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A judge in Rome has ruled that the practice of deporting migrants to Slovenia, under an old bilateral agreement, is illegal. “They are violating the Constitution and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights”.
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I love a good podcast. I tend to listen to them while I’m driving or on a long run. It’s a great way to keep informed about changing trends, in-depth news features as well as learning new things and simply being entertained. Topics can range from comedy shows, to geeky, specialised content on every imaginable subject.
In this strange corona-time, news outlets seem concerned only with the C-word, so I’ve enjoyed listening to content about the world outside of our own bubble and staying informed about interesting and important issues.
Here are five of my favourites.
Worldwide Tribe Podcast
“The podcast that will take you on a journey across the world…without you having to go anywhere!”
Podcast presenter Jaz O’Hara is an engaging host with first hand experience of the things that she’s talking about. She talks to people affected by the migration crisis, people living in camps and those involved in helping in various ways, from policy-makers to field volunteers.
I’ve particularly enjoyed the episode with Lord Alf Dubs. His fascinating personal story prefixed detail about the Dubs Amendment - an addition to the Brexit Bill which would have ensured that unaccompanied child refugees could be reunited with family members in the UK.
Coffee Break Academy
There are no excuses to have a go at learning a new language these days. I’ve had a go a Spanish, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian-Bosnia, French and German. Duolingo is my go-to app which I use alongside Coffee Break Podcasts. They are easy to listen to, each episode focuses on just a small topic and they progress quite slowly.
They do Espresso Shots of thirty-one languages, as well as the 20-30 minute regular show which discuss grammar as well cultural aspects.
Bist du bereit? Los gehts!
Jane Goodall’s Hopecast
“For a woman who defied the odds to change the world, Jane has lived a life propelled by hope. But it is not enough to expect something to happen, or to desire it. You must have confidence in the future, take action and trust – trust of yourself and in others.”
This is a new podcast series with the wonderful Dr Jane Goodall. Her long life of raising awareness of the human impact on the natural world has led her to meet numerous interesting and inspirational people. We could definitely all use a dose of hope right now.
Overheard at National Geographic
This is a great series about random interesting things. From ‘The tree at the end of a world’ to ‘Scuba diving in a pyramid’ the lighthearted style is fun, but you’ll certainly learn stuff!
I particularly enjoyed ‘The Glass Stratosphere’, about women being allowed to be among the first astronauts to the moon.
I feel like Al Humphreys is my friend, we share similar attitudes and restlessness I think. His idea of having 'microadventures' in whatever spare time you had, is now a mainstream term and his publications and mad ideas are inspired!
His podcast series started when he was spending a month cycling around Yorkshire. His point being that, there are multiple definitions of how to ‘live adventurously’. Some of the people he interviews have completed global physical challenges, as Al himself has, but others find their adventure by becoming immersed in their local community.
What are you listening to? And why do you like it? Comment below with any other suggestions for me.
Lipa Camp, on the mountain high above the city of Bihać in northern Bosnia, was barely fit for human habitation. Tent structures and flimsy floors provided little protection for the negative temperatures of the icy nights. Rain would blow through the numerous holes whilst hot water and appropriate sanitation were non-existent.
But it was better than nothing.
Nothing means camping in the woods, surrounded by snow. It means trying to make a fire to keep warm from the broken remains of the near-useless camp.
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The Black Book of Pushbacks, this formidable publication, in two enormous volumes, is the most depressing thing you can read.
It documents the illegal removal of refugees and migrants from European Union countries, almost always using violence and other breaches of human rights.
It launched today, International Day for Migrants, with a Zoom conference with German MEP Cornelia Ernst, The Left coordinator in the Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee.
Presentations were by:
• Hope Barker, Policy Analyst, Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN)
• Milena Zajović, President, Are You Syrious and Head of advocacy, BVMN
• Andras Lederer, Senior Advocacy Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
• Neeske Beckmann, head of mission, Seawatch airborne operations
You can watch it back here.
I have to say, it was really depressing listening. More than 12,000 people were effected by illegal activities in 2020. In fact, many many more. I know from first hand experience of collecting reports for BVMN, that incidents go unrecorded, perhaps because the victim doesn't want to talk about their traumatic experience, and also because the scale of the issue is too large for the volunteers on the ground.
The authorities are aware of these illegal acts.
The European Parliament knowingly and willingly funds the border authorities of Croatia and Greece.
Yet human rights violations continue. The passionate and professional contributors to the conference detailed the atrocities in their own fields - how Hungary have legalised pushbacks to Serbia, how Seawatch monitor the Libyan Coastguard.
But there was a message of hope. Hope that the voices of the wronged will be heard and that in the future we will look back with shame on what happened in the past.
To learn more visit borderviolence.eu and to show support to the situation you can donate or buy an e-voucher here
I have always been untidy. I had a pretty big bedroom growing up, with plenty of storage space for clothes, toys and school stuff. Yet I’d still end up with a pile of books next to my bed - usually half read, or lined up to be read next - and clothes covering the floor (all the better to see what you’ve got!). But I seem to be changing…
I’ve spent the last 4 or 5 years being largely nomadic. I cleared out the clutter, packed up some things into storage (thanks to Mum’s garage) and took with me only what I really needed. That first big trip to India, I had a sizable backpack stuffed full, plus another bag as a day pack. Well, who knows what you’re going to need during 4 months in a strange land? But it wasn’t long before I got fed up with carrying bags! In fact, as soon as I got to my cousin’s lofty Mumbai flat, I crammed the contents of the small backpack into the bigger bag so I only had one to carry.
There was one particular day that I bemoaned my big bag the most. I was in Kozhikode in the southern state of Kerala. I had found my way from the bus station to the train station amidst the crazy traffic of retro cars and horses pulling carts but I had ages before the train that would take me to the city of Kochi. There was nowhere to leave bags at the station, so I stubbornly explored the fascinating market with my enormous bag. Sweaty, tired and a little bit cross, I remember giving up and sitting at the station for well over an hour - all thanks to my heavy belongings.
So the next trip I took, I was determined to take less stuff. Encouraged by my budget flight, which charged for hold bags, I packed hand luggage only. My black rucksack was meticulously packed so that everything just fitted in. It was great! I didn’t have to wait at baggage reclaim when I landed at LAX, and I could dash around downtown Hollywood with all my stuff. And who needs much clothing in Hawaii?? Ok I had to wash my few t-shirts pretty frequently thanks to Hilo’s humid climate, but walking up and down the beachfront in Kona waiting for the right time for the airport bus was still enjoyable even with all my stuff.
I love that black bag. It’s walked the Camino de Santiago with me, travelled Peru, Bolivia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand as well as Mexico. The only problem with it is that it packs only from the top, meaning you have to take EVERYTHING out to find the thing at the bottom. Yes, I got used to packing pajamas and wash-bag at the top, but there were frequent occasions when my bunk in the hostel was covered in all my belongings. And this is how things get lost… I had this great t-shirt that I loved from Tribe Nutrition (an awesome, conscious, sports nutrition brand. Check them out here!). It was quite new, cotton and I used it to sleep in. However, it was the same colour as the sheets in the hostel and I left it behind somewhere in Mexico.
Happily I’ve not lost many things whilst globetrotting (pens, hair-ties and a book), but keeping a careful eye on my stuff has made me more tidy. Never leave your wash stuff in the bathroom if you don’t want someone else to use it. Expect your towel to go missing when it looks like everyone else’s travel towel, unless you hang it up carefully near your bed.
But I’ve noticed that it’s not just while I’m backpacking now. My last trip - to France and the Balkans - was by car. I find I now have the habit of putting things back where I took them from and keeping my stuff in one area. Ok that area might not be that tidy (right now, my bag is just dumped out into the bottom of the wardrobe in the apartment that I call home at the moment) but everything is in there, and with the doors shut it looks tidy.
Ask my Mum and she may not agree - my room at her house tends towards the childhood habit of keeping clothes displayed on the floor (yes I do need that many pairs of black leggings), but travel has made me tidier and more aware of where my stuff is - just one more reason to go around the world!
Are you a tidy person? And when you travel? I can’t wait to travel again! Once we can, where do you want to go? And how much stuff will you be taking? Comment below.
I'm very pleased to have written for Independent Catholic News about the situation in Calais. It's important to keep talking about what's going on there, and winter makes everything more horrible. What do you think?
Poorly pitched tents shake in the wind as the rain beats down on the only place that refugees in northern France can call home. Following extensive evictions of the small areas where it is possible to assemble a makeshift camp, families and individuals in Calais and Dunkirk who are from Sudan, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Syria and Eritrea suffer as winter takes hold.
There are still more than 400 people living rough in this part of France. Following the destruction of 'the Jungle' in 2017, conditions for vulnerable people hoping for a safe life are worse than ever.
Autumn has seen a further deterioration of circumstances that affect living conditions. As reported by aid organisation Calais Food Collective...
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Kindness is such a simple concept, which is taught by all religions. In 2017 I was looking for some religious answers, so I went to India to ‘find myself’. I thought perhaps Buddhism would provide more meaningful responses where Christianity had failed to answer. I ended up with more questions than answers at first, here’s how it happened.
Working in the church, you’d think you’d meet honest, helpful and kind people. “Love thy neighbour” and all that. Of course not everyone is the same and many people were nice, but I was often confronted by selfishness and stubbornness when it came to communicating with my church colleagues. By the time I’d been in India for a while, of course I had met a whole host of people. Some of them were lovely, some of them were not. The ones who were not so lovely chipped away at my idea that Buddhism would be the answer to my restless soul. The final hope slipped away whilst I was on a tuktuk near Pushkar in Rajasthan. Pushkar is a sacred place for Hindus, so no meat or eggs are allowed here. Paradise for me as a vegan! Yet on my tuktuk ride to visit Aloo Babba (a holy man famous locally for fasting a lot and eating only potatoes) we passed a giant chicken farm. Long metal sheds just like those found in Norfolk, with feed towers and a dreadful smell. How could a sacred place be so close to an awful factory? Why did anyone living here think that this was ok? Money I suppose, supply and demand. That’s when I realised that hypocrites are everywhere, not just in the church.
I went through an atheist phase, if there is a God, I thought, why is there poverty like I’d seen all over India and Nepal. However, there were a series of other things that led me to where I am now: after a particularly intense yoga class, meditating on a bus, meeting someone special. (You’re going to have to ask me about these occasions in person!)
Now, I kind of think of myself as multireligious. I’m pretty sure there is a God/creative force, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter whether you worship Him/it in a church or temple, but I know for certain that it is good and right to be kind. I think there is much to be learnt from spiritual figures of the past, but mostly I try and apply kindness to everything in my life - from picking up litter as a kindness to others who will come that way, to going to volunteer in the Balkans.
I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion. Have you heard of “The Kindness Guy”? Leon Logothetis made a TV show called “The Kindness Diaries” where he travels the world reliant only on the kindness of others. He shares the homes and meals of people around the world, sometimes surprising their generosity with kind acts in return. The people he meets and the experiences he has are really life-affirming (albeit with a TV camera hanging around). You can watch it on Netflix.
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"
Kindness includes small, everyday things, doing the washing up or buying someone a coffee, without being motivated by an expectation of repayment. Or big things like taking responsibility for someone who needs help. It also includes kindness to oneself, you cannot pour from an empty cup. I forget and relearn these things all the time, I neglect my own well-being and I am sometimes shy and lazy and don’t follow through with things I say I will do. But I remember again and try harder. Kindness and openness have led to many different and extraordinary experiences which I could never have imagined, let alone planned. Situations and encounters which are not just unique to lucky or brave people, but to anyone who wants to be kind and open towards others. I know I can always do more and I will keep trying my hardest to be kind.
Have you had an occasion where being kind has led to something amazing? Comment below!
It was back in January that I last played the organ at Farm Street Church in Mayfair before taking a sabbatical. The world I returned to was very different. Have a read of the article I wrote for the church.
“Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.”
CS Lewis’ words about belonging can be applied to No Name Kitchen volunteers, I’m NNK for life now, and I try to keep up with the rapidly changing situation in all our bases. (see? I said ‘our’). Šid is sounding pretty difficult right now. Volunteers are being hassled by locals and authorities, plus the situation for people-on-the-move (PotM) both in and out of camps, is increasingly problematic. Here’s a bit more about what’s going on there right now.
A fascist youth group called “Omladina Shida” (Youth of Sid), has recently called for the removal of NNK volunteers from Šid as well the removal of migrants from the municipality.
As reported in Serbia publication Danas – the youth group organised a protest which took place on Sunday 1st November 2020 where they called for the military to be returned to the area. When I was there in June and July, the military were stationed outside of each of the camps supposedly to help with Coronavirus measures, although in reality it had more do with the imminent election. The youth group referred to this, saying:
"The President of the Republic sent the army only as a pre-election marketing trick to collect our votes and to guard those reception centers because the police do not have the capacity to do that,".
They also demand that people not be allowed to return after being deported from Croatia or Hungary – citing fears over the increased Coronavirus numbers in both of those countries as the reason for this.
PotM who once went into town regularly to purchase food and other essential items, now report being scared to do so. In the summer, it was possible to meet friends from the Family Camp in cafes in town. Even while I was there, this became more difficult and recently it was reported that it was impossible to get a haircut from anyone in the town. The situation with both local people and the police has worsened further, one young man living in the jungle said, “if we go into town, they will beat us.”
NNK have reported a dramatic increase in pressure from both locals and police. Photos and videos of volunteers, taken without consent, have appeared on Facebook and Instagram. Not only have police attended and disrupted distributions of food, they have also served six or seven volunteers with removal papers, giving them seven days in which to leave the country. My favourite quote from the article describes NNK as:
"That foreign non-governmental organization of former, current and future drug addicts and losers."
NNK organised an event on Sunday 8th November 2020 as a response to the youth group’s protest and in order to build links with local people. They wanted to explain their work and open up dialogue to discuss the issues felt on both sides. They were subject to insults from onlookers and were told to leave by police. The delightful Mayor of Šid has been driving by the volunteer house in his car, causing stress to those living there. Just like he did to me and Stef on our last day in the town. We were standing outside Family Camp, at an appropriate distance, saying goodbye to our friends. The Mayor drove right up to us, flashed his lights, honked his horn and filmed us from inside the car. He also refused to talk to us about why he was doing this and eventually we left so as not to cause stress to those in the camp.
My own experiences with Serbian people overall was very positive. Almost everyone said 'hello' (well, acutually Zdravo or Dobra dan) on the street and helped with directions when I looked lost. Several incidents of particular kindness come to mind, when my poor little car had a few problems: once being fixed for nothing, another time some passing workmen changing the wheel when I had a flat tyre. Free fruit was a common theme, not to mention the tireless efforts of the team at social justice NGO KlikAktiv who seem to work night and day to help PotM and volunteers, whatever their questions or problems. I sincerely hope that things improve in Šid for the sake of everyone. My good wishes and strong thoughts go to the volunteers and the PotM there now. Keep strong!
Have you got any questions about the situation in Serbia? Or about my time there? Let me know, comment below.
This article was intended for a serious, grownup publication and is now my first publication on Medium.com. Please let me know what you think by commenting below. I really appreciate questions about the situation, feedback on the writing or just nice words!
As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, the residents of Bosnia’s most beautiful region prepare for winter in the mountains. But for the thousands of refugees in the area, the freezing nights are an added peril to those they already face.
The region of Una Sana Canton, next to the border with Croatia, has become the unhappy home for thousands of refugees and migrants who remain trapped between war-torn homelands and the walls of the European Union. The more fortunate few reside in official camps, funded by the EU and administered by the International Organization of Migrants (IOM) — a related organisation of the United Nations. The camps range from isolated Sedra Camp where rooms are crowded and insects are found in the food, to Lipa Camp — 30 kilometres from the city of Bihać and with an intended capacity of 1000 people, tents with row upon row of bunkbeds fill all available space. It was already more than full to capacity when the buses arrived with the evicted residents of Bira Camp. Close to the city, there had been local opposition to this camp for some time, but it was with little warning to staff or police that the remaining residents, including unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable people, were bused to Lipa.
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Hannah the traveller
is a travel and lifestyle blog with focus on running, vegan eating and of course global travel.