Migrants who tried to cross Mediterranean brought back to Libya, UN says

Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel, in the port of Arguineguin, at the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, May 25, 2023. (REUTERS)
Migrants wait to disembark from a Spanish coast guard vessel, in the port of Arguineguin, at the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, May 25, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 May 2023
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Migrants who tried to cross Mediterranean brought back to Libya, UN says

Migrants who tried to cross Mediterranean brought back to Libya, UN says
  • The Italian Coast Guard reported on Thursday the rescue of 423 and 671 migrants in two separate operations in Italian search and rescue waters, and Alarm Phone said they were unrelated to the missing boat

ROME: Nearly 500 migrants who tried to cross the central Mediterranean have been brought back to Libya, a spokesman for the UN migration agency said, two days after charity groups lost contact with the boat carrying them.
“Libya is an unsafe port where migrants should never be brought back,” Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration or IOM wrote on Twitter.
He said there were 485 migrants and they docked in the Libyan port of Benghazi on Friday.
No further details were provided to IOM at this stage.
Alarm Phone, a group that picks up calls from migrant vessels in distress, had no signs from the boat since Wednesday morning.
At the time, the boat was adrift, with no working engine, in high seas about 320 km north of Libya and more than 400 km away from Malta or Italy’s southern island of Sicily.
The Italian Coast Guard reported on Thursday the rescue of 423 and 671 migrants in two separate operations in Italian search and rescue waters, and Alarm Phone said they were unrelated to the missing boat.
The Italian coast guard had no immediate comment.
In a separate incident, German charity SOS Humanity said 27 migrants were picked up at sea by an oil tanker and illegally taken back to Libya.
Under international humanitarian law, migrants cannot be forcibly returned to countries where they risk serious ill-treatment, and widespread migrant abuse has been extensively documented in Libya.
European governments have taken an increasingly hard line on migration, including in Italy, which is facing a surge in sea arrivals.
More than 47,000 landings have been recorded in the year to date, up from around 18,000 in the same period of 2022.

 


6 women are rescued from a refrigerated truck in France after distress call to a BBC reporter

6 women are rescued from a refrigerated truck in France after distress call to a BBC reporter
Updated 29 September 2023
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6 women are rescued from a refrigerated truck in France after distress call to a BBC reporter

6 women are rescued from a refrigerated truck in France after distress call to a BBC reporter
  • The women — four Vietnamese and two Iraqis — hid for hours in a truck loaded with boxes of bananas in northern France
  • One of them managed to reach a reporter with the BBC’s Vietnamese service in London who helped the women alert French police Wednesday

LONDON: Six female migrants trapped inside a refrigerated food truck were rescued by French police after one of the women was able to make contact with a reporter, the BBC and French authorities said Thursday.
The women — four Vietnamese and two Iraqis — hid for hours in a truck loaded with boxes of bananas in northern France, believing the vehicle was on its way to the UK or Ireland.
When they realized that the truck was going in the wrong direction, they started to panic in the cold and cramped, dark space. One of them managed to reach a reporter with the BBC’s Vietnamese service in London who helped the women alert French police Wednesday.
French prosecutor Laetitia Francart said the truck driver, who was in fact heading for Italy, was not at fault. The women told investigators that the driver wasn’t involved, “saying that they climbed aboard the truck thinking they were going to England because of the Irish registration plates,” Francart said in a statement.
“After several hours on the road without a stop, they realized their mistake and alerted a journalist,” she added.
The BBC reporter said she didn’t know the migrants, but suggested she was contacted because of her reporting on Vietnamese migrants who suffocated in a truck four years earlier.
The broadcaster reported that the woman was able to send text messages, the truck’s GPS location and short videos showing the conditions inside the truck. The women were shown sitting in a tight space on the floor, surrounded by boxes of fruit, panicking and struggling to breathe, according to the BBC.
The truck was just 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit) inside, said Francart, Villefranche-sur-Saône’s prosecutor. The women were all wearing thick coats and had no health problems, she said.
French police soon tracked them down and intercepted the truck on a highway, the broadcaster said. Francart said the driver also called police after hearing noise coming from his trailer.
The six women were detained for being in France illegally before being released. Four were given 30 days to leave the country. The other two were permitted to stay to seek asylum. Francart provided no information on how the women arrived in France.
Thousands of migrants seeking a better life in the UK attempt to cross from northern France every year, either by hiding in trucks or onboard small, unseaworthy boats across the English Channel. Many of the migrants, who hail from countries including Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, are determined to make it across to the UK from mainland Europe because they can speak English, or because they already have relatives there.
Both routes can be perilous. In 2019, 39 migrants from Vietnam who paid large sums of money to human smugglers suffocated in a truck trailer in England.
In July, a Romanian man described by British prosecutors as part of an international human smuggling ring that made huge profits exploiting migrants was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for the deaths. Four other gang members were imprisoned in 2021 for terms ranging from 13 to 27 years for manslaughter. A further 18 people were convicted in Belgium, where the Vietnamese ringleader was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government has taken an increasingly punitive approach to people who arrive by such unauthorized means.
The government has passed a controversial law calling for migrants who arrive on small boats to be detained and then deported permanently to their home nation or third countries. The only third country that has agreed to take them is Rwanda, and no one has yet been sent there because that plan is being challenged in the UK courts.
In France, authorities have taken steps to try to prevent migrants entering the country from outside Europe by beefing up its patrols of its southern border with Italy. Pope Francis has challenged French President Emmanuel Macron and other European leaders to open their ports to people fleeing hardship and poverty.


Leaders of European Union’s Mediterranean nations huddle in Malta to discuss migration

Leaders of European Union’s Mediterranean nations huddle in Malta to discuss migration
Updated 29 September 2023
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Leaders of European Union’s Mediterranean nations huddle in Malta to discuss migration

Leaders of European Union’s Mediterranean nations huddle in Malta to discuss migration
  • The leaders of nine southern European Union countries are meeting in Malta on Friday to discuss common challenges such as migration
  • The huddle’s main aim is to help develop consensus among the members on major issues

VALLETTA: The leaders of nine southern European Union countries were meeting in Malta on Friday to discuss common challenges such as migration, the EU’s management of which has vexed national governments in Europe for years.
The nations represented at the one-day huddle included host Malta, France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Slovenia and Croatia, which have coastlines on the Adriatic Sea, were added to the so-called “Med Group” in 2021.
Two top EU officials — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel — were invited to the closed-door meeting. The leaders of the EU’s 27 nations have an informal European Council meeting scheduled for next week in Granada, Spain.
The European Union considers Portugal, which has a long sea border along the Atlantic Ocean, part of the Mediterranean grouping. Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters when he arrived in Malta that “we don’t have great expectations about the results” materializing from Friday’s discussions but the meeting could help “create a path” for the Granada gathering.
“Migration is one of the great issues of the future of the European Union,” Costa said. “What’s needed is” more solidarity, more responsibility and more unity.”
However, unity among EU members on migration has been elusive, as witnessed in Brussels during a Thursday meeting of interior ministers, who are tasked with enforcing individual nations’ rules within the broader contours of EU regulations.
Italy, for example, which now receives by far the largest number of migrants arriving via the Mediterranean Sea, has pushed in vain for fellow EU nations to show solidarity by accepting more of the tens of thousands of people who reach Italian shores.
Many of the migrants are rescued by military boats, humanitarian vessels or merchant ships plying the waters crossed by migrant smugglers’ unseaworthy boats launched mainly from Tunisia, Libya, Turkiye and elsewhere. Earlier this month, some 8,000 migrants stepped ashore on Lampedusa, a tiny Italian fishing island, in barely 48 hours, overwhelming the tourist destination.
The relentless arrivals, which slow only when seas are rough, have put political pressure on one of the Malta summit’s attendees — Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni. She came to power a year ago after campaining on a pledge to stop illegal migration, including with a naval blockade, if necessary.
Under current EU rules, the nation where asylum-seekers arrive must shelter there while their applications are processed. In Italy’s case, the majority of migrants arriving by sea from Africa and Asian countries are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution, and aren’t eligible for asylum.
But because Italy has so few repatriation agreements with home countries, it is stymied in sending unsuccessful applicants back. Many migrants slip out of Italy and into northern Europe, their ultimate destination, in hopes of finding family or work.
Little progress has been made on a new EU pact as the member states bicker over which country should take charge of migrants when they arrive and whether other countries should be obligated to help.
Three years after unveiling a plan for sweeping reform of the European Union’s outdated asylum rules, such squabbling fuels doubt as to whether an overhaul will ever become reality.
While heads of government or state represented most countries at Friday’s summit, Spain sent its acting foreign minister because Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was involved in discussions at home on forming a new government.
While the talks in Malta were heavily concentrated on migration, other common challenges, including climate change, economic growth and continued EU support for Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s February 2022 invasion were also on the agenda.


Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan

Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan
Updated 29 September 2023
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Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan

Carlos Ghosn ‘betrayed’ me, says US man who helped ex-Nissan boss flee Japan
  • Ex-soldier Michael Taylor, who was imprisoned with his son in Japan, claimed Trump administration also abandoned them
  • Alleges that his family’s welfare was trumped by considerations of lucrative defense contracts

CHICAGO: Michael Taylor, the former US Army Green Beret who engineered and executed the daring escape from Japan of fraud-accused former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn, says he was “betrayed” by his client. 

Taylor and his son Peter, who consulted for Ghosn on Search Engine Optimization, were both charged and convicted of aiding Ghosn’s December 2019 escape from Tokyo to Lebanon, via Istanbul, in a large music box. 

Taylor made the comments during an appearance Wednesday, Sept. 27, on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, hosted by the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News. 

Taylor spent two years in prison while Peter served 18 months, claiming their conditions of incarceration were the equivalent of “torture.” 

Taylor claimed Ghosn never reached out to him and his son while they were in the Japanese prison. He added that he also felt betrayed by the US government and former President Donald Trump. 

“Yes. We were definitely betrayed. My poor son Peter had nothing to do with the operation itself. He wasn’t even in the country when I pulled Carlos Ghosn out of Japan. He, by coincidence, happened to be there because he had seen Carlos before doing Search Engine Optimization work for him, boosting up his good articles and pushing down the bad ones. So, yeah, we were definitely betrayed. There is no issue about that,” Taylor said when asked if Ghosn had lived up to his promises. 

“But we were also betrayed by the Trump administration, by President (Donald) Trump and (former US Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo. This was not a crime. However, if there is business involved, and major defense contractors, you know, people start finding excuses to make things happen and go along with it and have the US Attorney (General) push a little bit harder than normal, and have the State Department suck it up to the Japanese, and all the lobbyists are getting involved.  

“And none of the politicians want to step up and do anything including like your own state senators, like Elizabeth Warren and (Ed) Markey. They didn’t want to get involved. Well, you know some of the interesting aspects are that the Japanese spend $138 million a year on lobbyists inside the Beltway.” 

Ghosn, who now lives in Beirut, was arrested in Japan in 2018 on charges of underreporting income and other corporate crimes, which he has denied. Lebanon’s authorities refuse to extradite their citizens and instead have opted for a local trial that began in early September. 

But while Ghosn, a multimillionaire, has enjoyed freedom in Beirut over nearly four years, Taylor said Ghosn never contacted him either to express gratitude for his help, sympathy for the imprisonment, or to provide assistance with his mounting legal debt. 

“No ... and Peter wasn’t contacted either (by Ghosn). However, and Peter went to Lebanon, and he wasn’t contacted. Greg Kelly did reach out to us, he’s just checking on us to see how we were doing, mentally and physically, which was really, really kind of him and shows what a gentleman he is,” Taylor told Arab News when asked if Ghosn ever reached out to them during the trial or while they were imprisoned.  

Greg Kelly is a former Nissan executive who was convicted in 2022 for helping Ghosn contravene Japan’s pay disclosure laws, and sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for three years. 

Taylor said he still holds out hope Ghosn will live up to the terms of an undisclosed financial agreement for his services, and possibly cover his outstanding legal bills of more than $1 million. 

But Taylor said he sold the rights to his story to MGM which is preparing to make a movie with actor Sam Rockwell playing him and Javier Bardem portraying Ghosn. Whether he sees money from the movie depends on its success, he said. Both Rockwell and Bardem won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor roles in separate films — Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (2008) and Rockwell in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017). 

“Well, right now, there is an agreement in place to pay certain amounts, but that agreement is way too long. I am out of pocket $842,000 for legal fees. That is just what I have spent. I haven’t gotten that back yet. That is my first priority to get that back first,” Taylor said. 

“Yes, I did get some renumeration. However, I still have well over a million dollars outstanding in legal fees that I owe.” 

Taylor declined to detail how much Ghosn agreed to pay him: “I don’t want to go into all of the details. But if I saved you, Ray, or if I saved (attorney) Dr. (William) Cleary, and we had an agreement beforehand that if there are legal fees you’re paying for them, wouldn’t you feel responsible to pay them?” 

Ghosn described a four-part Apple+ TV series as “interesting” but also “unfortunate” for failing to tell the “whole story.” He seemed especially perturbed by the fact that during an interview in the documentary, Ghosn describes himself as “the victim,” and made no mention of the Taylors’ fate. 

“Mind you, Carlos barely did any time compared to us. My son Peter did 13-and-a-half months in solitary confinement and I did 17 months in solitary confinement. And during that time, six and one-half months, I was only allowed to take two showers. You sit on the floor. The lights are on 24 hours a day seven days a week, and nothing. You get no help. You get no nothing. And there is no heat in the wintertime. So you get frostbite on your hands and your feet. In the summertime people are constantly getting heatstroke and are being yanked out of there.” 

“The United Nations declares that 15 consecutive days or more of solitary confinement is considered torture. Seventeen months is a lot longer than 15 days. So that is definitely torture. You are allowed very little communications as well. You are only allowed four letters a month to write.” 

Taylor seemed to hold back his deepest feelings, acknowledging he remains hopeful Ghosn lives up to what he views as broken promises. 

“You know Ray, that’s one of those questions where I would say life has a lot of strange twists and turns and one never knows what could happen in the near future,” Taylor said when asked if he was trying to hold back harsher criticism of Ghosn for his alleged betrayal. 

Asked if he would testify in Ghosn’s defense if he were somehow forced to face charges outside of Lebanon, Taylor said: “Would you testify in Ghosn’s defense?” 

“I wouldn’t have anything to say in his defense. Remember, in his own words, he is the victim. Nobody else. He is the victim. He is the victim,” Taylor stressed. 

Taylor said that he was introduced to Ghosn by friends who suggested he help the wealthy and high-profile former Nissan CEO. He said his sister-in-law is a second cousin to Ghosn. 

Also appearing on the radio show to argue that Taylor was falsely charged, was Dr. William Cleary, an American who has spent more than 30 years practicing law in Japan, and who tried unsuccessfully to convince federal prosecutors that the Taylors did not commit any crimes.

The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast every Wednesday in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700 on the US Arab Radio Network.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.


Afghan embassy ceases operations in India

Afghan embassy ceases operations in India
Updated 29 September 2023
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Afghan embassy ceases operations in India

Afghan embassy ceases operations in India
  • Diplomatic staff left Delhi after Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in 2021
  • India represented in Kabul by ‘technical team’ involved in humanitarian assistance

NEW DELHI: The Afghan embassy in New Delhi is set to close, the mission’s press secretary said on Friday, after reports citing a lack of support from Indian authorities.

Most of the diplomatic staff who represented the Afghan government before the Taliban takeover in August 2021 have already left India and no new ones have been appointed.

India, which does not recognize the Taliban government, suspended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after their return to power. In June 2022, it deployed a “technical team” to the Afghan capital to “monitor and coordinate” Indian humanitarian assistance there.

In a letter to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, dated Sept. 25, the Afghan mission said its “significance has been systematically diminished since the reopening of the Indian embassy in Kabul in June 2022” and it would cease operations by the end of September due to “the absence of diplomatic consideration and systemic support” from the Indian government.

“Yes, it’s closing its operations,” press secretary Abdul Haq Azad told Arab News.

Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzai, who said in February that the mission no longer had any political relations with Kabul, left India for the UK in June.

In the letter, which has been widely circulated by the media in India and Afghanistan, the embassy said it could not “function normally.”

“Despite many requests on issues of key concerns to the status of the mission, education initiatives, consular services support, humanitarian assistance and business and commerce help to Afghan traders, either no actions required were taken or very limited support was provided by the concerned authorities resulting in considerable administrative, diplomatic and operational difficulties for the mission,” the embassy said, adding it could not deliver on the expectations of 3,000 Afghan students who waited to return to their universities in India.

India stopped the issuance of student visas after the regime change in Afghanistan, making it impossible for those enrolled in its educational institutions to return.

“Also, the number of visas granted to Afghan citizens since August 2021 was far less than what was expected of India during a difficult phase in the history of Afghanistan,” the letter said.

“The strength of long Indo-Afghan relations has historically been anchored in deep-rooted ties and a foundation of mutual respect, which has been the bedrock of our relationship, is regrettably no longer as evident as it once was.”

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.


‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban

‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban
Updated 29 September 2023
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‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban

‘Difficult questions’ before Ukraine EU membership talks: Orban
  • Hungary has strained relations with Ukraine and has vowed to hold up Kyiv’s efforts toward EU and NATO integration

BUDAPEST: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday that the European Union would need to tackle “very long and difficult questions” before the bloc could even start accession talks with war-torn Ukraine.
Hungary has strained relations with Ukraine and has vowed to hold up Kyiv’s efforts toward EU and NATO integration.
EU members are due to decide soon whether to launch formal membership talks with Kyiv.
“I think we have very long and difficult questions to answer before we get to the point where we can even decide to start negotiations,” Orban told state radio.
“We do not know how much territory this country has, because it is still at war. We do not know how big its population is, because they are fleeing,” Orban added.
To integrate Ukraine into the bloc “without knowing its parameters would be unprecedented,” he stated.
Ukraine applied for EU membership just days after Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022, and received candidacy status several months later in a strong signal of support from Brussels.
Orban has sought to maintain close ties with the Kremlin despite the war.
Budapest-Kyiv relations have been strained over the issue of minority rights in the Transcarpathian region of western Ukraine.
Around 200,000 ethnic Hungarians live in Ukraine, almost all in the Transcarpathia region which belonged to Hungary before World War I.