UK’s abandonment of Sudan could create dangerous precedent for refugee rights: charity

UK’s abandonment of Sudan could create dangerous precedent for refugee rights: charity
Clashes broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in mid-April, and the fighting has only intensified since (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2023
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UK’s abandonment of Sudan could create dangerous precedent for refugee rights: charity

UK’s abandonment of Sudan could create dangerous precedent for refugee rights: charity
  • Choose Love has ‘simple’ message for British govt: ‘Don’t turn your back on people seeking safety’
  • What began as a national crisis is becoming a regional one, deputy CEO tells Arab News

LONDON: The UK’s decision to “turn its back” on Sudan could create a dangerous precedent that sees the rights of refugees “lost to history,” a refugee charity has warned.

Urging the British government to reverse course and create a new visa system to assist those fleeing violence in Sudan in the same way it has done for Ukrainians, Choose Love’s Deputy CEO Emma Stevenson told Arab News that the charity has a “simple” request of the UK: “Don’t turn your back on people seeking safety.”

She added: “Even if just a few countries follow the UK government’s lead and deny asylum to those fleeing conflict and persecution, the rights of refugees and the fundamental legal right to claim asylum could be lost to history.”

Clashes broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in mid-April, and the fighting has only intensified since.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the crossfire and at least 200,000 — but potentially as many as 1 million — have been displaced, yet the UK has remained steadfast in its refusal to offer a visa scheme specifically for Sudanese affected by the conflict.

A petition has been launched, which at the time of writing had gained 27,000 signatures. Were it to hit 100,000, the government would have to consider it for parliamentary debate.

Responding to the petition, the government reiterated that “there are no plans to create a visa scheme for family members of British citizens and settled migrants affected by the unrest.”

It added: “We recognise some people displaced by the fighting may wish to join family in the UK, and where those family members do not have a current UK visa, they can apply for one via one of our standard visa routes, which remain available.”

The government said it is “monitoring the situation in Sudan closely to ensure that it is able to respond appropriately.”

On the international stage, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said those attending Friday’s Arab League Summit in Jeddah had to take advantage of this “unique opportunity” to resolve the conflict.

Saudi Arabia has been heavily involved in trying to bring about peace, having brokered several ceasefires.

But with each one broken, Stevenson is circumspect on the short-term prospects for a resolution.

“There’s little sign the violence will cease any time soon, with things becoming increasingly desperate as the fighting intensifies,” she said.

“People are trapped with no access to food, water, electricity or medicine, and are having to make the terrifying decision of whether they should evacuate, leaving everything behind and walking into an uncertain future, or stay at the risk of being caught in the crossfire.”

Absent Western government support, and with the situation in Sudan deteriorating by the day, many Sudanese have been left to find escape routes to the borders internally.

Resultantly there has been a surge in the cost of bus tickets, pricing many people out of any hope of escape, while those fortunate enough to have reached the borders are leading to what began as a national crisis becoming a regional one, Stevenson said.

“This will place even more strain on faltering humanitarian infrastructure in northeast Africa,” she added.

“With more people having no means of escape, it’s now essential that we do everything we can to support those fleeing as well as those who are internally displaced or trapped in their homes. Our absolute priority is supporting displaced people and those most vulnerable.”

Asked what the international community could do short of offering evacuation routes, Choose Love has said there is “no substitute” for water, healthcare and basic services.

“Humanitarian support is trickling into Khartoum and the wider region, but it must reach the disabled, pregnant, elderly and all disadvantaged groups. The most vulnerable must never be forgotten,” Stevenson said.

She added that the UK’s abandonment of its legal obligations as a party to the UN Refugee Convention to protect those fleeing conflict without discrimination to race, religion or country has been compounded by the government’s “rapid response” and ongoing support for those fleeing war in Ukraine, a marked contrast to the position taken toward those facing comparable circumstances in northeast Africa.

“We’re of course supportive of the rapid response the UK government put in place for people fleeing the war in Ukraine,” Stevenson said.

“It shows what can be done when there’s the political will to do so, and we’d urge the government to apply their asylum policies in a consistent and humanitarian way, regardless of country of origin.”


US cargo planes airdrop more aid for Gaza: military

US cargo planes airdrop more aid for Gaza: military
Updated 2 sec ago
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US cargo planes airdrop more aid for Gaza: military

US cargo planes airdrop more aid for Gaza: military
WASHINGTON: American cargo planes airdropped more than 36,000 meals to Gaza Tuesday in a joint operation with Jordan, the US military said, as the international community scrambles to curb a growing humanitarian crisis there.
The United Nations has warned of famine in Gaza, while the World Health Organization said a recent aid mission to two hospitals found horrifying scenes of children dying of starvation in the territory’s north.
“US Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Northern Gaza on March 5, 2024, at 2:30 p.m. (Gaza time) to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict,” the military command said in a statement.
“US C-130s dropped over 36,800 US and Jordanian meal equivalents in Northern Gaza, an area of great need, allowing for civilian access to the critical aid,” CENTCOM said, adding that “we continue planning for follow-on aid delivery missions.”
The United States — Israel’s staunchest ally — began airdropping aid on Saturday into Gaza, which has faced relentless bombardment by Israel since Hamas launched its cross-border attack on October 7.
The Hamas attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza, now in its fifth month, has killed more than 30,600 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
The amount of aid brought into Gaza by truck has plummeted during nearly five months of war, and Gazans are facing dire shortages of food, water and medicines.
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Monday that between 30 to 120 trucks per day had delivered aid to Gaza in the past week.
“That’s clearly not enough... to feed the population there,” Singh said, while noting that airdrops are intended to supplement rather than replace aid brought in by ground.

PM Sunak warned not to deport UK’s Afghan allies to Rwanda

PM Sunak warned not to deport UK’s Afghan allies to Rwanda
Updated 47 sec ago
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PM Sunak warned not to deport UK’s Afghan allies to Rwanda

PM Sunak warned not to deport UK’s Afghan allies to Rwanda
  • House of Lords debating legislation to allow asylum-seekers to be removed to East African country
  • One proposal would exempt Afghans, other foreign nationals who have helped British forces overseas

LONDON: The UK government has been warned against letting Afghans who worked and fought alongside British and coalition forces be deported to Rwanda. 

Members of the House of Lords are debating new legislation proposed to allow asylum-seekers who arrive in the UK illegally to be removed to the East African state for processing.

On Monday, peers rejected the government’s attempts to have Rwanda declared a safe country until certain safeguards are met.

In 2023, the UK Supreme Court ruled the Rwanda plan unlawful, but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pressed ahead, including trying to assert that the country is safe via legislation so as not to “frustrate the will of the (British) people.”

The Lords are also discussing changes to the legislation, proposed by former Defence Secretary Lord Browne of Ladyton, to exempt Afghans with a history of service alongside UK counterparts. Peers are due to vote on the amendments on Wednesday.

The Illegal Migration Act, given assent on July 20, 2023, states that illegal migrants who entered the UK after that date must be removed, and that asylum cannot be given to anyone who entered the country illegally on or after March 7 that year.

Lord Browne’s changes would mean foreign nationals who helped the UK Armed Forces overseas in an “exposed or meaningful manner,” or were “employed by or indirectly contracted to provide services to the UK government in an exposed or meaningful manner,” would be exempt, along with their families.

Lord Carlile, a former terrorism legislation reviewer, called the amendments “just, fair and required.”

He told The Independent: “If it is put to the vote, there will be a lot of support for not sending people who worked with Britain in Afghanistan to Rwanda — provided peers are satisfied it is drawn in a way which would not allow for people to use the system illegitimately.

“Obviously, we want to help genuine Afghans who would be in real trouble if, via Rwanda, they were returned to Afghanistan.”

He added: “We have to understand that the House of Lords cannot simply wreck government legislation, we are not trying to do that.

“But if there is something that is just and fair and required, then we will say to the government, ‘this is not acceptable.’”

The former chief of the UK’s general staff, Gen. Lord Dannatt, has also said he supports the proposed amendments, alongside former diplomat Tim Willasey-Wilsey, who told The Independent: “It is imperative that the House of Commons should accept Lord Browne’s amendment.”

Conservative MP Julian Lewis, former chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, told The Independent: “I’m very sympathetic to rescuing Afghans at risk for having helped the UK Nato/Isaf forces to fight the Taliban.

“Provided that their specific service background can be verified by our MoD (Ministry of Defence) and/or individual veterans, it ought to be possible for them to apply to come here from the first safe country they reach, and it should not be necessary for them to make a risky and illegal Channel crossing.”


Moldova spy chief warns on new destabilization attempts by Russia

Moldova spy chief warns on new destabilization attempts by Russia
Updated 8 min 33 sec ago
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Moldova spy chief warns on new destabilization attempts by Russia

Moldova spy chief warns on new destabilization attempts by Russia
  • Alexandru Musteata, head of the Information and Security Service, said his agency had intercepted a record level of activities by the Russian security services since 2023
  • “Russian intelligence services intend to interfere in the election processes this year as well”

KYIV: Moldova’s spy chief said on Tuesday that Russia was planning fresh attempts to meddle in the country’s internal affairs by provoking protests, interfering in upcoming presidential elections, and disrupting plans to join the European Union.
Alexandru Musteata, head of the Information and Security Service, said his agency had intercepted a record level of activities by the Russian security services since 2023 and expected more destabilising actions this year and next.
“Russian intelligence services intend to interfere in the election processes this year as well,” Musteata told media.
“We have information that attempts are being made to compromise a referendum on the European integration, interfere in the presidential elections, as well as discredit government institutions and politicians who support Moldova’s accession to the European Union.”
Relations between Moldova and Russia have disintegrated as the government has steered a pro-European course and accused Moscow of trying to destabilize it. The ex-Soviet state’s pro-Western president Maia Sandu has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as she leads Moldova on a path to join the EU and defense alliance NATO.
Moscow denies the allegations of interference and accuses Sandu of stoking anti-Russian sentiment in the country, which lies between Ukraine and Romania.
Sandu plans to run for a second term in the presidential election expected this autumn, and her party won more than 40 percent of the votes cast for mayors, city officials, district and village councils. The government also plans a nationwide referendum on its pro-European drive although no dates have been set yet.
Musteata said Moscow tried to meddle in the local elections last November in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Moscow has denied such interference.
Musteata said Moscow was also planning to interfere in the presidential vote by supporting pro-Russian politicians and parties. Russia would likely provoke protests in Moldova in March and April and stir up separatist sentiments, especially in the east and south of Moldova, he said.
Last month, the pro-Moscow head of Moldova’s Gagauzia region asked Russia for its support and to maintain close ties. Also in February, Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region asked Russia to help its economy withstand Moldovan “pressure.”


IAEA chief to hold talks with Putin about Ukraine nuclear plant

IAEA chief to hold talks with Putin about Ukraine nuclear plant
Updated 24 min 8 sec ago
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IAEA chief to hold talks with Putin about Ukraine nuclear plant

IAEA chief to hold talks with Putin about Ukraine nuclear plant
  • Grossi last met Putin in Saint Petersburg in October 2022 to discuss safety issues involving the Zaporizhzhia facility
  • The IAEA chief said he hoped to discuss “technical points” with Putin

VIENNA: UN atomic watchdog chief Rafael Grossi will head to Russia Tuesday for a fresh round of talks with President Vladimir Putin to discuss “the future operational status” of Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.
Europe’s largest nuclear plant has been at the center of fighting since it was captured by Russian forces in March 2022, with both Moscow and Kyiv frequently accusing each other of compromising its safety.
Grossi last met Putin in Saint Petersburg in October 2022 to discuss safety issues involving the Zaporizhzhia facility.
“I think it is very important that we keep this high-level dialogue with both belligerents,” Grossi — who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — told reporters Monday.
The IAEA chief said he hoped to discuss “technical points” with Putin and get “an impression of what the plans” for the plant are.
“There are issues related to the future operational status of the plant,” Grossi said when asked about the topics he intends to raise.
Russian Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also confirmed the talks.
Grossi has visited Ukraine several times to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior officials.
The IAEA chief said he also hopes to address the nuclear plant’s “extremely fragile and thin” external power supply lines, after the facility suffered a complete loss of off-site power multiple times during bouts of fighting in the past two years.
Fears over the plant’s safety have persisted throughout Russia’s invasion, with the IAEA warning that powerful explosions and mine blasts near the plant indicated “possible combat action” that were of “deep concern.”
Grossi has called for “maximum military restraint” around the plant “to reduce the danger of a nuclear accident.”
The UN nuclear watchdog has also voiced concerned about a possible shortage of staff at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
Since February, workers from Ukraine’s atomic energy operator Energoatom who refused to sign contracts with the Russian operating entity have been barred from working at the plant.
IAEA officials have been on the ground monitoring the plant since September 2022.
The plant’s six reactor units, which produced around a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity before Russia’s full-scale invasion, have been shut down.


UK MP resigns following Muslim ‘no-go’ area claims

UK MP resigns following Muslim ‘no-go’ area claims
Updated 53 min 43 sec ago
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UK MP resigns following Muslim ‘no-go’ area claims

UK MP resigns following Muslim ‘no-go’ area claims
  • Paul Scully had said parts of London, Birmingham controlled by Muslims ‘abusing’ their religion
  • After public apology last week, he will stand down before next election expected later this year

A Conservative MP in the UK has said he will step down before the next general election.

Paul Scully’s decision follows comments he made about Muslim “no-go” areas in London and Birmingham.

There was a widespread backlash over his remarks, which he made in the context of an escalating row over Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative Party.

In an interview with BBC London last week, he described areas of Tower Hamlets in London and Sparkhill in Birmingham as “no-go” areas for non-Muslims because of local Muslim residents “abusing” their religion.

Shortly after the interview, Scully publicly apologized for the comments and said he “put his hands up” for using language he “regrets.”

But on Monday, the MP announced his resignation ahead of UK general elections expected later this year.

He said on X: “I have told my local association that I won’t be contesting the next general election. Over the last nine years it’s been a privilege to represent in parliament, the area which I called home for 35 years.”

He added: “Fuelled by division, the party has lost its way and needs to get a clear focus … It needs a vision beyond crisis management which can appeal to a wider section of the electorate including younger people.”

Scully’s comments concerning “no-go” areas were condemned by both Conservative figures and politicians from the main opposition Labour Party.

Andy Street, Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said it was “time for those in Westminster to stop the nonsense slurs and experience the real world. I for one am proud to lead the most diverse place in Britain.”

Chair of the Labour Muslim Network, Ali Milani, told BBC London that Scully was promoting an “Islamophobic myth that has been continuously perpetuated.”