Pressure on EU’s southern borders from migrants seen persisting in 2018

The EU has made stopping irregular immigration from the Middle East and African countries a priority since 2015, when more than a million people reached its shores. (AFP)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Pressure on EU’s southern borders from migrants seen persisting in 2018

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain under heavy pressure from African migrants trying to reach Europe this year, the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex said on Tuesday.
Nearly 119,000 Africans were caught trying to get to the EU last year on smugglers’ boats departing from Libya, more than 42,000 from Turkey to Greece and another 23,000 heading from Algeria and Morocco to Spain, Fabrice Leggeri said.
“The pressure, the irregular migration pressure on our southern borders in the Mediterranean will remain at a very high level (in 2018),” Leggeri told a news conference.
While numbers on the Libya-Italy route have declined since last July as Libyan factions and authorities — under pressure from Italy and the EU — began to block departures, especially from the smuggling hub of Sabratha, Leggeri said the crossings to Spain have more than doubled from below 10,000 in 2016.
He said the use of more solid rubber boats on this so-called Western Mediterranean route suggested increased activity of people smugglers.
The EU has made stopping irregular immigration from the Middle East and African countries a priority since 2015, when more than a million people reached its shores, overwhelming member states and fanning support for nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist groups across the bloc.
Since a 2016 EU deal with Turkey mostly put a halt to the irregular arrival of Syrian refugees in Greece, Frontex said African nationals now made up nearly two-thirds of some 205,000 people caught trying to arrive in Europe illegally last year.
Frontex gave a total figure of 511,000 of such crossings for 2016. In 2017, Syrians and Nigerians each made up nine percent of overall arrivals, followed by nationals of the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Morocco.
As the EU tightened asylum laws and controls on external borders, Frontex warned of a possible rise in the use of fraudulent travel documents and undetected crossings, citing examples of people seeking to enter in specially-designed compartments in vans, lorries, cars and cargo trains.
The EU is also trying to step up returns of people with no case for asylum in Europe. Leggeri said Frontex helped deport more than 14,000 people last year.
The EU has struggled to repatriate people who do not qualify for asylum, which is often the case with Africans trying to escape poverty back home rather than war or oppression.
Last year more than 18,000 Nigerians tried to reach the EU via Spain, exceeding the 14,000 Syrians who sought entry via Greece, Frontex said.
Human rights groups have accused the EU of failing to honor its fundamental legal obligations toward migrants and refugees.


Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

Updated 14 December 2018
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Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

  • Congress party accused Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense as a domestic partner
  • India’s Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence of commercial favoritism

DELHI: India’s Supreme Court said Friday it would not probe the government’s multi-billion dollar decision to buy French fighter jets.
The opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense, owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, as a domestic partner.
Reliance has no aeronautical expertise and was chosen ahead of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which does, triggering allegations of a scam.
But the court said there was no evidence of commercial favoritism.
“Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue. Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” the 32-page verdict said.
“We can’t compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft and it’s not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn’t a job of the court to compare pricing details. The country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only fourth generation, but even fifth generation aircrafts, of which we have none,” the court added.
Indian defense procurement rules state that a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean it off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale jets, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip it was Reliance Defense that got the contract.
“In our opinion, the Supreme Court judgment is totally wrong. The campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition,” one of the main petitioners Prashant Bhushan said after the verdict.
“This isn’t the first time when the Apex court has failed us in ordering a probe in cases of high-level corruption,” he told reporters.
Congress said the Supreme Court was not the forum to rule on such a sensitive defense contract.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court is a validation of what the Congress party has stated months ago. Only forum is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which can probe the entire corruption in Rafale deal,” said the party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Ambani denied there had been a scam, saying the allegations were politically motivated, while the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“Truth always triumphs. Court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by Congress president for political gains,” president of the BJP Amit Shah said.
Dr. Satish Mishra, from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, said that the court verdict did not mean that the Rafale deal was beyond reproach.
“It only means that the court does not have enough evidence to order a probe into the deal,” he told Arab News. “If the government does not have anything to hide then it should order an independent inquiry or set up a joint parliamentary team to clear the doubts raised by the opposition, otherwise the charges will remain in the public domain. The BJP is in a defensive mode after the defeat in the regional elections. Allegations of corruptions have sullied the image of Modi, the only asset that the party has. I don’t think the verdict in any way vindicates the PM or the BJP.”