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At least 200 drown in South Sudan ferry accident while fleeing fighting. Between 200 and 300 people feared drowned after overcrowded ferry sinks on the White Nile river. At least 200 South Sudanese civilians have drowned in a ferry accident on the White Nile river while fleeing fighting in the city of Malakal, an army spokesman said. The disaster is one of the worst single incidents to have been reported from the war-torn country, which has been wracked by conflict for a month following a clash between rival army units loyal to either President Salva Kiir or his former vice-president Riek Machar. According to the United Nations, 400,000 civilians have fled their homes over the past month, many of them escaping a wave of ethnic violence. Up to 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, aid sources and analysts say.

Aerial view of in Malakal

The ferry passengers were fleeing fighting in the city of Malakal. Photograph: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

At least 200 South Sudanese civilians have drowned in a ferry accident on the White Nile river while fleeing fighting in the city of Malakal, an army spokesman said.

 

„The reports we have are of between 200 to 300 people, including women and children. The boat was overloaded,“ army spokesman Philip Aguer said. „They all drowned. They were fleeing the fighting that broke out again in Malakal.“

 

The disaster is one of the worst single incidents to have been reported from the war-torn country, which has been wracked by conflict for a month following a clash between rival army units loyal to either President Salva Kiir or his former vice-president Riek Machar.

 

According to the United Nations, 400,000 civilians have fled their homes over the past month, many of them escaping a wave of ethnic violence. Up to 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the fighting, aid sources and analysts say.

 

The army spokesman meanwhile reported that battles were raging in several areas of the country, signalling that the government’s recapture of Bentiu, another key oil city in the north, had failed to deal a knock-out blow to the rebels.

 

Heavy fighting was reported in Malakal, state capital of oil-producing Upper Nile state, as rebel forces staged a fresh attack to seize the town, which has already changed hands twice since the conflict began.

 

„There is fighting anew in and around Malakal,“ United Nations aid chief for South Sudan Toby Lanzer said, adding that the UN peacekeeping base had been swamped with almost double the number of people seeking shelter, rising from 10,000 to 19,000.

 

An AFP photographer who was in Malakal on Sunday said that the town was calm but that the remaining residents were huddled in the town centre, too scared to return to their looted homes.

 

The army reported heavy fighting south of Bor, as the government sought to retake the town from rebels.

 

„We are marching on Bor, there was very heavy fighting late on Monday,“ Aguer said.

 

However, he rejected rebel claims to have captured the river port of Mongalla, situated between Bor and the capital Juba.

 

„We are north of Mongalla, we remain in full control there,“ Aguer said, while confirming more clashes – likely to have involved army defectors – around the town of Rajaf south of Juba.

 

The east African regional bloc IGAD has been brokering peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia, and the negotiations resumed on Tuesday – although with still little sign of a breakthrough in the form of a ceasefire agreement.

 

Talks on Monday were broken up after delegates complained about the venue being shifted to a nightclub in Addis Ababa’s luxury Sheraton hotel.

 

„The talks did not last long because the venue was not conducive; it was decided that we will continue at nine in the morning,“ South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei said late on Monday.

 

The UN’s assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, was also due in South Sudan on Tuesday for a four-day assessment of the human rights situation in the country.

 

UN rights chief Navi Pillay has already expressed grave concern over the severe human rights violations taking place daily in South Sudan during the past four weeks, amid reports of ethnic massacres, extra-judicial killings and the looting of aid agency property by both sides in the conflict.

 

South Sudan is the world’s youngest nation, and only won independence from Khartoum in 2011 after decades of civil war.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/14/at-least-200-drown-south-sudan-ferry-accident

Will Ghana’s Hope City join Africa’s herd of white elephant projects? Multibillion-dollar tech city being built near Accra among ‚urban fantasies‘ ill-designed for African market, warns professor. Hope City does not yet exist, except as shimmering images of giant beehive towers bathed in a golden light. But Ghana is pressing ahead to build this $10bn (£6.6bn) technology city outside the capital, Accra. Hope City, which aims to turn Ghana into a major ICT hub, is among the wave of African projects accused of ignoring ordinary people..

MDG : Africa Ghost Towns : Hope city project in Accra, Ghana

Hope City, which aims to turn Ghana into a major ICT hub, is among the wave of African projects accused of ignoring ordinary people. Photograph: OBR architects

Hope City does not yet exist, except as shimmering images of giant beehive towers bathed in a golden light. But Ghana is pressing ahead to build this $10bn (£6.6bn) technology city outside the capital, Accra.

Designed by OBR architects, the city will consist of six towers, including a 75-floor, 270m-tall (885ft) building, the highest in Africa, where 25,000 people will live and 50,000 will work. There have been teething problems, with the site moved to a larger one at Pampram. Residents at the original location, Dunkunaa, claim the project had incurred the displeasure of the gods when the developers refused to acknowledge the chiefs and elders of the area.

That could be the least of Hope City’s problems, warns Professor Vanessa Watson of the University of Cape Town. She has flagged up concern not just over the Pampram project, but over other „urban fantasies“ involving large-scale reconfigurations of existing cities (such as Kigali in Rwanda, and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia) or the construction of satellite cities (such as Tatu, outside Nairobi in Kenya, and Kigamboni, outside Dar es Salaam in Tanzania). These new city plans are a relatively recent phenomenon, most dating from the past five or six years, with the private sector playing a dominant role in nearly all the projects.

In the paper African urban fantasies: dreams or nightmares?, published by the International Institute for Environment and Development on Monday, Watson casts doubts over whether these grandiose urban projects, driven by local politicians and global investors who see Africa as the „last frontier“, will meet the real needs of most people.

„The bulk of the population in sub-Saharan African cities is extremely poor and living in informal settlements,“ she writes. „Some of these settlements are on well-located urban land that is also attractive to property developers. Attempts to implement these fantasy plans within existing cities will (and is already) having major exclusionary effects on vulnerable low-income groups through evictions and relocations.“

She questions the premise on which these big projects are based: rapidurbanisation in Africa and the growth of a middle class on the continent. Watson cites studies arguing that claims of very rapid urbanisation may be overstated and rates may be higher in smaller towns. The Africa Development Bank defines the middle class as those spending $2-20 a day, and the upper middle class as spending $10-20 a day.

„It is difficult to imagine how households with such minimal spending power can afford the luxury apartments portrayed in the fantasy plans (as well as the vehicles needed to move around these new cities), and it may be that prospective property developers are seriously misreading the African market,“ she writes.

As an example of an architectural white elephant, Watson cites the Chinese-built „ghost towns“ outside the Angolan capital, Luanda – cities comprising of tower blocks of apartments selling at $150,000 to $200,000 each. Ambitious urban projects may have worked in Shanghai, China and Ho Chi Minh City, and cities such as Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore are clearly the models for the new African cities.

But Watson doubts whether African governments have the capacity to pull them off. On a mundane level, she wonders how cities, invariably described as smart and sustainable and consisting of tower blocks reliant on lifts and air conditioning, can function in an environment where power cuts occur several times a day.

„Maybe they will be able to, but what nobody can tell me is what will happen to the people living in shack settlements in those cities,“ Watson says.

Satellite cities are frequently justified on the basis that they are located on empty land. But it is rare, she argues, for larger cities to be empty, and if such land is not within an environmentally protected area, then it is likely to be actively farmed.

„In all kinds of eviction processes, landowners rarely hold land title, and full compensation for land, shelter and livelihoods is unlikely,“ she adds.

The desire to construct fantasy cities is bound to divert scarce resources from meeting the basic services and housing needs of the much larger poor urban populations. „What seems most likely is that the majority of urban populations will find themselves further disadvantaged and marginalised,“ writes Watson. „It is access to land by the urban poor (as well as those on the urban periphery and beyond) that is most directly threatened by these processes, and access to land in turn determines to urban services, to livelihoods and citizenship.“

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/jan/13/ghana-hope-city-african-white-elephant-projects

South Sudan refugees seek shelter in Uganda Refugees are fleeing across the border into overcrowded camps to escape the ongoing violence.

Elegu, Uguanda – Akech Garang wears an expressionless face. She is drained and worn out. She has not seen her two children, two girls aged 12 and 13, and their father since the fighting broke out in South Sudan in mid December.

„It was about 3 am. We were trying to escape. We were walking and running. There were too many people fleeing. At first, we moved together but then they disappeared. I lost my two children that night,“ she explained. As she talks, her eyes dart around, hoping to spot them in the crowded refugee transit centre in Elegu, Northern Uganda, where she just arrived after a two-week journey.

„I cried for a long time,“ she said, now she just looks exhausted. She is among what the UN says is over 200,000 people who have fled fighting in South Sudan between government forces and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar. Garang is one of the luckier ones, having now made it over the border to the safety of neighbouring Uganda.

The violence started in Juba in mid-December. President Salva Kiir says Machar launched a coup against him – an allegation he denies. The conflict then escalated and spread to Garang’s hometown of Bor, the capital of the restive Jonglei state, and the largest and most populous one in South Sudan. She fled, beginning her journey on foot, and later crammed together with other refugees on the back of a truck.

Traumatised and exhausted

The transit centre in Elegu is just meters from Uganda’s border with South Sudan. A barbed-wire fence keeps refugee arrivals separate from the rest of the once-busy frontier town. Just weeks before scores of trucks would pass daily, carrying food and other export-goods from Uganda to the oil-rich, but relatively undeveloped, South Sudan.

The UN says the centre receives nearly 3000 new arrivals every day. Many, bedraggled and traumatised, become impatient and shout at officials, demanding their turn to be taken on trucks to the refugee camp, another 37 kilometres inside Uganda.

Doka Mudathir, a UNHCR field officer, deftly juggles competing demands, using his power as the master of access transport to bargain with angry refugees, and keep control of the situation. „The majority here are from Jonglei, especially Bor, where there have been many clashes,“ he said.

Many of the refugees have had to walk tens of kilometres with whatever possessions they could carry, including mattresses, blankets, food and other supplies before finding vehicles. Those with cars have managed to drive to the camp and beyond while aid agencies transport whoever is found along the way.

We were running over bodies. We kept hearing gunshots while we crossed [the White Nile]. I can swim and that is how I made it across. But there were bodies everywhere in the water.

– Gabriel Deng, refugee

 

When their turn comes, the refugees are crammed onto trucks once again, for the hour-long journey to the camp, along a bumpy, potholed dirt-road.

They arrive at the reception centre, a primary school in a village called Dzaipi, which was completely overrun with arrivals during the first days of the fighting. Now, over 26,000 people are camped out in the surrounding fields, typically waiting for days before they are registered.

Gabriel Deng, 19, waits impatiently in the relentless dry heat for his turn to register. After that, he can expect to be allocated a plot of land 50 by 100 feet, in a long-term refugee settlement, and given some food plus seeds and tools to start farming.

He, like many, went through a horrific journey to get to safety. „We were running over bodies,“ he told Al Jazeera. He managed to swim across the White Nile, but says many drowned in the river. „We kept hearing gunshots while we crossed. I can swim and that is how I made it across. But there were bodies everywhere in the water.“

Deng had returned home to South Sudan after completing his secondary education at a school in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, at the end of last year. Many South Sudanese, if they can afford it, study in schools and universities in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, rather than at home. On coming home, his life immediately turned upside down. „I went home for holidays and was planning on visiting my relatives in Bor but then the fighting started.“ He stated he has not seen his two brothers since.

While at the camp, Deng recieved more devastating news – his uncle, who had been paying for his education in Uganda, had been killed in the fighting. „My sponsor is dead. I have no where to get school fees,“ Deng, who had planned to study for a university degree in agriculture, told Al Jazeera. Losing a relative was painful enough, but losing the sponsor for his education, one that would have one day enabled him to earn a living, has destroyed his hopes for the future too.

Ajak William, sitting under the shade of a nearby tree, also recounts painful memories. He says he watched his five cousins being shot dead by the rebels when they attacked his village near Bor. „I heard the gun shots. My cousins were seated under a tree. I was nearby and I hid in the bush. They killed them straight away.“ He was lucky to get away with his mother, brother and sister.

Record number of refugees

The refugees arriving in Uganda come from various ethnic groups but the majority are Dinka, as is William, and also South Sudan’s President Salvar Kiir. Kiir’s opponent, Machar, and many of the soldiers loyal to him belong to the Nuer ethnic group. „I don’t know what happened because Riek and the president were in one government,“ a confused William told Al Jazeera. Like many here, he said they were attacked by Machar’s troops because of their ethnicity.

Many people belonging to the Nuer ethnic group have also fled into Uganda. Humanitarian agencies record the arrivals‘ ethnicity, and separate them, they say to prevent violence. The Nuer refugees have already been taken to a different site.

The UN says about a thousand people have been killed in the violence in South Sudan thus far. The International Crisis Group claims the figure is much higher, at around 10,000 people. Some African countries and the international community are trying to pressure both sides into a ceasefire and peace talks in Addis Ababa. So far the process has stalled. Both sides failed to agree on ceasefire terms, and continue to push for more territory on the battlefield, to gain greater bargaining powers if or when the time comes to negotiate. Meanwhile Uganda’s army has joined in the fray, supporting Kiir’s Government forces. There are many reports of Ugandan fighter jets bombing the rebels, although the Uganda government only confirms the presence of ground troops.

The thousands of refugees now waiting at the Dziapi reception centre are relieved to be safely away from the fighting, but their struggle goes on. A lucky few have tents. Others wait under the shade of the few trees and sleep there at night, or put up simple structures using bed sheets and blankets. It is hot and dusty. Every time a car or truck passes on the dirt road it leaves behind clouds of dust which settle on the refugees‘ possessions still strewn all over the camp. Many of them have visible flu-like symptoms. Children have dried mucus on their upper lips. Adults clear their blocked nostrils noses onto the scorched ground.

Very soon we shall start moving between 1300-1500 [each day] people because the pressure is too much and we want to decongest this place.

– Godfrey Byrauhanga,,

The facilities are inadequate. Aid agencies and the Ugandan Government, caught unawares when many had gone on leave for Christmas, are now trying to bring in more tents and food for the increasing numbers. At the few water taps dotted around the camp long lines of jerrycans, basins and saucepans wait to be filled.

Trucks keep ferrying in more refugees every day, but officials have only been able to relocate a few hundred each day to the plots of land that will become their new homes. They are trying to speed up the process.

„Very soon we shall start moving between 1300-1500 [each day] people because the pressure is too much and we want to decongest this place,“ Godfrey Byrauhanga, the settlement manager from the Ugandan Prime Minister’s Office told Al Jazeera. Pregnant women, disabled persons, the sick and the elderly are meant to be given priority but it is hard to see how staff can even identify all the needy cases.

Many try to get in touch with relatives, who they have not seen for weeks, while they wait. Two Ugandan men selling mobile phone SIM cards to the refugees say they have sold thousands, at an increased price. Communicating with family is paramount – not only for tracking down loved ones, but also for contacting wealthier relatives working in Government and elsewhere who can provide essential financial support.

But unlike others, Akech Garang has no way of reaching her husband. He has not called. She is hopeful but also knows the worst could have happened to him, and her children when they fled. „There were several dead people and I couldn’t identify anyone. Many also drowned in the river so I don’t know,“ she said. „I will go around the camp asking people if they know where my children and husband are. But now I don’t have anything. I have nothing.“

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/01/south-sudan-refugees-seek-shelter-uganda-201411281646560279.html

From a refugee camp to the Cricket World Cup. Mohammad Nabi has excelled on the field despite lack of facilities and bombs filling up the Peshawar air. But the 29-year-old’s path to being named captain of the national team last year – before being removed and reinstated – has never been smooth. Nabi was born at a refugee camp in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar. The war, insurgency and Taliban rule raged on across the border as Nabi and his family were deprived of visiting their homeland.

 

Nabi is now the permanent captain for Afghanistan’s national cricket team [Getty Images]
Star all-rounder Mohammad Nabi has been lauded for leading Afghanistan with a crushing win over Kenya to confirm their place in the 2015 cricket World Cup.

But the 29-year-old’s path to being named captain of the national team last year – before being removed and reinstated – has never been smooth.

Nabi was born at a refugee camp in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar.

The war, insurgency and Taliban rule raged on across the border as Nabi and his family were deprived of visiting their homeland.

Since his childhood, he wanted to become a cricketer but his family, including nine chachas (paternal uncles), disapproved.

M Nabi Stats
Batting

              M    Runs    Avg

ODIs      27    655     36.4

T20Is     22    258     13.6

FC          25  1,048    26.9

List A      55  1,567    36.4
Bowling

M     Wkts    Avg

ODIs        27     23     36.4

T20Is       22     18     13.6

FC            25     61     26.9

List A        55     60     36.4

 

However, Nabi persevered and devoted a lot of time to the sport as a schoolboy, sneaking out to train at a local club after having enough of the tennis-ball cricket.

He had the talent and the urge, but, given the missiles, gunfire and sound of bombs going off in Peshawar, it was difficult to concentrate.

„I played cricket from a young age, but given the circumstances and what was going on around us and in Afghanistan, there was no way I would’ve imagined playing for my country let alone captaining it,“ Nabi told Al Jazeera.

Nabi learned his cricket on the streets, in a similar manner to every child that plays the sport in Pakistan.

Cricket equipment on the streets is often bare and shoddy – a bat, a makeshift wicket and a tennis ball wrapped up in tape. There are no green fields, no turf pitches and no boundary ropes.

The lucky ones get cemented pitches, yet rocks and pebbles on a sandy field are more common.

Shoes are for the privileged and so is a branded, smooth bat that doesn’t threaten to give way at impact.

But as Afghanistan was cleared of insurgents, Nabi headed to Kabul to take part in a regional club tournament.

„When I visited Afghanistan for the first time, I was left traumatised,“ Nabi said.

„It was distressing to see bullet-riddled walls – a complete disaster staring at me in the face.“

For all the excitement and promise, illness forced him to miss the tournament he had crossed the border for and although he surpassed his expectations at trials held for a grade II Afghanistan side, he wasn’t shortlisted.

Finally through

The promise, the willingness and recommendations came in handy as Nabi finally got the nod and that’s when he truly changed gears, realising it was now or never.

He scored often, bagged a lot of wickets and captained various sides in Pakistan and Afghanistan, culminating in him being appointed the permanent Afghanistan captain earlier last year.

„I’ve been very, very lucky in my journey to the top,“ Nabi said.

„Self-learning – very important given the lack of mentors and guides we had in the early days – and the will to improve have been two key aspects of life that have helped me.“

Nabi was also invited to spend three months with the Marylebone Cricket Club as part of its young player programme after being spotted by former England captain Mike Gatting in India.

This opportunity helped him gain valuable experience of playing with and against quality players, at quality venues and being able to train with qualified coaches and using world-class equipment.

Afghanistan did not have facilities of its own or even a proper cricket ground.

The team trained in Sri Lanka, Dubai and Lahore before finally settling down in Sharjah, calling it home.

„It was unity and passion that drove us. We had formed a close bond in the dressing room – when we had one – and we knew the suffering and agony will pave way for a better future.“

We had formed a close bond in the dressing room – when we had one – and we knew the suffering and agony will pave way for a better future

Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan cricket captain

 

„We were fighters, we were strong and we knew that patience and dedication will help us reach the target.“

The players were able to use world-class facilities to hone their skills, and play exciting and fearless cricket helped them attract followers all over the world.

„We are great crowd pullers – in a Karachi Ramazan tournament, the stadium was packed and there was absolutely no room to move so we had people sitting in trees along the boundary line.“

Afghanistan went on to win Division Five, Four and Three before qualifying for the ICC’s World Twenty20 twice and attaining One-Day International status.

In store for them along the steep rise was a welcome win against Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Asian Games.

Although Afghanistan lost in the final, and obtained a silver medal – they progressed beyond anyone’s hopes and expectations.

And then they qualified for the biggest event in cricket.

„Cricket is the fastest growing sport in our country, we have thousands and thousands following us on the radio or the tv and that’s not just in Afghanistan.

„Previously, we had been labelled as mere participants, now we were contenders, rising from the ashes and onto the podium.“

 

http://www.aljazeera.com/sport/cricket/2014/01/from-refugee-camp-cricket-world-cup-20141493217988933.html

Israel pushes for African migrant deportation. African asylum seekers say Israeli efforts to repatriate them violate their human rights. Israel signed and ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees, the centrepiece of which is the principle of non-refoulement, which states that „a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom“. But last February, a report revealed the country had secretly expelled more than 1,000 Sudanese asylum seekers through a third country. Sudan’s penal code designates Israel as an enemy state, and bars its citizens from visiting the country at risk of imprisonment and even death.

 

Israel has recognised less than 200 asylum seekers as refugees since 1948, human rights groups say [EPA]
Tereza Maoun, a 38-year-old mother of six, fled her home in Juba, South Sudan last week when clashes broke out at a nearby military post. When she returned the next morning, she discovered that her house had been ransacked, and all her family’s belongings were gone.

„We found that everything is broken. They didn’t leave for us anything,“ said Maoun, who is now staying with friends in another part of the South Sudanese capital. „Even clothes – they took everything from me.“

Maoun had been back in South Sudan for about a year before violence broke out on December 15 between government soldiers and rebel factions in the north. „When we came to Juba, we didn’t know about Juba. Even we didn’t know about South Sudan,“ said Maoun, who first left her home country in 2003.

She had lived in Egypt before making a dangerous journey through the Sinai desert in 2007 to reach Israel. But in December 2012, Israel deported her and her family to South Sudan.

Group protection revoked

Maoun was among several hundred South Sudanese refugees deported from Israel after South Sudan became independent in July 2011. The country’s secession from Sudan, Israel argued, meant refugees could safely return home.

In June 2012, they were rounded up, put onto buses and expelled. „You’re not responsible for the future. Those who have been repatriated are people that have agreed to it, and their home country has agreed and cooperated,“ said Paul Hirschson, deputy spokesman for the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs.

About 700 South Sudanese asylum seekers lived in Israel before the government deportations began in June 2012 [EPA]

Numbering about 700 before the deportations began, South Sudanese asylum seekers represent a tiny fraction of the nearly 60,000 African migrants in Israel, most of whom are from Sudan and Eritrea.

„Every single one of the illegal migrants is entitled to apply for refugee status determination … They will be checked and evaluated to see whether they are entitled under international law to refugee status and if they are, they will be granted refugee status,“ Hirschson said.

But since its creation in 1948, Israel has recognisedfewer than 200 people as refugees, and the country only checks the refugee status determination (RSD) applications of nine percent of all asylum seekers.

Rather than process such claims, Israel applies temporary group protection to most asylum seekers, a status it also refers to as „deferred deportation“. This designation protects people from repatriation, but doesn’t provide them with any social rights in Israel. It initially applied to South Sudanese asylum seekers, but the government lifted the group protection just before the deportations.

On Sunday, thousands of African asylum seekers protested through central Tel Aviv, demanding to be recognised as refugees and denouncing Israel’s policy of indefinite detention, without charge or trial, for African migrants.

„I came out with nothing: no education, no money,“ said Franco Kombe, who was deported from Israel in June 2012 after having lived there with his family for four years. „Many families that came … from Israel are suffering,“ Kombe told Al Jazeera this week, explaining he hasn’t held a stable job since he returned to Juba a year ago.

„Nobody thought that something like this [fighting in South Sudan] is going to happen. For me, where can I escape [to]? How will I escape without money?“

‚Voluntary‘ deportations

Israel signed and ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees, the centrepiece of which is the principle of non-refoulement, which states that „a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom“.

But last February, a report revealed the country had secretly expelled more than 1,000 Sudanese asylum seekers through a third country. Sudan’s penal code designates Israel as an enemy state, and bars its citizens from visiting the country at risk of imprisonment and even death.

Deporting Sudanese to Sudan would be the gravest violation possible of the convention that Israel has signed – a crime never before committed.

– Michael Bavli, UNHCR representative in Israel

 

A few years ago Michael Bavli, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, said „deporting Sudanese to Sudan would be the gravest violation possible of the convention that Israel has signed – a crime never before committed“.

Israel calls these deportations „voluntary“, and says the asylum seekers have signed forms acknowledging they are leaving „willingly„. The government also says it will give migrants up to $3,500 to leave.

„The fact that somebody is looking for a better life, I can understand it. Israel is definitely a better life than many other places in the world, but that doesn’t entitle a person to refugee status,“ Hirschson said. „Sending a person back home is zero violation of the convention on refugees.“

In August, it was revealed that Uganda had agreed to take in thousands of the asylum seekers, in exchange for agricultural aid and equipment, and cash from Israel.

Several Eritrean refugees have reportedly signed the forms to be expelled to Uganda so far. But in at least one case where a deportation was carried out, an asylum seeker was actually sent back to Eritrea, after Uganda refused to let him enter the country.

Human Rights Watch estimates that each month, more than 1,500 Eritreans flee their country, where an authoritative government drafts citizens into compulsory, decades-long military service. In 2009, between 80-90 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers were granted refugee status worldwide.

Detention or deportation

Israel recently opened a new, so-called „open“ detention facility, named Holot, to hold African asylum seekers without charge or trial until they can be repatriated to their home countries. The migrants held there must check in three times per day, and are forbidden from working.

„[Government officials] said specifically they need this new so-called open facility because it helps them convince people to sign for voluntary repatriation,“ said Reut Michaeli, head of the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Tel Aviv.

„If they want people to leave, they need to make them miserable enough to give up and go back, to the extent that [asylum seekers] say, ‚I’d rather die in my country than be in jail for so long‘,“ Michaeli told Al Jazeera.

Hirschson disputed these claims, reasserting that people are repatriated only after the „agreement of the individual and the agreement and cooperation of the home country“.

Several hundred asylum seekers left Israel’s Holot detention facility on a „March for Freedom“ in mid-December [EPA]

But international officials forcefully challenge this argument.

William Tall, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Israel, said without a true refugee status determination process, and facing the prospect of indefinite detention, „there is no voluntary return“.

In the last month, African asylum seekers have left the Holot facility twice, once marching and taking a bus all the way to Jerusalem to demand the government recognise them as refugees.

Reports also surfaced that Israeli officials were now turning away asylum seekers seeking to renew their visas – most African asylum seekers in Israel hold a „conditional release“ permit that must be renewed every three months – and were instead instructing them to go to the Holot detention center within 30 days.

Twenty-four-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker Solomon Gorogo Desta received such a letter. „If they say to go to the camp, I’m going. What can I do?“ said Desta, who has lived in Israel since 2008. „We have two options: If we want to go to Eritrea, you go, [or] if you want to sit in the camp, you sit. These are the options of the Israeli government. I don’t want to come back to Eritrea.“

‚They just come to die‘

Back in South Sudan, 19-year-old Veronika Musa is now living in a UN camp for internally displaced persons in Juba. Musa left Sudan when she was six, and lived in Israel for most of her teenage years after arriving in 2007 at age 13. She was forced to leave last year, under the government’s deportation orders, as she awaited the results of her Israeli high school matriculation exams.

She told Al Jazeera when fighting began in Juba this month, her father stayed behind at the family’s home in the city, while she and her two younger siblings – Tedo, 16, and Regina, 13 – went to the camp in search of safety.

„No one can touch us here, but at home there are some soldiers that can come … They said that the UN compound is better,“ she said, adding she hopes to continue her studies abroad when, and if, she can leave South Sudan again.

„[Israel doesn’t] need to send other people back. Because if they come here, they just come to die. There is nothing here,“ Musa said.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/12/israel-pushes-african-migrant-deportation-2013123020923686960.html

Asylum seekers in Italy face uncertain future. Thousands of migrants are housed at asylum-seeking centre in Sicily, waiting for government to decide their fate. About 4,000 migrants are housed at a former American military residence in Sicily, which has been converted into an asylum-seeking centre. Discontent is rife, with migrants saying that despite a 35-day maximum, they have been at the centre for more than a year, unsure when or where they will go. Al Jazeera’s Claudio Lavanga reports from Mineo, Sicily.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_zxwyuD0YA

 

 

http://www.aljazeera.com/video/europe/2014/01/asylum-seekers-italy-20141613914128151.html

‚This is not a good place to live‘: inside Ghana’s dump for electronic waste. At Agbogbloshie, young people scavenge for scrap metal amid the smoke from plastics fires. The health risks are obvious – but the money is too good to ignore

Electronic waste in Agbogbloshie dump, Accra, Ghana.
A child at the Agbogbloshie electronic waste dump in Ghana. Photograph: Andrew McConnell/Alamy

 

The orange flesh of a papaya is like an oval gash in the landscape at Agbogbloshie, Ghana’s vast dumping site for electronic waste, where everything is smeared and stained with mucky hues of brown and sooty black. A woman kneels among the carcasses of discarded computer monitors, scooping the fruit’s flesh for workers hungry from a morning’s work scavenging to eat.

If the appliances at Agbogbloshie were not being dismantled – plucked of their tiny nuggets of copper and aluminium – some of them could almost be technology antiques. Old VHS players, cassette recorders, sewing machines, computers from the 1980s and every period since lie haphazardly on large mounds in the dump, which stretches as far as the eye can see.

„Electric waste comes here from all over the world – but especially from Europe,“ says Karim, 29, who, like almost all the scrap dealers at Agbogbloshie, originally comes from northern Ghana but has been salvaging, buying and selling at the dump for 10 years. „We get a lot of health problems here, but we manage, because we need the money.“

Last week, the UN’s „Solving the E-Waste Problem“ initiative (Step), which was set up in 2007 to tackle the world’s growing crisis of electronic waste, warned that the global volume of such refuse is set to grow by 33% over the next four years. Much of it will be dumped in sites such as those in Agbogbloshie, increasing the risk of land contamination with lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and flame retardants.

Agbogbloshie seems chaotic, apocalyptic in places, but there is an order to the large, desolate, rubbish-strewn site. At one side, boys and young men gather in groups, picking their way through piles of old hard drives, untangling wires, and breaking up old air-conditioning units and even irons.

Abdoullaye, 19, and a group of other teenage boys sit under makeshift iron shelters on the upturned cases of old PC monitors, working at a pile of e-waste with chisels and pliers and by hand.

The boys are surrounded by rows of rusty chest freezers, each one dangling a heavy padlock. Inside them, they store the fruits of their labour – piles of copper and aluminium – until the metal is bought by traders.

„I came here from Tamale five years ago,“ said Abdoullaye, who wears turned-up blue jeans and a blue and white striped polo shirt smeared with dirt. „I make between two and five cedis (£0.50 to £1.30) each day, and each month I send 50 cedis (£13) back to my family in the north. I would like to go back home, but my family needs the money, so I stay. We get too many problems here – sometimes I have to go to the hospital. It’s not good for us.“

Deeper into the heart of Agbogbloshie, huge plumes of foul-smelling smoke rise up from three large fires, where the dismantled items are burned to remove traces of plastic, leaving the metal behind. The fumes are head-pounding, but the men, women and children weaving in and out of the fires seem oblivious. Goats sleep deeply beside the upturned remains of a tree, now strewn with plastic rubbish.

Roles are gender divided at Agbogbloshie. Women and girls wander the sprawling site, hawking peeled oranges, water sachets and cooked food. Many have tiny babies wrapped in cloth tied tightly to their backs, all inhaling the toxic fumes. There are special jobs for children, who trawl the site with magnets tied on to the end of a piece of string, picking up any tiny scraps of metal left behind in the dirt.

In the centre of the dump, a clearing has been turned into a football pitch, and two teams are in the midst of a match. Agbogbloshie is not just a site for trading, burning and dumping electrical waste; it’s also home to thousands of people, who carry on their lives and raise their children in the midst of its filth and fumes. There are shacks dotted throughout the central area of the dump. In the doorway of one, next to a large heap of discarded computer hard drives, is a large, grubby cloth poster of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Ghanaians have nicknamed Agbogbloshie „Sodom and Gomorrah,“ after two condemned Biblical cities, but its residents take a less hostile view.

„This is not a good place to live. But we don’t want the people in Europe and all those places to stop sending the waste,“ said Karim. „This is a business centre, and we are using the money we make here to help our families to have a better life.“

E-WASTE AND WHERE IT COMES FROM

■ A computer circuit board can contain gold, copper, cadmium, iron, tantalum, molybdenum, palladium, lead, cobalt, tin, nickel, cerium, antimony, platinum, zinc, lanthanum, silver and mercury.

 

■ A chip in a smartphone can contain 60 chemical elements.

 

■ China made 1.18bn mobile phones in 2012.

 

■ The US discarded 258.2m computers, monitors, TVs and mobile phones in 2010. Each American is responsible for an average 29.8kg of hi-tech waste; it’s 5.4kg in China and 21.82kg in the UK.

 

■ The total annual volume of e-waste is expected to grow by 33% to 65.4m tonnes by 2017.

 

■ The lowest levels of e-waste per person are generated in DR Congo (0.21kg) and Burkina Faso (0.81kg)

 

■ 10bn mobile-connected devices expected to be in use by 2017.

 

Sources: UNEP, StEP, MIT, Cisco

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/14/ghana-dump-electronic-waste-not-good-place-live