‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean
Migrants, in this file photo, are rescued during an operation off the coast of Libya. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2017

‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

ROME: International humanitarian group Save the Children said on Monday it had suspended migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea as departures from Libya slow and security conditions worsen.
Save the Children has operated a ship, the Vos Hestia, since September last year, rescuing more than 10,000 migrants from dangerous and overcrowded boats launched by people smugglers.
“For too long, we have been the substitution for the inexistent and inadequate European policies for search and rescue and for hosting migrants,” Save the Children Director-General Valerio Neri said in a statement.
Italian police searched the Vos Hestia on Monday as part of a wider investigation into the role non-government organizations (NGOs) are playing in picking up migrants off the Libya coast and bringing them to Italy.
Save the Children said its decision to halt rescues was already planned before the police search.
Earlier this year, the government asked humanitarian groups to sign a “code of conduct.” The government said the rescuers were providing an incentive for smugglers to put migrants to sea.
Police in August seized a migrant rescue boat operated by a German aid group Jugend Rettet. The chief prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Trapani said he had evidence of encounters between traffickers, who escorted illegal immigrants to the NGO boat, and members of its crew.
Jugend Rettet denied any wrongdoing.
Save the Children said in a statement it was not under investigation and was cooperating with authorities. The documents seized by police on Monday concerned “presumed illegal actions committed by third persons,” it said.
Several months ago, some 10 rescue ships took turns patrolling the North African coast, picking up migrants who reached international waters and bringing them to Italy.
Now only one large ship and a few small ones remain, with many organizations — including Doctors Without Borders — pulling out for various reasons, including security concerns and unhappiness with the attitude of the Italian authorities.
The Libyan Coast Guard, funded and trained by Italy, has taken a hostile stance toward the humanitarian boats in a series of incidents on the high seas.
In August, a Libyan vessel intercepted a charity ship and ordered it to sail to Tripoli or risk being fired on.
Departures from Libya have fallen dramatically since July, when an armed group that had been deeply involved in smuggling from the city of Sabratha began blocking departures.
So far in October sea arrivals to Italy are down more than 75 percent compared with the same month last year.


Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle
Updated 16 January 2021

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

Afghan refugee helping war widows escape poverty cycle

KABUL: When Hanan Habibzai became a refugee in 2008, he left Afghanistan with a sense of responsibility toward all those left behind, especially widows and orphaned children.
As he made the UK his new home and managed to establish himself, Habibzai founded Helping Orphans in 2016, a charity that gives vocational training and literacy courses to women and children.
Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.
“What will happen to these children when they grow up? Their parents are taken away and they are left alone in poverty and hardship, and they have never been in school,” Habibzai told Arab News.
“What can we expect from these children when they grow and take control of their communities except problems? So, I established this charity to help vulnerable children and orphans join school. These are the exact reasons as to why I established Helping Orphans.”
As his family was displaced by the Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, Habibzai knows from his own experience what hunger and poverty mean. The situation in the country has become even worse now, he said, after the US-led invasion to oust the Taliban in 2001.
Before he left Afghanistan, Habibzai worked as a journalist, traveling across the country’s provinces, witnessing hopelessness and despair.
“Within the Afghan poverty-stricken and war-torn nation, I see displaced families, a refugee going through many difficulties, a 10-year-old orphan becoming responsible for feeding his family, or a woman who has lost her husband and now has to look after her children while she has nothing,” he said.

FASTFACT

Helping Orphans estimates that there are as many as 3.5 million widows and 2.6 million orphans in Afghanistan today. Often uneducated, the women face few options if their husbands die, while children end up working out of necessity and never receive an education.

“Today I live in the UK. I have everything here. My family and I have three full meals a day. But back in Afghanistan, there are many people who do not even have a single meal a day and are facing severe poverty and hardship.”
The latest survey by the UN indicates that 18 million people in Afghanistan — half of the country’s population — are in need of emergency aid.
In the beginning, through donations from individuals, Helping Orphans provided direct relief in the form of food and cash, but in June last year Habibzai realized that more sustainable efforts were needed.
In Kabul, the charity now enrolls children in school while their mothers take part in three-month courses to become tailors, allowing them to be self-reliant. About 20 women have completed the first training courses. One of them is Shamila, who lost her husband, a commando soldier, and was left alone with a young son about two years ago.
“The world had come to an end for me with the death of his father when my child wept,” she told Arab News.
“I joined the workshop of the charity, learned tailoring and it has been a big change both mentally and financially,” she added. “I am a tailor at home now. I earn money this way and have been able to stand on my feet.”
The charity is now planning to open more courses and teach other professions, like hairdressing, to help women provide for themselves.
“We want the aid to have a long-term impact on the lives of people, so beneficiaries can learn a profession,” said Helping Orphans Director Abdul Fatah Tayeb.
“We want them to learn how to fish rather than giving them a fish. The fundamental goal is to make people self-sufficient.”