Britain’s May to press for strong union on Scotland visit

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May gives speech at the Department for International Development's office in East Kilbride, Scotland March 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jane Barlow/Pool
Updated 27 March 2017
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Britain’s May to press for strong union on Scotland visit

EAST KILBRIDE, Scotland: Prime Minister Theresa May told Scotland on Monday unity was crucial to Britain winning a good divorce deal from the European Union, in a new attempt to persuade the Scottish government to step back from independence demands.
Before meeting Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who has accused May of intransigence over her Brexit talks, the British leader told staff working on international aid that together, the United Kingdom was “an unstoppable force.”
May is battling to keep the United Kingdom together after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union revealed deep divisions, with England and Wales voting for Brexit, while Scotland and Northern Ireland supported staying in the bloc.
Just two days before the British leader launches the formal divorce procedure with the EU, May wants to try to stem demands in Scotland for a new independence referendum which could rip apart the world’s fifth largest economy and encourage nationalists in Northern Ireland to follow suit.
“As Britain leaves the European Union, and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our union will become even more important,” she told staff from the Department for International Development in East Kilbride in southern Scotland.
“When we work together and set our sights on a task, we really are an unstoppable force,” she added.
May is a fierce unionist and hopes to stall plans by Sturgeon to hold a new referendum on independence in late 2018 or early 2019 after the country voted against breaking away in 2014 by 55 to 45 percent.
A debate in the Scottish parliament before voting on Sturgeon’s proposal was suspended last week when an attacker, later identified as British-born Khalid Masood, plowed his car into pedestrians and tried to force his way into parliament in London, killing four. He was shot dead.
That debate is due to resume on Tuesday.
Sturgeon says the British leader has all but ignored the demands of Scotland such as maintaining preferential access to the EU’s lucrative single market — something May has ruled out.
May’s spokesman said the prime minister hoped to highlight areas where she believes the two sides can find agreement and plot a course forward, without having to have to hold a new independence referendum.
“The PM will be pointing to significant areas where there is agreement on what we want to secure from the Article 50 process,” the spokesman told reporters, describing the prime minister as being in listening mode.


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 18 June 2019
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.