Asylum seekers in Britain housed in mock jail cells

Asylum seekers in Britain housed in mock jail cells
Napier military barracks in Folkestone, Kent, which has also been used by the Home Office to house asylum seekers. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 October 2021

Asylum seekers in Britain housed in mock jail cells

Asylum seekers in Britain housed in mock jail cells
  • Some had previously been imprisoned in their home countries, including Libya
  • Rights group: “Unthinkable that Home Office is using this place to accommodate people seeking safety”

LONDON: Asylum seekers are being housed by the British government in a former courthouse that was turned into a hostel and promises guests a stay in “an authentic prison cell.”

Some of the asylum seekers held in the accommodation had previously been imprisoned in their home countries, including Libya, The Guardian reported.

They told the newspaper that the experience of being locked up in the cell-like conditions has traumatized them again.

The unidentified hostel was previously a courthouse that had a prison wing, much of which has been preserved, including the cell windows, prison-style bunk beds and heavy cell doors.

The Home Office has said asylum seekers are staying in “regular hotel accommodation,” and the part of the building with “experience rooms” is not accessible.

Internal Home Office email discussions about how to respond to The Guardian’s questions were inadvertently sent to another media outlet, which passed the correspondence on to the newspaper. 

In those emails, one official said: “I’ve called them experience rooms to avoid saying prison. Can we say that no one has stayed in court rooms or were they inappropriately placed there?”

That same email chain also revealed that officials visited the hostel on Oct. 25 and discovered overcrowding and a courtroom “fully set.”

One asylum seeker staying in the accommodation told The Guardian: “Everything is so bad here. Some of us have been through Libya where we have been imprisoned or have been tortured in other places. It makes us feel very bad to be living in a prison building even though we are not locked in.

“We were in another place before they put us here which was better than this. They just move us around like animals. They don’t care about us at all.” He added: “We are all sleeping close together and we are worried that we will catch Covid.”

Maddie Harris, founder of the Humans for Rights Network, said: “It is unthinkable that the Home Office is using this place to accommodate people seeking safety, many of whom will have been detained in countries such as Syria and Libya.

“This is extremely traumatizing for them. This accommodation must immediately be closed and residents provided with safe, secure accommodation that does not resemble a prison.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Due to unprecedented demand we have had to use temporary accommodation such as hotels to meet our statutory duties.

“The health and wellbeing of those in our care is our priority, which is why all accommodation must meet relevant health and safety legislation with a strict adherence to Public Health England guidelines.”


Russia-ASEAN naval drill gets underway in Indonesian waters

Russia-ASEAN naval drill gets underway in Indonesian waters
Updated 6 sec ago

Russia-ASEAN naval drill gets underway in Indonesian waters

Russia-ASEAN naval drill gets underway in Indonesian waters

JAKARTA: The first joint naval drill between Russia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations began in Indonesian waters on Wednesday, marking a new development in a region facing territorial disputes with China and US attempts to counter Beijing’s influence.
The three-day ARNEX exercise is held partly virtually at the Belawan base of the Indonesian Navy, and partly at sea off North Sumatra province. Officials said it aims to increase both the interoperability of ASEAN and Russian forces and the security of maritime economic activities and civil navigation in the region.
“This exercise fosters a friendly relationship between Indonesian navy, ASEAN member state navies and the Russian navy and will increase the navies’ personnel professionalism,” Indonesian Navy First Fleet Command Chief Rear Adm. Arsyad Abdullah said in a statement, as he launched the drill at the Belawan base.
Abdullah was accompanied by Russia’s ambassador to ASEAN, Alexander Ivanov, and the Russian ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Vorobyeva.
“This exercise is about peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” Ivanov said, as quoted by the Russian mission to ASEAN in a Twitter post. “We are opening a new page in our strategic partnership.”
The drill features warships from seven of the 10 ASEAN member states — Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Brunei — and the Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev. The Philippines, Cambodia, and Laos — the only landlocked nation in Southeast Asia — are taking part in the drill online as observers.
The Russians have also brought their Kamov attack helicopter, while Indonesia deployed the KRI Gusti Ngurah Rai-332 frigate, CN-235 aircraft, AS-565 helicopter and 500 personnel. The ARNEX joint exercise with Russia was approved by the defense ministers of ASEAN states in December 2020.
Several Southeast Asian countries have territorial disputes with China, which has claims to most of the nearby South China Sea. Parts of the sea are claimed also by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam. Indonesia says it does not have any territorial disputes with China, but has repeatedly questioned the presence of Chinese vessels that regularly enter the waters of its North Natuna Sea, which Beijing demarcates as part of the South China Sea.
To counter Beijing’s assertiveness, the US, UK and Australia announced in September a tripartite security pact in the Indo-Pacific region, which has been criticized by Russia.
“Regardless of the reasons to securing maritime trading routes, the joint exercise shows that Russia does not want to be left behind as a major player in the region amid United States and China’s dominance in the region,” Arie Afriansyah, international law lecturer at the University of Indonesia, said.
He said that both ASEAN and Russia had calculated the geopolitical risks before agreeing to the joint drill.
“ASEAN wants to show the world that it is not taking sides, and that it is consistent to be neutral in the geopolitical constellation among its dialogue partners.”


Septuagenarian Pakistani creates record for crushing apples by hand

Septuagenarian Pakistani creates record for crushing apples by hand
Updated 49 sec ago

Septuagenarian Pakistani creates record for crushing apples by hand

Septuagenarian Pakistani creates record for crushing apples by hand
  • Karachi welder sets a Guinness World Record by crushing 18 apples in a minute

KARACHI:Naseem Uddin, an iron-fisted 70-year-old Pakistani welder who has set a world record for the most apples crushed in the hand in one minute, says he now aims to break any record.
Naseem Uddin was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records earlier this month, replacing Donnie Baxter from England, who had crushed 13 apples.
“The most apples crushed in the hand in one minute is 18 and was achieved by Naseem Uddin (Pakistan), in Karachi, Sind, Pakistan, on 13 November 2021,” the entry reads.
The record was achieved at his son’s martial arts academy in Karachi in celebration of Guinness World Records Day 2021.
“It has been 70 years, (but) my heart is young, my hand has the power,” Naseem Uddin told Arab News at his welding shop in Karachi. Naseem Uddin became a welder after leaving his village near Punjab’s Faisalabad city in search for a better livelihood in Karachi some six decades ago.
“I have been doing hard work since the day I left my village,” he said. “I have been doing this (welding) from dawn till dusk, and till midnight.”
His journey to become a world record holder was inspired by his son and granddaughter, both of whom also hold Guinness records. It was his son, Mohammed Rashid, who showed Naseem Uddin a video of the previous record holder crushing apples and taught his father how to do the same.
“And then I crushed it, I broke it as he gave it to me,” Naseem Uddin said.
Rashid was sure his father could break the world record.
“This record was all about strength of hands and I have seen my father working a difficult job with hands, working with iron, molding it and I had belief that he would do it,” he told Arab News. “My father has set an example and told people that age is just a number. The man who has been my inspiration throughout my life has achieved something and I cannot express my happiness in words.”
Rashid, a martial arts school owner in Karachi, has himself won dozens of world records and the titles of “Bruce Lee of Pakistan” and “serial record breaker.” His achievements include most walnuts crushed by the hand in one minute, most watermelons crushed with the head in 30 seconds, most soda cans crushed with the elbow in one minute, and most spins of a fire staff in one minute.
As well as using his fists and elbows as smashing instruments, he also holds many records using nunchaku and a bō staff — both traditional mixed martial arts weapons, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
“His record-breaking journey began in 2013, when he broke the record for the most bottle caps removed with the head in one minute (40) at the Punjab Youth Sports Festival, in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan,” the records website says. “A year later, he went on Italian television show Lo Show Dei Record to break his own record, achieving 61.”
Seven years later, Rashid’s record-breaking appetite has only grown. He broke 14 records in 2020, including the fastest time to unscrew 10 bottle caps with a nunchaku, achieving a time of 17.82 seconds.
Rashid has also trained his daughter, Fatima Naseem, who broke the record for the most full contact elbow strikes in one minute using alternate elbows (female) with 242 blows in August 2020, dethroning Indian martial artist Kiran Uniyal.
Naseem Uddin beamed with pride as he spoke of his son and granddaughter’s success, saying he was glad he could join their ranks as a record holder himself.
“This is what we could do for Pakistan,” he said, pointing to his country’s flag on the wall of his workshop. “Now, I did it and it has evidently become my identity and I am much happier.”

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Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March
Updated 01 December 2021

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March
NEW YORK: Moderna Inc. could have a COVID-19 booster shot targeting the Omicron variant tested and ready to file for US authorization as soon as March, the company’s president said on Wednesday.
Moderna President Stephen Hoge said he believes booster shots carrying genes specifically targeting mutations in the newly-discovered Omicron variant would be the quickest way to address any anticipated reductions in vaccine efficacy it may cause.
“We’ve already started that program,” he told Reuters.
The company is also working on a multi-valent vaccine that would include up to four different coronavirus variants including Omicron.
That could take several more months, he said.
The United States identified its first COVID-19 case caused by the Omicron variant in California, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.
Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is being studied to see if it is more contagious or causes more severe illness than other variants, and if it can evade current vaccines.
Given prior guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration, which has required mid-stage clinical testing, Hoge said the process could take three or four months.
“The Omicron-specific boosters, just realistically, are not before March and maybe more in the second quarter,” Hoge said, unless the FDA changes its guidance for what data would be needed for authorization.
Moderna would be able to manufacture the vaccine as it was conducting the testing, Hoge said, to have it ready to roll out as soon as possible.
He said the FDA is currently assessing the threat to vaccine protection posed by the Omicron variant. The agency could provide a faster timeline, akin to the way it approves vaccines for influenza, by approving changes in the flu strains, which would shorten the three- to four-month timeline.
In the United States, licensed flu vaccines can be updated each season by substituting in new strains of the virus that are believed to be most likely to cause illness in the upcoming flu season, without the need for large, randomized clinical trials.
Based on the pattern of mutations seen in the Omicron variant, which include mutations that have already been shown to reduce the efficacy of its vaccine in lab studies, Hoge said, “we expect there will be an impact.”
It is not clear yet how big of a drop in efficacy the Omicron variant will cause for current vaccines, but it could be significant, Hoge surmised.
“The mutations that had previously led to the biggest drops in efficacy were seen in Delta and Beta. And all of those mutations have shown up in Omicron,” Hoge said.
“And so the question here is, are we going to see a Delta-like performance? Are we going to see a Beta-like performance? Or are we going to see some cross multiple of the two? I think it’s that last scenario that has people most concerned,” he said.
Hoge said the company is testing to see whether fully vaccinated recipients of Moderna’s vaccine are protected against the variant, as well as those who received the 50-microgram and 100-microgram booster doses of the shot.
“I still believe that the existing vaccines will be able to at least slow down, if not completely stop, the Omicron variant,” he said.

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip
Updated 01 December 2021

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip
  • The Somalis, Syrians and Palestinians will be tested for Covid-19 and quarantine after landing near the camp that Pope Francis will visit on Sunday
  • Pope Francis visited Lesbos in 2016 and brought back aboard his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose houses had been bombed

MYTILENE, Greece: Twenty-nine asylum seekers landed Wednesday on the Greek island of Lesbos, four days before Pope Francis was to make a symbolic visit to the migration hotspot emblematic of Europe’s long-running refugee crisis.
The Somalis, Syrians and Palestinians will be tested for Covid-19 and quarantine after landing near the camp that Francis will visit on Sunday, said the camp’s deputy director Dimitris Vafeas.
Greece was at the center of Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis peak as its Aegean islands were the first destination for mainly Middle Eastern migrants entering the European Union from Turkey.
Lesbos once harbored the Moria refugee camp, which was Europe’s largest until it burned down last year.
Francis will visit the new Mavrovouni camp, which replaced the Moria camp.
A large security presence involving 900 police officers is being readied on the island.
The head of the Catholic Church, who has long defended migrants’ rights and denounced the “hostility” of European governments, visited Lesbos in 2016 and brought back aboard his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose houses had been bombed.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3,653 people have arrived on Greece’s islands so far this year.
In November, only 196 migrants applied for asylum on the islands, a decrease the Greek government welcomed.
But NGOs, the UNHCR and journalistic investigations attribute the decrease to the Greek government illegally forcing migrants back to Turkish waters and preventing them from applying for asylum.
Athens denies the allegations.


Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains
Updated 01 December 2021

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains

Explosion of WWII bomb in Munich injures 3, disrupts trains
  • Rail travel to and from the main train station has been suspended, according to rail operator Deutsche Bahn

BERLIN: An old aircraft bomb exploded at a bridge near Munich’s busy main train station on Wednesday, injuring three people, police said on Twitter.
The explosion happened during construction work, police said.
Due to the explosion, rail travel to and from the main train station has been suspended, according to rail operator Deutsche Bahn.