Hopes of sailing free of war and poverty dashed for Gazans as … – Arab News

GAZA: Months ago, Talal Al-Shaer bid his two sons safe travels as they set off from the Gaza Strip on a tortuous route that they prayed would bring them new lives in Europe, free of poverty and war.
But the boat taking them across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya sank soon after leaving. One son drowned, his body recovered. The other was lost.
Rather than regaling friends about their successful migration, Al-Shaer received condolences on Sunday.
“A whole generation is lost, suffering, blockade, scarce jobs, bad mental health. That is what pushes them to migrate,” he said ahead of the funeral for his son Mohammad, whose body was returned along with those of seven other Palestinians.
Three others, among them his son Maher, they remain missing.
The eight young Palestinian men who drowned off the coast of Tunisia nearly two months ago tried to sail to new lives in Europe.
Gaza’s 2.3 million people are no strangers to hardship, after decades of war with Israel, economic clampdowns aided by neighboring Egypt that starve the economy and splits between Palestinian factions. According to the World Bank, unemployment in Gaza runs at about 50 percent and more than half its population lives in poverty.
But among the thousands attending the migrants’ funerals, there was added outrage and despair at the October shipwreck.
While dangerous migrations to Europe have picked up pace in recent years from across the Middle East, Palestinians feel especially driven to hazard them — and vulnerable to smugglers.
“Human-trafficking gangs are behind these illegal migration trips and they exploit these youths, charging up to $10,000 per person,” Palestinian Foreign Ministry official Ahmad Al-Deek said. “These are death trips.”
He said the total number of Palestinian migrants was unknown. The young men who were buried on Sunday crossed Egypt before flying to Libya where they waited months to set sail. Deek said smugglers sometimes sank boats themselves if they felt threatened and deceived people about the risks.
Al-Shaer recalled sending off Mohammed with the words: “Go. May you find a better life – a dignified life.”
LONDON: The family of an Iranian man who died in police custody said an examination carried out after his body was exhumed found signs of severe torture.
Hamed Salahshoor, 23, was declared dead on Nov. 26, four days after he was detained by authorities for allegedly taking part in protests. His family was told he had suffered a heart attack. They said his body showed signs of severe head trauma and that he might have undergone surgery.
Salahshoor, who worked as a taxi driver, had reportedly received “good news” shortly before his death about a successful job application.
A source close to the family told BBC Persian: “A few hours before his arrest, Hamed received the good news that he had got a job at the Ministry of Oil.”
He called his mother to tell her but later that day his taxi was stopped by authorities between the cities of Izeh and Isfahan, and he was detained.
On Nov. 30, his father was forced to sign a document saying his son had died of a heart attack, Salahshoor’s cousins told the BBC. They added that security forces had threatened other members of the family and they were forbidden from holding a public funeral.
The cousins said that the funeral took place at night, 18 miles from Izeh, with only Salahshoor’s parents present. The family had the body exhumed the following day.
The source told the BBC: “His face was smashed. His nose, jaw and chin were broken. His torso, from his neck to his navel and over his kidneys, was stitched up.
“They buried Hamed with his clothes and shoes on. His body was not straight. And they claim they are Muslims.”
Salahshoor is just one of at least 502 people believed to have died at the hands of the regime since widespread public protests began in September, following the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini. She died in police custody three days after she was detained by the country’s morality police for improperly wearing her hijab.
As many as 18,450 people have been arrested. A small number have already been executed and many more face the death penalty for their parts in the protests. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment of the detained reportedly are commonplace.
“I’d never been beaten this much in the 19 years of my life but to the last minute I did not express remorse and I did not cry,” said 19-year-old Yalda Aghafazli, who was detained in October, following her release the following month. She was found dead at her home on Nov. 18. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
Another young protester, 16-year-old Arshia Emamgholizadeh, committed suicide six days after being released in November. A source told the BBC he was tortured and given pills by authorities while in detention.
Seyed Mohammed Hosseini, a prisoner on death row, has also been severely tortured, according to his lawyer.
“He was beaten while tied up and blindfolded, he was tasered and beaten on the soles of his feet with a metal rod,” Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani said on Monday.
ANKARA: A surprise high-ranking meeting in Brussels between Turkiye, Greece and Germany has raised hopes that strained ties between Athens and Ankara can be improved through the mediation of the EU’s political and economic powerhouse.
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, German Chancellery Foreign and Security Policy Adviser Jens Ploetner and Greek Prime Ministry Diplomatic Office Director Anna-Maria Boura met in an effort to strengthen communication channels between Turkiye and Greece, two NATO allies.
No further information was released about the Berlin-brokered meeting that was held at the office of the German representation to the EU.
The meeting followed recent threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara’s newly tested domestic short-range ballistic missile, Tayfun, could hit Athens if “it doesn’t stay calm” and if Athens “arms the islands.”
Turkiye and Greece have disagreed over several deep-rooted issues ranging from overflights to the military buildup in the Greek islands near Turkiye’s coastline, the exploration of mineral resources in the Aegean and competing claims for offshore waters.
Previous agreements between the two countries required that the islands remain demilitarized.
Erdogan repeatedly issued direct threats over the Greek military presence on the islands, saying: “We might suddenly come one night.”
The Greek Foreign Ministry, however, released a statement in early December: “The statements made by Turkish officials on the demilitarization of the Aegean islands have been repeatedly rejected in their entirety on the basis of a series of arguments, which are also contained in the relevant letters that Greece has sent to the UN secretary-general.”
During the dispute, Germany has always tried to appease the two NATO partners and act as a mediator in the standoff.
In October, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Ankara to end its threats against Greece over the islands and called on both sides to solve the dispute through international law.
Jannes Tessmann, head of Germany’s Stiftung Mercator’s Istanbul office, said that Germany has a strong interest in resolving the Mediterranean conflict between Greece and Turkiye for a number of reasons.
“However, there are reasons not to have high expectations of the talks: Elections in both countries make concessions difficult. Moreover, Germany has lost credibility as a mediator after German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s last visit to Turkiye and Greece. Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu accused her of partisanship,” Tessmann told Arab News.
During a joint press conference in Istanbul last July, the Turkish and German foreign ministers argued over disputes between Ankara and Athens, with Cavusoglu claiming that Germany had lost its impartiality in mediating between Turkiye and Greece.
According to Tessmann, there are few countries outside the EU with which Germany has as close a relationship as Turkiye.
Therefore, developments in Turkiye often have a direct impact on Germany, economically, socially and politically, he said.
From this perspective, experts note that any normalization of ties between Ankara and Athens could deepen cooperation prospects in other spheres and would bring benefits to all.
Kristian Brakel, head of office at the Heinrich Boll Foundation Turkiye, said that the meeting was a promising step toward getting the parties back to the table.
“With elections upcoming in both countries in 2023, for now deconfliction is the priority,” he told Arab News.
“I believe neither country wants a real conflict, so agreeing on a simple mechanism or some red lines that would ensure that heated rhetoric will not lead to accidental clashes would be worth a lot,” he added.
In a situation where NATO is needed more than ever, Brakel added that Germany, as an ally to both Turkiye and Greece, is interested in building cohesion against Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
Tessmann agreed, saying that Russia’s war has increased Turkiye’s importance as a geopolitical actor and NATO partner.
“Decision-makers in Europe are aware of this, but the eastern Mediterranean conflict makes constructive cooperation with Turkiye difficult on many other levels,” he added.
Communication channels between Athens and Ankara closed, especially after Erdogan said that Greek premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis “no longer exists” for him after the latter reportedly lobbied to block sales of F-16 fighter jets to Turkiye during his visit to the US.
Ebru Turhan, associate professor of European Studies at Turkish-German University, drew attention to earlier attempts by Germany under Angela Merkel to mediate between the two NATO allies.
“During 2020-2021, Germany served as a central mediator between Greece and Turkiye in the mitigation of the so-called east Med crisis,” she told Arab News.
“Due to its balanced stance toward both countries and its rejection of imposing hard sanctions on Turkiye, the then German federal government was perceived as a credible mediator by Ankara,” she added.
However, after Scholz’s visit to Athens in October and the prospects of an arms deal between Athens and Berlin, Turhan said that Germany’s role as a trustworthy and balanced crisis manager deteriorated in the eyes of Turkish political elite and mass media.
“With a nuanced and constructive approach both toward Turkiye and Greece, the German federal government could regain its role as a balanced and reliable mediator in the east Med crisis,” she said.
“This would also moderate and weaken the politicization and mediatization of German-Turkish relations ahead of upcoming Turkish elections, and improve German-Turkish bilateral relations,” Turhan added.
In order to restore their strained relations, Turhan said that Greece and Turkiye should focus on depoliticizing and removing media influence from their dialogue.
“The political elite in both countries should negotiate and deliberate on common challenges behind closed doors in a professional setting rather than reverting to harsh public statements — what we also call megaphone diplomacy,” she said.
CAIRO: Global cooperation and the sharing of responsibilities were essential in tackling the global refugee and migrant crisis, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said.
In a statement on Sunday to mark International Migrants Day, the Egyptian government highlighted its approach to hosting 9 million refugees and migrants.
The annual awareness event aims of highlight the rights and challenges of migrants and their contribution to the communities in which they live.
The ministry said that partnerships with countries of origin, transit, and destination, as well as regional and multilateral organizations, were required to ensure the establishment of clear and fair rules on asylum and migration, the reduction of forced displacement, and the promotion of integration.
This in turn, it added, led to the promotion of tolerance and the spread of a culture of peace, understanding, and acceptance of others.
The ministry statement noted the importance of addressing the root causes of illegal immigration and the need to empower youth and adapt their skills to the requirements of internal and external job markets.
Egypt’s strategy on migration was linked to related international treaties, and the statement pointed out that refugees arriving in Egypt had found the country to be a safe haven, offering them basic services and freedom of movement.
In accordance with Egypt’s Vision 2030 and in line with its international commitments, the Egyptian government had set up a national coordinating committee for combating and preventing illegal immigration and people trafficking, and through legislation aimed to raise awareness of the issues and help support the work of agencies.
According to the UN, although migrants and displaced people were among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, they were often found to be a source of prosperity, innovation, and sustainable development in their countries of origin and transit as well as host nations.
The International Organization for Migration has estimated that more than 35,000 migrants had died or disappeared since 2014 with most disappearances thought to have occurred during detention, deportation, or because of people trafficking.
CAIRO: The Arab League has urged countries around the world to recognize the value of immigrants but also tackle issues that result in the exploitation of people fleeing conflict and other disasters.
To mark International Migrants Day, held on Dec. 18 every year, the league said in a statement that many migrants contribute positively to the economies of the countries where they live.
The league added that issues around migration and refugees have increasingly become the focus of world leaders over the past decade. These topics were discussed at the International Migration Review Forum held in May 2022, which was based on the adoption of resolutions in 2018 under the “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.”
The league highlighted in its statement that migrants had faced several major challenges over the past three years including the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia-Ukraine war, and an increase in racism, discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia.
In addition to the risks that migrants face, they are also vulnerable to human traffickers, who keep them trapped for extended periods at borders or at sea.
The league highlighted the importance of the Algiers Declaration issued by the 31st Ordinary Arab Summit in November 2022, that saw member states commit to tackling Islamophobia and promoting tolerance and respect.
With regard to the recurring incidents of migrants becoming stranded on rescue ships in the Mediterranean, the Arab League said cases must be addressed based on several criteria, including whether they are unaccompanied children and women.
The league said all nations must respect the UN’s international conventions on human rights, which means rescuing the stranded people and providing them with adequate food and shelter.
Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, the Arab League’s assistant secretary-general and head of the body’s social affairs sector, said joint and coordinated action was urgently needed to save lives and counter all forms of discrimination.
According to the UN, migrants and displaced persons are among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, although they have proven to be a source of prosperity, innovation, and sustainable development in their own and host countries.
According to estimates by the International Organization for Migration, more than 35,000 migrants have died or disappeared since 2014. While there are no exact figures on the proportion of enforced disappearances in these cases, the information available indicates that most disappearances occur during detention or deportation, or as a result of smuggling.
According to information published on the UN website on Oct. 25, 2022, the International Organization for Migration has documented the deaths of at least 5,684 people along migration routes to and within Europe since the beginning of 2021, and it has called on countries in Europe and elsewhere to take immediate and concrete steps to save lives and reduce deaths during migration journeys.
AMMAN: Jordan will host the second session of the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership on Dec. 20.
Representatives from key countries in the Middle East and the wider international community, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Turkey and Iran, will gather to discuss ways to help Iraq and support its sovereignty, security and stability, the Jordan News Agency reported.
The first session of the conference tool place in August in Baghdad at the invitation of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, in coordination with French President Emmanuel Macron and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani.


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