Asylum seeker in Nauru convicted for suicide attempt

16/4/16;| Human Rights, Asia Pacific, Australia, Refugees, Humanitarian crises

Iranian man held in Australian-run detention centre on Pacific island reportedly ordered to pay a $155 fine – Australia’s government has been criticised over its treatment of asylum seekers in offshore facilities – Australian refugee advocates and opposition politicians have condemned the conviction of an Iranian asylum seeker on charges of attempted suicide, a criminal offence in Nauru where he is being held in an Australian-run detention centre.
Under Australia’s tough immigration policy, asylum seekers attempting to reach the country by boat are intercepted and sent to camps on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru, about 3,000km northeast of Australia, or on Manus island in Papua New Guinea to the north.
The Iranian man, who is the sole guardian of his eight-year-old daughter in the detention centre, pleaded guilty to the offence of attempted suicide, according to a Nauru government statement.
He was reportedly ordered to pay a fine of $155.
The Nauru government said prosecutors wanted to “deter other would-be offenders who resort to self-harm to avoid lawful actions against them or to get what they want”.
“We are concerned that this method of protest is being used and want to stamp out this practice,” it said.
Human rights groups, including the UN Refugee Agency, have criticised the harsh conditions at the detention centers, which have sparked riots and self-harm protests.
Barri Phatarfood of Doctors for Refugees decried the case as “outrageous” because the man was not provided with access to a doctor or psychiatrist, despite the government’s promises to do so.
“When they wanted to make an example of this man after he had done this self-harm attempt by taking him off to jail, where he spent close to three weeks, they didn’t care for the eight-year-old girl,” she told Al Jazeera.
-Australia rules offshore detention legal
“So, she was effectively left to fend for herself,” she said, adding that refugees are not being given equal treatment to Australians before the law. “Nowhere in Australia would you see anything like that happen.”
Australia’s Greens opposition party has been a long-time critic of Australia’s offshore detention policy.
“We’ve left them there languishing, destroyed all hope of ever coming to Australia, This poor guy wanted to take his own life and he is now being punished for that,” Greens politician Sarah Hanson-Young told Australia’s Sky News on Saturday.
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection said all refugees in Nauru were subject to that country’s laws.
The number of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia is small compared with those arriving in Europe, but border security has long been a topic of heated political debate.
Offshore detention is supported by both Australia’s conservative government and main opposition Labor party. A national election is expected to be called within months. Source: Al Jazeera and agencies; Read More: Outsourcing refugees – ‘How will I survive’ in Cambodia?

Australia, Migrants & Refugees


UNICEF: Israel’s child poverty rate worst in developed world (1)

15/4/26; Israel, Middle East, News, Palestine, Region

Israel has the highest level of child poverty in the world’s 41 most developed countries, according to a United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report released yesterday.
Israel has the highest level of child poverty in the world’s 41 most developed countries, according to a United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report released yesterday. Some 27.5 per cent of children in the country live in poverty, higher than rates in Mexico, the report showed.
The report, “Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries,” documents inequalities in child well-being amongst EU countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
In all indicators outlined in the report; income, education, health and life satisfaction, Israel ranked amongst the lowest, ranking last in terms of health inequality.
Child poverty rates in Israel:
-27.5% live in poverty
-18.5% are below level 2 in three subjects in school
-29.7% report one or more health symptom each day
-7.7% have a life satisfaction rate of 4/10 or less
“Understanding the differences among countries in how far the most disadvantaged children fall behind their average peers can provide some insight into the conditions or interventions that may help to reduce the gaps,” said Dr Sarah Cook, director of UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy.
“As concern with high levels of inequality rises on the global policy agenda, our understanding of the long term impacts of inequality is also growing: what happens to children has life-long and even intergenerational consequences,” said Cook.
“Any serious efforts to reduce inequality must place priority on children’s well-being today and ensure that all children are given opportunities to achieve their potential,” she said.
Israeli politicians were quick to respond to the report. The Jerusalem Post quoted Joint List MK Dov Henin saying: “The poverty rate among Israeli children… is not our fate; it’s the result of a policy. Whoever cuts welfare services, privatises the education system and dries out public health is knowingly leading to a reality in which children go to school hungry and parents have difficulty finding the money to pay for children’s dental care or textbooks.”
Adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies are “endangering children’s lives.”

Israel. Children


Syrians reject Israel’s vow to control Golan ‘forever'(2)

17/4/16; Patrick Strickland Human Rights, War & Conflict, Middle East, Israel, Syria’s Civil War

Prime Minister Netanyahu holds cabinet meeting in occupied territory to send message that Israel “will never” withdraw – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has for the first time held his weekly cabinet meeting in the occupied Golan Heights, amid criticism from local Syrian activists.
Speaking in the Jewish-only settlement of Maaleh Gamla on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that the 70 percent of the Golan, which Israeli forces occupied during the 1967 Middle East war, will “always remain” under Israeli control.
“I convened this celebratory meeting in the Golan Heights to send a clear message: The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights,” he said.
Hezbollah fighters push towards Golan Heights
The move came on the 70th anniversary of Syria’s independence, marking the withdrawal of French colonial forces from the country in 1946.
Mais Ibrahim, a Syrian human rights activist from the Golan’s Majdal Shams, criticised the decision to hold the meeting there – but added that this did not come as a surprise.
“On the contrary, I’d be more surprised if Netanyahu did not mention the Golan on Syrian Independence Day,” she told Al Jazeera.
“We are Syrians and we were raised as Syrians. We grew up as Syrians. We will remain [Syrian] regardless of what Israel says or who controls Syria … regardless of whether the war continues another 100 years or if we’re liberated tomorrow.”
Netanyahu’s declaration comes at a time when Syria is engulfed in a civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and opposition groups. Although it started as a largely unarmed uprising in March 2011, the United Nations estimates that more than 260,000 have been killed so far.
-Illegal annexation
More than 131,000 Syrians – Christians, Muslims and Druze – were driven from the Golan when Israel occupied it 49 years ago, according to the Golan-based Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre.
Around 20,000 indigenous Syrian Arabs – mostly from the Druze religious community – live in six villages still standing in the occupied territory. Meanwhile, upwards of 21,000 Israeli settlers live in 33 Jewish-only settlements subsidised and protected by the Israeli government.
While local Syrians are split over the ongoing civil war, the vast majority oppose Israel’s occupation. They hold Israeli-issued travel documents, but most have rejected offers of Israeli citizenship and remain legally “stateless”.
Israeli claimed to have annexed the territory in 1981, but the move was rejected by the international community, including the United Nations.
Syrian researcher and Golan-based analyst Salman Fakheraldeen accused Israel of attempting to “take advantage of the fact that Syria is a collapsing state”, referring to the ongoing civil war.
“But this doesn’t erase or cancel the rights of Syrians from the Golan,” he told Al Jazeera.
The Al-Marsad Arab Human Rights Centre has also accused the Israeli government of “a calculated effort to establish ‘facts on the ground’ in order to solidify their illegal annexation of the Golan in the midst of a brutal and protracted conflict in Syria”.
Afek Oil and Gas, an Israeli company, has been granted exclusive license to conduct exploratory drilling for oil in the southern Golan. Afek is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Limited, a New Jersey-based company for which former US Vice President Dick Cheney is an adviser.
Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, the Netanyahu government has also invested millions of dollars in Israeli settlements in the Golan.
-‘My grandparents’ land’
Benedetta Berti, a security analyst and research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, explained that the Netanyahu government views control of the Golan as essential to the country’s security.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, she said Israel is monitoring the Syrian-controlled side closely for activity by Iranian troops and Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group fighting alongside Assad.
“I think the Israeli security establishment still believes it is not in Israel’s interest to get directly involved in the internal battles between Assad and his opponents,” said Berti.
Nonetheless, she argued that big advances by pro-Assad forces could trigger “some type of Israeli ‘signalling’ operation”, such as the killing of Samir Kantar, a former prisoner and high-profile Hezbollah fighter.
Kantar, who had served 29 years in Israeli prison, as killed in December by a suspected Israeli air strike in the Jaramana area of Damascus.
In Quneitra, situated in the side of Golan still controlled by Syria, media activist Abu Omar al-Jolani said Syrians are united in their opposition to Israel’s occupation of the territory.
“The Syrian people are enduring the worst stage of their history, being killed every day by the regime,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.
“The most important thing is surviving, finding bread. But at the same time, that is my grandparents’ and parents’ land. The Golan is Syrian. The whole world knows this.”

Read More: Golan Heights – New flashpoint in Syria war; Read More: Israel’s oil drilling in Golan crticised Source: Al Jazeera Follow Patrick Strickland on Twitter: @P_Strickland_ Read More: Golan Heights – New flashpoint in Syria war’;;;;

Israel, Syria, Golan Heights


Mike Baird’s motherhood statements on Palestine dilute the politics (3)

18/4/16; Antony Loewenstein @antloewenstein; Australian

Some activists celebrated Mike Baird’s trip to the West Bank as a victory for Palestinian recognition but there remains a lack of honesty in public discourse about Israel’s stranglehold on the Palestinian territories\.
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird recently visited Israel and Palestine, the first for a sitting leader of the Australian state. After travelling to the occupied West Bank and seeing the Aida refugee camp, Baird wrote on Facebook that the situation was “heartbreaking.” He continued: I don’t know where the cycle of thousands of years of violence ends. But I do know that all kids should be able to dream. That they should have hope of a better future.
Baird’s motherhood statements, pushing the human angle of the conflict, diluted the politics. He didn’t mention the Israeli occupation, its nearly 50-year existence and effects on Palestinian children. Human Rights Watch recently stated that, “Israeli security forces are abusing Palestinian children detained in the West Bank. The number of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces has more than doubled since October 2015.” Amnesty issued a report this month telling Israel to protect human rights defenders and activists from Israeli military and settler violence.
Baird also briefly went to Bethlehem and met its first female mayor. He wrote that Vera Baboun was a teacher and “fierce advocate for her community as she seeks to solve some very complex problems.”
Channel 9 News and Sky News covered Baird’s time in the West Bank, at least the word “occupation” was briefly uttered by one report, yet they both grossly exaggerated the journey into a supposedly brutal war zone. It’s nothing of the sort. I’m based in East Jerusalem and safely travel to the West Bank without fear of attack.
Apart from scant time in the West Bank, Baird’s trip was principally about deepening NSW’s economic, medical cannabis and policing ties to Israel. Co-ordinated by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Baird was effusive in his praise for Israel. He told the Australian Jewish News that Israel is an “incredible nation” that is “leading the world in so many ways”. He wanted his trip to represent a “critical turning point” in relations between NSW and Israel, “going from being … allies and friends to significant collaborators and economic partners.”
Baird inked a deal with Israeli arms manufacturer, Elbit Services, to provide a flight simulator to help the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service. Elbit is subject to a worldwide campaign against its involvement in Israel’s military and building of the separation wall through Palestinian territory.
The politics around Israel/Palestine are changing in Australia, however, and Baird’s visit won’t change this reality. Outgoing Labor MP Melissa Parke – who worked as a UN lawyer in Gaza – tabled a petition in parliament urging Australia to back the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The Greens’ Lee Rhiannon is an outspoken opponent of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Although many politicians and journalists from most media outlets routinely take free pro-Israel lobby trips to Israel with a few minutes in the West Bank, and despite growing opposition in the NSW Labor party, the Australian public are becoming less tolerant of the Israeli occupation and regular attacks against Gaza.
Roy Morgan polling from 2011 showed that a majority of Australians opposed expanding Israeli colonies in the West Bank, and in 2014 a majority also thought that Australia should vote yes for Palestinian recognition as an independent member state at the UN. These trends have had no effect on Australia partnering with Israelis weapon’s manufacturers over the last decade; Canberra is keen to purchase battle-tested armaments.
The boundaries of acceptable political debate in Australia are narrow. Think of so-called Labor dissidents pushing for the party to recognise Palestine at some point in the indeterminate future when such a policy is irrelevant to facts on the ground after nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
The Palestinian Authority, the likely head of this “state”, is an authoritarian and corrupt body backed by the west, including Australia. What’s brave calling for them to rule over Palestinians? On the ground in Palestine, the idea of “recognising” Palestine elicits confusion. Many Palestinians tell me they crave global support and recognition but after years of empty gestures and UN resolutions their scepticism is warranted. Palestinian politicians haven’t faced an election in over 10 years.
I know that some activists in Australia celebrated Mike Baird’s brief trip to Palestine as a sign that political leaders have to at least show interest in the Palestinians in 2016. Perhaps. But until journalists and politicians talk more honesty about Israel’s stranglehold on the Palestinian territories, public opinion will continue to turn away from the Jewish state.

Australia Palestine


Drone strikes passenger plane coming in to land at UK’s Heathrow airport

18/18/16; British Airways plane hit by drone

A pilot bringing a passenger jet into land at England’s Heathrow airport has reported a drone striking the craft as it was approaching the runway. British Airways plane struck an object believed to be a drone on Sunday as it was coming in for landing at Europe’s busiest airport, police said. An investigation had been launched into the incident which follows a string of near misses involving drones. Police have declined to comment on whether the strike could be related to terrorism.
The plane, an Airbus A320 with 132 passengers and five crew on board, was on its final descent into Heathrow’s Terminal Five when it was struck.
“A pilot on an inbound flight into Heathrow Airport from Geneva reported to police that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft,” a spokeswoman for London’s Metropolitan Police said. “The flight landed at Heathrow Terminal Five safely. It transpired that an object, believed to be a drone, had struck the front of the aircraft”. Asked if the drone could have been related to terrorism, the spokeswoman said, “We are not commenting on that at this time. The investigation is on-going”.
A BA spokesman said the plane had been examined after landing and was cleared to operate its next flight. “Safety and security are always our first priority and we will give the police every assistance with their investigation,” the spokesman said.
The UK Airprox Board, an air safety agency, said last month there were 23 near-misses between drones and aircraft in the six months between April and October last year. Drones of all shapes and sizes have become increasingly popular with hobbyists around the world.
In one incident on September 22, a Boeing 777 reported narrowly passing a drone as it was taking off. Investigators concluded that the drone was at the same height as the aircraft and within 25 metres of it. A drone then came within a few metres of an Airbus A319 landing at Heathrow only a few days later on September 30 last year. Near-miss filmed above Melbourne Airport involving three jets blamed on cost-cutting

UK; Air safety events with drones