Monsoon rains mean greater peril for Rohingya refugees, aid workers warn
Newsletter: A deeper dive into the day's most notable stories
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- Aid workers fear for safety, health of Rohingya refugees as Bangladesh braces for monsoon season
- The caravan of Central Americans that sparked President Trump's ire on Twitter is actually an annual event that has never made it near the American border
- Labour strike in France today is disrupting much of the nation's rail system, and there are 34 more "days of action" planned over the next three months
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A crisis that threatens to become a disaster
The Rohingya who fled Myanmar last fall found refuge in Bangladesh, but they didn't necessarily find safety.
With 671,000 people crowded into 20 makeshift camps along the border, there have already been problems with communicable — and potentially deadly — diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and measles. Even providing for basic needs like food, clean water and proper sanitation has been a challenge.
Monsoon season will begin in a couple of months. The Cox's Bazar district, where many of the camps are located, is one of the world's wettest places, receiving more than 915 millimetres of rain during the average spring and summer.
Flash floods and landslides are expected, especially in hilly areas where slopes have been stripped of vegetation by Rohingya looking for material to build shelters and cook their food.
It's feared that the mud will hamper aid deliveries, which 90 per cent of the refugees rely on for food.
A coalition of aid groups is warning of the potential for "enormous deaths."
The Bangladeshi government has put aside 500 acres for new, temporary camps, anticipating that as many as 100,000 people now living in low-lying areas will have to be evacuated.
As with all humanitarian crises, needs outstrip available funds, with the UN having recently launched an urgent appeal for $951 million US.
If all that wasn't enough, now there are reports that at least 10 Rohingya refugees in the Kutapalong-Balukhali region have been killed in wild elephant attacks over the past six months.
Little wonder that some Rohingya are attempting to find somewhere else to live.
Yesterday, authorities in Malaysia intercepted a boat with 56 members of Myanmar's Muslim minority aboard, seemingly the first migrants who have tried crossing the Andaman Sea.
Canada should take a leadership role in responding to the Rohingya crisis by boosting humanitarian aid, funding development efforts and welcoming refugees, Bob Rae, Canada's special envoy to Myanmar, said in a report released Tuesday morning.
It seems unlikely that the Rohingya will be returning to their homes in Rakhine state anytime soon. Not only is Myanmar's government unwilling to repatriate them, it seems that new, non-Muslim residents are being sought to take over their houses and farms.
Tribal families from Bangladesh are reportedly being lured across the border into Myanmar by promises of free land and food.
Caravan of no-love
There is no mystery over how one captures Donald Trump's attention — broadcast something on Fox News.
It's just that sometimes it can be a little difficult to figure out exactly what the President of the United States is on about.
Over the past three days, Trump has posted a series of tweets about a "caravan" of Central American refugees in Mexico that he seems to believe is headed for the U.S. border. A threat so grave, apparently, that it has moved the U.S. president to threaten to blow up NAFTA and cancel $127.5 million US in aid to Honduras.
The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!—@realDonaldTrump
As it turns out, Trump learned about the march from Fox News, which has been pushing a story that has received little attention from other outlets and making claims that the migrants intend to sneak into the U.S. or declare themselves refugees at the border.
However, the protest caravan is actually an annual event, and has never made it anywhere near the American border.
For a decade now, migrants in southern Mexico have been holding an Easter-season "Stations of the Cross" march. It's meant to draw attention to the dangers they face as illegal residents, including beatings, extortion and murder. Many dress in biblical costumes and carry crosses.
The march, which started in Tapachula near the Guatemalan border, ended in the town of Matias Romero in southern Oaxaca state, about 1,350 kilometres from the Texas border. A day before Trump's latest tweet.
And despite what the president suggests, Mexican authorities have hardly turned a blind eye to Central American migrants.
In a statement released late yesterday, Mexico's interior ministry said it has already deported about 400 of the marchers.
It added that the caravan is "a public demonstration that seeks to call attention to the migration phenomenon and the importance of respecting the rights of Central Americans," rather than a threat to U.S. border security.
As this story notes, Mexico deported almost 16,000 Central Americans over the first two months of 2018, and a total of 76,433 in 2017.
During Trump's first year in power, the U.S. deported nearly 215,000 people from around the globe — 13 per cent fewer than the 250,000 deported in the final year of Barack Obama's presidency.
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If the trains aren't running, this must be France
Rail strikes are something of a tradition in la République Française. Although the labour disruption that kicked off today is an awfully big one.
By tomorrow night's scheduled end, the walkout by SNCF rail workers is expected to have caused the cancellation of 85 per cent of TGV high-speed service and three-quarters of all regional trains, affecting 4.5 million passengers.
The issue is President Emmanuel Macron's attempts to reform the public sector, starting with the healthy pensions and early retirement benefits accorded to employees of France's heavily indebted and money-losing rail system.
The union representing rail workers, the CGT, says Macron's proposed changes "will fix neither the debt issue or that of dysfunction in the railway system," and that the self-described "radical centrist" wants to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism."
One thing is clear: the rail strikes are just the latest skirmish in a much wider war.
Garbage collectors have joined in today's action, as have some workers from the state owned gas and electricity companies. (Air France employees are also on strike Tuesday and Wednesday, but for a different reason -- their desire for a six per cent wage hike.)
Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT, is warning that France is on the cusp of another May 1968 moment, when labour unrest sparked a mini-revolution.
Although Macron might find lessons in more recent history.
In 1995, Prime Minister Alain Juppé's attempts to reform pensions, freeze wages and impose budget cuts in the name of fiscal austerity resulted in a general strike, led by the railway union. For 22 days, little moved, and even less work got done until Juppé was forced to abandon his plans.
A decade later, Nicolas Sarkozy experienced the first of many "Black Tuesdays" as almost two million public sector workers — including teachers, nurses and air traffic controllers — walked out over his promise to raise France's official retirement age from 60 to 62.
He lost to the Socialist candidate François Hollande that May.
And soon, Sarkozy will face trial on charges of corruption and influence peddling.
Quote of the moment
"The key is that Canadians tune in because they want to. Because they want to share what they hear and see."
- Catherine Tait, the first woman president and CEO of CBC/Radio Canada, laying out her vision for the future of the public broadcaster.
What The National is reading
- Calgary competing with six other bidders for 2026 Olympics (CBC)
- Family finds lost daughter after 24-year search (BBC)
- Africa is splitting into two continents (Quartz)
- Spoiled ballots come second in Egypt's election (CBC)
- Synthetic pot kills two, hospitalizes dozens in Illinois (Chicago Tribune)
- Local hunters in Nigeria vow to crush Boko Haram (Africanews)
- New tech helps teen transplant patients with meds (CTV)
- China's first homegrown aircraft carrier heads to sea (South China Morning Post)
Today in history
April 3, 1966: Beer deaths in Quebec
Dow beer was once among the most popular brews in Quebec. At least until the winter of 1966, when its biggest fans began to die of cardiomyopathy — an irregular heart beat. No conclusive link between the beer and the deaths was ever established, although the men were all heavy consumers, drinking a minimum of eight quarts a day. Suspicion centred on cobalt sulphate, an additive that helped retain foam. Dow dumped its entire stock — over a million gallons — into the St. Lawrence River, but it didn't help. Known forever after as la bière qui tue, Dow sold out to Molson's in 1972.
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