Desperate battle for life on the Mediterranean

Bel Trew, aboard Dignity 1
Plucked from a sinking dinghy and convulsing on a rescue ship’s hospital stretcher, a heavily pregnant young woman spluttered blood from her scorched lungs. Wide-eyed with panic, Joy, 23, coughed and thrashed as a medical team fought to get intravenous lines into her arms.
Cradling her semi-conscious older sister, Lovett, on the floor beside them, I watched as three Médecins Sans Frontières doctors fought to save Joy’s life. “We’re losing her. Breathing tube,” shouted a nurse as medical equipment crashed to the floor with the roll of the charity’s ship, Dignity 1. The doctor, Pierre, read out the decline in her vital signs.
The sisters, migrants from Nigeria, had each inhaled petrol that had mixed with water in their inflatable boat as it began sinking after setting off from Libya. It burnt not just their skin but their throats and lungs too. “Adrenaline,” another voice in the team cried.
The sisters were among 94 men, women and children badly burnt by boat fuel that Dignity 1’s crew were now frantically trying to help. Everyone on board, from the ship’s cook to the journalists, was pressed to help save lives. My job, I was told, was to keep Lovett upright, breathing and alive.

For Full Article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/desperate-battle-for-life-on-the-mediterranean-nqgv5xnkt

PHOTO: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

They were hauled up screaming as the boat fuel burnt their flesh

The TimesBel Trew, aboard Dignity 1
The eight-year-old boy screamed as the skin on his back peeled off with the fuel-sodden shirt he had been wearing on board the flimsy dinghy.

The petrol, mixed with seawater, had burnt his flesh and he was now shaking uncontrollably.

A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team rushed to get him and his mother, Blessed, into the hospital on board the rescue ship. Several pregnant women, dragged off the same inflatable and covered in similar chemical burns, collapsed on deck.

The stench of cheap boat fuel covered the stern of MSF’s Dignity 1. All 94 men, women and children on board the dinghy that had left Libya that morning were saturated in it. Their burnt skin, fallen from their limbs, lay in jagged patches on the deck, like patches of dried glue.

Dignity’s medics picked their way through dozens of people, working on the most critical cases. Those who still had strength were screaming.

This was just one of four boats trying to make it to Italy that were found by this MSF patrol in 24 hours, making Monday one of the busiest days experienced by teams patrolling the Mediterranean for migrants. In total 6,055 people were rescued across Libya’s western shoreline by the Italian coastguard, international warships, and aid boats like Dignity 1. Twenty-two corpses were recovered too, but many more bodies will never be found.

Of those rescued 417, including 92 children and 70 women fleeing violence, were hauled on to Dignity 1.

“Please, please I’m burning. The fuel, I’m on fire,” moaned Irene, 22 and pregnant, as she pointed at her inner thighs, where the petrol had burnt holes into her flesh.

“My babies, have you seen my babies?” another woman called Patience cried, as she scrambled through the mêlée of people trying to peel off their fuel-soaked clothes in agony.

The survivors, mostly Nigerians, described how three hours into the perilous journey to Italy and about 20 nautical miles from the coast of western Libya, they had heard a crack as one side of the dinghy snapped, plunging 35 people into the water.

They said two little brothers, aged just four and five, had tumbled off the back of the boat and had been lost in the confusion. In the panic some people had grabbed jerry cans of spare fuel to help them stay afloat. Some emptied them to make them more buoyant, but that had made the water in and around the boat corrosive.

On Dignity 1’s lower deck the men and women who could stand stripped naked and were hosed down. Others were carried semi-conscious into showers, or bathed in buckets to wash the fuel from their skin.

Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/they-were-hauled-up-screaming-as-the-boat-fuel-burnt-their-flesh-6xnnpmpzj

PHOTO: ARIS MESSINIS/ GETTY IMAGES

Obituary: Boutros Boutros-Ghali

The TimesBoutros Boutros-Ghali, the sixth secretary-general of the United Nations, was a strong-willed third world intellectual whose brusqueness and plain speaking brought him into frequent conflict with Washington. As a result, the United States vetoed a second term in office, making him the only head of the world body not to be re-elected.

He clashed repeatedly with America, not only over Bosnia and Somalia, but over the leading role that he wanted the UN to play in global politics, with few concessions to the interests of the big powers. During the long Bosnian conflict, he refused to accept the US proposal to bomb the Serbs, and at a time of growing tensions between Europe and America over the break-up of former Yugoslavia, President Clinton lost patience with him.

Boutros-Ghali came to the job with strong credentials. As a senior official in the Egyptian foreign ministry, he had been one of the architects of the Camp David peace accords. He stuck to the proposals amid rising criticism in the Arab world. Yet as a Copt, and especially because his wife Leia (née Adler) was born Jewish, his chances of reaching the top in an overwhelmingly Muslim country were limited. Neither President Anwar Sadat nor his successor Hosni Mubarak appointed him as foreign minister, although he was eventually made a deputy prime minister. Still, Cairo saw the appeal that this cultured former academic had in the West, and, when it was Africa’s turn to nominate a candidate as secretary-general, the Egyptian government promoted his candidacy forcefully.

Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boutros-boutros-ghali-637jpzx70

PHOTO: REUTERS

Obituary: Professor Malcolm Colledge

The TimesThe cameras were ready to roll, the Iranian soldiers were poised for battle and the broadcaster Sir David Frost and his team were anxious to get the shot right. It was 1973, in the depths of pre-revolution Iran under the shah. Professor Malcolm Colledge, an art historian, archaeologist and Frost’s contemporary at Cambridge, had been tasked with reconstructing the Parthian victory at the 53BC Battle of Carrhae.

As a published expert on Parthia, (247BC-AD224), an empire located in the north-eastern part of modern Persia, Colledge was on the sidelines directing the troops. “I had to make do with only a hundred of the shah’s soldiers dressed in the ancient uniforms,” Colledge later recalled. “For the soldiers to prepare for battle, I gave the order ‘form a square’ in Latin, ‘quadratum facit’. The soldiers who were bemused at this venture nicknamed me ‘Dr F***-it’,” he added.

Someone on set, wanting to add drama to the scene, kicked up a “blinding shower of dust” to re-create a storm. “It only obliterated the battle from view,” Colledge said, with great amusement. The making of Frost’s eight-part series, Crossroads of Civilisations, on the history of Iran was of Hollywood proportions, costing some $2.5 million and taking four years to complete.

It would be one of many of Colledge’s TV appearances. His work took him across the region from Tunisia to Afghanistan. However, he was perhaps best known for his documentation of the intricate artwork of Palmyra, the 2,300-year-old desert oasis city at the crossroads of the Silk Road in Syria and now under the control of Islamic State (Isis).

Read full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/professor-malcolm-colledge-97dhxmwltl5

 

London Rioters Interviewed

The Boy Who Refused to Riot

Bel Trew
5 Sep 2011, Evening Standard

Five teenage boys are sitting on a park bench in east London. Most of them are wearing hoodies and hiding their faces. They look intimidating, the kind of group you would normally cross the street to avoid.

These boys, four of whom were involved in the London riots which took place exactly one month ago, want to give their side of the story, despite the danger of being caught by the police. They are taking a huge risk: very few perpetrators have been bailed and most are receiving lengthy custodial sentences. No one is talking.

Their friend Dangelo has convinced them to speak. Dangelo, 17, is a former gang member whose school sent him on a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme called Debate Mate last year in an attempt to turn his life around. It worked: Dangelo is preparing to study law and has a job. He is the only one in the group who didn’t riot.

Two of the group, Tyrone, 17, and Gregory, 16, are nominated as spokesmen.

Tyrone explains what happened on the evening of Sunday August 7, as the boys watched Brixton kick off on the news.
“The first broadcast [BBM] my mate received was Monday early morning 3am. We were together and it said something like every endz [areas] forget the postcode, we are united and meet at a specific local area. We thought it was a joke, it didn’t sound realistic.”

Tyrone and his friends ignored the message but the next day riots spontaneously started in the Hackney area “at about 5pm”, Tyrone explains.

The “broadcasts” were still being forwarded by people around London. Gregory’s friend received the same message at about 7.30pm Monday.

“My friend told me he wanted to go,” explains Gregory. “We got there [Hackney] about 8pm. There was a big parade of people through the street, they had already gathered and started to riot.”

Tyrone was in the same area. “There were loads of people smashing cars up already and shops like Argos, Currys, mobile stores. Policemen were being chased in opposite directions.”

Even though it was two days after the Tottenham disturbances, both boys claim the riots were directed towards the police because of Mark Duggan‘s death: “Everyone was thinking about Mark Duggan, that’s what I was thinking about, an innocent boy’s life. We were angry and frustrated with the Government,” says Tyrone.

“People were shouting that the police need to pay for what they’ve done,” confirms Gregory. “Because of the loss of another life, some were saying the reign [of the police] has to end today.”

The groups of people were varied: “There were white, black, Asian people – I saw businessmen join in. It wasn’t just one race or set of people,” says Tyrone. However, the rioters were predominantly young: “Mostly it was pissed-off teenagers, I only saw a few adults,” says Gregory. The youngest person both Gregory and Tyrone encountered was around 11 years old. “I saw a little kid with a TV running down the street,” Gregory confirms.

There were hundreds of people in this riot, mostly local to the area. “I bumped into people I knew,” says Gregory. But apart from meeting in the same area, nothing was organised: “We were just there at the time and angry, so everyone went mad,” explains Tyrone.

“I was smashing windows, like shop fronts and kicking things over, but I didn’t set anything alight. We’re not stupid, we’re not going to burn down our whole community because we’ve got to live here afterwards,” says Gregory. “In the distance I saw people burning a car.

“The focus was to get revenge on the police, not to harm any civilians; people care about our area – I don’t think the Croydon people do though.

“I was targeting the big franchises like McDonald’s. They’ve got insurance on their places, so they could be rebuilt,” he adds.

The scene was “chaos”, Tyrone says, “Lots of people were running away, trying to get away from the madness. People were shouting because their cars, their windows or their businesses were being destroyed. But the majority of the people that were there were getting involved.”

The police were quickly overwhelmed. “The police like to outnumber people and because they were outnumbered for once, they were scared,” says Tyrone. “They were just standing there watching the rioting happen.”

“I saw one guy phone the police to help stop people stealing from his shop, they said they didn’t have enough officers. The shopkeeper couldn’t do anything. Police officers doing nothing about it,” says Gregory. He describes another scene where rioters confronted the police: “I saw a group of guys fighting the police, pushing their riot shields back, they were throwing beer cans and rocks. The guys were shouting quite violently so I ran away.”

“The police vans and cars were getting destroyed,” Tyrone confirms. “I smashed up police cars because there wasn’t any local police station. I threw a few stones and bottles – loads of stuff was getting launched. The police were hiding behind the vans seeking cover.”

The looters followed the rioters. “I was in the front,” says Gregory. “When I turned back I saw people running into stores. People were looting after the rioters had broken windows. I asked, ‘What are you doing, that’s not rioting?’ They wouldn’t listen to me. There was more than one type of people out there,” he continues. “I didn’t steal anything. My mum brought me up better than that. People were using the opportunity to take free things. Some were clearly criminals.”

Tyrone also makes the distinction between the rioters and the looters: “Looting was pointless. Small-time businesses shouldn’t pay the price for something the Government did.”

The boys say “two different types were stealing … ‘organised criminals’ and ‘idiots'”. Some were opportunists, others, Tyrone explains, “came out just because they knew there was going to be a riot in this area and it’s their chance to make their money and go. Those people had vans.”

But the majority fell into the idiot category. “Look at what was looted: trainers, BlackBerrys,” Gregory explains. “If you wanted to make money you would have taken the tills. They went to Tesco and took bags of rice.

“I know kids whose mums drove them to the areas and told them what to steal,” he adds. Tyrone had people calling him to put in clothes orders. “You can tell the looters,” they said. “They were the ones posing in front of the news crews.”

“There was a guy who just wanted a Lyle & Scott T-shirt, stole it and went home,” says Tyrone. “But then another guy has at least £1,000-worth of trainers in his bedroom and he plans to sell them. From talking to looters I know it wasn’t for any political reason, that was the rioters’ job.”

Both Tyrone and Gregory say this was not mindless violence. “Peaceful protesting is pointless. What do the Government care? All you’ll get from protesting is a consideration. Rioting means they’ll get the message a bit quicker,” Tyrone considers. “I think the word is ‘publish’, we’re bringing a message to the Government, that we will fight back.”

“We were people protesters who switched to being rioters,” Gregory concludes.

All the boys come from single parent households. “We don’t see my dad – I don’t remember him,” says Tyrone tentatively. He lives alone with his mum in a council flat: “My mum is sick, she can’t walk so she can’t work, we all get on well, I respect my mum.” He is the main carer and emotional support as his siblings, who are older, have all moved out. “Sometimes there aren’t all the necessary funds all the time but we’re just like any working-class family, everyone is struggling,” he adds.

Tyrone was excluded several times from primary school for fighting. At school, he says, there are a lot of children with issues: “It’s not just normal problems, there are kids with anger management issues and that have experienced child abuse. A lot happens to children who live in an underprivileged community where the Government aren’t helping.”

Gregory also lives with just his mum in a council house. His mum works but Gregory will not talk about his father: “My mum manages, we don’t give her much trouble, she’s strict but fun.”

Gregory, who wants to be an aerospace engineer, has just finished his GCSEs and got “a few As, Bs and Cs”. The boys say Gregory is a good student, “I am well-behaved, but sometimes the teachers say I’m too smart for my own good.” Like all of them he has got into fights at school but has never been excluded.

Tyrone wants to go to university and eventually set up his own business so he “can give my kids something I don’t have, so they don’t have to struggle”.

“It’s harder if you are a young black male, they stereotype us a lot,” Gregory says. “Once you hit the age of 10 or 11 you start looking and fitting the part of this person that the police officers are looking for, who carry knives and weapons.” To these boys it’s not surprising that there were children on the streets the night of the riots.

“I see a lot of discrimination,” Tyrone says. “We get stopped [and searched] several times a day [by the police]. Even if you have the report paper proving they have already searched you.” “Even,” adds Gregory, “if it is the same officer.”

“We have to live in these communities but the police just come and patrol here,” says Tyrone. “The police only talk to the snitches, they don’t talk to the communities.”

They compare knife scars but, aside from Dangelo, none of them has been in a “criminal” gang. It is important to get the distinctions right. A gang, Gregory explains, is a loose term: “A group of more than four boys is classified as a gang. A gang is just a label they [the police] have slapped on us.”

They instead talk of “communities”, which include everyone in their geographical area. Gregory clarifies: “We live in a multicultural community that is labelled a gang. Everyone has respect for each other within it, which is why we don’t harm each other. If someone from another area has a vendetta against us, the logical thing is to provide self-defence which may result in a violent action.”

To the boys, the riots were specifically about youth issues: “Adults don’t feel the need to get involved because they don’t know how we are living it,” Gregory explains. “At the moment we’re being shunned by the community because the media are saying the youth are bad. TV shows like Skins depict us as drug users. The Government calls us gang members.”

“There is nothing for us,” Tyrone sums up. “How are we supposed to get a job to afford anything, when we can’t afford education in the first place now?”

“They need to stop taking away from the future generations. The first thing that went in the budget cuts was our education, our university, our Educational Maintenance Allowance. I can’t afford my books for college now,” Gregory adds: “I feel like the Government has doomed us to living the way they want us to.”

However, the boys do feel remorse. “I feel sorry for the people whose houses and business were trashed,” says Tyrone. “Now that everything has calmed down, it’s good it’s back to normal.”

All names have been changed

 

Dangelo’s story: I’ve realised you are not tied to the life you were born into

Dangelo, 17, is a hero among his friends. A former gang member, he has knife scars on his legs, admits to committing robbery and was sent to a correctional facility at 14 for a violent offence. As a final resort, his school chose to send him to peer-to-peer mentoring scheme Debate Mate.

It worked: Dangelo has debated at the House of Lords, is preparing to study law and now has a job with Debate Mate. While his friends were rioting, Dangelo, who lives in a council house with his mum, was at work.

“A few years ago I didn’t have any options, I was excluded from school, it was years of fight on the street. Teachers always said I had potential but no one actually helped harness that.”

Debate Mate mentors are top university students who are national and world debating champions. Some have come through the Debate Mate programmes themselves.

The scheme teaches debating to children from impoverished inner-city schools. The results are staggering. They train more than 2,000 pupils a week across London, Manchester and Birmingham, with some of their star debaters going on to study at Oxbridge. There is a real need – the UK has one of the world’s worst social mobility records, with four million children living in poverty.

“Not being able to express yourself is frustrating,” says Dangelo, “I had anger management issues.” At Debate Mate he was taught verbal skills and communication. “I got confidence, especially when I started winning all the debates. It also taught me leadership and teamwork.”

“Debate Mate gave me a sense of understanding and community. There wasn’t just one mentor there, all of them actually cared for the young people.

“The mentors are all university age, so could connect with you on another level that your parents and your teachers couldn’t. To have someone like your mentor actually help you get there and believe in you was so important.”

Dangelo’s dad is not around, although he recently got in touch: “It’s kind of hard without a dad but you get used to it,” says Dangelo. “It made me stronger in a way.” Dangelo’s mum works and in Dangelo’s words “tries to do everything she can”. In his GCSEs he got an A in English plus a crop of Bs and Cs.

“I am disappointed with my friends for rioting, there are better ways for them to express themselves,” he says. He even had a debate with them about it, “but we couldn’t see eye-to-eye so we don’t talk about the riots any more.”

“My friends would definitely benefit from mentoring and learning debating skills. The riots weren’t a coincidence. If I hadn’t done Debate Mate I would have been a part of the riots but I’ve changed my outlook. I’ve realised you’re not tied to what you were born into.” debatemate.com


www.debatemate.com

The boy who refused to riot

Five teenage boys are sitting on a park bench in east London. Most of them are wearing hoodies and hiding their faces. They look intimidating, the kind of group you would normally cross the street to avoid.

These boys, four of whom were involved in the London riots which took place exactly one month ago, want to give their side of the story, despite the danger of being caught by the police. They are taking a huge risk: very few perpetrators have been bailed and most are receiving lengthy custodial sentences. No one is talking.

Their friend Dangelo has convinced them to speak. Dangelo, 17, is a former gang member whose school sent him on a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme called Debate Mate last year in an attempt to turn his life around. It worked: Dangelo is preparing to study law and has a job. He is the only one in the group who didn’t riot.

Two of the group, Tyrone, 17, and Gregory, 16, are nominated as spokesmen.

Tyrone explains what happened on the evening of Sunday August 7, as the boys watched Brixton kick off on the news.
“The first broadcast [BBM] my mate received was Monday early morning 3am. We were together and it said something like every endz [areas] forget the postcode, we are united and meet at a specific local area. We thought it was a joke, it didn’t sound realistic.”

Tyrone and his friends ignored the message but the next day riots spontaneously started in the Hackney area “at about 5pm”, Tyrone explains.

The “broadcasts” were still being forwarded by people around London. Gregory’s friend received the same message at about 7.30pm Monday.

“My friend told me he wanted to go,” explains Gregory. “We got there [Hackney] about 8pm. There was a big parade of people through the street, they had already gathered and started to riot.”

Tyrone was in the same area. “There were loads of people smashing cars up already and shops like Argos, Currys, mobile stores. Policemen were being chased in opposite directions.”

Even though it was two days after the Tottenham disturbances, both boys claim the riots were directed towards the police because of Mark Duggan’s death: “Everyone was thinking about Mark Duggan, that’s what I was thinking about, an innocent boy’s life. We were angry and frustrated with the Government,” says Tyrone.

“People were shouting that the police need to pay for what they’ve done,” confirms Gregory. “Because of the loss of another life, some were saying the reign [of the police] has to end today.”

The groups of people were varied: “There were white, black, Asian people – I saw businessmen join in. It wasn’t just one race or set of people,” says Tyrone. However, the rioters were predominantly young: “Mostly it was pissed-off teenagers, I only saw a few adults,” says Gregory. The youngest person both Gregory and Tyrone encountered was around 11 years old. “I saw a little kid with a TV running down the street,” Gregory confirms.

There were hundreds of people in this riot, mostly local to the area. “I bumped into people I knew,” says Gregory. But apart from meeting in the same area, nothing was organised: “We were just there at the time and angry, so everyone went mad,” explains Tyrone.

“I was smashing windows, like shop fronts and kicking things over, but I didn’t set anything alight. We’re not stupid, we’re not going to burn down our whole community because we’ve got to live here afterwards,” says Gregory. “In the distance I saw people burning a car.

“The focus was to get revenge on the police, not to harm any civilians; people care about our area – I don’t think the Croydon people do though.

“I was targeting the big franchises like McDonald’s. They’ve got insurance on their places, so they could be rebuilt,” he adds.

The scene was “chaos”, Tyrone says, “Lots of people were running away, trying to get away from the madness. People were shouting because their cars, their windows or their businesses were being destroyed. But the majority of the people that were there were getting involved.”

The police were quickly overwhelmed. “The police like to outnumber people and because they were outnumbered for once, they were scared,” says Tyrone. “They were just standing there watching the rioting happen.”

“I saw one guy phone the police to help stop people stealing from his shop, they said they didn’t have enough officers. The shopkeeper couldn’t do anything. Police officers doing nothing about it,” says Gregory. He describes another scene where rioters confronted the police: “I saw a group of guys fighting the police, pushing their riot shields back, they were throwing beer cans and rocks. The guys were shouting quite violently so I ran away.”

“The police vans and cars were getting destroyed,” Tyrone confirms. “I smashed up police cars because there wasn’t any local police station. I threw a few stones and bottles – loads of stuff was getting launched. The police were hiding behind the vans seeking cover.”

The looters followed the rioters. “I was in the front,” says Gregory. “When I turned back I saw people running into stores. People were looting after the rioters had broken windows. I asked, ‘What are you doing, that’s not rioting?’ They wouldn’t listen to me. There was more than one type of people out there,” he continues. “I didn’t steal anything. My mum brought me up better than that. People were using the opportunity to take free things. Some were clearly criminals.”

Tyrone also makes the distinction between the rioters and the looters: “Looting was pointless. Small-time businesses shouldn’t pay the price for something the Government did.”

The boys say “two different types were stealing ‘organised criminals’ and ‘idiots'”. Some were opportunists, others, Tyrone explains, “came out just because they knew there was going to be a riot in this area and it’s their chance to make their money and go. Those people had vans.”

But the majority fell into the idiot category. “Look at what was looted: trainers, BlackBerrys,” Gregory explains. “If you wanted to make money you would have taken the tills. They went to Tesco and took bags of rice.

“I know kids whose mums drove them to the areas and told them what to steal,” he adds. Tyrone had people calling him to put in clothes orders. “You can tell the looters,” they said. “They were the ones posing in front of the news crews.”

“There was a guy who just wanted a Lyle & Scott T-shirt, stole it and went home,” says Tyrone. “But then another guy has at least £1,000-worth of trainers in his bedroom and he plans to sell them. From talking to looters I know it wasn’t for any political reason, that was the rioters’ job.”

Both Tyrone and Gregory say this was not mindless violence. “Peaceful protesting is pointless. What do the Government care? All you’ll get from protesting is a consideration. Rioting means they’ll get the message a bit quicker,” Tyrone considers. “I think the word is ‘publish’, we’re bringing a message to the Government, that we will fight back.”

“We were people protesters who switched to being rioters,” Gregory concludes.

All the boys come from single parent households. “We don’t see my dad – I don’t remember him,” says Tyrone tentatively. He lives alone with his mum in a council flat: “My mum is sick, she can’t walk so she can’t work, we all get on well, I respect my mum.” He is the main carer and emotional support as his siblings, who are older, have all moved out. “Sometimes there aren’t all the necessary funds all the time but we’re just like any working-class family, everyone is struggling,” he adds.

Tyrone was excluded several times from primary school for fighting. At school, he says, there are a lot of children with issues: “It’s not just normal problems, there are kids with anger management issues and that have experienced child abuse. A lot happens to children who live in an underprivileged community where the Government aren’t helping.”

Gregory also lives with just his mum in a council house. His mum works but Gregory will not talk about his father: “My mum manages, we don’t give her much trouble, she’s strict but fun.”

Gregory, who wants to be an aerospace engineer, has just finished his GCSEs and got “a few As, Bs and Cs”. The boys say Gregory is a good student, “I am well-behaved, but sometimes the teachers say I’m too smart for my own good.” Like all of them he has got into fights at school but has never been excluded.

Tyrone wants to go to university and eventually set up his own business so he “can give my kids something I don’t have, so they don’t have to struggle”.

“It’s harder if you are a young black male, they stereotype us a lot,” Gregory says. “Once you hit the age of 10 or 11 you start looking and fitting the part of this person that the police officers are looking for, who carry knives and weapons.” To these boys it’s not surprising that there were children on the streets the night of the riots.

“I see a lot of discrimination,” Tyrone says. “We get stopped [and searched] several times a day [by the police]. Even if you have the report paper proving they have already searched you.” “Even,” adds Gregory, “if it is the same officer.”

“We have to live in these communities but the police just come and patrol here,” says Tyrone. “The police only talk to the snitches, they don’t talk to the communities.”

They compare knife scars but, aside from Dangelo, none of them has been in a “criminal” gang. It is important to get the distinctions right. A gang, Gregory explains, is a loose term: “A group of more than four boys is classified as a gang. A gang is just a label they [the police] have slapped on us.”

They instead talk of “communities”, which include everyone in their geographical area. Gregory clarifies: “We live in a multicultural community that is labelled a gang. Everyone has respect for each other within it, which is why we don’t harm each other. If someone from another area has a vendetta against us, the logical thing is to provide self-defence which may result in a violent action.”

To the boys, the riots were specifically about youth issues: “Adults don’t feel the need to get involved because they don’t know how we are living it,” Gregory explains. “At the moment we’re being shunned by the community because the media are saying the youth are bad. TV shows like Skins depict us as drug users. The Government calls us gang members.”

“There is nothing for us,” Tyrone sums up. “How are we supposed to get a job to afford anything, when we can’t afford education in the first place now?”

“They need to stop taking away from the future generations. The first thing that went in the budget cuts was our education, our university, our Educational Maintenance Allowance. I can’t afford my books for college now,” Gregory adds: “I feel like the Government has doomed us to living the way they want us to.”

However, the boys do feel remorse. “I feel sorry for the people whose houses and business were trashed,” says Tyrone. “Now that everything has calmed down, it’s good it’s back to normal.”

All names have been changed

Dangelo’s story: I’ve realised you are not tied to the life you were born into

Dangelo, 17, is a hero among his friends. A former gang member, he has knife scars on his legs, admits to committing robbery and was sent to a correctional facility at 14 for a violent offence. As a final resort, his school chose to send him to peer-to-peer mentoring scheme Debate Mate.

It worked: Dangelo has debated at the House of Lords, is preparing to study law and now has a job with Debate Mate. While his friends were rioting, Dangelo, who lives in a council house with his mum, was at work.

“A few years ago I didn’t have any options, I was excluded from school, it was years of fight on the street. Teachers always said I had potential but no one actually helped harness that.”

Debate Mate mentors are top university students who are national and world debating champions. Some have come through the Debate Mate programmes themselves.

The scheme teaches debating to children from impoverished inner-city schools. The results are staggering. They train more than 2,000 pupils a week across London, Manchester and Birmingham, with some of their star debaters going on to study at Oxbridge. There is a real need – the UK has one of the world’s worst social mobility records, with four million children living in poverty.

“Not being able to express yourself is frustrating,” says Dangelo, “I had anger management issues.” At Debate Mate he was taught verbal skills and communication. “I got confidence, especially when I started winning all the debates. It also taught me leadership and teamwork.”

“Debate Mate gave me a sense of understanding and community. There wasn’t just one mentor there, all of them actually cared for the young people.

“The mentors are all university age, so could connect with you on another level that your parents and your teachers couldn’t. To have someone like your mentor actually help you get there and believe in you was so important.”

Dangelo’s dad is not around, although he recently got in touch: “It’s kind of hard without a dad but you get used to it,” says Dangelo. “It made me stronger in a way.” Dangelo’s mum works and in Dangelo’s words “tries to do everything she can”. In his GCSEs he got an A in English plus a crop of Bs and Cs.

“I am disappointed with my friends for rioting, there are better ways for them to express themselves,” he says. He even had a debate with them about it, “but we couldn’t see eye-to-eye so we don’t talk about the riots any more.”

“My friends would definitely benefit from mentoring and learning debating skills. The riots weren’t a coincidence. If I hadn’t done Debate Mate I would have been a part of the riots but I’ve changed my outlook. I’ve realised you’re not tied to what you were born into.” debatemate.com.

27 Stresses

Since one of our generation’s most troubled divas Amy Winehouse was found dead in her Camden apartment, international News channels exploded with talk of the 27 Club: the macabre trend of world famous musicians dying at this age. Unable to keep up with her lifestyle, much like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison who all died at the same age, Amy appeared to have burnt out.

But 27 Club is not just a dark twist of fate reserved for the rich and infamous. Scientific research proves that twenty-seven is a hard year for all of us. No longer in our freedom years and racing towards our thirties, this in-between age often brings with it confidence crisis’s, soul-searching and discomforting change.

Certainly as I approach the dusk of my 26th year, I wonder how the hell I got here. I’m terrified of successful people born in the Nineties (they’re CHILDREN), I nervously make Stalin-esque five year ‘life goal’ plans or just sit in bathrooms giving pep talks to mirrors. I’m right to be worried. If this transition, dubbed the ‘quarter-life crisis’, is not handled properly it can lead to disastrous results: it is no coincidence that the peak decade for suicides is the twenties.

Why? The most obvious change is a medical one. Twenty-seven signals the start of old age. According to research done at the University of Virginia, our mental abilities peak at twenty-two and then show considerable decline from twenty-seven onwards. Professor Salthouse, who lead the study, found that our speed of thought, reasoning and visual puzzle-solving ability all begin to deteriorate at this point. We simply can’t keep up with those a few years younger.

Mental decline is matched by a physical one. Twenty-six is statistically our physical peak. In fact, the average age to break a world record is 26.1. A recent study of over a 1000 athletes at National Institute of Sport, Performance and Expertise in France, showed that past twenty-six there is an irreversible downturn in our abilities. Unless you like swimming, then you peaked at twenty-one.

These two physical factors blend with the social malaise of being an inbe-twenty (you see what I did there)? These are the years of the quarter-life crisis with the ill-fated twenty-seven in the eye of the storm. ‘The key risk age group is the twenties,’ explains Dr Oliver Robinson at the University of Greenwich who has recently published a study into the phenomenon of the ‘quarter life crisis’.

“The problem is you may have reached your physical and mental peak before twenty-seven and have adult responsibilities but you’re not completely socially and emotionally mature. That sense of dissonance can be quite anxiety provoking. It’s the age of the adult-child. The combination of a fierce job market, a rise in multiple part-time jobs, bigger student debt and soaring living costs is making our twenties more difficult.

On average, we won’t own a house until we’re thirty-eight. Around 60% will rely on our parents financially until we’re forty. With the longest working week in the EU, the quarter-life sufferer has less time to find meaningful relationships and even if we do, a third of us are still living with Mum and Dad, so good luck making that go anywhere. Let’s face it, 27 is also a career milestone. After six years, the novelty of being a ‘proper’ adult in the working world, with your own business card and email signature, wears thin. At 27, you’re in for the long haul. Added to this, we’ve got to maintain a public persona of successful fabulousness via Facebook and Twitter.

For me, the signs that the big ‘two seven’ is looming on the horizon have begun: my Young Person’s Rail Card runs out in a few weeks. But I doubt I’ll go with a rock’n’roll bang like the Club 27 lot. I can’t deal with the hangovers and I can’t afford it.