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Weak coordination and severe shortages in facilities and staffing are creating dreadful conditions for the hundreds of refugees and migrants arriving every day on the Greek island of Lesvos, which is seeing the highest number of arrivals in Greece, Amnesty International said after a research team returned from the island.
Overloaded, under-resourced authorities are failing to cope with the dramatic increase in the number of people arriving on the island (33,000 since 1 August) and must rely on local volunteers, NGO activists, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and tourists to step into the massive breach. The vast majority are fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria - 90% of those arriving in 2015 according to UNHCR.
"The arduous odyssey faced by people fleeing conflict does not end on Greece's shores. Forced to walk long distances in searing heat and stay in squalid camps or out in the open, refugees and asylum seekers see little alternative but to continue their journey, contributing to the disaster we've seen on the Macedonian border in recent days," said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
"This is not just a Greek tragedy, but a Europe-wide crisis. It is unfolding before the eyes of short-sighted European leaders who prioritize securing borders over helping survivors of conflict. The world is seeing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. What Europe's borders need is not fences but safe entry points for refugees, and facilities to receive them with dignity."
On 24 August, police on Lesvos told Amnesty International that they estimate that more than 33,000 refugees and migrants had arrived on the island since 1 August. Hundreds more are arriving every day - 1,450 on the night of 10-11 August alone.
While Kos, Chios and other Greek islands in the Aegean have also received refugees and migrants crossing over via Turkey, Lesvos has received the highest number: more than 93,000 already in 2015, more than seven times the 12,187 arrivals in all of 2014. More than 160,000 migrants and refugees have entered Greece as a whole so far this year, compared to 45,412 in all of 2014.
Amnesty International observed very poor, unsanitary conditions and overcrowding at the Moria immigration detention centre on Lesvos, including overflown toilets, lack of sheets and blankets, filthy and old mattresses and broken beds. Police on Lesvos said they lack the funds to improve conditions.
A refugee from Afghanistan told Amnesty International:
"Words cannot describe [the conditions] ... it smells ... there is no soap, no clothes and everything is broken. ... There is nothing for the small children, not even milk ... [the police] shout a lot ... Yesterday morning they cut the electricity and until lunch time we had no electricity and it was smelling a lot in our rooms [so we slept outside]...".
People waiting outside the overcrowded centre for space to free up have been staying in tents, underneath nets from olive groves, or enduring 35-degree heat with no shelter at all.
Syrian refugees arriving on Lesvos are being sent to the separate Kara Tepe camp, where they wait one to two days for documents that allow them to travel onwards to Athens. Kara Tepe is an informal, unmanaged camp set up by the local mayor on a car park.
Intended for 500 people, it is very overcrowded with more than 1,500 people staying there at a time. There are not enough tents, toilets or showers. Food is distributed by police and NGOs, with little coordination from Greek authorities. It falls to the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres to clear the garbage and clean and maintain the toilets and showers.
Migrants and refugees forced to walk for miles
With only four buses available to transport the hundreds of people coming ashore every day, most have to walk the up to 70 km journey from the island's northern shores to the reception centre in the capital, Mytilene.
Amnesty International witnessed more than 100 mainly Syrian and Afghan refugees, including families with small children and elderly people, walk to the point of collapse in temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius. In the absence of help from the authorities, locals, tourists and activists gave them water and food.
Syrian refugees told Amnesty International how arduous the journey was for families and the elderly:
"There are women with babies and there is no bus ... We are young and we will make it but what about them?"
Once they arrive in the island's capital Mytilene, people wait to be registered by the coastguard. Amnesty International witnessed lines of around 200 people waiting in welting heat. There are neither interpreters to help the coastguard process arrivals nor enough volunteer doctors to examine any beyond the most urgent cases.
Members of the Greek Coastguard told Amnesty International they have only 10 staff to register the hundreds of refugees arriving daily, though they receive support from NGOs who provide information and medical assistance.
Amnesty International is calling on Greek authorities, with urgent EU financial and logistical support, to set up an emergency response to manage the crisis on Lesvos and other Greek islands. Authorities need to urgently open the new First Reception Centre in Moria and to provide:
"The economic and refugee crises are converging on Lesvos and the other islands of the Aegean, with refugees and migrants paying the price," said Gauri van Gulik.
"Announced EU funds can help Greece respond, but it is becoming clear that Greece also needs operational support to put these funds to use. Even more importantly, Europe needs to relieve pressure off Greece in the longer term by providing more safe and legal routes into Europe for those who need protection. As long as it fails to do so, Europe is directly responsible for what is unfolding on Lesvos and other frontline points of the refugee crisis."
The crisis in Greece also increases pressure in Macedonia and Serbia, as thousands leave Greece and pass through the western Balkans to re-enter the European Union in Hungary. Amnesty International has documented failed asylum systems and human rights violations along this route recently. Late last week, Macedonia declared a state of emergency along the Greek border as thousands of mainly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers were trapped at the border.
Early this morning, a boat carrying 15 refugees capsized near Skala Sykamias on Lesvos. According to unconfirmed reports, following a search-and-rescue operation eight refugees have been rescued, two have drowned and the coastguard is still looking for six more people,
On 25 June 2015, Amnesty International warned that Greek islands were struggling with the influx of refugees and called on EU leaders to act.
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.
"President Biden and the Democratic Party should know the passage of this negotiation is the type of harmful decision that makes our generation feel disillusioned and defeated," said the Sunrise Movement's leader.
As the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on President Joe Biden's debt limit deal with GOP negotiators Wednesday evening, the youth-led Sunrise Movement warned Democrats that the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act could have a major impact on the 2024 elections.
"When we're knocking on doors and on college campuses, we constantly hear young people in our generation feel like the government doesn't work for them," said Sunrise Movement executive director Varshini Prakash in a statement. "This debt ceiling deal tells these young people that the U.S. will keep polluting our air and water by approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline, that our government will make life harder for working people, and that our system values billionaires over students."
"Democrats must stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and achieve their climate goals if they want to energize Gen Z to get out and vote in 2024."
While the proposal would suspend the debt ceiling until 2025, in addition to greenlighting the contested gas pipeline, it would freeze nonmilitary spending, impose new work requirements for federal aid like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), resume student loan repayments, controversially reform permitting for energy projects, and repeal some funding intended to help the Internal Revenue Service crack down on rich tax cheats.
"President Biden and the Democratic Party should know the passage of this negotiation is the type of harmful decision that makes our generation feel disillusioned and defeated about the state of our politics," Prakash warned Wednesday.
"Building new fossil fuel infrastructure right after the approval of the Willow project is politically and morally dangerous, but it's not too late to fix this," the climate activist continued, referring to ConocoPhillips' oil development in Alaska. "Democrats must stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline and achieve their climate goals if they want to energize Gen Z to get out and vote in 2024."
\u201cThe GOP doesn\u2019t have the votes they need to pass this deal. If Democrats hold the line, we can stop it.\n\nTell Dems to vote for a clean debt ceiling deal \u27a1\ufe0f https://t.co/PmR7HGH6F1\u201d— Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05 (@Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05) 1685464612
Last year, as Common Dreamsreported at the time, young voters played a key role in preventing a "red wave" that political pollsters and pundits anticipated based on previous midterm elections, helping Democrats secure major congressional and gubernatorial victories as well as advancing a variety of progressive ballot measures.
Biden is seeking reelection next year and former President Donald Trump is leading polls for the GOP primary, followed at a distance by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. There will also be fierce battles for both chambers of Congress—currently, the fractured Republican Party holds a slim House majority, and Democrats control the Senate but lack enough votes to defeat filibusters.
Since Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) finalized their deal over the weekend—after Republicans refused to vote on a clean debt ceiling hike, despite U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's warnings of an economically catastrophic default by June 5—a growing number of progressive lawmakers have come out against the White House's compromise.
As Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) decried the GOP's "reckless hostage-taking" and highlighted that "House Republicans raised the debt ceiling with no preconditions three times under the Trump administration."
Other House progressives who have made their opposition to the Fiscal Responsibility Act clear include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).
"Tonight I'll be voting NO on Republicans' hostage bill that maliciously weaponized the debt limit. I came to Congress to stand up for our NY-16 community, kids, and families, but this austerity bill will only end up hurting the people I came here to fight for," Bowman said. "This bill will make the poor poorer, hungrier, and sicker, while further enriching the rich through the prison, fossil fuel, and military-industrial complex."
\u201c"...I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline."\n\nThank you for standing up for our generation, @SenSanders.\u201d— Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05 (@Sunrise Movement \ud83c\udf05) 1685562682
After U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came out against the bill on Wednesday, other progressives in the upper chamber joined him—including Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who tweeted that "I will not support a deal to fast-track dirty fossil fuel projects at the expense of environmental justice. I will not give polluters a Get Out of Jail Free card. I will vote NO on the default deal."
"Republicans racked up trillions in debt under Trump and would now rather deprive struggling families of food and financial security than ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes," Markey added, as Republican lawmakers plan to unveil a tax proposal that would further serve rich individuals and corporations.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also came out against the bill. Along with detailing his critiques of several provisions in a lengthy statement, he warned that "yielding to this blackmail only guarantees that Republicans will use the debt limit to hold America hostage time and time again."
"Today looks like it might be the start of a new chapter in Amazon's history," one organizer of the nationwide protest remarked optimistically.
More than 1,000 Amazon corporate workers and allies rallied outside the e-commerce giant's Seattle headquarters on Wednesday to protest the company's return-to-work policy and what they called its failure to fulfill its climate pledge.
Sign and chant slogans during the Seattle lunchtime rally—which was organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and Amazon's Remote Advocacy group—included "Amazon: Strive Harder," "Stop Greenwashing," and "Hell No, RTO,"—a rebuke of a mandate from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to return to the office at least three days per week.
"Morale is the lowest I've seen since I've been working here," one Seattle-based employee who did not want to be named and has worked for the company since 2020 told Wired.
This year, Amazon terminated 27,000 workers, layoffs that mirrored cost-cutting sackings at other tech companies that overhired during the Covid-19 pandemic.
\u201cHundreds of corporate employees at the #Amazon walkout underway at the Spheres in South Lake Union. Workers calling out leadership for the return-to-office mandate and failure to reduce carbon footprint\u201d— Jackie Kent (@Jackie Kent) 1685560576
At least hundreds of other Amazon corporate employees and their supporters took part in similar demonstrations outside company offices around the nation on Wednesday, according to reports.
"Today looks like it might be the start of a new chapter in Amazon's history, when tech workers coming out of the pandemic stood up and said, 'We still want a say in this company and the direction of this company,'" Eliza Pan, a former Amazon corporate employee and a co-founder of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, toldThe Associated Press.
\u201cThanks to everyone who showed up to make #AmazonWalkout a success!\u201d— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@Amazon Employees For Climate Justice) 1685559893
Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser told Wired that "we're always listening and will continue to do so, but we're happy with how the first month of having more people back in the office has been."
"There's more energy, collaboration, and connections happening, and we've heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices," he added.
However, Church Hindley, an Amazon quality assurance engineer, told the AP that working from home has improved his health and quality of life.
"I'm not suited for in-office work," Hindley said. "I deal with depression and anxiety, and I was able to get off my anxiety medication and start living my life."
\u201cMessages in the crowd at the Amazon walkout in Seattle.\u201d— Kurt Schlosser (@Kurt Schlosser) 1685563537
Pamela Hayter, an Amazon project manager, started the "Remote Advocacy" internal Slack channel, which now has 33,000 members.
During the Seattle rally, Hayter slammed the return-to-office mandate, saying, "I cannot believe that a company in this day and age, a company that claims to be an innovative leader in its space, would do that to one of its most precious resources—its employees."
"Total employment in the nationwide U.S. energy sector could double or even triple by 2050 to meet the demand for wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines," according to a new study.
Achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by mid-century would lead to a net increase in energy-related employment nationwide, and Republican-voting states whose leaders have done the most to disparage climate action would see the largest growth in green jobs.
That's according to research published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy. The new study, summarized Tuesday by Carbon Brief, undercuts the old right-wing canard that environmentally friendly policies are inherently bad for workers.
Four academics led by Dartmouth College engineering professor Erin Mayfield found that shifting to a net-zero economy could create millions of jobs in low-carbon sectors—enough to "offset" losses in the declining fossil fuel industry, not only in the aggregate but also in most dirty energy-producing states, which tend to be GOP strongholds.
"Total employment in the nationwide U.S. energy sector could double or even triple by 2050 to meet the demand for wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines," Carbon Brief reported. Such growth in clean power generation and dissemination "would outweigh losses in most of the country's fossil fuel-rich regions, as oil, coal, and gas operations close down."
The study adds to mounting evidence that so-called "red" states now dominated by Republicans and fossil fuel interests—including particularly sunny and windy ones like Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming—stand to reap the biggest rewards from the green industrial policy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.
At the same time, the authors acknowledge that some GOP-controlled dirty energy-producing states, such as North Dakota, are likely to see net decreases in energy sector employment, and they stress that "many communities will still require help to ensure a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels," as Carbon Brief noted.
In their paper, Mayfield and her three co-authors—Jesse Jenkins, Eric Larson, and Chris Greig, all of whom work at Princeton University—estimate how energy-related employment in the U.S. would change depending on different emission reduction contexts.
To simulate "labor market pathways of large-scale, low-carbon energy-supply infrastructure development," the team developed the Decarbonization Employment and Energy Systems (DEERS) model, which combines myriad economic and energy data, and then applied it to four alternative scenarios from the 2021 Net-Zero America report they were all involved in writing.
The transition scenarios, which assume varying levels of electrification and renewable energy supply, are as follows:
The authors expect overall energy sector employment to climb in all four scenarios, although net job gains are limited under E+ RE- conditions in which the deployment of renewables is constrained.
"We find that a net-zero transition supports an annual average of approximately 3 million direct energy jobs or $200 billion in wages during the first decade, and approximately 4-8 million direct energy jobs or $200-500 billion during the 2040s," they wrote. "The modeled supply-side energy workforce represents 1.5% of the total U.S. labor force in 2020, increasing to 2.5-5% by mid-century."
As Carbon Brief reported: "The number of energy-related jobs roughly doubles in both the 'high electrification' (E+) and 'less-high electrification' (E-) scenarios, which focus on the extent to which transport and buildings are electrified by 2050. The largest growth is seen in the E + RE+ scenario, which features high electrification and a 100% renewable power system by 2050."
"Notably, the research finds that many fossil fuel jobs would have been lost even in the absence of new climate policy," the outlet noted. "It suggests there would be a drop of one-third by 2050, as coal and gas are driven out of the market by cheaper wind and solar."
According to Mayfield and her colleagues, "In most states, job losses in declining fossil fuel sectors are offset by an increasing number of energy jobs in low-carbon sectors."
Carbon Brief observed that "this is particularly evident in Republican-voting states, which have larger energy workforces. In the E+ scenario, these states would lose around 700,000 fossil fuel jobs but gain 1.7 million low-carbon energy jobs between 2025 and 2050."
The outlet created a chart to visualize the paper's projection of rising energy-related employment under the E+ scenario in "red" states that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 and "blue" states that backed Biden.
In their paper, Mayfield and her colleagues cite the example of Texas, a GOP stronghold that is simultaneously the nation's top fossil fuel-producing state and its top generator of electricity from wind and solar.
As Carbon Brief pointed out:
By 2025 in the E+ scenario, around 480,000 of the state's 660,000-strong energy workforce are employed in the fossil fuel sector, more than 72% of the total. Within 25 years, many of these jobs would be lost as the number of fossil fuel employees falls to 123,000.
Yet the state would still see a big uptick in energy sector employment by 2050. The modeling suggests Texas would have around 778,000 energy jobs in 2050, with around 84% employed in low-carbon industries.
Despite this, Inside Climate News reported last month that Texas Republicans recently introduced legislation "intended to punish renewable energy and boost fossil fuels, including a measure that would increase the amount of gas-fired electricity generated by the state by upwards of 10 gigawatts and one that would limit the development of renewable energy in the state based on how much natural gas generation is also being built."
For decades, Republicans have couched their opposition to climate policies in the language of protecting the jobs of fossil fuel workers. In many cases, GOP candidates perceived to be defending the interests of dirty energy-producing communities have been rewarded by voters in those localities.
While Trump's stated support for coal workers benefited him politically in 2016, employment in the sector still fell by a quarter during his reign. Biden, by contrast, has made clear that "creating jobs and tackling climate change go hand in hand."
Evidence is growing that the clean energy transition is poised to be a major job-creator rather than a job-killer as suggested by right-wing lawmakers.
It remains to be seen whether the political allegiances of fossil fuel workers—who have previously expressed interest in moving into the green sector—will change to reflect the fact that Democrats, not Republicans, are most aggressively fighting to boost energy sector employment.
Of course, there are other important factors to consider in addition to the quantity of low-carbon jobs created, as the authors of the paper acknowledge. The quality of green sector work—whether it is unionized and high-paying, for instance, or precarious and poorly remunerated—will play a large role in determining public support for the shift to renewables.