UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants

UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 November 2021

UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants

UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants
  • Britain and France had earlier called for a coordinated European response to stop people-trafficking in the Channel after the deadliest accident

CALAIS, France: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday asking France to immediately start taking back all migrants who land in England after crossing the Channel, after at least 27 died when their boat foundered off Calais.
Taking back migrants "would significantly reduce — if not stop — the crossings, saving thousands of lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs" behind the trafficking, he said in a letter sent to Macron on Thursday evening.
The record wave of illegal migrants seeking to cross the English Channel is a volatile issue for both leaders amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment and controversy over what critics say is a callous attitude in both capitals.
Johnson's letter also set out areas for greater cooperation with France, proposing joint border patrols, aerial surveillance and intelligence sharing.
"We are ready to begin such patrols from the start of next week," Johnson said.
Britain and France had earlier called for a coordinated European response to stop people-trafficking in the Channel after the deadliest accident since the waterway in 2018 became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia trying to reach England from France.
Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke with French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to put forward plans for greater "collaboration and innovation", according to a statement.
The two will meet this weekend and Patel will send officers to Paris after having offered to provide more people on the ground, it said.
However even as Paris invited European ministers to an emergency meeting at the weekend, the response risked being undermined by continued Franco-British squabbling after Brexit.
Macron, after vowing France would not allow the Channel to become a "cemetery", spoke earlier to Johnson to agree on stepping up efforts to thwart the traffickers blamed for the surge in crossings.
And in a terse readout of the talks, the Elysee Palace said Macron told Johnson that France and the UK have a "shared responsibility" and added he "expected the British to cooperate fully and refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political ends".
Patel had earlier refused to rule out the controversial step of turning migrant boats back across the Channel, under legislation now making its way through parliament."France is a transit country, we are fighting against these networks of smugglers who exploit people's misery, but for this we must improve European cooperation," Macron said on a visit to Croatia, saying that when the migrants arrived in northern France "it is already too late".
Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died when the inflatable boat lost air and took on water off the northern port of Calais on Wednesday. A manslaughter probe has been opened.
Darmanin said five suspected traffickers accused of being directly linked to the doomed crossing had been arrested.
Darmanin said only two survivors, an Iraqi and Somali, had been found and they were recovering from extreme hypothermia and would eventually be questioned.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart said a pregnant woman was also one of the victims.
About 200 people, mainly activists and some exiles, gathered early on Thursday evening in Calais to pay tribute to the victims.
The circumstances of the tragedy have not yet been clarified, but Mohamed, a 22-year-old Syrian, told AFP he was one of the last people to see them: "They were with me here in Calais three days ago.
"Three days ago, the group told us 'we're leaving for England', and they left," he said.
He said conditions were dangerous yesterday.
"In addition they went to sea without equipment," he said.In telephone talks, Johnson and Macron agreed on the "urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings", according to Downing Street.
But Johnson told British media London had faced "difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that the situation deserves".
In a sign of the tensions, Britain's biggest-selling tabloid newspapers all carried a front-page picture of a French police vehicle apparently sitting idly by as migrants entered the waters off northern France.
More than 25,700 people have made the cross-Channel journey in small boats this year -- three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by Britain's PA news agency.
Darmanin insisted that Paris was doing all it could to break the trafficking networks, saying France had arrested 1,500 people smugglers since the start of the year.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also held a crisis meeting on Thursday with ministers to discuss new measures and invited the British, Belgian Dutch and German immigration ministers to a meeting in Calais on Monday.


Greece opens two more ‘closed’ migrant camps

Greece opens two more ‘closed’ migrant camps
Updated 8 min 5 sec ago

Greece opens two more ‘closed’ migrant camps

Greece opens two more ‘closed’ migrant camps
  • The 'closed' camps feature barbed wire fencing, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and magnetic doors and gates remain closed at night
  • Greece was the main point where more than one million asylum seekers — mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans — entered Europe in 2015

KOS, Greece: Greece on Saturday opened two more of its new “closed” migrant camps that have been criticized by rights groups for their restrictive measures.
“A new era is beginning,” Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi said announcing the opening of the camps on the islands of Leros and Kos.
“We are extricating our islands from the migration problem and its consequences,” he said. “The images that we all remember from 2015-2019 are now in the past.”
Greece was the main point where more than one million asylum seekers — mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans — entered Europe in 2015 and its islands in the Aegean Sea are the main port of call from people arriving via Turkey in search of a better life in Europe.
The crisis in Afghanistan has prompted fears of a new migration wave.
The “closed” camps feature barbed wire fencing, surveillance cameras, x-ray scanners and magnetic doors and gates remain closed at night.
They also have many features, like running water, toilets and more security, that were absent from the previous facilities that became infamous for their living conditions.
Greece inaugurated the first such camp on the island of Samos in September and plans to open two more, on the islands of Lesbos and Chios.
The EU has committed 276 million euros ($326 million) for the new camps.
But NGOs and aid groups have raised concerns about the new camps’ structure in isolated places and residents’ confinement, saying that the movement of people in the camps should not be restricted.
According to latest UN estimates, there are currently around 96,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Greece.


Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 22 min 49 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces two more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 538,824
  • A total of 8,832 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 29 new infections on Saturday.

Of the new cases, 11 were recorded in Riyadh, seven in  Jeddah, two in Madinah, and two in Makkah. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 538,824 after 40 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,832 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 47.2 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Michael Vaughan ‘sorry’ for Azeem Rafiq hurt in cricket racism case

Michael Vaughan ‘sorry’ for Azeem Rafiq hurt in cricket racism case
Updated 27 November 2021

Michael Vaughan ‘sorry’ for Azeem Rafiq hurt in cricket racism case

Michael Vaughan ‘sorry’ for Azeem Rafiq hurt in cricket racism case
  • “It hurts deeply that a player has been treated so badly at the club that I love”
  • Broadcaster has been removed from BBC’s Ashes coverage

LONDON: Former cricketer and sports broadcaster Michael Vaughan has apologized for the hurt Azeem Rafiq has experienced amid his former Yorkshire teammate’s allegations of racism.

Rafiq told a parliamentary committee earlier this month about the “inhuman” treatment he endured while playing for the county, with former England captain Vaughan named among several figures implicated in the tussle. 

Vaughan has denied claims that he said there were “too many of you lot, we need to do something about it” to Rafiq and three other Asian players before a match in 2009.

But while the allegations and investigations continue, the BBC has jettisoned Vaughan from its upcoming coverage of England’s Ashes tour of Australia due to a potential “conflict of interest.”

In an interview with the BBC following the decision, Vaughan said: “I’m sorry for the hurt (Rafiq has) gone through. Time I don’t think can ever be a healer in the situation that he’s gone through.

“But hopefully time can be a way of us making sure that Yorkshire County Cricket Club never goes through this situation again and never puts themselves in a position of denial that they treated a player so badly.

“It hurts deeply, hurts me that a player has gone through so much (and) been treated so badly at the club that I love.

“I have to take some responsibility for that because I played for Yorkshire County Cricket Club for 18 years and if in any way shape or form I’m responsible for any of his hurt, I apologise for that.”

Rafiq’s testimony to MPs has been supported by former Pakistan bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and England leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who said they heard Vaughan’s “you lot” comment.

When asked by the BBC if they were lying about the allegation, Vaughan said: “The problem with this situation is that we’ve got too much ‘he said, he said, she said, did they say’ and I think we’ve got to move on from accusations of conversations from many years ago. There’s a bigger picture here.”

The 47-year-old added that the alleged incident occurred during “my last few games and I just remember it clearly that I was proud as punch that we had four Asian players representing Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“Nothing but a proud, senior, old pro just about to retire and absolutely delighted that Yorkshire had come so far in my time at the club.”

His apology also included regret for a series of tweets from a similar time, which included comments on the lack of English speakers in London and suggesting that England colleague spin bowler Moeen Ali should ask fellow Muslims that he was not acquainted with if they are terrorists.

“I apologise deeply to anyone that I’ve offended with those tweets,” Vaughan said. “Times have moved on and I regret those tweets. We all make mistakes and in my life I’ve made quite a few mistakes on Twitter, I apologise for that.”

The former England skipper accepted the BBC’s decision to ditch him from the Ashes coverage, which kicks off on Dec. 8. 

“I won’t be doing the Ashes which I understand, the editorial at the moment is all about Azeem Rafiq and racism in the game of cricket. I get that,” he said.

“I just hope in time I get that chance to come back. The one thing I love more than anything since I retired is talking cricket. I love being on Test Match Special and hopefully in time I get that chance to do it again.”


The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival
Tara Emad posing on the red carpet at the event, running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek.AFP
Updated 27 November 2021

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

DUBAI: The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) kicked off in style on Friday evening with a plethora of glamorous A-list Arab celebrities walking the red carpet at the annual opening ceremony in Egypt.

Running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek, the Arab world’s longest-running film festival brought together a host of stars, including actors Tara Emad, Dorra Zarrouk and Salma Abudeif in addition to 68-year-old film icon Fifi Abdou, who were all dressed to the nines in up-and-coming as well as established regional designers.

Check out our pick of the best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival below.

 

Tara Emad in Nicolas Jebran

Youssra in Rami Kadi

Bushra Rozza in Samah Mahran

Dorra Zarrouk in Zuhair Murad

Laila Eloui in Hany Elbehairy

Mona Zaki in Maram Bohran

Nelly Karim in Maison Yeya

Nour in Sandy Nour

Raya Abirached in Zuhair Murad

Salma Abu Deif in Rose Fabrics

Fifi Abdou


South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting Omicron Covid variant: Government

South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting Omicron Covid variant: Government
Updated 27 November 2021

South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting Omicron Covid variant: Government

South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting Omicron Covid variant: Government
  • The ministry pointed out that new variants had been discovered in other parts of the world

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa complained Saturday that it is being “punished” for detecting a new Covid-19 variant Omicron which the World Health Organization has termed a “variant of concern” and is more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain.
The decision by a number of countries around the world to ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant “is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said.
The ministry pointed out that new variants had been discovered in other parts of the world.
“Each of those cases have had no recent links with Southern Africa, but the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa,” it said.
Israel and Belgium announced after South Africa that they also had detected cases of Omicron.
Government insisted that South Africa’s “capacity to test and its ramped-up vaccination program, backed up by a world-class scientific community should give our global partners the comfort that we are doing as well as they are in managing the pandemic.”
With more than 2.95 million cases and 89,783 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit country in Africa by the pandemic.