Eleven schoolchildren killed in Myanmar air strike: UNICEF

Debris and soot cover the floor of a middle school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin township in the Sagaing region of Myanmar on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, the day after an air strike hit the school. (AP)
Debris and soot cover the floor of a middle school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin township in the Sagaing region of Myanmar on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, the day after an air strike hit the school. (AP)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Eleven schoolchildren killed in Myanmar air strike: UNICEF

Eleven schoolchildren killed in Myanmar air strike: UNICEF
  • The UN children’s agency UNICEF condemned Friday’s violence in Depeyin township in Sagaing

YANGON: At least 11 schoolchildren died in an air strike and firing on a Myanmar village, according to the United Nations children’s agency, an attack the country’s junta said targeted rebels hiding in the area.
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Tuesday condemned the strike, according to his office, which stated at least 13 people died, including the 11 students.
The Southeast Asian country has been in chaos since the military seized power in a coup in February last year, with nearly 2,300 civilians killed in a crackdown on dissent according to a local monitoring group.
The Sagaing region in the country’s northwest has experienced some of the fiercest fighting, and clashes between anti-coup fighters and the military have seen entire villages burned down.




An alphabet book and a notebook lie on top of an elevated wooden floorboard of a middle school in Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin township in the Sagaing region of Myanmar on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, the day after an air strike hit the school. (AP)

The UN children’s agency UNICEF condemned Friday’s violence in Depeyin township in Sagaing.
“On 16 September, at least 11 children died in an air strike and indiscriminate fire in civilian areas,” UNICEF said in a statement issued Monday.
It said schools must be safe and never targeted.
“At least 15 children from the same school are still missing,” UNICEF said, calling for their immediate safe release.
Guterres, who on Tuesday was hosting world leaders at the UN General Assembly, “strongly condemns the attacks by Myanmar armed forces on a school in Let Yet Kone” and offered his condolences to victims’ families, his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.
Such attacks on schools in contravention of international humanitarian law constitute “grave violations against children in times of armed conflict strongly condemned by the Security Council,” the Guterres spokesman said, calling for the perpetrators to be held accountable.
Video footage obtained from a local community group shows a classroom with blood on the floor, damage to the roof and a mother crying over her son’s dead body.

The junta said they had sent troops in helicopters to Let Yet Kone after receiving a tip-off that fighters from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) — an ethnic rebel group — and from a local anti-coup militia were moving weapons in the area.
The military accused the rebel fighters of using civilians as human shields, and said it had seized mines and explosives from the village.
“Security members gave necessary medical treatment and arranged to send patients to a nearby hospital,” the military said in a statement.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun on Tuesday accused the KIA of taking villagers to a monastery and then firing on troops from there.
A villager contacted by AFP rejected the military’s suggestions there were fighters in the area.
“They just attacked the school. They say someone attacked them, then they fought back but this is not true,” said the villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity for their own safety.
The villager said the military had taken away some of the bodies and detained multiple people, including children and teachers.
Save the Children Asia Regional Director Hassan Noor said schools should be off-limits during conflicts.
“How many more incidents like this need to take place before action is taken?” Noor said, urging the UN Security Council and Association of South East Asian Nations to take swift action.
ASEAN has led so far fruitless diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar. The group’s leaders meet in Phnom Penh in November.
 

 


Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report
Updated 05 December 2022

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report

Growth in arms trade stunted by supply issues: report
  • The growth was severely impacted by widespread supply chain issues
  • Companies in the US continue to dominate global arms production

STOCKHOLM: Sales of arms and military services grew in 2021, researchers said Monday, but were limited by worldwide supply issues related to the pandemic, with the war in Ukraine increasing demand while worsening supply difficulties.
The top 100 arms companies sold weapons and related services totalling $592 billion in 2021, 1.9-percent more than the year before, said the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
However the growth was severely impacted by widespread supply chain issues.
“The lasting impact of the pandemic is really starting to show in arms companies,” Nan Tian, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told AFP.
Disruptions from both labor shortages and difficulties in sourcing raw materials were “slowing down the companies’ ability to produce weapons systems and deliver them on time.
“So what we see really is a potentially slower increase to what many would have expected in arms sales in 2021,” Tian said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also expected to worsen supply chain issues, in part “because Russia is a major supplier of raw materials used in arms production,” said the report’s authors.
But the war has at the same time increased demand.
“Definitely demand will increase in the coming years,” Tian said.
By how much was at the same time harder to gauge, Tian said pointing to two factors that would impact demand.
Firstly, countries that have sent weapons to Ukraine to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars will be looking to replenish stockpiles.
Secondly, the worsening security environment means “countries are looking to procure more weapons.”
With the supply crunch expected to worsen, it could hamper these efforts, the authors noted.
Companies in the US continue to dominate global arms production, accounting for over half, $299 billion, of global sales and 40 of the top companies.
At the same time, the region was the only one to see a drop in sales: 0.9 percent down on the 2020 figures.
Among the top five companies — Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics — only Raytheon recorded an increase in sales.
Meanwhile, sales from the eight largest Chinese arms companies rose 6.3 percent to $109 billion in 2021.
European companies took 27 of the spots on the top 100, with combined sales of $123 billion, up 4.2 percent compared to 2020.
The report also noted a trend of private equity firms buying up arms companies, something the authors said had become increasingly apparent over the last three or four years.
This trend threatens to make the arms industry more opaque and therefore harder to track, Tian said, “because private equity firms will buy these companies and then essentially not produce any more financial records.”


UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report
Updated 05 December 2022

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report

UK political instability delays British-Moroccan energy project: Report
  • Xlinks venture will provide Britain with renewable energy via cable through Sahara
  • Morocco is established market leader in wind, solar, hydroelectric power industry

LONDON: Political turmoil in London has delayed an ambitious joint UK-Morocco plan to provide Britain with energy via a cable through the Sahara desert by “at least a year,” The Observer reported on Sunday.
The £18 billion ($22 billion) Xlinks venture, expected to be operational in 2027, would supply the UK with 8 percent of its energy needs from huge wind and solar farms in the desert through a 3,800 km cable, powering as many as 7 million homes by 2030.
Morocco is an established market leader in the wind, solar and hydroelectric power industry, and is second only to Egypt for solar intensity, a measure of generation power.
But the link-up has been delayed until at least late 2023, The Observer reported. Sir Dave Lewis, executive chair of the project, said recent political turmoil in Britain — which has seen three prime ministers come to power in less than six months — has slowed down its progress.
“We spent a long time with the then-business secretary (Kwasi Kwarteng) who said: ‘We like it a lot but it needs to go through Treasury.’ There was a review with Treasury, Cabinet Office and the business department, which was very positive,” Lewis told The Observer.
“Then we came back to them to start the detail and the political world exploded and, as a result, everything stopped. And everybody has changed, so it’s sort of like you’re starting again,” he added.
“Time is important for the UK to meet its net zero ambitions, to secure energy supplies and to reduce bills. We have lost a year.”
The cable transporting the power would run along the Moroccan coastline, then along Portugal, northern Spain and western France before looping around the Scilly Isles Scilly and finishing in the English county of Devon, where Xlinks has already approved 1.8 gigawatt connections.


Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
Updated 04 December 2022

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 

Philippines to join hands with Saudi Arabia in tourism development 
  • Kingdom set to help Philippines develop halal tourism 
  • Manila sees ‘great potential’ in attracting more Saudi tourists 

MANILA: The Philippine government said on Sunday it is going to work closely with Saudi Arabia in developing the tourism industry in both countries. 

More than 9,400 Saudi tourists have visited the Southeast Asian country since it reopened to fully vaccinated international travelers in February. Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia was the top Middle Eastern source of arrivals, according to data from the Philippine Department of Tourism. 

“The two countries agreed on formalizing their partnership with Saudi Arabia,” the tourism department said in a statement on Sunday. 

The Kingdom will support the Philippines with Arabic-speaking tour guides, increasing direct flights and developing halal tourism, while the Philippines will “provide hospitality and human capital development to the Kingdom’s tourism frontline.” 

The agreement follows Philippine Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s meeting with her Saudi counterpart Haifa Al-Saud in Riyadh last month. 

“Saudi Arabia actually ranks No. 1 for our Middle East source market. We see great potential in ushering in more arrivals into the Philippines,” Frasco said, as quoted in the statement. 

She added that the relationship is mutual, as there are over 800,000 Filipinos living in Saudi Arabia. 

“Our affection for each other is long-standing, and I am very interested in furthering this relationship by formalizing an agreement specifically focused on tourism development,” she said. 

The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches and famous diving spots, is dependent on tourism. In 2019, the sector generated around $44 billion and made up nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

Most tourism destinations in the country were forced to shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, dealing a major blow to the industry. Foreign arrivals slumped by 82 percent, while revenues from tourism plummeted to $17 billion. 

Tourism recovery efforts yielded results once several COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this year. 

By Nov. 14, official data showed nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists had visited the Philippines. 


Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
Updated 05 December 2022

Iraqi in UK who saved baby niece via illegal entry granted leave to remain

Photo: (Pexels/Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas)
  • Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, rescued 7-month-old Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim from France after burn incident

LONDON: An Iraqi man who saved his baby niece by bringing her to the UK illegally has been granted leave to remain following years of legal attempts by the Home Office to deport him, The Guardian reported.

Najat Ibrahim Ismail, who arrived in Britain in 2004, saved his niece, Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim, then only 7 months old, after she had sustained significant burn injuries in a French refugee camp.

Her parents had fled Iraq following the expansion of Daesh and in 2016 had traveled to France.

Ismail, 35, heard the news of his relative’s injuries and traveled to Dunkirk, where he drove his niece back to Britain illegally in a bid to give her access to urgent medical care.

In 2017, he was prosecuted for assisting illegal entry into the UK.

As a result, the UK Home Office pursued his deportation three times, but to no avail.

Now the 35-year-old, who is married to a British woman and has three children, has been granted leave to remain following years of legal campaigning by his solicitor.

His niece — whose family has also been given leave to remain — has since made a full recovery following the 2016 incident and is now in school.

Ismail said: “For the first time I can sleep well. I’m the happiest person in the world and I can’t stop smiling.

“I can’t thank my solicitor enough. She saved my life.”

Though a judge condemned Ismail’s actions in assisting the illegal entry, they said: “I do accept that you were not a person who was trafficking for gain. These were family members you decided to assist.”

Hannah Baynes, Ismail’s solicitor, said: “We are very pleased that Najat will be allowed to remain in the UK after so many years of uncertainty.

“The judge acknowledged that there was a risk of Najat’s mental health deteriorating if he was forced to live separately from his family in Iraq, where he has a well-founded fear of persecution.”

 


‘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.