From Libya to Texas, tragedies illustrate plight of migrants

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Refugee Siban Assad, 20, from Al-Hasaka, Syria, looks out from the window of his shelter while holding his daughters, Ruba, one month, and Maldar, 1, at the Ritsona , Greece, refugee camp, about 86 kilometers (53 miles) north of Athens. (File/AP/Muhammed Muheisen)
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Migrant women from Syria walk with their children in a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia, outside of the capital Nicosia, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. (File/AP/Petros Karadjias)
Updated 06 July 2019

From Libya to Texas, tragedies illustrate plight of migrants

  • The UN says a record 71 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide in 2018
  • The top three countries taking in refugees are Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda

GENEVA: They are trapped in squalid detention centers on Libya’s front lines. They wash up on the banks of the Rio Grande. They sink without a trace — in the Mediterranean, in the Pacific or in waterways they can’t even name. A handful fall out of airplanes’ landing gear.

As their choices narrow on land and at sea, migrants are often seen as a political headache in the countries they hope to reach and ignored in the countries they flee. Most live in limbo, but recent tragedies have focused attention on the risks they face and the political constraints at the root of them.

A record 71 million people were forcibly displaced around the world in 2018, according to a report last month by the UN refugee agency, in places as diverse as Turkey, Uganda, Bangladesh and Peru. Many are still on the move in 2019, or trapped like thousands in detention in Libya, where an airstrike on Tuesday killed at least 44 migrants and refugees locked away in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura.

Most of those in Tajoura and other Libyan detention centers have been intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, which has become the go-to border force for the European Union, which can’t get 28 governments to agree about migration. Despite the rhetoric about migration crises in Europe and the US, the top three countries taking in refugees are Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda. Germany comes in a distant fifth.

A 20-year-old who fled war in his homeland in sub-Saharan Africa two years ago survived the airstrikes, gunfire from militia members trying to keep migrants inside the compound, torture for ransom by traffickers and a sinking boat in the Mediterranean. He is now sleeping outside the Tajoura detention center along with hundreds of other migrants and awaiting a second chance to go to sea.

“I faced death in Libya many times before. I am ready to die again. I already lost my brothers in the war in my country,” he told The Associated Press. He didn’t want his name used because the militia fighters who shot at him are still guarding the compound.

Libya’s interior minister, Fathi Bashagha, pleaded Friday for Europe “to address the problem in a radical way — not to prevent migrants, but to provide jobs and investment in the migrants’ places of origin, as well as in southern Libya ... so as to absorb these huge numbers willing and eager to migrate to Europe.”

Within days of the airstrike, at least two boats filled with migrants sank off Libya’s coast, leaving around 140 people missing. Another group was picked up by a rescue ship and then barred from docking on the Italian island of Lampedusa, touching off the 21st standoff between Italy’s populist government and humanitarian groups. A pregnant woman watching a shipboard ultrasound of her baby smiled broadly, seemingly oblivious to the political furor on land and at sea.

A similar disconnect played out recently when the body of a stowaway on an inbound flight from Nairobi crashed to earth next to a man sunbathing on a Sunday afternoon in his London garden. The next day, mourners held a lavish burial in El Salvador for a man and his young daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande into Texas.

Like during a 2015 wave of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis pouring into Europe, daily reminders of migrants’ plights are back on front pages.

The US-Mexico border has become a flashpoint amid President Donald Trump’s ambitions to build a wall to keep out migrants. Many children caught crossing are stuck in squalid, unsanitary detention centers. Children have also been separated from parents in custody. Critics call such policies inhumane, heartless and “un-American.”

More broadly, advocates for the huddled masses on the move say not enough is being done in the migrants’ home, transit or destination countries. Only international cooperation can help resolve the agonies, they say — a tough sell at a time of rising go-it-alone, populist and nationalist sentiment in many places.

Filippo Grandi, head of UN refugee agency UNHCR, said his office has a “dialogue” going with the US Department of Homeland Security, and “if there is any help that we can provide to the US administration in dealing with this matter, we’re ready to do it.”

But he called for a regional discussion among countries like the United States — the destination for many — as well as transit country Mexico, and the troubled home countries for migrants and refugees such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where gang killings and lawlessness are rife.

“I have been to Honduras, to Guatemala, to El Salvador,” he told reporters recently in Geneva. “The violence perpetrated by gangs, the inability of these governments to protect their own citizenship, cause part of these flows. So this needs to be addressed in the proper manner — without stigmatizing these people.”


Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

Visitors try out food at 'Bengaluru Aaharotsava', a 3-day vegetarian food festival, in Bangalore on October 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2019

Indian govt slammed over poor ranking in global hunger index

  • This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s poor rating in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has come in for sharp criticism, with the opposition calling it a “colossal failure of government policy.”
The GHI showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.
The index is designed to measure and track hunger at a global, regional, and national level. The report, which was released on Wednesday, was a joint effort between Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organization Welt Hunger Hilfe.
“This ranking reveals a colossal failure in Govt policy and blows the lid off the PM’s hollow ‘sabka vikas’ (development for all) claim,” tweeted Rahul Gandhi, who leads the opposition Congress party.
Thomas Isaac, finance minister in the southern state of Kerala, said: “The slide started with PM (Narendra) Modi’s ascension. In 2014 India was ranked 55. In 2017 it slipped to 100 and now to the levels of Niger and Sierra Leone. The majority of the world’s hungry now resides in India.”
The GHI score is based on four indicators — undernourishment; child wasting (children below five who have a low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, (children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and child mortality, the mortality rate of children under the age of five.
“India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent, the highest for any country,” the report said. It added that, with a score of 30.3, India suffered from a level of hunger that was serious.

BACKGROUND

The Global Hunger Index showed that India ranked 102 in the database of 117 nations and trailed its smaller South Asian neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2000, India ranked 83 out of 113 nations.

International NGO Save the Children  said the government needed to focus on wasting and stunting. Other low- and middle-income countries in the world which are faring better have actually scored better than India in those two areas, it added.
“There are nearly 1.8 million children in the country who are wasting and for that we will need comprehensive interventions, including the provision of therapeutic foods for such children to be managed at a community level,” it told Arab News.
The NGO warned of serious social consequences, with wasting leading to impaired cognitive ability and poor learning outcomes. “Furthermore, for underweight and stunted girls, it invokes a vicious cycle whereby initial malnutrition with early child-bearing gets translated into poor reproductive health outcomes.”
Arab News contacted the Child and Family Welfare Ministry for comment but did not get a response.
Nepal ranks 73 in the index, Sri Lanka is placed at 66, Bangladesh is in 88th place, Myanmar is at the 69th spot and Pakistan ranks 94.
The GHI said these countries were also in the serious hunger category, but that their citizens fared better than India’s.