Fresh evidence of harrowing violations, including sexual violence, against men, women and children intercepted while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and forcibly returned to detention centers in Libya, highlights the grave consequences of Europe's ongoing cooperation with Libyan authorities on migration and border control, said Amnesty International in a report published July 15. Entitled 'No one will look for you': Forcibly returned from sea to abusive detention in Libya, the repprt documents how violations against refugees and migrants continued unabated in Libyan detention centers during the first six months of 2021 despite repeated promises to address them.
Policy decisions of European Union member states and Libya have caused thousands of deaths along the central Mediterranean migrant route, according to a report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released May 26. The report, covering the period from January 2019 to December 2020, is based on interviews with migrants, government officials and relevant experts. At least 2,239 migrants died during this period while crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. In 2021 alone, at least 632 have died along the route. According to the report, the deaths were not a "tragic anomaly," and could have been prevented. The lack of human rights protection for migrants during their journey is a consequence of the "concrete policy decisions and practices" of Libyan authorities, the EU and its member states, and other actors.
Former deputy prime minister and current leader of Italy's right-wing League party Matteo Salvini must stand trial for kidnapping, a Palermo judge ruled April 17. The charges concern an incident in August 2019 in which he barred 147 migrants who had been rescued by Barcelona-based NGO Open Arms from disembarking at a Sicilian port. An indictment of the former minister was requested by prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi as well as 23 civil parties acting as representatives of Open Arms. A civil action was also filed by nine migrants who were on board the vessel, which had been blocked for 19 days off the coast of Lampedusa.
President Joe Biden announced Feb. 4 the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country. "This war has to end," Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." Biden pledged an end to "relevant" US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. The administration had already said it is pausing some of the billions of dollars in arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.
Italian authorities detained another NGO-operated search-and-rescue vessel on July 22—the fourth to have fallen foul of "technical irregularities" since the beginning of the pandemic. The move fits a pattern of authorities using administrative procedures to block the work of search-and-rescue NGOs in the central Mediterranean, according to human rights groups. At the end of June, the Ocean Viking, operated by NGO Onboard SOS Mediterranee, rescued 180 asylum-seekers and migrants who had departed from Libya. Authorities in Italy and Malta refused to assign the ship a safe harbor for eight days, leading to a severe deterioration in the mental health conditions of those on board, manifesting in suicide attempts and fights. After the rescued people finally disembarked in Sicily, the Ocean Viking observed a 14-day quarantine before it was inspected and impounded.
The Italian government passed a law May 13 paving the way for some 200,000 undocumented workers to apply for six-month legal residency permits. But just a few weeks later, the initial atmosphere of hope has quickly faded. The amnesty was one measure in a €55 billion ($59.6 billion) stimulus package meant to support Italy's economy as the country struggles with impacts of the coronavirus. Italy has had one of the most severe outbreaks in the world, with nearly 230,000 confirmed cases and more than 32,500 deaths as of May 25.
In Episode 50 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes frightening advances toward a fascist world order amid the COVID-19 crisis. With police-state measures being imposed worldwide, Donald Trump is claiming "total" executive power and threatening to "adjourn" Congress. That he is doing so in the name of lifting rather than enforcing the lockdown is certainly an irony, but either way it represents exploitation of the crisis for a power-grab. Even under a best-case scenario of a post-pandemic return to "normality," it will be in the context of an unprecedented totalizing surveillance state.