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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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Equal Distribution of Tools is the Ultimate Measure of Success in COVID Battle: WHO Director-General

Fight against COVID-19 depends on equal distribution among everyone

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World Health Organisation believes in equal distribution of resources in the fight against Novel Coronavirus. Wikimedia Commons

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the ultimate measure of success in fighting COVID-19 will not be how fast the tools are developed but how equally they can be distributed.

Speaking at the opening of the European Union (EU) COVID-19 online pledging conference Monday afternoon, the WHO chief said it will be unacceptable that some people in the world are protected while others remain exposed to the virus, Xinhua news agency reported.

WHO Director-General
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General believes that the tools shall be evenly distributed among people to fight the battle against the ongoing pandemic. Wikimedia Commons

“This is an opportunity not only to defeat a common enemy, but to forge a common future, a future in which all people enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health,” he noted.

Ten days ago, the WHO and the European Commission co-hosted the launch of a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, and Monday’s pledging event is a follow-up to this effort.

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Noting that the world is facing an unprecedented public health crisis, Tedros told the conference that “we are better positioned than any humans in history to confront it”.

The EU and its partners hosted an international pledging conference Monday afternoon, aiming to raise 7.5 billion euros in initial funding to kick-start global cooperation on coronavirus. (IANS)

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GoI Directs Indian Navy and Air Force to Bring Back Citizens Stuck in Gulf Countries

Navy, IAF get ready to evacuate stranded citizens from Gulf nations

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Indian Navy and Air Force were briefed to get their machines ready in order to bring back the Indian citizens from the Gulf countries. Pixabay

The government has directed the Indian Navy to get their big sailing engines ready to bring back citizens stuck in the Gulf countries due to the coronavirus induced lockdown.

India has imposed a travel ban both within the country and oversees till May 3 to fight the Covid-19 outbreak. The directions were issued last week during a meeting of three service chiefs and the Chief of Defence Staff with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Cabinet members.

Navy and Air Force were briefed to get their machines ready in order to bring back the Indian citizens from the Gulf countries.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had stated that the missions in the Gulf countries were liaisoning with local authorities to move Indian citizens to one place. The Indian missions there have opened the registration process for Indians who want to return.

The Indian Embassy in Qatar tweeted: “We are collecting data about the people requesting repatriation to India…. At this stage, the purpose is only to compile information. No decision or details yet on resumption of flights to India.”

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The government has directed the Indian Navy to get their big sailing engines ready to bring back citizens stuck in the Gulf countries due to the coronavirus induced lockdown. Wikimedia Commons

It further stated that as and when a decision is taken, the Embassy will make a clear announcement. “Please note that the form has to be filled separately for each individual, even if they are members of a family,” the Embassy tweeted.

INS Jalashwa, an amphibious assault ship, and two Magar class tank-landing ships are being readied for the evacuation purposes.

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These ships have started making arrangements as per the standard protocols laid out to deal with suspected Covid-19 cases like social distancing and sanitisation. The Indian Navy has started removing non-essential equipment in order to accommodate the evacuees. These three ships can bring back around 2,000 people while maintaining social distancing.

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The Indian Air Force has been evacuating citizens from countries affected by Covid-19 frequently since January, which includes flights to China, Japan, Iran, Kuwait and Italy. The force has stated that it has kept C-17 Globemaster and C-130s on standby which can be used whenever they are required.

Apart from them, Air India flights are also being kept on standby to pick up stranded Indians from the Gulf countries. Earlier, the Navy had carried out evacuation efforts in war-torn areas like Lebanon (2006) and Yemen (2015). Before that, evacuation was carried in 1990 during the first Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait when around 1.5 lakh people were evacuated. (IANS)

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Apple, Amazon To Reduce Streaming Quality in Europe To Decrease The Load in Broadband Networks

Internet usage is growing globally as more and more people opt to with from home amid the growing COVID-19 fears

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Apple
Additionally, Apple TV+ streaming quality was lowered as well, resulting in lower resolution streams and heavily-compressed content with visibly blocky artifacts. Pixabay

After Netflix and YouTube, Amazon as well as Apple have announced they will also reduce streaming quality in Europe in order to lessen the load on broadband networks.

“We support the need for careful management of telecom services to ensure they can handle the increased internet demand with so many people now at home full-time due to Covid-19. Prime Video is working with local authorities and internet service providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Guardian.

Amazon is currently reducing bitrate speeds in Europe, but is continuing to monitor the situation in the US and other countries around the world.

The streaming content providers have been asked to lower streaming quality in Europe, so the lower streaming rates do not affect US and other countries.

Additionally, Apple TV+ streaming quality was lowered as well, resulting in lower resolution streams and heavily-compressed content with visibly blocky artifacts.

Amazon
After Netflix and YouTube, Amazon as well as Apple have announced they will also reduce streaming quality in Europe in order to lessen the load on broadband networks. Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, the US has not called on streaming content providers to implement data reduction measures.

Internet usage is growing globally as more and more people opt to with from home amid the growing COVID-19 fears.

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Virgin Mobile has reportedly offered its customers 10GB of free data for use during their self-isolation. (IANS)