Several Hundred Rally Against ‘The Elite’ in Ljubljana – 11 Images and Notebook

Half Jansa Half Cerar posters at a protest in Ljubljana

There were two political gatherings in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana today.

The first, held this morning, was organized by Janez Janša, a former prime minister, and a coalition of right wing parties, who gathered to express their patriotism, to “defend Slovenia” and its values and rally against the government of Prime Minister Miro Cerar.

I didn’t attend that one.

Here are 11 images from the second which I did attend, an afternoon gathering of several hundred to rally against a host of grievances that include Slovenia’s growing poverty and unemployment, the exploitation of workers, the rise of racism and xenophobia, and the lack of opportunities for young people.

Music Cart leads marchers in a demonstration through the center of Ljubljana

Music Cart leads marchers in a demonstration through the center of Ljubljana

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Five Central and Southern European Mayors Meet in Ljubljana for Sustainability Round Table: Notebook and Images

Zoran Jankovic and Kadir Topbas

Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Jankovic with Kadir Topbas, Mayor of Istanbul


Mayors of five central and Southern European cities met for an informal round table meeting in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on Thursday (March 10) to discuss ongoing efforts in their respective municipalities towards achieving urban sustainability. (See below for photo availability.)

Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Jankovic hosted the event which was also attended by Mayor of Sofia, Bulgaria, Yordanka Fandakova, Mayor of Budapest Istvan Tarlos, Mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas, and Sinisa Mali, the Mayor of Belgrade. Violeta Bulc, the European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport, from Slovenia, and Erion Veliaj, the mayor of Tirana, Albania, also addressed the attendees.

Some scattered notes:

Topbas on the refugee and migrant crisis: “You must keep your doors open”

In one of the more interesting exchanges, Topbas, who has served as Istanbul’s mayor since 2004, strayed briefly from the main theme to address in broader terms Europe’s most recent response to the ongoing refugee crisis which has effectively sealed entry into the EU at the Greek-Macedonian border.

“You must keep your doors open,” Topbas said, speaking through an interpreter. “Refugees and migrants will always find a way. If one is closed, another will be opened. We have to solve this problem. If not, the planet will be facing even bigger problems.”

“It is the cities where most (migrant-related) problems arise,” he said, adding that Istanbul is hosting more than 500,000 of the estimated 2.7 million refugees that Turkey claims are now in the country.

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Clip File for December 2015: Tamir Rice, refugee crisis in Slovenia, and the Beirut Marathon

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Here’s a roundup of some recently published photos that I’ve either only now been made aware of, or haven’t mentioned here or on my blog, Piran Café:

– Above, a photo taken last December at a memorial for Tamir Rice in the city park on the near west side of Cleveland shortly after the 12-year-old was shot and killed by a police officer. Sadly, more than a year has passed since the child’s death and the city has yet to conclude its grand jury investigation. The image was used to illustrate a story, Family of Cleveland Boy Shot By Police Want New Prosecutor (24-Nov-2015).

And catching up with a few others:

– Slovenia found itself at the forefront of Europe’s most recent refugee wave when Hungary closed its border in early October to refugees and migrants heading to points north via the so-called Balkan route, forcing tens of thousands to cross from Croatia into Slovenia in their journeys towards Germany, Scandinavia and other northern European countries. (More photos and a little bit more about my experiences at a border point are here; additional coverage of the refugee situation from Slovenia is here.) (New York Magazine): Slovenia Is Overwhelmed by Migrants Trying to Cross Border to Get in — and Out (21 Oct 2015)

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– Coverage of the ongoing peace process in Colombia, where I spent three months earlier this year. To accompany an analysis in Open Democracy: The ‘soft vengeance’ of peace in Colombia (02 Nov 2015)

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The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon – a Notebook and Primer

Young Syrian refugee boy selling flowers in Beirut. 09-Nov-2015

Young Syrian refugee boy selling flowers in Beirut. 09-Nov-2015

Cross-posted from my blog, Piran Cafe

NOTE: When I was in Beirut last month I met with country officials from the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF for a briefing on the situation of Syrian refugees currently living in the country. It’s one that has reached crisis proportions in less than four years: Lebanon now hosts more than one million Syrian refugees (some estimates are twice that), representing 25% of the population. That’s the world’s highest number of refugees per inhabitant.

I was planning to write a more complete story on the situation there but time constraints and other work commitments didn’t allow me the opportunity to visit any of the refugee settlements to speak with and collect stories from the refugees individually and directly, so the story was killed.

But rather than have the information I compiled sit on a hard drive gathering dust, I’m presenting my notes here for the benefit of others who may find the data informative and useful. To reiterate: this is not a complete article, only notes based primarily on interviews with relief agency officials in Beirut shared here because they are timely and relevant to debates transpiring around the world. My thanks again to Lisa Abou Khaled, the Assistant Communications Officer at UNHCR Lebanon, and Luciano Calestini, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Lebanon, for sharing their time and insights.

In Conversation with Lisa Abou Khaled, Assistant Communications Officer at UNHRC Lebanon and Luciano Calestini, the Deputy Representative for UNICEF Lebanon, on the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon

To most Europeans and North Americans, the Syrian civil war was little more than another headline from another of the world’s conflict zones. Until this summer that is, when the humanitarian crisis that has already displaced more than ten million people both externally and internally over the past four years began to more forcefully spill onto and into the borders of the European Union. Upwards of a million refugees are expected to enter the EU this year, according to the UNHCR – a four-fold increase over 2014— with the majority fleeing the violence in Syria, a war which has already cost a quarter of a million lives, leveled large parts of many major cities and towns, and rendered much of the country ungovernable and on the verge of total collapse.

Yet those figures dwarf the numbers seen in Syria’s neighboring countries which have been both literally and figuratively on the front lines of the humanitarian crisis since the war erupted in the middle of 2011. There are about 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, and about 630,000 in Jordan. But in relative terms, it’s been Lebanon that has been forced to absorb with the brunt of refugee flow over the course of the four-year war.

Since the conflict began, the number of Syrian refugees registered by the UNHCR in Lebanon has mushroomed: from 9,106 in March 2012, to 251,407 in March 2013, to 945,922 in March 2014 and to just under 1.2 million in March of this year. That in a country with a population of just over 4 million in an area smaller than the US state of Connecticut, half the size of tiny Slovenia and one one-thousandth the size of the US.

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Slovenian Activists Publicize Anti-Migrant Hate Speech Facebook Posts

From a Facebook post: “On trains. Freight trains heading towards Dachau.”

Just days after activists in Slovenia began collecting anti-migrant hate speech posts found on Facebook for a shaming website, posters allegedly identifying the individuals, and linking them to their remarks, began to appear in the capital Ljubljana.

Vile text from posts and comments suggesting the heinous ways in which the tens of thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants now passing through Slovenia should be slaughtered appeared next to images of the individuals who shared them, in most cases snapshots of the proverbial ‘guy or gal next door’.

It was an action that left me uncomfortable on two extreme levels: on the one hand it had a smell of vigilantism and mob rule that always rubs me the wrong way; and on the other, it clearly illustrated the confidence and comfort with which “everyday” people now openly share and support what is ostensibly modern day Nazi era rhetoric. (For the record, the latter bothers me much more than the former in this case, but that doesn’t mean one concern necessarily outweighs the other.)

The site has since removed most of the images (after asking those portrayed to make public apologies), its editors deciding to cease with the updates. It attracted a fair bit of local media attention and did stimulate some meaningful debate.

A little more on my blog here and a brief follow-up here.

Images for editorial use available via Corbis and Demotix. – or get in touch.


Slovenia: Student Petition Delays Law Granting Army Police Powers

Petition aimed to block policing powers for army in Slovenia


LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA – A referendum drive organized by a student radio station temporarily blocked a bill passed last week that granted the army police powers to help with the refugee and migrant crisis currently overwhelming Slovenia. Organizers were collecting signatures in several cities around the country. Here are a few of my images of the petitions available via Corbis and Demotix.


Slovenia’s Brezice and Dobova Refugee Camps – 38 Images

I spent a large part of yesterday near the Slovenian-Croatian border in the towns of Dobova and Brezice where a logjam of migrants making their way to northern Europe is becoming particularly acute. As usual, children, like the girl above, are making the most of the surreal situation they find themselves in only because they happened to be born in Syria or Afghanistan.

I’ll write more about my experiences over the next few days but the immediate problem here in Slovenia is essentially this: Since Hungary sealed its border last weekend, Croatia has been moving way more migrants across the border than Slovenia has the capacity to process, house and transport in a reasonably orderly way. Migrants aren’t being taken only to the designated agreed upon areas; Croatian authorities are delivering people, unannounced, to both minor border crossings as well as the proverbial “middle of nowhere”, forcing people to cross wide muddy fields, ford rivers and creeks and slush through marshes in near-freezing temperatures. Which means many are arriving in Slovenia wet, cold and sick, only to be forced, in many cases, to spend the night in the open because there simply aren’t enough centers in which to house them.

And the situation is expected to get much worse very quickly.

A few more images below; for editorial inquiries check out 38 images available via Corbis / Demotix here:

Police escort migrants from a refugee center in Brezice, Slovenia

Police escort migrants from a refugee center in Brezice, Slovenia

Slovenian army personnel arriving in the border town of Dobova

Slovenian army personnel arriving in the border town of Dobova

A Syrian migrant at refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia

A Syrian migrant at refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia

The remains of two tents that were destroyed when a fire broke out at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia

The remains of two tents that were destroyed when a fire broke out at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia

A boy playing with fire at a refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia

A boy playing with fire at a refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia