“Families were blown up” — scenes from a Saudi-led bombing in Yemen [The Intercept - 23/3/16]:
... At noon, when the first explosion took place, I nearly passed out, falling on the ground. The other explosion followed right after the first one. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself jumping to my feet and running ahead. I stopped when I got to the opposite side of the market, only to see bodies scattered all over the place.
There were two big craters where the bombs hit — nearly full of ripped and charred bodies, and blood was everywhere. Survivors were in a frenzy; rescuers began to pile up the bodies, while the wounded were rushed to hospitals.
Thank God, I survived unscathed. None of my family members were there at the time. But other families were blown up: Five brothers, who used to help khat sellers to make a living, were all killed in the strikes.
When their old father, Hassan Kashoor, came to identify the bodies of his five sons, four of them could hardly be identified, while the other went unidentified.
There were too many limbs and other parts of the bodies of those who were killed, so that the families could barely identify their dead. ...
US strikes al Qaeda training camp in Yemen, killing dozens [Reuters – 22/3/16]
An American service member and his family were caught up in the tragic attacks in Brussels today, U.S. European Command officials said. Officials cannot release their status. ... [US Department of Defense - 22/3/16]
Bombs continue raining down upon Iraq and Syria
US Department of Defense [22/3/16]:
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Strikes in Syria
Attack and fighter aircraft conducted two strikes in Syria:
-- Near Raqqah, a strike struck an ISIL weapons storage facility.
-- Near Mara, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
Strikes in Iraq
Fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 13 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck two ISIL staging facilities.
-- Near Habbaniyah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
-- Near Hit, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.
-- Near Kisik, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL assembly areas and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.
-- Near Mosul, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL tunnel and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.
-- Near Qayyarah, two strikes destroyed ISIL engineering equipment and damaged an ISIL used bridge section.
-- Near Sinjar, a strike suppressed an ISIL rocket position.
Turkey's military carried out air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq and killed 26 militants in southeast Turkey, where violence has flared since a ceasefire broke down last July, the armed forces said on Wednesday. ... [Reuters - 23/3/16]
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Moscow [TASS - 23/3/16]
Syrian government forces regain control of Palmyra's historic area [Sputnik News - 23/3/16]
Syrian refugees rescue German neo-Nazi politician from car crash [The Local - 22/3/16]
@MSF_Sea [22/3/16]: ... @MSF ceases work in #Moria camp #Lesvos after EU-Turkey deal turns reception centres into expulsion centres
@MSF_Sea [22/3/16]: Our work at our transit centre at #Mantamados as well as our sea rescue activities in north #Lesvos will continue
EU Migration Crisis Update [Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) - 21/3/16]:
... The only way to save life and alleviate the suffering of these people is to provide them with a safe passage through:
• The swift provision of safe and legal channels for people seeking asylum, in particular allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum at external land borders, including the Evros land border between Turkey and Greece. This also includes making wider use of legal entry schemes, such as for example family reunification, humanitarian visas, simplified visa requirements, resettlement and relocation.
• The creation of legal migration pathways to decrease the demand for irregular migration and smuggling networks.
• The creation of an ambitious search and rescue mechanism to save lives at sea. This operation should proactively search for boats in distress as close to departure points as possible and should be accompanied by pre-identified disembarkation points where humane disembarkation procedures, including adequate reception conditions, medical care and vulnerability assessments, are in place.
• Investing in reception according to EU standards instead of deterrence measures only. Europe must move away from a fortress approach to a reception approach designed to address the needs and specific vulnerabilities of people arriving at its borders, in particular their medical and mental health needs.
• In the absence of a functioning common European asylum system, investing more ambitiously in intra-EU relocation schemes and the creation of safe passage through the EU.
• Putting an end to acts of violence and abuse from state authorities.
Thousands in Okinawa protest alleged rape by US sailor [Japan Times - 22/3/16]
Seen at Monash Clayton! #LetThemStay
Image: @TimothyKariotis [23/3/16]
Indonesian Foreign Minsister urges cooperation to expedite processing of asylum seekers and refugees [ANTARA - 23/3/16]:
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and her Australian counterpart Julie Bishop officially opened the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, here, Wednesday.
Retno Marsudi in her opening remarks emphasized that the Bali Process must be able to deal with emergency situations, strengthen its law enforcement mechanisms, answer humanitarian question, and contribute in addressing the root causes to achieve durable solutions to irregular migration.
She recalled that in May 2015, the Bali Process was not able to address sudden movements of irregular migration in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand were impacted by the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
"This must not happen again. Indonesia believes, in this case, humanitarian aspect must prevail. It was for this reason that Indonesia went the extra mile in accepting irregular migrants last year. But the task at hand is much bigger than one country can handle by itself. Therefore, we need to establish a special mechanism that would allow us to address this collectively," the minister stated.
To continue the efforts of strengthening the law enforcement of the Bali Process, she suggested the enhancement of intelligence cooperation, joint and coordinated operations, cooperation between border-control and prosecuting authorities, as well as maritime security cooperation.
She also urged cooperation to expedite the processing of asylum seekers and refugees.
Principle of burden sharing between origin, transit, and destination countries must be put into concrete actions, she noted.
"The role of relevant international organizations, such as UNHCR and IOM and civil society must also be included in the process," she said.
The reduction of poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation is also needed to address the root of causes, she noted.
"On behalf of the co-chairmanship, I thank all delegations for the commitment to addressing the problems of people smuggling and human trafficking. With such a commitment, our cooperation has become stronger in facing challenges in the future," Minister Retno Marsudi remarked.
The Bali Process Conference was attended by 45 member countries, 17 observer countries, and several UN bodies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Rights groups demand end to indefinite detention of 1,000s of Rohingya refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia [Bangkok Post - 12/3/16]
... Rohingya refugees in Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia told BROUK and Fortify Rights that police routinely used the threat of arrest to extort money and property from them, particularly if they were unable to produce proper documentation or a card demonstrating they were a registered asylum seeker with the UNHCR.
Changes in the UNHCR's registration practices in Malaysia have considerably narrowed access to asylum procedures for Rohingya refugees, the [Everywhere Is Trouble] report said, leaving many without any documents and at risk of serious security abuses, including the possibility of indefinite detention.
Rohingya refugees in Malaysia said the lack of access to UNHCR registration was the single most important issue they faced, followed by a lack of access to affordable healthcare and livelihoods.
"We hoped the international attention on the boat crisis last year would have resulted in durable solutions and greater protections for Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia, but that's not what we've found," said Tun Khin.
"ASEAN can and should do better. ... [The Nation - 12/3/16]
"Everywhere is Trouble" An update on the situation of Rohingya refugees in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia [March 2016]:
... BROUK [Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK] and Fortify Rights note with concern the disappearance of hundreds of Rohingya refugees from the camps in Aceh.
When Fortify Rights first visited Rohingya refugees in Aceh less than two weeks after fishers rescued them from boats abandoned by human traffickers in May 2015, more than 1,000 Rohingya men, women and children were living in several makeshift camps.
BROUK and Fortify Rights noted that there are now only 300 Rohingya refugees in the camps in Aceh. ...
Bangladeshi and Rohingya refugees sheltering in Aceh progressively deported by the IOM [TRIBUNnews.com - 27/9/15]
Some 100 refugees from Bangladesh being accommodated at Blang Mangat immigration office in Lhokseumawe city, Aceh province, have been repatriated, according to local immigration spokesman Albert Djalius.
"We hope that all the Bangladeshi refugees can be repatriated in mid-August 2015," Djalius stated here on Wednesday.
He remarked that some 100 refugees who were stranded in Aceh in early May, this year, had complete immigration documents, and therefore, they were flown back to their country of origin from Kuala Namu Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, on Tuesday.
However, he noted that 71 other refugees are still being accommodated in shelters, awaiting a clear demographic data from the Embassy of Bangladesh to Indonesia in Jakarta.
According to Djalius, the repatriation was managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has been making all the necessary arrangements for providing accommodations.
BALI PROCESS REINVIGORATED, SEEKS ANSWERS TO ROHINGYA CRISIS [17/4/09]:
... We also told the Australian delegation that since the conference did not formally discuss the Rohingyas - originally slated to be the key point of the conference - that the AHG [Ad Hoc Group] mechanism should be pursued quickly to address this pressing issue.
Bringing Burma to the table was a major accomplishment, we acknowledged; however, we cannot wait for Burma to change its policy before discussing the Rohingya crisis. This can be discussed without Burma.
Foreign Minister Steven Smith later approached us privately to assure us that Australia would press for the AHG mechanism to "be invoked soon to deal with the Rohingyas."
Australia announced at the conference its contribution of AD300,000 to care for the Rohingyas in Aceh. IOM said the Dutch are promising a similar donation, perhaps conditional upon a U.S. donation. ...
... The asylum seekers remain in limbo in Indonesia. Kandiha Kayuran and his wife, who gave birth in December, are still in immigration detention in Kupang.
He told Fairfax Media they had no idea what the future held.
"No one cares, New Zealand is not listening, and Australia too, even after the Amnesty report came out. Please help us."
Jail for boat crew paid by Australian official to turn back [Sydney Morning Herald - 17/1/16]
Canberra Times [17/6/15]:
... The Kanak was shifting on the reef, and he was worried they would be cast adrift with no food or fuel.
Most of the 65 asylum seekers from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka [52 are registered as refugees] were already swimming ashore, but Mr Kayuran had stayed on board with his pregnant wife V. Nadhiya, and a handful of other women and young children.
The women were crying with fear. They tried to call for help but couldn't go outside because the ship was tilting sideways.
The Navy warship HMAS Wollongong and an Australian customs trip had transferred the asylum seekers onto two small boats, which they say was woefully inadequate.
"All we had was a small chocolate and water," Mr Kayuran said.
"It was not enough. If we had been stranded on an uninhabited island we would have died."
There were also no toilets: Ms Nadhiya, three months pregnant, had to use a box while Mr Kayuran covered her with a bed sheet.
The fuel on one boat, the Jasmine, had run out and almost 70 people had been forced to cram into the Kanak. Then it hit a reef.
When the villagers came to their rescue, Mr Kayuran discovered that far from being cannibals they were incredibly kind.
"They eat chicken and pigs," he says.
The people of Landu are mostly subsistence fishers and seaweed farmers, whose livelihoods were severely impacted by the Montara oil spill six years ago, which killed fish and turned seaweed yellow.
Despite their poverty they were incredibly generous, cooking and providing clothes for the asylum seekers.
Mr Kayaran, is now being processed at the immigration hostel, Inaboi, in Kupang. He has already eked out an existence in Malaysia for nine years, working illegally part time when possible.
"If I have to spend another 10 years here, it would be easier to die." All he wants, he says, is a peaceful life in New Zealand, where he can work legally and start again with their new baby.
Many of the asylum seekers Fairfax Media spoke to at Inaboi can't understand why the Australian navy and customs ships sent them back to Indonesia when they were still in international waters.
They say they had no intention of going to Australia, which they knew closed its borders in 2013, but had read on the internet that New Zealand had a refugee quota program which offers 750 places per year.
Bangladeshis Nazmul Hassan and Muhammad Habib were among those who allege they saw an Australian official called "Agus" give envelopes of money to the captain, Yohanis Humiang and crew.
"We saw the crew put it inside his pocket. It was inside a white envelope," Mr Hassan said.
"Yohanis said we have to go back to Indonesia and Australia wants to pay for that."
The asylum seekers recall the mysterious "Mr Agus" as a man who worked for the Australians, spoke fluent Indonesian and wore jeans and a black T-shirt with sunglasses pushed up on his head.
Bangladeshi Mohammad Belayer Hossain paid people smugglers $US4000 ($5190) to take him to New Zealand. Now he is back in Indonesia.
"I'm very sad - my money has finished," he says.
"I don't know why Australia stopped us. They should have let us go. They caught us, they turned us back and now they don't want anything to do with us."
Refugees on boat at centre of turn-back payment allegations ask why they were intercepted in international waters [ABC - 17/6/15]
… Mr Yohanis said the boats were unseaworthy, had limited fuel, no toilets and no navigational system other than a GPS, which was "of no help because it won't tell reef conditions".
The interview took place under oath on Rote island on Wednesday.
Mr Yohanis also claimed the Australian authorities "didn't care" when one of the wooden boats, Jasmine, ran out of fuel on the way back to Indonesia.
"Panic ensued among the passengers onboard, it was like in an emergency situation, they were going to kill each other," Mr Yohanis said. "At the time I was scared: What to do?"
General Endang asked Mr Yohanis if the Australian Navy and customs ships were still there when Jasmine's engine stopped.
"They were in the back, they already said: 'OK you just head [to Rote Island]," Mr Yohanis said.
"So they ignored you?" General Endang asked.
"Yes, after we were let go, they don't care any more," Mr Yohanis said.
Mr Yohanis said he was offered 150 million rupiah ($AUD15,000) by a people smuggling agent to take 65 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar to New Zealand.
The Navy warship HMAS Wollongong and an Australian Customs ship intercepted the asylum seeker boat, the Andika, on about May 19.
Mr Yohanis told the Australian official, Agus, they had no right to stop the boat, which had just passed Timor Leste, because it was still in international waters. ... [Canberra Times - 17/6/15]
Read the letter sent to the New Zealand government by the refugees via [RNZI - 7/6/15]
Woodside Sustainable Development Report 2015:
... We comply with Australian legislation enacted to uphold human rights treaties and declarations, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 2015, Woodside joined the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Association as part of a program to embed best practice in respecting the human rights of communities in which we are active.
As our international portfolio grows, we recognise and respect the basic human rights of all people, and we seek to ensure we are not complicit in human rights abuses by others.
In 2015, Woodside has continued to apply human rights guidance to support our activities in Myanmar.
Woodside is not aware of any incidents of human rights violations with respect to people, communities, contractors or suppliers under our supervision in 2015.
We engage with a wide range of stakeholders and local communities to ensure we understand potential impacts of activities and implementation of appropriate mitigation strategies. In 2015, we undertook significant consultation within Myanmar at the union, regional and village level in support of seismic and drilling activities in the Rakhine Basin.
With the assistance of local consultants, we visited 16 villages in the Ayeyarwady region and Rakhine State. The consultation process included discussions with local fishermen and fishing associations to understand the nature of their fishing activities to ensure we minimise any impacts on livelihoods.
In 2015, we maintained our commitment to early childhood development, making our first international contribution through the Woodside Development Fund.
In collaboration with Save the Children, Plan International and Pann Pyo Lett through the Myanmar Education Consortium, the fund is supporting the delivery of parenting and early childhood education programs for around 700 children age zero to eight years in ten villages in the Ayeyarwady region, south-west Myanmar.
... A/S RICHARD: Well thank you for your question. I did meet with Australian colleagues at the May 29th meeting in Bangkok including the Ambassador for People Smuggling -- or Against People Smuggling, I guess. The United States takes a different approach off our shores to people coming toward us in boats.
You know our Coast Guard intercepts the boats and then conducts interviews on its decks to find out if the people, if the boat people in the Caribbean have a credible fear of persecution or not.
And if it is judged that they are economic migrants they’re returned to places from which they’ve come.
But if it’s judged that they may have a case for asylum then they are not returned and that they get follow-on interviews and they may end up being moved as refugees to a new country. So the numbers we’re talking about in the Caribbean are quite small, but this, with this approach of ensuring that people get a chance to express their case is a part of what the US is doing that I think is needed throughout the region. I think that’s mostly on that issue. ...
US Sentencing Commission proposes further criminalizing migrants [American Immigration Council - 22/3/16]:
At a time when there is a great deal of national attention being placed on criminal-justice reform, it is troubling that the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) is now proposing, new amendments to Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which could lead to increased sentences for those convicted of “Unlawfully Entering or Remaining in the United States” or “Smuggling, Transporting, or Harboring an Unlawful Alien.”
Proposed in January, the USSC just held hearings and solicited comments from the public this week on the new amendments. A number of organizations testified against these changes including the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Their testimony highlighted the negative consequences these changes could have on our nation’s immigration policy and our criminal justice system.
Australia no longer accepts refugees and is stopping people from seeking asylum by pushing boats back and torture [SBS - 10/7/15]
Secret federal government documents cast doubt over whether Australia told Indonesia and the United Nations about a retrospective ban on taking refugees from official channels.
In November last year Australia announced it would no longer accept refugees who applied for resettlement through the UN’S refugee agency in Indonesia.
The ban applied to anyone who registered with the UNHCR from 1 July 2014.
Syrian man returned from Manus Island gulag by Australian government injured - and his father killed - during shelling [ABC - 20/10/15]
The lengths to which the Australian immigration department has gone to facilitate the repatriation of traumatised Syrian asylum seekers detained in offshore detention centres has been extensively revealed in departmental emails obtained under freedom of information laws. ... [Guardian - 19/8/14]
Pro-refugee politician wins The Gabba ward, Greens' first seat in Brisbane Council [ABC - 23/3/16]:
The Greens have won their first local government seat in Queensland after Labor conceded defeat in The Gabba ward in Brisbane's inner south.
Although the Liberal National Party was ahead, Labor preferences catapulted The Greens' Jonathan Sri into first place.
He campaigned on affordable housing, and hoped his win would put the issue on the agenda.
"Despite a tiny campaign budget, strong opposing candidates and every political commentator in Queensland saying it was next to impossible that we could achieve the necessary swing, we've actually done it," Mr Sri wrote on Facebook.
"This is a huge vindication of the policy platform we took to the election, and demonstrates to me that there's a strong appetite for positive social change."
Apartments in more than 140 suburbs are on a confidential blacklist because of growing concerns about oversupply, off-the-plan sales, and, in some areas, falling prices, according to leaked documents.
AMP Bank, the banking division of the largest financial services group that compiled the list, claims it is a “prudent” response to managing risks of “over-supply”, which could push down prices, rents and lead to defaults. ... [Domain.com.au - 23/3/16]
Sydney siege inquest: Barrister who knew Man Haron Monis said gunman 'cool, calm and collected' [ABC - 23/3/16]
A 32-year-old man is to be extradited from NSW to Queensland over the discovery of a stockpile of chemical explosives at a west Brisbane home in 2014.
The man, who is understood to have lived at the Pullenvale home before falling behind in the rent, is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon on explosives and property charges.
Police allege they were called to the Red Cedar Road house on August 13, 2014 and located suspicious items. [Yahoo - 23/3/16]
Sergeant says he may have sworn at Ms Dhu because 'that's the way we spoke' [Guardian - 23/3/16]
Tiahleigh Palmer: Logan home searched over schoolgirl's death [ABC - 23/3/16]
A Queensland woman has been knocked out after going to investigate a strange noise in her laundry.
Police say the 43-year-old blacked out and suffered grazes to the side of her head during the assault at her home in the Rockhampton suburb of Allenstown.
Investigations are continuing into the attack, which occurred around 5am on Wednesday. [Yahoo - 23/3/16]
Toddler dies after being hit by ute in Whitsundays driveway [ABC - 23/3/16]
A car has burst into flames northbound on the Pacific Motorway at Oxenford.
The large vehicle blaze erupted between Exit 57 and Exit 54 just after 11.00am. ... [MYGC - 23/3/16]
A Queensland father has pleaded guilty to giving his young daughter cannabis oil while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty in Brisbane's Supreme Court today to supplying the drug to his toddler.
The court heard he gave the child doses of cannabis four times a day, cooking it into her food in December 2014.
The father thought the cannabis oil would help his daughter, he told the court, after researching on the internet and speaking to others about its benefits.
He has been sentenced to two years good behaviour for the offence, after the judge said what he had done was both wrong and illegal.
The court heard that the case was the first of its kind, never before had a person been tried for deliberately supplying drugs to a child this young.
The father claimed in court that the cannabis had a positive effect on his child's condition.
Medical evidence supplied in court showed the cannabis did no harm to the child, but had no useful affect. [Nine MSN - 23/3/16]
The Queensland Government is coming under renewed pressure to change a decades-old law which sees 17-year-old offenders sent to adult jails.
Legal groups and youth advocates say it not only breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it also leads to young people becoming entrenched in a life of crime.
But despite a planned overhaul of Queensland's youth justice laws, increasing the age of criminal responsibility does not appear to be on the Government's agenda. ... [ABC - 23/3/16]
Schoolgirl accused of sending funds to Islamic State related to Australian IS fighter [ABC - 23/3/16]:
... The girl's barrister, Michael Pickin, told the court there was no evidence she was linked to the car and said the prosecution's case was limited.
"There's a lot of inferences the prosecution will be asking a jury to draw," he said.
He argued that if the girl was not granted bail, she would be forced to await trial for as long as three years.
"There is a massive backlog in Parramatta Court … a trial is months, indeed years away," he said.
"A child of her age is in a very vulnerable and important stage."
Mr Pickin told the court the girl had briefly spoken with a psychologist, who reported she appeared to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders, and was at an enhanced risk of suicide.
Magistrate Paula Russell will hand down her decision on the bail application on Thursday morning.
Atai did not apply for bail when his matter was heard briefly in Sydney's Central Local Court on Wednesday.
He will remain in custody until his next court appearance in May.
A woman accused of shooting at her son-in-law and daughter allegedly told police she couldn’t believe she missed and needed to visit an optometrist to have her “eyes fixed” so she could finish the job.
Gold Coast woman Miriam Annette Eason, 51, faced Southport magistrates court on Wednesday on charges including three acts intending to cause grievous bodily harm and discharge a weapon in a public place.
Eason, who was granted bail, is accused of firing several shots at her son-in-law and daughter during a domestic disturbance in Nerang on Tuesday. ... [Guardian - 23/3/16]
More ocean inundation for Marshall Islands ahead [RNZI - 23/3/16]:
Weather authorities have warned of more high tides in Marshall Islands this week with a combination of stormy seas and a king tide at work again.
Weather officials in Guam say another storm is anticipated to push high tides over the islands by as much as 60 centimetres during high tide periods through to Friday this week.
In a special alert issued yesterday the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) said a king tide cycle is also expected to occur., starting this Tuesday.
Many islands experienced flooding after a storm blew in from Wake Island earlier this month.
"The combination of these elements could cause coastal inundation of up to two feet (60 cm), especially during high tide along north ocean-facing shores of Ejit and Northern Darrit, and also inside the lagoon from the Delap area to near Peace Park, " said weather officials.
High tides were expected on Wednesday morning at 5:17am and 5:27pm, Thursday at 5:42am and 5:53pm, and Friday 6:08am and 6:19pm.
NOAA officials urged Marshall Islanders to "take action to protect crops and properties near (these) locations and stay away from flooded areas."
Two weeks ago, a large number of Kili Island residents - islanders from Bikini who were displaced 70 years ago to make way for nuclear weapons testing - had to evacuate their homes due to flooding.
I have been filming in the Marshall Islands, which lie north of Australia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Whenever I tell people where I have been, they ask, "Where is that?" If I offer a clue by referring to "Bikini", they say, "You mean the swimsuit."
Few seem aware that the bikini swimsuit was named to celebrate the nuclear explosions that destroyed Bikini island. Sixty-six nuclear devices were exploded by the United States in the Marshall Islands between 1946 and 1958 -- the equivalent of 1.6 Hiroshima bombs every day for twelve years.
Bikini is silent today, mutated and contaminated. Palm trees grow in a strange grid formation. Nothing moves. There are no birds. The headstones in the old cemetery are alive with radiation. My shoes registered "unsafe" on a Geiger counter.
Standing on the beach, I watched the emerald green of the Pacific fall away into a vast black hole.
This was the crater left by the hydrogen bomb they called "Bravo".
The explosion poisoned people and their environment for hundreds of miles, perhaps forever. ... A world war has begun. Break the silence, John Pilger [20/3/16]
Nauru government accused of fostering bribery - newsletter [RNZI - 23/3/16]:
A newsletter now circulating in Nauru is accusing the Baron Waqa government of fostering bribery.
The Nauru Beacon laid out a series of accusations, including that government MPs are being given hundreds of thousands of dollars to use how they want.
This money is being directed towards a housing scheme but the MPs decide who gets the money.
The Beacon said there is no accountability in how this money is spent.
A MP suspended for the past two years, Matthew Batsiua, said he believes the newsletter is trying to highlight the excesses of the government and the way its MPs are using the money.
"In other words it seems they are using public funds to fund projects in their districts and in return have people in those districts give them votes, so, in a sense it amounts to some sort of actions of bribery."
The Nauru government is yet to respond to RNZ International's requests for comment.
Refugee medivacced from Australia's concentration camp on Manus after heart attack
No wages for your torturers
No budget for your guns
Can you think of your own mother
Dancing with her invisible son?
... A stand and deliver moment against 20 guards knowing they were going to smash me.
Image: @nampix Nick Moir [22/2/14]
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [23/3/16]:
A 38-year-old Iranian asylum seeker has been medivacced from Manus Island to a Brisbane hospital this morning after suffering a heart attack yesterday afternoon.
The man suffered the heart attack, around 4pm, on a soccer field near the detention centre.
He was given CPR by a Wilson’s guard whose action saved the man’s life, say other asylum seekers at the scene.
The Iranian man was one of those who were injured in the attack on the detention centre in February 2014, which resulted in the killing of Reza Berati.
Like others sent to Manus, he has been infected with malaria since he was sent there in August 2013.
In June 2015, he suffered a bad malaria attack that required him to be transferred to Port Morseby hospital for treatment.
He is the second asylum seeker in four weeks to be transferred from Manus Island because of heart problems.
The medical evacuation comes just a few weeks before the start of the coronial inquiry into the death of Hamid Khazaei, who died in Brisbane from septicaemia after being medivacced from Manus Island in September 2014.
“The sooner Manus Island is closed, the better,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“The emergency only highlights the appalling injustice inflicted on asylum seekers sent to Manus Island who have held in shocking conditions for more than two and half years.”
... One day we'll dance on their graves
One day we'll sing our freedom
One day we'll laugh in our joy
And we'll dance ...
'They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo)', Sting 
Do journalists covering the Bali Process meeting know that Australia is supposedly a signatory to the UN refugee convention?
Weasel words, delay tactics and ugly rhetoric from unaccountable neocons goes unquestioned at Bali Process meeting [Jakarta Post - 23/3/16]:
... Andrew Goledzinowski, Australian ambassador for people smuggling issues, said that the Bali Process had to become more flexible and more agile in responding to the challenges of the region.
“Since the last SOM meeting of the Bali Process, the world has changed and so many more things have happened. Since the last we met in this forum, illegal migration has become possibly the most critical global issue in the world,” Goledzinowski — who cochaired Tuesday’s meeting with Hasan — said in his opening remarks.
“It is very important for the Bali Process […] for us not just continuing what we have been doing but we must work harder. In that context, this meeting is more ambitious than before.”
The UNHCR’s assistant high commissioner for protection, Volker Türk, who represents the organization in the meeting, called for nations in the region to sign the convention and to give refugees access to better livelihoods, even in the transit countries.
“We hope that in light of the big crises when it comes to refugees, there are opportunities now to revisit some of the old policies that basically use resettlement as the only solution. We can find other ways of arranging local stays — even if it is on a temporary basis — so they can also access the labor market,” he said. <---- Why is Volker Türk letting Australia off the hook?
... Mortal kings are ruling castles
Welcome to my world of fun
Liars settle into sockets
Flick the switch and watch them run ...
'Emperor's New Clothes', Panic at the Disco 
The Malay Mail Online [22/3/16]:
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrived here today, to attend the one-day Sixth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) in Bali.
Ahmad Zahid, who is also home minister, and his delegation were received at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport by Malaysian Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia, Roseli Abdul and senior Malaysian government officials.
Upon arrival, Ahmad Zahid will attend a pre-council meeting with Malaysian senior officials before taking part in a bilateral meeting with Volker Turk, Assistant High Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
This is the only regional platform in East Asia and Pacific that deals with migration-related issues and the ministerial conference will focus on the general discussion on current challenges, trends and responses of irregular movement of persons in the region and provide an opportunity to step up collective efforts of the Bali Process.
While in Bali, Ahmad Zahid is also scheduled to meet Peter Dutton, Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Control, and Bert Koenders, the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Among matters that will be discussed in the meetings are the ongoing co-operation with Malaysia on transnational crime issues and the current issue of influx of irregular migrants in the region.
Where is Amnesty Australia's statement? Our Voices summary report highlights overwhelming support for a refugee quota increase [Amnesty New Zealand - 22/3/16]:
A permanent - and significant - increase in the refugee quota and corresponding resources, is the resounding call to come out of a public submission process, said Amnesty International with the release of a summary report today.
The Our Voices - Summary Report 2016 Refugee Resettlement Quota Review is the result of a two month long public submission process, which saw more than 760 New Zealanders have their say on the country’s refugee resettlement quota.
Ahead of Cabinet’s decision on the quota, the report provides an overview of the messages received throughout the consultation and details overwhelming public support for increasing the annual quota.
It also comes with clear recommendations for the Government on how to strengthen New Zealand’s commitment to refugees, and provides very strong arguments in favour of raising the quota and the funding to support it.
“Public support on this is clear and what people throughout New Zealand are saying is that, not only is a refugee policy set almost 30 years ago out of step with today’s needs, but that it’s time for the Government to listen to the public on this,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International New Zealand.
“Quite frankly the New Zealand government’s failure to respond with integrity to the global refugee crisis by increasing the country’s annual quota is something people across New Zealand feel strongly about.”
The key message received from citizens, service providers, non-governmental organisations, local government, faith communities and former refugees themselves through the submission process was that refugee settlement in New Zealand has seen great success but it is a model that is ready to be scaled up.
The report’s executive summary clearly recommends that as the world has changed dramatically, the New Zealand government should ask itself not how little but how much it can do to support those in need of safety and protection.
The report provides a clear list of practical recommendations for the Government to address New Zealand’s commitment to protection, including:
• Permanently increase, preferably by at least double, the annual refugee resettlement quota at the upcoming Cabinet review.
• Significantly increase funding to ensure service providers are able to adequately support refugees.
• Permanently peg New Zealand’s resettlement quota minimum increase to population growth.
• Remove overly restrictive quota requirements for refugees from Africa and the Middle East, and ensure the quota composition is in line with needs prioritised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
• Expand New Zealand’s Refugee Family Support Category to 600 places a year and consider relaxing eligibility criteria in both the Refugee Quota Family Reunification Category and usual family policy.
• Provide alternative legal avenues for
populations at risk in addition to the quota, including provisions for
community-based private sponsorship, academic scholarships and labour mobility
“Amnesty International, along with the thousands of people behind this report, is strongly urging the New Zealand government to stop taking a back seat to an issue that we have a global responsibility to address,” said Grant Bayldon.
The report is being released ahead of two crucial international meetings on refugee protection - the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in Bali tomorrow (23 March), and a high-level meeting convened by the UN Refugee Agency on 30 March which will look into sharing responsibility for the refugee crisis.
“New Zealand has a key role to play in refugee protection, but currently we can’t attend these meetings on the world stage with any integrity when we aren’t sharing the responsibility here in New Zealand,” said Grant Bayldon.
“As the global crisis continues, and more women, children and men seek protection than at any other time in the last 70 years, 750 more people coming to New Zealand each year is a small ask and the least we can do.”
The Our Voices summary report has been sent to all members of Cabinet. All 765 submissions will be delivered to Cabinet members on a date yet to be confirmed.
Refugee from Pinochet regime - deported by Peter Dutton last year - wins appeal against visa revocation [Brisbane Times - 22/3/16]
Imprisoned with her baby, Bahraini activist is victim of US silence, sister says [The Intercept - 23/3/16]
Egypt’s authorities must expedite the release of a 20-year-old prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years in pre-trial detention in a case of outrageous injustice, said Amnesty International after a court ordered his release on bail today.
Mahmoud Hussein was arrested on 25 January 2014 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” T-shirt, and a scarf with a logo of the “25 January Revolution”.
He was accused of belonging to a banned group and attending an unauthorised protest, amongst other things. ... [Amnesty Media Release - 22/3/16]
A Russian court has found Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko guilty of all charges, except murdering Ukrainian civilians.
She is to spend 22 years in prison and pay a fine.
The judge was unable to finish reading the verdict as the woman began singing a Ukrainian nationalist song during the announcement, expressing her denial. [RT - 22/3/16]
Al Jazeera [21/3/16]:
... Russia accuses her of working as the artillery spotter who called in the mortar strike that killed the pair, a charge she disputes.
Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin were employees of a Russian state-owned TV channel when they died in the city of Luhansk in June.
Savchenko's defence team said she was captured by separatists before the attack and that phone records prove she was in rebel hands when the journalists were killed. ...
Ukraine: UN experts urge accountability for human rights violations by foreign fighters [Media Release - 22/3/16]
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits Ukraine to join 'international advisory council' [ABC - 21/3/16]
UN rights chief welcomes ICC judgement finding Jean-Pierre Bemba guilty of war crimes in Central African Republic [Media Release - 21/3/16]:
... “While recognizing that the judgement delivered today in Jean-Pierre Bemba's case may be subject to appeal, it sends an important message across the world that international justice will finally prevail, even in cases where civilians with supervisory, or command, responsibility are accused of crimes committed in a country other than their own,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a news release. ...
New film - Concerned Student 1950 - shows real-time, inside account of the University of Missouri student protests in November 2015 [The Intercept - 23/3/16]:
... the Mizzou protests became a vivid illustration of a bizarre media phenomenon: adult media pundits eager to insinuate themselves into campus controversies, usually on the side of administrators and against the students.
Notably, what attracted national media attention was not the serious racial incidents on campus that went ignored, nor the remarkably effective student protest movement that was assembled based on passion, conviction, and courage.
Instead, in the hands of media commentators, the protests became little more than the latest symbol of political correctness run amok, of college campuses coddling the excess sensitivities of delicate students who need to grow up and grow a thicker skin, all at the expense of free expression. ...
The UN's human rights monitor in the occupied Palestinian territory ended his two-year term Monday by slamming Israel for preventing him from fulfilling his duties, as well as the international community for failing to hold Israel accountable for its rights violations.
Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur Makarim Wibisono said that since he took up his post in June 2014, Israel had not allowed him direct access to victims in parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, despite repeated requests.
The official said he sought access to the blockaded Gaza Strip four times in writing, in addition to during meetings with Israeli officials, but received no formal response to any written requests while meetings “proved fruitless.” ... [Maan - 22/3/16]
Israeli forces open fire on Palestinian shepherds, level land in Gaza [Maan - 22/3/16]
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for the fifth consecutive day have sustained their collective punishment measures on Beit Fajar town, southwest of Bethlehem, where they launched a waide raid campaign against the town houses, kidnapped youths, and broke into a number of factories and dismantled them.
Local sources from the town said that IOF stormed a number of local stone factories, dismantled equipemnt as they were accompanied by “mechanics”, and confiscated them. Sources also added that IOF detained dozens of workers in the factories that were stormed in the morning.
These measures came after IOF shot dead two Palestinians originally from the village, who were accused of carrying out a stabbing operative near Ariel illegal settlement, northern West Bank.
The shooting of Ali Al-Kar (20) and Ali Taqatqa (19), took place four days ago, and their bodies were handed back to their families only yesterday, Sunday afternoon. ... [PNN - 21/3/16]
In photos: The last tiger in Gaza [Electronic Intifada - 21/3/16]
@JoelReinstein [22/3/16]: #BDS so frightens the establishment that Congress is violating the autonomy of Ohio State's student govt #OSUDivest
@wikileaks [22/3/16]: Hillary Emails: #Cameron & #Sarkozy want #Libya's oil in exchange for war #r2p ...
23 March 2016