Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN

Displaced children from Western Tigray gather at meal time to receive plates of food in a school where they are sheltered in Tigray’s capital Mekele. (File/AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2022

Eritrean refugees in Tigray ‘desperate’: UN

  • "UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray," spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva
  • "Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water," said Cheshirkov

GENEVA: Eritrean refugees living in camps in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are in a “desperate situation,” the United Nations warned Friday as they struggle to access food and clean water.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply alarmed at the deteriorating conditions faced by Eritrean refugees in the camps in Tigray,” spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.
In recent days, UNHCR staff managed to reach the Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps for the first time in three weeks, following air strikes in and near the two sites.
“Our team found refugees scared and struggling to get enough to eat, lacking medicine and with little or no access to clean water,” said Cheshirkov.
The situation was leading to a growing number of preventable deaths, he warned, pointing to accounts from refugees that at least 20 people had died in the past six weeks due to the declining conditions.
He said the clinics in the camps had effectively been closed since early January when they ran out of medicine.
“The lack of fuel means that clean water can neither be pumped nor trucked to the camps, with refugees resorting to collecting water from streams that are rapidly drying up, leading to a severe risk of water-borne diseases,” he said.
The spokesman said extreme hunger was an increasing concern given the inability to move supplies into the region, while refugees reported having to sell their clothes and belongings for food.
“Basic services for Eritrean refugees in the two camps have been severely compromised for many months,” said Cheshirkov.
“The desperate situation in these camps is a stark example of the impact of the lack of access and supplies affecting millions of displaced persons and other civilians throughout the region.
“If food, medicine, fuel and other supplies cannot be immediately brought in, and if we continue to be unable to relocate refugees out of harm’s way to where we can provide them with life-saving assistance, more refugees will die.”
Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, of attacks on federal army camps.
UNHCR called for a cease-fire and guarantee of safe passage that would help them voluntarily relocate the more than 25,000 refugees remaining in the camps to a new site in Dabat in the neighboring Amhara region.
“Refugees must not be held hostage to this conflict,” Cheshirkov said.


Russian soldier sentenced to life at Kyiv war crimes trial

Updated 32 sec ago

Russian soldier sentenced to life at Kyiv war crimes trial

  • Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin pleads guilty, testifies that he shot the man after being ordered to do so
KYIV: A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison on Monday for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion.
Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.
He pleaded guilty and testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.
During the trial, Shishimarin asked the widow of the victim to forgive him.
Shishimarin’s defense attorney Victor Ovsyanikov argued that his client, a member of a Russian tank unit who was eventually captured, had been unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they first invaded Ukraine.

Security guard killed in Qatar Embassy attack in Paris

A security guard was killed at the Qatar Embassy in Paris, the city’s prosecution office confirmed. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 May 2022

Security guard killed in Qatar Embassy attack in Paris

  • The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened a criminal investigation for manslaughter

PARIS: A person has been killed at the Qatar Embassy in Paris and one person has been arrested as part of the investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday, confirming earlier media reports.
A source close to the investigation said the person killed in the early hours of Monday was a security guard and that the death did not appear to have been a terrorism act.
“I can confirm that an investigation was opened today on the count of murder,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that it was not clear yet if a weapon had been used.
“The circumstances of the death of the guard are yet to be determined precisely.”
Newspaper Le Parisien said earlier on Monday that one person had been killed within the embassy, citing police sources. 


Deluges of rain flood parts of India, Bangladesh

Updated 23 May 2022

Deluges of rain flood parts of India, Bangladesh

  • Both heavily populated nations in South Asia are prone to frequent floods and are considered major victims of climate change

DHAKA: Pre-monsoon deluges have flooded parts of India and Bangladesh, killing at least 24 people in recent weeks and sending 90,000 people into shelters, authorities said Monday.
Both heavily populated nations in South Asia are prone to frequent floods and are considered major victims of climate change.
The deaths have been reported since April 6 in India’s northeastern region with Assam state continuing to experience floods. Those who have left their homes due to the floods are staying in 269 camps set up by authorities.
The Indian army and air force have had to evacuate thousands of people in the last two weeks. Helicopters have been dropping essential items to people stuck in vulnerable spots in worst-hit Dima Hasao district. The Indian Space Research Organization is using satellites to assess the damage.
Flash flooding has been occurring in the Bangladeshi districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj, which border India’s northeast.
At least three rivers were flowing above the danger level Monday, said Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, executive engineer of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center in Dhaka, the nation’s capital.
Bangladeshi media said hundreds of villages have been marooned while crop fields have been damaged greatly. People also lack drinking water as wells have been under floodwaters or water supply system has been damaged.
No casualties have been reported in Bangladesh so far.
Jamuna TV station said while flood waters were receding from some areas, many new areas were affected by new flooding on Monday.
Authorities said hundreds of villages remained cut off from electricity supply while road infrastructure has been damaged extensively.


Philippines’ Marcos Jr says discussed defense agreements, climate funding with US envoy

Updated 3 min 54 sec ago

Philippines’ Marcos Jr says discussed defense agreements, climate funding with US envoy

  • Possible extension of a pact that allows US troops to conduct exchanges on Philippine soil

MANILA: Philippines president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Monday he discussed the extension of a joint military agreement with an envoy of defense ally the United States, after meetings with senior diplomats of four countries.

Ambassadors of Japan, India and South Korea and the US Chargé d’Affaires made courtesy calls on Monday to Marcos, the son and namesake of the notorious late dictator, following his landslide election victory this month.

Marcos, 64, who take office late in June, said he discussed with the US envoy the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and how it would be redefined amid a changing regional landscape, plus funding for climate change mitigation.

“We would welcome any assistance for the economy that we can get from the United States,” Marcos told a news conference. “Trade, not aid.”

The VFA, which provides a legal framework by which US troops can operate on Philippine soil, was a bone of contention for incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, who repeatedly threatened to scrap it.

“Security concerns of course has always been a big part of our relationship with the United States,” Marcos said.

India’s envoy to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran during a courtesy visit to president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM Media Office)

Analysts expect Marcos to pursue close China ties, which could complicate relations with former colonial power Washington, his military, and the Philippine public, with which the United States is popular.

He last week spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and said he wanted bilateral ties to “shift to a higher gear.”

Marcos said he discussed aid projects with Japan’s ambassador, microfinance with India and with South Korea, information technology, regional security and the possible reactivation of a disused nuclear plant.

South Korea ambassador Kim Inchul during a courtesy visit to president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM Media Office)

The plant was intended by his late father to be part of his economic modernization legacy, but was mothballed after his overthrow in a 1986 “people power” uprising, two years after completion.

Marcos said he asked Arsenio Balisacan, the national anti-trust agency chief, to be economic planning minister, a role he held from 2012 to 2016 under an administration that was a rival to the influential Marcos family.


7 die in Philippine ferry fire; over 120 rescued from water

Updated 23 May 2022

7 die in Philippine ferry fire; over 120 rescued from water

  • The coast guard said everyone on the ferry had been accounted for and 24 people who were injured were brought to a hospital

MANILA: A ferry carrying more than 130 people caught fire in the northeastern Philippines on Monday, killing seven passengers and forcing many survivors to jump into the sea where they were rescued by other vessels.
The fire rapidly spread from the engine room to the upper passenger deck of the M/V Mercraft 2 while it was approaching a seaport in Real, town administrator Filomena Portales said. It had been en route to the town in Quezon province from Polillo Island.
Many of the 134 passengers and crew jumped into the water and were plucked from the sea by motorboats and cargo vessels, coast guard officials said.
“Fishing boats and other vessels were able to approach quickly and everybody helped, so the rescue was fast,” Portales told The Associated Press by telephone, adding many of those rescued were in shock and had to be treated for burns and bruises and given dry clothes and shoes.
Pictures released by the coast guard showed fire engulfing the ferry and dark smoke billowing from it. Injured survivors on stretchers were taken to waiting ambulance vans while a rescuer tried to revive an unconscious survivor by pressing on his chest.
The coast guard said everyone on the ferry had been accounted for and 24 people who were injured were brought to a hospital.
Portales said seven passengers died from burns and drowning and one possibly had a heart attack while floating in the water.
Investigators were looking into the fire and other ferries operated by the owner of Mercraft 2 would likely be suspended from operating while undergoing safety inspections, officials said. The wreckage was towed to shore in Real.
Sea accidents are common in the Philippine archipelago because of frequent storms, badly maintained boats, overcrowding and weak enforcement of safety regulations. In December 1987, the ferry Dona Paz sank after colliding with a fuel tanker, killing more than 4,300 people in the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster.