Deforestation in Bangladesh puts Rohingya refugees at risk: UNDP

Deforestation in Bangladesh puts Rohingya refugees at risk: UNDP
Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, visits a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 20 January 2018

Deforestation in Bangladesh puts Rohingya refugees at risk: UNDP

Deforestation in Bangladesh puts Rohingya refugees at risk: UNDP

DHAKA: Camps housing more than a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are facing “great risk” of a landslide, according to a recent UN Development Programme (UNDP) report.
The Rapid Environmental Impact Assessment report suggests that the recent influx of Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar has had a hugely negative impact on forest land in Cox’s Bazar, with thousands of hectares destroyed for the construction of camps and for much-needed fuel for fires.
“The establishment of makeshift camps in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts, close to several unique environmentally sensitive areas, threatens global biodiversity and causes the degradation of critical natural habitats,” the report claimed.
Around 1,485 hectares of forest land in Ukhia, Whykong, and Teknaf has so far been affected, and more land will be degraded if the practice continues, it warned, adding that the effect of the influx on biodiversity “may become irreversible if not properly managed.”
The report identified 28 risk factors, rated from “critical” to “low,” for local residents and refugees. The list included landslides, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, contamination of surface water, and the rapid exhaustion of underground water supplies.
The UNDP has submitted the report to Bangladesh’s Ministry of the Environment, and authorities are now assessing ways to mitigate the impact of the refugees’ arrival.
According to the report, the area is now so badly damaged that heavy rainfall or strong winds may cause landslides in the area, threatening the refugees’ lives.
However, the report also warns that refugees may be at risk from their host community, as diminishing resources are likely to cause tension and social conflict.
Saiful Islam, deputy director of the Department of Environment at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News: “The region is located on a fault line, so a small deviation of the plate under the earth could create a massive earthquake, making landslides highly likely. Since it is a densely populated area, the number of casualties would likely be very high.”
The Bangladeshi government has already adopted a forestation plan in some parts of the roadside hills from which the refugees were shifted to a different area, said Islam. But that program can only begin during the next monsoon season.
The deforestation has also affected the natural habitats of the area, leading to an increased number of wildlife attacks. During the past four months, at least eight wild elephant attacks on the refugee camps have been reported.
“There are four elephant tracks in this area, but since the elephants’ habitat has been squeezed, they come down to the locality in search of food and attack people,” said Mohammad Nikarujjaman, commissioner of Ukhia sub-district.
“Now the conflict between wildlife and man has increased significantly.”
Nikarujjaman told Arab News that in the latest elephant attack, on Friday morning, killed one refugee and injured four others. Six makeshift houses were also destroyed.
A total of 12 refugees have reportedly been killed in separate elephant attacks since August.


Italy arrests Turkish human trafficker

Italy arrests Turkish human trafficker
Updated 14 April 2021

Italy arrests Turkish human trafficker

Italy arrests Turkish human trafficker
  • Greek court had sentenced man, 33, to 25 years jail over illegal immigration operations
  • Border police caught wanted suspect as he was boarding direct flight to Turkey

ROME: Italian border police have arrested a 33-year-old Turkish citizen wanted in Europe after being sentenced by a Greek court to 25 years in prison for human trafficking.

The man, who has not been named by police, was caught at Orio al Serio airport in the northern Italian province of Bergamo as he was about to board a direct flight to Turkey.

He is charged with human trafficking and facilitating the illegal entrance of migrants.

Greek judicial authorities had issued a European arrest warrant for the man after he was convicted and sentenced for human trafficking between Turkey and Greece in 2014. He is now being held in a Bergamo jail.

He had previously been arrested in Italy in 2015 after a court in the Calabrian city of Crotone accused him of being involved in aiding clandestine and irregular immigration to Italy.

On that occasion, he had been stopped in Italian territorial waters on a 30-meter twin-mast sailing boat flying a US flag with 124 foreigners of various nationalities onboard, including many women and unaccompanied children, who said they had departed from Turkey five days earlier.

The boat had been towing a rubber dinghy which authorities said would have been used by the traffickers to transfer the migrants to land.


NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says

NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says
Updated 14 April 2021

NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says

NATO forces will leave together from Afghanistan, Blinken says
  • NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference

BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that it was time for NATO allies to withdraw from Afghanistan and that the alliance would work on an adaptation phase, after Washington announced plans to end America’s longest war after two decades.
“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.
NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference.


Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip
Updated 14 April 2021

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip

Queen returns to royal duties after death of Prince Philip
  • Prince Philip died at the age of 99
  • The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II has returned to royal duties, four days after the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

The 94-year-old British monarch attended a retirement ceremony for a senior royal official on Tuesday, according to the Court Circular, the official record of royal engagements.

The royal family is observing two weeks of mourning for Philip, who died Friday at the age of 99. The palace has said members of the royal family will “undertake engagements appropriate to the circumstances” during the mourning period.

The queen attended a ceremony at Windsor Castle for Lord Chamberlain Earl Peel, who has retired as the royal household’s most senior official. He oversaw arrangements for the funeral of Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, until handing over to his successor days before the duke’s death.

Philip’s funeral will take place Saturday at Windsor Castle, with attendance limited to 30 because of coronavirus restrictions.

Servicemen and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force will take part in the funeral procession, and Philip’s coffin will be borne to St. George’s Chapel at the castle on a specially adapted Land Rover, which he designed himself.


Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ in Ukraine conflict: Germany

Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ in Ukraine conflict: Germany
Updated 14 April 2021

Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ in Ukraine conflict: Germany

Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ in Ukraine conflict: Germany
  • The growing Russian presence at the Ukrainian border has caused concern in the West in recent days

BERLIN: Germany on Wednesday accused Russia of seeking provocation with its troop build-up along the border with Ukraine.
“My impression is that the Russian side is trying everything to provoke a reaction,” German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told ARD public television.
“Together with Ukraine, we won’t be drawn into this game,” she added.
The growing Russian presence at the Ukrainian border has caused concern in the West in recent days, with the United States saying that troop levels are at their highest since 2014, when war first broke out with Moscow-backed separatists.
Moscow has said it sent troops to its western borders for combat drills because of “threats” from transatlantic alliance NATO.
But Kramp-Karrenbauer voiced doubt at Moscow’s claim.
“If it is a maneuver like the Russian side says, there are international procedures through which one can create transparency and trust,” she said, adding that Germany was monitoring developments very closely.
Ukraine has so far reacted in a “sober” manner, said the minister, stressing that NATO stands by Kiev’s side.
“We are committed to Ukraine, that is very clear,” she said.
At the same time, she said, it is also clear that Moscow “is just waiting for a move, so to speak, from NATO, to have a pretext to continue its actions.”


Somali president signs law extending mandate for two years

Somali president signs law extending mandate for two years
Updated 14 April 2021

Somali president signs law extending mandate for two years

Somali president signs law extending mandate for two years
  • Somalia’s lower house of parliament on Monday voted to extend the president’s mandate — which expired in February
  • The new law paves the way for a one-person, one-vote election in 2023

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has signed a controversial law extending his mandate for another two years, despite threats of sanctions from the international community.
State broadcaster Radio Mogadishu said the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, had “signed into law the special resolution guiding the elections of the country after it was unanimously passed by parliament.”
Somalia’s lower house of parliament on Monday voted to extend the president’s mandate — which expired in February — after months of deadlock over the holding of elections in the fragile nation.
However the speaker of the Senate slammed the move as unconstitutional, and the resolution was not put before the upper house, which would normally be required, before being signed into law.
Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi said it would “lead the country into political instability, risks of insecurity and other unpredictable situations.”
Farmajo and the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous federal states had reached an agreement in September that paved the way for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.
But it fell apart as squabbles erupted over how to conduct the vote, and multiple rounds of talks have failed to break the impasse.
The new law paves the way for a one-person, one-vote election in 2023 — the first such direct poll since 1969 — which Somalis have been promised for years and no government has managed to deliver.
A presidential election was due to have been held in February. It was to follow a complex indirect system used in the past in which special delegates chosen by Somalia’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.

The international community has repeatedly called for elections to go ahead.
The United States, which has been Somalia’s main ally in recovering from decades of civil war and fighting Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, said Tuesday it was “deeply disappointed” in the move to extend Farmajo’s mandate.
“Such actions would be deeply divisive, undermine the federalism process and political reforms that have been at the heart of the country’s progress and partnership with the international community, and divert attention away from countering Al-Shabab,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
He said the implementation of the bill would compel the US to “re-evaluate our bilateral relations... and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability.”
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also threatened “concrete measures” if there was not an immediate return to talks on the holding of elections.
A coalition of opposition presidential candidates said in a joint statement that the decision was “a threat to the stability, peace and unity” of the country.
In February some opposition leaders attempted to hold a protest march, which led to an exchange of gunfire in the capital.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fueled by clan conflicts.
The country also still battles the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab Islamist militant group which controlled the capital until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops.
Al-Shabab retains parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets in Mogadishu and regional towns.
Somalia still operates under an interim constitution and its institutions, such as the army, remain rudimentary, backed up with international support.
The 59-year-old Farmajo — whose nickname means cheese — was wildly popular when he came to power in 2017.
The veteran diplomat and former prime minister who lived off and on for years in the United States had vowed to rebuild a country that was once the world’s most notorious failed state, and fight corruption.
However observers say he became mired in feuds with federal states in a bid for greater political control, hampering the fight against Al-Shabab, which retains the ability to conduct deadly strikes both at home and in the region.