UN refugee agency says record 117 mln people forcibly displaced in 2023

UN refugee agency says record 117 mln people forcibly displaced in 2023
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Updated 13 June 2024
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UN refugee agency says record 117 mln people forcibly displaced in 2023

UN refugee agency says record 117 mln people forcibly displaced in 2023
  • UNHCR report stated that there had been a yearly increase in the number of people forcibly displaced over the last 12 years

GENEVA: The United Nations refugee agency on Thursday said the number of people forcibly displaced stood at a record 117.3 million as of the end of last year, warning that this figure could rise further without major global political changes.

“These are refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, people being forced away by conflict, by persecution, by different and increasingly complex forms of violence,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Conflict remains a very, very deep driver of displacement.” In its report on global trends in forced displacement, UNHCR said that there had been a yearly increase in the number of people forcibly displaced over the last 12 years.

UNHCR estimates that forced displacement has continued to increase in the first four months of 2024, and that the number of those displaced is likely to have exceeded 120 million by the end of April. “Unless there is a shift in international geopolitics, unfortunately, I actually see that figure continuing to go up,” Grandi said, referring to the risk of new conflicts.

The conflicts that have driven displacement include the war in Sudan, which Grandi described as “one of the most catastrophic ones” despite garnering less attention that other crises.

More that 9 million people have been internally displaced and another 2 million have fled to neighboring countries including Chad, Egypt and South Sudan, Grandi said. “People are arriving in the hundreds every day,” he said, referring to the influx of people seeking safety in Chad. In Gaza, Israel’s bombardment and ground campaign have caused around 1.7 million people – nearly 80 percent of the Palestinian enclave’s population – to become internally displaced, many of them multiple times.

Grandi warned that the possible crossings of Gazans into Egypt from the southern border town of Rafah to escape Israel’s military offensive would be catastrophic. “Another refugee crisis outside Gaza would be catastrophic on all levels, including because we have no guarantee that the people will be able to return to Gaza one day,” Grandi said.


France’s Macron praises Biden’s ‘courage’ and ‘sense of duty’

France’s Macron praises Biden’s ‘courage’ and ‘sense of duty’
Updated 7 sec ago
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France’s Macron praises Biden’s ‘courage’ and ‘sense of duty’

France’s Macron praises Biden’s ‘courage’ and ‘sense of duty’
PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday praised US counterpart Joe Biden’s “courage” and “sense of duty,” and called for the “spirit of partnership” between the two countries to continue beyond the next presidential election.
Biden, 81, announced on Sunday that he was dropping out of the US presidential race following intense pressure to step aside after a dismal debate performance last month. He has since endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as candidate.
“I appreciate the courage, the spirit of responsibility and the sense of duty that led you to this decision,” wrote Macron in a letter to Biden, extracts of which were made public by the Elysee Palace.
“At a time when we have just celebrated the 80th anniversary of D-Day together, I hope that this spirit of partnership between the two sides of the Atlantic will continue to drive the historic relations between our two countries,” Macron said.
In early June, Biden traveled to France on a state visit and attended commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that changed the course of World War II.
At that time Macron emphasized unity with the United States under Biden and expressed gratitude for his counterpart’s approach to Europe.
“I thank you, Mr.President, for being the president of the world’s number one power but doing it with the loyalty of a partner who likes and respects the Europeans,” he said in June.

Harris makes first appearance since launching Democratic presidential campaign

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024.
US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024.
Updated 22 July 2024
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Harris makes first appearance since launching Democratic presidential campaign

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to speak from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024.
  • Harris has moved swiftly to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination, after Biden announced on Sunday he was stepping aside
  • Virtually all of the prominent Democrats who had been seen as potential challengers to Harris have lined up behind her

WASHINGTON: US Vice President Kamala Harris made her first public appearance on Monday since entering the presidential race after President Joe Biden, 81, abruptly abandoned his reelection bid and endorsed her as his successor.
“Joe Biden’s legacy over the last three years is unmatched in modern history,” Harris said, before delivering remarks at a White House event to honor college athletes.
Harris has moved swiftly to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination, after Biden announced on Sunday he was stepping aside, bowing to pressure from fellow Democrats.
Virtually all of the prominent Democrats who had been seen as potential challengers to Harris have lined up behind her, including Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
Campaign officials and allies have already made hundreds of calls on her behalf, urging delegates to next month’s Democratic Party convention to join in nominating her for president in the Nov. 5 election against Republican Donald Trump.
Biden’s departure was the latest shock to a White House race that included the near-assassination of former President Trump by a gunman during a campaign stop and the nomination of Trump’s fellow hard-liner, US Senator J.D. Vance, as his running mate.
“My intention is to earn and win this nomination,” Harris said in a statement on Sunday. “I will do everything in my power to unite the Democratic Party — and unite our nation — to defeat Donald Trump.”
Harris, who is Black and Asian American, would fashion an entirely new dynamic with Trump, 78, offering a vivid generational and cultural contrast.
The Trump campaign has been preparing for her possible rise for weeks, sources told Reuters. It sent out a detailed critique of her record on immigration and other issues on Monday, accusing her of being liberal than Biden.
The Trump campaign accused Harris of favoring abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and decriminalizing border crossings, backing the so-called Green New Deal, supporting the administration’s electric vehicle mandates and encouraging “defund the police” efforts.
Some of those were positions Harris adopted as an unsuccessful presidential candidate in the 2020 election when she was running on a more liberal agenda than Biden but were not ones that the administration assumed, particularly with regard to border security and law enforcement issues.
Biden, the oldest person ever to have occupied the Oval Office, said he would remain in the presidency until his term ends on Jan. 20, 2025, while endorsing Harris to run in his place.
Biden’s shaky June 27 debate performance against Trump led the president’s fellow Democrats to urge him to end his run, but senior Republicans have demanded he resign from office, arguing that if he is not fit to campaign, he is not fit to govern.
Harris spent Sunday working the phones, dressed in a Howard University sweatshirt and eating pizza with anchovies as she spoke with Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, a potential vice presidential running mate, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, and Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Steven Horsford, according to sources.
Biden’s withdrawal leaves less than four months to wage a campaign.
Trump, whose false claims that his 2020 loss to Biden was the result of fraud inspired the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol, on Monday questioned Democrats’ right to change candidates.
“They stole the race from Biden after he won it in the primaries,” Trump said on his Truth Social site.
Despite the early show of support for Harris, talk of an open convention when Democrats gather in Chicago on Aug. 19-22 was not totally silenced.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former President Barack Obama did not announce endorsements, although both praised Biden.
With Democrats wading into uncharted territory, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said the party would soon announce the next steps in its nomination process.
Abortion rights leader
Biden won the party’s nomination in 2020, picked Harris to be his vice president, and went on to beat Trump. She is a former California attorney general and a former US senator.
Harris is expected to stick largely to Biden’s foreign policy playbook on such issues as China, Iran and Ukraine, but could strike a tougher tone with Israel over the Gaza war if she tops the Democratic ticket and wins the November election.
She has been outspoken on abortion rights, an issue that resonates with younger voters and more liberal Democrats.
Proponents argue she would energize those voters, consolidate Black support and bring sharp debating skills to prosecute the political case against the former president.
But some Democrats were concerned about a Harris candidacy, in part because of the weight of a long history of racial and gender discrimination in the United States, which has not elected a woman president in its nearly 250-year history.
Polling shows that Harris performs no better statistically than Biden had done against Trump.
In a head-to-head match-up, Harris and Trump were tied with 44 percent support each in a July 15-16 Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted immediately after the July 13 assassination attempt on Trump.
Trump led Biden 43 percent to 41 percent in that same poll, though the 2 percentage point difference was not meaningful considering the poll’s 3-point margin of error.
Biden’s campaign had $95 million on hand at the end of June, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission. Trump’s campaign ended the month with $128 million. Campaign finance law experts disagree on how easily that money could be shifted to a Harris-led campaign.
Harris’ campaign had raised $49.6 million in less than 24 hours after Biden’s exit, a campaign spokesperson said on Monday.
More than 44,000 Black women and allies, including Representatives Maxine Waters, Jasmine Crockett and Joyce Beatty, joined a three-hour call on Sunday evening in support of Harris’s bid, raising more than $1.5 million for her presidential campaign, organizers told Reuters.
Biden has not been seen in public since testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. He was isolating at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and tentatively plans to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday if he has recovered.


Bangladesh continues curfew as students await official notice on government job reforms

Bangladesh continues curfew as students await official notice on government job reforms
Updated 22 July 2024
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Bangladesh continues curfew as students await official notice on government job reforms

Bangladesh continues curfew as students await official notice on government job reforms
  • Bangladesh internet connection has been cut off since Thursday night
  • Main student group says not all of their demands have been met 

DHAKA: Bangladesh remains under curfew and a widespread communications blackout on Monday, a day after the Supreme Court scaled back a controversial job-quota system following deadly clashes that have killed more than 100 people over the past week. 

University students have been demonstrating since the beginning of this month to demand a reformation of the quota system that reserved 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war. 

The peaceful protests turned violent last week, with clashes between student protesters and security forces killing 174 people and injuring thousands, according to a count by Bengali daily Prothom Alo, which reported over a dozen deaths on Sunday alone. 

Bangladesh was still under curfew for a third day on Monday, with military personnel patrolling the capital and other areas, while internet connection remained suspended across the country since it was disrupted from Thursday night. 

“Everything is in order today across the country, except a few separate incidents in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Narsingdi,” Biplab Barua, special assistant to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, told Arab News. 

“We hope that in the next 48 hours, the situation will take a better look, and the country will go for normal operations. We are expecting to restore the broadband Internet services tonight (Monday). As soon as the situation takes a normal look, the length of curfew hours will be eased.” 

On Sunday, the Supreme Court ordered for the quota reserved for relatives of veterans to be cut to 5 percent and for 93 percent of jobs to be allocated on merit, while the remaining 2 percent will be reserved for members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities. 

Bangladesh’s top court was ruling on an appeal. The government had abolished the quotas following student protests in 2018 but they were reinstated by the High Court in June, setting off a fresh round of demonstrations. 

“Our students are not responsible for the anarchy and atrocities on the streets. It’s the opposition parties … which hijacked the movement from the students,” Barua said. 

“Students’ demands have been fulfilled by the court, and the government will issue a circular by Tuesday regarding the quota system in the government job.” 

Students Against Discrimination, the main protest organizing group, said on Monday that some of their demands are still unmet, including the reopening of universities as well as investigations into the deadly crackdown. 

Student protesters are also waiting for the government to issue an official notification on the Supreme Court decision. 

“Since the curfew is underway, we are not on the streets at the moment. It will endanger the lives of our students,” Sarjis Alam, a protest coordinator with Students Against Discrimination, told Arab News.  

“At the moment, we are waiting to see the government circular on the quota system … We demanded reformation of quota systems in all grades of government jobs … It’s very important to us,” he said. “(After) seeing the government’s circular, we can comment whether our demands were addressed or not.” 


Scores killed in clashes between Somali forces and Al-Shabab

Scores killed in clashes between Somali forces and Al-Shabab
Updated 22 July 2024
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Scores killed in clashes between Somali forces and Al-Shabab

Scores killed in clashes between Somali forces and Al-Shabab
  • Al-Shabab militants tried to overrun three army bases, government forces repulsed the attacks and detonated four car bombs
  • Videos posted by Jubbaland officials showed at least 35 bodies in a mix of military fatigues near the village of Buulo-Xaaji

MOGADISHU: Dozens of fighters were killed in clashes on Monday in the southern tip of Somalia when Al-Shabab militants tried to overrun three army bases, officials and the insurgent group said.
A local security official said government forces repulsed the attacks and safely detonated four car bombs around 80 km (50 miles) southwest of the port city of Kismayo in Jubbaland state.
Videos posted by Jubbaland officials on social media showed at least 35 bodies in a mix of military fatigues near the village of Buulo-Xaaji.
“We thank the federal and Jubbaland forces who killed over 80 Al-Shabab fighters and took their weapons,” the government said in a statement on the state-owned Somalia National News Agency (SONNA).
The government and Al-Shabab often provide wildly differing accounts of the casualties on each side.
Farah Hussein, a military official, said five soldiers were killed.
“We got the information that Al-Shabab was coming, we deserted the three bases and then encircled their fighters, killing dozens of them. I counted 30 dead Al-Shabab and I could see even more bodies lying ahead of me,” Hussein told Reuters.
Al-Shabab said on an affiliated radio station that it had stormed the bases and killed dozens of soldiers.
The area near the Kenyan border, in the traditional heartland of Al-Shabab’s territory, was captured by government forces three months ago. The Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab has been fighting to impose a strict form of Islamic law throughout the country since 2007.


UK planned to spend 10 billion pounds on Rwanda asylum scheme, minister says

A general view of a welcome sign next to the entrance gate at Hope Hostel, which was prepared to host migrants from UK.
A general view of a welcome sign next to the entrance gate at Hope Hostel, which was prepared to host migrants from UK.
Updated 22 July 2024
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UK planned to spend 10 billion pounds on Rwanda asylum scheme, minister says

A general view of a welcome sign next to the entrance gate at Hope Hostel, which was prepared to host migrants from UK.
  • Cooper said costs include money for chartering flights that never took off, paying for work of government officials and £290 million in payment to Rwanda

LONDON: Britain’s previous government had planned to spend 10 billion pounds ($12.9 billion) on a now-scrapped plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda and it has already cost taxpayers 700 million pounds, new Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said on Monday.
Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s new Labour government scrapped the controversial plan to fly thousands of asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda in its first major policy announcement after winning a commanding election victory earlier this month.
Cooper said the costs include money for chartering flights that never took off, paying for the work of government officials and 290 million pounds in payment to the Rwanda government.
“It is the most shocking waste of taxpayers’ money that I have ever seen,” she told parliament.
The previous Conservative government first announced the plan in 2022 to send migrants who arrived in Britain without permission to the East African nation, saying it would put an end to asylum seekers arriving on small boats.
But legal challenges have meant no one has been sent to Rwanda except for four individuals who went under a voluntary scheme.
Cooper also said tens of thousands of asylum seekers left in limbo as they were threatened with deportation to Rwanda will now have their asylum claims processed.
She said the government would also reverse a provision in the Illegal Migration Act that has barred anyone arriving illegally since March last year from being granted asylum.
Instead, the government promised to process their claims, end the costly use of hotels to accommodate asylum seekers and clear a backlog of claims.
The shift in policy would save taxpayers an estimated 7 billion pounds over the next 10 years, Cooper said.
“We have inherited asylum Hotel California: people arrive in the asylum system and they never leave,” she added.