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Thais Carr1

Reading for February 27 from Praying for Justice. “The mouth of the wicked pours out evil.” Proverbs 15: 28b

28.02.2019 – Pressenza London

This post is also available in: Italian

Rethinking refugee support: Responding to the crisis in South Eastern Europe
‘Samos Jungle’ additional housing outside of the Vathy Reception Centre (Image by Gemma Bird)

The migration crisis that began in 2015 has had a major impact on countries in South Eastern Europe.

Outlining findings and recommendations from a new project, Amanda Russell BeattieGemma BirdJelena Obradovic-Wochnik and Patrycja Rozbicka explain that the EU’s response to the crisis has resulted in the outsourcing of refugee settlement and care to states such as Serbia, Greece and Bosnia which were previously described as ‘transit’ countries. This is leading to overcrowding in refugee camps and reception centres, as well as difficulty in ensuring adequate standards of care and accommodation.

On 26 February at an event in London, we will be presenting results from a major project responding to the current crisis of refugee support in Greece and Serbia. The results of our project suggest that changes in EU border management have limited refugees’ movement across Europe, and as such, have resulted in the outsourcing of refugee settlement and care to states previously described as ‘transit’ countries along the Balkan Route(s): Serbia, Greece and Bosnia.

Following Donald Tusk’s 2016 speech in which he spoke ‘to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe… It is all for nothing. Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country’, his intention had been to reduce the numbers of refugees along the route.

However, whilst the number of refugees arriving into the countries of South Eastern Europe has decreased overall since 2015, the flow of people nevertheless continues, with 139,300 arriving via the Mediterranean Route in 2018 according to the UNHCR. Importantly, new arrivals are not able to transit through South Eastern Europe and are increasingly getting ‘stuck’ in transit countries, which is leading to overcrowding in refugee camps and reception centres and limited resources to ensure standards of care and adequate accommodation.

Our report analyses the problems related to refugee support services and accommodation in these countries and along the Balkan Routes towards Western Europe. It highlights the disparity of refugee services, housing and living conditions across the region, and acute and ongoing humanitarian crises. There are several key factors affecting poor living conditions for refugees, including: overcrowding, fragmentation of services along the routes, and a lack of consistency in camp management. Subsequently, there are a range of other refugee housing options existing in transit countries: including informal and makeshift camps, squats, hotels and UN-supported housing schemes known as ‘urban shelters’, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Key conclusions

There are six key conclusions from our project. First, we found that population size and levels of overcrowding are one of the fundamental factors affecting provision and quality of life in all types of refugee housing. Mainland camps, as well as, informal housing provision such as squats, are able to control the number of residents they have, whereas island reception centres have far less control and as such are overcrowded with people stuck in these spaces for as long as 18 months.

Second, relationships between camps, reception centres and third sector provision plays a key role in determining access to healthcare, sanitation, psycho-social support and community spaces and whether these are provided inside or outside of accommodation spaces. In areas where the relationship between camps and NGOs is good, refugees can benefit from women and children centres, language lessons, healthcare, laundry, clothes distribution and improved shower facilities within the boundaries of the camp. In areas where this relationship is less co-operative these services can only be accessed outside of reception centres and often less frequently.

Third, lack of clarity and transparency surrounding asylum procedures leads to an increased anxiety about the process. A lack of knowledge about how the process works, what happens at each stage, and what each decision means, leads to refugees, particularly unaccompanied minors, breaking rules that they did not realize were in place, making them more vulnerable.

Fourth, different forms of housing support are dependent on individual circumstances; however, there is a lack of flexibility, particularly surrounding vulnerable cases where a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not suitable. In cases where people have suffered trauma moving them out of camps and into apartments seems like the best solution. Yet for some people sharing apartments with other equally traumatized people can make the situation worse rather than better.

Fifth, refugees are driven towards informal housing such as squats and makeshift settlements for two main reasons: poor camp conditions or overcrowding, and uncertainty over the asylum process, including long waits for asylum interviews in Greece. Improving both the conditions of formal housing provision and the transparency of the asylum process will help to reduce reliance on activists and voluntary organizations to provide informal housing.

Finally, there is a lack of formal support for people living in informal accommodation, particularly healthcare, food and sanitation. Whilst informal housing is still used by refugees, with some squats even declaring themselves full and relying on a waiting list, greater recognition is needed for these forms of accommodation to ensure refugees still have access to healthcare that would normally require an address to register for.

Recommendations for policy change

We have five recommendations for policy change. First, there is an urgent need to manage the numbers of people living in the island reception centres by increasing the number of transfers to mainland Greece or elsewhere in Europe and improving mainland living conditions and provision.

Second, greater transparency and increased dialogue between some reception centres and third sector provision is required.

Third, there should be an urgent increase in capacity to process asylum registrations in Greece and thus reduce current waiting times and overcrowding in reception centres. More, and better quality information for refugees about each stage, predicted waiting times and what each stage means is needed in the early stages of the asylum process to reduce anxiety for people living in reception centres.

Fourth, greater flexibility is required in the provision of housing, especially for vulnerable cases where the needs of individuals differ greatly. To achieve this, greater resources are necessary.

Finally, there is a need for increased funding and support for the UN ESTIA ‘Urban Shelter’ scheme which transfers refugees from camps and settles them in apartments, as well as increased capacity of non-camp housing, and creation of incentives for local authorities reluctant to cooperate with the scheme.

Our recent visits to Athens and Samos have reiterated the need for these changes. The Reception Centre on Samos has an official capacity of 700 people, yet between December 2018 and January 2019 an estimated 5,000 people were waiting on the island for an asylum decision. Such overcrowding leads to long queues for food, for showers, for laundry facilities and for legal information and support, as well as increased risks of gender based violence, sickness and trauma. Squats and informal housing providers in Athens are also now forced to declare themselves full with limited space available to house people and one squat talking about a waiting list of over 400 people. South Eastern Europe is witnessing an ongoing crisis, a crisis of support and provision.

The authors of this article are part of the IR_Aesthetics project which, in collaboration with The Foreign Policy Centre, will be presenting a report at Portcullis House in London on 26 February responding to the current crisis of refugee support in Greece and Serbia, and making key suggestions for change based on field research carried out in the region between 2017-2019.

Please read our comments policy before commenting.

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics.


About the authors

Amanda Russell Beattie – Aston University
Amanda Russell Beattie is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University.

Gemma Bird – University of Liverpool
Gemma Bird is a Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool.

Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik – Aston University
Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik is Deputy Director of the Aston Centre for Europe and an expert in the politics of the Western Balkans, Serbia and Kosovo.

Patrycja Rozbicka – Aston University
Patrycja Rozbicka is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University.

Link to the original article here:

Dear God, I ask
That I might increase
My joy with you
and my inner peace
David Herr

26.02.2019 – Pressenza London

Puzzled by the Brexit debacle? Just follow the money
Paternoster Square, since 2004 the home of the London Stock Exchange (Image by Public domain)

Finally it became clear. Thanks to an article by Simon Jenkins in The Guardian  we now know that “With a ‘free port’ deal negotiated behind closed doors, the financial sector will be fine. Meanwhile, others face ruin”. He explains : “An iron law of modern British government says that whatever London wants, London gets. On Monday, with no fuss or publicity, the Bank of England and a group of City interests reached an apparently boring deal in Paris with the European Security and Markets Authority. It follows a similar deal with the European commission last December. Both state, in effect, that, as far as the City is concerned, if there is a no-deal Brexit, Brexit did not happen. It was just play-acting by idiots down the road in Westminster.

“Up to £41tn in financial guarantees, insurances, hedges and other derivatives, all within the EU’s regulatory regime, is said to be at risk in the City’s clearing houses. For everyone involved, this is a grownup business, not to be left to the mercies of the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The regulators have duly issued licences to the clearing houses, allowing Europe’s banks to disregard EU rules and continue trading on London’s derivatives platforms. Financially speaking, London is to become a “free port”. Sighs of relief all round.

“The City deal is, of course, a special case. It is in the EU’s interest as much as in Britain’s, and not reaching it would have been mildly catastrophic. “The important thing is we have certainty,” David Bailey of the Bank of England told the Financial Times. “We have time to reflect on what the future arrangements will look like.” Or as Steve Grob of ION Markets – its motto: We need to disrupt the status quo – declared: “You can’t start moving trillions of dollars of business overnight.” The deal was “welcome common sense and practicality on what was a trillion-dollar game of chicken”.

The article goes on to explain that The City, the UK financial sector is saved and given total priority whilst the real economy, the production, the consumer goods, medicines, basic needs are all being ignored. Prime Minister May has come and go pretending to negotiate the vital deal, whilst behind closed doors the real deal was being made. Her City bosses must be really pleased whilst nobody else understands how she is still in post.

Out fo control

I see a world
Out of control
I pray to God
For peace in my soul
David Herr

Believe it or not, doing a Quaker Theology journal has often been a shocking experience, Here are a few shocking samples (but safe for work). . .

Sorgente: Quaker Theology at 20: People, Witness, and Ideas

Thais Carr1

Reading for February 26 from Praying for Justice. “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer.” Proverbs 15: 28a

26.02.2019 – London, United Kingdom – Campaign Against Arms Trade

UK selling tens of millions of pounds worth of arms to India and Pakistan
  • Last night India carried out air strikes in Pakistan. These followed years of tensions and the killing of 40 soldiers.
  • UK has licensed £550 million worth of arms to India since May 2015.
  • UK has licensed £42 million worth of arms to Pakistan since May 2015.

Last night India carried out air strikes against Pakistan. These followed years of tensions and the killing of 40 Indian soldiers by an armed group in an attack that India blamed on Pakistan.

Government figures, collated by Campaign Against Arms Trade show that since the election of the Conservative Government in May 2015, the UK has licensed £550 million worth of arms to India and £42 million worth to Pakistan.

The biggest licence to either country was a £195 million licence to India in December 2017 for air-to-air missiles. May 2015 also saw a warship licence worth £83 million. India is on the ‘core markets‘ list for arms exports and has been a target for aircraft deals.

The biggest licence to Pakistan in this time was a £3.7 million licence for small arms in February 2016. Pakistan is one of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s ‘human rights priority countries.’

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “For years now, the UK has armed both India and Pakistan. This has meant ignoring the tensions and dangers, and putting arms sales ahead of peace-building and human rights.

“These arms sales have only added to the volatility of the situation, when what is needed is diplomacy and dialogue. The Government must put the need for peace and disarmament before the interests of the arms companies.”

Andrew Smith

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Tel: 020 7281 0297/ 07990 673232

When I am silent
And all alone
I can see where
God’s light has shown
David Herr

A brief introduction to Quakers

 Historic England

Quakers have their origins in the religious and political turmoil of the mid-17th century.

George Fox, the main protagonist of the movement, turned his back on the Established Church, claiming claimed that as each person can have a direct relationship with God, there was no need for priests or churches (‘steeple houses’, as Fox called them).

Instead ‘Friends’ met together for silent worship in all kinds of venues, including barns, orchards, hilltops and each other’s homes. Intolerance and persecution were constant threats to their ability to meet. The gradual acceptance of other faiths in the later 17thcentury enabled Quakers, and other so-called nonconformists, to build their own places of worship.

The earliest Quaker meeting houses were distinctive for their simple, functional design; built by local craftsmen, they sit modestly in the landscape.

Today there are 475 Quaker meetings (congregations) in England, Wales and Scotland.  Of these 354 have a dedicated meeting house. Local context and national trends have continued to influence Quaker buildings. Here are 5 Quaker meeting houses and the stories behind them:

  1. Brigflatts meeting house, Cumbria. Grade I listedBriggflatts Quaker Meeting House, Sedburgh © Historic England DP143728

Brigflatts (1675), on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, is associated with visits to the area by George Fox. Listed Grade I, it is the earliest purpose-built meeting house in the north of England.

Its construction is typical of late-17thcentury vernacular and it retains many historic fittings. Its setting includes its burial ground, in continuous use since 1656 and where poet Basil Bunting is buried, a garden, paddock, warden’s house, a little-altered gig house and stable with classroom (listed at Grade II).

Briggflatts Quaker Meeting House Interior , Sedburgh © Historic England DP143728

The interior retains a wealth of oak fittings including a minister’s stand (a raised area on one side of the Meeting House where Quakers travelling in the ministry would have sat), fixed benches, a wide staircase (with dog gate), raised galleries on three sides and an Elders bench. Elders are regularly appointed individuals responsible for the spiritual life of the meeting.

  1. Rawdon Meeting House, Leeds. Grade II listed Friends House Rawdon, via wikipedia

Rawdon meeting house has been in continuous use since its construction in 1697, although the meeting of Quakers in this locality predates this, beginning under the name the Guiseley meeting in 1655. The name change can be associated with the move from using local Quaker’s houses as places to meet, to the acquisition of a new site from Francis Rawdon of Rawdon Hall.

The building was extended in 1729 and internally altered in the early 19th-century. It retains its interior fittings from this date including sliding vertical partitions, joinery, hat and cloak pegs. From the late 19th century there survives a Tobin tube inserted into one of the fixed pews: Tobin tubes provided ventilation and this form was invented nearby, by a Mr Tobin of Leeds, in 1873. It was heralded for its novelty and utility at the time creating ‘vertical fountain-like currents of air’.

  1. Come-to-Good Meeting House, Cornwall. Grade I listed Friends Meeting House, Come to Good © Historic England Archive DP160685

Come-to-Good meeting house is one of the best-known meeting houses in England, not least due to picturesque character and memorable name.  The first recorded meeting in this building, constructed in 1710, was held whilst it was still roofless. It has been built close to the site of the meeting’s earlier rented property, and had cost £53 8s 3d.

In the early years of the 18th century a gallery was added at the west for a further £15 10s 0d, providing additional seating and a space for the women’s business meeting. Surviving accounts suggest that it was supported by a 2 halves of a 40ft ship’s mast, purchased for 15s.

As with many meeting houses Come-to-Good went out of use and back in again over a long period of time, used only infrequently during the 19th century. It re-opened fully in 1946 and had the modern conveniences of electricity and running water added in the 1960s and has been used by Quakers ever since.

  1. Quaker Meeting House, Blackheath, LondonQuaker meeting house, Blackheath © Historic England DP180132

The Blackheath Meeting had several locations before the 1970s in Woolwich and Deptford, including its own small meeting house and various rooms within other faith buildings.  In 1972 a new concrete building was designed by Trevor Dannatt, a notable figure in post-war modernist design.  It was described at the time as a ‘modern building to fit in with the forward-looking community around it’ and received a Civic Trust Award in 1973 and a commendation by the Concrete Society in 1974.

Quaker meeting house, Blackheath exterior © Historic England

It is described by the recent Quaker Meeting Houses heritage project as a “small, jewel-like Brutalist design (terms not usually conjoined), ingeniously planned to overcome and then exploit the level changes presented by the site. The chamfered square plan form evokes a medieval chapter house, and the raised square lantern acts as a beacon”.

  1. Kingston Quaker Centre, Kingston upon ThamesKingston Quaker Centre. Image © John Hall via Flickr

Kingston is a multi-purpose building designed by John Langley of Tectus Architecture: it is a single-storey, flat-roofed pavilion, with a colonnade of pale steel supports.  It was a joint winner of the ACE/RIBA award for religious architecture in 2015 as a vital community centre with a moving and well-composed meeting room.

Making extensive use of natural light and surrounded by an informal garden, the Meeting House reflects directly a Quaker priority of sustainability and adaptation for climate change, it leads the way as Quakers endeavour to also make their own lives and their older meeting houses as environmentally friendly as possible.

Kingston’s focus on the broader community highlights another important feature of Quaker Meeting Houses:  that is, they are not regarded as sacred spaces, as Quakers maintain that the whole of life is sacramental and that no place or date is more sacred than another. This enables Meeting Houses to be used for a variety of purposes and the current project is demonstrating a high level of communal value and community use.

Written by Linda Monckton, Head of Communities Research at Historic England

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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