Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border
An inflatable boat is seen on the Evros river, along the natural border between Turkey and Greece, in this screen grab from a handout video, released on August 16, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border

Greece seeks ways to recover migrant girl’s body from border
  • Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi: We will move via the International Red Cross and Red Crescent so that the child’s body can be found on the Turkish islet
  • Greek police said that they had found 38 people — 22 men, nine women and seven children — inside Greek territory and away from the Evros river

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Greece says it will work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent to seek the body of a child who a group of asylum-seekers said had died of a scorpion sting while they were stranded for days on the Greek-Turkish border.
Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said Tuesday that the islet on the Evros River — which runs along much of the land border — where the group said the young girl’s body was, was Turkish territory.
“We will move via the International Red Cross and Red Crescent so that the child’s body can be found on the Turkish islet and can come to be buried with dignity by her family,” Mitarachi said.
Greek police said on Monday they had found 38 people — 22 men, nine women and seven children — inside Greek territory, away from the river and about four kilometers (2.5 miles) south of where the group had been reported to be stranded. Mitarachi, who on Tuesday visited the migrant reception center where the group were taken in northeastern Greece, said the 35 Syrians and three Palestinians were in good health, and that one pregnant woman among them had been taken to hospital for precautionary reasons.
Greek authorities had come under withering criticism for days after aid organizations had said a group of people was stranded in increasingly precarious conditions on an islet in the Evros river, known as the Meric in Turkish. Greek police said last week that they had chased successive reports of migrants stranded on islets in the river but had found nobody. Greece had said the coordinates given to them placed the group in Turkey, not Greece.
Late Monday, Turkish authorities said a search mission had been launched following media and social media reports that 39 irregular migrants were trapped on an islet in the river.
The governor’s office for the border province of Edirne said nobody was found after a four-day search by Turkey’s emergency agency AFAD, and by border units in the area corresponding to coordinates given for the islet.
“A search activity was carried out and no immigrant or group of immigrants was found,” the statement said.
The head of the Greek Council for Refugees, Vassilis Papadopoulos, said his group first heard about the migrants in mid-July. He said about 50 people had allegedly crossed to the Greek side but were then forced back to Turkey. Migrants also told his organization that Turkish authorities allegedly returned them to one islet after another, until they ended up stuck on a Greek islet mid-river.
Speaking from northeastern Greece on Tuesday, Mitarachi said the group told Greek authorities they had entered Greek territory on Aug. 14 and hid for a day before sending their location details. He said the migrants told Greek authorities they had been taken to the river by Turkish authorities, who had forced them to attempt the crossing to Greece.
“Officially the Turkish authorities arrested these migrants within Turkey, they did not give them the right to apply for international protection, as Turkey is bound to do by international law,” Mitarachi said. “To the contrary, the Turkish gendarmerie brought them to the banks of the Evros and, with the threat of the use of violence, pressured them to come to Greece.”
Thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to cross into Greece from Turkey each year, hoping for a better life in Europe. Greece denies that it carries out pushbacks — summarily deporting those who reach its territory back to Turkey without allowing them to request asylum — both at sea and across the Evros River, despite persistent allegations from both rights organizations and migrants themselves. Pushbacks are illegal under international law.


All honest people recognize global warming is real, says Pakistani envoy

All honest people recognize global warming is real, says Pakistani envoy
Updated 16 sec ago

All honest people recognize global warming is real, says Pakistani envoy

All honest people recognize global warming is real, says Pakistani envoy
  • Munir Akram told Arab News his country is proposing the creation of a financial facility that would be permanently available to compensate countries for the effects of climate change
  • He said he is ‘disappointed’ with the rights record of the Taliban in Afghanistan but added it would be counterproductive to break off from talks with them and isolate the government

NEW YORK CITY: Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Munir Akram, remembers the day the recent floods that would eventually submerge a third of his country began.
“The extreme heat melted the glaciers,” he said. “We have 7,000 glaciers in the mountains of Pakistan. This resulted in flash floods. And then the extreme heat led to high precipitation, which resulted in the massive torrential rains that came.
“It is perhaps difficult to imagine the magnitude of the disaster and this became clear to all of us, and to the world, as the waters ran over the rivers into the villages, towns, fields, destroying 7,000 kilometers of roads, 300 bridges, over a million homes, seven million acres of standing crops.”
During a visit to the country this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the situation in Pakistan as “climate carnage.” He had never seen anything like it on this scale before, he said, as the flooded land covered an area three times the size of his own country, Portugal.
This disaster of monumental magnitude has resulted in more than 1,400 deaths, and caused damage estimated at more than $30 billion. A catastrophe of hitherto unimaginable proportions, it has once again propelled the issue of climate change to the top of the international agenda, dominating every discussion during the annual gathering of world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York this month.
“This is the consequence of climate change, of global warming,” Akram told Arab News on the sidelines of the UN event. “And the supreme irony is that Pakistan is not responsible for global warming; we emit only 0.8 percent of global carbon emissions and yet Pakistan is the most significantly impacted country by this.
“I think the (UN) secretary-general has spoken eloquently about that when he visited the affected areas and he has called for massive assistance to Pakistan, not only as a humanitarian gesture but also as part of, like, climate justice.
“It is unjust that Pakistan should face the consequences of the actions of those who are the largest emitters and have been the largest emitters for so many decades.”
China, the US and the nations that make up the membership of the EU are the three largest global emitters of greenhouse gases, which cause the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere to warm.
Guterres has for years called for the biggest producers of greenhouse gases not only to lower their emissions but also to finance the response to the effects of climate change in less-wealthy countries and regions — such as Pakistan, drought-hit Horn of Africa, and the Small Island States that are also particularly vulnerable to flooding — when they face extreme weather events resulting from those emissions.
“I think that all the honest people around the world recognize that global warming and climate change is a reality and that it is having very enormous impacts around the world, especially on developing countries,” said Akram.
“Therefore there is a growing support for the proposal of the developing countries that at least $100 billion should be provided annually for climate finance, that at least half of this should go to adaptation — so far, it’s only 20 to 25 percent of those (funds that go) for adaptation — and that when countries such as Pakistan (are) damaged so grievously, to the extent of 10 percent of the gross domestic product, that there is a responsibility on the part of the international community, especially those who have a historical and current responsibility for having the highest emissions, to provide support in the recovery of countries which suffer from the impact.”
Pakistan is putting forward a proposal for the creation of a financial facility that would be permanently available to compensate countries for the effects of climate change. This is in addition, Akram said, to Islamabad’s suggestion that climate-adaptation efforts, often deemed the “orphan child” of climate talks, should receive at least 50 percent of all climate financing, along with an increased emphasis on the importance of speeding up mitigation efforts, “especially by those who are the highest emitters and who have been historically the highest contributors to global warming over the last 150 years.”
Turning to the situation in neighboring Afghanistan, the Pakistani envoy expressed “disappointment” at the human rights record of the Taliban in the year since they took over the country by force following the withdrawal of Western forces in August last year.
“We are all disappointed that some of the promises that were made with regard to human rights, women’s rights and counterterrorism have not been fulfilled and it remains a priority for us to promote those objectives,” Akram said.
However he added that it would be counterproductive to disengage from talks with the Taliban government or to try to isolate and punish it. He said such actions would condemn the entirety of the Afghan population to further suffering and starvation “and that is certainly not the objective of the international community.”
Akram urged the global donors to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and engage in the economic revival of the country, including improvements to its banking system. He also called for the nation to be allowed to use the resources available to it, including the release of overseas assets currently frozen by the international community. Pakistan is actively engaged in this process, he added.
Calling for “a pathway for normalization” as a major weapon in the fight against terrorism, Akram urged the Taliban to “take effective action not only against (Daesh), which is of course the major concern for the international community, but also against terrorist organizations such as the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan), which is not only threatening but actually resorting to cross-border attacks against Pakistan.”
The plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban is another topic that has dominated discussions during the UN General Assembly, with Afghan women living in exile making the case for their compatriots in a country that is the only one in the world that actively denies women the right to an education. They have called on world leaders to label the regime’s actions against women as “gender apartheid,” in the hope the term will become a catalyst in Afghanistan for change in terms of the treatment of women, just as it once did in South Africa on issues of race relations.
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, told Arab News last week that the plight of women in Afghanistan should be an issue not only for the wider international community but for the Muslim world in particular because “Islam is what gave women their rights. Islam is what protects women’s rights.”
Akram believes in pursuing “a strategy of persuasion” with the Taliban on the issue.
“We need to convince the Taliban that their position on this issue is out of step with the requirements of human rights, Islamic law or Islamic practice as such, and we are fully behind this,” he said.
“All we say is let’s do it in a way of persuasion, of trying to convince them through (for example) illustration of best practices in the Islamic world of how women are treated and how women are contributing to the welfare of the nations.
“And perhaps the Taliban — at least those who are younger, educated and know the world — will soon come to be convinced that this is the right way to do it. And hopefully, Afghanistan will then emerge into a stage of development that is more consistent with international norms.”

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Afghans demand justice for war victims after mass grave discovery

Afghans demand justice for war victims after mass grave discovery
Updated 27 September 2022

Afghans demand justice for war victims after mass grave discovery

Afghans demand justice for war victims after mass grave discovery

KABUL: A mass grave found in southern Afghanistan has sparked calls for justice, as locals recalled atrocities committed against civilians over decades of conflict.

The remains of 12 people were recently found by residents of Spin Boldak, a town bordering Pakistan in the southern province of Kandahar, which had been the site of intense fighting between forces of the Western-backed government and Taliban fighters for the last two decades until the group took over Afghanistan last year.

Video clips, shared on social media by locals and Taliban officials, showed villagers gathered around piles of bones.

Bilal Karimi, the Taliban’s deputy spokesman, said the grave was from around eight or nine years ago, “when the area was under the control of the former administration.” He added that investigations were ongoing.

Taliban officials said the killings took place when Gen. Abdul Raziq was Kandahar police chief under the previous government.

Raziq was allegedly involved in torture and kidnapping, and was known for his fierce stance against the Taliban. He was killed in 2018.

A number of mass graves have been found in Afghanistan, many containing the remains of civilians killed in the decades of war before the US-led invasion in 2001.

More than 47,000 civilians and around 66,000 of Afghanistan’s soldiers and police officers died in the post-2001 conflict, according to a Costs of War report by Brown University.

Afghans called for justice for the victims in the latest discovery. “A lot of kidnapping, disappearing and killing was happening in Kandahar,” Abdul Kabir Mukhlis told Arab News on Tuesday.

Mukhlis, who now lives in Zabul province but studied for several years in Kandahar, recalled years of living under the threat of violence and brutality.

“I swear to God I haven’t had a single day in peace because of the ruthless Raziq and his allies,” the 28-year-old said.

“I couldn’t go anywhere in the city. I’ve seen many such incidents. My friends disappeared, they were killed.”

Mukhlis called on the Taliban to bring the perpetrators to justice, especially those who remain in the country.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should bring all of them to justice. I don’t expect justice from the international community because they supported these criminals,” he said. “They knew about the atrocities but didn’t do anything.”

Hekmatullah Zaland, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies in Kabul, told Arab News that the past two decades had seen powerful military figures committing “severe human rights and legal violations” to retain power.

“In the name of security, many innocent people were killed in the south in ways that are known only to those who did the atrocities. The recently explored grave in Kandahar could be just one example of the many similar incidents across the country,” Zaland said.

“On the pretext of the war on terror, both Afghans and their international allies have caused so much harm to innocent people that can’t be compensated. Justice is what could heal some of the wounds of the Afghan nation and the families of the victims.”

Esmatullah Afghan, a university lecturer from Helmand province, told Arab News that families of the victims often had to wait years to find out their fate.

“The injustice done to Afghans by their own countrymen and by foreigners is enormous,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the current government and an ethical obligation of the world to ensure justice to victims of cruelty, injustice and war in Afghanistan. 

“Afghans have been suffering mainly due to wars initiated by foreigners. The guilty must be punished.”


Bangladeshi families, communities grieve for victims of deadly boat disaster

Bangladeshi families, communities grieve for victims of deadly boat disaster
Updated 27 September 2022

Bangladeshi families, communities grieve for victims of deadly boat disaster

Bangladeshi families, communities grieve for victims of deadly boat disaster
  • Death toll has risen to 67 as of Tuesday afternoon, local official says
  • Boat accident is the worst waterway disaster to hit the South Asian nation this year

DHAKA: Almost as soon as the boat started moving to take passengers to the other side of the Karatoya River, where many Hindu devotees were heading to celebrate the Durga Puja festival at a popular temple, the small vessel began to tremble.
The 15-minute journey to cross the river in northern Bangladesh that Sunday afternoon quickly turned into a tragedy, taking less than four minutes before the boat began to sink.
“There had been a huge rush of passengers, and people were all in a hurry to get on the boat. Not a single inch of space was empty,” Ramesh Chandra, a 40-year-old farmer from the northern Panchagarh district, told Arab News on Tuesday.
Chandra, who boarded the boat with his 35-year-old wife Shyamoli Rani Shimuli and his 11-year-old daughter Surovi Rani, said it had all happened suddenly.
“Soon after the boat started moving, it was trembling because of the overload,” he said.
When Chandra realized the boat was sinking, he took his daughter’s hands and swam toward the river bank. But his wife, who was wearing a traditional sari, did not make it.
“My wife knew swimming very well, but she unfortunately failed to manage it as she was wearing a sari, which wrapped her whole body immediately when it got wet,” Chandra said.
He is now left alone to raise his daughter and 13-year-old son Saurov, who had been at home when the incident occurred.
“I don’t know what to do now, how I will be able to raise my children alone without their mother,” Chandra said.
Shimuli’s body was recovered on Sunday evening, and she was cremated the following day. As the family mourns the tragic loss, they also have to grapple with other losses in the extended family.
Chandra said his niece and sister were also killed in the accident, and authorities were still searching for his nephew on Tuesday.
The worst waterways disaster to hit the South Asian nation this year had killed at least 67 people as of Tuesday afternoon, comprising 30 women, 20 children, and 17 men, Mohammad Jahurul Islam, Panchagarh district administrator, told Arab News.
“Our divers are working to trace the (missing) bodies. Rescue operations will continue until we can address the last complaint reported,” Islam said.
Islam said aid was given to the families of the deceased victims to cover expenses for the funeral rites.
Dipankar Roy, who heads the committee investigating the accident, told Arab News that they have conducted interviews with eyewitnesses, survivors, and other concerned parties.
“Our investigation over this tragic incident is almost over. We hope to submit the report by 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the latest,” Roy said.
Hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents across Bangladesh, as accidents commonly occur due to lax safety standards. In April 2021, at least 35 people were killed after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank on the Shitalakhsya River outside the capital Dhaka.
The villages along the Karatoya River were overwhelmed with grief, as many residents mourn the deaths of relatives, friends, and neighbors in the boat accident.
Tarun Kumar Barman, a 35-year-old farmer from Panchagarh, said his village alone had lost eight people to the tragedy. His nine-year-old niece and 48-year-old sister were among the victims.
“All of them were from the Hindu community and had intended to make offerings in the temple on the occasion of Mahalaya,” Barman told Arab News, referring to the beginning of Durga Puja celebrations.
“The whole village is overwhelmed with mourning now. People forgot their daily routines. We are extremely shocked,” he said. “It’s a dead village now. We cremated the bodies one after another. None of us was ready for a situation like this.”


Moscow says will not seek extradition of Russians fleeing draft

Moscow says will not seek extradition of Russians fleeing draft
Updated 27 September 2022

Moscow says will not seek extradition of Russians fleeing draft

Moscow says will not seek extradition of Russians fleeing draft
  • Neighbouring countries have seen Russians arriving en masse since the draft was announced last Wednesday
  • On Tuesday, Central Asian nation Kazakhstan said around 98,000 Russians entered the country since Wednesday

MOSCOW: Moscow said Tuesday it will not request the extradition of Russians traveling abroad to avoid being called-up to fight in Ukraine, after thousands of military-aged men crossed into neighboring countries.
“The Russian ministry of defense has not sent any request to the authorities of Kazakhstan, Georgia, or any other country for the alleged forced return to Russian soil of Russian citizens, and it is not planning to do so,” the ministry said in a statement.
Neighbouring countries have seen Russians arriving en masse since the draft was announced last Wednesday, with hours-long queues at border crossings.
On Tuesday, Central Asian nation Kazakhstan said around 98,000 Russians entered the country since Wednesday.
Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed to protect the safety and welfare of Russians fleeing a “hopeless situation” on Tuesday.
Russians have also headed to the neighboring Black Sea nation of Georgia, which saw the number of Russians arriving daily nearly double since the mobilization announcement.
On Tuesday the local interior ministry in a Russian region that borders Georgia said the situation at the border was “extremely tense.”
The ministry added that a mobile mobilization office will be set up at the border in the “near future.”


Catalonia seeks Spain’s agreement for new independence referendum

Catalonia seeks Spain’s agreement for new independence referendum
Updated 27 September 2022

Catalonia seeks Spain’s agreement for new independence referendum

Catalonia seeks Spain’s agreement for new independence referendum
  • The Spanish government, however, rejected the proposal
  • "They have those maximalist aspirations, which are absolutely not shared by the government," spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez told reporters

BARCELONA, Spain: Catalonia will push the Spanish government for a new agreement on holding a binding referendum on the region’s potential independence that would be recognized both by Spain and the international community, its separatist leader said on Tuesday.
The Spanish government, however, rejected the proposal.
“They have those maximalist aspirations, which are absolutely not shared by the government,” spokesperson Isabel Rodriguez told reporters.
But both governments would keep talking to “normalize” their relationship, she said.
The so-called “clarity agreement” proposal comes shortly before the fifth anniversary of Catalonia’s unauthorized independence referendum and at a critical time for its separatist movement, which is marred by divisions between moderates and radicals that have threatened to fracture the coalition government.
Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has favored dialogue with Catalonia to rebuild relations after a chaotic unilateral bid for independence in 2017 plunged Spain into its worst political crisis in years.
It remains, however, staunchly opposed to independence and has hitherto ruled out a legal referendum. The Spanish constitution blocks the country’s break up but some scholars and Catalan separatists argue there could be legal room for a vote if the Spanish government agrees.
A similar proposal by Catalonia in 2012 was firmly rejected by the then conservative government in Madrid. The wealthy northeastern region held a referendum five years later despite a ban by the courts, and issued a short-lived unilateral independence declaration.
Catalan government head Pere Aragones told the regional parliament that for another referendum, Catalonia needed Madrid’s buy-in.
“I have no doubt this is the fastest and most efficient way to hold another vote because it originates from the lessons learned from 2017 and overcomes the difficulties that did not allow us to implement the result five years ago,” he said.
He called his proposal the “most inclusive, democratic and explainable to the international community,” and said he would seek the support of all Catalonia’s political actors.
Aragones has engaged in talks with Madrid and his party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, has frequently lent its votes to the socialist-led minority government in congress.
Around 52 percent of Catalans oppose independence and 41 percent back it, according to a June poll.