Italy allows ship to bring migrants ashore

Italy allows ship to bring migrants ashore
Spanish migrant rescue ship Open Arms with the Door to Europe monument in the background, Lampedusa, Italy, August 16, 2019. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 04 January 2021

Italy allows ship to bring migrants ashore

Italy allows ship to bring migrants ashore
  • Spanish NGO’s Open Arms vessel rescued 169 people in the Mediterranean on Dec. 31 and 96 on Jan. 2
  • The migrants will be taken to a quarantine ship moored off Porto Empedocle

ROME: Italy has authorised a boat operated by the Spanish NGO Open Arms to disembark 265 migrants, including 63 minors, in Porto Empedocle, on the southern Sicilian coast.

The NGO’s vessel rescued 169 people in the Mediterranean on Dec. 31 and 96 on Jan. 2. They include at least fourteen women, one of them nine months pregnant, and 40 unaccompanied teenagers. The migrants will be taken to a quarantine ship moored off Porto Empedocle.

“Most of the migrants are Eritreans, but they also come from other countries such as Sudan, Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Those people are fleeing from Libyan detention centers, where they have been subjected to violence. All these men and women bear on their bodies the signs of the months, some of them even years, which they spent in those places, where they were held in inhumane conditions,” Monica Alfonsi, Open Arms representative in Italy told Arab News.

The rescued migrants had been waiting nearly four days on the Spanish humanitarian ship for a European country to authorise them to land, amid worsening sea conditions. Malta had refused permission for the migrants to disembark.

Most of the people aboard set off in dinghies from the Libyan city of Sabratha, about 60 kilometres west of Tripoli, on the morning of Dec. 30.

“They had a very difficult time because the weather conditions were very bad, with waves one and a half meters high and pouring rain,” Alfonsi said.

A total of 34,134 migrants arrived in Italy in 2020, almost three times as many as in the previous year, according to data published by the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

The Italian government has repeatedly asked the EU to launch a joint management plan for the migrants in the waters of the Central Mediterranean.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio yet again requested this week that the European Commission show courage to approve “a common response to the issue of immigration” and cease to be “immobile” while tens of thousands of people flee their home countries and try to reach Europe.


Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
Updated 18 January 2021

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign

Indonesian celebrity’s party blunder sparks criticism over vaccine campaign
  • Indonesia planning to inoculate 181 million in nationwide vaccination drive

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government’s strategy to promote coronavirus vaccination is under fire after an influencer who received a vaccine jab last week was spotted violating health guidelines just a few
hours later.

Indonesia started the nationwide vaccination drive on Wednesday to inoculate 181 million of its 276 million people, after the national drug regulator authorized the emergency use of the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech and the country’s highest authority on Islamic affairs approved it as halal, or permissible under Islamic law.

President Joko Widodo, who was the first Indonesian to receive the vaccine, described the campaign as a “game changer,” amid hopes that achieving herd immunity would help to revive the economy, which has been reeling from the pandemic. 

Alongside officials and religious leaders, 33-year-old soap opera star Raffi Ahmad also received the jab. Government strategists hoped he would promote vaccine acceptance with his huge social media presence of some 50 million followers on Instagram and 19 million on YouTube.

However, soon after receiving his shot Ahmad was photographed at a party, without a face mask and violating social distancing measures imposed by the government to contain the virus spread. The photos quickly made the rounds on social media, provoking a backlash to the government’s campaign and resulting in a lawsuit against the celebrity.

“He was really careless. He is tasked with promoting the vaccination drive, but he failed to behave accordingly,” said David Tobing, an independent lawyer who has filed the case against Ahmad for “violating the regulations to control the pandemic and for public indecency.”

“I demand in my lawsuit that the court order Ahmad to stay at home for 30 days after he gets his second vaccine jab and to issue a public apology in national print and broadcast media,” Tobing told Arab News on Saturday. “I filed the lawsuit after I received a lot of feedback from the public, including COVID-19 survivors and those who have lost loved ones because of the coronavirus.”

Ahmad has apologized on social media, saying that he did not want to disappoint the president and the public after getting the privilege of being vaccinated, but justified going to the party as it was held at a private home and said that he taken the mask off only to eat. The first hearing against Ahmad is scheduled to be held at a district court in Depok near Jakarta on Jan. 27, Tobing said. He added that he is aware that Ahmad had apologized but the actor “did not seem to have any regret.”

In response to a question by Arab News at a press briefing after the incident, national COVID-19 task force spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said that officials had reprimanded Ahmad over the blunder. He justified the involvement of celebrities in the vaccination campaign.

“When we have a major program like vaccination, we hope that a big influencer such as Raffi Ahmad can play a pivotal role to make sure young people will support the vaccination,” Adisasmito said.

Experts have criticized the government’s strategy, saying that Ahmad receiving the vaccine is unlikely to appease public concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy and possible side effects.

“Health professionals, religious figures and government officials have more credibility and integrity to promote this vaccination drive than influencers,” said Sulfikar Amir, a sociologist from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Amir, who initiated a petition in early December calling on the government to give vaccinations to all citizens when Jakarta was still planning to inoculate only selected groups, said that by appointing the celebrity influencer to promote immunization the government showed that it “has no ability to influence the public to take part in the vaccination drive.”

“This is not the same as promoting consumer goods that the influencers normally do,” he said. “It is about public health issues.”