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Fleeing #war and crumbling #economy, Ukrainians flock to #Europe

  • Ukrainians leaving to find jobs and to avoid conscription.
  • Biggest group of non-EU citizens given residency permits in 2013.
  • Gangs in Poland, Baltics selling illegal documents.
  • Many migrants spend years apart from their children.

Children hold candles in the cellar in Donetsk on Dec. 2.Children hold candles in the cellar in Donetsk on Dec. 2. © AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY

Liisa Tuhkanen and Guy Faulconbridge, Reuters.

LONDON — Andriy left his home town in western Ukraine earlier this year on a journey that brought him through the hands of shady traders in Poland to one of the world’s booming markets for illegal immigrantsLondon.

Fleeing the strife of war with Russian-backed fighters and a shattered economy, Andriy is following a path similar to one taken by thousands of his fellow Ukrainians who have travelled either eastwards to Russia or westwards to the European Union.

“I don’t want to fight in any war,” said Andriy, who spoke on the condition neither his surname nor home town would be published because of fear that he could be deported.

The nineteen-year-old, speaking in Russian because his English is limited, added: “I don’t want to die – I want to live. I just want a normal life.”

More than 4,300 combatants and civilians have been killed in eastern Ukraine since pro-Russian rebels seized border regions in April. Nearly a million people have fled the area, with a surge in the past two months.

Most have fled to other areas of Ukraine but some have gone further afield, with thousands seeking a new life in Russia and, increasingly, Europe.

According to several legal and illegal migrants who spoke to Reuters, many are coming via gangs in Poland, the Baltics and Ukraine that offer fake or doctored EU documents for several thousand dollars, plus the option of transport to Western Europe where spot document checks are extremely rare.

The nature of illegal immigration means it yields little data but legal flows show Ukrainians were the biggest single group of non-EU citizens granted residency permits by EU members in 2013.

According to Eurostat, 236,700 Ukrainians were granted residency permits by EU states last year, and 171,800 of those permits were granted in Poland, one of the main routes for Ukrainians to travel to Western Europe.

The flows abroad are modest compared to the exodus during the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union or the Jewish emigration that helped populate New York’s Brighton Beach, but stories such as Andriy’s give a sense of the turmoil sowed by the crisis.

For accompanying graphics click here:


Some men are driven to leave by the fear of being called up into the poorly equipped Ukrainian army that is fighting the Russian-backed rebels.

For many other migrants, finding acceptably paid work is the overriding reason to travel.

Their voices are silent in European discourse, but illegal migrants such as Andriy are cast by some politicians as the enemies of hardworking European voters.

The migrants thrive in a taxless underworld that is flush with demand and cash: Andriy has no intention of returning to Ukraine because demand for his decorating and repair services is high in London’s booming property market.

The cash he can earn in Britain – often more than several hundred pounds a week – far outstrips what he could earn in Ukraine’s near-bankrupt $135 billion economy.

For some Ukrainians the turmoil stoked by the Russian-backed insurgents is the final straw in a wider disenchantment with the day-to-day reality of corrupt elites, economic collapse and violence that has followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Popular destinations for Ukrainians include Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Britain’s attractiveness is dampened by more stringent border controls than other EU countries.

Reuters has seen one of the doctored documents used as identification by migrants, who said Poland was the door to freedom for many.

“Lots of people go illegally,” said a Ukrainian woman living legally in Poland, who did not want to be identified. “Lots of people go through Poland… it’s where Europe starts.”


With the correct documents, a Ukrainian living in the European Union could legally seek work, pay tax, open a bank account and travel home.

Without the correct documents, migrants in Europe are forced to work around the law.

As a result many spend years apart from their children who benefit from their earnings but not their presence.

“Migrants come for a better life but there are some heartbreaking situations: Mothers who have left their children in Ukraine and communicate by Skype,” said Andy Hunder, director of the Ukrainian Institute in London.

“They feed their children but to feed them they must leave them,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe and Wiktor Szary in Warsaw and Aija Krtaine in Riga; Editing by Sophie Walker)


Two sets of #British brothers who are cousins ‘travelled to #Syria to fight alongside #ISIS’

ISIS (ISIL)The men are said to make the largest number of Isis fighters in a British family.

Lamiat Sabin, The Independent.

Four members of the same family are suspected of having flown to Syria to fight alongside the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Two brothers aged 17 and 20, from Camden in north London, are believed to have travelled with their cousins via Milan to Istanbul before they all crossed the border into Syria, The Sunday Times reports.

The boys from London, who have not been named, were reported missing by their parents when they noticed that they had disappeared sometime in September.

Their cousins, also brothers and are from Wednesbury in the Midlands, have been identified as Mejanul Islam, 22, and Kamran Islam, 19, and their parents told the Sunday Times that the young men had told them that they were going to London to visit their extended family.

Their father Saydul Islam, 43, told the newspaper that there was no concrete knowledge as to where they went or when they are expected to return.

“We’ve had no news at all,” he had said. “I don’t know where they’ve gone. We’re very worried.”

Counter-terrorist police have subsequently carried out searches at two properties in London and at the family home in Wednesbury and Scotland Yard are currently investigating the case.

The Home Office state that they do not comment on individual cases – however they advise against travelling to Syria – and that they deal with citizenship matters for people suspected of fighting alongside Isis on a case by case basis.

It is believed that the two sets of siblings would constitute the largest number of members from the same family that have left Britain to allegedly fight with Isis, however four brothers from Australia were reported in November to have travelled to Syria.

The mother of the siblings – aged 17, 23, 25 and 28 – said they claimed to have gone on holiday to Thailand and the family had no idea that they had plans to actually travel to Turkey to potentially cross the border into Syria, The Guardian reported.

Community leader Dr Jamal Rifi, in western Sydney, said the family had no inkling that the boys were at risk of joining Isis.

“The boys are simple boys,” he had said. “They are religiously involved but not hardline or radical.”

Two Austrian sisters, known only as Viktoria, 16, and Violetta, 17, are believed to have joined Isis after they went missing from Vienna on 1 November with just their passports.

More than 500 British Muslims are said to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Isis.

Related News:

The Independent.

#London: David #Mellor caught on tape as he rages at London black-cab driver

QC and former Conservative MP calls the man a ‘sweaty, stupid little sh*t’ during an argument after Buckingham Palace visit.

David Mellor caught on tape as he rages at London black-cab driverPiers Morgan tweeted: ‘This tape is outrageous. David Mellor, you’re a loathsome snob.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Press Association, The Guardian.

A former cabinet minister has said he regrets losing his temper, after being recorded launching an expletive-ridden tirade at a London taxi driver following a visit to Buckingham Palace with his partner who had just been awarded a CBE.

David Mellor, a QC and former Conservative MP, called the black-cab driver a “sweaty, stupid little s**t” during an argument about the route he wanted to travel.

Mellor, who had accompanied his partner, VisitEngland chairwoman Lady Cobham, to an investiture ceremony with the Prince of Wales, was heard in a mobile phone recording given to The Sun.

He told the paper the driver, who is not named but is described as a 38-year-old from south-east London, had provoked him.

“This man seriously provoked me and ruined a wonderful day,” he said.

“Once I had lost my temper, which I regret, he then secretly recorded me. I will leave the public to judge his actions.”

The paper reported that Mellor accused the driver of not taking the quickest route to their destination in east London during rush hour.

During the audio Mellor, who told the driver to “f*** off”, said he would name him and discuss the incident on his LBC radio show, which he co-presents with former London mayor Ken Livingstone on Saturday mornings.

He also said: “You’ve been driving a cab for 10 years, I’ve been in the cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel. You think that your experiences are anything compared to mine?”

In response to the recording journalist Piers Morgan tweeted: “This tape is outrageous. David Mellor, you’re a loathsome snob. I hope London’s black-cab drivers now boycott David Mellor. Looks like he could do with a few walks anyway.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of transport union the RMT, said: “Driving a taxi in London is hard enough without having some pumped-up, pompous former Tory minister telling you how to do your job”.

“If you want an example of the political elite’s sheer contempt for the working class then this incident has it in shed-loads.”

The Guardian.

Japan’s #smartphone #zombies wreak havoc on the streets

smartphone zombies #1A pedestrian using her smartphone on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno


When the lights change at the Shibuya crossing in Japan’s capital, one of the world’s busiest pedestrian thoroughfares, hundreds of people with their eyes glued to smartphones pick their way over the road.

Despite being engrossed in the latest instalment of Candy Crush or busy chatting with their friends on messaging app Line, most manage to weave around cyclists, skateboarders and fellow Tokyoites.

But the growing ranks of these cellphone addicts are turning cities like Tokyo, London, New York and Hong Kong into increasingly hazardous hotspots, where zombified shoppers appear to be part of vast games of human pinball.

“Hey, watch it!” barks a middle-aged salaryman as a hipster typing on his smartphone slams into him during one recent Friday evening crush hour.

“Incidents involving people walking or on bicycles account for 41 percent of phone-related accidents,” Tetsuya Yamamoto, a senior official at Tokyo Fire Department’s disaster prevention and safety section, told AFP.

smartphone zombies #2A pedestrian using his smartphone on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

“If people continue walking around looking at their phones, I think we could see more accidents happening.”
It goes beyond being an innocuous inconvenience where both people apologise before continuing on their merry way.

Tokyo Fire Department, which runs the ambulance service in the megalopolis, says that in the four years to 2013, 122 people had to be rushed to hospital after accidents caused by pedestrians using cellphones.

As well as the vaguely comedic incidents of businessmen smacking into lamp-posts or tripping over dogs, this total also included a middle-aged man who died after straying onto a railway crossing while looking at his phone.

Tunnel vision

More than half of Japanese now own a smartphone and the proportion is rising fast, including children who customarily walk to and from school.

smartphone zombies #3Pedestrians use their smartphones on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

Research by Japanese mobile giant NTT Docomo estimates a pedestrian’s average field of vision while staring down at a smartphone is just five percent of what our eyes take in normally.

“Children wouldn’t be safe in that situation,” said Hiroshi Suzuki, manager of corporate social responsibility at the company. “It’s dangerous and it’s our job to make sure it doesn’t actually happen.”

The company ran a computer simulation of what could occur in Shibuya if everyone crossing the intersection was looking at their smartphones.

The results, based on a fairly average 1,500 people swarming over the road at any one time, were alarming: 446 collisions, 103 knockdowns and 21 dropped phones. Only around a third get to the other side without incident.

That 82 of the 103 who fell to the ground managed to cling onto their precious phones tells its own story.

Japanese media reported that around half of the 56 bodies recovered from the peak of a volcano after a recent eruption were found clutching mobile phones with photos of the deadly lava and ash on them.

smartphone zombies #4Pedestrians use their smartphones on a street in Tokyo, November 3, 2014. Growing ranks of cellphone addicts are turning cities into increasingly hazardous hotspots. AFP / Yoshikazu Tsuno

Apparently, they had thought it important to be able to show their social media friends what was happening than to try to save themselves.

Suzuki travels to schools across Japan teaching children how to be responsible with smartphones through the use of cartoons.

“We use the story of the tortoise and the hare,” he said. “The hare shoots off tapping away on his smartphone, and then falls down a hole. We want the children to know they could be the hare.”

Social harmony

Phone fidgeters dawdling along at snail’s pace, forcing cyclists and pram-pushing mums to swerve out of the way have become such an irritant in Tokyo that public notices have started to appear warning offenders to expect “icy stares”, appealing to the Japanese sense of social harmony — assuming people look up from their phones in the first place.

Smartphone apps activated by sensors that flash warning signs or display the pavement on the screen have also been developed in response to the problem.

Tokyo is just one of the places struggling to cope with this very 21st Century menace.

In China, an amusement park in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing has divided a pavement within its grounds into two lanes — one signposted “No mobile phones” and the other “Mobile phone use permitted but all consequences are your responsibility.”

Recorded announcements on Hong Kong’s subway network warn passengers in Cantonese, Mandarin and English that they are about to step onto an escalator.

While in one city in New York state, there was even a bid to legislate against the use of electronic devices while crossing the road.

NTT Docomo’s Suzuki in Tokyo says despite the city’s high density and huge population — 35 million in the greater urban area — there’s no need yet for people to wear crash helmets when they pop to the shops.

“I don’t think we will see the need for that in the near future,” he said. “But our message is that it could happen. We’re all potential victims.”


#UN: #ISIS has 15,000 fighters from 80 countries; $45m in funds

The UN report says the jihadists come from some 80 countries.The UN report says the jihadists come from some 80 countries. Photo: AP.

LONDON (AP) – The United Nations has warned that 15,000 foreign jihadists from 80 countries have travelled to fight in Iraq and Syria, raising the number of foreign militants to an “unprecedented scale.”

The UN Security Council report, obtained by The Guardian daily in London, also said that the Islamic State (ISIS) treasury has up to $45 million in funds from kidnappings for ransom, besides its revenues from oil smuggling, estimated at $1 million daily.

The newspaper quoted the report as saying that the jihadists have arrived from countries that had not previously contributed to global terrorism, and have joined the ranks of ISIS and other extremist groups.

Although it did not list all the 80 countries they come from, the report said “there are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together.”

The report, produced by a committee that monitors al-Qaeda jihadists, said the “numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing.”

It noted that more nations than ever will face the challenge of experienced fighters returning home from the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Dozens of people have been arrested around the world on their way to ISIS jihads or for helping the group, which controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Many countries in Europe are passing anti-terrorist laws.

The new UN figure raises previous US intelligence estimates of foreign jihadists, placing the number at 7,000 in March and 12,000 in July.

The Guardian said the UN report concluded that ISIS has taken the place of al-Qaeda and this has yielded an explosion of jihadist enthusiasm for the Islamic State.

“Al-Qaida core and ISISL pursue similar strategic goals, albeit with tactical differences regarding sequencing and substantive differences about personal leadership,” the UN report said, using a different acronym for ISIS.

It noted that while ISIS has a “cosmopolitan” embrace of social media platforms and internet culture, al-Qaeda has a “long and turgid messaging.”

A “lack of social media message discipline” in ISIS points to a leadership “that recognizes the terror and recruitment value of multichannel, multi-language social and other media messaging,” reflecting a younger and “more international” membership than al-Qaeda’s various affiliates, said the Guardian, quoting the report.

The ranks of ISIS are attracting many teenage boys and girls and even converts to Islam from Western countries. Three American girls between 15 and 17 from a Muslim background were caught in Germany recently as they were trying to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.



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