Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

In this file photo taken on January 18, 2018 in Rome Italian former Prime Minister and leader of center-right party Forza Italia (Go Italy), Silvio Berlusconi arriving to attend the TV show "Quinta Colonna", a programme of Italian channel Rete 4. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018

Italy vote campaign heats up as 5-Star takes aim at Berlusconi

ROME: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Friday he would sue the leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement for calling him “a traitor to the country,” in an increasingly bitter election campaign.
Surveys show 5-Star is the most popular party ahead of the March 4 vote, but it lags a center-right coalition led by Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy!) — the bloc with most hope of obtaining a majority in Parliament.
“I have instructed my lawyers to prepare the case,” Berlusconi said in a radio interview after 5-Star's leader Luigi Di Maio accused Forza Italia politicians of contributing to a lucrative “business” involving camps for immigrants.
Such camps have been at the center of criminal investigations for alleged corruption.
More than 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy from north Africa by sea over the last four years, and the issue has become the main battleground of the election.
With the ruling Democratic Party (PD) lagging in the polls, 5-Star is seen as the main obstacle to a centre-right victory, and Berlusconi and Di Maio have stepped up their attacks on each other while largely ignoring PD leader Matteo Renzi.
“If Di Maio won power it would be a catastrophe, Italy would be internationally isolated and our economy would be devastated by taxes,” said Berlusconi, 81, who cannot personally run for office due to a 2013 conviction for tax fraud.
Di Maio said he was “not worried in the least" by the lawsuit and published a Facebook post listing EU treaties on fiscal and immigration policy signed or backed by Berlusconi, which he said had sold Italy short. The post was titled "Berlusconi, seven times a traitor to the country.”

Rohingya volunteers get UN training to deal with monsoon threat 

Rohingya refugee men make sand bags in preparation for the upcoming monsoon season in Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh. (AFP / Munir Uz Zaman)
Updated 29 min 28 sec ago

Rohingya volunteers get UN training to deal with monsoon threat 

  • UNHCR identifies 24,000 Rohingya refugees at ‘high risk’ of landslides and floods as Bangladesh’s monsoon season approaches.
  • Volunteers in refugee camps are being trained as first responders in emergency by the UN agency.

DHAKA, Bangladesh: “Initially we were a bit scared, but after acquiring disaster preparedness skills, we are feeling stronger,” said Nur Mohammad Majhi, a Rohingya community outreach member, in the refugee camp of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

Majhi is one of the several Rohingya refugees who have received disaster training from UNHCR to deal with landslides and floods in the approaching monsoon season.

“We want to stand by the people, stand with courage and be ready to rescue if needed,” Majhi told Arab News.

The UNHCR has completed training for 400 Rohingya safety unit volunteers, who will be deployed as first responders in emergency situations such as search-and-rescue activities during floods and landslides. The volunteers will work closely with other government emergency services.

Another 300 Rohingya volunteers will complete their training next week. 

“We are extremely concerned about the physical safety of tens of thousands of Rohingyas who live in overcrowded settlements in Bangladesh and the danger of an ‘emergency within an emergency,’” Caroline Gluck, UNHCR senior spokesperson at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

The emergency response training has changed the mindset of the Rohingya refugees and given them confidence to deal with accidents and large-scale emergencies. 

“We’ve learnt a lot. Most people still don’t know what help is out there and we can help them,” said Ayub Khan, a Rohingya outreach member who recently attended a psychological first-aid training course run by the UNHCR.

“Now we can share the knowledge, the information we have. We can help people to worry less and bring some comfort,” Khan said. 

“I had no clue what to do during landslides. I had sleepless nights during the past few weeks fearing the natural disasters of the rainy season,” said Jamila Khatun, a refugee in Balukhali camp. “Now I feel much better and confident as the volunteers have educated me on how to tackle these emergencies.” 

The UNHCR has adopted an integrated approach to deal with this emergency. Volunteers in different groups have received separate training on basic awareness and mitigation, psychological first aid, and emergency and cyclone preparedness. 

Despite the extensive humanitarian support for Rohingyas, the UN agency has said 200,000 Rohingyas living on hill slopes face risky conditions. “Out of these, 24,000 are at high risk of landslides,” Gluck said. 

Agencies have relocated more than 21,800 refugees to safer locations, according to Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG). The UNHCR is trying to relocate some families inside the existing settlements to lessen the risks. 

The UNHCR is also working to stabilize slopes and improve pathways with sandbags and bamboo. Together with the World Food Program, UNHCR is also improving drainage and widening a canal to improve water flow and avoid flooding. 

“We have been working with the Bangladesh authorities to build and pave the main arterial road from the north to south of the biggest settlement, Kutupalong-Balukhali, which is crucial for access and a lifeline for aid,” said Gluck.

Bangladesh is now home to 1.3 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in the wake of military offensives in Rakhine state last year.

About 100,000 Rohingyas will be moved to the island of Bhashan Char in the Bay of Bengal this summer, authorities said.