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The hermit kingdom: how a proudly multicultural country became ‘fortress Australia’ | Australia news From “World news | The Guardian”



Tony Sammartino has no idea when he will next hug his three-year-old daughter, but it’s almost guaranteed it won’t be for another year at the earliest.“These are the best years of her life, and they should be the best of mine too. And they’re slipping away.”Tony hasn’t seen Maria Teresa, nor her mother and his partner, Maria Pena, since March 2020, when he was in the Philippines with their other daughter, Liliana.Before the pandemic, the family of four split their lives between Melbourne and Subic, a coastal city north-west of Manila, spending roughly half a year in each parent’s home country.Now, the Sammartinos are one of countless Australian families that find themselves separated by an almost hermetically-sealed border, an enduring aspect of Australia’s harsh response to the pandemic that continues to prevent even its own citizens from freely returning to or leaving their country.Some 40,000 Australians have at any one time remained stranded overseas, missing births, funerals, losing jobs, and even dying from Covid despite pleas for help to return home.Tony Sammartino and his daughter Maria Teresa (left) and his partner Maria Pena (right.) Photograph: Sammo/Tony SammartinoAs countries around the world vaccinate their populations and reopen to freer travel, Australia – which has recorded 910 deaths from Covid-19 and zero community transmission for most of this year – is progressively tightening its borders.The hardline approach appears to have gained support among the Australian public, with demographers and sociologists observing Australian leaders’ attitudes towards risk management had shifted Australians’ views about being global citizens, with other experts pondering: what does it say about the collective Australian psyche that a proudly multicultural country can be so supportive of such strict border closures?‘There has to be a solution sooner’At the beginning of the pandemic, a permit system was introduced for those wanting to leave Australia, with even some compassionate pleas rejected.A strict mandatory hotel quarantine system was introduced to absorb an influx of returning citizens – about one million Australians lived overseas pre-pandemic.Then in July 2020, a cap was placed on the number of people quarantine hotels would process, leading to months of flight cancellations, and an almost impossible equation for airlines to remain profitable on Australian routes.Seat prices on airlines that continued to fly into the country soared by tens of thousands of dollars, with jumbos flying as few as 20 passengers per flight.Meanwhile, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, routinely rejected calls to build purpose-built facilities to repatriate more citizens, insisting state governments were responsible for quarantine.The country’s border crackdown peaked at the end of April this year, when Morrison used sweeping biosecurity laws to issue a directive threatening to imprison any citizens who attempted to fly to Australia from India via a third country while a temporary direct flight ban was in place during the recent outbreak.While a travel bubble was established with New Zealand in April, repeated delays to Australia’s vaccine rollout have made the government hesitant to announce a timeframe to reopen its borders.After the government revealed an assumption in its annual budget last week that the border would remain shut to international travel until after mid-2022, Tony is struggling with the lack of outrage at the policy.“I haven’t really absorbed that, because I know for me there has to be a solution sooner, it can’t take that long for them to come home.”Like many Australians, Tony’s partner was born overseas, and was not a citizen or permanent resident when the pandemic began. As the parent of an Australian born child, she could apply for a visa and exemption to Australia’s border ban on all non-citizens, however she cares for a child from a previous relationship in the Philippines, who would not be able to gain entry to Australia.Meanwhile, Maria Teresa is too young to travel alone, while Tony cannot secure an exemption and flights for him to travel to escort her to Australia, where he had been planning to enrol her in preschool. He does not want to risk becoming stranded in the Philippines indefinitely.This hasn’t stopped Tony waking up at 4am most mornings from the stress of his situation, and going online to search for flights. He has become obsessed with flight radars, to monitor the few passenger flights that still enter Australia each day, to calculate how many passengers they are carrying and what a route home for his daughter and partner might look like.“I just don’t have the money to fly there, and pay $11,000 each to fly home, and then quarantine (about $5,000). If you had money, could you get here easily,” he said, a reference to international celebrities who have paid their way into Australia.The family FaceTime call everyday, but Tony is worried their other daughter, Liliana, is losing interest in her mother, frustrated she is missing milestones in her life.“The embassy in Manila doesn’t help, but they sent us a link to a charter flight company in Hong Kong. The government has left us on our own. They haven’t beaten Covid at all, they’ve just shut us off entirely from it,” Tony said.A ‘Noah’s Ark model of survival’Only one-third of Australians believe the government should do more to repatriate citizens, a recent Lowy Institute poll showed, and the Morrison government appears to be banking on the political safety of a harsh border policy as a federal election looms on the horizon. Dr Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, said the popularity of Australia’s Covid strategy was not surprising.She said despite the fact that about one in three Australians born overseas, “protectionist narratives have operated quite successfully in Australia”, particularly because of an older population.Prof Andrew Jakubowicz, a sociologist at the University of Technology Sydney, is not surprised by the “cognitive dissonance” occurring in a multicultural nation supportive of the border closures.“Something deep in the Australian psyche is the memory of how easy it was to invade this place, the idea that the moment you let them in, you’re in trouble,” he said.Jakubowicz pointed out that migrants to Australia are often the most opposed to further migration. “There’s a long history of pulling the gate shut once they’re through the door.“It’s this learned apprehension of letting in, it’s allowed us to accept hardline immigration policies in the past, and it’s allowed us to reprogram quickly to the stress of being stuck here in the pandemic.“The government has looked at the states’ popularity with their borders, and it’s comfortable with this Noah’s Ark model of survival,” Jakubowicz said.Allen agrees, and believes the government’s strategy plays into Australians’ sense of security.“Australia has not done anything marvellous or miraculous in containing Covid, it’s been about geography and dumb luck. We’ve dug a hole and stuck our head in it and that’s where we will remain.“We like to view ourselves as larrikins and irreverent people who stand up to authority, but in reality we are scared, we’re petrified. We’ve become so comfortable because of our geography that we’re losing our greatness.“We’re not even able to have a conversation about risk, the government is too scared of championing new quarantine facilities out of fear if something goes wrong,” she said.Allen believes the country “risks regressing” both culturally and economically without reopening to immigration, tourism and family reunions.On Friday, a coalition of business, law, arts and academic figures echoed this call, urging the government to adopt a “living with Covid” strategy to avoid reputational damage to Australia.“Australia benefits tremendously from our migrants and tourism. Year on year, this country has spruiked the wondrous kind of living conditions in this place to all corners of the world, to come join us.”“But now, so many who have made Australia their home, and taken a risk on us, we tell them to go home. Well they were home,” Allen said.Forced into financial ruinThis sentiment is shared by Vamshi Parepalli, who lives in Melbourne with his wife Shruthi having gained permanent residency status. In December, the couple gained an exemption and travelled to India to care for his mother in Hyderabad, having failed to get approval for her to come to them in Australia.Australian citizens Shruthi and Vamshi Parepalli have been unable to return to Australia after the federal government criminalised returning from India. Composite: Shruthi and Vamshi ParepalliThey have now become stuck amid India’s devastating outbreak. Not only have there been no direct flights home, they face a $66,600 fine and five years in jail if they attempt to return via a third country.“How can it be criminal to return to our home? To be honest, I feel like it was a dream when I got my residency and stepped into Australia, and now it looks like it really was just a dream,” Vamshi said.In other countries, Australians left in limbo have been unable to work, forcing some into financial ruin. Keagan Vowels, 13, spent months living in a camper van with his siblings and parents in his cousin’s yard in England. Photograph: Supplied by the familyThe Vowels, a family of seven who live near the city of Newcastle, north of Sydney, spent more than half a year living in a camper van in their cousin’s backyard in Crawley, England, after their initial flights home from a family holiday were cancelled. Intense media pressure saw them offered flights home that would have otherwise cost them $113,000.However, Andre Rivenell is still living in a camper van. He has been stuck with his wife in Texas since their initial flight home was cancelled when the pandemic first hit. His health deteriorated after a stroke and diagnosis of a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease, and he cannot afford healthcare in the US.He hopes to return home to see his son before he dies, however the Australian government did not approve him for an emergency loan initiative for vulnerable Australians stranded overseas.‘We’re penniless,’ says Andre Rivenell, who along with his wife has been forced to live in a camper van in his mother-in-law’s backyard in Texas. Photograph: Rivenell familyMeanwhile, Tony Sammartino was met with backlash from someone in his local park after hearing his family was separated – a perception those overseas travelled frivolously and have had time to come home.He is worried this is representative of a larger lack of political support for any change in the policies.Allen believes the public backlash against those stranded is linked to “an arrogance that we’ve fought a pandemic and won a war”.“We didn’t win a war, we’ve just bunkered down. We’re a bunch of preppers, and we’ve gone in with baked beans and tinned spaghetti. There’s so much more to life than baked beans and tinned spaghetti.”







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Scott Morrison denies his ‘one country two systems’ reference to Taiwan was an error | Australian foreign policy From “World news | The Guardian”



The Australian prime minister has denied he spoke in error when he answered a question about support for Taiwan by referencing “one country two systems” – a policy that actually governs Hong Kong.In an interview with SBS News on Wednesday, Scott Morrison also appeared to again incorrectly describe the formulation of Australia’s one-China policy.The interview followed up on comments Morrison made to 3AW radio, appearing to incorrectly suggest there was a “one country two systems” governance in place in Taiwan.Morrison’s office said he was talking about Hong Kong, despite the question making no mention of it.Speaking to SBS on Wednesday, Morrison was asked about the comments and denied he’d made an error. Asked why he said it, he replied:“What we know is that we have a situation with China where we’ve recognised, we’ve recognised, how they see these relationships within the region, particularly in relation to Taiwan, formerly Hong Kong and things of that nature. And so Australia understands that and that’s always been the basis of our policies.”“One country two systems” is the principle China agreed to apply when Hong Kong was returned to Beijing’s control in 1997. “One country two systems” has never applied to Taiwan, which operates as a de facto sovereign state and has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist party. Both sides of Taiwanese politics reject the idea.Australia’s one-China policy recognises the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government, and the country cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972.According to the official communique at the time setting out Australia’s policy, it “acknowledges” China’s position that Taiwan is a PRC province, but does not say that it recognises it.The careful formulation is repeated in one-China policies around the world, including the US, and is a deliberate ambiguity.Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning“This deliberate ambiguity has enabled productive relations with Taiwan in trade, culture, education and shared issues in global governance,” said Dr Mark Harrison, a senior lecturer in Chinese studies at the University of Tasmania.“Given the complexity and sensitivity of the status of Taiwan in international relations, Australia benefits from bipartisanship and policy discipline from politics and policy-makers at all levels of government.”Beijing’s one-China principle maintains there is one China, including Taiwan, which is governed by the PRC, and while it frequently claims that the international community adheres to this principle, that is not correct.In response to questions, a government spokeswoman did not clarify Morrison’s use of the word “recognised”, but said Australia’s one-China policy had not changed, and that the government maintained “close and positive unofficial ties with Taiwan”.She would not say if the prime minister had misspoken.Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said Morrison was “totally out of his depth”.“Morrison is so unwilling to admit his basic factual errors on Taiwan and Hong Kong that he’ll junk decades of consistent, considered, balanced Australian China policy,” he said on Twitter.Australia’s relationship with China is at its lowest point in decades, and there is increasing concern about hostilities over China’s plans for taking control of Taiwan and the potential for Australia to be drawn into conflict.In an interview with the Guardian in December, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, said that Australia and the rest of the international community must join together in resisting China’s expansionism.The “one country two systems” policy governing Hong Kong was supposed to be in place until 2047 but the recent crackdown on opposition has drawn accusations that Beijing has broken the principle.







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‘We’re watching a lynching’: Jewish crowd in Israel beats Arab man as country erupts in unrest – Jewish Telegraphic Agency From “World News”



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Pak says Indian variant of Covid-19 not present in country From “World News Headlines, Latest International News, World Breaking News – Times of India”



ISLAMABAD: The Indian variant of the coronavirus has not been found yet in Pakistan, a senior minister in-charge of the coronavirus task force has said, rejecting reports that the Indian strain of the virus reached Thailand from the country. According to reports, health authorities in Thailand on Monday confirmed the country’s first cases of the Indian variant of the coronavirus, in a Thai woman and her 4-year-old son who have been in state quarantine since arriving from Pakistan. The finding comes amid Thailand battling a new wave of the coronavirus. Reacting to the reports, Minister of Planning Asad Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) — a centralised body set up to coordinate the national Covid-19 response — on Monday said it is not possible that two Thai nationals had contracted the Indian coronavirus variant from Pakistan as it is not yet present in the country. Some of the variants such as UK, Brazilian and South African were reported in the country, but not a single case of Indian variant has been reported yet, he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper. The Indian variant — officially known as B.1.617 — was first detected in the state of Maharashtra in October last year. The strain has reportedly been spotted in at least 21 countries. It was quite possible that the woman had contracted the virus from Thailand or somewhere else as the virus was not reported in Pakistan, Umar said. Thailand has banned travellers from India, other than Thai citizens, starting on May 1 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It extended the entry ban to foreigners visiting from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal on Monday in an effort to keep the Indian variant from spreading, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s coronavirus death toll reached 19,106 on Tuesday with 113 succumbing to the viral infection in the last 24 hours, health officials said. The nationwide confirmed cases now stand at 864,557 with 3,684 new cases, they said.







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Women’s rights advocates have hailed a recent court ruling that will ease restrictions on abortion in cases of rape in Ecuador, the latest country in Latin America to be swept up in the “green wave” abortion rights movement. : worldnews From “World News”



This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 85%. (I’m a bot)Quito, Ecuador – Women’s rights advocates have hailed a recent court ruling that will ease restrictions on abortion in cases of rape in Ecuador, the latest country in Latin America to be swept up in the “Green wave” abortion rights movement.The Ecuadorian court decision comes amid a wider push in Latin America for abortion rights, with momentum especially building after Argentina in late December became the fourth country in the region to legalise abortion.A pro-choice protester points at a crowd of anti-abortion protesters, holding a sign that reads ‘Illegal abortion = state violence’, during a rally in Quito, Ecuador Back in Ecuador, Maria Isabel Espinosa, co-founder of the Constitutional Women’s Collective, said while last week’s ruling does not “Provide an answer to sexual violence there is at least the option for a woman to choose” whether to have an abortion in rape cases.Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: abortion#1 right#2 Ecuador#3 women#4 court#5







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Angry protests have broken out in Kyrgyzstan after a woman was abducted and killed in a case of “bride kidnapping”.The illegal abduction of women for marriage is thought to be widespread in the country. : worldnews From “World News”



On April 5, several men abducted 27-year-old Aizada Kanatbekova in broad daylight in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek. One of them had allegedly been stalking her for months. Two days later, a farmer found Kanatbekova’s body in a car outside Bishkek. Police confirmed she was strangled to death. They said the body of one of her abductors was also in the car, displaying stab wounds that were self-inflicted.Kidnapping women for marriage is a crime in Kyrgyzstan, but men abduct women regularly and with impunity. Kanatbekova’s mother said police had laughed off her plea for help after the abduction and told her she’d soon be dancing at her daughter’s wedding. It’s a stark example of the disregard police exhibit when it comes to reports of bride kidnapping. Their inaction is particularly shocking in Kanatbekova’s case because a witness alerted police immediately after the abduction. Street cameras installed as part of Bishkek’s “Safe City” project captured the license plates of both cars.The case is similar to that of Burulai Turdaly kyzy, a young woman who was murdered by her two-time kidnapper in May 2018, after officers left them alone together in a room at the police station. There is a prevailing belief in Kyrgyz society that bride kidnapping, forced marriages, and other forms of domestic violence are a family affair and outsiders, even police, should not meddle, even though they are criminal offenses.https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/09/another-woman-killed-scourge-kyrgyzstan-bride-kidnappings







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Philippines Covid surge throws country into disarray From “BBC News – World”



In the Philippines, a second surge in Covid-19 cases is putting renewed pressure on the healthcare system. The country currently has the second highest number of cases in South East Asia behind Indonesia. And with one of the longest and hardest lockdowns in the world, a crippling recession has forced thousands on to the streets in search of food. Howard Johnson reports.







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‘Israel is not a country, but a terrorist camp,’ Iran’s leader Khamenei says — RT World News From “RT World News”



Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has blasted Israel as nothing more than a “terrorist camp” and urged the Palestinians to unite their efforts in fighting Tel Aviv. 

Israel has “turned occupied Palestine into a base for terrorism,” Khamenei tweeted.“Israel isn’t a county; it’s a #TerroristCamp against Palestinians & other Muslim nations,” he wrote, adding that it was “everyone’s responsibility” to fight against it.Since day 1, Zionists turned occupied Palestine into a base for terrorism. Israel isn’t a country; it’s a #TerroristCamp against Palestinians & other Muslim nations. Fighting this despotic regime is fighting against oppression & terrorism. And this is everyone’s responsibility.— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 7, 2021Khamenei made his comments on the so-called Quds Day, an annual day designated by Iran to mark support for the Palestinian independence movement.In follow-up tweets, the Iranian leader urged Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and in Gaza to “form a single unit” and “use the tools at their disposal” against Israel despite Tel Aviv signing normalization agreements with several Arab countries last year.  Khamenei said that Palestinians must demand a referendum, during which “original residents” of all ethnicities and religions will vote on a new “political system.”

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Iran decries ‘cherry-picked’ & ‘illegal’ reports of classified chat that claim foreign minister revealed power struggles with army

Iran previously blamed Israel for a major blackout on its chief nuclear site in Natanz in April. Officials in Tehran often accuse Tel Aviv of carrying out acts of sabotage and assassinations on Iranian soil.Israel says that Iran uses Palestinians and its proxies in Syria to attack Israeli citizens. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was behind the February explosion on board Israeli-owned cargo vessel MV Helios Ray, which occurred as the ship was sailing in the Gulf of Oman.Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!







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International official: Bosnian Serbs seek to split country From “World”



The top international official in Bosnia is warning that ethnic Serb leaders are making a concerted effort to split the country, or failing that to roll back many reforms achieved during the last 25 years







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Bosnian Serbs seek to split country From “Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines”



UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The top international official in Bosnia warned Tuesday that ethnic Serb leaders are making a concerted effort to split the country, or failing that to roll back many reforms achieved during the last 25 years, and he called for “a decisive stand” to stop any division.Valentin Inzko told the U.N. Security Council the challenge to Bosnia’s once multiethnic society comprising Serbs, Muslims and Croats is being led by the Bosnian Serbs’ top politician, Milorad Dodik, who is the Serb member of the country’s three-member presidency.He said the Serbs’ campaign “could have political and security implications not only for the country, but also the region, and the rest of Europe.”In what he said is likely his last briefing to the council after 12 years as the international community’s “high representative” in Bosnia, Inzko strongly criticized what he called “the destructive long-term policy” of authorities in the Serb region, known as Republika Srpska.The region’s National Assembly adopted a measure in March that leaves open the option “for the so-called `peaceful dissolution’ of the country,” Inzko said. In April, leaders of Republika Srpska’s governing coalition parties met and Dodik announced the formation of negotiating teams, making clear the region “reserves the right to finally decide on its future status.”The Bosnia war — the worst carnage in Europe since World War II — was fueled by the Bosnian Serbs’ 1992 declaration of their own state within Bosnia, and their separatist ambitions remain strong.Bosnia remains torn by divisions stemming from the 1992-95 war among Serbs, Croats and Muslims during the breakup of Yugoslavia. A U.S.-brokered peace deal signed in 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, divided Bosnia into a federation composed of two autonomous regions — Republika Srpska for Bosnian Serbs and one for Muslims and Croats.The high representative oversees the civilian implementation of the Dayton agreement and is filled by the Peace Implementation Council, which consists of 55 nations.Story continuesInzko stressed to the Security Council that “Dayton does not give the right to entities to secede.”He said the Bosnian Serbs’ actions have “poisoned” the political atmosphere and sidelined reforms at a time when the country is “in the grip” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bosnia should be firmly on the path to membership in the European Union, he said, “but here we are today and one of its political leaders is openly advocating dividing the country, disparaging and mocking the EU in the process.”Inzko warned that even if a breakup is prevented, the Serbs’ aim is “a perpetually dysfunctional” country. That is already happening “in the near-paralysis of the highest institutions … including the presidency, the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly,” he said.He said Bosnia’s multiethnic and diverse society that existed before the war “has all but disappeared” and defending multiethnic spaces has become more difficult than creating single ethnicity ones.“Hate speech, the glorification of war criminals, and revisionism or outright genocide denial, despite the verdicts of international judicial bodies, remain very common in political discourse,” he said.“We must not allow this process to lead to further ethnic or territorial divisions,” Inzko said.The divisions within Bosnia also reflect a mounting conflict between the West and Russia over the future of the Balkans. While the West wishes to see the still-volatile region reform and eventually join the EU and NATO, Russia has used its historic ties with Serbs to undermine this idea.Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, accused Inzko of being “very misbalanced,” saying he blames Bosnian Serbs and Croats “for every difficulty in the way of national reconciliation” and engages in “scaremongering.”She called the situation in Bosnia “rather stable,” saying “it poses no threat to the international peace and security.”Evstigneeva said a resolution adopted by Republika Srpska’s parliament March 21 demanding that the Office of the High Representative close and hand its authorities to the national Bosnian government “cannot be ignored.” She reiterated Russia’s demand for the office’s “soonest closure.”But several speakers said conditions adopted in 2008 for closure of the office have not been met, including constitutional reforms and other measures set by the EU.The United States, EU member Ireland, the United Kingdom and other council members all strongly backed Bosnia remaining a single, united, multi-ethnic and democratic nation.“There is no future for either of the entities outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, stressing that now is the time for the country to meet the criteria to graduate from international supervision by the high representative.“That means first and foremost tackling the rampant corruption that threatens the rule of law,” she said. “Right now, corrupt politicians, a judiciary under political influence, public offices that promote personal or party interests, and state-owned enterprises that prioritize patronage, all enable corruption to thrive. The result: The country is losing its talented young people.”







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