From Monday onward, passengers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to enter Spain, no matter which part of the world they are traveling from. That was the announcement made by the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, on May 21 at the Fitur tourism fair in Madrid. But the details of the measure are still yet to be released.
However, according to a range of government sources, among the conditions for entry into the country for travelers from outside the European Union will be the need to have been vaccinated 14 days before arrival, and to have received both doses of the vaccine in question in order to have full protection – or just the one necessary shot in the case of the Janssen medication.
The full order is due to be released on Saturday in the Official State Gazette (BOE), according to the same sources, and will enter into force on Monday as had been announced. The text is being prepared by the Health and Interior ministries, which are in charge of healthcare controls and the country’s borders. Late on Thursday, the document was still yet to be finalized.
Another of the questions that the order will cover is exactly which vaccinations will be accepted. The text is likely to include those approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – i.e. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-Astrazeneca and Janssen, as well as the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac-Coronavac.
The partial reopening of Spanish borders will be particularly significant for travelers from outside of Europe and the United States – for example, Latin American countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, among others. It will allow for leisure flights between markets where there are already strong links, and for the reunification of families who have not been able to travel without a justifiable reason.
The measure will also drive the recovery of long-distance flights, which have been cut back since the coronavirus pandemic took hold. These include connections with a range of Asian countries, where the aforementioned WHO-approved Chinese vaccines are being used – among them China, Thailand, the Philippines and India, among others.
Setback for UK visitors
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom on Thursday opted to keep all European Union countries, including Spain, on its amber list for travel. The British government will also take Portugal off its green list and add it to the amber one. The new list will go into effect in a week. The move represents a blow for the UK tourism industry, which had been hoping for more flexible rules. Despite hopes that Spain’s Canary and Balearic Islands might be placed on the green list, the UK authorities opted not to make that change for now. This means that visitors returning to the UK from Spain or other EU countries must take a PCR test before travel, quarantine for 10 days on arrival and take two home coronavirus tests. When UK nationals arrive in Spain, however, they do not have to present a coronavirus test nor have an essential reason for travel. The only exception to this, according to the gov.uk official advice, is that “travelers from the UK should be prepared to present evidence of a negative test if they have traveled to a country on Spain’s list of ‘risk countries’ in the 14 days prior to travel.”
English version by Simon Hunter.
Norway killings ‘appeared to be’ Islamist ‘terrorism’
Wednesday’s murders “appeared … to be an act of terrorism” Norway’s ‘PST’ intelligence service said Thursday, noting that the killer, Danish national Espen Andersen, had been a “known” threat. Andersen was a Muslim convert and extremist, but might also have had psychiatric problems, Norwegian police said. Norway’s terrorism-threat level was “moderate”, the PST added, while monitoring the risk of “follow-up actions, revenge actions” by either “extreme Islamists” or “right-wing extremists”.
UN quizzed over role in prison-like island camp for Rohingya refugees | Global development
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) is facing questions over whether it is helping to detain Rohingya refugees in prison-like conditions by providing services on a controversial island camp.
Over the past year, Bangladesh has relocated almost 20,000 refugees to Bhasan Char, an island formed of silt deposits in the Bay of Bengal thought to be vulnerable to cyclones, which the refugees are unable to leave.
About 700 refugees have reportedly attempted to flee the island but Bangladesh hopes that the UNHCR’s cooperation will ensure better services for the refugees and is now planning to increase the island’s population by 80,000 over the next three months.
Refugees International, a global advocacy organisation, said there were “serious questions” about whether it was safe and possible to move such numbers to the island from the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, which are the world’s largest, hosting about 890,000 refugees.
“Most concerning is whether any relocations of Rohingya refugees to the island will be truly voluntary, evidenced by the fact that hundreds of refugees relocated there have already tried to flee,” said Daniel Sullivan, Refugees International’s senior advocate for human rights.
“As Refugees International has warned in the past, failure to properly assess conditions and inform refugees about the move will result in policies more akin to detention than refuge.”
The Geneva-based Global Detention Project tweeted: “In signing a new memorandum of understanding with the Bangladesh government, is the UNHCR assisting in the detention of Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char island? Are refugees free to move on and off the island? Are they moving there truly voluntarily?”
Human Rights Watch reported in June that the government had misled refugees about conditions on the island and that some had been relocated without informed consent. It also reported that, despite promises from the government of good living conditions, they did not have access to work or education and were unable to leave.
In May, during a visit by senior UNHCR officials to inspect the island, thousands of refugees defied orders to remain in their shelters to protest at the living conditions. The UNHCR later said it was “deeply concerned” that refugees were injured during the protest.
A Rohingya teacher living in the Cox’s Bazar camps said they opposed the UNHCR’s cooperation with the government because they did not believe the island was fit to live on.
“There is not any freedom for the Rohingya people in Bhasan Char. People who have gone there thought life would be comfortable for them, as the government said they would be provided with everything they need,” said the teacher, who did not want to be named for fear of repercussions. “There is a lady in Bhasan Char – she sometimes talks with her mother and I heard from her mother that people in Bhasan Char are living as if in prison there.
“At least the government could consider free movement for the people who are in Bhasan Char, so they could travel to see their relatives.”
A leaked copy of the agreement offers no guarantee that refugees will be able to move freely to the mainland, Reuters reported on Friday.
Bangladesh has justified relocating refugees to the island by arguing that conditions are better than the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, which have witnessed devastating floods and fires this year.
The UN said, after the agreement with the government was announced last weekend, that its presence on Bhasan Char would “help support the refugees to lead decent lives on the island” by ensuring protection, education, healthcare and livelihoods.
Former UNHCR official Jeff Crisp questioned why the agreement between Bangladesh and UNHCR had not been published and whether it failed to ensure freedom of movement for the refugees, which could amount to it becoming a prison island.
He also questioned what the long-term plan was for the island, as little progress had been made towards ensuring the Rohingya can return safely to Myanmar, which several generations of refugees have fled after repeated military operations.
“I don’t know what strategy the Bangladeshi government is working on. What is the endgame? Do they assume people can live happily on Bhasan Char?” said Crisp. “They’re talking about 80,000 moving in the next three months. Are that number of people going to volunteer to go and, if they do, can you move that many people and give proper attention to settling them properly?”
China’s Xi to snub UK climate summit
Chinese prime minister Xi Jinping will not personally attend the ‘COP26’ climate summit in Scotland, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been informed, British newspaper The Times reported Thursday. The no-show might mean China would not submit a ‘nationally defined contribution’ (NDC) on CO2-cuts either, British officials feared. Just half of the world’s ‘G20’ wealthiest countries have filed NDCs so far, amid a supply crunch in oil and gas markets.
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