Controversy surrounds Qatari Emir’s UK visit

Banners appeared over prominent roads in London with the hashtag #OpposeQatarVisit. (AN Photo)
Updated 23 July 2018
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Controversy surrounds Qatari Emir’s UK visit

  • Emir Tamim’s speech in Parliament is likely to praise his country’s relations with the UK
  • Arab activists in London said they’ve prepared a special welcome for the Emir

LONDON: Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in the United Kingdom on Sunday for a visit that is already mired in controversy, with activists planning to demonstrate outside Parliament on Monday against Qatar’s continued support for terrorism across the Middle East region.
Meanwhile, banners over prominent roads in London, with the hashtag #OpposeQatarVisit, asked: “If a country was accused of paying $1 billion in a ransom to terrorist groups… then why is the UK government rolling out the red carpet for the Qatar Emir?”
The schedule of the Qatar Emir’s visit was not disclosed officially by the UK government, but sources told Arab News that his official engagements will start Monday morning with a meeting with UK businessmen and later in the day, he is due to make a speech in Parliament. His meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May and other members of the UK government will take place on Tuesday.

Sources said that his speech in Parliament is likely to praise his country’s special relations with the UK and to condemn the year-old boycott imposed on his country by the Anti-Terror Quartet (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE) due to Doha’s continued support of terrorism and terrorist organizations in the Middle East and beyond.
Arab activists in London said that they have prepared a special welcome for the Qatari Emir, calling for a noisy demonstration outside Parliament on Monday afternoon. The call to demonstrate against his visit was widely distributed via social media, with videos of people interviewed on the streets of London calling into question Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. “I can’t imagine it’s for the good of the sport or for inclusivity,” says one man. “It’s just not fair that it’s happening in Qatar,” says another.
The demonstration will take place after several recent stories have drawn Londoners’ attention to Qatar’s actions. Most recently, the BBC revealed new evidence that a $1-billion ransom Doha paid for the release of 28 Qataris kidnapped in Iraq was used to fund terror.
Also this month, it was revealed that Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani, a former Qatari interior minister linked to financing and promoting terrorism who had briefly been confined to house arrest, had recently re-emerged in Doha, where he was photographed signing a wall portrait of Sheikh Tamim. And last month, the UK Parliament launched an investigation into the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK, a shadowy group with alleged ties to Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, after the videotaping of an event apparently breached parliamentary rules.

Ghassan Ibrahim, a London-based political analyst, said that members of Parliament as well as the UK government must review their position on Qatar. “If they have to meet with the Qatari Emir, they have to ask the important questions, especially the ones concerning Doha’s sponsor of terrorism and its ransom payment of $1.2 billion to terror groups in Iraq to liberate several members of the ruling Qatari family on a hunting trip in Iraq.
“The UK must also ask the Emir of Qatar questions about Doha’s continued financial, political and military support for the Al-Nusra Front and other extremists groups in Syria,” Ibrahim added, pointing out that Qatar continues to go against the international community’s stance to increase pressure on Tehran so that it stops meddling in the internal affairs of its neighbors.
Ibrahim told Arab News that it is “common knowledge that Doha has been supporting extremists groups and organizations that refuse integration in their respective host countries in the West, and Doha provides material help and funds for groups that are bent on dividing societies.”
The Emir of Qatar’s UK visit, Ibrahim added, is unlikely to change the Gulf country’s stance on promoting and funding terror, nor is it likely that Doha will change course and alienate itself from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terror groups.
The Anti-Terror Quartet, which was established over a year ago, has been calling on Qatar to severe its relations with terror groups, and to stop giving financial and media support for the promotion of violent rhetoric and acts across the region.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 4 min 54 sec ago
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”