Dhaka ready to start Rohingya return this year

Bangladeshi authorities are expecting the long-awaited repatriation of Rohingya refugees to begin this year following an agreement with Myanmar. (Reuters/File Photo)
Bangladeshi authorities are expecting the long-awaited repatriation of Rohingya refugees to begin this year following an agreement with Myanmar. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Dhaka ready to start Rohingya return this year

Bangladeshi authorities are expecting the long-awaited repatriation of Rohingya refugees to begin this year following an agreement with Myanmar. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Repatriation hopes for 1.1m refugees rise after tripartite agreement

DHAKA: Bangladeshi authorities are expecting the long-awaited repatriation of Rohingya refugees to begin this year following an agreement with Myanmar, officials in Dhaka said on Tuesday.

Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims at cramped makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, which is considered the world’s largest refugee settlement. Most have fled violence and persecution following a military crackdown by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state in 2017.

At a tripartite meeting facilitated by China on Tuesday, Myanmar agreed to start the repatriation process, although it did not confirm a time frame.

“We can expect that it will begin in the second quarter,” Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen said after the meeting, which was attended by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui and Myanmar International Cooperation Deputy Minister Hau Do Suan.

“We discussed starting the Rohingya repatriation in the first quarter,” Momen told reporters. “But Myanmar said there are issues regarding logistics and physical arrangement, and addressing those will take some time.”

Similar repatriation attempts in November 2018 and August 2019 were abandoned after the refugees refused to return to their homeland, citing security concerns.

“We failed in the last two attempts,” Momen said. “We want to be successful this time. I am cautiously optimistic.”

Bangladesh has coordinated with the UN refugee agency UNHCR on a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to be repatriated.

However, during the tripartite talks, Myanmar said that it wanted to start the process with only 42,000, whom it had already verified.

“We said the number is not important here,” Momen said. “What matters is the issue of confidence among the Rohingya themselves.”

More details of the repatriation will be discussed by Bangladesh and Myanmar early in February.

Shah Rezwan Hayat, commissioner of the Bangladeshi government’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission at Cox’s Bazar, said his office is ready to start the repatriation process as soon as a date is agreed.

“We have all kinds of physical preparation to conduct a smooth repatriation process. Two transit points were fully prepared during the previous attempts,” he told Arab News on Wednesday.

Experts believe that multilateral diplomatic efforts are still needed if the repatriation is to take place and that a special task force needs to be established.

“This task force should include all the regional and international bodies, including UNHCR and IOM (International Organization for Migration),” Munshi Faiz Ahmad, former Bangladeshi envoy to China, told Arab News.

“Myanmar is planning to launch large-scale economic activities in Rakhine. The Rohingya could be employed there on priority basis,” he said, adding that the role of China in the task force would be crucial.

“If China plays the role of a guarantor monitoring all the agreed points on repatriation, the process will be a successful,” Ahmad said.

Prof. Delwar Hossain, of Dhaka University’s international relations department, told Arab News that Bangladesh should be more engaged with regional and international stakeholders to build trust among the refugees.

“The UN should be involved in the repatriation process to create confidence among the Rohingya,” he said.


4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired
Updated 30 November 2021

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired

4 found dead at home in Indiana after report of shots fired
  • Law enforcement responded about 9 p.m. Monday and medics confirmed that the four were dead inside the home in Allen County
  • The investigation was in the preliminary stages

FORT WAYNE, Indiana: The bodies of four people were found at a home in northeastern Indiana following a report of shots being fired, authorities said.
Law enforcement responded about 9 p.m. Monday and medics confirmed that the four were dead inside the home in Allen County, near Fort Wayne, sheriff’s Cpl. Adam Griffith said at the scene.
One person described as a witness was uninjured, Griffith said, and investigators interviewed that person.
The investigation was in the preliminary stages Monday night, Griffith said, but authorities didn’t believe there was any current danger to the public. Circumstances of the deaths weren’t immediately given.
Additional information was expected to be released Tuesday.


Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT
Updated 30 November 2021

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT

Pentagon orders new probe into Syria airstrike investigated by NYT
  • Dozens of civilians were killed in successive airstrikes
  • A US legal officer ‘flagged the strike as a possible war crime’ but the leadership are alleged to have taken no action

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon launched a fresh probe Monday into a 2019 airstrike that killed civilians in Syria, two weeks after a New York Times investigation claimed the US military concealed dozens of non-combatants’ deaths.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin instructed Army General Michael Garrett to “review the reports of the investigation already conducted into that incident” and “conduct further inquiry into the facts and circumstances related to it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
Garrett’s three-month review will assess “civilian casualties that resulted from the incident, compliance with the law of war, record keeping and reporting procedures,” Kirby added.
It will also probe whether measures taken after the earlier investigation were effectively implemented, if “accountability measures” should be taken and if “procedures or processes should be altered.”
According to a Times investigation published mid-November, a US special force operating in Syria — sometimes in complete secrecy — bombed a group of civilians three times on March 18, 2019, near the Islamic State (IS) bastion of Baghouz, killing 70 people, mainly women and children.
The Times report says a US legal officer “flagged the strike as a possible war crime” but that “at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike.”
The Times found the strike “was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against the Islamic State,” but was never publicly acknowledged by the US military.
“The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified,” the report said, adding findings of a Pentagon probe were “stalled and stripped of any mention of the strike.”
A statement released by the Pentagon after the report said the initial investigation into the incident by the US Army Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, found the strikes were “self-defense,” “proportional” and that “appropriate steps were taken to exclude the presence of civilians.”
A US-led coalition and Kurdish-led allies announced the defeat of the IS proto-state, known as the “caliphate,” at the end of March 2019 after overcoming the last jihadist holdout of Baghouz.


India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening
Updated 30 November 2021

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening

India advises states to step up COVID-19 testing; Mumbai delays school reopening
  • State governments warned last week that a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic

BENGALURU: India’s health ministry said on Tuesday states should ramp up COVID-19 testing as the world battles the new coronavirus variant omicron, while some cities delayed the reopening of schools as a precautionary measure.
The ministry also said the omicron variant “doesn’t escape RT-PCR and RAT (testing),” appeasing some concerns among domestic health workers that changes in the spike protein of the virus could lead to conventional tests failing to detect the variant.
It comes as the ministry warned state governments last week that a recent fall in testing could undermine India’s efforts to contain the pandemic.
While India has not reported any omicron cases yet, authorities are studying the sample of a man who tested positive for COVID-19 after recently returning from South Africa to see if he is infected with the omicron or another variant.
Also on Tuesday, Mumbai’s municipal corporation said it was delaying reopening schools for younger children to Dec. 15 instead of Wednesday as a precautionary measure given the global situation involving omicron. In-person classes for senior students began about two months ago.
The city of Pune, which is also located in the western state of Maharashtra, has also postponed the reopening of schools, local media reported.
After battling a record jump in infections and deaths in April and May, cases have come down substantially in India.
Its COVID-19 cases rose by 6,990 on Tuesday — the smallest increase in 551 days — to 34.59 million. Only the United States has reported more total infections.
Deaths rose by 190, taking the total to 468,980, health ministry data showed.


Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says
Updated 30 November 2021

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says

Greece to make vaccinations for persons over 60 mandatory, PM says
  • About 63 percent of the population of about 11 million is fully vaccinated
  • Greece has recorded a spike in infections this month, with daily cases hitting record highs

ATHENS: Greece said on Tuesday it would make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for people aged 60 and over in a move to quell a resurgent virus that is burdening a frail health care system.
Authorities said those who failed to comply from Jan. 16 would face a recurring monthly fine of 100 euros.
Tuesday’s announcement marks an EU-wide first in targeting a specific age group. Other countries make vaccines mandatory for health workers and other high-risk groups of workers.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he struggled with the decision but it was necessary to protect more than half a million elderly Greeks who had failed to get the jab.
“Its the price to pay for health,” he said.
About 63 percent of Greece’s 11 million population is fully vaccinated. While vaccine appointments have picked up in recent weeks, health ministry data shows there are 520,000 people over the age of 60 who have failed to get a jab.
“We are focusing our efforts on protection of our fellow citizens and for this reason their vaccination will be mandatory from now on,” Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting.
Syriza, Greece’s main opposition party, faulted the measures as being punitive and financially excessive.
“This hasn’t happened anywhere,” it said.
Mitsotakis did not say how authorities would enforce the rule. A 100 euro fine is a hefty chunk of the average monthly 730 euro pension.
“(The decision) tortured me, but I feel a heavy responsibility in standing next to those most vulnerable, even if it might fleetingly displease them,” he said.
Greece this month barred unvaccinated people from indoor spaces including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms as daily COVID-19 cases hit record highs.
It has recorded 931,183 infections and 18,067 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.


The third Japan-Jordan Politico-Military dialogue held online

The third Japan-Jordan Politico-Military dialogue held online
Updated 30 November 2021

The third Japan-Jordan Politico-Military dialogue held online

The third Japan-Jordan Politico-Military dialogue held online

TOKYO: The third Japan-Jordan Politico-Military dialogue was held via video conference on Monday, the foreign ministry said.

The Japanese delegation was led by Kansuke Nagaoka, director general of the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yasushi Noguchi, director general for International Affairs of the Bureau of Defense Policy in the Ministry of Defense.

The Jordanian delegation was led by Adli Qasem Alkhaledi, director of Asia and Oceania Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and Brigadier General Yousef Alkhatib, assistant of the chief of staff for planning, organization and defense resources.

The delegations exchanged views on a wide-ranging number of issues, including Japan-Jordan security cooperation and regional situations.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan