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Middle East

Centre denies 150 Indians’ bodies lying in Saudi Arabia

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New Delhi, Dec 23 : The government on Friday dismissed as “factually misleading” a media report that the bodies of 150 persons from Telengana and Andhra Pradesh are lying in Saudi Arabia mortuaries and the bereaved families were unable to bring these home for the last rites since the Indian embassy was not helping.

“This report is completely factually misleading,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said at his weekly media briefing here.

“The report refers to 150 bodies from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. In reality, there are only about 10 cases that pertain to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,” Swarup said.

He also explained the role of the embassy after the death of an Indian and the complicated procedure in the Saudi kingdom for repatriation of bodies.

Stating that there were two million expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson said that three to four death cases were registered every day on account of natural reasons.

“Most cases are ‘clear’ cases in which, as per the local norms, it takes around three weeks to send mortal remains even if the documents are in order,” he said.

“In cases of unnatural death, like suicide, murder and industrial accident, and also in those cases wherein the families doubt the circumstances of death, the investigation procedure is very lengthy, causing delay in completion of documentation or transportation of mortal remains.”

Swarup said that in some cases, the families demanded release of compensation first before the dispatch of a body “whereas compensation is a legal process and takes a year”.

“In other cases of delay, DNA samples from the families back home are needed to identify the body and complete the local procedures,” he said.

Stating that at any given time, there would be a number of cases of all categories being processed, the spokesperson said that the Indian embassy proactively followed all death cases on top priority.

“In fact, NOCs (no objection certificates) are issued by the embassy on 24×7 basis,” Swarup said.

“In the Kafala system (sponsorship) being followed in Saudi Arabia, it is the responsibility of the sponsor to complete the paper-work and dispatch the mortal remains to India. Despite this legal position, the embassy steps in wherever there are delays in the transportation of mortal remains.”

Most Indians in Saudi Arabia are blue-collar workers.

Middle East

UN appeals for countries to take in 1,300 Libyan refugees

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Libyan refugees

The UN has appealed to countries worldwide to take in 1,300 mainly African refugees stranded in Libya. Many of them were mistreated while being detained appalling conditions.

Niger has agreed to temporarily host the most vulnerable of the evacuees, including unaccompanied children and single mothers, pending their processing and departure for resettlement, Reuters said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that it “urgently requests 1,300 places for resettlement” to be made available by the end of March. The UNHCR intends to evacuate between 700 and 1,300 people from Libya to Niger by the end of January 2018.

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Middle East

‘Don’t buy from Arabs’, says Israeli Defense Minister

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Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on his fellow citizens to boycott the Palestinian market of the Wadi Ara region of north-east Israel, after riots broke out there on Saturday over the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Three people were injured when protesters began hurling stones at a bus. “I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.

To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” Haaretz quoted Lieberman telling Army Radio.

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Middle East

Hamas leader calls for ‘new intifada in the face of Israel’

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Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a speech in Gaza Thursday, Reuters reports.

Anti-US protests erupted almost immediately after Trump’s declaration Wednesday, with Palestinians first to take to the streets, calling for three days of rage against the move.

World leaders expressed serious concern over the decision and its potential to destabilize the region.

The decision has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, and said he be believes “many” other nations will follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” and spoke of his “great anxiety” surrounding the decision, while the EU voiced “serious concern.”

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days,”Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“Jerusalem is a unique city,” he added, “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

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