- Polish government needs to protect refugees;
- EU border agency director quits;
- Recounting the horrors of Mariupol;
- Egypt illegally restricts Ramadan celebrations;
- Malaysia's hypocrisy on death penalty;
- What Elon Musk gets wrong about free speech.
Thanks to volunteers and activists, Poland has been able to welcome more than 2.9 million refugees fleeing Russia's latest invasion of Ukraine. However, a lack of government coordination and inconsistent protection measures are amplifying risks of abuse for the refugees, especially for women and girls. Well-meaning but mostly untrained people are now carrying the burden of taking care of them, lacking systematic security measures or means to identify, prevent, or respond to gender-based violence, including trafficking, sexual exploitation, and rape. Poland’s government should take action now to make housing, transportation, and employment as safe as possible.
This morning, the Executive Director of the EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, resigned. The move comes amid a chorus of allegations around cover-ups of abuses, corruption and misconduct at the agency. Just yesterday, an international media consortium published yet more evidence of Frontex's involvement in pushbacks at the border. It's not the first time such abuses have been reported: European and international nongovernmental groups, including Human Rights Watch, and media outlets have been reporting on them for years. These abuses include violence, illegal pushbacks, and denial of access to asylum by several EU member states including, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, and Malta. Leggeri's resignation should encourage the agency to make fundamental reforms, increasing oversight and accountability. In short: it's a new opportunity for the EU to change its approach to migration and put human rights first.
Human Rights Watch researcher Yulia Gorbunova has recounted the plight of civilians who have managed to escape Mariupol, a Ukrainian city that has been under relentless attack by Russian forces since early March. They described to her a "hell on Earth; a once beautiful city damaged beyond recognition". When people tried to escape the city, only those who had their own cars or enough cash with them to access alternative transportation could get to other parts of Ukraine, often through dangerous escape routes. Many other Mariupol residents have apparently ended up in Russia; against their will and without a way to leave.
Through a social media post, Egyptian officials have imposed restrictions on worshipers as to where and when they are allowed to pray this Ramadan and Eid. Dr. Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt’s minister of religious endowments, said the restrictions are due to concerns over the spread of Covid-19. After a backlash on social media, Gomaa reversed the decision to ban some prayers, but restrictions on I’tikaf, the Eid sermon, and Eid celebrations remain in place. These restrictions on the free exercise of religion appear to be completely arbitrary, yet another display of the Egyptian government’s lack of tolerance for free expression across the board.
When Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a Malaysian national, was facing the death penalty in Singapore on drug charges, Malaysia’s prime minister and foreign minister twice wrote to the Singapore government asking for clemency. It seemed a laudable effort to save a Malaysian citizen abroad - except that this citizen likely would have faced the same death sentence had he been arrested in Malaysia. On the same day that the Foreign Ministry issued this statement, a Malaysian court sentenced a man to death for trafficking methamphetamine. Facing this hyprocrisy should push the government to commit to enacting legislation to eliminate the death penalty for all – not just some – drug offenses in the next sitting of Parliament.
Everyone on Twitter has been talking about Elon Musk's effort to buy Twitter and what changes he might introduce. The "world's richest man" has declared himself a "free speech absolutist", but does Musk have a solid grasp of what free speech actually means? Find out in our Twitter Space today!