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Gulf, West grapple with Syrian refugee crisis

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By Kanika Rangray

Now-a-days on a daily basis, there comes a piece of news which reports the refugee crisis going on in the Gulf countries. Someone or the other talks about how the European Union (EU) is gradually, opening its arms towards the refugees of war torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen. On the contrary, Gulf countries surrounding these war-torn nations refuse to help the people who have somehow been lucky enough (if that term can be used) to escape the ongoing bloodbath.

Syrian refugee camp, Campbell

The refugee crisis gained a brighter spotlight globally especially after the image of a 3-year-old drowned boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a beach went viral—triggering the anger and anguish of millions around the world. Those millions maybe a stranger to the boy, but the picture conveyed the monstrous consequences burdened upon the civilians making them refugees.

The beginning of the refugee crisis

The current refugee crisis has its roots in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The West, specifically the US, has a significant role to be accountable for current situation in war-torn Syria. During the early stages of the Syrian civil war, US authorities began the aid supply to various Syrian rebel groups. This happened after reports in 2013 revealed the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government to stifle rebel fighters.

Bashar al-Assad’s government denied these accusations, but the US continued to provide support to rebel groups; and many analysts prophesised that such actions will destroy the prospects of peace in Syria and prolong the war. This wreaked more havoc.

The continuous airstrikes carried out by the US, now being planned by Australia and France as well, on Islamic State of Iran & Libya (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) has brought down a catastrophe upon the devastated civilians of the victim nations. By July-end of 2015, in Syria alone the death count was an estimated 300,000. As many as 4 million Syrians were forced to leave their homeland as a consequence of the continued war. So, even though the refugee crisis cannot be altogether left on the shoulders of the West, the role it played can also not be ignored.

As a consequence, the ISIS and ISIL retaliated with terror. The war has now been going on for so long that it is now a blur of who started it first— like answering the question “Who came first? Was it the phoenix or the flame?”

Why have the Gulf countries not stepped forward?

The ongoing crisis has left approximately 12.8 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, and more than 50 per cent of the country’s population is currently displaced. According to the latest data provided by Amnesty International, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have refused any resettlement places to Syrian refugees.

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Michael Stephens, a Middle-East research fellow at Qatar’s Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, was quoted in a BBC article. He said: “Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are extremely concerned about the potential for Assad loyalists to strike back.”

He said the Gulf states were worried about security threats from Syrian refugees, fearing that they maybe loyalists of the Assad government.

 The helping hand forwarded by the West

EU has already taken steps to assist political asylum to refugees. Gradually, the US and other Western countries are now allowing the refugees to their lands for resettlement.

Some are of the belief that the Western countries are obligated to do so. They claimed that they are the main catalysts behind all the destruction which has led to the forced relocation of millions. Is there an ulterior motive?

With providing help and refuge to not just few but to millions, it doesn’t only grab attention, it’s something more! It will also bring allies on the global political front due to the so-called humanitarian act. Such allies “earned by heart-touching actions” could provide you a strong and high pedestal on the global political arena and also a considerable amount of influence on the same front.

Maybe the Gulf countries have finally noticed this as suddenly out of nowhere funds begin to pour in huge amounts. According to New York Times (NYT), Kuwait contributed more than $US304 million to the United Nation’s Syria response fund this year, making it the world’s third-largest donor. Saudi Arabia donated $US 18.4 million and the UAE provided more than $US 540 million in relief and humanitarian assistance.

Irrespective of this global-political playground, maybe it is genuine help in reaction to the atrocities, the need of the hour is to be more productive. Instant measures are required for the well-being of these destitute and homeless people, who are nothing more than victims of those greedy for power.

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)

 

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Kurdish Red Crescent: IS Attacks Kill at Least 50 in East Syria

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Syrian Democratic Forces
A female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces stands near a military tank in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria. voa

Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.

A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs, the source said.

The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir el-Zour and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said earlier that at least 18 people had been killed.

The dead included refugees fleeing the fighting in Deir el-Zour as well as members of the Kurdish Asayish security force, the observatory reported. Syrian state television said dozens had been killed in the attack.

The jihadist group has lost swaths of its territory in both Syria and Iraq this year and is falling back on the towns and villages of the Euphrates valley southeast of Deir el-Zour.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is pressing it from the north, and a rival offensive by the Syrian army, supported by allies including Iran and Russia, is attacking it from the west.

On Wednesday, Islamic State said it had carried out an attack in the capital, Damascus, where three suicide bombers detonated their devices near a police headquarters, killing two people and wounding six.

Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in eastern Syria is the worst in the country this year and that airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.(VOA)

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Kerala Catholic Priest Tom Uzhunnallil Abducted by ISIS Rescued from Yemen: Sushma Swaraj

The priest's release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government

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Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil
Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil. Sushma Swaraj Twitter handle

Thiruvananthapuram | New Delhi, Sep 13, 2017: Kerala Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil, abducted by terrorists in Aden in March last year, has been rescued from captivity from an undisclosed location in Yemen.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the release of the Catholic priest, who was abducted in March last year.

“I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she said.

The priest’s release was achieved through the intervention of the Oman government.

According to reports reaching Kerala, after his release the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman.

He has left Oman on a chartered flight — either for New Delhi or for the Vatican, reports said.

The media in Oman confirmed the news of the release of the priest and posted a picture of him — standing in a room with the picture of the Oman king in the background.

He will be flown to Kerala later in the day.

Expressing happiness at the news, the priest’s brother Mathew Uzhunnallil said their prayers have been finally answered.

A spokesperson of the church Fr C. Jimmy told the media that the news has been received with a great sense of happiness.

In March 2016, militants barged into a care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Yemen’s Aden and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the charity organisation, among whom one was from India.

After the shooting, the militants took away the Catholic priest. Since then, other than a few videos released from time to time, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

Uzhunnalil’s ancestral home in Ramapuram in Kottayam district is presently shut as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat. (IANS)