Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population

The Guardian reports:

Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian that seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership.

The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country.

The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London.

Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson. [Continue reading…]

Migrants’ stories: Why they flee

File 20190408 2924 16ojp3p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A man hugs his family before leaving for the U.S. border with a migrant caravan from San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 16, 2019.
AP/Salvador Melendez

By Anthony W. Fontes, American University School of International Service

Massive influxes of Central American families seeking asylum in the United States are overwhelming U.S. immigration facilities.

The crisis along the U.S. southern border led directly to the forced resignation on April 7 of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whom President Donald Trump believed ineffectively managed the situation.

As Trump promises to “shut down the border” and “punish” the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for failing to stem the exodus from their countries, the question of why so many families are making the difficult and dangerous journey north appears more urgent than ever.

I have spent much of the last decade conducting on-the-ground fieldwork in this region, and along the migration paths through Mexico, seeking answers to this question.

The region’s extreme poverty and violent impunity are central factors driving this migration.

Yet every migrant’s story is unique. Some simply seek the chance to earn enough money to ensure a better future for themselves or their children. Others flee persecution at the hands of gangs, organized crime or corrupt state officials. For others, insecurity and poverty are so intertwined that drawing them apart becomes impossible.

[Read more…]

The forces driving migration from Guatemala: climate change

Jonathan Blitzer writes:

In the center of Climentoro, in the western highlands of Guatemala, a dozen large white houses rise above the village’s traditional wooden huts like giant monuments. The structures are made of concrete and fashioned with archways, colonnaded porches, and elaborate moldings. “Most of them are empty,” Feliciano Pérez, a local farmer, told me. Their owners, who live in the U.S., had sent money home to build American-inspired houses for when they returned, but they never did. Pérez gestured to a three-story house topped with a faux-brick chimney. “No one lives there,” he said. The family of twelve had migrated a few years ago, leaving the vacant construction behind. “Vecinos fantasmas,” Pérez called them—ghost neighbors.

Pérez, who is thirty-five, is short and lean, with dark, weathered skin and metal caps on his front teeth. He wore a baseball cap mottled in camouflage and emblazoned with the words “Proud Marine Dad.” “It was about six years ago that things started to change,” he said. Climentoro had always been poor. Residents depended on the few crops that could survive at an elevation of more than nine thousand feet, harvesting maize to feed their families and selling potatoes for a small profit. But, Pérez said, the changing climate was wiping out the region’s crops. “In the higher part of town, there have been more frosts than there used to be, and they kill an entire harvest in one fell swoop,” he said. “In the lower part of Climentoro, there’s been much less rain and new sorts of pests.” He added, “Farmers have been abandoning their land.”

In February, citing a “national-security crisis on our southern border,” Donald Trump declared a state of emergency, a measure that even members of Congress from his own party rejected. Three months earlier, with much less fanfare, thirteen federal agencies issued a landmark report about the damage wrought by climate change. In a sixteen-hundred-page analysis, government scientists described wildfires in California, the collapse of infrastructure in the South, crop shortages in the Midwest, and catastrophic flooding. The President publicly dismissed the findings. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” he said. There was a deeper layer of denial in this, since overlooking these effects meant turning a blind eye to one of the major forces driving migration to the border. “There are always a lot of reasons why people migrate,” Yarsinio Palacios, an expert on forestry in Guatemala, told me. “Maybe a family member is sick. Maybe they are trying to make up for losses from the previous year. But in every situation, it has something to do with climate change.” [Continue reading…]

The forces driving migration from Guatemala: debt

Jonathan Blitzer writes:

When Elias López decided to leave his home in the western highlands of Guatemala for the United States, in 2014, the going rate to hire a smuggler was ninety thousand quetzales, or about twelve thousand dollars. López, who was eighteen, worked two jobs at the time, one in construction and the other as a day laborer harvesting vegetables, and the combined pay was barely enough to cover his living expenses. A lending coöperative, essentially a small local bank, offered loans at a low interest rate, but with one condition: López would need to offer collateral. In exchange for a loan of fifty-five thousand quetzales, he opted to mortgage the plot of land where his family grew their food. “I would pay off the loan once I made it to the United States,” he recalls thinking.

In recent years, the rise of criminal cartels in Mexico and the newly aggressive posture of state authorities have made it much more difficult to reach the U.S. Beginning in 2014, at the urging of the Obama Administration, Mexican authorities increased their apprehension rate of Central Americans by eighty-five per cent. Even before Donald Trump took office, the U.S. government developed a new battery of measures—termed the “Consequence Delivery System,” which included prolonged detention, criminal charges, and deliberate deportation of migrants to remote locations in their home countries—to make crossing the border so gruelling that people would decide to abandon the trip altogether. Nevertheless, the number of Central Americans coming to the U.S. has continued to rise, as has the pace of apprehensions: of the more than three hundred Guatemalans who leave for the U.S. each day, two-thirds are arrested and deported by Mexican and American immigration agents. One outgrowth of increased enforcement at the border is that the price many migrants are forced to pay smugglers has surged.

López set out for the U.S. with a friend, and they advanced through southern Mexico without incident. As they neared the U.S. border, though, their smuggler began acting strangely. López noticed him snorting drugs; on a few occasions, apparently high, he threatened to kill them. One afternoon, in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, their smuggler disappeared. “We were walking, and then he just left us,” López said. He and his friend got lost, wandering in circles for eleven days without food or water. His friend, who’d begun to feel sick from dehydration, grew weak and lost weight, his skin turning a pallid gray. One morning, when they were about fifty miles from the U.S., his friend said he couldn’t go any farther. He died in López’s arms. López walked the rest of the day and night without stopping, and reached the border early the next morning. He turned himself in to U.S. Border Patrol, and, a month and a half later, was deported. [Continue reading…]

The forces driving migration from Guatemala: poverty and dreams

Jonathan Blitzer writes:

[N]early every aspect of life in Guatemala depends on money coming from the United States. Last year, nine billion dollars were sent back to the country in the form of remittances [from relatives working in the U.S.]—an amount that is roughly double the total from a decade ago and accounted for more than eleven per cent of Guatemala’s gross domestic product. Donald Trump has announced that he will be cutting all aid to Central America, complaining that the U.S. gives these countries “tremendous amounts of money”; in 2017, the total sum of money the U.S. sent to the region in annual aid amounted to roughly five hundred million dollars, or less than three per cent of the money received in the form of remittances. “People can afford milk and eggs because of the remittances they receive,” Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, a social anthropologist from Quetzaltenango, told me. “They can build houses. Their children can get an education. And people can start small businesses. The only way poor indigenous women can afford their traditional dress is because of remittance money.”

Without this source of support, Velásquez said, levels of violence would be higher, spending would drop, and poverty would be more extreme. In effect, the stability of village economies has become a function of whether a critical mass of its citizens can make it to the U.S. When someone wants or needs something—a house, more land to farm, a car, seed money to open a store—the most common way to get it is to leave. “There is no law that’s going to change how many people come to the U.S.,” Velásquez said. “When there’s this level of poverty and inequality in Guatemala, people will always go. They see the example of their families and their neighbors who have gone, and they see how they’ve been able to advance as a result. An average worker in Guatemala doesn’t earn enough to cover his basic living expenses.” [Continue reading…]

It may take 2 years to identify thousands of separated families, government says

CNN reports:

It could take up to two years for the government to identify potentially thousands of additional immigrant families US authorities separated at the southern border, officials said in a court filing.

The government’s proposed plan, detailed for the first time in documents filed late Friday night, outlines a strategy for piecing together exactly who might have been separated by combing through thousands of records using a mix of data analysis and manual review.

The court filing comes a year after a memo from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially created the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which eventually led to the separation of thousands of immigrant families. While a federal court order forced the reunification of many of those families, an explosive government watchdog report in January revealed there could be thousands more who hadn’t previously been acknowledged by officials.

And a federal judge last month ruled that this group should be included in the class-action lawsuit over family separations.

The judge’s order was a major blow for the Trump administration, which had argued finding these families would be too burdensome a task. And it now presents a major logistical challenge for the government. [Continue reading…]

Muslims and Jews face a common threat from white supremacists. We must fight it together

Jonathan Freedland and Mehdi Hasan write:

The two of us have been having the exact same conversation for the past decade. About antisemitism and Islamophobia. One of us a Muslim, the other a Jew, we have conducted it in public and in private, on Twitter and on TV. We’ve agreed; we’ve argued; we’ve even wandered off topic to trade tips on how to get through a fast. Now we’ve come together because of the urgent and common threat that we face. Both of our communities are under violent attack from far-right white supremacists.

In Christchurch, New Zealand, last month a white supremacist gunned down 50 Muslims at prayer. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last October a white supremacist gunned down 11 Jews at prayer. Both killers were clear in their loathing of both Jews and Muslims. Both subscribed to the “great replacement theory”, which casts Muslims and other minorities as “invaders” of western societies and a threat to white, Christian majorities. In this narrative, the supposed invasion is a wicked plot orchestrated by the same hidden hand behind all malign events through world history: the Jews. The point was put concisely in an online remark reposted by the Pittsburgh murderer: “It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!”

This is how our haters see us: Jews and Muslims connected in a joint enterprise to effect a “white genocide”. It is an unhinged and racist conspiracy theory – and it has both of our communities in its murderous sights. So there can only be one response: Muslims and Jews must stand and fight it together. [Continue reading…]

Attacks by white extremists are growing. So are their connections

The New York Times reports:

In a manifesto posted online before his attack, the gunman who killed 50 last month in a rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, said he drew inspiration from white extremist terrorism attacks in Norway, the United States, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

His references to those attacks placed him in an informal global network of white extremists whose violent attacks are occurring with greater frequency in the West.

An analysis by The New York Times of recent terrorism attacks found that at least a third of white extremist killers since 2011 were inspired by others who perpetrated similar attacks, professed a reverence for them or showed an interest in their tactics.

The connections between the killers span continents and highlight how the internet and social media have facilitated the spread of white extremist ideology and violence.

In one instance, a school shooter in New Mexico corresponded with a gunman who attacked a mall in Munich. Altogether, they killed 11 people. [Continue reading…]

Good Samaritans aren’t the exception

Melanie McGrath writes:

A few years ago, I was assaulted on a busy street in London by a man who came up behind me. Some details of the assault are hazy, others pin-sharp. I recall exactly what my attacker did, and that the assault was witnessed by rush-hour drivers sitting at a red light. If there were pedestrians nearby, I do not remember them, though the situation suggests that there were people at hand. I do remember that no one came to my aid.

On the face of it, this looks like a textbook case of bystander apathy – the failure of onlookers to intervene in troubling, violent or even murderous events when others are present. The effect was first described in 1968 by the social psychologists Bibb Latané at Columbia University in New York and John Darley at New York University. Their research was prompted by the murder of Kitty Genovese outside her home in Queens in 1964. In The New York Times’s report of the killing, which was rehashed by news media across the world, only one of 38 witnesses was said to have done anything to intervene.

Latané and Darley’s research suggested that the greater the number of onlookers the less likely anyone was to step in, especially if others around them appeared calm or unconcerned. Whereas lone bystanders stepped forward to help a victim 85 per cent of the time, only 31 per cent of witnesses intervened when they were part of a group of five. Latané and Darley labelled this phenomenon ‘diffusion of responsibility’, which along with ‘evaluation apprehension’ (concern about how any intervention might be interpreted) and ‘pluralistic ignorance’ (if everyone else seems calm, there’s nothing to worry about) make up what has become known as the bystander effect or bystander apathy.

In the half-century since it was first described, the bystander effect has been widely studied and elaborated upon, but never fundamentally challenged. [Continue reading…]

Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings

The Guardian reports:

The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported across Britain increased by 593% in the week after a white supremacist terrorist killed worshippers at two New Zealand mosques, an independent monitoring group has said.

The charity Tell Mama said almost all of the increase was caused by hate incidents linked to the New Zealand attacks last Friday, and there were more recorded in the last seven days than the week following the 2017 Islamist terrorist attack on Manchester.

According to figures passed to the Guardian, 95 incidents were reported to the charity between 15 March, the day of the New Zealand atrocity, and midnight on 21 March.

Of those, 85 incidents – 89% of the total – contained direct references to the New Zealand attacks and featured gestures such as mimicking firearms being fired at Muslims.

The news will alarm community groups who may have expected extremists to lie low after the massacre of 50 Muslims in Christchurch, which drew widespread condemnation around the world. [Continue reading…]