Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya

Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya
Migrants resting on the floor of a detention center, amidst concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the city of Zawiya, Libya. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya

Human traffickers kill 26 Bangladeshis in Libya
  • Migrants were trying to reach Europe
  • Injured receiving medical help from migration body

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities are struggling to recover the bodies of 26 nationals after they were killed in a gunfight by human traffickers in Libya on Thursday.
A group of 42 migrants, including 38 Bangladeshis, was held captive by traffickers in Mizdah, around 180 kilometers from the capital Tripoli, the Bangladesh Embassy in Libya said, quoting one of the survivors.
The survivor said that they had paid between $8,000 and $10,000 to the traffickers to reach Europe through Libya, but that suddenly more money was demanded. As the hostages attacked and killed the leader of the Libyan traffickers, his associates started to shoot at them, killing 26 Bangladeshis and injuring another 12. The remaining four hostages were reportedly from Africa and also died during the gunfight.
“The injured people have bullet wounds and one of them is in critical condition, currently in a hospital in Tripoli with a severe brain injury,” A.S.M. Ashraful Islam, labor counselor at the Bangladesh Embassy to Libya, told Arab News on Friday. “The others are out of danger.”
The embassy said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had helped by providing expert doctors and medical equipment for the injured, but that there were problems with recovering the dead.

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According to the UNHCR, more than 2 million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.

“We have some difficulty in receiving the dead bodies of the Bangladeshi nationals from the town of Mizdah as the UN-recognized Libyan government of National Accord (GNA) doesn’t have enough control in that area,” Islam said. “Preservation of dead bodies for a long period is also tough as there is a huge scarcity of refrigerators and electricity supply in the war-torn country. Once the flight operations are restored we will repatriate the survivors and dead bodies.”
He said the embassy had filed a court appeal for the dead not to be buried in Libya.
“There are some active human trafficking groups in Bangladesh,” Foreign Minister Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen said in a video message on Friday afternoon. “We arrested many of them last year and expected the human traffickers’ gang would stop their activities.”
But a joint international effort was required to stop trafficking, according to Shariful Hasan from the Bangladesh-based international development agency BRAC.
“No one can handle this problem alone,” he told Arab News.  “Since it’s a racket involving traffickers from many countries, the Bangladeshi government should initiate a joint effort with some other countries where the traffickers are operating.”
Several thousand Bangladeshi migrants live in Libya, according to embassy data. The country has long been a major staging post for migrants trying to reach Europe.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 2 million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. Bangladesh is one of the top 10 countries where people risk their lives to cross the sea on small boats.
In the first four months of this year 693 Bangladeshis were arrested by border and coast guard authorities while trying to enter Europe illegally.


India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive
Updated 47 min 5 sec ago

India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive
  • India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs
  • But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge

NEW DELHI: India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.
India is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the current challenge.
Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the USand several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers, to be followed by 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
For workers who have pulled India’s battered health care system through the pandemic, the shots offered confidence that life can start returning to normal. Many burst with pride.
“I am excited that I am among the first to get the vaccine,” Gita Devi, a nurse, said as she lifted her left sleeve to receive the shot.
“I am happy to get an India-made vaccine and that we do not have to depend on others for it,” said Devi, who has treated patients throughout the pandemic in a hospital in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state in India’s heartland.
The first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital, New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech.
“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”
It was not clear whether Modi, 70, had received the vaccine himself like other world leaders to try to demonstrate the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.
Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.
The sheer scale has its obstacles and some early snags were identified. For instance, there were delays in uploading the details of health care workers receiving the shots to a digital platform that India is using to track vaccines, the Health Ministry said.
Shots were given to at least 165,714 people on Saturday, Dr. Manohar Agnani, a Health Ministry official, said at an evening briefing. The ministry had said that it was aiming to vaccinate 100 people in each of the 3,006 centers across the country.
News cameras captured the injections across hundreds of hospitals, underscoring the pent-up hopes that vaccination was the first step in getting past the pandemic that has devastated the lives of so many Indians and bruised the country’s economy.
India on Jan. 4 approved emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.
But doubts over the effectiveness of the homegrown vaccine is creating hurdles for the ambitious plan.
Health experts worry that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy. At least one state health minister has opposed its use.
In New Delhi, doctors at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, one of the largest in the city, demanded they be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of the one developed by Bharat Biotech. A doctors union at the hospital said many of its members were a “bit apprehensive about the lack of complete trial” for the homegrown vaccine.
“Right now, we don’t have the option to choose between the vaccines,” said Dr. Nirmalaya Mohapatra, vice president of the hospital’s Resident Doctors Association.
The Health Ministry has bristled at the criticism and says the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which vaccine they will get themselves.
According to Dr. S.P. Kalantri, the director of a rural hospital in Maharashtra, India’s worst-hit state, such an approach was worrying because he said the regulatory approval was hasty and not backed by science.
“In a hurry to be populist, the government (is) taking decisions that might not be in the best interest of the common man,” Kalantri said.
Against the backdrop of the rising global COVID-19 death toll — it topped 2 million on Friday — the clock is ticking to vaccinate as many people as possible. But the campaign has been uneven.
In wealthy countries including the United States, Britain, Israel, Canada and Germany, millions of citizens have already been given some measure of protection by vaccines developed with revolutionary speed and quickly authorized for use.
But elsewhere, immunization drives have barely gotten off the ground. Many experts are predicting another year of loss and hardship in places like Iran, India, Mexico and Brazil, which together account for about a quarter of the world’s COVID-19 deaths.
India is second to the US with more than 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the US and Brazil, with over 152,000.
More than 35 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.
While the majority of the COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccines, money and logistical help.
As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, warned this week that it is highly unlikely that herd immunity — which would require at least 70% of the globe to be vaccinated — will be achieved this year.
“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” she said.