Morocco navy finds 15 migrants dead in stranded boat

Migrants on a wooden boat react as they wait to be rescued by SOS Mediterranee organisation and Doctors Without Borders during a search and rescue (SAR) operation with the MV Aquarius rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan Coast, August 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 25 November 2018

Morocco navy finds 15 migrants dead in stranded boat

  • Coast Guards recovered “15 lifeless corpses” from the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea after it was left drifting for four days
  • The 53 other survivors on board, including eight women, were taken to the port of Nador

RABAT: Morocco’s navy on Saturday found the bodies of 15 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa on board a boat stranded at sea for days and rescued 53 survivors, a military source said.
Coast Guards recovered “15 lifeless corpses” from the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea after it was left drifting for four days following engine failure on its way to Spain, the source said.
The 53 other survivors on board, including eight women, were taken to the port of Nador.
Increasing numbers of Moroccans and sub-Saharan migrants are seeking to enter Spain, either by sea or by smuggling themselves into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which are in Morocco and are the only European territories in Africa.
The International Organization for Migration says that some 51,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea this year, and that over 630 have died or gone missing trying.
On Friday the Moroccan navy said it rescued 289 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan African off Nador.
Moroccan authorities say that between January and the end of September they stopped some 68,000 illegal attempts to cross into Europe and took down 122 people smuggling gangs.


Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 17 October 2019

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.