At least 60 dead after migrant boat sinks: survivors

Libyan Red Crescent team members recover bodies of migrants who drowned at sea off the coast of the western city of Janzur on June 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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At least 60 dead after migrant boat sinks: survivors

  • At least 60 migrants died in the Mediterranean sea when their rubber dinghy sank last week
  • Survivors interviewed by volunteers said that their dinghy had been carrying over 100 people

ROME: At least 60 migrants died in the Mediterranean sea when their rubber dinghy sank last week, according to survivor testimonies gathered by a rights group in Sicily.
The Diciotti, an Italian coast guard ship carrying more than 500 migrants, docked Tuesday night at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo.
Among those on board were around 40 survivors of an accident last Tuesday which saw a US Navy boat come to the aid of drowning migrants after their dinghy sank off the coast of Libya.
At the time the US Navy reported seeing around 12 bodies in the water but were unable to locate them after the rescue.
The survivors interviewed by volunteers from the human rights association Medu in Sicily said that their dinghy had been carrying 117 people, which would put the death toll at over 70.
The NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) put the toll slightly lower at 60 dead also on the basis of accounts from survivors, who reported 100 people aboard the vessel.
“I have never seen such frightened and traumatized eyes after a landing,” said Teo di Piazza, coordinator of MSF psychologists.
“The people had no strength left.”
The most recent migrant arrival in Sicily comes as key EU leaders prepare to hold crisis talks on migration in Brussels on Sunday.
The talks follow last week’s row over the fate of more than 600 migrants on the Aquarius rescue ship, who Italy turned away, thrusting the migrant question back to the top of the EU agenda.


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 19 September 2018
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.