AceNewsServices (Editors Choice) – October 01 – The first the crew of the Antarctica knew of the disaster was a radio request to help a search and rescue operation.
There were bodies in the water 200 miles off the coast of Malta.
Two other ships – the Verdi and the Japan – were already at the scene, picking people out of the sea.
The Antarctica was swiftly diverted and took command until the arrival of coastguard and naval ships.
The timesheet of the rescue makes for chilling reading, a catastrophe recounted in staccato phrases.
The Verdi picks up four people in the water, the log recalls, but one of them is dead. An empty liferaft is spotted. And then a body in the water.
A woman and two children are rescued by the Japan.
A few hours later, the crew of the Antarctica hear voices. Three people are retrieved. Over 24 hours, 11 people would be plucked alive out of the waves, a two-year-old girl among them, and taken to Malta, Crete and Italy.
One of the survivors was Hameed Barbakh. A resident of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. He would later describe to the Guardian the tragedy that so nearly cost him his life. In perhaps the most egregious episode yet of a deadly year on the Mediterranean, a fishing boat packed with hundreds of migrants had been rammed by another smuggling vessel when those on board refused to get on a smaller boat. As hundreds drowned, Barbakh survived by clinging to a life-jacket he found near the wreck.
His story meshed with those of other groups of people from Gaza whose relatives were caught in the grim incident.
Their stories illuminate two startling new details about the perilous Mediterranean odysseys which this year have claimed the lives of more migrants than ever before.
The first is that as well as countless Syrians, Afghans and Africans trying to make the perilous journey, a surprising number of refugees are from Gaza.
The second is that in order to escape, they must put their lives in the hands of a wealthy, influential and ruthless smuggling gang.
Rarely has the expression “devil and the deep blue sea” seemed more appropriate.
#AceWorldNews – SYRIA – June 03 – Waving photos of President Bashar Assad and dancing with flags, tens of thousands of Syrians pledged renewed allegiance to President Bashar Assad as they voted Tuesday in a presidential election that excluded a vast swath of the pre-war population and was decried by the opposition as a charade.
Some stamped their ballots with blood after pricking their fingers with pins supplied by the government in a symbolic act of allegiance and patriotism.
Others chose to vote in full sight of other voters and television cameras — rather than go behind a partition curtain for privacy.
Men and women wore lapel pins with Assad’s picture and said re-electing him would give the Syrian leader more legitimacy to find a solution to the devastating three-year conflict that activists say has killed more than 160,000 people, about a third of whom were civilians.
#AceWorldNews – TURKEY – April 27 – Turkish security forces on Sunday detained an American journalist and two Syrians as they tried to cross a river flowing from Syria into southern Turkey by raft, the army said.
The three were spotted on the Asi river near the border province of Hatay, the army said in a statement, without revealing their identities.
The journalist, said to be 60 years old, was taken to a police station for questioning and then flown to Istanbul for deportation, Hurriyet newspaper reported on its website.
Nothing was immediately known about the fate of the Syrians.
AFP – Hurriyet
#AceWorldNews – MOSCOW – April 23 (Interfax) – Moscow will not recognize the May 25 election in Ukraine, unless it is held on the basis of a nationwide, inclusive dialogue, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We will recognize something that would be based on the all-inclusive process,” he said in an interview with the Russia Today television channel, when asked whether Russia will consider the May 25 elections in Ukraine to be legitimate.
“To call an election without finding some common ground with the east and the south of Ukraine I think is very destructive for the country,” the minister said.
At the same time, initially it was expected that the country will not hold the presidential election before conducting its constitutional reform, and this understanding was reflected in the February 21 agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, the minister recalled.
Lavrov drew parallels with the situation around the Syrian settlement process. The United States and its Western allies insist that the Syrians hold presidential election after conducting constitutional reform, and this is stipulated in the Geneva communique on Syria, the minister said.
The same is written in the Ukraine agreement signed on February 21, Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Western countries will consider the May 25 elections in Ukraine legitimate without the prior constitutional reform, he said.
The same people who are saying that the presidential election in Syria will not be legitimate without a constitutional reform will recognize the legitimacy of the May 25 elections, Lavrov said.
The U.S. is trying to make Russia responsible for settling international crises, and not just the Ukrainian one, he said.
“The Iranian issue depends on Russia alone, Syria depends on Russia alone… Now Ukraine depends entirely on Russia. I would say it is an absolutely unrealistic approach and an attempt to hide your own responsibility,” said the Russian foreign minister.
#AceWorldNews says that Armed extremist grouping the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant /ISIS/ has massacred captured Palestinian fighters in the refugee camp Yarmouk, near Damascus, an official representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – Special Command (PFLP-SC), Anwar Raja reports.
He has not mentioned the exact number of victims.
“The terrorists did not try to hide their crime and openly announced the massacre,” – news agency SANA quotes the words of the representative today.
According to Raja, bandits from the ISIS and another radical group – Jabhat an-Nusra – who had infiltrated the camp, upset the process of normalization.
They attacked the positions of the united Palestinian self-defence forces and Syrian troops deployed around Yarmouk.
“This provocation was planned by the Saudi secret service in order to exert pressure on Damascus and hamper the conciliation agreements with militants seeking to stop the armed struggle,” he said. “We can no longer sit on the fence in the current situation,” said Raja.
#AceWorldNews says Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday issued a statement saying that it was surprised by some of Russia’s foreign partners presenting radical Islamists in Syria as the “moderate” opposition.
“The international public has recently been shocked by reports coming from the Syrian city of Raqqa, which has been under total Jihadists’ rule for nearly one year.
There, the so-called ‘fighters for the bright future of Syria’ from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have imposed a head tax – jizya – on all the remaining Christians.
According to the information posted on the website of this gang, all ‘unbelievers’ who refuse to convert to Islam will be forced to pay tax in gold,” the ministry’s statement said.
“Within the given context, Moscow is puzzled by attempts of some of our foreign partners, who like to reason on respecting human rights in all the corners of the world, to flirt with Islamist gangs in Syria, presenting some them as ‘moderate’ powers fighting the ‘regime’ of `Syrian President Bashar Assad ‘” the statement said.
#AceWorldNews says the United Nations Refugee Agency called on the international community Friday to make itself available to the 100,000 Syrian refugees who are desperate to find a new home outside their war-torn country.
There is an immediate need for 30,000 people but as the civil war surpasses the three year mark, “there will be increasing numbers of vulnerable Syrian refugees who will be in need of resettlement, relocation, and other forms of humanitarian assistance,” the UN said. Germany has offered to take in 11,500 Syrians,
With Canada (1,300), Sweden (1,200), Norway (1,000), and other countries also preparing to accept the refugees.
The United States, already the world’s top landing-place for refugees, has offered to take in an open-ended number of displaced Syrians.
#AceWorldNews says Reporting “modest progress” with the Syrian Government on speeding up visa issuance and increasing the number of relief distribution hubs, a top United Nations official said the other that with perhaps 250,000 Syrians cut off from aid in besieged communities across the war-torn country, greater efforts are needed to ensure real gains on the humanitarian front.
“I advised the Security Council that we have seen some modest progress in terms of administrative procedures that had been put in place over time,” said Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, as she spoke to reporters after briefing the 15-member body on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
This is her second closed-door meeting with the Council since it adopted, on 2 October, a Presidential Statement urging the Syrian Government to immediately allow humanitarian access to relieve the plight of civilians trapped by heavy fighting, including cross-line aid deliveries.
The statement, which called on all parties to the conflict to agree on humanitarian pauses in the fighting, with special attention to key delivery routes, also deplored the escalating violence in a conflict that has killed more than 100, 000 people and driven some 6.5 million others from their homes since opposition protesters first sought to oust the Government of President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.
On the implementation of the statement, Ms. Amos cited progress, for example, in the Government’s decision to grant some 50 visas on an individual basis.
Damascus has also given the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) permission to open three additional relief hubs, “but only two of these will actually be helpful to us, because the third being proposed – Al Sweida – will not allow us access into Western Dera’a, which is where the hard-to-reach communities are.”
She also noted that both the Government and the opposition had indicated who the interlocutors are for the UN to try to facilitate humanitarian access.
“However, I did remind the Council that on some of the more difficult areas – protection of civilians, de-militarization of schools and hospitals, access to besieged communities and also cross-line access to hard-to-reach areas – we have not seen any progress.
“I need the Council to continue to make it absolutely clear that targeting civilians is against international humanitarian law and that we need to do greater work to ensure that the recommendations in the Presidential Statement are achieved,” she declared.
Responding to questions, Ms. Amos said that an estimated 250,000 civilians are trapped in besieged communities, while perhaps some 2.5 million were in hard-to-reach areas – places that aid workers have been able to reach but not frequently enough to make any real headway against the overall needs.
Asked if a Council resolution – which carry legal obligations for UN Member States ¬– would improve the situation, Ms. Amos said: “My focus is on how what has already been agreed can be put into effect. Should the Council agree on a resolution, then we will operationalize that.”
Indeed, while the UN and its partners have made gains in reaching civilians across the strife-riven country, in the context of the scale of the crisis, “this is far too few to meet the needs of the people. Of course the issue is what is the best means to reach people in need? For me, the unity of the Security Council is the key here.”
Meanwhile, UN agencies continue pressing ahead with relief efforts, now rushing to fortify desperate civilians against the oncoming winter season.
Briefing the press in Geneva today, Marixie Mercado, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned: “The scale of the humanitarian response needed for the looming winter is unprecedented, as the number quadrupled as compared to the previous year.”
She explained that in December 2012, there were approximately 1.15 million children affected by the crisis inside Syria, with an additional 232,000 Syrian children living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
As the conflict approaches its fourth year, those numbers have skyrocketed to 4.3 million and 1.2 million, respectively. UNICEF has worked since early October to equip children as quickly as possible for the cold. Blankets, plastic sheeting, winter clothing and hygiene kits are being distributed, along with wintered tents and fuel to heat classrooms.
For its part, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has commenced an emergency airlift of urgently needed winter supplies to reinforce its stockpile in northern Iraq with relief items for up to 50,000 vulnerable Syrians. A UNHCR-chartered Boeing 777 landed at Erbil airport on Monday carrying 90 metric tons of relief items to help 4,400 families over the winter months, including plastic tarpaulins, thermal blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets.
“While UNHCR has adequate stocks inside Iraq to meet the immediate needs, we want to ensure that sufficient items are on-hand to address any developments,” said UNHCR’s Amman-based Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amin Awad. “The relief items we are airlifting will reinforce the UNHCR-led winterization regional response as temperatures are starting to drop across higher altitude areas in the Syria region.”
Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), told reporters that the agency dispatched enough food for over 3.4 million people inside Syria in November, mainly to internally displaced families in 13 governorates, and had reached eight more locations, which had been inaccessible in recent months.
However, she said WFP remains gravely concerned about the fate of many Syrians still trapped in conflict zones throughout the country, including around Damascus and in Al Hassakeh, where some areas have been without food assistance for six consecutive months.
WFP aims to reach 4 million people inside Syria every month, as well as to provide assistance for nearly 1.5 million refugees in neighbouring countries.
- Aid to besieged areas in Syria still blocked (blognovic.com)
- UN Envoy Welcomes Agreement on Humanitarian Corridor from Iraq to Syria (iraqinews.com)
- Syria: Senior UN officials strongly condemn attacks on health personnel, facilities (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Growing suffering of Syria’s besieged civilians (mkxzi.wordpress.com)
- Syria: Aid to Besieged Areas Being Blocked (hrw.org)
Jordan will receive urgently needed support to ensure essential public services keep running as Syrian refugee numbers continue to grow
Jordan will receive urgently needed support to keep essential public services running and prevent tensions between local people and growing numbers of Syrian refugees, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today.
The UK will provide £12 million over the next two years to ensure that local Jordanian municipal governments can meet the needs of both host communities and refugees who have fled the fighting in Syria.
Competition for jobs is increasing, houses built for refugees require electricity and water, and rubbish is piling up. British support will help to maintain road construction and maintenance, waste collection, street lighting, pest control and water supplies. It will focus on areas with high numbers of refugees, particularly in northern Jordan.
Justine Greening said:
The people of Jordan have been incredibly generous in opening their doors to Syrians in desperate need. But with around 250,000 refugees arriving in 2013 alone, the Syrian crisis is placing a huge strain on communities and services.
Some neighbourhoods now have twice as many people living there as before, so it makes sense to invest in schools, health and other basic services to help everyone who has been flung together through no fault of their own.
Our support is vital for refugees, the host communities and for Britain too, because a region able to absorb refugees in the short or medium term is resolutely in our interests.
More than 520,000 refugees have now fled to Jordan to escape the fighting in Syria, around half of them children. Although many are in camps like Za’atari, more than two-thirds are staying in towns and cities where they share space, resources and services with their Jordanian hosts.
The Government of Jordan estimates the financial impact of providing public services at about $250 million for 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 and municipalities have struggled to maintain services in the face of rapidly growing numbers of users.
The rising demand and lagging supply of housing has led to significant increases in rental costs, especially in northern towns, and renting suitable and affordable housing has become harder for Jordanians. Investors have been constructing new housing, which has resulted in the establishment of new neighbourhoods needing roads, street lighting and connections to electricity, water and sewage networks.
Rubbish is piling up in many urban centres. In cities like Irbid and Mafraq, waste has doubled by some accounts, leading many municipalities to overwork their waste collection fleets.
In addition, high unemployment has highlighted the need for municipalities to take on a more active role in promoting local economic development and creating job opportunities.
This new funding commitment is in addition to the £500 million that the UK has now committed in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the largest ever response from the UK to a single crisis. This is providing support including food, medical care and relief items for over a million people in Syria and the region.
Notes to editors
- The new funding comes from the Arab Partnership Economic Facility and will be channelled through the World Bank-managed Jordan Emergency Services and Social Resilience Programme.
- The funding commitment was announced by the International Development Secretary in Washington today, at a World Bank-run event which was also attended by the Jordanian Minister for International Co-operation, Dr. Ibrahim Saif.
- UNICEF: Syrian Child Refugees Face Exploitation (voanews.com)
- Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded on Jordanian border (telegraph.co.uk)
- Coventry University students to set up charity to help Syrian refugees (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Press release: UK boosts education for Syrian refugee children (gov.uk)
- Thinking Aloud: Syrian Refugees in Jordan (notwhatyoumightthink.wordpress.com)
- Syrian children face exploitation (worldbulletin.net)
- Parliament calls for humanitarian conference on Syrian refugee crisis (fidest.wordpress.com)