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Immigration Has Pushed Up House Prices, Says UK Minister

first_imgImmigration has brought about an increase of around 20 per cent in prices of houses over a period of 25 years, Dominic Raab, the Housing Minister of the United Kingdom, said.“Based on the Office for National Statistics data, the advice to me from the department is that in the last 25 years we have seen immigration put house prices up by something like 20 per cent,” Raab said, the Sunday Times reported. He added that the government should not overlook the harmful effects of immigration on the country.“The Migration Advisory Committee is right to look at the positive impact immigration has had on the country. At the same time, you can’t just airbrush the costs and the impact it has on housing,” Raab said, according to the report.Raab is heading a drive to build more affordable homes in the United Kingdom. He wants the number of new houses to go up from 217,000 in 2017 to 300,000 by 2025, according to the Sun. Raab added that there is an opportunity to revive the dream of owning a home in the United Kingdom and make this dream come true for youngsters as well as those in the low and middle-income sections of the society.A research conducted by property website Zoopla in March showed that among the cheapest places to buy houses in the United Kingdom for first-time buyers is Hull, with an average property price of £104,376, followed by Middlesbrough with £107,041 and Liverpool with £122,137. The research found that London is one of the most expensive places to live, where buyers have to shell out £518,178 for a place.Pointing out that the issue of housing cannot be left out of the immigration debate, Raab said, “If we delivered on the government’s target of reducing immigration to the tens of thousands every year, that would have a material impact on the number of homes we need to build every year.”He talked about the new reforms that will be introduced in the procedure of buying homes on April 8, and tweeted: “New reforms to the purchasing process, so the dream of buying your own home doesn’t become a nightmare.”New reforms to the purchasing process, so the dream of buying your own home doesn’t become a nightmare. #mhclg https://t.co/AmgULLEshB— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) April 9, 2018UK Housing Secretary Sajid Javid also gave more details about the new reforms in a statement on April 8. Javid said that the new measures will help professionalize the estate agent market, driving up standards and bringing an end to “rogue” managing agents.“Estate agents will now be required to hold a professional qualification and to be transparent about the fees they receive for referring clients to solicitors, surveyors and mortgage brokers,” the statement said.Meanwhile, the UK Home Office is encouraging asylum seekers in the United Kingdom to return home, even before their cases are taken up by the department officials. The Home Office is voluntarily giving contact numbers and information to asylum seekers about the ways they can head back home before their cases are considered.Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Feb. 22 revealed that about 5,500 Indian citizens sought asylum in the United Kingdom and applied for it in the last five years. A majority of the applications were made after the Indians arrived in the United Kingdom, pointing to the fact that they may have traveled with valid visas and applied for an asylum later. Related ItemsReal estateUnited Kingdomlast_img read more

Undocumented Immigrants Could Get Driving License in New York

first_imgOne of the hurdles faced by undocumented immigrants in the United States is no access to a driver’s license. However, that could change in New York soon. Rights groups holding a peaceful protest at the Capitol on April 18 pushed for the legislation–the Driver License Access and Privacy Act–allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for a driver’s license.“This is not the first time that a proposal has come forward extending driver’s licenses to more New Yorkers,” said Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, who is the sponsor of the bill, reported Democrat and Chronicle. “This is a better version. This is the right time, and this is the right thing to do for the state of New York for a number of reasons,” Crespo added.Currently, 12 states and Washington DC allow illegal aliens to hold a driver’s license. The current bill in New York is almost a decade old and was brought to the state legislature again. If the bill is passed it would ensure that undocumented immigrants using their passport issued in a different country as an identification could get a driver’s license. They would also have to sign an affidavit. The bill is currently with the committee on transportation and was brought before the state assembly in January last year.The bill “restricts what information can be retained and given out on those applying or holding standard drivers’ licenses,” according to the official document. By restricting giving out information about those who have driver’s licenses, the transport department would not have to report the undocumented immigrants to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.Legalizing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants would add $57 million in annual state and county revenues, according to the New York Immigration Coalition, an advocacy group. The money would be added through registration fees, sales taxes and gas taxes, as per the report.In 2007, the then Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York had issued an executive order allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses by showing a foreign passport as identification. But the order was met with a roadblock and was shelved finally.Critics, however, said that giving a license to immigrants will give them a back door to immigration. While Assembly members said it was a basic facility, according to News10. “Literally just trying to do what’s right. Go to church, go to the doctor, go to school, go to work. People are denying them that access,” Assemblywoman Crystal D Peoples-Stokes said.According to Fiscal Policy Institute, 265,000 immigrants would get licenses if the law is signed. That estimate includes 500 licenses in Binghamton, 1000 in Utica, 2500 in Buffalo and 3000 in Rochester, the report said.“The Assembly has been supportive of integrating people to become members of our communities,” said Michael Whyland, Communications Director for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. Related ItemsDriver’s LicenseUnited Stateslast_img read more

Govt Asks Kuwait to Recognize Indian Engineers’ Qualifications

first_imgThe Indian government has written to Kuwait, saying that most Indian engineers have valid qualifications that should be recognized in the country. The move comes following the Kuwaiti government’s decision to make it mandatory for expatriate engineers to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE).The Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development has now said that many engineers from the country would have received their degrees from institutes that would probably not be listed by the National Board of Accreditation (NBA). “Since NBA has started functioning only from 2012, it is possible that some engineers are currently working in Kuwait who acquired degrees prior to setting up of NBA. It is requested that the qualification of such engineers may not be questioned at this later stage,” the letter said, the Hindustan Times reported.The government also highlighted that some premier institutions of excellence in the field of engineering have been created by India, in which candidates are admitted only after going through a highly competitive entrance examination.“These institutes have their own system of accreditation through External Peer Group reviews. Government of India considers that the students graduating from these institutions have qualified duly accredited courses,” R Subrahmanyam, higher education secretary in the HRD ministry, stated in the letter, as per the report.Thousands of Indian engineers in Kuwait have been panicking, including many who are graduates of premier Indian engineering institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and National Institute of Technology (NIT), the report added.Kuwait’s Public Authority for Manpower enforced in March this year a newly introduced regulation, according to which expatriate engineers would be unable to renew their work visas until they get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the KSE. In order to acquire the NOC, the applicant must be a graduate from a university that is on the list of accredited universities, and in courses included on the KSE master list.The move by the Kuwait government is believed to have affected over 15,000 Indian engineers.Most engineers are in the age group of 30-45 years and graduated long before NBA got into the act, Jyothidas Narayan, a member of the Kuwait Engineers Forum, which represents 1,400 engineers in the construction and oil & gas industry had earlier said. Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee of External Affairs, had then told the Indian embassy in Kuwait to have a dialogue with authorities in the country.In March, the Kuwait Engineers Forum (KEF) had posted the problems faced by them on the social media, saying that they are going through a tough phase.“At present our job, our family, our life itself is being disturbed by the circular dated 11 March, 2018 issued by Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) advising the concerned authorities that all expatriate engineers should obtain NOC from Kuwait Society of Engineers (KSE) for renewal of residency,” the KEF said on Facebook, adding that the most important possession of the engineers — their educational qualification — is “being challenged and the whole Indian educational system is being questioned.” Related ItemsEmploymentKuwaitlast_img read more

Press Council Of India Dismisses World Press Freedom Index Rankings

first_imgCiting “lack of clarity” on what the rankings were based on, the Press Council of India (PCI) has rejected the recently released Press Freedom Index in which India was ranked 138th among 180 countries, PTI reported.The World Press Freedom Index, published annually by Reporters Without Borders since 2002, looks into media freedom in 180 countries, judging them on various parameters, such as the level of pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.In the report released on April 25, India dropped two spots, from No. 136 last year to No. 138. The report attributes the fall to incidents of physical attacks against journalists like Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her house in Bengaluru in September last year. The report also talks about Section 124a of the Indian Penal Code, which mentions life imprisonment for “sedition,” saying that the law encourages self-censorship.“In India, hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay,” the report says.However, PCI dismissed the report. “We reject the rankings by the RWB. I am of the opinion that undue importance is given to the rankings. There is no clarity on the inputs that weighed in the ranking of a country,” PCI chairman  Justice (retd) CK Prasad told the news agency.The Indian organization had written to the RWB a number of times to gain an understanding of how the index was prepared but did not get a response, Prasad said, adding that the rankings were “reportedly” based partly on a questionnaire sent to the partner organization of the RWF, its correspondents around the world, and journalists, researchers, jurists and human right activists.He went on to say that PCI has told the RWB that the rankings were not based on statistical data, but “based on opinion or perception of an individual or group of individuals.”After the World Press Freedom Index came out in 2015, the PCI wrote a letter to RWB on Sept. 22, 2015, which said: “In order to understand the gravity of the matter, the chairman of the Council desires to know the inputs which weighed in ranking of the country in the index so that remedial steps, if needed, can be taken to smoothen the functioning of the media.“The chairman is further of the opinion that a structured discussion on the issue with your (RWF) representative and the members of the Council would be helpful in achieving the objective.”The letters were also sent in October and December of the same year and in early in 2016, when the council said that the rankings “could either be on the basis of statistical data or perception of an individual or group of individuals.”The letter said: “If the ranking is on the basis of statistical data, the council requests you to share it with us, so as to enable us to take remedial measures as it deems proper. The council is constrained to communicate that if no data is shared, it shall have to come to the conclusion that India’s ranking in World Freedom Index is based on perception and is not supported by any verifiable data.” Related ItemsMedialast_img read more

Processing Time for Citizenship Applications Increases in Australia

first_imgAs the debate over immigration cap rages on in Australia, the Department of Home Affairs announced that the average time for processing a citizenship application has got extended from 12 to 16 months this financial year, SBS News reported.Tightening of national security requirements and a growth in the number of applications has caused an increase in the duration taken between the time a person lodges an application for citizenship and when the status is finally granted, Home Affairs officer Luke Mansfield told the Senate earlier this week when responding to queries related to citizenship applications. As a result, the number of complaints about the processing time have also risen.“One is that the department has increased the integrity screening and checking processes from a national security and criminality risk perspective.The second factor driving that change is growth in the number of applications. The number of applications has been increasing year-on-year from a very significant base,” Mansfield said in a statement to Senate committee in Canberra on May 22.He also said that the applications are on the rise although the format of application has changed, with more than 210,000 citizenship applications “on hand” as of April 30. This number includes applications that are still to be assessed and are in the process of being scrutinized, as well as people who have not attended citizenship ceremonies.In order to keep up with the demand, Mansfield said that a 16 percent increase has been done in processing staff since July 2016.The extension of processing time has been received bitterly among immigrants, SBS News Punjabi reported. The permanent residency application has changed since his time as a student in 2008, Sahil Sharma from Queensland’s Gold Coast told the publication, adding that the IELTS requirements as well as the rules to residency after working on a 457 visa have also been changed. Sharma said he applied for a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS) visa, which requires a job offer in a regional area of Australia, in November 2016 but still does not know the outcome. Some of the regional areas stipulated for the RSMS visa are the whole of Western Australia, the whole of South Australia, and Victoria — all areas excluding Melbourne, including some others. The Australian government is currently considering a policy that would require immigrants arriving in Australia on the RSMS visa to live in regional or rural Australia as opposed to big cities like Sydney or Melbourne. Related ItemsAustralialast_img read more

‘Tech Needs to Do Better,’ Says Silicon Valley Congressman

first_img“The greatest challenge of our time,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said, “is the concentration of economic opportunity by geography.”Khanna, a 41-year-old patent lawyer from Fremont, is a first-term congressman representing the state’s 17th District — the heart of Silicon Valley. He’s a self-avowed tech junkie who’s drawn support from the industry’s top players.Yet he’s joked that his district has some of “the biggest egos known to humankind” and he is adamant that Silicon Valley is too exclusive, hardly diverse enough and benefits far too few.“Tech needs to do better,” Khanna said Thursday. “The achievements here are staggering, but the question is who is participating. I would argue that a lot of people have been left out: African-Americans and other minorities and people in rural areas of the heartland of our country.”Khanna is the son of immigrants from India. As political inspiration, he cites his grandfather, a member of Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement in the 1940s who was jailed for four years before becoming a parliamentarian.At the University of Chicago, he worked on the state Senate campaign of Barack Obama and later on Obama’s presidential run. He moved to California in 2001, and in 2003 he ran for Congress.He lost that election badly and lost to Democratic stalwart Michael Honda in 2014. Critics at the time called him a “Silicon Valley groupie” and a candidate “whose big-money donors are intent on buying Mike’s congressional seat.” Khanna, one of only six members of Congress who does not accept PAC contributions, bristles at those words.“The Valley doesn’t elect ‘yes’ people,” he said. “It elects people who push back and people who will help it achieve its potential. Independence is what gives me credibility.”Steve Glickman, co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group, told The Los Angeles Times: “It is rare to see a first-term congressman from Silicon Valley criticizing the tech industry for not doing enough to help Middle America, where he has no skin in the game. But this is the issue of our generation to fix.”Khanna is expected to win re-election June 5. In its endorsement, The San Jose Mercury News praised his “working knowledge” of the tech industry.“People in the Valley may not agree with me,” Khanna said, “but they respect me as trying to think about Silicon Valley’s place in America, and making sure everyone is included.”© 2018 New York Times News Service Related ItemsIndian Americanlast_img read more

Thousands of Visa Applications of Doctors Rejected in UK, Figures Reveal

first_imgOver 2,300 visa applications of doctors from foreign countries looking to work in the United Kingdom were rejected from December 2017 to April 2018, figures obtained by a UK law firm through a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed, the Guardian reported.Out of the 3,597 requests from doctors for tier 2 visas between Nov. 6, 2017 and Apr. 5, 2018, only 34 per cent were successful. As many as 2,360 visa applications by overseas doctors who are from outside the European Economic Area were denied in the period covered by the FOI request made by the law firm Eversheds Sutherland.These findings come after UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said recently that the United Kingdom will review the country’s visa system for highly skilled immigrants. Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of National Health Service Employers, had then welcomed the move of the review of tier 2 visa system, urging for a speedy, effective solution which he said is required to clear the backlog.The figures showed that the chances of success for junior doctors were even worse. While 90 of 97 applications by consultants were successful, only 733 out of 2,341 (31 percent) among registrars were granted a visa. In total, there were 18,517 applications made during the five months, out of which 8,330 were successful, the Guardian reported.The number of applications from December 2017 to April 2018 for doctors who would earn annual salaries below £50,000 was 3,004 and the number of applications approved was 890, the figures showed.“These figures demonstrate that the tier 2 visa cap is resulting in thousands of highly trained, experienced doctors being blocked from taking up empty posts in the health service that the NHS is unable to fill,” a British Medical Association spokesman was quoted as saying by the publication. The spokesperson added that the National Health Service (NHS) is under unmanageable pressure from increasing demand, stagnating budgets and huge staff shortages.Data obtained by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) released on May 16 revealed that the UK government refused 6,080 applications for skilled overseas workers holding a job offer because of an arbitrary cap on visas since December 2017. This included Indian professionals such as engineers, tech professionals, doctors and teachers.As many as 1,226 IT or tech professionals were refused visas in this period, with 429 refusals in March this year. The corresponding figure for medical professionals was 1,518, with 487 refusals taking place in March this year.Reports had emerged earlier that 100 Indian doctors who had been recruited for 30 NHS trusts in the north west of England were not granted a visa to enter the United Kingdom. Related ItemsNHSUnited Kingdomlast_img read more

Over 7,000 Indians Sought Asylum in U.S. in 2017: UN Report

first_imgAbout 7,400 Indian nationals sought asylum in the United States in 2017, according to the annual Global Trends report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency. Indians were among the largest groups of people from a country who filed applications for asylum in the United States last year, the report, which was released on June 19, said.The displaced population around the world increased by 2.9 million in 2017, reaching 68.5 million individuals by the end of the year. “As a result, the world’s forcibly displaced population remained yet again at a record high,” the report said. One in every 110 people in the world is a refugee, is internally displaced or is seeking asylum, the report stated.Asylum-seekers submitted 1.7 million new asylum claims during the year. The United States, with 331,700 asylum claims, was the world’s largest recipient of new individual applications, followed by Germany (198,300), Italy (126,500), and Turkey (126,100).The maximum number of asylum requests to the United States in 2017 came from El Salvador (49,500), Guatemala (35,300), Honduras (28,800) and Venezuela (29,900), the report said. Other nationalities from which there were more than 5,000 claims last year were Mexico (26,100), China (17,400), Haiti (8,600), and India (7,400). Altogether the United States received claims from nationals from 168 countries.More than two-thirds (68 percent) of all refugees worldwide came from five countries — Syria (6.3 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.4 million), Myanmar (1.2 million), and Somalia (986,400). The new places that saw significant displacement were the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Myanmar, according to the report.The highest number of asylum claims filed by individuals were from Afghanistan, with 124,900 people filing applications in 80 countries, although this number is considerably lower than those submitted in 2016 (237,800) and 2015 (271,100), the report showed. Of these, India received 4,500 claims from Afghans.The total number of refugees in India at 2017 end was 197,146, while there were 10,519 asylum seekers with pending cases in the country. As many as 40,391 pending cases of asylum seekers from India were recorded last year, the report said.“We are at a watershed, where success in managing forced displacement globally requires a new and far more comprehensive approach so that countries and communities aren’t left dealing with this alone,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement. Related ItemsHuman RightsUnited Nationslast_img read more

Indian Immigrant Separated from Her Disabled Child at U.S Border: Report

first_imgAn Indian woman seeking asylum in the United States after she entered the country illegally has been separated from her five-year-old disabled child, the Washington Post reported. Bhavan Patel, 33, was granted a $30,000 bond by a Arizona court on June 26, the report added. It was not clear whether she has been reunited with the child.Patel is among the hundreds of people, including about 100 Indians, who were detained after Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy against undocumented immigrants who cross into the United States was implemented in May. The policy, which allows prosecution of adults who enter the country illegally, has resulted in separation of an estimated 2,300 children from their families, sparking widespread outrage that forced Trump to sign an executive order to end the practice.This is, however, the first case that has come to light of an Indian national getting separated from her child at the U.S. border, PTI reported.The report did not say when Patel was arrested. She fled Gujarat with her son due to political persecution, and traveled to Greece and Mexico, from where she tried to enter the United States, the report cited her and her attorney Alinka Robinson as saying during the bond hearing.“Her son is not doing well,” Robinson said, requesting Judge Irene C Feldman to grant Patel a $10,000 bond so she could “reunite with her son,” according to the publication. The proceedings were translated into Gujarati for Patel through a telephonic translator.The prosecutor from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told the court that Patel was a flight risk, following which the judge asked her how she came to the United States, and whether a smuggler was involved in the process.Patel replied that her brother had made arrangements for her travel and that no smuggler was paid, the report added.The judge then set her bond at $30,000.The Indian embassy in the United States had earlier said that it is making efforts to contact the Indian nationals who have been detained over charges of illegal entry into the country. A federal judge earlier this week ruled that immigration lawyers should be given access to the immigrants being held at a Oregon prison. Among the detainees at the Sheridan Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Oregon are 52 Indians, mostly Sikhs from Punjab. Another 42 Indians are detained at the Otero County Detention Center in New Mexico. Related ItemsarizonaUnited Stateslast_img read more

Behind on Payments to China, Sri Lanka Coughed Up Territory Instead

first_imgEvery time Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes.Yes, though feasibility studies said the port wouldn’t work. Yes, though other frequent lenders like India had refused. Yes, though Sri Lanka’s debt was ballooning rapidly under Rajapaksa.Over years of construction and renegotiation with China Harbor Engineering Co., one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises, the Hambantota Port Development Project distinguished itself mostly by failing, as predicted. With tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012.And then the port became China’s.Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.The transfer gave China control of territory just a few hundred miles off the shores of a rival, India, and a strategic foothold along a critical commercial and military waterway.The case is one of the most vivid examples of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world — and of its willingness to play hardball to collect.The debt deal also intensified some of the harshest accusations about President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative: that the global investment and lending program amounts to a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fueling corruption and autocratic behavior in struggling democracies.A view of the Port of Colombo in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 1, 2018. Photo Credit: Adam Dean/The New York TimesMonths of interviews with Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese and Western officials, and analysis of documents and agreements stemming from the port project, present a stark illustration of how China and the companies under its control ensured their interests in a small country hungry for financing.During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times.Though Chinese officials and analysts have insisted that China’s interest in the Hambantota port is purely commercial, Sri Lankan officials said that from the start, the intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location were part of the negotiations.— Initially moderate terms for lending on the port project became more onerous as Sri Lankan officials asked to renegotiate the timeline and add more financing. And as Sri Lankan officials became desperate to get the debt off their books in recent years, the Chinese demands centered on handing over equity in the port rather than allowing any easing of terms.— Though the deal erased roughly $1 billion in debt for the port project, Sri Lanka is now in more debt to China than ever, as other loans have continued and rates remain much higher than from other international lenders.Rajapaksa and his aides did not respond to multiple requests for comment, made over several months, for this article. Officials for China Harbor also would not comment.Estimates by the Sri Lankan Finance Ministry paint a bleak picture: This year, the government is expected to generate $14.8 billion of revenue, but its scheduled debt repayments, to an array of lenders around the world, come to $12.3 billion.“John Adams said infamously that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter,” said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst who often advises the Indian government and is affiliated with Center for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.Indian officials, in particular, fear that Sri Lanka is struggling so much that the Chinese government may be able to dangle debt relief in exchange for its military’s use of assets like the Hambantota port — though the final lease agreement forbids military activity there without Sri Lanka’s invitation.“The only way to justify the investment in Hambantota is from a national security standpoint — that they will bring the People’s Liberation Army in,” said Shivshankar Menon, who served as India’s foreign secretary and then its national security adviser as the Hambantota port was being built.A fish stall in a zone that is due to be turned into a large industrial area surrounding the Hambantota Port, in Ambalantota, Sri Lanka, March 10, 2018. Photo Credit: Adam Dean/The New York TimesFrom the start, officials questioned the wisdom of a second major port, in a country a quarter the size of Britain and with a population of 22 million, when the main port in the capital was thriving and had room to expand. Feasibility studies commissioned by the government had starkly concluded that a port at Hambantota was not economically viable.But Rajapaksa greenlighted the project, then boasted in a news release that he had defied all caution — and that China was on board.The Sri Lanka Ports Authority began devising what officials believed was a careful, economically sound plan in 2007, according to an official involved in the project. It called for a limited opening for business in 2010, and for revenue to be coming in before any major expansion.The first major loan it took on the project came from the Chinese government’s Export-Import Bank, or Exim, for $307 million. But to obtain the loan, Sri Lanka was required to accept Beijing’s preferred company, China Harbor, as the port’s builder, according to a U.S. Embassy cable from the time, leaked to WikiLeaks.That is a typical demand of China for its projects around the world, rather than allowing an open bidding process. Across the region, Beijing’s government is lending out billions of dollars, being repaid at a premium to hire Chinese companies and thousands of Chinese workers, according to officials across the region.In later years, Chinese officials and the China Harbor company went to great lengths to keep relations strong with Rajapaksa, who for years had faithfully acquiesced to such terms.In the final months of Sri Lanka’s 2015 election, China’s ambassador broke with diplomatic norms and lobbied voters, even caddies at Colombo’s premier golf course, to support Rajapaksa over the opposition, which was threatening to tear up economic agreements with the Chinese government.The rising debt and project costs, even as the port was struggling, handed Sri Lanka’s political opposition a powerful issue, and it campaigned heavily on suspicions about China. Rajapaksa lost the election.The incoming government, led by President Maithripala Sirisena, came to office with a mandate to scrutinize Sri Lanka’s financial deals. It also faced a daunting amount of debt: Under Rajapaksa, the country’s debt had increased threefold, to $44.8 billion when he left office. And for 2015 alone, a $4.68 billion payment was due at year’s end.The new government was eager to reorient Sri Lanka toward India, Japan and the West. But officials soon realized that no other country could fill the financial or economic space that China held in Sri Lanka.Government officials began meeting in 2016 with their Chinese counterparts to strike a deal, hoping to get the port off its balance sheet and avoid outright default. But the Chinese demanded that a Chinese company take a dominant equity share in the port in return, Sri Lankan officials say — writing down the debt was not an option.The handover of Hambantota to the Chinese has kept alive concerns about possible military use — particularly as China has continued to militarize island holdings around the South China Sea despite earlier pledges not to.Sri Lankan officials are quick to point out that the agreement explicitly rules out China’s military use of the site. But others also note that Sri Lanka’s government, still heavily indebted to China, could be pressured to allow it.And, as Harsha de Silva, the state minister for national policies and economic affairs, put it, “Governments can change.”© 2018 New York Times News Service Related ItemsChinaSri Lankalast_img read more

The Biggest Game of Imran Khan’s Life Begins Now

first_imgImran Khan, whose university idols used to be Mick Jagger and Karl Marx, once described himself to me as a “humble sinner” in an interview.We were sitting in the sylvan surroundings of his Bani Gala residence, a mansion built at the top of a steep hill slope, with an imposing view of Islamabad. Khan, whom I have known for more than two decades, spoke with disarming candor about the many twists and turns of his life’s journey. He was a cricket superstar and a flamboyant Don Juan adored by millions of women in the South Asian subcontinent. He has now transformed into a spiritual, born-again Muslim and a conservative, self-made politician.For someone who has lived in the public gaze and survived dozens of lurid tabloid headlines about his personal life, he had clearly developed an unflustered response to the microscopic scrutiny he has been subjected to. He had no hesitation in talking about how politics and the pressure of a cross-culture relationship broke up his first marriage to British writer and filmmaker Jemima Goldsmith.In fact, the only time he got agitated in our conversation is when I pointed out that Pakistan’s liberals had always disliked him — calling him “Taliban Khan” for the religious orthodoxy to his political rhetoric and for calling for talks with the Taliban. He was also known for his strident anti-Americanism. In words that would become an international soundbite, he retaliated angrily that these liberals were actually “fascists. . . . I don’t know these liberals, because these liberals back bombing of villages. They back drone attacks. . . . They have criticized me because I opposed this war on terror. I opposed this criminal bombing, aerial bombing of villages, women, and children getting killed. And these people were applauding it. These are not liberals. This is the scum of Pakistan who calls themselves liberals.”For years, the man who appears poised to lead Pakistan’s next government has opposed the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the continued presence of its troops in the region. In the same interview, he was extremely critical of the U.S. Navy SEALs’ covert mission that took out Osama bin Laden, arguing that “civilized countries follow due process.” He believed that bin Laden should have gotten a court trial, as Saddam Hussein did.Though some commentators have likened his political outsider status and populist politics to those of President Trump, his rhetorical criticism of the United States is likely to put him on an early collision course with the administration in Washington. His first public comments after declaring victory reinforced his sharp criticism of the U.S.-Pakistan equation, which he called “a one-sided relationship in which America paid Pakistan to fight its war.”Of course, not many believe (despite the denials and assertions of autonomy) that Khan would have any significant space to craft his foreign policy independent of Pakistan’s all-powerful military. How he negotiates his relationship with the Pakistani army will be key, especially with the announcement of his victory coming amid allegations by rivals and rights groups of voting manipulation by the Pakistani security establishment. Khan swiftly offered to support investigations into any genuine complaints. But his real test of independence will be how he steers his country’s relationship with India. Ousted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, now in jail in a corruption case, is widely seen to have been punished by the Pakistani army, in part for being too friendly with India. Khan also called Sharif a “security risk” and taunted him for “speaking the language of [Narendra] Modi” after Sharif admitted to Pakistan’s role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.Khan responded with wit and humor to Indian apprehensions about him abjectly toeing the line of the Pakistan army. He accused Indian media of casting him in the role of a Bollywood villain. The remark triggered much mirth, even among his detractors in Delhi. He did seem to strike a note of reconciliation with India in contrast to his aggressive remarks from the stumps. This is the paradox and the dilemma for Indians. Khan’s ascendance is probably the first time Indians feels as though they personally know the leader of their country’s most serious adversary. At least two generations of Indians have followed Khan on the cricket field, where he was famous for blistering bowling. His demigod status extended well beyond the borders of Pakistan. He has been a regular in the fashionable drawing rooms of Delhi and Mumbai and has more personal friendships in India than any other Pakistani politicians. There’s no denying it: Khan has been somewhat of a glamorous poster-boy in India.What flummoxes Indians is how they should reconcile the Khan they have been exposed to – a larger-than-life, easygoing and overtly modern persona – with his new role — a politician who takes hawkish positions against India every election season. I asked Khan about that once: “What does it [your political rise] mean for people in India who love you otherwise but are scared of your politics?” He argued that the binary itself was unfair and a consequence of caricaturing him as an acolyte of the religious right. “I don’t fit in those stereotypes. I’m deeply spiritual. I lead my life with my faith, but I’m totally leftist in my thinking. I’m anti-neoliberal economics. I think there should be compassion in the world. I believe in a welfare state.”So why does a self-proclaimed leftist and an Oxford-educated politician (Benazir Bhutto was a good friend at Oxford before she became a political rival; her son Bilawal is a key contender in these elections) back a horribly prejudiced blasphemy law that literally endangers the lives of Pakistan’s non-Muslim minorities? Khan’s friends insist in private that he is a moderate Muslim who has been compelled to take more right-wing social and religious positions because of the compulsions of politics. While moderating the launch of Khan’s memoirs in London, his ex-wife Goldsmith later shared that she did not pose any questions to Khan on the blasphemy law because she feared for his life. Khan himself told me that the U.S war on terrorism had polarized his country and made such debates impossible in the present environment.But after promising a “Naya Pakistan” (a New Pakistan) to his voters, this will be Khan’s main challenge: how to make a break from the dangerous and entrenched patterns that have come to define Pakistan. Will he be able to figure out how to restore authority to the civilian post of prime minister — in a country where the army has always remote-controlled the elected government?© Washington Post Related Itemslast_img read more

Skipping Dinner, Imran Khan Takes Helm in Pakistan Pledging Austerity

first_imgImran Khan, the former cricket star turned firebrand politician, was sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister Saturday, taking control of a country facing a looming economic crisis as observers questioned whether he had the political acumen to govern a deeply divided nation.Khan’s first decision was to scrub the nine-course meal traditionally served after the oath-taking ceremony, held at the president’s house. It was a sign of the “austerity drive” he had promised while on the campaign trail, his party said. Instead, refreshments were served in the grand hall of the residence.Since winning the July 25 election, Khan has stressed that he would lead a lean life, shunning the ostentatious displays of power and wealth of his predecessors. He has said that he will not live in the prime minister’s house, a lavish, white marble building on a hilltop overlooking Islamabad.Instead, he vowed to take a smaller house belonging to the military secretary. Khan, however, maintains a sprawling, private Mediterranean-style villa nearby.Whether his campaign rhetoric will match the policies he pursues will be closely watched; as a politician, he has been criticized as relying on style over substance. On the campaign trail, he vowed to establish an Islamic welfare state and to build millions of housing units. Those promises will bump up against the reality that Pakistan’s government has little money to spare, is straddled with debt and must tighten its finances.“The main challenge is economic,” said Ayaz Amir, a former lawmaker and noted Pakistani columnist. “There’s not much money in the kitty, and there are a lot of debts coming due both in the immediate and long term.”Amir added: “He will be judged by what kind of people he appoints to key ministries — this will be crucial. And he has many other advantages: People look upon him as a clean leader with no legacy of corruption attached to his name, and he’s popular enough to withstand populist demands.”If Khan completes his five-year term, he would be the first prime minister in Pakistan’s history to do so.The new prime minister has said he would break the dynastic nature of Pakistani politics and promised to bring young, dynamic leadership to his government. Instead, he has so far elevated into key roles some of the same politicians he had denounced in the past over their political opportunism and checkered records on corruption.Khan, 65, announced his Cabinet appointments hours after the swearing-in ceremony Saturday. The list did not include appointments for the ministries of interior and power, leaving Khan in control of those portfolios. Observers warned that leaving those ministries under Khan’s purview was a mistake, with the country suffering from an acute electricity shortage and needing special attention and expertise.Asad Umar, a private-sector businessman whom economists view as a populist with a thin grasp of the challenges ahead, was named as finance minister.Pakistan’s current account deficit stands at $18 billion, while its foreign-currency reserves are just $10.1 billion, enough to cover two months of imports. Just days after the election, China gave Pakistan a $2 billion loan to help shore up its finances, following $1 billion given by Chinese banks in April. And more money is needed, soon.One of the first tests facing Khan is whether to ask the International Monetary Fund for a bailout or to extend another open palm to China, deepening Pakistan’s economic reliance on its larger neighbor. Pakistan already relies on China to develop critical infrastructure projects worth some $62 billion, with onerous loan terms and profit-sharing agreements benefiting Beijing.Pakistan will start negotiations with the IMF in the coming weeks and will ask for loans worth up to $12 billion, officials say, part of a four-year program that will require the country to undertake privatization measures and tighten its fiscal policy. Pakistan has taken 14 bailouts from the fund since the 1980s.If Khan’s government pursues an IMF bailout, he will have to explain to voters why the populist measures he promised will no longer be possible under the fund’s lending terms.Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony was the second democratic transfer of power in Pakistan since it was founded in 1947. The military has ruled for about half the country’s history through a series of coups.Before the election, the military was accused of propping up Khan by censoring the news media and influencing Pakistan’s courts in order to disqualify and jail the last elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, on corruption charges, which were seen as politicized.The vote was also fraught with irregularities, according to the opposition. And an observation team from the European Union determined the campaign in the lead-up to the election had a had a “lack of equality” for all parties.Khan takes over at a time when Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated on the global stage. Washington froze aid to the country this year, citing the military’s ties to extremist groups fighting in Afghanistan, complicating the United States’ war effort there.In June, a global anti-terrorism watchdog group put Pakistan on a “gray list” for not doing enough to clamp down on terrorist groups at home. That listing will complicate and make more expensive Pakistan’s ability to raise money on international markets.Whether Khan can assert control over Pakistan’s foreign and defense policies will be another crucial test of how successful his government will be. The military has typically controlled those domains, and Khan’s objectives — such as brokering peace in Afghanistan and pursuing talks with India, a longtime rival, will need the military’s approval.Khan “needs to sit down with the military and figure out what are the national security objectives,” said Ikram Sehgal, an independent analyst and retired Pakistani military officer. “Everyone should be on the same page.”He added: “We need to fix the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. We cannot afford to be in either the U.S. or the China camp. We need to be neutral and friendly with everyone.”Although Pakistan’s main political parties all agree that the economy is the top priority, whether Khan can cobble together the needed support will be a challenge. He was voted in as prime minister by Parliament on Friday, with 51 percent of the vote. As he took the floor to make his acceptance speech, opposition lawmakers began chanting slogans against him.Khan quickly lost his cool, calling his opponents corrupt in a divisive speech. His party crowded around him ululating and mocking the opposition. The image was reminiscent of Khan’s political start: leading anti-government demonstrations while chanting from atop cargo containers.It was not the image that many had expected Khan to project: a new, composed prime minister. The tirade was a break from the conciliatory note he had taken in a national address just after his party won the elections.“He simply doesn’t have it; he doesn’t have the temperament to deal with dissent,” said Khurram Dastgir-Khan, a sitting opposition parliamentarian who served as the defense minister in the previous government.“That is why he abandoned whatever high-minded speech he planned and went back to his fiery accusations. He was elected with a razor-thin majority. This is our new leader, a man who will struggle to negotiate with Parliament to get support for his policies,” he added.During Saturday’s swearing-in ceremony, Khan stumbled as he repeated the oath, and was immediately denounced by opponents for not being prepared. But his followers praised his humility.There were other stumbles. When Parliament was inaugurated Monday, Khan forgot the national identification needed to enter the session. The speaker of the House had to grant him special permission to enter and to take his oath alongside fellow parliamentarians.“This wasn’t the most auspicious of beginning for this Parliament,” said Amir, the analyst, adding, “He has to make the transition from opposition leader to the leader of Pakistan.”© New York Times 2018 Related Itemsimran khanPakistanlast_img read more

Germany Mulls Easing Immigration Norms for Non-EU Skilled Workers

first_imgIn a bid to overcome the chronic shortage of skilled labor in the country, the German Cabinet is looking at a proposal to ease immigration and work permit process for skilled workers coming from outside the European Union.The German Interior, Labour and Economy ministries have agreed to recruit more foreign skilled labor to the country, Reuters reported on the basis of a paper it went through.If the recommendations mentioned in paper get the Cabinet’s approval, non-EU foreigner graduates and workers with vocational training will be allowed to come to Germany and look for a job within a certain period of time provided they fulfil the qualification and language related criteria.During the period of job search, immigrants will not be entitled to social welfare benefits. However, they will be allowed to take up jobs, for which they are overqualified, to get some money, according to the report.The paper proposes that the government will no longer insist that the companies prefer German citizens before looking at non-EU foreigners to fill vacancies. The other measures suggested in the paper are speeding up the qualification recognition procedures in Germany and a possible advertising campaign in selected countries, the news agency said.Citizens of the European Union are allowed to move freely in the bloc for labor purposes but that is not the case for workers from other nations. The new proposal may carry a positive chance for immigrant workers but its approval may turn into a sensitive issue due to the prevalence of anti-immigration sentiments in the country, where the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has managed to gather public support on the basis of its hardline policy on the issue.Germany is facing a shortage of skilled labor and young workers who would be ready to take up on-the-job training for almost three and a half years. This shortage is causing a huge gap between the demand and supply of workforce in the country. The Federal Labour Office reported a record 1.2 million vacant positions in Germany, the report added.Germany wanted to fill the gap in the workforce with the help of over a million refugees who arrived in 2015, but was unable to do so as most of them did not possess good German-language skills or were unable to prove the required qualifications.Germany already has a “blue card” system that makes the hiring of foreign academics and professionals easier for companies. The EU blue card enables third-country nationals who are university graduates or who have a comparable qualification to receive a residence title for the purpose of employment suiting their qualification. It is a residence permit which, when issued for the first time, is valid for a maximum of four years.The number of qualified Indian professionals in Germany is witnessing a rise. There were 169,602 Indians in Germany in 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs told the Lok Sabha last year.In the first half of 2016, the top five nationalities that received the EU blue cards were India with 22.1 percent, followed by China (8.7 percent), the Russian Federation (7.9 percent), Ukraine (5.3 percent) and Syria (4.7 percent), according to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Related ItemsEmploymentEuropean UnionGermanylast_img read more

American Medical Association Urges USCIS to Clear Green Card Backlog for Physicians

first_imgUnderlining the important role played by foreign medical practitioners working in the United States, the American Medical Association (AMA) has written to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to clear the backlog for conversion of physicians’ H-1B visas to permanent resident status in the country.Applications of a number of international medical graduates for permanent residency in the United States are stuck in the huge backlog, according to the AMA. These doctors, who primarily hail from India and China, are actively practicing medicine in the country but are not able to get their green card due to this backlog, which is caused by norms related to per-country limitations.  In the letter addressed to USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara said: “These physicians play a critical role in providing health care to many Americans because they tend to choose primary-care specialties and work in areas of the country with higher rates of poverty; they are providing important medical services to communities in need.” Madara also said in the letter, dated Aug. 9, that many of these doctors are waiting for their green cards for decades due to the per-country cap. Urging for expedition of the permanent status process for immigrant doctors, Madara cited a recent report that said that around 20.8 million Americans live in areas where at least half of the physicians are trained outside the United States. He also pointed at the prediction by workforce experts regarding a forthcoming shortage of physicians in United States, according to which over the next 10 years, the country will face a considerable paucity of medical practitioners for both primary care and specialty related fields of medicine, due to the growth and aging of the population and the upcoming retirement of many physicians. “The impact of this physician shortage will disproportionately affect vulnerable and underserved populations around the country. Currently, more than 85 million people live in parts of the U.S. that have been designated as primary medical care health professional shortage areas. An estimated 15,000 physicians are needed nationwide to remove this designation,” Madara said in the letter. The six-year limit on H-1B visas and the strict scrutiny on the extension requests for certain non-immigrant visa categories bring additional blockade for these physicians, the letter said. Therefore, immediate clearance of the huge H-1B visa backlog for these physicians and awarding them the permanent resident status is urgently required now. In June, a demand to relax the visa cap on foreign doctors coming from outside the European Union was raised in the United Kingdom too. It was said then that the visa cap on doctors acts against the interests of patients. Related ItemsGreen CardH-1B visalast_img read more

US is Denying Passports to Americans Along The Border, Throwing Their Citizenship Into Question

first_imgOn paper, he’s a devoted U.S. citizen.His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports – their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown on their citizenship.In a statement, the State Department said that it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications,” adding that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”But cases identified by The Washington Post and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic shift in both passport issuance and immigration enforcement.In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States. As the Trump administration attempts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, the government’s treatment of passport applicants in south Texas shows how U.S. citizens are increasingly being swept up by immigration enforcement agencies.Juan said he was infuriated by the government’s response. “I served my country. I fought for my country,” he said, speaking on the condition that his last name not be used so that he wouldn’t be targeted by immigration enforcement.The government alleges that from the 1950s through the 1990s, some midwives and physicians along the Texas-Mexico border provided U.S. birth certificates to babies who were actually born in Mexico. In a series of federal court cases in the 1990s, several birth attendants admitted to providing fraudulent documents.Based on those suspicions, the State Department began during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations denied passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. The use of midwives is a long-standing tradition in the region, in part because of the cost of hospital care.The same midwives who provided fraudulent birth certificates also delivered thousands of babies legally in the United States. It has proved nearly impossible to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate documents, all of them officially issued by the state of Texas decades ago.A 2009 government settlement in a case litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seemed to have mostly put an end to the passport denials. Attorneys reported that the number of denials declined during the rest of the Obama administration, and the government settled promptly when people filed complaints after being denied passports.But under President Donald Trump, the passport denials and revocations appear to be surging, becoming part of a broader interrogation into the citizenship of people who have lived, voted and worked in the United States for their entire lives.“We’re seeing these kind of cases skyrocketing,” said Jennifer Correro, an attorney in Houston who is defending dozens of people who have been denied passports.In its statement, the State Department said that applicants “who have birth certificates filed by a midwife or other birth attendant suspected of having engaged in fraudulent activities, as well as applicants who have both a U.S. and foreign birth certificate, are asked to provide additional documentation establishing they were born in the United States.”“Individuals who are unable to demonstrate that they were born in the United States are denied issuance of a passport,” the statement said.When Juan, the former soldier, received a letter from the State Department telling him it wasn’t convinced that he was a U.S. citizen, it requested a range of obscure documents – evidence of his mother’s prenatal care, his baptismal certificate, rental agreements from when he was a baby.He managed to find some of those documents but weeks later received another denial. In a letter, the government said the information “did not establish your birth in the United States.”“I thought to myself, you know, I’m going to have to seek legal help,” said Juan, who earns $13 an hour as a prison guard and expects to pay several thousand dollars in legal fees.In a case last August, a 35-year-old Texas man with a U.S. passport was interrogated while crossing back into Texas from Mexico with his son at the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, connecting Reynosa, Mexico, to McAllen, Texas.His passport was taken from him, and Customs and Border Protection agents told him to admit that he was born in Mexico, according to documents later filed in federal court. He refused and was sent to the Los Fresnos Detention Center and entered into deportation proceedings.He was released three days later, but the government scheduled a deportation hearing for him in 2019. His passport, which had been issued in 2008, was revoked.Attorneys say these cases, where the government’s doubts about an official birth certificate lead to immigration detention, are increasingly common. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center – U.S. citizens,” said Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville.Diez represents dozens of U.S. citizens who were denied their passports or had their passports suddenly revoked. Among them are soldiers and Border Patrol agents. In some cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrived at his clients’ homes without notice and taken passports away.The State Department says that even though it may deny someone a passport, that does not necessarily mean that the individual will be deported. But it leaves them in a legal limbo, with one arm of the U.S. government claiming they are not Americans and the prospect that immigration agents could follow up on their case.Two women, Maria and Lupita, whose U.S. citizenship is in question, stand for a portrait in Brownsville, Texas. Although they were born in the United States, the government is questioning their citizenship because it suspects their birth certificates are fraudulent, even though they were issued by the state of Texas decades ago. Photo Credit: Washington Post photo by Carolyn Van HoutenIt’s difficult to know where the crackdown fits into the Trump administration’s broader efforts to reduce legal and illegal immigration. Over the past year, it has thrown legal permanent residents out of the military and formed a denaturalization task force that tries to identify people who might have lied on decades-old citizenship applications.Now, the administration appears to be taking aim at a broad group of Americans along the stretch of the border where Trump has promised to build his wall, where he directed the deployment of National Guardsmen, and where the majority of cases in which children were separated from their parents during the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy occurred.The State Department would not say how many passports it has denied to people along the border because of concerns about fraudulent birth certificates. The government has also refused to provide a list of midwives whom it considers to be suspicious.Lawyers along the border say that it isn’t just those delivered by midwives who are being denied.Babies delivered by Jorge Treviño, one of the regions most well-known gynecologists, are also being denied. When he died in 2015, the McAllen Monitor wrote in his obituary that Treviño had delivered 15,000 babies.It’s unclear why babies delivered by Treviño are being targeted, and the State Department did not comment on individual birth attendants. Diez, the attorney, said the government has an affidavit from an unnamed Mexican doctor who said that Treviño’s office provided at least one fraudulent birth certificate for a child born in Mexico.One of the midwives who was accused of providing fraudulent birth certificates in the 1990s admitted in an interview that in two cases, she accepted money to provide fake documents. She said she helped deliver 600 babies in south Texas, many of them now being denied passports. Those birth certificates were issued by the state of Texas, with the midwife’s name listed under “birth attendant.”“I know that they are suffering now, but it’s out of my control,” she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of her admission.For those who have received passport denials from the government, it affects not only their travel plans but their sense of identity as Americans.One woman who has been denied, named Betty, said she had tried to get a passport to visit her grandfather as he was dying in Mexico. She went to a passport office in Houston, where government officials denied her request and questioned whether she had been born in the United States.“You’re getting questioned on something so fundamentally you,” said Betty, who also spoke on the condition that her last name not be used because of concerns about immigration enforcement.The denials are happening at a time when Trump has been lobbying for stricter federal voter identification rules, which would presumably affect the same people who are now being denied passports – almost all of them Hispanic, living in a heavily Democratic sliver of Texas.“That’s where it gets scary,” Diez said.For now, passport applicants who are able to afford the legal costs are suing the federal government over their passport denials. Typically, the applicants eventually win those cases, after government attorneys raise a series of sometimes bizarre questions about their birth.“For a while, we had attorneys asking the same question: ‘Do you remember when you were born?’ ” Diez said. “I had to promise my clients that it wasn’t a trick question.”(c) 2018, The Washington Post Related ItemsUnited Stateslast_img read more

Migrants Workers Constructing World Cup Facilities in Qatar Unpaid for 2 Years: Amnesty

first_imgHuman rights organization Amnesty International has accused an engineering company in Qatar of not paying wages for the past two years to migrant employees who have been working on construction projects with broader links to the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2022 in Qatar. “Mercury MENA failed to pay its workers thousands of dollars in wages and work benefits, leaving them stranded and penniless in Qatar,” Amnesty said in its statement released on Sept.26.  FIFA quashed Amnesty’s claim and called its statement misleading. “We have no reason to believe the reported violations of workers’ rights are in fact linked to FIFA and the 2022 World Cup. We regret Amnesty chose to frame its statement in such a misleading manner,” news agency AFP quoted a FIFA spokesperson as saying.   Steve Cockburn, Deputy Director, Global Issues, Amnesty International, tweeted that workers were working infrastructure related to the 2022 soccer World Cup.The #MercuryMENA workers were not working on #WorldCup stadia or official venues, but on infrastructure built with broader links to it. Abuse happened building the Barwa workers complex for example, where many World Cup workers live, and at Lusail – a host city #Qatar— Steve Cockburn (@stevecockburn) September 26, 2018Amnesty said that it interviewed 78 former Mercury MENA employees from India, Nepal, and the Philippines between October 2017 and April 2018 who said that the firm owed them huge sums of money.  It said that “most of the former Mercury MENA employees interviewed by Amnesty International were owed between $1,370 and $2,470 in salaries and benefits.” Amnesty called upon the Qatari government to ensure that the unpaid wages are paid to Mercury MENA’s former employees, who traveled to the country taking hefty loans and were left with no money.  “Sadly, the exploitation of migrant workers by Mercury MENA is not an isolated case. We will continue to pressure the Qatar authorities until promises of overhauling the sponsorship system are delivered, and workers’ rights are fully protected both in law and practice,” Cockburn said in the statement.  In November 2017, Amnesty International spoke to the CEO of Mercury MENA, who said that the company had been facing “cashflow problems” and that they had a number of disputes over payments with contractors and clients. According to Amnesty, it sent more emails to Mercury MENA in December 2017 and January 2018, requesting the details of solutions and actions that the company was taking, but got no response. Other than urging Qatari government to ensure payments of workers, the international organization also asked the government to fundamentally reform the “Kafala” sponsorship system that has allowed numerous companies to exploit migrant workers. Kafala is a system in Qatar which monitors and deals with immigrant workers in the country. The system includes stringent norms such as the need for employees to take permission of employers before changing their job, leaving the country, or even renting house. Confiscation of an immigrant worker’s passport for the entire period of contract is also a part of the Kafala system. Qatar has been facing criticism from rights organizations, who have been calling to abolish the stringent labor policies in the country. In an attempt to remove some negativity associated with its name, Qatar had amended its residency law earlier this month, to allow migrant workers to leave the country without an exit visa. It had also announced earlier this year to increase the minimum wages for migrant workers by the end of 2018.  Related ItemsEmploymentFIFA 2022Qatarlast_img read more

No Rip Off, Says Secret Ballot Producer Marco Mueller on Newton Plagiarism Row

first_imgThe Rajkummar Rao-starrer Hindi film Newton is currently making news once again for being the Indian entry to the Oscars in the foreign language film category. The film, directed by Amit V. Masurkar, is a satirical look at the country’s election process.While Indian filmmakers and viewers expressed happiness over the decision, social media has also been abuzz with reports that Newton is inspired from Babak Payami’s Iranian film, Secret Ballot. Members of Bollywood fraternity, including Anurag Kashyap, as well as fans have openly snubbed the connection between the two films.Secret Ballot producer Marco Mueller also came out in defense of Newton, saying there was not even a hint of plagiarism, IANS reported.On Sept. 25 night, Kashyap, in a Facebook post, shared Muller’s opinion after watching Newton.“A pretty decent film, definitely no rip off from our Secret Ballot (even if the general concept is the same)” and then I asked him if I can share his response on social media? He replied,”Please feel free as you see fit, there is not even a hint of plagiarisation,” Kashyap, who spoke in defense of the film on Sept. 24, posted.He also shared the screenshot of his conversation with Mueller.Kashyap had earlier tweeted: “Newton is as much a copy of Secret Ballot as The Avengers is of Watan Ke Rakhwale.”He added: “Newton is an award winner from Berlin fest and I can promise you those curators watch more films in a year than rest of us do in a lifetime.”National Film Award-winning moviemaker Jaideep Varma posted a long note on Facebook, urging people to watch both the films.However, not everyone was quick to jump and take the Indian film’s side. Asjad Nazir, the entertainment editor of Eastern Eye newspaper, posted tweeted that the film may get disqualified for because of its similarity with the Iranian movie.Have spoken to some experts. India Oscar entry #Newton likely to get disqualified early because its so similar to the film #SecretBallot 🙄— Asjad Nazir (@asjadnazir) September 23, 2017Veteran film critic Khalid Mohamed withdrew the rating of four stars that he had given to the Newton, and tweeted:SAD!!! NEWTON is too close for comfort to Iran’s SECRET BALLOT.Withdraw my 4 stars revu for whatevr it was worth.— khalid mohamed (@Jhajhajha) September 23, 2017The movie, produced by Manish Mundra of Drishyam Films, had its world premiere at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the CICAE Award for Best Film in the Forum Section.While Newton, which stars National Award-winning actor Rao, revolves around a government employee who struggles to supervise voting in a forest area of Chhattisgarh, controlled by Maoists, Secret Ballot is described as a movie that centers on the life of a lady ballot officer who visits a desolate place to encourage voters to take part in the elections.Masurkar has already spoken over the controversy, saying: “The story was born from my heart. I had no idea about Secret Ballot.” Related ItemsAmit MasurkarAnurag KashyapLittle IndiaMarco Mueller NewtonNewton OscarsNewton plagiarism controversyNewton Secret Ballot controversyRajkummar Rao Newtonlast_img read more

Rajput Community in UK to Protest Over Padmavati Release

first_imgMembers of the Rajput community in the United Kingdom have written to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), after it approved the release of the controversial Hindi film Padmavati without any cuts. The BBFC gave the film a 12A rating, which means that a child under the age of 12 cannot watch it unless accompanied by an adult.“‘Padmavati‘ (12A) moderate violence, injury detail,” the official website of the British censor board stated. “All known versions of this work passed uncut,” it said.Rajput Samaj, a group in the United Kingdom, said that it would protest against the BBFC’s certification without cuts.“We as Rajputs are very concerned about the Padmavati situation,” Mahendra Singh Jadeja, the president of the Rajput Samaj of the United Kingdom, was quoted as saying by CNN-News18. “We have written to the BBFC…. We also have plans to campaign and protest to ensure that this film is not released in the UK.”“We are asking for legal opinion and want to remain within the law. This is not the first time that he (Bhansali) is distorting the history. This time we are sure that the entire story is being distorted. We want to make sure that the people are made aware of the real story and not the creative story which is being shown to the public just to make money,” Jadeja said.The BBFC has refused to comment on the matter.The release of the movie, however, has been deferred until India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) approves it, an official of Viacom 18, the makers of Padmavati, was cited as saying by PTI. “The film was cleared by the UK censor board without any cuts. But we are waiting for censor clearance in India. Till then we will not release the film anywhere,” the report quoted the official as saying.Meanwhile, the Shree Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) declared on Nov. 23 that it would protest the release in the United Kingdom, and if necessary, members of the organization would go to the European country for the purpose. They also said that it would mobilize the Rajput and Hindu organizations in the United Kingdom to stop the film’s release.SRKS patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi said that he wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, requesting her to use “India’s good diplomatic ties with England” in this matter.“The Indian government cannot pass orders to the British government, but to maintain good relations with India, I hope the British government will honor the sentiments of the people,” he said.Despite appeals and assurances from director Sanjay Leela Bhansali that the film, which revolves around the story of a Rajput queen and a Muslim ruler in the 13th century, does not include scenes where Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji are shown together, the protesters have continued to demand a ban on the film.The movie stars Deepika Padukone as Padmavati, Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh and Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji. Both Padukone and Bhansali have faced condemnation from members of the Rajput community, including death threats, over the film. Related ItemsDeepika PadukonePadmavatiUnited Kingdomlast_img read more

Indian-Origin Ex-Assistant of Harvey Weinstein Approaches New York State Court

first_imgHarvey Weinstein’s Indian-origin ex-assistant, who had sued the disgraced Hollywood producer, approached the New York state court on Feb. 27 after her case was dismissed in a federal court on jurisdictional grounds, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Sandeep Rehal had sued, besides Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, The Weinstein Co. (TWC), and human resources executive Frank Gil for aiding and abetting harassment in a federal court.Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed the matter on jurisdictional grounds on Feb. 26. He questioned in January if his court was the proper venue for the case. Rehal is a resident of California and TWC is a Delaware limited liability company (LLC) that’s primarily based in New York. The LLC is considered a citizen of each state it members reside in.As per jurisdiction, Rehal had to prove that the defendants were resident of California. Since she couldn’t achieve that, the matter was dismissed. The next day, her attorneys Laura Schnell and Genie Harrison filed the case in a New York state court.Rehal, 26, had alleged that she was emotionally distressed because of the “pervasive and severe sexually hostile work environment at the Weinstein Company LLC.”She said that she was “required to be involved in and aware of the preparation for, and clean up after, Harvey Weinstein’s extremely prolific sexual encounters,” according to her suit. “Another ‘task’ Ms. Rehal was forced to do to aid Harvey Weinstein’s sexual encounters was to clean up the semen on the couch in Harvey Weinstein’s office… on a regular basis,” it added.She also said that she had to maintain a stock of Caverject shots for his erectile dysfunction. “She had to obtain the shots and keep them stocked in a ​cabinet behind her desk at Harvey Weinstein’s TWC office,” the suit says. “Every time Harvey Weinstein went to meet a woman at a hotel, in the office, or elsewhere, which occurred on average at least three times a week when he was in New York, Ms. Rehal was required as part of her job to provide [him] with a shot, which she placed in his jacket pocket or in a brown paper bag.” Related ItemsHarvey WeinsteinHollywoodwomen’s rightslast_img read more