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Between hope and despair: Refugees cross into Macedonia

Hundreds of refugees have passed through the Macedonian border from Greece unhindered after two days of clashes in which police used stun grenades in a failed bid to prevent them from crossing.

Police and security remained at the border on Sunday, checking the refugees belongings and bags as they allowed them to pass through.

About 39,000 people, mostly Syrian refugees, have been registered as passing through Macedonia in the past month, twice as many as the month before. Source: Aljazeera.

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Tearing down Ukraine’s communist past

John Wendle 

The work crew gathered on the pavement, smoking cigarettes and chatting. They were happy to wait and ill at ease with the task at hand.

They had been ordered to take down yet another Soviet memorial in central Kiev as part of Ukraine’s drive to free public spaces across the country of communist relics and change their cultural narrative with a package of laws.

With swift blows of a hammer and chisel, the heavy engraved plaque dedicated to a heroic World War II fighter in the Red Army came down. The street will now be renamed after a famous Ukrainian monk.

Read more: Tearing down Ukraine’s communist past

People & Power investigates South Korea’s disturbing rise in suicides, particularly among the elderly.

Loneliness, poverty, chronic illness, losing one’s job, the death of a loved one or the breakdown of a marriage - there are many reasons why people fall prey to heartbreak and despair, but most of us, thankfully, will find a route out of that unhappiness or at least develop ways of dealing with it.

Even for those who cannot, whose sadness turns into the ‘black dog’ of overwhelming clinical depression, the right help can still make a crucial difference to being able to cope - be it medical care, the understanding of therapists or the love and support of family and friends. Eventually some sort of recovery takes place, some balance and perspective is restored.

Yet for some the experience of depression can be so profound that none of this works, that all remedies and assistance seem valueless and there appears to be only one way out - to end it all and takes one’s own life. Such a step is, of course, a mark of absolute and final desperation, a tragic, wasteful act that can often be cruelly devastating for the people left behind. But people still do it, many thousands around the world every year; lost souls whose mental health has been damaged and stretched beyond breaking point.

Curiously though, some societies and cultures seem more prone to suicide than others. Take South Korea, for example, where suicide has become the fourth most common cause of death, with up to 40 of its citzens taking their own lives every day. For the last eight years it has had the highest suicide rates in the industrialised world (and the second highest in the whole world behind Guyana) and it is now, astonishingly the number one cause of death for its citizens between the ages of 10 and 30. 

Read more: People & Power investigates South Korea’s disturbing rise in suicides, particularly among the...

Gaza: A life under occupation

In July 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared that Israel would withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip.

 Israeli settlers living in settler-colonies in the Gaza Strip would also be forcibly removed by August 15, 2005.

 Ten years later, Israel, with Egypt’s aid, effectively maintains an occupation of the Gaza Strip, through an absolute land siege and naval blockade.

This means that despite Israel’s withdrawal 10 years ago, the Gaza Strip has remained occupied since 1948, when Egypt took administrative control over the territory following the Zionist expansion across Palestine and the founding of Israel.

 Decades later, Palestinians have yet to fully realise their nationalist aspirations.

Read more: Gaza: A life under occupation

Meet the volunteers saving the migrants Europe ignores

The distress call comes at 10:30 a.m. Ragino Fagner, a tough looking medic tattooed from shoulder to ankle, rings the ship’s bell. The ragtag crew gathers in the mess. A few nautical miles away, but out of viewing distance, are more than 100 people crowded onto a rickety rubber raft, desperate for help. They are migrants on the perilous journey from lawless Libya toward the Italian coast. Once in international waters and beyond the reach of Libyan authorities, they call for help with the satellite phone provided by their smuggler. The ship, a 98-year-old former houseboat called Sea-Watch, picks up speed and pushes toward the position the migrants radioed.

In recent years, unprecedented numbers of refugees and migrants, fleeing conflict, persecution and economic turmoil, have crossed the Mediterranean for Europe. In 2013, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 60,000 people arrived in Europe by sea. In 2014, that figure more than tripled to 219,000. And the numbers continue to rise: From January to June, 137,000 migrants made the journey, an 83 percent increase compared with the same time last year. Most are Syrians, Eritreans and Afghans; roughly half departed from Libya, the other half from Turkey.

In October 2013, after at least 360 migrants died when their boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italy launched an extensive search-and-rescue operation known as Mare Nostrum. But after saving an estimated 150,000 people in less than 13 months, the government halted the program, citing overwhelming need and a lack of financial support from other European Union members. The program that succeeded Mare Nostrum, known as Operation Triton and run by Frontex, the border agency of the EU, had a vastly different mandate. It was tasked not with saving migrants, but securing Europe’s borders.

Read more: Meet the volunteers saving the migrants Europe ignores