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.


Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks
Updated 15 min 16 sec ago

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks

Iranian, Chinese and Russian diplomats meet ahead of nuclear talks
  • Bilateral and trilateral meetings were held in Vienna ahead of a resumption in nuclear talks to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and major powers

DUBAI: Iran’s negotiating team, led by Ali Bagheri Kani, held bilateral and trilateral meetings in Vienna on Sunday, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, ahead of a resumption in nuclear talks to revive a 2015 agreement between Iran and major powers.
“The Iranian team arrived on Saturday in Vienna and started meetings which continued on Sunday at an expert level with the heads of the Russian and Chinese negotiating teams, as well as the EU Coordinator Enrique Mora,” Iranian diplomat Mohammadreza Ghaebi told ISNA.


Bahrain outlook improves on fiscal reforms, S&P says

Bahrain outlook improves on fiscal reforms, S&P says
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 20 min 42 sec ago

Bahrain outlook improves on fiscal reforms, S&P says

Bahrain outlook improves on fiscal reforms, S&P says
  • The agency said it expects the government to benefit from additional financial support from its Gulf neighbours

S&P Global Ratings has revised Bahrain's outlook to 'stable' from 'negative' on the back of new fiscal reforms aimed at improving non-oil revenues and cutting state spending, the ratings agency said in a statement.

Rated below investment grade, Bahrain was bailed out to avoid a credit crunch in 2018 with a $10 billion package from wealthy neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.


That money was linked to a set of fiscal reforms, but after the coronavirus crisis strained its finances, Bahrain in September postponed plans to balance its budget by two years and announced plans to increase a value-added tax.


"The Bahraini government recently announced additional fiscal reforms to strengthen non-oil revenue and rationalize expenditure. These measures, along with the more supportive oil price environment, should improve the sovereign's fiscal position", S&P said in a statement this weekend.


The agency said it expects the government to benefit from additional financial support from its Gulf neighbors, if needed.


Bahrain will double value-added tax to 10 percent next year, a move which S&P estimated could contribute receipts of about 3 percent of gross domestic product in the next few years, up from about 1.7 percent this year.


The Gulf state is also planning to rationalize operational government expenditure and social subsidies in 2023 and 2024, a move which shifts the focus of its reforms more on the spending side than on raising non-oil revenues.


"We believe there is higher implementation risk in expenditure rationalization as the delicate political and social environment on the island, which has constrained the government's efforts, persists", S&P said.


Bahrain has in the past backtracked on some reforms as its Sunni Muslim rulers feared that austerity moves would bolster the majority Shi’ite-led opposition and stir more of the unrest that rattled the country since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.


How Omicron is affecting Middle East markets

How Omicron is affecting Middle East markets
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 34 min 41 sec ago

How Omicron is affecting Middle East markets

How Omicron is affecting Middle East markets
  • Oil prices stumbled in their biggest decline since April 2020

DUBAI: The new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has prompted global economic concerns, as fears of its spread begin to affect stock markets and oil prices. 

Saudi Arabia’s main market, the Tadawul All Share Index, opened 5.3 percent lower on Sunday, trading near 10,700 points. 

The Dubai Financial Market was down 8.49 percent.

Oil prices stumbled in their biggest decline since April 2020, with Brent prices dropping 11.55 percent to $72.72 per barrel when markets closed on Friday, while WTI slid 13.06 percent down to $68.15 per barrel.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, the UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

Within the Middle East Israel is the only country to have reported a case of the new variant so far, but some governments in the region have issued travel curbs to prevent the virus from spreading. 

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia expanded the list of African countries where it barred travel because of Omicron, adding Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands.

The Kingdom earlier halted flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Other Middle East countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan have issued similar measures. 


Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant
Updated 21 min 9 sec ago

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

Saudi Arabia suspends flights to and from 7 more African nations due to new COVID-19 variant

LONDON: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it was temporarily suspending flights to and from seven African countries due to the outbreak of the newly discovered coronavirus strain, Omicron. 

The countries are Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and Comoros, an official source from the Ministry of Interior told Saudi state news agency SPA.

Expats will be denied entry if they have been in any of the countries listed within the last 14 days before arrival in the Kingdom. 

Nationals and expats who are allowed entry will be required to quarantine for five days, including those who have been vaccinated. 

The Ministry of Interior called on those who entered Saudi Arabia after traveling to the list of banned countries after Nov. 1, to take a PCR test.


Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack
Updated 54 min 36 sec ago

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

Six Sudanese soldiers killed in Ethiopian attack

KHARTOUM: Six Sudanese soldiers were killed on Saturday in an attack by Ethiopian forces on a Sudanese army post near the border between the countries, Sudanese military sources told Reuters.
Sudan’s army said in an earlier statement on Facebook that “groups of the Ethiopian army and militias attacked its forces in Al-Fashaga Al-sughra, which resulted in deaths ... our forces valiantly repelled the attack and inflicted heavy losses in lives and equipment on the attackers.”
The army statement did not provide any details about the death toll.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to a Reuters message seeking comment on the incident.