Syria remains a deadly and hostile country while its civil war is underway. This means civilians continue to require protection and refugees will need assistance in terms of resettlement and safe passage to third countries.
From its pre-conflict population of 20.5 million, 6.15 million people are internally displaced and 13.5 million people need humanitarian assistance.
By the end of October 2017 there were 5.31 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Conditions for refugees remain precarious and there are a number of risks for those who reside in camp settings, including:
Lack of access to psychological support.
Protection concerns for unaccompanied minors.
Sexual and gender-based violence.
Poor health and bad hygiene.
Lack of protection to harsh weather conditions.
Limited financial resources.
While funding from donors to help humanitarian organisations is still vital and allows for much needed protection and assistance mechanisms to be put in place, there can be no alternative to asylum and resettlement to allow refugees to continue their lives and enjoy their full entitlement to rights in as safe an environment as possible.
In 2015, the EU asked 27 countries to take 160,000 refugees but by September 2017 only 29,162 had been taken in. The UK, who was not part of this scheme eventually agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 through its own national Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP).
However, many refugees are still making dangerous journeys from their country of origin, which exacerbates their suffering.
That’s why more safe and legal pathways are needed to ensure protection of Syrian refugees.
The UK position
The UK government settled on accepting 20,000 Syrian refugees. There has been opinion that the UK should accept more. The UK government has made clear though that it prefers to provide humanitarian funding to support those within the country believing that offering resettlement would encourage people to make the dangerous journey to the UK.
While aid can help attend to urgent needs there are many hard to reach areas in Syria, including those that are besieged. That means that humanitarian convoys can be denied entry. And so-called safe zones cannot truly protect the civilian population who have suffered disproportionately from the conflict. In addition Syrians are at risk of sexual violence, enforced disappearances and forced conscription as well as the recruitment of child soldiers. Evidence of torture and extra-judicial executions have also been uncovered.
The VPRP gives those under it ‘refugee status’, which affords more benefits to them than the previous prescribed ‘humanitarian protection’ status. This change in status is certainly positive.
Participation in the VPRP by local authorities in the UK is voluntary. In the year ending March 2017, 235 out of 418 local authorities in the UK had accepted refugees under the VPRP. The devolved administrations are coordinating their response separately to England.
Those eligible for the VPRP are identified by UNHCR and those who register with the agency can indicate if they’d be interested in being resettled under the VPRP. Refugees are then prioritised according to vulnerability, and then undergo a two-tier vetting process.
In addition there are two other pathways for Syrians to stay in the UK. One is that it is possible for Syrians to claim asylum upon arrival or after entry to the UK. In the year ending March 2017, 86% of initial asylum decisions in Syrian cases gave permission to remain in the UK – one of the highest rates of recognition. The other is a temporary concession that allows Syrian nationals in the UK to apply for an extension to their existing visa or change the category of their visa.
There are various practical and legal challenges to reaching the UK however. The absence of legal routes exacerbates refugees’ vulnerability and may undermine efforts to stop them making the dangerous journeys often at the hands of people smugglers.
Therefore, the UK and other states should implement measures that would ensure safer and legal pathways to migrate.
This could be done in a number of ways.
Safe and legal pathways
Resettlement/humanitarian admission schemes
The UK is currently operating the VPRP, which offers resettlement to Syrian refugees prioritised according to vulnerability criteria. However, local authorities who operate voluntarily have pledged places in excess of the designated number of 20,000.
The UK should allow all pledges to be fulfilled to minimise irregular migration methods to be used.
Humanitarian visas are visas that enable the holder to travel to claim asylum overseas without having to make dangerous journeys out of their country of origin.
Instead they are applied for at consular posts either within the country of origin or other points on their migratory route. On acceptance they can then take a legal and safe mode of transport to their destination country.
The UK does not offer humanitarian visas and neither does the EU. However, this has been argued to be a major solution to many of the ills related to forced migration particularly in the current context of the European refugee crisis. That includes deaths at sea, people smuggling or overcrowding on the Greek hotspots who are made up in large part by Syrian refugees.
Medical evacuation could allow for refugees with urgent medical needs to be treated in a third country. This would remove the challenges for families who cannot afford medical treatment and sacrifice other essential needs such as food, rent and education.
The UK could admit those with serious medical conditions to help share the burden of responsibility with host countries.
Family reunion is a key protection mechanism which not only reunites divided families but provides a safe and legal route to the UK and away from harm.
Under UK asylum policy, people can apply for family reunification however it is only applicable to a nuclear family definition. For many people the family extends beyond this narrow interpretation and can include other dependent relatives.
The UK could extend this definition and pass the private members bill – Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill 2017-19.
Community based private sponsorship
Community based private sponsorship means that sponsors take responsibility for some of the costs associated with resettling individuals.
In the UK, the Community Sponsorship initiative matches refugees who arrive through the resettlement programme with community sponsors who assist them through settlement and integration.
This can go one step further like in Canada where private groups can identify refugees for resettlement and then seek government approval for their admission. This then happens outside of current resettlement quotas.
In addition, academic scholarships and labour mobility schemes can also facilitate safe and legal pathways for Syrian nationals.
A change in approach
At the moment asylum in the UK can only be applied for on arrival and Ministers have indicated no intention to change the rules.
Visitor visas are also being increasingly rejected and Syrians must have a transiting visa if transiting through the UK to another country.
More work needs to be done at both the UK and EU level to ensure Syrian refugees are protected.
Enhancing safe and legal methods for this is one key way in which this can happen with relatively little derision from the current impact to the UK.
Watch: Palestinians in Gaza face mounting mental health crisis
More than a decade of blockade, war and economic collapse have taken a huge toll on the mental healt..
More than a decade of blockade, war and economic collapse have taken a huge toll on the mental health of Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli attacks on recent protests at the border are adding to the stress.
Nearly 200 protesters have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli live ammunition.
The WHO has estimated that up to 20 percent of Gazas population is likely to have serious mental health problems.
In 2017, the number of psychiatric patients visiting government-linked mental health clinics was up nearly 70 percent on the year before.
HOW PRO ISRAELI FAKE NEWS BLOG TWISTED MY WORDS IN LEEDS UNIVERSITY INTERVIEW – Sameh Habeeb
The new article of the Mail on Sunday by Nick Craven is just another part of the unethical campaign ..
The new article of the Mail on Sunday by Nick Craven is just another part of the unethical campaign to personally demonize me and discredit the ethos stands for. Apparently; it is an extension of the massive smearing campaign that Ive been exposed to since April 2018 when I announced my candidacy as Labour Party local councilor for Northwood Hills in West London Hillington Council. The article is also an extension of the systematic campaign of fake news and deliberate fabrications which have aimed at tarnishing my name since I first arrived to UK in 2009, after I managed to get out of the hell of Gaza., surviving the deadly Cast Lead Operation, a massive military offence against Gaza, I was then at my early twenties, the moment I started to speak about my life in Gaza, the war, the siege , the pain and the besieged people.
Being a young and a lucky Palestinian who barely escaped death in Gaza, I was asked by some members of the parliament and some supporters of the Palestinian cause to talk to British people about the real suffering of the Palestinians living in Gaza. Since then, the media outlets spared no efforts to attack me. Many blogs and websites (some of them are fake or with no declared ownership) twisted my articles interviews, and debates and started to stigmatize me as antisemitic. Ironically their blackout and lies then became a reliable source for the mainstream newspapers.
So in 2010, I was interviewed by Leeds University Magazine about my journalism in Gaza. Following that interview, pro-Israeli fake websites/blogs such as (Harry Place) twisted my words and led a campaign to damage my name. Consequently, they change my criticism of how media works and disseminated false information that Habeeb says Jews control the media” Since then, this incident was exploited by those who were critical of my pro Palestine activities and their last use resulted in my suspension from the Labour Party.
Today, I find it a must to explain what happened in Leeds and to show with evidence how this fake campaign started back from 2010 until 2018.
The Truth about my Interview with Leeds University Student Magazine
The whole story began in 2010 when my interview with a student at Leeds University was changed and twisted by fake news websites such as (Harry Place) a phony blog. The controversial right-wing blog twisted it my words and changed the fact I spoke about media ownership and control into (Sameh Habeeb says Jews Control the Media), something I have never said. Sadly, such twisted facts were adopted by CST and then reported in the Jewish Chronicle and other media outlets across UK. None of these outlets bothered to dig or professionally scrutinize or investigate objectively what I had said.
The interview was about my journalistic activities in Gaza while covering the Gaza war in 2009 and during the Israeli blockade. I hereby reveal for the first time the email content I received from the writer who asked the following questions:
1) What first inspired you to become a photo journalist?
2) Is there any kind of student journalism in Gaza? And if not, why not?
3) How did you first establish your links with international news organisations?
4) Were there any moments during the invasion of Gaza when you saw your role as a photo journalist as futile; when you felt like giving up?
5) During the talk you gave at Leeds University you mentioned problems you experienced with selling your work to mainstream news organisations such as the BBC and CNN – could you elaborate on this?
6) Do you believe these mainstream news organisations to have a hidden agenda?
7) How important do you see the role of journalism in helping to end the suffering of oppressed peoples, such as the Palestinians?
8) In what ways can British student journalists, such as those at the Leeds Student, help the people of Gaza, and aid the Palestinian liberation cause in general?
9) What drove you to establish the Palestine Telegraph and what has been the feedback to it thus far?
10) How important do you think it is to have international correspondents stationed in Gaza? After what happened to Alan Johnston do you think it is safe for foreign journalists to stay there?
As you (as a reader) may note, the questions were focusing about my experience as a journalist in the Gaza Strip. The focus was never about who controls the Media. It was mostly on journalism and operating as journalists in war zones like Gaza. So, in the 6th question I was asked, “6) Do you believe these mainstream news organisations to have a hidden agenda?”
My answer which I recall very well stated, “Media outlets do always have agendas that are planned or laid out by editorial boards and owners. Owners often do affect the agendas of media outlets and they always interfere and cause bias. You may look at the 5 filters of Chomsky where he speaks about Media Ownership as a reason of bias in Journalism. Therefore, some owners of news outlets will always have bias for their causes. You may have Palestinians who control some media outlets thus they will be biased to their cause. And the same on the other side; They are certainly pro-Israeli. I think you have to ask yourself who controls the media.”
As shown in my answer I was talking about pure scientific issue which is the ownership of the Media. I was also very specific of talking about Gaza war and the coverage of media outlets where I elaborate about their bias and agendas. My answers are very clear. I never mentioned or said, “Jews control the Media” but this is sadly what pro-Israeli groups and news websites circulate. My answer was not shown in full this could be for editorial reasons by the writer.
Following my interview, a fake news blog called (Harry Place) whose owners are anonymous and often run libel and defamation campaign against activists, twisted my words and waged a campaign against me. The blog published a post by fake writer called (fake writer) Gene May 1st 2010, 6:00 pm titled “Who does control the media, Sameh?” Then the same fake news blog publishes a post by on (fake writer) habibi, May 3rd 2010, 11:30 am
The writer added, “habibi Never mind. What I do hope many people will agree on is this: Mr Habeeb is in the business of spreading poisonous racist hatred and anti-fascists should call him on it, on any platform or none…Once again a chance to have a discussion about extremism has been lost to bitter disputes about free speech. How lucky for Mr Habeeb. Thats one reason I disagree with the decision to spike the article.”
Throughout the articles the fake writer and their fake news blog implied that Sameh Habeeb says Jews control the media. Yet, this never happened.
Later on (on the same day) the Jewish Chronicle joined in and accepted the lie without any scrutiny or exanimation where they published the article titles, “Leeds Universitys newspaper has been pulled from shelves by the Students Union after it published an antisemitic comment by Palestinian Telegraph owner Sameh Habeeb.”
Three days later, on the 6th of May Jewish Chronicle continue to mislead the readers by writing, “A university newspaper was temporarily pulled…interview with a Palestinian journalist whose comments were interpreted as suggesting Jews control the media.”
The paper which interviewed me at the same time quoted what I said which clearly shows my intention. “Speaking to the JC, Mr Habeeb said: “Im well aware of the definition of antisemitism. I did not say Jews control the media. I would not say that. Theres a difference between a Jew and an Israeli. What I meant to say was some of the key figures, editors or big reporters are really manipulating things and adopting the Israeli narrative. It was not against the Jews. Jews have nothing to do with this.”
Indeed what I said at that time at the Jewish Chronicle shows how innocent Im. It also confirms the context of my answer which explained early in this article.
Later on, in June 2010, Community Security Trust (CST) has published an article implying that Im antiemetic with a title that reads “Palestine Telegraph and “Jewish power”
This was the basic chronological order of a lie that was made “a fact”. The order of publications as shown above shows that Media outlets and even reputable organisations such as CST were deliberately biased as they adopted a lie published in a fake blog called Harry Place. The lie was then circulated across the web and was used as a tool to damage my name and what I stand for.
The story doesnt end in that year but extends to 2018 when I was selected to stand as a Labour Council candidate in west London.
Right Wing Media recycling 8-year old lies/Propaganda
So, in 2018, when I was selected as a labour candidate in the local elections; right wing media and “journalists with certain agendas” recycled the above-mentioned lies and present them in a different way leading at the end to my suspension at the Labour Party.
So on April 1st 2018, Edward Malnick, Whitehall editor published an article with the title “Anti-Semitic activist selected as Labour candidate as leading donor quits party” The biased right wing journalist Malnick made judgments that Im antisemitic as suggested in his title, then supported his argument by quoting the CST article which as shown above was written on the basis of a fabrication by fake blog Harry Place. He says:
“The CST also posted an article in 2010 about an interview Mr Habeeb gave to a Leeds student newspaper in which, asked whether mainstream news organisations had a hidden agenda”
He also confirms that lie (that Sameh Habeeb said in Leeds that Jews control the Media) into fact by saying, “They included concerns about a series of anti-Semitic articles published on The Palestine Telegraph website while he was editor, and accusations he “hint[ed] at the well-known canard about Jewish or Zionist media control” when he stated in a 2010 interview about Israel: “I think you have to ask yourself who controls the media.” The Palestine Telegraph is no longer online.”
Carly Read of the Express ignorantly replicated the lies of Harry Place (then the lies of Jewish Chronicle, CST, The Telegraph and others) where he wrote, “Jeremy Corbyns leadership questioned AGAIN after anti-Semitic picked as Labour hopeful”
Read added, “JEREMY Corbyn has sparked fresh questions over his pledge to extinguish Labours anti-semitism after an activist accused of repeatedly publishing hate-filled conspiracy theories on Jews has been picked as one of the partys candidates in next months council elections… Mr Habeeb was formally selected as a candidate, despite pleas from the Jewish community over hate-filled articles when he was editor and accusations he “hinted at the well-known canard about Jewish or Zionist media control” in a 2010 interview.”
Following these articles, I was unfairly suspended by Labour Party.
There are many questions remained unanswered here. Why would the mainstream publish such lies? Why the mainstream media did not bother to dig deep to know the truth of my story in Leeds? Why the media did not look at the original sources of the allegations against me? Why the media did not broadcast my many statements in 2010 where I made myself clear about what I said? Why the media did not report my fight against antisemitism and how I censored all those who tried to exploit the open platform policy of the Palestine Telegraph at the time?
Gaza: Israeli Army Killed 52 Palestinians and Injured more than 2410
Palestine Chronicle – The Ministry of Heath in Gaza said 52 Palestinians were killed on Monday in Ga..
Palestine Chronicle – The Ministry of Heath in Gaza said 52 Palestinians were killed on Monday in Gaza and more than 2410 others wounded as the Israeli army fired live ammunition, tear gas and firebombs at protesters assembled along several points near the fence with Israel.
Gaza-based photojournalist Abdallah Aljamal contributed these photos to the Palestine Chronicle from todays, Monday, May 14, protests.
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