Royal Navy rejects UK government plan to push back migrant boats

Royal Navy rejects UK government plan to push back migrant boats
The Royal Navy has rejected the idea of pushing back migrants in the English Channel. (File/AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2022

Royal Navy rejects UK government plan to push back migrant boats

Royal Navy rejects UK government plan to push back migrant boats
  • Military source: Plan ‘will never work. You can’t do that in the Channel, it’s too narrow’
  • London also pursuing plans to process migrants, refugees in offshore centers in Africa 

LONDON: The UK’s Royal Navy has rejected a plan by Home Secretary Priti Patel that would see the use of military vessels to push back small boats in the English Channel.

The navy has been called in by the government to prevent migrants from arriving in the UK from France.
Military sources have said the navy would focus on escorting migrants to shore for processing at hubs, not forcing them back to France.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defense staff, said the plan ensures “no one gets to the UK on their own terms.”

Last year was a record one for arrivals via the Channel, with 28,381 people making the dangerous crossing.

Ministers expect more to arrive in 2022, and almost 500 people have crossed so far in January.

Patel insisted on Monday that the government is still pursuing the pushback policy. She told MPs that it is “absolutely the policy of this government,” adding: “Means are being tested, technology is being used, but also the way in which boats can be pushed back has also been well tested.”

However, a military source told The Times that the policy would not be pursued. “This isn’t about bumping small boats and turning them round — that will never work. You can’t do that in the Channel, it’s too narrow,” the source said.

Ministers have also been working on plans to process migrant and refugee arrivals in offshore processing centers in Ghana or Rwanda.

Under the plans, London would pay hundreds of millions to partner governments to process and settle migrants in their own countries, rather than process them in the UK.

In theory, those plans mean that legitimate refugees could ultimately be granted asylum in Britain. Government sources have admitted that any deal remains some way off.


Egyptian minister’s son faces murder charges over US double homicide

A San Francisco police officer steps out of the mobile command unit in Union Square on May 24, 2022 in San Francisco, California
A San Francisco police officer steps out of the mobile command unit in Union Square on May 24, 2022 in San Francisco, California
Updated 28 May 2022

Egyptian minister’s son faces murder charges over US double homicide

A San Francisco police officer steps out of the mobile command unit in Union Square on May 24, 2022 in San Francisco, California
  • Ramy Hani Mounir Fahim, 26, eligible for death penalty over alleged killing of two men, officials say
  • Egypt Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Minister Nabila Makram issues statement, saying that her family is in ‘severe distress’

CHICAGO: The 26-year-old son of Egypt’s Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs, Nabila Makram, is facing charges of premeditated murder over the killing of two men in California in April.

Ramy Hani Mounir Fahim, who lives in Irvine, California, has also been charged with two enhancements each of lying in wait and the personal use of a deadly weapon after a co-worker and his roommate were stabbed to death in their Anaheim apartment early last month.

The special circumstances of “lying in wait” and multiple murders make Fahim eligible for the death penalty, officials said.

Police allege that Fahim attacked and killed his co-worker, 23-year-old Griffin Cuomo, then killed Cuomo’s roommate, 23-year-old Jonathan Bahm, in their Anaheim apartment at about 6:30 a.m. on April 19, 2022.

Cuomo and Fahim worked together at an Orange County company, Pence Wealth Management. Fahim was a data engineer who had been employed as a research associate at the firm.

He is being held without bail at the Intake Release Center and was arraigned on May 6 at the North Justice Center in Fullerton, California.

According to investigators, a building security guard encountered Fahim on the apartment complex roof at midnight on April 18, just hours before the murders. Fahim was seen on the same floor of the victims’ apartment on the morning of the killings.

Fahim was still inside the victims’ apartment when Anaheim police responded to a 911 emergency call, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.

“These young men were just starting to live out their dreams and find their places in the world. But an intruder who stalked them and then slashed them to death in their own home interrupted those dreams,” Spitzer said.

“The callous way that two young lives were ended cannot be ignored and we will do everything we can to ensure justice is served.”

Egypt’s Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs, Nabila Makram, issued a statement on Facebook on Saturday, saying that she and her family are going through “a severe ordeal.”

In the statement, the minister’s first since Fahim was arrested on April 22, Makram called for prayers for her son and the two victims, and said that she will continue her duties as minister.

“My family and I are under severe distress following my son being charged with murder in the US. This charge is in front of a US court and a sentence has not yet been issued,” she said.

“Doing my duties as a minister in the Egyptian government does not conflict at all with me being a believing mother who bravely faces the plight of her son. Whatever the consequences, as a minister, I take full responsibility for my position and the requirements of working with it, and I clearly differentiate between what is personal and what is public.”

Fahim will remain in custody until a bail review hearing scheduled for June 17.


Philippines grants license to Elon Musk’s satellite services

Philippines grants license to Elon Musk’s satellite services
Updated 28 May 2022

Philippines grants license to Elon Musk’s satellite services

Philippines grants license to Elon Musk’s satellite services
  • It set to be first Southeast Asian country to offer Starlink services
  • Authorities say Starlink will enable high data activities that ‘historically have not been possible’

MANILA: The Philippines’ telecoms regulator has granted a license to billionaire Elon Musk’s high-speed satellite Internet venture Starlink, which is expected to improve connectivity in a country grappling with slow Internet speeds.

The National Telecommunications Commission said the approval of Starlink’s registration as a value-added service provider means the company can directly access satellite systems and operate broadband facilities to offer Internet services across the Philippines.

Starlink, the satellite Internet division of Musk’s rocket company SpaceX, is expected to start offering their services in the archipelago nation in the coming months, NTC said in a statement.

“The NTC is steadfast in helping ensure roll-out of Starlink’s Internet access services will be done expeditiously and professionally,” NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said.

NTC said the Philippines will be the first country in Southeast Asia to offer Starlink services, which authorities expect will cover at a cost-effective rate areas that remain unserved or underserved with Internet access.

“Using advanced satellites in a low orbit, Starlink will enable video calls, online gaming, streaming and other high data activities that historically have not been possible with satellite Internet,” the commission said.

Starlink services are currently available in about 30 countries, mainly in North America and Europe. The company has so far deployed over 2,000 satellites, with plans to launch thousands more.

“One Starlink can provide Internet for an entire school of hundreds of students … Great potential to lift people out of poverty. Providing Internet is teaching people to fish,” Musk said in a couple of tweets on Saturday, which followed his announcement of Starlink’s approval in the Philippines.

The Philippines lags behind most countries in Southeast Asia in mobile and fixed broadband Internet speed, ranking 95th and 59th respectively in the world as of April 2022, according to the Speedtest Global Index.

Stephen Cutler, Manila cybersecurity expert and tech entrepreneur, said Starlink is going to provide a good alternative network for information in the Philippines.

“I’m very, very excited about the opportunity for a company like Starlink who will be able to provide some relatively high-speed data transfer at a competitive cost,” Cutler told Arab News, adding that services provided by telcos operating in the Philippines are still relatively costly.


UN rights envoy defends controversial China visit

UN rights envoy defends controversial China visit
Updated 28 May 2022

UN rights envoy defends controversial China visit

UN rights envoy defends controversial China visit
  • Michelle Bachelet's long-planned trip this week has taken her to the far-western region
  • Her office later clarified that her remarks did not contain a direct endorsement of China's rights record

BEIJING: The UN rights envoy on Saturday said her contentious visit to China was “not an investigation,” and insisted she had unsupervised access during meetings in Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of widespread human rights abuses.
Michelle Bachelet’s long-planned trip this week has taken her to the far-western region, where Beijing is accused of the detention of over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, forced sterilization of women and coerced labor.
The United States has labelled China’s actions in Xinjiang a “genocide” and “crimes against humanity,” allegations vehemently denied by Beijing which says its security crackdown was a necessary response to extremism.
Bachelet has come under fire from rights groups and Uyghurs overseas, who say she has stumbled into a six-day Communist Party propaganda tour, including a meeting with President Xi Jinping in which state media suggested she supported China’s vision of human rights.
Her office later clarified that her remarks did not contain a direct endorsement of China’s rights record.
Speaking at the end of her trip while still inside China, Bachelet framed her visit as a chance for her to speak with “candour” to Chinese authorities as well as civil society groups and academics.
“This visit was not an investigation,” she told reporters, later insisting she had “unsupervised” access to sources the UN had arranged to meet in Xinjiang.
It is the first trip to China by the UN’s top rights envoy in 17 years and comes after painstaking negotiations over the conditions of her visit, which the UN says is neither a fact-finding mission nor a probe.
Bachelet this week visited the Xinjiang cities of Urumqi and Kashgar, according to her office, but no photos or further details of her itinerary have dribbled out.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said earlier this week that Bachelet’s activities were “arranged according to her will and on the basis of thorough consultations of the two sides.”
She planned to meet “civil society organizations, business representatives, academics,” her office said, but state media has only covered meetings with Xi and foreign minister Wang Yi, during which he gave her a book of Xi quotes on human rights.
Her trip has taken place under a “closed loop,” ostensibly due to Covid-19 risks.
The United States has reiterated its view that Bachelet’s visit was a mistake after the release of thousands of leaked documents and photographs from inside the system of mass incarceration this week, while the UK and Germany have voiced their concerns at the visit.


Russian ex-president Medvedev calls for tougher ‘foreign agent’ law

Russian ex-president Medvedev calls for tougher ‘foreign agent’ law
Updated 28 May 2022

Russian ex-president Medvedev calls for tougher ‘foreign agent’ law

Russian ex-president Medvedev calls for tougher ‘foreign agent’ law
  • Russia has legislation that labels groups and individuals as foreign agents if they receive foreign funding to engage in political activity
  • Dozens of Kremlin critics have been listed as foreign agents

DUBAI: Former president Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday called for Russia to toughen its laws on “foreign agents” and prosecute individuals working for the interests of foreign states.
Russia has legislation that labels groups and individuals as foreign agents — a term that carries Soviet-era connotations of spying — if they receive foreign funding to engage in what the authorities say is political activity.
Dozens of Kremlin critics have been listed as foreign agents, including journalists and rights activists, and many have fled abroad.
Medvedev, who now serves as deputy head of Russia’s security council, said the enforcement of the “foreign agents” legislation needed to be stepped up as Moscow carries out its military intervention in Ukraine and finds itself under unprecedented sanctions from the West.
“If they (foreign agents) are carrying out activities aimed against our country — especially during this tough period — and receive money for it from our enemies, our response must be quick and harsh,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
He added that the legislation should more precisely classify “foreign agents” and impose stricter consequences for their offenses.
At present, those listed are subject to stringent financial reporting requirements and have to preface anything they publish, including social media posts, with a disclaimer stating that they are foreign agents.
Lawmakers said last month they planned to submit amendments to the law to add more restrictions, including on investing in strategic industries and working with children.
Medvedev also said he supported legislative initiatives to criminally prosecute “people working in the interest of a foreign state.”
His post began and ended with a reference to a 1960s Soviet television series set during the Russian Civil War of the 1920s, in which Medvedev noted that the hero was shot as a spy.


Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country
Updated 28 May 2022

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country

Ukraine ex-president says blocked from leaving country
  • Petro Poroshenko, in power from 2014 to 2019, has made frequent public appearances since the war started

KYIV, Ukraine: The former president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, said Saturday he was barred from leaving the country, accusing the government of breaking a so-called political cease-fire in place since Russia invaded.
Poroshenko, in power from 2014 to 2019, has made frequent public appearances since the war started, appearing on international television to offer commentary.
His European Solidarity party is the second biggest party in Ukraine’s parliament after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ruling party.
After Russia invaded, Ukraine’s parliament banned several pro-Russian parties, and allowed others to still operate under a so-called political cease-fire — a tacit understanding that all parties would put aside domestic political disagreements to unite against the war.
But on Saturday, Poroshenko’s office said he “was refused to cross the border of Ukraine,” accusing the government of violating the agreement.
“There is a risk that by this decision, the authorities have broken the ‘political cease-fire’ in place during the war... which one of the pillars of national unity in the face of to Russian aggression,” his office said.
Poroshenko was due to travel to a NATO parliamentary assembly meeting in Lithuania as part of the Ukrainian delegation, and had received official permission to travel.
He was due to meet in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and a group of European parliamentarians.
He was then to travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a summit bringing together European political parties.