Monthly Archives

September 2018

Indigenous no-state people

76 Villages Submerged In Assam As Heavy Rains Force Dam To Be Opened

Neepco authorities at Yajuli in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh were compelled to open three gates of the Ranganadi dam on Thursday due to the river overflowing.

Heavy rains in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have led to the Ranganadi dam being opened, which resulted in 76 villages in Assam being submerged and the lives of thousands being affected.

Neepco authorities at Yajuli in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh were compelled to open three gates of the Ranganadi dam on Thursday due to the river overflowing.

The release of dam water has submerged 76 villages in Lakhimpur district, impacting nearly 25,000 people. The swirling waters have damaged 3,560 hectares of standing crop.

The Lakhimpur district administration had on Thursday evening alerted people to be cautious but not panic over the release of excess water from Ranganadi reservoir.

On March 11 last year, release of dam water had resulted in the Ranganadi wreaking havoc in 220 villages, breaching embankments at Amtola and near Lakhimpur.

Over one lakh people have been affected by the heavy rains and flash floods in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Ferry services in Assam, where six districts experienced flash floods, have been stopped due to the rising river waters.

Assam’s Dhemaji district, known for its perennial floods, is teetering on the brink with 173 villages inundated, affecting 47,471 people. Nearly 7,108 hectares of standing crop have been damaged. The district administration has opened three relief camps where 805 inmates have taken shelter.

A portion of bridge number 693 over Jiadhal river between Dhemaji and Bordoloni stations has been washed away.

The Northeast Frontier Railways said eight trains have been short terminated or cancelled.

In Arunachal Pradesh’s capital Itanagar, incessant rain since Thursday has caused heavy flash floods resulting in a child’s death and three people missing. Three more people have died in the state due to floods and landslides.

Early on Friday, a massive landslide triggered by rains has blocked roads in the state’s Papum Pare district. Reportedly a Tata Sumo with 10 passengers was buried under the landslide. However, all 10 have been rescued. Landslides triggered by rains has become a common situation. Many spots at the Yupia-Potin Trans-Arunachal Highway have been blocked due to the landslides. (NDTV)


Two killed, three missing in Arunachal flood and landslides

Chief Minister Pema Khandu condoled the deaths and directed the district administration and the disaster management department to continuously monitor the situation

Landslides and flood struck two areas of Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar on Friday, claiming two lives, including that of a minor. Three others were reported missing.

According to official sources, the catastrophe was triggered by incessant rains for the past two days. Two persons were rescued by a search and rescue team. The incident occurred at Modirijo and Donyi-polo areas in the morning.

Twelve houses were fully washed away while eight others were damaged partially in Modirijo in the incident. Similarly, five houses were fully damaged and four others were partially damaged in Donyi Polo area by the flood and landslides. Some cars and bikes were also swept away to a flooded river.

Water supply lines to capital region have also been badly affected. There were also incidents of landslides between Potin and Pangin portion of National Highway 13 near Aalo-Bam-Pusi-Doke-Tirbin, Hoj-Potin and some other parts of the state.

Chief Minister Pema Khandu condoled the deaths. He directed the district administration and the disaster management department to continuously monitor the situation. He also passed instructions for evacuation of people from vulnerable areas. He announced immediate release of ex-gratia payment of Rs.4 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.

Khandu issued directives to authorities to maintain vigil during the monsoon season to avoid human casualties and damages. He also gave strict instructions to ensure preparedness to tackle the catastrophe.


Panel urges plan to save Himalayan springs

Image: Poon Hill Jhinu Hot Spring trek is an easy trek situated in Annapurna Region, Nepal

by Jacob Koshy

A NITI Aayog constituted group of experts has urged the government to set up a dedicated mission to salvage and revive spring water systems in the country’s Himalayan States given their vital importance as a source of water for both drinking and irrigation for the region’s inhabitants. Spanning States across the country’s north and northeast and home to about 50 million people, the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) has been heavily reliant on these natural groundwater sources, that are under increasing threat from the urbanisation caused by a constant push for development and climate change. “Almost half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal and tens of thousands of villages are currently facing acute water shortage for drinking and other domestic purposes,” the group noted in its report titled ‘Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security.’ “Almost 60% of low-discharge springs that provided water to small habitations in the Himalayan region have reported clear decline during the last couple of decades,” the report’s authors, who included experts from the Department of Science and Technology, noted. Shimla crisis The extent of the crisis plaguing the mountainous region was recently evident when more than half a dozen districts of Himachal Pradesh and the State capital Shimla faced a severe drinking water crisis this May after major water sources either went fully or partially dry. While poor water management was said to be the key cause, according to State authorities, they also attributed reduced snowmelt and depressed flow from springs as contributors to the crisis. Also, with almost 64% of the cultivable area in the Himalayas fed by natural springs, they are often the only source of irrigation in the region. The report noted that there were also multiple sources of pollution in springs and these were due to both geogenic, or ‘natural’ causes and anthropogenic, or man-made, ones. Microbial content, sulphates and nitrates were primarily because of anthropogenic reasons and contamination from fluoride, arsenic and iron was mainly derived from geogenic sources. Coliform bacteria in spring water could originate from septic tanks, household wastewater, livestock facilities, and manure lagoons in the source area or in the aquifers feeding springs. Similarly, nitrate sources were septic tanks, household wastewater, agricultural fertilisers, and livestock facilities. While Meghalaya with 3,810 villages with springs had the highest number of these water sources in the Eastern Himalayan States, Sikkim had the greatest density with 94% of its villages having a spring. In the Western Himalayas, Jammu & Kashmir had both the highest number of villages with springs at 3,313 and the greatest density of 50.6%. The group recommends “a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach of managing springs that will involve building upon the existing body of work on spring water management. The programme could be designed on the concept of an action-research programme as part of a hydrogeology-based, community-support system on spring water management.” With over 60,000 villages in the IHR, “growing” urbanisation – due to 500 townships and 10 cities – was increasing demographic pressure on the region’s water resources, the group noted. The task force moots an 8-year programme to overhaul spring water management. This includes: preparing a digital atlas of the country’s springsheds, training ‘para-hydrogeologists’ who could lead grassroots conservation and introduction of a ‘Spring Health Card.’

Indigenous no-state people

We urgently need to stop the destruction of the Himalayas

Shashi Shekhar

Like millions of Indians I, too, love the Himalayas. Given the slightest opportunity, I love to surrender to its peaks, valleys, gorges, rivers, ponds and pristine water bodies. But on each of these occasions, along with enormous joy, the panoramic mountain range also gives me equal doses of distress.

The reasons are obvious. All of us know that were the Himalayas not there, we wouldn’t exist. Its peaks assist the monsoons. Its glaciers lend our rivers the pride of being perennial. The furniture made of wood on its slopes enhances the grace of our residences. Its beauty invites people from around the world to visit India. It is the undisputed guardian of our borders. It is not without reason that our ancestors anointed it with the title of Devalaya.

Bhaas, the iconic Sanskrit poet, had said that the beauty that changes its appearance with every moment is worth relishing. Only those who have seen the Himalayas can understand the inherent meaning of this shloka. Many years ago, at Naggar, near Kullu, I looked at Suraj Taal, a painting by Nicholas Roerich. Using watercolours, Roerich had brought the lake to life. On enquiring I discovered that it was the second lake on the way to Leh from Manali. A spontaneous urge to visit and touch and feel this lake began to grip me. Despite my eagerness, experts said I couldn’t visit it with young children. Also, the road was blocked. “If you want to visit it, you should confirm and come again in August,” they said. But August was still 70 days away.

Google had not yet been invented those days. Computers had come in but they were not part of the lives of ordinary people. In the eighth decade of the last century, people couldn’t even dream of the powerful cars that we have today. There were just one or two trustworthy vehicles to speak of.

The first book that I read about Leh said that travel to the region was an adventure, not an excursion, in bold letters. Roerich had visited it on foot many decades ago, we had cars at least. The destination had become twice as attractive. When we reached there we felt we were in paradise. Snow-clad peaks all around us, a lake full of calm, blue waters surrounded by large rocks that looked like meditating monks and cutting through all this, a serpentine road. There was serenity, cold weather and a howling wind. I sat transfixed for a long time even as my colleagues, who were sitting in a car with the windows rolled up, began shouting that the infra-red rays and the chilly wind would harm my face.Read more

My face still carries a few traces of that afternoon. But it was a priceless and timeless experience. I tried to visit the place once again, but clearly the world had changed in two-and-a-half decades. The traffic of tourists on that road had multiplied many times over. Uncultured drivers were not averse to honking or playing loud music. The lake, once the abode of Shiva and Parvati, has lost some of its grace. The Leh of today isn’t an adventure but excursion.

Are we spoiling the Himalayas or inviting self-destruction? Geologists believe the mountain range is still under formation. That’s why its height increases by two millimetres every year. So an earthquake is enough to shake its foundations and that’s why residents and tourists should stay sensitive to these dangers. But the exact opposite is happening.

Last year, the Annals of Glaciology published a paper by Anil Kulkarni, a scientist with the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. According to this paper, glaciers in the Chandra Basin had melted at a much faster speed between 1984 and 2012. According to Kulkarni, although the threat isn’t immediate, if the trend continues, our rivers may eventually go dry. Can you imagine the existence of human life without rivers such as Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Sindhu, Ganga, Yamuna, Brahmaputra and Spiti?

Kulkarni’s study is based on extensive research, but there is much that an ordinary person like me can comprehend. Let me give you the example of the Sahastra Dhara near Dehradun. Many years ago, looking at its streams, one got the feeling of having arrived at a mini Manali: waterfalls emerging from the womb of mountain ranges, a dense forest surrounding the mountains and a cool pristine breeze that made the setting even more inviting. There is a bungalow built by the public works department near the waterfalls, where Jawaharlal Nehru came and stayed and appreciated nature’s bounty. Today the stream of water has become extremely feeble and nature’s glory has been lost. It has been replaced by a number of concrete buildings. There are hundreds of such stories of destruction. As Indians, we haven’t managed to build a hill station after Independence, but we’ve destroyed the existing ones.

Yesterday, on the occasion of Himalaya Divas (Himalaya Day), you would have seen the government and NGOs going through the customary motions. Till when will we keep celebrating our destruction?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

Indigenous no-state people

8 species of birds have possibly gone extinct over past few decades

  • A new study has found that eight species of birds are likely to have completely disappeared in the past couple of decades.
  • Researchers recommend that three species currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List be reclassified as extinct, while one be treated as extinct in the wild.
  • Four more bird species are dangerously close to extinction, if not already there, and should be re-classified as critically endangered (possibly extinct), researchers say.

Eight species of birds may have completely disappeared over the past couple of decades, a new study has found. Among these is the Spix’s macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii), a bird that inspired the character of Blu in the 2011 animated film Rio. Found only in Brazil, the bird has not seen in the wild since 2000.

Like the Spix’s macaw, several other bird species are believed to have become extinct in recent years. To pinpoint the ones that may already be gone, researchers from BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations focusing on bird conservation, looked at 51 species of birds with a “reasonable possibility of being extinct.” These are species that have either not been seen in the wild for more than 10 years despite exhaustive surveys, or species that have been seen within the last 10 years, but whose tiny population has suffered well-documented decline.

Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s chief scientist, and his colleagues used a new statistical approach to arrive at the probability of extinction for the 51 species by combining information on the intensity of threats to the bird species, timing and reliability of records for the species, as well as timing and quality of efforts made to survey the species.

Based on their results, the researchers recommend that three species currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List be reclassified as extinct. These include the cryptic treehunter (Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti), last seen in the wild in 2007; the Alagoas foliage-gleaner (Philydor novaesi), not seen in the wild since 2011; and the poʻo-uli (Melamprosops phaeosoma), not seen since 2004. The Spix’s macaw, which has some individuals surviving in captivity, should be reclassified as extinct in the wild, the researchers say in the study published in Biological Conservation.

A poʻo-uli, or black-faced honeycreeper. Image © ciro_albano.

Four more bird species are dangerously close to extinction, if not already there, the team found. These species — the New Caledonian lorikeet (Charmosyna diadema), the Javan lapwing (Vanellus macropterus), the Pernambuco pygmy owl (Glaucidium mooreorum) and the glaucous macaw (Anodorhynchus glaucus) — should be treated as critically endangered (possibly extinct), the researchers say. The “possibly extinct” tag applies to a subset of critically endangered species that are, based on available evidence, likely to be extinct. However, there could be local reports of the species that need verification, or there could be a small chance that future surveys might confirm the species’ presence.

While most bird extinctions have previously occurred on islands, the rate of extinctions on continents is now increasing, the study found, driven mainly by deforestation and habitat loss, invasive species, and hunting and trapping. Five of the eight confirmed or suspected extinctions took place in South America. Of these, four occurred in Brazil, demonstrating how rampant deforestation is driving species extinctions, the researchers say.

“Ninety per cent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands,” Butchart said in a statement. “However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging.”


Butchart, S. H., Lowe, S., Martin, R. W., Symes, A., Westrip, J. R., & Wheatley, H. (2018). Which bird species have gone extinct? A novel quantitative classification approach. Biological Conservation227, 9-18.

Indigenous no-state people

Korean man trains 21 ducklings to go hiking with him

As the ducklings did not have any duck to rely on, the man decided to train them to follow a route between his house and the forest. Many people are amazed and amused by the bond shared by the man and the ducklings.

While it is common to notice dogs following their owner around, it is a rare sight to see a flock of ducklings following a man. Hailing from South Korea, a middle-aged man is often accompanied by a flock of 21 ducklings, who he has raised like his own children. According to a Good Times report, the owner who lives in Seoul first began to take the ducklings with him when he was not sure whether or not would they be able to survive on their own. As the ducklings did not have any duck to rely on, the man decided to train them to follow a route between his house and the forest. The ducks follow the man and only respond to his call. As per the video shared by the news website, the man is a certified father of the ducklings. Many amazed and amused by the bond shared between the man and the ducklings. According to the same report, the man was the one who kept the eggs warms until they hatched, which is why the ducklings are so attached to him.

Indigenous no-state people

NRC Coordinator Under Fire For His Suggestion To SC

Guwahati: NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela has come under fire from the ruling and opposition parties for suggesting to the Supreme Court to curtail the number of documents required to prove Assamese identity for the claims and objections process.
The apex court on September 5 had deferred till further orders the commencement of the process of receiving claims and objections for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and sought the Centre’s response on the suggestion that any one of the 10 documents can be used by claimants to prove legacy.
A bench of justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman had perused the report of Assam’s NRC coordinator and said it was agreeable to his suggestions that any one of the 10 of a total 15 documents provided in List-A of the claim form can be used by the claimants to prove legacy.
Leader of Opposition in Assam Assembly Debabrata Saikia has sought Hajela’s removal for suggesting to the apex court to dispense with the 1951 NRC and pre-1971 voters’ lists of Assam while dealing with claims and objections relating to omission of over 40 lakh names from the complete draft of the NRC published on July 30.
The Congress leader, in a press release, said the eligibility criteria framed for the NRC by various stakeholders, including the government, had specifically listed the 1951 NRC and pre-1971 voters’ lists as the first two among the important documents for the purpose of verification and these were even mentioned in the relevant part of the Rules, 2003. “It is consequently logical to attribute a malafide motive to Hajela’s arbitrary recommendation to drop these two important documents from the verification process,” he alleged.
Many people, especially those with economic and educational backwardness, did not anticipate that a day would come when the presence of the names of their ancestors in the 1951 NRC and pre-1971 voters lists would not be sufficient to prove their citizenship, the opposition leader said.
Changing the eligibility criteria at such an advanced stage of the NRC process is against the demands of natural justice, the Congress leader said.
The opposition leader urged all parties involved in the ongoing NRC-related proceedings in the Supreme Court to keep this aspect in view while submitting their views on Hajela’s proposal at the next date of hearing. Congress MLA Kamalakhaya Dey Purkayastha has demanded Hajela’s arrest for making this suggestion. “He has gone against the interest of the people. The NRC is not his personal document but for the public, for Assam,” he told reporters.
Another opposition party, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), has also opposed Hajela’s suggestions with its party general secretary Aminul Islam terming the recommendation as “unethical and biased”. “There seems to be political pressure behind this suggestion. If the 1951 NRC is not accepted, then what is being updated,” he asked.
Criticising the NRC state coordinator’s suggestion, the general secretary of the state unit of the ruling BJP Dilip Saikia claimed it has complicated the situation at a time when the names of lakhs of Indian Gorkhas, Bengalis, Hindi-speaking people and those from several other communities were left out of the NRC draft.
“In view of this, BJP state chief Ranjit Kumar Dass and other party leaders will discuss with our party national leadership in Delhi about Hajela’s role in this matter, inclusion of the missing names of genuine Indian citizens in the complete NRC and the future action to be taken,” Saikia said in a press release here Friday.
Hajela had filed the report in compliance with the court’s August 28 order and stated that the 10 documents of List-A could be relied upon or introduced afresh by any claimant for his or her claim for inclusion in the NRC, subject to their authenticity as per the certification by the relevant issuing authority.
The ten legacy documents which are admissible include land documents like registered sale deed, permanent residential certificate issued from outside the state, passport and LIC insurance policy of the relevant period.
Voluntary organisation Assam Public Works (APW) president Abhijit Sarma, who had filed the petition in the apex court in 2009 for updation of the NRC, had demanded engagement of a third party to assist in the monitoring of the update process.
The APW president said a third party will give direct feedback from the field to the court, which is monitoring the entire NRC update process, as the officers engaged in verifying the process are not permitted to report the anomalies because they are government officials, Sarma said. “Unless the third party’s assessments are taken into account, it wont be possible to correct the mistakes already committed in the process, Sarma said in a press release.
Hajela could not be reached as he has been censured by the Supreme Court for talking to the media. His mandate is only to update the NRC and not brief the press about it, the court had observed. (PTI)

Indigenous no-state people

Asian Game Bronze Medal Winner Goes Back To Selling Tea


Little has changed for Harish Kumar since he came back home after winning a bronze medal for India at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. Son of an auto rickshaw driver, Harish Kumar used to sell tea at North Delhi’s Majun Ka Tilla area to support his family. Now that he’s back, he has had to return to the same tea stall.

Speaking to NDTV, the bronze medallist said he doesn’t regret the hard times that he had endure, but was disappointed when “no came to welcome me home.” Part of the Indian Sepak Takraw (kick volleyball) team at the Asian Games 2018.

Harish’s talent was spotted by his coach, Hemraj who saw him play with cycle tyres, rolling them forward with a stick. He took him to the Sport Authority Of India (SAI) centre and taught him the game. He soon began training. Harish used work at tea shop during the day, and train from 2 pm to 6 pm, even as locals laughed off his efforts.

“People used to say that he will not be able to do anything, he is just being fooled by the coach and by looting his money, he can do nothing,” he said.


Harish Kumar used work at tea shop during the day, and train from 2 pm to 6 pm.

Harish, however, found support at home. His mother, Indira Devi said despite her family’s financial struggles, she tried her best to support Harish’s studies and even “saved money for his training”. For his part, Harish says he used to hide from bus conductors while going to train to avoid buying a ticket.

Harish has no complains that the government didn’t help him, but says that now he hopes for a government job. “I just want a job from the government. I’m unemployed and my father is an auto-rickshaw driver. I run a tea stall for a living,” he said.

At this year’s Asian Games in Indonesia, India finished its best-ever medal tally with 69 medals. ( Source: NDTV)


Arrest of Syrian ‘hero swimmer’ puts Lesbos refugees back in spotlight

Sara Mardini’s case adds to fears that rescue work is being criminalised and raises questions about NGO

Helena Smith in Athens

Greece’s high-security Korydallos prison acknowledges that Sara Mardini is one of its rarer inmates. For a week, the Syrian refugee, a hero among human rights defenders, has been detained in its women’s wing on charges so serious they have elicited baffled dismay.

The 23-year-old, who saved 18 refugees in 2015 by swimming their waterlogged dingy to the shores of Lesbos with her Olympian sister, is accused of people smuggling, espionage and membership of a criminal organisation – crimes allegedly committed since returning to work with an NGO on the island. Under Greek law, Mardini can be held in custody pending trial for up to 18 months.

“She is in a state of disbelief,” said her lawyer, Haris Petsalnikos, who has petitioned for her release. “The accusations are more about criminalising humanitarian action. Sara wasn’t even here when these alleged crimes took place but as charges they are serious, perhaps the most serious any aid worker has ever faced.”

Mardini’s arrival to Europe might have gone unnoticed had it not been for the extraordinary courage she and younger sister, Yusra, exhibited guiding their boat to safety after the engine failed during the treacherous crossing from Turkey. Both were elite swimmers, with Yusra going on to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The sisters, whose story is the basis of a forthcoming film by the British director Stephen Daldry, were credited with saving the lives of their fellow passengers. In Germany, their adopted homeland, the pair has since been accorded star status.

Sara and Yusra Mardini with trophies at the 2016 Bambi awards, the main German media awards.
 Sara and Yusra Mardini with trophies at the 2016 Bambi awards, the main German media awards. Photograph: Axel Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

It was because of her inspiring story that Mardini was approached by Emergency Response Centre International, ERCI, on Lesbos. “After risking her own life to save 18 people … not only has she come back to ground zero, but she is here to ensure that no more lives get lost on this perilous journey,” it said after Mardini agreed to join its ranks in 2016.

After her first stint with ERCI, she again returned to Lesbos last December to volunteer with the aid group. And until 21 August there was nothing to suggest her second spell had not gone well. But as Mardini waited at Mytilini airport to head back to Germany, and a scholarship at Bard College in Berlin, she was arrested. Soon after that, police also arrested ERCI’s field director, Nassos Karakitsos, a former Greek naval force officer, and Sean Binder, a German volunteer who lives in Ireland. All three have protested their innocence.

The arrests come as signs of a global clampdown on solidarity networks mount. From Russia to Spain, European human rights workers have been targeted in what campaigners call an increasingly sinister attempt to silence civil society in the name of security.

“There is the concern that this is another example of civil society being closed down by the state,” said Jonathan Cooper, an international human rights lawyer in London. “What we are really seeing is Greek authorities using Sara to send a very worrying message that if you volunteer for refugee work you do so at your peril.”

Protesters in Athens demand the release of Sara Mardini and Sean Binder.
 Protesters in Athens demand the release of Sara Mardini and Sean Binder. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA


But amid concerns about heavy-handed tactics humanitarians face, Greek police say there are others who see a murky side to the story, one ofpeople trafficking and young volunteers being duped into participating in a criminal network unwittingly. In that scenario,the Mardini sisters would make prime targets.

Greek authorities spent six months investigating the affair. Agents were flown into Lesbos from Athens and Thessaloniki. In an unusually long and detailed statement, last week, Mytilini police said that while posing as a non-profit organisation, ERCI had acted with the sole purpose of profiteering by bringing people illegally into Greece via the north-eastern Aegean islands.

Members had intercepted Greek and European coastguard radio transmissions to gain advance notification of the location of smugglers’ boats, police said, and that 30, mostly foreign nationals, were lined up to be questioned in connection with the alleged activities. Other “similar organisations” had also collaborated in what was described as “an informal plan to confront emergency situations”, they added.

Suspicions were first raised, police said, when Mardini and Binder were stopped in February driving a former military 4X4 with false number plates. ERCI remained unnamed until the release of the charge sheets for the pair and that of Karakitsos.

Refugees and migrants wave as they approach Lesbos in March 2016.
 Refugees and migrants wave as they approach Lesbos in March 2016. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Lesbos has long been on the frontline of the refugee crisis, attracting idealists and charity workers. Until a dramatic decline in migration numbers via the eastern Mediterranean in March 2016, when a landmark deal was signed between the EU and Turkey, the island was the main entry point to Europe.

An estimated 114 NGOs and 7,356 volunteers are based on Lesbos, according to Greek authorities. Local officials talk of “an industry”, and with more than 10,000 refugees there and the mood at boiling point, accusations of NGOs acting as a “pull factor” are rife.Advertisement

“Sara’s motive for going back this year was purely humanitarian,” said Oceanne Fry, a fellow student who in June worked alongside her at a day clinic in the refugee reception centre.

“At no point was there any indication of illegal activity by the group … but I can attest to the fact that, other than our intake meeting, none of the volunteers ever met, or interacted, with its leadership.”

Life vests are left on the shore by refugees arriving in Lesbos in 2015.
 Life vests are left on the shore by refugees arriving in Lesbos in 2015. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

The mayor of Lesbos, Spyros Galinos, said he has seen “good and bad” in the humanitarian movement since the start of the refugee crisis.

“Everything is possible,. There is no doubt that some NGOs have exploited the situation. The police announcement was uncommonly harsh. For a long time I have been saying that we just don’t need all these NGOs. When the crisis erupted, yes, the state was woefully unprepared but now that isn’t the case.”

Attempts to contact ERCI were unsuccessful. Neither a telephone number nor an office address – in a scruffy downtown building listed by the aid group on social media – appeared to have any relation to it.

In a statement released more than a week after Mardini’s arrest, ERCI denied the allegations, saying it had fallen victim to “unfounded claims, accusations and charges”. But it failed to make any mention of Mardini.

“It makes no sense at all,” said Amed Khan, a New York financier turned philanthropist who has donated boats for ERCI’s search and rescue operations. To accuse any of them of human trafficking is crazy.

“In today’s fortress Europe you have to wonder whether Brussels isn’t behind it, whether this isn’t a concerted effort to put a chill on civil society volunteers who are just trying to help. After all, we’re talking about grassroots organisations with global values that stepped up into the space left by authorities failing to do their bit.” (Source: The Guardian)