2,000 migrants drown in Mediterranean this year

A child is carried by a member of Spain's Maritime Rescue Service as they arrive at the port of San Roque, southern Spain, after being rescued by Spain's Maritime Rescue Service in the Strait of Gibraltar last month. (AP)
Updated 06 November 2018
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2,000 migrants drown in Mediterranean this year

GENEVA: More than 2,000 migrants have died since January trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, the UN said Tuesday, adding that more than half of them were headed for Italy.
“The number of lives lost on the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 2000” after 17 people were found dead off the Spanish coast this week, said Charlie Yaxley, spokesperson for the UNHCR refugee agency.
He said some 105,000 migrants and refugees seeking asylum have reached Europe so far this year, representing a drop to pre-2014 levels.
But the drownings this year mean that the rate of deaths has escalated sharply.
The UNHCR “has called repeatedly for urgent action to address this situation,” he said.
“The Mediterranean has for several years been the world’s deadliest sea route for refugees and migrants. That it continues to be so should be unacceptable to all.”
A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, Joel Millman, said it was the fifth consecutive year that arrivals have topped 100,000.
But he noted that in previous years that threshold was crossed much earlier in the year.
Last year that figure was reached in July, as it was in 2014. In 2015, arrivals topped 100,000 by June and in 2016 it was in February.
Spain was the top destination for migrants and refugees this year, with more than 49,000 arrivals by sea, ahead of Greece with more 27,700 and Italy with over 22,160.
But of the more than 2,000 who died, some 1,260 were en route to Italy, according to the IOM.
Many of the migrants make the perilous crossing on overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels.
Yaxley also said the UNHCR remains “very concerned about the legal and logistical restrictions that have been placed on a number of NGOs wishing to conduct search and rescue operations” in the Mediterranean.
These included operations by the civilian rescue ship the Aquarius, which was chartered by the charities Doctors without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee.


Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

Updated 10 min ago
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Philippines warns journalists out to ‘destroy’ Duterte

  • The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs
  • Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country"

MANILA: The Philippine government on Monday warned the press against plotting to "destroy" President Rodrigo Duterte's government, as his spokesman accused journalists of spreading fake news.
The warning followed recent local news reports alleging the Duterte family's involvement in illegal drugs and raising questions about a large increase in his wealth.
"They are all there doing their thing, trying to destroy this government by spreading false news and planting intrigues against the government," Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo told a news conference.
He released a graphic which he said showed how a video of a hooded man alleging the Duterte family's role in the narcotics trade was shared by one journalist to colleagues employed by other Philippine news outfits.
The news organizations named have all reported extensively on Duterte's crackdown against illegal drugs that has left more than 5,000 suspects dead at the hands of the police in what rights groups have said may be a crime against humanity.
Panelo said the ouster allegations were based on information shared by a foreign intelligence agency which he would not name.
"In other words, what these people are doing is to give succour or assist the enemy, if they are not the enemy themselves," Panelo said.
Last week Duterte publicly lashed out at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which published a report about the rise in the president's net worth.
"In the coming weeks, I will return the favour. So Philippine Investigative, you better stop," Duterte said.
Panelo said Monday the Duterte government was putting these journalists and news outfits on notice but would not pursue legal action against them "for now".
"But if the plot thickens and they perform acts which are already violation(s) of the penal laws, that's a different story," Panelo added.
The comments came weeks after the government twice briefly detained Maria Ressa, chief executive of the online news site Rappler over tax evasion, securities fraud and other charges.
Panelo named Ressa and Rappler, PCIJ, and Vera Files, among others, in the list of news organisations allegedly plotting against Duterte.
He accused Ellen Tordesillas, the Vera Files president, of spreading the video clip alleging Duterte family involvement in the narcotics trade.
Ressa, tweeting about the ouster allegations, called them "ludicrous" and "yet another (presidential) palace ploy to harass journalists".
Panelo said the government has "never stifled dissent in this country".
Tordesillas called the supposed ouster plot "downright false", while PCIJ has said its reports were all based on documents issued by Duterte himself in his required annual filings on assets and liabilities.
Duterte in previous years has also lashed out at other critical media outfits, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
He threatened to go after their owners over alleged unpaid taxes or block the network's franchise renewal application.