2015

2015: Wasted life

2015 has been a tragic year, here is a remembrance to the lives that were lost.

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggle to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.
The figure covers entries via six European Union nations – Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The vast majority arrived by sea but about 34,000 made their way over land via Turkey.
Germany has received the highest number of new asylum applications, with more than 315,000 by the end of October. Germany has a quota system which redistributes asylum seekers around its federal states based on their tax income and existing population density.
The UK has opted out of any plans for a quota system but, according to Home Office figures, 1,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years.
Most of those heading for Greece take the relatively short voyage from Turkey to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos – often in flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats. The voyage from Libya to Italy is longer and more dangerous. According to the IOM, over 3,695 migrants have died trying to make the crossing this year – most died on the crossing from north Africa and more than 700 died in the Aegean crossing from Greece to Turkey.
Asylum applications from Syrians in Europe have plummeted in 2015, owing to the country’s ongoing civil war which began over four years ago.
Terrorists forced their way into the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this year. The victims were nine members of current and former staff at Charlie Hebdo and a maintenance worker in the building.
Je suis Charlie started trending as thousands showed solidarity with the victims. The simple message- which translates as “I am Charlie” became a symbol of solidarity across the world.
The following day, as police continued their search for the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects, a lone gunman shot two people including a policewoman who died from the incident in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge. The French authorities initially dismissed any suggestion of a link between the shooting and the Charlie Hebdo killings, but later confirmed the two were connected.
The fugitives were holed up in a printing firm called Creation Tendance Decouverte on an industrial estate on the outskirts of the town. Hundreds of armed officers surrounded the building, where Said and Cherif Kouachi – the former bleeding from a bullet wound to the neck – had fled following a car chase. Elite forces deployed snipers, helicopters and military equipment – sealing off any means of escape for the suspected killers and beginning a tense, eight-hour stand-off.
Meanwhile, a gunman then took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris after a shootout. Police quickly surrounded the building.
This year’s second load of deadly attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers which hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded with over 100 left in a critical condition. Three days of national mourning followed the attacks.
The attacks were described by President Francois Hollande as an “act of war” organised by Isis. One of the attackers was said to have shouted “God is great” in Arabic whilst another witness heard a gunman blaming President Hollande for intervening in Syria. It was the first clear evidence that Paris was once again being targeted by Islamist extremists.
In the aftermath of the attack, Paris has mobilized 115,000 security forces, carried out multiple raids, and conducted airstrikes over Raqaa, the Syrian city that serves as the Islamic State’s de facto capital.
Grexit
Following Greek voters’ overwhelming rejection in 2015 of a bailout deal offered by its creditors, the long-feared possibility that Greece will exit the eurozone seems more likely than ever.
Greece adopted the euro as its currency. Greece had been an EU member since 1981, but its annual budget deficit was never low enough to satisfy the eurozone’s Maastricht Criteria.
All went well for the first several years. Like other eurozone countries, Greece benefited from the power of the euro, which meant lower interest rates and an inflow of investment capital and loans.
However, in 2004, Greece announced it had lied to get around the Maastrict Criteria. The EU didn’t impose any sanctions since France and Germany were also spending above the limit at the time. There was uncertainty on exactly what sanctions to apply since expelling Greece, would be highly disruptive and possibly weaken the euro itself.
A strong euro would convince also other EU countries, such as the UK, Denmark, and Sweden, to adopt the euro.
Subsequently Greek debt continued to rise until the crisis erupted in 2009.
All 224 on board, including 17 children were killed, when a Metrojet flight from Sharm el-Sheikh bound for St Petersburg when the Airbus A321 crashed into the Sinai desert. The cause of the crash remains unknown and claims of responsibility from Islamic State have been dismissed by Russian authorities.
Following this, restrictions were placed on flights meaning that only 1,500 Britons of the total 20,000 in Sharm el-Sheikh returned on time causing chaos at the popular tourist destination.
Egypt is leading the investigation into what brought down the plane. While UK and US intelligence have indicated that the evidence they have seen points to a bomb, the Egyptians have been more cautious.
Egypt’s foreign minister has complained that western countries have been too quick to draw conclusions.
Thousands of people lost their lives whilst many more were injured in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hit Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu and it’s surrounding areas in late April, an alarming number of aftershocks of which were felt throughout May, including one which measured 7.3 on 12 May.
Sindhupalchok was amongst the worst hit district within the country as more than 2000 people died, followed by Kathmandu where 1000 or perhaps more perished. Thousands were severely injured by falling debris caused by the earthquake or powerful aftershocks, some of which could be felt all the way through to New Delhi, India.
Many more people were left homeless by the catastrophe and the country began to run out of food and water soon afterwards alongside suffering from frequent power cuts.
Pakistani Earthquake
At least 200 people died in Pakistan and roughly 1,000 more were reported injured whilst 73 people have died in Afghanistan and over 300 have been injured following a major earthquake hit northeaste of the country this month, sending shock waves across South Asia.
The quake’s epicenter was 213 kilometers (130 miles) deep and 73 km (45 miles) southeast of Feyzabad in a remote area of Afghanistan in the Hindu Kush mountain range. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measured the quake’s intensity at 7.5.
At least 12 students at a girls’ school died in a stampede as they tried to escape shaking buildings in Afghanistan’s Takhar province and another 42 girls were taken to the hospital in the provincial capital of Taluqan.
Ankara Bombings
At least 95 people were killed in Ankara, Turkey, when two suspected suicide bombers struck a rally of pro-Kurdish and Labour activists outside the capital’s main train station just weeks before elections in the worst attack of its kind on Turkish soil.
As well as the 95 dead, 246 wounded people were still being treated, 48 of them in intensive care, the prime minister’s office have since announced.
Two senior security sources said initial signs suggested Islamic State was behind the Ankara attack, and that it bore striking similarity to a July suicide bombing in Suruc near the Syrian border, also blamed on the radical Islamists.
At least 39 people, mostly foreigners, were killed and 36 injured in an attack on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse, officials say. Tunisians, Britons, Germans, Belgians, French and at least one Irish citizen are among the dead in the attack claimed by Islamic State (IS).
The attack was the deadliest in Tunisia’s recent history. The country has seen militant Islamists gain strength since the overthrow of long-serving ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising in 2011.
The government has not yet been able to effectively combat extremist violence made worse by a raging conflict in neighbouring Libya and by Tunisian fighters returning home after going to join extremist campaigns in Iraq and Syria.
Bangkok Bombings 
A bomb planted in the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok killed 22 – nearly half of them foreigners – and wounded over 120.
The Thai government states that the attack at the popular Hindu shrine is the heart of Bangkok was aimed at wrecking the economy, which depends heavily upon tourism.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the blast although a man was captured on CCTV dumping a bag and walking away. Police stated that they were considering the possibility of the ethnic Uighurs being behind the bombing in retaliation to Thailand forcibly returning 109 Uighurs to China last month.
The blast came at a sensitive time for Thailand which has included violent struggles for power between political fractions within the capital.
Charleston Shooting
Nine people were shot dead during a bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. A 21 year old white supremacist named Dylann Roof has been charged with the racially motivated crime. Witnesses said he spent around fifty minutes inside the group before entering fire and then driving away.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in a statement released to the media through his presidential campaign team.
To justify the dramatic escalation of his rhetoric on Islam, Trump stated that ‘polling data’ underlined what he said was the violent hatred of followers of the faith toward Americans in reference to the suggestion that 25% of Muslims in the US believed violence against America was justified by the Center for Security Policy. When asked what prompted such a radical suggestion, he simply replied “death”.
Trump’s statement was met with angry responses on the part of prominent Muslim American groups. Critics have said Trump’s plan rejects American values by singling out people based on their religion and would also likely be illegal and unconstitutional.
Volkswagen recently admitted that 11 million of their cars worldwide were fitted with software that enabled them to cheat on emissions tests. Devices were fitted to the engines of models such as the VW Golf to give false low readings that meet strict rules on toxic emissions.
The Clean Air in London campaign described the effects of diesel vehicle emissions as the “biggest public health catastrophe”. The organisation’s founder, Simon Birkett, said: “If manufacturers have deliberately contributed to that problem in some way the only way to get to the bottom isn’t a police investigation but something that has much wider powers”.
VW boss Martin Winterkorn has issued an apology in a video statement on Volkswagen’s website.
Steel Industry
It has been declared that the British steel industry is in full-scale crisis. Thousands of job losses have been announced in the sector in recent weeks, with the collapse of SSI in Redcar, Cleveland, and cutbacks at Tata Steel in North Lincolnshire and in Lanarkshire.
The industry blames what it says are unfair Chinese imports, as well as the higher energy costs it faces compared with rivals elsewhere in Europe.
Alongside the tragedy of each job loss, and the ramifications for supply chains and local economies, the government has come under fire for failing to have a steel industry strategy.
The Government’s reluctance to help has effectively ended 170 years of steelmaking in Redcar, destroying specialist local skills and condemning the community to a bleak future.
Pig Gate Scandal
Claims that David Cameron once inserted his penis into a dead pig’s head as part of an initiation ceremony during his time at Oxford University have began to circulate following the publication of a book by a former high profile Tory member.
In response to this, the PM publicly rejected allegations made by Lord Ashcroft. “I can see why the book was written and I think everyone can see straight through it. As for the specific issue raised, a very specific denial was made a week ago and I’ve nothing to add to that,” Cameron told reporters accompanying him on a flight to New York.

 

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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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