Outside The COVID-19 Quarantine: The Other News Report – March 18th, 2020

(c) Image: Jim Black from Pixabay, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and increasing lockdowns dominate newsfeeds, our discourse, the internet – and rightly so. (So wash your hands, stay home if you can, get important daily updates here and follow global stats here.) All the more reason to not lose sight of currently less publicized news. Here are some digests of what else is going on in the world. Stay tuned!

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Iran and the US: On The Edge Of War?

Iran currently struggles with the third highest number of COVID-19 deaths due to the government’s slow response. This is complicated by a toxic mix of sanctions, deteriorating financial and economic conditions, domestic resistance and international pressures.

In the midst of everything, Iran and the US have been exchanging deadly airstrikes, moving both countries closer to the brink of war. The Intercept analyses how the original strategy of deterrence now seems to effect the very opposite.

Turkey And The EU Refugee Deal

In a video conference call on March 17th, the leaders of Germany, France, Turkey and Britain discussed the current situation concerning refugees and migrants and Turkish and Greek borders. The humanitarian crisis continues since fighting between Turkey and Russia broke out in the Syrian region of Idlib.

Turkey recently announced opening borders again, allowing free movement of refugees and migrants. In the call, German chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to continue honoring the EU side of the 2016 deal in return for Turkey halting refugees at its borders. Recently, Greece urged Turkey to not “unleash” refugees and migrants onto Europe.

After investigative reports by the New York Times of Greece capturing and beating migrants and refugees without due process in suspected “black sites”, Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the Greek treatment of refugees akin to that of the Nazi regime. Videos from those reports show Greek coast guard vessels shooting at dinghys and stabbing them with long black batons. Greece denies the existence of such black sites. Earlier this month, Greece has also suspended asylum for incoming refugees for one month.

More insights here.

Locust Plague Threatening Livelihoods in Africa

Locus swarms currently pose a signficant threat to livelihoods in Africa and the Middle East, affecting already struggling countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia as well as Pakistan.

COVID-19-related travel restrictions could prevent appropriate measures against the plague.

More insights and regular updates on Locust Watch. Images and insights on the plague here.

Clashes In South Sudan

Nearly 100 people have been admitted to hospital after violent, intercommunal clashes in the South Sudanese regions Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. In many cases, people walked long distances to receive medical treatment.

The situation remains highly tense and on the brink of violence, not least since the forming of a unity government in February 2020. South Sudan is also among many countries that have implemented a travel ban in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Constitutional Amendments In Russia

The Constitutional Court in Russia approved amendments to the constitution, potentially allowing current president Vladimir Putin to run again beyond his current term. Previously, his presidency would have expired in 2024. With the new amendments, Putin would also receive more veto power, appoint cabinet members at will or become a life-long senator.

EU Commission Against Racism and Intolerance Publishes Report On Racism In Germany

The European Commission Against Racism And Intolerance, ECRI, called on Germany to step up efforts against structural racism, islamophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and online hate speech in its latest report published on March 17th, 2020. At the same time, it also commended Germany for many proactive measures and verbal commitments by its leadership, including having “warmly welcomed an extraordinarily large number of asylum seekers in 2015”.

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