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As Iraqi and Syrian migrants leave Belarus, some are afraid to go home

Exhausted after several failed attempts to enter Poland amid freezing temperatures, Saeed Jundi and his family of Iraqi Yazidis had just made it back to the Belarusian capital when he said security forces showed up at their rented apartment.

When he confirmed the family was from Iraq, he said they were taken to the airport and deported.

Jundi, his wife and their three children landed in Iraq's Kurdistan region on Nov. 28, two days after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had told migrants at the border with Poland that they would not be forced to leave.

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The family was among hundreds of migrants from Iraq and elsewhere flown out of Belarus in recent weeks after failed attempts to enter the European Union – where they were seeking a better future.

Some of them say they had no choice, while others saw little alternative given how hard it was to cross into Poland and because of their treatment at the hands of border guards.

Since last month, Iraq's government has chartered evacuation flights for over 3,100 Iraqis in Belarus.

Hemn Amin, a 29-year-old Iraqi Kurd from the town Khurmal, was among them.

He said Belarusian border guards beat him and that he was pushed back and forth between the Belarusian and Polish border several times. He was then taken to a warehouse in Grodno region where hundreds of other migrants had gathered.

Amin and about 40 other Iraqis booked a plane ticket in order to be allowed to leave.

They boarded buses hoping to get off in Minsk, but were taken straight to the airport, he said.

“We waited in the airport for about five days, in an overcrowded hall guarded by the police,” Amin said.

The Belarusian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Fouad Hamad, Belarus' honorary consul in Iraqi Kurdistan from where many migrants started their journey, said beatings at the border were “a possibility”, but not in cities.

He said migrants in cities would be detained and deported when their visas expired “according to the law” and that he received regular calls from Iraqis asking him to help relatives detained in Minsk for having overstayed their tourist visas.

Safeen Dizayee, head of the Kurdistan regional government's foreign relations in Erbil, told Reuters that none of those aboard the flights chartered by the government had said they were being deported against their will.

“If they overstayed their visas, naturally each country has their rules and regulations,” Dizayee said. “Whatever measures Belarus takes, it is their jurisdiction.”

He said authorities in Belarus and Poland should investigate allegations of abuse of migrants along the border.

Syrians stuck

Officials and migrants say hundreds of migrants remain stuck in Belarus, having spent thousands of dollars on a journey they had hoped would end in the EU. Among them are Syrians, some of whom do not want to return to their homeland.

“We are being contacted and receive reports about different cases, including of Syrians, some of whom would like to return and some still hope to be able to cross to Poland and some wishing to reunite with their families in the EU,” UNHCR Senior Communications Officer, Natalia Prokopchuk, told Reuters.

On Wednesday, private Syrian airline Cham Wings chartered the first evacuation flight for Syrians wishing to return to Damascus, with about 97 passengers on board.

Speaking over the telephone from a small hostel in Minsk, a Syrian man from Halab who asked to not be named said he and 12 other Syrians travelling with him were barely leaving their rooms anymore, fearing deportation.

He said his tourist visa expired nearly two months ago and he had nowhere to go. He has been banned from re-entering Lebanon, where he lived for the last six years, and fears he will be punished if he flies back to Damascus because he has not carried out his military service.

Dozens of Syrian respondents told an online poll set up by migrants that they did not want to go back to Syria from Belarus for fear of retribution from the authorities.

The Syrian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A 27-year-old Syrian who flew from Damascus to Minsk on a tourist visa said he managed to delay serving in the military by continuing his studies. He has now completed his masters degree and fears he will be enrolled by force should he land in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Syrian from Halab said his only option may be to return to the forests between Belarus and Poland to try and cross again.

Read more:

Around 400 Iraqi migrants flown back to Erbil from Belarus

Iraqi flight returning migrants takes off from Belarus capital Minsk

EU accuses Belarus of ‘trafficking’ migrants toward border

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Almarai signs an MoU with the Authority of People with Disabilities to train and employ them.

Almarai Company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Authority of People with
Disabilities to train, qualify and employ persons with disabilities. This came on the sidelines of
the First International Labor Market Conference, organized by the Ministry of Human Resources
and Social Development on December 13 – 14, 2023, at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center
in Riyadh.

The memorandum was signed by the Chief Human Resources Officer of Almarai Company,
Fahad Mohammed Aldrees, and the CEO of the Authority of People with Disabilities, Dr.
Hisham bin Muhammad Al-Haidari.

“This agreement comes within the framework of the company’s social responsibility program, as
Almarai employs more than 500 people with disabilities, which is one of the most suitable work
environments for them.” Fahad Aldrees said. Pointing out that Almarai has the “Silent Line”,
which is one of its production lines that is designated for people with hearing disabilities.

It is worth mentioning that Almarai supports over 300 charity organizations annually across the
kingdom that operate in the field of community development.

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Central Phuket Shopping Center Prepared Surprises This Christmas & New Year 2024

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This December, Central Phuket prepared many activities for shoppers when visiting Phuket! Experience the “Surprise of the Day” with free Cotton Candy for our little ones, a sweet and fluffy treat, a special gift from Central Phuket. Bring your kids to enjoy this sweet treat every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month of December. Don’t miss the Christmas Carol that
everyone loves, little Santas spread freshness by singing together in the Christmas Carol activity. Plus, Christmas Live Music, the festival of joy is back! Celebrate Christmas in a luxurious and classy atmosphere, enjoying the music that will bring us joy. Also, there will be Christmas Troop, Santa Claus is coming to town! The Santa troop will spread happiness throughout Central Phuket. Lastly, Cake Workshop, workshop activity with Chef Sebastien’s IRON CHEF Thailand teaching how to make Christmas Vanilla Cake. A special activity for the Christmas season. Moreover, Central Phuket provides special promotion exclusively for international tourists throughout December 23 – January 24 including:

1) Get Free! Tourist welcome discount package valued up to THB 10,000.
2) Receive THB 100 Gift voucher when spending up to THB 2,500 per receipt.
3) Get to buy ‘Happy Holiday Collections’ special price: Pokémon 2-in-1 pillow blanket, tumbler, travel bag set, and keychain. Visit redemption counter for the price.
4) Exclusive for Grab Users get discount code up to 25% off* when traveling to participating Central Shopping Centers.
5) Receive famous Elephant Pants when spending over THB 5,000 in shopping center.
6) Get Free! H&M THB 100 gift voucher when booking any accommodations in Phuket with Agoda. Terms and conditions apply.

Central Phuket is a home of global luxury brands such as Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Saint Laurent. Exclusive for this season, Louis Vuitton launches a pop-up store located at Central Phuket. The design is inspired by the story of Damier or Checkerboard, the brand’s signature pattern. This classic pattern was created by Louis
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well-known brands covering all categories, international shoppers will be able to find what they are looking for in Central Phuket.
Central Phuket is located in the heart of one of the world’s most famous beach cities, Phuket and await to welcome both locals and international visitors this holiday. Also, don’t miss one of the most joyful New Year Count Down events in Phuket city at Central Phuket Shopping Center on December 31, 2023.

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Saudi Fund for Development Provides $100 Million Development Loan for the Rogun Hydropower Project

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Chief Executive Officer, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, signed a new development loan agreement with the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan, H.E. Kahhorzoda Fayziddin Sattor, through which SFD is contributing $100 million USD to fund the Rogun Hydropower Project, a landmark initiative that will enhance energy,
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tunnels for diversion and drainage. It will also provide clean and drinkable water to people through desalination, and help advance socio-economic development, by creating both direct and indirect jobs.
Importantly, this project also supports the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); specifically, SDG 2, Zero Hunger, SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.
On this occasion, the CEO of SFD, H.E. Sultan Al-Marshad, said: “Today’s signing marks a major milestone in our shared journey towards a more sustainable future. With this landmark development loan, SFD is not just supporting Tajikistan’s energy future, but also its sustainable development and the well-being of its people. The Rogun Hydropower Project is a beacon of
hope for a bright future that is powered by clean, renewable energy. It will propel Tajikistan towards environmental stewardship and prosperity.”

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