Italy warns of new migration emergency  

Italy warns of new migration emergency  
Migrants wait to disembark from the Irish naval ship the LÉ Eithne in the Sicilian harbour of Palermo. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 June 2020

Italy warns of new migration emergency  

Italy warns of new migration emergency  
  • Rome says 20,000 migrants are about to set off and calls for a common EU strategy
  • Italian intelligence sources say migrants will set out in boats and dinghies, mainly from Tunisia and Libya

ROME: At least 20,000 migrants are poised to set out from the coast of North Africa toward Italy, the Italian Interior Ministry has said. In a letter to the European Commission, it dramatically warned that “a new emergency is approaching” and called for a common European strategy in response.

Trips from North Africa to the shores of Sicily have decreased during Italy’s three-month long lockdown as Rome combatted the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Now that the number of new cases has fallen in the past few months — with the majority of new cases in the northern region of Lombardy, which has been worst hit by the pandemic — Italian authorities believe that the flow of migrants will resume at a much higher pace.

Italian intelligence sources quoted by La Stampa daily newspaper claimed that migrants will set out in boats and dinghies, mainly from Tunisia and Libya, encouraged by the return of NGO vessels patrolling the coast of Libya.

“We were expecting something like that. Those people in North Africa want to reach Europe. They will use every possible means to do it, especially as summer is coming and the weather gets better. If the government does not act quickly and effectively, it will be an invasion,” Maurizio Gasparri of the opposition party Forza Italia told Arab News.

The rescue vessels have not been operating during the COVID-19 lockdown as the Italian government declared all its seaports unsafe and said it could not guarantee migrants’ safety. Italian ports were going to stay closed until the end of July, but as the situation has improved in Italy the government is considering easing this restriction earlier. The NGO Sea-Watch announced that its ship would patrol the Channel of Sicily again in the next few days.

According to the Interior Ministry in Rome, 5,461 migrants, 818 of them Tunisians, have reached Italy on fishing boats and dinghies since the beginning of the year. In the same period in 2019 only 1,878 made the journey.

With a “new emergency” imminent, the Italian government has asked the EU “for an equitable distribution of asylum seekers.” According to the Corriere della Sera daily newspaper, Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus support Italy’s position. Rome has called on Brussels both to negotiate with Libya and Tunisia on ways to check departures, and to explore how to manage arrivals within the EU.

“We had enough of words and promises from Brussels on the migrant quotas. Now we need facts,” Enzo Amendola, the Italian minister for EU affairs, told the ANSA news agency, pointing out that the questions posed by Italy and other Mediterranean EU states “need an answer now.”

Intelligence sources quoted by the Italian press fear that the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj, may use the migrant situation to put pressure on Italy and the EU to give aid. The Italian government recently assured Tripoli that it would give it new patrol ships and other equipment for monitoring the coast. The patrol ships have been repeatedly requested by Libya, along with high-tech equipment for the surveillance of internal borders.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese will meet the Tunisian authorities in the next few days in order to discuss bilateral cooperation on the immigration issue.

In a letter to the European Commission, Lamorgese called on the EU to adopt a “new approach” in managing the migrants’ arrivals. She believed that those who arrive after they have been rescued at sea “cannot be considered in the same way as those who arrive in some other irregular way. According to international maritime law they must be rescued, but EU Mediterranean member states must be able to share the burden with all the other member states. A quota mechanism must be approved and enforced.”

Italy proposes “to introduce a compulsory and automatic mechanism of relocation involving distribution between all EU member states of the migrants arriving in Europe after being rescued at sea,” along with a “common mechanism of expulsion of those migrants who are not found eligible to stay in Europe.”

“European migration and asylum policies can be effective only if we are able to strengthen the collaboration with third countries, in particular with states in North Africa and the Middle East in order to create long-lasting and balanced relationships,” the Italian government said.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigrant League party, says he is “sceptical” that the EU will listen to Italian requests. “They are putting us all in danger. They must do something or the migrant emergency will be impossible to manage,” he told Arab News.

Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority signs deal to digitize manuscripts

Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority signs deal to digitize manuscripts
Updated 9 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority signs deal to digitize manuscripts

Saudi Arabia’s Libraries Authority signs deal to digitize manuscripts
  • The authority seeks to preserve the rich heritage of Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The Saudi Culture Ministry’s Libraries Authority on Monday signed an agreement with the King Abdul Aziz Public Library to make original manuscripts available online through a unified digital platform.
It is part of the authority’s efforts to promote and develop libraries in the Kingdom.
The agreement was signed at the King Abdul Aziz Public Library in Riyadh. Dr. Abdulrahman bin Nasser Al-Asim, CEO of the authority, and Dr. Bandar Al-Mubarak, the director general of the library, signed the agreement.
The authority seeks to preserve the rich heritage of the Kingdom.
Earlier, the Libraries Authority signed a deal with the King Fahd National Library to preserve Arab and Islamic manuscripts in local libraries and make them available online for students of history and culture worldwide.

First coronavirus vaccine dose can reduce hospitalization risk by over 90%: Report

First coronavirus vaccine dose can reduce hospitalization risk by over 90%: Report
Updated 01 March 2021

First coronavirus vaccine dose can reduce hospitalization risk by over 90%: Report

First coronavirus vaccine dose can reduce hospitalization risk by over 90%: Report
  • English study comes amid fall in hospital admissions, deaths in country
  • Findings back those of Scottish study released last week

LONDON: A single coronavirus jab can reduce the risk of hospital admission by more than 90 percent, according to a new study.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was shown to be more effective at reducing hospitalization than the Pfizer-BioNTech one.

The report, which is the result of a large-scale English trial, is due to be released this month. It revealed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is effective at preventing serious illnesses that can result from coronavirus.

The results show that even those aged over 70 are less likely to need hospital treatment after receiving just a single jab.

Health officials created up-to-date efficacy figures by comparing coronavirus hospital admission rates across England in people who have received a first dose in the country’s vaccine rollout, with those who have not.

The new report draws similar conclusions to a study of coronavirus hospital admission rates in Scotland released last week.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that four weeks after an injection, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs reduced the risk of hospital admission by up to 85 percent and 94 percent, respectively.

For people aged over 80 —  the group most at risk of being admitted to hospital —  a single jab can reduce hospitalization risk by 81 percent after four weeks, according to the combined results of the English and Scottish studies.

The head of Oxford University’s vaccine project, Prof. Sarah Gilbert, praised the importance of the real-world data used in the new English study.

“It provides evidence of the high effectiveness of both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines in preventing hospitalization in people over the age of 80 after a single dose, supporting our confidence in using this vaccine in adults of all ages,” she said.

The UK’s world-leading vaccine program has delivered initial jabs to about 20 million people, resulting in rapidly falling hospital admissions and virus deaths across all age groups in the country.

UK urged to reverse huge cuts to Yemen aid

UK urged to reverse huge cuts to Yemen aid
Updated 01 March 2021

UK urged to reverse huge cuts to Yemen aid

UK urged to reverse huge cuts to Yemen aid
  • Plea comes amid UN pledging conference to avert famine
  • Save the Children ‘beyond dismayed’ by reports of Britain’s decision

LONDON: Yemenis and major charities have urged the British government to reconsider reported cuts of up to 50 percent of its support for humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country.

The plea comes as the UN is looking to raise some $3.85 billion from more than 100 governments and donors at a major virtual pledging conference on Monday to avert Yemen’s growing famine.

The British government has signaled that it is expected to cut its international aid budget as the country reckons with its biggest-ever recession amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK is expected to slash its current 0.7 percent of national income spending on foreign aid projects.

Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the BBC on Monday that cutting aid to Yemen would be “very serious indeed,” and would lead to the “slow, agonizing and obscene process of starving to death” for millions.

A Yemeni aid worker told The Guardian newspaper: “It is hard to describe how heartbreaking the situation in Yemen is right now … Children are dying every day here. It is not a moral decision to abandon Yemen.”

The country’s civil war kicked off in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi militias seized the capital, leading the internationally recognized government to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia.

“We are beyond dismayed by reports that the government intends to cut aid to Yemen by a staggering 50 percent. To slash food and medicine to these children as they stand on the brink of famine and a second COVID-19 wave risks many thousands of deaths,” said Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK.

“This is one of the first illustrations of the devastating real-life consequences of the UK’s decision to abandon its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid, and we hope the government will urgently rethink this move in time to avoid tragic consequences for the world’s most vulnerable children.”

2 Americans wanted in Ghosn’s escape in Japanese custody

2 Americans wanted in Ghosn’s escape in Japanese custody
Updated 01 March 2021

2 Americans wanted in Ghosn’s escape in Japanese custody

2 Americans wanted in Ghosn’s escape in Japanese custody
  • American father and son helped former Nissan chairman escape Japan in a box
  • Michael and Peter Taylor, failed to convince US courts to block their extradition

BOSTON: An American father and son wanted by Japan for aiding former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn escape from the country in a box were handed over to Japanese custody Monday, ending their months-long battle to stay in the US
Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, failed to convince US officials and courts to block their extradition to Japan, where they will be tried on charges that they smuggled Ghosn out of the country in 2019 while the former auto titan was awaiting trial on financial misconduct charges.
The Massachusetts men, who have been locked up at a suburban Boston jail since their arrest in May, were handed over to Japanese officials early Monday, said one of their attorneys, Paul Kelly.
The Taylors’ lawyers had argued the accusations don’t fit under the law Japan wants to try them under and that they would be treated unfairly in Japan and subjected to “mental and physical torture.” They have accused Japan of pursuing the pair in an attempt to save face after the embarrassment of Ghosn’s escape.
Michael Taylor, a US Army Special Forces veteran and private security specialist who in the past was hired by parents to rescue abducted children, has never denied the allegations.
He gave an interview to Vanity Fair magazine for a story last year in which he described the mission in detail. When asked why he did it, he responded with the motto of the Special Forces: “De oppresso liber” or “to liberate the oppressed,” the magazine reported.
Michael Taylor refused to discuss the details of the case in an interview last month with The Associated Press because of the possibility that he will be tried in Japan. But he insisted that his son wasn’t involved and was not even in Japan when Ghosn left.
Ghosn, who became one of the auto industry’s most powerful executives by engineering a turnaround at the Japanese manufacturer, had been out on bail after his November 2018 arrest on charges that he underreported his future income and committed a breach of trust by diverting Nissan money for his personal gain.
Ghosn has denied the allegations and has said he fled to avoid “political persecution.”
Prosecutors have described it as one of the most “brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history.” Authorities say the Taylors were paid at least $1.3 million for their help.
On the day of the escape, Michael Taylor flew into Osaka on a chartered jet with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, carrying two large black boxes and pretending to be musicians with audio equipment, authorities said. Meanwhile, Ghosn, free on bail, headed to the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and met up with Peter Taylor, who was already in Japan, authorities say.
The elder Taylor and Zayek met up with the two others at the Grand Hyatt and shortly after, they split up. Peter Taylor hopped on a flight to China while the others got on a bullet train and went back to another hotel near the airport, where Taylor and Zayek had booked a room. They all went in; only Ghosn’s rescuers were seen walking out.
Authorities say Ghosn was inside one of the big black boxes. At the airport, the boxes passed through a security checkpoint without being checked and were loaded onto a private jet headed for Turkey, officials said.
The Taylors had hired lawyers connected to former President Donald Trump, including ex-White House attorney Ty Cobb, in attempt to get Trump to block the extradition before he left office.
In his interview with the AP, Michael Taylor implored President Joe Biden to step in and said he felt betrayed that the US would try to turn him over to Japan after his service to the country. But the Biden administration declined to block the extradition.
Under Trump. the US State Department agreed in October to hand the men over to Japan. But a federal judge in Boston put their extradition on hold shortly after their lawyers filed an emergency petition. The judge rejected their petition in January and the Boston-based 1st Circuit Court of Appeals later denied their bid to put the extradition on hold while they appeal that ruling.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer last month denied a bid for more time for an appeal, clearing the way for the men to be handed over to Japan.

Fourth executive jailed in Britain’s Iraq oil bribery case

Fourth executive jailed in Britain’s Iraq oil bribery case
Paul Bond was sentenced to nearly four years in jail at London's Southwark Crown Court. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 March 2021

Fourth executive jailed in Britain’s Iraq oil bribery case

Fourth executive jailed in Britain’s Iraq oil bribery case
  • Paul Bond, 68, will spend 3 and a half years in jail for helping to pay bribes of more than $900,000
  • Unaoil paid more than $17 million in bribes to secure contracts worth $1.7 billion for itself and its Western clients

LONDON: A former sales manager of Dutch energy services company SBM Offshore was sentenced on Monday to three-and-a-half years in jail after being convicted by a London jury of bribing public officials to win oil contracts in post-occupation Iraq.
Paul Bond, 68, was found guilty of two counts of bribery after a retrial at London’s Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday. His sentencing hearing was delayed after the judge developed COVID-19 symptoms and self-isolated.
Bond is the fourth executive convicted after a five-year Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into Monaco-based consultancy Unaoil, which uncovered bribes of more than $17 million to secure contracts worth $1.7 billion for Unaoil and its Western, blue-chip clients.
Bond had denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors had said that Unaoil employees worked on behalf of SBM Offshore and with Bond to pay more than $900,000 in bribes to Iraqi public officials at Iraq’s South Oil Company and the Ministry of Oil to win a $55 million contract for offshore mooring buoys by skewing a competitive tender in their favor.
Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s former Iraq partner, was last year sentenced to three years and four months in jail after pleading guilty to five bribery counts in 2019. Unaoil’s former territory managers for Iraq — Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley — received five and three-year sentences respectively.
The SFO investigation originally centered on the prominent Ahsani family, which ran Unaoil. However, failed extradition attempts culminating in a clash in Italy with US prosecutors over the extradition of Saman Ahsani in 2018 scuppered the British agency’s attempts to pursue prosecution in Britain.
In October 2019 Saman Ahsani and his brother Cyrus pleaded guilty in the United States to being part of a 17-year scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to officials in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Their father and Unaoil founder, Ata Ahsani, has not been prosecuted.
SBM Offshore, which has declined to comment, was fined $238 million by the US Department of Justice in 2017 under a deferred prosecution agreement.