Oscar Pistorius is now a convicted murderer. South Africa’s supreme court upgraded his original conviction of culpable homicide to murder. This technical difference between “murder” and “manslaughter” is also the difference between a life sentence in prison, or five years under “house arrest” in a private mansion.
Migrant smuggling – or people smuggling – means helping someone to enter a country without authorisation. A migrant smuggler will generally help people to get around border controls or get them false or fake travel or identity documents.
Migrant smugglers have been in the news a lot in the last months. Many say they are the guys we need to deal with if we want to solve Europe’s ongoing migrant and refugee crisis. Earlier in the year there was even talk of bombing their boats to get rid of them.
We found 4 things the media is getting totally wrong about migrant smugglers.
European states are sending warships to confront people smugglers in the Mediterranean.
Wrong move! All the evidence tells us that increased border controls only encourage smugglers and make people more dependent on them.
As leading migration professor Hein de Haas explains, smuggling people in boats across the Mediterranean only began when Spain and Italy introduced visas and blocked free entry in the early 1990s. This started out as a small-scale operation run by local fishermen. However, the more border controls Spain introduced, the more professionalised and profitable the smuggling became. The hit-back against migrant smugglers that has been ongoing throughout the 2000s only encouraged them to try out different routes.
Border controls do not put smugglers off. The opposite is true: Migrant smugglers exist because border controls exist.
Border controls create market demand for smugglers who provide a service to people escaping conflict, persecution and economic stagnation.
We often read news stories about abusive people smugglers who charge vulnerable people extortionate amounts of money, only to abandon them in death-trap boats in the middle of the Mediterranean.
This stereotype is true of some but not all migrant smugglers. People smugglers provide a professional service. Just as with any other service, they need to keep up a good reputation as reliable, trustworthy and cheap. Some smugglers, like Michael who works between Sudan and Libya, have to conduct their business alongside other smugglers who give their trade a bad name: “They sell our people like beasts. Eritreans are my people, my family. I take responsibility for them.”
Also just like the full-time providers of any other professional service, people smugglers need to make money to keep their business going.
Not all smugglers turn a profit, let alone a massive one. Some have been known to operate on a pay-what-you-can basis – providing free service for those who cannot pay.
Refugee turned anthropologist Shahram Khosravi of Stockholm University interviewed one of the best-known human smugglers among Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds – Amir Heidari – in prison in Sweden. He tells how his philosophy was to “take more from one who had money and send one who had no money for free.”
However – since increased border controls have made smuggling people a much riskier business – prices have been pushed up and up in the last decades.
Some would describe the work of people smugglers as more than simply a service. In the words of one Eritrean refugee speaking to Al Jazeera: “Smugglers could be compared to those individuals who helped black people during slavery moving from the South to the North in the US and today are considered heroes. Maybe one day smugglers will be considered heroes too because they helped people find freedom.”
Some people smugglers are undoubtedly exploiting the market that has been created by restrictive border controls. What is really important is that not all smugglers make a significant profit. The reason why this is so important is that treating all smugglers like criminals makes things a hell of a lot worse.
Accepting payment to smuggle someone across a state border without authorisation is a criminal offence across most European countries, punishable with imprisonment or deportation.
This means that in official terms all smugglers are criminals, because smuggling is against the law.
However, not all smugglers fit the stereotype of reckless gangsters who don’t mind putting people in danger.
Much more worryingly, it is treating smugglers as criminals and threatening them with arrest which encourages them to take more risks and put more people in danger.
It is often thought that making people smuggling a crime is what will keep people safe from exploitation. In reality, making smuggling a crime is often what pushes smugglers towards criminal gangs and encourages them to exploit people.
As migration researcher Mollie Gerver explains for London School of Economics, the fear of arrest means smugglers require extensive intelligence information to evade border officials, which they can only get by teaming up with those involved in arms trading and trafficking sex workers.
This means the trade is being taken over by professional criminal gangs, pushing out more amateur smugglers who have closer personal ties to refugee communities and so are less likely to demand large profit margins.
The fear of arrest also encourages smugglers to commit terrible acts of violence against the people they are transporting. As Gerver writes: ” In June, smugglers wished to avoid reaching an EU port to prevent being arrested, so they threw pregnant women and children overboard and then turned their ship back to sea. These were repugnant actions, but they were also a response to legal incentives: they threw individuals overboard precisely to avoid imprisonment.”
Let’s be clear; some migrant smugglers do commit awful acts of negligence and violence. However, treating them as if they are all alike only gives them more incentive to operate underground and take risks. Anything to avoid being caught.
Believing in this myth, as many do, has grave consequences. Attempts to crack down on people smuggling will likely lead to more deaths. This is because criminalising smuggling and closing off established routes will only encourage smugglers to seek out other, often much more dangerous, routes.
Experience has shown us that no disincentive is great enough to stop people trying to leave if they want to leave – and Europe’s current strategy of targeting people smugglers only contributes to migrant deaths.
This graphic from Research Professor Jørgen Carling says it all.
History repeats itself right after the migrant deaths in Austria: pic.twitter.com/J8R1Oa7naw
— Jørgen Carling (@jorgencarling) August 27, 2015
Migrant Smugglers Explained: Sure, smugglers are part of the process which leads to people drowning in the Mediterranean. However, they are operating within a market that has been created by border restrictions, some of the people they help would call them ‘heroes’ and ‘freedom facilitators’ and yet they are increasingly encouraged to take risks in order to avoid arrest.
Journalist and historian James Pearce explores some of the myths surrounding Russia. Is it true that Russians don’t like Westerners? If not, where does this idea come from?
Russia was once a country under the banner of Communism.
Communism is a political system where (in theory at least) all means of production are owned by the community rather than by individuals.
Russia was known to the world as ‘the Soviet Union’ or ‘USSR’ (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The revolution of October 1917 created a new kind of system which strived to create a communist state (by implementing the ideas of philosopher Karl Marx) in Russia. Before this point Russia was ruled for centuries as an autocracy by a ruling class called the Tsars.
The West (e.g. America, Britain and the rest of Europe) had adopted a system called Capitalism. This means trade, industry and the means of production are mostly privately owned and operated for profit.
Because of these two different political ideas, Russia’s relationship with Western countries became strained. The West saw the Soviet Union as the true enemy to Western capitalism and civilisation.
As well as this initial reaction to the appearance of the Soviet Union, the post WWII world witnessed a nuclear arms race between America and Russia as a way of showing ideological superiority. The consequence of this was the staunch anti-Soviet rhetoric on one side in the West, and the anti-American policy complemented by strict censorship in the Soviet Union.
However, in Soviet times, the citizens would turn off the sound when images of America were shown on television. Ordinary people knew little about America and wanted the story beyond the anti-American propaganda of the Soviet government. Particularly in the 1980s when the incumbent leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, began to allow more freedoms in the media with his policy of glasnost (openness).
Today, this situation has changed dramatically. A recent survey by Levada found that around 70% of Russians have a negative opinion of Americans. Many will recall a laser image on the U.S Embassy of president, Barack Obama, eating a banana. Such actions come about as a result of the bad press abroad, particularly in the U.S. With the continued negativity throughout the media is it any wonder? This is not to defend these actions, but this combined with the geopolitical tone towards Russia has sparked a new feeling of anti-Westernism in Russia.
There is no Soviet Union anymore, but Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis has witnessed the return of negative stories about Russia in the Western press. However, the Russian press also produces negative stories about the West and these two prejudices play off one another.
It’s an easy task to find headlines which adhere to the anti-Russian style, and doing so is also essential. As well as slamming Russia’s democratic record, the Western press has largely been focussing on Russia’s military capability, especially since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
For example, there was a copy of Time magazine which depicted Russian President Putin and the remains of flight MH17 in his shadow. MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, and there was speculation that Russia was involved. This has not been proved. That didn’t stop The Sun newspaper referring to downing of flight MH17 as ‘Putin’s Missile’ on its front page.
Obscene titles such as ‘Putin has Asperger’s’ or ‘Russians need to suffer to survive’ provide no real information about the situation, but do reveal the growing obsession with condemning Russia.
It is the belief of some, such as former CNN producer Danny Schechter, that the majority of Americans ‘completely trust’ their news channels. He told Russia Today “they don’t speak Russian and there is no background or context. As a result, they are willing to believe the worst”.
Moscow has repeatedly denied claims of Russian troops being present in Ukraine and recently started developing new nuclear missiles and tanks.
According to Test Tube News, Russia has around 8,500 nuclear warheads, of which 1,800 are operational, and around 845,000 active troops. These missiles are only a deterrent, meaning any launch would result in the same amount of destruction in return. The troop size is actually one of their stronger points. Military funding in 2015 is expected to be at around $81 billion compared to the U.S’s $831 billion. Much of Russia’s army is also ill equipped with modern technology, yet they operate more tanks than the U.S.
President Obama has described Russia as only a ‘regional power’, something which still plays into the hands of the press. In an article for Russia! magazine, Mark Galeotti wrote that Russia’s military is ‘good enough to chew through Ukraine and Georgia, but not for more advanced purposes’.
This was enough justification for the West to send extra troops to the Russian border in Estonia and Latvia (also Poland). Stories about Crimea and Russian ‘volunteers’ fighting in Eastern Ukraine create the impression of an imminent Russian invasion.
In another example, the visit of former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras to Moscow caused panic. An article by Timothy Heritage for Reuters highlighted how realistic it would be for Greece to link up with Russia. Ties of culture and religion keep them closely acquainted and sympathisers to each other’s situation.
For months after the visit the press talked of Greece leaving the Eurozone and becoming a prospective member of BRICS (the countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, all deemed to be at a similar stage of new economic development). If this happened it could open a space for Russian business and military bases on the European continent.
By the press focusing on a fear of what Russia might do as opposed to why such a move may have suited Greece, it in turn showed Russia as a real threat to the national security of Western nations.
Regardless of Russia’s military capability, the belief of a dangerous Eastern neighbour exists. There is a clear anxiety shown in reports of Russian planes entering NATO member airspace or submarines just off shore. A visitor to my university, Chuck Snodgrass who worked in the U.S military and closely with the CIA, told us of the ‘Pearl Harbour Syndrome’ America has. The Western press echoes the American fears of being caught out again with their planes on the ground like in 1941.
This paranoia coupled with Russian planes entering UK airspace and their large nuclear arsenal creates a very tense situation with the potential to worsen. The nuclear of Russia arsenal leads the West in to thinking a war would be disastrous. This is an area where they cannot compete.
On my first visit to Russia in 2013, I stayed with friends in their apartment in Southwest Moscow. As is the ‘done thing’ here, we started drinking in the kitchen and discussing politics. When America came up in conversation, my friend Svetlana said something I had never considered, yet perpetually do now. Specifically discussing Russia’s gay propaganda laws, she exclaimed:
“How can America lecture us on what to do and how to live, then justify going to war with everybody?!”
This viewpoint is similar to that of Russian film maker, Andron Konchalovskiy. Whilst discussing Russo-Western relations with Russia’s most famous journalist he said:
“It’s too bad we’re not blue, green or purple, because if we were, then the world would treat us differently […] The West expects us to act like they act. They go after us all the time. Do you know why? It’s because we look like them. If we looked different they’d get off our backs. Take the Chinese. Does the west ever go after them for not being democratic, for not living up to Western standards? No. And why not? Because the Chinese look different. I tell you, the problem is that we look like westerners, but in fact we’re not, we’re different”.
The feeling in Russia, by at large, is one of mistreatment. The population feel that their situation is not entirely understood, especially concerning Ukraine, a crisis with local roots. Despite Russia not being considered a part of the ‘civilised world since the time of the Mongol occupation, there is still a huge expectation among Western nations for Russia to play along. They look like westerners, but they are not. When Communism fell, the expectation was that Russia would change overnight and jump on the free market economics band wagon; it did not.
It is also possible that Russia does not understand America’s situation since both have little in common as nations; their histories have been completely different.
With regards to the UK, the reaction is mixed. 62% of Russians have a negative attitude towards to EU, although this merely scratches the surface. Since the Iraq War, many Russians see the Brits as the flag carrier of U.S foreign policy, which may explain the claim that the UK is becoming a ‘diplomatic irrelevance’.
The editor of The Moscow Times (Moscow’s English language newspaper), Nabi Abdullaev, wrote in The Guardian that the West’s bias ‘robs it of its moral authority’:
“Most western media cover the crisis in Ukraine mainly by concentrating on the Russian President’s cynicism and imperial ambitions. There is excellent field reporting from Ukraine in the western media, but they make only a modest part of the general message”
He also went on to say that covering key issues like the U.S’s intentions with Ukraine, Ukraine’s future government and Putin’s paranoia regarding NATO are rarely, if at all covered. For instance, most Crimeans welcomed their reincorporation to Russia, but the West focused on how illegal it was.
Indeed, the NATO paranoia is evident from the president to the people; to be portrayed as a threat and then encircled (and sanctioned) is something Russians view as unacceptable. Not least because Gorbachev was promised NATO would stay put after Germany’s reunification. Now NATO sits on Russia’s border. Having a president who stands up to the West and asserts Russia’s authority is the anecdote.
Unlike Americans however, Russians do not appear to be fearful of a military conflict. Levada’s report this August showed Russians fear poverty more than a new war. Moreover, it revealed greater numbers of people feel stability inside the country compared with 2013.
Russia will always be a country which provokes a wide spectrum of views. Evidence usually makes people change their minds, although the line between facts and fiction appears to be blurred. Both sides claim a different truth with a lot of it left unsaid at either end. Without question, the West routinely downplays the Russian side of the story, but 90% of Russians receive their news from state run channels, and therefore also receive biased information.
After the Soviet Union became the new Russian Federation. Russia will not become a new, different kind of country until those who were born in the Russian Federation come to power and start controlling things. However, closing itself off to the West will also not improve the situation at home.
The UK remembers those who died during the Blitz and the Battle of Britain, both major events during World War II. Yet, should we do more to remember those killed from other countries?
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign ran from July 1940 – October 1940.
By summer of 1940 Germany had pushed British troops out of France. The Germans were preparing to invade Britain. There was just the small matter of taking out Britain’s defences.
First the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) attempted to destroy British shipping centres. Then they targeted airfields used by the British Royal Air Force (RAF). German bomber aircraft were protected by smaller fighter planes.
Things did not look good for the British. At the beginning of the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe could call upon 2,600 aircraft, whereas the RAF only deployed 640 planes. Not good odds.
Clear communication, good organisation and newly designed planes gave Britain an advantage.
The speed and maneuverability of a British aircraft called the Spitfire made it superior to German fighter planes. Throughout the Battle of Britain more planes would be constructed and by the end the RAF outnumbered the German force. Tally ho, chaps!
By the end of the Battle of Britain, over 2,000 German airmen were killed, compared to 544 Brits.
Speaking of the Battle of Britain then prime minister Winston Churchill said “never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Germany had failed to achieve air superiority and German leader Adolf Hitler’s planned invasion of Britain was postponed. However, Britain’s troubles were just beginning…
The Blitz was an eight month German bombing campaign against major British cities. It lasted from September 1940 to May 1941. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war” in German.
During the Battle of Britain Adolf Hitler had given strict instructions that central London was not to be targeted by bombers. However, on August 24th 1940 German aircraft drifted from their intended military target on the outskirts of the city. Their bombs hit central London. Even if this was accidental, the British quickly responded by bombing the German capital Berlin in retaliation.
Did the British bombing of Berlin provoke the Blitz, or would it have happened anyway? The damage to Berlin was slight, but Adolf Hitler stated “when the British Air Force … increase their attacks on our cities, then we will raze their cities to the ground.”
Frustrated by the attacks on Berlin and a failure to destroy the RAF, the Germans started targeting urban areas as well as military targets. On 7th September 1940 nearly 1,000 German planes targeted London in a daytime raid lasting nine hours.
The Blitz had begun.
This continued bombing of civilians in urban areas was a new type of warfare. London was bombed for 57 nights in a row. Other cities targeted included Coventry, Manchester and Birmingham.
As well as explosives, the German bombers dropped “firebombs”. These were especially dangerous, spreading fire quickly from building to building.
An attack on Coventry on 14 November 1940 left 75% of buildings destroyed.
For protection millions of children, mothers and hospital patients were moved out of cities to the safety of the countryside. For those in the cities a strict “blackout” policy was quickly enforced.
Windows and doors had to be covered with special material. Car headlights also had to be partly covered, reducing the amount of light exposed. This prevented the light providing German bombers with a target during the night.
In 1941, the number of attacks by the Luftwaffe decreased as Germany turned its focus to Russia. Britain had managed to survive the Blitz, but at a cost. Over the eight months around 43,000 British civilians were killed.
It’s natural that each country focuses on the deaths of its own citizens. But should we do more to educate ourselves on the losses sustained by other countries, especially if they were part of the same war?
The loss of British civilian life during the Blitz is undeniably tragic. Between 380 and 554 people died in the Coventry bombing, remembered as one of the worst attacks during the Blitz. Total casualties in London across the whole eight month period are estimated at around 28,556 people.
However bombings by Allied forces against Germany killed many more civilians.
British historian Professor Richard Overy mentions “the myth in Britain has been that we bombed military targets and Germans bombed civilian populations, but it is almost exactly the reverse”.
Take the British attack on the German city of Hamburg in 1943. Around 42,600 Germans were killed in just one week.
To put that into context, that’s almost the same as the total number of British civilians killed during the entirety of the Blitz. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Similarly, around 25,000 people were killed in two days when the British bombed the city of Dresden.
10,000 people in the city of Kassal were killed in one night on October 22 1943.
In total it’s estimated 600,000 German civilians lost their lives as a result of bombings by allied forces.
German historian Jörg Friedrich believes that the British bombings of towns during the end of World War II should be considered war crimes.
The controversial historian argues that these bombings served no military purpose as Germany was nearing surrender. Speaking to the Guardian Friedrich said “the bombing [of Kassal] left an entire generation traumatised. But it was never discussed.”
Speaking about the Blitz Winston Churchill called the bombings on the UK “cruel, wanton, indiscriminate”.
Can the same be said about Britain’s bombing of Germany later in the war?
Historian AC Grayling notes that among the bombs dropped on Germany “were time-delay devices, set to explode at intervals in the hours and days after a raid to disrupt ambulance, firefighting and rescue services.”
It is quite right that we commemorate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives during World War II. Yet this doesn’t mean we should forget those killed in other countries, and recognise our own actions in the conflict.
Did the British bombing of Berlin provoke the bombings known as the Blitz? Were the later bombings of German towns justified?
Note on accuracy; we do our utmost to ensure our articles are accurate. This is difficult in this instance when various dates and numbers of those killed differ from source to source. Where we have quoted numbers we have linked to the relevant pages. If you wish to report any errors then please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Journalists add “-gate” to the name of a scandal. It’s a quick nickname which allows the audience to know what’s being discussed, without having to go through all the details.
Why the word “gate”? It all links back to the “Watergate” Scandal in the 1970s.
In 1972, a break-in occurred at the offices of a Democratic party, at the Watergate complex. The burglars were trying to bug the offices of the party running against the President.
Then President of the USA, Richard Nixon (a Republican; against the Democrats) made a speech, saying he knew nothing about the burglary. He was re-elected, winning by a landslide.
Two journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, uncovered the fact that Nixon had lied to the people of America. He had known about the burglary and tried to cover it up. His team was also responsible for other illegal activities whilst attempting to get Nixon re-elected. After two years Nixon eventually resigned; the first President in history to do so.
This became known as the “Watergate” scandal. A New York Times columnist then started adding “-gate” to other famous scandals, and the phrase stuck.
1992. A transcript of a sexually explicit phone call between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles was released. The phone call was made back in 1989, when Prince Charles was still married to Princess Diana. One has been very naughty indeed.
2008. Comedian Russell Brand and presenter Jonathan Ross left obscene messages on the answer phone of 83-year-old actor Andrew Sachs. Not only that, but they did this whilst on Brand’s Radio 2 show. In the messages Brand claims to have slept with Sachs’ granddaughter. Did no-body tell him kiss-and-tell is not cool?
Both Brand and the head of Radio 2 resigned from the BBC. The BBC was also fined £150,000 by Watchdog organisation Ofcom. That’s one expensive voicemail.
2012. Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell rowed with police officers outside of Downing Street in London. The Sun ran a story claiming Mitchell had called them “plebs”. Mitchell denied saying this, but the police report said differently. Mitchell eventually resigned. Case closed.
Only it wasn’t. New CCTV footage made people question the police’s version of events. Several details didn’t add up and people wondered if Mitchell had been stitched up by the police. Several officers were eventually fired for misconduct and for giving details to the press. Andrew Mitchell then sued The Sun and the Police officer for libel. Big mistake; the judge concluded that he had used the word “pleb” and Mitchell had to payout £80,000. Ouch.
Case… confused. By this point the word “plebgate” had gone viral.
We live in a world run by technology so it’s only right that the next big scandal should be “Emailgate”.
Hillary Clinton got into trouble earlier this year when it came out that she used a personal email address during her time as Secretary of State. She should have used an official State Department email address. Silly Hillary.
Why is this important? Well, you might not have noticed, but Hillary is running for US President next year and people didn’t like that fact that all her messages from her previous time in office were unavailable. She’s now been ordered to release emails from her personal account.
In the UK, it’s just been reported that emails from Downing Street are automatically deleted. The email system which deletes messages after three months was installed just before the Freedom of Information Act was made law. This act meant that public service workers would have to surrender their email if a Freedom of Information Request was made. Suspicious, no?
The system has been blamed for causing chaos at Number 10. It could also mean incriminating evidence is being deleted; could this be the next emailgate scandal?
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