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‘It’s an atrocity against humankind’: Greek pushback blamed for double drowning | Migration and development

On 15 September 2021, Sidy Keita from Ivory Coast and Didier Martial Kouamou Nana from Cameroon, boarded a dinghy from Turkey to Greece. Despite making it to the Greek island of Samos, their bodies were found days later, washed ashore in Aydin province, on the Aegean coast.

Interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, analysis of classified documents, satellite imagery, social media accounts and online material, and discussions with officials in Turkey and Greece, have helped piece together what happened over five September days during which the two men died, likely victims of a pushback by the Greek authorities.

What happened to these men, who left their homes to escape political oppression and for a better life overseas, has been investigated by the Guardian, Lighthouse Reports, Mediapart and Der Spiegel.

The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has frequently denied that pushbacks occur. But there is mounting evidence that would-be asylum seekers are being illegally removed from Greek territory before having the chance to lodge asylum applications.

Keita, 36, left Ivory Coast after taking part in protests against president Alassane Ouattara. He arrived in Turkey in March 2020. Kouamou, 33, a mechanic in Cameroon, landed in Turkey last year, hoping to join his brother who had been living in France since 2014.

Like many before them, both men went to the Basmane district of Izmir, a known spot for people who want to be smuggled into Europe. They were among 36 who then boarded a dinghy from near Kusadasi on the Turkish coast in the early hours of 15 September.

According to testimonies, the boat arrived at the north-eastern shore of Samos around 7am, just as the sun was rising. The area, Cape Prasso, is a peninsula with steep hillsides and perilous drops to the water.

Lawyers working for the Human Rights Legal Project (HRLP) on Samos, 10km from Cape Prasso, received a text from an unknown number informing them of the dinghy’s arrival, with photos taken from land of a Greek coastguard vessel spotted in the area. At 10.25am, the HRLP emailed local police, the UN refugee agency UNHCR, a member of the European Commission based on the island and the Reception and Identification service for asylum seekers on Samos, informing them of the arrival.

The HRLP email, seen by the Guardian, asks that the arrivals be provided with the necessary assistance to register as asylum seekers on the island as prescribed by law. There was no reply.

Shortly after the dinghy arrived, witnesses describe hearing what sounded like shots being fired. In a panic, the people on the dinghy split up, scrambling up the hilly terrain to hide where they could. Eight managed to escape into the countryside but the other 28, including a baby, young children and a pregnant woman, were apprehended by the authorities. That afternoon, it is claimed they were loaded on to a coastguard boat, driven out to sea and cast adrift on two life rafts, a well-documented form of pushback by Greek authorities.

Jean* and at least two others were allegedly strip-searched and beaten. Jean said at least one woman was subjected to an internal physical search by officers looking for money. “The police beat us with the greatest violence,” he said. “I was punched in the face and in the stomach. I was crying.” Pascaline* said she was robbed of her money and her baby was thrown into the life raft “as if you were throwing a garbage can”. “We have to denounce this because it’s inhuman. They hit people in front of us, they traumatised the children.”

The two rafts were picked up by the Turkish coastguard a few hours later. The pregnant woman had gone into labour on the raft and delivered her baby shortly after being rescued.

Of the eight people who initially escaped the authorities in Samos, four would make it to a refugee camp on the island, while the other four were picked up. One woman was apprehended outside a monastery, given a bottle of water and cast out to sea on her own. She was rescued by the Turkish coastguard on 17 September.

Timeline and map of the Samos pushback

After sleeping in the forest overnight, Keita, Kouamou and another man, Ibrahim*, were apprehended on 16 September.

Ibrahim, a former member of the Cameroonian navy, said they were stopped on a road by people identifying themselves as police officers. They were asked for ID and stripped of their phones and money before being put into a car and taken to a port. Ibrahim said they were then loaded on to a speedboat, which he identified as a Rafnar, a vessel used by the coastguard on Samos.

After half an hour, the boat stopped and Ibrahim says that, one by one, the men were pushed into the water. “I resisted,” he said. “They beat me properly before throwing me into the water.” He said he swam desperately, the waves helping push him towards the Turkish shore and on to the beach a few hours from Kusadasi. He said he cried out thanks to God before vomiting.

According to Ibrahim, Keita’s body washed up soon after. Friends said neither Keita nor Kouamou could swim. Ibrahim tried resuscitation but it was too late. Ibrahim planted a stick in the sand next to Keita’s body and started walking along the coast.

He was picked up by Turkish police on 18 September, and described to them the events which led to Keita’s death. “They pushed all of us into the sea,” he told the authorities. “They did not provide us with a raft or boat.” He said Kouamou had disappeared beneath the waves.

Later that day, Keita’s body was found by the Turkish coastguard. Two days later, they found Kouamou on the same beach. Ibrahim later identified both bodies in the morgue in Izmir. Medical documents state that Keita drowned and that Kouamou’s body had been found in the sea, close to shore.

While it is impossible to fully verify Ibrahim’s story, two Greek officials with direct knowledge of coastguard operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that what he described had happened before, usually to smaller groups of asylum seekers. The rationale is to avoid using life rafts, which are expensive; any public tender for their replacement might raise questions. Both officials said refugees are usually provided with lifejackets before being told to swim back to Turkey.

Since December, the Turkish coastguard have recorded 11 rescues of people in similar circumstances.

Over tea in Izmir in October, Ibrahim said he believed it was partly down to God that he survived. “The sea is my friend, I have no fear,” he said. He has since made it back to Greece, where he has registered as a minor. The Guardian cannot verify his age. Months later, he is still haunted by what happened. “I feel like I left a part of me in the water,” he said.

Dimitris Choulis, a HRLP lawyer, is filing a lawsuit pressing for criminal charges to be brought against those involved in the pushback on behalf of some of the 36 people who made that journey on 15 September. “What is very dangerous for our democracy is having police officers overstepping the law,” he said. “My hope is, as a Greek lawyer, to restore the rule of law in the island of Samos, because this is what seems to have been lost.”

Lorraine Leete, from the Legal Centre Lesbos, added: “Pushbacks constitute atrocities against the humankind for which Greece and the EU will have to respond sooner or later, given the hard and accumulated evidence of crimes committed at their borders.”

Kouamou’s body was returned to Cameroon, thanks to savings from his older brother, Séverin. He leaves behind a wife and two young children. “The news of his death broke us all,” said his aunt, Marinette. “His death left me traumatised to have lost such a good son.”

Keita’s family could not raise the money to bring him back to Ivory Coast, and he lies in an unmarked grave in Izmir, thousands of miles from home.

In a statement, the Greek police authorities said: “The Hellenic police authorities, following a strict disciplinary legal framework, investigate every piece of information which is communicated to them and concerns alleged incidents of ill treatment at the borders, including allegations for unprocessed returns (pushbacks), in order that the foreseen by law penalties are imposed and similar behaviours are avoided in the future. The allegations on the breach of the principle of non-refoulement do not meet reality and in fact undermine the work of the Hellenic police at the operational border areas.”

The Hellenic Coast Guard said in a statement: “The practices described and attributed to operational assets and personnel of the coastguard do not correspond with our operational processes in deterring non-authorised border crossings, or dealing with third country nationals during the surveillance of sea borders.”

*Names have been changed

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.

READ: HOW YOUR DATA IS BEING USED TO TRAIN A.I.

This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.


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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.


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GSK’s Mosquirix Is Revolutionizing The Fight Against Malaria

GSK’s Mosquirix And The Fight Against Malaria

Over the past three years, the global focus has primarily been on the Covid-19 pandemic, diverting attention and resources away from other infectious diseases that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations in the Global South. Among these diseases, malaria continues to be a pressing public health concern, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year, especially children in Sub-Saharan Africa. While significant progress has been made in preventing and treating malaria, innovative solutions are needed to combat this deadly disease.

Advancements in Malaria Prevention:

Researchers have made remarkable progress in both prevention and treatment strategies for malaria. The World Health Organization’s recommendation of dual-ingredient insecticide-treated bed nets in March 2023 marks a significant milestone in preventing malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes. These nets, including those with more lethal insecticide combinations and those disrupting mosquito growth, are key tools in malaria prevention efforts.

LEARN MORE: ALL ABOUT HEALTHCARE

The Importance of Cost-Effective Antimalarial Medicines:

Cost-effective antimalarial medicines play a crucial role in combating malaria. In 2021, approximately 45 million children between the ages of three months and five years received seasonal malaria chemoprevention, which involved monthly doses of therapeutic drugs at a cost of less than $4 per person. While this approach has shown promising results, the development of a groundbreaking vaccine brings renewed hope.

GSK’s Mosquirix (RTS,S) Vaccine:

GSK’s Mosquirix, also known as RTS,S, is an innovative vaccine that has the potential to transform the fight against malaria. This vaccine offers hope in preventing the disease, particularly among children in malaria-endemic regions. Although the current cost is relatively high, around $40 per child for the first year, it presents an essential step forward in malaria prevention efforts.

The Persistent Threat of Malaria:

Despite substantial investments of $26 billion to combat malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of cases has seen a slight increase between 2000 and 2019, although the number of deaths has decreased. This highlights the need for new prevention measures tailored to vulnerable populations, especially children. Taking inspiration from the Covid-19 pandemic, where monoclonal antibodies have demonstrated their potential, similar approaches could be explored in the fight against malaria.

The Potential of Monoclonal Antibodies:

Monoclonal antibodies, laboratory-made copies of immune system proteins, have shown immense potential in combating various diseases, including cancer and autoimmune disorders. Their remarkable selectivity and ability to target specific molecular markers make them an attractive option for preventive interventions. Researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health, led by Robert Seder, have identified two antibodies that target CSP-1, a protein used by the malaria parasite to invade liver cells. Clinical trials are currently underway in Mali and Kenya to assess their safety and efficacy, focusing on seasonal and year-round malaria transmission settings.

Game-Changing Potential:

Monoclonal antibodies have the potential to be a game-changer in malaria prevention, advancing the long-sought goal of eradication. The latest generation of antimalarial antibodies offers extended protection, with a single dose potentially safeguarding a child for at least three months, if not longer. Clinical trials will determine the extent and duration of this protection and guide future improvements to achieve a once-a-year injection.

Making Monoclonal Antibodies Accessible:

While monoclonal antibodies are often associated with high costs, efforts to increase their potency could significantly reduce expenses. It is estimated that an injection as small as one milliliter of the antibody drug being trialed in Mali and Kenya could protect children at a cost of only $5-10 per person. To ensure accessibility, it is crucial to engage national regulatory agencies and involve affected countries in the production of these biologics. While manufacturing antibodies is a complex and regulated process, investing in the necessary technology now would greatly benefit developing economies burdened by endemic malaria.

Addressing Disparities and Raising Awareness:

Currently, demand for monoclonal antibodies primarily comes from high-income countries, with Africa accounting for only 1% of global sales. This disparity underscores the importance of working with national regulatory agencies to address public health concerns and involve affected countries in the production and distribution of these life-saving biologics. Collaboration among government, academia, and industry is crucial to coordinate advocacy efforts and raise awareness about the potential of monoclonal antibodies in malaria prevention.

Preparing for Success:

While the deployment of the first generation of antimalarial antibodies is expected to occur no earlier than 2027, it is essential to start preparing for their potential success now. These antibodies hold tremendous promise as a powerful weapon in the fight against malaria, alongside bed nets, medicines, and emerging vaccines. Clinical trials will provide vital information on the extent of their efficacy, duration of protection, and dosage requirements. It is imperative to remain proactive and ensure that the necessary infrastructure and policies are in place to facilitate the widespread adoption of these breakthrough treatments.

Combining Science & Research:

As the world continues to battle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial not to overlook the persistent threat of malaria, especially in regions heavily impacted by poverty. While significant progress has been made in malaria prevention and treatment, the development of innovative solutions like GSK’s Mosquirix vaccine and the potential of monoclonal antibodies offer renewed hope in the fight against this deadly disease. By harnessing the lessons learned from Covid-19 research and engaging in collaborative efforts, we can work towards a future where malaria is no longer a major public health concern. Together, we can strive for the eradication of malaria and ensure a healthier future for vulnerable populations worldwide.


By Laura Richardson | Independent Contributor “The Voice Of EU

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