Migrants in limbo again after landing in Italy

The boat had spent six days anchored off Lampedusa before a local prosecutor ordered the migrants be allowed to land. (AFP)
Updated 21 August 2019

Migrants in limbo again after landing in Italy

  • As they walked down the gang plank one by one to the island’s shore overnight, some could be seen limping or in bandages

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: Eighty-three migrants who disembarked on Italy’s Lampedusa island were again in limbo on Wednesday as a European deal to redistribute them failed to materialize and Madrid said it could hit the Spanish charity with a hefty fine for rescuing them.
The prospect of a fine comes after a protracted standoff between the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms and Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini finally came to an end.
The boat had spent six days anchored off Lampedusa before a local prosecutor ordered the migrants be allowed to land amid a probe of Salvini for forbidding their entry to port.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty trying to make the perilous journey from Libya to Europe in small boats.
As they walked down the gang plank one by one to the island’s shore overnight, some could be seen limping or in bandages.
Salvini, whose Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned in protest at the League leader’s bid to bring the government down, had forbidden all NGO rescue boats from entering Italian ports.
The last remaining charity vessel operating in the Mediterranean, the Ocean Viking, was on Wednesday still seeking a safe port for its 356 rescued migrants.
The ship operated by French charities SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been holding its position for 10 days between Malta and Lampedusa, asking for a safe port.
“As maritime law stipulates, we’ve been asking Italian and Maltese search and rescue coordination centers for a safe port since we made our first rescue on August 9,” said Frederic Penard, head of operations for SOS Mediterranee.
“For the time being we’ve had no reply from Italy and a rather negative one from Malta,” he told AFP by phone.
The Open Arms on Wednesday sailed to Porto Empedocle on Sicily where the prosecutor ordered it temporarily seized as part of his investigation.
Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told Spanish radio, “the Open Arms doesn’t have a permit to rescue.”
The vessel had in April been authorized to leave Barcelona, where it was immobilized for three months, to transport humanitarian aid to Greece.
It was banned from heading to the seas off Libya, often the launchpad for migrants attempting to reach Europe, but went anyway.
A document from the directorate-general for Spain’s merchant navy sent to AFP by the Proactiva Open Arms charity said it risks a fine of up to 901,000 euros ($1 million) for violating this ban.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but as the days passed, some were evacuated for medical care and all minors were allowed to disembark.
Six European Union countries — France, Germany, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg — have offered to take them all in.
Calvo said the military ship sent to Lampedusa could take charge of those migrants allocated to Spain if this agreement is implemented.
Sicily prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio intervened as part of a probe into alleged kidnapping and refusing to obey orders targeting Salvini.
Salvini hit back on Facebook about the decision to let the migrants off the boat, saying: “If anybody thinks they can scare me with the umpteenth complaint and wants a trial, they’re mistaken.”
A Spanish naval patrol boat, the Audaz, set off from Rota in southwestern Spain on Tuesday on a three-day trip to Lampedusa to fetch the Open Arms migrants.
Spain had tried to break the standoff over the migrants at the weekend by offering up its southern port of Algeciras, which the NGO said could “not be achieved” due to the distance and tensions on board.
Madrid then suggested Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, nearer but still around 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Lampedusa.
The charity described the offer as “totally incomprehensible” and continued to demand the ship be allowed to dock in Lampedusa.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.