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An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 refugees were staying on the island while Amnesty International visited. In the absence of any formal reception facilities, most are staying in squalid conditions as they wait to be documented before continuing their onward journey to the Greek mainland and beyond. The majority are believed to be from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In all, more than 31,000 refugees have arrived on Kos so far this year with a surge since June 2015, according to Greek coastguard staff.
Most of the refugees cannot afford accommodation and are sleeping in tents, out in the open in appalling conditions or in the dilapidated Captain Elias hotel. While local residents and the humanitarian NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres have been providing aid, municipal authorities have provided very little assistance and have even closed public toilets.
Police on Kos are currently using an old police station to document people before they leave the island. Amnesty International researchers visited the station on 2 September and saw around 100 refugees, including a one-week-old baby girl in her mother's arms, sitting on the ground in a courtyard. No water was provided to those waiting to be documented. The only respite from the intense summer heat was an umbrella in the middle which provided shelter to few people.
Between 200 and 300 more people were waiting to go inside the police station - many said they waited for days on end. One man, a 28-year-old from Iraq, said he had been waiting for a week.
Information on rights and the identification of vulnerable groups is not provided by the authorities, but by UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) staff deployed on the island.
The situation has often been exacerbated by the reluctance of local authorities to set up a permanent reception centre with enough capacity and the lack of a coordinated and effective response.
In mid-August these failings came to a crunch when more than 2,000 people were locked in inhumane conditions in the local sports stadium. Reports emerged of police using excessive force against refugees waiting to be registered.
Amnesty International met four boys, three Pakistanis and one Syrian, all aged 16 or 17, who were being detained in a filthy police cell alongside adult criminal suspects.
Their detention conditions were deplorable - old and dirty mattresses, no blankets, broken lights and a strong stench emanating from a nearby toilet that was filthy and flooded.
"I travelled with another refugee family to Greece...When I showed my passport, the police detained me. My family has not heard about me since I was arrested," said a 16-year-old Syrian boy who had arrived without family members.
The boy had no access to a lawyer or legal advice in the three days since his arrest.
"With tourist families enjoying summer holidays on Kos and local families gearing up to send their kids back to school, the contrast with the suffering of the refugee children could not be starker," said Kondylia Gogou.
Amnesty International is urging:
"This is a crisis at all levels. Local authorities in Greece are unwilling to provide the necessary assistance, national authorities appear unable to, and European leaders are dithering in the face of an ever-mounting humanitarian crisis," said Kondylia Gogou.
This is a crisis at all levels. Local authorities in Greece are unwilling to provide the necessary assistance, national authorities appear unable to, and European leaders are dithering in the face of an ever-mounting humanitarian crisis.
The European Commission's First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, will visit Kos on 4 September to monitor the situation as local authorities have struggled to manage a surge in refugee arrivals over the summer.
On 3 September, Greek government ministers met in Athens to discuss the ongoing response to the refugee crisis on the Aegean islands.
The ministers announced, among other measures, the creation of a coordination centre to manage refugee arrivals; deploying further staff and machinery for the swift documentation and identification of refugees; and that steps are under way to take immediate advantage of the available EU funds. They also called on the EU to provide the financial and logistical support needed.
Police officials told Amnesty International that without additional emergency funding from the EU, it would be immensely difficult to deploy staff and equipment on the Aegean islands and to set up documentation areas where refugees would be registered in humane conditions and improve detention conditions before the end of the year.
According to Greek government figures, 157,000 refugees arrived in Greece by sea during July and August. During the first eight months of 2015, more than 230,000 people arrived by sea. This is more than 13 times the 17,000 people who arrived during the same period in 2014. The vast majority are refugees.
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.
"Your termination of my employment will not stifle workers' organizing, for when you fire leaders, it only brings more people ignited into the movement," said Jennifer Bates.
Amazon on Friday fired Jennifer Bates, a warehouse worker and lead spokesperson of the unionization campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, without cause.
The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) described Bates as the "woman who lit the spark of the current rise of labor activism." Her termination comes as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to investigate RWDSU's claims that Amazon violated federal labor law in order to vanquish a union drive broadly supported by local residents.
According to RWDSU, the firing of Bates also comes amid a "monthslong worker's compensation nightmare. Bates continues to suffer from crippling injuries received while working at Amazon, which she spoke out about during the unionization effort, and for which has lengthy documentation." The union added that "Bates hit three years of service this May, an ominous number for Amazon workers whose pay scales top out after three years."
"Amazon terminated one of the most public pro-union worker leaders we've seen in a generation over an alleged paperwork issue."
"I went to work for Amazon because I believed in the future world of work, but at Amazon there is no future for workers like me," Bates said in a statement. "I have tirelessly worked for Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama since it opened. Everything hurts and it's permanently changed my life forever, but I stayed because I believe Amazon can be better, and I believe with a union we can build a brighter future for workers across the company."
"I've given my back to Amazon these past three years. I've given my arms and shoulders to Amazon these past three years. And I've given every fiber of my soul into organizing Amazon these past three years," said Bates. "For them to treat me like this is unfathomable."
"But let me be clear, Amazon, your termination of my employment will not stifle workers' organizing, for when you fire leaders, it only brings more people ignited into the movement," she stressed. "We are a movement, we will not be stopped, and I know my union, recognized or not by you, has my back. We will fight this, I will not be silenced, we will not be stopped."
\u201cBREAKING: Jennifer Bates (@Jennife67173021), the lead worker spokeswoman of the @BAmazonUnion drive, received notice she had been terminated by the company amid a several months long workers compensation nightmare. \nFull statement: https://t.co/tom8PZfxmK\u201d— RWDSU (@RWDSU) 1685711494
RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum lamented that "Amazon terminated one of the most public pro-union worker leaders we've seen in a generation over an alleged paperwork issue, for which there is ample documentation."
The issue "can and should be easily resolved by a human," said Appelbaum. "Instead, Jennifer Bates is being subjected to termination by AI due to a glitch in the company's own software."
"Outrageously, Jennifer's is just one example of horror stories burdening thousands of Amazon workers every day," Appelbaum continued. "Workers suffer from life-altering injuries through their work at Amazon, including repetitive motion injuries and 911 emergencies, which send workers to the hospital regularly, some never to return again. Continually nameless faceless HR is either nowhere to be found or excessively difficult to track down."
"Amazon spared no expense in its union-busting throughout the Bessemer campaign, and today is just another in a litany of examples of how this company will stop at nothing to stifle workers' efforts to unionize," the union leader noted. "Amazon blatantly broke the law throughout the campaign, knowing that any potential penalty would be insignificant. Amazon's goal was to prevent—by any means—its employees from having a collective voice through a union in Bessemer."
"Labor law reform is critical if workers are to find any hope," he added. "Amazon's behavior must not be tolerated."
"Amazon spared no expense in its union-busting throughout the Bessemer campaign, and today is just another in a litany of examples of how this company will stop at nothing to stifle workers' efforts to unionize."
In the spring of 2021, RWDSU came up short during its initial organizing drive at Amazon's BHM1 warehouse in Bessemer—the first union election at one of the e-commerce giant's facilities in United States history.
Afterward, the union filed 23 complaints with the NLRB, accusing Amazon of illegally threatening employees with loss of pay and benefits, installing and surveilling an unlawful ballot collection box, and expelling pro-union workers from captive audience meetings during which management argued against collective bargaining.
The NLRB eventually threw out the results of the first election and supervised a new vote in the spring of 2022. The results of the second election were inconclusive. Although there were 118 more votes against unionization than for it, the final outcome hinges on how the director of the NLRB's Region 10 office decides to count 416 challenged ballots.
Following last year's contested vote, RWDSU lodged 21 objections to Amazon's conduct during the election with the NLRB, accusing the company of yet again interfering with the rights of its employees to organize for better conditions without fear of retaliation.
"Workers at Amazon have endured an insanely and needlessly long and aggressive fight to unionize their workplace; with Amazon doing everything it can to spread misinformation and deceive workers," Appelbaum said Friday. "Today’s news is shockingly just another case of Amazon's misconduct in a growing mountain of [unfair labor practices], objections, and charges against Amazon."
"The company violated the law in the first election and did so again in the re-run election, and now is firing union leaders in the facility to all but extinguish any embers of union support in the facility," said Appelbaum.
"We will continue to hold Amazon accountable and ensure workers' voices are heard," the union leader emphasized. "Amazon's behavior must not go unchallenged, and workers in Bessemer, Alabama must have their rights protected under the law. We urge the NLRB to carefully review Jennifer's case, when it's filed, and the countless other issues at hand to ensure no company, not even with the bottomless pockets of Amazon, is allowed to act above the law."
"Today's decision just isn't enough to give our communities a fighting chance against the climate emergency," said one campaigner.
Climate and environmental protection campaigners welcomed an announcement by the Biden administration on Friday that the U.S. Interior Department is blocking new oil and gas leases in the area surrounding Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, but emphasized that the move will not undo the damage done by President Joe Biden's approval of drilling on other public lands or by years of fossil fuel extraction in the region.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that after a public comment period and decades of campaigning by Indigenous rights groups, her agency will block new oil and gas leasing on public lands within a 10-mile radius of the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park.
Existing oil and gas leases on public and private lands within the 10-mile area will not be affected, and Diné C.A.R.E., a group representing Diné, or Navajo, communities affected by environmental issues, noted that the Greater Chaco Region in northwestern New Mexico is suffering the effects of oil and gas drilling, including the formation of a 2,500-square-mile methane cloud over the area.
"Protection of Chaco Canyon is a great first step, but protections for the Greater Chaco Region, where there are living communities of Diné relatives, wildlife, and plant life, including countless sacred sites throughout the region, are just as critical and should be a priority for the Biden administration," said Robyn Jackson, executive director of Diné C.A.R.E. "We cannot ignore the devastating impacts that oil and gas have on our climate, region, culture, living communities, and future generations."
Jackson called on the Biden administration to entirely phase out fossil fuel extraction, as climate scientists and energy experts have said all countries must in order to avoid planetary heating over 2°C above preindustrial levels, and "support a renewable and sustainable economy."
"We will continue to push for an end to oil and gas drilling on all public land in the U.S. so we may all enjoy a healthy, livable future in which our leaders prioritize environmental justice."
"Our Indigenous communities deserve environmental justice," she said.
The Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and covers roughly 30,000 acres which were integral to Pueblo culture between the ninth and 13th centuries.
The Chaco Canyon Coalition, which includes Indigenous groups and has demanded protections for the park and the surrounding region for years, noted that the Interior Department's own estimates have found the administration's decision will block only a few dozen oil and gas wells, reducing natural gas production in the area by 0.5% and oil production by 2.5%.
"More than 90% of Greater Chaco is already either industrialized by oil and gas extraction or promised to industry for more drilling in the future, even as we recognize this activity's impacts on the area's communities and the climate," said attorney Ally Beasley of the Western Environmental Law Center, a member of the coalition. "We will continue to push for an end to oil and gas drilling on all public land in the U.S. so we may all enjoy a healthy, livable future in which our leaders prioritize environmental justice."
The limited protections for Chaco Canyon are "a welcome first step," said Soni Grant, New Mexico campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, on Friday. "But the Biden administration needs to follow up by ending all fossil fuel leasing on public lands and phasing out extraction."
"After holding our entire economy hostage and threatening to trigger a global financial meltdown, Republicans protected wealthy tax cheats and creepy billionaires," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
A preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday estimates that the $21.4 billion in IRS funding cuts that Republicans and the Biden White House agreed to enact as part of their debt ceiling agreement would result in $40.4 billion in lost tax revenue—adding to the federal budget deficit.
The CBO provided its estimate to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who said in a statement that "after holding our entire economy hostage and threatening to trigger a global financial meltdown, Republicans protected wealthy tax cheats and creepy billionaires."
"Republicans' fealty to their megadonors is on full display, as is the hypocrisy of forcing cuts to the IRS that add $19 billion to the deficit," said Whitehouse, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee. "By contrast, President Biden's budget would have cracked down on wealthy tax cheats while making pro-growth investments in workers, families, and small business—and reduced the deficit by $3 trillion."
"There's a sharp contrast there," the senator added, "and the best explanation is Republican fealty to their dark-money megadonors."
The debt ceiling legislation that is now headed to President Joe Biden's desk after the Senate passed it late Thursday includes $1.4 billion in cuts to IRS funding that was aimed at providing the agency with the resources to pursue rich tax evaders, who cost the federal government tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year.
By itself, the $1.4 billion IRS cut would add $900 million to the deficit over a 10-year period, according to a separate CBO analysis released earlier this week.
But the White House and Republican leaders also reached a tentative side deal to cut $20 billion more from the chronically funding-starved agency over the next two fiscal years and use the money to prevent cuts to other federal spending programs.
"In a fight they claimed was about shrinking the debt, they decided to prioritize rolling back IRS enforcement funding in a move that will actually increase the debt by billions."
Having secured an agreement to slash IRS funding, House Republicans are reportedly planning to introduce a massive tax-cut package later this month that includes provisions the CBO says would add roughly $3.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.
"House Republicans have proven once again that there is nothing they care about more than making sure the ultra-rich can avoid paying taxes," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Wednesday. "In a fight they claimed was about shrinking the debt, they decided to prioritize rolling back IRS enforcement funding in a move that will actually increase the debt by billions. They have gone to bat to protect wealthy tax cheats, and won."
The $20 billion in IRS cuts—a quarter of the $80 billion funding boost the agency received under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—aren't a sure thing.
As The American Prospect's David Dayen explains, the debt ceiling legislation headed for President Joe Biden's desk "only creates topline numbers, baselines for future budget appropriations that have yet to be written."
If the spending bills don't pass by January 1, 2024, Dayen notes, "the IRS fund transfer, which is not in the deal and is just presumed as part of the appropriation, would not happen."
Jon Whiten, communications director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, wrote in a blog post on Thursday that the funding "is critical to allowing the IRS to do one of its most important jobs: crack down on tax cheating by the extremely wealthy and by big corporations."
"The IRS has had a hard time doing this lately because its enforcement budget was cut by about a fourth between 2010 and 2021," Whiten noted. "This led to 40% fewer revenue agents—the auditors uniquely qualified to examine the returns of high-income individuals and corporations."
"Ironically, for Republican leaders who have spent months clamoring about the deficit," Whiten continued, "these cuts to the IRS will increase the deficit by reducing the revenue the agency is able to collect from those who owe," Whiten continued.
"Perhaps it's less ironic and more on-brand," he added, "given that these same Republican leaders want to quickly pivot to pushing through more big tax cuts that will disproportionately reward wealthy families and corporations."