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Archive for June 11th, 2012

Norway: A magnet for beggars

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2012 Elizabeth Mbaire Koikai __

Elizabeth M. Koikai, reporting – Oslo, Norway

In many third world countries begging is much more common and in certain cases tolerated. Many people may not know this but begging also takes place in some European countries and some continue to practice it, even in the wealthiest nations. Begging is a kind of lifestyle for many in Norway. Most people involved in begging in Norway come from Eastern Europe, especially Romania.

Romania is one of Europe’s poorest countries. There is extensive poverty in many Eastern European countries. These countries do not offer particularly good social security like other wealthy countries in Europe.

A few years ago, Romania became a member of the EU and it’s residents could travel to other parts of Europe. Although Norway is not an EU member, the country chose to participate in the Schengen cooperation. It is an agreement between 15 countries in Europe and contains provisions on police cooperation and border control.

Eastern Europeans who have money travel from their homes hoping for greener pastures in Norway, Sweden, France among other countries. When they arrive in Norway they beg and perform in the streets to earn a living. They tend to travel to Norway, especially in summer when the weather is nice and warm.

Begging is legal in Norway after being decriminalized in 2006. The country’s relative wealth has been attracting groups of beggars into the country. The European crisis has also contributed to the sudden rise of Eastern European beggars trickling into the country.

Police officials claim it’s become an organized trade and suspect the organized groups are also linked to crimes such as pick-pocketing, shoplifting and burglaries that are usually common during summer.They hope that the government will consider banning begging in the country.

The problem is trickling in to other major towns in Norway. Towns like Kristiansand and Tromsø are now facing similar problems with the beggars. Some politicians from a populist progressive party have even called for penalty fees to be issued to people who give money to beggars. They are afraid that the town is going to become a mini-Oslo with floods of beggars.

Last month politicians from the conservative party joined in a call to ban non-norwegian beggars off the streets of major norwegian cities.

The Salvation Army and Churches City Mission claim that non-norwegian beggars are driven from their countries due to inadequate welfare support. They also suggest that the Roma gypsies, who are the common beggars in the Norway are not dangerous people but poor people trying to earn a living.   

These organizations try to help the beggars who are usually homeless. They are now urging the government, police and municipalities to take proper measures and uplift beggars from poverty.

Police officials suspect that most of the Roma gypsies are victims of human trafficking and notorious organized criminal groups are behind their activities. They suggest that allowing begging is harboring victims of human trafficking who have no choice but to beg and then the money is cashed in by these criminal gangs.

They also fear that young women who also beg can be lured into prostitution.

The Salvation Army made a plea to the Norwegian government and police officials, asking them not to clear makeshift tents made by the Roma gypsies. Pointing out that rather than criminalizing them they ought to treat them in a humane manner. The Roma gypsies normally live in deplorable and unsanitary conditions, they neither have permanent housing nor do they have proper toilet facilities.

Awhile back some Roma gypsies started getting rash breakouts, this caused the Salvation Army to act immediately. They made showers and toilets available to avoid an epidemic.

Some politicians reacted negatively. They claimed that offering such facilities will only worsen the begging situation and that many Eastern Europeans will be enticed into coming to Norway, if such free facilities are readily made available to them.

The begging issue in Oslo and Norway as a whole is far from being resolved. With both politicians, human rights organizations and police officials at a stand-off, norwegian residents are left to deal with constant panhandling from aggressive beggars, pick-pockets on public transportation and burglaries while away on holidays.

Recently, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation( NRK) covered a story showing Eastern Europeans who live in cars around a school in Oslo, using the schoolyard as a toilet. Now concerned parents and teachers are demanding a clean from the Oslo municipality. They fear for the health of their children and are shocked by this beastly act. It is definitely a health hazard.  

The disturbing pictures of human faeces littered in the schoolyard sparked a heated debate on the NRK and twitter debate forums.

Many Norwegians let out their fury online, majority were angered by the lack of action by their government and institutions that are responsible for this pressing issue. Some twitter commentators were even proposing that their government borrow a leaf from France and deport all Eastern Europeans who have no jobs or means of providing for themselves.

It is now evident that allowing begging has brought other problems into the Norwegian society.   



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Libyan regime must be crazy: Detaining ICC employees illegally – Better Muammar Gaddafi be resurrected.

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2012

The new regime was aided to power by the international community when the international community ganged up and killed Muammar Gaddafi. Now the ne regime is growing horns and even daring to detain employees from the International Criminal Court who are in Libya to research on atrocities and find out more about detained son of Gaddafi.

What Libya is doing is totally wrong! They would not manage to drive off Gaddafi without help and they should always be thankful to the International community and shut up – hand-over Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi to the ICC instead of playing holy. After all, most of them were with Gaddafi during his rule. They only changed their skin from that of a wolf to the goat skin.

Biographies of the four ICC staff members illegally detained in Libya:

Alexander Khodakov:

Mr Alexander Khodakov, 60 years old, was born in Moscow, Russia. He is the External Relations and Cooperation Senior Adviser at the Registry of the ICC. Before joining the ICC in September 2011, he worked at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for 7 years.
He is a Russian national career diplomat and was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1998 to 2003. Mr Khodakov is married and has two children.

Esteban Peralta Losilla:

Mr Esteban Peralta Losilla, 48 years old, was born in Zaragoza, Spain. He is the Chief of the Counsel Support Section at the ICC where he has been working since 2003. Before joining the ICC he was professor of Public International Law at the University of Zaragoza. He is married and has 2 children.

Helene Assaf

Mrs. Helene Assaf, married, born in 1979 in Lebanon, is an ICC translator and interpreter since 2005, with both legal and translation background. She takes part regularly in ICC missions to provide interpretation services to victims, witnesses, counsel within Defence teams and ICC officials.

Melinda Taylor:

Mrs. Melinda Taylor, 36 years old, is Australian national. She has been working at the ICC since 2006 as counsel in the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD).

The OPCD have been appointed on 6 December 2011 to assist Saif al-Islam Gaddafi by the ICC judges. She is married and has a 2 years old baby girl.


Source: ICC


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Serbian President’s statements about Srebrenica

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2012

“Any attempt at underplaying the seriousness of the crimes committed during the Balkan wars is unacceptable,” said Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

The recently elected President of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolic, claimed on 31 May that the crimes committed in Srebrenica were not genocide, but a serious war crime.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has ruled that the killing of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 was genocide.

“Political leaders bear a particular responsibility for not undermining international courts,” said Mr Støre.

“Full support for international judicial processes is important for the ongoing reconciliation process and regional cooperation,” Mr Støre added.




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Energy-saving stoves use up to 80 percent less firewood

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2012

Energy-saving stoves use up to 80 percent less firewood

JOHANNESBURG,  – When night falls in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya, nearly half a million refugees are plunged into darkness. The lack of light robs schoolchildren of the possibility of studying and provides perfect cover for thieves and rapists.

“There are robbers who take advantage of the dark to rob people of their phones,” said Ifo Camp resident and freelance journalist Moulid Hujale. “Even when there’s a full moon, there’s less crime.”

For many households who cannot afford candles or kerosene lamps, let alone a generator, the only source of light is that produced by cooking fires. But firewood is an increasingly scarce and contentious commodity in an arid region where an ever growing refugee population has been competing with locals for dwindling natural resources since the first camp was established there in 1991.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) trucks in firewood at a cost of US$600,000 a month, but only enough to meet about 30 percent of each household’s monthly needs, forcing refugee women to walk up to 10km outside the camps to gather wood for cooking. These excursions expose them to the risk of violent attacks from resentful locals and even other refugees.

“The incidents of gender-based violence against them are quite common,” said Njuki Venanzio, an associate environment officer with UNHCR based at Dadaab. “Our protection colleagues document about three cases per week.”

Even inside the camps, levels of sexual and gender-based violence have increased significantly in the past 18 months as the camp’s population has swelled and poor lighting has made new arrivals living on the outskirts of the camp particularly vulnerable.

''There are robbers who take advantage of the dark to rob people of their phones. Even when there’s a full moon, there’s less crime''

Although the scale of Dadaab’s camps have magnified its security and environmental problems, refugee camps all over Africa face similar challenges. Seventy-two percent have no electricity (while only 30 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s general population has electricity) and many are located in fragile environments where wood is in short supply or completely unavailable.

The area around Dzaleka Camp in Malawi is so heavily deforested that refugees often resort to selling a portion of their monthly food rations to buy firewood or charcoal, while women living in Touloum Camp in Chad say they spend four days a week searching for firewood.

Eco-friendly technologies

A UNHCR initiative to bring solar-powered lights and fuel-efficient stoves to 920,000 refugees in Africa over the next three years could address many of the security, environmental and education challenges faced by refugees if donors can be persuaded to come up with the necessary $15 million in funding.

The Light Years Ahead Initiative has already been piloted in seven African countries with good results, according to Amare Egziabher, a senior environmental coordinator with UNHCR in Geneva.

“We’ve had very positive feedback from the field,” he told IRIN. “Many believe it lowers the incidence of crime, and also gender-based violence for women and girls.”

The initiative also has the potential to lower drop-out rates at camp schools. Children who lack light to do their homework in the evenings tend to fall behind with their studies, while girls often miss classes while helping their mothers collect firewood.

At Dadaab, the pilot phase of the project has already brought solar-powered lanterns to 140 schoolchildren preparing for exams and street lights to several areas of Hagadera Camp identified by residents as particularly unsafe at night.

“It has had a major impact on security in those few areas,” said Venanzio. “But we’re talking about a camp with over 120,000 refugees so the coverage has been small.”

Each solar lantern costs $39 while a solar street light that can make a neighbourhood safer for up to 300 refugees costs $1,200.

“So far we’ve had some promises of funding but nothing concrete yet,” said Venanzio.

Saving fuel, saving the environment

The fuel-efficient stove favoured by UNHCR is called Save80 because it uses up to 80 percent less wood than cooking over a traditional stove, but several NGOs and agencies working at Dadaab are distributing different types of energy-saving stoves. They have so far managed to reach about 48 percent of the refugee population, but as kerosene has been deemed too expensive and ethanol in too short supply, all of the stoves distributed still use firewood.

“We need something more sustainable,” conceded Venanzio. “There is a lot of environmental degradation within a 10km radius of the camps and the Kenyan government is insisting that we look for a viable alternative [to wood] soon.”

Increasing local production of ethanol from sugarcane is one option. Another is finding entrepreneurs willing to produce sufficient quantities of fuel briquettes from agricultural by-products like coffee or risk husks.

In the meantime, UNHCR’s environmental management programme is distributing free saplings to refugee and host communities in an effort to reforest the area. “But the environment here is very dry so the survival of the trees is a bit challenging,” said Venanzio.

Awareness-raising campaigns aimed at teaching refugees how to use firewood more economically, recycle garbage and grow vegetables using waste water are also aimed at mitigating the camps’ impact on the local environment but Venanzio said the programme struggled with insufficient funding. “Environmental programmes get a very small budget compared to other sectors that are considered life-saving like water, food, health,” he explained.

Private donors including churches and corporations gave $1.4 million towards the Light Years Ahead Initiative in 2011, but “we still have a long way to go,” admitted Egziabher. “The demand is so high.”


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