Bangladesh says Myanmar must build trust, safety for Rohingya repatriation

Bangladesh has been hosting 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled violence in Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 April 2023

Bangladesh says Myanmar must build trust, safety for Rohingya repatriation

  • Myanmar delegation visited Bangladesh in March for verification of Rohingya refugees
  • Dhaka should not pressure Rohingya as safe return still ‘not possible,’ HRW says

DHAKA: The government in Myanmar must build trust and ensure safety for Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner has said following calls to suspend the community’s potential return to their homeland.

Bangladesh has been hosting and providing humanitarian support to 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims, most of whom fled violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2017.

A leading human rights watchdog last week urged authorities in Bangladesh to halt plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, after a junta delegation visited Bangladeshi refugee camps in March to verify hundreds of potential returnees for a process ostensibly aimed at jumpstarting a stalled repatriation agreement.

“Repatriation must be dignified, voluntary and sustainable — this is the stand of Bangladesh,” Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mizanur Rahman told Arab News. 

“For this, the major part of responsibilities lies on the shoulders of Myanmar authorities…It’s the responsibility of the destination country to take their people in confidence and build an atmosphere of trust, safety, and dignity.”

Bangladesh is prepared for repatriation to begin, but “the question remains whether the Rohingya are ready for repatriation,” Rahman said, adding that the UN refugee agency will be involved to check their willingness if the process were to take place.

Human Rights Watch said voluntary, safe and dignified returns of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar “are not possible while the military junta is carrying out massacres around the country and apartheid in Rakhine State.”

In a statement, HRW said Rohingya refugees were “lied to, deceived, or otherwise coerced” by Bangladeshi authorities to meet with the Myanmar delegation last month.

“For future returns to be truly voluntary, the Bangladesh authorities need to allow Rohingya to live freely, without enforcing pressures pushing them to go back,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia director.

Bangladesh has been pressing for the repatriation of Rohingya for years as it has been hosting the refugees despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

The developing country spends an estimated $1.2 billion a year to support the Rohingya, as international aid for the community has been dropping since 2020. The UN World Food Programme cut food rations for the group earlier this year, as its pleas for donations had not been met.

Though the recent verification process appeared to signal a potential return for the Rohingya to Myanmar, the actual process may still be delayed further, said Dhaka-based migration expert Asif Munir.

The process has been “very faulty” so far, Munir said, adding that Myanmar may only be looking to “demonstrate to the international community that they are willing to take the Rohingya back.”

Munir told Arab News: “We have seen before that there was a date fixed and there was no repatriation because eventually, the people were not willing to go.  

“We already know that on the other side, there has not been any improvement in the overall situation regarding the recognition of their identity.

“It’s not a question of just physical movement. It’s more about the conditions and the support they get from both authorities and local communities. 

“If people do want to move, then Bangladesh must ensure that it doesn’t push them into something that will be detrimental to their rights.”

Taiwan cancels flights, shuts schools ahead of typhoon

Updated 5 min 49 sec ago

Taiwan cancels flights, shuts schools ahead of typhoon

  • Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November but last month’s Typhoon Haikui was the first to slam into it in four years

TAITUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan canceled flights and closed schools in parts of its southern region on Wednesday ahead of Typhoon Koinu’s expected landfall, the second major storm to make a direct hit on the island in a month.
Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November but last month’s Typhoon Haikui was the first to slam into it in four years – unleashing torrential rains, high winds and forcing nearly 8,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
Experts say climate change has made the paths of tropical storms harder to forecast while increasing their intensity, which leads to more rains and flash floods.
Ahead of Thursday’s expected typhoon, more than 100 international and domestic flights have been canceled, while ferry services to Taiwan’s outlying islands have also been halted.
More than 200 people were evacuated for fear of landslides in the south of the island, and waves lashing the coast could reach up to seven meters (22 feet) high, authorities said.
Fishing boats were crammed into a fishing harbor in Pingtung county on Wednesday to shelter ahead of the typhoon, while primary schools in the agricultural region of Taitung allowed children to go home early.
“It’s barely a month, and we have another typhoon,” 65-year-old Yang Pi-cheng lamented said, as she waited to pick up her grandchildren from Dawang Primary School.
A major highway along the coast has also been closed as a precaution.
Koinu – which has been charting a jagged course for Taiwan’s southern tip – is currently just 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the island, moving toward it at 10 kilometers per hour.
The typhoon has already brought heavy rains to the mountainous northeast regions of Yilan and New Taipei City.
“We forecast that its center will pass through the Hengchun Peninsula at the southern tip of Taiwan tomorrow morning,” said Lu Kuo-chen, head of Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration.
After making landfall in Taiwan, Typhoon Koinu is forecast to move toward the eastern coast of China’s Guangdong province, said the weather observatory in nearby Hong Kong.
The Chinese territory – which last month was skirted by another typhoon before being flooded by the heaviest rainfall in 140 years days later – will issue its lowest typhoon signal on Wednesday evening.

Putin’s Kyrgyzstan visit to be first abroad since ICC warrant

Updated 14 min 5 sec ago

Putin’s Kyrgyzstan visit to be first abroad since ICC warrant

  • The long-time leader has rarely left Russia since launching a full-scale military offensive against Ukraine in February 2022

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Kyrgyzstan next week, authorities in the Central Asian country said Wednesday, in his first trip abroad since the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him.
Putin has not left Russia since The Hague-based court issued the warrant in March over the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
“By the invitation of the president of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov on October 12 the president of the Russian Federation will pay an official visit to our country,” the Kyrgyz news agency Kabar reported, citing an official from the presidential office.
Putin is due to visit a Russian air base in the city of Kant, east of the capital Bishkek, for the 20th anniversary of its opening, Russian media reported.
The long-time leader has rarely left Russia since launching a full-scale military offensive against Ukraine in February 2022.
He last traveled abroad in December last year, when he visited both Kyrgyzstan and Moscow’s neighbor Belarus.
Kyrgyzstan has not ratified the Rome Statute, a treaty obliging members to adhere to the International Criminal Court’s decisions.
Since March, ICC members are expected to make the arrest if the Russian leader sets foot on their territory.
Putin did not attend the BRICS summit hosted by South Africa — a member of the ICC — in July.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in Armenia approved a key step toward joining the ICC, angering Moscow.

Taliban brands Pakistan expulsion threat to Afghan immigrants ‘unacceptable’

Updated 50 min 6 sec ago

Taliban brands Pakistan expulsion threat to Afghan immigrants ‘unacceptable’

  • About 1.73 million Afghan immigrants are living in Pakistan without any legal status
  • Interior minister alleges that Afghan nationals had carried out 14 out of 24 suicide bombings in Pakistan this year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s threat to forcibly expel illegal Afghan immigrants is “unacceptable,” a spokesman for the Taliban administration in Kabul said on Wednesday, adding that Afghans were not to blame for Pakistan’s security problems.
Estimating that there were 1.73 million Afghan immigrants living in Pakistan without any legal status, Pakistan’s caretaker government on Tuesday set a Nov.1 deadline for them to leave or face forcible expulsion.
“The behavior of Pakistan toward Afghan refugees is unacceptable,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban administration in Kabul, said in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
To help justify the crackdown, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti alleged that Afghan nationals had carried out 14 out of 24 suicide bombings in Pakistan this year.
The Taliban spokesman rejected that claim.
“The Pakistani side should reconsider its plan. Afghan refugees are not involved in Pakistan’s security problems. As long as they leave Pakistan voluntarily, that country should tolerate them,” Mujahid said.
Pakistan’s ultimatum to the immigrants, most of whom have been living in the country for years, came after a meeting of civil and military leaders to review the law and order situation following two suicide bombings on Friday that killed at least 57 people. Bugti said one of the suicide bombers was an Afghan national, and he also accused India’s intelligence agency of involvement.
Relations between the Taliban and the Pakistan government have deteriorated markedly, with border clashes temporarily closing the main trade route between the neighbors last month.
Islamabad alleges that the militants use Afghan soil to train fighters and plan attacks inside Pakistan. The Taliban denies those accusations, saying Pakistan’s security problems are home-grown.
A caretaker government was installed in August to guide the Pakistan through to elections expected sometime in the coming months, and the military has been able to exert more influence as a result of the uncertainty and instability in the country.

Netflix plans to raise prices after actors’ strike ends

Updated 11 sec ago

Netflix plans to raise prices after actors’ strike ends

  • WSJ reported that price increase will occur in ‘several markets globally’

LONDON: Netflix is planning to raise the price of its ad-free service after the ongoing Hollywood actors’ strike ends, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, sending the streaming company’s shares up more than 3 percent.
Netflix is discussing raising prices in several markets globally, but will likely begin with the United States and Canada, the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
It was not immediately clear how much Netflix will raise prices by or when exactly the new prices will take effect, according to the report.
Netflix declined to comment on the report.
Talks between the SAG-AFTRA actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, are ongoing, with their next meeting scheduled on Wednesday.
The writers’ union struck a tentative deal with the AMPTP last week after five months of failed negotiations.
Netflix cut prices of its subscription plans in some countries in February. In the same month, it laid out a plan to crack down on password sharing by subscribers that was rolled out in over 100 countries in May.

Pope Francis opens big Vatican meeting as battle lines are drawn on his reform project

Updated 04 October 2023

Pope Francis opens big Vatican meeting as battle lines are drawn on his reform project

  • Gathering is historic because Francis decided to let women and laypeople vote alongside bishops in any final document produced
  • Reform is a radical shift away from a hierarchy-focused Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis opened a big meeting on the future of the Catholic Church on Wednesday, with progressives hoping it will lead to more women in leadership roles and conservatives warning that church doctrine on everything from homosexuality to the hierarchy’s authority is at risk.
Francis presided over a solemn Mass in St. Peter’s Square to formally open the meeting, with hundreds of clergy from around the world celebrating on the altar before the rank-and-file Catholic laypeople whose presence and influence at this meeting marks a decisive shift for the Catholic Church.
Rarely in recent times has a Vatican gathering generated as much hope, hype and fear as this three-week, closed-door meeting, known as a synod. It won’t make any binding decisions and is only the first session of a two-year process. But it nevertheless has drawn an acute battle line in the church’s perennial left-right divide and marks a defining moment for Francis and his reform agenda.
Even before it started, the gathering was historic because Francis decided to let women and laypeople vote alongside bishops in any final document produced. While fewer than a quarter of the 365 voting members are non-bishops, the reform is a radical shift away from a hierarchy-focused Synod of Bishops and evidence of Francis’ belief that the church is more about its flock than its shepherds.
“It’s a watershed moment,” said JoAnn Lopez, an Indian-born lay minister who helped organize two years of consultations prior to the meeting at parishes where she has worked in Seattle and Toronto.
“This is the first time that women have a very qualitatively different voice at the table, and the opportunity to vote in decision-making is huge,” she said.
On the agenda are calls to take concrete steps to elevate more women to decision-making roles in the church, including as deacons, and for ordinary Catholic faithful to have more of a say in church governance.
Also under consideration are ways to better welcome of LGBTQ+ Catholics and others who have been marginalized by the church, and for new accountability measures to check how bishops exercise their authority to prevent abuses.
Women have long complained they are treated as second-class citizens in the church, barred from the priesthood and highest ranks of power yet responsible for the lion’s share of church work — teaching in Catholic schools, running Catholic hospitals and passing the faith down to next generations.
They have long demanded a greater say in church governance, at the very least with voting rights at the periodic synods at the Vatican but also the right to preach at Mass and be ordained as priests or deacons.
While they have secured some high-profile positions in the Vatican and local churches around the globe, the male hierarchy still runs the show.
Before the opening Mass got under way, advocates for women priests unfurled a giant purple banner reading “Ordain Women.”
Lopez, 34, and other women are particularly excited about the potential that the synod might in some way endorse allowing women to be ordained as deacons, a ministry that is currently limited to men.
For years supporters of female deacons have argued that women in the early church served as deacons and that restoring the ministry would both serve the church and recognize the gifts that women bring to it.
Francis has convened two study commissions to research the issue and was asked to consider it at a previous synod on the Amazon, but he has so far refused to make any change. He has similarly taken off the table debate on women priests.
Miriam Duignan, from the group Women’s Ordination Worldwide, said advocates want the synod to recognize that women were ministers in the early church “and they need to be restored to ministry.”
“The Catholic people around the world in every country have spoken and they have all mentioned women priests,” she said at a prayer vigil on the eve of the meeting. “They can see in their parishes, in their communities, that women are doing the work of priests. They are just not allowed to be recognized as priests.”
The potential that this synod process could lead to real change on previously taboo topics has given hope to many women and progressive Catholics and sparked alarm from conservatives who have warned it could lead to schism.
They have written books, held conferences and taken to social media claiming that Francis’ reforms are sowing confusion, undermining the true nature of the church and all it has taught over two millennia. Among the most vocal are conservatives in the US
On the eve of the meeting, one of the synod’s most outspoken critics, American Cardinal Raymond Burke, delivered a stinging rebuke of Francis’ vision of “synodality” as well as his overall reform project for the church.
“It’s unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has the aim of bringing forward an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke told a conference entitled “The Synodal Babel.”
He blasted even the term “synodal” as having no clearly defined meaning and said its underlying attempt to shift authority away from the hierarchy “risks the very identity of the church.”
In the audience was Cardinal Robert Sarah, who along with Burke and three other cardinals had formally challenged Francis to affirm church teaching on homosexuality and women’s ordination before the synod.
In an exchange of letters made public Monday, Francis didn’t bite and instead said the cardinals shouldn’t be afraid of questions that are posed by a changing world. Asked specifically about church blessings for same-sex unions, Francis suggested they could be allowed as long as such benedictions aren’t confused with sacramental marriage.