World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh

World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh
A child stands on the door foot of her house at the Khaung Dote Khar Rohingya refugee camp in Sittwe, on May 15, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh

World Bank approves $700m to address Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh
  • Humanitarian conditions in Rohingya camps deteriorate as international aid drops
  • Maintaining 1m refugees puts stress on the Bangladeshi economy

DHAKA: The World Bank approved on Wednesday $700 million to help address the protracted humanitarian crisis facing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh as international aid drops.

Bangladesh hosts more than 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims who over decades escaped death and persecution in neighboring Myanmar, especially during a military crackdown in 2017.

Most of them live in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in eastern Bangladesh, which with their arrival became the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Humanitarian conditions in the camps have been deteriorating over the years and Bangladeshi authorities have warned they were reaching crisis levels as global aid for the oppressed stateless minority has sharply declined.

The World Bank funding is “to provide basic services and build disaster and social resilience for both the host communities and displaced Rohingya population.”

The financing will be partly a loan, Hasan Sarwar, additional secretary at the Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Arab News.

“Around half of the amount, which is approved for the well-being of the Rohingyas, will come here as a grant, and the rest of the amount which is for the host community people will be received as a loan,” he said.

He added: “This grant from the World Bank will be helpful for building and repairing infrastructure like roads, drainage systems, solar electricity systems, etc., inside the Rohingya camps. Besides, this fund will be spent on skill development and livelihood projects.

“The majority of the grants will be spent through the UN system for the Rohingyas’ well-being.”

Although Bangladesh is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, its government supports the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, a huge law-enforcement presence, as well as medical and administrative officials.

Sarwar said the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining the infrastructure and managing the community of over 1 million people.

He said part of the World Bank funding could be spent on law enforcement, as security in the camps has been deteriorating amid the continuing civil war in Myanmar, which prevents a UN-backed repatriation process from taking off.

“Repatriation of the Rohingya to Myanmar is the only sustainable solution to this crisis,” Sarwar said. “It has been stalled for months due to the unrestful situation inside Myanmar. We are in touch with the Myanmar military authorities, but the repatriation is almost impossible for now.”


NATO says over 300,000 troops now on high readiness

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NATO says over 300,000 troops now on high readiness

NATO says over 300,000 troops now on high readiness
“The offers on the table from allies comfortably exceed the 300,000 that we set,” the official said
The push to have more troops ready to respond quickly is part of a broader overhaul of NATO’s plans to stave off any potential Russian attack

BRUSSELS: NATO countries have “comfortably exceeded” a target of placing 300,000 troops on high-readiness as the alliance grapples with the threat from Russia, a senior alliance official said Thursday.
NATO leaders agreed in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to massively ramp up the number of forces that alliance commanders can deploy within 30 days.
“The offers on the table from allies comfortably exceed the 300,000 that we set,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Those are forces which allies have said to us, ‘They are available to you as of now at that level of readiness’.”
The push to have more troops ready to respond quickly is part of a broader overhaul of NATO’s plans to stave off any potential Russian attack that was signed off at a summit last year.
Those plans laid out for the first time since the end of the Cold War what each member of the US-led alliance would be expected to do in case of an invasion by Moscow.
NATO commanders are currently trying to make sure they have the capabilities to execute those plans if needed.
But the alliance faces shortfalls in key weaponry such as air defenses and longer-range missiles.
“There are capability gaps. There are things that we don’t have enough of as an alliance at the moment and we need to tackle,” the official said.


NATO countries have “comfortably exceeded” a target of placing 300,000 troops on high-readiness as the alliance grapples with the threat from Russia, a senior alliance official said Thursday. (AP/File)

Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard

Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard
Updated 7 min 20 sec ago
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Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard

Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard
  • 53 have filed a group criminal complaint, alleging the coast guard took hours to mount a response despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone
  • The case is still under preliminary investigation by the naval court of Piraeus

ATHENS: A year after one of the Mediterranean’s worst migrant shipwrecks killed more than 600 people, lawyers for survivors pursuing a criminal case against the Greek coast guard gave fresh details on the case Thursday.
The rusty and overloaded trawler Adriana sank on the night of June 13-14 last year. It was carrying more than 750 people, according to the United Nations, but only 82 bodies were found.
Lawyers representing dozens of survivors held a news conference after a court in Kalamata last month dropped charges against nine Egyptian men accused of being part of the criminal gang operating the trawler.
Among the 104 survivors, 53 have filed a group criminal complaint, alleging the coast guard took hours to mount a response despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone.
“This was a crime committed over a 15-hour period,” Eleni Spathana, a lawyer with the Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) group, told journalists.
The case is still under preliminary investigation by the naval court of Piraeus, but the survivors’ lawyers say they have found many irregularities in the Greek coast guard’s actions before and after the incident.
The boat was sailing from Tobruk, Libya to Italy. In addition to Syrians and Palestinians, it was carrying nearly 350 Pakistanis, according to the Pakistani government.
Survivors said the coast guard was towing the vessel when it capsized and sank 47 nautical miles off the coast of Pylos.
The coast guard has insisted it communicated with people on board who “refused any help,” rendering any rescue operation in high seas risky.
But on Thursday Maria Papamina, legal coordinator for the Greek Council for Refugees, said the coast guard chose to dispatch a patrol boat from Crete — and not a larger rescue tugboat stationed closer by at the Peloponnese port of Gythio.
The patrol boat’s voyage data recorder was damaged and was only repaired two months after the accident, Papamina added. Nor was there any video footage from the patrol boat.
“There are reasonable concerns of an attempted cover-up,” she said.
Spathana of the RSA added: “There was clearly no intent to rescue before the boat sank. Not only is this terrifying, it is criminally liable.”
Eighteen of the victims remain unburied, including eight still to be identified.
The independent Greek ombudsman’s office has launched a disciplinary investigation into the case, after the coast guard saw no grounds to do so, the lawyers said Thursday.
On Friday, victims’ relatives in Pakistan plan to gather in the city of Lala Musa to protest the lack of response from the Greek authorities to the tragedy, organizers in Athens said.


Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit

Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit
Updated 18 min 47 sec ago
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Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit

Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit
  • Francis, the first ever pope to attend a Group of Seven rich nations summit, has been invited by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
  • The 87-year-old is also expected to talk about the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will meet with US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and India’s Narendra Modi at the G7 summit in Italy, the Vatican said Thursday.
Francis, the first ever pope to attend a Group of Seven rich nations summit, has been invited by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to address a session on artificial intelligence (AI) in Puglia on Friday.
The 87-year-old, who arrives by helicopter at 12:30 p.m. local time (1030 GMT), is also expected to talk about the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine during a series of bilateral meetings.
As well as Zelensky, Biden and Modi, Francis will sit down with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva.
He will also meet privately with Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Türkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Vatican said.
Francis appeals regularly for peace but Vatican efforts to find a diplomatic solution in Ukraine have yet to bear fruit.
The leaders of the G7, which brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, are meeting Thursday and Friday in the luxurious seaside resort of Borgo Egnazia in southern Italy.


Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers

Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers
Updated 22 min 18 sec ago
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Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers

Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers
  • Most of the victims were from the southern state of Kerala
  • Indians account for more than 30 percent of Kuwait’s workforce

NEW DELHI: India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh arrived in Kuwait on Thursday to coordinate the repatriation of the remains of 40 Indians killed in a fire a day earlier.

The blaze broke out in a building housing foreign workers in the city of Mangaf on Wednesday morning.

Footage shared on social media showed flames engulfing the lower part of the six-story apartment block and thick black smoke billowing from the upper floors.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior said that 49 people were killed in the incident and more than 50 injured. At least 40 of the dead were Indian nationals, according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The ministry said that “on the directions” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Singh would “work toward early repatriation of mortal remains as well as for medical assistance to those injured.”

On his arrival on Thursday morning, he “immediately rushed to Jaber hospital to ascertain well-being of injured Indians in the fire incident yesterday. He met the six injured people admitted to hospital. All of them are safe,” the Indian embassy in Kuwait said on social media.

“(He) called on FM of Kuwait H.E. Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya in Kuwait. FM Yahya conveyed his condolences on the tragic incident. He assured full support including for medical care, early repatriation of mortal remains and investigation of the incident.”

Before leaving for Kuwait, Singh told local media that an Air Force aircraft would repatriate the remains of those killed and that DNA tests were underway as some of the bodies had been charred beyond recognition.

“As soon as the bodies are identified, the kin will be informed and our Air Force plane will bring the bodies back,” he said.

Most of the victims are believed to be from the southern Indian state of Kerala.

More than one million Indians are living and working in Kuwait, accounting for some 22 percent of the Gulf state’s population and 30 percent of its workforce.


Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues
Updated 13 June 2024
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Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues
  • Jakarta, Riyadh have been working with other Muslim countries to rally international support for Palestine
  • President-elect Subianto recently pledged to increase UNRWA funding, send more medical teams to Gaza

JAKARTA: Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s president-elect, sees Saudi Arabia as a main partner in resolving global issues, his office said on Thursday following a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Subianto, who is still serving as Indonesia’s defense minister before he takes the top office in October, visited Jeddah on Wednesday after attending an international aid conference on Gaza in Jordan. 

In his first meeting with the Saudi crown prince since winning the general vote in February, Subianto highlighted the importance of cooperation between Jakarta and Riyadh to support international peace efforts, including in Palestine.  

“For Indonesia, Saudi Arabia is a main partner in dialogue and in resolving regional and global issues,” Subianto said, as quoted in a Ministry of Defense statement. 

“I have witnessed (the crown prince’s) steadfastness in affirming Saudi leadership in the region, including to promote peace and stability for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. The issue of Palestine is very close to our hearts.” 

Subianto pledged to increase contributions to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees and send more medical teams to Gaza during the conference in Jordan, where he also called for a two-state solution for Palestine.

Indonesia has long been a staunch supporter of Palestine and one of the most vocal countries since the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza last October. It sees Palestinian statehood as mandated by its constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are part of a ministerial committee formed during the joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit last November, which has been working to rally international support for an immediate end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“I rely on your leadership to defend peace, justice and humanity for Palestine,” Subianto told the crown prince during their meeting.

The Indonesian president-elect has been urging Israel to obey the orders of the International Court of Justice and stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and has called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the besieged strip, where over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 80 percent of people have been displaced from their homes.