UK councilor calls for safe passage, more empathy for refugees arriving in Britain

A member of the UK Border Force (R) helps child migrants on a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on Nov. 24, 2021 after being rescued while crossing the English Channel. (AFP)
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A member of the UK Border Force (R) helps child migrants on a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on Nov. 24, 2021 after being rescued while crossing the English Channel. (AFP)
UK councilor calls for safe passage, more empathy for refugees arriving in Britain
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Updated 19 December 2021

UK councilor calls for safe passage, more empathy for refugees arriving in Britain

A member of the UK Border Force (R) helps child migrants on a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on Nov. 24, 2021 after being rescued while crossing the English Channel. (AFP)
  • Rights groups say new British legislation will create significant obstacles and harms to people seeking asylum in Britain
  • Penny Appeal is working closely with a number of councils across the country to provide refugees with support once they arrive in the UK

LONDON: The British government has made a number of legislative changes to tackle illegal immigration that many rights organizations are significantly concerned about, said a UK politician.
“Sadly, there are real concerns around the process of seeking asylum, and that is why from a humanitarian perspective, we are really trying to call upon the government to do more to encourage safe passage so people don’t need to worry about whether they will be granted refugee status or not. If there’s a genuine need for why they have come here, they just need to be supported,” Ahmad Bostan, Labour councilor for Abbey, told Arab News.
“How they came here, why they came here, has less relevance than that the fact that they are here now. The question must be: What can we do to help and support them?”




A member of the UK Border Force (R) helps child migrants on a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on Nov. 24, 2021 after being rescued while crossing the English Channel. (AFP)

Ministers say the Nationality and Borders Bill, which was passed in the House of Commons last week and is set to be debated in the House of Lords next month, aims to alleviate the beleaguered asylum system and make it fairer and more effective to better protect refugees, deter illegal entry, break human smuggling gangs, and remove those who do not have the right to be in the UK.
It comes as refugee and migrant crossings have witnessed a dramatic rise in recent weeks, with more than 1,000 people arriving in small boats in a single day in November for the first time, and over 25,000 arriving via the Dover Strait so far this year, many escaping from war-torn areas such as Syria and Iraq. Last month also saw the deadliest crossing on record, with at least 27 people dying in a mass drowning as they attempted to cross the world’s busiest shipping lane.
“I think a key concern for all of us at the moment is people not understanding refugees, not understanding their plight, who they are, where they are from, why they have made these journeys, and really getting people to reflect on that. When I talk about people, I’m also talking about policymakers across the political spectrum, because there has to be a realization,” he said.




Demonstrators take part in a march calling for the British parliament to welcome refugees in the UK in central London. (File/AFP)

Bostan, who is also a cabinet member for the environment, admitted that seeking asylum in Britain is a very difficult process and everyone’s journey is different, but there is currently a grave concern around providing safe passages and whether migrants will be granted refugee status in the UK.
“No one chooses to be a refugee or to be in an environment where they are subjected to persecution and poverty in the first place. What we are really calling for is a greater level of empathy with refugees who are suffering, recognizing they are the victims of poverty and circumstance, and we shouldn’t be putting a stigma on them and almost criminalizing what they are doing,” he said. “If anything, we should do whatever we can, whether it’s governments or individuals at large, to help them.”
Human rights organization Amnesty International said the legislation “will create significant obstacles and harms to people seeking asylum in the UK’s asylum system,” and will allow smugglers to thrive, make the journey even more dangerous, penalize refugees, undermine their protection, and oppose the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.
In October, leading immigration lawyers released a report commissioned by the human rights group Freedom From Torture, saying Home Secretary Priti Patel’s controversial bill breaches international and domestic law in at least 10 different ways.




Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel makes a Statement on the ‘Small boats incident in the Channel’, in the House of Commons in London on Nov. 25, 2021. (UK Parliament/AFP)

“We’re seeing many children on their own coming here, on very flimsy boats, in very difficult conditions, and you think no mother or father would want to send their children in that way unless their lives were really desperate, unless it was literally a life and death situation,” Bostan said.
He added there have been a number of great initiatives across Europe, including in Britain, where companies and governments have made concerted efforts to look after and invest in refugees and put them in training and development programs, whereby they have then been able to give back to society and pay taxes. “We really want to promote that, as well as to say that refugees are not here to be a burden on society. They want to give back, they want to get involved, but it’s our role to give them that compassion and faith in them to start that process when they arrive in our country, in our city, in our town.”
UK-based charity Penny Appeal has launched its annual Winter Emergency campaign, with a hard-hitting social media video “to remind people of the harsh realities” of those “who are risking their lives crossing the English Channel to plead for asylum in the UK,” it said in a statement.


The video, which carries a graphic content warning and is difficult to watch, shows a mother in significant distress after discovering her daughter had fallen out of her baby sling as she arrived on the British shore.
Bostan, who is also communications director at the international Muslim charity, said “the video shows a heartbreaking reality for so many refugees fleeing persecution, fleeing very difficult conditions around the world.”
“What we’re really trying to show is that every single one of us has a responsibility to that child, every single one of us has a responsibility to that mother. They shouldn’t be subjected to such difficult conditions. Safe passage should be guaranteed for everyone,” he said.




A migrant child holds a teddy bear whilst leaving UK Border Force vessel BF Hurricane after being picked up at sea on arrival at the Marina in Dover, southeast England, on Dec. 16, 2021. (AFP)

Penny Appeal’s “Tis The Season but not for everyone!” campaign aims to reflect on the huge emphasis British Muslims and the Islamic faith has on giving back to society, helping those in need, and serving those less fortunate, Bostan said.
Bostan said that there will be thousands of families still making the treacherous journeys across rough seas, risking everything to find a better life for their families, and “that will be the sad reality on Christmas Day — it’s not a time of celebration for everyone.”
“What we are really calling for is for compassion and empathy to prevail here, and we’re really hopeful that our work and our campaign do raise awareness and encourage policymakers, people with power and influence, to do more for refugees, rather than marginalizing them in any way,” Bostan added.


‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
Updated 04 December 2022

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister

‘UK should prevent Albanians from claiming asylum,’ says immigration minister
  • Balkan country is ‘demonstrably safe,’ Robert Jenrick argues

LONDON: The UK should prevent Albanian migrants from seeking asylum in Britain, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has said.

Sky News reported that Jenrick, who assumed the ministerial role on Oct. 25 as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet, said that Albanians should be “excluded from the right to claim asylum.”

He added that Britain should tighten its policy toward the Balkan country because it is a “demonstrably safe” place, describing the numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK as “unsustainable.”

Albanian nationals made up more than one-third of the 33,000 people who crossed the English Channel in boats from January to September this year.

Amid growing pressure on the government to tackle the migrant crisis, Jenrick said that the Albanian factor was now the “number one priority.” 

He told GB News: “Albania is a demonstrably safe country. It is very hard to see how an Albanian should be able to successfully claim asylum here in the UK.

“We have a returns agreement, which was signed a year ago, and 1,000 Albanians have gone back already. We are looking at what we can do there. We are also pursuing the diplomatic channels.

“We can’t have 1 million people entering the country in a single year and net migration of half a million — it’s just not sustainable.

“What I’m concerned about is there are people coming to universities here as a backdoor way of bringing their families into the UK and staying here for a prolonged period.

“A very significant number of people use this as a route to a life in the UK. This is a big driver of net migration.”

PM Sunak and his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama recently discussed efforts to end policies that have led to Britain being unable to efficiently deport failed Albanian asylum seekers.

But the Albanian leader also warned that the UK should avoid blaming Albanians and using migrants as an “excuse” for government failures.


US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces
Updated 04 December 2022

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces

US intel chief thinking ‘optimistically’ for Ukraine forces
  • Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east

KYIV: The head of US intelligence says fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine is running at a “reduced tempo” and suggests Ukrainian forces could have brighter prospects in coming months.
Avril Haines alluded to past allegations by some that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisers could be shielding him from bad news — for Russia — about war developments, and said he “is becoming more informed of the challenges that the military faces in Russia.”
“But it’s still not clear to us that he has a full picture of at this stage of just how challenged they are,” the US director of national intelligence said late Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.
Looking ahead, Haines said, “honestly we’re seeing a kind of a reduced tempo already of the conflict” and her team expects that both sides will look to refit, resupply, and reconstitute for a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive in the spring.
“But we actually have a fair amount of skepticism as to whether or not the Russians will be in fact prepared to do that,” she said. “And I think more optimistically for the Ukrainians in that timeframe.”
In recent weeks, Russia’s military focus has been on striking Ukrainian infrastructure and pressing an offensive in the east, near the town of Bakhmut, while shelling sites in the city of Kherson, which Ukrainian forces liberated last month after an 8-month Russian occupation.
In his nightly address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky lashed out at Western efforts to crimp Russia’s crucial oil industry, a key source of funds for Putin’s war machine, saying their $60-per-barrel price cap on imports of Russian oil was insufficient.
“It is not a serious decision to set such a limit for Russian prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of the terrorist state,” Zelensky said, referring to Russia. He said the $60-per-barrel level would still allow Russia to bring in $100 billion in revenues per year.
“This money will go not only to the war and not only to further sponsorship by Russia of other terrorist regimes and organizations. This money will be used for further destabilization of those countries that are now trying to avoid serious decisions,” Zelensky said.
Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the 27-nation European Union agreed Friday to cap what they would pay for Russian oil at $60 per barrel. The limit is set to take effect Monday, along with an EU embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.
Russian authorities have rejected the price cap and threatened Saturday to stop supplying the nations that endorsed it.
In yet another show of Western support for Ukraine’s efforts to battle back Russian forces and cope with fallout from the war, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland on Saturday visited the operations of a Ukrainian aid group that provides support for internally displaced people in Ukraine, among her other visits with top Ukrainian officials.
Nuland assembled dolls out of yarn in the blue-and-yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag with youngsters from regions including northeastern Kharkiv, southern Kherson, and eastern Donetsk.
“This is psychological support for them at an absolutely crucial time,” Nuland said.
“As President Putin knows best, this war could stop today, if he chose to stop it and withdrew his forces — and then negotiations can begin,” she added.


Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
Updated 04 December 2022

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away

Indonesia’s Semeru volcano erupts, people warned to stay away
  • Semeru volcano on Java island spews a column of ash 1.5km into the air
  • Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano
JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Semeru volcano on Java island erupted early on Sunday, spewing a column of ash 1.5km into the air, prompting authorities to warn residents to stay away from the eruption area.
Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, BNPB, warned residents not to conduct any activities within 5km of the eruption center and to stay 500 meters from riversides due to risks of lava flow.
Japan’s Meteorology Agency said was monitoring for the possibility of a tsunami there after the eruption, public broadcaster NHK reported.
The volcano began erupting at 2:46 a.m. (1946 GMT on Saturday), BNPB said in a statement. Videos posted on social media showed grey ash clouds in nearby areas.
BNPB did not immediately respond to Japan’s warning of tsunami risk.
Indonesian authorities have distributed masks to local residents, BNPB said in a statement, adding that volcanic activity remained at level III, below the highest level of IV.
With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the largest population globally living in close range to a volcano, including 8.6 million within 10km.

Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
  • “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible

KABUL: The Daesh group claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul, which Islamabad decried as an “assassination attempt.”
A security guard was wounded in the attack Friday in the Afghan capital.
In a statement cited by jihadist monitor SITE, Daesh’s regional chapter said it had “attacked the apostate Pakistani ambassador and his guards.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called it “an assassination attempt” on the head of the mission, and demanded an investigation.
A Kabul police spokesman said one suspect had been arrested and two light weapons seized after security forces swept a nearby building.
Although Pakistan does not officially recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban government, it kept its embassy open even as the hard-line group took over in August last year, and maintains a full diplomatic mission.
An embassy official told AFP a lone attacker “came behind the cover of houses and started firing,” but that the ambassador and other staff were safe.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said they strongly condemned the “failed attack.”
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible.
Pakistan has complicated relations with the Taliban, with Islamabad long accused of supporting the hard-line group even while backing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled them following the 9/11 attacks.
Pakistan is home to more than a million Afghan refugees, and the porous border they share is frequently the scene of clashes.
Since returning to power, the Afghan Taliban have insisted they would not allow foreign militant groups to operate from home soil.
 

 


Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
Updated 04 December 2022

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
  • FOI request shows 20 percent of 2022 intake ‘disappeared’ while in Kent County Council care

LONDON: Up to 20 percent of Albanian child migrants relocated to an English council in 2022 have been classified as disappeared after going missing, the BBC reported.

Kent County Council admitted 197 unaccompanied Albanian child migrants up to Oct. 31, but figures show that 39 have gone missing.

Officials said that the council is working closely with the UK Home Office to protect and safeguard vulnerable migrant children.

It comes as figures revealed that almost 12,000 Albanians crossed into the UK this year.

The number is an almost 4,000 percent increase on last year’s figure.

Ecpat UK, a campaign group that aims to protect vulnerable children, described the figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request as “concerning.”

Head of policy, advocacy and research Laura Duran said that the 20 percent figure represented a “really high” number of missing children.

“We’re really concerned they are at risk of exploitation or have effectively been trafficked,” she said.

“They could be facing labor exploitation in different industries such as construction or car washes. They could be criminally exploited in drug distribution or in cannabis farms, or they could be sexually exploited.”

In a statement, Kent County Council said: “While all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are vulnerable to exploitation, research and experience evidences that some nationalities are particularly vulnerable and can go missing from local authority care very quickly.

“Kent County Council has used both established safeguarding protocols, including the National Referral Mechanism, and initiated multi-agency strategies to minimize the risks for these children as much as possible.

“The council continues to take a proactive role in safeguarding all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in its care.”