Thursday, August 26, 2010

Switzerland harsh actions against African Immigrants and their misplaced blames!

By Essa Bokarr Sey

This past week, we all have been reading through stories related to The Gambian authorities refusing the flight from Switzerland that was carrying people being deported from the same country, landing rights! In my book that was accurate for the Banjul International Airport to do once again. A similar incident took place years in a different form. The whole situation matches the meaning of the following proverbs! “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander” Or the African one which says “Any person who prefers eating pepper-soup should also be ready to do so with a runny nose!”.

Let us start with the three "buts" of Switzerland when it comes to their past and present HARSH actions against African Immigrants and their misplaced blames!

1) Switzerland cannot stop African Immigrants from crossing their borders, as far as they have chosen to continue receiving and keeping stolen monies from African heads of state in their banks!

2) Switzerland should help Internal Non violent resistance groups inside our countries fight against capital flight from corrupt African leaders first!

3) Refusing Swiss flights that are carrying African deportees landing rights, is a good "tit-for-tat!" for selfish government like Switzerland itself!

By Essa Bokarr Sey.

This past week, we all have been reading through stories related to The Gambian authorities refusing the flight from Switzerland that was carrying people being deported from the same country, landing rights! In my book that was accurate for the Banjul International Airport to do once again. A similar incident took place years in a different form.

The whole situation matches the meaning of the following proverbs! “What is good for the goose is also good for the gander” Or the African one which says “Any person who prefers eating pepper-soup should also be ready to do so with a runny nose!”.

Let us run through a synopsis of past and present stories that are linked to Switzerland itself when it comes to them the Swiss entertaining the idea of receiving, keeping and helping conceal stolen monies from African leaders especially despots. To be candid Switzerland has so far helped ruin Africa economically. They really have because their country is where most of the monies our despots siphon are kept in bank accounts! Akk because this hypocritical term called “laws of secrecy” within the banking industry inside Switzerland itself! That has to stop my fellow Africans!

When Mobutu Seseseko was deposed all those of “us” who lived in Europe at the time still remember the shameful way an aerial view was showing us the properties he owned in Switzerland itself! Yes the archives are there to speak for themselves. We also remember the sad stories which were attached to the ill-gotten wealth from Nigeria’s former (deceased) dictator with an iron fist, in the name of Sanni Abacha. A greater part of his wealth was traced to Switzerland folks! That story is still not over! All Switzerland uses or refers to as cover in a simplistic way is “Bank secrecy laws!” That is the most ridiculous excuse one can ever see where helping to keep money that has been stolen from Africa by harmful and corrupt leaders is concerned. That is not good to say the least!

I am one person who is speaking from experience in this case. Of course my experience is coming from a higher echelon because I did meet and speak with some senior Swiss officials along these lines almost a decade ago! In the past the same Swiss went head on disregarding all plausible reasons therefore thought forcefully deporting some Gambians with cellulose tapes on their mouths and stiff hand cuffs on their wrists was the answer! They know what protest notes officials like myself and other young African diplomats sent to them along those lines at the material time. What happened when they did not BUGDE and wanted to continue using those INHUMANE ways of deporting our brothers and sisters back home? At some point Swiss personnel were detained in Banjul in retaliation(the archives are there to speak for themselves). We also remember when Malian immigrants who were forcefully deported to Bamako. Upon arrival they became unruly therefore went on the rampage. They broke one of the wings of the plane AIRFRANCE which took them home without even considering that some of them lost all their life savings in European banks! Well if the authorities in those EU countries do not need anything to do with these people they call “African intruders searching for greener pastures” why would they keep the little monies those “intruders” had worked for and kept European banks in the first place? Why would they also help keep monies which African despots steal from those poor immigrants and their families back home(tax payers) as well? The latter is not meant to justify illegal immigration but those EU Member states especially countries like Switzerland have to know that, by them simply trying to stop African immigrants from entering their borders in a unilateral and callous approach is unsavory and very unfair. These Swiss draconian immigration laws that are not taking into consideration the real CAUSES AND CURSES which are behind this “surge” from Africa especially the West coast towards Europe shall never bear sweet fruits for both ends! Those EU members states especially countries like Switzerland must sit down and look into the issue of immigration from a deeper and wider perspective. Their approach should be an all inclusive one and nothing less than that! They must attend ECOWAS meetings with a comprehensive and strategic package that will be based on FRANK TALK! They must address the issue by telling themselves the truth likewise tell those African leaders who steal then run to keep monies in Swiss banks the hard facts! Switzerland has to know that the new breed of African leaders who are emerging will definitely use all legal measures to make sure that any stolen monies from Africa is accounted for. Any properties or other products that have been taken away and kept in Swiss banks and the like will be followed and tracked where the need arises! These DOUBLE STANDARDS of receiving the money but rejecting the source of wealth(in this case our own sweat) has to stop forthwith.

Switzerland cannot stay indifferent in this case. Be it for the case of an asylum seeker or not we as Africans who want to see to it that WE NO LONGER cross the borders only to go and stay away in foreign lands are ready to stand up against this hypocrisy once and for all. Countries like Switzerland must share the blame with those corrupt African despots whose monies they help keep in their banks. INFACT LOANS FROM COUNTRIES LIKE SWITZERLAND MUST BE REVISITED WITH A MICROSCOPIC APPROACH. We as a new breed in Africa want to make sure that those loans are attached to the interest accrued from the monies that have been stolen by our corrupt and saved in Swiss banks over the years! Yes this may sound surreal but with time it can be achieved. In my book we do not owe countries like this anything within a moral point of view to start with! Switzerland’s case is not a separate one. Other EU member states have to get ready for stiff resistance from us Africans from now onwards. You cannot get the stolen money from despotic leaders only to “mildly” condemn “dictatorship” only to turn around giggling at us. Worst of continue using that stolen money within those banks as revolving funds which will never benefit the suffering masses in Africa(West to be more specific) in this case. NO! WE SAY NO TO THAT FROM TODAY! If you care about the welfare of the average African on the ground please join us and help STOP CAPITAL flight and money laundering. Likewise stop facilitating it or encouraging our corrupt leaders to buy properties in Europe when they kill and steal from us the suffering masses! If the Swiss and other EU member states do not stop doing so it means irony at the base or hypocrisy at the farthest! How long shall our people continue being treated like loaves of bread in an oven? We cannot continue feeling the heat while being baked to feed the hungry bellies of intercontinental greed! That cannot continue! It has to stop or be stopped!

Who does not remember former dictator Jean Bedel Bokasa of Central Africa? Who does not remember his chateau or castle in France? Who does not remember how he was disowned in that very country when his funds were depleted? If the EU can promulgate laws which can be used to help countries like Switzerland fight against immigrants, what is stopping the same EU from introducing stiffer laws against African despots who steal and keep their stolen wealth in their banking industry? Why are the very EU member states helping African despots teal and kill our people simply because they need the money? Why do they add insult to injury by forcefully deporting those very “victims” back to their countries even whereas some have genuine reasons to flee(within a political context)? I have lived in Europe officially and I know what I am exactly talking or writing about here!

The way the Swiss immigration(particularly) handles African immigrants is so inhumane and very wrong that is where one is to say the least. I have seen firsthand some of these things and my protest notes against the latter are on record! This idea of using any kind of force when deporting African immigrants cannot and should not continue unchallenged! The pictures with a Gambians’ mouth being gagged with cellulose tape in a plane from Geneva to Banjul are still there in the archives. Why treat those people like that after all? Why not use the same strength against the despots who steal and keep money in Swiss banks then? Or is this trying to get the MILK WHILE DISOWNING THE COW? That is hypocritical. No diplomacy needed in this case STRAIGHT-TALKING is the only answer here!

Hereunder is a story about Switzerland sponsoring an advert on African TVs trying to show how African immigrants suffer in Europe or to be more specific Switzerland itself! On the other hand I do concur with the ideas a Senegalese intellectual has expressed therein to help challenge the approach from the authorities in BERNE Switzerland and or other EU member states. He is right! The African Immigrant’s issue is far beyond the simplistic ways these Swiss are trying to portray in that advert! It is wider, deeper, worse and more challenging!

Please read below and see how Switzerland is being caution against its ways of sponsoring A BLEAK ANTI-IMMIGRATION TELEVISION CAMPAIGN IN AFRICA!

This is so “cheap” and hypocritical to say the least! See below and be your own judges!!!

(Source…swissinfo, Simon Bradley with agencies)

Advert aims to deter African immigrants

Switzerland is funding a bleak anti-migration television campaign in Africa to discourage would-be migrants from trying to seek their fortunes in Europe.

The hard-hitting advert, which has been aired on prime-time television in Cameroon and Nigeria, depicts the life of freshly arrived migrants in Europe as one fraught with problems and dangers.

In the film an African migrant phones his father from somewhere in Europe in the pouring rain and assures him that all is well while in reality he is living on the street, being chased by the police and having to beg for a living.

"Don't believe everything you hear. Leaving is not always living," is the final message of the film, which the SonntagsBlick newspaper said was broadcast on Nigerian state television at half-time during a friendly football match between Switzerland and Nigeria last week.

The advert is part of a television, radio and poster campaign by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM), funded by Switzerland and the European Commission.

"We have the duty to show these people what the consequences of fleeing their country might be for them," Eduard Gnesa, head of the Federal Migration Office, told the SonntagsBlick.

"Refugees should not have any false illusions about Switzerland. We have no work for these people," he added.

In most cases immigrants from Cameroon and Nigeria can no longer claim they have been politically persecuted and therefore normally do not receive asylum status in Switzerland.

Not a paradise

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said the aim of the campaign was to "inform would-be migrants of the dangers of using smuggling networks and the realities of life as an undocumented migrant in Europe".

The IOM has produced similar adverts in Senegal and Niger, funded by Spain and the European Union, Chauzy confirmed.

Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher, whose ministry controls the Migration Office, said he supported the adverts.

"We must show Africans that Switzerland is not a paradise," he said.

Blocher's rightwing Swiss People's Party emerged as the biggest winner in the October parliamentary elections on the back of an anti-immigration campaign.

The short film is part of an awareness campaign that the Migration Office launched in early 2006 in Nigeria and Cameroon to dissuade economic migrants from trying their luck in Europe. It is considering a similar campaign in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African nations.

Too simplistic

But Pape Ndiaye Diouf, a professor at Geneva's Institute of Development Studies, felt the campaign gave a "too simplistic response to a very complex problem".

He said more rigorous and responsible solutions were needed to tackle the issue than simply saying: "Don't come as there's no work".

"It's important to correctly inform people in those countries about what the situation is like [in Europe] but it should go much further. It has to be accompanied with development and job creation opportunities on the spot so young people have alternatives and don't think they absolutely have to go abroad," he told swissinfo.

"The adverts are basically well intended," noted Jürg Krummenacher, director of Caritas Switzerland. "But people in Nigeria or Cameroon can constantly see on TV what it looks like in Europe. I don't think the advert offers very much."

So far this year only 105 people from Cameroon and 246 from Nigeria have requested asylum status in Switzerland.

"Hundreds of thousands of people from both countries dream about it but only a small number actually flee," he added.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley with agencies


Wyclef Jean cannot appeal against Haiti presidency ruling

Electoral council tells singer its decision to disqualify him from the Haiti presidential race is final

The door has slammed shut for the second time in Wyclef Jean's bid to become president of Haiti. According to the country's electoral council, the singer cannot appeal against his disqualification from the race. With officials refusing to review his file, Jean will now reportedly file a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"Wyclef does not intend to stop here," explained Jean Renel Senatus, a member of his legal team. "We will exhaust all options, we will go all the way to fight this unacceptable decision." Last week, Jean was one of 15 proposed candidates disqualified from Haiti's presidential race, with the provisional electoral council citing the country's five-year residency requirement. Although Jean initially said he "accepted" the ruling, he later announced plans to appeal. "Friends ... warned me that much trickery would be used to block me," he said. "[This] has proved true."

A representative for the council's legal department declared yesterday that their decision cannot be challenged, citing article 191 of Haiti's electoral law. "When it comes to electoral matters, the electoral council is the supreme court, meaning there is nowhere else to go," Samuel Pierre said. "There is absolutely no possibility for Wyclef Jean to be added to the list of candidates approved to run in the next presidential elections. So it's over."

But Jean shows no sign of backing down. The ruling is "arbitrary", Senatus said, claiming that Jean is a long-time resident – his role as roving ambassador to Haiti simply forced him to spend lots of time abroad. "He has been living in the country for more than six years," Senatus said. Jean will now argue to the Inter-American Commission that his democratic rights have been violated, and Senatus is also considering filing with Haiti's highest court, the Cour de Cassation. Jean may also join forces with other rejected candidates, including his uncle, Raymond Joseph, Haiti's former ambassador to the US. "[We are] in talks about forming a united front against this arbitrary decision," Joseph said. "We do not think that the council can organise [a] democratic elections.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brazil's census offers recognition at last to descendants of runaway slaves

Interviewers plan to reach 190m people, including the long-ignored Kalunga, by motorbike, plane, canoe and donkey

When Jorge Moreira de Oliveira's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather arrived in Brazil in the 18th century he was counted off the slave-ship, branded and dispatched to a goldmine deep in the country's arid mid-west. After years of scrambling for gold that was shipped to Europe, he fled and became one of the founding fathers of the Kalunga quilombo, a remote mountain-top community of runaway slaves.

On Wednesday last week, more than 200 years later, it was Moreira's turn to be counted – this time not by slavemasters but by Cleber, a chubby census taker who appeared at his home clutching a blue personal digital assistant (PDA).

"I'm Kalunga. A Brazilian Kalunga," Moreira told his visitor from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, who diligently noted down details about the interviewee's eight children, monthly income and toilet arrangements.

Such is Brazil's 2010 census – a gigantic logistical operation that aims to count and analyse the lives of more than 190 million people in one of the most geographically and racially diverse nations on earth.

The scale of the mobilisation is staggering. With a budget of around 1.677bn Brazilian reais (£600m) the census, which began on 1 August, will peer into approximately 58m homes in 5,565 municipalities across 8,514,876 sq km (3.3m sq miles). Between now and the end of October around 190,000 census takers will venture into illegal goldmines, sprawling slums, high-security prisons, indigenous reserves and quilombola communities such as Engenho II, travelling by motorbike, donkey, canoe and plane.

But for people such as Moreira, the census is about more than number-crunching. For the Kalunga, descendants of slaves shipped to Brazil from places such as Angola, Mozambique and Ivory Coast, it is a chance, finally, to be counted, heard and helped by a government that has long ignored them.

"The federal government has to know that we exist – what we do, what we have," said Moreira, a 42-year-old subsistence farmer, who attributes recent improvements in his community, including the arrival of roads, electricity and a school, to Brazil's last head-count, in 2000. "Before, we were totally forgotten. Now equality is coming through the census and the interviews."


"It is a question of identity," said Ivonete Carvalho, the government's programme director for traditional communities. "When you assert your identity you are saying you want [government] action and access to public policies. [The census] is a fantastic x-ray."

The Kalungas' fight for recognition is part of a wider movement for racial equality in Brazil, a country with deep roots in Africa but where Afro-Brazilian politicians and business leaders remain few and far between. According to Carvalho, only one of Brazil's 81 senators is black, despite the fact that Afro-Brazilians represent at least 53% of the population. The last census found that fewer than 40% of Afro-Brazilians had access to sanitation compared with nearly 63% of whites.

Just as descendents of Brazil's runaway slaves are finding their voice – and telling the census takers about it – so too are Brazil's officially black and indigenous communities swelling as a growing number of Brazilians label themselves "black" or "indigenous" rather than "mulatto" when the census takers come knocking.

"People are no longer scared of identifying themselves or insecure about saying: 'I'm black, and black is beautiful,' " Brazil's minister for racial equality, Elio Ferreira de Araujo, told the Guardian.

For the first time in Brazilian history, this year's census will map out the different indigenous languages spoken in Brazil and register the number of same-sex relationships. It will also ask people their "ethnicity" – a thorny issue in a country that has long regarded itself as a racial melting pot and the rainbow nation of the Americas.

Since president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva came to power in 2003, increasing steps have been taken to bridge the social chasm between Afro-Brazilians and their white counterparts. A ministry for racial equality has been created and university quotas introduced. The Brasil Quilombola programme, which aims to provide basic social services to thousands of slave descendants, has been rolled out across the country.

Engenho II, a village that is home to around 4,500 "Brazilian Kalungas" and was officially recognised by the government in 2009, has been one of the communities to benefit from the cause's new visibility.


"It was pretty calamitous here before," said Cerilo dos Santos Rosa, the territory's 56-year-old leader. "We didn't have roads, or energy. We'd have to take our produce to town on donkeys or on our backs."

The Kalungas also hope that their land will soon be formally demarcated by the government, with plans to offer compensation to landowners who leave the area, around 320km from Brazil's capital, Brasilia.

Not everybody is enthusiastic about the government's sudden engagement with quilombola communities. Some claim the arrival of brick houses, cash-transfer programmes and roads will irreparably damage their culture and create divisions between them and other communities. Others speculate that the government simply wants access to the abundant mineral resources buried under this sparsely populated savannah region.

Local people, however, are united in their praise for Lula's attempts to create what he calls a Brasil para todos – "Brazil for all".

"Lula has been a great example. He was the first president to visit our community," said Rosa, a father of 11 and grandfather of 29 who credits the president with building 40 brick homes and 93 toilets in the territory.

Government officials defend their attempts to offer "contemporary" life to some of the country's poorest, most isolated citizens.

"Cultural preservation has to be our objective … but giving quality of life to families that live in such remote places is also part of the mission," said Ferreira, the racial equality minister. "We have to value their culture but also the economic support that will give them social benefits."

Carvalho, herself born into a quilombola community in southern Brazil, said the government had finally started paying "an historical debt" to those whose forefathers were "wrenched from their motherland".

Brazil's excluded, she said, were increasingly willing to stand up and be counted. "I'm here. I'm me. I'm not ashamed of my history."

"The progress is slow but it is progress," said Moreira, sat beside his shack's rickety wooden door, bearing the chalked words: "God in first place."

"Before, the government didn't care if we existed or not. Today things are different. Today we all have to be registered. We have to appear. That's the only way things will get better."

Census facts

• In 1872, when the first Brazilian census was conducted on the orders of Emperor Dom Pedro II, the population was divided into free people and slaves, who represented 15% of the population.

• Just 1.8% of the 1872 population were considered "rich" – 23,400 families. In 2000 that figure had risen only slightly to about 2.4%.

• The following census, in 1890, found that 83% of over-fives were illiterate. By 2000 this had fallen to 17%.

• Brazil's population has more than doubled in 50 years, from 71 million in 1960 to more than 190 million today.

• 734,000 Brazilians identified themselves as "indigenous" in the 2000 census.

• This year, more than 7,000 data centres will compile information from about 225,000 PDA.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Protest links seminar to Eritrean terrorists

Organizers deny funnelling cash to terror groups

By: Matt Preprost
Posted: 23/08/2010 1:00 AM

Posted: 23/08/2010 1:00 AM | Comments: 4

A handful of human rights activists gathered outside the University of Winnipeg Sunday afternoon to protest an Eritrean community event, charging its purpose was to fundraise money that would eventually be funnelled into the hands of terrorists.

A group of about 10 people alleged the Eritrea consulate in Toronto held a seminar at the university, disguised as a cultural event, to stoke support for the African nation's notoriously corrupt and tyrannical government.

"This is a disguise, it's not a public event," said protester organizer Ghezae Hagos Berhe, himself an Eritrean refugee. "We believe it was about giving the government more money so they can support more terrorists."

Berhe alleged the seminar's purpose was to raise money for the Eritrean government, which is known to support Al-Shabab, a Somalian militant group that has been recruiting Canadian youth. The group is linked to Al-Qaeda.

Berhe tried to get the event cancelled by University of Winnipeg President Lloyd Axworthy, who Berhe said was unaware the event was taking place on campus. Axworthy sent in security guards to monitor the meeting.

Similar protests have happened in Toronto and Edmonton in recent weeks, Berhe said.

Eritrea, sandwiched between Ethiopia and Sudan along the Red Sea, has been subject to hot debate by human rights activists and the United Nations, facing strict sanctions by Western countries, including Canada.

Most recently, Canada banned weapons sales, and ordered Canadian banks to freeze any assets of Eritrean political leaders and military officials.

Organizers inside Sunday's meeting said they were simply discussing the state of their fragile home country, which has been wrapped in multiple wars with Ethiopia.

"People here are ordinary and want first-hand information on what's happening back home," said organizer Lambrose Kyriakakos. "This is about the safety and well-being of our relatives back home."

A staff member from the Eritrean consulate who was at the meeting was not available for comment.

Outside the event, books and CDs were available for sale to guests, who had to sign in.

There are about 3,000 Eritreans in Winnipeg.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

20,000 Zimbabweans Face Deportations From Britain

Zimbabwe: 20,000 Nationals Face Deportation from Britain

Kitsepile Nyathi
19 August 2010

Harare — At least 20,000 failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers in the United Kingdom could be deported before the end of the year as a result of the relative economic and political stability in the southern African country following the formation of a unity government.

Britain, Zimbabwe's former colonial master this week sent a fact finding mission from its Border Agency to Harare to assess claims that the country is still unsafe for the failed asylum seekers to return.

The UK is one of the many Western countries with a huge population of immigrants from Zimbabwe who escaped the economic and political turmoil that began intensifying in 2000.

Others are New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Biggest population

The biggest population of Zimbabwean immigrants estimated at over three million is suspected to be living in neighbouring South Africa.

Thousands were granted asylum in the UK on the strength that they were supporters of the then opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and were facing persecution by supporters of President Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

Last year, President Robert Mugabe's fiercest rival joined a unity government following inconclusive elections the previous year.

An official at the British embassy in Harare Mr Andrew Jones told the privately owned NewsDay newspaper that findings of the fact finding mission would be used by the UK Asylum Tribunal in October. "The aim of the mission is to ensure that the UK Border Agency has the most up to date information.''

Mosi A. Ifatunji, Ph.D. Candidate
ASA Pre-Doctoral Fellow
University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Sociology (MC 312)
1007 West Harrison Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607-7140
Call/Text: (312) 607-2825
Twitter: @ifatunji

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

West African immigrant gets 26 months in prison for role in N.J. human trafficking ring

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Joe Ryan/The Star-Ledger

A West African immigrant was sentenced to two years and two months in prison today for visa fraud in connection to a human-trafficking ring that smuggled girls and women into New Jersey to work at hair-braiding salons.

Geoffry Kouevi is the third defendant imprisoned in connection to the operation, which authorities say targeted victims from impoverished African villages, some just 10 years old. He stood shacked in green jail garb in federal court in Newark as Judge Jose L. Linares said his crime posed a threat to America’s system of safeguarding its ports of entry.

“It impacts the security of our borders when people violate our immigration laws,” Linares said.

Kouevi was convicted last year of conspiracy and visa fraud for helping coach the victims to pose as wives and children of lawful immigrants and forging documents used to bring them from Togo and Ghana.

Kouevi is a legal permanent resident of the United States and could face deportation after completing his sentence. He faced up to two-and-a-half years under federal sentencing guidelines.

The ring was run by Akouavi Kpade Afolabi, a once-prosperous jewelry and textile merchant from Togo. She was convicted last year and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Authorities say she recruited more than 20 girls and young women from impoverished African villages with the promise of a better life in America.

But once the women arrived, Afolabi forced them to braid hair for up to 14 hours a day at salons in Newark and East Orange in a case investigators equated with modern-day slavery.

“But for the visa fraud there would have been no ability to smuggle these women,” said Shana W. Chen, an assistant U.S. attorney.

Afolabi’s ex-husband, Lassissi Afolabi, was sentenced last month to 24 years in prison for his role in the crime. Her son, Dereck Hounakey, was sentenced in June to 4½ years.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

France urged to repay Haiti debt

17:43 MECCA TIME, 14:43 GMT

A group of activists is calling on France to repay a 200-year-old "independence debt," now valued at $22bn, to Haiti in a bid to help rebuild the earthquake-ravaged country.

In an open letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, intellectuals and politicians said the money would cover construction costs and a shortfall in cash promised by international donors.

France imposed a debt of 150m gold francs on Haiti in return for recognition of the colony's independence, following a successful slave revolt in 1791.

Although the original sum, equivalent to 10 times Haiti's annual revenue, was reduced, the country was still paying it off in 1947.

Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake in January this year that killed more than 250,000 people and left much of the country in ruins.

'Patently illegal'

Campaigners, including Noam Chomsky, the US linguist, and Naomi Klein, the Canadian author, described the debt as "patently illegitimate ... and illegal".

"The 'independence debt', which is today valued at over 17bn euros illegitimately forced a people who had won their independence in a successful slave revolt, to pay again for the freedom," the letter, published in Britain's Guardian and France's Liberation on Sunday, said.

Haiti launched a lawsuit in 2004 to recover the money, but it was abandoned after France backed the overthrow of Haiti's government.

The letter said such actions were "inappropriate responses to a demand that is morally, economically, and legally unassailable".

"In light of the urgent financial need in the country in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010, we urge you to pay Haiti, the world's first black republic, the restitution it is due," it said.

Haiti, then St Dominique, was France's most profitable colony due to the slave trade.

In 1791 the slaves revolted, and in 1804, after defeating Napoleon's armies, the world's first black republic was founded.

France subsequently demanded the independence debt to compensate former colonists for the slaves who had won their freedom, and threatened a military invasion if the money was not paid.

Sunday's letter has also been signed by members of parliament from Europe, Canada and the Philippines, along with scholars, journalists and activists in France, Haiti, the US, Canada, the UK, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Germany.

Six African migrants killed near Egypt-Israel border

14 August 2010

Six African migrants trying to cross into Israel from Egypt's Sinai desert have been killed.

Egyptian security officials said four of the migrants were killed in a dispute with the people smugglers taking them to Israel.

The other two were killed by Egyptian border guards as they tried to cross into Israel.

Human rights activists have criticised Egypt for killing dozens of migrants at the border in the last few years.

Many of the migrants, seeking work or political asylum in Israel, come from Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

An Egyptian security official told the AFP news agency that the six Africans killed on Friday were from Eritrea.

The migrants' dispute with the people traffickers broke out after the smugglers demanded more money for taking them into Israel, the migrants told Egyptian police.

Some of the migrants seized weapons from the smugglers and a gunfight broke out in which four of them were killed.

The group of migrants scattered and two were later shot at the border.

At least 17 of the migrants were arrested by Egyptian police, officials said.