UK government vows to challenge court ruling that its plan to send migrants to Rwanda is unlawful

UK government vows to challenge court ruling that its plan to send migrants to Rwanda is unlawful
Three judges said that “unless deficiencies” in Rwanda’s asylum system were corrected, “removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda will be unlawful.” (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2023
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UK government vows to challenge court ruling that its plan to send migrants to Rwanda is unlawful

UK government vows to challenge court ruling that its plan to send migrants to Rwanda is unlawful
  • In a split two-to-one ruling, three Court of Appeal judges said Rwanda could not be considered a “safe third country”

LONDON: A British court ruled Thursday that a UK government plan to send asylum-seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda is unlawful, delivering a blow to the Conservative administration’s pledge to stop migrants making risky journeys across the English Channel.
In a split two-to-one ruling, three Court of Appeal judges said Rwanda could not be considered a “safe third country” where migrants from any country could be sent.
But the judges said that a policy of deporting asylum seekers to another country deemed safe was not in itself illegal, and the government said it would challenge the ruling at the UK Supreme Court. It has until July 6 to lodge an appeal.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that “while I respect the court I fundamentally disagree with their conclusions.”
Sunak has pledged to “stop the boats” — a reference to the overcrowded dinghies and other small craft that make the journey from northern France carrying migrants who hope to live in the UK More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain across the Channel in 2022, and several died in the attempt.
The UK and Rwandan governments agreed more than a year ago that some migrants who arrive in the UK as stowaways or in small boats would be sent to Rwanda, where their asylum claims would be processed. Those granted asylum would stay in the East African country rather than return to Britain.
The UK government argues that the policy will smash the business model of criminal gangs that ferry migrants on hazardous journeys across one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is known for her hard-line rhetoric about migrants, said after the ruling that the existing asylum system “incentivizes mass flows of economic migration into Europe, lining the pockets of people smugglers and turning our seas into graveyards, all in the name of a phony humanitarianism.”
Human rights groups say it is immoral and inhumane to send people more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) to a country they don’t want to live in, and argue that most Channel migrants are desperate people who have no authorized way to come to the UK They also cite Rwanda’s poor human rights record, including allegations of torture and killings of government opponents.
Yasmine Ahmed, UK director of Human Rights Watch, welcomed the verdict and urged Braverman to “abandon this unworkable and unethical fever dream of a policy and focus her efforts on fixing our broken and neglected migration system.”
Britain has already paid Rwanda 140 million pounds ($170 million) under the deal, but no one has yet been deported there.
Britain’s High Court ruled in December that the policy is legal and doesn’t breach Britain’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention or other international agreements.
But the court allowed a group of claimants, who include asylum-seekers from Iraq, Iran and Syria facing deportation under the government plan, to challenge that decision on issues including whether the plan is “systemically unfair” and whether asylum-seekers would be safe in Rwanda.
In a partial victory for the government, the appeals court ruled Thursday that the UK’s international obligations did not rule out removing asylum-seekers to a safe third country.
But two of the three ruled Rwanda was not safe because its asylum system had “serious deficiencies.” They said asylum seekers “would face a real risk of being returned to their countries of origin,” where they could be mistreated.
Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales, disagreed with his two colleagues. He said assurances given by the Rwandan government were enough to ensure the migrants would be safe.
Rwanda insisted the nation is “one of the safest countries in the world.”
“As a society, and as a government, we have built a safe, secure, dignified environment, in which migrants and refugees have equal rights and opportunities as Rwandans,” said government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo. “Everyone relocated here under this partnership will benefit from this.”
However, Rwanda opposition leader Frank Habineza said Britain should not seek to foist its responsibilities on refugees.
“The UK is a bigger country than Rwanda, huge resources, unlike impoverished Rwanda,” he said. “Sending migrants to Rwanda, the UK will be relinquishing responsibility of protecting those running to the UK for safety.”
Even if the plan is ultimately ruled legal, it’s unclear how many people could be sent to Rwanda. The government’s own assessment acknowledges it would be extremely expensive, coming in at an estimated 169,000 pounds ($214,000) per person.
But it is doubling down on the idea, drafting legislation barring anyone who arrives in the UK in small boats or by other unauthorized means from applying for asylum. If passed, the bill would compel the government to detain all such arrivals and deport them to their homeland or a safe third country.
Refugee law expert David Cantor said the ruling would “send a ripple effect more widely through this idea of sending asylum seekers to third countries.”
“Any country that might wish to enter into this kind of memorandum with the UK government, as Rwanda did, would equally be quite likely to be a government which had weak asylum procedures, (where) there were questions about safety in the country,” said Cantor, director of the Refugee Law Initiative at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.
He said the UK “has had negotiations with many countries which do have robust court structures and asylum procedures, and there’s very little willingness there to contemplate these sorts of schemes.”


England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test
Updated 4 min 2 sec ago
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England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test
  • India were 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs to attain unassailable 3-1 lead in series
  • Skipper Rohit Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal to give India upper hand

RANCHI, India: Rohit Sharma scored a half century to set India on course for victory on day four of the fourth test, before England snared three wickets to keep their slightest hopes alive of achieving a dramatic turnaround.

India was 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs for victory and an unassailable 3-1 series lead in the five-test series.

Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal, before the latter was spectacularly caught by veteran James Anderson off Joe Root for 37 to give the tourists a much-needed breakthrough against the seemingly comfortable Indian opening pair.

Jaiswal’s wicket sparked a mini-collapse as India went from 84-0 to 100-3 inside nine overs as England sniffed a chance of victory.

Left-arm spinner Tom Hartley had Sharma caught behind in the 26th over for 55. It was initially judged as a stumping, but on review, the television umpire also detected an edge from the batter while keeper Ben Foakes held on to a sharp catch.

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir then had Rajat Patidar caught at short leg for a six-ball duck as India lost its second wicket in eight deliveries.

Shubman Gill (18 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (3 not out) watchfully navigated the remaining overs before lunch, with a grandstand finish in the offing.

At the break, Gill was batting on 18 runs with Jadeja (3 not out), and England stayed in the hunt needing another seven wickets for an improbable win.
India has a 2-1 lead in the five-test series, after winning back-to-back tests in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot by 106 and 434 runs, respectively. England had won the first test in Hyderabad by 28 runs.


Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory

Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory
Updated 33 min 15 sec ago
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Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory

Jokic powers Denver over Warriors as Giannis leads Bucks’ victory
  • It was Jokic’s third career game with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists
  • Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and the Thunder won their fifth consecutive game

SAN FRANCISCO: Nikola Jokic posted his 18th triple double of the season to lead reigning NBA champion Denver’s 119-103 victory at Golden State on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Serbian center, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, had 32 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists plus four steals while Jamal Murray added 27 points for the Nuggets.

Klay Thompson came off the bench to lead the Warriors with 23 points, but none in the second half, while Stephen Curry added 20 in the matchup of the past two NBA title winners.

“They are literally the Warriors. They are champions. They are a tough team to beat,” Jokic said. “But 103 points in this arena is really good for our defense.”

It was Jokic’s third career game with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists — passing Wilt Chamberlain for the second most in NBA history behind Oscar Robertson.

It was Jokic’s sixth career game with 15 rebounds and 15 assists to pass Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time list.

Jokic, who hit 13-of-24 shots from the floor, also became the first NBA player with 14 rebounds and 14 assists in three consecutive games.

Thompson had 16 points in the first quarter on 4-of-6 3-point shooting, but the Nuggets (39-19) closed the second quarter on a 14-0 run to equalize at 61-61 at half-time, then reeled off a 14-0 run early in the third quarter to seize command.

“That run 14-0 at the end of the second quarter when we got the game back into control, and we went up 10 points in the third quarter, I think that stretch helped us take control and we controled the game the whole way,” Jokic said.

It was Denver’s seventh consecutive triumph in games against Golden State (29-27) and 10th in their past 11 matchups.

At Philadelphia, Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and passed off nine assists to lead Milwaukee’s 119-98 rout.

New Bucks coach Doc Rivers collected a victory over his former club, the 76ers having fired Rivers last May after three seasons guiding the franchise. Milwaukee hired Rivers last month to replace fired Adrian Griffin.

“It was awesome,” Rivers said of his return. “I had three good years here. I enjoyed my stay. This was good. There were a couple hilarious comments.”

Damian Lillard added 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds while Malik Beasley added 20 points as the Bucks hit 43-of-79 shots from the floor (54.4 percent) and kept the Sixers to 36-of-97 (37.1 percent) shooting.

Milwaukee seized a 69-48 half-time lead and stayed in command to the finish despite some second-half stumbles.

“We came out and played hard in the first two quarters,” two-time NBA MVP Antetokounmpo said. “In the third quarter we were a little bit sloppy. But going into the fourth quarter I think we did our best job just finding one another, making the right plays offensively.”

The Sixers, playing without injured reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid, had 24 points from Tyrese Maxey.

At Houston, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and the Thunder won their fifth consecutive game, beating the host Rockets 123-110 to grab a share of the Western Conference lead with Minnesota at 40-17.

At Phoenix, Grayson Allen scored 24 points and Kevin Durant added 22 to lead the host Suns over the Los Angeles Lakers 123-113.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 28 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while Anthony Davis had 22 points and 14 rebounds.

In Los Angeles meanwhile, the Clippers were outgunned 123-107 by the Sacramento Kings, De’Aaron Fox leading the way for the visitors with 33 points.

Indiana center Myles Turner scored 33 points to lead the host Pacers over Dallas 133-111. The Mavericks saw their seven-game win streak snapped despite 33 points for Luka Doncic and 29 from Kyrie Irving.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers’ 114-105 victory at Washington.

DeMar DeRozan scored 24 points to lead Chicago in a 114-106 victory at New Orleans while Finnish forward Lauri Markkanen scored 26 points to lead Utah’s 128-109 home win over San Antonio.

Atlanta beat visiting Orlando 109-92 behind Dejounte Murray’s 25 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, but the Hawks lost scoring leader Trae Young for at least four weeks due to surgery Tuesday to repair a torn left pinkie ligament.


Saudi Reporters talk collaborating with Cartoon Network on anti-bullying song

Saudi Reporters talk collaborating with Cartoon Network on anti-bullying song
Updated 26 February 2024
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Saudi Reporters talk collaborating with Cartoon Network on anti-bullying song

Saudi Reporters talk collaborating with Cartoon Network on anti-bullying song

DUBAI: As part of a commitment to combating bullying and spreading awareness on the issue, Cartoon Network and UNICEF MENA recently teamed up with popular content creators Saudi Reporters to release the song “Be A Friend.”

Twin brothers Abdullah and Abdulaziz Bakr, popularly known as Saudi Reporters on YouTube and social media, told Arab News in an email interview that their goal was to “create a song that would resonate with those who have experienced bullying, offering them comfort and encouragement. Through the song’s lyrics and melodies, we aimed to convey a message of hope and solidarity, reminding listeners that they are not alone in their experiences.”

The award-winning duo, who most recently picked up the Favorite Team award at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in Abu Dhabi in September 2023, said they were excited to collaborate with Cartoon Network on such an important subject.

“It allowed us to address a crucial issue like combating bullying in a creative and impactful way by using music as a medium to connect with young audiences. Through this song, we were able to leverage our platform to spread the message on the importance of fostering friendships and discouraging bullying among children, instilling valuable lessons through the power of music,” they said.

The brothers also went in about the process of creating the song, which they called a “collaborative effort.”

“Initially, we held brainstorming sessions to craft lyrics and melodies that would resonate with children and effectively convey the message of friendship and acceptance,” they said.

“We collaborated closely with Cartoon Network throughout the creative process. Their insights were important in ensuring that the track effectively addressed the issue of bullying while maintaining an uplifting and positive tone. Their input helped us strike the right balance between delivering a powerful message and creating an enjoyable listening experience for children.”

The 29-year-old brothers, known for their humorous and satirical content, established their YouTube channel in 2010, becoming one of the first Arab content creators to hit the scene.

“Our initial idea involved visiting the streets of Jeddah and interviewing people as reporters. However, at that time, people weren’t ready as they were uncomfortable with social media and YouTube being new to them. Despite this, we became known by that name and continued because it carries significance. What makes it special is that we refer to our followers as reporters too, as they are part of our family,” they said.


Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children
Updated 26 February 2024
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Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children

Pakistan kicks off week-long anti-polio campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children
  • Nationwide vaccination drive against polio to be held from Feb. 26-March 3
  • Pakistan’s health minister urges people to cooperate with polio volunteers 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities on Monday kicked off a nationwide weeklong campaign to vaccinate over 45.8 million children against the poliovirus disease, with the country’s caretaker health minister urging masses to cooperate with polio workers for a safer and healthier future for their children. 

Pakistan aims to vaccinate over 45.8 million children below the age of five during the second anti-polio campaign of this year, which is being held from February 26 to March 3. The vaccination drive is scheduled to be held from March 2-6 in the 33 districts of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province bordering Afghanistan. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where the poliovirus, which causes paralysis and can be a life-threatening disease, is endemic.

“Over 400,000 of our polio heroes are knocking at your doors for a bright and healthy future,” Pakistan’s Caretaker Health Minister Dr. Nadeem Jan said in a video message. 

“Cooperate with them because eliminating polio is our national, moral, religious and social obligation,” he added. 

This is the second nationwide campaign against the disease after poliovirus was detected in sewage samples from 19 Pakistani districts in January and in 126 sewage samples in 2023. The first campaign this year was held from January 8-14 in which over 43 million children were vaccinated, according to official figures. 

Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern KP province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 
 


Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later
Updated 26 February 2024
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Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Survivors, families of 94 migrants who died in shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later
  • On Feb. 26, 2023, wooden boat carrying about 200 migrants sank a few meters off the coast of southern Calabria
  • Many of the dead, and survivors fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan in hoping to join family members in Italy, Europe

CROTONE, Italy: Survivors and family members of victims of a tragic shipwreck a year ago that killed 94 migrants, including 35 minors, just a few meters off Italy’s southern coast, returned for three days of commemorations ending Monday, calling for truth and justice.

A torchlight vigil, a photo exhibition and a protest march were among events at the nearby town of Crotone organized by a group of activists named Network Feb. 26 after the date of the tragedy. Most of the dead hailed from countries in the Middle East or South Asia.

“One year after the carnage, their right to the truth, to justice and to be reunited with their families has not been guaranteed yet,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat departed from Turkiye carrying about 200 migrants and sank just a few meters (yards) off the coast of southern Calabria while trying to land on the seaside resort beach of Steccato di Cutro.

Network Feb. 26 includes over 400 associations that have repeatedly asked the Italian government to seek the truth about one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

The group has denounced repeated policy failures and alleged violations of human rights by Italian and EU authorities, seen as the main cause behind the long string of deaths of migrants who face risky trips to reach European coasts in their search for a better life.

Activists have also complained that some of the relatives and survivors were denied the right to return to Crotone for the anniversary of the shipwreck, due to difficulties in obtaining proper documents.

“When we met (Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ) in Rome after the tragedy, (she) promised that her staff would (work) to reunite us and our families, but that has never happened,” said Haroon Mohammadi, 24, a survivor from Herat, Afghanistan, who lost some of his friends in the shipwreck.

Mohammadi now lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he has obtained a one-year residence permit, and hopes to continue to study economics at a university there.

“It’s very difficult for me to be back here, but I came to honor friends and relatives we’ve lost. … We became like a family following that day,” he told The Associated Press.

Many of the dead and survivors had fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, hoping to join family members in Italy and other Western European countries.

After the shipwreck, the right-wing government of Meloni approved a decree establishing a new crime — people smuggling that causes the death of migrants — punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and pledged to further toughen its battle against illegal immigration.

On Sunday, hundreds of people, including a group of about 50 survivors and relatives of the victims, marched in Crotone despite heavy rain with a banner asking to “stop deaths at sea.” Demonstrators also stopped to pay homage in front of PalaMilone, a sports complex that hosted the victims’ caskets.

On Saturday, Crotone’s Pitagora Museum inaugurated a photo exhibit titled “Dreams Cross the Sea,” featuring 94 photographs, one for each of the victims.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

In the early hours of Feb. 26, the boat named Summer Love sank just a few meters (yards) from the coast of the southern Calabria region, while trying to land on the nearby beach. Authorities say the shipwreck resulted in the deaths of at least 94 of the 200 on board. Eighty passengers survived and about 10 were considered missing. Dozens of young children were onboard and almost none survived.

The shocking accident raised several questions over how EU border agency Frontex and the Italian coast guard responded to it.

Six days after the tragedy, Meloni told journalists that “no emergency communication from Frontex reached Italian authorities,” who she said were not warned that the vessel was in danger of sinking.

However, a Frontex incident report later indicated that Italian authorities told the EU agency at the time of the sighting that the case was not considered an emergency.

The Cutro shipwreck soon became a stark illustration of the fatal dangers faced by migrants as they try to reach European coasts on overcrowded and fragile boats, after paying smugglers for costly trips.

A total of 2,571 migrants died at sea in 2023, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration. Nearly 100 people have been reported missing or dead in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2024, more than double the toll recorded last year during the same period, the IOM said.

RAGE AND HOPE

Over the past year, Cutro survivors and relatives of the victims have voiced their rage, stressing that the tragedy could have been avoided if authorities reacted earlier to the migrants’ desperate calls for help.

Their testimonies on the tragedy have challenged both the Italian government and the international community to find new solutions to the migration crisis.

Meanwhile, the local community, which offered burial niches for some of the victims, expressed a deep solidarity and commitment to helping survivors and honoring the lost.

“My name is Mojtaba. I was born on Feb. 26, 2023. I feel I’m 1 year old today,” said survivor Mojtaba Rezapour Moghaddam, a 47-year-old Iranian who is building a new life in Crotone with the help of locals and aid groups.

Moghaddam fears the smugglers on board the Summer Love — after being arrested and sentenced — will be able go to back to Turkiye and restart their illegal trafficking activities.

His almost-deadly trip to Italy costed him about 9,000 euros, but he recalled that others on the boat had paid even more.

TRIALS PENDING

Earlier in February, a Crotone magistrate sentenced Gun Ufuk, a 29-year-old Turkish citizen accused of being one of the people smugglers on the vessel, to 20 years in prison and a 3 million euro fine. Ufuk was arrested in March last year after being identified in Austria, to where he had managed to escape.

Ufuk chose a fast-track trial, while the other three alleged smugglers who survived the shipwreck are undergoing ordinary procedures, which may last several months, if not years.

Their trial was recently adjourned to April 10 to enable testimony from three survivors who are in Hamburg and will testify via videoconference.

Meanwhile, a second investigation launched by prosecutors in Crotone into alleged delays in the rescue operations is expected to wrap up in a month’s time. That probe involves three police officers from the Italian tax and border police and an additional three people whose identities are unknown.