Britain urged to boost anti-terror ties with Gulf

British police patrol through Trafalgar Square in central London, in this May 23, 2017 file photo, a day after a deadly terror attack at the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Britain urged to boost anti-terror ties with Gulf

LONDON: The British government can help tackle the root causes of extremism by strengthening its ties with civil society groups throughout the Gulf region, a London-based think-tank has said.

A report due to be published Tuesday by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) urged the UK to support modernization projects across the GCC rather than simply focusing on sharing intelligence with the council’s members.

It encouraged London to throw its weight behind the Vision 2030 plan to modernize the Saudi economy and society.

“The UK should increase its anti-terrorism cooperation with the GCC, beyond intelligence and security information sharing, by creating more joint initiatives and collaborative programs to prevent radicalization,” said report author Najah Al-Otaibi, research fellow at the Center for the Response to Radicalization and Terrorism at HJS.

“By getting involved with more civil society initiatives — addressing the root causes and threats of terrorism, and thereby challenging ISIS’s (Daesh’s) own propaganda machine — the West can have a greater impact and lessen the need for clumsy GCC legislation which so often stifles legitimate political opposition.”

The report, entitled “Terror Overseas: Understanding the GCC Counter Extremism and Counter Terrorism Trends” warned that the “large, young, online population” of Gulf states has left them “especially vulnerable” to radicalization via the Internet.

As a result, the UK needed to show a more imaginative, long-term approach, and support efforts to address “the root causes and threats of terrorism” in the region.

The report praised the principles behind the Vision 2030 plan but said Riyadh needed to provide more details on exactly how it intended to combat radicalism in the years ahead.

Among the positive measures highlighted by the report was a 2005 online initiative launched by Saudi Arabia in response to a wave of Al-Qaeda attacks in the Kingdom. The scheme employs moderate Saudi scholars to engage with radicals over the Internet and was the first of its kind in the country.

More recently, as part of “cultural and media war against extremism,” Saudi-backed TV stations broadcast a 2017 TV series entitled “Gharabeeb Al-Soud” (“Black Crows”), which focused on the plight of women recruited by Daesh. The HJS report also said a government-run program to rehabilitate extremist prisoners in Saudi Arabia had achieved “some remarkable successes.”

The report warned GCC members against committing human rights violations and criminalizing free speech under the guise of “anti-extremism policies.” It urged the UK to continue supporting existing counter-extremism initiatives in the region while “exercising more leverage where excessive suppression of GCC citizens is concerned.”


Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

Updated 21 January 2019
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Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

  • In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10% of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants
  • In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population

COPENHAGEN: Europe must guarantee migrants better access to health care, the World Health Organization urged Monday in its first report on the health of new arrivals to the old continent, where accessibility varies broadly.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s Migration and Health Programme, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just two percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
“People, and some governments, have been reacting emotionally when it comes to newcomers because of the lack of information and data,” Severoni said.
Contrary to what some may believe, “there is a very low risk ... of transmitting communicable disease from the refugee and migrant population to the host population,” he said.
For example, a large share of HIV-positive migrants contract the disease after arriving in Europe.
In addition, new arrivals are more likely to develop chronic illnesses as a result of their new lifestyle — such as less physical activity and too much fast food — and the poverty conditions some encounter.
While they are at lower risk of developing cancer than local populations — with the exception of cervical cancer — cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, which makes the prognosis less certain.
Migrants’ children are meanwhile at greater risk of being overweight and having psychological problems than children in their host country, the report noted.