Formed in 2014 by civilian volunteers caught up in the depravity of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), commonly known as The White Helmets, worked to move vulnerable non-combatants from harm's way. They delivered essential services such as first aid and the delivery of humanitarian supplies to areas that foreign NGOs fear to tread. It's thought that since the SCD's inception, they've been responsible for saving well over 100,000 lives, with 204 White Helmet volunteers dying in the process. At most, those working the debris fields of what were once proud Syrian cities on behalf of the SCD were paid $150, per month. Aside from this stipend, it's largely thankless, incredibly dangerous work.
For their efforts, the White Helmets came under threat from the Syrian government and their influence-horny Russian allies. With much of the financial and logistical support that had been offered to them by the west drying up as the Syrian Civil War wound down, SCD volunteers were left with few safe places to hide, few resources and seemingly, few allies.
Then, something amazing happened.
As reported by the BBC, in July of 2018, the Israeli military yoinked 100 White Helmet volunteers and their families--a total of 422 people--out from under the noses of the Syrian military and their allies. The Kingdom of Jordan was cool with giving the White Helmets a place to hang, so long as it was on a short-term basis. Canada offered to grant 10 of the White Helmets and their families asylum. Read the rest
Photographs we're seeing online today, including one by Mark Lambie of the El Paso Times, below, capture the desperation of the unknown number of men, women, and children currently penned in, inside cages, under the Mexico-US international bridge, in El Paso, Texas. Read the rest
Hundreds of Nicaraguans who took to the streets over the last eight months to protest President Daniel Ortega's corrupt government have been forced into hiding and, in some cases, to flee the country for their own safety. It's the end result of the Nicaraguan government's crackdown against protesters who voiced their outrage over Ortega's plans to gut the nation's social security system.
From The New York Times:
...many people in this desperately poor Central American nation now live in a bleak new reality. They have exchanged their routine lives as lawyers, engineering majors, radio broadcasters and merchants for one of ever-changing safe houses, encrypted messaging apps and pseudonyms.
They are hiding from an increasingly authoritarian state that is methodically tracking down those who participated in the large-scale and often violent protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo.
“They are hunting us like deer,” said Roberto Carlos Membreño Briceño, 31, a former legal clerk for a Nicaraguan Supreme Court justice, who gave up his law license and fled this year after his bosses saw a photo of him at a protest. He now lives in hiding on a ranch in Costa Rica with 50 strangers, including a ballet dancer who goes by code name “The Eagle.”
Instead of listening to the concerned voices of his constituents, Ortega, paranoid, autocratic shitbird that he is, declared that the uprising had nothing to do with anything he was doing. Rather, the protesters were in the street, acting on behalf of "well-financed political parties" who wanted to toss him and his cronies out on their ass as part of a coup. Read the rest
The U.S. will deploy an additional 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, said White House officials today. The deployment will more than triple the military presence there, and is presumably a Trump administration response to the so-called “Migrant Caravan,” about which white supremacists in the United States are currently fixated. Read the rest
An update on the children of migrants who were forcibly separated from their family members by federal agents, at the orders of Donald Trump. Read the rest
A few days after skipping out on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola decided, ‘nah,’ cropping back up in a town of around 60,000 potential carriers called Mangina, located in Congo’s North Kivu province. Since the latest outbreak was identified, four people have died of the hemorrhagic fever. The World Health Organization is hoping that the strain of Ebola that’s shown up in North Kivu province is the same as the one that Congolese health workers and an international team of medical professionals were able to put down, this past July: they have a vaccine for that particular strain and it works fabulously. The WHO plans on giving the vaccine a go with this new outbreak—fingers crossed! Unfortunately, in addition to the possibility that the vaccine might not work for this Ebola outbreak, those tasked with stemming the spread of the disease are facing a threat that doesn’t involve contracting a virus: Working in an active war zone.
From The New York Times:
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But North Kivu Province, the volatile region in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the new outbreak is centered, creates security complications that health officials did not confront in the outbreak they just defeated in northwest Équateur Province, 1,550 miles away. The World Health Organization is worried about the safety of medical workers in North Kivu and their access to areas controlled by militants.
“This new cluster is occurring in an environment which is very different from where we were operating in the northwest,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director general of the health agency and the head of its emergency response unit.
Last week, Nicaraguan president and dictator-in-training Daniel Ortega had the gall to declare that the violence and protests that have plagued his nation since April had come to an end. His nation's doing just fine! At the time that this bullshit dribbled out of his cakehole, protests against government corruption, cronyism and the government’s slow role into fascism were still ongoing. To date, approximately 300 people have died as elements of Nicaragua’s police and paramilitaries loyal to Ortega have attempted to put a bloody end to the growing voice of dissent and disgust for his administration.
Not everyone in the South American country wants a piece of this action.
According to Al Jazeera, upwards of 23,000 Nicaraguan citizens have fled to neighboring Costa Rica, seeking refugee status, due to the escalating violence surrounding the demand that Ortega step down from power and his refusal to do so.
From Al Jazeera:
William Spindler, UNHCR spokesman, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday that an average of 200 asylum applications are being lodged every day in Costa Rica.
"Besides the 8,000 who have filed asylum claims, and the 15,000 who are waiting to do so, thousands more have arrived in Costa Rica but have not yet contacted authorities there," added Splinter.
Panama, Mexico and the United States also saw a rise in claims by Nicaraguans in the first half of this year, but the numbers in these countries are still in the low hundreds, according to the UNHCR.
Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which share a border, have bickered over land rights and environmental issues for years. Read the rest
Since 2013, the Syria Civil Defense, better known to the world as the White Helmets, have been putting themselves at risk in one of the most dangerous regions in the world. During the Syrian Civil War and throughout the campaign against ISIL in the war-torn country, the White Helmets could always be found working to save whoever they could in the wake of aerial bombardments, artillery barrages and secondary explosions. Their rescues, often made during pitched battles, were completed under great personal risk.
Of late, however, the White Helmets have been facing a new threat: The Syrian government. The Syrian government has taken back control of the majority of the areas that the White Helmets operated in – areas once held by anti-government factions. While the White Helmets recused anyone who needed their help, the government sees them as being associated with the rebels. That’s bad news for for the volunteers – bad enough that the United Nations and a number of member states worked together to get them and their families the hell out of the country.
From The BBC:
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Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight. The UK, one of the nations requesting Israel's help, hailed the operation and will assist with resettlement. The White Helmets describe themselves as a volunteer workforce that acts to save people in Syria's war zones.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and his Russian allies, say the White Helmets support the rebels and also have links to jihadist groups.
THE LOWDOWN: Here's an immigration lawyer's first-hand account of confronting former President Barack Obama on family detention centers. Trump's a monster, but failings of previous administrations paved the way for his abuses. Read the rest
This past weekend, a woefully overloaded rescue ship operated by SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières made its way across the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe, looking for a safe port in Italy. Many of the 629 migrants on board of the ship, all of which were fleeing the horrors of war in Syria and Libya and the exploitation that displaced individuals often endure in Africa.
Among the 629 passengers are 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 kids who made the crossing with family members and seven pregnant women. Some of the ship's passengers are said to be injured from beatings and torture endured in the home countries. By Sunday, there were only enough provisions to feed those on board for another 48 hours. Italy’s response to the vessel’s request to dock in the country?
Nah, fuck those guys.
According to the Globe and Mail, Italy’s newly elected populist government acted in a manner that may be familiar to those under the yoke of a populist government here in North America. In a xenophobic fervor, instead of rendering aid or shelter to a group of people who were in woeful need of it, they turned them away. Matteo Salvini, the governing party’s deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, gave the order to keep the boat-borne individuals from stepping foot on his country’s shores.
From the Globe & Mail:
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Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, and the Libyan civil war three years later, Italy has absorbed more than 600,000 undocumented or illegal migrants, most of whom arrived by sea from North Africa.
Meshpoint is a Croatian open source hardware company that turns out rugged, meshing, battery-powered wifi hotspots that get their backhaul from cellular networks; they're based on the widely used Open WRT free/open wifi routing software, and use open source hardware designs that are intended to stand up to punishing field conditions like those found in refugee camps.
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Sara Elizabeth Williams' long, beautifully written profile of the merchants who established illegal storefronts on the Champs-Élysées, a stretch of road in Jordan's Za’atari refugee camp -- home to 93,000 Syrian refugees -- is a lens on the crisis created by decades of western complicity in the brutal Assad regime, followed by a global proxy war fought on Syrian soil, with no compassion or regard by any of the belligerents for the civilian costs.
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James Bridle (previously) is the latest contributor to The Atlantic's excellent series on the future of cities (Bruce Sterling, Molly Sauter, Adam Greenfield); in a new piece, Greenfield discusses the phenomenon of "virtual citizenship," and how it affects cities that are either turned into dumping-grounds for inconvenient poor people, or rootless, tax-dodging one-percenters.
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Rojinessa labored through the night and gave birth to a baby boy around dawn. Her mother delivered the baby. No doctors were present. No midwives. No beeping machines. Rojinessa became a mother in a tent with a bare concrete floor, a plastic sheet roof, and no running water. She is a Rohingya refugee, living in Ukhia, Bangladesh, with more than 650,000 other refugees who have fled the grotesque and incomprehensible genocide ravaging her people in Burma.
Shoaib Ahmed is a Bangladeshi asylum seeker whom ICE has imprisoned in the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, a private prison run by CoreCivic (formerly the notorious Corrections Corporation of America, where he has been placed in solitary confinement -- a form of torture -- for refusing "voluntary" labor.
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The campaign to raise $500K for the UN High Commission on Refugees started with author/comedian Sara Benincasa daring Neil Gaiman to do a dramatic reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu; Gaiman responded that if she raised the half-mil, he'd not only read the Cheesecake Factory's (notoriously florid) menu, he'd follow up with a reading of Dr Seuss's Fox in Socks if the funds hit $1m (I hasten to point out that this activity involves some risk to Gaiman, given the Seuss estate's penchant for bullying acts of copyfraud). Read the rest