Archive for August, 2016

Syrian refugees support each other in Britain

August 21, 2016

LONDON (AP) — A summer rainstorm pounded down on the eaves of Christ the Saviour church hall in London as Fardous Bahbouh poured tea and set up the makeshift classroom where she teaches some 25 Syrian refugees how to ask for directions in English, shop for groceries and navigate British norms in making new friends.

Bahbouh’s class is part of a larger Facebook community called “Ahlan Wa Sahlan” — Arabic for welcome — one of many small local efforts that have sprung up across Britain to help migrants who have made their way to the country after fleeing civil war in Syria.

“Being a refugee myself, I know how it feels to be away from home and having no option to return,” said Bahbouh on a recent Thursday. A language teacher in her 30s from Syria, she was studying for a master’s degree here when war broke out and prevented her from going home. Now she teaches others as a way of giving back to those who helped her.

As the U.K. struggles to implement its commitment to resettle more than 20,000 Syrians, the government is counting on charities and community groups to help the newcomers adjust to life in Britain. The Home Office has for the first time set up a program to allow local organizations to sponsor refugees and the agency’s website directs volunteers to migrant charities that need their help.

While Britain initially resisted international pressure to accept large numbers of refugees, more than 9,000 Syrians have filed for asylum in the U.K. since 2011. That is a tiny fraction of the 1.1 million Syrians who registered throughout Europe during the same period, including almost 377,000 in Germany alone, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Local groups say they can be incubators for programs, providing a blueprint for transition that will help larger efforts succeed. After all, local communities are fundamental to the success of any resettlement effort, said Maurizio Albahari, author of “Crimes of Peace: Mediterranean Migrations at the World’s Deadliest Border,” and a social anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

“By working to facilitate every aspect of refugee resettlement, local communities quietly but steadily demonstrate to all levels of government that the arrival of refugees is neither unwanted nor impractical, and that xenophobia cannot be taken for granted,” Albahari said.

One of the groups that is already serving refugees is Citizens UK, which helps them get health care, schooling and housing. Bekele Woyecha, a community organizer and former refugee from Ethiopia, said individuals — not the central government —have taken the lead.

“This is a county known for offering sanctuary,” Woyecha said. “We want to keep that tradition.” In addition to language classes, Ahlan Wa Sahlan hosts social events, such as recent communal meal during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Such occasions are important, because they offer the newcomers a chance to talk about home and speak with others who share similar stories about the war and the treacherous journey they faced to get here.

All ages and walks of life are represented in Ahlan Wa Sahlan: An elderly painter pulled from the rubble of Aleppo, a shy newlywed couple, and Karam AlHabbal, who dreams of going to a British university and becoming a pilot.

Confident and funny, his English is already so good that he volunteers to help others. He has just turned 18 and gained residency status but will reveal few details of his travels to Britain for fear of endangering others.

“I have a normal life now I’ve come to a safe country.” he said. “My country has been destroyed.” At a picnic in London’s Regent’s Park, in the shadow of the golden dome of London’s Central Mosque, Bahbouh’s group meets once again. This time, bikes and biscuits replace notepads and pens.

Bahbouh arrived with two decorated cream cakes to celebrate AlHabbal’s birthday and new residency status, and the aspiring pilot rushed to upload photos on Instagram. Some of the young men took selfies in the sunshine, while another sat on the grass and broke into a melancholy Arabic song.

From the outside, they looked like any other group of Londoners enjoying a picnic on a rare day of sun, but they were also compatriots helping one another navigate a new society and piece together a new life.

While Bahbouh’s group can’t replace the jobs, property and prospects the refugees left behind in Syria, she is trying to replenish the intangible assets of love, hope and confidence. “I am optimistic,” Bahbouh said. “No war lasts forever.”

PA: Czech schools to stop defining Jerusalem as capital of Israel

August 17, 2016

The Czech Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports notified the Palestinian Authority embassy in Prague of their decision to stop using educational textbooks that refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a statement released by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic Khalid Al-Atrash confirmed that the textbook used since 2011 would not be used in schools anymore unless the publishers correct the statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The decision was made after the Palestinian embassy contacted Czech ministers and requested that they amend the textbooks.

According to international frameworks for a two-state solution, East Jerusalem is internationally recognized as the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160817-pa-czech-schools-to-stop-defining-jerusalem-as-capital-of-israel/.

Despite pledges, 1 million Syrian refugees are out of school

August 03, 2016

BEIRUT (AP) — Schools in the Middle East are facing major budget shortfalls ahead of the new academic year, leaving some 1 million Syrian refugee children out of school, according to a report published by Theirworld, an international children’s charity.

The five-year-long Syrian war has placed huge strain on the region’s school systems, forcing neighboring countries to depend on multi-billion dollar grants from donor nations to meet education needs. There are 2.5 million Syrian children registered as refugees with the United Nations, the world body says. Most live in neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan as they wait for an opportunity to return home.

In February, the international community pledged $1.4 billion in school funding for host nations at a London donor conference but less than $400 million of that has been fulfilled, Theirworld estimates. That leaves a funding gap of $1 billion.

Kevin Watkins, the author of the report, which was published late Tuesday, said donors had “broken their promises.” In Lebanon, more than half of the nearly 500,000 school-age Syrian refugee children receive no formal education, according to Human Rights Watch, despite reforms allowing overburdened public schools to run two shifts a day.

Many Syrian refugee families have no choice but to put their children to work to help meet basic expenses in a country with few social protections and tight movement restrictions. Children who do go to school face difficulties with new curriculums, and many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychosocial problems.

“The schools accept Syrian refugees, but the children don’t adapt. They register but then they drop out,” said Najah Kherallah Jomaa, a refugee from Syria’s Aleppo living in a settlement in the Lebanese town of Bar Elias.

The report by Theirworld warns of a “lost generation” of Syrians if determined steps are not taken to ensure school access for all.

Turkish hospital in Gaza to open in 2017

13 August 2016 Saturday

A Turkish hospital currently under construction in Palestine will open its doors in 2017, an official working on the project said Friday.

Funded by the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), the Palestine-Turkey Friendship Hospital will be Gaza’s largest when it becomes operational, according to TIKA’s Palestine Coordinator Bulent Korkmaz.

Korkmaz told Anadolu Agency that the cost has so far reached $40 million. “The hospital will include cancer and heart research and treatment departments as well as a prayer room and library,” he added.

The facility is just one of hundreds of TIKA-funded projects in Palestine, ranging from vocational training for the disabled to water wells in the Gaza Strip.

The latest influx of Turkish aid to Gaza was made possible by way of a deal signed last month between Turkey and Israel in which the two nations agreed to restore diplomatic relations following a six-year hiatus.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Tel Aviv had met all of Ankara’s preconditions for normalizing ties, which were severed in 2010 after Israeli commandos stormed a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel.

The attack resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists and left 30 others injured, including one victim who succumbed to his injuries nearly four years later.

At the time, Turkey demanded Israel officially apologized for the attack, compensate the families of the victims and lift its longstanding blockade against the Gaza Strip.

In 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his regret to Turkey’s then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regarding the deadly ordeal.

Under the terms of last week’s agreement to normalize relations, the two countries will exchange ambassadors and Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the flotilla attack victims.

Israel has also agreed to Turkey’s request to maintain a “humanitarian presence” in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/176126/turkish-hospital-in-gaza-to-open-in-2017.