Monthly Archives: August 2017

After Violent Eviction, Rome Allows Some African Refugees to Stay

Public sentiment toward immigrants continues to sour across Europe, prompting authorities to respond with decisive, sometimes violent, action.

An example occurred last week in Rome, when Italian police forcibly evicted hundreds of refugees from a building near the Piazza Indipendenza.

Police used a water cannon and beat people with batons, resulting in 13 people being treated for injuries at the scene and four hospitalizations, according to Doctors Without Borders in Italy. The force was necessary, police said, to defend themselves against rocks and gas canisters hurled by the refugees.

Following an international outcry, Rome's city council said Friday it will allow 40 refugees � mostly children, elderly and people with disabilities � to stay in the building for six months; but, hundreds of others remain homeless, and thousands of recent arrivals throughout Italy continue to struggle to integrate with the society.

Violent eviction

An evictee interviewed by VOA's Amharic Service described the chaotic scene as police forced refugees out of the building.

I was running with everyone, and I was in front of the men so that they wouldn't beat them, and then two police hit me, she said. The woman says she was beaten on her hands, back and torso as she tried to protect another evictee.

And then they hit me on my head, and I didn't know what was going on, she says. When I tried to run, I got dizzy and fell because of the spraying water.

An estimated 800 people, mostly Eritreans and Ethiopians, were living inside the building, and most fled when authorities arrived. Several hundred people stayed outside to protest, and about 100 people, mostly women, children and those with disabilities, remained inside. They were cleared out by authorities at 6 a.m. local time the following day.

Police said those evicted were illegally squatting. Immigrants had been occupying the building since 2013.

Calls for accountability

Italian authorities need to ask hard questions about this shocking eviction and, in particular, whether the force used by police was necessary and proportionate, said Judith Sunderland, associate director for Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division. Using police in riot gear to force vulnerable people out of their homes with little warning and nowhere to go is just about the opposite of how things should be handled, she said.

Laetitia Bader, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Italian courts had first ordered the eviction in December 2016, and the refugees had been warned that it would take place five days prior to the police action.

The temporary housing offered by authorities, however, was considered substandard by the refugees and far from the city center, Bader said, adding that the government has a legal responsibility to provide housing to the displaced.

Our concern is both that the notification was very abrupt [and] that [insufficient]... accommodation has been offered to these individuals, she told VOA. It's absolutely key that the government looks into and investigates the abusive police action.

Negative sentiment

In Italy, public opinion toward refugees has grown increasingly hostile.

According to research published by Pew last September, 53 percent of Italians think diversity makes their country a worse place to live, and 77 disapprove of the EU's handling of refugees. Sixty percent of Italians think refugees will increase domestic terrorism.

Politicians across the country have seized on this sentiment, often running on overtly anti-immigrant platforms. In June, center-right parties were decisive in local races, winning mayoral elections in 15 cities, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Italy's burden and responsibility

Italians have seen record numbers of refugees reach their shores in recent years. At the end of 2016, Italy hosted nearly a quarter million persons of concern, including about 150,000 refugees and about 100,000 asylum-seekers, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.

Despite its prominence as a point of entry into Europe, Italy hosts fewer persons of concern than both France, where more than 300,000 refugees live, and Germany, home to nearly 700,000 refugees and well over a half-million asylum seekers.

Italy has 20 million fewer people than does Germany, but hosts three times fewer persons of concern per capita.

It's also processing far fewer asylum-seekers. In 2015 and 2016, 45 percent of asylum applications were handled in Germany, compared to 8 percent in Italy.

Within the country, some regions have been far more active in hosting refugees. Last summer, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that just a quarter of the country's 8,000 municipalities currently host migrants on humanitarian grounds.

In Rome, an Ethiopian woman interviewed by VOA's Amharic Service last Friday said many of those evicted from the building are now sleeping on the streets.

She said they plan to continue protesting their treatment by Italian police. They don't have any respect for us. They think black people are flies and donkeys, and they are saying, 'We don't care if you die,'" she said.

Source: Voice of America

Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson: Greenest Municipality Competition awards ceremony

Speech by Deputy Minister Thomson during Greenest Municipality Competition awards ceremony, Bloemfontein municipality, 29 august 2017

The Mayor of Mangaung Metro

MEC B Malakoane: Free State Department of Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environment

Members of the Executive Councils of other provinces

Mayors of Metro and Local Municipalities

All Councilors present

Representatives of Traditional Leadership

Representatives of SALGA

Government Officials from all spheres of government

Members of the media

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening to all of you.

On behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs and all the members of our government in attendance, welcome and thanks to the many of you who have traveled a long way to be here. A special thank you to all our councilors who have joined us for this special occasion.

You presence is a demonstration of your commitment to serve your constituents and your understanding that engaging with the provincial and national government is an important requirement of your jobs.

The infrastructure and the services that local communities use every day cannot function without close cooperation and coordination among governments at every level and municipalities represent the level of government with which communities have the most day-to-day contact.

For this reason it is important that our municipalities reflects the vision contained in section 24 of our Constitution, which states that Everyone has the rightto an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; andto have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and futuregenerations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

I am encouraged by the fact that more and more South African municipalities are embracing the green economy by implementing long term sustainability policies and strategies in partnership with local communities. This is an important development for our country because it demonstrates an increasing awareness and realisation that our prosperity as a country is inextricably connected to the well-being of our environment.

Since its inception, the Greenest Municipality Competition was an important enabler in the transition towards greener municipalities. More than that, the competition has evolved into a significant contributor towards our collective response to the challenges posed by climate change and our path towards a sustainable future.

Through the competition we have also strengthened cooperation and coordination across the three spheres of government. Through the implementation of the Local Government Support Strategy for the Environment Sector, hands-on support was provided to municipalities with officials permanently deployed to all District Municipalities. These officials supported municipalities on issues relating to Environmental Governance, Integrated Planning, Natural Resource Management, Green Economy and Climate Change.

They also played an important role in managing the departmental programmes and projects designed to address environmental issues and socio-economic challenges through job creation.

As you know, every competition culminates in the announcement and conferring of prizes to the outstanding achievers and today marks the announcement of the best performing municipalities for the 2016/17 cycle. The biggest winner of this competition is our environment. When the environment wins, we all win because Humans and Nature are in a symbiotic relation � the survival of the one depends on the other.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have now reached the point, which brought us here, the announcement of the winners for the 6th Greenest Municipality Competition.

The GMC was overseen and managed by a panel of adjudicators to ensure high level standards were followed for efficiency and fairness. The Panel of Adjudicators has spent sufficient time at each participating municipality to ensure adequate coverage of all areas of the competition.

The funds for the prizes of the awards were sourced from Environmental Programmes & Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) of the department and the recipient municipalities will receive the awards in a form of an EPWP project to the value of the award.

This of great strategic importance as it encourages municipalities to initiate projects that address environmental issues within their IDPs and links with the objectives of EPIP of creating better environment management practices, creating temporary job opportunities, skills development and SMME development.

I will now announce the winners from the Second Runner-Up, First Runner-Up and the overall Winner of the Local and the Metropolitan Municipality Category respectively.

Starting with the Local Municipality category:

The Second Runner up is Hessequa Local Municipality

The First Runner up is Govan Mbeki Local Municipality

The Overall Winner for the local category is Polokwane Local Municipality.

I now proceed to the Metro category:

The Second Runner up is Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality

The First Runner up is Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality

The Overall Winner for the metro category is City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude, I want to reiterate the need for all municipalities to get involved for the betterment of our people. If there are challenges from non-participating municipalities, we should discuss them, find solutions and move forward together.

I would like to congratulate all winners and participants once again for all the efforts made and the efforts you will continue to make to put our country on a path to sustainable development.

Thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa


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