India to require 400k charging stations for 2 mn EVs by 2026: Report
India needs about 400,000 charging stations to meet the requirement for two million Electric Vehicles (EV) that could potentially ply on its roads by 2026, said a report on Saturday.
The Grant Thornton Bharat-Ficci report said for India to reach its vision of 100 per cent EVs by 2030, factors such as increasing government support, decreasing cost of technology, and distressing pollution levels, would be key to accelerate this transition.
As per EV industry body – Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles – there are 1,800 charging stations in India as of March 2021 for approximately 16,200 electric cars, including the fleet segment.
“Overall, the EV infrastructure is tightly coupled with the EV and charging station characteristics, battery technologies, and electricity markets,” the report said.
“More than half of the stakeholders, as part of a survey in the report, have also recommended involvement of discoms in Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) deployment and classification of EV charging infrastructure as corporate social responsibility.”
Besides, the survey suggested design simplifications, partnership during transition, and optimisation of urban mobility as effective cost reduction levers for bringing down EV costs in India.
“Global manufacturers have spent millions to improve the availability and efficacy of EV chargers, and as a result the fastest ones today take no more than 15 minutes to recharge a vehicle.”
“The global sales of EVs in 2020 increased by 39 per cent y-o-y to 3.1 million units, whereas the total passenger car market declined 14 per cent.”
In addition, the report mentioned about the impact of the pandemic on emergence of a new consumer who is eager to be healthy, breathe clean air and build a better, more resilient world for the next generation.
“The year 2020 has presented a great responsibility and opportunity to fast track the development of electrification and electric vehicles (EV) by utilising the strengths available globally through a collaborative and integrated effort,” said Saket Mehra, Partner, Grant Thornton.
PETALING JAYA: The authorities will ensure that employers do not make workers absorb the vaccination costs under the Program Imunisasi Industri Covid-19 Kerjasama Awam-Swasta (Pikas), says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
He said the Pikas offer to essential industries comes with strict guidelines to employers that all costs must be borne by employers and must not in any way be passed on to their workers.
“The announcement of Pikas comes with a stern warning to employers. Not only are they not allowed to transfer the costs to employees because government policy is free to all, employers also must complete the whole cycle – two doses to every employee.
“In fact this has been agreed by the industry associations.
“They have agreed to absorb the administrative costs to ensure a smooth running of the vaccination plan for their employees,” said Azmin, who is International Trade and Industry Minister, when contacted.
He said he would be visiting the three states – Selangor, Johor and Penang – involved in Pikas when the pilot phase takes off on Wednesday.
He also pointed out that the Pikas offer was at RM90 per worker.
On Saturay, the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) stated that Pikas, which involves voluntary immunisation for employees in the manufacturing sector, would be launched as Phase Four of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.
Companies taking part can get their staff vaccinated at selected vaccination centres or choose on-site vaccination at designated factories and industrial locations.
Miti said companies in critical manufacturing sub-sectors including electrical and electronics, food processing, iron and steel, medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), oil and gas and rubber products, including medical glove manufacturing sub-sectors, would be prioritised.
It said it would be coordinating the immunisation for employees in the manufacturing sector while other ministries would be responsible for vaccination of employees in their respective sectors.
To date, Miti said 500 companies with a total of 106,591 workers had applied to take part in Pikas.
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said Pikas stemmed from suggestions from employers who wanted to speed up vaccination of the 2.4 million workers in the manufacturing sector.
“We hope with the vaccination of workers, the capacity of workers working on-site can be increased from the current 60%.
“We also ask that Pikas be offered to non-essential industries as soon as possible so that they too can operate as they form part of the chain for essential industries,” he said.
Industries Unite (IU), a coalition of SMEs and small businesses, said that it was timely for a mass vaccination of workers.
IU group coordinator Datuk Irwin Cheong said they hoped the government could further reduce the costs, as it could take a toll on small businesses.
“This is something we have been pushing for. We are grateful our request has been viewed favourably by the government,” said Chong.
[Myanmar] 109 bomb, 65 arson and 168 other attacks since schools reopened: SAC
According to State Administration Council spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun at a press conference on June 12, there have been a total of 109 bomb blasts, 65 arson and 168 other hinderances were committed since schools reopened.
He claims that as of June 10, 88 percent of a total of 42080 scools have reopened with 3216960 that came to school.
“The NLD and its supporting terrorists carried out a total of 109 mine and bomb attacks, 65 arson attacks and 168 other general hinderances,” said Zaw Min Tun.
There are over 25000 primary schools, 15000 middle schools and over 6100 highschools that had reopened.
Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun claims that “The decision to go to school is for parents and students to decide. The acts of violence are hindering their rights. Terrorists are asking young children to put on their uniform to attack the school.”
In Rakhine State, the Brig-Gen says that there were 96 percent with 82 percent attendance rate.
Moon pledges $200 million to tackle global COVID-19 vaccine shortage
SEOUL/CORNWALL, England — South Korea will provide $200 million in aid through next year to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in lower-income countries, President Moon Jae-in said Saturday.
During a plenary session on health during a Group of Seven summit, Moon vowed to offer $100 million in grants this year, according to a statement from the presidential office.
Another $100 million will be provided next year through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, a financing framework established to make COVID-19 vaccines affordable in more than 90 developing countries.
The remarks were made during Moon’s visit to Britain for this year’s G-7 summit, which started Friday. Moon was invited to attend the summit as a guest alongside his counterparts from Australia, India and South Africa.
Moon attended the plenary session with other guests, joining the G-7 leaders as well as chiefs of the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The presidential office said the commitment would spur Korea’s role as a global vaccine hub while it seeks partnerships with the G-7 nations.
Participants, including Moon, also discussed ways to cooperate on global public health governance and ways to increase support for equitable medical access for all nations to prepare for future public health threats, Moon’s office added.
During his visit Moon also met with Pascal Soriot, executive director and CEO of the Britain-based AstraZeneca, to reaffirm the importance of continued cooperation in the global production and supplying of COVID-19 vaccines.
In the 27-minute meeting, Moon pledged to actively cooperate with the international community to ensure that enough COVID-19 vaccines are provided globally, according to the presidential office.
Cheong Wae Dae said Moon thanked Soriot for his company’s active role in the COVID-19 situation, saying its vaccine was an important part of Korea’s vaccination campaign, which kicked off in February. Korea aims to complete the vaccination of 14 million people by the end of this month.
“AstraZeneca’s vaccine is unique for us in that it was the first (COVID-19) vaccine inoculated in South Korea and is the most used vaccine,” Moon was quoted as saying.
“Koreans could receive the vaccine with relief as it was produced locally with SK’s technology transfer. This has also played an important first step for Korea to become a global vaccine production hub.”
More than 60 percent of those who have received their first jabs here got the vaccine developed by the British pharmaceutical firm.
As of Saturday’s end, close to 8 million people in Korea had gotten their first COVID-19 shots from AstraZeneca and 3.26 million had gotten shots from Pfizer. SK Group subsidiary SK Bioscience produces AstraZeneca’s vaccine domestically through a contract manufacturing deal.
Moon also asked Soriot to provide continued support so as to ensure a steady supply of its vaccines for the latter half of the year, Moon’s office said.
The AstraZeneca CEO also expressed appreciation for Korea’s role in the COVAX program, as vaccines produced in the country have been provided to 75 nations within the coalition, the office added.
Embassy says days when G7 dictates to the world are over
Chinas embassy in the United Kingdom said that international decisions can no longer be dictated by a small cadre of global elites, after leaders at the meeting of the G7 group of wealthy nations, which concluded on Sunday, unveiled a new infrastructure plan intended to compete with Chinas cross-border development plan the Belt and Road Initiative.
The embassy made its remarks on Saturday, ahead of the conclusion of the G7 Summit taking place in Cornwall in the UK, attended by leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. The infrastructure plan, which is called Build Back Better World, or B3W, is being spearheaded by US President Joe Biden, who identified the summit as an opportunity to “discuss strategic competition with China”, according to a White House statement.
“The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman from the Chinese Embassy in the UK said. “We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
The embassy criticized the clique-based politics of the Western countries, saying that there should be “only one system and one order in the world, that is, the international system with the United Nations at the core and the international order based on international law, not the so-called system and order advocated by a handful of countries”.
The White House said the B3W plan will “help narrow the $40 trillion infrastructure need in the developing world”.
But few details have been provided as to how the plan will be implemented and no investment figures were given either.
A senior official in Biden’s administration said that the plan is “not just about confronting or taking on China”.
Christopher Bovis, a professor of international business law at Hull University, said that the B3W is a strategic play to increase the influence of the G7 on the international stage and compete with the Belt and Road Initiative, which has gathered pace since it was introduced in 2013 with over 130 countries now formally affiliated.
“The intention of G7 economies to offer developing nations an infrastructure plan, referred to as the B3W initiative, is certainly seen as an attempt to counter China’s growing influence and success of the Belt and Road Initiative,” Bovis told China Daily.
“Furthermore, the B3W, if implemented, is expected to act as a conveyor belt of Western values, standards and the way of doing business, an outcome which will likely be seen as a post-colonial attempt to integrate economically developing economies,” Bovis said.
Bovis questioned if the G7 was the suitable group to spearhead such an initiative.
Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at Bradford University in the UK, suggested that the G7 may in fact have become outmoded in an increasingly interconnected world with a growing list of shared threats.
“While the G7 is an important meeting, the G20 is far more significant, because it is more representative of the global community,” Rogers told China Daily.
Asean reports highest number of new Covid-19 cases in a fortnight
Southeast Asia on Sunday recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases on a single day this month, though the death rate was lower, collated data showed.
There were 26,435 new cases on Sunday, up from Saturday’s 25,656 and the highest since May 29 when 28,781 cases were reported. The death toll on Sunday was 387, falling from Saturday’s 426.
Total Covid-19 cases in Asean crossed 4.33 million, while total deaths in Asean rose to 84,702.
Singapore reported 13 new cases on Sunday, taking cumulative cases in the country to 62,869. The government announced that out of 3.7 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine administered, 4,704 people had reported side-effects, 157 with severe reactions. There had, however, been no case of death directly related to the vaccine.
Cambodia reported 468 new cases and a new high of 15 deaths on Sunday, driving cumulative cases in the country to 38,427 and deaths to 335.
Siem Reap announced the enforcement of night curfew from 10pm to 4am for 14 days starting from tonight to control the outbreak.
Uber, Lyft driver shortage boosts business for New Yorks taxis
New Yorks yellow cabs are making a comeback. A driver shortage at Uber and Lyft has left city riders frustrated with high fares and long wait times, leading many to step off the curb and raise a hand.
“Business has been great. I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Tainur Rahman, a taxi driver from the Bronx. Rahman, who has been driving for about a decade, said he’s optimistic about a sustained rebound in the summer months to help make up for profits lost during the dead months of Covid-19 lockdowns.
Already suffering from an inundation of app-based drivers over the past several years, cabbies were dealt another significant blow by the pandemic, as commuters worked from home, tourists stayed away and no one wanted to be in the same car with a stranger. As New York’s economy is revving up again, the number of daily taxi trips in New York City surged more than 800% in April from a year earlier, while app-based platforms like Uber and Lyft jumped some 220%, according to the Taxi & Limousine Commission. That kind of demand, combined with the fact that there are only about one-third of the taxis on the street now compared with before coronavirus restrictions in the city took hold, can also make it hard to find one.
But it’s not just warmer weather and easing Covid-19 restrictions that have made people more comfortable hailing cabs the old-fashioned way.
Across the country, demand for ride-hailing has exploded, leaving Uber and Lyft scrambling to recruit drivers. Many have been slow to get back behind the wheel after finding other work or resorting to government stimulus benefits during the pandemic. With fewer drivers on the road, fares have steadily climbed since the beginning of the year, with a ride costing customers 40% more in April, according to research firm Rakuten Intelligence.
Donna Smiley lives in Washington Heights and commutes to work on the Upper East Side every morning. Since February, she’s been opting to take a taxi instead of ride-share due to the jump in fares.
“I don’t know why Uber and the other services jacked their prices up so much in the past few months,” Smiley said. Her morning Uber ride used to cost between $20 to $25, but now it’s no less than $30 and can reach almost $50 at peak times. It’s worse during the evening rush. “The cleaner, more comfortable cars of Uber are not worth the huge jump in pricing,” she said.
For cabbies, the app companies’ plight has been an opportunity for more business. It’s a bright spot for a beleaguered industry that has struggled to recover from a collapse in demand due to digital ride-hailing that deflated the value of taxi medallions and forced many cab drivers — who were saddled with debt incurred to purchase permits — into bankruptcy.
In March, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to spend $65 million of the money New York City will receive from the federal stimulus package to help restructure the drivers’ loans. New York Attorney General Letitia James last year accused the city of committing fraud by artificially inflating the value of the medallions, which were sold at auction for more than $1 million in recent years before plummeting below $200,000 after the influx of app-based services.
But the taxi industry is still far from a full recovery. The number of yellow cabs in New York, which had been declining even before the pandemic, cratered at the height of quarantine. A year later, there are still only an average of 3,800 cabbies on the streets. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft still account for the vast majority of trips per day, six times as many as yellow cabs, according to data from the TLC.
Though ride-share’s baseline prices using the companies’ online calculators have actually remained consistent, it’s the more frequent surges that are causing fares to balloon, said Ippei Takahashi, founder and chief executive officer of RideGuru, a platform that helps people compare fares among ride-hailing services and taxis.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean Uber and Lyft aren’t trying to charge more and capitalizing on this uplift in demand. They have full control over their dynamic pricing algorithm, which is known — or at least speculated — to be tweaked often and sometimes even manually,” he said. “I think most people in the industry expect things to stabilize fairly quickly as both customers and drivers return.”
Both Uber and Lyft said more drivers came back to the platform in May as a result of incentives. “With the economy bouncing back, drivers are returning to Uber in force to take advantage of higher earnings opportunities from our driver stimulus while they are still available,” an Uber spokeswoman said, adding that wait times in New York and Los Angeles — two key markets — have “significantly decreased.”
Part of the reason taxis have been able to capture more of the demand is because of platforms like Curb and Arro, which allow riders to flag a cab with ease through an app, or hail one with a hand and pay in the app. About two-thirds of taxis in New York are equipped with Curb’s technology, according to vice president of mobility Jason Gross, who said the app has become a competitive alternative to Uber and Lyft amid the longer wait times and increased surge pricing.
Yellow cabs adhere to city-regulated meters which take both time and distance into account and don’t have surge pricing. The basic fee is $2.50 and then about 50 cents per 1/5 mile, in addition to other potential fees, including a $2.50 congestion surcharge. In normal circumstances, taxi fares are about 5% to 10% cheaper than ride-shares, according to Gross, a differential he said has substantially widened in recent months.
Curb recently rolled out an upgrade that allows riders to see their fare upfront before e-hailing — a relatively new feature for taxis. That has led to more mobile bookings, which are now double pre-pandemic highs, he said. Monthly downloads of the app grew 24% in May compared with pre-pandemic levels and daily active users jumped 33%, according to market research firm Apptopia.
Taxi drivers also see taxi apps like Curb as a modern improvement. For Brooklyn cabbie Mohammed Latif, Curb is a safeguard against passengers ducking out without paying their fare, because it’s linked to a credit card. Also, the steady flow of rides has made earnings more stable, he said. “I don’t just have to depend on people being outside waving me down.”
As the city’s economic rebound solidifies, there will likely be more jockeying for position among drivers and riders will aim to take advantage of a renewed competition.
Phillip Giambri, a Manhattan resident, recently opted to take a Lyft for $37 from LaGuardia Airport after Uber quoted him almost double the price. After waiting 15 minutes, he was told there were no drivers available. When he finally jumped in a taxi, it cost him only $28 to get home. “I’m disabled and rely on the car services but the prices are gonna put me back in yellow cabs.”
Published : June 14, 2021
By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Jackie Davalos, Brody Ford
G-7 takes stronger stand against China, at U.S. urging
CARBIS BAY, England – As Group of Seven leaders wrapped their three-day summit here on Sunday, President Joe Biden said democratic governments face a defining challenge: to show they can meet tests such as global health crises and climate change better than autocracies such as China and Russia.
“Ithink we’re in a contest, not with China per se, but a contest with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Biden told reporters during the first news conference of his first foreign trip as president.
He pointed out China and Russia for reprobation after working here to enlist U.S. allies in what he has repeatedly cast as the existential battle of the 21st century.
The theme is hardly a new one for Biden, who returns to it frequently and has used several key moments in his presidency to outline what he views as the generational struggle between democratic and autocratic nations.
The question of how to deal with China is divisive, and while Western leaders have criticized Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, in briefings with reporters during the summit, it was clear there were tensions over the language the group should adopt.
Biden urged the leaders of the G-7 industrialized nations to take a harsher public stance, confronting China over its use of forced labor. But some leaders, including those of Germany, Italy and Japan, have been reluctant to take on China too forcefully.
“We recognize the right of China to be an important economy,” said Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Sunday, “but we question how China does it.”
Senior U.S. officials on briefing calls with reporters stressed that the White House was trying to offer an approach that was more carrot than stick by presenting the world with an alternative more appealing than the approach of China.
In the summit-concluding communique issued Sunday, G-7 leaders announced they would create alternative funding to China’s massive “Belt and Road Initiative,” a trillion-dollar infrastructure program focused on the developing world.
They also said they would work together to challenge China’s “non-market policies,” and they called on Beijing to respect human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, pushed for greater transparency on the origins of the coronavirus and raised concerns about tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.
The language fell short of an explicit condemnation of China’s human rights practices.
Still, Beijing has chafed at the group’s new focus on the country. “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone,” a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said Sunday. “We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
The G-7 leaders also endorsed a global minimum tax on multinational corporations and pledged to donate 1 billion vaccine doses to poorer countries. Biden hinted that the United States might make another substantial donation of doses next year.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected criticism that the G-7’s vaccine pledge didn’t go far enough. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown has said 11 billion doses are needed.
“We are going flat out and we are producing vaccines as fast as we can,” Johnson said.
Biden implored China to allow the international community access to the laboratories in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was detected in December 2019. Biden said he has not reached a conclusion about whether the coronavirus spread from a lab leak or from animals, but he said transparency is critical to preparing for future pandemics.
“We have to have access,” he said. “The world has to have access.”
Biden, in the middle of his eight-day, three-country trip abroad, flew overseas determined to demonstrate leadership on the world stage and, in turn, competence and command back home.
Save for coronavirus logistics – social distancing, sporadic face masks, rigorous coronavirus testing for the U.S. delegation – perhaps the most striking part of the first G-7 summit in the post-Trump era was its sheer normalcy, and even the bland scriptedness that undergirded most of the proceedings.
Gone were the threats to invite Russia back into the group or to withdraw from NATO, hallmarks of the combative diplomacy favored by former president Donald Trump.
Yet the shadow of Trump lingered, with the Europeans having watched with alarm the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and them being fully aware that another populist figure, from the left or the right, could easily emerge victorious in 2024.
Biden’s message, which he delivered repeatedly – to U.S. troops on arriving in Britain on Wednesday, to French President Emmanuel Macron in scenic Carbis Bay on Saturday, to reporters on Sunday – was “America is back.” European leaders received it with a mixture of skepticism and relief.
Biden also used the trip to reassert his brand of personal diplomacy, rekindling relationships he nurtured for years as a senator and vice president, and spending one-on-one time with leaders such as Johnson and Macron, whom he knows less well.
The leaders used their three days in Cornwall – a picturesque but surprisingly poor part of the country – to discuss challenges such as the coronavirus and climate change.
The United States said it would contribute 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, half the group’s vaccine commitment to poorer nations. The effort, which some health experts described as an encouraging start but as insufficient for getting control of the pandemic globally, will help counter charges of a “vaccine apartheid,” in which a small group of wealthy nations hoards vaccine doses and fares better than poorer countries.
On Sunday afternoon, Biden traveled to Windsor Castle, about 25 miles west of London, for tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
Biden, 78, told reporters afterward that the 95-year-old monarch reminded him of his mother.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” he said.
Biden will continue on to Brussels for a NATO summit and European Union meeting this week, before finishing his trip with a high-stakes encounter Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Published : June 14, 2021
By : The Washington Post · Karla Adam, Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager, John Hudson
Central American women are fleeing domestic violence amid a pandemic, but few find refuge in U.S.
After four years of beatings, humiliation and sexual abuse, María de Jesús mustered the courage to leave the man who would punch her in the face for even changing her clothes to go outside, saying she could only look pretty for him.
Then the death threats began.
“You will never, ever be happy,” her ex-boyfriend told her on the phone in December. “And when I find you, I will disappear you and your entire family.”
María de Jesús packed her bags and fled Guatemala City with her 11-year-old son on a cold night weeks later. She paid a smuggler and trekked north to the U.S.-Mexico border, where she hoped the Biden administration, promising a more humanitarian approach toward migrants, would welcome a domestic violence survivor like herself into the country.
“The only solution was to be far away where I didn’t feel scared every day,” said Maria de Jesus, 39, who declined to give her last name out of security concerns.
She is among scores of Central American women fleeing brutal violence from boyfriends, spouses and others in one of the world’s most dangerous regions for women who have recently arrived at the southern U.S. border only to find they now encounter an uphill battle to be let in.
Though President Joe Biden quickly signed several executive orders to roll back some of President Donald Trump’s most draconian policies – including one that sent asylum seekers back to Mexico to await their court hearings – a number of other restrictive measures and rulings that directly affect domestic violence survivors remain in place.
Biden has ordered a review of the entire asylum system to determine whether authorities provide protection to those fleeing domestic or gang violence “in a manner consistent with international standards.” Vice President Kamala Harris visited Central America this past week, vowing to commit millions of dollars to address the root causes of migration while also delivering a stern message: Don’t come.
“You will be turned back,” she warned.
Those words still may do little to persuade thousands of women who remain at risk in a region with deeply rooted machismo, entrenched corruption and a weak rule of law. Violence against women has increased in many parts of Latin America during the pandemic, as services like shelters shut down and women were forced to stay with their aggressors during lockdowns, women’s rights groups and international organizations say.
“It was a pressure-cooker stress where there was pre-existing violence and then no escape route,” said Meghan López, vice president for Latin America at the International Rescue Committee, which works with organizations in the region.
Women like María de Jesús who are already at the border, meanwhile, are in limbo. She is currently living at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, anxiously waiting for her humanitarian parole request to be reviewed.
“If they deny it I have nowhere to go and no idea what to do,” she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement to The Post that they are working to a rebuild a “decimated” immigration system for one that “treats people more humanely and keeps families together.”
“We are moving swiftly to rebuild, but it’s going to take time,” the spokesperson said.
Central America, the region most of the women seeking asylum in the United States are fleeing, has the highest violent death rates for women in the world, according to data collected by the Small Arms Survey, which tracks violence globally.
According to a 2019 survey by the United Nations’ Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras and El Salvador, two countries hard hit by back-to-back hurricanes last year, have two of the highest rates of femicides per 100,000 in Latin America.
Data gathered by the IRC show that in the fall of 2020, requests from across the region for women’s services and protection information doubled.
Central America’s deep economic contraction, slow recovery from the storms, violence and rumors that the Biden administration would allow new arrivals in all fueled the biggest migrant surge in 20 years.
But in the midst of a heated debate in the U.S. over how to respond to the crisis, the odyssey of women fleeing violence, and domestic abuse in particular, has often been overlooked.
Last month a coalition of immigration advocacy groups, including the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the University of California, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and urged him to restore protections for women and families fleeing persecution and torture.
Karen Musalo, the center’s director, said some of these “backwards” rulings “take us back to the “Dark Ages” in terms of women’s rights. She pointed to a 2018 decision by former attorney general Jeff Sessions that established that “generally” claims “pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”
The case involved a Salvadoran woman, known as AB, who said she had been sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her husband for years, reversing an appeals court ruling that found her eligible for asylum.
“It created an avenue for judges or asylum granters who were already not inclined to granting it, to have the basis to do it and disregard individual circumstances,” said Musalo, who was also a defense layer on the AB case.
The case became a symbol of an administration that slammed its doors shut and turned away scores of immigrants that were not only fleeing gang violence, poverty and climate devastation, but in the case of many women, brutal aggression from their partners in countries where domestic abuse is pervasive.
Asylum seekers interviewed by The Post say they sought protection in their own countries and decided to leave as a last resort, disputing criticism that they migrate to the United States solely in search of better economic opportunities.
Such was the case for women like AB, who asked to be identified only by her initials for fear of reprisal from immigration authorities. She said she endured years of violence and sexual assault from her ex-husband and left El Salvador in 2014 after multiple failed attempts to escape his wrath by moving houses and cities.
“I didn’t know anything about this country. I just knew it was a faraway place where people feel safe,” the 50-year-old Salvadoran said in a recent interview. “Staying meant dying.”
With her case still pending eight years after she first crossed the border, AB reflected on the grueling process of her quest for protection.
“This wait has been so sad and stressful,” she said. “I have traveled to all the courts, done everything I have been asked to show that I did not come here to steal anyone’s job or food, that I came here because I was trying to save myself.”
Being separated from her three children, whom she left behind after her husband threatened her with a handgun, has been the biggest torment, she said.
“If I knew everything that was going to happen, maybe I would have preferred to die,” she said in tears.
Prior to the Trump administration and Sessions’s decision, survivors of domestic violence had a lesser threshold to overcome and their cases often prevailed when they proved that their countries lack the resources or willingness to offer them protection from their abusers, experts say.
“Now people are not even afforded that level of process and are just being tossed away,” said Margaret Cargioli, an attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, a social justice law firm in California.
While experts argue the Sessions ruling has created an additional hurdle for domestic violence victims, it did not rule out protection completely, as these cases are decided on a case-by-case basis by immigration court judges.
Court data does not record the grounds for asylum claims, making it difficult to get a quantifiable sense of how these policies have impacted immigration court rulings on domestic violence cases.
Amid the pandemic and the recent surge of migrants at the border, Biden has continued one of the most controversial Trump policies, known as Title 42, which indefinitely closed the border to “nonessential” travel, citing emergency health concerns due to the pandemic.
While technically migrants at the southern border can still seek protection under U.S. law, the order has translated into approximately 700,000 rapid expulsions – including families and unaccompanied minors – since March of last year, without due process or access to asylum, according to immigration advocacy groups and experts.
Cargioli said the current restrictions are doing more harm than good.
“If Title 42 has to do with health safety, how can a system that is purported to save lives, instead put them in peril?” she asked. “It is illogical.”
Only a small number have been allowed into the country for humanitarian reasons that can include health concerns or being at imminent harm or risk of torture, according to immigration advocates.
Sitting in a hotel in San Diego, 19-year-old Rosie from Honduras remembered the many failed attempts to escape her ex-boyfriend’s house, where he would keep her captive, rape her and forced her to cut any contact with her family or friends, she told The Post in a recent interview.
If she managed to sneak out of the house, he would drag her by her hair through the dirt roads back inside, she said.
The journey to the U.S. was traumatic: Rosie said she was sexually assaulted in Guatemala as she tried to make her way north.
More than two months after being apprehended at the border and deported to Mexico, she was temporarily allowed in on May 10 under a humanitarian parole, said Cargioli, who is representing her case.
Now in the U.S., she said she dreams of becoming a doctor.
“I felt I could breathe for a minute, and finally stop feeling scared all the time,” she said, sobbing.
She faces a potentially years-long wait for her case to be resolved and could still be denied protection, which keeps her awake at night.
Advocates say the vast majority of domestic violence victims arriving at the border have virtually no chance of gaining protection while restrictions are still in place.
Most end up staying in Mexico in cramped tent cities or shelters, some of them falling prey to organized crime groups or migrant smugglers. Others end up going back to the dangers they are trying to escape.
In Tijuana, María de Jesús anxiously waits to find out what will happen with her humanitarian parole request, which would allow to await her asylum process in Indiana, where her sister lives.
She can’t fathom going back to Guatemala, still traumatized by the ex-boyfriend who used to create fake Facebook profiles to get information of her whereabouts.
“For so long I thought violence was my destiny,” she said. “I just hope that I am wrong.”
D.C. region tries to boost vaccine uptake among law enforcement
As the Washington, D.C., regions coronavirus vaccination efforts continue, public health officials are homing in on segments of the population slow to get the shot – such as law enforcement officers.
While no comprehensive surveying has been done in the region, Virginia officials say less than half of State Police troopers are vaccinated and about 50 percent of corrections officers in the state have been vaccinated.
Large police departments have slightly better rates, with 58 percent of officers vaccinated in the District of Columbia and 65 percent vaccinated in Prince George’s County, Md. Montgomery County, Md.’s high countywide vaccination rate is mirrored among its officers, about 71 percent of whom have gotten the shot.
That’s better than some areas around the country – such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, where roughly one-third of officers were vaccinated as of early last month.
The reasons are varied, and experts say hesitancy among officers is similar to hesitancy among groups in the wider population.
Warren Eller, chair of the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said distrust of the government and by extension the vaccines, exacerbated by conspiracy theories and reports that he said have “over-highlighted” potential side effects, contribute to hesitancy. That’s in addition to exploitation of Black men in the Tuskegee experiment and the testing of birth control on Puerto Rican women.
“Officials telling some communities, ‘Trust us, we’ve got something for you to take,’ hasn’t always turned out all that well,” Eller said.
The viral numbers in the region have fallen significantly from the highs seen during peaks in the pandemic, such as around the winter holidays. The seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 on Saturday fell to 1.69 in Maryland and 1.82 in Virginia, rates not seen since the start of the pandemic. The number was 1.84 in D.C. as of Friday, last seen in March 2020.
But experts say in a pandemic, any unvaccinated officer in the field is still taking a risk. After shutdowns started 15 months ago, law enforcement officers remained on the job, responding to 911 calls, performing CPR and other activities that placed them in close contact with the public, and running jails and prisons, congregate settings that are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks.
At least three officers in Virginia have died of covid-19, including a sergeant with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office who helped lead a team at the jail that sanitized and sterilized coronavirus-infected areas, according to a tribute on the sheriff’s office website.
In the early days of vaccinations, when governments tightly controlled which groups got the shots first, advocates for law enforcement in Virginia successfully lobbied Gov. Ralph Northam to move first responders up on the eligibility pyramid, just below health-care workers.
“Law enforcement, they face a lot of threats each and every day, and this is one where we can actually diminish the risk by providing vaccine to all of them,” said Brian Moran, the Virginia secretary of public safety and homeland security, who favored accelerating access.
But not every officer was eager to get the shot.
Some areas have tried to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible for law enforcement.
The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office set up clinics at the jail in the early days, and leaders have hosted Zoom meetings to encourage vaccination, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Andrea Ceisler said. She declined to share the office-wide vaccination rate.
The Virginia State Police, which has hosted on-site clinics and had its own medical staff administer shots, anticipates its vaccination rate will grow as outreach continues, spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.
In Montgomery County, Earl Stoddard, director of the office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said vaccinations were first offered at the public safety training academy that officers know well, by fire and rescue staffers with whom they already work closely.
Stoddard said his own vaccination appointment turned into an impromptu reunion with chiefs of several local departments, who all happened to be there at the same time.
The county also hired a behavioral health scientist who revised the tone and content of all employee communications. Having the county executive or another high-ranking official address officers was not as well received as hearing from a peer, Stoddard said the scientist advised them.
“Treating them like equals in the way we address the message was very helpful,” Stoddard said. “(Appealing) to their sense of community and the fact that we are serving residents, this is part of a collective effort.”
Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said chiefs and sheriffs in urban areas are more likely to be vaccinated than their rural counterparts, who may consider the risk of transmission in a less populated area to be lower or view vaccines differently.
“Our officers are people, too, so we hear the same concerns that some of the general public has expressed,” she said. That includes concerns about the Food and Drug Administration issuing emergency use authorization for the vaccines as opposed to full approval, questions about efficacy, and unfounded theories about the vaccines causing sterility or changing one’s DNA.
At the height of the pandemic, her organization and others representing police, deputies, firefighters and EMTs pushed for legislation to have coronavirus exposure covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, she said, now that vaccines are readily available, the unvaccinated may not qualify for coverage.
Although statewide vaccination numbers among officers are not available, John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, said the small number of masked faces he saw at his organization’s conference last week in Williamsburg leads him to believe most are vaccinated.
“We’re having events. There’s a buffet line, people are sitting close together. They’re talking,” he said. “What I see is back to normal.”
However, Danny Avula, the state vaccine coordinator, spoke at the conference to encourage departments to talk to employees frequently about the importance of being vaccinated, especially in a congregate setting like a jail or prison. He also asked them to make vaccination available repeatedly and offer incentives, like money or the ability to skip quarantine if exposed.
“We do just need to keep this in front of people,” he said, adding that the recent low viral numbers may give people a false sense of comfort. “It doesn’t feel important now, but we absolutely have to do everything we can do to avoid a resurgence through December, January and February.”