Eritrean refugees gather outside a makeshift church after a service on Sunday for Christians at the refugee camp in Calais, France. Hundreds of migrants continue attempts to enter the United Kingdom. Many risk their lives by jumping onto the roof of trains and trucks, and at least ten have died in recent weeks.
* Tom Gross: Above, one of a series of recent executions of migrant workers in Libya, a country that the west helped destabilize, and now ignores.
On July 7, 2012, President Obama said “The United States is proud of the role that we played in supporting the Libyan revolution [a year ago] and protecting the Libyan people, and we look forward to working closely with the new Libya. We will engage as partners as the Libyan people work to build open and transparent institutions, establish security and the rule of law, advance opportunity, and promote unity and national reconciliation.”
In fact the United States and other western countries have done next to nothing to help Libya since then.
* Nick Cohen:: “But it is not just me or the millions of British people with Huguenot ancestors in their families. Human beings move. We are a restless species. If you have never moved to a new country to find work, your forebears certainly did. Go back far enough in your family, my family or any family on this planet and you will find that our common ancestors were migrants. In hating them, we hate ourselves.”
* “Mohammed,” a Syrian war refugee: I am sorry it is taking me so long to post my outrage over Cecil the Lion. My village has been without electricity for the last week after the Americans bombed our power plant. I had to walk for two days – hiding from ISIS along the way – before I found this Internet cafe. But my anger over the death of Cecil is still hot as the desert sands.
I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard what had happened. It started off as a normal day for my town, with the Syrian Air Force dropping barrel bombs on several neighborhoods and a local school. As I dug the bodies of several women out of the rubble, one of the other rescue workers asked if I’d heard that Cecil the Lion was killed.
“Not Cecil the Lion!” I exclaimed. “Not him!” The rest of the day was a numb blur: watching my neighbor getting beheaded by Sharia enforcers, foraging for food in bombed-out buildings, burying my daughter after she died of cholera… My entire family – the ones not gassed to death – are also in shock… It is at times like this that I am thankful that my wife was kidnapped into sexual slavery last year and was spared the horror of learning what happened to this lion...
ON “AFRICA’S NORTH KOREA” AND CECIL THE LION
[Note by Tom Gross]
I find the whole debate around immigration in my native Britain disconcerting, and sometimes racist (as it is in many other western countries from Denmark to Australia, whose media would rather criticize Israel than report frankly on their own human rights records).
In the last two months, at least ten refugees have died trying to enter Britain. Many or most of them have fled some of the worst regimes in the world, such as those of Sudan, Syria and Eritrea.
Eritrea is a country whose human rights record is almost as a bad as North Korea’s. Very occasionally international newspapers write about it. For example:
* Eritrea: the African North Korea which thousands will risk anything to escape (London Daily Telegraph, October 3, 2013)
* Africa’s North Korea: Inside Eritrea’s open-air prison (Foreign Policy magazine, June 15, 2010)
But most major media, such as the International New York Times and BBC World, are so obsessed with finding fault in Israel, day after day, in their stories, headlines, photos, photo captions, selections of readers’ letters, and op-ed pieces – that their readers probably couldn’t name the president of Eritrea, one of the world’s most evil men.
Eight weeks ago, the UN issued a long-awaited 500-page report on Eritrea. It said that the Eritrean government’s systematic use of extrajudicial killing, torture, rape and forced labor were “on a scope and scale seldom witnessed elsewhere”. But most media barely reported on this. (Instead, for example, the French government-funded TV channel France 24 ran as its main news headline, in every half-hourly bulletin for a period of over 48 hours, two days ago, a story on the death of a single Palestinian. Important news no doubt, but to the exclusion of every other piece of news in the world for almost 96 consecutive bulletins?)
Many or most of the refugees dying in the Mediterranean, or in the channel tunnel, are Syrians and Eritreans. If western nations and the UN had done more to force the Assad and Afwerki regimes to reform or (better) leave office – whatever mandates they may have had expired many years ago – we wouldn’t be witnessing the so-called migrant crisis that Europe is facing today.
I am not advocating open borders, of course, but western countries need to formulate a proper asylum and migrant policy, which will work.
I attach three pieces below.
The first is by Nick Cohen, in the British paper The Observer (the Sunday sister paper of The Guardian).
Such is the way with The Guardian website, that the lead comments under Cohen’s article are viciously anti-Semitic, containing false blood libels against Israel, a country not mentioned in the article.
Nick Cohen had one Jewish grandfather (his father’s father) and is himself an atheist, but that doesn’t stop massive anti-Semitic smears on him by Guardian and Observer readers on account of his surname.
The other two pieces below, concerning Cecil the Lion, are satirical – but unfortunately not so far from the truth.
Almost every day there are atrocities in Africa and most international media fail to report on any of them. Even though this website primarily concerns the Middle East, I try and draw attention to some of them. For example, last month:
Or, from three days ago from a Turkish newspaper (I didn’t see this at all in the Western print press which was obsessing that same day over the death of a lion):
Among articles of mine on global human rights:
* The true face of ‘human rights’ (March 16, 2012)
* The speakers were never meant to live and tell their stories (February 25, 2013)
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. “If you hate the migrants in Calais, you hate yourself” (By Nick Cohen, The Observer, August 2, 2015)
2. “I will always remember where I was when Cecil The Lion was killed” (By “Mohammed,” a Syrian war refugee, August 3, 2015)
3. “Boko Haram outraged by murder of innocent African”
“I WONDERED HOW HE WOULD BE REMEMBERED IF HE DIED TRYING TO REACH THE SHORES OF ENGLAND TONIGHT”
If you hate the migrants in Calais, you hate yourself
Over the centuries, we offered succour and shelter to the persecuted. Now it’s Fortress Britain
By Nick Cohen
August 2, 2015
I looked at Salah Mohammed Ali and wondered how he would be remembered if he died trying to reach the shores of England tonight. It was not a fanciful speculation.
Since 1 June, 10 refugees have died on the roads around Calais, at the port or inside the Channel tunnel. Their number included an Eritrean woman hit by a car last week on Calais’s urban motorway. A few days before, a Sudanese man had tried to jump on to the Eurostar. He misjudged the distance and the train smashed his head open. Worst of all was Samir, an Eritrean baby, who lived and died within the space of an hour. Her young mother fell from a truck heading to Dover. The fall triggered a premature birth and that was Samir’s life over before it had begun.
It is a scant consolation, but at least Samir’s name is remembered. Even the many good French men and women and African volunteers, who are trying to bring basic services to the Calais camp, do not know who most of the dead are. They are nameless people, whose crushed and suffocated bodies are left in unvisited graves.
Despite all the risks, Salah is determined to reach Britain. He has escaped from Darfur, scene of a genocide the “international community” did nothing to stop, and is not going to abandon his dream of a new life when he can see England from the water’s edge. He’s broad and strong and will make it across or die in the attempt.
The best he could once have hoped for from the bellicose British if he fell at the last barrier was to be remembered as the cause of traffic jams that held up the flow of consumer goods to superstores. Or perhaps as a reason for holiday-makers to vent their righteous anger, if he delayed their “well-earned breaks” by selfishly dying on a tourist route, and at the start of the school holidays at that.
Now we learn that migrants do not just menace the weekly shop and annual holiday. They are “swarming” towards us, as if they are a host of mosquitos that must be drenched with pesticide, or a plague of locusts destroying everything in its path. The inhuman comparison is not from some newspaper columnist, who is paid to pull faces to order like a grotesque in a freak show, but from David Cameron, our expensively educated and supposedly civilised prime minister.
Even if you think the Twitter storms about political “misspeaks” and “gaffes” are fatuous, consider what you did not hear after the PM’s outburst last week. No one, not Cameron, not the opposition – what’s left of it – not the talking heads on the media thought of saying that while Britain reserves the right to keep out economic migrants, it welcomes genuine refugees, including genuine refugees now stranded at the Channel.
From the 1990s through to the early 2000s, all politicians except rightwing extremists made that crucial distinction. Britain will root out “abuse of the asylum system, but give a place to genuine refugees”, said Tony Blair when he was prime minister in 2005.
Everyone who wanted to be considered respectable said the same. Economic migrants could be kept out. But Britain was a liberal country – “a tolerant decent nation”, as Blair put it – which was proud to have provided a home to the Huguenots fleeing Louis XIV, the Jews fleeing tsarism and Nazism, the Poles and Hungarians fleeing communism and the Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin.
I am putting it as kindly as I can when I say Blair’s fine words barely constituted a half-truth. The visa and travel restrictions the previous generation of politicians enforced kept out many a genuine refugee. But for all their hypocrisy, it mattered that Britain’s leaders felt obliged to pretend that Britain was a better place than it was. Politicians believed the British or, rather, a significant segment of the population, wanted the country to be Blair’s tolerant, decent nation. They would damn politicians who boasted that they would to stop genuine as well as bogus asylum seekers.
Hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays virtue, in politics as in so much else. The need of politicians for liberal opinion to think well of them had benign consequences. Even John Major’s Conservative government of the early 1990s felt morally obliged to offer homes in Britain to some 14,000 Bosnian Muslims fleeing Serb death squads.
Return to the present and you see David Cameron does not even bother to pretend that Britain is a sanctuary any more. He has no need to lie and offer pious platitudes. Which only goes to show that you should never trust a politician who doesn’t lie to you.
Far from being refreshing, Cameron’s ugly honesty has had calamitous consequences, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. Britain has provided refuge for just a few hundred of the 4 million Syrians displaced by the rival barbarisms of Assad’s Ba’athist tyranny and Islamic State’s religious tyranny. Cameron can get away with the pathetic dereliction of duty because while anti-immigrant sentiment runs riot, liberals have fallen silent.
Until today, the Church of England has uttered the odd lament but mounted no insistent campaign for Britain to offer sanctuary to at least some of the Christians that Islamists are driving from Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, Labour politicians sound the modern equivalent of the Victorian moralists who shrieked at the mention of sex in polite drawing rooms while ignoring the backstreet brothels. Their successors tut at Cameron’s talk of swarms. Then they say, as Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the home affairs committee and the unblushing child of an immigrant family himself, said last week, that the French must deport refugees back to where they came from.
As so often in the 21st century, any cruelty or stupidity is permissible as long as it is cloaked in “appropriate” language. You only have to talk to the men and women at Calais, a task apparently beyond our leaders, to know that Labour politicians’ cries of “get back to where you came from” are both.
At first glance, their camp looks like a desperate place for desperate people. But go in and you are shown a makeshift church and mosque, along with tiny shops and a cafe. Refugee leaders have organised volunteers from schools in the Pas de Calais to come and teach French in a shanty classroom. Camp inmates want to learn because they are not all determined to reach Folkestone. Many are, but others have decided to try to stay where they are. Despite the self-pitying myth that Britain is a soft touch, it is equally hard to get asylum in France and Britain or indeed anywhere in northern Europe. The delays when you can’t earn a living are just as long. The determination of officials to push you back to another country down your transit route is just as great. The rejection rate is just as high.
For some, being out of Africa is enough. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to kill anyone,” a Sudanese man told me. He had fled soldiers trying to force men into militias all around him. He was happy to stay in the camp indefinitely. “No guns. No killing here,” he explained with a shell-shocked smile. He looked to me as if he could make a strong case that he was a genuine refugee. As did many others. François Guennol, a cheerful pensioner who joined the charity Auberge des Migrants because “I could see suffering humanity”, estimated that about half the migrants in and around Calais were refugees running from Sudan, Ethiopia and the prison state of Eritrea. The rest were Afghans, Pakistanis and west Africans. The only people who were not obvious refugees were the Pakistanis.
I don’t want to prettify or romanticise the Calais “jungle”. For all the attempts at self-help and solidarity, women sleep in a separate enclosure because they fear being raped, and everyone got to northern France with the help of criminal gangs. Not that people-traffickers are in evidence in Calais. You don’t pay the smugglers’ going rate of €5,000 for a Channel crossing just so they can tell you to throw yourself at a moving train. Workers for international relief agencies say that the TV crews never see the real smugglers and their cargoes. They operate from remote French and Belgium towns and quietly arrange for transport to Britain without anyone noticing.
Instead of concentrating on them, public hatred is focused on the most visible and vulnerable migrants. When I arrived at the Calais camp, I could sort of see why. You feel you are in an African slum when you get here. I confess that I was grateful to be with a group of reporters rather than on my own. But my trepidation did not last. I realised my fears were silly as soon as I started talking to the polite and serious refugees around me.
Most people in Britain will never have that chance, of course, and you could say that the hysteria about Calais is the fear of foreigners, or racism in extreme cases. But hostility to strangers is hardly a new emotion and it cannot begin to explain the panic in officialdom and popular anger we see today.
You find their true source if you look at the collapse of British immigration policy. You will remember that the Tories came to power promising to reduce net migration into Britain to below 100,000 a year.
“No ifs, no buts,” said Cameron. The flow of people would be stemmed. But he could not stop EU citizens moving to the UK and business was and remains desperate for workers from the rest of the world too.
At the last count, net migration was running at 318,000 a year and government policy had been turned on its head.
Under Cameron, Britain is bringing in extraordinary numbers of economic migrants while closing the door to genuine refugees.
With his attempts to control economic migration in ruins, the only possible way Cameron can sustain his pose of the hard man is by refusing sanctuary to Syrians and Eritreans. They are the only people he can hurt. He knows it and I suspect the public knows it too. Not that the rest of Europe is behaving better. Those Africans who don’t drown in the Mediterranean arrive in Greece and Italy, countries whose economies have been wrecked by the EU’s single currency experiment. They cannot begin to cope.
Greece, which is in danger of becoming a failed state itself, had 63,000 arrive by boat between January and June, a figure that puts the mere 2,500 to 3000 in Calais into perspective.
France, which condemns Britain for leaving refugees to rot in Calais, does everything it can to stop them crossing its border with Italy. Everywhere, European politicians fear nativist backlashes or build their careers by inciting backlashes of their own.
If the British carry on like this, the Channel will become our Berlin Wall: a frontier guarded by paramilitary police and sniffer dogs, which innocent people die trying to cross. Britain’s common-law tradition that agents of the state have no right to demand you “produce your papers” without just cause will have to go too.
There are many reasons why refugees want to reach Britain. They can already speak English because it is the world’s second language. They want to join friends and members of extended families who are already there. They can find work in our low-wage, under-regulated economy. On one point refugees and aid workers agree – it is easier to live under the radar in Britain because we do not have ID cards. In France and every other European country with a Napoleonic code, you cannot access public services or find work without a card. In common-law England, you can just about muddle along.
The logic driving Cameron’s defence of England from “swarming” migrants leads to the destruction of England’s oldest liberty – the freedom to mind your own business.
The alternative to authoritarianism is to challenge ingrained attitudes. Democratic governments ought to stop accepting the indulgence of criminal regimes shown by the United Nations and World Bank. International aid should go nowhere near their thieving leaders.
Meanwhile – and I accept that this may be hard for readers to take – liberals ought to realise that the inability of the state to deport Islamist preachers and foreign criminals has made life immeasurably harder for refugees who threaten no one. In the past, there was no question that they could go. The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees states that a country could deport a refugee if “there are reasonable grounds for regarding [him] as a danger to security” or if a court found him guilty of “a particularly serious crime”.
Over the succeeding decades, judges and further treaties have watered down that unambiguous statement. They have often acted from the best of motives, to save people from torture most obviously.
But the road to hell is paved with human rights lawyers’ briefs, and the liberal attempt to stop the deportations of Islamists and common criminals has had the profoundly illiberal effect of destroying what public support there was for welcoming refugees.
Above all, we must accept that if Britain does not admit a fair quota of refugees they will come illegally. Africa’s population is exploding and the wars and sectarian persecutions of the Middle East look as if they will never stop. People will flee dictatorship, oppression and climate change now, as they always have in the past.
I write with feeling because my great grandparents were Jewish refugees from tsarist Russia, and if show-boating, gutless know-nothings in the Cameron mould had been in charge of Britain in the early 20th century the Nazis or the communists would have wiped my family out and I would never have been born.
But it is not just me or the millions of British people with Huguenot ancestors in their families. Human beings move. We are a restless species. If you have never moved to a new country to find work, your forebears certainly did. Go back far enough in your family, my family or any family on this planet and you will find that our common ancestors were migrants. In hating them, we hate ourselves.
A SYRIAN REFUGEE IS ALLOWED TO WRITE AN ARTICLE IN THE WEST (IF ONLY…)
I Will Always Remember Where I Was When Cecil The Lion Was Killed
August 3, 2015
The following is an op-ed written by “Mohammed,” a Syrian War Refugee.
I am sorry it is taking me so long to post my outrage over Cecil the Lion. My village has been without electricity for the last week after the Americans bombed our power plant. I had to walk for two days — hiding from ISIS along the way — before I found this Internet cafe. But my anger over the death of Cecil is still hot as the desert sands.
I remember exactly what I was doing when I heard what had happened.
It started off as a normal day for my town, with the Syrian Air Force dropping barrel bombs on several neighborhoods and a local school. As I dug the bodies of several women out of the rubble, one of the other rescue workers asked if I’d heard that Cecil the Lion was killed.
I froze in shock, dropping part of what I assume was once a human arm on the ground. “Not Cecil the Lion!” I exclaimed. “Not him! Truly, is there no innocence left in this world?” I cried harder than when we discovered my brother was gay and ISIS forced us to throw him off a building.
The rest of the day was a numb blur: watching my neighbor getting beheaded by Sharia enforcers, foraging for food in bombed-out buildings, burying my daughter after she died of cholera, and registering my outrage that rich Americans can fly anywhere in the world and kill whatever they want.
My entire family — the ones not gassed to death — are also in shock. My sister was beside herself with tears from the acid that was flung in her face, but I am sure her tears were meant for poor, majestic Cecil.
It is times like this I thank Allah that my wife was kidnapped into sexual slavery last year and was spared the horror of learning what happened to this beautiful and majestic creature.
I often wonder what is wrong with America. You do not hear stories like this in Syria, partly because we already killed all our lions but also because we killed all our dentists.
The hardest part was explaining to my eldest son why Cecil was killed. He asked if Cecil was a Kurd or a Christian, and I said no, sometimes people and animals are killed for totally unjustifiable reasons.
I must go now. The Shabiha have surrounded the building to either press gang us into the Army or execute us. No matter. If we die, we die knowing that the infidel dentist has been appropriately punished on Facebook.
Hopefully I will see Cecil in the afterlife, along with my grandparents who were murdered at the massacre in Hama.
HOW MANY COLUMN INCHES IN THE WEST ON BOKO HARAM’S DAILY MURDERS?
Boko Haram Outraged By Murder Of Innocent African
July 30, 2015
SAMBISA FOREST, Nigeria — A spokesperson for the influential activist group Boko Haram has decried the murder of an innocent African citizen in Hwange National Park earlier this month, telling reporters that the tragedy was one of “the worst things to happen in African history.”
Cecil, the 13-year-old victim, was a cherished and well-respected member of the local community in Zimbabwe, according to numerous sources. He was killed by a foreign species, later identified by zoologists as a dēns Americanus peregrinatione, an invasive predatory animal derived from common American dentists which leaves its homeland and pays large sums of money to shoot things, so they can later be displayed in its den above the fireplace.
“Cecil will not be forgotten!” read a tweet by Boko Haram public affairs officer Jamaal Abu-Sayid, which is sure to rally the fervent support of thousands of people across the Internet, ensuring the longevity of his memory would last for at least 24 more hours.
“We don’t know what a dentist was doing this far outside of its natural habitat of Minnesota,” said Park Ranger Joe Ungule, who watched Cecil grow into adulthood. “What we do know is that if Cecil hadn’t been taken from us so soon, he probably would’ve died of natural causes next year or so.”
Although dentists are a rare sighting in the enchanted African continent, the fear that precedes their strange, unwelcome practices is well-known.
“Poor Cecil. The dentist probably cut off his penis and ground it into a powder and infused it with the blood of innocents for some unholy purpose,” said Abu-Sayid. “I mean, can you believe that? Genital mutilation?”
Abu-Sayid also announced that Boko Haram would slaughter 100 American dentists to raise awareness of the killing, though the group said it would settle for killing at least 100 of anything else that is alive within a five-mile radius.