Syrian refugee puts medical skills to use in Ukraine

In 2013, Dr. Tirej Brimo left Syria amid the country’s brutal conflict. In 2017, he graduated as a doctor in London. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 May 2022

Syrian refugee puts medical skills to use in Ukraine

  • UK-trained Dr. Tirej Brimo used hospital work leave to treat hundreds in Lviv
  • ‘War is like a nightmare you can’t wake up from while praying for a miracle that just doesn’t happen’

LONDON: A Syrian refugee who traveled to Britain almost a decade ago and trained as a doctor has provided volunteer medical treatment in Ukraine for war victims, The Independent reported on Wednesday.

In 2013, Dr. Tirej Brimo left Syria amid the country’s brutal conflict. He was in his final year of medical school. In 2017, he graduated as a doctor in London.

Five years later, Brimo, now an emergency doctor in Cambridge, put his skills to use in Ukraine.

In order to make the trip to the Ukraine-Poland border and the city of Lviv, Brimo used up seven weeks of his work leave.

“In Syria I ran away. I was a student and felt helpless. In Ukraine, I chose a different destiny. I chose to be there and stand up for what I believe in,” he said.

He helped launch a makeshift medical center in Lviv that treated hundreds of Ukrainian refugees as they fled eastward. 

Back in Cambridge after his trip, Brimo said: “At Lviv train station, the situation was horrid. Every day we got dozens of trains from eastern Ukraine — trains full of injured people, and trains full of refugees who just wanted to flee and leave everything behind.

“In my very first week, a paramedic and I saw 339 patients. It only took a few seconds into the consultation for these emotions to come out. They had been through a lot and they had seen a lot.

“Some of them lost their loved ones, some of them left everything behind, and some of them were so in shock that they were not aware of what was happening around them.”

The experience brought back painful memories for Brimo. “Sadly, the atrocities of war are similar. The horror in peoples’ faces, backpacks that have been filled in a rush, and children who have lost their spark, are some of the images that stay with me,” he said.

“War is like a nightmare you can’t wake up from while praying for a miracle that just doesn’t happen.

“As a doctor in the humanitarian world, our fight is different. We look after those wounded by all kinds of trauma, those who have been forgotten about, those who feel rejected by life and its atrocities.

“We hope that these few minutes of care will one day be remembered as a small light in our patients’ journey. Their journey to heal from all that happened.”

Brimo praised his fellow volunteers, saying: “In a clear message of resilience and rejection of war and its violence, we started our day with a smile and we ended our day with a prayer. A prayer that we hope one day will be heard.”


Newly appointed UK education minister resigns to try and force PM Johnson out

Updated 11 sec ago

Newly appointed UK education minister resigns to try and force PM Johnson out

  • Michelle Donelan: Is is the only way to force the hand of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to quit
LONDON: British education minister Michelle Donelan resigned from government on Thursday less than 48 hours after she was appointed, saying it was the only way to force the hand of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to quit.
“I see no way that you can continue in post, but without a formal mechanism to remove you it seems that the only way that this is... possible is for those of us who remain in Cabinet to force your hand,” Donelan wrote in a resignation letter, saying she had “pleaded” with Johnson on Wednesday to resign.
“You have put us in an impossible situation... as someone who values integrity above all else, I have no choice.”

Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict

Updated 21 min 31 sec ago

Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict

  • The G20 foreign ministers’ meeting runs until Friday in host country Indonesia
  • Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be up close with the most vocal opponents of the Ukraine invasion

NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on the Indonesian island of Bali on Thursday preparing for a G20 gathering that will be his first face-to-face meeting with the fiercest critics of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The G20 foreign ministers’ meeting runs until Friday in host country Indonesia, which has this year grappled with the tough balancing act of running a global summit buffeted by geopolitical pressures and a global food crisis blamed on the Ukraine war.
There was tight security on Thursday as foreign diplomats descended on the tropical island for a meeting where the Russia-Ukraine conflict will be front and center.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said her country and like-minded nations would use the G20 meeting to highlight the impact of the war.
“We will be making very clear collectively our views about Russia’s position and Russia’s behavior,” she said.
Thursday’s welcome dinner will be the first time President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving foreign minister Lavrov will be up close with the most vocal opponents of the Ukraine invasion, which Moscow has called a “special military operation.”
Lavrov planned to meet some G20 counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have ruled out separate meetings with Lavrov.
The Group of 20 includes Western countries that have accused Moscow of war crimes in Ukraine and imposed sanctions, but also countries like China, Indonesia, India and South Africa that have been more muted in their response.
Some US and European officials have stressed the gathering would not be “business as a usual,” with a spokesperson for the German foreign minister saying G7 countries would coordinate their response to Lavrov.
In 2014, the G7 excluded Russia from the G8 over its annexation of Crimea.
Top officials from Britain, Canada and the United States walked out on Russian representatives during a G20 finance meeting in Washington in April.
Despite early talk of boycotting subsequent G20 meetings, some analysts say Western nations may have decided it would be counterproductive to cede the floor to Russia.
A senior US State Department official said on Thursday it was important to maintain a focus on what Indonesia had set out for its G20 presidency and “not let there be any disruptions or interruptions to that.”
Discussion of energy and food security are on the agenda in the two-day meeting, with Russia accused of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi discussed with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the need to protect regional stability and solve global issues related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“The solidity of the voices of developing nations are needed to stop the war, and to reintegrate food exports of Ukraine and Russia into the global supply chain,” Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Trying to leverage Indonesia’s neutrality, President Joko Widodo undertook an ambitious peace-brokering mission last week, visiting Kyiv and Moscow to meet his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts.

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Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s

Updated 07 July 2022

Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s

  • Australia had previously recommended a fourth COVID-19 shot only to people over 65 as well as to vulnerable groups
SYDNEY: Australia will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over 30, health authorities said Thursday, as hospitals bulge with patients in a winter wave of infections.
The government said it is recommending a fourth jab for over 50s — but also offering it to everyone over 30 despite benefits to the younger age group being unclear.
It followed a recommendation by the top immunization advisory body, which said it recognized younger people might want a winter booster dose, even though its impact for them “is uncertain but likely to be limited.”
Australia had previously recommended a fourth COVID-19 shot only to people over 65 as well as to vulnerable groups, including those with weakened immune systems.
As new, more infectious omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 race through the population, the number of Australian hospital patients with COVID-19 has jumped by more than 1,000 in a month to about 3,900, with 140 people now in intensive care.
“This is placing real pressure on our health and hospital systems,” Health Minister Mark Butler told a news conference as he announced the decision.
More than 95 percent of people over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated in Australia, where few people now wear a mask or take measures to socially distance.
As restrictions are gradually dismantled in a country that previously shut its international borders for nearly 20 months to exclude the virus, Australia this week dropped all vaccine certificate requirements for foreign visitors.

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules

Updated 07 July 2022

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules

  • Hong Kong has banned more than 100 flights this year
  • Previously, airlines would be banned for five days if they brought in more than five people infected with the coronavirus

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has suspended a rule that banned individual flights for bringing in passengers infected with the COVID-19 virus, as it caused “unnecessary trouble” and inconvenience to residents of the global financial hub, the government said on Thursday.
The city has banned more than 100 flights this year. The bans were a major frustration for businesses and residents used to easy and efficient travel from the former British colony. Its removal paves the way for many residents to return home, with scores stranded overseas due to the flight bans. “The social cost caused by the ‘circuit breaker mechanism’ is quite large, and it also brings unnecessary trouble to these international students and their families,” the government said in a statement.
Previously, airlines would be banned for five days if they brought in more than five people infected with the coronavirus. Earlier this year flights were banned for up to two weeks, making it difficult for airlines to operate.
All arrivals are still required to quarantine for at least one week in a hotel.
The government said it was looking to “improve” quarantine arrangements, “to facilitate the movement of people necessary for social and economic recovery.”
Measures such as the flight bans and mandatory hotel quarantine have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, said business executives who are hoping the city’s new leader, John Lee, will scrap the quarantine rules.
Lee needs to reboot the city, eight business leaders said, because Hong Kong’s border has effectively been sealed since 2020 and international arrivals are subject to stringent quarantine and testing protocols.


Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

Updated 07 July 2022

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

  • Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years

KUALA LUMPUR: Two drug traffickers were hanged in Singapore on Thursday, bringing the number of executions this year in the city-state to four despite growing calls to abolish its death penalty.
Activists said the prison department handed the belongings and death certificates for Malaysian national Kalwant Singh and Singaporean Norasharee Gous to their families after their execution Thursday morning.
Amnesty International said Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years, going against a global trend toward abolishing the death penalty.
“Singapore has once again executed people convicted of drug-related offenses in violation of international law, callously disregarding public outcry,” said Emerlynne Gill, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for research.
“The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime,” Gill said in a statement.
Kalwant, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, was the second Malaysian to be executed in less than three months. In late April, the hanging of another Malaysian sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.
Kalwant filed a last-minute appeal on the eve of his execution on grounds that he was a mere courier and that he had cooperated with police, but it was rejected by Singapore’s top court, activists said.
Critics say that Singapore’s death penalty has mostly snared low-level mules and done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates. But Singapore’s government defends it as necessary to protect its citizens.
“We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward ending this shameful and inhuman punishment,” Amnesty said.
Four others drug traffickers, including two more Malaysians, were scheduled to be hanged earlier but their executions were delayed pending legal challenges.