What Theresa May and her pals are doing to me and others

In my opinion, her government is breaking the law and is encouraging and even forcing British citizens to break the law too.

Why? While Brexit is not a reality yet, the British government has ramped up its anti-foreigner campaigns and is introducing procedures that are clearly discriminatory in nature.

As an example of what I mean by “anti-anti-foreigner campaigns”, a few days ago, health minister James O’Shaugnessy very cleverly suggested that foreigners in the UK do not pay tax. As what he said was not an outright lie, merely extremely suggestive, it is hard to call him out on it. He did not respond to a tweet from me about the matter.

It is lies and suggestions like these that fan antagonistic attitudes toward foreigners in Britain.

Also, media should take responsibility for what they report. The Standard quoted O’Shaugnessy without correcting him.

The Equality Act 2010 explicitly states that it is against the law to treat any person unfairly or less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic.

Those personal characteristics include race and according to the Act, the term “race” includes nationality, colour and national or ethnic origins.

  • The practice currently being introduced at hospitals, in which patients with foreign-sounding names and looks perceived as foreign are treated differently – and on occasion refused treatment on the basis of the assumption that the person is not British or not permanently based in Britain – is discriminatory in nature (a violation of the Equality Act). Note that this is also affecting British people.

The existence of NI cards means that there is no reason for this discrimination. It would be  very normal, expected even, to ask everyone to present their NI cards when using NHS services.

This verification could include a copy of the latest water or council tax bill if the government wants to make sure that someone is not using an old card but does no longer live in the UK if it worries about that. It could also serve to ascertain that the medical records contain accurate information. (I have missed appointments in the past because appointment letters continued to go to an old address.)

As an EU citizen in Britain, I underwent an interview process and submitted all the documentation that was required as part of applying for an NI number. NI numbers are not automatically assigned to anyone who shows up.

Asking this from everyone who uses NHS services would not be discriminatory.

(The new banking regulations coming into effect in January may not be discriminatory in nature, but I don’t have enough details to be able to assess that. The idea seems to be that the UK government wants to be able to freeze the bank accounts of foreigners it thinks it may want to deport. The usual errors can be expected. So I advise foreigners to keep sufficient funds in foreign accounts. Better safe than sorry.)

  • Information being sent to the Home Office when it concerns patients who do not have or are perceived as possibly not having the British nationality causes problems for medical staff as well as it forces them to violate doctor-patient confidentiality.
  • Theresa May also forces and encourages exploitation and discrimination of EU citizens, because of the stance she continues to take with regard to the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK (and the deportation threats and notifications many foreigners have been exposed to). This has also appalled many EU officials.

By refusing to guarantee the continuation of the existing rights of EU citizens (*see below), Theresa May ensures that British employers cannot afford to hire foreign nationals for critical functions or functions that require (expensive) training. As we’ve recently been able to read, it also leads to exploitation of EU citizens currently in the UK.

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Verhofstadt is currently President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (@ALDEGroup). Among other things, he has been prime minister of Belgium. He is a member of the European Parliament and is the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations.

I find it highly deplorable that the British government continues to set such an appalling example in the area of tolerance, inclusion and equality.

Successions of British governments (including for example Blair’s) have done this with regard to large proportions of the British population as well.

Many of the British may be astonished to see that EU citizens – all coming from nations with much greater equality than Britain – loudly object to how the British government is currently not only abusing their rights but also encouraging widespread violation of their rights (thereby perhaps also stepping up for some of those Britons).

 

PS 27 October
*I have meanwhile realized that I need to explain this further for the benefit of some.

Yes, Theresa May – she of the “go home or face arrest” campaign as I was reminded of this evening, and I have also read in the past that according to her, refugees come to the UK to kill and eat British swans – keeps saying that EU citizens who are currently here legally will be able to stay. The problem is that “legally” is redefined every other week, so to speak, and that the government picks and chooses bits of legislation depending on which outcome it wants.

Until very recently, I was no longer sure if I was still seen as being here legally or not, even though some legislation says that I have had the same position as British citizens for eight years now (namely after I had been here for five years, legally). With all the people being deported or threatened with deportation, even though most of that appears to have happened in error, I haven’t known what to expect for a long time.

If the UK government saw me as an illegal immigrant, however, it wouldn’t have admitted me back into the country on my recent trip to the continent, I reckon. Since then, I have been breathing easier. The idea that you can be arrested any time and instantly dumped into an immigration detention centre with no more than the clothes and anything else you had on you at the time of arrest and without there being any time limit to that detention is not one that puts a person at ease.

After my last trip out of the country, more clarity has been given – indeed! agreed! – but it still is not fully clear what “legally” means. Theresa May deliberately forced this limbo not just on EU citizens in the UK but also on British citizens abroad, so I understand. Most of them, too, seem to be mere “chicken shit” to her.

Sent to Haiti to keep the peace, departing UN troops leave a damaged nation in their wake

Siobhán Wills, University of Ulster; Cahal McLaughlin, Queen’s University Belfast, and Ilionor Louis, Université d’Etat d’Haiti

On Oct. 15, 2017, the United Nations will withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Haiti, ending its 13-year mission there.

One might expect mixed feelings about the soldiers’ departure. After all, since the arrival of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in June 2004, after former President Jean-Bertrande Aristide was forced out by a coup, the island has seen neither war nor armed conflict.

Crime and violence levels also remain high in Haiti, particularly in the capital of Port-au-Prince, and until January 2017 the country was leaderless due to repeated delays in holding its presidential election. Haiti is also still recovering from Hurricane Matthew, which caused famine in some hard-hit areas in 2016.

Despite these challenges, reports from the island suggest that most Haitians are ready to see the mission depart. That’s because, beyond stabilizing the country during a period of political tumult, the U.N.‘s troops have also done harm in Haiti.

The international organization has admitted that its peacekeepers introduced cholera to the island after the devastating 2010 earthquake and sexually abused women who lived near U.N. camps.

What it has not yet acknowledged is that during early efforts to take out gangs in crime-riddled neighborhoods, U.N. troops also unintentionally killed more than 25 of the same citizens they were deployed to protect.

MINUSTAH soldiers, here seen in November 2016, have occupied Bois Neuf, Cité Soleil, for over a decade.
Siobhán Wills

Keeping the peace?

This lethal violence, which has garnered little international press, is the subject of our new film, “It Stays With You: Use of Force by U.N. Peacekeepers in Haiti,” a 50-minute documentary released in Port-au-Prince in June 2017 and set for its U.S. release on Oct. 30.

Between 2004 and 2007, MINUSTAH carried out at least 15 heavily militarized operations against criminal gangs living in Cité Soleil, a seaside shantytown of 300,000 to 400,000 people. In these crowded neighborhoods, where most homes are made of scavenged sheets of corrugated metal and other scrap materials, the U.N. troops battled local organized crime groups using heavy weaponry, including automatic rifles and grenades.

During Operation Iron First, for example, which took place in the Bois Neuf section of Cité Soleil on July 6, 2005, the U.N. reports that it used 22,700 bullets, 78 grenades and five mortars and killed seven gang members.

But, according to some residents interviewed in “It Stays with You,” unarmed civilians also died in this raid. Douglas Griffiths, then deputy U.S. ambassador to Haiti, has also confirmed that “credible sources” have accused U.N. peacekeepers of killing “more than 20 women and children” in the operation.

Some were shot inside their homes by U.N. soldiers in helicopters, whose bullets easily penetrated their metal rooftops. These accounts have been substantiated by witnesses and international aid workers interviewed for our film, including by one American doctor who saw bullet holes in the roof of a home that he visited while treating a young girl for gunshot wounds.

Some homes in Cité Soleil were completely destroyed by MINUSTAH gunfire and shelling.
Siobhan Wills

Other Cité Soleil residents were killed by machine gun fire by U.N. troops from armored personnel carriers, shooting from guns mounted on the vehicles’ roofs. Witnesses state that during Operation Iron Fist, sustained firing over several hours destroyed entire homes, killing some of the people inside them.

In 2005, Jean-Marie Guehenno, who was then the U.N.‘s undersecretary general for peacekeeping, essentially confirmed these reports. At a press briefing at the U.N. headquarters in New York, he said, “A number of operations have been conducted by MINUSTAH… I have to be honest with you, there may have been some civilian casualties.”

The following December, just before Christmas in 2006, the U.N.’s Operation New Forest went through some 10,000 bullets over two days. Numerous people with no connection to gangs, including children, were killed or injured in this raid.

The exact number is unclear, however, since the U.N. has carried out no investigations involving a visit to the neighborhood into this raid or others in Cité Soleil. The Haitian police have conducted no investigations, either.

No accountability

These accusations are not the first to damage the reputation of the U.N.’s vast peacekeeping operation, which currently has soldiers stationed in 15 countries around the world. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse are an endemic problem in multiple missions.

Even so, MINUSTAH has a bad record. In Haiti, 134 Sri Lankan soldiers set up a child sex ring, exploiting boys and girls as young as 12 years of age. There is little accountability for such violations. The Sri Lankan troops were sent home, but none have been jailed; the U.N. was criticized for its inadequate response. It also took five years for the U.N. leadership to take responsibility for the cholera epidemic.

It is not surprising, then, that the international organization’s response to the killings in Cité Soleil has been lackluster. The end of the Haiti mission this month offers an opportunity for an independent investigation into the unintended harms of U.N. operations in Cité Soleil, particularly in Bois Neuf.

Based on our on-the-ground research, we believe a full accounting would find that the repeated military raids not only killed innocent bystanders but also exacerbated the precariousness of residents’ already marginal existence. Poor families lost their breadwinners; homes were destroyed; children were made orphans and had to be taken in by neighbors.

Evelyn Myrtil (here with granddaughter) and her family were caught in the crossfire between gangs and MINUSTAH troops. Myrtil’s brother did not survive.
Siobhan Wills

After a pot-maker, Nelson Ti Lari, was inadvertently killed in his workshop in 2005, his wife, Veronique, told us that she repeatedly visited the U.N. base at Camp Delta with a photograph of her dead husband, seeking acknowledgment that the breadwinner of her family had been killed. But, she says, the staff there sent her away every time. Eventually, she gave up.

Failing U.N. support – such as medical assistance to those injured in raids or financial support to people who lost their homes or livelihoods in the crossfire – people were compelled to seek help from the cohort of international NGOs that have provided the bulk of citizen services in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.

There is a growing body of international literature, including research by Dr. Ilionor Louis, co-author of this article, demonstrating that such forced dependency is itself a form of indirect violence. And in a country like Haiti, where post-disaster aid is big business and oversight of NGOs is almost nil, this will be another lasting legacy of the U.N. mission.

In making our documentary, we found that Cité Soleil residents aren’t just sad for their losses – they’re also angry that the U.N. hasn’t taken responsibility for its actions. MINUSTAH may be pulling out of Haiti on Oct. 15, but the the agency’s misdeeds will live on in Cité Soleil long after the last peacekeeper departs.

The ConversationThe film “It Stays With You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti” is available for streaming (password Haiti17).

Siobhán Wills, Professor of Law, University of Ulster; Cahal McLaughlin, Professor of Film Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, and Ilionor Louis, Sociologist, Ethnology Department, Université d’Etat d’Haiti

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

My latest lesson

I used to be against. Injustice, for example.

Then I decided that it was better to be for things than against things. More positive.

But you can’t be for the safety and well-being of children if you don’t also fight child abuse, which includes that you are against its acceptance in some circles and cultures. (As expressed by for instance a recent decision in Britain that child abuse victims by definition “consented” to their abuse if they were living in the same house as the abuser, and other nasty nonsense like that.)

Similarly, you can’t be for the creation of a better future if you’re not also against its destruction.

You can’t be for human rights for every human being if you’re not also against the taking away or diminishment of human rights of some people by some people (such as in the case of that abused apprentice who had the misfortune of working at a business with an approved abuse culture).

I see that now.

I am redefining myself as fiercely anti-abuse (etc) first and fiercely pro-flourishing (etc) second.

That is probably what I already was when I started out. I don’t like feeling angry, however. So I tend to avoid anger and tend to see it as something negative. But you can’t accomplish a thing in the world without anger. Ultimately, anger is what makes the world go round. Anger for instance makes people fight against (the effects of) abusive people in power, like Donald Trump, and fight for a better world.

Anger pushes people out of complacency and opens their eyes. And then it makes them decide to do something about what caused the anger and fight for what becomes possible without it. Anger makes people start food banks and raise funds for medical treatments in the presence of failing governments and corrupt politicians.

Anger is a tool that you can learn to use. The first step in that learning process is to stop avoiding and suppressing it so that you see how you can actually use it constructively. Anger makes people stop waffling and whining and begin to act instead. Anger is empowering. It is powerful.

Anger can therefore be very destructive (particularly if you suppress it and allow it to fester). That is the risk inherent to anger, and part of the reason why most people try to avoid it (and also why it’s generally seen as done for men but not for women).

That’s why you have to tie it to something else. Compassion, for example. Anchor it.

See, when you get angry, you have a choice. That choice is whether to let the anger make you act for good or act for bad. Whether to make a cake to throw into a politician’s face or to make soup to hand out to strangers on a cold street. Whether to start a mud-slinging campaign on Twitter against some public figure or start a fund-raising campaign for someone’s medical treatment, or heck, sponsor the pill for an American woman.

An example of fighting for justice and against child abuse:

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(“Wow, the Guardian and the Times not calling me a fantasist anymore after Conifer report”). For more, see for example:
https://www.johnglen.org.uk/news/my-statement-operation-conifer-report
https://jersey.police.uk/news-appeals/2017/october/operation-conifer-report-published/

However, “Even when people are unhappy with a state of affairs, they are usually disinclined to change it. In my area of research, the cognitive and behavioral sciences, this is known as the “default effect.” wrote Musa al-Gharbi in May in the US News on the likely reelection of Donald Trump. Today, the same prediction was made by a different medium.

People generally dislike taking responsibility. They don’t like stepping up. This is often connected to risk aversion. So they are angry, but don’t do anything with their anger. That causes stress.

Stepping up does not have to mean getting your face into the newspapers because of something you did or proclaiming that you want to rule the world. It does not have to involve huge risks. Stepping up can be as simple as driving your neighbor to the supermarket and back.

So to use anger, you have to look at your possibilities. If you don’t have a car, you can’t drive someone else to the supermarket. And I, for example, don’t have the power to vote against Trump or against Theresa May. So what can I do? And what can you do? Looking into that can force you to take other steps. Empowering steps. Steps that enable you to do something instead of nothing.

Here is another example of how you can use anger for good. (Don’t worry, there are five or so comments in Dutch but everything else is in English.) It’s an MTV video on Facebook that a Dutch cop showed a young woman who’d been using her phone while driving. He didn’t ticket her.
https://video-lhr3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t42.1790-2/21718690_118651268834762_4211678555756560384_n.mp4?efg=eyJ2ZW5jb2RlX3RhZyI6InN2ZV9zZCJ9&oh=8055066e6214239bed7073acbedb51d9&oe=59D92C8D

 

A certain brand of callousness

In my essay “We need to talk about this” I mention that I have on occasion been shocked by a certain brand of callousness that I have seen (too) often in Britain (both in the media and in real life). Here is one example of what I mean.

 

You can only justify such occurrences by applying a tweaked form of utilitarian reasoning. One person was suffering, but “wasn’t really harmed” and the number of people who were enjoying what was being done to George Cheese was greater than 1, hence these occurrences “increased overall happiness”.

The fact that utilitarianism was associated with the higher classes may have given this type of reasoning or events an unfortunate aura of “cleverness”. It could also explain why anyone who condemns the sort of things that were being done to George Cheese is seen by some as “naïve” and “not quite with it”.

Utilitarianism also attached little importance to individual persons’ rights. It would have stopped short from, say, stabbing someone like George Cheese as opposed to setting his clothes on fire and stuffing him into the trunk/boot of a car. This is the kind of background, I think, that enabled Simon Wright to say “It did not go too far.”

In reality, abuse targets like George don’t get to LIVE. All they are allowed to do is wait for their natural deaths. George Cheese said “FUCK THAT!” and stood up for himself in the only way he had left.

At least there is an inquest. That’s good.