US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas

US border patrol officers cut the way of migrants asylum seekers as they are trying to return to the US along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed back into Mexico to buy food, on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
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US border patrol officers cut the way of migrants asylum seekers as they are trying to return to the US along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed back into Mexico to buy food, on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
Migrant asylum seekers walk through the Rio Grande river to cross the border between Ciudad Acuna, Mexico and Del Rio, Texas, US, after buying supplies at the Mexican side on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Migrant asylum seekers walk through the Rio Grande river to cross the border between Ciudad Acuna, Mexico and Del Rio, Texas, US, after buying supplies at the Mexican side on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
US border patrol officers cut the way of migrants asylum seekers as they are trying to return to the US along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed back into Mexico to buy food, on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
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US border patrol officers cut the way of migrants asylum seekers as they are trying to return to the US along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed back into Mexico to buy food, on Sept. 19, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 20 September 2021

US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas

US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas
  • More 12,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, had camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico

DEL RIO, Texas: The US flew Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland Sunday and tried blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico in a massive show of force that signaled the beginning of what could be one of America’s swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants or refugees in decades.
More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights, and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. In all, US authorities moved to expel many of the more 12,000 migrants camped around a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after crossing from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico.
The US plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a US official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.
The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, senior US advocate at Refugees International whose doctoral studies focused on the history of US asylum law.
Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during peak years of immigration but over land and not so suddenly.
Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the US under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
When the border was closed Sunday, the migrants initially found other ways to cross nearby until they were confronted by federal and state law enforcement. An Associated Press reporter saw Haitian immigrants still crossing the river into the US about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) east of the previous spot, but they were eventually stopped by Border Patrol agents on horseback and Texas law enforcement officials.
As they crossed, some Haitians carried boxes on their heads filled with food. Some removed their pants before getting into the river and carried them. Others were unconcerned about getting wet.
Agents yelled at the migrants who were crossing in the waist-deep river to get out of the water. The several hundred who had successfully crossed and were sitting along the river bank on the US side were ordered to the Del Rio camp. “Go now,” agents yelled. Mexican authorities in an airboat told others trying to cross to go back into Mexico.
Migrant Charlie Jean had crossed back into Ciudad Acuña from the camps to get food for his wife and three daughters, ages 2, 5 and 12. He was waiting on the Mexican side for a restaurant to bring him an order of rice.
“We need food for every day. I can go without, but my kids can’t,” said Jean, who had been living in Chile for five years before beginning the trek north to the US It was unknown if he made it back across and to the camp.
Mexico said Sunday it would also begin deporting Haitians to their homeland. A government official said the flights would be from towns near the US border and the border with Guatemala, where the largest group remains.
Haitians have been migrating to the US in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the US border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.
Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.
“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”
Since Friday, 3,300 migrants have already been removed from the Del Rio camp to planes or detention centers, Border Patrol Chief Raul L. Ortiz said Sunday. He expected to have 3,000 of the approximately 12,600 remaining migrants moved within a day, and aimed for the rest to be gone within the week.
“We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements and from underneath this bridge to our processing facilities in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies,” Ortiz said at news conference at the Del Rio bridge. The Texas city of about 35,000 people sits roughly 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio.
Six flights were scheduled in Haiti on Tuesday — three in Port-au-Prince and three in the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Négot Bonheur Delva, Haiti’s migration director.
The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.
Any Haitians not expelled are subject to immigration laws, which include rights to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are quickly released in the US because the government cannot generally hold children.
Some people arriving on the first flight covered their heads as they walked into a large bus parked next to the plane. Dozens lined up to receive a plate of rice, beans, chicken and plantains as they wondered where they would sleep and how they would make money to support their families.
All were given $100 and tested for COVID-19, though authorities were not planning to put them into quarantine, said Marie-Lourde Jean-Charles with the Office of National Migration.
Gary Monplaisir, 26, said his parents and sister live in Port-au-Prince, but he wasn’t sure if he would stay with them because to reach their house he, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter would cross a gang-controlled area called Martissant where killings are routine.
“I’m scared,” he said. “I don’t have a plan.”
He moved to Chile in 2017, just as he was about to earn an accounting degree, to work as a tow truck driver. He later paid for his wife and daughter to join him. They tried to reach the US because he thought he could get a better-paying job and help his family in Haiti.
“We’re always looking for better opportunities,” he said.
Some migrants said they were planning to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband want to travel with their 4-year-old son back to Chile, where she worked as a bakery’s cashier.
“I am truly worried, especially for the child,” she said. “I can’t do anything here.”
 


India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs
Updated 22 October 2021

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs

India marks administering more than 1bn COVID-19 jabs
  • PM Narendra Modi hails achievement as ‘triumph of Indian science’

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday hailed administering 1 billion coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses as a milestone in its fight against the Delta variant of the virus that caused a deadly surge earlier this year.
The country started its immunization drive in January with two Indian-made vaccines — Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and locally developed Covaxin produced by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech — and plans to fully vaccinate 944 million of its adult population by the year’s end.
COVID-19 cases have recently fallen sharply in India since a devastating second wave of infections between March and May claimed the lives of more than 450,000 people, when the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily.
While only 30 percent have so far been fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses, the 1 billion mark was welcomed by the government as a “triumph.”
In a tweet on Thursday, as he marked the occasion with a visit to a government hospital in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India scripts history. We are witnessing the triumph of Indian science, enterprise, and the collective spirit of 130 crore (1.3 billion) Indians. Congrats India on crossing 100 crore vaccinations.”
The PM also expressed his “gratitude to our doctors, nurses, and all those who worked to achieve this feat.”
Dr. Vinod Kumar Paul, the man in charge of India’s vaccination drive, described the 1 billion jabs mark as “an achievement” and highlighted the consistency in the vaccination drive. “It’s remarkable to reach the 1 billion dose mark for any nation, an achievement in just over nine months since the vaccination program started in India,” he said in a tweet.
To mark the achievement, the government was holding a series of cultural events throughout the country.
However, some health experts warned that only fully vaccinated people were protected from COVID-19.
Prof. Rama Baru, from Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Center of Social Medicine and Community in New Delhi, told Arab News: “The completion of two doses for protection from the virus has not yet been achieved. And coverage of the second dose is very poor in relatively poor states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“If you look at the age-related data, we still have 18-plus population in several rural areas like Uttar and Bihar who have not got the first shot yet.
“Besides the vaccination drive the focus should also have been on the drastic improvement of the public health infrastructure. After the second wave you would have expected the government to enhance its investment in the public health service, but in fact that has not happened,” she said.


Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos
Updated 22 October 2021

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

Duterte thanks Saudi Arabia for hospitality, support for Filipinos

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte thanked Saudi Arabia for its hospitality toward Filipinos in the Kingdom, as he welcomed the new Saudi ambassador to Manila.
The new Saudi envoy, Hisham bin Sultan Al-Qahtani, presented his credentials to the Philippine president on Wednesday.
“I thank the Saudi Arabian government for the hospitality extended to the almost a million Filipinos in the Kingdom, including the free COVID-19 vaccination offered by your government,” Duterte told the envoy during a livestreamed ceremony at the presidential palace, Malacanang.
He also expressed his gratitude to Saudi authorities for repatriating hundreds of overseas Filipino workers stranded in the Kingdom by the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“The repatriation of the 645 distressed Filipinos in June shows the continuing partnership between our countries in upholding the welfare of OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I am hopeful that Your Excellency will continue to strengthen this most important pillar of our bilateral relations,” Duterte said.
He added he was also looking forward to expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia, particularly in trade and investment during Al-Qahtani’s tenure.
“We hope to improve the bilateral trade and investment exchanges as well as the transportation and travel cooperation between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during your tenure,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has been providing aid to the Philippines to help it fight the pandemic and also to rebuild Marawi City, and Duterte conveyed his appreciation for the support.
“I convey my appreciation for the pledge of support for our efforts against COVID-19 and in the rehabilitation of Marawi City,” he said.
Marawi, a predominantly Muslim lakeside town on the island of Mindanao, was taken by pro-Daesh militants in May 2017 and suffered widespread damage during five months of fighting as government forces tried to regain control. The conflict between government forces and the militants left at least 1,200 people dead, while the once-bustling city was flattened, displacing more than 100,000 residents.
As he presented his credentials, the Saudi envoy vowed to take Philippine-Saudi ties to a new height.
“During my term, I would exert my efforts to expand and deepen friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the governments and the peoples, and bring the relations of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to a new height,” Al-Qahtani told Duterte.
Al-Qahtani’s appointment comes as Manila and Riyadh celebrate 52 years of diplomatic relations on Sunday.
Aside from Al-Qahtani, Duterte also received the credentials of the new ambassadors of the UK, UAE, Italy, Sweden, Israel, and Malta.


Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria
Updated 21 October 2021

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria

Syrian jailed for anti-Semitic attacks in Austria
  • The man was arrested after he threw stones and scrawled pro-Palestinian slogans on the town synagogue
  • In court the man said he regretted actions that the prosecutor said were motivated by ‘hatred of Jews’

VIENNA: An Austrian court on Thursday handed a Syrian aged 32 a three-year jail term for vandalising a synagogue and other anti-Semitic attacks.
The court in the southeastern city of Graz was placed in a care institution after finding the man, who committed the offenses in August 2020, to be psychologically disturbed, a spokesperson told AFP.
He was arrested after he threw stones and scrawled pro-Palestinian slogans on the town synagogue before threatening the head of the local Jewish community and also damaged a local facility used by an LGBT group.
In court the man said he regretted actions that the prosecutor said were motivated by “hatred of Jews, homosexuals and prostitutes,” the APA news agency reported.
At the time of the arrest, President Alexander Van der Bellen stressed anti-Semitism had no place in a country whose 192,000-strong pre-war Jewish population was decimated during the Holocaust under Nazi rule.
The country registered 585 anti-Semitic acts last year alone, according to Vienna’s Jewish IKG community association.
Graz’s synagogue was notably destroyed in the 1938 anti-Jewish Kristallnacht — or the Night of Broken Glass — pogrom. A new one was built in 2000.


Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils
Updated 21 October 2021

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils

Afghan refugees may be housed in hotels for up to a year, say UK councils
  • Charity workers warn conditions are unsafe for children and can affect their mental wellbeing
  • Around 8,500 Afghans were evacuated to the UK by British forces earlier this year

LONDON: Local politicians across the UK are making contingency plans to house Afghan refugees in hotels for up to a year, as progress on finding them long-term accommodation slows.

So far, around 1,500 of the 8,500 Afghans airlifted out of Kabul by British forces more than two months ago have been provided long-term accommodation, leaving roughly 7,000 without a permanent home in the UK, and with no guidance on when they will be provided, the Guardian reported.

Many of those brought to the UK had worked alongside British or coalition forces as interpreters or in other support roles.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously committed to supporting them, saying: “We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves.”

But local councils across Britain are struggling to deal with the influx of refugees and the logistical challenges they pose.

Some councils, the Guardian reported, said they had received no support from the Home Office in providing immediate needs assessment on arrivals, and an official from one said they were given no notice that the government was block-booking hotels in the area for refugees.

“We’re planning for a year, to be honest,” said one unnamed central London hotel official. “We don’t think it will be quick.”

Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, who heads the UK’s Local Government Association Asylum, Refugees and Migration Task Group, told the Guardian: “I get no sense that the government sees this as an urgent priority. I’m concerned that now they are in hotels they are out of sight and out of mind.”

There have also been warnings that hotel conditions are not suitable for the many children to have been evacuated to Britain.

“There are kids in lots of hotels with nothing to do; their mental health wellbeing is not being met, they are becoming frustrated and playing up. We could and should be doing better,” one charity worker said after visiting several London hotels, where 4,000 people are being housed.

Enver Solomon, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, told the Guardian that finding long-term accommodation for 7,000 people would be possible if just half of the UK’s 343 local authorities offered to house 60 people, adding: “That’s just 12 homes each — that should be doable, shouldn’t it?”


Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
Updated 21 October 2021

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon

Nigeria seizes $11 mln worth of amphetamine pills in shipment from Lebanon
  • The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September

ABUJA: Nigerian authorities intercepted nearly half a million amphetamine pills hidden in machinery coming into a Lagos port, an official said on Thursday.
The 451,807 captagon tablets were seized at the Apapa sea port in September, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Chairman Mohamed Marwa told reporters.
“This was traced to have come from Lebanon,” he said. “We have arrested one of those involved in the importation and he is helping us to trace all those involved.”
Marwa estimated the tablets were worth $11 million, or roughly 6 billion naira.
In April, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, blaming an increase in drug smuggling.