‘She thought she would die’: Rohingya refugees reach Indonesia after weeks at sea

Villagers look at a boat used by Rohingya refugees in their weeks-long journey across the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh, in Pidie, Aceh, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 December 2022
Follow

‘She thought she would die’: Rohingya refugees reach Indonesia after weeks at sea

  • At least 174 people adrift at sea rescued by fishermen
  • Survivor says 20 people died on journey and were thrown overboard

JAKARTA: More than 200 rescued Rohingya refugees were receiving emergency health assistance in Indonesia, a UN agency said on Tuesday, after they were saved by fishermen when calls on the regional countries to assist them fell on deaf ears for weeks.

The International Organization for Migration has confirmed that at least 174 Rohingya on a rickety wooden boat reached the coastal village of Muara Tiga in Pidie district of northern Aceh province on Monday.

The group of 36 men, 31 women and 107 children arrived about a day after 57 Rohingya refugees landed in the province’s Aceh Besar district.

“The group is in very poor health condition, with many suffering severe dehydration and malnutrition,” the International Organization for Migration said in a written response to Arab News.

“IOM’s medical team is currently conducting basic health assessments.”

Eros Shidqy Putra, a member of Indonesia's National Refugee Task Force, told Arab News that the refugees would be placed under the care of the local government for the time being.

“After that, we will move them to a province which is already housing refugees,” he said. “Aceh is not a province that shelters refugees.”

At least five boats carrying hundreds of refugees had left the coast of Cox’s Bazar, the largest Rohingya settlement in Bangladesh, in late November, in an attempt to cross the Andaman Sea to another host country.

One boat carrying 154 refugees was rescued by a Vietnamese offshore company and handed over to the Myanmar Navy, while a vessel carrying 104 people was rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy on Dec. 18.

The UN Refugee Agency previously said it had received unconfirmed reports that a boat carrying 180 people had sunk.

International organizations and activists have urged countries in the region for weeks to rescue the refugees stranded at sea, but despite multiple appeals for help, no official assistance was dispatched.

Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, the brother of Hatamonesa, a 27-year-old woman who was with her five-year-old daughter onboard the boat that arrived in Indonesia on Monday, spoke to his sister on Tuesday after more than a month with no communication.

“We feel like we got a new world today,” Khan said. “We could see their faces again. It’s really a moment of joy for all of us.”

During the call, Khan learned that his niece had received treatment for dehydration because she had drunk salt water during the journey. They did not eat for 13 days.

According to Hatamonesa, 20 people had died on the boat and were thrown overboard.

“She thought that she would die in the voyage at sea,” Khan said.

“She hoped that if she could leave to Malaysia, there would be a better future for her daughters and for her.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 following a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military that the UN said amounted to genocide.

For the last five years, refugees have lived in squalid and overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar facing increasing uncertainty. The situation has prompted some to take risky journeys by sea in hopes of finding a better life.
 


Sanchez says Israel is a ‘friend’ of Spain

Updated 4 sec ago
Follow

Sanchez says Israel is a ‘friend’ of Spain

  • “I reaffirmed that Spain considers the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” Sanchez added

MADRID: Israel is “a friend of Spain,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday, a day after Israel recalled its envoy to Madrid over “outrageous remarks” he made regarding the country’s military campaign in Gaza.
The Socialist premier, one of the most critical voices within the European Union regarding Israel, at the same time stood by his position regarding Israel’s campaign, which has sparked tension between Madrid and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in recent days.
In a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, Sanchez said he had “reiterated that Israel is a partner and friend of Spain” in a telephone conversation with Israeli former defense minister and current war cabinet member, Benny Gantz.
“Once again, I condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7,” he said, before adding “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
“But I reaffirmed that Spain considers the death of civilians in Gaza unbearable and that Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” Sanchez added.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Thursday he was recalling the country’s envoy to Spain for consultations in Jerusalem “because of the outrageous remarks by the Spanish prime minister, who again repeated baseless claims.”
Speaking to Spanish public television on Thursday, Sanchez said he had “serious doubts” that Israel is complying with international humanitarian law in its military campaign in Gaza given the “images we are seeing and the growing number of people dying, especially boys and girls.”
Israel has also recalled its ambassadors from Turkiye and South Africa following remarks by those countries’ leaders over the war in Gaza.
Hamas broke through Gaza’s militarised border with Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and seizing around 240 Israeli and foreign hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel has vowed to “crush” Hamas in response and unleashed a withering military campaign that Gaza’s Hamas government says has killed more than 15,000 people in the coastal territory.
 

 


Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

Police stand guard in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 December 2023
Follow

Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

  • The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October

WASHINGTON: A protester outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta was in critical condition Friday after setting themself on fire, in what police said was likely an “extreme” political statement.
“A Palestinian flag was reported at the location and was part of the protest,” said Darin Schierbaum, police chief of the southern US city.
He said the incident was “likely an extreme act of political protest.”
A security guard was also injured after trying to stop the protester, according to emergency first responders.
“Both individuals sustained burns,” Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith told journalists.
He did not specify the age or gender of the protester.
“The security guard noticed that the individual was attempting to set themselves afire” shortly after the protester arrived outside the consulate building around noon (1700 GMT), Smith said.
The guard “immediately attempted but failed to stop the individual.”
The guard was burned on his wrist and leg, Smith said, while the protester was in critical condition with “full thickness” burns to their body. Both were taken to the hospital, he added.
“We actually have dedicated patrols that are occurring at this location and other Jewish and Muslim communities in the city,” Schierbaum added.
The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October.
Earlier this week a US man was charged with attempted murder over the shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Vermont, and a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in Illinois in October.
 

 


Philippines builds new coast guard station on island in South China Sea

Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

Philippines builds new coast guard station on island in South China Sea

THITU ISLAND: The Philippines inaugurated a new coast guard monitoring base Friday on an island occupied by Filipino forces in the disputed South China Sea and plans to expand joint patrols with the US and Australia to counter China’s “pure bullying” in the strategic waterway, a Philippine security official said.
High-seas faceoffs between Chinese and Philippine ships have intensified this year in the contested waters, fueling fears of a larger conflict that could involve the US. The US has repeatedly warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.
China has accused the US of meddling in an Asian dispute and sowing discord in the region.
National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano and other Philippine officials flew to Thitu Island on an air force plane on Friday and led a ceremony to open the newly constructed, two-story center that will have radar, ship-tracking and other monitoring equipment to monitor China’s actions in the hotly disputed waters and other problems, including sea accidents.
“It’s no longer gray zone. It’s pure bullying,” Ano told reporters after the seaside ceremony, describing the actions of Chinese ships as openly flouting international law.
Dwarfed by China’s military might, the Philippines decided this year to allow an expansion of the US military presence in its local camps under a 2014 defense pact.
It also recently launched joint sea and air patrols with the United States and Australia in a new deterrence strategy that puts the two allied powers on a collision course with Beijing.
Ano said the separate joint patrols involving the US and Australia would continue and could expand to include other nations like Japan once a security agreement being negotiated by Tokyo and Manila was concluded.
“We’re open to like-minded countries to join as observers or participants,” Ano said.


How does climate change affect farming and food security?

Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

How does climate change affect farming and food security?

  • As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving extreme weather from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves
  • Such events can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work, threatening everyone’s access to food

LONDON: As impacts from prolonged droughts to extreme heat worsen, climate change is threatening the world’s ability to produce enough nutritious food and ensure everyone has access to it. 

At COP28 in Dubai, more than 130 country leaders on Friday called for global and national food systems to be rethought to address climate change — the first such official recognition at a UN climate summit of growing worries about food security and planet-heating emissions from agriculture. 

Here’s how global food systems and climate change affect each other, and what might be done about rising risks: 

How is climate change threatening food security? 

As fossil fuel emissions heat the planet, they are driving more extreme weather — from heavy rains and droughts to heatwaves — as well as gradual sea level rise. All can affect crops, ruin farmland and make it harder for farmers to work. 

A warming climate also is bringing crop diseases and pests into new locations or making infestations more severe, ruining more harvests and reducing yields. 

Such problems, combined with other pressures on food systems — from growing conflict to crop export restrictions by food-producing countries and speculation in markets — mean food is becoming less affordable and more people are going hungry. 

The UN World Food Programme estimates that 333 million people face “acute” food insecurity in 2023 in the 78 countries where it works — a huge boost from about 200 million prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Alex Flores walks on a dry area of Lake Titicaca, Latin America's largest freshwater basin, as it is edging towards record low levels, on Cojata Island, Bolivia on October 26, 2023. (REUTERS/File)

Crop failures are not a new phenomenon, with surpluses in some regions long making up for shortfalls in others, but scientists fear stronger climate impacts could drive simultaneous failures across major global “breadbaskets,” resulting in a swift rise in global hunger. 

What is being done to address these threats? 

Around the world, many farmers are adapting to climate extremes in a variety of ways, from digging irrigation ponds to trap floodwater and store it for dry times, to adopting new climate-smart seeds and bringing back hardy traditional crops. 

But some challenges — such as more frequent and extreme heatwaves that can make it difficult for farmers to work outside — are harder to counter. 

Money to help small-scale farmers — who supply about a third of the world’s food — adapt to climate risks is also falling dramatically short. 

In 2021, they received only about $2 billion, or 0.3 percent of total international climate finance from public and private sources, according to Amsterdam-based think-tank Climate Focus. 

With little outside help available, many such farmers — who have contributed little to the emissions heating up the planet — are paying the costs of climate adaptation themselves. 

The Climate Focus survey of 13 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America found nearly 440 million small-scale farmer households now spend about $368 billion annually on adaptation costs, or about $838 each per year. 

Analysts say efforts to shore up global food security also need to reach well beyond farms, to try to rein in speculators in food markets, discourage export clampdowns and revamp increasingly overwhelmed humanitarian aid systems. 

Can we find ways to grow more food to make up for the losses? 

Expanding the amount of land being farmed — or boosting the use of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and developing new crop varieties — have long been accepted ways to grow more food. 

But agricultural land expansion often comes at the expense of forests and other natural ecosystems that are critical to conserve because their vegetation absorbs and stores climate-heating carbon dioxide emissions in order to grow, helping to curb climate change. 

For example nearly 20 percent of the vast Amazon rainforest has now been lost, largely to soybean farming and cattle ranching. 

Scientists fear additional deforestation could over time turn the forest into a dry savanna, imperiling rainfall for agriculture across South America — and sabotaging the world’s climate and biodiversity protection goals. 

Efforts to intensify the amount of food grown on a set land area have shown some success but often require large amounts of expensive fossil fuel-based fertilizers. 

In recent years, however, more environmentally friendly farming methods are gaining new adherents, from the United States to India. 

But food analysts say the best way to increase global supplies is not to grow more but to reduce the huge amount of food wasted each year. 

While the world produces enough food for everyone, about a third of it is lost or wasted along the supply chain from field to fork, according to the United Nations, which says the average person wastes 74 kg (163 lb) of food each year. 


US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House

Updated 01 December 2023
Follow

US to press for extending Gaza truce: White House

  • “We continue to work with Israel, Egypt, and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said
  • President Joe Biden and his national security team “will continue to remain deeply engaged as we look to free the remaining hostages"

WASHINGTON: The United States will continue to press for extending a truce in Gaza, the White House said Friday, as intense fighting erupted once again in the Israel-Hamas war.
“We continue to work with Israel, Egypt, and Qatar on efforts to extend the humanitarian pause in Gaza,” a White House National Security Council spokesperson said.
Under the truce which lasted a week, Hamas militants released 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. More humanitarian aid was also delivered into war-devastated Gaza.
But the prospects of reestablishing a truce were being stymied because “Hamas has so far failed to produce a list of hostages that would enable a further extension of the pause,” the NSC spokesperson said.
President Joe Biden and his national security team “will continue to remain deeply engaged as we look to free the remaining hostages,” the NSC spokesperson said.
On Thursday, Washington’s top diplomat, Antony Blinken, also called for a truce extension while meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials during a visit to the region.
The fighting began on October 7 when Hamas militants broke through Gaza’s militarized border into Israel.
During the unprecedented attack, Hamas killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped around 240, according to Israeli authorities.
In response, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and unleashed an air and ground military campaign in Gaza that the Hamas authorities who run Gaza say has killed almost 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.