Afghan refugees in the UK told to find homes on real estate portals

Afghan refugees in the UK told to find homes on real estate portals
A member of UK Border Force staff assists an Afghan refugee on her arrival on an evacuation flight from Afghanistan, at Heathrow Airport, London. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Afghan refugees in the UK told to find homes on real estate portals

Afghan refugees in the UK told to find homes on real estate portals
  • UK government is still providing hotel accommodation to 9,500 Afghan refugees, with only 7,000 having been rehoused

LONDON: Thousands of Afghan refugees who have been housed in hotels in the UK following the Kabul evacuation last year have been told by authorities to look for new accommodation on online real estate portals.

The UK Home Office has told refugees to find accommodation on Rightmove or Zoopla, The Guardian reported.

On the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover, the UK government is still providing hotel accommodation to 9,500 Afghan refugees, with only 7,000 having been rehoused.

Although charities have welcomed government moves to end the use of hotels to accommodate the refugees, charity officials are concerned that many will fail to find suitable accommodation in the private rented sector and may end up homeless.

Afghan families with children will struggle to find affordable accommodation that is large enough using the housing benefit provided.

Charities also highlighted the fact that refugees may not be able to negotiate their own rental agreements due to language barriers, and would not have paperwork such as passports and bank statements that are required to rent a property.

Home Office sources say that in addition to encouraging Afghan families living in hotels to look for their own housing, they aim to offer each family two choices of accommodation somewhere in the UK. However, it is not known if they will be given a choice of location.

The Home Office said the accommodation offers would be “good, decent proposals,” but that if families rejected the offers, they would be provided with a further two months of hotel accommodation. It did not say what would happen if the families failed to secure accommodation after that.

Home Office sources say they are trying to encourage Afghan families to move to other parts of the UK, such as Wales, but this may be problematic for families with children who are attending school in large cities such as London.

Waiting lists for council housing are long, especially for larger properties that can accommodate Afghan families with three or more children.

Despite Afghan families having the right to rent under immigration rules and landlords being able to check this using an online tool, some are reluctant to rent to people who do not have a British passport, or evidence of life in the UK such as utility bills and payslips.

A letter sent to Afghan refugees from the Home Office says that not all councils will accept a request to put families on social housing waiting lists, urging them to start looking in the private rental sector.

“Not all councils will support you so it’s important to check,” the letters said. They urged the refugees to search for multiple properties to increase their chances of finding accommodation as the UK housing market is “very competitive.”

Eva Tabbasam, director of Gender Action for Peace and Security, expressed concern about the plans.

“Afghan families couldn’t have imagined that one year after arriving they’d still be warehoused in unsuitable accommodation, without space, privacy and stability. There is also a serious risk of homelessness for these families if suitable accommodation is not offered under the current Home Office plans, Tabbasam said.

“The government has had a year to sort things out — instead, it’s getting worse. If suitable accommodation was readily available for the 9,500 people still in hotels, families would already have been moved into it. We don’t yet know what kind of move on accommodation families will be offered,” she added.

London Councils’ executive member for communities, Claire Holland, said: “Boroughs are very concerned by the lack of alternative housing options for these families — a particular challenge in the capital due to the chronic shortage of affordable housing here.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that the use of hotels to house those resettling from Afghanistan is a temporary solution.

“We continue to work with over 350 local authorities to move Afghan families from hotels to permanent accommodation as quickly as possible,” they said.

“To support the resettlement of Afghan families, local authorities are given £20,520 ($24,789) per person over a three-year period. They have the flexibility to use this funding to contribute toward renting accommodation, including deposits, letting fees and furnishing.”


South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test

South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test
Updated 05 October 2022

South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test

South Korea, US fire missiles into the sea to protest ‘reckless’ North Korea test
  • The UN Security Council will meet to discuss North Korea at the request of the United States
  • It was the first North Korean missile to follow a trajectory over Japan since 2017

SEOUL: South Korea and the US military conducted missile drills in response to North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan, as the United Nations Security Council prepares to meet over what was Pyongyang’s longest-range test.

Nuclear-armed North Korea test-fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) farther than ever before on Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take cover.

South Korean and American troops fired a volley of missiles into the sea in response, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday, and the allies earlier staged a bombing drill with fighter jets in the Yellow Sea.

The military separately confirmed that a South Korean Hyunmoo-2 missile failed shortly after launch and crashed during the drill, but that no one was hurt.

South Korea’s military said that the missile carried a warhead but that it did not explode, and apologized for causing residents to worry.

The White House National Security Council called North Korea’s latest test “dangerous and reckless” and the US military and its allies have stepped up displays of force.

The USS Ronald Reagan, an American aircraft carrier that made its first stop in South Korea last month for the first time in years, will be deployed between Korea and Japan in what the South Korean military called a “highly unusual” move designed to show the allies’ resolve to respond to any threats from North Korea.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea’s test in the “strongest terms,” the European Union called it a “reckless and deliberately provocative action,” and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch and said it was a violation of Security Council resolutions.

The UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday to discuss North Korea at the request of the United States, despite China and Russia telling council counterparts they were opposed to an open meeting of 15-member body. They argued that the council’s reaction should be conducive to easing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, diplomats said.

It was the first North Korean missile to follow a trajectory over Japan since 2017, and its estimated 4,600km flight was the longest for a North Korean test, which are usually “lofted” into space to avoid flying over neighboring countries.

Analysts and security officials said it may have been a variant of the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of what it said was a plan to strike US military bases in Guam.

Neither North Korea’s government nor its state media have reported on the launch or disclosed what type of missile was used.

The flight has increased concerns that North Korea may soon conduct an expected nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017.

South Korea’s defense minister, Lee Jong-sup, told parliament North Korea had completed preparations for a test and might use a smaller weapon meant for operational use, or a big device with a higher yield than in previous tests.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the test “reckless” and said it would bring a decisive response from his country, its allies and the international community.

The launch was a “reckless and deliberately provocative action” that violated UN security council resolutions, a European Union spokesperson said.


Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets
Updated 05 October 2022

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets

Indonesia pins hopes on UAE trade pact to open new export markets
  • Indonesia-UAE bilateral trade volume reached around $4 billion in 2021
  • Trade pact erases about 99 percent of existing tariffs, Indonesian ministry says

JAKARTA: Indonesia is hopeful that a wide-ranging economic pact with the UAE will open more markets in the Gulf region to the country’s exports, the Trade Ministry said on Tuesday, as officials aim to ratify the agreement by November.

Indonesia and the UAE signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in July, after talks aimed at eliminating tariffs and boosting investment between the two countries were launched in September 2021. The pact is Jakarta’s first with a Gulf country and Abu Dhabi’s first with a Southeast Asian nation.

Bilateral trade volume reached around $4 billion last year, according to Indonesian Trade Ministry data, showcasing an increase of nearly 38 percent from 2020, when it was worth $2.9 billion.

The agreement is still pending ratification by the Indonesian House of Representatives, which held a meeting this week with Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan to discuss the process in detail.

“IUAE-CEPA will benefit Indonesia because UAE will be Indonesia’s hub to tap new, very big markets,” Hasan said, as quoted by the ministry in a statement on Tuesday.

Through the agreement, he continued, the country’s goods, from jewelry and agricultural commodities to products from small and medium-sized enterprises, can enter Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Hasan said the pact is expected to boost Indonesian exports to the UAE by an annual average of 7.7 percent.

The pact erases about 99 percent of existing tariffs, the Trade Ministry said, and includes commitments to increase Indonesia’s services exports to the UAE by 6 percent and mutually recognize each country’s halal certification.

“We hope that Indonesia will ratify IUAE-CEPA before the upcoming meeting between the presidents of Indonesia and the UAE in Solo that is being planned for Nov. 17, 2022,” Hasan said.

The trade pact appears to be part of the Indonesian government’s strategy to attract more investment from the UAE, Yanuar Rizky, economist and chairman of Jakarta-based research company Bejana Investidata Globalindo, told Arab News.

“From what I’ve read, Indonesia is hoping that with the tariff cut and its becoming a trading hub, UAE investment will increase in Indonesia,” Rizky said.

“This is something that the Jokowi administration has continued to pursue,” he added, referring to Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s popular nickname.

Rizky said the effort is in line with ongoing attempts to attract foreign investors to fund the development of a $32 billion new capital city in Borneo, a project that saw Japan’s SoftBank withdraw its backing earlier this year.

UAE Ambassador to Indonesia Abdulla Salem Obaid Al-Dhaheri said in March that his country would invest in Indonesia’s new capital through an existing $10 billion funding commitment to the Indonesia Investment Authority.
 


Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science
Updated 05 October 2022

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

Three physicists share Nobel Prize for work on quantum science

STOCKHOLM: Three scientists jointly won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work on quantum information science that has significant applications, for example in the field of encryption.

Frenchman Alain Aspect, American John F. Clauser and Austrian Anton Zeilinger were cited by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for discovering the way that unseen particles, such as photons or tiny bits of matter, can be linked, or “entangled,” with each other even when they are separated by large distances.

“Being a little bit entangled is sort of like being a little bit pregnant. The effect grows on you,” Clauser said in a Tuesday morning phone interview with The Associated Press.

It all goes back to a feature of the universe that even baffled Albert Einstein and connects matter and light in a tangled, chaotic way.

Clauser, 79, was awarded his prize for a 1972 experiment that helped settle a famous debate about quantum mechanics between Einstein and famed physicist Niels Bohr. Einstein described “a spooky action at a distance” that he thought would eventually be disproved.

“I was betting on Einstein,” Clauser said. “But unfortunately I was wrong and Einstein was wrong and Bohr was right.”

Clauser said his work on quantum mechanics shows that you can’t confine information to a closed volume, “like a little box that sits on your desk” — though even he can’t say why.

“Most people would assume that nature is made out of stuff distributed throughout space and time,” Clauser said. “And that appears not to be the case.”

Quantum entanglement “has to do with taking these two photons and then measuring one over here and knowing immediately something about the other one over here,” said David Haviland, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics.


US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer
Updated 04 October 2022

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer

US ex-Marine gets 4-1/2 years in Russian penal colony for attacking police officer
  • Police hauled Robert Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior
  • Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most

LONDON: Former US marine Robert Gilman was sentenced to 4-1/2 years in a Russian penal colony on Tuesday for attacking a police officer while drunk, Russian news agencies reported.
Police hauled Gilman off a train in Voronezh in January, while he was traveling from the southern city of Sochi to Moscow, after complaints from fellow passengers about his behavior, the agencies reported, citing the prosecution.
While in custody, Gilman was accused of kicking out at a police officer, leaving him with bruises.
Gilman, whose lawyers told the TASS news agency he had come to Russia to study and obtain citizenship, told the court in Voronezh that he did not remember the incident but had “apologized to Russia” and to the police officer.
After being found guilty, Gilman said the four-and-a-half year sentence requested by the prosecution was too strict.
Gilman’s lawyer Valeriy Ivannikov told reporters he intended to appeal and would ask the United States to seek a prisoner exchange.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Washington was aware of the decision but said he could not give further details citing privacy considerations.
“We continue to insist that the Russian Federation allow consistent, timely consular access to all (detained) US citizens, and we urge the Russian government to ensure fair treatment to all US citizens detained in Russia,” Patel said, declining to say whether consular access had been granted in Gilman’s case.
Russia has sentenced several US citizens to lengthy prison terms in recent years, though Gilman’s case has attracted less attention than most.
WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison after being found in possession of cannabis oil vape cartridges.
Paul Whelan, another ex-marine who also holds Canadian, Irish and British citizenship, is serving 16 years in prison on espionage charges, which he denies.
But in April, former marine Trevor Reed, who was serving nine years after being found guilty of violence against a police officer, was freed in a prisoner exchange.
Russian officials have said they are in talks with Washington about possible new prisoner exchanges. Media reports say they could involve convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, serving a 25-year sentence in the United States, being released back to Russia.


UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’
Updated 04 October 2022

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’

UK interior minister vows to stop migrant ‘small boats’
  • Irregular migration is a thorny political issue for the UK government
  • Deportation flights have been stymied by a series of legal challenges in the UK courts and at the European Court of Human Rights

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Britain’s new interior minister on Tuesday vowed to prevent migrants from claiming asylum if they arrive through an “illegal” route, and stop small boat crossings across the Channel from France.
Suella Braverman said the situation, in which criminal gangs were exploiting vulnerable migrants, had “gone on for far too long.”
Irregular migration is a thorny political issue for the UK government, which promised to tighten borders after the country left the European Union.
But a partnership deal with Rwanda signed earlier this year under the premiership of Boris Johnson to send some migrants to the African country for resettlement has so far failed.
Deportation flights have been stymied by a series of legal challenges in the UK courts and at the European Court of Human Rights.
Braverman said Britain needed to “find a way to make the Rwanda scheme work” and denounced the intervention of the ECHR, describing it as a “closed process with an unnamed judge and without any representation by the UK.”
“I will commit to look to bring forward legislation that the only route to the United Kingdom is through a safe and legal route,” she told the ruling Conservative party’s annual conference.
“If you deliberately enter the United Kingdom from a safe country you should be swiftly removed to your home country or relocated to Rwanda. That is where your asylum claim will be considered,” she said.
Reacting to Braverman’s speech, the PCS trade union which represents civil servants responsible for implementing the policy, said she did not “appear to understand the UK’s international obligations under the Geneva Convention.”
“Time and again we have called upon the government to use the expertise of our members in the Home Office to develop a solution to this crisis through safe passage,” PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said.
“Instead, it chooses to continually demonize refugees to deflect from its hopeless inability to address the cost of living crisis facing the people of this country.”
Official government figures last month showed more migrants had crossed the Channel to the UK from northern France so far this year than in the whole of 2021, when 28,526 made the journey.
More than 33,500 people have now arrived in Britain.
Braverman’s speech played into Prime Minister Liz Truss’s right-wing agenda, urging police to stop “virtue signalling” on issues such as race and gender.
She promised to empower officers to stop “the mob” of direct-action protesters who use “guerilla tactics” to bring “chaos and misery” to the public.
“Whether you’re Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain or Extinction Rebellion, you cross a line when you break the law and that’s why we’ll keep putting you behind bars,” she added.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police said it had arrested 54 Just Stop Oil protesters on suspicion of “wilful obstruction of the highway” after a demonstration blocked traffic in central London.