UK’s ‘bizarre’ £44.5m security pledge to France disregards vulnerable child migrants

UK’s ‘bizarre’ £44.5m security pledge to France disregards vulnerable child migrants
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron visit the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, near Camberley, England, Thursday, ahead of the UK-France summit talks. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2018

UK’s ‘bizarre’ £44.5m security pledge to France disregards vulnerable child migrants

UK’s ‘bizarre’ £44.5m security pledge to France disregards vulnerable child migrants

LONDON: Theresa May’s promise to beef up border security in Calais with a £44.5 million cash injection during a UK-French summit on Thursday would be better spent creating safe, legal channels for migrants stranded at the border, refugee organizations said.
The UK Prime Minister committed £44.5 million, on top of the £100 million believed to have been spent so far on security in the area, toward fencing, CCTV cameras and infrared detection technology at Calais and other ports along the Channel.
Speaking during a press conference following private talks at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, May said the UK and France share a “comprehensive approach to mass migration” and confirmed their continued committed to the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which prevents people from entering the UK at the Calais border and allows the two countries to station immigration officials on each other’s soil.
“The Calais issue has been a thorn in the side for both governments for 15 years or so now and both countries have an interest in managing it, so it’s not surprising to see this continued back and forth,” said Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, and a senior fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe program.
The two premiers were keen to convey the enduring strength of Anglo-French relations in the face of Britain’s impending departure from the EU. Macron made a point of saying ahead of the summit that France would “look with kindness” on any UK decision to reverse Brexit.
“To some extent the prospect of Brexit does arguably slightly weaken the UK’s negotiating position…so the French are exacting another price for their assistance in this,” Portes said.
Aid groups operating in northern France, where up to 100 children are thought to be sleeping rough, highlighted the UK’s failure to follow through on existing commitments and questioned the allocation of further funds to security forces in France.
“It’s bizarre that this money is going once again into security and not into protecting vulnerable people,” said Annie Gavrilescu, France Regional Manager for Help Refugees UK.
“Right now this money is paying for an abusive police force that’s using tear gas and being very violent toward refugees.”
The Refugee Rights Data Project published findings in October 2017 saying that French police “use beatings, tear gas and confiscation” against refugees in Calais. This followed a Human Rights Watch report in July entitled “‘Like Living in Hell’: Police Abuses Against Child and Adult Migrants in Calais,” which said French authorities were turning a blind eye to widespread reports of abuse.
Speaking ahead of the summit Gavrilescu said the “ridiculous amount” spent so far by the UK government on security in Calais would be put to better use by providing safe channels for child migrants with legitimate asylum claims.
“Accessing that procedure is nigh on impossible because of bureaucratic blockages. If this money was actually used to increase the capacity to deal with these cases then people wouldn’t have to gather in Calais and they would take legal and safe routes into the UK.”
“It would literally save lives.”
The UK government has been heavily criticized for agreeing to accept only 480 unaccompanied minors instead of the 3,000 calculated to be the country’s fair share under the “Dubs scheme.”
A 15-year-old boy killed last month became the fifth child to die at the Calais border in two years with the legal right to be in the UK with their families.
Children going through the proper legal channels to process their claims are effectively “penalized for following the rules,” said Charlotte Morris, a spokesperson at Safe Passage, which works primarily with unaccompanied child refugees.
One child in the organization’s care has been waiting for over 10 months for his papers to arrive so he can join family members in the UK. “If he just jumped on the back of a lorry he’d be there the next day. We keep telling him to wait but the Home Office keeps delaying his case.”
“There’s no incentive for those kids not to take the unsafe, illegal route, smuggling themselves in to reach their relatives,” Morris said.
Macron has accused some aid organizations of encouraging refugees to enter the UK illegally and exaggerating claims of police brutality toward migrants around Calais.
Between 700 and 1,000 migrants are still stranded around Calais, despite the refugee camp known as the “Jungle” being dismantled in 2016.
“Until there are proper safe legal routes, children are going to continue to risk their lives trying to take illegal routes,” Morris said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today program prior to the summit, Ed Llewellyn, UK ambassador to Paris said the border was now “one of the most secure in Europe.”


UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.


Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 April 2021

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
  • Akayed Ullah, 31, claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh
  • Ullah will serve a minimum of 35 years behind bars

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced on Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.
Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh when he detonated his homemade bomb on Dec. 11, 2017.
No one died and four people were injured in the explosion, which led to the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal during the morning rush. Ullah was burned in what prosecutors called a “lone wolf” attack.
US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence, told Ullah he had committed a “truly barbaric and heinous crime” without regard for the humanity of those in his way.
“They were just people on the way to work, or school,” Sullivan said. “People who maybe had finished the night shift. ... To you, these people were expendable.”
Ullah, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, had faced a mandatory minimum 35-year term.
He told Sullivan he did not condone violence, and apologized to New York City, law enforcement and the United States.
“What I did on December 11, it was wrong,” Ullah said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry.”
Prosecutors said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Daesh propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible.
“Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, Ullah had a green card, allowing him to live in the United States.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and then-infant son lived in Bangladesh.
Ullah’s lawyer Amy Gallicchio, a federal public defender, called him a “deeply troubled soul” who had been attracted on the Internet to the “distorted and radical messages” of extremism.
“He is not an evil man,” Gallicchio said, a sentiment the judge also expressed. “He is not a monster.”
But federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski questioned why Ullah chose Times Square to set off the bomb if suicide was his goal.
The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician.
“It is important to send a message that when you attack New York City, there will be no leniency,” Donaleski said.
Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.


Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral
  • Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors

N’DJAMENA: Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Although criticized by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against Islamist militants.
“He liberated our country from dictatorship and gave us the opportunity to participate fully in democracy,” said Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital.
His death was announced by the army on Tuesday, a day after election officials said he had won a sixth term in office. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
“He protected us for so long that today we have come to wish him eternal rest. A deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, who attended the ceremony.
On Thursday a car with mounted speakers drove around N’Djamena telling residents not to panic if they hear cannon fire as Deby would receive a 21-gun salute.


German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
Updated 23 April 2021

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
  • The number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59
BERLIN: The number of new coronavirus cases does not appear to be rising as rapidly, the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday, but warned that case numbers remained too high.
Lars Schaade told a weekly news conference that the number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59 and said the virus was “not harmless” even for younger and healthier people.

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
Updated 23 April 2021

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust

Saudi authorities help Greek police in massive $4 million drugs bust
  • Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus
  • Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia

ATHENS, Greece: Greek authorities say they have seized more than four tons of cannabis hidden in a shipment of industrial cupcake-making machines heading from Lebanon to Slovakia.
Greece’s financial crimes squad said in a statement late Thursday that the drugs were found in a shipping container in the country’s main port of Piraeus, following information received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The container, whose registered contents were three industrial cupcake-making machines, arrived by sea in Piraeus on April 14 and had been scheduled to be transported by rail on April 20 to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, through North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.
Following the information from the DEA, Greek authorities raided the container on April 16. A total of more than 4.3 tons of processed cannabis were found in a hidden compartment built into a metal tank that was among the machinery, the financial crimes squad said. The street value of the drugs is estimated at around $4 million.
Greek authorities said they received assistance in the case from the drug enforcement agency of Saudi Arabia. An investigation into the shipment is continuing.