Bangladesh and Myanmar strike Rohingya deal; PNG evicts refugees; Yemen blockade eased

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  • Bangladesh signed a deal today to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, survivors of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the country’s military. The deal was signed in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, by officials from both countries. Details are unclear. Aid workers expressed concern for the safety of the refugees back in Myanmar, though, due to unsettling comments by the country’s top military leader. “The situation must be acceptable for both local Rakhine ethnic people and Bengalis, and emphasis must be placed on wish of local Rakhine ethnic people who are real Myanmar citizens,” Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said.
    • Since late August, over 620,000 Rohingya were forced out of Rakhine state by Myanmar’s military after attacks on army barracks by Rohingya militants. Most fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. In a press release published yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” echoing claims made in early September by the United Nations.  Tillerson also opened the door for targeted sanctions against those responsible for the war crimes. Myanmar denies the claims.
  • Papua New Guinea (PNG) authorities have moved to evict refugees from a former Australian-run detention center. Hundreds of men have refused to leave the Manus Island center since it was closed on October 31. A video livestreamed from inside the facility showed men chanting “human rights help us/They want to kill us.” The Guardian reported that Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani was arrested as police and immigration officials entered the camp. Australia has detained asylum seekers who arrive by boat in camps on Manus Island but it shut down the center after a local court ruled it unconstitutional. The court urged asylum seekers to head to transit centers elsewhere on the island. However, the United Nations said new accommodation for the refugees  was far from ready.
  • A blockade stopping urgently needed humanitarian aid to war-torn Yemen was to begin easing on Thursday. The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Shiite rebels said it will reopen the country’s main airport in Sanaa and the key Red Sea port of Hodeida after a two-week closure. UN groups had been warning that the blockade could lead to a famine that would threaten millions, and Al Jazeera reported that aid groups contend the situation remains dire.
  • The U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions ordered a review of an FBI database used for background checks on gun buyers, citing a Texas church massacre in which 26 people were killed. Sessions said an unreported assault conviction by the gunman in the November 5 slayings identified shortcomings in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

What we’re reading

  • Light pollution is growing across the Earth, masking the difference between night and day, and creating potentially profound challenges for the planet’s inhabitants, according to a new study in the journal Science Advances. The Washington Post reports that while much of the recent increase is concentrated in Asia and the Middle East, the problem is on a “planetary scale.” LED lights, which were supposed to bring an “energy revolution,” are driving the problem, reports phys.org, a science news site. – Jodie DeJonge
  • The Economist looks at how Thanksgiving, like Christmas, only became the massive sales deal that it is in the latter 20th century. The Pilgrim Fathers would not approve. – Angela Long

 

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