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.


Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities
Updated 6 sec ago

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities
  • Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States
  • The Brave Eagle trainer can be equipped with weapons, though that remains in the testing phase
TAITUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s air force showed off its new locally designed and made jet trainer on Wednesday, touting the more advanced, combat-capable abilities of the aircraft that will replace aging and accident-prone existing equipment.
Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States, but President Tsai Ing-wen has made development of an advanced home-grown defense industry a priority, especially as China, which claims the island as its own, steps up military modernization efforts and drills near Taiwan.
The new AT-5 Brave Eagle, made by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. with a budget of T$68.6 billion ($2.3 billion), had its first test flight in 2020.
It is Taiwan’s first jet made domestically since the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter, or IDF, rolled out more than three decades ago, and the two jets look similar and have similar capabilities.
Three Brave Eagle’s roared into the air at the Chihhang air base in Taitung on Taiwan’s east coast, in a show of its prowess in front of reporters.
Flight training officer Chang Chong-hao said the Brave Eagle was suitable for both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training purposes, and can land and take off using a shorter amount of runway.
“So it helps give the students more space to deal with some unforeseen situations.”
The Brave Eagle trainer can be equipped with weapons, though that remains in the testing phase, and the plane is designed to have a support function in time of war.
“We’re not involved in the armaments part, those tests are up to the manufacturer ADIC,” said air force officer Huang Chun-yuan. “Our main mission at the moment is general conversion training and tandem flying.”
Taiwan’s air force plans on taking 66 units by 2026 to replace aging AT-3 and F-5 training aircraft, which have suffered a series of crashes in recent years. An AT-3, a model that first flew in 1980, crashed in May, while three F-5s have crashed in the past year or so.
The F-5s first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, though are no longer front line combat aircraft.

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing
Updated 27 min 30 sec ago

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing
  • Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks

BEIJING: Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities.
Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks and the new requirements have stirred concerns of a return of such harsh measures.
The latest outbreak in China’s largest city, a key international business center, has been linked to a karaoke parlor that failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including the tracing of others they came into contact with, according to the city health commission. All such outlets have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city’s department of culture and tourism said.
Shanghai’s lockdown prompted unusual protests both in person and online against the government’s harsh enforcement, which left many residents struggling to access food and medical services and sent thousands to quarantine centers.
Beijing has also seen a recent outbreak linked to a nightlife spot. It has been conducting regular testing for weeks and at least one residential compound in the suburb of Shunyi, which is home to many foreign residents, has been locked down with a steel fence installed over its entrance to prevent residents from leaving.
Enforcement in China’s capital has been far milder than in Shanghai, although officials continue to require regular testing and prevention measures.
In the northern city of Xi’an, whose 13 million residents endured one of China’s strictest lockdowns over the winter, restaurants have been restricted to takeout only and public entertainment spots closed for a week starting Wednesday.
A notice on the city government’s website said the measures were only temporary and intended to prevent the chance of a renewed outbreak. It said supermarkets, offices, public transport and other facilities are continuing to operate as normal, with routine screening including temperature checks and people being required to show an app proving they are free of infection.
Neighboring Hong Kong has also seen a rising trend of coronavirus infections since mid-June. In the past seven days, daily infections reported averaged about 2,000 a day.
The city’s new leader, John Lee, said Wednesday that Hong Kong must not “lie flat” when it comes to COVID-19, rejecting the “living with the coronavirus” mentality that most of the world has adopted.
His comments echo the sentiments of Chinese authorities, who have stuck with their “zero-COVID” policy that has become closely identified with President and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.
However, Lee has said that Hong Kong authorities are exploring options, including shortening the duration of mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers. Currently, travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before flying and quarantine for seven days in designated hotels upon arrival.
The city, once known as a bustling business hub and international financial center, has seen tourism and business travel crippled by its tough entry restrictions.
The strict measures have remained in place despite relatively low numbers of cases and the serious negative effects on China’s economy and global supply chains.
The World Health Organization recently called the policy unsustainable, a view Chinese officials rejected outright even while they say they hope to minimize the impact.
While China’s borders remain largely closed, cutting off both visitors from abroad and outbound tourism, officials have cautiously increased flights from some foreign countries, most recently Russia.
Mainland China reported 353 cases of domestic transmission on Wednesday, 241 of them asymptomatic.
Shanghai announced just 24 cases over the past 24 hours, and Beijing five. Anhui announced 222 cases in what appears to be the latest cluster, prompting the inland province to order mass testing and travel restrictions in Si county, where the bulk of cases have been reported.


Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso
Updated 06 July 2022

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

Gulf nations condemn violent attacks in Burkina Faso

DUBAI: Gulf nations have condemned the violent attacks in northern villages of Burkina Faso over the weekend which resulted in the death of dozens of people, including children, and injured others.
Armed men killed at least 34 people in separate incidents in Bourasso in Kossi province and Namissiguima in Yatenga province, both north of the country, the Burkina Faso government said over the weekend.
The West African nation, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been besieged by militant attacks by forces linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh in recent years. The turmoil has resulted in the deaths of thousands and left nearly 2 million people displaced.
The UAE expressesd its “strong condemnation of these criminal acts” and repeated its rejection of “all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilizing security and stability in contravention of human values and principles,” the country’s foreign affairs ministry said in the statement.
Bahrain also reiterated its “solidarity with Burkina Faso in its war against terrorism, calling on the international community to intensify its efforts in combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms,” according to its foreign affairs ministry.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s foreign ministry in a statement outlined the country’s “principled and firm stance against violence and terrorism’ in condemning the attacks.
The Gulf states also sent their condolences to the Burkina Faso leadership and the families of the victims.


Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas
Updated 06 July 2022

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas

Hundreds urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Ukraine’s Donbas
  • Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days
  • Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians

SLOVIANSK: Ukrainian officials have called on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press toward it in their campaign to secure the Donbas region.
Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days, with at least two people killed and seven others wounded in an attack on a marketplace Tuesday.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Sloviansk, told Ukrainian media his “main advice is evacuate!“
“This week there hasn’t been a day without shelling,” he said Tuesday evening, adding that the city was now within range of Russian multiple-rocket launchers.
“The enemy is shelling chaotically, the attacks are aimed at destroying the local population,” he said
“So, once again, the main advice is to evacuate.”
AFP journalists on the ground in Sloviansk saw rockets slam into the marketplace and surrounding streets, with firefighters scrambling to put out the resulting fires.
Kyrylenko also reported shelling across “the entire frontline” in the eastern Donbas region, where Russia has refocused its efforts since abandoning its initial aim of capturing Kyiv, following tough Ukrainian resistance.
Donbas is mainly comprised of Lugansk, which Russian forces have almost entirely captured, and Donetsk to its southwest — the current focus of Moscow’s attack
The fall of Lysychansk in the region on Sunday, a week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighboring city of Severodonetsk, has freed up Russian troops to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk — which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk — after days of shelling there.
Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters.

Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters. (File/AFP)


“Heavy fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Lugansk region near Lysychansk,” Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.
“The occupiers are withdrawing equipment to the Donetsk region.”
To the southwest, in the Moscow-occupied Kherson region, Russian troops have deployed helicopters and artillery to try to stem Ukrainian counter-attacks.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces outside Donbas were “trying to bind our troops in order to prevent them from moving to the battle areas.”
Kherson city, which lies close to Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February, and has seen a campaign of so-called Russification since.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in his evening address Tuesday, said he was continuing to press for upgraded anti-missile systems as air siren alerts sounded across much of the country, including the capital.
“The Russian army does not take any breaks,” he said.
“Our task is to hold on.”


Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north
Updated 06 July 2022

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north

Thousands more flee as Sydney floods track north
  • New South Wales authorities issued fresh flood alerts north of Australia’s largest city
  • 85,000 people have been told to leave their homes immediately or be ready to depart imminentl

SYDNEY: Thousands of people on Australia’s east coast fled their homes Wednesday as torrential rains tracked north after unleashing floods in Sydney that submerged communities, roads and bridges under mud-brown water.
New South Wales authorities issued fresh flood alerts north of Australia’s largest city and warned that rising, rain-swollen rivers still posed a danger in parts of Sydney despite easing rainfall in the city.
“This event is far from over,” the state’s Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
Since the floods began over the weekend, emergency services have issued more than 100 evacuation orders.
A total 85,000 people have been told to leave their homes immediately or be ready to depart imminently so they will not be stranded by rising floodwaters.
Across Sydney’s western fringe, rivers broke their banks and large areas have been transformed into inland lakes, with mud-brown waters invading homes while cutting off roads and bridges.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited the affected area Wednesday, promising to look for “long-term solutions” after multiple flooding disasters across Australia’s east coast in the past 18 months.
Albanese said that while “Australia has always been subject of floods, of bushfires,” scientists have warned climate change would make such events more frequent and intense.
“What we are seeing, unfortunately, is that play out,” he said.
There were 21 flood rescues across New South Wales overnight, and on Wednesday more than 1,000 emergency service workers were in the field.
The federal government has declared a natural disaster in 23 flooded parts of the state, unlocking relief payments to stricken residents.
Many people affected have lived through successive east coast floods that struck in 2021 and then again in March this year when more than 20 people were killed.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said the weather system was expected to move off coast later this week.
Andrew Hall, chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, said he expected the Sydney floods would be declared a “catastrophe” by the insurance industry.
He said 2,700 insurance claims have been lodged by Tuesday from Sydney alone, and more were anticipated as people were able to return to their homes.
Hall said there had been Aus$5 billion ($3.4 billion) in catastrophe claims made in Australia this year.
It was “untenable” for homes that had flooded four times in the past 18 months to remain in the insurance pool, Hall said, adding: “We’ve got to stand back and ask the question, ‘Have we built homes in the wrong spot?’”