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Syrian crisis: Israelis quibble as Europe, Australia pledge to take in refugees

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Jerusalem: Opposing views surfaced when Israeli politicians on Sunday opined on how Israel should grapple with the Syrian refugees’ crisis.

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, said while Israel has helped Syria in the last four years amid the Syrian civil war, it could not take in Syrian refugees into its territory, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Israel is not indifferent to the human tragedy of the refugees from Syria and Africa. We have already cared for approximately 1,000 wounded people from fighting in Syria and helped them rehabilitate their lives. But Israel is a small country that lacks demographic and geographic depth, therefore, we must control our borders,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Israel began fence building on Sunday on its eastern border with Jordan, down from the town of Eilat up to northern Israel and the Golan Heights. Netanyahu’s statements refute the views opined by head of Israeli opposition bloc in the parliament, Isaac Herzog.

He called on Israeli government to open doors on Syrian refugees over the weekend. Herzog, the chief of the Labour party, accused the government of forgetting the lessons of Jewish history.

Cyprus rescues 114 refugees

In a separate incident, authorities concerned rescued 114 Syrian refugees which included 30 children and five infants from a fishing boat that drifted off the Cyprus shores. The officials quoted on Sunday.

An official statement revealed that an overnight rescue operation was managed after a cargo ship alerted the Cypriot Search and Rescue Centre on Saturday night that it had received a signal from the drifting fishing boat seeking help, Xinhua reported.

It continued to add that aircraft and vessels of the Cypriot navy and police took part in the operation, which was completed early Sunday morning. The Syrians were brought to the Southeastern port city of Larnaca and were received by medical teams and social welfare workers.

“All necessary measures are being taken for the welfare of the refugees in line with European Union directives,” said Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos, who headed the operation.

Britain to take 15,000 refugees, plans strike

Britain will accept 15,000 refugees from Syria and is considering military action against IS militants within syrian_refugee_crisis

one month, media reported on Sunday. In a plan to tackle the humanitarian crisis, Britain is considering launching a military and intelligence offensive against human traffickers, reported Xinhua news agency.

The country is not joining the system, but “we will show that we are pulling our weight”, a government official said.

On September 4, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the country will provide resettlement to “thousands” more refugees in response to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

Over 3,500 arrive in Munich

More than 3,500 Syrian refugees have reached Munich from Hungary via Austria, and as many as 3,000 are expected to arrive on Sunday.

German police authorities said three special trains with refugees are expected to reach on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

“We prepare ourselves for 5,000 to 7,000 refugees,” said Christoph Hillenbrand, head of district government of Upper Bavaria.

Australia to accept more refugees: PM Abbott

Tony_Abbott_-_2010On Sunday, Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott announced that he is prepared to accept more refugees from war-torn Syria, but within the current humanitarian intake.

“No! We are proposing to take more people from this region as part of our very substantial commitment. Our focus will be on families and women and children, especially of persecuted minorities, who have sought refuge in camps neighbouring Syria and Iraq,” he was quoted as saying.

In the last financial year, Australia settled more than 4,400 people from Syria and Iraq, Abbott said, adding that the overall refugee intake will increase to 18,750 by 2018.

Next Story

Cutoff of Internet Service at Rakhine, Chin States Creates Difficulty for Civilians who Cannot Access Donors Online to Make Aid Requests

Rakhine residents also report that they cannot conduct bank transactions or connect with relatives and friends at home and aboard

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FILE - Residents carry the body of an ethnic Rakhine woman for burial in Rathedaung township, after fresh fighting in Rakhine state between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine force, Feb. 21, 2019. VOA

The cutoff of internet service to conflict-affected areas of western Myanmar’s war-torn Rakhine and Chin states has created a difficult situation for civilians who cannot access donors online to make aid requests, though the state government said it will step in to fill the void and help them, locals and officials said Monday.

Citing ongoing fighting between national forces and the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar government on June 20 ordered four telecom operators to temporarily stop providing internet services to eight townships in Rakhine state and one township in neighboring Chin state where battles have taken place.

“Because we can’t use the internet, nobody knows about the difficulties we are facing here,” said Naing Oo Maung, a resident of Poeshipyin village in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun township. “Because we can’t post our information online, we can only ask civil society organizations for help by phone.”

“We cannot read or listen to the news, so we don’t know the current situation,” he added. “We have no more medicine in the [displaced persons] camps now. Children are sick, but we can’t ask for help online.” Rakhine residents also report that they cannot conduct bank transactions or connect with relatives and friends at home and aboard.

Domestic and international NGOs and other organizations say they their ability to provide aid has been limited by the internet shutdown as well because they cannot receive information to help some of the roughly 34,000 people who have been displaced by clashes between the Myanmar military and the AA, whose ethnic Rakhine soldiers seek greater autonomy in Rakhine state.

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Arakan Army soldiers pass through a wooded area in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in an undated photo. RFA

Zaw Zaw Tun, a relief volunteer in the region and secretary of the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, said residents displaced by fighting usually send aid organizations photos and videos so the groups know what supplies are needed.

“When we hear that people in a particular location have a problem or a need, we usually ask locals for photos and video files,” he said. “We can see the real situation in that place and can make a decision [to help or not]. If we cannot verify this, then we may receive fake reports. Because we can’t use the internet, it is difficult to believe what we have heard [without seeing it].”

Khin Maung Latt, an upper house lawmaker who represents Rakhine state’s No. 2 constituency in Myanmar’s national parliament, said political representatives can post online aid requests on behalf of their constituents.

“If we post information on social media such as Facebook, about 1,000 or 10,000 people will know [about it] in a few minutes, and they can help the IDPs [internally displaced persons] quickly,” he said. “We can let the donors know the truth about the situation of the IDPs by posting their pictures online. Now, they are suffering because internet service is cut off.”

Rakhine state government spokesman Win Myint suggested that displaced civilians call local officials for help. “If IDPs need help, they can contact the state government office via township administrators or directly,” he said. “It would be easier for them to contact us through township administrators, [who] will inform us in a timely manner, and we will work on helping the IDPs as soon as possible.”

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FILE – A local resident holds up bullet casings in a village in Rathedaung township, Rakhine state, after fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine force, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

A ‘fundamental human right’

Rights groups say internet service is vital for people who rely on it to stay informed about developments in the armed conflict.

“Internet services are not supposed to be cut under any conditions,” said Maung Saungkha, spokesman for Athan, a domestic organization that advocates freedom of expression in Myanmar. “As a consequence of the shutdown, the citizens cannot be informed about deaths and injuries in the conflict area. There will be heavier losses.”

“Access to internet service is fundamental human right, so we implore the government to restore the internet service,” he added. Min Lwin Oo, a legal advisor at the Norway-based Asian Human Rights Commission, agreed.

“The internet connection shutdown blocks the regular flow of information,” he said. “It delays human rights observers from acquiring relevant information on rights violations in the conflict areas. It also hinders the completion of real-time action.”

Hostilities between Myanmar forces and the AA intensified in late 2018 and again in January, when Arakan soldiers carried out deadly attacks on police outposts.

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Rakhine State, Myanmar. VOA

Myo Nyunt, spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, suggested last week that the rebel forces could be using the network to spy on the Myanmar military’s operations and to transfer data involving military intelligence.

On Saturday, the United States became the latest party to call for an immediate end of the blockage of internet-based communications for roughly 1 million people in the two states. “Internet service should be restored without delay,” said a press statement issued by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.

ALSO READ: Rakhine: Ban on Donations to Help War Refugees

“Resumption of service would help facilitate transparency in and accountability for what the government claims are law enforcement actions aimed at preventing further outbreaks of violence in the affected areas, and would limit further damage to Burma’s international reputation,” it said, referring to Myanmar’s former name.

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, along with the rights groups Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch also issued warnings last week about the cutoff of internet-based communications and called for the restoration of service in the region. (RFA)