Conflict Weekly

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Conflict Weekly
Protests in Spain, Sweden and Israel

  IPRI Team

Conflict Weekly #160, 26 January 2022, Vol.4, No.4
An initiative by NIAS-IPRI and India Office of the KAS

Padmashree Anandhan, Madhura Mahesh and Mohaimeen Khan

Spain: Anti-government protests led by far-right parties
In the news
On 21 January, a mass protest was carried out by people in Spain demanding the step down of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. The gathering was led by “right-leaning civil society groups” with the support of the centre-right Popular Party and the far-right Vox party. The protestors held sign boards that said: “Sanchez, resign!" and “traitor,” reflecting the angst on the government as the general elections are expected to be held in May. Leader of the Vox party, Santiago Abascal said: “The worst government in history…has divided Spaniards and freed rapists and coup leaders.”
 
Protesters claimed the government’s decision to agree to the demand of Catalan secessionists in appointing a person to mediate talks between the “pro-unity and pro-independence parties” as a betrayal. In line with the protesters, the current regional parties have rejected the move and called for an independence vote.
 
On 22 January, Sanchez said: “The government is working for the unity of Spain, and this means uniting Spaniards and not pitting people against one another like the right is doing.”
 
Issues at large
First, the nature of protests. Protests against the national government have been frequent in the last five years, but the demands centre around the Catalonian community. The first set of protests called the “Madrid demonstration” was against gender violence when a Catalan court dismissed a person guilty without charges. A series of Catalan protests followed it to revive the independence movement and against the sentence of the nine separatist leaders. At present both issues are being highlighted by far-right and right-party groups to stage protests against the government. While the protest does seem political as the elections near, there is a limited amount of discontent amongst the conservative section of the public against Sanchez for not addressing the gap in the health sector, employment, and economic crisis.
 
Second, continuing political polarisation. Single-party governments have been the norm of Spain since 1982 until the Conservative People’s Party (PP) leader Rajoy was replaced by the Socialist party leader Sanchez. Although the change was quick, the continuity of the Socialist party has not been easy. The party has suffered to gain support from the radical-left party Podemos, right of centre party Ciudadanos to form a coalition government, which had never occurred since democracy was established in 1977. In the process of cutting down the differences with the existing parties to form a coalition, a series of four elections gave way for 16 parties into the congress. This took place due to a loss of confidence amongst the public over the party’s incapacity to form a government and address the issue of budget reform, reform of the law on sexual consent, and illegal immigration. The far-right party, Vox, and the PP focused on these issues resulting in a vote gain of 15 per cent additionally in the November 2020 elections and triggering the protests. The rise of the far-right and recovery of the PP created pressure for the Socialists and Podemos to unite, but it is not enough to have a majority to pass any legislation in the parliament. This led Sanchez to get close to Esquerra Republicana (One of Catalonia's secessionist parties) for support in the parliament. Therefore, the two-split in Spain’s political system is expected to worsen.
 
Third, the challenge over Catalonia. The ousting of the conservative party leader was due to the crisis in Catalonia, and the issue of the spread of the separatist movement has been the base for the split in Spain’s political scenario. In 2017, when Catalonia held an illegal referendum for independence sparked fear as they saw it as a threat to Spanish nationalism. When the Supreme court sentenced nine leaders of the separatist organisation of Catalonia for using their resources to “declare an independent republic,” it led to mass protests amongst the community. While Sanchez maintains a stance to have a dialogue to settle the issue between the regional leader of Catalonia, the threat to Spanish nationalism has taken the centre of the far-right party’s agenda. Its focus on addressing illegal migration and separatism has helped gain support from the public but to gain a majority in the parliament it would need the support of the Conservatives. This has furthered with the national government stepping in to replace the conservative majority judiciary to reform the sedition law, becoming the key reason behind the protests and a political deadlock for the 2023 elections.
 
In perspective
The political chaos furthers the polarization. Sanchez presents the idea of dialogue to settle the Catalonian issue; it seems to aggravate the influence of the Right party which has been aiming to devour through the difference to gain power. In such a scenario, the far right would still require the support of the conservative party to form a coalition, which seems to be fluid as both play for power. While Sanchez has to an extent excelled in sustaining the coalition government, he faces a more complex situation without a majority to pass legislation on reforming the sedition and judiciary laws. Whether the winner of the 2023 elections is centre left or centre right, the polarisation can be expected to further with the worsening fragmentation within the parties.


Sweden: Anti-Islamic protests
In the news
On 21 January, Danish far-right activist Rasmus Paludan burnt the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm as a sign of protest. Paludan was joined by 100 other protestors and was accompanied by the police. He said: “If you don’t think there should be freedom of expression, you have to live somewhere else.” On 20 January, Swedish police granted him the right to hold a demonstration in front of the embassy. Paludan led the protest propounding anti-Islam anti-immigration statements.
 
On the same day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the act and said: “Permitting this anti-Islam act, which targets Muslims and insults our sacred values, under the guise of ‘freedom of expression’ is completely unacceptable." The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry also denounced the burning of the Quran and said: “Saudi Arabia calls for spreading the values of dialogue, tolerance, and coexistence, and rejects hatred and extremism.” The incident was also criticised by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who said: “The garb of the freedom of expression cannot be used to hurt the religious emotions of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. This is unacceptable.” Other Islamic countries such as Egypt, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Morocco, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Jordan also condemned the event and criticised the Swedish government for allowing the protests to go through.
 
Issues at large
First, a brief note on Rasmus Paludan. He is a Swedish-Danish leader of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) Party. The Stram Kurs Party is a Danish far-right political party that received 1.8 per cent of the total votes in the 2019 Danish parliamentary elections. Paludan has previously held Quran-burning demonstrations expressing anti-Islamic and anti-immigration sentiments. The first incident was in April 2019 when he burned the Quran in Viborg, Denmark, and the second was in August 2020 in Malmö, Sweden, after which he was barred from entering Sweden for two years. The most recent one was in April 2020 when he threatened to burn the Quran which triggered counter-protests and riots in Sweden.
 
Second, the rise of far-right sentiments in Sweden. In the 2022 Parliamentary elections, there was an increase in the vote share of right-wing parties who formed the Government with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson as the leader. This reflected the rising right-leaning sentiments of the people supporting a largely anti-immigration stance. Acts of Islamophobia has followed this in Sweden. The far-right Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in the parliament which advocates ideologies similar to anti-Islamic and anti-immigration sentiments. This popularity is largely attributed to the growing immigrant population in Sweden with 58 per cent of 250,000 migrants in 2017 being Muslims. By 2020, the total Muslim population was said to be more than 240,000 of the total population. The Swedish public has largely been critical of the growing numbers calling it a burden on social welfare, and a cause of the financial crisis.
 
Third, Sweden’s overarching freedom of expression. In all of Paludan’s demonstrations, he has been granted permission by the police to hold the demonstration saying that denying such requests violates his freedom of expression. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom before the protest said that barring the demonstration would be “very inappropriate.” In Sweden, freedom of expression is statutory and encourages the public to express their views freely without censorship. While Sweden does prohibit hate speech, any convictions under this are always trumped by the freedom of expression. The selected interpretation of both laws provides protestors with the space to carry out such demonstrations as it is unlawful to ban anyone from protesting.
 
In perspective
First, delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO bid. Sweden has been at odds with Turkey for the latter to ratify its NATO membership bid. With these protests, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey will not be ratifying the bid and even cancelled diplomatic visits. This stance of Turkey has put a dent in Sweden and Finland’s goal to be members of NATO before the June summit. It also calls into question the future steps that Sweden will have to take to address all of Turkey’s demands.
 
Second, the reaction from the rest of the world. These protests have been widely criticised by Islamic countries and the West. Many of the criticisms laid against the government call out Sweden’s overarching freedom of expression. There have been counter-protests in Turkey, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq where protestors have burned the Swedish flag and called for a ban on Swedish companies. The West has condemned the burning of the Quran with the US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price calling it “vile” and “disgusting.” With the condemnations, the West has not largely criticised the Swedish government, with the Western discourse largely concentrating on Sweden’s NATO membership but not on the act or the anti-Islamic intent behind it.  


Israel: Protests against proposed judicial reforms
In the news
On 18 January, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Aryeh Deri, a significant member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition is ineligible to hold office as a minister due to tax fraud conviction and suspended sentence. The appointment of Aryeh Deri as health and interior minister, the head of ultra-orthodox Shas party, was deemed by the judges as “extremely unreasonable.” The ruling intensifies a conflict that already existed between the new government and the legal system. According to former Justice Minister Dan Meridor, a planned judicial revamp will damage the state’s legal system and undermine citizens’ rights to be protected from the activities of the government.
 
On 19 January, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara urged Netanyahu to remove Deri from the cabinet, following the Supreme Court’s ruling due to his criminal convictions.
 
On 21 January, for the third consecutive weekend, opponents of the new government’s proposals for significant changes to Israel’s judicial system gathered to protest. It was the largest protest yet, according to police estimates, with 110,000 assembled on Kaplan Street and Habima Square in Tel Aviv. Protests were also staged in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Haifa, Herzliya, and Modi’in against overhauling the judicial system. Demonstrators are opposing Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s plans to curtail the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and solidify political control over nomination of judges. The other concern voiced against the government is that “the government will not be any good for women, LGBTQ, for the impoverished people…and of course Palestinians.” The opposition leader Yair Lapid addressed the crowd and declared, “we won’t give up until we win.”
 
On 22 January, while widening divide over the power of courts, Netanyahu made an announcement that Deri has been removed from office in accordance with the Supreme Court’s decision.
 
On 23 January, after having to remove Deri from his position, Netanyahu reiterated his intention to reinstate him in the government at Shas’s weekly Knesset faction meeting.
 
Issues at large
First, clashes between the government and the legal system. The Israeli government passed a law allowing those convicted of a crime but not sentenced to prison to serve as a minister. Yariv Levin proposed several recommendations to the government to overhaul the judicial system and weaken the Supreme Court. His recommendations include allowing legislators to pass laws that the court has effectively declared unconstitutional. The Knesset might effectively overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority. In addition, he suggested that politicians play a larger role in the selection of Supreme Court judges and that ministers hire their legal consultants rather than relying on independent specialists. Levin stated that the public's trust in the judicial system has reached an all-time low, and he intends to restore power from excessively intrusive judges to elected politicians. Netanyahu has waged a campaign against the legal system since being charged with corruption. According to the opposition, the change could either help Netanyahu avoid conviction in his trial or completely end the case. Despite the protests, Netanyahu vowed to carry out the plans for judicial reform. Opponents argue that this could jeopardise Israel’s system of checks and balances and weaken democratic institutions by granting the total government authority.
 
Second, changes proposed by the government. Apart from the judicial changes, the government has proposed other changes which would have a significant impact on Israeli politics and towards Palestinians in Israel. Ben-Gvir ordered the police to take down all Palestinian flags. In Jerusalem, Palestinian flags are already taken down without delay because Israel claims both the eastern and western parts of the city. Ben-Gvir’s actions foreshadow restrictions on Palestinian identity, expression, protests, and free speech. Netanyahu vowed to annex the occupied West Bank to win the support of the Religious Zionism party, one of his coalition partners. Officials from Israel have taken action against the Palestinian Authority, which controls a few areas of the occupied West Bank. The Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich reduced the PA’s tax revenues by about $40 million.
 
Third, popular discontent. On the day the new government took office, there was a pro-LGBTQ demonstration as several ministers in Netanyahu’s coalition have strong anti-gay views. The opposition party leaders are urging citizens to take to the streets, previously, there were grassroots, bottom-up movement protests against Netanyahu. The citizens fear the reforms will grant the coalition majority absolute power without regard for minorities, human rights, or the rule of law. The rights of the LGBTQ community, women and asylum seekers are also threatened. The government has faced resistance from many groups, including lawyers, and has generated concerns among business leaders, further dividing the country. The protest movements are fractured. Many oppose what they regard as an unprecedented assault on the legal system, while others see it as an assault on Israeli secular society, with about half of the coalition made up of far-right and ultra-orthodox parties. Others, who seemed to be the minority during the protests, focused their campaigns on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.
 
In perspective
The current situation in the state is more divisive than ever. There is disagreement in the state regarding the type of democracy Israel ought to be and how it should deal with the Palestinians. Ministers in the new government have long attacked Jewish identity, religious freedom, Israeli and Palestinian civil society, and LGBTQ communities. There will be severe consequences for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and for Israeli citizens’ civil freedom, owing in large part to Netanyahu’s internal coalition discussion, which has placed settlers in crucial ministerial positions.
 
The current administration is not different from prior one’s. Instead, it is the culmination of decades of policies that amount to a de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank and policies of Jewish dominance, as well as a far-rightward shift in Israeli politics. What is different now is, the way these beliefs about the underlying principles of how the country functions are now expressed, both in the coalition guidelines of the new administration and by senior ministers. Despite the reforms receiving harsh public criticism, Levin is determined to implement his initial changes and has no intention of compromising.


Also, from around the World
Avishka Ashok, Abigail Fernadez, Rashmi Ramesh, Ankit Sing, Apoorva Sudhakar, Anu Maria Joseph, Madura Mahesh, Bhoomika Seshraj, Sethuraman N and Padmashree Anandan 
 
East and Southeast Asia
Taiwan: President Tsai writes to Pope and negates war with China as an option
On 24 January, the Strait Times reported that Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen wrote a letter to Pope Francis and announced that war with China was not an option. She further stressed that healthy ties between Taiwan and China would only be possible when the country's sovereignty and freedom were respected. She said: "Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy, and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait."
 
Myanmar: 57 junta troops killed in resistance attacks
On 25 January, The Irrawaddy reported that at least 57 junta forces, including members of  the pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militia, had been killed in attacks by the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) over the last three days. The PDF is a resistance group, and attacks were recorded in Sagaing, Mandalay and Magwe regions and Karen State. The news report said the PDF targeted a junta-run general administration office, immigration office and some military offices, in Karen State close to the Thai border.
 
Myanmar: NUG thanks China for supporting people of Myanmar
On 24 January, The Irrawaddy reported that the parallel National Unity Government’s (NUG) Foreign Ministry had thanked China for its support to the people of Myanmar at the UN Security Council. The foreign minister said: “We [the NUG] would like to express our deep gratitude to the People’s Republic of China for their support for the return of power to the people … of Myanmar.” The minister said China’s decision to not stand with the military government in Myanmar “is proof of the good neighbourliness of the People’s Republic of China and the people of Myanmar will always remember … China’s stand.”
 
South Asia
Pakistan: Three people killed amid terrorist attack in Jamrud tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
On 19 January, three persons including two policemen were killed when terrorists conducted a three-piked coordinated attack and struck the Takhtabeg checkpost on the main Peshawar-Torkham Highway. The police said that the terrorists included a suicide bomber who had initially “hurled” hand grenades at the police post and had also resorted to “indiscriminate” firing which caused the death of a policeman “on the spot” and also critically injured two other two people at the scene. Additionally, the police held that an “extensive” search operation was underway in the surrounding districts by the local police and the counter-terrorism department and that nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack and that they were on “high alert.”
 
Afghanistan: UN Deputy Secretary-General calls for an inclusive government
On 22 January, the UN deputy chief Amina Mohammed in an interview with TOLOnews called on the Taliban to form an inclusive government in Afghanistan that “includes women too." She said, “An inclusive government that is diverse and representative. It means that it includes women too. So yes, there are a number of conditions and principles I would say that are put down for Afghanistan to consider. It is a decision that Afghanistan takes. Right now, you have the de facto authorities that we have to engage with.” Further, she added that the international community “has a set of principles” that Afghanistan has not achieved yet. Deputy chief Amina Mohammed had led a UN delegation and held talks with senior officials of the Taliban on several issues, including women’s education and work. In a separate visit, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths also visit Afghanistan where he met with several officials. During the meeting, he raised the issue of education for women, their freedom to work and how this affects UN operations in the country.
  
Nepal: Families of plane crash likely to miss millions in compensation
On 20 January, Kathmandu Post reported that those families and victims affected by the Yeti Airlines plane crash are likely to miss out on the compensation following the Nepali government's unratified liability and insurance draft bills. This comes as Nepal had decisively convened a draft bill on a system of liability for domestic flyers which allows flyers to ask for compensation in case of death or injury, where the airlines have to pay a minimum compensation of nearly USD 20,000. The compensation claim has to be filled out within 60 days of the incident. Civil Aviation Ministry said that the Cabinet has to give a "go-ahead" and then the bill would be tabled before the parliament for further consideration. Ministry officials added that the "frequent" changes in the government have led to the slow progress of the bill.
 
Nepal: Peculiar case of rhino poaching alarms conservation community in Nepal
On 23 January, the Chitwan National Park said that two rhinos were found dead at the buffer zone of the Nandapur village and that the female rhino and her calf were mostly electrocuted using a cable connected to a nearby temple's power supply. The death of the rhino acts as a setback to Nepal, which has recorded zero rhino losses to poachers for the last six years. A veterinarian at the Park said that this is the first time that poachers have killed the rhinos in this manner, and that so far, they had only witnessed accidental electrocutions by the surrounding villagers trying to fend off boars and monkeys. Nepal has received international accolades for recording zero poaching of rhinos in 2011, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
 
Sri Lanka: Report from Biodiversity Secretariat says 81 species of birds at risk of extinction
On 23 January, Sri Lanka’s Director of the Biodiversity Secretariat, R.H.M.P. Abeykoon said that the country's 81 native bird species are at risk of extinction. She added that a nationwide survey for the Red Data Book of 2022 has discovered that Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot of 435 bird species. Currently, 237 bird species stay in Sri Lanka, of which at least 26 are endemic. Abeykoon added that the threat of 81 bird species extinction was caused by the lifestyle of the human habitat.
 
Central Asia, Middle East, and Africa
Israel: Protests continue against new legislation
On 22 January, thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv for the third week protesting the new legislation that will practically overhaul the country's judicial system. The Israeli media and the police said that more than 100,000 people took part in the demonstrations. Protestors carried Israeli flags and banners that read “our children will not live in a dictatorship”. Opposition parties and the public are opposing the legislation that will reduce the Supreme Court’s powers over government’s decisions, threaten the independence of judges, and pave the way for more corruption. Former President Yair Lapid participated and said that “this is a protest to defend the country”.
 
Syria: Repatriations from Syrian camps
On 21 January, Canada said that the country is repatriating 23 of its citizens from Syria. The Foreign Ministry said that it had initially decided to repatriate six Canadian women and 13 infants living in camps. With the decision of a federal court coming in, four more men would also be sent to Canada. On 24 January, the French Foreign Ministry said that they have repatriated 47 citizens from the north-eastern part of Syria. Among them were 32 children and 15 women. This was France’s third large-scale repatriation after the previous one in October 2022. The Ministry said that “the minors have been handed to the services in charge of child assistance and will be subjected to medical and social monitoring.”
 
Somalia: Escalating al-Shabab threat
On 22 January, the US military said that nearly 30 al-Shabab militants were killed in a US air strike that assists the Somali forces. The US Africa Command said that the airstrike came as the militants attacked an army base killing seven soldiers the previous week. It stated: "US Africa Command's forces will continue training, advising and equipping partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world." On 23 January, the Somali forces stormed a municipal government building in capital Mogadishu ending a five-hour siege by al-Shabab militants. At least five civilians were killed during the siege and six militants were killed during the military operation. The government said that the latest al Shabab violence is "senseless" and that "it is necessary to completely eliminate" the group from the country.
 
Democratic Republic of the Congo: At least 20 killed by ADF
On 24 January, a customary chief and a military administrator said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) had killed at least 20 people in a village raid on 23 January. The ADF attacked the village, looted households and set fire to shops in North Kivu province’s Beni territory. The ADF is a Uganda-based armed group allied with the Islamic State (IS).
 
Burkina Faso: Government asks French troops to exit within a month
On 24 January, a government spokesperson confirmed that the military government had asked the French troops present in Burkina Faso to leave within a month. The confirmation came after the state media reported on 22 January, that the government had terminated a 2018 agreement with France to fight armed groups in Burkina Faso. However, the spokesperson said: “This is not the end of diplomatic relations between Burkina Faso and France.” This termination is normal and is foreseen in the terms of the agreement.”
 

Europe and the Americas
Europe: The final version of the EU's Chips Act focuses on regulation and promotes international cooperation
On 18 January, Euractiv outlined the new changes made to the Chips Act by the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). The changes include defining the conditions to qualify as a first-of-a-kind facility and introducing concrete triggers for implementing emergency measures which will be developed by the EU in collaboration with national authorities and market representatives. The ITRE also added the list of critical sectors in the annex of the Act for efficient regulation, increased funding, safeguarding supply chains through international cooperation, and increased protection of IP rights.
 

Europe: EU pushes for a civilian mission to build stability in border regions
On 23 January, the European Council convened to establish a civilian European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA) under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CDSP) and said that the mission would motivate stability in the border areas of Armenia and would “build” confidence on the ground. The EU said that the mission would also assure an environment that would be “conducive” to normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and “launch” a fresh phase in the EU’s engagement in the South Caucasus. Resounding Armenia’s request for the mission, the EUMA would conduct “routine patrolling” and report the situation in the regions, strengthening the EU’s “understanding of the situation” on the ground.
 
Lithuania: Interior Ministry renounces cross-border cooperation agreement with Belarus
On 18 January, Lithuania’s Interior Ministry renounced the agreement signed with Belarus outlining the principles of cross-border cooperation. The Ministry added that the implementation of the agreement is not possible due to the current geopolitical scenario. The Interior Ministry’s Deputy Arnoldas Abramavičius said: “The Belarusian government has taken a confrontational stance, both by organising the flow of irregular migrants and by being directly involved in and supporting Russian aggression.” The agreement was signed between Lithuania and Belarus on 1 June 2006 outlining areas of cross-border cooperation. The areas highlighted were infrastructure, sports, tourism, education, movement of vehicles and passengers, energy efficiency and more.

 
Peru: Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Lima and Southern Peru
On 18 January, over 3500 protesters took to the streets of Lima to protest against the government. The protestors threw rocks at the police and burnt a historic building in the city centre. The police in riot gear reportedly used tear gas to disperse the protestors. The Peruvian ombudsman stated that 58 people had been injured all over Peru in the past few days. On 20 January, a group of 205 protestors illegally entered the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, a University in Lima and stole electronic goods from it. The police later arrested more than 200 protesters over this incident.     
 
Brazil: Medical emergency declared in the Yanomami region
On 22 January, the Brazilian Ministry of Health declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami region after reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases. The declaration outlines that the emergency was issued to restore medical services to the Yanomami people which had been dismissed by Former President Jair Bolsonaro. On 24 January, Brazil’s Indigenous Health Secretary Weibe Tapeba compared the condition of the Yanomami people to that of a concentration camp. The deteriorating health situation is also attributed to the rampant illegal gold mining in the region which has caused a rise in multiple diseases.
 
The US: Private sponsorship program launched for facilitating refugee entry into the country
On 19 January, the US Department of State announced the introduction of “Welcome Corps” to enable the general public to cover the costs of resettlement for refugees arriving through the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “The United States is launching the Welcome Corps, the boldest innovation in refugee resettlement in four decades. This initiative enables Americans to directly support refugees and show the best of American hospitality and generosity. #JoinTheWelcomeCorps.”
 
The US: Gun shooting spree in California claims 18 lives
On 21 January, a gunman shot dead 11 people during a Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park, California, a majority Asian American city on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. Los Angeles County Sheriff identified the suspect as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran and said he shot himself. On 23 January, in a separate incident, seven people were killed and one person critically injured in two related shootings at agricultural facilities in a coastal community in northern California. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 647 mass shooting incidents in the US, where more than four people got injured or killed. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported last year that there had been 61 “active shooter” incidents in the US in 2021, up 52 per cent from 2020 and the highest number on record.


About the authors
Ankit Singh, Akriti Sharma, Harini Madhusudan and Rashmi BR are Doctoral Scholars at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, NIAS. Avishka Ashok, Abigail Fernandez, Apoorva Sudhakar and Padmashree Anandhan are Project Associates at NIAS. Anu Maria Joseph and Sethuraman Nadarajan are Research Assistants at NIAS. Madhura Mahesh, Bhoomika Seshraj and Sayani Rana are research interns at NIAS.

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