Global Refugee Forum takes stock of international response to the biggest human displacement in history

Special Global Refugee Forum takes stock of international response to the biggest human displacement in history
People stand near tents at the Sahlat Al-Banat makeshift camp for internally displaced people set-up next to a waste dump on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, on July 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 14 December 2023
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Global Refugee Forum takes stock of international response to the biggest human displacement in history

Global Refugee Forum takes stock of international response to the biggest human displacement in history
  • With 114 million people displaced worldwide, aid agencies and developing nations demand concrete action at Geneva summit
  • Saudi Arabia has provided $18.57 billion in aid to refugees in the Kingdom, KSrelief chief Abdullah Al-Rabeeah tells forum

LONDON: Even before the war in Gaza led to the displacement of some 1.9 million people, the world was already in the throes of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, with conflicts, crises and climate catastrophes forcing people from their homes.

More than 114 million people are now on the move worldwide, up from 75 million in 2019, with conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and the Sahel, drought on the Horn of Africa, and economic crises from Lebanon to Venezuela sending people in search of security.

In response to these immense challenges, which have significant implications for the economies of host and transit nations, the UN has organized its latest Global Refugee Forum in Geneva — its first since the pandemic — which ran from Dec. 13 to Dec. 15.

“The Global Refugee Forum is taking place at a time when displacement around the world is at record levels,” Ezekiel Simperingham, the global lead on migration and displacement for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Arab News.




King Abdullah II of Jordan delivers a speech during the Global Refugee Forum, in Geneva on December 13, 2023. (AFP)

“This is compounded by climate change, conflict and diseases, but the needs of refugees and other displaced people are urgent and complex.”

The forum’s opening sessions on Wednesday were dominated by the issue of Gaza, where the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which began on Oct. 7, has led to the displacement of some 85 percent of Gazans.

Opening the forum with a call for an immediate ceasefire, Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, warned that continued fighting would only add to the number of globally displaced.

“A major human catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza and, so far, the (UN) Security Council has failed to stop the violence,” Grandi said in his opening remarks, referring to Washington’s recent veto of a motion calling for a ceasefire.

He warned that further displacement in a region already saturated with refugees from multiple ongoing conflicts posed a major threat to security and stability.

His comments reflected a tweet he posted earlier in the week warning that “massive displacement” beyond Gaza’s borders would not only be “catastrophic for Palestinians, who know the trauma of exile” but impossible to solve, “further jeopardizing any chance of peace.”

Since Hamas launched its unprecedented cross-border attack on the towns of southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and taking some 240 hostage, the Gaza Strip has come under sustained bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Although the IDF’s stated aim is to destroy Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, Israel’s military campaign has come at the cost of some 17,000 lives, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Some Arab states, including Egypt and Jordan, have accused Israel of trying to drive the Palestinians out of Gaza altogether in a repeat of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, which saw the population forced from their homes to make way for the new Israeli state.




More than 114 million people are now on the move worldwide. (AFP)

If Gaza’s two-million strong population were to spill out into Egypt and other neighboring countries, it is likely they would never be permitted to return, making the possibility of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel even less likely.

Such a wave of dispossessed humanity would also place an immense burden on the shoulders of neighboring countries, which already host vast numbers of Palestinians alongside millions displaced by the war in Syria.

Speaking at the Global Refugee Forum on Wednesday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that the world must not turn its back on the displaced or on host nations, warning that a failure to act risked “leaving a lost generation behind.”

“Instead of making headway in resolving this ever-evolving and expanding refugee crisis, and even as new displacement crises emerge, we see attention waning. We can’t afford for this to continue,” he said, citing the 1.4 million Syrians including 650,000 refugees hosted by Jordan.

Abdullah pointed to what he called a model of “fluctuating support” from governments in Europe and the wider Western world, where refugees have at times been welcomed, as in the case of Ukrainians, and at other times refused entry.

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Also speaking at the forum on Wednesday, Colombia’s vice president, Francia Elena Marquez Mina, likewise called for greater support from Western nations. Her country, which sits at the crossroads between South and Central America, has played host to millions of Venezuelans and other nationalities escaping hardship and persecution.

Robinah Nabbanja, prime minister of Uganda, which is host to the world’s fourth largest refugee population, also said an “enormous strain has been placed on our meager economic resources” by the displacement crisis — a burden that has not been shared by wealthier nations.

Responding to these calls, Yoko Kamikawa, Japan’s foreign minister, said that it was time for the world to take “a more forward-looking approach” to the issue of displacement.

“We can’t improve the situation merely by providing food, water and shelter,” she told the forum. “I believe we all must envision a future where every refugee and displaced person can talk about their dreams and have opportunities to work hard to make their dreams come true.”

Emphasizing the urgent need for conflict resolution, Yoko said the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, could help ease some of the suffering, but stressed it could not address the underlying causes.




The UN has organized its latest Global Refugee Forum in Geneva which ran from Dec. 13 to Dec. 15. (AFP)

“UNHCR can help save people’s lives and ease some of their suffering, but it cannot resolve conflict. (That) is the responsibility of politicians such as myself, and many others here today,” she said.

Mindful of its responsibility to assist vulnerable communities, Saudi Arabia has provided more than $18.57 billion in aid to refugees in the Kingdom to date, according to Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the supervisor general of Saudi aid agency KSrelief.  

Speaking at the forum, Al-Rabeeah said the Kingdom hosts 1.07 million refugees, who account for 5.5 percent of the nation’s population, and provides them with free health care, educational opportunities and help to integrate with their new communities.

Saudi Arabia has also provided $1.15 billion in aid to refugees in other host countries around the world, Al-Rabeeah added, revealing that the Kingdom plans to launch several new projects worth $170 million, including the provision of $40 million of aid for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, and $10 million for the Global Islamic Fund for Refugees.  

Despite these efforts, many of those working in the humanitarian sector have expressed concern over the lack of willingness among other developed countries to match their rhetoric with policy action.




Palestinians wave their identity cards as they gather to receive flour rations for their families outside a UNRWA warehouse in Rafah. (AFP)

Taking the UK as an example of this trend, Sile Reynolds, head of asylum advocacy at Freedom from Torture, noted a disconnect in the government’s championing of humanitarian support for children and its policy aim of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“As the UK delegation champions its ambitious package at the forum, its colleagues back home celebrate the dubious success of passing the second reading of a bill that torches the UK’s international commitments to refugee protection,” Reynolds told Arab News.

“Why would any state take seriously the UK’s promises to share responsibility for ensuring the protection and welfare of refugees?

“The same UK government is conspiring and scheming to send children, fleeing the exact same conflict and persecution as those subject to the Global Refugee Forum’s worthy ambitions, to an uncertain future in Rwanda.”

In 2019, the Global Refugee Forum garnered more than 1,400 initiatives and pledges to support displaced people and host nations. However, to date, fewer than a third of these have been met.

Carenza Arnold, a spokesperson for the UK-based charity Women for Refugee Women, said while the forum represented “a great opportunity” to push forward initiatives to support people seeking safety around the world, it is vital these are put into action.

INNUMBERS

• 114m Refugee population worldwide in 2023.

• 43.3m Global refugee population who are children.

• 4.4m People who are deemed stateless.

• 69 percent Refugees living in countries neighboring their place of origin.

(UNHCR)

“We know that there’s an increasing number of people who are forced to flee their homes to save their lives each year,” Arnold told Arab News.

“It is crucial that initiatives are put into place to support people to move safely when they need to, to recover from the trauma they have experienced, and to rebuild their lives with dignity.”

For South Sudanese refugee Adhieu Achuil Dhieu, who addressed the forum on Wednesday, one essential component to redressing the waning interest was by offering refugees a platform to share their stories.

Recognizing the “increased participation” of displaced peoples in strategic dialogues since the 2019 forum, Dhieu said: “There is still considerable distance to go before we realize genuine refugee leadership.

“There must be tangible change led by displaced and stateless persons, to secure our rightful place in the decision-making processes that impact our lives.”

Adding that “displacement is a temporary challenge, not a permanent condition,” Dhieu said that governments had to up their funding for refugee-led organizations, reminding global leaders that the escalating refugee crisis was “a shared responsibility.”




King Abdullah II of Jordan (L) speaks with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (R) during the Global Refugee Forum, in Geneva. (AFP)

Najwa Al-Abdallah, chief executive of Amna, formerly the Refugee Trauma Initiative, shares Dhieu’s perspective.

“Our vision of refugees determining their futures, unbounded by the impacts of conflict and displacement and our mission of nurturing joy and belonging aligns with the message of the forum,” Al-Abdallah told Arab News.

“That message has so far emphasized refugee leadership, trauma informed solutions and community as an answer to a complex problem.”

She added: “The global community cannot thrive if its most vulnerable are left behind. Let’s make this forum count.”


Zelensky calls for more Western air defense systems to ‘save lives’

Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
Updated 02 March 2024
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Zelensky calls for more Western air defense systems to ‘save lives’

Rescuers work at a site of an apartment building heavily damaged by a drone strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Odesa.
  • Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged the West to deliver more air defense systems after at least six people were killed in the latest Russian strikes.

Overnight aerial attacks claimed four lives in the southern port city of Odesa, including a three-year-old child, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the southern frontline Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.
“Russia continues to hit civilians,” Zelensky said in a post on social media.
“We need more air defenses from our partners. We need to strengthen the Ukrainian air shield to add more protection for our people from Russian terror. More air defence systems and more missiles for air defense systems saves lives,” he said.

FASTFACTS

● Overnight aerial attacks claimed four lives in the southern port city of Odesa, including a three-year-old child, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the southern frontline Kherson region.

● Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.

Ukraine is currently on the back foot in the two-year war as a crucial $60-billion aid package is held up in the United States Congress.
In Odesa, “a nine-story building was destroyed as a result of an attack by Russian terrorists,” Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said Saturday in a post on Telegram.
Footage shared from the scene showed several floors of a residential building collapsed and its facade ripped off.
In Kharkiv, a 76-year-old man was killed in a shelling attack shortly after midnight, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.
And shelling in the frontline Kherson region on Saturday morning killed one more person, the provincial head said.
Ukraine’s air force said Russia had launched 17 Iranian “Shahed” drones overnight and fired three missiles.
It said it downed 14 of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to residential buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv.
Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.
Videos on Russian social media showed what appeared to be a drone spiraling downwards into the building, triggering an explosion, blowing out windows and causing small fires.
The city’s National Guard division said its preliminary assumption was the damage was caused by a “falling drone.”
Ukrainian media reported the drone was shot down by Russia’s air defenses while targeting an oil depot less than a kilometer from the crash site.
Kyiv has hit several Russian oil facilities in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.
The attacks come with Russia seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield.
Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages amid aid delays.
Half of all promised Western ammunition arrives in the country late, the defense minister has said — in what he called critical delays that cost lives and territory.
Russian forces have pressed westwards following last month’s capture of Avdiivka, and have seized several small villages in recent days.
Visiting frontline military posts on Saturday, Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said “the situation at the front remains difficult, but controlled.”

 


Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones

Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones
Updated 02 March 2024
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Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones

Russia says it destroyed two Ukrainian drones
  • The Leningradv regional governor said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district
  • The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region

MOSCOW: Russia’s defense ministry said its air defenses destroyed a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, over Leningrad region, which borders the Gulf of Finland, and a second one in Belgorod region on Saturday.
Alexander Drozdenko, the Leningrad regional governor, said “aerial targets” were hit over the waters and coastline of the Gulf of Finland in Lomonosov district, which includes Bronka, a port about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of St. Petersburg.
“There are no casualties and no damage,” he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
The defense ministry said Ukraine had attempted to carry out an attack “using aircraft-type UAVs” over Leningrad region, and separately, over Belgorod region.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said two drones were shot down over two villages on Saturday but there were no reports of casualties or damage.
Russia’s state-run TASS news agency quoted aviation officials as saying operations at Pulkovo Airport at St. Petersburg were temporarily limited but that no flights were delayed.
TASS said movement of ships at Bronka was unaffected and that MarineTraffic data showed only one Turkish bulk carrier was docked at the port.


Last surviving member of the first team to conquer Mount Everest says it is crowded and dirty now

Last surviving member of the first team to conquer Mount Everest says it is crowded and dirty now
Updated 02 March 2024
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Last surviving member of the first team to conquer Mount Everest says it is crowded and dirty now

Last surviving member of the first team to conquer Mount Everest says it is crowded and dirty now

KATMANDU: The only surviving member of the mountaineering expedition that first conquered Mount Everest said Saturday that the world’s highest peak is too crowded and dirty, and the mountain needs to be respected.
Kanchha Sherpa, 91, was among the 35 members in the team that put New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay atop the 8,849-meter  peak on May 29, 1953.
“It would be better for the mountain to reduce the number of climbers,” Kanchha said in an interview in Kathmandu on Saturday, “Right now there is always a big crowd of people at the summit.”

Kanchha Sherpa

Since the first conquest, the peak has been climbed thousands of times, and it gets more crowded every year. During the spring climbing season in 2023, 667 climbers scaled the peak, but that brought in thousands of support staff to the base camp between the months of March and May.
There have been concerns about the number of people living on the mountain for months on end, generating trash and waste, but authorities have no plans to cut down on the number of permits they issue to climbers.
There are rules that require climbers to bring down their own trash, equipment and everything they carry to the mountain or risk losing their deposit, but monitoring has not been very effective.

It is very dirty now. People throw tins and wrappings after eating food. Who is going to pick them up now?

Kanchha Sherpa

“It is very dirty now. People throw tins and wrappings after eating food. Who is going to pick them up now?” Kanchha said. “Some climbers just dump their trash in the crevasse, which would be hidden at that time but eventually it will flow down to base camp as the snow melts and carries them downward.”
For the Sherpas, Everest is a diety that is revered by their community. They generally perform religious rituals before climbing the peak.
Kanchha was just a young man when he joined the Hillary-Tenzing expedition. He was among the three Sherpas to go the last camp on Everest along with Hillary and Tenzing. They could not go any further because they did not have a permit.
They first heard of the successful ascent on the radio, and then were reunited with the summit duo at Camp 2.
“We all gathered at Camp 2 but there was no alcohol so we celebrated with tea and snacks,” he said. “We then collected whatever we could and carried it to base camp.”
The route they opened up from the base camp to the summit is still used by climbers. Only the section from the base camp to Camp 1 over the unstable Khumbu Icefall changes every year.
Kanchha has four children, eight grandchildren and a 20-month-old great-granddaughter. He lives with family in Namche village in the foothills of Mount Everest, where the family runs a small hotel catering to trekkers and climbers.

 


What contrasting Western responses to Ukraine and Gaza crises mean for future conflicts

What contrasting Western responses to Ukraine and Gaza crises mean for future conflicts
Updated 7 min 59 sec ago
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What contrasting Western responses to Ukraine and Gaza crises mean for future conflicts

What contrasting Western responses to Ukraine and Gaza crises mean for future conflicts
  • West seen failing to punish Israel for not respecting laws of war while hitting Russia hard for the same reasons in Ukraine
  • Unequal treatment could make it harder to hold perpetrators accountable and deter war crimes going forward, experts warn

LONDON: Two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and six months since the Hamas-led attacks that provoked Israel’s assault on Gaza, critics say the responses to these parallel crises are indicative of a double standard at play in the international order.

Following Russia’s invasion of its neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022, the US and European nations were united in their response as they condemned Moscow’s actions as a breach of international law, imposed sanctions, sent weapons and funding to Kyiv, and offered sanctuary to refugees.

A rescuer walks past buildings destroyed by Russian shelling on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on April 16, 2022. (AFP)

After the Oct. 7 attacks last year, in contrast, there was a grim sense of inevitability in the West about what would come next: That Israel would respond ferociously against the Palestinian enclave from which the attack was launched, exacting a heavy toll on civilians in the process.

As the body count rose in Gaza as a result of the Israeli bombardment, one might have expected the international community to respond with a similar chorus of condemnation against the aggressor as it did to the situation in Ukraine, and equivalent expressions of solidarity with the injured party.

This picture taken on January 3, 2024 shows a view of buildings destroyed by Israeli bombardment in the central Gaza Strip. (AFP)

One might also have expected the similar demands within the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire, sanctions and the diplomatic isolation of Israel, along with a generous package of aid for Palestinians.

A glance at the recent foreign aid package approved by the US Senate is perhaps indicative of Washington’s priorities. About $60 billion is to be allocated to Ukraine, $14 billion to Israel and just $10 billion to global humanitarian efforts, including those in Gaza.

IN NUMBERS

30k Palestinian civilians killed since Oct. 7, 2023, according to Gaza Health Ministry.

31k Ukrainian soldiers killed since Feb. 24, 2022, according to President Zelensky.

$14bn US aid package to support Israel and military operations in the region.

$60bn Package allocated to Ukraine.

Sarah Yager, the Washington director at Human Rights Watch, believes the effects of this perceived Western double standard might be felt far beyond the duration of these two crises, eroding whatever faith remains in international humanitarian law.

“Russia’s indiscriminate airstrikes on hospitals and schools have, rightly, drawn condemnation from (US) administration officials,” Yager wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine. “But Israel has carried out attacks striking hospitals and schools without eliciting much protest from the White House.

“Some might argue that the United States can afford a little hypocrisy in order to support its long-time ally, Israel. But playing a part in the erosion of international law will have harmful consequences for the United States far beyond Gaza.

Emergency responders bring wounded children at al-Shifa hospital following Israeli strikes in Gaza City on October 10, 2023. (AFP)

“Future declarations by the State Department concerning atrocities will ring hollow, making it harder to hold perpetrators accountable and deter international crimes. Pressure on warring parties to abide by the law — for example, Azerbaijan or Sudan — will carry less weight.”

Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, has similarly condemned the West for the contrast between its support for Ukraine and its relative silence over the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza.

She recently said these differing standards were evident in the “demand that we all rush to the defense of Ukraine, as we should, because Ukraine has been aggressed by Russia and they are unbelievably suffering in Ukraine.

“At the same time (the West) tells us not to act on the bombings and suffering of the people of Gaza. The double standard of those governments is the bigger threat to human rights right now.”

Israel denies accusations that its military deliberately targets health workers and civilian infrastructure. Instead, it has accused Hamas of using tunnel networks beneath Gaza’s hospitals to direct attacks, store weapons and conceal hostages.

Israeli troops inspect what they said was an entrance to a tunnel dug by Hamas militants inside the Al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (AFP)

Any damage to medical facilities, therefore, is the fault of Hamas, Israeli authorities say, accusing the group of using patients and doctors as human shields.

Jamie Shea, an associate fellow with the International Security Program at Chatham House, said it is important to recognize that while the situations in Ukraine and Gaza might appear broadly comparable, viewing the two conflicts as “subsets of the same basic political confrontation” is wrongheaded.

“There will always be some similarities (in wars), such as the terrible impact of war on the civilian populations or the desire of the Western powers to avoid regional escalation,” Shea told Arab News.

“But Ukraine and Gaza are not subsets of the same basic political confrontation in the way that the Ukraine-Georgia conflicts are linked through Russia, or the pro-Iranian militias in the Middle East, like the Houthis, are being mobilized because of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.”

Another counterargument to the double-standards accusation is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lacks the moral clarity of the Russia-Ukraine war. 

In comments to the Wall Street Journal in December, British lawmaker Alex Sobel, a Labour co-chair of the UK parliament’s all-party group on Ukraine, said: “There is no moral justification for the Russian invasion. Zero.

“But in Israel and Palestine, it’s about the fact that there are two peoples on a very small amount of land, and political and military elites on both sides are unwilling to settle for what’s on offer.”

Furthermore, as Yager noted in her article for Foreign Affairs, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was arguably unprovoked, unlike Israel’s retaliation for the cross-border attack by Hamas.

People view the portraits of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas are displayed at a site in Tel Aviv on February 3, 2024. The captives were seized by the Palestinian militants during their surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, provoking an Israeli offensive that has so far killed more than 30,000 Palestinians. (AFP)

Nevertheless, Yager stressed that when “a country decides to use military force, it must fully adhere to the laws that govern conduct in war.”

Eugenie Duss, a research fellow at the Geneva Academy who specializes in the laws of armed conflict, told Arab News that such laws, which apply to state and non-state actors alike, are designed to protect civilians.

Yet it seems that in the view of many Western governments, these rules do not apply to civilians in Gaza. For example, 12 million Ukrainian refugees who fled the Russian offensive have been welcomed by host countries and their rights duly respected.

“I knew a lot of Ukrainians who came (to Britain) about two years ago,” Alla Sirenko, the president and founder of the Ukrainian Cultural Association in the UK, told Arab News.

“They have mostly been women with children and the elderly, and in most cases they have been hard-working people.

“The majority of them have been admired for their resilience, intelligence, hard work and good nature, and (while) most of them are looking forward to returning to Ukraine when it is safe to do so, there has been a lot of goodwill from the British people toward them.”

Refugees from Ukraine (left) are welcomed by volunteers in San Ysidro, California on April 8, 2022. Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion had been welcomed in Western countries. On the other hand, Palestinian refugees remain stranded at the severely damaged Maghazi camp as they have nowhere to go. (AFP photos)

This welcoming environment was encouraged by the UK government, which offered British citizens financial incentives to offer their spare rooms to house Ukrainian refugees. Similar schemes generally do not exist in the West for refugees who flee conflicts in the Middle East, including the war in Gaza. One exception is Canada, which offers a temporary visa-extension scheme for Gazans with relatives who are already resident in the country.

Shea acknowledged the perception of a Western double standard in this, which appears to value the lives of Ukrainians over their counterparts in Palestine. However, he believes the West is trying to inhibit a mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza because it is concerned about what would happen next.

“In Gaza, the West is trying to prevent a mass exodus of the Palestinian population (including to the West Bank) as this would allow Israel to reoccupy the territory and diminish further the amount of land available to the Palestinians for a viable two-state solution,” he said.

“Once forced to leave, Palestinians are unlikely to be able to return, given the likelihood of more Israeli settlements. And in contrast to the Ukrainians in Europe, they are unlikely to be welcomed by countries like Egypt and Jordan, already experiencing severe economic stress.”

Of course, even the Western support for Ukraine is not limitless. As the war increasingly appears to be mired in a stalemate, politicking in Washington is hampering the allocation of further US aid and, as Western populations grow weary of concurrent crises, goodwill could quickly evaporate.

Colin Alexander, a senior lecturer in political communications at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, said it is “well-trodden ground … that publics become overwhelmed by news of more than one conflict at a time.”

Journalism relies on the “evocation of emotions to create traction” even if the reality is “much more complicated,” he told Arab News, and with multiple victims in multiple conflicts, the attempts to elicit empathy could prove “overwhelming” for some audiences.

“Herein, the world edges toward a difficult scenario, diplomatically as well as militarily,” Alexander said. “The Middle East, Ukraine, North Korea, Taiwan — suddenly there are too many crises to comprehend for even the most avid newsreader.”

So far, however, the Ukrainian Cultural Association’s Sirenko said there is no sign that either a sense of “news fatigue” or any perceived double standards in policies on Gaza has reduced the level of sympathy among the British public for the Ukrainians who have found sanctuary in the UK.

“They don’t feel harassed or diminished because of the war in Palestine,” she said. “We are all sorry about it, but it’s not affecting life for Ukrainians in the UK nor the goodwill of the British people towards them.”

 


Limiting Gaza protests ‘risks terror attacks,’ warns former UK police chief

Limiting Gaza protests ‘risks terror attacks,’ warns former UK police chief
Updated 02 March 2024
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Limiting Gaza protests ‘risks terror attacks,’ warns former UK police chief

Limiting Gaza protests ‘risks terror attacks,’ warns former UK police chief
  • Demonstrations a ‘vent’ for people ‘vulnerable to extremist messages,’ Neil Basu says
  • New video shows police knocking 71-year-old woman to the ground during London protest

LONDON: Limiting or banning pro-Palestine protests in the UK will increase the likelihood of terror attacks in the country, a former police chief has said.

The former head of the UK’s anti-terror police network, Neil Basu, warned that any move to prevent people from voicing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas war would “fuel more extremism,” The Times reported.

Basu added that protesters on the fringes of the Palestine supporter movement would “look somewhere else” to voice their anger.

His comments come amid a growing divide in responses to the large-scale protest marches across the UK, which have taken place fortnightly since the outbreak of violence in Gaza in October last year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking outside Downing Street on Friday, said that the demonstrations have “descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence.”

He added: “On too many occasions recently, our streets have been hijacked by small groups who are hostile to our values and have no respect for our democratic traditions.”

Home Secretary James Cleverly earlier this week urged pro-Palestine demonstrators to end their marches because they had “made their point” and were unduly consuming police resources.

However, Basu hit back against calls to prohibit the marches, arguing that they served as a “vent” for people “who are vulnerable to extremist messages.”

He said: “I don’t think they’re mob rule. It would be dangerous to describe them in such provocative language that is designed to have them stopped.”

Politicians and policing figures have also warned of a growing risk to MPs, after several claimed they had been “intimidated” by protesters.

On Friday, about 30 demonstrators gathered outside the residence of the Israeli ambassador to the UK in North London, demanding her arrest over alleged support for war crimes.

Matt Twist, a senior public order officer with London’s Met Police, claimed that the force would be “quick in its response” to people attempting to intimidate MPs.

He added: “Of course, we’re worried about MP’s security. Anyone watching social media would see the number of threats that MPs get, which is utterly horrid and unacceptable.”

Further controversy erupted in the capital on Saturday after a 71-year-old “legal observer” was revealed to have been knocked to the ground by a group of police officers during a Gaza ceasefire protest in early January.

Lesley Wertheimer was seen wearing a high-visibility jacket in a newly released video of the incident, seen by The Guardian.

The pensioner and beekeeper, who has monitored the policing of protests since 1990, fell flat on the ground after being knocked over by a column of advancing police officers, the video shows.

She said: “No person should be charged, knocked over and harmed by the police and then have to rely on strangers helping them.

“Legal observers are there to do a piece of work as the police are there to do a piece of work. The police cannot target us. They have no right to try to intimidate us.”

Wertheimer said she had no memory of the aftermath of the incident, and believes that she lost consciousness as a result of the fall.

The 71-year-old was helped by nearby pedestrians and doctors who had attended the march, before limping to a nearby emergency department.

Two weeks ago, she submitted a complaint to the Met Police, which said it was investigating the incident.

Eva Roszykiewicz, Wertheimer’s solicitor, said it was “shocking” not only that “officers knocked into Lesley, causing her to fall over, but also that none of the other officers stopped to check on her.”

She added: “Whether you are a legal observer or a member of the public, that is scary.”