UN rebukes Europe for failing to allow rescued Arab migrants to land

Photo showing Syrians gather at a departure point prior to being evacuated from the rebel-held town of Rastan, in Syria’s central Homs province, in a convoy of buses, Rastan, Homs, May 7, 2018. (AFP/File)
Updated 22 January 2019
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UN rebukes Europe for failing to allow rescued Arab migrants to land

  • Private rescue ships have been restricted from conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean
  • Libya, wracked by violence, is no refuge, the UNHCR said

GENEVA: UN aid agencies criticized European countries on Tuesday for not allowing migrants to disembark at safe ports, after more than 140 people rescued at sea were taken to a detention center in Misrata, Libya.

An estimated 170 migrants were lost in the Mediterranean in two incidents involving dinghies that left from Libya and Morocco, migrant organizations said on Saturday.

In all, 203 passengers have drowned at sea trying to reach Europe in January; 4,883 have arrived, mainly in Spain, Greece and Italy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

Private rescue ships have been restricted from conducting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, putting more lives unnecessarily at risk, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

“IOM confirmed yesterday (Monday) that the Sierra Leonean flagged cargo vessel Lady Sham returned 144 rescued migrants to Libya. It remains unclear when and from where these individuals departed,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a Geneva briefing.

“IOM staff counted 26 women and four children among those rescued and taken to a detention center in Misrata,” he said.

Libya, wracked by violence, is no refuge, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

“In Libya’s current context, where outbreaks of violence and widespread human rights violations prevail, no rescued refugees and migrants should be returned there,” said UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley.

“It has been well-documented at this point that the people in these detention centers face pretty appalling treatment, many report going hungry for days on end, not being able to receive dire urgent medical care that they require; others allege to have been tortured,” he said.

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has closed off Italian ports to humanitarian rescue vessels since a populist government came to power in mid-2018, has said the ports would remain closed to deter human traffickers.

UNHCR denounced “politicking around sea rescues” by European states that have restricted aid groups from conducting missions.

“Currently, rescue at sea has been taken hostage by politics... decisive leadership that taps into fundamental values of humanity and compassion is sorely needed,” Yaxley said.


Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

Updated 19 February 2019
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Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

  • The blast also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen
  • Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability

CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.

The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.

Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.

“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”

Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.

Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.

Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.

Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.

The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.

In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.

On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.
 

(With AFP)