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The Perpetual Lockdown of Singapore Migrant Workers

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Singapore has lost 60 lives to the coronavirus in the entire COVID pandemic till now. The country is being idolized for its rapid and effective victory over the coronavirus pandemic. But the price that the island’s migrant workers had to pay for the curb is not highlighted by many.

So, how did Singapore succeed in halting the virus infections? Why were the migrant workers forced into perpetual lockdowns? And what does the future hold for these blue-collar migrant workers?

Coronavirus in Singapore

The first case of coronavirus infection in Singapore was reported in late January of 2020, and just within the next week, over 100 cases. With the help of an advanced tracing program, the authorities were able to crack down on most of the infected patients and the people they got in contact with. The island was praised globally for its pandemic curbing practices, but the crisis in the densely populated migrant worker’s residential buildings was hidden from the international media.

After the circuit-breaker provisions were issued in March, Singapore’s 300,000 migrant population has been pushed into a state-enforced forced lockdown. As residents of the city-state are spread out across 43 ‘mega dormitories‘ – which can house up to 20 workers without air conditioners – they remain vulnerable and precarious.

bbc graphic
Source: BBC

With no maximum occupancy limit, over 20 migrant workers shared a single dorm room in the pre-covid era. As a result, many migrant worker rights groups, including Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), warned the government about the high chances of mass infections in the dorms, and weeks later, the prediction came true.

Every day, more than a hundred cases of infections were being recorded in the migrant worker dormitories, making them the hotspot of COVID 19 in the country. By mid-April, the government started releasing two daily reports of infection, one of the local communities and one of the dorms. The starking contrasts in the difference of number highlighted the inequality in the country.

The Detiroating Conditions of Migrant Workers in Singapore

Witnessing the spike in cases of COVID amongst migrant laborers, the Singapore government banned nearly all 30,000 workers from mixing with the general population. However, under the “pilot scheme,” a handful of migrant workers were allowed to visit a few places outside their dorm in a fixed amount of time.

Even though Singapore has mature labor laws, the gaps within their enforcement and coverage have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

According to reports, for precautionary measures, thousands of migrant workers have been physically confined to their dormitories in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The fact of the matter is, employers, continue to provide employees with many essential needs such as housing and healthcare, even under optimal scenarios. Currently trapped under these conditions, workers are apprehensive about complaining because of the fear of retaliation.

According to many critics, Singapore’s response to the second spike in migrant worker cases and how cases are recorded are both symptomatic of a fundamental weakness in its management of migrant workers. Accordingly, the Ministry of Health selectively categorized cases according to whether they belonged to either the ‘community’ or dormitories, implying that migrants were not considered a part of the ‘community.

The Confinement

Most of the migrant workers residing in these confined dormitories are native to South Asian countries and are a vital part of the manual labor market of Singapore. For example, Tarif, a migrant worker of Bangladesh living in Singapore, says, “We are working tirelessly for the country,” he says. “We’re making everything, and we’re doing everything for you guys.”

However, living in a dormitory means sharing rooms with 30 or more people and sharing bathrooms, kitchens, and recreational areas with hundreds more. In March 2020, these conditions are what triggered the major outbreak of Covid-19 in dormitories in the first place. After clusters spread extensively in Singapore, the island was shut down for two months.

In this system, labor has been reduced to a commodity and turned into something that can be traded and sold like any other commodity. Often, workers arrive in Singapore with heavy debts owing to recruitment agents and brokers from illicit cash payments they made along the way.

Singapore’s former ambassador to the UN, Tommy Koh, rebuked the government recently for its actions. Mr. Koh said, “This should be a wake-up call for us.”. “To treat our indispensable foreign workers as a first-world country should and not in the disgraceful way in which they are treated now.”

Post-Mortem: A Wake Up Call

Sadly the government officials in Singapore have always made it clear that dormitory residents are separate from everyone else. These men work under different labor laws and do not have the same rights as foreign white-collar workers in the city because they hold different visas. Even the cases were classified into three categories of daily Covid-19 case numbers: “Imported,” “Dormitory Residents,” and “Community.”

The statistics are stark. Approximately 74% of all reported cases are related to migrant workers as of 16 September. For context, just 5% of Singapore’s population is made up of workers. Post the confinement, many media outlets covered suicides and attempted suicides in dormitories last year.

As a result of the dire living conditions workers have to endure while working under a bonded regime, the psychological pressure is heightened. It is further escalating with the forced confinements.

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COP27 Climate Change Summit: Greenwashing Scam Imperilling Human Rights

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COP27 Climate Change Summit - A Greenwashing Scam Ignoring Human Rights

COP27 Faced Major Criticism

Morally, politically and economically COP27 climate change summit has been coined as a greenwashing scam imperilling human rights.

The world watched Egypt closely as it hosted the 27th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) in Sharm El-Sheikh from the 8th-16th of November. More than 190 governments attended COP27 to attempt to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

Furthermore, Egypt hosting of COP27 sparked much controversy due to its abysmal human rights record. Additionally, COP27 faced heavy criticism due to some of the world’s top polluters, such as Coca-Cola sponsoring the event. Furthermore, attendees arrived in private jets; meat and dairy products remained on menus; dozens of domestic civil society organizations were excluded. Additionally, the summit was overshadowed by persistent calls to release up to 65,000 political prisoners in Egyptian prisons.

Worlds Top Polluter, Coca-Cola, Sponsored COP27

The UN climate conference announced a sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola, one of the “world’s top polluters”. Coca-Cola recently retained its title for the fourth year as the world’s top plastic polluter. The sponsorship deal is a greenwashing scam by campaigners, drawing intense criticism.

Coca-Cola produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year. 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, exacerbating the plastic and climate change crises.

Private Jets, Bottomless Cocktails and Beef Medallion Dishes

Surprisingly, attendees indulged in the very activities which got us into this mess in the first place. Moreover, world leaders flew to Egypt in private jets. Attendees enjoyed bottomless cocktails, one-hour unlimited wine and beer packages, $100 beef medallion dishes, and $50 seafood platters.

This begs the question: do these foods belong at a climate conference? We have missed the true purpose of the climate summit: to help save the planet.

Caption: Residents push a boat through a flooded street in Havana. Industrial nations are being asked to compensate those countries most affected by the climate crisis. Photograph: Ramón Espinosa/AP. Image obtained from the Guardian.

Meat and Dairy On the Menu – Not on the Agenda

In the three-decade history of the UN Climate Summit, COP27 was the first UN summit to discuss the meat and dairy industry’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.

COP27 faced massive criticism this year from climate activists due to the unsustainable meat and dairy items on its menus. It seems unimaginable that globally we are trying to reduce our meat and dairy consumption to save our planet. However, our governments cannot stop eating these foods at the world’s largest climate summit.

Cutting meat and dairy output are not yet on the agenda for governments at COP27. Many governments attending the summit give billions to livestock farmers in subsidies. Instead of focusing on plant-based diets, they are advancing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using feed additives that make animals less gassy and technology that sucks up the methane wafting off manure heaps. Andy Reisinger, a farm emissions specialist and vice-chair of the UN’s IPCC climate panel, said feed additives could worsen emissions by promoting intensive farming.

Read more: Is Veganism the Solution to Eradicating Food Carbon Foot Print?

Dozens of Domestic Civil Society Groups Excluded

Hundreds of prominent human rights defenders, researchers and environmentalists were exiled from Egypt. They were unable to attend Cop27 due to the nature of their work. Many voices from Egypt were absent at the conference due to the government’s corrupt attempts to exclude dozens of domestic civil society groups.

“Arrests and detention, NGO asset freezes and dissolutions and travel restrictions against human rights defenders have created a climate of fear for Egyptian civil society organisations to engage visibly at the COP27” 

Additionally, COP27’s wifi blocked access to international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other news websites needed during information talks. These prominent human rights organizations hosted talks at COP27 but could not access their sites due to previous work criticizing the Egyptian government. Egypt used this strategy to hide the nation’s decades-long record of cracking down on human rights.

Read more: Pakistan’s Climate Crisis: A Peek Into The Apocalyptic Future That Awaits.

65,000 Political Prisoners in Egyptian Prisons

Currently, there are an estimated 65,000 political prisoners inside Egyptian prisons. COP27 was overshadowed by persistent calls to release political prisoners.

A British-Egyptian detainee, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, was a significant focus in the media. As a leader of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, he has been in prison for the past decade. He started a partial hunger strike in April 2022 to protest his detention conditions. He spent the last six months consuming just 100 calories a day. A week before COP27 started, he stopped eating altogether. Then, on the day the summit began, he stopped drinking water. He has since resumed drinking water but remains critically ill.

Greta Thunberg, who refused to attend COP27, signed a petition by a human rights coalition calling on Egyptian authorities to open up civic space and release political prisoners.

Read more: Accelerating Deforestation in the Amazon Severely Threatens Climate Change Crisis.

COP27 Cracks Down On “Greenwashing”

Companies, banks, cities and states worldwide have continuously made broken promises to achieve net-zero emissions. These corporate climate pledges amount to little more than a greenwashing scam. Evading net zero claims is a common greenwashing strategy. Companies claim to be carbon-free due to strategies such as buying carbon credits while simultaneously pursuing new fossil fuel projects emitting greenhouse gases.

Greenwashing is when an organization spends more time and money marketing itself as environmentally friendly than minimizing its environmental impact. It’s a shady marketing gimmick that misleads consumers who prefer to buy environmentally friendly goods and services.

At COP27, the UN cracked down on greenwashing, laying down recommendations for how companies, financial institutions and cities must calculate their net zero emissions status. The new UN report aims to eliminate loopholes by laying out ten steps to bring integrity, transparency and accountability to net zero claims.

“I have a message to fossil fuel companies and their financial enablers. So-called ‘net-zero pledges’ that exclude core products and activities are poisoning our planet. They must thoroughly review their pledges and align them with this new guidance”.

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Read more: Doomsday Glacier on the Brink of Collapse: Catastrophes of Climate Change.

The UN cracked down on companies stating that they can’t claim to be net zero if they are not in line with targets set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These targets include cutting global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. The UN limited short-term carbon offsets and held that they could only be used sparingly in the long term.

Historic Deal: Governments Must Pay Poor Nations for Climate Damage

Governments at COP27 approved a historic deal to create a fund for compensating developing nations that are victims of extreme weather events worsened by rich countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. However, many remained uncertain as countries argued over emission reduction efforts.

COP27 Climate Change Summit -Greenwashing Scam Imperilling Human Rights.
Caption: A Fridays for Future protester at the Cop27 UN Climate Summit holds a sign calling for the “loss and damage” deal. Photograph: Peter Dejong/AP. Image obtained from the Guardian.

Moreover, this is a massive step for poorer countries bearing the brunt of climate change. These nations face extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and famines despite releasing the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. This historical “loss and damage” deal will provide financial assistance to developing nations stricken by climate disasters.

However, this loss and damage deal has several flaws. Some nations held that the pledges to limit global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees showed little progress compared to the COP26 conference in Glasgow in 2021. Furthermore, others criticized how the language and guidelines on phasing out fossil fuels were weak. Despite many different opinions between nations regarding the guidelines of this historic deal, it is still a vital step towards achieving climate justice.

Read more: Climate Refugees: Pain of Unseen Victims.

Concluding Thoughts

COP27 has faced significant criticism this year for many justifiable reasons. Many believe COP27 is a greenwashing scam failing humanity and the planet by not leading to significant changes. The UN climate summit is losing its credibility in being able to create meaningful change to save our planet.

World leaders and people in power continuously use high-profile gatherings like COP for attention and are greenwashing, lying and cheating their way through pledges and commitments. The UN Environment Programme released the Emissions Gap report stating that only an urgent system-wide transformation can deliver the enormous emissions cuts needed to stabilize global temperatures below 1.5 degrees by 2030.

World leaders consistently fail to fulfil their commitments and act on time. We cannot place trust in greenwashing scams like COP summits anymore. Instead, we need rapid, far-reaching, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society if we want to build a sustainable world for future generations.

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Qatar FIFA 2022, A Civilized Model Of Islam

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Qatar FIFA 2022

Qatar is the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. This was after Qatar’s award hosting in December 2010. This is a tremendous opportunity for Qatar to represent Qatar FIFA 2022 as a civilized model of Islam. The country converted to Islam in the 7th century. Since winning the hosting, it has been constructing some of the most eco-friendly and architectural advanced sporting facilities ever seen. It is the kind of country that has the power to host the greatest show of FIFA ever on Earth.

First, Qatar has always drawn its strength from discovering oil, fishing, and pearl hunting. In addition, it is the world’s second-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. Hosting the tournament presents tremendous opportunities for Qatar to prove itself as a powerful country. Significantly, Qatar has always been taking advantage of the tournament hosting to develop local Industries, expertise, and infrastructure. This was for Innovation and application of excellent standards and support of Qatar’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. This edition of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is being themed by Qatar on its culture, history, identity, and hospitability. As a result, efforts have made the event an unforgettable historical experience.

(more…)

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The Lebanese file: neither a president nor a government

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election of lebanese presidency

Despite six presidential sessions, Lebanon still does not have a president.

The funny thing is, the government is also idle and the whole country is waiting for a miracle to get up again.

France is on the president line!

The head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Representative Gebran Bassil, is expected to visit Paris, which is expected to mark a remarkable development in the presidential file in Lebanon.

The meetings will aim to discuss the imminent presidential, governmental, and economic entitlements of all Lebanese stakeholders.

French president macron right) and free Patriotic movement leader gebran bassil (left)
French president macron and free Patriotic movement leader gebran bassil

Based on Basil’s excellent relationship with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi and Hezbollah, the French hope to agree on a roadmap for the presidential elections.

Although the French side does not carry an integrated initiative, it sought to know the position of all parties regarding a list of candidates that includes about seven names.

Those connected to the French ambassador understand that her country still has the American mandate to manage the initiative about the presidential file and that Paris wants to reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia that facilitates the task because insisting on fighting harsh battles would prevent the election of a president soon.

President issue: Who does Hezbollah wants?

 Hezbollah is reconsidering the local reality from a different angle than the one that preceded the election of President Aoun, as evidenced by Aoun’s recent paradox of reopening half-closed doors.

In contrast to Aoun, the party does not find any justification for repeating the vacuum for more than two years and tightening its internal domestic rams to deliver its candidate.

They are fully aware that choosing to unilaterally elect a president of the republic, and consequently, a government of one color and the presidency of the House of Representatives, means putting the country in direct conflict with the outside world. Everything that surrounds the internal reality is different from the previous stage, as is the position of the concerned countries.

 While Hezbollah’s opponents are only mentioning Franjieh as president—or, at the very least, any candidate from the party’s second row—this does not imply that Hezbollah has abandoned its candidate or candidates.

The party assumes entering into early settlements, which means that the party receives its price both internally and externally.

This is because the party cannot bear the idea of losing its candidate and will not bear the idea of any settlement following a vacuum that results in challenges, conditions, and counter conditions.

An alternative situation is possible in addition to that. Except for the March 8 team, there is no president of the country.

Is the former minister Franjieh a serious candidate?

Former Minister Suleiman Franjieh was Hezbollah’s candidate.

Nasrallah’s remarks coincided with a fresh French attempt that started a few days ago to forge an agreement on choosing a new president before the year is up and included pledges to start aid programs for Lebanon, including the “Cedre” program.

Former minister Sleiman Franjieh
Former minister Sleiman Franjieh

The debate that the French began with the major parties in Lebanon is anticipated to be finished with Washington and Riyadh and is predicated on the premise that no one can impose a prime minister or president of the republic without a genuine agreement between the major forces.

Hezbollah claimed in 2016 that there was no Plan B for the nomination of General Michel Aoun, and it repeated that claim this time as well: the candidate is Franjieh, and there is a point on the line.

 If the two allies cannot agree on a second candidate, there are dangers that no one has the luxury of incurring.

What does The Free Patriotic Movement says?

 The Free Patriotic Movement was informed by Hezbollah that the results of naming places below the presidency of the Republic under the General Michel Aoun administration were not encouraging, as the residents of these sites turned against the people who named them to them.

There is a “term” that Hezbollah agreed to, though, which is that it will not attend the election session for the Marada Movement’s leader until he has Basil’s endorsement in his pocket.

The party’s desire to maintain and strengthen the agreement with the Free Patriotic Movement is the most crucial factor, and as a result, “the election of Suleiman will be with Gibran’s consent and not at his expense,” among other factors, including giving Franjieh Christian support that makes him a strong president.

So far, there has not been any serious president, and we are facing many sessions without a result.

Is Lebanon on a date with a long presidential debate, as happened before the election of former President Michel Aoun, or will we witness the election of a president before the New Year?

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