War and poverty drive Gazans to seek better life in Europe despite dangers

A Palestinian sells produce in Gaza City as internal political division leads the country to povery. (AP)
Updated 29 August 2019

War and poverty drive Gazans to seek better life in Europe despite dangers

  • An unknown number of Gazans have died trying to make the perilous crossing to Europe, leaving families back home unsure about their eventual fate

GAZA: Shaban Khalaf’s advice to any other Gazans thinking of heading to Europe in search of a better life, as he did, is blunt: Don’t bother — it’s not worth the danger and the expense.

Khalaf should know. Despairing of ever finding a decent job in Gaza, where the economy is near collapse, the journalism graduate flew to Turkey via Egypt in June 2018 and tried no fewer than 18 times to cross into Europe, mostly by boat.

“One time a naval boat hit ours, our boat flipped and we almost died,” said Khalaf, 25, adding that each time Turkish or Greek authorities would send them back to Turkey’s shores.

By February this year he had given up and returned home to Gaza, much poorer for his ordeal after having paid off the people smugglers who had tried in vain to get him to Europe.

“I don’t advise people to leave unless a job is waiting for them there. It is better to stay and die with their families in Gaza than to throw themselves into the unknown, or die in the sea,” he said.

Thousands of other Palestinians have had similar experiences as they try to escape the rampant unemployment, poverty and violence of life in Gaza, a tiny enclave between Israel and Egypt run by Hamas.

Gazans have endured three wars with Israel, 12 years of Israeli-led economic sanctions that hamper the movement of people and goods and a protracted power struggle between Palestinian factions.

An unknown number of Gazans have died trying to make the perilous crossing to Europe, leaving families back home unsure about their eventual fate. Some are buried in Turkey or in Greece, or were returned home in coffins.

Human rights activists in Gaza believe around 30,000 of Gaza’s population of 2 million have tried to leave the 375 sq. km territory in the past decade, with a surge in numbers after a 50-day war in 2014 between Israel and Hamas.

‘No work, no future’

Israeli airstrikes and shelling devastated entire districts of Gaza in that conflict, as Hamas and other militant groups launched rockets at heartland cities in Israel, which along with Egypt maintains a blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, according to Gaza health officials, while Israel put the number of its own dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

“Israel is the prime source of our misery but (internal Palestinian) division is a main reason too,” Khalaf said, referring to economic sanctions imposed by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority to pressure Hamas to share power. Hamas seized Gaza during fighting in 2007.

“Because of the division there is no work for youth. Most of those who left Gaza were graduates,” Khalaf told Reuters at a language center in Gaza where he is studying Turkish.

Khalaf said his journey from Gaza cost $3,000, including fees to enter Egypt, a ticket to Turkey and payment to smugglers who tried to take him to Greece while hiding from drones and security patrols.

Greece is a common first stop for Palestinians and others hoping to apply for asylum in the EU, but EU countries and Turkey have significantly tightened border controls to deter migrants.

But many young Palestinians are unlikely to heed Khalaf’s advice to stay put.

“There is no work, there is no future (here),” said Sameh Sdodi, 27, who had to skip university to sell snacks and hot drinks near the beach.

Karim Abu Sidu, 17, said he was ready to attempt the journey in search of work even though his 22-year-old brother, Hussam Abu Sidu, died in January when his boat sank off Greece. His body is buried in Greece.

“The situation here is very bad,” he said. “Even if I finished university, it would be in vain. Those who did are now selling tea, coffee and cigarettes in markets.”


Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

Updated 13 August 2020

Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi touched down in the US for his annual medical checkup on Thursday, the Yemeni Embassy in the US said.
Ambassador Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak received Hadi at the airport in Cleveland, Ohio, where the appointment is due to take place, and “reaffirmed his utmost best wishes to the president for continued good health,” the embassy said in a brief statement.
Hadi left for the US after appointing a new governor and a new security chief in Aden, and mandating new Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed to form a new government. Hadi has travelled regularly to Cleveland for medical treatment since becoming president in early 2012, reportedly suffering from heart problems.
Saeed asked the governor, Ahmed Hamid Lamlis, to focus his efforts on reviving public institutions in Aden, restoring peace and security and fixing basic services that have been hit hard by years of instability. The official Saba news agency reported that the prime minister pledged Lamlis his government’s full support.
Saeed also entered discussions with various political factions in Yemen with a view to forming his government. Abdul Malik Al-Mekhlafi, an adviser to President Hadi, said on Twitter that the administration would be announced within a month, as the internationally recognized government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) enacted security and military components of the Riyadh Agreement.
The STC recently rescinded a controversial declaration of self-rule under a new Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.
Signed by both sides in late 2019, the agreement was designed to end hostilities in Aden and other southern provinces. Under the deal, the government and the STC were agreed to withdraw their forces from contested areas in southern Yemen, move heavy weapons and military units from Aden and allow the new government to resume duties.
Meanwhile, a judiciary committee assigned by the country’s attorney general to investigate reports of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Aden’s port found hat the material was in fact a different fertilizer, urea, which could also prove hazardous if mixed with other materials.
In a letter addressed to the Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, Judge Anes Nasser Ali, a local prosecutor, ordered the port’s authorities to remove the urea from the city.
Shortly after the tragic explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut last Tuesday, Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of the Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, ignited public uproar after suggesting 4,900 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 containers had been gathering dust at the port for the last three years, which could cause an equally destructive explosion. The story prompted the country’s chief prosecutor, politicians and the public to call for an investigation.