Sign language most common language among Hajj pilgrims 

Tariq Al-Thagafi
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00

MINA: Sign language is the most-used language at the holy sites, as it can be used to guide crowds, organize them safely at the Jamarat and warn people about overcrowding.
Crowd flow expert Akram Jann said there are more than 100 languages used at the holy sites, but the only one that can unify them is sign language, which does not need dictionaries and can help pilgrims of all nationalities.
Fayza Netou, president of the Deaf and Mute Club, said signing is used to guide lost people, and is not limited to the hard of hearing.
“I’ve seen many pilgrims lose their way, and sign language has been the only solution to help and guide them. This made me and the volunteer teams want to serve pilgrims,” said Netou.
She added that the club, in cooperation with the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, has organized training sessions for presidency members to teach them about sign language in order to help pilgrims. 
Volunteer teams have used sign language at the holy sites for 16 years. There are eight sessions organized at the Haram in Makkah to train women and men to use sign language.
The sessions help workers who do not speak the most common languages, enabling them to communicate with all pilgrims. 

Catering to pilgrims’ food requests in Makkah
More than 210 companies in the food and catering sector in Makkah try to meet all food requests from pilgrims, the head of the catering committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Shaker Al-Harthi, told Arab News.
There are many cuisines offered, such as Indian, Indonesian, European, Turkish, Egyptian and Shami. This gives pilgrims an opportunity to experience different civilizations through food.
Catering companies provide meals according to their contracts with the Hajj delegations, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Menus differ according to demand. 
Al-Harthi said the food sector in Makkah is facing challenges, especially with population growth, expansion of the holy city and the resulting increase in the number of visitors and pilgrims.
These factors mean small companies need more support from chambers of commerce to help them compete with larger companies, he said, adding that supporting small companies will provide greater employment and investment opportunities. 
Al-Harthi said a number of goals are being pursued. “The first one is the establishment of an electronic portal that will soon provide several services. The most important of these will facilitate and identify service providers, and show contracts offered during the Hajj and Umrah seasons.”

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Washington tells Russia to close consulate, buildings in US

Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00

WASHINGTON: The US has told Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two annex buildings in Washington and New York, the State Department said on Thursday, a response to Moscow last month ordering cuts in the US diplomatic mission in Russia.
The announcement was the latest in tit-for-tat measures between the two countries that have helped to drive relations to a new post-Cold War low, thwarting hopes on both sides that they might improve after US President Donald Trump took office in January.
Last month Moscow ordered the US to cut its diplomatic and technical staff in Russia by more than half, to 455 people, after Congress overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia. The sanctions were imposed in response to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and to punish Russia further for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
“We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Thursday.
“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian Government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City,” Nauert said. “These closures will need to be accomplished by Sept. 2.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed regret during a phone call with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson about Washington’s decision, his ministry said.
“Moscow will closely study the new measures announced by the Americans, after which our reaction will be conveyed,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
To cope with the reduction in staff in Russia, the US said last week it would have to sharply scale back visa services, a move that will hit Russian business travelers, tourists and students.
The Russian Consulate in San Francisco handles work from seven states in the western US. There are three other Russian Consulates separate from the embassy in Washington. They are in New York, Seattle and Houston.

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Pakistan Parliament denounces Trump policy

Sib Kaifee
Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani MPs on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution presented by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif rejecting the new US strategy in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Khurshid Shah asked that a joint session of Parliament be held immediately after Eid Al-Adha to compose an appropriate response to anti-Pakistan statements made by US President Donald Trump during his televised address to the nation.
During his speech on Aug. 21, Trump said Pakistan harbors “agents of chaos” and protects militant groups that allegedly use Pakistani soil to launch attacks against the US-backed Afghan government.
Asif advised MPs to postpone all official visits to the US, and scheduled visits by American delegations to Pakistan.
A visit by the US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells to discuss the Trump administration’s new Afghan policy was postponed without reason in a statement issued on Sunday by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
Former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said resolutions and condemnation will not halt US criticism.
He urged Islamabad to revisit the rules of engagement with the US since it continues to blame Pakistan for its own failures in the region.
“The US did not ask Pakistan before going to Afghanistan,” Khan said, adding that America chose to talk with the Taliban, but when Pakistan does so it is unacceptable to Washington.
Javed Hafiz, a retired Pakistani diplomat, told Arab News that Parliament’s resolution was hashed out prematurely.
“Have (MPs) thoroughly studied our deficit, neighboring relations and our dependency on the IMF (International Monetary Fund), which the US controls?” he asked.
“Before adopting any confrontational policy, they need to take a step back and open doors for talks. The current approach isn’t right.”
Parliament concluded its session by demanding the formulation of an economic policy in case US reimbursements under the Coalition Support Fund are further slashed or halted.
The resolution said Afghanistan, the US and its allies should better manage the border and stop terrorists from attacking Pakistan.
It added that the US tilt toward India would create an imbalance between the nuclear rivals, thus destabilizing the region. The US ambassador is to be summoned and briefed on Pakistan’s reservations.
A Foreign Ministry official told Arab News that Asif will lead a delegation to China, Russia, Turkey and Iran to hold talks with the regional stakeholders following the resolution.
Mosharraf Zaidi, a foreign policy expert and former advisor to ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, told Arab News that Pakistan should maintain a working relationship with the US while engaging other countries.

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Brexit blow for Arab immigration to Britain

Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00

LONDON: Brexit is discouraging Arab immigration to Britain say lawyers, as continental Europe increases in appeal for emigrants.
Economic uncertainty, sluggish growth and the weak pound is also a turn-off for would-be immigrants eyeing the country as a base for their business.
“The fall in net migration to the UK may be an effect of the recent Brexit result, and due to perceived concerns over the resultant effect on the UK’s overall economic performance relative to other high-income EU member states,” said Nicola Anne Wilkins, senior immigration lawyer at Astons. “Concerns could be attributed to a number of factors including job certainty, a fall in the value of the pound or investment depreciation.”
Net migration to Britain fell to its lowest level in three years in the year to the end of March, according to UK government statistics released last week.
Brexit uncertainty is taking its toll on the UK economy, which grew by 0.3 percent in the second quarter according to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It showed negligible household spending growth as consumer inflation reached a four-year high of 2.9 percent in May, fueled by the weak pound.
The weak pound can be both a positive and negative factor for would-be immigrants depending on their reasons for moving to the UK and what currency their own assets are held in.
While the fall in sterling has drawn Arab money into the UK property market — its investment appeal does not always equate to being an attractive place to live and work — especially with such a clouded economic outlook arising from Brexit.
“A lot of business people coming here are not particularly minded about their inability to access the European single market,” said Jahed Morad, a London-based lawyer who advises entrepreneurs and businesspeople from the Middle East on visa applications.
“But where it does impact them is the fall in the value of the pound and also the general economic uncertainty around Brexit, because if you are a small business owner coming into an uncertain environment in terms of the consumer appetite for your goods or services then obviously that makes them a little more nervous,” he said.
According to ONS data, about 15,000 people moved to the UK from the Middle East and Central Asia in the year to March 2017. The data does not include a breakdown of individual source countries.
Those numbers were flat on a year earlier but down by half from two years earlier when arrivals from the region peaked at 23,000 in the year to June 2015
Law firms and consultancies specializing in immigration advice are increasingly targeting the Middle East, drawn by the wealth held by Arabs considering a move to Europe.
“A lot of small firms with contacts in the Middle East have set up offices in Dubai where they advise clients on UK immigration and nationality laws,” added Morad.

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India moves to deport Rohingya Muslims

Fri, 2017-09-01 03:00

DELHI: “Kill us, but don’t send us back to Myanmar,” pleaded 29-year-old Sabber, a Rohingya refugee living in India since 2005.
Sabber, who was known as Kyaw Min in his home country, has lived in constant fear of deportation since the Indian government asked state governments to identify and deport all Rohingya Muslims.
“This is absolutely wrong, very inhumane,” said Sabber, who lives with family members in a shanty in New Delhi.
“The community came to India seeking shelter from the atrocities taking place in their own country. How can you turn them back when you know that the situation in Myanmar is so dangerous for us?”
In January, he formed the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), an NGO, to take up the issue of the community’s suffering with the Indian government.
But Kiren Rijiju, union minister of state for home affairs, told Reuters: “They are all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Any illegal immigrants will be deported.”
Some 16,500 Rohingya are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.
“We can’t stop them from registering. But we are not signatory to the accord on refugees,” Rijiju said.
But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom.”
Raghu Menon, media and advocacy manager at Amnesty International India, told Arab News: “Considering how dangerous the situation is in Myanmar, sending them back against their wishes is not only a violation of international law but also morally questionable.”
HRW has come down heavily on the Indian government’s decision to deport the minority. “Indian authorities should abide by India’s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW.
Despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, India has a healthy tradition of giving asylum to persecuted minorities, including Tibetans, Afghans, ethnic Kachins from Myanmar, Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladesh, and Tamils from Sri Lanka.
MP Shashi Tharoor, a prominent leader of the Congress Party, tweeted: “Shocked by Govt’s decision to deport Rohingya refugees. Ancient humanitarian tradition being sacrificed purely because Rohingyas are Muslim?”
But the Indian government says deportation is due to security reasons. The Week magazine quoted a Home Affairs Ministry official as saying: “Illegal migrants are more vulnerable to getting recruited by terrorist organizations.”
Dr. Nafees Ahmad, assistant professor at the Faculty of Legal Studies at the South Asian University (SAU), told Arab News that such an argument is unconstitutional.
“Constitutional protection of the right to life and personal liberty is also available to people who aren’t citizens of India. No one can be forcefully deported and expelled,” he said.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in various cities in northern India. They have come from Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar.
Sabber said hundreds of Rohingya are languishing in jails in Kolkata and Tripura after being caught crossing the India-Bangladesh border. He has asked the Indian government to release them.
Meanwhile, he plans to buy goats to slaughter for Eid Al-Adha on Saturday and throw a feast for his community, because “in our life there’s hardly any moment of enjoyment. It’s a constant struggle.”

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