UK charities call for inquiry into treatment of children placed in hotels for asylum seekers

UK charities call for inquiry into treatment of children placed in hotels for asylum seekers
A baby is taken to the vessel of the Spanish Proactiva Open Arms, after being rescued in the Central Mediterranean Sea, 72 km from Al-Khums, Libya. (File/AP)
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Updated 05 March 2024
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UK charities call for inquiry into treatment of children placed in hotels for asylum seekers

UK charities call for inquiry into treatment of children placed in hotels for asylum seekers
  • Report exposes official's inappropriate guessing game to reveal foster care placements to children
  • Report that found basic checks to ensure unaccompanied children were safe in these hotels were not carried out

LONDON: Charities and campaigners have called for a public inquiry into the treatment of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK, the BBC reported on Monday.

At one point, the Home Office contracted seven hotels to provide temporary accommodation for children while foster care placements were being arranged with local authorities. According to a recently published official report, however, basic checks to ensure unaccompanied children were being kept safe in these hotels were not carried out.

The report, by the former chief inspector of borders, David Neal, and published by the Home Office last week, also revealed a particularly disturbing practice in which a team leader would have children take part in a guessing game to find out who had received a place in foster care.

Inspectors described the practice as “insensitive in the extreme and undoubtedly upsetting to the children.” They noted that it was not widely adopted but nor was it internally questioned when it was.

Eighteen organizations, including the Refugee Council and the British Association of Social Workers, have now signed an open letter in which they highlight this “appalling revelation” that some children were forced to play a game to guess which of them had been allocated a foster home. They described the wider findings of the report as “disturbing, distressing and dystopian.”

The letter also said that hundreds of unaccompanied children who have gone missing from hotels have yet to be found, and that children incorrectly assessed as being of adult age were forced to share bedrooms with grown-up strangers.

The signatories called for an extensive independent investigation into the treatment of asylum seekers aged 17 and younger.

“In our work with refugee children, we repeatedly see how they are being failed... There is a culture of callous disregard for children’s basic right to dignity,” they said in their letter.

“We urgently need to see a fundamental change towards an asylum system that is fair, humane and protects those who are some of the most vulnerable children in the country.”

The Home Office said the welfare of the children was of “utmost priority.” A full investigation into the “inappropriate behavior” of the worker responsible for the guessing game has been launched, it added, and he was removed from his position as soon as his actions were revealed. It also said hotels are no longer used to house child refugees, the BBC reported.

The report was based on inspections of two hotels in Kent that took place in September 2023.

It stated: “Inspectors found that two years on from when the Home Office first moved children into hotels, it was still grappling with the challenges of managing an operation that was only ever envisaged to provide a short-term solution.”


Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
Updated 13 April 2024
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Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
  • Multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was shot dead by a policewoman at the scene

SYDNEY: Six people were killed and several others injured — including a nine-month-old baby — when a knife-wielding attacker rampaged through a busy Sydney shopping center on Saturday.
Australian police said multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was tracked down and shot dead by a policewoman who is being hailed as a national hero.
The incident occurred at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall complex, which was packed with thousands of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said five women and one man had died. A baby was undergoing emergency surgery.
Police said the attacker is believed to be a 40-year-old man who was known to law enforcement, but he has not yet been formally identified.
Webb played down suggestions that the attack could have been an act of terrorism and said it is believed the attacker acted alone.
“If it is in fact the person we believe it is, then... it’s not a terrorism incident,” she said.
A New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson told AFP that eight patients were taken to various hospitals across Sydney, including the baby who was taken to the city’s Children’s Hospital.
“They all have traumatic injuries,” the official said.
Security camera footage showed a man wearing an Australian rugby league jersey running around the shopping center with a large knife.
Injured people lay lifeless on the floor, or surrounded by pools of blood.
Eyewitnesses described a scene of panic, with shoppers scrambling to safety and police trying to secure the area.
Many people took shelter in shops, trying to protect themselves, their families and frightened strangers.
Ayush Singh was working at a cafe inside the center when the incident occurred.
“I saw the whole thing in front of me,” he told AFP. “I saw a lot of people running around, I saw the guy running with the knife and people running away.”
Singh helped two elderly ladies who were having a coffee to hide inside his cafe. He heard three gunshots ring out, then saw the man lying on the ground.
“It was really scary,” he said. “I’ve felt really safe (in Australia). I’ve been here for six years. I didn’t feel unsafe but now I feel scared.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the bravery of strangers who helped each other and the woman police inspector who rushed headlong toward danger.
“She is certainly a hero. There is no doubt that she saved lives through her action,” Albanese said.

Pranjul Bokaria had just finished up work and was doing some shopping when the stabbing occurred.
She ended up running to a nearby shop and taking shelter in a break room.
“It was scary, there are some people who were emotionally vulnerable and crying,” she told AFP.
She escaped using an emergency exit with other shoppers and staff, which took them to a back street.
She described a scene of “chaos,” with people running and police swarming the area.
“I am alive and grateful,” she said.
As night fell, dozens of heavily armed police and ambulances were still outside the shopping complex, with stretchers ready to take people to nearby hospitals.
The sound of police sirens and helicopters filled the air.
The mall has been locked down and police have urged people to avoid the area.
Britain’s King Charles III said he and his wife Queen Camilla were “utterly shocked and horrified” by the stabbing.
Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack and sent his “spiritual solidarity to all those affected” in a message addressed to the archbishop of Sydney.
Such attacks are virtually unheard of in Australia, which has relatively low rates of violent crime.
 

 


Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 April 2024
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Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
  • The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally

KIGALI: A Rwandan woman expelled to her homeland three years ago from the US has been given a life sentence for her role in the country’s 1994 genocide, The New Times newspaper reported on Saturday.
A court in the southern town of Huye found Beatrice Munyenyezi guilty of the charges of murder as a genocide crime, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and complicity in rape.
However, she was acquitted on a charge of planning genocide, the Rwandan-based national paper said.
The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally.

FASTFACT

Beatrice Munyenyezi was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship.

Munyenyezi, 54, denied all the charges against her.
But the court concluded she was guilty of ordering and committing murders and attacks herself, including that of a nun who was raped on her orders.
Nicknamed the “commander,” the investigation and several witness accounts said that Munyenyezi was supervising a roadblock in Huye — then called Butare — where she identified Tutsis and had them killed, and also encouraged Hutu extremists to rape women.
She was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship, saying she faced persecution in her own country.
The case attracted US attention as her mother-in-law Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister in the genocidal regime, and her husband Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a former local militia leader, were also on trial for genocide crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
They were also sentenced to life in prison, in 2011, before their terms were reduced to 47 years on appeal.

 


Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
Updated 13 April 2024
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Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
  • Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991

NAIROBI: Somalia will never accept Ethiopia’s plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland but would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, a senior Somali official said.
Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.
Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

BACKGROUND

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

To defuse the acrimony, Kenya, in consultation with Djibouti and the Eastern African Bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, has proposed a maritime treaty to govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms, a senior Kenyan official said on Thursday.
Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs, Ali Omar, said that before discussing port access bilaterally, Ethiopia must annul its agreement with Somaliland.
“Somalia will never accept (a) naval base,” Omar said.
“Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea.”
He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals as long as they met the country’s interests, which are to “safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity.”
A spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

 


Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
Updated 13 April 2024
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Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
  • Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart
  • Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria

DELAWARE, USA: President Joe Biden is cutting short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house and returning to the White House on Saturday to meet with his national security team and monitor the situation in the Middle East.
Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.
Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed 12 people, including senior Iranian generals. Israel is bracing for a possible Iranian attack, raising concerns about the United States being pulled into deeper regional conflict.
Biden on Friday said the United States was “devoted” to defending Israel and that “Iran will not succeed.”
Asked by reporters what his message was for Iran, the president’s only reply was: “Don’t.”
He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct US military response, and when asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he did not want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”
During the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border. US officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on US forces at bases in those countries since war started on Oct. 7.
One attack in late January killed three US service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the US launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria.
Meantime, on Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.
“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said.
Also Saturday, the Israeli-occupied West Bank also saw some of the worst violence since Hamas’ attack on Israel.


Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
Updated 13 April 2024
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Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
  • “I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine,” Zelensky said
  • He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example“

KYIV: Germany will supply a US-made Patriot air defense system and air defense missiles to Ukraine at a “critical time” as Kyiv struggles to defend its energy system from Russian bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.
More than two years into its full-scale invasion, Russia has staged three massive airstrikes on power stations and substations in recent weeks, prompting Kyiv to issue desperate appeals for supplies of high-end air defenses.
“I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine, as well as missiles for the existing air defense systems,” Zelensky said after speaking by telephone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example.”
Germany will hand over the Patriot system immediately and it will be in addition to air defense systems that were already delivered and planned, the defense ministry said in a post on X.
An April 10 German government summary of arms and military equipment transfers to Ukraine included two Patriot systems on a list of air defense supplies already delivered, making this the third from Germany.
Zelensky said last week that Ukraine needed 25 US-made Patriot air defense systems to cover the country from Russian attacks.
In his statement on the Telegram app on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said he and Scholz also discussed preparations for a reconstruction conference in Berlin and a peace summit in Switzerland in June.