Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

A young Syrian refugee in Lebanon. (Reuters)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Don’t blame Syrian refugees for your problems, Lebanon told

BEIRUT: Political leaders, religious authorities and the media were urged on Wednesday not to make Syrian refugees scapegoats for Lebanon’s problems.
“Lebanon is headed toward parliamentary elections, and there are so many controversial debates about issues that affect Lebanese society, politics and the economy,” said Mireille Girard, representative in Lebanon for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
“Tension may sometimes be focused on refugees because they are believed to be the cause of many current political, security and economic problems. Thus, it is very important that we sit together and thoroughly discuss this matter.
“The media is responsible for reducing tension and being objective, and this is also the responsibility of political leaders, religious authorities and other concerned sectors.”
Girard was speaking at a workshop organized with the Ministry of Information on media coverage of the refugee issue. Information Minister Melhem Riachy called for “positive media coverage that does not conceal facts, violate the principle of objectivity and suggest that the whole population of a country are murderers because one of them committed a crime.”
Riachy accused some media outlets of promoting racism and ideas that contradicted historical fact. “If we wish for refugees to return safely to their own country, we must work to ease the causes of tension in Lebanon,” he said.
UNHCR Protection Officer Esther Pinzari said immigrants and displaced people were not the same as Syrian refugees, of whom there were 1 million in Lebanon. Ensuring their safe and voluntary return was important, she said. “Seeking refuge in a third country is the solution for a small number of people who suffer from extremely fragile conditions.”
Nasser Yassin, director of research at the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, said most Syrian refugees were women and children, and they contributed $1.25 billion to Lebanon’s economy.
“In the past, they used to spend their money inside Syria,” he said. “If refugees returned to Syria today, only the tension would be eased, but not Lebanon’s economic crisis.”
Schott Gregg, UNHCR media officer, said refugees could not be forced to return to Syria while violence continued. “The war in Syria is not over yet,” he said. “The areas that are safe this week may not be so next week.”


Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

Updated 49 min 28 sec ago
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Powerful Cyclone Mekunu leaves at least 1 dead, 40 missing in Oman and Yemen

  • At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra
  • Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead

SALALAH, Oman: Cyclone Mekunu blew into the Arabian Peninsula early Saturday, drenching arid Oman and Yemen with rain, cutting off power lines and leaving at least one dead and 40 missing, officials said.
Portions of Salalah, Oman’s third-largest city, lost electricity as the cyclone made landfall. The Arabian Sea angrily churned Saturday morning, sending mounds of sea foam into the air. The waves ate into one tourist beach, pulling hunks of it away and toppling thatch umbrellas cemented into the sand.
As Mekunu barreled overhead, the eye of the storm provided a moment’s respite. At one luxury hotel, which already had evacuated its guests, workers sat down early for a traditional “suhoor,” a meal Muslims eat before sunrise during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. They laughed and shared plates by flashlight in a darkened ballroom, the cyclone’s wind a dull roar behind their clatter.
At least one person, a 12-year-old girl, died in Oman and 40 others are missing from the Yemeni island of Socotra, which earlier took the storm’s brunt, police said. Yemenis, Indians and Sudanese were among those missing on the Arabian Sea isle and officials feared some may be dead.

Director of Meteology at the UAE weather center, Mohamad Al-Ebri, told Arab News on Friday that the cyclone is expected to reach the southern coast of Oman within the next 12 hours, however it is possible that by then the cyclone catagory would have gone down to level one again.
India’s Meteorological Department said the storm packed maximum sustained winds of 170-180 kilometers (105-111 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). It called the cyclone “extremely severe.”
Many holidaymakers fled the storm Thursday night before Salalah International Airport closed. The Port of Salalah — a key gateway for the country — also closed, its cranes secured against the pounding rain.

James Hewitson, general manager of the five-star hotel Al-Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, told Arab News they were expecting the situation to worsen over the coming days.

“The wind has picked up since this morning.”

He said the hotel staff were preparing for the worst outcome, ensuring there was enough fuel to power the generators, should the main electricity supply be cut.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe,” Hewitson explained.

He said the hotel was well stocked for food and water and that at least one of the restaurants would remain open.

“We have about 50 guests staying with us at the moment,” Hewitson told Arab News. “Some are leaving tonight, some have chosen to leave and we are offering to compensate them with our sister hotels across Oman”

“At the end of today I expect I will have something between 40 to 50 guests staying… We have 250 staff members.” 

He explained that representatives from the Ministry of Tourism had visited in the morning.

“We have already taken down our outdoors furniture, and anything that is not bolted down has been put away so that the winds don’t blow them into anyone and hurt people like glass tables or umbrellas.” 

And he added that Muscat civil defense had sent a team to support in Salalah.

“We have taken all precautions in terms of securing all areas of the building to keep our guests safe.”

UAE not to be affected

“According to the Medium Ranged Forecast from Numerical Weather Predictions, the tropical cyclone will not reach the UAE,” the UAE’s National Center of Meteorology said in a statement.

It added that however medium and high clouds and moist air mass may lead to convective cloud formations at times in the eastern and the southern parts of the country associated with fresh winds.

 

 

(With AP)