Broken Britain 26: postcode lottery for people with life-threatening health conditions intensifies

Complaints from Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Middlesex, Berkshire and Wiltshire

Two years ago in its annual report the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported that patients in England are increasingly being subjected to “care injustice” in which they can access no or poor quality hospital, mental health and social care services. “Some people can easily access good care, while others cannot access the services they need, experience ‘disjointed’ care or only have access to providers with poor services”.

In June cancer care in England faced major disruption during the pandemic with big drops in numbers being seen following urgent referrals by GPs (BBC).

The Times reported in August that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has fallen 96% since the peak of the pandemic, according to official data   Hospital staff are now treating just 700 coronavirus patients a day in England, compared to about 17,000 a day during the middle of April, according to NHS England.

Despite this freed capacity, some hospitals which did not have a single coronavirus patient on their wards, have still been refusing admission to patients assessed by their GPs as being in need of urgent attention.

Currently there are alarming letters in the press and interviews with people on radio who have life-threatening health conditions and are being denied appointments or treatment – and many with painful but not life-threatening conditions are not being treated. In September alone . . .

A woman in Rodborough, often in great pain, whose dentist is baffled by her condition, has tried to get a hospital appointment with no success and a man from Lyndhurst also writes: “my dentist cannot give me an appointment to have a very painful tooth with an abscess removed”.

A writer from Melbourn in Hampshire wrote: “I am one of the thousands waiting for surgery – in my case a new knee. To say that I am in agony is no exaggeration, and the pain is not restricted to the knee. The other knee is rapidly going the same way My surgeon, in whom I have the utmost faith, tells me his hands are tied and that it has been decreed that no elective surgery is to be carried out on the over-70s – on safety grounds”. She asks:

“How can a civilised country treat its senior citizens in this way? I was a useful member of the community. Now I am a wretched creature dragging myself around on two sticks, frequently in tears. It cannot be right”.

“What is happening with the NHS?” asks a man from Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire: “Last Tuesday, I spent four hours driving for a face-to-face consultation with an oral surgeon, only to be told that the unit would not be operational for surgery until 2021.

The Health Service Journal reported in April that official figures state 40.9 per cent of acute beds were unoccupied — about four times the normal number.

“The hospital was empty, with staff in scrubs standing about doing nothing. The consultation lasted all of 10 minutes, of which 20 seconds involved a physical examination. The rest of the time, the surgeon was apologising for the unit effectively being shut down.”

After giving details of her experience in France, a Harrow doctor asks: “How are the French managing to provide this level of service while Britain’s GPs are barely functioning?”

A councillor from Streatley, Berkshire, writes, “Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, is deluding himself that the NHS is back in action (Letters, September 5). Are cancer patients, or those waiting for hip replacements, who write letters about delays, and the many patients across the country complaining about half-closed GP surgeries, all making it up?”

“It would appear that the current motto of the NHS is: ‘If it is not the virus, we are not interested.’ How lamentable” writes a man from Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Far better news from Lancashire, Somerset and Durham

In the Preston area – despite quite high levels of coronavirus infection – a man who suddenly had difficulty in swallowing is to have a biopsy today.

Writing from Dulverton in Somerset, Julia recently spent a week in hospital after becoming seriously ill during the night: “I was taken by ambulance to A&E, where treatment was immediate and first-class. Four major scans daily blood tests and two follow-up scans were given next week though the hospital was completely full”.

A Sunderland surgeon writes: “My oral and maxillofacial unit is working almost as before the pandemic, though clinics are running at a reduced number to allow cleaning between patients. I see no reason to close down surgical services for almost four months. Providing that appropriate precautions are taken where necessary, services can function well”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who often advocates a simple consistent approach to messages, should also start working to ensure consistent health care throughout the country.

 

 

 

 

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Whistleblowers 15, Assange – motivation and procedures: “this cannot be called a fair trial”

As a Bournville contact has written, “This case is vital to the liberty of all who tell the truth anywhere in the world”.

Following the world-wide condemnation of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, is a judicial form of silencing being attempted in Britain?

The conduct of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing will convey a threat to journalists and whistleblowers – worldwide from publishing war crimes, human rights abuses, environmental destruction by governments or exposing the terms of trade treaties’ secret negotiations.

We read:

  • Assange was prevented from seeing his lawyers for six months.
  • His court papers have been taken away.
  • The keys of his computer were glued down.
  • A new US indictment was served without warning or explanation “at the 11th hour . . . abnormal, unfair and liable to create real injustice” (defence lawyer Mark Summers).
  • The defence team was not allowed sufficient time to gather evidence relating to the new indictment.
  • Assange was not allowed to see his QC Edward Fitzgerald for six months.
  • He is not allowed to sit and confer with them in court – the usual procedure.
  • Judge Baraitser rules that he must remain in a bullet-proof glass-encased dock, with imperfect acoustics.
  • At an earlier hearing, The Australian reported, Mark Summers said the system meant “we rise every 10 minutes, tramp down to a cell, get instructions then come up and go through security before re-entering the courtroom”.

Corporate/commercial/financial/political considerations

NBC, the news division of the American broadcast television network NBC, reports that on Monday, the U.K.’s National Union of Journalists renewed its call for the British government to dismiss the extradition request – but notes that the case comes at a delicate time for transatlantic relations as the U.K. is keen to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. after leaving the European Union, adding a statement from the union:

“If this extradition is allowed, it will send a clear signal that journalists and publishers are at risk whenever their work discomforts the United States government.”

Peter Oborne in the Press Gazette highlights that ‘there has been scarcely a word in the mainstream British media in his defence’. He points out: ‘The British authorities have it within their power to refuse this extradition. Indeed, more than 160 legal experts wrote to the UK government last month, claiming they are obliged by international law to refuse the US request. He ends by saying that the fact that the US is an ally of Britain is perhaps one reason why but comments that this should make no difference as far as the British media is concerned, adding:

“The US is asserting the right to prosecute a non-US citizen, not living in the US, not publishing in the US, under US laws that deny the right to a public interest defence.

“This case could have a devastating, chilling effect on journalism and the UK government has the ability to prevent this happening. Future generations will never forgive the current generation of journalists unless we raise our game and fight to stop the extradition of Julian Assange”.

The campaign website: https://www.Dontextraditeassange.com

 

 

 

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Whistleblowers 15: Will Julian Assange get a fair hearing?

In 2018, MEP Molly Scott Cato’s support for the proposal for a new EU directive to protect whistleblowers, was reported on this site. It followed twelve general articles which focussed on brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths.

Number 15, Julian Assange, faces 18 charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. His partner, Stella Moris, delivered an 80,000-strong petition opposing his extradition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office.

Assange has been criticised for allegedly working in the interests of Russia charges which he has denied (read more here). However, during the extradition hearing at the Old Bailey, human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith pointed out that the content of the website published by Wikileaks* had:

  • helped to end a secret US assassination programme – “a targeted assassination programme” by the US military in Afghanistan and Pakistan”
  • freed unlawfully detained prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, was told today.
  • helped to stop drone strikes in Pakistan
  • and provided evidence currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court.

He explained that the leaked documents had enabled him to win legal actions on behalf of “a number of innocent people in detention” at the US-run detention camp”.abd revealed the “torture, rendition and murder” carried out by the US government.

Before the proceedings commenced, 40 civic society groups were promised remote access to the court’s proceedings via a video link, but presiding judge Venessa Baraitser revoked that permission on Monday, citing fears that the “integrity of the court” could be compromised if the feed was streamed elsewhere.

Reporters Without Borders campaigns director Rebecca Vincent said: “We have never faced such extensive barriers in attempting to monitor any other case in any other country as we have with the proceedings in the UK in respect of Julian Assange. This is extremely worrying in a case of such tremendous public interest.”

*Wikileaks published, or co-published with the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel, between 2006 and 2010, classified US military material which gave authentic information about the involvement of US military in avoidable civilian deaths, the secret use of drone strikes in Yemen and other subjects referred to  above (bullet points).

 

 

 

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Lobbying 47: Policy Exchange – the lobby group most used by the British government  

46 posts on this site have the term ‘lobbying’ in their titles, and there are possibly hundreds more with references to lobbying or an allied phenomenon – the revolving door. The lobbyists’ efforts were usually directed at influencing political decisions in a way which would maintain or increase the profits of their company or industry paymasters.

The first one in 2009, recorded Baron Haskins of Skidby reproving Prince Charles. It opens: “On Radio 4‘s PM programme, arch-lobbyist Christopher Haskins criticised Prince Charles for openly lobbying and campaigning, saying that this gives him an ‘undue advantage’. (Ed: 5.9.20: BBC audio link has not been maintained). A few of the lobbying advantages enjoyed by Lord Haskins are recorded here . . . “

George Monbiot recently focussed on lobbyists whose primary aim is political instead of commercial, though they are probably very well remunerated.

After an interesting history of political lobbying he singled out the lobby group that Boris Johnson’s government uses most – Policy Exchange. It was founded in 2002 by the Conservative MPs Francis Maude and Archie Norman, and Nick Boles, who later also became a Tory MP. Its first chairman was Michael Gove.

It appears to Monbiot that Policy Exchange has played a crucial role in shifting power away from rival institutions and into the Prime Minister’s office. For several years it has been building a case for curtailing the judiciary. It provided the ammunition for the government’s current attack on judicial review.

Judicial review enables citizens to sue the government to uphold the law. It was the process Gina Miller used in 2016 to oblige Theresa May to seek parliamentary approval for Article 50, that began the Brexit process, and to overturn Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament last year.

Policy Exchange calls such rulings “judicial overreach”. It claims that they threaten the sovereignty of Parliament and the separation of powers between government and judiciary. Monbiot thinks that they do the opposite. The law is legislation passed by Parliament and interpreted by the courts. The government has now appointed a former Conservative Minister, Lord Faulks, to examine judicial review, along the lines suggested by Policy Exchange.

The lobby group has led the public attacks against what it calls the “chilling effects” of leftwing views in academia. Its recent report on academic freedom was found by Jonathan Portes, who found it riddled with basic statistical errors and mistaken assumptions.

The thinktank’s proposals for changing the planning system, that involve a massive removal of power from local authorities, have been adopted wholesale by the government. One of the authors of this scheme, Jack Airey, has moved from Policy Exchange to Downing Street, as a special adviser.

Last year, Policy Exchange published an article that claimed Extinction Rebellion is led by dangerous extremists. Would this owe anything to its funding by the power company Drax, the trade association Energy UK and the gas companies E.On and Cadent, whose fossil fuel investments are threatened by environmental activism?

Policy Exchange is listed by WhoFundsYou as among the most opaque thinktanks with regard to some of its funding sources in the UK, even though it is a registered charity.

Monbiot ends: “By such means, political life is steadily undermined, until little remains but authority and obedience to the Prime Minister. Without strong civic institutions, society loses its power. From the point of view of global capital, that’s mission accomplished”.

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‘Pushing back to Ofsted’: required reading for the HMCI and the Secretary of State for Education

 

The failings of Ofsted, England’s ‘Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills’ were touched on in a July 2019 article on this website, but the degree to which this organisation was to damage parents, children and staff was totally unforeseen by the writer.

In January 2020 Wynstones Steiner School had an Ofsted inspection which, on the basis of perceived failures in safeguarding, deemed the school provision ‘inadequate’. At the behest of this Ofsted Report, the Department for Education promptly required the school to close.

Dr Faysal Mikdadi* recently reviewed Pushing back to Ofsted: Safeguarding and the Legitimacy of Ofsted’s Inspection Judgements – A Critical Case Study, by Richard House (below right) – a forensic analysis of the Ofsted report.

He opens with two anecdotes of the many experiences that he and his Ofsted colleagues had during their inspection work: “testaments to the veracity of House’s judgement in the book under review that Ofsted acts as an ‘enforcer’ using a ‘blunderbuss approach’ where it goes ‘beyond the regulations allowing varying interpretations of inspectors who then go on to inspect and measure compliance to these interpretations’ “.

Mikdadi adds that Ofsted’s blinkered inspectors have a clear idea of what constitutes good schooling: all else must be suspect, regardless of context or differing ideologies. Their response to the Steiner Waldorf system of education disregards the individual learner and focuses on the adjunctive issues of safeguarding, leadership, assessment strategies and outcome data.

Richard House summarises the Steiner Waldorf education approach as follows: ‘In holistic Steiner Waldorf education, a core aim is to integrate head and heart, and mind and body, rather than keep them artificially split asunder at the behest of an outmoded consciousness.’ Who could argue with these aims?

He shows that Steiner Waldorf education produces youngsters who obtain better than average examination results and who do well at university and other further and higher education settings. They are also happier and more settled than many mainstream school students.

House’s main thesis is that Ofsted’s worldview about what constitutes “a good education” was being used as the metric by which to judge an educational approach’. In other words, Ofsted has a one-model-fits-all series of criteria which, in turn, causes school professionals to try hard to fit into Ofsted’s worldview in order to ‘pass’ the hoop-jumping assessment. Schools that have the courage to work according to a specific ideology that does not fit into Ofsted’s worldview are destined to be deemed to have ‘failed’ in their provision.

AHP magazineMikdadi commented that the inspection in this particular school was doomed to fail before it even started, given Ofsted’s recorded animosity to the Steiner Waldorf system of education, including its earlier decision to downgrade a group of Steiner schools.  A group of educationalists had described this as “misguided”, ignoring the high levels of parental satisfaction.

In 2019 Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) wrote to Damien Hinds, the Secretary of State at the time, in the following terms: “…common failures are a result of the underlying principles of Steiner education…. Ofsted does not have a preferred model… fundamentals [include] good governance, clear lines of responsibility and effective safeguarding procedures”. In the case of the Wynstones Steiner School, the focus by the inspection team in determining the school’s alleged inadequacy of provision rested almost exclusively on alleged safeguarding issues”.

In Ofsted’s assessment of the so-called ‘fundamentals’, House points out that no mention is made of learning, of child development and of teachers promoting each child’s self-reliance, self-confidence, critical thinking and self-esteem.

The current culture of risk-averse educational experience – indeed of significantly restricting a child’s freedom of action for fear of being hurt or done harm to – results in the ‘taming of childhood’, eventually creates infantilised adults who cannot cope with the world and with life’s vicissitudes.

In mainstream schools ‘rule-bound procedures’, focussed on the surveillance of safeguarding provision to the nth degree, produce students who grow up behaving like ‘puppets on a string’ lacking independence, critical thinking skills and the resilience and self-determination that they need to make something worthwhile of their lives. Teachers working to a tick-list eventually lose their self-confidence and tend to play it safe.

Dr Mikdadi concludes that there is a lot of food for thought in House’s ‘counter-report’. He finds it difficult to determine what stands out as the strongest point being made (apart, that is, from the fact that Ofsted is a malign influence).

The main crux of the book seeks to show that the current obsession with safeguarding has been done at the expense of learning and the healthy development of a happy, confident, well-rounded and autonomous child.

He ends by saying that House’s book should be required reading in all teacher, school leader and inspector training courses and urges the HMCI and the Secretary of State for Education to read it.

*Dr Faysal Mikdadi has spent over 45 years in education in many capacities, including as an Ofsted lead and team inspector for 23 years (primary, secondary, SEN and ITT). Dr Mikdadi has been an independent consultant since 2002 with a diversity of specialisms, and he still visits schools supporting them across all areas of work both at primary and secondary phases, and runs voluntary poetry and creative workshops in secondary and primary schools across England.

Source: AHPb Magazine for Self & Society | No 5 – Spring 2020

Pushing back to Ofsted: Safeguarding and the Legitimacy of Ofsted’s Inspection Judgements – A Critical Case Study, by Richard House, InterActions, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2020, 126 pp, ISBN 978-0- 9528364-2-1, paperback £10.99. Distributed by / available from Wynstones Press, Stourbridge UK – www.wynstonespress.com  / info@wynstonespress.com (interactive e-book edition also available)

 

 

 

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Wynstones Parents estimate that 95% of the parents and children were very happy.

The association met some of the Wynstones teachers for the first time recently. Seven months on, they still feel devastated and traumatised – and have still not been allowed to see the children from their classes.

What has happened in this whole saga is unspeakable.

Testament to fear: the latest attack on Jeremy Corbyn

Under fire

There has been yet another determined attempt to make sure that the prospect of Britain ever becoming just, healthy and peaceful, is totally exterminated.

Gabriel Pogrund (right) and Patrick Maguire have co-authored a book, ‘Left Out’. It has – naturally – been highly commended by its publishers and by Tim Shipman, an ardent Remain campaigner, who saw JC as ‘an architect of Brexit’ and  often wrote for The Times belittling Corbyn, after his election as Labour Party leader.

It has been fulsomely reviewed in a right-wing newspaper  by Danielle Sheridan, suitably accompanied by one of its many photographs selected to show JC dishevelled and disturbed, and no doubt The Times and Daily Mail will endorse it.

She made no reference to the backgrounds and bias of the writers:

Gabriel Pogrund is extolled by the Jewish News and the Times of Israel.

Patrick Maguire (left), is assiduously backing Keir Starmer who will – if elected – perpetuate a slightly watered-down version of Blair’s New Labour – quite acceptable to those ruled by the profit motive.

 

This book will win accolades from all vested interests here and abroad, who profit, directly or indirectly, by disregarding the interests of the 99%.

 

 

 

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COVID-19 bulletin 35: two predictions that ‘extravagant military purchases’ will end

Helen Warrell (FT Defence & Security Editor) made two visits to London’s Excel conference centre; the first as it accommodated an international arms fair and the second after it became a hospital for Covid-19 patients.

Time-lapse video of the transformation

She commented: “The display of defence machinery now seems absurd. The biggest threat to western nations since the second world war has not been an army but a pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 people across the globe”, adding that faced with this adversary, the idea of human combat seems wasteful:

“For the military, the pandemic poses an uncomfortable question: what is the role of the defence establishment when national security is no longer about troop numbers and aircraft carriers, but personal protective equipment supply chains and testing capacity?”

  • In the UK, a “Covid support force” helped with National Health Service logistics, driving ambulances, manning emergency call centres and setting up mobile testing centres.
  • The US Navy mobilised two hospital ships to treat civilians and all 50 states have activated the National Guard.
  • Italy used the army to enforce lockdown.
  • Joint military exercises — such as the Defender 2020 exercise for US and European troops — were scaled back or cancelled.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled the 75th anniversary Victory Day military parade — the infection risk was too high.
  • The UN Security Council called for a global ceasefire to protect conflict zones threatened by the virus.

Once the immediate crisis is over, it is hard to see why governments recovering from economic shock would prioritise defence spending over health and social care.  Professor Beatrice Heuser (left), a war expert at the University of Glasgow, predicts swingeing cuts to defence budgets, hitting procurement and recruitment.

She also believes the crisis will strengthen isolationist voices in the US and UK, with critics asking why taxpayers money should fund overseas operations and international aid when resources are stretched.

“Resilience” is the word of the moment, a military outlook based on strengthening civilian infrastructure to better withstand pandemics, the effects of climate change or cyber-attack. The role of defence will change

The Nordic example

Helen Warrell (right) notes that Nordic countries such as Finland and Sweden involve the public in disaster preparedness and advise them how to survive for short periods without electricity, water or plentiful food. Security is a collective national effort, rather than the preserve of a remote military establishment. Defence chiefs argue that during a global crisis, international defence alliances provide stability.

A senior officer told Ms Warrell that though the forces would lean back into peacekeeping, providing disaster response and helping to quell conflicts over resources or mass migration, continued spending is essential because shocks such as coronavirus make the world less safe.

Governments around the world racked up $1.9tn in defence spending last year, the highest figure in more than three decades, according to analysis by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Helen predicts that the era of extravagant military purchases is over and she comments that even if London’s Excel centre is converted back to a conference venue in time for the next arms fair, planned for 2021, ”We know that delegates’ pockets will no longer be so deep”.

 

 

 

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‘Mercenaries Unleashed’? Hundreds of unregulated British companies are operating around the globe

Following concerns expressed about the use of private contractors by Britain’s Royal Air Force, summarised on the Airstrikes website, further searches have been made. 

Issues and questions that have arisen about the use of private forces in Iraq and the cost both morally and financially of doing business this way are not limited to the high-profile Blackwater company (above, company now renamed). Read more here: https://silentprofessionals.org/blackwater/

The UK is said to have become an important hub for the private military and security industry

War on Want’s report, Mercenaries Unleashed, records that, at the height of the post-Gulf War occupation, around 60 British companies operated in Iraq. Now there are hundreds of British PMSCs operating in areas of conflict around the globe, to secure governments and corporate presences against a range of ‘threats’.

Many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are not signatories to the 1989 United Nations Mercenary Convention banning the use of mercenaries. Countries including Austria France, Germany and South Arica have banned citizens from such employment and may even revoke citizenship.

Defining a mercenary (see clauses a-f)

Alexandre Faite, Legal Advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (left) has explored whether the personnel of private companies can be considered as mercenaries under the “International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries” adopted in 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly.

He concluded that under Article 47 of Protocol (clauses a-f) “from a strictly legal point of view” the answer is in the negative as these persons usually fall outside the conjunctive definition provided for in international instruments”.

Recruitment flourishes in countries with high levels of unemployment and poverty – a whole range of financial incentives, such as enlistment bonuses or promises of an education, is explored in Sprague’s 2013 book, The Financial Incentives of War: Poverty Draft, Mercenaries, and Volunteers in Foreign Armies.

A vast private industry of private military and security companies who profit from instability and conflict worth hundreds of billions of dollars has grown up since the declaration of a ‘war on terror’ and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many clients amongst the private sector, especially in the extractive industries, are said have sought out and exploited political instability in the wake of the Arab uprisings. Their floating armouries spread across the world’s oceans to protect commercial shipping interests (See Britain’s MNG Maritime).

MNG Resolution, a UK-run floating armoury moored in international waters of the Indian Ocean 

In all of this, UK companies are playing a leading role, reaping enormous profits, their conduct unregulated by successive British governments. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Misplaced compassion? Almost 4000 illegal immigrants enter the country this year – but only three British children from Syrian camps 

Almost 4,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year, according to the BBC’s analysis of Border Force figures. The families of economic migrants, who are expected to send regular ‘remittances’ back home, have paid large amounts of money to people smugglers; others have signed agreements that the immigrants will pay for their passage by undertaking ‘indentured labour’ in the UK’s black economy.

The Commons Library records that asylum seekers made up only 5% of immigrants to the UK in 2018 – figures for 2019 are not yet available.

The children of ‘foreign fighters’: https://news.sky.com/story/syria-more-than-60-british-children-trapped-in-northeast-of-country-save-the-children-warns-11841032

A Stroud resident compares the British government’s acceptance of these incursions over the years with its refusal to allow entry to at most 60 British children – most under five years old – now living in camps for  refugees or displaced persons in north-eastern Syria with limited access to often unclean water (‘with worms or other debris floating in’) and poor sanitary conditions, described in a recent article in the British Medical Journal.

Three orphaned children have been handed over to a British delegation

The Telegraph reported that in November last year the return of three orphaned children of Islamic State fighters who lost their parents and older siblings in air strikes on the last patch of the jihadists’ territory, which fell to Kurdish led-forces in March.

The British authorities did not make the number of children or their age public, or offer any other details. Plans to send members of the SAS into Syria to bring back the British children of Islamic State fighters were said to have been considered by the government but a senior Kurdish official posted on Twitter that  three British orphans of parents who had joined ISIS had been handed over to a British delegation, headed by Mr. Martin Longden, according to an official repatriation document signed by the Selfe Administration and the British Government (above).  More detail here.

Government ministers disagree about the fate of 60 others in Kurdish-held Syria

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is believed to be considering the repatriation of about 60 other children currently in Kurdish-held Syria – the vast majority held in camps run by western-supported forces in north eastern with their British mothers, after fleeing ISIS-held areas.

However in November last year, Priti Patel, Home Secretary and Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary (right) and Sajid Javid, former home secretary, now Chancellor, were said to be opposed to a “wholesale” return of minors due to security concerns.

The director of the legal charity Reprieve points out “If the mothers have charges to answer, they can and should be prosecuted here in the UK by our justice system which deals with complicated cases every single day.” In many cases lawyers for the government will make their children wards of the court (see legal precedent), meaning the state will be responsible for them, to reduce the risk they will grow up to be Islamic extremists,  posing a threat to the UK.

In one of the camps, Save the Children’s team in Syria recently spoke to a British mother with two young children – a baby and an under-five – who was scared and very afraid of what would happen to her children. She accepted that she would face investigation in the UK but said she felt that in Syria no-one would ever hear her case.

In the British Medical Journal, Dr Neil Saad – a Belgian epidemiologist with Médecins Sans Frontières (left) – described conditions at Al Hol

It is the largest refugee/internally displaced people camp in Northeast Syria, holding 65 000 individuals, of which an estimated 10 000 are foreign non-Iraqi nationals.

Dr Saad reported that camp residents suffered from poor water and sanitary conditions. The minimum emergency standards set by Sphere for water, 15 litres per person per day, were not met in the camp. Many had to survive with 10 L daily, a third below minimally required, after queueing for hours. Moreover, water quality was commonly not suitable for drinking, exacerbating diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases among camp inhabitants. To compound the complex health situation, a measles outbreak and malnutrition crisis plagued the camp.

The annex, the fenced off part of the camp where third-country nationals (non-Syrian and non-Iraqi nationals) are confined, has worse health and sanitary conditions than the other parts of the camp. The people in the annex are also subject to harsher movement restrictions and more regularly denied access to healthcare by camp authorities, the SDF, due to their perceived ISIS affiliation.

And COVID-19 has now reached the camp

In March the BBC reported that the first COVID death had been announced in Syria and nine other people had tested positive for the Covid-19 respiratory illness – but medics suspect many more have been infected. On August 3, three health workers tested positive for COVID-19 at the Al-Hol camp. A Syrian American doctor, Zaher Sahloul, president of MedGlobal, an organisation that provides healthcare to refugees in disaster zones, said “The death toll in the camps will be catastrophic due to overcrowding and the inability to enforce social distancing, hand washing and self-isolation.”

From Stroud:

“It is about time the UK Government comes to grips with illegal immigration. I do have sympathy with those refugees who are genuinely uprooted from their homes and have little hope of resettling.

“However there are some illegal immigrants who have no other reason for coming than to jump on the band wagon for an easy ride. Why else do they keep coming?

“On the other side of the coin there are the children of parents who joined ISIS and are stranded in extremely distressing conditions in Syrian camps. The Government should stop prevaricating with bureaucracy and red tape and consider these children. Bring them home and, if necessary, prosecute the parents. I shudder to think what the effect of their present situation will have on their future lives.

“Come on Boris and Co. WAKEY, WAKEY!!”

 

 

 

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Bad decisions by government – 41: subsidies for polluting biomass: protests from dock to power station

In its Energy, Environment and Resources Programme, a Chatham House research paper, Woody Biomass for Power and Heat: Impacts on the Global Climate, concludes that although most renewable energy policy frameworks treat biomass as though it is carbon-neutral at the point of combustion biomass actually emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels.

Peter Lazenby reports that protests took place along the railway line between Liverpool’s Peel Dock and a Yorkshire station today against the burning of wood to generate electricity by Drax Power Station, the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter, which releases 13 million tonnes of CO2 per year (Drax Annual Report 2018, p23) Actions included demonstrations at stations and banner drops from bridges.

In West Yorkshire, demonstrations were held at the stations in the Calder Valley towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge (above). Thirteen-year-old Isla Lay, at the Hebden Bridge station demo, told Peter: “We are against Drax because they claim to use biomass fuel as a clean energy source, but they are getting trees from places like South America”. Others add that the wooden pellets which are transported to Drax using fossil fuel come from forests felled in the United States, Russia, and South America.

Isla adds: “The government pays them to do that. They claim it is good for the environment, but actually it is really bad because they are cutting down trees, transporting them and burning them.” in 2019 Drax received £789 million in renewable subsidies coming straight from our energy bills according to its annual report (p58). These are expected to continue until 2027.

Hebweb reports that Twelve campaign groups have formed an AxeDrax group

They include Extinction Rebellion, Liverpool-based Save Rimrose Valley, which is working to defend parkland in the city, Biofuelwatch, Calderdale XR and Youth Strikers.

Hebden Bridge – youth activists, artists, and climate activists joined together to create a colourful action on the platform.

Sowerby Bridgeslow moving traffic was greeted with music and banners to drive home the message that we need to act now to stop climate change and cut down carbon emissions instead of trees.

Todmorden – protestors momentarily stopped the traffic as the Drax train made its way across the bridge above them. Bob Walley of Todmorden stated “Nobody likes stopping traffic and upsetting people. But this is literally life and death. People are dying because of climate chaos. Burning trees is part of the problem, not the solution. Drax can’t be allowed to keep lying to us”

However, and despite the legal challenge reported in January, Drax power station is to build a large new gas power plant. Though it was the first big project rejected by planners because of the climate crisis, Andrea Leadsom, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy at the time of the planning application, rejected the advice and gave permission in October.

Drax is now asking for substantial new subsidies, in addition to the £2.36 million a day it is widely reported to receive for burning biomass.

 

 

 

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