Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. (AP)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law
  • The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries
  • The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries

NEW DELHI: A divisive citizenship bill has been signed into law in India, a move that comes amid widespread protests in the country’s northeast that could force the cancelation of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. Protesters say the law would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned to host Abe at a meeting in Assam next week as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
Japan’s Jiji Press reported on Friday that Abe is considering canceling his trip. India’s foreign ministry said it was not in a position to comment on the visit which was originally planned for Dec 15-17.
A movement against immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the resources of the tea growing state and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
Critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.
The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries before 2015.
The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India’s constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. No date has yet been set for the hearings.
The party said the law is “prima facie communal” and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.


Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry
Updated 17 June 2021

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry

Security should have confronted Manchester bomber: inquiry
  • The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi
  • Inquiry heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the show’s end

LONDON: Security teams at Britain’s Manchester Arena “should have prevented or minimized” the impact of the 2017 terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 people, a public inquiry found Thursday.
The attack, as concert-goers were leaving the show, was perpetrated by 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent.
In a report examining security measures at the venue in northwest England, inquiry chairman John Saunders said Arena operator SMG, security provider Showsec and British Transport Police all missed opportunities to either prevent or mitigate the attack, which took place on May 22, 2017.
“The security arrangements for the Manchester Arena should have prevented or minimized the devastating impact of the attack,” he wrote.
“Salman Abedi should have been identified on 22nd May 2017 as a threat by those responsible for the security of Arena and a disruptive intervention undertaken.
“Had that occurred, I consider it likely that Salman Abedi would still have detonated his device, but the loss of life and injury is highly likely to have been less,” he added.
The inquiry had heard that an officer from British Transport Police was supposed to be present in the foyer of the arena at the end of the show, where the bomb was detonated, but nobody was there.
A Showsec security guard also told the inquiry that he had a “bad feeling” when he saw Abedi around five minutes before the attack, but did not approach him for fear of being called a racist.
“I felt unsure about what to do,” said Kyle Lawler, who was aged 18 at the time of the attack.
“I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.”
Lawler said he had tried to radio the control room, but that he gave up as he could not get through due to radio traffic.
A member of the public had reported Abedi, who was dressed in black and carrying a large rucksack, to security 15 minutes before he detonated the bomb, packed with 3,000 nuts and bolts.
Abedi’s brother was last year jailed for life for playing an “integral part” in the attack, that also injured hundreds.
The Daesh group-inspired suicide bombing targeted crowds of mostly young people.
The youngest victim was aged just eight. Others included parents who had come to pick up their children.


Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties
Updated 17 June 2021

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties

Sweden govt set to lose confidence vote: parties
  • Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles
  • To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s minority government could be toppled next week after a group of four parties in parliament announced Thursday they would back a no confidence vote, potentially triggering a snap election.

The far-right Sweden Democrats party announced it was calling for a motion of no confidence for Monday after the Left Party earlier warned it would seek a similar move over a dispute on rent controls for newly constructed apartments.

“There is now a majority in parliament that wants to dismiss the prime minister,” Henrik Vinge, parliament group leader for the Sweden Democrats, told a press conference.

Vinge said they hoped the government would fall a year ahead of the next general election.

Both the conservative Moderate Party and the Christian Democrats followed suit, securing a parliamentary majority for the no confidence motion against the government of Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

“We were against the Lofven government when they took power. We were against the Lofven government then, we are against the Lofven government now,” Ebba Busch, party leader of the Christian Democrats, told a press conference.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson echoed this sentiment in a post to social media.

“Our opinion is very clear, this government should never have taken office,” Kristersson wrote in a post to Facebook.

Speaker of the house, Andreas Norlen, confirmed in a statement the vote would be held on Monday.

Sweden’s minority government, took power in 2019 after months of political struggles to secure support for a government following the 2018 election.

To secure power it inked a deal with two center-left parties, and was propped up by the Left Party.

The deal included liberal market reforms, including a government inquiry into allowing landlords to freely set rents for new apartments.

Several of these reforms have irked the Left Party, and after multiple calls on the government to abandon the “market rents,” party leader Nooshi Dadgostar said earlier on Thursday that they were looking for support among other parties for a vote of no confidence.

“Someone has to stand up for Sweden’s tenants,” Dadgostar told a press conference adding that it wasn’t an “easy announcement.”

Speaking in parliament, Lofven responded by saying it was “not responsible” to call for the vote.

Lofven has announced a press conference of his own at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT).


UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
Updated 17 June 2021

UK refugee charity fears for future

UK refugee charity fears for future
  • Lack of funding for Refugee Kindness could prevent it helping thousands
  • Founder set up charity after witnessing plight of Syrian family

LONDON: A charity that provides household items, clothing and other support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK has said it fears for its future.

Refugee Kindness — based in Wrexham, Wales — is a young charity that grew from a spur-of-the-moment decision by a Welsh barrister to donate her spare furniture to a local Syrian family.

Rachel Watkin said after making that donation, she realized just how many basic necessities refugees and asylum seekers are in need of.

She set up a Facebook group to encourage other locals to do the same, and founded her charity later after witnessing the plight of one Syrian family.

“When they came to the house, it turned out there were a lot of items they didn’t have. They didn’t have games for their kids to play with ... they didn’t have nice things like pillows and rugs, they didn’t have as much cutlery as the rest of us would have, they didn’t have a fridge freezer,” she said.

“I just thought it was so imbalanced really, so unfair that we have this mass of stuff in our garages that we want to get rid of and they had so little. I knew there must be lots of families like them.”

The charity now has over 2,000 donors and has helped 54 families — but the work is becoming too much for Watkin to handle alone.

More than 20,000 Syrians have been granted asylum and resettled in the UK in the last five years.

Despite Britain taking a relatively low number of refugees, Watkins said demand for what her charity offers has “exploded,” and now it is struggling financially to provide for them. 

Refugee Kindness, less than a year old, has run into bureaucratic problems that could endanger its entire future.

Most charities, Watkin said, need to exist for two years before unlocking access to wider funding.

“When I first set it up it didn’t need funding, but now we have so many families and we’re doing more things, it’s become more difficult,” she added.

“People have been generous and they’ve given us money, but we only have about £1,500 ($2,091).”

A 2020 report by the British Red Cross found that asylum seekers granted refugee status often face significant financial hardships as their Home Office support ends and they are expected to quickly adapt to mainstream life in the UK.

“New refugees must complete a number of complex tasks which, research by the British Red Cross and other organisations has shown, are almost impossible to achieve in 28 days,” said the report.

“These include opening a bank account, finding a job and/or applying for mainstream benefits (and receiving the first wages or payment), and finding and moving into new accommodation.”

While Refugee Kindness cannot assist in solving all these problems, if it receives more funding its donations can ease the transition.

Syrian refugee Khawla said the donations she received, including a sofa, helped her family settle in.

“When we first came here it was difficult, but now it’s good. They helped a lot and I’m thankful,” she added.

Watkins said: “We’ve given it the deadline of September to secure funding ... Beyond that, I don’t know.”


France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers
Updated 17 June 2021

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers
  • Vaccination rate among health workers in care homes is lagging behind that of the general adult population
  • New daily virus infections in France are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week

PARIS: COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccinations could become compulsory for health workers if they do not drop their resistance to getting the jab, France’s health minister warned Thursday.

The threat came on the first day that people in France were authorized to be outdoors without wearing face masks, as vaccinations pick up and new COVID-19 cases drop.

The vaccination rate among health workers in care homes, however, is lagging behind that of the general adult population, 60 percent of which have now received at least one COVID-19 jab, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

He made a “solemn appeal” to health workers, especially in care homes, to “take the plunge.”

“If by the end of the summer there is no improvement we will have to consider making vaccinations for those specific groups obligatory,” Veran told BFM television.

“It is necessary and ethical to get vaccinated when you are in contact with vulnerable populations,” he added.

The coronavirus affected elderly people in care homes particularly severely, especially during the first and second virus waves last year before vaccinations became widespread and social distancing the norm.

Veran would not be drawn on a possible similar move for hospital staff, saying that “we’ll wait and see.”

New daily virus infections in France, at just over 3,000 on Wednesday, are projected to fall to 2,000 within a week and to 1,000 by the end of the month, Veran said.

A daily 11:00 p.m. curfew will be lifted on Sunday, a week ahead of schedule.

Although people can now take off masks when outdoors, there are exceptions including when on busy shopping streets or at crowded events. Masks must still be worn indoors and on public transport.


Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run
Updated 17 June 2021

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

Two dead in shooting in German town, shooter on the run

BERLIN: A man and a woman were killed in a shooting spree in the centre of the western German town of Espelkamp, and the shooter was on the run, police said on Thursday.
Bild newspaper quoted police as saying that the situation appeared to be a case of someone "running amok". It said special police commandos were attending the scene.
Espelkamp, a town of some 20,000 people, is in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.