UK announces deal with Turkiye to tackle flow of illegal migrants

UK announces deal with Turkiye to tackle flow of illegal migrants
Britain said it had struck a deal with Turkiye in a bid to slow the flow of illegal immigrants passing through the Mediterranean country on their way to Europe. (AFP)
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Updated 09 August 2023
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UK announces deal with Turkiye to tackle flow of illegal migrants

UK announces deal with Turkiye to tackle flow of illegal migrants
  • “Our partnership with Turkiye, a close friend and ally, will enable our law enforcement agencies to work together on this international problem and tackle the small boat supply chain,” interior minister Suella Braverman says

LONDON: Britain said it had struck a deal with Turkiye in a bid to slow the flow of illegal immigrants passing through the Mediterranean country on their way to Europe, including joint police operations against smuggler rings and the trade in boat parts.
With the issue of illegal migration high on the political agenda in Britain ahead of an expected election next year, the government said it would support a new Turkish police center that would build on existing cooperation over law enforcement.
Customs data would be exchanged more quickly under the new memorandum of understanding, the British government said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our partnership with Turkiye, a close friend and ally, will enable our law enforcement agencies to work together on this international problem and tackle the small boat supply chain,” interior minister Suella Braverman said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made cutting the numbers of illegal migrants arriving in Britain a key pledge for this year as he tried to narrow the wide lead of the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls.
This week, Britain began moving some migrants on to a large residential barge on its southern coast, part of plans remove what the government called the “pull” of hotels for those arriving on the country’s shores in small boats.


Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
Updated 26 sec ago
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Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
MILWAUKEE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring an end to raging international crises and restore American prestige on the world stage, saying he could “stop wars with a telephone call.”
The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden, telling the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee that the planet is “teetering on the edge of World War III.”
“We will restore peace, stability and harmony all throughout the world,” Trump said, without giving any detail on how he might do that.
“Under our leadership the United States will be respected again. No nation will question our power, no enemy will doubt our might, our borders will be totally secure.”
Trump placed the blame for conflicts around the world squarely on Biden — even those with roots stretching back far before the Democrat took office.
“There is an international crisis the likes of which the world has seldom been part of... war is now raging in Europe, in the Middle East, a growing specter of conflict hangs over Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and all of Asia,” he said.
He vowed to change all that if he is elected to a second term in the White House.
“I will end every single international crisis that the current administration has created, including the horrible war with Russia and Ukraine,” Trump said. But “to achieve this future, we must first rescue our nation from failed and even incompetent leadership.”
He also said he wanted Americans held abroad to be released — or else.
“The entire world, I tell you this: we want our hostages back and they better be back before I assume office or you will be paying a very big price,” said Trump — again failing to give any specifics.
He pledged to build a version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the United States, ignoring the fact that the system is designed for short-range threats and would be ill-suited to defending against intercontinental missiles that are the main danger to the country.
And he suggested that Kim Jong Un — the reclusive North Korean dictator whom he met in person during his presidency, and whose country possesses a nuclear arsenal — longed to see him back in the White House.
“I get along with him, he’d like to see me back too. I think he misses me, if you want to know,” Trump said.

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
Updated 18 min 50 sec ago
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Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
  • This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further
  • Protesters have called for an end to a quota system that reserves over half of civil service posts for specific groups

Dhaka: Bangladesh woke Friday to survey destruction left by the deadliest day of ongoing student protests so far, which saw government buildings torched by demonstrators and a nationwide internet blackout put into effect.

This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further after reports of clashes in nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

A police statement issued after a near-total shutdown of the nation's internet said protesters had torched, vandalised and carried out "destructive activities" on numerous police and government offices.

Among them was the Dhaka headquarters of state broadcaster Bangladesh Television, which remains offline after hundreds of incensed students stormed the premises and set fire to a building.

"About 100 policemen were injured in the clashes yesterday," Faruk Hossain, a spokesman for the capital's police force, told AFP. "Around 50 police booths were burnt".

Anti-quota protesters clash with the police in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

The police statement said that if the destruction continued, they would "be forced to make maximum use of law".

Police fire was the cause of at least two-thirds of deaths reported so far, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital staff.

At least 26 districts around the country reported clashes on Thursday, broadcaster Independent Television reported.

The network said more than 700 had been wounded through the day including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.

Near-daily marches this month have called for an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country's 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.

Hasina's government is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Her administration this week ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police step up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.

Mubashar Hasan, a Bangladesh expert at the University of Oslo in Norway, told AFP Thursday that the protests had grown into a wider expression of discontent with Hasina's autocratic rule.

"They are protesting against the repressive nature of the state," he told AFP. "The students are in fact calling her a dictator."

Students have vowed to continue their campaign despite Hasina giving a national address on the now-offline state broadcaster seeking to calm the situation.

"Our first demand is that the prime minister must apologise to us," protester Bidisha Rimjhim, 18, told AFP on Thursday.

"Secondly, justice must be ensured for our killed brothers," she added.

London-based watchdog Netblocks said Friday that a "nation-scale" internet shutdown remained in effect.

"The disruption prevents families from contacting each other and stifles efforts to document human rights violations," it wrote in a social media post on X.


US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
Updated 49 min 59 sec ago
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US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
  • The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul
  • Since the US withdrawal was completed in 2021, Washington has provided over $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: Two State Department bureaus could not prove compliance with internal policies for vetting aid groups in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan that received $293 million in funds, raising a risk that extremists may have profited, a US watchdog said on Wednesday.

“It is critical that State knows who is actually benefitting from this assistance in order to prevent the aid from being diverted to the Taliban or other sanctioned parties,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report.

The Taliban, the report said, has tried to obtain US aid funds “through several means, including the establishment of humanitarian organizations,” underscoring the need for the department to “fully and consistently assess the risks posed by its implementing partners.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SIGAR said three of five State Department bureaus were found in compliance with department regulations requiring vetting of aid fund recipients.

But the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs could not provide enough documentation to prove their adherence.

“State could not demonstrate compliance with its partner vetting requirements on awards that disbursed at least $293 million in Afghanistan,” it continued.

For that reason, “there is an increased risk that terrorists and terrorist-affiliated individuals and entities may have illegally benefitted,” it said.

The department agreed with the report’s conclusions and would “work to ensure compliance” with vetting requirements, it said.

The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul as the last US troops completed a chaotic pullout following 20 years of war with the Islamist militants.

Since the US withdrawal was completed on Aug. 30, 2021, Washington has provided more than $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan.


Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists

Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists
Updated 56 min 20 sec ago
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Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists

Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists
  • Protesters set fire to several government buildings as well as vehicles along the streets, a police statement said
  • The nationwide agitation, the biggest since PM Sheikh Hasina was re-elected earlier this year, has been fueled by high youth unemployment

DHAKA: At least 104 police officers and 30 journalists were injured in Bangladesh during a day of violent clashes around the country, private broadcaster Independent Television reported.
The network said 702 people were injured during Thursday’s confrontations between police and student protesters, with clashes in 26 of the country’s 64 districts.

Protesters set fire to several government buildings as well as vehicles along the streets, a police statement said.
“The miscreants have already torched, vandalized and carried out destructive activities,” on the offices of state broadcaster BTV and the national disaster management agency along with “various” police and government buildings, said the statement, issued after a nationwide Internet shutdown Thursday night.

An injured Bangladeshi policeman lies on a street in Dhaka on July 18, 2024, during clashes with students during dayslong protests over the allocation of government jobs. (AP)

The statement was issued late Thursday after the imposition of a nationwide Internet shutdown that cut off Bangladesh’s lines of communication with the outside world.
“So far, we have shown maximum restraint,” police said, adding if the destructive activities continued, they would “be forced to make maximum use of law.”
Thirty-nine people have died this week in the clashes, sparked by student protests over civil service hiring rules, with 32 killed Thursday in the deadliest day of unrest so far.
Private broadcaster Independent Television said 702 people had been injured during Thursday’s clashes including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.
At least 26 of the country’s 64 districts saw clashes on Thursday, the network said.

On Friday, telecommunications remained widely disrupted across the nation, Reuters witnesses in Dhaka and New Delhi said.

Protesters vandalize vehicles during the ongoing anti-quota protest in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

Telephone calls from overseas were mostly not getting connected and calls through the Internet could not be completed.
Web sites of several Bangladesh-based newspapers were not updating on Friday morning and their social media handles were also not active.
Only some voice calls were working in the country and there was no mobile data or broadband on Friday morning, a Reuters photographer in Dhaka said. Even SMSes or mobile-to-mobile text messages were not going through, he added.
The nationwide agitation, the biggest since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was re-elected earlier this year, has been fueled by high youth unemployment. Nearly a fifth of the country’s 170 million population is out of work or education.
Protesters are demanding the state stop setting aside 30 percent of government jobs for the families of people who fought in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Hasina’s government had scrapped the quota system in 2018, but a high court reinstated it last month. The government appealed against the verdict and the Supreme Court suspended the high court order, pending hearing the government’s appeal on Aug. 7. 


Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race

Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race
Updated 19 July 2024
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Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race

Biden is isolated at home as Obama, Pelosi and other Democrats push for him to reconsider 2024 race
  • Obama has conveyed to allies that Biden needs to consider the viability of his campaign, while Pelosi presented polling to Biden that she argued shows he likely can’t defeat Trump
  • In Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative

WASHINGTON: Democrats at the highest levels are making a critical push for President Joe Biden to rethink his election bid, with former President Barack Obama expressing concerns to allies and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi privately telling Biden the party could lose the ability to seize control of the House if he doesn’t step away from the 2024 race.
Biden’s orbit, already small before his debate fumbling, has grown even smaller in recent days. Isolated as he battles a COVID infection at home in Delaware, the president is relying on a few longtime aides as he weighs whether to bow to the mounting pressure to drop out.
The Biden For President campaign is calling an all-staff meeting for Friday. It’s heading into a critical weekend for the party as Republican Donald Trump wraps up a heady Republican National Convention in Milwaukee and Democrats, racing time, consider the extraordinary possibility of Biden stepping aside for a new presidential nominee before their own convention next month in Chicago.
As anxiety and information swirled, Biden’s closest friend in Congress and his campaign co-chair, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, told The Associated Press: “President Biden deserves the respect to have important family conversations with members of the caucus and colleagues in the House and Senate and Democratic leadership. and not be battling leaks and press statements.”
Campaign officials said Biden was even more committed to staying in the race even as the calls for him to go mounted. But there was also time to reconsider. He has been told the campaign is having trouble raising money, and some Democrats see an opportunity as he is away from the campaign for a few days to encourage his exit.
Biden tested positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Las Vegas and is experiencing “mild symptoms” including “general malaise” from the infection, the White House said.
The president himself, in a radio interview taped just before he tested positive, dismissed the idea it was too late for him to recover politically, telling Univision’s Luis Sandoval that many people don’t focus on the November election until September.
“All the talk about who’s leading and where and how, is kind of, you know — everything so far between Trump and me has been basically even,” he said in an excerpt of the interview released Thursday.
But in Congress, Democratic lawmakers have begun having private conversations about lining up behind Vice President Kamala Harris as an alternative. One lawmaker said Biden’s own advisers are unable to reach a unanimous recommendation about what he should do. More in Congress are considering joining the nearly two dozen who have called for Biden to drop out.
“It’s clear the issue won’t go away,” said Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, the sole Senate Democrat who has publicly said Biden should exit the race. Welch said the current state of party angst – with lawmakers panicking and donors revolting – was “not sustainable.”
Obama has conveyed to allies that Biden needs to consider the viability of his campaign but has also made clear that the decision is one Biden needs to make. The former president has taken calls in recent days from members of congressional leadership, Democratic governors and key donors to discuss their concerns about his former vice president.
Pelosi also presented polling to Biden that she argued shows he likely can’t defeat Republican Trump — though the former speaker countered Thursday in a sharp statement that the “feeding frenzy” from anonymous sources “misrepresents any conversations” she may have had with the president.
This story is based in part on reporting from more than half a dozen people who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive private deliberations. The Washington Post first reported on Obama’s involvement.
Biden said Monday he hadn’t spoken to Obama in a couple of weeks.
Pressed about reports that Biden might be softening to the idea of leaving the race, his deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Thursday: “He is not wavering on anything.”
However, influential Democrats atop the party apparatus, including congressional leadership headed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, are sending signals of strong concern.
Using mountains of data showing Biden’s standing could seriously damage the ranks of Democrats in Congress, frank conversations in public and private and now the president’s own few days of isolation, many Democrats see an opportunity to encourage a reassessment.
Over the past week, Schumer and Jeffries, both of New York, have spoken privately to the president, candidly laying out the concerns of Democrats on Capitol Hill. Control of the House and Senate is at stake, and leaders are keenly aware that a Republican sweep in November could launch Trump’s agenda for years to come.
Separately, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, spoke with the president last week armed with fresh data. The campaign chief specifically aired the concerns of front-line Democrats seeking election to the House.
Major political donors, particularly in Pelosi’s California, have been putting heavy pressure on the president’s campaign and members of Congress, according to one Democratic strategist. Schumer has told donors and others to bring their concerns directly to the White House.
Prominent California Rep. Adam Schiff, a close ally of Pelosi, called for Biden to drop his reelection bid, saying Wednesday he believes it’s time to “pass the torch.” And Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland used a baseball metaphor to suggest in a recent letter to Biden, “There is no shame in taking a well-deserved bow to the overflowing appreciation of the crowd.”
To be sure, many want Biden to stay in the race. And the Democratic National Committee is pushing ahead with plans for a virtual vote to formally make Biden its nominee in the first week of August, ahead of the Democratic National Convention, which begins Aug. 19.
Rep. James Clyburn, a senior Democrat who has been a key Biden ally, wrapped up several days of campaigning for Biden in Nevada and said: “Joe Biden has the knowledge. He’s demonstrated that time and time again.” He warned against those who he said “have an agenda.”
But among Democrats nationwide, nearly two-thirds say Biden should step aside and let his party nominate a different candidate, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. That sharply undercuts Biden’s post-debate claim that “average Democrats” are still with him even if some “big names” are turning on him.
The Biden campaign pointed to what it called “extensive support” for his reelection from members of Congress in key swing states, as well as from the Congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses.
Other Democrats in Congress have shown less support, including when Biden’s top aides visited Democratic senators last week in a private lunch. When Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania asked for a show of hands on who was with the president, only his own and a few others including top Biden ally Coons of Delaware went up, according to one of the people granted anonymity to discuss the matter.