Syria donors gather as virus, economic chaos deepen crisis

The war has killed more than 400,000 people and sparked a refugee exodus. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2020

Syria donors gather as virus, economic chaos deepen crisis

BRUSSELS: Donors from around 60 countries and international agencies are meeting Tuesday to drum up financial aid for Syria as the coronavirus and economic chaos wreak even more havoc in a country shattered by a conflict now in its 10th year.
The war has killed more than 400,000 people and sparked a refugee exodus that has destabilized Syria’s neighbors and impacted Europe. Around 11 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and some 9 million don’t have enough to eat. More than half of the population have no jobs.
The coronavirus has sparked “a multitude of new and complex challenges including the restriction of movement and goods, the delay of certain field activities, the closure of borders and a critical insufficiency of protective equipment for staff and volunteers,” International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies President Francesco Rocca said Tuesday.
Perhaps wary of the state of coronavirus-ravaged national coffers, the European Union and the United Nations — joint chairs of the conference — underlined that they did not set a fixed pledging target.
The EU has reported that in 2019 donors contributed 8.9 billion euros ($10 billion) in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The United Nations currently requires about $3.8 billion for its Syria-related work.
It will be the eighth Syria pledging conference, and the fourth hosted by the EU, which estimates that it has donated around 20 billion euros ($23 billion) to Syria and the region over the years. Around 60 countries, key UN agencies and others involved in the conflict are expected to take part.
Beyond its economic impact, the coronavirus also forced the conference to be held online. The meetings are usually an important opportunity for officials to discuss thorny issues and resolve problems, but officials worry that the virtual format might reduce this years’ conference to a number-crunching exercise.


Yemen faces costly bill as evacuation nears end

Updated 03 July 2020

Yemen faces costly bill as evacuation nears end

  • The country’s flagship carrier, Yemenia, has returned all stranded Yemenis in Jordan

AL-MUKALLA: Repatriation of Yemenis stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic is almost complete, the government’s emergency committee said.

Yemen’s government faces a bill running into millions of dollars after evacuating thousands of people from India, Egypt, Jordan and other countries.

At a virtual meeting headed by Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, the committee thanked Yemeni embassies abroad and governments that helped with repatriation planning.

The committee said that the process is “coming to a close” since most of those stranded have been brought home.

In May, the internationally recognized government of Yemen began arranging repatriation flights for thousands of Yemenis stranded abroad because of global travel bans.

A senior government official with knowledge of the process told Arab News on Thursday that the country’s flagship carrier, Yemenia, has returned all stranded Yemenis in Jordan, and is now repatriating those still stranded people in Egypt and India.

“All of the stranded Yemenis in Djibouti and Saudi Arabia were brought back home by sea and land. More than 3,400 Yemenis out of 7,000 have been evacuated from Egypt,” the government official said.

Yemenia has arranged direct flights to Indian cities with large numbers of stranded Yemenis, he added.

People seeking repatriation have been asked to supply a negative PCR test before returning to Yemen. Those who test positive for the virus are banned from boarding and must isolate themselves for 14 days before booking a flight.

“There are 211 people in Egypt who could not fly back home because they tested positive for the virus,” the official said.

Stranded Yemenis in India say they were disappointed when Yemenia rejected their tickets after they tested positive for the virus.

A Yemeni woman who has been in India since February told Arab News that her whole family was forced to stay put after she tested positive.

“I was happy when I saw my name and my family’s among the evacuees. But I was surprised when the result of the test showed that I alone tested positive,” she said.

Yemenia will continue flights to India and other destinations after the repatriation process ends, the government official said.

The Yemeni government grounded all flights into and out of airports under its control in May to prevent the virus from spreading in the war-torn country.

Yemen recorded its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in the southern port city of Sheher. The total number of infections in government-controlled areas is 1,190, including 318 fatalities and 504 recoveries, the Aden-based supreme national emergency committee said on Wednesday.

Yemen’s cash-strapped government has paid millions of dollars for aircraft fuel, empty seats and virus tests for stranded people, the government official said.

“We compensated Yemenia with $1.15 million for flying to five Indian cities to bring back stranded Yemenis,” the official said. On Tuesday, three flights touched down at Aden and Seiyun airports with 530 stranded nationals aboard.