3 migrant girls missing as boat sinks off Greece

Migrants sit at a naval base after being rescued by the Libyan coast guard in Tripoli, on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 04 February 2019

3 migrant girls missing as boat sinks off Greece

  • The World Health Organization has urged Europe to guarantee migrants better access to health care

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Greek police say four migrants, including three girls, are believed missing since an inflatable boat they used to cross a river from Turkey into Greece was punctured by a tree branch.
A search was underway on Sunday for the suspected migrants.
Twelve people overall were in a dinghy that sank on Saturday. Police found eight Iraqi migrants — five adults, two boys and a girl — on a rock outcropping in the middle of the Evros River, which divides Greece and Turkey.
On questioning, police were told that a tree branch had punctured the migrants’ inflatable boat and that four of the original 12 passengers were missing. Eight of them managed to swim to safety and alerted the authorities.
A police search has recovered the boat with the migrants’ belongings, but there have been no signs of the missing. The father of the three girls is among the survivors, as are two of their siblings, a girl and a boy.
The Evros River has seen increased migrant traffic since Greek and EU naval patrols intensified in the Aegean in 2016.
Migration Minister Dimitris Vitsas in October said numbers had increased dramatically, from more than 3,000 in 2016 to 5,500 in 2017 and some 12,000 up to that point last year.
Migration is among the issues to be discussed during a visit to Turkey next week by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Libyan coast
On Sunday, three migrants died and about 15 went missing off the Libyan coast, the Italian navy said after staging a rescue operation in the Mediterranean.
The navy intervened and a helicopter rescued three people suffering from hypothermia who were flown to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Adm. Fabio Agostini said.
This was after Italian air force pilots “spotted a dinghy in distress carrying about 20 people,” he told Italian television in an interview tweeted by the navy.
A Red Crescent spokesman meanwhile said 16 bodies had been found on the beaches of the Libyan city of Sirte between Jan. 2 and 15.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 83 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean.
It said the number of migrants and refugees landing on European shores had almost doubled in the first 16 days of this year to 4,216 against 2,365 over the same period in 2018.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Europe to guarantee migrants better access to health care.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s migration and health program, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just 2 percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
In mid-November, a fishing vessel stolen from the harbor was intercepted with migrants aboard off the southern English coast.
A second stolen vessel was stopped with 16 migrants aboard on Dec. 23 just after making it out to sea from Boulogne harbor.
Britain and France have agreed to boost cooperation to try to stop the increase in numbers, which began in October, the Britain’s Home Office said Sunday.

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Korea test-fires ‘super-large multiple rocket launcher'

Updated 25 August 2019

Korea test-fires ‘super-large multiple rocket launcher'

  • Kim likes testing missiles, says US president
  • Denuclearization talks in trouble

SEOUL: North Korea test-fired a new type of multiple rocket launch system late Saturday into the sea off its east coast, state media reported.

It was the seventh test in a month, as negotiations to scrap the North’s nuclear arsenal flounder.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday that the latest weapons’ test was on a newly developed “super-large multiple rocket launcher.”

The country’s leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test and called the device a “great weapon.”

North Korea must step up its development of strategic and tactical weapons to counter the “ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of hostile forces,” KCNA reported Kim as saying while he oversaw the testing.

One of the short-range weapons has been identified as a KN-23, a mobile short-range ballistic missile based on the technology of Russia’s Iskander missile, which could hit targets across the South after evading missile interceptors operated by South Korea’s military. Pyongyang maintains that joint South Korea-US military drills are a provocation.

South Korea officials urged the North to stop hostile acts.

“We express strong concern that the North continues to test-fire short-range projectiles despite the South Korea-US military drills ending,” a presidential spokesman told reporters on Saturday. “We urge the North to halt such hostile acts that raise military tensions.”

Despite worries about the North’s provocations that could harm the security of South Korea where 28,500 US armed forces personnel are stationed, US President Donald Trump again touted his friendship with Kim.

“Kim Jong-un has been pretty straight with me, I think, and we’re going to see what’s going on, we’re going to see what’s happening,” he told reporters in Washington before heading to the G-7 summit in France on Friday night. “He likes testing missiles, but we never restricted short-range missiles.”

Trump and Kim held a surprise meeting in the Demilitarized Zone in June and agreed to resume working-level denuclearization negotiations within a month, but such a meeting has yet to be held.

In a further sign that nuclear disarmament talks are barely holding together, the North blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for complicating the talks, calling him a “diehard toxin.”

“He is truly impudent enough to utter such thoughtless words which only leave us disappointed and skeptical as to where we can solve any problem with such a guy,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said on Friday in a statement carried by KCNA, referring to Pompeo’s recent remarks in which he said sanctions would be kept until the North took concrete steps to bin nuclear weapons.

US Special Representative Stephen Biegun for North Korea was in Seoul last week to discuss ways to get negotiations back on track but it is not clear if he contacted his North Korean counterpart.

Biegun’s efforts were overshadowed by South Korea’s surprising decision to sever military ties with Japan. 

On Thursday, the presidential Blue House announced it would pull out of an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, a key pillar of the US-led trilateral alliance in East Asia to check the influence of China and Russia.

The intelligence pact, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), has benefited South Korea’s military to collect key information on North Korean nuclear and missile activities, as Japan operates seven spy satellites while South Korea has no such strategic assets.

The decision to end GSOMIA came amid escalating trade disputes over Japan’s restriction of exporting chip-making materials to South Korea following disputes arising from Japanese colonial rule.