Aid group: Migrants ‘prefer to die’ than return to Libya

Migrants sit aboard MV Aquarius, a rescue vessel chartered by SOS-Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at the Mediterranean sea while its bound for Italy on May 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Aid group: Migrants ‘prefer to die’ than return to Libya

CATANIA: Migrants who were left in the Mediterranean Sea for over a day during a bureaucratic standoff were so afraid of being turned over to the Libyan coast guard that they were about to jump into the water because they “prefer to die,” aid workers said Thursday.
The Aquarius rescue ship of the aid group SOS Mediterranee eventually docked Thursday in Catania, Sicily, with 105 people aboard. They had been rescued Sunday by a British-flagged sailboat, but were kept at sea after Italy insisted Britain approve their transfer to the bigger, sturdier Aquarius.
Britain argued it wasn’t coordinating the rescue, and eventually Italy approved the transfer.
Matthew Carter, SOS Mediterranee communications officer, said the rescue showed “a growing trend of delays and confusion between the authorities and who is coordinating rescues and transfer operations.”
Some of the migrants, who were kept on the deck of the sailboat during the standoff, suffered heatstroke and an 11-year-old boy vomited blood, he said.
It was the second time in as many months that Italy has delayed allowing rescued migrants to reach safety by insisting on bureaucratic formalities involving the flag nations of rescue ships. It appears to be the latest tactic of Italy’s strategy to dissuade aid groups from operating in the Mediterranean so that the Libyans will take charge of rescues and bring migrants back.
The Italian coast guard says international norms require that the flag nations of ships request formal authorization for their ships to dock and offload — a requirement Italy hadn’t enforced before its recent crackdown on migrant landings and its financial and logistical support for the Libyan coast guard.
Aloys Vimard, project coordinator for the Doctors Without Borders aid group who was on the Aquarius, said the threat of being returned to Libya was terrifying for migrants, because many had already been exposed to “high levels of violence, including torture or rapes.”
“At one point, we had the Libyan coast guard patrolling around us and they were just scared. They were about to jump into the water because they tell us they would prefer to die than return to Libya,” Vimard said.


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 24 April 2019
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.