Muslim boy, 4, referred to UK anti-extremism program over video game comment

Muslim boy, 4, referred to UK anti-extremism program over video game comment
The British government’s anti-extremism program is under fire after it was revealed that a Muslim boy aged 4 was flagged by his after-school club for talking about the video game “Fortnite.” (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 January 2021

Muslim boy, 4, referred to UK anti-extremism program over video game comment

Muslim boy, 4, referred to UK anti-extremism program over video game comment
  • Mother: I do think that if it was a white boy, they wouldn’t have actually gone to that extreme of referring him
  • She added that the police officer who visited the family home appeared uneasy, as though he did not think the visit was necessary

LONDON: The British government’s anti-extremism program Prevent is under fire after it was revealed that a Muslim boy aged 4 was flagged by his after-school club for talking about the video game “Fortnite.”
UK newspaper The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that the boy was referred to the program in September 2019 after saying his father had “guns and bombs in his shed.”
Following the child’s referral to Prevent, it was quickly established that he was with his father the night before he made his comments. 
His cousin was playing the video game “Fortnite,” which has more than 350 million registered players and involves characters collecting guns and bombs.
After making the comment, he told a worker at the care club about his cousin playing the game. 
His mother, in the first anonymous interview of a parent of a child aged 6 or under referred to Prevent, said: “The office sent me all the information, including the transcript of that conversation. It’s quite clear he mentioned Fortnite.”
She added: “He’s just a little boy with an imagination. The teachers should know in this setting that (children) have imagination. They know exactly what kids are like, and what young boys are like. I do think that if it was a white boy, they wouldn’t have actually gone to that extreme of referring him to the Prevent scheme.”
She told The Observer about her distress after the police visited the family home at 10:30 p.m. to discuss her son’s case.
“It could have gone really wrong. I worry armed police could have come to my house and … arrested the parents, with social services getting involved,” she said.
The mother added that the police officer who visited the family home appeared uneasy, as though he did not think the visit was necessary, but explained he had to “follow the Prevent flowchart.”
She said: “He was in the same place as me really. You know: ‘Why have they done this?’ He said if they had any major concerns, they wouldn’t have sent him by himself.”
Figures obtained in a freedom-of-information request have revealed that 624 children under 6 were referred to Prevent between 2016 and 2019. During the same period, 1,405 children between 6 and 9 were referred to the scheme.
Layla Aitlhadj, director at the community outreach project Prevent Watch, said: “It’s difficult to fully appreciate the impact this experience can have on a family.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Where someone is concerned a child may have been deliberately exposed to harmful terrorist narratives, it is right that they refer them to the necessary authorities. Prevent is first and foremost about safeguarding, and through this referral, the child will be able to receive the vital support they need.”


Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations

Updated 6 sec ago

Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations

Italy gives COVID green light to six non-EU tourist destinations
MILAN: Italy’s health ministry said on Tuesday it had given the go-ahead for travel to six non-European tourist spots without the need for quarantine as a COVID-19 precaution either on arrival or return.
Italians will be allowed to travel to the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Egypt (but only Sharm El Sheikh and Marsa Alam), Dominican Republic and Aruba on what the ministry called controlled tourist itineraries.
These popular destinations for Italians seeking winter sunshine mark an exception from other places outside the European Union, which require quarantine on return to Italy.
Everyone leaving for the selected countries must have a ‘Green Pass’ showing COVID immunity — either due to vaccination or previous infection — and must also present a negative swab at least 48 hours before departure, according to the order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
Once back in Italy, people will not be required to undergo quarantine if they have presented another negative test, conducted not more than 48 hours before boarding their plane.
These so-called COVID-free tourist corridors have been set up on an experimental basis, the health ministry said.

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea
Updated 28 September 2021

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea

Lava from Spanish island volcano rolls slowly toward the sea
  • Scientists said it was impossible to estimate when the black-and-red stream of molten rock would reach the shore.
  • Authorities said the lava had moved on the island of La Palma to within 800 meters (875 yards) of the Atlantic Ocean as of Tuesday morning

LOS LLANOS DE ARIDANE, Canary Islands: Lava flowing from a volcano in Spain’s Canary Islands picked up its pace on its way to the sea Tuesday.
Scientists said it was impossible to estimate when the black-and-red stream of molten rock would reach the shore.
Authorities said the lava had moved on the island of La Palma to within 800 meters (875 yards) of the Atlantic Ocean as of Tuesday morning, nine days after the volcano’s eruption. When it eventually meets sea water, the lava could trigger explosions and the release of toxic gas.
By the afternoon, officials said various factors dictated the unpredictable speed of the lava flow, including its departure from a path over an earlier flow that had hardened. The river of cooled lava had helped the moving flow slide along.
“The lava cools down as time passes and it meets uneven ground, which slows it down,” said Miguel Ángel Morcuende, technical director of the Canary Islands emergency volcano response department. “And if it comes off the highway it was going along, that slows it even more because it spreads out wider.”
A small hill and a built-up area also stood in the lava’s way, and the shore area is flatter than the hills the lava has been flowing down.
For days, officials have nervously awaited the time when lava from the Sept. 19 eruption reaches the Atlantic, but the volcano has been erratic. After calming down on Monday, the volcano became more explosive again overnight.
Authorities said they don’t expect the slow-moving lava to create a large disruption on the coast. But Eugenio Fraile, a researcher at the Spanish Oceanography Institute, told Cadena Ser radio that only scientists wearing protective gear will be inside a security perimeter when the flow hits the ocean.
The National Geographic Institute detected six earthquakes Tuesday in the area of the eruption, with the strongest measured at magnitude 3.3.
La Palma, home to about 85,000 people, is part of the volcanic Canary Islands, an archipelago off northwest Africa. The island is roughly 35 kilometers (22 miles) long and 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide at its broadest point.
Lava from the eruption has devoured everything in its path, destroying 589 buildings and 21 kilometers (13 miles) of roads on La Palma. The lava now covers 258 hectares (637 acres), mostly farmland, according to a European Union satellite monitoring agency.
No deaths or serious injuries have been reported, thanks to the prompt evacuations of over 6,000 people.
But local people have lost their homes and their livelihoods at the same time. Farming is one of the island’s economic mainstays, along with tourism, and the lava and ash has ruined crops and irrigation systems, endangered aviation and poses a significant health risk to those nearby.
No flights went in or out of La Palma’s airport for a fourth straight day because of a huge ash cloud. Volcanic ash is hazardous for aircraft engines.
The Spanish government announced after its weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday it’s providing an immediate grant of 10.5 million euros ($12.3 million) to buy 107 properties to rehouse local people and also provide them with income aid.
More aid, including for the rebuilding of public infrastructure, will be sent once the current emergency is over, government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said.
The volcano has so far spewed out more than 46 million cubic meters (1.6 billion cubic feet) of molten rock, according to the Canary Island Volcanology Institute.


Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement
Updated 28 September 2021

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement

Greece: Afghan refugees fly to Portugal for resettlement
  • The Afghans traveled to Greece before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August
  • Another 43 are expected to fly to Portugal in the coming weeks, Greek officials said

ATHENS, Greece:
Authorities in Greece said that 41 Afghan refugees flew from Athens to Portugal on Tuesday, as part of a bilateral agreement to resettle 1,000 people who have been granted asylum.
The Afghans traveled to Greece before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Another 43 are expected to fly to Portugal in the coming weeks, Greek officials said.
Athens is seeking to reduce the number of refugees living in the country through bilateral agreements with other European Union members.
Greece has the fifth-highest number of pending asylum applications among EU countries, following Germany, France, Spain and Italy, according to figures from the bloc reported for the end of June.
Athens has toughened its policy on illegal migration in recent years, stepping up controls at its land and sea borders with Turkey.
Earlier Tuesday, 11 unattended migrant minors flew to Paris as part of a separate relocation program.


Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast
Updated 28 September 2021

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast

Pregnant mum, kids among 277 rescued off Spain coast
  • Nearly 184 migrants were pulled to safety from boats in waters near the Balearics
  • The woman, who "was eight months pregnant," was one of those who reached the Alicante coastline, a Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP

MADRID: A pregnant Algerian mother and her five children were among 277 migrants rescued off the coast of mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands in the past 24 hours, officials said Tuesday.
Nearly two-thirds of them were pulled to safety from boats in waters near the Balearics, while another 91 were rescued off the coast of Alicante in southeastern Spain.
The sea route to mainland Spain and its Balearic and Canary Islands is fraught with danger, with the International Organization for Migration saying at least 1,025 people have died in 2021 in “the deadliest year on the migratory route to Spain.”
The woman, who “was eight months pregnant,” was one of those who reached the Alicante coastline, a Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP, saying she had been taken to hospital suffering from stomach pains.
Most of them were from Algeria although one boat was carrying refugees from Syria, she said.
“The first boat was found near Santa Pola with four women and six minors on board, including a baby of seven months, while the others were between four and six,” she said.
Of the 23 on board, “most of them were Syrians.”
Spain’s Salvamento Maritimo coast guard said six vessels were rescued, all of which had apparently set sail from the Algerian coast, which at its closest lies around 270 kilometers (170 miles) from Alicante.
Meanwhile, the coast guard also rescued 13 vessels off the Balearic Isles in less than 24 hours, pulling 176 people — including 11 women — to safety, the Spanish government’s delegation in the islands told AFP.
Last week, the bodies of eight migrants, including three women and a child, washed up on the shores of southern Spain near the city of Almeria, the local authorities said. The boats had likely set off from Morocco or Algeria.
Spanish interior ministry figures to September 14 show that a total of 10,701 migrants have managed to reach mainland Spain or the Balearic Islands by sea.
They also show 11,060 people reached the Canary Islands from the coast of west Africa, more than double the 5,090 in 2020.
Figures from Caminando Fronteras, a Spanish NGO that monitors SOS calls from migrants at sea, suggest that more than 2,000 people have died or gone missing on the Atlantic route this year.


Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty
Updated 28 September 2021

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty

Man charged with London teacher’s murder to plead not guilty
  • Delivery driver Koci Selamaj is accused of killing Sabina Nessa, who disappeared while walking to meet a friend

LONDON: A man charged with the murder of a 28-year-old school teacher in London plans to plead not guilty, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.
Delivery driver Koci Selamaj, 36, is accused of killing Sabina Nessa, who disappeared while walking to meet a friend at a pub a few minutes from her home in southeast London on Sept. 17. Nessa’s body was found in a local park the next day.
Her killing has renewed concerns that women aren’t safe on the streets of Britain’s capital. Selamaj, from Eastbourne in southern England, was arrested in the seaside town on Sunday.
Selamaj made his first court appearance Tuesday at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in London. His lawyer, Aiden Harvey, told the court his client intended to plead not guilty. The court remanded Selamaj into custody. He is scheduled to appear again Thursday for a bail hearing at the Central Criminal Court.
Nessa’s death came six months after the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in south London by a serving police officer. The Everard case sparked large protests to denounce violence against women and girls.
On Friday, hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil in Nessa’s memory, demanding an end to violence against women.