Coronavirus compounds global crisis of forced displacement

Coronavirus compounds global crisis of forced displacement
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Displaced Syrian, some wearing protective masks, listen as medics hold an awareness campaign on how to be protected against the novel coronavirus pandemic, in a camp for displaced people in Kafr Lusin, in the northwestern province of Idlib, following heavy storms on March 18, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)
Coronavirus compounds global crisis of forced displacement
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Updated 20 June 2020

Coronavirus compounds global crisis of forced displacement

Coronavirus compounds global crisis of forced displacement
  • UN refugee agency has released Global Trends Report on June 20 to mark World Refugee Day
  • The report says 79.5 million people around the world were displaced as of the end of 2019 

ABU DHABI: Every minute, nearly 30 people worldwide leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror.

As a result, one in every 97 people on the planet — more than 1 percent of humanity — is forcibly displaced.

These are just two of the many grim statistics cited by the latest edition of the Global Trends Report, which is being released by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to mark World Refugee Day on June 20.

The UNHCR, which has termed the current global refugee crisis as the highest level of human displacement on record, is appealing to nations, governments and individuals to do more to help displaced people find homes and a stable future.

The Global Trends Report says that “an unprecedented 79.5 million were displaced as of the end of 2019,” and that the “UNHCR has not seen a higher total.”

More than half of the displaced population — 45.7 million people — fled to other areas in their own country, thus becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs).




A child sits on a couch found in a street, ravaged by pro-regime forces air strikes, in the town of Ariha in the southern countryside of the Idlib province on April 11, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Another 4.2 million awaited the outcome of asylum requests. The number of “refugees and others” forcibly displaced from their home countries stood at 29.6 million.

Among the displaced are an estimated 30-34 million children, tens of thousands of them unaccompanied, according to the Global Trends Report.

Two-thirds of people displaced across borders originated from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

From South America to South Asia, the effects of conflict continue to be felt most by neighboring countries.

Three countries hosted displaced people almost exclusively from one country: Turkey (3.6 million Syrians), Colombia (1.8 million Venezuelans) and Pakistan (1.4 million Afghans).

The UNHCR says two factors mainly accounted for the increase in global refugee numbers from 70.8 million at the end of 2018 to 79.5 million at the end of 2019.




An aerial view shows charred tents, after a fire that was reportedly caused by a cooking accident destroyed dozens of temporary shelters housing displaced Syrians, in the Deir Hassan camp for the displaced, in Syria's northwestern Idlib province's northern countryside near the Turkish border, on May 17, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

The first was continued unrest in two areas in Africa — the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Sahel — and in two countries in the Middle East — Yemen and Syria.

Syria, which is in its 10th year of conflict, has created 13.2 million refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs, who together account for a sixth of the current global population of displaced peoples.

The second factor behind the rise in the refugee numbers, according to the UNHCR, is a better understanding of the situation of Venezuelans currently outside their country.

In recent years, deteriorating political, socioeconomic and human rights conditions in Venezuela have resulted in the displacement of 3.6 million people.

Though not legally registered as refugees or asylum-seekers, many of them require protection-sensitive arrangements.

This means the host country is obliged to avoid applying legitimate control measures in an arbitrary manner when dealing with the cases of asylum-seekers and other categories. Rather, it is encouraged to address and understand the special protection needs of the displaced Venezuelans.

The increase in the numbers of displaced people worldwide is not the only challenge for the UNHCR. The inability of these people to return to their home country is also a growing cause for concern.

FASTFACTS

World Refugee Day

* World Refugee Day aims to raise awareness of refugee crisis.

* UNHCR says 79.5m people displaced worldwide as of end-2019.

* Children make up 30-34m of displaced population.

In the 1990s, about 1.5 million refugees were able to go back from their host country each year, says the Global Trends Report.

Over the past decade, however, that number has fallen to around 385,000, which means that the problem is in need of new solutions.

“We are witnessing a changed reality in that forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly more widespread, it is simply no longer a short-term and temporary phenomenon,” said Filipo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees.




Syrian refugees watch from their window as others get tested for the covid-19, during a testing campaign organised by Lebanon's health ministry and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the southern city of Sidon, on May 28, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

The increase in the number of displaced shows the “human impact of decades of crises, wars, social breakdown, violence and persecution, aggravated by the climate emergency, inequality and exclusion.

“People cannot be expected to live in a state of upheaval for years on end, without a chance of going home, nor a hope of building a future where they are.

This year’s World Refugee Day is being marked against the backdrop of another unprecedented crisis: COVID-19, the largest health care emergency in modern history.




A child rests by her family's belongings as Afghan families who arrived from Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, camp at a central Athens square on June 14, 2020 after receiving a blue stamp which allowed them to travel to the mainland. (AFP)

As a result of the pandemic, which has affected 7.8 million people in more than 213 countries, the world’s attention and resources have been diverted away from issues such as the refugee crisis. For the displaced, the consequences have been dire.

Many refugees have lost their livelihood as a result of the restrictions on physical movement that host countries have imposed in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus infections.

Their access to health care and education has also been affected in countries where the host communities have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks.

This in addition to food shortages, poor living conditions and exposure to the infection in densely populated refugee camps.

The economic and psychosocial repercussions of the coronavirus crisis are of particular concern to the UNHCR, which believes that loss of daily wages will result in hardship for millions of refugees.

Even before the pandemic hit, the fact that 84 percent of the world’s refugees resided in developing regions meant they had limited access to mental health care.




A child sits on the doorstep of his home al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, as Palestinians mark the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba on May 14, 2020. - Palestinians are marking the 1948 Nakba, or "catastrophe", which left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the war accompanying the birth of Israel. (AFP/File Photo)

“COVID-19 is not just a physical health crisis, it is now also triggering a mental health crisis,” said Grandi.

“While many refugees and internally displaced people are remarkably resilient and are able to move forward despite having experienced violence or persecution first-hand, their capacities to cope are now being stretched to the limit.”

In this environment of multiple crises competing for every host country’s limited pool of resources and generosity, the importance of understanding the message of World Refugee Day cannot be overstated.


EXPRESSIONS OF SOLIDARITY

• On World Refugee Day, the UNHCR is launching its first online collection of home decor products and accessories hand-crafted by refugees.

• Across the Middle East, June 20 is being observed with expressions of solidarity for the displaced, homeless and stateless.

• Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower will be lit up in the color of UN blue, as will Kuwait’s Al-Hamra Tower.

• Egypt is commemorating World Refugee Day with Yadawee, a social enterprise that promotes Egyptian handicrafts. The virtual workshop encourages refugee artisans to talk about their experiences and teach participants how to make their own face masks.

• The UAE’s New York University Abu Dhabi Arts Center, in partnership with the UNHCR, is organizing a virtual play — “Revisit CARTOGRAPHY” — lives seen through the lens of four refugees. The play combines storytelling with interactive video technology, followed by a question-and-answer session.



UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 7 min 51 sec ago

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.


Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 min 20 sec ago

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
  • Akayed Ullah, 31, claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh
  • Ullah will serve a minimum of 35 years behind bars

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced on Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.
Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh when he detonated his homemade bomb on Dec. 11, 2017.
No one died and four people were injured in the explosion, which led to the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal during the morning rush. Ullah was burned in what prosecutors called a “lone wolf” attack.
US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence, told Ullah he had committed a “truly barbaric and heinous crime” without regard for the humanity of those in his way.
“They were just people on the way to work, or school,” Sullivan said. “People who maybe had finished the night shift. ... To you, these people were expendable.”
Ullah, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, had faced a mandatory minimum 35-year term.
He told Sullivan he did not condone violence, and apologized to New York City, law enforcement and the United States.
“What I did on December 11, it was wrong,” Ullah said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry.”
Prosecutors said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Daesh propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible.
“Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, Ullah had a green card, allowing him to live in the United States.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and then-infant son lived in Bangladesh.
Ullah’s lawyer Amy Gallicchio, a federal public defender, called him a “deeply troubled soul” who had been attracted on the Internet to the “distorted and radical messages” of extremism.
“He is not an evil man,” Gallicchio said, a sentiment the judge also expressed. “He is not a monster.”
But federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski questioned why Ullah chose Times Square to set off the bomb if suicide was his goal.
The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician.
“It is important to send a message that when you attack New York City, there will be no leniency,” Donaleski said.
Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.


Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral
  • Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors

N’DJAMENA: Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Although criticized by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against Islamist militants.
“He liberated our country from dictatorship and gave us the opportunity to participate fully in democracy,” said Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital.
His death was announced by the army on Tuesday, a day after election officials said he had won a sixth term in office. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
“He protected us for so long that today we have come to wish him eternal rest. A deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, who attended the ceremony.
On Thursday a car with mounted speakers drove around N’Djamena telling residents not to panic if they hear cannon fire as Deby would receive a 21-gun salute.


German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
Updated 23 April 2021

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
  • The number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59
BERLIN: The number of new coronavirus cases does not appear to be rising as rapidly, the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday, but warned that case numbers remained too high.
Lars Schaade told a weekly news conference that the number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59 and said the virus was “not harmless” even for younger and healthier people.

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
  • Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus
  • Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia

ATHENS, Greece: Greek authorities say they have seized more than four tons of cannabis hidden in a shipment of industrial cupcake-making machines heading from Lebanon to Slovakia.
Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement late Thursday that the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus, following information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The container, whose registered contents were three industrial cupcake-making machines, arrived by sea in Piraeus on April 14 and had been scheduled to be transported by rail on April 20 to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, through North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.
Following the information from the DEA, Greek authorities raided the container on April 16. A total of more than 4.3 tons of processed cannabis were found in a hidden compartment built into a metal tank that was among the machinery, the financial crimes squad said. The street value of the drugs is estimated at around $4 million.
Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia. An investigation into the shipment is continuing.