Germany faces billions in losses if Greece goes bust

Der Spiegel reports: “So far, Germany hasn’t had to spend a single euro from the federal budget on Greece.” It’s a line one has heard dozens of times on German talk shows in recent years. Soon, though, the claim may no longer hold true. A Greek insolvency is now within the realm of possibility and if the country does go bust, it could directly burden the German federal budget.

But how many billions of euros in German money are actually at stake? It may seem like a simple question, but there are no easy answers, because Germany’s actual liability for Greek debt depends on a number of factors. [Continue reading…]

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Europe is heading towards constitutional crisis, with or without Greece

By Nicole Scicluna, University of Birmingham

As Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stands off against the so-called Troika, questions abound about the future of his country.

But there should also be pressing questions about the future of the European Union. The shaky legal foundations of the EU have been laid bare by this crisis.

Over the past few months, Greek officials and representatives of the Troika have indulged in a succession of tit-for-tat exchanges masquerading as negotiations.

These are only the latest proof of the failure of the EU’s political and legal structures to effectively mediate conflicts and resolve differences between members.

The negotiation of a new Fiscal Compact, the creation of multiple bailout funds, and the (potentially illegal) expansion of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) mandate all failed to solve the problems that sparked the crisis in the first place.

Now, five years after Greece’s first bailout, solidarity and trust between citizens, governments and EU institutions are in desperately short supply.

All of this indicates that the euro crisis is a crisis of EU constitutionalism. The union has failed to strike the right balance between democracy and technocratic governance. It has failed to balance the needs of citizens and states in a highly diverse supranational polity.

German academic Fritz Scharpf famously asked 16 years ago whether EU governance could be both effective and democratic. Right now, it appears to be neither.

[Read more…]

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‘How dare you put such a complex issue to common folk?’

Business Insider: It’s crunch time on Sunday for Greece.

Citizens will help the government decide — in a “Yes” or “No” referendum — whether the government should accept the conditions that its creditors have put forward for a bailout deal.

In an interview with Australian radio host Phillip Adams on Thursday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis gave some color on what the Eurogroup reaction was at their meeting.

It was less than enthusiastic.

Here’s what Varoufakis had to say:

“I was told in no uncertain terms that this is a very strange and even inappropriate course of action that we’ve taken. And the argument that was given to me by a colleague in the Eurogroup, whose name will remain unsaid, while everybody was more or less nodding, was ‘how dare you put such a complex issue to common folk?’ And I was just looking at them astounded, thinking ‘you have just negated the whole principle of democracy, which is that the common folk determine government; they determine very complex questions during elections.'”

In an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday, Varoufakis said he would sign an agreement if Greeks decide to vote “Yes” to the creditors’ proposals, though this vote would force him to to resign. [Continue reading…]

On his blog, Yanis Varoufakis explains “why we recommend a NO in the referendum – in 6 short bullet points”:

  1. Negotiations have stalled because Greece’s creditors (a) refused to reduce our un-payable public debt and (b) insisted that it should be repaid ‘parametrically’ by the weakest members of our society, their children and their grandchildren
  2. The IMF, the United States’ government, many other governments around the globe, and most independent economists believe — along with us — that the debt must be restructured.
  3. The Eurogroup had previously (November 2012) conceded that the debt ought to be restructured but is refusing to commit to a debt restructure
  4. Since the announcement of the referendum, official Europe has sent signals that they are ready to discuss debt restructuring. These signals show that official Europe too would vote NO on its own ‘final’ offer.
  5. Greece will stay in the euro. Deposits in Greece’s banks are safe. Creditors have chosen the strategy of blackmail based on bank closures. The current impasse is due to this choice by the creditors and not by the Greek government discontinuing the negotiations or any Greek thoughts of Grexit and devaluation. Greece’s place in the Eurozone and in the European Union is non-negotiable.
  6. The future demands a proud Greece within the Eurozone and at the heart of Europe. This future demands that Greeks say a big NO on Sunday, that we stay in the Euro Area, and that, with the power vested upon us by that NO, we renegotiate Greece’s public debt as well as the distribution of burdens between the haves and the have nots.
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Europe’s attack on Greek democracy

Joseph E. Stiglitz writes: The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the program that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend. [Continue reading…]

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France prepares sanctions against Israeli settlement policy

Uri Savir writes: Inside the European Union there is an ongoing debate regarding the desirability and scope of sanctions and punitive resources in relation to the Israeli government’s settlement policies. According to a senior source in the French Foreign Ministry who spoke with Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, France is considering sharp economic measures against Israeli goods and businesses east of the Green Line. Settlements, the French official argued, are illegal according to international law and the EU should not apply its agreements with Israel to them. Sharp economic measures would translate into labeling of goods exported from the settlements as such (and not as ”made in Israel”), and excluding Israeli academic, research and development and cultural institutions that are active in the West Bank from any European funds or grants. Brussels, according to this source, has toughened its stance on implementing these policies following Israel’s March 17 elections.

The French, the official added, are considering taking even more severe measures if a peace process on the two-state solution is not launched by the end of 2015. France intends to coordinate these policies with other EU countries.

In the meantime, the French themselves intend to rigidly ensure that all exported Israeli goods emanating from Israeli settlements are indeed labeled accordingly, and that any EU funding to Israeli entities will be dependent on the submission of a declaration stating that the entity in question has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Concretely, the first to be hurt by these measures would probably be Israeli banks with branches east of the Green Line. [Continue reading…]

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Greek destiny, the future of the EU and of democracy is on the line

Costas Douzinas writes: A man visits the Australian consulate in Athens and asks for a work visa. ‘Why do you want to leave Greece?’ asks the official. ‘I am worried that Greece will leave the euro’ answers the man. ‘Don’t worry’ responds the consul ‘I was talking to my German colleague yesterday who assured me that Greece will stay in the euro.’ ‘This is the second reason why I want to emigrate.’

The story expresses the impossible dilemma facing the Greeks. On one side, a continuation of the catastrophic austerity that has destroyed the country. On the other Grexit, a prospect that will further hit, for an unpredictably long period, the living standards of a people who have seen their income halved. Premier Alexis Tsipras’ announcement, early on Sunday, that the people will be asked to vote on the final proposals of the Europeans and the IMF is an attempt to divert this typical aporia (lack of passage) towards a more manageable question: Do the people back the government’s rejection of the worst effects of austerity while accepting its commitment to keep the country in the Eurozone? The stakes are high: besides the Greek destiny, the future of the European Union and of democracy is on the line.

The immediate context of the referendum is the behaviour of the European partners in the last few months. The Syriza government was elected with a clear mandate to put an end to austerity policies. These policies were carried out on two fronts, fiscal austerity and internal devaluation. Fiscal austerity was pursued through the reduction of public spending, the privatisation of key state assets and the increase of tax revenues. Large numbers of civil servants were dismissed, the social services were slashed with the health service in particular unable to meet basic needs. The humanitarian crisis that followed is well documented and there is no point in detailing it again. The creditors’ logic aimed to generate primary budget surpluses, which would not be used to restart the stalled economy but to repay the escalating debt. The previous governments had accepted the obligation to create annual surpluses of up to 5% of GDP in the next seven years, something that no government since Ceaușescu’s Romania has either attempted or achieved.

The internal devaluation was carried out through the repeated reduction of private sector wages and the abolition of the bulk of labour law protections, such a collective bargaining. At the same time, the repeated increase of taxes, including the regressive tax on real estate, meant that the bleeding of the economy reached unprecedented levels. The pauperisation of the working people, the IMF argument goes, would improve competitiveness and help economic growth. But the result was abject economic failure. The economy shrank by 26%, unemployment jumped to 27%, youth unemployment went up to 60% and more than 3 million people on or below the poverty line. The IMF admitted a couple of years ago that it had under-calculated the adverse effect of austerity on the economy – the so-called fiscal multiplier – by a factor of three.

It is against this background that the Greeks elected in January 2015 the Syriza government committed to reverse these policies. A period of negotiations followed. But these were not proper negotiations. The huge gap between the two parties in power resources and ideology made the talks brutally asymmetrical. I have called these ‘negotiations’ a European coup, an attempt at ‘regime change’ using banks and not tanks. The economic stakes for the lenders are relatively small – the Greek economy is only 2% of European GDP – and does not justify the risk of a breakdown in relations. The precautionary principle of risk theory, inscribed in the European DNA, demands that the unpredictable effects of Grexit on the European and world economy should be avoided. If the collapse of Lehman Brothers created such a huge crisis, even the consideration of Grexit is more dangerous. [Continue reading…]

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The euro is an experiment in making a currency without a government. That’s why it’s in trouble

Kathleen R. McNamara writes: The European Union appears to be on the brink of an unprecedented rupture. After months of meetings between the 19 E.U. states that use the euro, Greece broke off talks ahead of a June 30 deadline for continued financing of their vast debts and is likely to default and leave the euro.

Negotiations have dragged on for months. Facing harsh demands from Greece’s E.U. and IMF creditors for deep cuts in public spending and increased taxes, Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras abruptly announced on Friday that instead of continuing the talks, he would put the “humiliating” and “unbearable” bailout terms to a nationwide referendum on July 5. Critical stopgap financing from the European Central Bank (ECB) is also in jeopardy, and even if the referendum were to pass, it would be moot given the June 30 expiration of the credit line. Greeks prepared for the banks to be closed this coming week and capital controls instituted.

After 16 years of expanding membership, the euro zone now faces the real possibility that one of its core members, Greece, may spiral out of the currency and into economic chaos. [Continue reading…]

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Greece woes show how the politics of debt failed Europe

By Theo Papadopoulos, University of Bath

In the world of brinkmanship, endgames and last minute concessions that have come to define Greece’s relationship with Europe, we can see the blueprint of an abusive relationship.

In his book Governing by Debt, Maurizio Lazzarato argues that the creditor-debtor centred politics of contemporary capitalism is substantially different from the capital-labour centred politics of post-war capitalism. In fact, to understand what is at stake in contemporary Europe we need to approach debt in its totality – government, corporate, financial and household debt. We have to recognise that the debt relationship is not merely an economic relationship of money owed and collected, but a deeply political relationship of power exercised by one person or institution over another.

Consider the following graph. It shows the total debt by sector in selected EU countries at the end of 2014.


Data from McKinseyGlobal Institute (2015)

A continent sinking under debt

When debt is seen in its totality a different picture emerges from the one usually portrayed by the media. The total debts of the Netherlands and Ireland are nearly seven times their GDP, Denmark’s is 5.5 times and the UK’s more than four times. How sustainable in the long run are the levels of non-government debt in these countries? Is the exceptionally low exposure of the Greek financial sector to debt an indicator that its liabilities have been disguised as Greek government debt? And how sustainable is household debt?

Years of austerity have resulted in European families sinking under debt while experiencing increasing job insecurity, reductions in pensions and the gradual privatisation of welfare services and education.

These different types of debt are not independent from one other. They are mutually constitutive. Behind them are numerous creditor-debtor relations between actors with often diametrically opposed interests and unequal power: states, corporations, banks, financial institutions, small businesses, voters.

This “system” of European debt interacts with a global financial architecture, dominated by the demands of the financial sector. Far from being prudent, this sector is itself exposed to colossal amounts of debt-related risk, endangering all other sectors.

[Read more…]

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EU dropped pesticide laws due to U.S. pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

The Guardian reports: EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study. [Continue reading…]

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Israeli government to refugees: Go back to Africa or go to prison

The Washington Post reports: As Europe struggles to stem a spring flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East trying to cross a deadly Mediterranean Sea, Israel has begun to toughen its stance toward refugees, telling unwanted Africans here they must leave now or face an indefinite stay in prison.

Israeli authorities are sending letters to the first of 45,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, informing them they have 30 days to accept Israel’s offer of $3,500 in cash and a one-way ticket home or to an unnamed third country in Africa, or face incarceration at Saharonim prison.

Israeli leaders have proclaimed that their tough approach — building a fence along the country’s border, denying work permits for illegal migrants, forcing them into a detention center in the desert — may ultimately save lives by dissuading migrants from attempting a perilous journey. Critics of the Israeli policy counter that a country built by refugees should be more accepting of those fleeing war, poverty and oppression. [Continue reading…]

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Former European leaders call for change in EU policy on Israel

The Guardian reports: A high-profile group of former European political leaders and diplomats has called for the urgent reassessment of EU policy on the question of a Palestinian state and has insisted Israel must be held to account for its actions in the occupied territories.

In a hard-hitting letter to the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, the group – which includes former prime ministers, foreign ministers and ambassadors also expresses serious doubts about the ability of the US to lead substantive negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

It charges that EU political and financial aid has achieved nothing but the “preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza”.

The group, known as the European Eminent Persons Group, argues that the re-election of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the head of a narrow rightwing coalition has made the issue even more pressing. [Continue reading…]

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How chaos in Libya spawned a security nightmare in the Mediterranean

By Ioannis Chapsos, Coventry University

Libya has been in a state of chaos ever since the fall of its former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and the situation scarcely seems to be improving. But it’s not just a nightmare on land – Libya is starting to poison the Mediterranean too.

Since a civil war and UN-backed external intervention put an end to Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, good order and security have never been restored. Libya remains divided, with continuous clashes between rival militia and two internal “governments”.

The attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi was just one incident in a spiral of unrest.

Italian naval forces are back to conducting search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean on a daily basis in order to cope with a massive surge in migrants trying to cross the sea from North Africa, where Libya is the primary transit point. Thousands have died in recent months alone.

But on April 17, they had a very different task: a Sicilian fishing boat had been seized by armed men, 50 nautical miles north of the Libyan Coast, forcing the Italian Navy to board and retake control of the vessel.

And on top of the nascent piracy problem, Libya’s efforts to police its coast are apparently getting more violent.

[Read more…]

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EU policies worsen an already deadly situation for immigrants

Der Spiegel reports: The images and words are so very similar. Back then, the German chancellor said she was “deeply upset” — today she is “appalled.” Back then, the president of the European Commission said he would never forget the dead, and that something had to change — today he claims: “The status quo is not an option.” Back then, Europe’s interior ministers spoke of a horrific event — today it’s an “utter horror.'” The gap between then and now is 19 months. And several thousands of dead in the Mediterranean.

Then was the night of Oct. 3, 2013. A fire broke out on an old cutter that had set out from the Libyan city of Misrata. Near the small Italian island of Lampedusa, more than 500 people went overboard, most of them from Somalia or Eritrea. Not even one-third survived. The coffins in Lampedusa’s airport hangar became a symbol for Europe’s “shame,” as Pope Francis put it.

At a meeting in Luxembourg held after the disaster, EU interior ministers spoke of a “wake-up call” and immediately established a working group. European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström argued that Lampedusa was an “image of the Union that we do not want.” In Berlin, the German government declared that “given a human catastrophe of this size,” it was self-evident that current refugee policies should reexamined. Shortly thereafter, German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to a summit of EU heads of government in Brussels, where “decisive measures” were promised to avoid a repeat of the catastrophe.

And then? Then the catastrophe repeated itself. A dozen times. Between then and now. In the space of a few days in April, 400 people traveling from Africa to Europe drowned in the Mediterranean, then a boat with over 800 refugees capsized — and only 28 survived.

Interior and foreign ministers of the EU member states met once again in Luxembourg this week. But they didn’t create a new working group — after all, they already have one. The president of the European Council convened a special summit that met on Thursday. In Berlin, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière promised that, given recent events, the EU couldn’t simply return to the regular order of business.

The words and images are so very similar. And if you listen to what people are saying, you could be excused for thinking there was no “then.”

Wars, famines, poverty, unscrupulous human traffickers and borders on lock-down — the refugee drama has many sides. It’s not easy to determine who is responsible for the death of so many people and who carries what share of the blame. But any investigation would lead to the capital cities of Europe.

There’s plenty of blame to go around here. People are in dire need, but politicians are instead pulling the brakes on effective measures to help them or, worse, are involved in political deal-making at their expense. Borders have been drawn firmer than ever. And even initiatives with the best intentions have been allowed to peter out. At times it feels as though European governments have simply accepted the fact that Lampedusa will be repeated.

Through their reporting in Brussels and Berlin, the analysis of internal transcripts and interviews with diplomats and government representatives, SPIEGEL’s journalists reconstructed a timeline of policy developments dating from the 2013 Lampedusa tragedy to the most recent catastrophe. [Continue reading…]

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Shell lobbied to undermine EU renewables targets, documents reveal

The Guardian reports: Shell successfully lobbied to undermine European renewable energy targets ahead of a key agreement on emissions cuts reached in October last year, newly released documents reveal.

At the time of the deal European commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said: “This package is very good news for our fight against climate change.” Adding: “No player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.”

But it now appears that a key part of the agreement – which was championed by the UK government – was proposed by a Shell lobbyist as early as October 2011.

At the 2014 meeting heads of government agreed a 40% overall target for the bloc’s emissions cuts, but in the run up to the deal there had been disagreement between member states about how best to achieve that. The UK and others had resisted binding targets for individual member states on energy efficiency and renewable energy and these did not make it into the final agreement. Proponents of renewable energy say this was a key missed opportunity to give a strong signal to investors that the EU was serious about clean energy. [Continue reading…]

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The EU should stop treating migrants as criminals

Kenan Malik writes: For more than three decades, the European Union has been constructing what critics call “Fortress Europe,” a cordon protected by sea, air and land patrols, and a high-tech surveillance system of satellites and drones. When a journalist from Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine visited the control room of Frontex, the European border agency, he observed that the language used was that of “defending Europe against an enemy.”

The decision last year to scrap Mare Nostrum, the Italian-run search-and-rescue program, highlights this strategy. Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, smaller in scope and with an entirely different aim — not saving lives but surveillance and border protection. The number of migrants now attempting to reach Europe is little different from that for the same period last year, yet the death toll is about 18 times higher.

When the European Union treats immigration as a problem of criminality, it is not just the traffickers who are targets. In 2004, a German ship rescued 37 African refugees from a dinghy. When the ship entered a Sicilian port, it was seized by the authorities who charged the captain and first officer with aiding illegal immigration. They were acquitted only after a five-year court battle.

Similarly, in 2007, the Italian authorities tried to block two Tunisian fishing boats that had rescued 44 stranded migrants from docking at Lampedusa, an island between Sicily and Tunisia. The captains were charged with assisting illegal immigration. Not until 2011 did an appeals court overturn all the convictions.

Such cases are not aberrations. Treating good Samaritans as common criminals is the inevitable consequence of the European Union’s immigration policy.

The third prong of the strategy is to outsource border controls by paying African states to detain potential migrants. The most notorious of these arrangements was with Libya. In 2010, a year before Britain and France launched airstrikes to help bring down Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the European Union concluded a deal with him, agreeing to pay 50 million euros over three years to turn his security forces into de facto border police. Even before they gained power, the anti-Qaddafi rebels agreed to continue the arrangement.

The European Union has a similar deal with Morocco, and hopes to recruit Egypt and Tunisia, too. In effect, it aims to relocate Europe’s borders to North Africa.

The 10-point plan that the European authorities proposed Monday was in keeping with this failed approach. Most eye-catching was the promise to destroy smugglers’ boats. Not only is this morally dubious — effectively telling migrants “We will wall you into North Africa so that you’re not our problem” — but it also won’t work. One reason for the spike in migrant numbers is the collapse of state authority in the region. Western intervention in Libya exacerbated the chaos, which the proposed military action will only intensify.

At the same time, migrants are forced to clamber into overloaded, unseaworthy boats because other routes into Europe have been blocked off. Destroying smugglers’ boats will merely force people to adopt even more perilous means of making the journey.

So what is to be done? The restoration of a proper search-and-rescue operation is important but insufficient. The European Union should stop treating migrants as criminals, and border control as warfare. It must dismantle Fortress Europe, liberalize immigration policy and open up legal routes for migrants. Some argue this would lead to a flood of immigrants, but current policy is not preventing people from migrating; it is simply killing them, by the boatload. [Continue reading…]

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In the chaos of Libya the business of human trafficking has boomed

Ben Wedeman writes: We are at the beginning of a massive and mounting crisis with no solution in sight. Perhaps that’s incorrect. The migrant crisis that has suddenly drawn hundreds of journalists to Sicily has been brewing for years, but in the past 10 days, with as many as 1,600 deaths in the Mediterranean, suddenly minds are focused — for now.

Almost exactly four years ago, in Libya, I caught, perhaps, a glimpse of what was to come.

It was late at night in the besieged city of Misrata. Hundreds of African migrants were caught between the Libyan civil war (back then some optimistically called it a “revolution”) and the deep blue sea. They had come to Misrata from Ghana, Nigeria and elsewhere, hoping to board rickety boats to cross the sea to Europe.

They had been pinned down under sporadic shelling from government forces, but weren’t welcome by the rebels who controlled the city. They appealed to us to help them escape.

We could do nothing, but they may have eventually found their way out when the fighting subsided.

The fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, which we reporters covered so avidly, was followed by chaos, which we in the news media largely neglected, focused as we journalists were on the next catastrophe, the Syrian civil war. In that chaos, the business of human trafficking has boomed.

And now that boom in human misery is coming in waves to the shores of Italy. The focus today is on those lost at sea. Aware of the tragedy underway, however, Italians are alarmed at the prospect that this year alone as many as a million migrants could arrive in Europe, according to one European Union official.

That is certainly the case in the Sicilian port of Catania, where many migrants arrive. The city’s mayor, Enzo Bianco, insists city residents bear no ill will toward the migrants, but says Catania, and Sicily cannot absorb the ever-growing numbers. The rest of Europe must help carry the burden. [Continue reading…]

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The children risking their lives to reach Europe

Gemma Parkin at Save the Children writes: In 2014, half of the children who arrived in Italy were unaccompanied, but this year the proportion has increased to over two-thirds (68%).

These children are fleeing conflict, extreme poverty and persecution in some of the world’s most bloody conflicts, failed states and repressive regimes including Syria, Somalia and Eritrea. They are not criminals, but victims of some of the modern world’s most major crises.

Many of those children I’ve spoken to were tricked by traffickers and promised jobs as hairdressers, shop assistants and babysitters. Their families were persuaded to pay thousands of pounds to allow them to head to Europe. But once in the hands of traffickers and far from home, they had no rights and no protection.

Libya has for many years been the point of departure for thousands of people fleeing Africa and the Middle East, but the deteriorating situation in the country has allowed human trafficking to flourish. The lack of police, governance or state control in anarchic Libya means traffickers operate with impunity. Combined with recent good weather, the number of people launching off the country’s northern coast has rocketed in recent months.

On the journey across Libya, children face dehydration and malnutrition, kidnapping, detention and extortion, torture, child slavery, trafficking and sexual abuse. Here in Sicily, the Save the Children team met 17-year-old Brahane from Eritrea. He described being forced to board a pick-up truck of 30 people to cross the Sahara desert into Libya. He reported seeing ruthless traffickers spraying migrants with petrol and setting them on fire for “stepping out of line”. [Continue reading…]

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Mediterranean capsized migrants’ boat’s captain charged

BBC News reports: The Tunisian captain of a boat that capsized off Libya on Sunday, killing hundreds of migrants, has been charged with reckless multiple homicide, Italian officials say.

He has also been charged along with a Syrian member of the crew with favouring illegal immigration.

The two were among 27 survivors who arrived in Sicily late on Monday.

A UNHCR spokeswoman has told the BBC the migrants’ boat capsized after merchant vessels came too close to it.

Carlotta Sami of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy was at the Sicilian port of Catania to meet the survivors. Some 800 people are thought to have died in the disaster, she said.

There were nationals of Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Senegal on board, kept in three different layers in the boat. [Continue reading…]

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