancour of these gains. With the Southern Strategy of stoking white rancor, they succeeded in remaking the Republican Party- ultimately moving government away from protecting people and towards protecting capital.

Conservative elites know how to strategically create and use fear of a perceived Other, by organising and fabricating anxiety. When Nixon began employing the term “law and order”, his popularity was cemented among a certain base because he was appealing to a specific kind of conservative white anxiety: not primarily about chores, but instead the changing social order. This was not precipitated by a specific economic downturn, yet the outcome of Nixon’s strategy was the securing of an economy rigged for the rich.

People don’t just figure out on their own that collectively they need to be afraid of another group. Leadership plays a crucial role. Often people who have been living with one another for years are made to feel abruptly that those changes have become threatening.

Richard
Richard Nixon cemented his popularity by appealing to conservative dreads about the changing social order. Photograph: Wally McNamee/ Corbis via Getty Images

The recent rhetoric around people who are undocumented in the US, many of whom have lived here for their whole lives, has created a culture of anxiety for millions, has demonised children, and has created distrust and anger in communities where none had existed before.

A friend from the deep south tells the story of her parent asking with all honesty if he should turn in to the authorities a waiter at a restaurant he suspects doesn’t have “papers”. Five years ago, such concerns wasn’t even part of his consciousness, and the same waiter had been serving him for far longer than that. Who activated that fear? A demagogue understands the power of speech and the deep ontological forces that are essential to how people experience their lives. It’s not necessary that these demagogues believe what they say.

The narratives we tell, and live, are not about facts but our values, fears and hopes- all of which, to a certain degree, are malleable. Our narrations don’t just reflect them, they also shape them. While anxiety about change is natural, Othering is not. Othering is socially and culturally constructed.

So how do we respond to our collective nervousnes today? Either we “bridge”, reaching across to other groups and towards our inherent, shared humanity and connect, while recognising that we have changes; or we “break”, pulling away from other groups and making it easier to tell and believe false stories of” us vs them”, then supporting practices that dehumanise the “them”.

Part of the solution to Othering must come from the tales we tell. As the world undergoes profound shifts, how do we construct true societies of belonging? We can look to Canada as one positive example. While it still has its difficult issues, Canada has said to its multi-racial, multi-ethnic population,” Keep your identity “. Canadians have held on to their religious and ethnic backgrounds while they also connect with others. And the far right-wing in Canada has not cracked 10%.

If we are to combat the rising tide of extremism across the globe, we must actively create bridges across change, and resist strategic exploitation of our collective anxiety. For when we bridge, we not only open up to others, we also open up to change in ourselves- and actively participate in co-creating a society to which we can all belong.

The opposite of Othering is not “saming”, it is belonging. And belonging does not insist that we are all the same. It means we recognise and celebrate our changes, in a society where” we the people” includes all the people.

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Revealed: rescued refugee children facing limbo and worse in UK

Exclusive: a year after Britain took in hundreds of Dubs children, charities say lags are causing distress and at least one young person has been left sleeping rough

Lone children brought to the UK from Calais following a campaign last year are facing bureaucratic limbo and precarious living conditions, which has led in at least one case to a young person sleeping on the street.

A year after the arrival of the first children under the so-called Dubs scheme, which brought unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Calais to the UK, the Guardian found that many are still waiting to hear if they will be allowed to stay in the country.

Lawyers and charities working with young asylum seekers say long delays are causing huge distress and are part of a wider failure to process claims and provide support to unaccompanied minors in the UK.

About

Lord Dubs, the Labour peer whose legislative amendment paved the style for the new arrivals in the autumn of 2016, told the Guardian there was no excuse for the treatment of the minors.

” It’s just awful, they have had so much uncertainty, any more uncertainty is so incorrect ,” he said.” It should have been a seamless process, the local authorities were willing to help and prepare, it’s quite wrong the latter are sent without time to prepare[ for their arrival ]. They shouldn’t have come over and the Home Office then been saying’ what are we doing with them ‘.

” I thought it would be a smooth process and in some areas it was, it went well so I’m dismayed that didn’t happen everywhere .”

Mariam, originally from Eritrea, arrived in Brighton last October from France through the Dubs scheme for the most vulnerable sectors young people. She has since turned 18 meaning she has to face the challenges of leaving the care system without any certainty on her asylum assert.

She told the Guardian:” I feel safe to live in the UK- Calais was dirty and a dangerous place. But I am still worried about my legal status as I have now been waiting to get the answer for several months .”

Mariam is being supported by Pathways to Independence, a charity. Its head of service, Ellie Shepherd, says the Home Office failed to plan properly for the arrival of so many vulnerable young person. Some 200 children were brought to the UK under Dubs, with more transferred under the EU’s “Dublin” regulations, which allow asylum seeking family members to be reunited.

Mariam,
Mariam, centre, with two more young asylum seekers on Brighton beach. Photograph: Howard Davies

” Some of the young people who came through the family reunification process have not even had their initial interview ,” she said, adding that one of the children she was supporting had become severely depressed as a result of the long delay.

” Our Eritrean girls who were brought here under Dubs are now all turning 18 which means they will soon have to leave the care system. These are young people who are often suffering severe mental health problems ,” she said.

There were similar problems with arrivals of so-called Dubs children in Manchester, says the attorney Kate Ormsby.

” On 9 December we had 20 young people arrive into Manchester airport. We had no notice ,” she said.” The Home Office did nothing[ to prepare social services] and social workers were taken by surprise. They had no idea what was going on, what their obligations were. Most didn’t even know that these young people had to make an asylum assert in the UK .”

There have also been concerns about children who came under EU Dublin regulations, which allow for family members to be reunited. People working with these young people say some were placed with family members they barely knew or hadn’t seen for years. In some lawsuits, the families- who were not given any government support to help pay for the child’s needs- struggled to look after them.

In one case, a young person began sleeping rough after their adult family member could not support them.

” I have ensure three or four young person placed with people they scarcely knew ,” said Alice Cutler, Welcome Centre manager at Bristol Refugee Rights.

” These people were being asked to support them with no financing support and that builds the relationship suffer. Family breakdown is very common. I’m supporting a young man now who is street homeless. He came to join his uncle but was put on the floor in a bedsit and because the uncle wasn’t actually let guests this led to him leaving .”

Ormsby said she had assured similar situations in Manchester.

” One 14 -year-old boy from Syria was placed with two brothers here who was also a young refugee and was living on jobseeker’s allowance in a bedsit ,” said Ormsby.” The 14 -year-old slept on the floor. This boy didn’t have a social worker and got absolutely no financial support.

” They weren’t feeing. We had to find them emergency fund ourselves to help them out. This was a boy who had assured his entire family killed by a bomb. They had such a caring relationship, this boy is with the right person to help him but two brothers is merely in his early 20 s and has also lost his whole family .”

‘ The system moves so slowly ‘

Amin is 19 and looks like any other adolescent in the Midlands city he lives in, in a smartly styled haircut and tracksuit. Two years after he applied for asylum in Dover, having travelled overland from Ethiopia, he still hasn’t heard from the Home Office.

Amin
Amin says he has heard nothing about its statement of claim and the wait is constructing him ill. He is being supported by the Children’s Society Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

” When I arrived in Kent, it was very good. They actually cared about me. But it’s the system, it moves so slowly. I ensure my friends get asylum and they can go to school, their lives are better than mine. It is inducing my health worse and I am very worried about it. I want to get on and learn a vocation .”

Amin’s arrival into Dover was part of the refugee crisis that ensure 88,000 unaccompanied minors claim asylum in Europe in 2015 alone. Over 2015 and 2016 the UK received 6,000 asserts from young people on their own and campaigners are continuing to press for more young people to be brought directly from France, Italy and Greece.

Of the 1,747 initial decisions relating to unaccompanied minors stimulated in the year ending March 2017, 38% were grants of asylum or another form of protection while another 40% were told they could stay until they turned 18.

Aarif arrived at Gatwick airport from Afghanistan in April 2016 aged 16 and was placed in the care of social service. He is bright-eyed and intelligent, loves table tennis and acting and is studying for his GCSEs.

But underneath his cheerful position there is an ongoing worry about his claim.” I heard nothing at all. Then my lawyers shut down[ because of cuts to legal aid] and I had to find a new lawyer. I was so stressed having to tell them my narrative again. I have still heard nothing from the Home Office. I hope it will be soon .” He is sad to see friends get their asserts heard while he is unable to travel with his theatre group or construct plans for the future.

” I want to work in an airport. I want to wear a suit and be smart. That is my dream .”

A spokesperson for the Home Office said:” We are committed to operating a robust and fair asylum system that provides protection for those who are found to be in need of it. In the past year, the UK has granted asylum or another form of leave to over 9,000 “childrens and” more than 42,000 children since 2010.

” There has been a rise in asylum claims since 2015, and the increase in outstanding decisions reflects this. We are constantly striving for ways to improve the efficiency of the asylum system, while ensuring we maintain quality in decision making. That is for that reason that we constructing better employ to new technologies and have opened an additional asylum casework office, so that we can continue to make decisions promptly.”

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Refugee MP Golriz Ghahraman on love, loathing and entering New Zealand politics

The new member of parliament is having her Twitter feed documented by the national repository as a testimony of the countrys 2017 election

When Golriz Ghahraman last week stepped into the Beehive, the executive heads wing of New Zealand’s parliament, along with her came her Twitter feed.

” My Twitter feed is going into the national archive, it will be interesting for others to see what happens when for the first time a Middle-Eastern woman, the status of refugees, ran that the european parliament is here ,” says Ghahraman.

” Both the subsistence and the attacks .”

Iranian-born Ghahraman’s Twitter page is a fascinating evidence to love and loathing in 2017.

There are the vile, racist assaults on her background and heritage. The suggestion that a terrorist has been elected to parliament, that she may enforce sharia law, smuggle a bomb into the debating chamber, or push back against New Zealand’s socially progressive culture.

Then, to balance it, there is the love. The outpouring of support from elated New Zealanders. The words of encouragement from admiring Australians, worn down by years of that country’s” Pacific answer”, cheers and congratulations from Brexit escapees and Trump survivors. All rallying around a woman who has proven the value and potential of every refugee life.

For Ghahraman the social media abuse was a reminder of what brought her into politics, and the Green party, in the first place- a life-long interest in protecting human rights, whether they be her own, or those of persecuted strangers on the other side of the world.

In 2012 Ghahraman changed back to New Zealand after working as a prosector for the United nations organization Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia.

” I could see something had changed in NZ and it wasn’t for the better ,” she remembers.” We were having our child poverty statistics criticized by the United Nations. We were doing things like prospecting for coal in our national reserves. Democratic organizations were eroding. Things like that kind of was beginning to catapult me into wanting to be much more politically active .”

Ghahraman arrived in New Zealand at the age of nine after their own families fled Iran. They sought asylum at the airport after arriving on a plane from Malaysia.

Golriz
Golriz Ghahraman aged nine, in school uniform in Iran. Photograph: Golriz Ghahraman

The country accepted the Ghahraman family and they settled in West Auckland. They lived off state benefits until they secured employment, and adapted to the socio-economically diverse and multicultural precinct of New Zealand’s largest city, where Golriz attended a high school whose student body was 70% Maori and Pacific Islanders.

It was in this South Pacific melting pot, says Ghahraman, that she acquired the confidence to study human rights law at Oxford University, and, afterward, to stand up in tribunal representative of UN in tribunals prosecuting some of the world’s worst war criminals, including perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

” My eternal gratefulness to New Zealand is that I got to grow up in a very diverse place. So the fact we didn’t have anything was actually OK. I remember that freedom and getting to grow up with lots of different types of people; and that was just part of being Kiwi .”

Golriz
Golriz Ghahraman’s fourth birthday party in Iran. Photo: Golriz Ghahraman

The final block of referendums in this year’s New Zealand election were counted 14 days after voting shut, devoting Ghahraman her seat in parliament after a nail-biting delay.

The Green leader, James Shaw, said he was ” thrilled” to welcome his newest MP to the house, taking the Greens’ total number of seats to eight.” In a day of increasingly divisive politics around the world, Golriz’s election to our parliament sends a strong message about the kind of country New Zealand is ,” he said.

Ghahraman was 20 when the Tampa crisis erupted; and the Australian government refused to accept hundreds of asylum seekers rescued by a Norwegian sea captain off the northern coast of the” luck country “.

New Zealand’s neighbour defiantly closed its borders, ushering in a draconian border protection policy that has been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ghahraman watched as Prime Minister Helen Clark put up her hand to take 150 of the Tampa refugees. She read their example files while interning at Amnesty International and heard the cheers of welcome from locals who gathered at Auckland airport to greet the bedraggled survivors.

” At that time, New Zealand truly owned our solidarity with refugees and our absence of racism. I believe comparative to Australia that still exists, but it has been eroded ,” says Ghahraman, citing the Tampa crisis as a galvanising moment in her career.

” Since I was elected … I have realised Kiwis have really rejoiced and sort of owned that idea that it is possible to stand as a counterpoint to these other developing happening in the world. Thatpolitics of representation is becoming more and more important because of global political events. Whether it’s Brexit or Trump being elected .”

” For me to be able to enter the House of Representatives meant so many different things to so many different people .”

Golriz
Golriz Ghahraman’s parents, mother Maryam Ghafoori and father Behrooz Ghahraman on the right with friends in Orumia, Iran, mid to late 1970 s. Photograph: Golriz Ghahraman

The archiving of Ghahraman’s occasionally tumultuous journey to parliament entails New Zealanders will be able to look back on the first refugee elected to represent them. And representation is everything, says Ghahraman, because without a voice you become a stereotype, and when you’re a stereotype, its easier to dehumanise you.

” Post 9/11, I began to realise at least somewhere out there in the world I wasn’t welcome and I wasn’t trusted and I wasn’t equal ,” says Ghahraman.” It didn’t matter that I felt Kiwi; it is the way people look at you. When they start blaming a whole group of people based on their race, or religion or ethnicity or nationality for something like terror, or any social ill .”

” That is the basis of all the inhumanities I’ve worked on. That is how it starts .”

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