Migrants risking life across western Mediterranean set to rise

Aid workers from the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms help refugees and migrants to disembark from the rescue vessel, at the port of Pozzallo, Italy. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2018
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Migrants risking life across western Mediterranean set to rise

MADRID: Europe’s border watchdog says the number of migrants and asylum-seekers coming across the western Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year is likely to increase, after 2017 closed with more than twice the traffic of the previous year.
The head of the EU Frontex border agency, Fabrice Leggeri, announced Friday in Madrid that his agency would increase efforts this summer to help Spanish border surveillance. No extra funds have been allocated yet, but Frontex says it will consider diverting funds from operations in Greece or Italy if needed.
Frontex said 22,880 migrants arrived in Spain last year by sea, up from 10,231 in 2016.
“The bad news is in the western Mediterranean,” Leggeri told reporters, noting that the number of migrants crossing the central and eastern Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe was higher but was declining. “Spain deserves more solidarity from the European Union.”
Leggeri also said a system in place in Italy and Greece to register those arriving will also be implemented in Spain. The system makes it easier to identify migrants so they can be repatriated if they are denied residency in Europe. It also allows European law-enforcement authorities to compare criminal records with other countries’ police agencies.
The International Organization for Migration says 2,583 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea this year through Wednesday, and 199 others died en route.


France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

Updated 24 May 2018
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France, Saudi Arabia to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

  • France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris
  • More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally

PARIS: France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris in June to assess humanitarian needs for the country and possibly contribute to reviving U.N.-backed peace talks.
A Saudi-led coalition backed by the West has carried out air strikes against the armed Houthi movement in a war since 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally and unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the UN says.
"We are currently working on how to organise this conference with our various partners, Yemen and the United Nations," France's foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing on Wednesday.
"This conference should take stock of humanitarian needs, evaluate the assistance provided and the response mechanisms which need to be improved and define humanitarian actions to improve the situation of civilian populations."
The French president's office said the conference would take place at the end of June. A source aware of the plans said it was scheduled for June 27.
Von der Muhll declined to say whether Paris intended to invite representatives of the Iran-aligned Houthis.
"This work, which we want to be collective, can help to recreate the conditions for a resumption of political discussions under the auspices of the United nations," Von der Muhll said in a statement on Tuesday.
It is unclear how this would fit into the UN Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths' efforts. He said in April he wanted to present a plan for negotiations within two months to end the conflict, but warned that any new military offensives could "take peace off the table."
Three rounds of UN-backed peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, with the last held in Kuwait in August 2016, ended without success. Griffiths began his term in March in a bid by the U.N. to revive the stalled peace process.