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The UK’s quick Rwandan fix for the ‘Migrant Menace’ | Refugees

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Back in December 2020, the Independent reported that Chris Philp – the then UK parliamentary under secretary of state and minister for immigration compliance and justice – had “refused to rule out sending asylum seekers to a remote island or disused oil platforms, or creating a ‘giant wave machine’” to repel migrant-bearing dinghies in the English Channel.

Now, Britain’s Conservatives have devised an even better solution to the migrant issue, whereby the United Kingdom will simply send asylum seekers to the African nation of Rwanda, about 6,500km (4,000 miles) away. And the new plan is already making waves. As John Washington, author of The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexican Border and Beyond, remarked on Twitter: “How much more darkly bonkers the global border regime will yet become is terrifying”.

The refugee-outsourcing arrangement was formalised on April 14 during a descent upon the Rwandan capital of Kigali by British Home Secretary Priti Patel, who tweeted a video explaining what this “world-first migration partnership” will mean. Not only will it “set a new standard for managing migration” and “break the business model of people-smuggling gangs”, but it will also “help fix the broken asylum system” by having Rwanda “process asylum claims of those making dangerous, illegal or unnecessary journeys to the UK”.

Apparently, asylum seekers ultimately deemed by Rwanda to have legitimately journeyed dangerously, illegally or unnecessarily to the UK will then be allowed to live in, um, Rwanda – where, as the BBC points out, the UK has “demanded investigations into alleged killings, disappearances and torture” while also expressing concern over the overall “human rights record” of the current Rwandan government and President Paul Kagame. How is that for a “business model”?

And while the global asylum system is certainly “broken”, the way to fix it is not by dismantling the very concept of asylum or offshoring migrant abuse in contravention of international law.

Nor is the UK-Rwandan “world-first migration partnership” as entirely groundbreaking as it purports to be, having been openly inspired by contemporary Australian offshore detention activities on the island nation of Nauru as well as Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island – which have served as Petri dishes for migrant suicide, self-harm, and general suffering. Human Rights Watch furthermore notes the “exorbitant” expense that has attended Australian state brutality: “Detaining a single asylum seeker on Papua New Guinea or Nauru cost around AUD $3.4 million (£1.8 million) annually”.

To be sure, this figure would seem to rather neatly obliterate the official UK argument that the whole Rwanda operation will somehow save British taxpayers’ money. But, hey, there is nothing like a good Migrant Menace to distract from domestic embarrassments like the busting of Prime Minister Boris Johnson for coronavirus lockdown violations, otherwise known as the “Partygate” scandal – speaking of things “dangerous, illegal or unnecessary”.

Meanwhile, the United States has also offered plenty of asylum-eviscerating precedents – as in the case of the Trump administration’s so-called “safe third country agreement” with Guatemala, which enabled the US to deport asylum seekers to a country that was itself not at all safe and a significant source of refugees in the first place. Then there is the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) programme, reactivated by Joe Biden, which basically consists of forcing vulnerable migrants to risk their lives waiting in Mexico – another prominent source of refugees – for their asylum claims to be processed in the US.

Rwanda, of course, has produced its own fair share of refugees – and yet expelling tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the landlocked country is, according to Prime Minister Johnson, “the morally right thing to do and the humane and compassionate thing to do”, because it will disrupt the enterprising efforts of “vile people smugglers” who have converted the ocean into a “watery graveyard”.

Never mind that the ocean has only achieved graveyard status thanks to the criminalisation of migration wrought by the world’s enterprisingly xenophobic powers that be – or that the UK has contributed in no small part to converting much of the world beyond the ocean into a graveyard, while also cultivating the landscapes of persecution and tyranny that cause people to migrate.

History and reality notwithstanding, Home Secretary Patel proclaimed in Kigali that “our New Plan for Immigration will improve support for those directly fleeing oppression, persecution and tyranny”. She also insisted that “access to the UK’s asylum system must be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers” – as though the two scenarios are mutually exclusive, and as though someone who sells everything they own in order to scrape together enough money to flee a country in the direction of perceived safety is somehow not in “need”.

For his part, Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart is quoted in the Guardian describing the Rwanda deal as aiming to “improve the chances for people who have crossed half the world at huge emotional and personal and financial expense”. And what better way to improve those chances than by making them cross half the world again? “We pride ourselves on this ‘nation of sanctuary’ label”, Hart declared in reference to the UK – because obviously nothing says “nation of sanctuary” like one oppressive state disgorging thousands of people into another oppressive state 4,000 miles away.

And while Johnson contends that he is seeking to combat the “barbaric trade in human misery” being waged by human smugglers in the English Channel, the UK is guilty of the same and much more – and it is all getting ever more darkly bonkers.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.





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Germany school shooting injures one, suspect arrested | Crime News

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The shooting in a secondary school in Bremerhaven injured one person, who is not a pupil, police say.

Police in Germany’s northern city of Bremerhaven have arrested a suspected attacker after a shooting in a school injured one person.

The incident happened on Thursday at the Lloyd Gymnasium, a secondary school in the centre of Bremerhaven, local police said in a statement.

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” they said, adding the injured person, who has been taken to hospital, was not a pupil.

“Students are in their classrooms with their teachers. The police have the situation on the ground under control,” the statement said.

German paper Bild said the injured person was a woman.

It also reported that a second suspect appeared to be on the run. It earlier reported they were armed with a crossbow.

Police said they were ascertaining whether more than one person was involved.

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Bremerhaven police said on Twitter that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Previous incidents

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passersby in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The attacker then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people, including 12 teachers and two students, at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone below 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.



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How much do Australian voters care about climate change? | TV Shows

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On Thursday, May 19 at 19:30GMT:
More than 17.2 million Australians are set to vote during this week’s elections – and for the first time, climate change could shape the outcome in a major way.

Massive deadly bushfires in 2019 and destructive flooding in 2021 have changed many Australians’ outlook on climate action. Polls show an increasing number of citizens believe that global warming “is a serious and pressing problem” and that “we should begin taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs.”

Despite this growing support for stronger climate policy, neither major party has pledged ambitious reform. Both Liberal Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese support a net zero carbons emissions policy by 2050, which analysts say isn’t bold enough. And though 29 percent of Australians cite climate change as their most important issue, most candidates are not talking about it, for fear of alienating voters in coal mining towns.

That’s one big reason why so-called “teal independent” candidates are gaining traction around the nation. This group of nearly two dozen, mostly female candidates are running on an anti-corruption, pro-climate action platform. Political experts say that if a major party fails to secure a majority in Parliament, these independents could tip the balance of power after negotiating more climate-friendly policy outcomes.

Other issues at stake in this year’s elections include the soaring cost of living, government corruption and tackling gender and racial inequality.

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll talk about the major issues sending Australians to the polls, and what it could mean for the country’s climate policy. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Kishor Napier-Raman, @kishor_nr
Federal Politics Reporter, Crikey

Intifar Chowdhury, @intifar2210
Associate Lecturer & Youth Researcher, Australia National University (ANU)

Kate Crowley, @Kate__Crowley
Associate Professor, University of Tasmania





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Sri Lankans honour Tamil victims of civil war after 13 years | Tamils News

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Sri Lankan protesters have lit flames and offered prayers remembering thousands – including ethnic Tamil civilians – killed in the final stages of the country’s decades-long civil war.

It was the first-ever event in the island nation where mostly majority ethnic Sinhalese openly memorialised the minority group.

Protesters gathered outside the president’s office in the main city of Colombo on Wednesday, floated flowers in the nearby sea and prayed for all those who died in the 26-year civil war, including Tamil civilians, Tamil rebels and government soldiers.

The head of the separatist Tamil Tiger movement, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was shot dead by security forces on May 18, 2009, bringing a formal end to the bloody ethnic war.

‘Highly welcome’

“This is highly symbolic and very important for Tamils,” said legislator Dharmalingam Sithadthan, a parliamentarian from the northern Tamil heartland of Jaffna.

“In previous years, there were private memorials held in secret, but this public event is highly welcome.”

A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
A Christian nun sings hymns as activists observe a minute silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Clergy from Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities offered prayers in Colombo and lit a clay lamp for those who perished in the civil war.

“I am a Sinhalese by birth. Today we held a memorial for all those who were killed 13 years ago, Sinhala, Muslim, Hindu and everybody as a result of state terrorism and terrorism by non-state groups,” said Sumeera Gunasekara, a social media activist who participated in the event.

“There are still those who are grieving because of these events and as a Sinhalese I have a right to share in their grief, because I believe in the religion of humanity more than any other.”

Actress Kaushalya Fernando said she came to remember the victims of a war created and mishandled by politicians.

“The significance of this place is that we are not here as different ethnic groups but as Sri Lankans.”

The protesters also shared rice porridge, the only food the people could have in the final stages of the fighting because of the heavy blockade of supplies.

The country’s main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said the commemoration showed the majority Sinhalese were willing to support reconciliation after decades of ethnic war.

“This gives us a lot of hope and I hope that Tamil people will also reciprocate,” said TNA spokesman M A Sumanthiran.

“There may be pitfalls along the way, but this is a very good start.”

Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka's civil war.
Human rights activists observe a minute of silence in remembrance of victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war at the ongoing anti-government protest site in Colombo [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

The civil war killed 100,000 people, according to the United Nations estimates. The actual number is believed to be much higher. A report from a UN panel of experts said at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of the fighting alone.

Since Sri Lankan troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, Sri Lankan authorities had widely prohibited Tamils from publicly remembering their family members and have denied allegations that Tamil civilians were killed.

Human rights groups have since accused the country’s military of killing civilians towards the end of the war, in which the rebels fought for a separate state for the Tamil minority.

Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, make up nearly 75 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people. Tamils, mostly Hindu, represent 15 percent of the population.

UK Tamils seek justice at London vigil

Tamils who resettled in the United Kingdom after fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war also held a vigil in London on Wednesday, with some likening the island nation’s current economic crisis to the conditions they faced during the decades-long conflict.

The gathering of Tamils seeking justice for those from their community who were killed in the South Asian country during the war, coincided with Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 that has forced out its prime minister.

Sri Lanka vigil in London, UK
People attend a demonstration to remember those who died in the Sri Lankan civil war on the 13th anniversary of its end, in London, UK, May 18, 2022  [REUTERS/Muvija M]

“The current crisis in Colombo reminds me of our struggles during the war. Shortage of fuel, food, medicine – the Tamil-dominated parts of Sri Lanka faced the same issues then as what the entire nation is facing today,” said Thanikai, 42, who came to the UK eight years ago.

“We need justice for all the people who were killed.”

The UN has accused both sides of war crimes and has been given a mandate to collect evidence. The UN has also warned the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.

“My parents and friends are still in Sri Lanka but I have been too scared to go back,” said Elilarasi Manoharan, who attended the peaceful demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square to mark the 13th anniversary of the end of the war.

“But now with the economic crisis and the changes we are seeing, maybe if the Sri Lankan system changes it will open up doors for us to be able to visit our loved ones.”

Sri Lankans have been protesting for more than a month, demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and holding him responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa played a key role as a top defence strategist to his brother, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is credited with leading a military campaign to defeat the rebels.

The two leaders were hailed as heroes by the Sinhalese but allegations of mishandling the economy and corruption have led to their fall from grace.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister last week amid violent protests, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been staying in his fortified residence for more than a month. He has been forced to take a backseat, having appointed a new prime minister to handle the economy.

Sri Lanka, near bankruptcy, has suspended up to $7bn of foreign loan payments due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis. The country must repay $25bn as foreign debt by 2026 out of a total of $51bn.

It has led to limited imports with no petrol in filling stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply, forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks.



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