The week in world news | Caves, Conventions and Coveney
The world moves fast. If you don’t stop and read the papers, you might just miss a few things. So with this in mind, let’s take you through a few of those global stories that you may have missed during the week.
Migration in Europe
The work of NGO’s in the Mediterranean has been increasingly targeted by anti-immigration campaigns. These right-wing efforts to deligitimise NGO search-and-rescue efforts have now slithered into the Irish politic. At a recent EU meeting centered on agreeing a migration deal, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made comments regarding the work of some NGO’s involved in such search-and-rescue operations and was quoted as saying thes NGO’s were “not up to much good.”
International medical humanitarian organisation MSF, who jointly operate the Aquarius rescue ship with Franco-German group SOS Mediterranne, have said Lovely Leo’s comments were “unhelpful and misguided.”
It’s been a sloppy couple of weeks for the young leader, who has bizarrely managed to align himself with Trump and some of Europe’s most toxic far-right ideologues within days of each other.
MSF went before our own Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence last Friday to call on Irish and European governments to stop condemning people to being trapped in Libya or drowning at sea.
So, what was the background to the EU summit that caused the stir?
Angela Merkel was under pressure to appease mounting frustration around how migration is dealt with – and to stop giving a big Irish Céad Mile Fáilte to migrants reaching European shores. Her main problem was the fact that she was doing this all in practice, and not just in theory.
Ireland’s problem on the other hand was that, as a nation with a diaspora, both legal and illegal, we are reeking of double standards by actively participating in policies of deterrence, suffering and death. Operation Sophia, which Irish Naval ship the LÉ Samuel Beckett is a part of, is one such example.
It’s important to ask, when did Ireland’s moral compass switch from an Irish knighting of our Defence Forces by Tubridy on The Late Late Show (when their mission was humanitarian), to participating in returning migrants to a country of “safe” return where rape, torture and slavery awaits them?
But what was the outcome of the EU meeting?
Italy requested burden sharing, which is a legitimate request given their peripheral location has seen them cope with more than what should have ever been asked of them. This request was vehemently opposed by the anti-immigration leaders of Europe (once primarily the Visegrád four, but now including many more countries), who successfully managed to absolve themselves from having-to-adult by taking on the responsibilities that come along with the privileges of being a part of the European Union.
To secure Europe’s external border, more money will be given to the EU’s trusty partner in (crime) thwarting migration, Libya. Rights groups and NGO’s have denounced the EU for deeming Libya as a country of safe return, and with Libya yet to make it on a Top Ten list of places you should go (along with, say, Somalia or Yemen) then who could blame them. If that’s not a sound enough observation for you then please read credible reports here, here and here for sickening statistics and accounts of conditions in Libya.
While we’re here. Let’s also address the usual migration spiel churned out.
The “pull-factor”, “taxi-service” and “colluding with smugglers” vendetta used against NGO’s has been repeatedly and statistically proven wrong. For those who care to have their opinion informed with more than this dangerously redundant rhetoric that has now found itself in mainstream European politics, openDemocracy conducted their own investigative research into these allegations last year. You can prove the new EU narrative wrong here and here.
Palestine and Israel
The Middle East, a complex proxy chessboard increasingly hard to navigate, had one black and white moment this week.
No matter how little or great your knowledge of international affairs, the attempted eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar in the Israeli occupied West Bank constitutes as an attempted war crime. Ireland and the EU certainly think so.
For now, a temporary injunction has been put in place to halt the eviction.
Israel’s settlement programme has uprooted thousands of Palestinians from their homeland and transferred Israeli settlers onto the stolen land to create Jewish-only communities.
Why is this eviction receiving so much attention?
It jeopardises the contiguity of a future independent Palestinian state as part of the internationally supported two-state solution. And on a side note – the building of settlements by Israel is a War Crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a Grave Breach of Protocol 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
What is Ireland doing?
While Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence, Simon Coveney, has been consistent in issuing strong statements of condemnation of Israel’s illegal settlement building, he has been equally consistent in failing to provide concrete political action to back up his apparently strong views.
Have ya’ anything to back that up says you?
On Wednesday, the Seanad heard Independent Senator Frances Black propose legislation that would prohibit trade in goods and services originating from enterprises on illegally occupied land. Despite the government strongly opposing the bill (consistency being key here too), it passed the early stage vote through the support of all major opposition parties including Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin.
An important differentiation to make?
The bill is not part of the world wide “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement against Israel, which seeks to boycott Israel as a whole. The proposed legislation would deal only with goods and services originating from settlements deemed illegal by the international community. You can have a read here.
And finally, football’s coming home…
While chants and hashtags of “Football’s coming home” have nauseated almost everyone who accidentally clicked into Twitter over the past while, the one team that has received unwavering cross-border support throughout this competition is the Thai soccer team found trapped in a cave after nine days of being missing.
All twelve of the under 16 boys’ team and their 25-year-old coach were rescued after spending over two weeks inside the cave that runs close to the Myanmar border.
Hopeful hysteria that emerged when the boys were found was soon subdued by the tragic death of ex-Navy Seal diver, Saman Gunan, while he was delivering air tanks as part of rescue efforts.
Throughout this World Cup, an overwhelming sense of community has moulded countries together (including Ireland) to assist in the high risk mission of getting the boys out.
Praise be to God, Allah, Buddha, Elon Musk and any other divine creature with ears that Thailand’s 12 brave lions have all come home.