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EU fears the worst for Ukraine, agrees to host refugees for two years

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The European Union has agreed to adopt a novel directive to grant temporary protection for Ukrainians seeking asylum in neighbouring European countries after Russian military aggression.

The military offensive in Ukraine has caused destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties and has forced people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance. In the first week, more than a million refugees from Ukraine crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more are on the move both inside and outside the country.

Russia, on February 24, 2022 launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea. The attack is the biggest by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

The vast majority of these exiled people have arrived in EU countries with Poland registering over half a million Ukrainian refugees and Hungary seeing more than 130,000 arrivals.

image from data2.unhcr.org

To cope with the large number of migrants which is the greatest human exodus in Europe since the end of World War II, the 27 member states have embraced a 2001 EU directive that had never been used before.

The European Union came about the Temporary Protection Directive in 2001 in the quest for solidarity between EU States after events in the 1990s, where conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, in Kosovo and elsewhere demonstrated the need for special procedures to deal with mass influxes of displaced persons.

The Temporary Protection Directive is an extraordinary scheme that grants immediate and temporary protection to displaced people coming from non-EU countries

The EU adoption of the Directive was reached in a meeting in Brussels on Thursday, where national ministers reached a unanimous agreement to move ahead and activate the Temporary Protection Directive. The law will enter into force once the proposal is formally adopted by the Council, a step expected to take place in the coming days.

Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for home affairs, described the EU move as “historic” and a “great day”

“I’m proud of being European, I’m proud of the solidarity that individual citizens are showing” towards Ukraine, Johansson said at the end of the ministerial meeting.

Ukrainian refugees will be given residence permits to stay inside the bloc for at least one year, a period that will be automatically extended for a further year. Member states can then decide to prolong the exceptional measure by one more year if the war continues to ravage the country.

Musings From Abroad

Kenya, UAE seal economic relations deal

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Thani Al Zeyoudi, the United Arab Emirate’s minister of foreign trade, has announced that his country and Kenya have reached an agreement for a comprehensive economic partnership (Cepa).

According to a social media post by Al Zeyoudi, non-oil commerce between the Gulf State and Kenya reached $3.1 billion in 2023, up 26.4% from 2022.

As part of a plan to diversify its oil-based economy, the UAE initiated bilateral trade talks with many African nations in 2022, including Kenya, the largest economy in East Africa.

“We will now look to expand across sectors, from food production and mining to technology and logistics,” he said of the agreement.

Kenya’s Trade Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano was quoted by the UAE state news agency WAM as saying that the agreement would be crucial in making it possible for Kenyan exports to reach significant markets in Asia and the Middle East as well as “in stimulating investment inflows that will further develop our national capabilities.”

The UAE has inked other Cepas, including agreements with Asia’s superpowers, India and Indonesia, as well as longtime adversaries, Israel and Turkey. 2023 saw the Gulf State sign its first CEPA with two African countries, the Republic of Congo-Brazzaville and the island of Mauritius.

With over €2 million in total trade, Kenya ranked the UAE as its fourth-biggest trading partner, and it was also the largest trading partner and export destination in the Middle East.

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Musings From Abroad

UN sanctions six Congolese rebels over crisis in its eastern region

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Six members of five armed organisations in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council as violence between the Congolese army and M23 Tutsi-led rebels, who are backed by Rwanda, has escalated.

 

The fighting in this decades-long battle has made it more likely that Rwanda and Congo could go to war, which might draw in armies from nearby countries like South Africa, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi.

 

The Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, told a meeting of the 15-member Security Council that “The United States firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DRC and lasting peace for all Congolese people. Rwanda and the DRC must walk back from the brink of war.”

A travel ban, asset freeze, and arms embargo were placed on two leaders of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one commander of the Twirwaneho armed organisation, and one leader of the National People’s Coalition for the Sovereignty of Congo (CNPSC) rebels by the Security Council’s DRC sanctions committee.

The military spokesman for the M23 Tutsi-led rebels, allegedly backed by Rwanda, and a leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an organisation started by Hutus who left Rwanda after participating in the 1994 genocide that killed over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were also placed on the UN list.

“These individuals are responsible for numerous abuses,” Wood said of the six sanctioned individuals.

After replacing a previous U.N. operation in 2010 to aid in reducing insecurity in the country’s east, Congo has been home to a UN peacekeeping force known as MONUSCO for more than 13 years.

Felix Tshisekedi, the president of the Congo, requested in September that the peacekeepers’ withdrawal be expedited, and the UN Security Council granted his request, allowing the deployment to terminate in December.

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