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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

More than 3,000 migrants died this year trying to cross by boat into Europe


By Ben Brumfield and Bharati Naik, CNN
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
Source: CNN
  • UN: 3,419 die in migrant boats on the Mediterranean Sea in 2014
  • 207,000 people made it to Europe by boat illegally, nearly three times the previous record
  • War in Syria, dictatorship and forced conscription in Eritrea biggest drivers
(CNN) -- They brave the risk of drowning, drifting endlessly or dying of thirst to make it illegally to a better life in Europe.
Migrants traveling, often on overfilled boats, usually make it. But last year, 3,419 didn't.
They perished in the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nations Refugee Agency said Wednesday.
Some went under, like the 500 killed, when their angry traffickers sank their boat on purpose in September, according to survivors. The men, women and children had refused to transfer to very small boat they felt sure would not hold them and wasn't seaworthy.
They asked to be taken back to their departure port in Egypt. Instead the traffickers rammed their boat and laughed while they watched it sink, the survivors said.
The seafaring dangers are little deterrent for those leaving abject misery, such as the intense bloodshed of wars, which is driving hordes into asylum.
More than 207,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean for Europe this year illegally -- almost three times the previous high of about 70,000 in 2011, the agency said. That's 60% of the 348,000 boat migrants worldwide this year.
Figures on such crossings is inexact, as many boats elude detection.
"Europe, facing conflicts to its south (Libya), east (Ukraine) and south-east (Syria/Iraq) is seeing the largest number of sea arrivals," the UNHCR said.
Nearly 50% of the sea arrivals are from the civil-war ravaged Syria and from Eritrea, where a dictator has ruled for more than 20 years, and where, Human Rights Watch says, young people are forcibly conscripted into the military, often for open-ended servitude akin to slavery.
The Italian government has led search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean -- called Mare Nostrum or "Our Sea" -- rescuing tens of thousands of migrants. Despite pleas from various aid agencies, it ended those operations in October.
But boat migrants come from many conflict regions.
The Horn of Africa region saw an estimated 82,680 people crossing mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia making their way to Yemen and other countries in the Middle East.
And in Asia, nearly 54,000 people have taken to the sea, the majority from Bangladesh and Myanmar crossing through the Bay of Bengal.
Last month, at least 24 people died after a boat carrying 43 illegal migrants and asylum seekers sank near Istanbul, Turkey. Nine of the passengers were carrying Afghan passports.
CNN's Khushbu Shah contributed to this repor


Monday, December 15, 2014

Policeman in Texas tasers 76-year-old man twice
Dashboard camera video shows Officer Nathanial Robinson tackling Pete Vasquez to the ground in an attempt to handcuff him.
Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:1AM GMT

A US police officer from Victoria, Texas, was placed on administrative leave on Friday while he is investigated for police brutality and tasering an elderly man after a traffic stop.
Video from a police car’s dashboard camera shows officer Nathanial Robinson, 23, tackled 76-year-old Pete Vasquez to the ground in an attempt to handcuff him and then used a stun gun on him twice.
The disturbing incident occurred on Thursday, when Vasquez, who works as a mechanic, was pulled over by Robinson while driving a dealer car back to the car dealership with an expired inspection sticker. 
Vasquez said that he explained that the car belonged to a car dealer, and that the special dealer’s plates made the car legally exempt from having an inspection.
“He just acted like a pit bull, and that was it,” Vasquez said. “For a while, I thought he was going to pull his gun and shoot me.”
“The police department is supposed to train their police officers to be more conscientious and use common sense. I don't think he had any.”
Larry Urich, a 62-year-old sales manager at the dealership, was one of several witnesses who saw the incident. “I told the officer, ‘What in the hell are you doing?’ This gentleman is 76 years old,” Urich said. “The cop told me to stand back, but I didn’t shut up. I told him he was a [expletive] Nazi Stormtrooper.”
The Victoria police chief has apologized to the victim and confirmed that the vehicle's registration was exempt. The officer could face charges including official oppression, injury to the elderly and aggravated assault.
The incident comes amid nationwide protests in the US against police brutality following the death of a number of unarmed black men by white police officers who were not indicted.

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British police forces detain three slave masters

Tuesday Dec 16, 201406:48 AM GMT
UN official: Warrin>

British police officers (file photo)
British police officers (file photo)
Tue Dec 16, 2014 2:9AM GMT
British police have arrested three suspected slave masters following a raid on a factory in northwestern England.
On Monday, police broke into the premises in the town of Rochdale in Greater Manchester county and detained the three men on suspicion of conspiracy to commit trafficking offences and complicity to perform forced or compulsory labor.
The police raid rescued 20 Eastern European immigrants working 80 hours a week on low wages.
"The men and women working in the factory have told us that they were subjected to physical and verbal assaults at the hands of their employers and forced to work more than 80 hours before ending up with around 25 pounds for their week's work," said detective inspector James Faulkner.
It is a “typical example” of “modern slavery” in Britain, Faulkner noted.
Monday’s raid was reported to be part of Operation Retriever, which is being conducted by British authorities against human trafficking in the UK.
In the first stage of the operation in November, 15 people were detained across Greater Manchester and five were charged for their role in a trafficking ring.
Up to 13,000 people across the UK were victims of modern slavery in 2013, four times more than previously estimated, according to data released by the UK Home Office last month.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Police: Indian Uber driver accused of rape is awaiting trial in other cases

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Jethro Mullen, CNN
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0820 GMT (1620 HKT)
Source: CNN

  • Shiv Kumar Yadav is facing charges dating back to 2003 in Uttar Pradesh, police say
  • They include rape, molestation and firearms charges
  • He is now in police custody accused of raping a woman in an Uber car in New Delhi
  • The case has prompted intense scrutiny of Web-based car services in India
New Delhi (CNN) -- The Indian Uber driver accused of raping a passenger in New Delhi is awaiting trial in at least four criminal cases in his home state, a police official said Wednesday.
The cases against Shiv Kumar Yadav in Uttar Pradesh date to 2003, said Superintendent Srikant Singh, a senior police official in the state.
Yadav is currently in police custody in New Delhi where he is accused of raping a 26-year-old woman who had requested a ride through the car service app at the weekend.
Police in New Delhi say Yadav's address and background weren't verified in his driver registration. The revelations from Uttar Pradesh police add to concerns about how he was allowed to operate as a driver for Uber.
Yadav was accused of rape last year and later released on bail, Singh said.
He was also arrested on charges of molestation in 2003, of carrying illegal firearms in 2006 and of disorderly and dangerous behavior in 2009, according to Singh.
In New Delhi, he spent seven months in jail in between 2011 and 2012 during a trial on charges of rape of which he was acquitted, said the city's deputy police commissioner, Madhur Verma.
The accusations of rape in the Uber car has provoked a sharp response from Indian authorities.
New Delhi says it has banned the car service, citing permit violations, and police say they have filed a case against it.
Uber has condemned the alleged rape and said it is cooperating with Indian law enforcement authorities. The company said that as of Tuesday, it hadn't been notified of the New Delhi ban and was continuing to operate in the city.
Uber wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday on the disclosures about Yadav's record in Uttar Pradesh.
CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh reported from New Delhi, and Jethro Mullen wrote from Hong Kong.

Beaten, raped, tortured and starved: The shocking fate of Eastern European sex trafficking victims revealed

  • As many as 25,000 Moldovans fall prey to trafficking gangs each year
  • Of those, 10% are thought to be children according to the IOM
  • Author Stela Brinzeanu met trafficking victims while researching new novel
  • Bessarabian Nights follows two friends as they hunt for a trafficked girl
Victoria avoids all eye contact. Her gaze alternates between boring into the ground and scouring the horizon out the window. Her right foot taps nervously on the wooden floor.
She is one of the 55 female trafficking victims helped each year at the crisis intervention centre run by the International Organisation for Migration and the Ministry of Labour in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
Her story is shocking. 'A childhood friend told me she worked in a boutique in Dubai and could help me get a similar job,' she explains. 'She put me in touch with a guy who arranged my trip to Odessa [in Ukraine] and onward from Kiev to Dubai.

Haunted: One of the women currently being helped by in the IMO's Chisinau anti-trafficking centre
Haunted: One of the women currently being helped by in the IMO's Chisinau anti-trafficking centre

'In Dubai I was met by a Russian speaking woman, Oxana, who took me to a flat with six other girls from Eastern Europe.
'Oxana told me I’d been sold and took my passport away. I refused to see clients and as a result, was denied food. My cries and pleas were met with blows and kicks.'
Appalling though it is, Victoria is by no means alone. She's just one of an estimated 800,000 women and children tricked and trafficked into a life of beatings, rape and torture every year.
In Moldova, the country that she - and I - once called home, human trafficking is a huge problem, with an estimated 25,000 Moldovans trafficked abroad in 2008 according to Moldova’s national Bureau of Statistics.
Men are taken to work on building sites and farms, while women like Victoria are mostly sold into the sex trade in Turkey, Russia, Cyprus, the UAE, and elsewhere.
Tragic: Victoria is just one of an estimated 800,000 women sold into sex slavery abroad each year
Tragic: Victoria is just one of an estimated 800,000 women sold into sex slavery abroad each year

Hell: Many of those taken abroad suffer extreme violence and are beaten and raped by their 'owners'
Hell: Many of those taken abroad suffer extreme violence and are beaten and raped by their 'owners'

Speaking out: Stela Brinzeanu's new novel Bessarabian Nights focuses on the problem of trafficking
Speaking out: Stela Brinzeanu's new novel Bessarabian Nights focuses on trafficking

Victims can be as young as 12-years-old, with the International Organisation for Migration estimating that 10 per cent of the Moldovans taken are children.
I met Victoria while researching my novel, Bessarabian Nights, which follows two friends as they attempt to save a third from the trafficking gangs still common in Eastern Europe.
Shockingly, many of the women I spoke to had been sold into prostitution by people they knew and told me that many of recruiters were women.
Some of the girls didn't even think of themselves as victims: Having previously been abused by family members, they considered violence to be normal.
One girl who certainly thought that way was Irina, a girl brutalised and left pregnant by her violent father before being trafficked to Turkey.
‘There is nothing extraordinary or unusual about my story. Or I don’t think so,' she told me. 'Like many other families in Moldova, ours was very poor – so poor we fed our dog dried corn.
'After my mother died of breast cancer and father went to prison for raping me, I was left alone and pregnant.
'My godmother offered to help with the abortion and arranged for me to go to Turkey. "The conditions are much better there and they’ll look after you," she told me. 
'At the airport in Istanbul I was met by two men who drove me to a property where there were three other girls, Moldovan and Ukrainian, and told me I was to serve their clients.
'I told them I was pregnant but the men raped me in the next room that same day.'
Frightening: Most of the women and children trafficked endure months if not years of torture before rescue
Frightening: Most of the women and children trafficked endure months if not years of torture before rescue

For rural girls like Irina, high unemployment, widespread domestic violence and rife alcoholism further exacerbate the problem and make them more vulnerable to human trafficking than their city dwelling counterparts.
Over half the victims I met were from the Moldovan countryside, where a patriarchal mentality and religious traditions still uphold discrimination against women.
The recruiters exploit the fact that these people are less knowledgeable about the process and risks of moving abroad for work, and as in Irina's case, tell them they'll be well treated when, in fact, the reality is quite different.
Although many do eventually escape their captors, the impact of being forced into slavery can have severe emotional consequences as Victoria makes plain.
'Locked up and under constant security, I saw no way out,' she continues. 'Weak from starvation and abuse, I agreed to seeing clients.
'There was no choice but work the streets and nightclubs every day, sometimes serving up to a dozen men or even more.
Risk: Those who live in rural areas are more at risk because of economic problems and poverty
Risk: Those who live in rural areas are more at risk because of economic problems and poverty

Stela's new novel, Bessarabian Nights, is out now and available from Amazon
Stela's new novel, Bessarabian Nights, is out now and available from Amazon

'My captors took all the money on the pretext I owed them for flights and accommodation. The security guy who drove me everywhere raped me every time I refused his advances, which was almost daily.
'My bruises and cuts were habitually covered with cheap make-up. After a few weeks I managed to use the phone of one of my clients and called a friend I knew in Dubai.
'She helped me run away and report my circumstances to a charity organisation there. I was promptly returned to Moldova.'
Others, such as Irina, find ways to adapt - even if that means overcoming repeatedly being raped when dealing with the aftermath of an abortion.
'I cried and pleaded them to spare me the ordeal [of being prostituted] but was told they had paid good money for me, which I had to return,' continues Irina.
'I was driven to various hotels and houses to see men for two weeks before I had the abortion. Days after, I was taken to see clients again.
'It was dreadful at the beginning and I was frightened. But the living conditions there were a lot better than at home and they gave us plenty of food too.
'I worked in Turkey for a year before we were arrested following a police raid and sent back to Moldova and Ukraine, penniless.'
Although for Irina and Victoria the nightmare is, for now at least, over, while poverty and unemployment in Moldova remain rampant, the problem is likely to continue.
Warning girls of the risks abroad is not enough. Viable alternatives such as skills training, employment opportunities and investment in human potential, needs to be more widely available.
Otherwise, regardless of the potential risks, men, women and children will continue to be trafficked out of Moldova. Ignorance, as much as desperation, is what sends them abroad.
Stela Brinzeanu is the author of Bessarabian Nights (£8.99, Lightning Source), available now at Amazon. For more on Stela and her work, see stelabrinzeanu.com