Activists board ship off Spain in palm oil protest: Greenpeace

MADRID (AFP) – Greenpeace said Saturday (Nov 17) six of its activists boarded a tanker off Spain loaded with “dirty” palm oil to protest against a Nature-damaging commodity found in everything from soap to biscuits.

The activists, from countries including Indonesia, the scene of mass deforestation for palm oil plantations, were held by the captain of the ship after they boarded at sea, the NGO said in a statement.

Prior to that, “they unfurled banners reading ‘Save our Rainforest’ and ‘Drop Dirty Palm Oil’,” it added.

The ship was travelling from Indonesia, the world’s top palm oil producer, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the NGO said.

The captain has turned the ship around and is heading to Spain, it added, where he intended to hand the activists over to authorities.

When contacted by AFP, the Guardia Civil police force said it had no knowledge of the matter.

According to Greenpeace, the ship is carrying “dirty palm oil” products, or those linked to mass deforestation.

Palm oil is a key ingredient in many everyday goods.

Growing demand for the commodity has led to an industry boom in Indonesia.

Green groups have long accused palm oil companies of rampant environmental destruction.

Many firms have made “no deforestation” pledges after coming under pressure, but activists say such commitments are hard to monitor and frequently broken.

As well as the destruction of rainforest, clearing peatland to make way for palm oil plantations causes enormous environmental damage.

Huge amounts of carbon are released when peat is drained or burnt, exacerbating climate change, according to environmentalists.

Peat fires are also difficult to put out and a key factor in outbreaks of toxic smog which choke South-east Asia almost every year.

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Government ordered to repay £1m to trafficking victims after High Court ruling

It follows a successful challenge by two claimants, a 19-year-old asylum seeker and a victim of sex trafficking, against the cuts.

Their case was supported by charities for victims of trafficking.

At the beginning of March, almost two months before Savid Javid became home secretary, the weekly cash amount payable to more than 1,000 potential victims of human trafficking was slashed by 42%.

Their weekly allowance fell from £65 to £37.75, but they will now be repaid the missing £27.25 per week after the court ruling, at an estimated cost of more than £1m.

Mr Justice Mostyn found the government failed to comply with obligations under the 2010 Equality Act.

The judge had been told how the teenage asylum seeker had fled persecution and severe exploitation at the hands of traffickers.

The reduction in payments was said to have damaged his mental health and exposed him to a risk of falling back into the hands of traffickers.

Silvia Nicolaou Garcia, a solicitor from law firm Simpson Millar who represented the teenager, said the payment cut forced her client into an “increasingly untenable and, frankly, inhumane situation”.

“He couldn’t afford the travel necessary to meet with his solicitors, which he is required to do on a regular basis, he had accrued debt and he could no longer afford to buy clothes, food, or mobile credit to allow him to keep in touch with his professional support network or his friends,” she said.

“We hope that the reversal of the cuts, and a back payment to cover losses, will help to provide stability and, importantly, safety for him.”

The other claimant, known as “K” and described as suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after being sex trafficked, said after the ruling: “I was so low because I was not able to do the activities which had been helping me before my money was cut.

“Now that I can afford to re-engage with my support network and activities, it makes me hopeful for my future.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey attacked the prime minister, who has long championed efforts to tackle modern slavery, over the case.

He said: “Theresa May once rightly called modern slavery the great human rights issue of our time, but her government cut support for victims by 40%, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation.

“Now that the court has ruled those cuts unlawful, the government must reverse them and ensure that victims receive the help they need to escape the terrible bonds of slavery.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We accept the court judgement and will set out our response in due course.”

The spokesman added that ministers are committed to ensuring victims of modern slavery got the support they needed.

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Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn pushed out over £75m pay row

The UK’s largest housebuilder said he would go “by mutual agreement” on 31 December and be replaced on an interim basis by the group’s managing director David Jenkinson pending the appointment of a permanent successor.

The company’s statement said of Mr Fairburn’s departure: “The board believes that the distraction around his remuneration from the 2012 LTIP (long-term incentive) scheme continues to have a negative impact on the reputation of the business and consequently on Jeff’s ability to continue in his role.”

Almost half of Persimmon’s investors voted against its pay report at the AGM in April.

The decision to cut him loose risked a further backlash as it emerged that because he had been asked to leave, the firm could not prevent the payment of the payouts due to him under the share option scheme.

Persimmon said Mr Fairburn had agreed to cut his 12-month notice period and would not receive any further salary or benefits after 31 December.

Shares – down 14% in the year to date – were 0.3% lower in early deals.

Mr Fairburn – and other executives – first agreed to cut their awards in February after widespread outrage over the sums which critics said were inflated by government housing market stimulus in the form of the Help to Buy.

He had been due to receive £100m but gave up £25m.

Mr Fairburn said: “I had hoped that revealing my plans to create a charitable trust and to waive a proportion of the award would enable the company to put the issue of the 2012 LTIP behind it.

“However, this has not been the case and so it is clearly now in the best interests of Persimmon that I should step down.”

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