Category Archives: In the News

Mediterranean Crossings – NGOs Helping or Hurting?

While much of the international media has turned attention elsewhere, thousands of migrants are still attempting to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats for a chance at safety in Europe. In early February of this year, over 2,600 migrants were rescued over the course of only three days attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Over 181,000 people crossed the Sea in 2016 alone. This migration pattern has forced the coordination of national coastguards, navies, non-governmental organizations, and more. Majority of the migrants traversing the Mediterranean are placed in unsafe boats by human traffickers, which then evokes the rescue missions by the previous mentioned organizations. Many people have died in this journey, over 5,000 were estimated to have died in 2016.

This has been a contentious issue in international politics as European governments, notably Italy, feel they are spending too many resources on a problem that is not theirs to solve. EU nations have been working with Northern African countries to try to have them control their migration flows. This has received a lot of backlash, as many argue people are fleeing their homes not because they want to, but because of persecution, political or economic turmoil, and war. While this crisis has much more depth, the latest development is that national governments are criticizing aid groups for rescuing migrants.

Upon first reading headlines about this, I was baffled—could politicians really stoop so low to reprimand non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for doing dangerous and life-saving work? While there is some truth to my initial reaction, the back story is much larger. The UNHCR has noted that the human traffickers these migrants rely on often put them in unsafe boats that are not suited to make it all the way across the Mediterranean to Europe. The head of the EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, explained that NGOs rescuing migrants is only encouraging traffickers to use unstable transportation and make riskier decisions. Leggeri also accused NGOs of not working well with security forces, such as in checking the nationalities of the migrants.

Under maritime law, everyone at sea is required to rescue people and ships in distress, but Leggeri and others are worried that picking up migrants closer and closer to the African coast is only perpetuating the problem. Belgium’s migration minister, Theo Francken, also made headlines echoing Leggeri’s comments, claiming that NGOs were only causing more deaths by rescuing migrants. Naturally, there has been a resounding response to these claims. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) humanitarian adviser on displacement was quoted by The Guardian explaining, “We are a humanitarian agency, and we carry out proactive search and rescue operations because the alternative is that hundreds of people will die from drowning, asphyxiation and dehydration. If we just wait 60 miles out to sea for boats that may pass by chance, rather than going to the areas where the smugglers are operating, there will be many more deaths. NGOs like MSF are explaining that without their efforts, many more people would die. They were critical of claims made by Leggeri and Francken as destructive and unproductive.

While I agree that the charged statements made by these politicians caused more harm than good, and that the work of non-governmental organizations like MSF is crucial to the safety of migrants, it did bring into question the larger, structural issues causing these massive migration flows. Rescuing migrants on the high seas is important, necessary, and moral, but it is a temporary solution to a long term problem. Countless geographers, political scientists, and others have extensive research and ideas about this issue, but it made me start thinking about the bigger picture. There have been numerous suggestions on how to slow migration flows, such as developing a stronger Libyan coastguard and creating settlement camps on the Libyan shores. Nonetheless, these too are relatively short-term solutions to incredibly dense problems. These migrant flows are due to conflict, civil strife and suffering. These driving forces have come to be because of war, economic uncertainty, and some issues can be traced back to a colonial legacy. Thousands of experts have a myriad of ideas about how to solve these complex problems – development programming, aid, capitalism, military intervention, grassroots empowerment, etc.

As a young college student, I can’t say I know which “solution” is necessarily the right one. But this contentious issue has forced me to consider the larger picture of these migrant flows, when too often I have been focused narrowly on short headlines and quantitative data relating to this issue. Secondly, the statements of Leggeri, Francken, and more initially shocked me. I was disgusted with their nonchalant attitude and disregard for all the lives NGOs have saved. Instead of shutting out their comments, I encouraged myself to think broadly about this issue, and while I cannot say I necessarily agree with the claims, now I have a better perspective of this problem. In a time of quick headline updates and short blurbs, it is easy to have tunnel vision and to react immediately and passionately. I appreciated thinking more broadly about the issue, and hope that I can continue doing this more often.

Aware of Sexual Assault Awareness

Kate Vancil and the Residential Housing Association (RHA) hosted a sexual assault awareness forum on Wednesday, April 6th, 2016. The purpose of the event was to speak in groups on the sexual assaults that happen on campus. According to AAU Climate Survey, Carolina has a reported 12.9% of people who have experienced sexual assault or sexual misconduct with 50% happening in residential halls. With movies like The Hunting Ground coming out and more people getting behind the movement to reduce sexual assault, the RHA forum was just one way Carolina is putting sexual awareness at the forefront of social issues. Continue reading Aware of Sexual Assault Awareness

Know Your Rights: Dos and Don’ts

Last Thursday, The Black Student Movement and the Campus Y co-hosted an event offering non-official advice for what students should and should not do when interacting with the police.

The event featured a panel consisted of Ada Wilson-Suitt, who currently serves as Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at UNC and previously was a practicing attorney.  The panel also featured Michael Jones and Ariel Smallwood, both second year law students at the UNC School of Law and President and Vice President of Black Law Student Association respectively.

The panelists wanted to make it clear they are not experts, but still gave excellent advice. Here are some of their tips:

1) Download the ACLU app. The app has a built in recording device that records both visual and audio. The app also has a tab titled “Know Your Rights” which details essential rights one should know. Essentially this app is very resourceful/useful and you should definitely get it!

2) Warrants are important. A warrant is absolutely necessary to search anything, your residence or your house. Courts don’t like when police officers search without warrants and anything they find without a warrant isn’t admissible in court, aka it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Take time to read over the warrant and make sure that it has your address on it, not just a general location.

3) Keep communication short and simple. Keep the conversations with law enforcement brief, direct, and only answer questions asked of you. If you are in a situation in which you are  read your rights, the only words you should be saying are “I want to speak to my attorney”.  You don’t have to speak but you should comply.

4) Keep calm and know your rights.  If you are being pulled over and you feel it is unsafe to do so, it is in your rights to put on your hazards and call 911 to notify them that you are pulling over to a protected area. If you’re ever accused of being under the influence you can request a witness be present.

In most situations law enforcement will treat you right, but it is important to know your rights!

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Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

For the past two days at UNC, a non-campus affiliated organization called “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) set up posters and handed out flyers on Polk Place (the main quad) on campus. When I first saw them setting up bright, orange signs I thought it was for Holocaust awareness. I’d had friends last week standing in the Pit (UNC’s outdoor hub) reading names of Holocaust victims for 24 hours. I assumed it was work continuing for victims of genocide, particularly the Holocaust.
Continue reading Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

Over the past week, the Criminal Justice Awareness and Action committee put on several events for their Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy week. Many students may have seen the replica solitary confinement cell in the pit last week; that was part of CJAA’s program, which also included a one-woman show on domestic violence, an art benefit night, and several discussions on other criminal justice-related topics. Continue reading Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

I’m A Little Tired Of Hearing The Name ‘Trump’”

Donald Trump is an overrated topic. At the speed he’s going, the nomination is bound to be his, meaning the American public and the global community will have to deal with his mouth and rhetoric until election time. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it weren’t only March. Insert side-eye emoji here. Continue reading I’m A Little Tired Of Hearing The Name ‘Trump’”

Using the Restroom Shouldn’t be this Hard

Picking a restroom has probably never been a struggle for you. You find the male or female stall and walk right in. No trouble. But imagine a situation where the signs on the wall are not male or female. There are two signs and you don’t fit into either of them. That’s unfair. Continue reading Using the Restroom Shouldn’t be this Hard

Spell(ings) Check

A few weeks ago, Margaret Spellings started her job as the new UNC system president. However, she was not welcomed with open arms and smiles. Instead, several college campuses planned and executed a walkout to protest Spellings. Continue reading Spell(ings) Check

The Inevitability of the School-To-Prison Pipeline

Imagine looking forward to the rest of your life in high school and the first image that comes to mind is the big, colossal prison complex down the road. For many of the youth today, this is a sad reality and path that has taken their life off track. This isn’t because a large amount of our youth are criminals or do drugs, but because of the system that has set it up to be the “school-to-prison” pipeline. The school-to-prison pipeline “refers to the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” This system is put in place through subtle yet dramatic policies that are in schools and the prison-industrial complex. Many of those are some that I’m sure your high schools had/have in place that you didn’t realize could have greater implications after high school.
Continue reading The Inevitability of the School-To-Prison Pipeline

Palestine is Here

We’ve all heard about the military occupation in Israel. We’ve seen the images of displaced families, bombings and demolished buildings. We’ve read about the violence. It is a world away, and something like would that would never happen here in the U.S., right? That’s why it’s shocking when two Israeli activists who have been to hell and back tell you, “Palestine is Here,” in the U.S.. Continue reading Palestine is Here