28 Oct

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


UK and France accused of breaching human rights as children forced to sleep in makeshift conditions for second night

The destruction of the refugee camp in Calais has meant thousands of its residents were disbursed quickly throughout France. Around 200 children were accepted by the UK, but as the registration process closed, the Guardian’s Mat Heywood found hundreds of adults and children were left with nowhere to go

The British and French governments were accused of breaching children’s human rights as up to 50 teenagers were abandoned by authorities in Calais and forced into an industrial estate near the cleared-out refugee camp to sleep in makeshift conditions.

The teenagers were lured out of the site of the camp in the afternoon with the promise of transport to a reception centre where they could be assessed for asylum or reunification with families in the UK.

However, after an hour no bus had arrived. Police units emerged in force with riot shields, teargas and taser guns and began to kettle the group, pressing them into a side street in an industrial estate. Some of the refugees were in tears as it appeared that they would be sleeping on the streets again.

The prospect of dozens of refugee children being stranded outside for a second night triggered a high-level protest from the British government and a demand that the children be provided with an immediate safe place to go.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, spoke to her French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, on Thursday afternoon, telling him that the children who remained in Calais had to be properly protected.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Sheehan, who was in Calais to witness the operation, said: “Children have rights to food, family, shelter and protection under the Convention on the Rights of the Child” – a UN treaty declaring that all children are “entitled to special care and assistance”. “Britain and France are signatories to this. They are flouting the law,” she said.

As darkness fell and the promised safe accommodation for the remaining unaccompanied minors failed to materialise, and following phone calls from Sheehan, French police allowed a group of over 70 teenagers and adults back into the smouldering camp, to take shelter in an abandoned, unheated school building.

They were guarded by independent volunteers. One, Alice Sturrock from Edinburgh, said: “I did not think at 22 I would be on fire patrol in a refugee camp. There is a fire burning over that side and there are CRS [French police] with rubber bullets on the other. How is this a safe haven for children?” she said.

“They are fed up, tired and sad. It is crazy that no provision has been made for them. They have been given no information all day,” Inca Sorrell, another volunteer who has worked with child refugees in Calais for the past year, said.

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Deploying pepper spray and armored vehicles marked beginning of new phase to thwart demonstrations to prevent construction of the controversial oil pipeline

Protests against the controversial Dakota Access pipeline move into a new phase when police in North Dakota make mass arrests and deploy pepper spray against protesters and the media. Activists say tear gas was also used, claims the county sheriff denies

Law enforcement officials arrested 141 people in North Dakota after police surrounded protesters, deploying pepper spray and armored vehicles in order to clear hundreds of Native American activists and supporters from land owned by an oil pipeline company.

The move marked the beginning of an aggressive new phase in ongoing police efforts to thwart a months-long demonstration by hundreds of members of more than 90 Native American tribes to prevent the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten the regional water supply and destroy sacred sites.

The confrontations marked the most intense conflict to date at the protest, which has become a flashpoint across the US for Native American rights and climate change activism.

Clashes between Morton County law enforcement and protesters escalated on Thursday during a tense all-day standoff, as police pushed protesters off the private land where the pipeline is slated for construction, forcing activists to retreat back to the camps that have sprung up since the protest began in April.

Activists vowed to continue fighting the project after the arrests. More activists were in custody but had yet to be processed, Morton County sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in a press conference.

Officials claimed that activists set pipeline equipment on fire, and erected illegal and dangerous roadblocks, forcing police to close in on the demonstration, deploy pepper spray and arrest activists who failed to comply with orders.

However, Rose Stiffarm, a cinematographer and member of six Native American nations including the Chippewa Cree, told the Guardian that the police response on Thursday was unnecessarily harsh. “The government is attacking us for protesting, for protecting the water.”

She said police were deploying teargas – something Kirchmeier denied – and said they were “targeting press”.

“We are innocent people – women, children and elders,” she said.

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Illinois senator seems to suggest in debate that Democrat opponent’s Thai and Chinese heritage lessened her family’s centuries of US military service

Illinois senator Mark Kirk seems to suggest in a debate that the Asian-American heritage of his Democratic opponent, congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, lessens her family’s service to the US military. ‘I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,’ Kirk said of Duckworth. The congresswoman herself served as a US Army helicopter pilot in the Iraq war, losing both her legs and severely injuring her right arm in 2004

A Republican senator struggling in his re-election race made a racially charged remark about his Democratic opponent in a debate on Thursday night.

Illinois senator Mark Kirk seemed to suggest the Asian American heritage of congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, somehow diminished her family’s long service to the US.

“I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk said of Duckworth.

The third-term congresswoman, who was born in Thailand, is the daughter of a Thai woman of Chinese descent and an American father who traced his roots to the Revolutionary War. Members of the Duckworth family have served in the American armed forces since the revolution.

Duckworth herself served as a US army helicopter pilot in the Iraq war, losing both her legs and severely injuring her right arm when the helicopter she was piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in 2004.

Kirk’s comments came in response to a statement from Duckworth during the debate.

“My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the revolution. I am a Daughter of the American revolution,” Duckworth said, referring to the group whose members are the female descendants of those who served in the American revolution.

“I’ve bled for this nation,” Duckworth continued. “But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because people are quick to sound the drums of war and I want to be there to say, ‘This is what it costs and this is what you’re asking us to do.’ And if that’s the case, I’ll go. It’s families like mine that bleed first.

“But let’s make sure that the American people understand what we are engaging in and let’s hold our allies accountable because we can’t do it all.”

Kirk simply said in response: “I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” and added nothing else as he sat silently.

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High-profile trial over the armed occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge sparked a national debate about the rights of ranchers in the American west

Occupation leader Ammon Bundy at the wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon, in January.

Occupation leader Ammon Bundy at the wildlife refuge near Burns, Oregon, in January. Photograph: Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images

A jury has found that brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy were not guilty of conspiring against the government, a surprising end to the high-profile Oregon standoff trial that sparked national debates about public lands and the rights of ranchers in the American west.

The decision, unveiled in federal court in Portland on Thursday, is a blow to the US government, which had aggressively prosecuted the rightwing activists who led an armed takeover of public property to protest American land-use regulations.

The Bundy brothers, who orchestrated a 2 January takeover of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, were acquitted on a number of serious charges, along with five other defendants. Only a day earlier the court dismissed a juror over fears of bias, raising concerns that the trial would drag on for weeks.

“We are just so excited,” Angie Bundy, Ryan’s wife, told the Guardian after the verdict was announced. “We’ve been praying hard, and we knew they hadn’t done anything wrong.”

In a statement, federal officials said they accepted the decision. “Although we are extremely disappointed in the verdict, we respect the court and the role of the jury in the American judicial system,” said Greg Bretzing, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon.

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Reaction after Bundy brothers found not guilty in Oregon militia standoff – video

Defendant Shawna Cox expresses her joy after a jury ruled that Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five other defendants were not guilty of conspiring against the government. The decision was unveiled in federal court in Portland on Thursday, a surprising end to the high-profile Oregon standoff trial that sparked national debates about public lands and the rights of ranchers in the American west

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