UNHCR calls for mechanism to share migrant burden

United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi attends a press conference on September 10, 2018 in Geneva after his UNHCR/OCHA joint mission visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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UNHCR calls for mechanism to share migrant burden

  • Between 80 and 90 percent of the estimated 68 million refugees globally according to UNHCR figures were “in poor countries or have few resources

ROME: Outgoing UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has appealed for the creation of a clear mechanism for European states to share the burden of migrants rescued at sea rather than work on a case by case basis.
Those arriving “must be shared around Europe. There must be a foreseeable mechanism. We cannot deal on a boat-by-boat basis,” the UN refugee chief told a news conference after two days of talks with authorities in his native Italy.
Italy has closed its ports to NGOs rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and has been increasingly reluctant to take in those brought to shore in its own vessels, making reception conditional on those brought to shore being offloaded to other EU states.
“We are not talking about incredible figures — if Libya can deal with a million refugees then Europe can manage a few tens of thousands,” Grandi said.
He added that between 80 and 90 percent of the estimated 68 million refugees globally according to UNHCR figures were “in poor countries or have few resources.”
Grandi added that Europe faced a “long battle” in reaching common ground on how to deal with the migrant issue but should cooperate in so far as possible and use the expected drop in numbers over the winter to draw up a coherent strategy.
In the meantime he added that the priority should be ensuring migrants reached the “nearest safe port.”
That could not, he stressed, be Libya given that conditions in some reception camps there were “abominable, unacceptable.”
Grandi said he was also concerned at the lack of rescue boats of Libya, be they humanitarian or military which meant not just less people brought ashore but also “more deaths.”
Grandi further warned against politicians using intemperate language when discussing the migrant issue, urging that “the language of politics must not a create a space for abuse and violence of a racist character.”
On Monday, new UN rights head Michelle Bachelet announced a new team would be heading to Italy to monitor “a signalled strong increase” in racist violence, something which Italy’s far right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denied.
Salvini said that Italy had in recent years accepted 700,000 immigrants, “including many illegals, and never got any help from other European countries.”


Taliban militants ‘in talks with Chinese officials’

Updated 32 min 55 sec ago
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Taliban militants ‘in talks with Chinese officials’

  • Delegation visits Beijing days before seventh round of dialogue with US

ISLAMABAD: An Afghan Taliban delegation is visiting Beijing for talks with Chinese officials just days ahead of the group’s seventh round of talks with US officials in Qatar, a former Taliban spokesman told Arab News on Sunday.

China has played an increasingly active role in the Afghan peace process, alongside Russia and the US.

In April, the three countries pressed the Taliban to hold talks with Afghan politicians and civilians as an important step to end the 17-year conflict.

Abdul Hai Mutmayen, who was the Taliban’s chief spokesman in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, said the head of the group’s political office, Abdul Ghani Baradar, is leading the delegation in Beijing.

“It seems that Taliban leaders are making efforts to hold consultations and exchange their views with key stakeholders ahead of the next round. The visit is an indication that the seventh round is important,” Mutmayen added. 

China has offered to host intra-Afghan talks if all sides agree to such a role, but has ruled out being a mediator. 

BACKGROUND

• Taliban officials have said they could accept China as a guarantor if they reach a peace deal with the US.

• In 2015, China hosted a secret meeting between the Taliban and Afghan government officials, said former Taliban Minister Mullah Abdul Jalil.

Taliban officials have said they could accept China as a guarantor if they reach a peace deal with the US.

In 2015, China hosted a secret meeting between the Taliban and Afghan government officials, said former Taliban Minister Mullah Abdul Jalil.

Abrar Hussain, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, told Arab News on Sunday that China’s involvement in peace efforts is economically and politically motivated.

“China’s interest in Afghan peace ... will lead to the withdrawal of foreign troops and bring economic opportunities, so China has been hosting informal meetings for this purpose,” he said.

With the withdrawal of foreign troops top of the Taliban’s agenda going into the next round of talks with the US, the group’s political spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told Arab News that the ball is in America’s court. 

“They (the US) will decide the date (of a troop withdrawal), and they should decide an appropriate timetable with our consent. We’ll talk about the internal aspect of the problem if the external aspect is settled,” he said.

Mohammed Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, told Arab News: “China wants peace in Afghanistan but it has apprehensions. If the US leaves Afghanistan in haste, stability in Afghanistan and the region will further deteriorate, and China will have to take responsibility to fix the issue.”