Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

Pope says his defense of Rohingya got through in Myanmar

December 3, 2017

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Pope Francis meets with sick people and staff of the Mother Teresa House in the Dhaka’s Tejgaon neighborhood, Bangladesh, December 2, 2017. REUTERS-Andrew Medichini

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Saturday defended his strategy of avoiding the term “Rohingya” in Myanmar, saying he believed he got his message across to both the civilian and military leadership without shutting down dialogue.

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane returning to Rome from Bangladesh, the pontiff also indicated that he had been firm with Myanmar’s military leaders in private meetings about the need for them to respect the rights of Rohingya refugees.

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Pope Francis blesses an image of Mother Teresa during a visit at the Missionaries of Charity House in the Dhaka’s Tejgaon neighborhood, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo Via AP)

He also disclosed that he cried when he met a group of Rohingya refugees on Friday in Bangladesh, where he defended their rights by name in an emotional meeting.

“For me, the most important thing is that message gets through, to try to say things one step at a time and listen to the responses,” he said.

“I knew that if in the official speeches I would have used that word, they would have closed the door in our faces. But (in public) I described situations, rights, said that no one should be excluded, (the right to) citizenship, in order to allow myself to go further in the private meetings,” he said.

Francis did not use the word Rohingya in public while on the first leg of the trip in Myanmar. Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognize the mostly Muslim Rohingya as an ethnic group with its own identity but as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Local Roman Catholic Church authorities had advised him not to say it because it could spark a backlash against Christians and other minority groups.

The pope met Myanmar’s military leaders privately on Monday, shortly after his arrival in the nation’s biggest city, Yangon.

The meeting had been scheduled for Thursday morning but the military pointedly asked at the last minute that it be pushed forward. The result was they saw the pope before the civilian leaders instead of the other way around, as had been planned.

NON-NEGOTIABLE TRUTHS

“It was a good conversation and the truth was non-negotiable,” he said of his meeting with the military leaders.


Pope Francis talks during a news conference on board a flight to return to Rome, Saturday Dec. 2, 2017, after a seven day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh. Pope Francis urged Bangladeshi priests and nuns to resist the “terrorism of gossip” that can tear religious communities apart, delivering one of his trademark, zinger-filled spontaneous speeches to the country’s Catholic leadership on Saturday at the close of an otherwise tense and diplomatically fraught Asian tour. (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool via AP) (Associated Press)

The latest exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh of about 625,000 people followed a Myanmar military crackdown in response to Rohingya militant attacks on an army base and police posts on Aug. 25.

Refugees have said scores of Rohingya villages were burnt to the ground, people were killed and women were raped. The military have denied accusations of ethnic cleansing by the United States and United Nations.

Asked if he used the word Rohingya during the private meeting with the military chiefs, the pope said: “I used words in order to arrive at the message and when I saw that the message had arrived, I dared to say everything that I wanted say”.

He then gave a reporter a mischievous grin and ended his answer with the Latin phrase “Intelligenti Pauca,” which means “Few words are enough for those who understand,” strongly hinting that he had used the word the military detests while in their presence.

Human rights groups have criticized the country’s de facto civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was under house arrest for a total of 15 years before the 2015 elections, for not taking a stand against the generals.

But Francis, who met with her privately on Tuesday, appeared to give her the benefit of the doubt because of her delicate relationship with the generals who were once her jailers.

“Myanmar is a nation that is growing politically, in transition,” Francis said in response to a question about Suu Kyi and budding democracy in Myanmar.

“So things have to be viewed through this lens. Myanmar has to be able to look forward to the building of the country”.

On Friday in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, Francis held an emotional encounter with Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and then used the word Rohingya for the first time on the trip, although he had defended them by name twice from the Vatican earlier this year.

He told the crowd where the Rohingya were that God’s presence was within them and they should be respected.

“I was crying and tried to hide it,” Francis said on the plane, recounting how moved he felt when the refugees recounted their ordeals to him.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Mary Milliken

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Silicon Valley’s great wealth bypasses its working homeless

November 7, 2017

By Janie Har

The Associated Press

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) — In the same affluent, suburban city where Google built its headquarters, Tes Saldana lives in a crowded but tidy camper she parks on the street.

She concedes it’s “not a very nice living situation,” but it also is not unusual. Until authorities told them to move, more than a dozen other RVs filled with people who can’t afford rent joined Saldana on a tree-lined street in Mountain View, parked between a Target and a luxury apartment complex.

Homeless advocates and city officials say it’s outrageous that in the shadow of a booming tech economy – where young millionaires dine on $15 wood-grilled avocado and think nothing of paying $1,000 for an iPhone X – thousands of families can’t afford a home. Many of the homeless work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many.

Across the street from Saldana’s camper, for example, two-bedroom units in the apartment complex start at $3,840, including concierge service. That’s more than she brings home, even in a good month.

Saldana and her three adult sons, who live with her, have looked for less rustic accommodations, but rents are $3,000 a month or more, and most of the available housing is distant. She said it makes more sense to stay in the camper near their jobs and try to save for a brighter future, even if a recent city crackdown chased them from their parking spot.

A man skates past RVs where people live in Silicon Valley. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“We still need to eat,” said Saldana, 51. “I still want to bring my kids, once in a while, to a movie, to eat out.”

She cooks and serves food at two hotels in nearby Palo Alto, jobs that keep her going most days from 5 in the morning until 10 at night. Two of her sons, all in their 20s, work at a bakery and pay $700 toward the RV each month. They’re all very much aware of the economic disparity in Silicon Valley.

“How about for us people who are serving these tech people?” Saldana said. “We don’t get the same paycheck that they do.”

It’s all part of a growing crisis along the West Coast, where many cities and counties have seen a surge in the number of people living on the streets over the past two years. Counts taken earlier this year show 168,000 homeless people in California, Oregon and Washington – 20,000 more than were counted just two years ago.

The booming economy, fueled by the tech sector, and decades of under-building have led to an historic shortage of affordable housing. It has upended the stereotypical view of people out on the streets as unemployed: They are retail clerks, plumbers, janitors – even teachers – who go to work, sleep where they can and buy gym memberships for a place to shower.

The surge in homelessness has prompted at least 10 local governments along the West Coast to declare states of emergency, and cities from San Diego to Seattle are struggling to come up with immediate and long-range solutions.

Delmi Ruiz Hernandez, 4, plays outside the RV where her family lives in Mountain View. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco is well-known for homeless tent encampments. But the homeless problem has now spread throughout Silicon Valley, where the disparity between the rich and everyone else is glaring.

There is no firm estimate on the number of people who live in vehicles in Silicon Valley, but the problem is pervasive and apparent to anyone who sees RVs lining thoroughfares; not as visible are the cars tucked away at night in parking lots. Advocates for the homeless say it will only get worse unless more affordable housing is built.

The median rent in the San Jose metro area is $3,500 a month, yet the median wage is $12 an hour in food service and $19 an hour in health care support, an amount that won’t even cover housing costs. The minimum annual salary needed to live comfortably in San Jose is $87,000, according to a study by personal finance website GoBankingRates.

So dilapidated RVs line the eastern edge of Stanford University in Palo Alto, and officials in neighboring Mountain View have mapped out more than a dozen areas where campers tend to cluster, some of them about a mile from Google headquarters.

On a recent evening, Benito Hernandez returned to a crammed RV in Mountain View after laying flagstones for a home in Atherton, where Zillow pegs the median value of a house at $6.5 million. He rents the RV for $1,000 a month and lives there with his pregnant wife and children.

The family was evicted two years ago from an apartment where the rent kept going up, nearing $3,000 a month.

“After that, I lost everything,” said Hernandez, 33, who works as a landscaper and roofer.

He says his wife “is a little bit sad because she says, ‘You’re working very hard but don’t have credit to get an apartment.’ I tell her, ‘Just wait, maybe a half-year more, and I’ll get my credit back.’”

Benito Hernandez and his wife, Delmi Ruiz (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The plight of the Hernandez family points out one of the confounding problems of the homeless surge along the West Coast.

“This is not a crisis of unemployment that’s leading to poverty around here,” said Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency, a nonprofit based in Mountain View. “People are working.”

Mountain View, a city of 80,000 which also is home to Mozilla and 23andMe, has committed more than $1 million over two years for homeless services, including money for an outreach case manager and a police officer to help people who live in vehicles. At last count, there were people living in more than 330 vehicles throughout the city.

Mayor Ken Rosenberg is proud of the city’s response to the crisis – focusing not on penalties but on providing services. Yet he’s also worried that the peace won’t last as RVs crowd into bike lanes and over-taxed streets.

Last week, Mountain View officials posted signs banning vehicles more than 6 feet high on some parts of the street where Saldana, Hernandez and others living in RVs were parked, saying they were creating a traffic hazard. The average RV is well over that height.

That follows similar moves over the summer by Palo Alto, which started cracking down on RVs and other vehicles that exceed the 72-hour limit on a busy stretch of El Camino Real.

In San Jose, officials recently approved an ordinance pushed by an interfaith group called the Winter Faith Collaborative to allow places of assembly – including gyms and churches – to shelter homeless people year-round.

Ellen Tara James-Penney, a 54-year-old lecturer at San Jose State University, parks her old Volvo at one of those safe haven churches, Grace Baptist Church, and eats in its dining hall. She is paid $28,000 a year to teach four English classes and is carrying $143,000 in student debt after earning two degrees.

Ellen Tara James-Penney prepares to stay the night in her car. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

She grades papers and prepares lessons in the Volvo. At night, she leans back the driver’s seat and prepares for sleep, one of two dogs, Hank, by her side. Her husband, Jim, who is too tall for the car, sleeps outside in a tent cot with their other dog, Buddy.

The Bay Area native remembers the time a class was studying John Steinbeck, when another student said that she was sick of hearing about the homeless.

“And I said, ‘Watch your mouth. You’re looking at one.’ Then you could have heard a pin drop,” she said. “It’s quite easy to judge when you have a house to live in or you have meds when you’re depressed and health care.”

In response to growing wealth inequities, unions, civil rights groups and community organizations formed Silicon Valley Rising about three years ago. They demand better pay and benefits for the low-income earners who make the region run.

SEIU United Service Workers West, for example, organized roughly 3,000 security guards who work for companies that contract with Facebook, Google and Caltrain, the mass transit system that connects Silicon Valley with San Francisco.

One of those workers is Albert Brown III, a 46-year-old security officer who recently signed a lease for half of a $3,400 two-bedroom unit in Half Moon Bay, about 13 miles from his job.

Albert Brown III (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

He can barely afford the rent on his $16-an-hour salary, even with overtime, but the car that doubled as his home needed a pricey repair and he found a landlord willing to overlook his lousy credit. Still, Brown worries he won’t be able to keep up with his payments.

His feet have been hurting. What if a doctor tells him to rest for a few days or a week?

“I can’t miss a minute. If I miss a minute or a shift? No way, man. A week? Forget it, it’s over. It’s all downhill from there,” he said.

“It’s a sad choice. I have to decide whether to be homeless or penniless, right?”

___

Follow Janie Har at https://twitter.com/search?q=Janie%20Har&src=typd

Follow AP’s complete coverage of the homeless crisis here: https://apnews.com/tag/HomelessCrisis

UN chief urges restraint after Burma clashes leave ‘400’ dead and masses flee — humanitarian catastrophe turning into genocide

September 2, 2017

AFP

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© Emrul Kamal, AFP | A Rohingya girl eats rice next to other refugees in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border area near Ukhiya on August 28, 2017.

Video by Nadia MASSIH

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-09-02

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned Friday of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in western Myanmar and urged security forces to show restraint after hundreds were reported dead in communal violence and thousands continued to flee.

It is the bloodiest chapter yet in a bitter five-year crisis that has torn apart Rakhine state along ethnic and religious lines, displaced the region’s Rohingya community in huge numbers and heaped international condemnation on Myanmar’s army and the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Image result for Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Around 400 people — most of them Rohingya Muslims — have died in the violence, according to the army chief’s office Friday, while the UN says 38,000 have sought refuge across the border in Bangladesh.

A further 20,000 Rohingya have massed along the Bangladeshi frontier, barred from entering the South Asian country, while scores of desperate people have drowned attempting to cross the Naf, a border river, in makeshift boats.

Reports of massacres and the systematic torching of villages by security forces — as well as by militants — have further amplified tensions, raising fears that violence in Rakhine is spinning out of control.

“The secretary-general is deeply concerned by the reports of excesses during the security operations conducted by Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine State and urges restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe,” said a UN spokesman.

Guterres recalled that it was the government’s responsibility to provide security and allow aid agencies to reach those in need.

The army chief’s office on Friday gave the updated death toll, sketching out the details of an insurgency that has escalated sharply.

“Until August 30, a large number of terrorists carried out 52 waves of attacks on security forces…. in those attacks, 370 bodies of terrorists were found and nine others captured alive,” a statement posted on Facebook said.

Fifteen security forces and 14 civilians have also died in eight days of fighting, it added.

Erdogan says ‘genocide’

Rakhine has been the crucible of religious violence since 2012, when riots erupted killing scores of Rohingya and forcing tens of thousands of people — the majority from the Muslim minority — into displacement camps.

The latest round of violence erupted last Friday when Rohingya militants swarmed remote police posts, killing 15 officials and burning villages.

Myanmar security forces have launched “clearance” operations to sweep out insurgents whose ranks appear to be swelling as male Rohingya villagers join their cause.

Rights groups, who believe the true death toll is much higher, allege massacres of Rohingya in remote villages led by Myanmar security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs.

The Rohingya are reviled in Myanmar, where the roughly one million-strong community are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Fortify Rights, an NGO with a focus on Myanmar, said eyewitnesses alleged mobs shot and hacked down Rohingya villagers — including children — in a five-hour “killing spree” in the village of Chut Pyin in Rathedaung township on Sunday afternoon.

The allegations could not be independently verified by AFP as the area is off-limits to reporters.

Myanmar’s Information Committee appeared earlier this week to confirm a major security operation took place around the village on Sunday afternoon as a patrol clashed with scores of Rohingya militants.

But in a complex situation, further muddied by the swirl of claims and denials by both sides, more accounts emerged accusing Myanmar forces of killings and widespread abuse.

A 23-year-old Rohingya woman from Kyet Yoe Pyin said she had witnessed soldiers and Buddhist mobs rape and kill Muslims in her village over the weekend.

“They mercilessly slaughtered men, women and children,” she told AFP by telephone from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh where she has fled. The claims could not be verified by AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya in a speech in Istanbul during the Islamic Eid al-Adha feast.

Erdogan said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month, adding that he had already talked to Guterres and other Muslim leaders.

Bodies in the water

Desperate to reach Bangladesh, thousands of Rohingya have taken to boats — or clung to flotsam — in an effort to cross the Naf river which separates the two countries. But others died trying.

Eighteen bodies washed ashore in Bangladesh on Friday, according to Bangladeshi border officials, lifting the toll over the last two days to 41.

More than 400 Hindus from Rakhine have also crossed into Bangladesh, after armed men attacked their village, killing and looting.

It is the first time in Rakhine’s bitter and bloody crisis that Hindus have fled — a sign violence is billowing out.

Thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other local ethnic groups have also been displaced — the apparent targets of militants who are fighting under the banner of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

The ARSA emerged as a force in October last year when their attacks killed Myanmar border police, prompting a crackdown by security forces.

The United States on Thursday urged the military to protect civilians, while Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said the “worsening cycle of violence” was “of grave concern”.

Related:

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New Rohingya refugees wait to enter the Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 30, 2017. REUTERS – Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Rohingya Muslims flee as more than 2,600 houses burned in Myanmar’s Rakhine — Campaign of arson and killings by the Myanmar army — “A human rights disaster in slow motion…”

September 2, 2017

Reuters

SEPTEMBER 2, 2017 / 3:20 AM

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Rohingya refugees rest after travelling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 1, 2017. REUTERS -Mohammad Ponir Hossain

COX‘S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – More than 2,600 houses have been burned down in Rohingya-majority areas of Myanmar’s northwest in the last week, the government said on Saturday, in one of the deadliest bouts of violence involving the Muslim minority in decades.

About 58,600 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh from Myanmar, according to U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, as aid workers there struggle to cope.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations human rights chief, said the president risked inciting violence.Credit Denis Balibouse/Reuters

Myanmar officials blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for the burning of the homes. The group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on security posts last week that prompted clashes and a large army counter-offensive.

But Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say a campaign of arson and killings by the Myanmar army is aimed at trying to force them out.

The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.

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 Myanmar — Aung San Suu Kyi, left, one-time hero of human rights and democracy groups, in Myanmar, May 2016. Credit Hein Htet – European Pressphoto Agency

The clashes and army crackdown have killed nearly 400 people and more than 11,700 “ethnic residents” have been evacuated from the area, the government said, referring to the non-Muslim population of northern Rakhine.

It marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October, when similar but much smaller Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a brutal military response dogged by allegations of rights abuses.

“A total of 2,625 houses from Kotankauk, Myinlut and Kyikanpyin villages and two wards in Maungtaw were burned down by the ARSA extremist terrorists,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said on Saturday. The group has been declared a terrorist organisation by Myanmar government.

But New York-based Human Rights Watch, which analyzed satellite imagery and accounts from Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, said the Myanmar security forces deliberately set the fires.“New satellite imagery shows the total destruction of a Muslim village, and prompts serious concerns that the level of devastation in northern Rakhine state may be far worse than originally thought,” said the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson.

Near the Naf river separating Myanmar and Bangladesh on Saturday, new arrivals in Bangladesh carrying their belongings in sacks were setting up crude shelters or trying to squeeze into available shelters or homes of local residents.

“The existing camps are near full capacity and numbers are swelling fast. In the coming days there needs to be more space,” said UNHCR regional spokeswoman Vivian Tan, adding that more refugees were expected.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries. Bangladesh is also growing increasingly hostile to Rohingya, more than 400,000 of whom live in the poor South Asian country after fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s.

Jalal Ahmed, 60, who arrived in Bangladesh on Friday with a group of about 3,000 after walking from Kyikanpyin for almost a week, said he believed the Rohingya were being pushed out of Myanmar.

“The military came with 200 people to the village and started fires… All the houses in my village are already destroyed. If we go back there and the army sees us, they will shoot,” he said.

Reuters could not independently verify these accounts as access for independent journalists to northern Rakhine has been restricted since security forces locked down the area.

Reporting By Reuters Staff; Editing by Nick Macfie

Related:

U.N. Human Rights Chief Condemns Trump’s Attacks on Mediahttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/world/europe/trump-press-united-nations.html?mcubz=3 (Not too vocal on Myanmar….)

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New Rohingya refugees wait to enter the Kutupalang makeshift refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 30, 2017. REUTERS – Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Paris Police Again “Clean Out” Migrant Camps

August 18, 2017

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Porte de La Chapelle (Paris), vendredi matin. Les CRS évacuent le camp de migrants.

Paris police evacuate migrant camp (again)

Paris police evacuate migrant camp (again)
Migrants queue to board buses during the evacuation. Photo: AFP
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Paris police on Friday announced the evacuation of a migrant camp in the city’s 18th arrondissement.

The announcement comes around a month after the last evacuation of the same camp at the Porte de la Chapelle, and is the 35th such operation in the past two years.

Police began moving migrants out of the makeshift camp at around 6am on Friday morning, closing the surrounding area to traffic.

Migrants who had been staying at the camp were taken by buses to 18 sites around the Île-de-France region.

Anti-riot police were involved in the operation, however pictures from the scene appeared to show that it went smoothly, and the evacuation was completed by 9:30am.

READ ALSO:

Anti-riot police gather migrants early on Friday morning. Photo: AFP

The last evacuation of the Porte de la Chapelle camp took place in early July, when around 2,500 people were transported to alternative locations. These included school sports halls which were empty over the summer holidays.

Before that, a police operation in May had moved around 1,000 people out of the makeshift tent camp where they had been living in squalid conditions. Earlier in the year, city authorities had installed large boulders under the flyover in an attempt to dissuade groups from settling there.

Paris became a gathering point for migrants after the closure last October of the notorious “Jungle” near Calais – a makeshift camp near the Channel coast where thousands lived in the hope of climbing aboard trucks or trains to get into Britain.

https://www.thelocal.fr/20170818/paris-police-evacuate-porte-chapelle-migrant-camp-again

Fears for 600 still missing in Sierra Leone floods — 3,000 people left homeless

August 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Saidu Bah | The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief to more than 3,000 people left homeless

FREETOWN (AFP) – Concern shifted Wednesday to the estimated 600 people still missing and thousands made homeless in Sierra Leone by deadly floods in the capital, as aid groups scrambled to coordinate a response.The United Nations said Tuesday it was evaluating humanitarian needs in Sierra Leone, while the first Israeli aid packages were sent and Britain pledged its support.

With morgues overwhelmed with bodies, burials began on Tuesday for some of the bodies too mutilated to identify.

President Ernest Bai Koroma fought back tears on Tuesday as he visited the devastated hilltop community of Regent, saying the scale of the challenge ahead was “overwhelming us”.

“Entire communities have been wiped out,” Koroma said. “We need urgent support now.”

The government of Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, has promised relief to more than 3,000 people left homeless, opening an emergency response centre in Regent and registration centres to count those left on the streets.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York the UN country team was “supporting national authorities in rescue operations, helping evacuate residents, providing medical assistance to the injured, registering survivors, and providing food rations, water and dignity kits to those affected.”

The Red Cross says 600 people are still missing, while more than 300 are already confirmed dead.

– From shock to anger –

Adele Fox, national health coordinator for Sierra Leone for the charity Concern Worldwide, told AFP that the search for bodies continued but the survivors were facing difficult conditions.

“There is basic need for food, water, sanitation equipment and medical assistance. Since it is still rainy season, further flooding is also a possibility,” she warned.

The sentiment among those in the disaster areas had shifted from shock and grief to anger at what is an annual problem in Freetown, though never before on this scale.

“There is some frustration over the regularity of flooding and destruction during the rainy season and its effects,” she said.

– ‘Wake-up call’ –

Society 4 Climate Change Communication (S4CCC), a local environment group, has called the tragedy a “wake-up call”.

Deforestation, a lack of urban planning and vulnerability to climate change had all played a part, it said.

The UN said contingency plans were being put into place in case of any potential outbreak of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea, as dirty water stagnates.

Sulaiman Zaino Parker, an official with Freetown’s city council, said 150 burials took place on Tuesday evening and that many would be laid to rest in graves alongside victims of the country’s last humanitarian disaster, the Ebola crisis, in nearby Waterloo.

“We have started burying some of the mutilated and decomposed bodies. All the corpses will be given a dignified burial with Muslim and Christian prayers,” Parker said.

The graves would be specially marked for future identification, he added.

Three days of torrential rain culminated on Monday in the Regent mudslide and massive flooding elsewhere in the city, one of the world’s wettest urban areas.

Freetown is hit each year by flooding during several months of rain, and in 2015 bad weather killed 10 people and left thousands homeless.

Sierra Leone ranked 179th out of 188 countries on the UN Development Programme’s 2016 Human Development Index, a basket of data combining life expectancy, education and income and other factors.

by Saidu Bah

Homeless tent city springs up in central Sydney

August 2, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A homeless man emerges from his tent in Martin Place
SYDNEY (AFP) – A homeless tent city has sprung up outside Australia’s central bank in the heart of Sydney, sparking a war of words over who should deal with it.More than 50 people are camping in the city’s Martin Place, home to high-end office buildings and glitzy stores. While some have accepted offers of help and accommodation elsewhere, others have arrived to take their place.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore blamed the swelling numbers on “decades of gutless inaction” on homelessness from successive New South Wales state governments.

The city council, she said, had no power to remove them, and called on the state government to provide more affordable housing.

“It’s not illegal for people to be homeless — for some people it’s an inevitable consequence of the housing affordability crisis in Sydney,” Moore said in a statement this week.

“We have the power to move structures and make places safe. But we don’t have the power to move people on. The police have the power to do that. We’re not calling on the police to do that. But that’s the reality.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted it was up to the City of Sydney to find a solution, saying government officials had been to the site dozens of times but many people refused to leave.

“It concerns me that people who are sleeping in tents in Martin Place are refusing to get help, refusing to receive help, and I frankly think it’s unacceptable,” she said.

“Our staff have been down there 41 times… and I call on Clover Moore to get rid of that tent city. It should not be there.”

More than 400 people regularly sleep rough in central Sydney. While homelessness is a complex problem, experts have warned growing numbers of people are failing to benefit from the nation’s stellar economy.

An unprecedented economic expansion — fuelled by a massive mining investment boom — has boosted house prices and lined the pockets of many citizens.

But it has also led to the country’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, being ranked second and 10th on a list of the world’s least affordable housing, putting further pressure on those already struggling.

— This story accompanies photos by Peter Parks —

16 killed in double suicide attack in NE Nigeria

June 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A white sheet covers the bodies of some of the victims of the double suicide bombing in Dalori Kofa village in northeast Nigeria

MAIDUGURI (NIGERIA) (AFP) – At least 16 people died in a double suicide bombing near a large camp for people made homeless by years of Boko Haram violence, Nigeria’s emergency services and locals said Monday.It was the biggest in a series of weekend attacks.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the attack took place at about 8:45 pm (1945 GMT) on Sunday close to the Dalori camp in Kofa village, near the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Regional NEMA spokesman Abdulkadir Ibrahim said a first attack by two female suicide bombers had been thwarted by security personnel who stopped them getting into the camp.

“Two other female suicide bombers also detonated their explosives at the adjoining Dalori Kofa village, where they killed 16 people,” he said in a statement.

Earlier tolls given by local people said at least 12 or 13 people had been killed but Abdulkadir said three of the injured had since died of their wounds.

“The 16 does not include the bombers,” he told AFP.

Dalori is about 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Maiduguri and is one of the largest camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in the remote region.

There are nearly 50,000 people in the two Dalori camps, with Dalori 1 housing some 35,000 and Dalori 2, which was targeted in the bombings, sheltering around 10,000.

Boko Haram has previously tried to target the camp: at least 85 people were killed in January last year when insurgents rampaged through communities near Dalori.

– A bloody weekend –

The latest attack is the most deadly in Nigeria since June 8, when 11 people were killed in a rare combined gun and suicide attack in the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri.

Also at the weekend, Boko Haram attacked Gumsuri village, 20 kilometres from Chibok, killing five people late on Saturday, locals said.

But they were fought off by local vigilantes who engaged them in a gunbattle.

“The vigilantes got the upper hand. They killed 12 attackers and apprehended six others,” said Bitrus Haruna, a vigilante from Chibok, whose account was corroborated by a community leader from the town.

“The Boko Haram gunmen were not lucky. They were confronted by the gallant vigilantes who killed 12 of the attackers and arrested six of them.”

Then on Sunday, Boko Haram jihadists killed three soldiers in an ambush near Wajirko village, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Maiduguri, a local vigilante said.

Last weekend, gunmen killed eight members of a civilian militia force assisting the military in the Konduga area not far from the Dalori camp.

The spate of bombings underlines the threat still posed by the jihadists, despite official claims they are a spent force.

Since the start of Boko Harm’s uprising in 2009, at least 20,000 people have been killed since and more than 2.6 million made homeless, many of whom are facing severe food shortages or starvation.

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Philippines: Fire in Manila Slum May Leave 15,000 People Homeless

February 8, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Firefighters battle the fire in Delpan, Tondo, Manila on February 7, 2017
MANILA (AFP) – As many as 15,000 people are homeless after a huge fire engulfed an overcrowded slum in Manila, destroying thousands of homes and sending residents fleeing with their few possessions.

The inferno started in a sprawling slum near the port late Tuesday and raged for about 10 hours, as hundreds of firefighters from across the Philippine capital hauled their hoses across rickety, tin roofs to reach the flames.

As the blaze whipped across the squalid area, sending a huge plume of smoke billowing into the night sky, residents ran for their lives carrying refrigerators, religious icons and other valuables.

 Others, desperate to save their homes, used buckets of water to douse the fire.

About 3,200 homes, many made from little more than scrap wood, were destroyed and four people were injured, Edilberto Cruz, a fire investigator looking into the cause of blaze, told reporters Wednesday.

“The houses in that place are all (made of) light materials. That is why the fire was quick to spread. We are just lucky that no one was killed,” he said.

Manila city government officials told AFP that between 9,000 and 15,000 people from the area, which is hit by fires almost every year, were left homeless.

At daylight thousands of people gathered on surrounding streets, warily guarding the belongings they had managed to salvage in the chaos while they waited for food and other aid to arrive.

Temporary evacuation centres have been set up at nearby gyms and schools.

The Manila fire department said such fires were common in the city’s densely populated slums where many residents still use candles to light their homes.

Nearly a quarter of Manila’s 13 million residents live in slums due to poverty and a shortage of low-cost housing, studies have found.

Thousands of Roma ‘made homeless’ in France in 2016

February 8, 2017

More than six in 10 Roma families forcibly evicted as persecution against community rises, civil rights groups report.

 Up to 17,000 Roma live in makeshift camps across France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]
Up to 17,000 Roma live in makeshift camps across France [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

More than 10,000 Roma were forcibly evicted by French authorities last year, with most ejections taking place during the cold winter months, according to a new report.

The European Roma Rights Centre and the Ligue des droits de L’Homme (Human Rights League of France) said on Tuesday that at least 60 percent of Romani families in the country were forced to leave their dwellings.

The majority of the recorded evictions took place without a court decision and, in most cases, adequate alternative accommodation was not offered to those made homeless, the groups said in a joint report.

“France’s policy of ethnically targeted evictions creates cycles of repeat evictions and forced removals,” the report said.

“It is also a significant squandering of financial and administrative resources. It is not only a morally bankrupt strategy, but one that is not in the best interests of taxpayers, whose contributions could far better be deployed to invest in social assessments and sustainable solutions for housing.”

OPINION: Why are Roma blamed for Europe’s rejection of refugees?

Almost 3,000 Roma were forced from their camps between October and December, a 17 percent increase from the previous quarter.

“Many Roma were evicted multiple times in 2016,” the report said. “This unsustainable practice only worsens deep poverty and neglects the underlying housing problems.”

Between 15,000 and 17,000 Roma live in poor conditions with little access to water and electricity in makeshift, illegal camps across France, according to the country’s national census and NGOs.

Authorities often cite sanitary reasons for dismantling the camps.

Catrinel Motoc, anti-discrimination campaigner for Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera: “We have repeatedly called on the French authorities … to put an end to forced evictions and take a series of measures that would enable Roma to benefit from their right to adequate housing and not to be discriminated [against], as guaranteed by numerous international and regional human rights obligations that France ratified.”

In June 2016, several organisations and agencies – including the Council of Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – warned local authorities across the continent to provide Roma with “sustainable” housing, saying that children were at particular risk of trauma and social isolation because of evictions.

Racist attacks

In addition to being made homeless, Roma often face discrimination.

“Many incidents of hate speech and cases of discrimination against Romani people were reported,” the groups said, which confirmed the need for policy “to address the plight of a stigmatised and deeply impoverished population to ensure … equal access to basic services”.

Tuesday’s report highlighted several racist attacks, including one in December against Jewish and Roma at the Anne Frank nursery school in an eastern suburb of Paris, Montreuil.

In an act of vandalism, “Juden verboten” (Jews forbidden) and “Sales Juifs et Roms” (Filthy Jewish and Romani people), were found painted on the front gate of the Anne Frank nursery, the report noted.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma are estimated to live in Europe, with most in eastern parts of the continent.

With ancestral roots in India, the Roma migrated to eastern Europe in the 10th century and have been persecuted throughout history.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia, many travelled west, seeking to escape poverty and discrimination.

In 2010, the European Union criticised France over a crackdown on illegal Roma camps launched by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the same year, thousands of Roma were deported to Romania and Bulgaria from France.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/thousands-roma-homeless-france-2016-170207204706535.html

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Source: Al Jazeera News