GCC countries to roll out unified tourist visa within 2 years, UAE minister says 

GCC countries to roll out unified tourist visa within 2 years, UAE minister says 
The famous elephant rock in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia – a popular tourist destination. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 23 October 2023

GCC countries to roll out unified tourist visa within 2 years, UAE minister says 

GCC countries to roll out unified tourist visa within 2 years, UAE minister says 
  • Visa will allow holders to travel to the six Gulf countries

LONDON:  The Gulf Cooperation Council countries will roll out a unified Gulf tourist visa within the next two years, the UAE’s Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri told Emirates News Agency on Monday.  

The visa will allow holders to travel to the six Gulf countries. 

Al-Marri said that the seventh meeting of GCC tourism ministers, held earlier this month in Oman, unanimously approved the launch of the visa.

Specific regulations and legislation are to be prepared, with a projected implementation between 2024 and 2025, depending on the readiness of each GCC country’s internal systems.

Al-Marri said that the UAE was preparing to welcome international tourists following the implementation of the unified visa, as well as developing a tourist route within the UAE that connected its seven emirates.

The minister added: “This initiative is an integral part of the GCC 2030 tourism strategy, designed to elevate the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP (gross domestic product) through increased inter-GCC travel and elevated hotel occupancy rates, transforming the GCC into a pre-eminent global destination for both regional and international tourists.”

The tourist sector currently contributes 14 percent of the UAE’s GDP, but the aim is to raise this figure to 18 percent, in line with national strategic tourism objectives.

Al-Marri highlighted the GCC countries’ sophisticated travel and tourism infrastructure. The countries boasted a total of 10,649 hotel establishments by the end of 2022, with Saudi Arabia having the highest number of facilities.

He added that the GCC countries’ joint tourism strategy 2023-2030 was aiming for an annual increase of 7 percent in inbound travel to the region.

The number of visitors to GCC countries reached 39.8 million last year, representing a 136.6 percent increase over 2021.

Israeli military pledges response to Iran attack amid calls for restraint

Israeli military pledges response to Iran attack amid calls for restraint
Updated 9 min 25 sec ago

Israeli military pledges response to Iran attack amid calls for restraint

Israeli military pledges response to Iran attack amid calls for restraint
  • Iran mounted its attack after the April 1 killing in Damascus of seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including two senior commanders
  • Israel has killed at least 33,797 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military chief said on Monday his country would respond to Iran’s weekend missile and drone attack amid calls for restraint by allies anxious to avoid an escalation of conflict in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned his war cabinet for the second time in less than 24 hours to weigh how to react to Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel, a government source said.
Israel’s military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the country would respond, but provided no details.
“This launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and drones into Israeli territory will be met with a response,” he said at the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, which sustained some damage in Saturday night’s attack.

The head of the military, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi (C), attending early on April 14, 2024 a meeting at the Israeli Air Force Operations Center in Kirya in Tel Aviv with the commanding officers of the Israeli Air Force, the operations directorate and the intelligence directorate. (AFP)

Iran’s attack — launched in retaliation for a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 — has increased fears of open warfare between Israel and Iran and heightened concerns that violence rooted in the Gaza war is spreading further in the region.
Wary of the dangers, President Joe Biden told Netanyahu the United States will not take part in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran, officials said on Sunday.
Since the start of the war in Gaza on Oct. 7, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Israel said four of its soldiers were wounded hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory overnight.
It appeared to be the first such known incident since the Gaza war erupted, although there have been months of exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah.
“We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. “We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron made similar appeals. Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have also issued calls for restraint.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby declined on Monday to say during a briefing whether Biden urged Netanyahu in talks on Saturday night to exercise restraint in responding to the attack.
“We don’t want to see a war with Iran. We don’t want to see a regional conflict,” said Kirby, adding that it was up to Israel to decide “whether and how they’ll respond.”
Countries including France, Belgium and Germany summoned the Iranian ambassadors. The French foreign ministry said France was working with its partners to de-escalate the situation.
Russia has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran in public over the strikes but expressed concern about the risk of escalation on Monday and also called for restraint.
“Further escalation is in no one’s interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Iran mounted its attack after the April 1 killing in Damascus of seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including two senior commanders. Israel neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attack.
Iran’s retaliatory attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused modest damage in Israel and wounded a 7-year-old girl. Most were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan.
In Gaza itself, where more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive according to Gaza health ministry figures, Iran’s action has drawn applause.
Israel began its campaign against Hamas after the Palestinian militant group attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages by Israeli tallies.

In Washington, Biden reiterated US commitment to Israel’s security ahead of a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani.
Sudani, speaking alongside Biden, said their views may be divergent about what is happening in the region but they wanted to stop the conflict from expanding.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Group of Seven major democracies were working on a package of coordinated measures against Iran.
“I spoke to my fellow G7 leaders, we are united in our condemnation of this attack,” Sunak said in parliament.
Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the G7, said it was open to new sanctions against individuals engaged against Israel.
In an interview with Reuters, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said new sanctions would need the backing of all the G7. He suggested any new measures would be focused on individuals rather than whole nations.
“If we need to have more sanctions for people clearly engaged against Israel, supporting for example terrorism, supporting Hamas, it is possible to do it,” Tajani said.
Iran’s attack has caused travel disruption, with at least a dozen airlines canceling or rerouting flights, and Europe’s aviation regulator reaffirming advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.
Iraqi Airways announced a resumption of flights between Iraq and Iran on Tuesday.
Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States that the attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense, and that regional neighbors had been informed of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, however, that no pre-arranged agreement was made with any country prior to the weekend attack.
Kirby said that Iran did not warn the United States in advance of the attack’s timeframe or targets, calling reports that Tehran had done so “categorically false.”


Peace hopes for Yemen must not become collateral damage of other regional conflicts, UN envoy says

Peace hopes for Yemen must not become collateral damage of other regional conflicts, UN envoy says
Updated 6 sec ago

Peace hopes for Yemen must not become collateral damage of other regional conflicts, UN envoy says

Peace hopes for Yemen must not become collateral damage of other regional conflicts, UN envoy says
  • Hans Grundberg warns of acute need for regional deescalation amid concerns about rising food insecurity and reemergence of cholera in Yemen
  • US deputy ambassador Robert Wood repeats ‘call for Iran to stop these illegal weapons transfers and to stop all activities that facilitate the Houthis’ reckless attacks’

NEW YORK CITY: The UN’s special envoy for Yemen on Monday said that while it is clear that the war in the country has connections to other conflicts in the region, “we owe it to the Yemenis to ensure that resolving the conflict in Yemen is not made contingent upon the resolution of other issues.”

Hans Grundberg added: “We cannot risk Yemen’s chance for peace becoming collateral damage” caused by other conflicts.

Speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the country, he said the threat of further attacks the Red Sea persists in absence of a ceasefire in Gaza, the urgent need for which was underscored by the latest escalation in hostilities between Israel and Iran.

Since the war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza began in October, attacks by the Iran-backed, Yemen-based Houthis on international shipping have continued to cause disruption to trade routes in the Red Sea. The militant group has threatened to continue the attacks until Israel ends its assault on Gaza. The UK and the US began to launch retaliatory military strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in January.

There is an acute need for a deescalation of conflicts on a broader regional basis, Grundberg said as he warned: “If we leave Yemen’s political process in the waiting room and continue down this path of escalation, the consequences could be catastrophic, not only for Yemen but also for the wider region.”

Grundberg lamented that in contrast to last year, there was not much to celebrate this year during Eid Al-Fitr in Yemen.

“Detainees we had hoped would be released in time to spend Eid with their loved ones remain in detention,” he said. “Roads we had hoped to see open remain closed.

“We also witnessed the tragic killing and injury of 16 civilians, including women and children, when a residence was demolished by Ansar Allah individuals in Al-Bayda governorate,” he added, using the official name for the Houthis.

Briefing council members on the humanitarian situation in Yemen, Edem Wosornu, the director of operations and advocacy at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, highlighted the rising levels of food insecurity in the country over recent months.

She said the situation deteriorated further after the World Food Program suspended the distribution of food aid in areas controlled by the Houthis in December 2023. This pause followed disagreements with local authorities about who should receive priority assistance, and was compounded by the effects of a severe funding crisis on WFP humanitarian efforts in Yemen.

It comes as greater percentage of households in southern Yemen struggle to obtain sufficient supplies of food compared with those in the north, in part because of the historically low exchange rate of Yemeni rial against the US dollar in areas controlled by the internationally recognized government.

“The most vulnerable people — including women and girls, marginalized groups such as the Muhamasheen, internally displaced people, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and persons with disabilities — still depend on humanitarian assistance to survive,” said Wosornu.

She also voiced concern about an increase in cases of cholera in Yemen amid the continuing deterioration of public services and institutions.

“The reemergence of cholera, and growing levels of severe malnutrition, are telling indicators of the weakened capacity of social services,” she told the council.

“Almost one in every two children under 5 are stunted, more than double the global average: 49 per cent compared to 21.3 per cent.

“Emergency stocks of essential supplies are almost depleted. And water, sanitation and hygiene support systems need urgent strengthening.”

The humanitarian response plan for Yemen is only 10 percent funded, with funding of its food security and nutrition programs standing at just 5 percent and 3 percent respectively, according to an informal update presented to the Security Council by the OCHA this week. Wosornu appealed to the international community to take urgent action to help fill the funding gaps.

The US deputy ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, urged council members to persist in their demands that the Houthis halt attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

“We must also do more to underscore the council’s concern regarding the Iranian origin of weapons used by the Houthis, and the ongoing violations of the arms embargo,” he added.

“It is no secret that Iran provides weapons to the Houthis in violation of the UN arms embargo. We repeat our call for Iran to stop these illegal weapons transfers and to stop all activities that facilitate the Houthis’ reckless attacks.

“Iran’s continuous efforts to foment instability and terror in the region, as demonstrated through this weekend’s unprecedented attacks by Iran against the State of Israel, need to be strongly condemned by this council.”

Gaza’s historic treasures saved by ‘irony of history’

Gaza’s historic treasures saved by ‘irony of history’
Updated 59 min 5 sec ago

Gaza’s historic treasures saved by ‘irony of history’

Gaza’s historic treasures saved by ‘irony of history’
  • Israel has killed more than 33,797 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory
  • A Palestinian worker inspects the ancient archaeological site of Anthedon Harbour, also know as "al-Blakhiyah", which is located next to a training site for Hamas military, in Gaza City on April 25, 2013

JERUSALEM: Gaza’s ancient Greek site of Anthedon has been bombed, its “Napoleon’s Palace” destroyed and the only private museum burned down: the war has taken a terrible toll on the rich heritage of the Palestinian territory.
But in a strange twist of fate, some of its greatest historical treasures are safe in a warehouse in Switzerland.
And ironically, it is all thanks to the blockade that made life in the Gaza Strip such a struggle for the past 16 years.
Based on satellite images, the UN cultural organization reckons some 41 historic sites have been damaged since Israel began pounding the besieged territory after the October 7 Hamas attack.

This combination of pictures created on January 11, 2024, shows a file picture of the 17th century Qasr al-Basha in Gaza City on April 21, 2021, where Napoleon Bonaparte slept for several nights during his campaign in Egypt and Palestine (bottom), and the same building severely damaged in Israeli bombardment during the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinians. (AFP)

On the ground, Palestinian archaeologist Fadel Al-Otol keeps tabs on the destruction in real time.
When he has electricity and Internet access, photos pour into a WhatsApp group he set up with 40 or so young peers he mobilized to watch over the territory’s vast array of ancient sites and monuments.
As a teenager in the 1990s, Otol was hired by European archaeological missions before going on to study in Switzerland and at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

This combination of pictures shows one taken on January 5, 2024 of Gaza City's historic Hammam Al-Samra, which used to be the only active traditional Turkish bath remaining in Gaza, located in the Zeitun quarter of the old city before it was destroyed in Israeli bombardment during the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement and another one (L) dating back to December 4, 2005 with Palestinian youths relaxing in the same steam bath. (AFP)

“All the archaeological remains in the north have been hit,” he told AFP by phone from Gaza.
The human toll since the October 7 Hamas attack has been chilling.
A total of 1,170 people were killed in the unprecedented raid on Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Almost 34,000 have died in Gaza in unrelenting Israeli retaliation, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The damage to Gaza’s history has also been immense.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas views pottery specimens during his visit to the exhibition "Gaza, at the crossroad of civilizations" at the Art and History Museum in Geneva on April 26, 2007. (AFP)

“Blakhiya (the ancient Greek city of Anthedon) was directly bombed. There’s a huge hole,” said Otol.
He said part of the site, near a Hamas barracks where “we hadn’t started excavating,” was hit.
The 13th-century Al-Basha palace in Gaza City’s old town “has been completely destroyed. There was bombing and (then) it was bulldozed.
“It held hundreds of ancient objects and magnificent sarcophagi,” Otol added as he shared recent photos of the ruins.

Artifacts are on display in the first ever National Museum of Archaeology in Gaza opend recently by Jawdat Khoudary, a Palestinian businessman and collector, on July 28, 2008. (AFP)

Napoleon is said to have based himself in the ochre stone edifice at the disastrous end of his Egyptian campaign in 1799.
The room where the French emperor supposedly slept was full of Byzantine artefacts.
“Our best finds were displayed in the Basha,” Jean-Baptiste Humbert of the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem (EBAF) told AFP.
But we know little of their fate, he said. “Did someone remove the objects before blowing the building up?“
Nerves were frayed even further when the director of Israeli Antiquities, Eli Escusido, posted a video on Instagram of Israeli soldiers surrounded by vases and ancient pottery in the EBAF warehouse in Gaza City.
Much of what has been unearthed in digs in Gaza was stored either at the Al-Basha museum or the warehouse.
Palestinians quickly accused the army of pillaging. But EBAF archaeologist Rene Elter said he has seen no evidence of “state looting.”
“My colleagues were able to return to the site. The soldiers opened boxes. We don’t know if they took anything,” he told AFP.
However, he added: “Every day when Fadel (al-Otol) calls me, I’m afraid he’ll tell me that one of our colleagues has died or that such and such a site has been destroyed.”
Archaeology is a highly political issue in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with discoveries often used to justify the claims of the two warring peoples.
While Israel has an army of archaeologists who have unearthed an impressive number of ancient treasures, Gaza remains relatively untouched by the trowel despite a rich past stretching back thousands of years.

The only sheltered natural harbor between the Sinai and Lebanon, Gaza has been for centuries a crossroads of civilizations.
A pivot point between Africa and Asia and a hub of the incense trade, it was coveted by the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans.
A key figure in excavating this glorious past over the last few decades has been Jawdat Khoudary, a Gazan construction magnate and collector.
Gaza, with its “seafront real estate,” had a property boom in the 1990s after the Oslo peace accords and the creation of the Palestinian Authority.
When building workers dug up the soil, they came across lots and lots of ancient objects. Khoudary amassed a treasure trove of artefacts that he opened up to foreign archaeologists.
Marc-Andre Haldimann, then curator of MAH, Geneva’s art and history museum, couldn’t believe his eyes when he was invited to have a look around the garden of Khoudary’s mansion in 2004.
“We found ourselves in front of 4,000 objects, including an avenue of Byzantine columns,” he told AFP.
Quickly an idea took shape to organize a major exhibition to highlight Gaza’s past at the MAH, and then to build a museum in the territory itself so that the Palestinians could take ownership of their own heritage.
At the end of 2006, around 260 objects from the Khoudary collection left Gaza for Geneva, with some later going on to be part of another hit show at the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris.
But geopolitics changed along the way. In June 2007, Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority from Gaza. And Israel imposed its blockade.
As a result, the Gazan artefacts could no longer return home and remained stuck in Geneva, while the archaeological museum project fizzled out.
But Khoudary did not give up hope. He built a museum-hotel called Al-Mathaf, museum in Arabic, on the Mediterranean coast north of Gaza City.
But then came the Israeli ground offensive after the Hamas attack on October 7, which began in Gaza’s north.

“Al-Mathaf remained under Israeli control for months,” Khoudary, who fled Gaza for Egypt, told AFP. “As soon as they left, I asked some people to go there to see what state the place was in. I was shocked. Several items were missing and the hall had been set on fire.
His mansion was also destroyed during fierce fighting in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City.
“The Israelis flattened the garden with bulldozers... I don’t know whether objects were buried (by the bulldozers) or whether the marble columns were broken or looted. I can’t find words,” he added.
The Israeli military did not comment on specific sites. But it accused Hamas of systematically using civilian structures like cultural heritage sites, government buildings, schools, shelters and hospitals for military purposes.
“Israel maintains its commitments to international law, including by affording the necessary special protections,” the army added in a statement.
While part of Khoudary’s collection has been lost, the treasures held in Switzerland remain intact, saved by the blockade and the red tape that delayed their return.
“There were 106 crates ready to go” for years, said Beatrice Blandin, the MAH museum’s current curator.
Safely far from the war raging in Gaza, “the objects are in good condition,” she added. “We restored some of the bronze pieces that were slightly corroded and repacked everything.
“We just had to be sure that the convoy would not be blocked,” she told AFP. “We were waiting for that green light.”
But with any return impossible for the moment, Blandin said “discussions are under way” for a new Gaza exhibition in Switzerland.
Khoudary is excited by the idea.
“The most important collection of objects on the history of Gaza is in Geneva. If there is a new show, it will allow the whole world to learn about our history,” he told AFP from Cairo.
“It’s an irony of history,” said Haldimann, who is trying to get his friend Fadel Al-Otol safely out of Gaza.
“A new Gaza exhibition would show once again that Gaza... is anything but a black hole.”


No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year

No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year
Updated 56 min 12 sec ago

No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year

No end to death and suffering as Sudan conflict enters its second year
  • What began as a feud between two generals has spawned one of the world’s largest humanitarian disasters
  • Over 60 percent of Sudan’s agricultural land lies unusable in addition to the human and economic toll

CAIRO, Egypt: Compared with other ongoing conflicts, Sudan’s crisis, now entering its second year, is a forgotten calamity, overshadowed by the more geopolitically significant wars in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Mohammed Dagalo has more than just thrown Sudan into chaos.

What began as a fight between two competing military factions during Ramadan last year has spawned one of the world’s largest humanitarian disasters.

Once brothers in battle who jointly toppled the country’s democratic transition, they ended up disagreeing over the integration of the RSF into the country’s military.

A man walks past a burnt out bank branch in southern Khartoum. (AFP/File)

Once fighting erupted in the capital Khartoum on April 15 last year, the battleground expanded all the way to Darfur and other vulnerable states. Attacks, airstrikes, artillery, and gunfire reverberated across several other territories, shattering Sudan’s already-tense peace.

Sudan was reeling from overlapping crises when the conflict erupted. A year later, nearly 9 million out of Sudan’s 45 million population have been internally displaced, with a further 1.7 million seeking refuge abroad, according to the International Organization for Migration.

More than half of the country is in dire need of humanitarian assistance as food shortages caused by the war threaten to unleash a famine.

Many of these figures may be underestimations due to a communication blackout across Sudan.

“From conflict fatigue to inherent biases, the Sudan conflict struggles to break through the noise of other global crises,” Dalia Abdelmoniem, Sudanese analyst, told Arab News, pointing out that media personnel are barred from entry, making the reliance on social media a double-edged sword that hinders comprehensive coverage and awareness.

She said the effort to draw more international attention to Sudan’s crisis is hindered by its complexities, which results in the country’s potential for democratic renewal as well as its humanitarian needs getting a short shrift.

Sudan’s dwindling economic importance in global terms is also a factor. UN estimates suggest a decline of more than one-third in economic activity during the initial weeks of the conflict, resulting in $9 billion in damage and another $40 billion in looted property and goods.

Sudanese Armed Forces under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, left, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces commanded by Mohammed Dagalo are engaged in a power struggle. (AFP/File)

Gibril Ibrahim, Sudan’s finance minister, has said there was a 40 percent contraction in Sudan’s economy in 2023, with an additional 28 percent decline projected for 2024. State revenues plunged by 80 percent while international trade saw a 23 percent decline in 2023.

In addition to the economic toll, over 60 percent of Sudan’s agricultural land lies unusable.

Abdelmoniem also sheds light on the challenges faced by aid agencies operating in Sudan. From issues with travel permits and visas to the lack of security for aid convoys, “the road to providing assistance is fraught with obstacles.”

There have been, however, important developments on the battlefields recently. In mid-February, Sudan’s war entered a new phase following a significant breakthrough by the army in central Omdurman, the nation’s largest city. This comes at the end of a 10-month siege on a military district known as the Corps of Engineers, signifying the SAF’s first major offensive success in the ongoing war.

Supporters and members of the Sudanese armed popular resistance in Gedaref, Sudan. (AFP/File)

“The ability of the SAF to end the siege and establish contiguous supply lines … is certainly a major offensive success for the SAF and a morale and strategic setback for the RSF,” Ahmed Khair, a Sudanese analyst with Sudan Research and Consultancy Group, told Arab News.

“Khartoum is at the center of this conflict and is where the forces of the RSF are largely concentrated; the ability of the SAF to make gains in Omdurman will most certainly weaken the RSF militarily and politically.”

Both the SAF and the RSF have been accused of war crimes by international bodies. This internal strife has led to consequences not only in the geopolitical arena but also in the social fabric of Sudan. Experts and activists say that Sudan’s silent crisis demands the world’s attention, urging a reevaluation of the priorities that dictate global headlines.

So far, the international community has only failed Sudan, providing just a fraction of the humanitarian help needed. This may force Sudanese individuals to migrate further north, choosing the perilous Mediterranean path, as analysts warn. And this is not the first time the Sudanese are fleeing.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

In 2003, Hafiz Youssef Adam, a Sudanese from the persecuted Fur tribe, decided to migrate to Greece through Syria and Turkiye, having experienced torture and harassment at the hands of Sudanese government forces.

Though he now resides in Athens, Adam told Arab News that “authorities in Greece create administrative hurdles” for people like him, and that “there are no integration measures for Sudanese refugees in Europe.”

When he visited Sudan a few days before the recent war broke out, he saw widespread looting and ongoing militarization on the streets, a sign of the events that were about to turn Sudan into a bloody battleground.

“I pray for my family and the whole country to see the military rule come to an end because they determine this racist system that prevails and benefits them,” he said.

While he has been able to find employment as a blacksmith, asylum-seekers often struggle to get their documents authenticated and learn the language.

A man inspects damage of an artillery shell in the Azhari district in the south of Khartoum on June 6, 2023. (AFP)

“Many (others) drift into informal employment, particularly in the agriculture sector of the economy,” Pal Nesse, a special adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Arab News. “Large numbers struggle to make a decent living and make ends meet.”

In contrast, Ukrainian refugees have mostly enjoyed a warmer welcome in European countries, leading to debate about whether or not the EU’s migration policies are tinged by racism.

Other experts claim that Europe’s resources are not strained at all, as reiterated by politicians, and the continent should do more to address migration. “Europe is a wealthy continent,” Jean-Baptiste Metz, head of operations at the Norwegian humanitarian aid organization Drop in the Ocean, told Arab News.

“There is definitely a way to improve the EU state members’ capacities and responsibilities.”

Studies have shown that the integration of refugees could benefit both the host country and refugees themselves. In 2013, Denmark successfully adopted a policy to train and employ refugees in occupations suffering from labor shortages.

In the future, Sudanese refugees could return to their homeland with much-needed new skills and contacts during the difficult reconstruction period.

Members of the Saudi Navy Forces assist evacuees arriving at King Faisal navy base in Jeddah on April 26, 2023. (AFP)

Nesse advised that “more alternative legal pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers should be established. There should also be alternative pathways for migrants not necessarily seeking protection but primarily employment.”

However, time has only seen European politics turn against refugees, who are often blamed for various issues from economic crisis to unemployment to crime.

Nesse hopes that the West will address both immediate and long-term needs by supporting Sudan’s ceasefire and peace processes.

“Additionally, there is a crucial requirement for humanitarian assistance, development funding, and favorable trade and tariff regulations.”

Lebanon decries violations of its airspace after Iran attack on Israel

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
Updated 15 April 2024

Lebanon decries violations of its airspace after Iran attack on Israel

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
  • Caretaker PM Mikati warns ‘we cannot remain silent in the face of Israeli aggressions’
  • Hezbollah claims responsibility for attack on Israeli troops who had crossed border

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, declared on Monday that his country rejected the violation of its airspace by Israel.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of Israeli aggressions,” Mikati said, adding that further violations could not be tolerated.

It was the first official Lebanese statement following the Iranian attacks against Israel on Saturday night, and came as Mikati was addressing a broad ministerial meeting on Monday.

“We call on the international community to carry responsibility for these attacks. We always submit complaints before the (UN) Security Council over this matter,” he said.

Mikati also warned that Israel “is dragging the region into war, and the international community must take note of this and put an end to this war.”

Several Iranian drones flew over Lebanon the night of the attacks against Israel.

Fireballs were seen falling from the sky as the drones were intercepted, and several explosions were heard over Tripoli, northern Bekaa on the Syrian border, the coastal city of Dbayeh, the southern city of Tyre and the capital Beirut.

The Ministry of Public Works announced on the night of the attack “the closure of the Lebanese airspace to all incoming, outgoing, and transit flights over Lebanon, temporarily and as a precaution, from 1 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday.”

Mikati pointed out that “through the contacts we are making, we realize that Lebanon has friends in the world who defend it and make every effort to pressure Israel to stop its aggression and prevent the escalation of confrontations.”

The ministerial meeting recommended to the Cabinet — which will convene in 10 days — “the creation of a committee that would develop a methodology for surveying damage and identifying needs in the southern border region that is subject to Israeli hostilities, in addition to presenting proposals for funding the reconstruction process.”

The meeting called on the relevant ministries to “verify the shortcomings of foodstuffs, supplies, and fuel, as well as the normal and proper availability of the supply chain.”

 Mohammed Abu Haidar, director general of the Ministry of Economy and Trade, said: “Regarding food security, supplies are highly available. Food products are available for (the next) three months. Flour is available for around a month, and a new shipment will arrive in 12 days.”

He added that gasoline and diesel “are available, and there are no issues at the market or supply levels.”

On Monday morning, the southern front witnessed a new development in the course of Hezbollah’s operations against the Israeli military.

Israeli media said four soldiers were injured in an explosion on the border — one of them severely and two moderately.

Hezbollah said that “when a force from the Israeli Golani Brigade crossed the border and reached a site of explosives, one detonated, resulting in deaths and injuries.”

The party said that “after closely monitoring the Israeli forces’ movements, Hezbollah members planted explosive devices in the Tal Ismail area adjacent to the border with Palestine and detonated them when the soldiers reached them.”

Correspondents in the border region said Tal Ismail — located between Dhayra and Alma Al-Shaab — “is a geographically exposed area controlled by the Israeli Army by fire, visibility, and other means of examination.”

Israeli military radio confirmed the explosion, saying it "targeted a force from the Golani unit and the Yahalom engineering unit while they were working on the fence in the western region on the border with Lebanon.”

It said that the explosion took place inside Lebanese territory.

An Israeli Army spokesperson said an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded during an operation in the border area in the north of the country.

Two Israeli soldiers suffered moderate injuries, and an explosion of unknown origin lightly wounded another. The spokesperson added that the incident is being investigated.

Israeli attacks on the border area escalated Monday morning, and warplanes carried out five raids on the outskirts of the towns of Dhayra, Naqoura, and Alma Al-Shaab.

The assault led to the road between Alma Al-Shaab and Dhayra being cut off as a result of a huge crater, which was later filled by the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.

Israeli warplanes carried out mock raids over villages in the Tyre district and along the coast.

On Sunday night, an Israeli airstrike on a house in the town of Seddiqine destroyed it and caused serious material damage to dozens of surrounding buildings. Nine people were injured in the blast.