News from Ekklesia

  • COVID-19 economic fallout likely to significantly increase regional inequalities, says NEF

    We must build a recovery on the back of good quality, well-paid work in green industries, says the New Economics Foundation.

    The economic fallout from Covid-19 is likely to significantly increase regional inequalities, according to new analysis by the New Economics Foundation (NEF). The analysis, using data from the ONS Labour Force Survey, shows that regional labour markets contracted more than twice as fast compared with London during the pandemic.

    The analysis suggests that total hours worked in London between April and June 2020 fell by 12 per cent since the same period in 2019, compared with 29 per cent in the East of England, 22 per cent in the South West, 21 per cent across the East and West Midlands and 18 per cent in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber.

    The rate of furlough has been reasonably consistent across the UK’s nations and regions, leading many to assume the labour market impacts have been fairly uniform too. But new analysis by NEF, which looked at more detailed data on the number and pattern of hours actually worked across the UK, shows this was not the case. The number of hours worked in many regional economies fell more than twice as fast compared with London.

    Differences in the balance of industries across regions, differences in contract types typically found across regions and pre-existing socio-economic inequalities will have all likely contributed to the variable impact of Covid-19 across UK labour markets. But new evidence suggests that furloughed workers outside London were typically working longer hours prior to the crisis than those in the capital. It is also likely that more hours were lost outside London from workers falling through the cracks, for example from self-employed workers or workers on fixed-term contracts that were missed by the Job Retention Scheme.

    The analysis also showed that at the peak of lockdown (April to June 2020) the total hours worked across the UK economy fell by around 19 per cent compared with the same three months in 2019. This equates to around 200 million in lost working hours each week. Within this figure, the analysis further showed that 150 million hours (75 per cent) were accounted for by furloughed workers. This leaves 50 million hours (25 per cent) that were likely lost from a mixture of self-employment and employees losing work or hours while missing out on the furlough scheme.

    The spatial differences in hours lost also suggest that the impact of ending the Job Retention Scheme in October could lead to a far great economic hit to regions outside London, further entrenching pre-existing regional inequalities.

    NEF joins TUC in calling for a proper plan to create and protect jobs beyond October to prevent mass unemployment and deeper regional inequalities. This plan must have three key elements:

    • Create: a jobs-focused fiscal stimulus to create the low carbon jobs of the future. NEF estimates that at least 400,000 green jobs could be created by 2021 with a £28.3 billion green investment package. The TUC estimates that 600,000 jobs could be created across the public sector to plug current shortages across health, social care, education and national and local government.
    • Protect: support for businesses – allowing them to bring people back to work for a shorter working week with government subsidising 70 per cent of wages for hours not worked, and employers making up the difference to ensure all workers receive 80 per cent of pay for unworked hours, up to £2,500 a month. Similar support must also be put in place for the self-employed, including those who have missed out from previous schemes. Support in both cases would be targeted at those businesses who can show that their trading continues to be impacted by coronavirus restrictions.
    • Reskill: support workers to transition by offering those on shorter hours access to funded training to reskill in non-working hours. Funded training should also be made available to the unemployed, with everyone receiving a minimum income guarantee while they develop new skills.

    Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “The government must fast-track a plan to stop mass unemployment. If the chancellor does not act swiftly, the damage to communities across the UK will be huge. And it could take decades to rebuild our industry. The TUC has put a plan on the table for job protection and upskilling. It’s targeted and with strings attached – not a free lunch, but a lifeline. And it’s how we can prevent this becoming a much deeper, longer crisis. We urge the chancellor to sit down again with business and unions to agree a support plan in the national interest.”

    Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive at New Economics Foundation said: “As this pandemic continues to unfold it is clear that the Government needs to offer support to people beyond the furlough scheme. If we want to Build Back Better from Covid-19 in a way that 'levels up', we need a proper plan that protects job, creates quality low-carbon jobs and reskill[s] workers to take up the jobs of the future.

    “If we are to avoid mass unemployment that will scar communities across the country for years to come and entrench regional inequalities, the Government needs to act now. If it gets this right, it will not only save jobs but enable a just transition for many workers from sectors that are declining to the sectors of the future.”

    Alex Chapman, Researcher at the New Economics Foundation said: “This is a complex crisis, with unequal impacts across regions, sectors and communities. But the story emerging from our analysis is simple and all too familiar. Two groups stand to lose most if the government fails to design a comprehensive income safety net for the next phase of this crisis, those in regions outside London, and those on low incomes and in insecure work who have fallen through the cracks in the government’s schemes.

    “NEF’s new analysis documents millions of lost working hours, with a particularly heavy burden in places like the Midlands, and the East. As we face not only a health and economic crisis, but also accelerating climate breakdown we must seize this opportunity to ensure that lost hours are not wasted hours. Our proposed jobs plan would place re-skilling and upskilling alongside job protection and low-carbon job creation, and build a recovery on the back of good quality, well-paid work in green industries.”

    Hannah Martin, Co-Executive Director of Green New Deal UK and the Build Back Better campaign: “Just three months ago Boris Johnson said that he would create a ‘New Deal’ for Britain, but now people up and down this country stand at a cliff edge unsure of how they will provide for their families.

    “Coronavirus is clearly exacerbating regional inequalities already and if the government is serious about ‘levelling up’ it should invest in a green recovery and immediately develop a plan for good green jobs in the regions that need them the most.”

    * Read Furlough: where did the hours go? here

    * New Economics Foundation


  • Condemnation of UK diplomats and military for acting as 'cheerleaders' for arms sales to Kazakhstan

    UK diplomats and Air Force personnel are not sales people for Airbus and should not be working with arms companies, say campaigners.

    Campaigners have condemned UK diplomats and armed forces representatives for acting as 'cheerleaders' for arms sales to the regime in Kazakhstan.

    This follows a series of Tweets, on 25 September 2020, from the UK Embassy in Kazakhstan that highlighted its role in hosting meetings between the Royal Air Force, the Kazakstan Ministry of Defence and Airbus to promote the sale of military aircraft. According to the Tweets, UK personnel met with Askar Mamin, the authoritarian Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, and Nurlan Yermekbayev, the Defence Minister.

    According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence "Representatives from the RAF and Airbus briefed the Kazakh Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development on how the A400M is an efficient and innovative aircraft that could effectively support their military operations."

    Since 2015 the UK has licensed at least £6.5 million worth of arms to Kazakhstan, including sniper rifles and weapon sights and gun silencers. The real total could be notably higher, with some of the equipment being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system, which does not require the value of licences to be published.

    The regime in Kazakhstan has been widely criticised by human rights monitoring groups, with Freedom House ranking the country 'not free' and noting that "Police at times use excessive force during arrests, and torture is widely employed to obtain confessions, with numerous allegations of physical abuse and other mistreatment documented each year."

    Human Righst Watch says: "Kazakh authorities routinely break up or prevent peaceful protests criticising government policies and suppress independent trade union activity, closing trade unions and imprisoning trade union leaders. Kazakh authorities have used politically motivated prosecutions to silence government critics...Impunity for torture and ill-treatment persists."

    Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "This is a shameful show of hypocrisy. UK diplomats and armed forces personnel are not sales people for Airbus. They should not be working in tandem with arms companies and acting as cheerleaders for arms sales.

    "The regime in Kazakhstan has a very poor human rights record, and a long history of abuses. The UK government should be amplifying the voices of human rights defenders in Kazakhstan and beyond, not arming and supporting the regime that is repressing them."

    * Read the Ministry of Defence statement here

    * Campaign Against the Arms Trade


  • ACLU urges Senate to defer nomination of Supreme Court Justice

    There is no way that meaningful consideration can take place six weeks from an Election Day with key Senators and the President actively campaigning for their jobs, says the American Civil Liberties Union.

    The American Civil Liberties Union’s board of directors has passed a resolution urging the Senate to defer the confirmation process for the successor of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after the presidential inauguration.

    As a matter of organisational policy, the ACLU does not support or oppose nominees to political or judicial office. In this statement, the ACLU is not taking a position on any particular nominee, but only on the process used by the Senate to assess a nominee for confirmation.

    “We are still mourning the passing of the ACLU’s most illustrious alumna, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We felt that under the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic in this election year, it was necessary to express a principled opposition to a rushed process” said ACLU Board President Susan Herman. “We urge the Senate to defer the confirmation process for her successor until after inauguration. Any other course threatens the legitimacy of the court and risks abdication of the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ for Supreme Court nominations.”

    In a special meeting on 25 September 2020, ACLU’s national board of directors adopted a resolution stating:

    "The ACLU is a nonpartisan organisation, and our policy is not to endorse or oppose candidates for appointed office. Here, we are not taking a position on any particular nominee, but only on the process used by the Senate to assess a nominee for confirmation. The reasons for this position are:

    "Double Standards: Four years ago, when Justice Ginsburg’s close friend, Justice Antonin Scalia, died, the Senate, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, maintained that because there was less than a year to go before the presidential election, it would not vote on any nominee before the election, but would instead “let the people decide.” That argument, which carried the day then, meant that President Trump, and not President Obama, made the nomination to fill Justice Scalia’s seat.

    "We did not take a position on that practice at the time. It is not a rule founded in, much less required by, the Constitution. But if this Senate majority and its Majority Leader, who has not changed since 2016, are to act in a principled, consistent manner, rather than on the basis of pure partisan politics, they must follow the same practice this time. They told the people then that they were acting on a principle that would apply to any candidate put forward in the last year of a president’s term; they should be held to their promise. The Supreme Court, if it is to be perceived as legitimate, must be insulated from naked, partisan politics. The Senate majority’s deployment of a hypocritical double standard for partisan purposes risks tainting the Court’s legitimacy for decades to come.

    "Meaningful Advice and Consent Takes Time: In addition, the Senate should not rush to judgment, because to do so under the unprecedented circumstances we now face would be an abdication of its 'advice and consent' responsibility under the Constitution. Confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is one of the Senate’s most solemn obligations. Justices serve for life and decide controversies affecting every American, and this is the people’s only opportunity to have a say in their fitness for such a potent office. Failure to meaningfully exercise the advice and consent role risks the legitimacy and integrity of both the Senate and the Court.

    "There is no set time limit for advice and consent, but there is no way that meaningful consideration can take place under current conditions – six weeks from an Election Day with key Senators and the President actively campaigning for their jobs; in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic that affects every aspect of life, including Senate proceedings and the ability of constituents to communicate with their senators; in the midst of widespread protests about police violence against Black people in hundreds of cities and towns, often plagued by use of military and federal and state law enforcement against protesters; and with the need for the Senate to complete must-pass appropriations to avert a government shutdown. It is all the more important that time for meaningful consideration by the people and the Senate be provided because given how closely divided the Court is, this nominee, whoever it is, will very likely determine the scope of civil liberties and civil rights for a generation to come. In fact, some Senators have stated that they will vote to confirm before the name of the nominee has even been announced. At this moment, with these stakes, the Senate, and through them, the people themselves, cannot provide meaningful advice and consent on a nominee in the remaining weeks of this Congress.

    "For 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, we take up the toughest civil liberties fights. Beyond one person, party, or side — we the people dare to create a more perfect union."

    * American Civil Liberties Union


  • Lesotho and IFAD joint project to improve livelihoods of vulnerable small farmers

    A new financing project in Lesotho is to benefit 160, 000 poor rural households.

    A new financing project in Lesotho is to benefit 160, 000 poor rural households. It will boost food security and nutrition, mitigate the impact of climate change and strengthen livelihoods for greater income. Women, who typically have limited access to land and finance, will make up 50 per cent of the project’s participants. About 35 per cent will be young people who face high rates of unemployment.

    The $62 million project, which will provide the means for a six-year extension of the successful Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP I), was announced on23 September 2020 by the International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations (IFAD). Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, and Thabo Sophonea, Minister of Finance of the Kingdom of Lesotho, signed the financing agreement for the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP II) by correspondence.

    The total project financing amounts to $62 million, with $50 million from the World Bank and a $5 million loan from IFAD. The beneficiaries themselves are providing $5 million, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will contribute an additional $2 million. The project will reach all 10 districts of the kingdom, an increase from the seven districts reached through SADP I.

    SADP II will build on the achievements of the project’s first phase. It aims to empower women and youth who are especially vulnerable to climate-related events and other shocks. According to the International Labour Organisation, 38.5 per cent of young people in Lesotho, aged 15-24, are unemployed. The creation of sustainable rural employment opportunities will lead to increased incomes and greater long-term resilience.

    “In the face of COVID-19, it is even more important that we not allow that progress achieved against poverty during SADP I be lost, or that hunger be allowed to increase”, said Philipp Baumgartner, Country Director for Lesotho. “Small-scale farmers need greater support so that food production, processing and marketing continue, contributing to the country’s food security and economy. I am particularly happy to see an increased focus on youth entrepreneurship and nutrition aspects in this second phase of SADP. ”

    SADP II will promote the cultivation of cash crops, such as fruits and vegetables, and will link farmers to markets where they can sell their products. Project participants will also benefit from new technologies for land and water management including the modernisation of irrigation infrastructure to reduce producers’ dependence on rain-fed farming. The project will also train participants on nutrition, food preparation and better hygiene.

    Since 1995, IFAD has invested $92.1 million in 11 rural development programmes and projects in the Kingdom of Lesotho worth a total of almost $232.6 million. These projects have directly benefited 339,720 rural households.

    * The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub.


  • Green Christian Online Festival 2020

    'Re-Imagining the Promised Land', Green Christian's free online Festival, will held via Zoom from 23 - 25 October.

    Combining creativity, debate, stories of political activism and practical action, poetry and prayer, 'Re-Imagining the Promised Land', Green Christian's free Online Festival, will held via Zoom from 23 - 25 October.

    "Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ecological crisis call us to move forward beyond established certainties, to re-imagine a better future – and this is at the heart of our Christian faith", said Deborah Tomkins, Co-chair, Green Christian.

    The festival begins with a panel discussion: 'Re-imagining a better future', featuring Bishop James Jones, Cleo Lake (Green Councillor, former Lord Mayor of Bristol), Melanie Nazareth of Christian Climate Action and environmentalist and green business leader Sir Jonathon Porritt.

    On Saturday, Anglican priest and writer, the Rev Dr Frances Ward will explore how ancient Christian spiritualities of  "unknowing" can set us free to commit radically to this present moment, and to find the promised land that lies beneath our feet.

    Other workshops will explore both practical and political action, featuring Rebecca Willis, expert lead at Citizens Assembly UK and Rachel Mander, Faith Outreach Officer at Hope for the Future, the UK’s national specialist in climate lobbying. 

    "All the solutions we need to address today's climate emergency already exist. But we are close to passing 'the point of no return'. What's lacking is political will – and the solution to that is also in our own hands", said Sir Jonathon Porritt, festival panellist and Green Christian Patron. He continued, "I’m really looking forward to being part of Green Christian's Festival to explore different dimensions of today’s Climate Emergency, and what it means for us all from a personal and moral perspective." 

    Above all, says Green Christian, the festival offers a chance to dream and imagine. Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement will be giving a presentation and setting some imaginative challenges. An interactive evening exploring poetry and environmental activism, with readings and discussion from eco-poets Caleb Parkin, Bristol’s City Poet, and Carrie Etter, Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. 

    "Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future. If there was ever a time when we needed that ability, it is now." said Rob Hopkins. 

    This Zoom event is free of charge, though donations through Green Christian's website here are welcome to cover costs.  

    * See the detailed programme here

    * Book through Eventbrite here

    * Green Christian


  • UNHCR welcomes Dominican Republic move on citizenship

    The #IBelongCampaign aims to leave no one behind and to guarantee the right to a nationality for all.

    UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has welcomed a decision by the Dominican Republic to allow the naturalisation of around 750 people born and raised in the country who were previously deprived of citizenship due to the immigration status of their parents.

    “This gives hope and dignity to hundreds of stateless people whose lives had been in limbo for many years. We commend the Government of the Dominican Republic for taking this important step towards finding nationality solutions for people born and raised in the country, and we look forward to continued constructive cooperation with the government to find practical solutions for everyone’s benefit”, said Matthew Reynolds, UNHCR representative for the United States and the Caribbean

    The decision, announced by presidential decree on 16 July 2020, eased restrictions imposed in a ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court known as Judgment 168-13, which was issued seven years ago on 23 September 2013.

    That ruling affirmed that children born in the Dominican Republic to parents with irregular immigration status were not entitled to Dominican citizenship. Its application also resulted in the revocation of nationality for thousands of people who were born in the Dominican Republic, most of them of Haitian descent. It also effectively blocked their access to fundamental rights and basic public services such as higher education and health care, which are available only to Dominican citizens.

    The presidential decree was issued in accordance with Law 169-14, a multi-party agreement passed in 2014 to mitigate the impact of the Constitutional Court’s ruling which has resulted so far in the recognition of Dominican nationality and documentation of over 26,000 people.

    Still, there are thousands of people in the Dominican Republic who remain without a nationality, as they are not recognised as citizens under the law of any country. UNHCR encourages the government to continue working on a solution for the additional estimated 6,400 persons who have filed applications for naturalisation.

    UNHCR will continue supporting the government’s work in the Dominican Republic to fulfill the #IBelongCampaign objective of ending statelessness globally by 2024. This objective, which is in line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims to leave no one behind and to guarantee the right to a nationality for all.

    * More about the #IBelongCampaign here

    * UNHCR The Refugee Agency


  • Quakers call for spending on green and just recovery

    Quakers in Britain have set out their priorities in a submission to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review in the areas of climate change, criminal justice, defence, education, immigration and charities.

    Quakers in Britain have set out their priorities in a submission to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review in six areas: climate change, criminal justice, defence, education, immigration and charities.

    Led by their commitment to equality and sustainability, Quakers are calling for spending on a green and just recovery from COVID-19.

    There is clearly a need for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis. Quakers believe the transition to zero carbon will be more effective if it prioritises the most marginalised in society.

    Quakers consider inequalities and climate change as the greatest threats to human security. They are calling on the government to fund peace-making and peace-building in the UK and abroad. The submission also emphasises the cost-ineffective nature of the current, punitive criminal justice and immigration systems

    The submission from Quakers in Britain says, “Many of the measures that need to be taken have not changed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the need to avert future crises, the likelihood of high unemployment, the hardship suffered by many during the pandemic, and the public support for a green recovery, have combined to create a real imperative for action. We must not miss this moment."

    Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain said: “Our submission reflects our belief that government spending should focus on creating a greener and fairer society. There is a growing movement for 'build back better' and we hope the government will use this opportunity to bring about meaningful change."

    Canon Giles Goddard, Chair, Faith for the Climate said: “As a multifaith national network, Faith for the Climate supports these priorities, which integrate the urgent need for climate action with concerns for equality and justice."

    Richard Reeves, Coordinator, Rethinking Security said: "This representation to the CSR rightly identifies tackling the climate emergency as the primary objective of responsible government investment, and one that is vital to delivering a more just, sustainable and secure UK and world."

    * Read the full submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review  here

    * Faith for the Climate

    * Rethinking Security

    *  Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

    * Quakers in Britain


  • Call for post offices to provide 'Address & Collect' for people with no fixed address

    Citizens Advice says 7 million people have been unable to receive their post at some point over the last decade.

    Citizens Advice has found that seven million people (14 per cent of UK adults) have been unable to receive their post at some point over the last decade.

    A survey conducted on behalf of the charity also found that just under one in eight (12 per cent) people have been unable to apply for services like health appointments, welfare, banking, and even jobs, because they lack an address to put on applications. This rises to one in four (24 per cent) with disabled people and just over a quarter (29 per cent) for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

    The charity found that these issues disproportionately affect people in unsafe and precarious living situations. For instance, those who sleep rough or live in temporary accommodation, or those who have their post intercepted by an abuser.

    A third (34 per cent) of people surveyed said they would struggle to manage their finances without post. This rises to almost half for those on a low income (47 per cent) and disabled people (46 per cent).

    With many more people looking for work or claiming benefits because of COVID-19, the charity says it is more important than ever for everyone to have guaranteed access to postal services. Without access to post or an address, millions of people risk being left behind as a lack of fixed address may mean they are unable to apply for jobs and benefits.

    As concerns grow about the impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health, six in 10 (62 per cent) people said they would feel cut off from society if they couldn't send or receive post. Moreover, three in ten (28 per cent) people would either struggle or be unable to keep in touch with family or friends without post.

    Although text and email reminders are becoming more common, four in five (79 per cent) people say post is helpful or essential for managing their day to day lives. With 4.5 million adults across the country predicted to be digitally excluded by 2030, the charity warns digital methods shouldn't be solely relied upon to communicate vital information.

    Citizens Advice finds that over the last 10 years:

    • 4.7 million people have missed appointments with key services, like court or employment related appointments, because of missed letters
    • 3 million people have experienced some financial loss – an average of £850 each – as a result of not being able to receive post
    • 3.6 million people have missed at least one healthcare appointment due to not receiving their post. This can lead to further health complications, and comes at an estimated cost of at least £223 million to taxpayers
    • 1.8 million people have missed out on employment opportunities as a result of missing letters

    The charity, which has seen an increase in people seeking housing, redundancy and benefits advice, warns that the problem of people having no fixed address could be exacerbated in coming months as people risk eviction and homelessness.

    It’s urging the government to commit to investing in an ‘Address & Collect’ service, which would work like a PO Box, to be provided at post offices. This would ensure the millions without mail would have equal access to the essential services necessary to rebuild their lives.

    Citizens Advice spoke to Nick* who, while sleeping rough, was sent a letter from the council offering him a flat if he turned up at a given location on a specific day and time. But, because Nick was having his post sent to the local homeless shelter he didn’t get the letter in time and had to spend another three months sleeping rough before he was offered somewhere else.

    Beth*  was living with her abusive ex-partner who hid her post from her. He hid letters about her pension and bank statements to check up on her movements. It was only when Beth got a call from HMRC that she discovered she hadn’t been receiving letters that were sent to her. She later found a suitcase containing over 600 of her letters that her partner had hidden.

    Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “People rely on post to access essential services and stay connected to friends and family. Though the government rightly aims for universal access to post, our current system is designed around letter boxes, not people. It’s vital the government acts now to ensure our postal system is truly universal.

    “We’re seeing millions of people coming to us for help with redundancy, housing and welfare problems during the pandemic. This new research shows that lacking a fixed address or a place to receive mail can not only worsen these issues, but also hold people back from overcoming their challenges. There is a serious risk that if the issue is not addressed millions of people risk falling through the cracks.”

    * Names have been changed

    * Read Millions Without Mail here

    * Citizens Advice


  • EU must stop collaborating in abuse of Libyan refugees, says Amnesty

    People risking their lives to seek safety in Europe are taken back to Libya where they are subjected to torture and extortion.

    Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants in Libya are trapped in a vicious cycle of cruelty, Amnesty International says in a new report.

    After enduring dreadful suffering in war-torn Libya, people are risking their lives at sea to seek safety in Europe only to be intercepted and forcibly taken back to Libya where they are subjected to enforced disappearances, detention, torture and extortion.

    Amnesty’s 58-page report, ‘Between life and death’: Refugees and migrants trapped in Libya’s cycle of abuse, shows how EU countries, most notably Italy, have collaborated with the Libyan authorities in this abuse, by providing speedboats, training and assistance.

    Since 2016, an estimated 60,000 men, women and children have been captured at sea and taken back to Libya by the EU-supported Libyan Coast Guard – 8,435 between 1 January and 14 September this year alone.

    Amnesty’s report, based on in-depth interviews with 32 refugees and migrants, as well as an examination of videos, photographs and satellite imagery, documents harrowing accounts of people who have suffered or witnessed a litany of abuses in Libya. Abuses include: unlawful killings; enforced disappearances; torture and other ill-treatment; rape and other sexual violence; arbitrary detention; and forced labour and exploitation at the hands of government authorities or militia groups.

    Those returned to Libya are frequently held in official Directorate of Combatting Illegal Migration detention centres under the authority of the ministry of interior of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which controls western Libya. In addition, this year alone thousands have been subjected to enforced disappearance after being transferred to unofficial places of detention, including the Tobacco Factory (a reference to its former function) under the command of a Government of National Accord-affiliated militia led by Emad al-Trabulsi in Tripoli. There are serious concerns for the safety of those held at the Tobacco Factory.

    Dozens of refugees and migrants described to Amnesty witnessing the death of their loved ones while detained at a Directorate of Combatting Illegal Migration centres or in places of captivity run by traffickers. In one incident on 27 May, gunmen opened fire on some 200 people held by traffickers near the town of Mazda, killing at least 30 and injuring 11. The others remain unaccounted for. It is feared that they are dead or have been abducted.

    Amnesty has verified videos showing militias parading and abusing refugees and migrants. One person told Amnesty that in May, a militia affiliated with the Government of National Accord took him and other refugees and migrants from a Directorate of Combatting Illegal Migration detention centre and forced them to transport ammunition between two positions in Tripoli amid an ongoing battle in the city.

    Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: “The EU and its member states continue to implement policies trapping tens of thousands of men, women and children in a vicious cycle of abuse, showing a callous disregard for people’s lives and dignity.

    “Given the Libyan authorities’ consistent failure to address long-standing patterns of abuse against refugees and migrants – including by state officials and affiliated militias – the EU and its member states must completely reconsider their co-operation with the Libyan authorities. The EU should make any further support conditional on immediate action to stop horrific abuses against refugees and migrants. This would include ending arbitrary detention and closing immigration detention centres. Until then, anyone rescued or intercepted in the central Mediterranean should not be returned to Libya, but instead be allowed to disembark in a place of safety.”

    In Libya, refugees and migrants live under constant risk not only of being arrested and sent to detention centres, but also of being abducted by militias, armed groups and traffickers – including for forced labour. Some have been tortured or raped until their families pay ransoms to secure their release. Others have died in custody through violence, torture, starvation or medical neglect.

    Refugees and migrants are facing rampant racism and xenophobia in Libya, with government officials, members of armed groups and militias, and media worker all regularly using racist language to refer to black people, while also publicly blaming refugees and migrants for the spread of COVID-19 in Libya.

    Given the horrific conditions and abuses, existing resettlement and evacuation programmes are completely insufficient for providing safe and legal pathways out of Libya for those in need, said Amnesty, with only 5,709 vulnerable people benefiting from such programmes since 2017. This reflects the small number of resettlement pledges made by other countries, including EU ones. COVID-19 travel restrictions have further exacerbated the situation, with only 297 people evacuated from Libya this year, before borders closed in March.

    Last month, one refugee told Amnesty: “Right now refugees [are] going to cross the sea... [There is] no evacuation and no resettlement … Refugees in Libya are at risk. [We are] between life and death.”

    Desperate refugees and migrants have few viable ways out of Libya other than crossing the Mediterranean on unseaworthy boats. Crossings continue to be extremely dangerous, including because of interceptions by the Libyan Coast Guard and criminal groups. In one deadly incident in mid-August, survivors told Amnesty that armed men on a boat named 'Captain al-Salam 181' robbed them and then fired at their vessel, causing the engine to catch fire and the boat to capsize. An estimated 40 people died after being left at sea.

    * Read ‘Between life and death’: Refugees and migrants trapped in Libya’s cycle of abuse here

    * Amnesty International


  • Schools in poor areas in England badly placed to deal with Covid-19 challenges

    Schools serving more deprived pupils in England have seen the largest falls in spending per pupil over the last decade.

    Schools serving more deprived pupils face major challenges over the next few years. Educational inequalities will have widened during lockdown. Planned increases in teacher starting salaries will also weigh more heavily on such schools, given they are more likely to employ new teachers.  

    Schools serving more deprived pupils in England have already seen the largest falls in spending per pupil over the last decade. The government’s new National Funding Formula will deliver funding increases of 3–4 percentage points less to schools in poorer areas than to those in more affluent areas up to 2021. 

    These patterns run counter to the objective of levelling up poorer regions of the country and will make it harder to address the educational challenges and inequalities resulting from COVID-19. In response, only the new £250 million National Tutoring Programme is targeted at more deprived schools, representing just 0.5 per cent of school funding.

    These are among the findings of the schools chapter of this year’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Annual report on education spending in England, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The full report looking at the challenges posed by COVID-19 for all education sectors will be released later this autumn.

    The research also finds that:

    • School spending per pupil in England fell by nine per cent in real terms between 2009–10 and 2019–20. This represents the largest cut in over 40 years, though these cuts come on the back of a significant increase in spending per pupil of over 60 per cent during the 2000s. Recent cuts have mainly been driven by cuts to school sixth-form funding and big reductions in the spending role of local authorities. Cuts look similar whether compared against general inflation or school-specific cost changes over the last decade.
    • The government has allocated an extra £7.1 billion for schools in England through to 2022–23. This will increase spending per pupil by nine per cent real terms between 2019–20 and 2022–23 (as measured against expected general inflation) and will near enough reverse the cuts of the 2010s. If expected increases in teacher pay are accounted for, the real-terms increase in spending per pupil will be lower, at six per cent. In either case, school spending per pupil in 2022–23 is set to be no higher in real terms than in 2009–10.
    • Secondary school spending per pupil fell by nine per cent in real terms between 2009–10 and 2019–20, partly reflecting cuts of over 25 per cent to sixth-form funding per student. In contrast, primary school spending per pupil has grown by four per cent. As a result, the per-pupil funding difference between secondary and primary schools fell from 30 per cent at the end of the 2000s to 16 per cent in 2019–20. This continues a long-running trend, with this funding difference already down from over 50 per cent during the 1980s. Whilst empirical evidence shows high benefits to spending at younger ages, it is not clear evidence supports such a dramatic shift.
    • During the 2000s, the funding advantage per pupil enjoyed by the most deprived schools grew from 20–25 per cent in 2000–01 to 35 per cent by 2010–11. Despite the introduction of the Pupil Premium in 2011, the deprivation funding premium shrank from 35 per cent in 2010–11 back to 25 per cent in 2018–19. Some of the decline in the deprivation funding premium can be accounted for by changing geographical patterns in deprivation, such as falls in deprivation inside London, and a school funding system that did not adjust swiftly to such changes.
    • In the long run, the new National Funding Formula should ensure the funding system is more responsive to changes in the geography of deprivation. However, in the short run, the new formula will deliver funding increases of three to four percentage points less to schools in poorer areas than to those in more affluent areas up to 2021.
    • Given lost schooling and a likely widening of educational inequalities during lockdown, the government has announced a range of measures to help schools face these challenges. These include a one-off extra £80 per pupil in the  5–16 age range and a national tutoring programme. Only the National Tutoring Programme is targeted at more disadvantaged pupils. It is also not at a scale that will allow schools to address the inequalities which have widened during lockdown. 
    • Looking across the UK, cuts in England over the 2010s (nine per cent) were larger than in Wales (five per cent), but on a par with Northern Ireland (10 per cent). In contrast, spending per pupil in Scotland rose by five per cent in real terms over the 2010s, reflecting extra funding to finance increases in teacher pay totalling more than 10 per cent over 2018 and 2019. Spending per pupil is highest in Scotland (£7,300), of similar levels in Wales and England (£6,100) and lowest in Northern Ireland (£5,800). 

    Dr Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at IFS, said: "Schools in poorer areas of England face significant challenges over the next few years, with a likely widening of educational inequalities during lockdown and higher costs associated with higher teacher starting salaries. However, schools with more deprived pupils have seen the largest falls in spending over recent years and are set to see smaller funding increases than schools in more affluent areas from the government’s new funding formula. Most of the COVID catch-up funding will be spread across all schools, regardless of disadvantage. This provides a strong case for greater targeting of additional funding to more deprived schools."

    Josh Hillman, Director of Education at the Nuffield Foundation, said: "As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the most deprived pupils are not only more likely to be behind in their learning, but their families are also at greater risk of poverty, food insecurity and job losses. This could further entrench the disadvantage these children face. As this research shows, it is therefore crucial that schools in deprived areas receive adequate and well-directed funding so that they can help to close the disadvantage gap and ensure all children can reach their potential."

    *Read the report Annual report on education spending in England : schoolshere

    * Institute for Fiscal Studies