Morocco warns Europe about ‘fortress’ mentality on migration

Morocco warns Europe about ‘fortress’ mentality on migration
Morocco is under pressure from Spain to halt illegal immigration. (AFP/File)
Updated 03 November 2018

Morocco warns Europe about ‘fortress’ mentality on migration

Morocco warns Europe about ‘fortress’ mentality on migration
  • Morocco has found itself under increasing pressure from its European partners, particularly Spain, to help stem the number of migrants crossing into Spanish enclaves in north Africa

PARIS: Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita has warned Europe against developing a “fortress” mentality to immigration from Africa, while promising his country is doing everything possible to control its borders.

Morocco, which nationals of many African states can visit without visas, has become a major gateway for sub-Saharan migrants into Europe, with 47,000 entering Spain from the north African coast in 2018, four times the number for the whole of last year.

The main reason is changes to smuggling routes favored by human traffickers, who have switched their operations progressively from Turkey or Libya to Morocco over the last three years.

In an interview with AFP, Bourita urged European politicians not to stoke fears about immigration and understand the problems of the poor countries where many migrants originate, as well as transit nations like Morocco.

“For as long as Europe chooses a security approach, that will favor illegal migration. If Europe turns itself into a fortress, there will be new ways of getting round the controls,” he said.

The EU has put forward a migration strategy that includes increased development aid to tackle poverty in Africa, but anti-immigration, far-right politicians promising to seal borders are gaining ground continent-wide.

Italy’s new populist government, which includes figures from the far-right League party, has taken the lead in promising mass expulsions and a new hard line on arrivals.

“There’s no longer a cool-headed discussion to find solutions. People try to exploit the issue for gains elsewhere,” Bourita said in a telephone interview.

Morocco has found itself under increasing pressure from its European partners, particularly Spain, to help stem the number of migrants crossing into Spanish enclaves in north Africa or crossing the Mediterranean. It has also faced criticism for either doing too little to crack down on human traffickers, or for the methods used to move sub-Saharan Africans away from its northern coast.

“All the pressure shouldn’t be on transit countries, that European countries say from their own comfortable positions ‘you are mistreating migrants’ or ‘you are too slack, it’s a problem’,” Bourita said. 

“Everyone has a responsibility.”

The European Union agreed to an extra $62 million in funding for Moroccan and Tunisia border controls in August, while further aid is reportedly under discussion.

Some analysts believe the kingdom is using its leverage with Europe behind closed doors.

This could see it demand more money for security and economic development, or by using the issue in other diplomatic negotiations such as over the status of the disputed Western Sahara region, or fishing and agricultural deals with the EU.

Increased arrivals from Morocco “may have been part of a Moroccan strategy to heighten the EU’s awareness of its importance as a migration partner, with a similar aim of potentially increasing financial aid,” analyst Chloe Teevan at the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote last month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has openly used this strategy, warning Europe repeatedly that he would open the gates and allow millions of refugees and migrants to start crossing the Mediterranean again.

The EU signed a controversial — but effective — deal with Turkey in 2016 tied to aid of €3 billion to stop the flow of migrants. It has also negotiated with Libya and Egypt, other countries with poor human rights records, with the same goal.

Bourita denied that Morocco was asking for anything in return for its cooperation with the EU, saying it was acting in its own national interest and to show goodwill toward its European partners.

“There is an offer from Europe to help us in our efforts and Morocco has taken note of this, but Morocco is not there to negotiate anything,” he said, declining to talk about the amount of additional aid being discussed.

Moroccan authorities say 54,000 attempts by migrants to cross to Europe were foiled between January and the end of August.

“Things are going in the right direction,” he said. “There are real results.”


Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
Updated 21 min 46 sec ago

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
AMSTERDAM: Syria on Wednesday was stripped of its voting rights at the global chemical weapons watchdog by member states after its forces were found to have repeatedly used poison gas during the civil war.
A majority of nations voting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supported a decision to immediately revoke Syria’s privileges at the agency.

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media
Updated 39 min 4 sec ago

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday submitted documents to run for a third term in an election scheduled for May 26, parliament’s speaker said on state media.
Parliament announced the election on Sunday. Washington and the Syrian opposition have denounced it as a farce designed to cement Assad’s authoritarian rule.
Assad’s family and his Baath party have ruled Syria for five decades with the help of the security forces and the army, where his Alawite minority dominate.
This year is the 10th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters which triggered a civil war that has left much of Syria in ruins.
The multi-sided conflict has sucked in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, but is now nearing its end with Assad, supported by Russian and Iranian allies, back in control of most of the country.
Candidates must have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, which prevents opposition figures in exile from standing.


Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 48 min 48 sec ago

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
  • The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program
  • 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination

BAB AL-HAWA: A first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses was expected to arrive Wednesday in war-torn northwestern Syria, where millions of people live in dire humanitarian conditions, a UN official said.

The 53,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were dispatched to the rebel-dominated region as part of the Covax facility, which ensures the world’s poorest economies get access to jabs for free.

“Once the vaccines arrive, we are prepared to start vaccination to priority groups through our implementing partners,” said Mahmoud Daher, a senior official with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program, which has already sent vaccine doses to more than 100 different territories worldwide.

The vaccine doses are intended for the extended northwestern Syrian region, which includes the jihadist-dominated Idlib enclave.

The first categories of people to be vaccinated in the coming days in the Idlib region will be medical personnel involved in the battle against the pandemic and first aid responders.

The next group will be people above the age of 60, followed by people from younger age groups with chronic diseases, said Daher, who is based in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Much of the Idlib enclave is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist organization that includes ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise.

Other regions of Syria will also receive vaccine doses through Covax, under which 92 countries are eligible.

Imad Zahran, a media officer for the Idlib region’s health department, told AFP that the vaccination campaign was expected to begin early next month and would last approximately three weeks.

According to the WHO, a separate 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination in regime controlled and semi-autonomous Kurdish areas.

The aim is to vaccinate 20 percent of the population by year’s end.

Vaccination for health workers has started in government-controlled areas but not with doses received as part of the Covax program.

The official COVID-19 death toll in Syria is low compared to some other countries in the region but credible data collection across the conflict-ravaged country is almost impossible.

Syria’s war has killed more than 388,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
Updated 21 April 2021

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
  • Both sides discussed mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism
  • The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout

RIYADH: The UAE received Zvi Heifetz, Israel’s special envoy to the GCC states, in Abu Dhabi as both countries reviewed the progress of their bilateral relations since signing a peace agreement last September.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, welcomed the Israeli official to explore further UAE-Israeli relations and mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and during the meeting underlined the importance of accelerating efforts to ensure recovery from the crisis.

Last month, the UAE established a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel that include energy, manufacturing and healthcare.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, both countries have established reciprocal diplomatic missions, launched direct flights and held several trade visits – with the UAE attracting over 50,000 Israeli tourists.


UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 21 April 2021

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines

UAE mulls movement restrictions on residents without COVID-19 vaccines
  • The UAE reports 1,903 new coronavirus cases and three fatalities
  • Abu Dhabi earlier approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

DUBAI: The UAE is considering imposing movement restrictions on individuals who remain hesitant to have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Dr. Saif Al-Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority.

“The vaccine is our best means to recover and return to a normal life … Delaying or refraining from taking the vaccine poses a threat to the safety of society and puts all groups, especially those most vulnerable to infection, at risk,” Dr. Al-Dhaheri said in reports from local media.

“Strict measures are being considered to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals and to implement preventive measures, such as restricting entry to some places and having access to some services, to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” he added, as he urged residents aged 16 and above to get vaccinated.

The UAE reported 1,903 new coronavirus cases and three fatalities related to the highly transmissible disease overnight, amid the government’s continued inoculation program for citizens and residents.

The country’s COVID-19 caseload now stands at 500,860 while total fatality count is at 1,559, a report from state news agency WAM said.

Health officials said that 113,621 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of jabs given provided to 9,788,826 for a distribution rate of 98.97 doses per 100 people.

Abu Dhabi earlier approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the second COVID-19 shot to be made available in the emirate after beginning a mass campaign using the Sinopharm vaccine that was trialed in the country.

Pfizer obtained emergency approval in the UAE in December and Dubai rolled out the vaccine during that month.