Monday, September 20, 2004

People smuggling -- 'Tantamount to genocide'

The UN reports that people smuggling has become the biggest crime business in West Africa after drugs.

The International Office for Migration (IOM) told the three-day conference organised by the international police organisation Interpol that in 1991 there were an estimated two million "irregular migrants" in Europe from West and Central Africa.

Today, it said, the figure was just over three million.

Armand Rousselot, the IOM regional representative for West Africa, said France, Italy and Spain were the most favoured destinations of illegal migrants, many of whom travel overland across the Sahara before attempting the short sea journey across the Mediterranean or across the Atlantic approaches to Spain in dangerously overcrowded boats.

“If a migrant wants to go, he will find the means to do so”, Rousselot said.

But the services of those who supply forged documents and provide clandestine transport do not come cheap. Obtaining a forged passport and entry visa for the European Union can cost up to US$4,000.

And those who try instead to make it clandestinely across the sea in a crowded boat to a lonely beach pay heavily for a place on board.

An average of $2000 each. A huge amount in most West African countries.


The European Parliament has finally spoken on the Darfur crisis. The EU's legislative arm categorized the events in Western Sudan as "tantamount to genocide."

No explanation was given as to the different between something that is genocide and something that is "tantamount to genocide."

Though, as Reuters noted, the Euro Parliament's declaration supported sanctions against Khartoum but omitted a call for an oil embargo.

Odd. I thought Americans were the only ones who allowed oil to enter into political considerations. Not righteous, conscientious Europeans!


Radio Netherlands has yet another excellent dossier, this time on the effect of the brutal civil war in northern Uganda on the region's children.

The rebel Lord's Resistance Army isn't using [insert ominous music] WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION like mustard gas or what not. They only recruit very young children into their ranks; 'recruit' meaning force. Their raw and random cruelty is arguably unmatched anywhere in the world. The LRA are descendants of Milton Obote's gang; Obote was basically Idi Amin with a little charisma. The LRA claims to want a government based on the Ten Commandments.

Excluding, of course, the ones that deal with acting like moderately civilized human beings.


Many West Africans are changing their money. Literally.

The West African central bank, BCEAO, is giving residents of their CFA franc zone* until the end of the year to exchange their bank notes for brand, spanking new ones.

One advantage is sanitary. As anyone who's ever used CFA franc notes, the bills are grimy and disgusting.

Another reason is to prevent bank notes stolen from the BCEAO branch in northern Cote d'Ivoire from being laundered.

The central bank is also using the exercise to determine the precise value of CFA francs in circulation.

There are concerns that the information campaign may not reach all people, especially in rural areas, of the member countries.

[*-the West African CFA franc zone comprises Guinea-Bissau and all of the French-speaking West African countries, except for Guinea]


The Namibian government has promised to expel hundreds of Bangladeshi workers.

Their crime? Complaining about working conditions in their factory that provides sportswear to Nike and other manufacturers.

The workers claimed their employers were withholding more than one third of their monthly salary to pay for food... An [Agence France Presse] journalist who was shown their living conditions at the plant said the Bangladeshis were forced to share a single toilet and to use outside taps to wash.

Whiners! One toilet's surely enough for 400 workers.


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