WFP, Houthis agree deal that could lift partial aid suspension

Yemenis receive sacks of food aid packages from the World Food Programme (WFP) in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida on June 25, 2019. The escalation of attacks by Iran-aligned Huthi rebels on Saudi cities threatens a hard-won UN-sponsored ceasefire deal for the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, war-ravaged Yemen's main conduit for humanitarian aid. (AFP)
Updated 05 August 2019

WFP, Houthis agree deal that could lift partial aid suspension

  • The WFP discovered in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to the group

DUBAI: The World Food Program (WFP) and Yemen’s Houthi militant group, which controls the capital Sanaa, have said they had reached a deal that could lift the UN agency’s partial suspension of aid which has affected around 850,000 people.
The UN agency halted some aid in Sanaa on June 20 out of concern that food was being diverted from vulnerable people, but said it would maintain nutrition programs for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
The militant group has used access to aid and food as a political tool, exacerbating what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Of Yemen’s 30 million people, three-quarters need humanitarian assistance.
Cash transfers to those in need so they can buy goods is a common method of aid distribution.
The agreement represented an important step toward safeguards that guarantee “the accountability” of the agency’s operations, said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel.
“We are hopeful that technical details can be agreed in the coming days,” Verhoosel said in emailed comments to Reuters, without giving further details of what was agreed. The aid ban resulted from a dispute over control of biometric data between the WFP and the Houthi militants.

SPEEDREAD

Cash transfers to those in need so they can buy goods is a common method of aid distribution.’

The WFP discovered in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to the group. The Houthis have said the WFP insisted on controlling the data in violation of Yemeni law.
The biometric system — using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition — is already used in areas controlled by the government that holds the southern port city of Aden and some western coastal towns.
Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, who control most large urban centers. The group says its revolution is against corruption.


Sea-Eye ship with 125 rescued migrants docks in Sardinia

Updated 25 September 2020

Sea-Eye ship with 125 rescued migrants docks in Sardinia

  • NGO Sea-Eye says the vessel Alan Kurdi docked at the port of Arbatax on the east of the island

ROME: A ship with 125 rescued migrants aboard reached the Italian island of Sardinia on Thursday, the aid organization Sea-Eye said, adding that the fate of its survivors remains unclear.

The Alan Kurdi docked at the port of Arbatax on the east of the island, having been “instructed by the port authorities to drop anchor and wait for further instructions,” said Sea-Eye, which charters the boat.

However, the NGO said it was unclear whether Arbatax would be a “safe port,” in which the rescued survivors would be able to disembark.

On Wednesday night, Italian authorities had made contact to discuss the “further coordination” and to provide weather protection for the ship, five days since Sea-Eye asked for assistance, it said on Twitter.

Italy’s Interior Ministry said earlier in the day that it had “authorized the request” to dock and “activated the procedure to redistribute” the 125 rescued migrants across Europe.

“Eighty percent of the rescued migrants will be transferred to other European countries,” it added.

The ship — named Alan Kurdi after the Syrian boy who made global headlines when his drowned body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 — rescued 133 people, including 62 children, from three different boats off the Libyan coast.

Eight people, including a five-month-old baby, were evacuated by the Italian coast guard. More than 50 minors are still on board, including young children, the NGO said.

The ship was initially heading to Marseille in the south of France before French authorities successfully asked Italy to allow it to dock in the Mediterranean, Sea-Eye’s chief Gorden Isler said in a tweet.

“We hope that the 125 rescued will be allowed to disembark in Sardinia so they can be adequately cared for there,” Isler added.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the Sea-Eye ship should “be received in the nearest safe port,” with France implicitly declining any possibility of allowing the ship to dock in Marseille.

The principle of the landing of survivors in the nearest “safe port,” enshrined in international maritime law, generally means Italy or Malta are expected to take in rescued survivors from Mediterranean crossings.

More than 600 migrants have perished this year while attempting the Mediterranean crossing, the deadliest route for those hoping for a better life in Europe.

Almost 50,000 have made the journey so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.