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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Somalia’s government has accused Kenya of plotting to scrub out the border marker that identifies the two countries’ respective borderlines under pretext of building a separation wall to prevent terrorists from crossing into Kenya.

The allegations come as the two neighboring countries are locked in a maritime boundary dispute at the International court. The Kenyan government said it seeks to end the long-running dispute with Somalia in a friendly manner and outside court.

In statement from Somalia’s cabinet on Thursday, the government said that it were not consulted about the wall which being built along the borderline, raising suspicions of a secret scheme by Kenya.

“We shall talk to the government of Kenya about the reports that it’s obliterating border markers.” said Abdirahman Odawa, Somalia’s interior minister.

“But in the meantime, we demand an explanation from Kenya on the developments.” He said.

Last year, Somalia’s government has taken Kenya to the ICC to end the border dispute, saying the dispute risks deterring multinational oil companies from offshore oil and gas exploration.

However, the Kenyan Attorney General has reiterated his country’s willingness to bring the stalemate to an end, saying that Kenya has submitted its Preliminary objection against Somalia.

“Kenya’s contention is that Somalia’s case falls outside the jurisdiction of the Court and is inadmissible because it is contrary to Somalia’s international obligations”. Mr. Muigai said last month.

However, Somalia insisted on court settlements to end the dispute.

Earlier this year, Kenya has identified eight new offshore exploration blocks available for licensing, and all but one of them are located in the contested area, but Somalia insisted that Kenya’s target area is within their maritime boundary.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Two-day weekend for private sector: New study underway

JEDDAH: The Labor Ministry has announced that it would conduct a study to determine the viability of having a 2-day weekend and a 40-hour work week for the private sector.
In a post on its Twitter account recently, the ministry stated that it would take into account the input of business owners, and look at the advantages and disadvantages of introducing the measures, including whether it would attract Saudi youth to the private sector.
Sources quoted in the media have suggested that most private companies would introduce the 2-day weekend only if the ministry removes the SR2,400 levy and institutes a 48-hour working week.
According to reports, the authorities face a dilemma as they try to boost private sector employment in a period of low oil prices, which are straining state finances and threatening to slow the economy.
Most Saudi workers are in the public sector, which offers generous conditions such as a 35-hour work week plus big pensions and health benefits.
Most private sector jobs are held by 10 million foreign workers.
To reduce the burden on the public sector and curb the number of foreign workers, the government has been considering a proposal to lure more Saudi nationals into private companies by limiting the working week to 40 hours, down from 48 in many firms, including a two-day weekend.
But much of the business community has argued that the move would hurt the economy by raising companies’ costs, deterring investment and possibly forcing companies to make up for the shorter work week by hiring more foreigners.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Migrant’s rape claims overshadow Australia’s bid for UN rights body

SYDNEY: Australia’s hard-line immigration policies overshadowed the launch of its bid to join the UN Human Rights Council, with the government and rights lawyers arguing bitterly over a pregnant Somali asylum-seeker who claims she was raped.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton accused lawyers of fabricating stories about the treatment of the woman, who human rights advocates said was denied basic medical attention and likened her removal from Australia to CIA-style rendition.
Australia has decided to take 12,000 refugees from Syria on top of its current humanitarian intake quota. The United Nations has said at least 850,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean seeking refuge in Europe this year.
That estimate already appears conservative as millions of Syrians flee their homes devastated by war, including widespread air strikes by the US and allies such as Australia.
However, Australia’s controversial policy of turning back refugee boats and holding asylum seekers in prison camps in poor South Pacific island nations such as Nauru and Papua New Guinea has undermined any goodwill.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to act on the harsh detention conditions after reports of systemic child abuse and rape. The UN also sharply criticized Australia after an observer canceled an official visit to the detention camps, citing a lack of government cooperation.
“Our harsh and cruel treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is damaging our international reputation and damaging our ability to advance our national interest, whether it’s through being elected to the Human Rights Council ... or in other negotiations,” said Hugh de Kretser, executive director of the Human Rights Law Center.
De Kretser said UNHRC membership would enable Canberra to rebuild relations with the UN. In March, former prime minister Tony Abbott said Australia was “sick of being lectured to by the UN” after a report accused Australia of breaching international anti-torture conventions.
The UNHRC bid came as protesters took to Sydney streets, and as lawmakers and immigration officials scrapped with lawyers over the treatment of the 23-year-old Somali woman, known only as Abyan, who is being held on Nauru and who claims her pregnancy was the result of being raped there.
She was brought to Australia last week for an abortion, a procedure banned on Nauru, but was returned four days later when Dutton’s office said she no longer wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TORONTO (HOL) - Ahmed Hussen made history  by becoming the first Somali-Canadian elected to the Canadian parliament.

Ahmed Hussein, Liberal candidate of  York South-Weston in Toronto defeated  incumbent Mike Sullivan of NDP.
“This is a great day for Somali Canadians and a day to remember” Said Mahad Shafie, a Somali-Canadian businessman who lives in Ottawa.
Unfortunately the other two Somali-Canadian candidates  running for the federal election, Abdul Abdi of conservative riding of Ottawa West Nepean and Faisal Hassan of NDP riding of Etobicoke North have lost both with Liberal candidates.

Ahmed Hussen of Liberal - Faisal Hassan of NDP - Abdi Abdul of Conservative
Ahmed Hussen born and raised in Somalia, Ahmed immigrated to Canada in 1993 where he settled in Regent Park and quickly gravitated towards public service according to Ahmed Hussen’s website.
Ahmed currently serves as the National President of the Canadian Somali Congress – a Somali community organization that works with national and regional authorities to advocate on issues of importance to Canadians of Somali heritage and strengthen civic engagement and integration

Signs of Haj Mabroor

When the pilgrims return to their home countries after the journey of Haj, they return spiritually refreshed, forgiven of their sins, and ready to start life anew, with a clean slate.
Family and community members often prepare a celebration to welcome pilgrims home and congratulate them on completing the journey. Those who have performed the Haj are often called by an honorific title, “Haji,” (one who has performed the Haj).
According to the Qur’an, “…Pilgrimage to the House is a duty owed to Allah by all who can make their way to it…”(Aal ‘Imran, 3:97). According to a Hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Umrah to the next Umrah is a kaffarah (expiation) of all sins one commits between them, and an accepted Haj (Al-Haj Al-Mabroor) is a supreme action, the reward for which is paradise.”
He also said, “Verily there shall be no reward for a Haj Mabroor (an accepted Haj) except Jannah (the Paradise).” (Bukhari, Muslim)
How fortunate are these souls who are blessed with the following words from the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Whoever performs Haj for the pleasure of Allah and therein utters no word of evil, nor commits any evil deed, shall return from it (free from sin) as the day on which his mother gave birth to him.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Mind you, there is a particular significance to each of the modes of worship in Islam. The significance of establishing Salah (prayers), for example, is to remember Allah Almighty. “…And establish Salah (prayers) to remember Me.” (Qur’an, 20:14) The significance of observing Siyam (fasting) is to cultivate Taqwa (God-consciousness) in oneself. “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may be conscious of God” (Qur’an, 2:183). Likewise, the significance or essence of Haj is making sincere repentance to Allah Almighty and seeking His forgiveness. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates: “I heard the Prophet say, ‘Whoever performs Haj and does not commit any Rafath (obscenity) or Fusooq (transgression), he returns (free from sin) as the day his mother bore him’.”
It is unfortunate that there are some people who turn these modes of worship into mere rituals. Circumambulating the Kaaba for instance or running between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa or performing other rites and rituals of Haj do not have any deep meaning with such people. Consequently, the conditions of their lives do not change for the better even after their Haj. As for those pilgrims whose attitude, conduct, lifestyle, and relationship with their creator and His creation show a positive transformation after the pilgrimage, they are the ones inshaAllah, who are blessed with the rewards of an accepted Haj. Just as Salah (the daily prayer) prevents one from indecency and wrongdoing, and connects one to Allah, and Siyam (fasting) makes one more mindful of Allah the Almighty, so should Haj reconnect one with one’s creator. If these ends are not achieved through these modes of worship, then all the hardships endured in performing these acts of worship are in vain. Analogically, just as the efficacy of a medicine becomes known when a sick person is healed, likewise, an accepted Haj manifests itself in the change that takes place in the condition of the pilgrim to an extent that is pleasing to Allah the Almighty.
The pilgrims should focus their attention toward certain points, which are necessary and of utmost importance and which many pilgrims ignore because they are unaware of their significance.
First of which is his sincerity. Sincerity of intention should remain even after the performance of Haj. There should be no pomp or show. One should not wish to be called or recognized as a Haji.
Many people adopt the habit of talking frequently about their journey in order that people may come to know of their Haj. They talk about the expenses incurred in the way of Allah, their charity among the poor and the needy, their devotion and worship, their assisting the weak and old, etc.; and all is mentioned only with the intention of gaining fame. This is a deceit from Satan who ruins the devotion without the person even knowing it. It is therefore of great importance that the pilgrim does not talk about his Haj without necessity as it may lead to ‘Riyaa’ (show, insincerity). However, if necessity arises and one must talk about his Haj then he is at liberty to do so. But, he must not indulge in this type of conversation unnecessarily.
Secondly, repentance, revitalization of faith, and renewal of covenant are the three things that need to be done by all Muslims individually and collectively, and most especially the pilgrim in order to mend matters and emerge successful both in this life and the next. This is because Haj epitomizes all these three aspects beautifully.

How can one know whether one’s Haj is accepted or not?
The basic sign of a ‘Haj Mabroor’ or an ‘accepted Haj’ is that upon one’s return, his life changes from worst to good. He becomes totally punctual in fulfilling the commands of Allah Almighty. His love and inclination toward the Hereafter increases and love for the worldly pleasures decline. Therefore, it is essential that the pilgrim is watchful over his actions and should try his utmost to instil in himself good characters and refrain from all types of evil. He should try his best to fulfill the obligations laid down by Allah and avoid all the things forbidden by Him.

Remaining grateful to Allah

People in general turn to God in humility, expressing obeisance only when they feel to do so that is mainly during an occasion when it brings good news to them, or so.

The question is however do we require a particular occasion to thank Allah Almighty? Haven’t then we reduces this whole relationship with God to a mere ritual? We need to answer this and look into reasons behind this religious observance that God commanded to His servants? How is it described in the Qur’an?

Giving thanks to God, which can be described as feeling grateful at every moment and expressing it verbally and through one’s demeanor, is a very important religious observance frequently mentioned in the Qur’an and it has to be done all throughout one’s life.

However, a great many people have different ideas about this practice and believe that it needs to be done only when something they want happens or when they receive new blessings.

Yet giving thanks means feeling grateful to God unconditionally, and in every waking moment of one’s life, regardless of the circumstances being positive or negative. It means considering everything from God as beautiful, knowing that there is a great wisdom behind everything created by God and surrendering to destiny fully and submitting to God completely and earnestly.

At this point one might ask: It is quite expected for one to give thanks when something good happens but why should he give thanks when things go awry and how he should do it?

In order for a person to be able to give thanks to God no matter what the circumstances are, he has to have a very deep and unconditional love towards God. He also has to comprehend the astonishing qualities of God.

A person who knows God, who loves God very much and attached to God with a very deep love, will want to express his love for Him at every opportunity. For this reason, giving thanks is one of the ways of showing his admiration, his love for God, both verbally and through his demeanor.

He will want to express and show this deep and intense love in his heart all the time. Just like he cannot live comfortably without breathing, he cannot live without remembering, talking about and thanking his Love. With his soul, his heart and all his being, he feels God at every moment and comprehends the infinite evidence and manifestation of God’s existence everywhere.

In every direction he looks, he will see God and will want to talk about His infinite art, power and will wish to express it every waking moment. This desire will naturally make him give thanks for everything that comes from God.

A lover of God is also aware of the fact that he is surrounded by blessings from God and that he cannot have slightest control over any of them and that he has all these blessings only because God gave them to him.

He knows that the causes do not really matter, and that every blessing and everything that happens comes from God only. He will never get tired of giving thanks to God as his love God is never tired of giving him blessings. He will never get tired of loving God as his love as God is never tired of loving him.

One aspect of giving thanks is being content with whatever God gives him. He will always be content with his situation no matter what happens. He continuously remembers and praises his love God.

There are some people who say that they love God and that they are happy with everything that He creates. Yet when things don’t go according to their plans or when they don’t get what they wanted, when a person they love doesn’t reciprocate their love, when they think that they are not appreciated, or perhaps they cannot go on that vacation they have been planning, or when they lose money, health, or success, their attitudes might suddenly change.

Overwhelmed by feelings of defiance and pessimism, such a person’s thoughts suddenly take a turn for the worst. He continually asks himself ‘Why did I get sick when everyone else is healthy? Why am I struggling so much when everyone else is living so comfortably? Why am I not appreciated although I’m working so much?’

Such thoughts put him in a vicious circle. Because he gives in to these negative thoughts and after a while he becomes incapable of segregating right from wrong. Such people have one problem: Not knowing God enough; not understanding that He can do anything, not grasping His love and compassion.
A person who knows God with all His names, who knows that He does everything with a perfect reason and wisdom and that He loves His servants very much, will not be disheartened no matter what happens and will not lose his hope in God. He has one answer to such negative thoughts, in other words, the whispering of the satan: ‘Whatever my Lord does, He does it with a perfect reason. There is definitely a beauty, a blessing in this for me.’

This is not a consolation, but a fact. God creates everything with a perfect reason. Nothing He does is to make His servants suffer or to upset them. Since this world is a place of testing, it is necessary for people to be trained and achieve the morality that will be worthy of Paradise.

To be able to achieve that morality, it is important that people are sometimes tested with difficulties, diseases, problems and poverty. For this reason every person is tested with different things.

A lover of God knows this and patiently goes through everything that happens. He always gives thanks, no matter what happens and continues to watch his destiny unfold and even if he cannot understand the wisdom of the things that happens, he says, ‘My Lord, you created this with a perfect reason. I’m happy with everything you give to me, and need every good deed you give to me.’ He always prays to God continuously and expresses his gratitude.

It is important to understand the times of testing and to these opportunities to prove oneself, to give thanks and to show happiness with everything God created.

It is also very important to avoid becoming one of the ungrateful when things go bad. If one cannot see the beauties behind the difficulties, then he is not able to appreciate God and is not giving thanks to God the way he should.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Here is a look at what you need to know about the Islamic New Year.
Islamic New Year will begin on Thursday, October 15, 2015. Exact date varies depending on method used to determine start of new year: using local moon-sighting or using astronomical calculations for new moon.
The Islamic New Year begins on the first day of the first month of the Islamic calendar.
The first month of the Islamic year is called Muharram.
The Islamic New Year has been observed in this way since 622 A.D. when the prophet Mohammed fled from Mecca to Yathrib (now called Medina) to escape religious persecution.
This migration is called Hijra in Arabic, also spelled Hegira.
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar year.
The Islamic calendar has 12 months but only 354 days.
The Islamic New Year is usually celebrated with low-key religious events.
The day is an official holiday in some Muslim countries, but is a regular working day in others.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hajj stampede death toll rises

The death toll of Hajj stampede near the Islamic holy city of Mecca on Thursday has risen to 769, the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years, BBC reported.

As well as the fatalities, 934 people were injured.

The incident occurred at around 6:00 GMT as millions of Muslims were travelling to Mina, a valley which is about 3 miles away from Mecca to throw stones to Jamarat pillars which represent devil which according to Islam tempted Prophet Abraham.

Security has been tightened across Mecca to prevent possible attacks by Jihadist groups and stampedes.

Social media photographs showed hundreds of white-clad bodies piled high on each other as security forces carried wounded victims, some of them crying while other chanted ‘God is great’ into ambulances.

Iran’s supreme National Security Council accused Saudi Arabia of ‘incompetence’ and urged them to ‘take responsibility’ for the deaths, according to the BBC.

The Nigerian government has also dismissed remarks by the Saudi health minister blaming pilgrims for "not following instructions".

Earlier, the country's most senior cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin-Abdullah al-Sheikh, defended the authorities, saying the stampede was "beyond human control".

King Salman has ordered a safety review into the disaster.

The disaster is the second to strike in two weeks, after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 109 people.

Saturday was the final day of the Hajj, with no further incidents reported.

Deaths reported so far by nationality

Iran: at least 140

Morocco: 87 (media reports)

Cameroon: at least 20

Niger: at least 19

India: 18

Pakistan: 18

Egypt: 37

Chad: 11

Somalia: 8 (media reports)

Senegal: 5

Algeria: 4

Tanzania: 4

Turkey: 4

Indonesia: 3

Kenya: 3

Nigeria: 3

Netherlands: 1

Burundi: 1

Burkina Faso: 1

Other nationalities (numbers not yet known): Benin

Saudi helplines: 00966 125458000 and 00966 125496000

Thursday, September 24, 2015

310 pilgrims die in stampede on way to Jamrat complex

MINA: Tragedy struck Mina on Thursday morning when more than 310 pilgrims died in a stampede on the way to the Jamrat complex.
Saudi Civil Defense forces said more than 450 were injured. The exact cause of the accident could not be determined easily.
Many of the injured were in semiconscious state. The harsh summer weather has only added to the problem. The injured were not in a position to speak.
Sirens were wailing as the ambulances brought in the injured. Hundreds of Saudi security forces and Haj volunteers are at hand helping the injured.
Most of the injured were taken to Mina Emergency Hospital. Other were also rushed to the hospitals in Makkah.
The Jamrat area, where the pilgrims have to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, has seen stampedes in the past. But the Saudi authorities have expanded the area by constructing a multilayered complex to ease the flow of pilgrims.
The pilgrims had spent the night in Muzdalifa and had come to Mina to throw seven pea-sized stoned at one of the three wall-like structures.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pilgrims throng Arafat for peak of Haj

Around two million white-clad Muslims on Wednesday poured into the vast Saudi plain where Prophet Muhammad had given his final sermon, for the peak of the Haj pilgrimage.
Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept, exhausted from their journey, and prayed despite the scorching sun.
Carrying colorful umbrellas, they walked from dawn in massive crowds toward the slippery, rocky hill which is also known as Mount Mercy.
It was here that the Prophet gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on Haj.
To organize the flow of pilgrims, security forces formed human chains along the roads of the vast Arafat plain.
Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles.
For many pilgrims, Haj is the spiritual highlight of their lives.
“We feel blessed. I got goosebumps, a feeling that cannot be explained, when reaching the top of the mountain,” said Ruhaima Emma, a 26-year-old Filipino pilgrim, who said she has been “praying for a good life for everyone.”
For Akram Ghannam, 45, from war-torn Syria, being in Arafat is a “feeling that cannot be described. I pray to God for the victory of all those who are oppressed.”
Many reached Arafat by bus while some walked from the holy city of Makkah about 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.
Other pilgrims arrived from nearby Mina using the elevated Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, a tent city where many pilgrims spent Tuesday night.
After sunset on Wednesday they will move to Muzdalifah. There they will gather pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual on Thursday, which is also the Eid Al-Adha feast of sacrifice marked by the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims.

Undeterred by crane accident
This year’s gathering is about the same size as last year’s, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom.
They are undeterred by a construction crane collapse at the Grand Mosque earlier this month that killed 111 people, including foreign pilgrims.
About 400 people were injured by the crane which was working on an expansion of Islam’s holiest site.
Previously marred by stampedes and fires that killed hundreds, the pilgrimage had been largely incident-free for the past nine years after safety improvements.
The Haj is among the five pillars of Islam and every capable Muslim must perform it at least once in a lifetime.
This year’s gathering takes place against a backdrop of increased extremist violence in some Muslim countries, a surge of the potentially deadly MERS virus and the war in Yemen.
About 100,000 police have been deployed to secure pilgrimage sites and manage the crowds.
Authorities say they are on alert for possible attacks by extremists, after Daesh terrorists bombed security forces and Shiite mosques in the kingdom in recent months.
Among other challenges facing Saudi authorities is potential transmission of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Riyadh saw a jump in infections last month, but health officials say there has never been a case of MERS infection among pilgrims.
The health ministry has mobilized thousands of medical workers to help ensure a virus-free pilgrimage and to care for routine ailments.
Pilgrims began the Haj on Tuesday by entering ihram, a state of purity in which they must not quarrel, wear perfume, or cut their nails or hair.
During ihram, men wear a seamless two-piece shroud-like white garment, while women must wear loose dresses, generally also white, exposing only their faces and hands.
The clothing emphasizes their unity, regardless of whether they spend the Haj in Makkah’s five-star hotels or in shabby highrise hostels.
“I’m hoping for mercy and that Allah accepts our prayers,” said Pakistani pilgrim Abdeghafour Abu Bakr, 38, who came with friends.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Civil Defense chief: high winds toppled Makkah crane

Civil Defense Director General Suleiman bin Abdullah Al-Amro said high winds caused a massive crane to topple over and smash into the Grand Mosque in Makkah, killing at least 107 people ahead of the start of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
Al-Amro told Al-Arabiya TV on Saturday that unusually powerful winds in the area also tore down trees and signs as a storm whipped through the area.
He denied reports that lightning brought down the red-and-white crane or that some of those killed died in a stampede.
The civil defense directorate says 238 people were injured in the accident late Friday afternoon at the mosque, which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba and is ringed by several cranes engaged in ongoing construction work to expand the site.
An engineer for Saudi Binladin Group, the company contracted to do the Grand Mosque expansion project, said it was a freak accident and not due to a technical fault
“It was not a technical issue at all,” said the engineer, who asked not to be identified. He told Agence France Presse that the crane, like many others on the project, had been there for three or four years without any problem.
Authorities are investigating the tragedy, which occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world were gathering for the annual Haj pilgrimage.
The engineer said the crane was the main one used on work to expand the tawaf, or circumambulation area around the Kaaba — a massive cubed structure at the center of the mosque that is a focal point of worship.
“It has been installed in a way so as not to affect the hundreds of thousands of worshippers in the area and in an extremely professional way,” he said.
“This is the most difficult place to work in, due to the huge numbers of people in the area.”
The crane’s heavy hook, which is able to lift hundreds of tons, began swaying and moved the whole crane with it, toppling into the mosque, the engineer explained.
A witness said the accident occurred during winds which were so strong they shook his car and tossed billboards around.
The development project is expanding the area of the Grand Mosque by 400,000 square meters (4.3 million square feet), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Two Somalian refugees reach Winnipeg after swimming down the Red

Two Somalian refugee claimants crossed the border into Canada the hard way this week -- in the Red River.

On Wednesday, Yahya Samatar, who was shivering and soaking wet, climbed out of the Red River in Emerson, and into the pickup truck of a Good Samaritan who cranked up the heat, gave him a sweater and called 911.

"I didn't know where to go," said Samatar, a 32-year-old English-speaking aid worker from Somalia. In an interview with the Free Press Thursday, he said he and a companion were dropped off just south of the Canadian border crossing after midnight Tuesday. "I saw the lights of the port" at Emerson, he said. They were both afraid U.S. border patrols would pick them up and send them back to Somalia, so they headed for the bush.

"I crossed the farms and saw the bushes. I went in the bushes and saw the river."

Disoriented and in the dark, they figured the river ran east to west rather than south to north and, if they waded across it, they'd be safe in Canada, he said.

His companion entered the river with a backpack containing Samatar's wallet and phone. He was quickly swept up by the current and carried downstream, he said.

"I wasn't seeing him," Samatar said. He thought his friend had drowned. "I didn't hear him calling my name."

By that time, Samatar had already taken three steps into the mighty Red. Realizing it wasn't a lazy river they could just wade across, he scrambled back up on the bank.

"I slept in the bush." In the morning, he took a chance. "I thought I could cross if I left my trousers and shoes behind."

He learned to swim as a kid growing up in Kismaayo, a port city south of Mogadishu on the Indian Ocean, but he was not prepared for the cold, fast-moving river.

After two or three terrifying minutes in the water, Samatar said he swam back to shore and pulled himself out of the river. Shivering and shoeless, wearing nothing but shorts and a T-shirt, he walked into Emerson. "I didn't know if I'm in Canadian territory," Samatar said.

"I met a guy parking a truck... He was shocked by me when he saw my condition... He was a very nice guy." He told Samatar he was in Canada, gave him a sweater, put him in the cab of his truck with the heater running full blast and called 911. Paramedics and RCMP arrived.

After determining he wasn't hypothermic, Samatar was arrested, handcuffed, draped in a blanket and taken to the Canada Border Services Agency office nearby.

"They gave me food and trousers and a sweatshirt -- they gave me what they had."

The refugee claimant was interviewed, photographed, fingerprinted and given an October date for an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing. Then he was released.

But with no money, no one to call to pick him up, and nowhere to go, Canada Border Services Agency officials called Welcome Place in Winnipeg to get help for Samatar. Their offices had already closed, so they called Hospitality House Refugee Ministry. It handles private sponsorships of refugees, not refugee claimants, but their settlement manager jumped in her car and drove south to Emerson to get Samatar and put him up at Hospitality House residence in Winnipeg.

On Friday, Samatar learned his friend made it out of the river, hitchhiked to Winnipeg and was on his way to Toronto to make a refugee claim there.

Hospitality House settlement manager Karin Gordin took him to Welcome Place to fill out paper work for his refugee claim and to check in with the Canada Border Services Agency at The Forks.

"They were impressed with his English," Gordon said. "They told him he might have a future as an interpreter working for them."

Samatar hopes he's at the end of what has been a year-long survival odyssey.

He fled Somalia in August of last year when he became a target because he does aid work with a non-governmental organization and had no one to protect him.

"There's no functioning government," Samatar said. "As long as your clan has not a lot of power, you're at risk." Militia groups and Al Shabaab are active and night-time attacks are common, he said.

Samatar said he and his family scraped together US$12,000 to pay smugglers to get him to Ethiopia, then Brazil, and help him make his way by land through Central America to the U.S. border at Matamoros, Mexico. "I took buses and walked in the jungle for one month," he said.

In the U.S., he was apprehended as an illegal alien and spent six months in a detention centre in Texas and another 10 weeks in a centre in Louisiana. After his refugee claim was formally rejected, he was released to await deportation back to Somalia. Desperate to set down roots in some place safe, he headed north. A contact in Minneapolis's huge Somali community rented a car and drove Samatar and his companion close to the border crossing at Pembina, N.D., he said.

In Canada, the kindness of strangers has been a shock to his system, he said. He feels welcome and hopes to make this his home.

"I want to upgrade my education and get a job to support my family," said Samatar, who is married to a journalist who also fled Somalia. She is in Kenya with their baby and their three older children are with Samatar's mother.

"Hopefully, my asylum is accepted, and I can sponsor them."

Return to Somalia: No longer a refugee

The flight took just one hour, but for 26 year old Fatuma and the 115 Somalis on board, it was the journey of a lifetime.

They have been living in exile for years, hosted in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp located in a remote corner of northeastern Kenya.

On 5 August 2015, they went back home to Somalia. Fatuma returned to the Somali capital Mogadishu as a mother, bringing with her Fardowsa, born in May 2013 in the refugee camp where she lived for three years.

Dadaab has been a safe haven for refugees from Somalia, since it was initially set up in 1991 when civil war broke out in Somalia. Planned to host around 90,000 people, the complex of five camps has grown dramatically over the years, reflecting the reality on the other side of the border.

In Somalia, prolonged armed conflict compounded by consequences of recurring natural hazards, have forced millions to move in search of survival and protection. Today, 333,000 refugees make up the refugee population in Dadaab with the vast majority being from neighbouring Somalia – a country within which more than one million people continue to live in displacement.

Returning home, to areas people once fled from in Somalia, is a trend gaining ground over the past three years. More than 60,000 internally displaced have been supported by UNHCR and its partners to return to their areas of origin since mid-2012, and voluntary repatriation has picked up since a framework offering support to safe, dignified and sustainable returns was agreed on in 2013.

The Tripartite Agreement signed in November 2013 between UNHCR and the Governments of Kenya and Somalia, constitutes a framework to ensure that repatriation must be safe and dignified and fully voluntary.

Close to 2,600 Somali refugees decided to leave Kenya and return to their areas of origin in Somalia in the course of a seven-month Pilot Phase from December 2014 during which UNHCR provided repatriation and reintegration support.

Fatuma and the 115 refugees onboard of the plane from Dadaab, are the first refugees to return to Somalia since a new and enhanced repatriation programme was endorsed by the Tripartite Commission on 29 July.

From the dusty plains of Dadaab, they cruised over troubled areas of South Central Somalia where they could not go by road. Soon after, the plane prepared for landing in Mogadishu, along a beautiful stretch of coastline where Somalia meets the Indian Ocean.

On the ground waiting were several Somali government representatives eager to meet and greet the returnees. The UNHCR-sponsored flight allowed the group of now former refugees to return home despite the still fragile security situation in parts of their country. Future refugee returns will continue to be primarily by road, and only the most vulnerable will be airlifted from Kenya to Somalia.

In Dadaab, Fatuma ran a small kiosk and will now start looking for some start up assistance for a shop in Mogadishu to earn a living. Fatuma and her daughter are fortunate to have a home to return to. They will move into the house of her mother and sister, and wait for the return of her husband who is in South Africa. Other returnees, especially those who have been away from Somalia for many years, often need to start all over building once more a foundation for their lives and livelihoods.

UNHCR supports returnees to return and reintegrate in their areas of origin where an increasing number of rehabilitation and development projects are ongoing. The joint aim for these projects undertaken by UN agencies in collaboration with federal and regional government authorities, is to restore and create access to water, sanitation and basic services. For many, however, the choice to go back remains difficult, when their longing to return to their roots is overshadowed by fear of insecurity, continued conflict and lack of access to jobs, schools, hospitals and other essential facilities that are not yet in place.

While some – including the governments of Kenya and Somalia – argue that the returnees are part of the solution to rehabilitate and stabilize Somalia, many refugees in Kenya want to first see conditions in their home country that are more conducive to their return.

On board the plane from Dadaab was also Hureji Osman Siat, 72. She did not want to wait any longer to return. Hureji Osman Siat was on the plane with her daughter and several grandchildren, one of them a boy with a physical disability. In Dadaab, she was working with Handicap International and wants to continue working to serve her people through humanitarian work, she says.

Hureji Osman Siat left Mogadishu in 2008 and her house then located in a central part of the city. She returns without yet knowing where she and the rest of the family will settle. Most of the relatives are still in Dadaab, but Hureji Osman Siat says that their plan is to contact former neighbours to help them find a place to stay.

All she carries is 20 kilos of luggage, and a heart and mind full of hope. "I am happy to be back even if I have to sleep under a tree, because returning to Mogadishu is what I have been thinking about for a long time," she says.

By Alexandra Strand Holm Nairobi/Mogadishu

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Is the khat plant a cultural weed?

Khat (Somali qaat or jaad; Ethiopian chat) is a flowering plant native to tropical east Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It contains the alkaloid cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which is said to cause both excitement and euphoria.
In 1980, WHO classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. It is a controlled/illegal substance in many countries but is legal for sale and production in many others.
In early 2009, a Nigerian was arrested at MIA while attempting to import khat into Malta.
During the weekend of October 3, 2009 a fight broke out at the ─Žal-Far open centre involving rival Somali tribe members. Subsequently, charges were brought against a number of individuals.
The Times of Malta (October 10, 2009) reported that the presiding magistrate was told that the fight had been sparked off by arguments between rival tribe members over “the recently legalised (narcotic) khat”.
Sometime in between the two incidents, the Maltese authorities had naively acquiesced to the legalisation of khat, in deference to the ‘cultural customs’ of Malta’s ever-growing illegal immigrant population.
Khat may have fuelled the violence featured in several incidents that made international news.
During the 1993 siege of Mogadishu, Somalis loyal to Mohammed Aideed, high on khat, battled the US military for many days. Four hundred Somalis, as well as 18 American servicemen, were killed.
Evidence suggests that it may be the narcotic of choice of suicide bombers and it (or its South African equivalent) must have induced in 5,000 Zulus a sense of invincibility at Rorke’s Drift and other battles in 1879 as they faced the superior British firepower.
Kenya is also a major producer, and the Kikuyu Mau Mau used khat to stimulate their resolve while taking their blood oath to fight the then British colonial regime. Likewise, khat may account for the audacity of Somali pirates.
When it comes to illegal immigration, Malta’s track record of enacting laws governing matters relating thereto, aside from being reactive, has been one of fits, starts, trial and error. This is pardonable considering that the government was ill-prepared for what was to come.
The Times of Malta (July 31) published details of the implementation of tighter controls on the use and distribution of khat. This action, brought about by the Justice Ministry, in collaboration with the Drugs Commissioner, is definitely a step in the right direction. Except that tolerance of this, or any other narcotic, for that matter, should be done away with.
Many in Malta would support a policy of zero tolerance. This would also make matters less complicated for law enforcement.
Ethnic, cultural and tribal differences have been more of a bane than a boon to the concept of regional harmony in Africa. There is no reason to believe things will be any different here, even with integration and assimilation.

Voluntary Repatriation of Somali Refugees Begins

The arrival Wednesday at Mogadishu International airport of 116 Somali refugees from a Kenyan camp marks a first step in efforts to repatriate greater numbers of Somali refugees from Kenya, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.
An agreement by a Tripartite Commission, made up of the UNHCR, Kenya and Somalia, envisions the voluntary repatriation of some 425,000 Somali refugees from Kenya over a five-year period.
Most of the refugees – 330,000 – are living in Dadaab, the largest refugee settlement in the world.
Many of the refugees have been there since the 1990s and have given birth to children who have never been to Somalia.
FILE - An image of the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in northeastern Kenya. Photo taken in 2012.
FILE - An image of the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in northeastern Kenya. Photo taken in 2012.
The return of the 116 Somali refugees follows a pilot repatriation program begun in December, which has successfully returned 3,000 refugees to the relatively safe districts of Luuq, Baidoa and Kismayo.
UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl told VOA the refugees are receiving some money, food, seeds and other assistance. But, she acknowledges the situation in Somalia is far from ideal.
“The social-economic situation is very, very difficult and the situation is not there yet for loads and loads of people to return at this moment," de Gruijl said.
Security precarious
"The security situation in Somalia remains precarious. That is why we are targeting the returns to specific areas where we feel that there is more stability and we hope with development projects, with the return of refugees these areas of stability may grow and counter that," she said.
Under the new Tripartite Commission agreement, de Gruijl said these areas have been increased to nine districts in south central regions of Somalia. Refugees who voluntarily return there and to areas in Somaliland and Puntland will receive assistance to help them integrate in their new lives, she added.
FILE - Karin de Gruijl, U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees spokeswoman, April 14, 2014.
FILE - Karin de Gruijl, U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees spokeswoman, April 14, 2014.
De Gruijl said one of the reasons some refugees want to return to their homes of origin is that life in the Dadaab refugee camp is becoming more difficult.
She said aid agencies, such as the World Food Program (WFP), are running out of money and have to cut back on their assistance.  
Reduction in aid
“WFP has just announced that it is going to reduce or has actually already reduced its food rations by 30 percent.  Refugees in the camps are not allowed to leave the camps, so it definitely is not a good living situation and there is very little hope for the future," de Gruijl said.
"These are conditions that might influence them to go back," she added.
De Gruijl said plans are underway to hold a pledging conference, possibly in October to raise money for development projects in Somalia.
The UNHCR spokeswoman said it is crucial to rebuild the country’s roads, clinics, schools and other infrastructure to ensure that refugee returns are sustainable.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Australians urged to develop taste for camel meat

People from the local Somali community flow in and out of the halal butcher's shop, located in Flemington, north-west of Melbourne's CBD.
Upon walking into an aroma of spices and raw meat, visitors are warmly welcomed by owner Abukar Hersi, who proudly boasts about what he describes as Australia's best-kept culinary secret.
"It's one of the best things you can have — it's a very rich meat, high in protein," he said.
"We have some Australians coming in saying 'I'd like to have a try', we've had MasterChef buy from us, so it's getting popular now.
"I think when Australians realise, we will see camel meat in every butcher and supermarket."
Mr Hersi is originally from Somalia, where his father was also a butcher.
There, those who can afford to eat camel meat and drink camel milk do so every day.
"In Somali culture the camel is everything, it's more than gold," he said.
"When you want to get married you have to give the best camels to the family. We're talking about 100 camels.
"If there is fighting or a problem, to make conversation, you give a camel."
At $12.99 per kilo, one whole camel feeds his customer base for a month.
One leg alone can weigh 70kg.
"We get the leg whole, the humps, the heart, we sell the liver, the kidney. We use the whole thing," he said.
"The shoulder is the best part, because the camel uses it less so it is softer."
Mr Hersi has just gone through his busiest period of the year, Ramadan, which is comparable to the Christmas season for most other Australian butchers.
During Islamic holy occasions, he orders an extra four camels to keep up with demand.
They are slaughtered at an abattoir in Alice Springs before being boxed and sold by a wholesaler to domestic and international markets.
More than 1 million wild camels are estimated to be roaming Australia's deserts, covering 3.3 million square kilometres.
News of camel culls in the Australian outback has driven demand from the Middle East and African countries, some of which view camel meat as a delicacy.
"People in the Middle East see Australia killing camels and cannot believe it," Mr Hersi said.
"There is a lot of interest."
Australian foodies have been dabbling in game meats such as crocodile, emu and possum for years.
But despite the huge population of this hardy humped mammal — initially brought to Australia in the 1800s by Afghan cameleers — there is a shortage of domestically-produced camel meat.
The Alice Springs abattoir has only been able to process about 200 camels in the last 12 months.
Meat exporters in the region have been calling on the government to redirect money for culling towards subsidising freight costs.
Rounding up feral camels is costly and challenging.
For the meat to be declared halal, the blood needs to be drained from the animal, which means being processed at an accredited abattoir.
Companies have in recent years been employing people from Indigenous communities to help with mustering.
The animals' wild nature means they produce a different meat to farmed camels in other parts of the world.
"These camels don't drink as much water, nobody is looking after him, and that makes the meat tougher," Mr Hersi said.
According to this second-generation butcher, Australian camel meat is best eaten after being marinated overnight in vinegar, ginger and spices and then slow-cooked.
Top city restaurants have expressed a demand for the game meat and supply cannot keep up with demand from wholesalers.
Mr Hersi is happy to let other Australians in on his secret.
He just hopes it doesn't become so trendy that it causes a hump in the price for his favourite meal.

Obama Admin. Extended Amnesty For Somalis, Despite Recent Terror Concerns

The Obama administration is extending the availability of Temporary Protected Status for current TPS beneficiaries from Somalia for another 18 months, through March 17, 2017.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services highlighted this week that the deadline for TPS Somalis to re-register is July 31. Those granted TPS are allowed to stay in the U.S. legally and are eligible for work authorization.

TPS is afforded to eligible nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security designates due to conditions in the country that prevent its nationals from a safe return. A congressional aid noted that TPS often applies to immigrants without legal status, such as those who have overstayed their visas, and are issued on top of the government’s refugee programs.

“Friday, July 31, 2015, is the deadline for current Somalia Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries to re-register for the 18-month extension of TPS that runs from Sept. 18, 2015, through March 17, 2017,” USCIS explained in a new notice. “The law requires USCIS to withdraw TPS for failure to re-register without good cause. Therefore, if you fail to re-register by this deadline, you may lose your TPS and your work authorization.”

Besides those TPS beneficiaries, the U.S. has additionally resettled thousands of Somali refugees in the U.S. So far this fiscal year, the U.S. has admitted 6,200 Somali refugees.

The extension of TPS comes following recent national security concerns involving Somali immigrants.

In April, for example, six Somali men living in Minnesota were charged with trying to join the terrorist group ISIS. Last year a naturalized Somali-American was sentenced to 30 years for a plot to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon.

Fox News reports that since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men living in Minnesota have left to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab.

UN says Somalis making progress despite election delay

The UN envoy for Somalia on Wednesday insisted the country was making progress, a day after the government said elections cannot be held as promised in next year.

On Tuesday, Somalia's government admitted that insecurity and lack of political progress means there cannot be "one man, one vote" elections in 2016 as envisaged by the United Nations, foreign diplomats and the government itself.

"The road to democracy is there, but 2016 will be a stepping stone short of full democracy," said Nicholas Kay, the top UN diplomat in Somalia.

Kay said the announcement, which was greeted with dismay in Somalia, was "no surprise".

"It's a reality we've been staring at for quite a while," he said.

Kay spoke to AFP on the sidelines of the so-called High-Level Partnership Forum, a meeting of Somali and foreign delegates held in the capital on Wednesday and Thursday, despite a weekend suicide truck bombing at one of the city's biggest and most popular hotels.

The last forum was hosted in Copenhagen. Kay described this week's gathering as "the largest international meeting in Mogadishu in modern times" with discussions of what will happen in 2016, when the current government's four-year mandate expires, at the top of the agenda.

Kay said the process of state-building, after decades of civil war and anarchy, and the creation of a federal rather than a centralised administration, "is going well but has taken longer than expected".

Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Shebab, still controls parts of the rural south and attacks at will in Mogadishu, contributing to the difficulties of holding a nationwide poll.

- Government buying time? -

Late Wednesday the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorising until May 2016 the deployment of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which fights Shebab and protects the government. The same resolution extended the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), headed by Kay, until March 2016.

Kay dismissed suggestions that the government might be stalling elections in the hope of extending their own mandate, and with it their employment and salaries.

"There is an overwhelming consensus that there should be an electoral process in 2016," he said, although he admitted, "one or two voices expressed interest in an extension of the current government's mandate."

What that electoral process might look like will be decided by the end of the year, with the Somali government due to hold public consultations before presenting proposals to the international community in early 2016.

"Whatever process happens in 2016 it must be demonstrably different -- and feel different -- to 2012," when President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his government were selected by clan elders.

That process was flawed and rife with vote-buying but Kay said it was, nevertheless, "an incredibly important achievement at the time".

"Something must happen that's a step forward from the 2012 process," Kay said.

The UN envoy insisted the 2016 deadline for a transfer of power "is still there" but warned of "a genuine risk" that rushed elections "could drive conflict".

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Arab Museum Exhibit Depicts Lives of Somali Men in Minnesota

An exhibit depicting the lives of young Somali men in Minnesota has opened at the Arab American National Museum — the first time it has featured artists or subjects from the African nation of Somalia.

The Dearborn museum is showing “The Youth/Dhallinyarada,” black and white portraits with video and text. Photographer Mohamud Mumin plans to speak Sept. 11 at the museum.

Museum director Devon Akmon says it’s important to “shine a light on a community that hasn’t been highlighted” and reflect “changes in immigration from Arab countries.”

He adds the exhibit supports efforts “to dispel stereotypes.”

Investigators have said a handful of Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to fight with militants. Since 2007, about two dozen Somali men have also traveled to Somalia to join terrorist group al-Shabab.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
About 25 people died when a fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized on Wednesday in the Mediterranean Sea, about 15 miles north of the Libyan coast, the Italian coast guard said, as rescue operations were still under way.

About 400 people were rescued so far in operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard, spokesman Filippo Marini told Italian television, adding that the distressed boat may have been carrying as many as 600 migrants.

Another coast-guard spokesman said up to seven ships were involved in the rescue, including an Irish naval vessel and a boat operated by Doctors Without Borders, which were the first two to intervene. According to preliminary reports, the fishing boat capsized after the migrants moved to one side once they saw two rescue boats approaching, the spokesman said.

Wednesday’s deadly shipwreck is just the latest development in a growing wave of migrants who cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, often seeking to escape war and persecution. Italy and Greece have seen a surge in the number of migrants reaching its shores: About 97,000 people have tried to reach Italy so far this year, with another 90,500 landing in Greece. According to the International Organization for Migration’s latest data, more than 2,000 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, the vast majority of whom were seeking to land in Italy.

As in 2014, the overwhelming majority died in the Strait of Sicily in the central Mediterranean route connecting Libya and Italy, where unseaworthy vessels used by smugglers and traffickers significantly increase the likelihood of tragedies, the IOM said.

In April, about 800 migrants died when a ship sunk off the Libyan coast in one of the deadliest incidents ever recorded. With the Syrian civil war escalating and more refugees desperately trying to leave war zones as well as an increasingly unstable situation in Libya, the number of migrants trying to flee their countries of origin has been on the rise.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Business Newswires : euronews : the latest international news as video on demand

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has launched a criminal investigation into the British exploration firm Soma Oil and Gas, which has been searching for oil in Somalia. The SFO did not outline the corruption allegations against the company, whose London headquarters were searched on Wednesday. The United Nations last year called for a moratorium on any new exploration deals in Somalia, warning such agreements could fuel tensions and potentially spark new conflicts as rivals fight for resources in the fragile Horn of Africa nation. “The SFO confirmed today that it has opened a criminal investigation into SOMA Oil & Gas … in relation to allegations of corruption in Somalia,” the SFO said in a statement on Friday. Soma said it was “confident that there is no basis to the allegation” and was co-operating with the SFO. “Soma Oil & Gas has always conducted its activities in a completely lawful and ethical manner and expects this matter to be resolved in the near future,” the company said in a statement on Saturday. A diplomatic source in Nairobi told Reuters the United Nations Monitoring Group for Somalia had also been investigating Soma, focussing on its “Capacity Building Agreement” with the oil ministry. In a presentation to oil investors in April, Soma said that agreement would see the British company “support salaries for ministry staff and experts, and (... provide a) contribution towards office equipment and outfitting”. Ibrahim Hussein, head of external relations for the Ministry of Petroleum, said the Somali government would continue working with Soma until the investigation was concluded. “If the (investigation) outcome is positive – nothing wrong – then the Soma Oil and Somali government relationship and cooperation will continue. If there is any wrongdoing (proven), then that’s another case,” he said. Hussein added that the oil ministry has been cooperating with the U.N. Monitoring Group during their investigations, but there had been no contact with the SFO yet. Somalia has been ravaged by warfare between warlords and competing clans since a civil war broke out in 1991. An insurgency by al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab militants, who carry out frequent attacks in the capital and beyond, has meant change has been slow despite the presence of African Union peacekeepers and huge inflows of cash from Western donors. Soma in 2013 secured an exclusive contract to conduct seismic surveys on 12 offshore oil and gas blocks, totalling 60,000 square kilometres. The contract awarded Soma the right to subsequently pick other blocks it wanted to exploit. The company last year said it had invested $37 million as part of a programme to gather and digitalize old seismic information and collect new offshore data. Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, Somalia’s security minister who signed that deal in 2013 when he was the country’s resources minister, said the SFO investigation had come as a surprise. “It was a fair deal for Somalia. I don’t know how the investigation came about or what kind of corruption we are talking about,” he told Reuters. Soma is chaired by Michael Howard, a member of Britain’s House of Lords and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s predecessor as Conservative party leader. “The SFO have confirmed that no suspicion whatsoever attaches to Lord Howard arising from the business of SOMA and his role as a non-executive director of the company and he has agreed to speak with the SFO to help resolve their enquiry as quickly as possible,” a Soma spokesman told Reuters. Howard was not available for immediate comment. (Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Jason Neely and Tom Heneghan)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

IRIN Global | Mapped - the world's conflicts | Bangladesh | DRC | Comoros | Ethiopia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security

IRIN Global | Mapped - the world's conflicts | Bangladesh | DRC | Comoros | Ethiopia | Conflict | Refugees/IDPs | Security The news is dominated by wars and unrest in places like Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, but there are dozens of other conflicts around the globe just as devastating that get far less media attention. Next Monday, IRIN will launch the first instalment of a series on the world’s forgotten conflicts. Our package of stories, films and graphics will look in-depth at the situation in South Kordofan in Sudan, Casamance in Senegal, and the border states of southern Thailand. As a teaser, were are releasing an interactive map showing all the ongoing conflicts around the world. Click here to see the map

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Obama Admin. Extends Amnesty For Somalis, Despite Recent Terror Concerns - Breitbart

Obama Admin. Extends Amnesty For Somalis, Despite Recent Terror Concerns - Breitbart

The Obama administration is extending the availability of Temporary Protected Status for current TPS beneficiaries from Somalia for another 18 months, through March 17, 2017.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services highlighted this week that the deadline for TPS Somalis to re-register is July 31. Those granted TPS are allowed to stay in the U.S. legally and are eligible for work authorization.
TPS is afforded to eligible nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security designates due to conditions in the country that prevent its nationals from a safe return. A congressional aid noted that TPS often applies to immigrants without legal status, such as those who have overstayed their visas, and are issued on top of the government’s refugee programs.
“Friday, July 31, 2015, is the deadline for current Somalia Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries to re-register for the 18-month extension of TPS that runs from Sept. 18, 2015, through March 17, 2017,” USCIS explained in a new notice. “The law requires USCIS to withdraw TPS for failure to re-register without good cause. Therefore, if you fail to re-register by this deadline, you may lose your TPS and your work authorization.”
Besides those TPS beneficiaries, the U.S. has additionally resettled thousands of Somali refugees in the U.S. So far this fiscal year, the U.S. has admitted 6,200 Somali refugees.
The extension of TPS comes following recent national security concerns involving Somali immigrants.
In April, for example, six Somali men living in Minnesota were charged with trying to join the terrorist group ISIS. Last year a naturalized Somali-American was sentenced to 30 years for a plot to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Oregon.
Fox News reports that since 2007, more than 22 young Somali men living in Minnesota have left to join the terrorist group al-Shabaab.

Mum-to-be killed in Barton Hill stabbing named as Amal Abdi | Bristol Post

Mum-to-be killed in Barton Hill stabbing named as Amal Abdi | Bristol Post

A 21-year-old pregnant woman stabbed to death has been named as Amal Abdi.
Police have confirmed she was four months pregnant when she was stabbed to death on Sunday night.
Officers were called to a seventh floor flat at Longlands House in Barton Hill on Sunday evening.
Paramedics attempted to save her life after finding her unconscious, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in police custody.
Officers said this morning that the incident was being treated as domestic-related.
Forensic officers remain at the scene as investigations continue.
One shop keeper said Amal came in his store regularly with her daughter.
He said he believed she had recently helped her husband move from Somalia via Italy so they could be together.
"She had helped him come over and he only got here recently, so I don't know him," he said.
"But she was a lovely young girl. She was quiet and always polite.
"We are just all shocked that this has happened.
"She has got other relatives in Bristol as well. Her family will just be devastated. It is such a sad situation."
Another neighbour added: "There were police and ambulances everywhere on Sunday.
"No one really knows what happened, but a lot of people have said she was pregnant and was stabbed.
"Forensic teams have been coming in and there have been police everywhere. I think she lived with some of her family, including her cousins.
"She was a young Somali girl, a pretty girl. It is just devastating that this kind of thing can happen to someone so young.
"It's such a waste of life."
A spokesman for the police said: "We can confirm that the woman who died on Sunday in the incident at a property in Morley Street, Barton Hill was Amal Abdi, aged 21.
"Amal, who is Somalian, was four months pregnant and the post mortem has confirmed that she died from stab wounds.
"A 21-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of her murder remains in police custody. A further warrant of detention has been obtained, enabling officers to continue questioning him.
"Specially trained officers are supporting the woman's family and the local neighbourhood policing team are patrolling the area, providing reassurance and receiving information from members of the local community."
A resident who lives in sheltered accommodation opposite said: "I heard from her cousin that she got stabbed. All I've been told is that the girl got stabbed.
"It was swarming with police cars and they've still got one over there.
"Yesterday they had one of the forensic vans over there too.
"There were half a dozen police cars, two ambulances and paramedics everywhere. We couldn't get in or out of our building."

UNHCR: Talented Somali refugee dreams of new life in America to honour father who died for his art

UNHCR: Talented Somali refugee dreams of new life in America to honour father who died for his art

It has been said that if you suffer for your art, you will never die. For 16-year-old Abdirahim Abdulkadir Osman, a talented Somali refugee artist, it is the memory of his father's brutal murder that keeps his dreams of a better life in America alive.
It was June 2009 when Al Shabaab gunmen forced their way into the home of his father, a teacher and co-founder of the Picasso Art School in Mogadishu. They shot him, along with three of his young children, and violently beat his mother Lul, leaving her in a coma for weeks.
Abdirahim was just 11 years old at the time and attending school with his elder brother Abdulahi. As a result, the pair were spared, along with three other siblings who also escaped the gunmen's fire.
"Everyone has something in their life and that school was his life," said Abdirahim about his father, as he sipped on a macchiato coffee in the canteen of the UNHCR office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "When I was small, he would carry me on his back as he was teaching."
After the attack, with his mother lying unconscious in a hospital bed, neighbours hastily arranged for the two eldest boys to flee Mogadishu with them on the next available flight to Hargeisa, in northern Somalia. From there they crossed the border to Ethiopia and found safety at Aw-barre refugee camp where their grandmother was living.
When Abdirahim's mother emerged from her coma and was well enough to travel, she journeyed with her remaining children to Aw-barre. It was an emotional reunion with her eldest sons. Later, she married Abdirahim's uncle after he joined her and her children in Aw-barre in 2011. "We were happy to have a daddy and to be a full family again," said Abdirahim.
Life in Aw-barre was tough. He and his brothers and sisters earned a meagre living supplementing their rations by painting signs and posters for UNHCR and other partners during events, including World Refugee day. But, after word of their talent spread, the family were eventually assisted to leave Aw-barre and relocated to Addis where they could use their artistic skills to earn a living. They were also supported by UNHCR's urban refugee programme.
Last year, Abdirahim won first prize in the UNHCR Somalia World Refugee Day art competition for a painting on the theme of 'My Somalia' which depicted UNHCR's support to refugees and IDPs.
Today, despite everything he has been through, the young artist is once again able to dream big as he and his family enter into the final stages of what will hopefully be a successful resettlement process to America. "I want hope," he says. "Hope to give back. I want to live an artistic life."
He looks forward to improving his English and using his artistic talents at high school. But really all he dreams of is a better life away from Mogadishu, Aw-barre, and Addis – which he says is "good and full of peace but still difficult." He even hopes to work for UNHCR in the future.
"We hope now that we can all get a good education and have a good future," Abdirahim concluded, draining his coffee. "The life our father dreamed for us and which cost him his life."
Picasso would be proud.
By Andy Needham in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Obama vows to keep up pressure on Somalia’s al-Shabab - Al Arabiya News

Obama vows to keep up pressure on Somalia’s al-Shabab - Al Arabiya News

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday praised recent advances by Somali and African Union troops against al-Shabab militants, but said it was important to keep up the pressure.
Speaking in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Obama said the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants offer nothing but “death and destruction”.
“Ethiopia faces serious threats,” Obama said. “We’ve got more work to do.”
The comments followed an bloody attack on one of Mogadishu's most secure hotels, which severely damaged the building killing 15 people including a Kenya diplomat, a Chinese embassy guard and three journalists.
The scale of the truck bomb used against the Jazeera Hotel has stunned Mogadishu, a capital long used to conflict and raises fears of an escalation of force by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group battling the government.
Somalia's foreign minister Abdisalam Omer told The Associated Press by phone from Djibouti that a Kenyan diplomat was also wounded in the attack.
The attack was claimed by the al-Qaida-linked Al-Shabab group and also wounded some 20 people. The walled, luxury Jazeera Hotel is considered the most secure in Somalia’s capital and is frequented by diplomats, foreigners and visiting heads of state.
“This is really scary - destroying the Jazeera hotel like this means no blast walls can make anyone safe,” said bystander Yusuf Mohammed. The use of huge truck bombs is a relatively new phenomenon and throws into doubt whether any place in the capital is now adequately protected.
While blast destroyed at least eight rooms and stunned the residents of the Somali capital, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been because the truck, which contained a ton of explosives, was stopped at the blast walls outside the hotel.
“The damage is big but a lot less because the truck bomb couldn’t go beyond the walls that lay a few meters from the hotel’s perimeter walls,” said Mohammed Abdi, a police officer.
Nervous soldiers fired in the air to disperse a crowd who surged toward the hotel after the blast as medical workers transported wounded victims into awaiting ambulances.
The attack comes as Somali forces backed by troops from the African Union have launched an offensive, dubbed Operation Jubba Corridor, to push al-Shabab out of its last strongholds. The coalition already has driven the group out of the capital.
In a statement, Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for the deaths of dozens of civilians at the hands of Ethiopian forces, which are part of the AU force, and that the hotel was targeted because it hosts “Western” embassies coordinating the offensive.
The attack came as President Barack Obama was leaving neighboring Kenya for Ethiopia. The president’s visit has included discussions about how to deal with the threat of al-Shabab.
On Sunday, the White House Press Office issued a statement condemning the attack and extending condolences to the families of the victims.
“Despite the very real progress Somalia has achieved in recent years, this attack is yet another reminder of the unconscionable atrocities that terrorist groups continue to perpetrate against the people of Somalia,” the statement read, adding that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to work with Somalia to bring an end to such acts of terrorism.