DAY 257: Possessions

November 4th, 2018 § 0 comments

One does keep accumulating them, thinking that an extra two books or two bookcases may come in handy. (I don’t mean just great-aunt Layla’a framed watercolours of Tripoli or uncle Hamid’s carpet-slippers.) And then, when one reaches that final shore, as so many have done on the bank of the Evros river which separates Greece from Turkey, one parts with them, and with one’s life, in a moment.

pavlos_takes_whatever_itmes_he_can_off_each_body_individually_bagging_and_cateloguing_each_one_copyThe possessions of the drowned, taken from their bodies on the shoot the Evros, are catalogued in the hope of identification.

We think again of boundaries, of so many kinds. In Greek myth, there is a ferryman to carry you over; in the life of many who seek for asylum, no ferryman appears. As ‘Al Jazeera’ reports, The land border between Greece and Turkey, a nearly 200km frontier mostly formed by the Evros, has seen increased traffic since the European Union and Turkey struck a deal to shut down the route into Europe via the Aegean sea. ‘The bodies are usually discovered half naked. They have been in the Evros, the river dividing Greece from Turkey, for weeks. And the currents or the fish have taken their clothes. Sometimes there are personal effects – a pair of glasses, a chain of beads, a bracelet – that can offer a clue to someone’s identity.But usually they remain unidentified, stored here at a hospital morgue in the northeast Greek town of Alexandroupolis – silent witnesses to the horror of a refugee’s journey. “It’s very difficult because we have women, we have little boys, girls, we have children,” Pavlos Pavlidis,Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 10.54.19 a forensic pathologist at Alexandroupolis’ general hospital,  told Al Jazeera. The UN said Turkish authorities at the land border with Greece intercepted almost 20,700 people between January and September this year, compared to 7,500 reported for the same period last year. According to the UN’s refugee agency, an estimated 4,300 people had arrived this year at the Evros Greek-Turkish land border by the end of October. More than 800 crossed using this route in October alone. And we could see the meticulous Pavlos Pavlidis as the chronicler of these lost lives, who at least piles up the possessions in the hope that he can somehow attach a name to a brooch or a sandal.

Because attempting to cross Evros can de deadly. ‘It was so dangerous, so cold,’ recalled Martin Jafari, an Afghan refugee who said that he lost three friends while attempting to cross the border. “They were three of my best friends,” he told Al Jazeera. “We were out in the open … We didn’t have any food or clothes.” Refugees are forced into the Evros river because of a double-barbed wire fence on the border, paid for by the EU to keep refugees out,

[Digression: Small animals, For most of my life,  I, like you probably, had thought that the smallest and simplest animal was an amoeba, and that was that. Oh dear, it’s never that simple; and. the problem of how you classify rather small shapeless water-borne creatures seems quite fraught: are they a phylum or a genus or what? And how many different kinds? Luckily, it’s not my problem; but the hot favourite seems to be something pleasingly called Chaos.Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 16.47.02Chaos chaos ingesting something (?Paramecium). I don’t know whether you’d meet many of them in the Evros and whether they cause the notorious amoebic dysentery.]

 But the barbed wire fence (to return to that) is, as so often, only part of the story. I strongly recommend you, if you have the time, to read the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbjtrary executions of migrants, which focuses on the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. It addresses killings by both State and non-State actors, and denounces a quasi-generalized regime of impunity, worsened by an absence of accurate data on the dead and missing. To get the whole thing, you’ll probably have as usual to do some fiddling with passwords (it will help to be an academic, or know one) The author is the sharp-sighted Agnes Callamard (see below),


Agnes Callamard

The report foregrounds the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. And you might like to the cast an eye on it. I quote a chunk, which once again calls attention   to the growing criminalisation of what should be a duty:

‘The present report focuses on the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. It addresses killings by both State and non-State actors, and denounces a quasi-generalized regime of impunity, worsened by an absence of accurate data on the dead and missing. The Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings calls urgently on States to address this human rights crisis by prioritizing the protection of the right to life in their migration and refugee policies.

The report presents evidence that suggests multiple failures on the part of States to respect and protect refugees’ and migrants’ right to life, such as unlawful killings, including through the excessive use of force and as a result of deterrence policies and practices which increase the risk of death. Other violations to the right to life result from policies of extraterritoriality amounting to aiding and assisting in the arbitrary deprivation of life, and from the failure to prevent preventable and foreseeable deaths, as well as the limited number of investigations into these unlawful deaths. The report also presents best practices in search and rescue operations and for the dignified treatment of the dead, but points out that States do not implement them as they should, and fail to resource them adequately.

The scale of casualties among refugees and migrants demands urgent attention at national, regional and international levels. The report presents recommendations for this purpose. The equal protection of all lives, regardless of migration status, is a central underpinning of the entire international human rights system: it must be upheld in the context of the movement of people and must form the foundation of all governmental and intergovernmental policies.In our modern world, millions are on the move globally, with thousands dying each year as they seek to escape war, persecution, climate degradation, and poverty. Responding in the name of deterrence, governments are exacerbating, not reducing, the dangers faced. Appalled by human suffering, people around the world are stepping up to offer rescue and support, including food, water, medical services, lodging and transportation. The result is that civic humanitarian services are reaching levels not seen since the aftermath of World War II.

Governments have reacted by harassing even prosecuting “spontaneous” or organized humanitarian acts.

At the direction of the Security Council, governments have instituted counterterrorism legislative frameworks that, given their stringency, potentially criminalize even life-saving medical aid or food relief, and in any case impose chilling effect on the provision of humanitarian aid for people desperately needing help.

Various States have also adopted laws or measures preventing or hindering organizations from providing life-saving services to girls, women and LGBTI persons, thus contributing to increased rates of otherwise preventable morbidity and mortality.This report asserts that saving lives should never be a crime. It argues that the failure to exempt humanitarian services from the overreach of punishing policies, active obstruction of the provision of life saving services, and/or criminalization of acts of solidarity and compassion constitute violations of the State’s obligation under the right to life. Any deaths that may be attributable to such measures amount to arbitrary deprivations of life which engages the responsibility of the State.’ Fighting talk! Will we see action to follow it up?

Digression: You’ve asked: ‘Is ‘Becks  Blue’ halal or haram? An number of my friends have become quite exercised on the status of the popular ‘non-alcoholic’ beer; turning to the ever reliable Google, I found, naturally, four different answers from different imams. (You’d think were only two, but in religious matters you’d be surprised.) I think that the best advice is to play it safe, whatever that means.

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