Showing posts with label England. Show all posts
Showing posts with label England. Show all posts

June 22, 2020

Reading Weeps (Gay Men Killed)

Forbury Gardens before the attackImage copyright

Image captionGroups had been relaxing in Forbury Gardens in the centre of Reading when the attack happened

Reading's Forbury Gardens were dotted with groups of friends relaxing in the early evening sunshine when the peace was shattered by a commotion and frantic shouts of "run". Three people had been stabbed to death in an attack that has left the town reeling.
"Everyone was just having fun and then suddenly a man shouted," said Lawrence Wort, who had been sitting nearby.
The 20-year-old said he could not make out the words or in what language they were spoken.
What he could see was a man with a "massive knife".
"He stabbed the first person - they were sat in a circle in a big group of about eight to ten people - and he darted round anti-clockwise, got one, went to another, stabbed the next one, went to another and stabbed them."

Floral tributes
Image captionFloral tributes have been laid at the scene

Khairi Saadallah, 25, was arrested at the scene by unarmed officers who have been praised for their "incredible bravery".
He remains in police custody on suspicion of murder.
As well as those killed in the attack, three more people were injured. 
Greg Wilton, who tried to help the victims, said he had been left "very shocked and shaken".
He was having a picnic with his wife and three friends, after listening to speeches at a Black Lives Matter protest held in the park earlier in the day.
"We stayed in the park as the weather was nice and had some drinks," he said.
"At one point without much noise we noticed a commotion on the other side of the park. 
"We ran over and without seeing an attacker we found three men lying on the floor bleeding profusely from what we thought was their heads, necks or body. 
"Another member of the public took off his t shirt and tried to stop the bleeding alongside someone we assume to be his girlfriend. 
"Me and my friend, Tom, put a second victim in the recovery position and tried to stem his bleeding from his ear with my canvas shopping bag."
He said Reading as normally a "relatively peaceful" town. 
On Sunday, an atmosphere of shock and mourning was palpable in the town centre - where bloodied roads were cordoned off by police.
Large areas outside the gardens are taped up, and the streets are largely deserted but for police officers, journalists and TV crews.
Locals who had ventured into the town said they were frightened.
"I was scared to be here but I have to be here for work," said Marie Castro, from Slough, who works at a coffee shop in the town. 
The attack "doesn't seem right for Reading", she said.
"It's multicultural and really friendly. I was really shocked when I heard the news".
Alice Penney, who moved to Reading from Kent a year ago, said she left the town and went to a friend's house after hearing about the stabbings.
"I was absolutely mortified. I had been at the protest a few hours earlier when I heard the news. It was something I couldn't process.
"I feel like we cheated death. It's a safe place, normally. It's very confusing." 

Police officer at the scene
Image captionCordons and police tape are now a common sight on the deserted streets
James Hill
Image captionJames Hill is among those who have laid flowers at the scene to remember the victims
Joe Ritchie-BennettImage copyright
Image captionJoe Ritchie-Bennett has been named as the second victim of the stabbings

An American man is the second victim of the Reading stabbings to be named.
Joe Ritchie-Bennett had lived in the UK for 15 years, his father confirmed to US TV network CBS. His friend James Furlong and one other person also died.
Meanwhile, police continue to question the suspect in Saturday's attack, Khairi Saadallah, who has been arrested under the Terrorism Act. 
Sources told the BBC he was originally from Libya and came to the attention of MI5 in 2019. 
A two-minute silence was held at 10:00 BST for the three victims. 
As helicopters patrol the town from above, on the ground floral tributes have been laid.
James Hill, from Reading, said: "I've come here today because I've lived in Reading all my life. 
"This park is very close to my heart - I know it very well - and I feel obliged when something as bad as this happens, that I play my part and make a tribute."
One card left near the scene reads: "There are no words that anyone can say to express how horrible and senseless this was."
Another simply states: "Reading weeps."

May 16, 2020

Ireland and England Have Taken Two Different Routes on COVID-19 But iT was Ireland Who Went Smart

                      Shamrocks and Four Leaf Clovers, What's the Difference? - Tenon Toursrose - Wiktionary    SMYCKA Artificial flower, Rose, red - IKEA IrelandShamrocks and Four Leaf Clovers, What's the Difference? - Tenon Tours

March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his fiancée, Carrie Symonds, could be found standing among an 81,000-strong crowd at a stadium in Twickenham, just west of London. There, they watched England play Wales at rugby, shook many an unwashed hand and joined heartily in celebrations as England narrowly bested its rival.
But here in Dublin, Ireland’s normally bustling capital, the rugby field was empty that day. That was because the government had cancelled Ireland’s scheduled match with Italy as one of its first precautions against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Days later, the government closed schools, universities and child care facilities, and banned mass gatherings. All non-essential businesses throughout Ireland, including pubs, were then ordered to close. The lockdown is only scheduled to be lifted gradually later this month. Yet in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, schools, pubs, restaurants, cafes and other businesses remained open until Johnson ordered them shuttered in stages starting on March 20.
“North and south, there have been two different approaches to coronavirus, and with two different results,” says Samuel McConkey, a professor specializing in infectious diseases at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
The U.K. currently has the fourth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with just over 200,000, and it could soon surpass Italy and Spain to take the No. 2 spot behind the United States. The U.K. also now has the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in Europe, with more than 30,000, also second only to the U.S. globally. Meanwhile, Ireland has just under 1,400 deaths out of just over 22,000 cases—a notable difference even with Ireland’s smaller population. Data from the European Union indicates that Ireland saw much the same number of total deaths this week than it normally does at this time of year.
This discrepancy has also had a significant political impact, both north and south of Ireland’s contentious land border. The left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein party, which is riding high after its unexpected success in Ireland’s most recent general election in February, has seized on the pandemic to reiterate calls for a single health policy on the island. Sinn Fein’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, recently called COVID-19 a powerful “accelerant” in her party’s calls for Irish unity.
Pro-British unionist politicians in Northern Ireland have accused Sinn Fein of turning a public health crisis into a political football, while condemning any moves to take a lead from Dublin, rather than London, in tackling the virus. Nonetheless, “there’s a growing feeling here that London called this badly wrong,” says Colin Harvey, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast. “It just adds to a growing debate here about how we share this island.”
The first confirmed coronavirus case on the island demonstrated how interlinked its northern and southern parts already are. A woman who had flown to Dublin from Italy, then caught the train across the open border to Belfast, tested positive in late February. Ireland and the U.K. have a Common Travel Area agreement that guarantees free passage of goods and people. Until the end of last year, both countries were also members of the EU, which meant an open border. Now, Ireland remains part of the bloc while the U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU at the end of 2020, following a one-year transition period.
“With the virus arriving at the same time, both north and south, you would expect the death rates that then followed in the two parts to be roughly the same,” says Michael Tomlinson, a professor at Queen’s University’s School of Social Sciences in Belfast. “But what I found when I started looking was that instead, there are substantial differences.”

As awareness grows of the starkly contrasting approaches adopted by the U.K. and Ireland, many scientists have called for an all-Ireland approach to tackling COVID-19.

Tomlinson compared the two jurisdictions’ total COVID-19 death rates, and the rates for those who had died in hospitals, for a period up to April 20. He found that under both measures, the rates in the Republic of Ireland were only around two-thirds of those in Northern Ireland.
Tomlinson and other experts ascribe that to the Irish and British governments’ different approaches to tackling the virus early on, like Ireland’s decision to implement a lockdown sooner in March. Another key difference was that the U.K. abandoned its strategy of mass testing and contact tracing on March 12, shifting briefly to a controversial “herd immunity” strategy, by which enough people within the population gain immunity to the virus from having had it and recovered, so that the virus is unable to spread further. Irish authorities, however, stayed the course on testing the population—a decision that led to major backlogs in testing results, but likely helped Irish public health experts maintain a level of control over the virus’s spread that their British counterparts lost.
Comparisons of the numbers between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not easy, however, as they use different methods of accounting. Until April 28, Northern Ireland was abiding by the U.K.’s policy to only report deaths from the coronavirus that occur at hospitals, which likely caused a significant undercount. The Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, has reported all COVID-19 deaths in its daily tally.
Further complicating this is the fact that Northern Ireland has two agencies announcing figures: the Department of Health and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The two agencies produce different data, so the confusion in reporting—along with some actual errors and gaps in records—led the U.K. Statistics Authority in London to condemn the Northern Ireland Department of Health’s methods at the end of April, citing “serious public concern” over the reporting of data.
Behind these different approaches also lie significant political differences. “In the U.K., everything has to be controlled” by the prime minister’s office, says Tomlinson. “You see this centralization, too, in the development of the apps,” he adds, referring to smartphone apps being developed in London and Belfast to help track and trace the coronavirus. The U.K.’s app “will hoover up information for cloud and data analysts in Westminster,” Tomlinson says, “while the one in the Republic [of Ireland] will follow EU rules on data protection and allow a much more decentralized, community-based approach.”
Now, as awareness grows of the starkly contrasting approaches adopted by the two countries, many scientists on both sides of the border have called for an all-Ireland approach to tackling the virus. They argue that the island forms a single epidemiological unit, given its open border and generally similar culture and geographic conditions. Proponents of Irish unification have also been bolstered by Brexit, which a majority of residents in Northern Ireland voted against.
“Many people see Brexit as very economically damaging, to both the north and south,” says Brian Feeney, a widely respected columnist at The Irish News, a Belfast-based newspaper. “There is already one other strong argument there for all of us being one unit: the EU.”
Meanwhile, in the south, Sinn Fein’s historic success in the February elections also galvanized the debate there on Irish reunification. No party emerged from the ballot with a parliamentary majority, and the two parties most likely to form a coalition government, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both traditionally conservative and have long been fierce rivals. But last month, they reached an initial agreement to form a coalition, pending further support from smaller parties. The contents of the deal partially acknowledged the electorate’s nationalist shift by calling for the establishment of a designated unit at the prime minister’s office in Dublin that would “work towards a consensus on a united Ireland.”
Yet it is uncertain how the debate over reunification will play out on the northern side of the border. “In a divided place like Northern Ireland, there is a major challenge of leadership,” says McConkey. “There is a legacy of a dysfunctional executive, and a lack of human trust and ability to work together.”
“Without those things,” he adds, “people resort to the banging of drums: the unionists follow London and the nationalists Dublin. It’s really not very helpful, though, when you are trying to respond to a huge, global pandemic.”
Jonathan Gorvett is a journalist, writer and analyst specializing in European and Near Eastern affairs, currently based in Ireland

March 12, 2020

BBC Investigation Of LGBT Homeless Teens Across England


by Hannah Price

A BBC Three investigation has found that some local councils across England are asking young LGBT people who have been forced to leave home to obtain letters from their parents as "proof" that they're homeless.
Saskia* was 15 when she perched on the edge of her parents' bed and told her mum, who was suffering from terminal cancer, that she wanted a sex change. She didn't yet know the word "transgender".
"I needed to tell her before she went," Saskia recalls.
Through the haze of illness, her mum hugged her. She died a few days later.
A year later, she told her dad, and his reaction couldn't have been more different.
He shouted a homophobic slur at her, she says, and put his hands around her throat.
When he wasn't being violent, Saskia says her dad would emotionally abuse her by talking angrily about how her transition would tear the family apart. Saskia's sibling messaged her, saying: "I wish you died instead of mum."
Eventually, after an explosive argument with her dad, where she was told she was no longer welcome at home, Saskia left the house to stay with a friend's family. 
"It was a very strange, scary night. I kept waking up not knowing where I was or what was going to happen to me," she says.
It didn't hit Saskia that she was homeless until a few days later. The items she had quickly scooped up into a bag were all she had now.
LGBT homeless sleepBBC THREE

'I couldn't get a letter so I was left homeless'

The Albert Kennedy Trust, an LGBT youth homeless charity, estimates that one quarter of all homeless people under the age of 25 are LGBT and found that 69% of them have experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence.
When Saskia contacted Cornwall Council for help, she says they asked her to obtain a letter from her dad to prove she had been kicked out.
"Obviously I couldn't message my dad to ask for it, I was just terrified of being in the same place as him.
"I was trying to contact my family to try and get it [but] they just weren't cooperating.
"The council basically said without evidence there was nothing they could do." 
As a result Saskia says she was left sofa surfing for months, at 16.
"It was really terrifying to be waking up in a different place and finding out at school who I'm sleeping with that night, when I’d next be moving my stuff and not knowing if I was going to eat that day."
BBC Three contacted all 343 local councils in England and found that Saskia is not alone in her experience — 55 are asking young LGBT people who have been told to leave home for letters from their parents as “proof" of homelessness, unless there are claims of abuse.
The BBC has spoken to several people under the age of 25 that had to leave home because of their sexuality or gender identity and who say they are unable to obtain a letter from their parents or guardians. They say their local council is not supporting them as a result - because the council either does not believe that they are homeless or is labelling them as "intentionally homeless".
Some have been asked for letters even after they told the council they are victims of domestic abuse by their parents.
Of the 175 councils that responded to our questions only four said they never contact LGBT people's parents for proof that they've asked their child to leave home. 
Leading charities say the system is putting homeless LGBT young people at risk.
The Local Government Association said that because of "unprecedented funding pressures", they are becoming "increasingly limited in what they can do". They also said that more than two thirds of council homelessness services are now being "forced" to spend more than they budgeted for on homelessness.
LGBT homelessnessBBC THREE
Leigh Fontaine, services manager at The Albert Kennedy Trust, sees "proof" letter requests all the time.
"A lot of the time parents will say one thing to the local authority — 'Oh, no. I've not kicked my son or my daughter out' — but in the same instance they are telling the child they can't return home. I don't think that local authorities always take homophobic abuse in the home seriously." 
Nic Nichol, a housing barrister who has represented homeless clients for over 30 years, said: "There is a general societal problem of straight people — council officers — not understanding the degree to which being LGBT renders a person vulnerable."
After being contacted about Saskia's experience, a spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: "The experience of the young person highlighted in your report is not one we would want or expect for any homeless young person coming to us for help. 
"We're committed to treating everyone who approaches us for help and advice with respect and in line with our homelessness protocols. Any 16 or 17 year old coming to us for help with housing will, if homeless, automatically be considered to be in priority need. 
"In situations involving young people and where there has not been an allegation of abuse, we will contact the parents to establish the home situation and offer mediation if appropriate. Our aim is to keep families together, but in situations where this is not possible we will arrange alternative temporary accommodation."
The spokesperson denied that Cornwall Council asks for letters to prove if a young person is homeless but confirmed they do contact parents directly if there has not been an allegation of abuse.
LGBT homeless doorwayBBC THREE

'I felt like the council was against me'

Like Saskia, Reggie* found himself homeless at a young age. 
When he was 13, Reggie wrote a love note to the boy he fancied and sometimes sat next to on the school bus. No-one was ever supposed to read it but after accidentally leaving it at home, his mum found it.
"The breakdown of our entire relationship happened over one afternoon," he says. "The next three years were like living in hell, it was really bad."
Reggie says that his mum kicked him out when he turned 16 because he was gay and she was no longer receiving child benefit for him. 
When he approached his local council he says he was asked to provide a letter from his mum as proof he was homeless.
"I felt that the council were against me, as much against me as my own family, and I felt like I didn't have anywhere to turn."
He says he resorted to rough sleeping and other ways of surviving: "I've used apps and dating websites to be able to find somewhere to stay for the night if I'm desperate. I've felt like I had to have sex with the person I was staying with to be able to stay there."
He eventually sought shelter at a youth hostel, where he made the decision to go back into the closet, for his own safety.
"Being in a space like that was toxic for me because I felt like I couldn't be out — I felt like, if anyone did find out I was gay, something terrible would happen to me," Reggie remembers.
He describes the hostel as full of "casual homophobia, and casual racism… there was no other black person there, I'd overhear many racist jokes or jokes about gay people."

What support is there?

In 2017, homelessness activist Carla Ecola founded The Outside Project — the UK's first ever LGBT homeless shelter exclusively for the community. Carla experienced being homeless, and found there was no specific provision for LGBT people: "You don't really feel you belong in [existing] services or that they would really understand your needs, or that it's actually safe for you.
"Genuine solidarity would be an actual service delivery, funding bed spaces, making reforms in your councils to be able to support our community properly."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "This Government recognises that homelessness amongst LGBT people is an important issue and is determined to understand it better. That's why we are currently undertaking research drawing on people's experience.
"We are also funding bespoke training for frontline staff to support those identifying as LGBT and our findings from this and the research will help us to ensure we are meeting the needs of these individuals."
The BBC understands the training was voluntary and is due to finish this month - only nine, of the 175 local councils that responded, confirmed they have had specialist LGBT homelessness training.
The spokesperson added that in 2020/2021 they are providing £437 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and that councils have used this funding to create an estimated 2,600 more bed spaces and 750 additional specialist support staff this year.
But Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, says: "These findings are shocking and point to a basic failure to understand the needs of LGBT people facing homelessness and to offer appropriate support and protection. The government should take these findings very seriously and introduce mandatory training for all frontline staff working in homelessness, with the funding to ensure that councils can implement it."
Saskia is living in university accommodation now, but says she's still fearful for her future: "If I don't get a job straight out of uni, I know I'm going to be homeless again. 
"I feel like if I ended up on the streets — I couldn’t go out there another time, I don’t think I’d be able to survive it again. I barely survived it the first time."
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

August 31, 2019

The Rejection of Gay Asylum Seekers Claims Shows The Anti Gay Attitudes in England

                                       Image result for homophobic england

An immigration judge in the United Kingdom has caused a storm amongst LGBT rights activists after he rejected an asylum seeker’s claims that he was gay. Whilst full details of the case have not been revealed, the asylum seeker, according to reporting from the Guardian newspaper, claimed he was fleeing his country due to fears for his own safety. The judge denied the application for asylum in the first-tier immigration tribunal in London because the man did not have a gay “demeanor.” The claimant’s barrister compared the ruling to “something from the 16th century,” with LGBT activists voicing their disapproval. But what does this case tell us of the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers, and is it indicative of the Brexit-torn country’s future immigration stance?
The stereotyping of gay men during the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by homophobic government legislation and media coverage, resulted in a societal fear of gay men and the broader LGBT community.

Hadley Stewart 
Writer, broadcaster, and journalist
Gay men face the death penalty in 14 countries across the world. The European Union is comparatively accepting of LGBT people on the global stage, yet lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-Europeans continue to face other forms of prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, the UK is ranked eighth in the EU in terms of LGBT rights. The country remains a popular place for LGBT people to settle from continental Europe and further afield. So it is perhaps unsurprising that such an outdated view of LGBT people being expressed in a court of law has caused a stir amongst activists and human rights defenders. 
The judge exemplified why he thought the claimant was lying about his sexuality. The claimant’s witness - also a gay man - wore lipstick to court. The judge commented on this, suggesting that claimant’s appearance did not mirror that of other gay men. Moreover, the judge said that the witness had an “effeminate way of looking around the room” and that he was able to demonstrate his sexuality by his membership of an LGBT organization.
It is baffling that a judge would make such comments, which are deep-rooted in stigma towards gay men. These comments have no place in a court of law, nor in our society, and suggesting that somebody should “prove” their sexuality is nonsensical. In fact, I would argue that it mirrors practices in countries where homosexuality is illegal. Only a few years have passed since the United Nations called on the government of Tunisia to ban doctors practicing forced anal examinations of men who were “suspected” of being gay; practices that were deemed by the intergovernmental organization as a human rights infringement. There is no medical evidence to support claims that such examinations enable authorities to determine somebody’s sexuality.
Whilst the judge’s comments do not equate to these kinds of barbaric practices in countries where it is illegal to be gay, they do set the UK down a slippery slope. The stereotyping of gay men during the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by homophobic government legislation and media coverage, resulting in a societal fear of gay men and the broader LGBT community. The discourse surrounding the HIV crisis, and the insinuation from Margaret Thatcher that gay men threatened the values of her country, caused the isolation of this group within society. Poor mental health amongst LGBT people is often cited alongside discrimination and societal stigma, demonstrating the negative consequences such comments can have on those who hear them. These views belong in the past and have no place in today’s society.
What’s more, the judge’s comments also raise questions about the attitudes of authorities towards LGBT people. If a judge felt so at ease by making such offensive remarks, it begs the question of the extent to which homophobia can creep into immigration rulings and other Home Office matters. Arguably Prime Minster Johnson calling gay men “tank-topped bumboys” has the potential to give the green light to senior officials to make future comments of this nature, or use offensive views towards minorities to defend everything from court rulings to immigration policies.
The UK is currently going through a challenging time in its history as it attempts to divorce the EU. Whilst I am not suggesting that everybody who voted for Brexit is prejudiced, Brexit certainly caused a seismic shift of the political landscape, with offensive comments oozing through the fault lines. Racist and xenophobic comments seem to have found a rebirth amongst the general public, elected representatives and the media. Global politics, namely the throw-away comments made by President Donald Trump about immigrants, have further galvanized a once quiet minority within British society.
Such discriminatory views about immigration have also spilled across all aspects of society, perhaps in part demonstrated by the number of homophobic hate crimes doubling since 2014, with transphobic hate crimes trebling. This immigration case might be indicative of the need for reform, such as building bridges between courts and LGBT organizations, to ensure LGBT people are being treated fairly by the Home Office.
It is clear that the judge, in this case, lost all objectivity and prioritized his own archaic homophobic views when passing a judgment, which has the potential for devastating consequences for the claimant. Whilst the comments he made raises further questions about the influence of outmoded stigma creeping its way into future rulings, I would argue that they are symptomatic of broader societal unrest. At a time when the UK has never been more divided and lacking in empathy for minority groups, the country is in need of a unifying force to carry it through the next chapter of its history. I fear that the views expressed by the country’s current leadership are only validating such stigmatizing comments.
Hadley Stewart is a London-based writer, broadcaster and journalist.

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