Berlin joins Vienna to press Italy on migrant mass influx

MIGRATION TALKS: German Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere, right, and his new Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka during a press conference in Potsdam, Germany, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 29 April 2016
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Berlin joins Vienna to press Italy on migrant mass influx

BERLIN: Germany’s interior minister on Friday put the onus on Italy to halt a new mass influx of migrants to northern Europe, lending backing to Austria in a row with Rome.
“We share Austria’s position that there should not be a repeat of what happened along the Balkan route last autumn on the road from the Italian border northwards,” said Thomas de Maiziere after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Wolfgang Sobotka.
“We have said we want to reduce the numbers of refugees sustainably, above all at the external borders, and a policy of simply waving people through would only spur more from outside the EU to come to Europe,” said the German interior minister.
“What is happening in Brenner depends above all on the Italians,” added de Maiziere, referring to the Austrian border pass with Italy which Vienna is looking at fencing off in order to halt mass arrivals of migrants and refugees.
De Maiziere’s backing came a day after Italy angrily told Austria that it was “wasting money” on anti-migrant measures and that closing the border between the two countries would be “an enormous mistake.”
But Germany put the ball in Italy’s court.
“Italy is aware of how serious the situation is, it knows that Italy must, should and will take action to ensure that Schengen remains open,” said de Maiziere, referring to Europe’s passport-free zone.
“That means, what it is at the moment is above all a task for Italy,” he said.
More than 350,000 people, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in countries like Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, have reached Italy by boat from Libya since the start of 2014, as Europe battles its biggest migration crisis post-WWII.
Wedged between the Italian and Balkan routes to northern Europe, Austria received 90,000 asylum requests last year, the second highest in per capita terms of any EU country.
Legislation approved Wednesday by the Austrian Parliament enables the government to respond to spikes in migrant arrivals by declaring a state of emergency which provides for asylum seekers to be turned away at border points.
Some 250 police have been deployed at the Brenner Pass, a major transport link between southern and northern Europe with an average of 2,500 lorries and 15,000 cars using it every day.


Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

Updated 14 min 54 sec ago
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Duterte foes cry foul as Philippine police push sedition charges

  • Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition
  • A series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections alleged that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade

MANILA: Opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed shock and outrage on Friday at police moves to charge dozens of them with sedition, calling it persecution aimed at stamping out scrutiny of his increasingly powerful rule.
Thirty-six opposition figures are accused of cyber libel and sedition for orchestrating a series of online videos ahead of May’s mid-term elections. The videos feature a hooded man alleging that Duterte and his family members were involved in the illegal drugs trade, which they deny.
The man, who had said he was a witness, later surrendered and appeared with police on television to say his claims were false and that he was cajoled into making the videos by opposition members. They included the vice president, lawyers, Catholic priests, a former attorney general, and incumbent and former lawmakers, the man said.
The justice department is looking into the complaint, which is the latest move against Duterte’s detractors who say the aim is to create a power monopoly for a president who already enjoys a legislative super-majority and a public approval rating of about 80 percent.
Duterte insists he is open to challenges but has shown no qualms about threatening high-profile critics, several of whom he said last month he would jail if they tried to impeach him.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte had no involvement in the police sedition complaint.
“We have nothing to do with this case, not at all, absolutely nothing,” he told news channel ANC. “Let the judicial process do its work.”
Antonio Trillanes, a former senator and Duterte’s strongest critic, described the complaint as “political persecution and harassment” intended to stifle democratic dissent.
A spokesman for Vice President Leni Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate and was elected separately, called the complaint “completely baseless.” Her party ally Senator Francis Pangilinan said it was part of a series of moves toward removing her from office.
Leila de Lima, an anti-Duterte senator detained on drugs charges, said it was “hogwash, pure hogwash,” and Samira Gutoc, a candidate in recent Senate elections, urged the police not to become partisan.
“I really am baffled,” Gutoc said of being accused of involvement.