Malta Takes Some Migrants from Ocean Viking, but Leaves Others Onboard

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Malta Takes Some Migrants from Ocean Viking, but Leaves Others Onboard

Saturday, 21 September, 2019 – 11:30
The Ocean Viking rescue ship just off the coast of the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea on September 15, 2019. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
A group of 265 migrants were brought to Malta on Saturday, including 36 from the rescue ship Ocean Viking, but the operators of the ship complained that more than 180 other migrants on board had been refused disembarkation by the island.

The Maltese armed forces said 229 migrants among Saturday’s arrivals were rescued from three boats in distress in Malta’s search and rescue zone, reported Reuters.

Another 36 were transferred to a Maltese patrol boat from the Ocean Viking, which had rescued them in Malta’s zone.

The arrivals were the fourth group to arrive on the Mediterranean island in a week.

But Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which operates Ocean Viking, said in a tweet that 182 survivors from other rescues, including a newborn, children and a pregnant woman, remained stranded on board.

This, it said, “demonstrates the discriminatory, arbitrary and inhumane nature of a system which continues to prioritize political game-play above human lives and dignity”.

Malta argued that those people were picked up outside its rescue zone.

The island took more than 300 migrants from the Ocean Viking in August on condition that they would be shared among other EU countries, but most are still on the island, stretching its limited reception facilities.

The plight of the Ocean Viking, run by MSF and another French charity, SOS Méditerranée, has exposed Europe’s failure to come up with a coherent policy to deal with migration from Africa through Libya.

EU states have been at loggerheads over how to handle refugees and migrants reaching its shores since a 2015 spike in Mediterranean arrivals of people fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

On Monday Malta will host an EU home affairs ministers meeting which will discuss migration and how EU states may share arrivals.

Saudi’s: Erdogan Threatens to Open Gates for Syria Refugees to Go West

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Erdogan Threatens to Open Gates for Syria Refugees to Go West

Thursday, 5 September, 2019 – 10:15
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the new judicial year’s opening ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, September 2, 2019. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey for Western countries unless the safe zone inside Syria is established soon.

Erdogan made the threat in a speech to his ruling party officials on Thursday. He also said Turkey was determined to create the safe zone and would do it alone if there’s no deal with the US by the end of the month.

He said Turkey aims to resettle about 1 million out of the 3.65 million Syrian refugees in the safe zone.

Ankara controls parts of north Syria where it says 350,000 Syrians have already returned.

Erdogan said: “We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone.”

He also added that Turkey “did not receive the support needed from the world” to help it cope with Syrian refugees.

Under a deal agreed between the EU and Turkey in March 2016, Ankara agreed to stem the flow of migrants into Europe in return for billions of euros in aid.

Saudi: Boat with 356 Migrants Docks in Malta 6 Countries Accept to Welcome them

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Boat with 356 Migrants Docks in Malta as 6 Countries Accept to Welcome them

Friday, 23 August, 2019 – 12:00
Rescued migrants rest aboard the Ocean Viking ship at the Mediterranean Sea, August 21, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video. MSF via REUTERS
Asharq Al-Awsat
France said Friday it will take 150 of the 356 migrants disembarking from a humanitarian ship in the Mediterranean Sea after six European countries agreed to accept all of them.

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner tweeted that the 150 will be welcomed in France “in the coming days.”

He added: “Together, we managed to build a European solution.”

The Norwegian-flagged rescue ship Ocean Viking, with a stated passenger capacity of around 200, picked up the people in four rescue efforts off Libya from Aug. 9-12.

The migrants are being disembarked in Malta from the vessel and distributed to France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Romania.

Requests for a safe port were previously denied by Malta and ignored by Italy, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee, the two charities running the ship.

MSF welcomed Malta’s decision to take ashore the migrants rescued. But the group also questioned why it took so long, calling for permanent European solutions.

Jay Berger, operations manager for Doctors Without Borders on board the Ocean Viking, said: “We are relieved that the long ordeal for the 356 people on board with us if finally over but was it necessary to keep them waiting for two weeks of torment?”

In a statement, he added: “This is about people who have fled desperate conditions in their homelands and have survived the horrific violence in Libya.”

He said once the rescued migrants have left the ship, the Ocean Viking will continue with its mission after restocking supplies and refueling.

The European Union also welcomed Malta’s decision and the pledges made by the European countries to welcome the migrants.

EU Migration Commissioner Dmitris Avramopoulos said in a statement that “these commitments must now be honored and materialized swiftly.”

The EU’s border and asylum agencies will help screen people before they are relocated.

Saudi: Richard Gere Visits Migrants Stuck in Mediterranean

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Richard Gere Visits Migrants Stuck in Mediterranean

Friday, 9 August, 2019 – 11:45
Actor Richard Gere, right, talks with migrants aboard the Open Arms Spanish humanitarian boat as it cruises in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Valerio Nicolosi)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Actor Richard Gere visited on Friday rescued migrants on board a humanitarian ship that has been stuck in the Mediterranean Sea for over a week.

The Hollywood star took food and supplies by boat to 121 people aboard the ship of Barcelona-based Open Arms charity.

The ship has been floating in international waters near the Italian island of Lampedusa after being blocked from entering ports in Italy and Malta.

The 69-year-old actor carried fruit boxes on board and spoke to several migrants who had fled war-torn Libya on un-seaworthy smuggling boats before being rescued.

Gere urged the world to “please support us here on Open Arms and help these people, our brothers and sisters.”

Other European countries have yet to respond to the aid group’s request for a solution to the impasse over the rescue ship.

The European Commission should help the migrants, European Parliament speaker David Sassoli said in a letter on Thursday to the EU executive’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

Charity rescue boats have largely disappeared from the Mediterranean over the last year as governments have tightened controls and those that have rescued migrants have faced lengthy standoffs trying to disembark them.

Turkey: 6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

6,000 Unregistered Migrants Arrested in Istanbul

Wednesday, 24 July, 2019 – 09:45
FILE PHOTO: Migrants in a dinghy paddle their way on the Mediterranean Sea to attempt crossing to the Greek island of Kos, as a Turkish Coast Guard ship patrols off the shores off Bodrum, Turkey, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A crackdown on unregistered migrants in Istanbul has seen 6,000 arrests, including Afghans and Syrians, in the past two weeks, Turkey’s interior minister said Wednesday.

“We have been carrying out an operation since July 12… We have caught 6,122 people in Istanbul, including 2,600 Afghans,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told TV station NTV.

He said Syrians were part of the group, without giving numbers.

There has been concern in recent days over reports that hundreds of Syrian refugees have been sent back to Syria, after being forced to sign consent forms in Turkish that they do not understand.

Soylu denied the claims.

“When we catch Syrians who are not registered, we send them to refugee camps,” he said, citing a camp in the Turkish border province of Hatay.

However, Agence France Presse quoted him as saying that some Syrians were choosing to go back to their home country “voluntarily” to areas where fighting has abated.

Turkey has more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world.

Most have “temporary protection” permits but these restrict them to the province in which they were registered. The current crackdown is aimed at those who live in Istanbul without a permit to stay in the city.

A coalition of Syrian NGOs said Monday that more than 600 Syrians — mostly with protection permits issued in other provinces — were arrested in Istanbul last week and deported back to Syria, rather than to their assigned provinces.

A survey published this month by Kadir Has University in Istanbul showed growing hostility towards Syrians, rising from 54.5 percent of respondents in 2017 to 67.7 percent in 2019.

Refugees Constitute 41% of Palestinian Population: Report

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Refugees Constitute 41% of Palestinian Population: Report

Friday, 21 June, 2019 – 08:15
A Palestinian girl stands amid the ruins of destroyed houses on the outskirts of Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on January 19 | AFP
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
The population of refugees reached about 41 percent of total Palestinians residing in the State of Palestine at the end of 2018, revealed a report by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) published on Thursday.

The total of persons aged less than 15 years reached 39 percent (refugees and non-refugees) at the end of 2018, while that of elderly people aged 60 years and above (refugees and non-refugees) was about 5 percent.

UNRWA records indicated that the number of registered Palestinian refugees in 2018 amounted to about 6 million. PCBS said Palestinian refugees in the West Bank who are registered with UNRWA as in 2018 accounted up to 17 percent of the total refugees registered with UNRWA against 25 percent in Gaza Strip.

In neighboring Arab countries, the percentage of Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA reached about 39 of the total Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 9 in Lebanon, and 11 in Syria.

It said the poverty rate among the refugees was about 39% during 2017 according to monthly consumption patterns. This means that the monthly consumption of their households is below the poverty line which is NIS2,470 for a Palestinian household of 5 (2 adults and 3 children) while the percentage among the non-refugees was 22.

The poverty percentage among refugees was 15.7 in the West Bank and 54.1 in the Gaza Strip.

Data indicated a clear difference in the level of the unemployment rate among refugees and non-refugees, with the former reaching about 40% and the latter 24%. This is due to high unemployment rates in the Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate among refugees in the West Bank is 19% compared to about 54% among refugees in Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, PCBS said the results of the Labor Force Survey in 2018 showed that the labor force participation for individuals aged 15 years and above among refugees was about 47 percent compared to about 46 percent for non-refugees.

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

Saturday, 8 December, 2018 – 10:00
FILE PHOTO: Migrants disembark from the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Augusta on the island of Sicily, Italy, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello/File Photo
Geneva – Asharq Al-Awsat
French NGO Medecins sans Frontieres has warned that the end of operations of the last refugee rescue ship working in the Mediterranean Sea, Aquarius, would mean more migrants would die, as the UN expressed concern over the decision to retire the vessel.

“This is a somber day,” Nelke Mander, Medecins sans Frontieres’s general director, said in a statement Thursday. “The end of our operations onboard the Aquarius will mean more death in the sea, deaths that are avoidable and without witnesses.”

The decision to moor the Aquarius is the result of a “constant denigration, smearing and obstruction campaign led” against Medecins sans Frontieres and SOS MEDITERRANEAN by the Italian government and supported by other European countries, the NGO said.

The Aquarius was recently accused of trafficking waste and criminal activities — accusations that are “ludicrous”, Reuters quoted Medecins sans Frontieres as saying.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days with dozens of rescued migrants aboard to find a port in other countries.

Salvini has refused to take more migrants from the Aquarius, demanding other European Union countries take a share of migrants. He also said the rescue ships like Aquarius encouraged people to take the sea to cross towards Europe.

SOS MEDITERRANEAN director of operations Frederic Penard said “giving up the Aquarius has been an extremely difficult decision” but added that the group was “actively exploring options for a new boat”.

“Search and rescue capacity needs to be reinforced rather than diminished,” UN refugee agency spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

She stressed the need to leave “space for NGOs to contribute in a coordinated manner to these efforts”.

“Saving lives is our primary concern,” AFP quoted her as saying.

Aquarius has helped almost 30,000 migrants at sea who have attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Trump eliminated US funding for UNRWA and the US role as Mideast peacemaker

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

In one move, Trump eliminated US funding for UNRWA and the US role as Mideast peacemaker

Hady Amr   Frid

Editor’s Note:Through President Trump’s announcement that his administration would no longer fund UNRWA, America has further written itself out of the process of peacemaking in the Middle East, argues Hady Amr. Trump has sent an unmistakable message to the Palestinian people: He callously disregards their most basic needs. This post is adapted from a piece originally published on The Hill.

As if to boast, in a call to mark the Jewish New Year, President Trump told American Jewish leaders: “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians.” Trump added he told the Palestinians, “We’re not paying until you make a deal.” On the face of it, such an approach may seem like a typical Trump negotiating tactic, but the decision is so misguided that in addition to having dire immediate consequences, it will haunt the United States for years to come.

Author

Trump was referring to the State Department’s recent abrupt announcement that his administration would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), reversing a policy of support by every American president—Republican and Democrat—since it was created about 70 years ago as a cornerstone of America’s support for stability in the Middle East and flagship of our values to provide for the most vulnerable.

Indeed, UNRWA is so in-sync with our values that American citizens voluntarily give millions of dollars, collectively, to UNRWA each year via U.S. 501c(3) organizations—more than some whole countries.

But should we really be surprised? We already know that Trump’s actions have been antithetical to refugees at home and abroad, and we also know that in a global economy of over $100 trillion dollars, a meager $300 million cut by the United States should be able to be covered by another country.

That’s true on both counts, but in that truth lies the problem: the problem for America, for Palestinians, and even for Israelis. What is also true is that Trump’s action is based on such a fundamentally flawed misunderstanding of the situation that it may have the opposite of its intended effect.

But before we get to that, let’s look at the immediate impact: UNRWA, which provides vital life-saving services, health care and education to stateless refugees in the Middle East, is now scrambling for funds.

These funds go toward a modern, secular education for 500,000 boys and girls; vaccinations and health clinics that provide services to over three million refugees and a basic level of dignity for millions who otherwise would lead lives of despair.

While some donors like Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are stepping in to offset part of what the United States is cutting, UNRWA will still likely have to reduce services. Those service reductions hurt people who are not even citizens of any nation.

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So when UNRWA cuts back services in the impoverished refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza, what forces on the ground will fill the void? Whoever it is, they are unlikely to be America’s friends. Even the Israeli military knows that cutting funding for basic services to refugees are a recipe for disaster for Israel.

Nowhere are the UNRWA cuts more acute than in the Gaza Strip, where about two million souls inhabit a tiny area twice the size of Washington, DC that few can gain permission to leave. There, UNRWA provides services to 1.3 million people, spending about 40 percent of its overall budget.

Roughly 262,000 boys and girls are enrolled in 267 UNRWA schools there. Twenty-two health clinics provide for millions of patient visits a year. It is unlikely that any agency could provide significantly better quality services for less cost.

Through these moves, America has further written itself out of the process of peacemaking in the Middle East. Trump has sent an unmistakable message to the Palestinian people: He callously disregards their most basic needs.

Trump has also sent that powerful message to their friends and allies across the Middle East and the rest of the world. Trump’s message will engender the opposite of goodwill and will further erode America’s moral leadership in the Middle East.

Indeed, the long-term problem is more profound, and it’s essential to understand because the Trump administration seeks to redefine what it means to be a Palestinian refugee, which in turn could have implications for refugees worldwide.

Underlying the Trump administration’s cuts to UNRWA is the false premise that Palestinian refugees derive their refugee status from UNRWA. They don’t. They derive it from international law. UNRWA’s role is simply to provide social services to these stateless refugees—not determine who is and who isn’t a refugee under international law.

Also underlying Trump’s attack on UNRWA is the false premise that other refugee populations don’t transfer their refugee status to their children. Wrong again. International law conveys refugee status to children of other refugee populations until permanent homes can be found. People from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, and Somalia are but a number of the populations where refugee status has been conveyed to descendants.

Finally, underlying Trump’s decision is the false premise that cutting funds to UNRWA and to development projects in the West Bank and Gaza will somehow pressure the Palestinian Authority. Again, it won’t; others will fill the void. Anyhow, Trump is so unpopular in the West Bank and Gaza that any pressure he applies to the Palestinian leadership only makes them look stronger.

At its core, the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about two fundamental things: land and people. In particular, it’s about which group of people gets to live on which part of the land. Although Jews and Arabs are about of equal number in the Holy Land, in the past decades, Israel has had full control of roughly 90 percent of the land. The Palestinians have significant—but not full—control of around 5 percent. And around 5 percent is shared control.

What Trump’s actions seem to seek to achieve is to somehow convince the millions of Palestinian refugees to give up their deep and abiding emotional attachment to their homeland. Their homeland is the Holy Land, and their attachment to it won’t just vanish.

Whatever final status agreement is one day achieved, Trump need look no further than the Jewish people’s 2,000-year longing to return to understand that a few meager decades will not diminish the longing of Palestinian refugees to return.

Trump also need look no further than out his own window to the White House lawn, where in September 1993 an agreement was signed between Israeli and Palestinian leaders that many, including myself, passionately hoped would help channel Jewish and Palestinian mutual aspirations for peace, security, sovereignty and prosperity into a lasting agreement.

Although those objectives have not yet been achieved, failing to recognize one group’s attachment to the land—or worse seeking to obliterate their emotional connection—will only serve the opposite of the cause of peace and profoundly damage America in the process.

As with Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, American redemption may require a reversal by a future president. Meanwhile, perhaps direct donations by U.S. citizens can help recuperate a shred of our American dignity when it comes to Mideast peacemaking.

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

‘Human Trafficking’ from Lebanon to Syria a Thriving Business

Monday, 9 July, 2018 – 08:15
Syrian refugees arrive in Wadi Hamayyed, on the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern border town of Arsal, to board buses bound for the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib on August 2, 2017. AFP
Beirut – Sanaa Al-Jack
Human trafficking is currently spread at the Lebanese-Syrian borders as a thriving business due to the presence of some Syrian refugees who wish to return to their country without paying imposed
fines.

Asharq Al-Awsat witnessed how a group of brokers managed the smuggling of Syrian refugees from a travel agency near the vegetable market in the Sabra area in the Southern Suburbs of Beirut.

Those brokers, who operate at “administrative” offices, hunt their clients and bargain their safe and secure penetration through the borders, prettifying the adventure, which in many times could cause
their killing.

Most clients include Syrian refugees with uncompleted Lebanese residency permits. The Lebanese Security General does not allow them to leave the country before paying fees related to arranging their
papers.

Here comes the role of the smuggling. Amal told Asharq Al-Awsat about her experience with one of the brokers responsible for smuggling Syrians.

The broker had promised her husband, who works in the construction sector, to secure his safe passage by car through the border to his village in the countryside of Hama in return of $400.

The man paid the sum and left with his wife to the Masnaa border crossing in the Bekaa where they spent the night and were asked to remain in complete silence.

The brokers had told Amal that crossing the mountains from Lebanon to Syria would take one hour and that a vehicle would wait for them in the Syrian part of the border to take them home.

“They lied. We stayed running for more than eight hours in the dark. I lost my shoes and my feet were bleeding,” she said.

Even during the periods of tight security measures implemented at the borders by the Lebanese authorities, the illegal smuggling of Syrians does not stop, but only witnesses an increase of fees.

A security official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the trafficking of humans and goods is almost as old as the age of the borders between the two countries.

“We are exerting all our efforts to contain the smuggling but such mission remains impossible at the eastern borders with Syria which stretches around 145 kilometers,” the official said.