May 06, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

KENYA

Eviction Notice

Kenya intends to close the Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps that together host more than 430,000 refugees mostly from war-torn Somalia and South Sudan.

They are havens for terrorism, it says.

Setting a June 30, 2022 deadline, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi that refugees could either receive a Kenyan work permit and integrate into Kenyan society or return to their native countries, Al Jazeera reported.

“Closure of the camps must be seen as an aspiration. We are not chasing people away, but a camp is not a permanent thing. It is a place of limbo,” said Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo in a United Nations press release. “No one should live in a place of uncertainty or indignity generation after generation.”

Meanwhile, Kenyan officials claim that Somalia-based Islamic militant group al-Shabab has used the camps to launch terror attacks within Kenya. But Kenyan courts have also blocked closures of the camps on human rights grounds, ruling that the asylum seekers faced violence and harm back home and that the closures are unconstitutional on equal protection grounds.

The two camps were established in the early 1990s to handle refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and other East African nations, Reuters wrote. They have become cities unto themselves, as Xinhua illustrated in a photo essay.

Many voices immediately raised concerns about the fate of the people living in the camps.

Writing in the Conversation, National University of Lesotho Political Scientist Oscar Gakuo Mwangi argued that Kenya was violating international law by shutting down the camps. The refugees had rights as people who had fled terrible conditions. Kenya had no right to send them back, he wrote.

Doctors Without Borders appealed to the Kenyan government and UN to listen closely to the needs of camp residents during the closure process. Kenya’s announcement has already thrown the camps’ businesses into chaos, for example, African Arguments explained.

Muslima Abdullahi, an 80-year-old Somali woman living in Dadaab, told Voice of America that she had nothing to go back to at home. In the camp, she watched nine orphans. In Somalia, she had no job. Her former house and livestock were gone.

Others like Abdalla Osman have grown up in the camps. He came to Dadaab after escaping Somalia 30 years ago as it descended into civil war. He says he’s built a good life in this camp, starting a butcher shop, getting married, having children, creating a home.

“Where do they want us to go?” he asked. “There’s no safe place in Somalia. People are being killed daily by terrorists. We can’t go there to die.”

And shutting down the camps doesn’t address the problems and conditions that required their creation, however, Human Rights Watch wrote. Some of the camp residents who have already returned home to Somalia are simply now living in Somali refugee camps. Instability in the region is why the refugee problem persists in the first place.

Solutions require leaders to distinguish between symptoms and causes.

WANT TO KNOW

ISRAEL

Hanging On

Israeli President Reuben Rivlin chose a rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government on Wednesday, a day after Netanyahu failed to meet an overnight deadline to assemble a coalition, Axios reported.

Rivlin selected opposition leader Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which came in second after Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the March 23 elections.

Analysts say Lapid will seek a power-sharing agreement with ultranationalist politician Naftali Bennett of the Yamina party because he lacks the 61-seat majority in parliament, according to Reuters.

Bennet said that he is willing to work with Lapid to prevent new elections in Israel.

Israel has been stuck in a political gridlock following elections in March, the fourth in less than two years.

Lapid has now 28 days to form a new government. Meanwhile, his potential coalition government with Bennet would only have the support of 58 members of the 120-seat Knesset.

If he fails, the Knesset will try to form a government but there’s no guarantee that the parties will set aside their political differences to unseat Netanyahu.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been battling for his political survival amid a series of poor election results and an ongoing corruption trial.

His legal troubles have been a point of contention among allies, who have refused to serve under a prime minister who is on trial.

If the current political deadlock is not resolved, Israel could be heading for a fifth election.

EUROPEAN UNION

Circling the Wagons

The European Union is planning to restrict foreign companies that receive state subsidies from its market, a move that could prove problematic for Chinese-backed firms looking to operate in the bloc, CNBC reported Wednesday.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed three new tools that will allow it to investigate financial contributions given by governments of non-EU states to companies who operate in the European market.

Under the new proposal, regulators will be able to investigate bids in public procurement processes, as well as check contributions for firms whose EU-based turnover is at least $600 million and the subsidy is at least $60 million.

Currently, the bloc forbids EU nations from subsidizing companies if this aid undermines fair competition. However, the rules do not apply to foreign governments, prompting calls for a review because the pandemic has left many businesses struggling and vulnerable to takeovers.

Observers note that the changes are aimed at Chinese firms, which have been active in the European market since the 2011 debt crisis.

MEXICO

Waiting To Happen

More than 24 people died and at least 70 were injured in Mexico City this week in what has been described as the worst accident to hit one of the world’s largest subway systems, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

On Monday night, an overpass of the subway’s Line 12 collapsed, plunging the train and its passengers onto the street below.

Line 12 is the capital’s longest and newest metro line but it has been plagued with mechanical problems since it began operating in 2012. The line carries about 220,000 commuters from the capital’s semi-rural south side to jobs across the city every day.

Authorities said in a preliminary review that a failure in the horizontal support beams caused the accident. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum urged the public to refrain from speculation and has promised a thorough independent investigation. Even so, she faced questions about shoddy work and poor maintenance on the line.

Mexican citizens and victims’ families, meanwhile, have voiced anger at the government and metro authorities despite the latter maintaining that the line received a “very rigorous” daily inspection.

The accident has put many government officials in a difficult position, particularly Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebard, who was Mexico City’s mayor from 2006 to 2012 when the line was constructed.

Ebard is viewed as a possible successor to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

DISCOVERIES

Atomic Babies

For years, the fear lingered that children of the survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine would suffer severe DNA mutations and be at high risk of developing cancer.

But a new study discovered that the post-nuclear disaster generation is very healthy and carries no more DNA mutations than children born to any other set of parents, the BBC reported.

A scientific team recently screened the genomes of children born between 1987 and 2002. Their parents included survivors of the disaster, as well as the workers that helped clean up the highly contaminated areas after the accident.

Researchers tried to find de novo mutations – also known as new mutations – which occur randomly in an egg or sperm cell.

“We couldn’t find anything,” said co-author Stephen Chanock, who explained that his team recruited entire families in order to compare the DNA of both parents and their children.

The findings show that radiation exposure will not impact offspring.

Researcher Gerry Thomas from Imperial College London, who was not involved with the study, said the results offer relief for survivors of nuclear disasters that were unwilling to have children out of fear of passing on mutations.

“(People) were scared to have children after the accident at Fukushima because they thought their child would be affected by the radiation they were exposed to,” she said. “It’s so sad. And if we can show that there’s no effect, hopefully we can alleviate that fear.”

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 32,557,603 (+0.14%)
  2. India: 21,077,410 (+2.00%)
  3. Brazil: 14,930,183 (+0.49%)
  4. France: 5,767,541 (+0.45%)
  5. Turkey: 4,955,594 (+0.54%)
  6. Russia: 4,792,354 (+0.16%)
  7. UK: 4,441,644 (+0.05%)
  8. Italy: 4,070,400 (+0.26%)
  9. Spain: 3,551,262 (+0.18%)
  10. Germany: 3,484,755 (+0.65%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours