Bangladesh sends more Rohingya refugees to remote island despite UN concerns

Bangladesh sends more Rohingya refugees to remote island despite UN concerns
Rohingya refugees are seen on a Bangladesh's Navy ship as they are being relocated to Bhashan Char Island in the Bay of Bengal, in Chittagong on January 29, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2021

Bangladesh sends more Rohingya refugees to remote island despite UN concerns

Bangladesh sends more Rohingya refugees to remote island despite UN concerns
  • Move to ease pressure off Cox’s Bazar

DHAKA: Almost 1,800 Rohingya refugees were relocated to a remote island in Bangladesh on Friday, despite UN concerns about how safe and voluntary the move is.

The Bangladeshi navy relocated the group from camps in Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char, which is in the Bay of Bengal and 30 kilometers from the mainland.

Bangladesh says it has built housing units and infrastructure on Bhasan Char for 100,000 refugees to take the pressure off Cox’s Bazar, which already hosts more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees. The Rohingya are members of an ethnic and religious minority group who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine State during a military crackdown in 2017.

Two similar relocation efforts took more than 3,440 Rohingya Muslims to the island in December. But the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is concerned about the island’s vulnerability to severe weather and flooding.

“A total of 1,776 Rohingyas have been relocated to Bhasan Char,” Rear Admiral Mozammel Haque, Chattogram area commander of the navy, told Arab News. “They were brought to Chattogram from the Cox’s Bazar camp on Thursday and stayed here in the transit camp for one night. At around 9:45 a.m., four ships carrying the Rohingyas started sailing toward the island,” he said, adding that another group of 1,500 refugees would be transported to Bhasan Char on Saturday.

The UNHCR has been voicing its concerns about whether the relocation is not only safe, but voluntary.

“We are aware of reports that the government of Bangladesh may soon relocate another group of refugees to Bhasan Char,” Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, UNHCR spokesman in Dhaka, told Arab News. “The UN has not been part of this process.”

He said the UN had asked to conduct an assessment on the safety and sustainability of life on Bhasan Char, but that the agency had still not received government permission to carry out the evaluation.

“We emphasize that all movements to Bhasan Char must be voluntary and based upon full information regarding the conditions of life on the island and the rights and services that refugees will be able to access there,” Hossain added.

Authorities said the Rohingya were happy to start their new lives on the island.

According to Haque, those who left for Bhasan Char on Friday seemed “very excited for having the new home.”

“It was like a picnic to them,” he added. “The newly arrived Rohingyas have already received the keys for their homes in the island. We will provide them with cooked food for the next three days and after that all the families will begin cooking at their home since every family is provided with a cylinder gas stove.”

The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), the government body overseeing the wellbeing of Rohingyas at Cox’s Bazar, said refugees had shared their good experiences from the island with others.

“Rohingyas who are already in Bhasan Char have shared their good experiences over living conditions in the island with their relatives at Cox’s Bazar refugee camp,” RRRC additional commissioner Mohammad Shamsuddouza told Arab News. “It inspired the new batches to come up for the relocation and we organized the relocation accordingly,” he said, adding that everything was on a voluntary basis. “With their personal belongings many of them carried chicken and goats to travel with the ship since there are huge scopes of livelihood in the island.”

Some 30 local aid agencies are supporting the refugees on the island.

Dr. Mohammad Arfin Rahman, a medical officer at the NGO Gonoshasthaya Kendra, told Arab News that advanced medical facilities should reach Bhasan Char soon, while a 20-bed government-run health complex was currently available to them on the island.


Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran
Updated 28 October 2021

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran
  • The aid comes after Human Rights Watch claimed Iranian mismanagement has harmed the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

TOKYO: Japan provided Iran with grant aid of ¥695 million (about $6.3 million) to strengthen health and medical capabilities to fight coronavirus in the country, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

The aid comes after Human Rights Watch claimed Iranian mismanagement has harmed the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The HRW also called on Tehran to honestly and clearly communicate with the public about the situation. 

Iran’s official government statistics showed that the country experienced its fifth wave in August, with with at least 655 daily COVID-19 deaths.

Hirotaka Matsuo, Japan’s Charge d’Affaires and interim in Tehran exchanged the letter of agreement on this aid with the World Health Organization representative Dr. Husain Syed Jaffar.

The aid, in cooperation with the International Health Organization, will help in providing six MRIs to hospitals in five Iranian locations and obtaining equipment needed to diagnose COVID-19 complications.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans
Updated 28 October 2021

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans
  • Japan underscored the necessity of confidence-building between Israel and Palestine and the efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the region

TOKYO: Japan on Thursday condemned Israel’s plans to build about 1,300 settlement housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Israel’s settlement activities violate international law and undermine the viability of a ‘two-state solution.’ The Government of Japan deeply deplores the continued settlement activities by the government of Israel despite repeated calls for freezing such activities from Japan and the international community,” said an official statement by the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

In the statement, Japan underscored the necessity of confidence-building between Israel and Palestine and the efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the region. “Japan strongly urges the government of Israel to rescind the tenders mentioned above and approval of the construction plans, and to freeze its settlement activities.”

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range
Updated 28 October 2021

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range
  • The Agni-5 missile blasted off from Abdul Kalam Island off India’s east coast late Wednesday and splashed into the Bay of Bengal

NEW DELHI: India has tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 5,000 kilometers, the defense ministry said, in what media called a “stern signal” to China as the two remain locked in a border spat.
The Agni-5 missile blasted off from Abdul Kalam Island off India’s east coast late Wednesday and splashed into the Bay of Bengal.
“The successful test ... is in line with India’s stated policy to have ‘credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’ [of nuclear weapons],” a defense ministry statement said.
The 17-meter-tall missile has been tested several times before, but not at night, and local media said that the timing was aimed at sending a signal to Beijing.
Tensions with China have been running high since 20 Indian soldiers died in clashes on their disputed Himalayas border in June 2020.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have since reinforced the frontier with tens of thousands of extra troops.
India has deepened defense cooperation with Western countries in recent years, including in the Quad alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.
New Delhi is also a major buyer of Russian military hardware, and ordered Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system despite the threat of US sanctions over the $5.4 billion deal.
The Financial Times reported this month that China had tested a hypersonic missile that circled the Earth at low orbit before descending toward, but missing, its target.
Beijing denied the report, insisting it was a routine test of a reusable space vehicle.
Hypersonics are the new frontier in missile technology, because they fly lower and are harder to detect than ballistic missiles, can reach targets more quickly, and are maneuverable.
The United States, Russia, China and North Korea have all tested hypersonic missiles and several others are developing the technology — including reportedly India.
According to the Times of India, New Delhi is working on enabling the Agni-5 to carry several nuclear warheads at once so they can split up and hit different targets.


Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister
Updated 28 October 2021

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister
  • Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades
  • China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory although the island has been self-ruled

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s defense minister said Thursday that Taiwan must be prepared to defend itself and could not entirely depend on other countries to help if China were to launch an attack against the island, even as Taiwan’s president said she had faith the US would defend it.
“The country must rely on itself, and if any friends or other groups can help us, then it’s like I said before, we’re happy to have it, but we can not completely depend on it,” the minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told reporters after being questioned in the legislature as part of a session on national defense.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades, with China sending record-breaking numbers of fighter jets toward international airspace close to the island, stepping up a campaign of military harassment. Taiwan’s defense ministry has said that China would have “comprehensive” capabilities to invade the island by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory although the island has been self-ruled since it split from the communist-ruled mainland in 1949 after a long civil war.
Chiu has called the rising tensions between China and Taiwan the most “severe” he has seen in 40 years.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN that aired Thursday that she had faith the US would defend Taiwan if China made a move against the island.
“I do have faith given the long term relationship we have with the US and also the support of the people of the US as well as Congress,” Tsai said.


Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record
Updated 28 October 2021

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record
  • Last week, Singapore extended some social curbs for about a month, to rein in the spread of COVID-19

SINGAPORE: Singapore is looking into an “unusual surge” of 5,324 new infections of COVID-19, the city-state’s health ministry said, its highest such figure since the beginning of the pandemic, as beds in intensive care units fill up.
Ten new deaths on Wednesday carried the toll to 349, after 3,277 infections the previous day, while the ICU utilization rate is nearing 80 percent, despite a population that is 84 percent fully vaccinated, with 14 percent receiving booster doses.
“The infection numbers are unusually high today, mostly due to many COVID-positive cases detected by the testing laboratories within a few hours in the afternoon,” the health ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Health is looking into this unusual surge in cases within a relatively short window, and closely monitoring the trends for the next few days,” it added in Wednesday’s statement.
While nearly 98.7 percent of the past month’s 90,203 cases had no symptoms, or only mild ones, about 0.2 percent of those had died, and 0.1 percent each were being monitored closely in intensive care units (ICU) or were critically ill and intubated there.
About 72 ICU beds were vacant by Wednesday, at an overall ICU use rate of 79.8 percent, with 142 coronavirus sufferers accounting for about half of occupied beds.
The ministry said it was adding more ICU beds. The Asian city-state, which has set aside 200 ICU beds to be used by COVID-19 patients, can add 100 more at short notice.
Last week, it extended some social curbs for about a month, to rein in the spread of COVID-19 and ease pressure on health care facilities.
Authorities reinstated curbs limiting social interactions and dining out to two people, so as to slow infections.