French couple jailed in UK for smuggling migrants inside furniture

French couple jailed in UK for smuggling migrants inside furniture
A UK court jailed a French couple Friday for smuggling Vietnamese migrants including children into the country inside specially adapted sofas, the interior ministry said. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 15 September 2023
Follow

French couple jailed in UK for smuggling migrants inside furniture

French couple jailed in UK for smuggling migrants inside furniture
  • Hove Crown Court in southern England sentenced Junior Toussaint and Andrene Paul, both from near Paris, to four years and six months, and five years and five months respectively
  • The pair, who had worked together as delivery drivers in France, pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful migration to the UK

LONDON: A UK court jailed a French couple Friday for smuggling Vietnamese migrants including children into the country inside specially adapted sofas, the interior ministry said.
Hove Crown Court in southern England sentenced Junior Toussaint and Andrene Paul, both from near Paris, to four years and six months, and five years and five months respectively, the ministry said.
The pair, who had worked together as delivery drivers in France, pleaded guilty to assisting unlawful migration to the UK.
Traveling from Dieppe in northern France to Newhaven Port on the southern English coast in April earlier this year, they used furniture to hide a Vietnamese woman and three children in the back of a hire van.
Officers from the UK’s Border Force became suspicious when they searched the van and saw movement from inside the adapted sofas, which were buried underneath a mattress and other furniture.
Two migrants were hidden inside the sofa while others were hidden among other fixtures including a chest of drawers.
The defendants told officials they had no knowledge of the migrants’ presence in their van and had been driving it to help with furniture removal in London.
But fingerprint checks carried out by Border Force later proved Toussaint’s involvement in the smuggling attempt, according to the interior ministry.
Paul, who had also initially denied her involvement, was found to have made a series of suspicious visits to the UK earlier in the year, it added.
The ministry said she pleaded guilty when video evidence of her previous activity was shown in court.
“Criminals are going to increasingly extreme lengths to smuggle people across the UK border for profit due to our efforts to clamp down on them,” Chris Foster, of the ministry’s criminal and financial investigations section, said.
“This sentence today reflects the severity of their crimes,” he added in a statement.


Ukraine tells China that Russia not ready for ‘good faith’ talks

Ukraine tells China that Russia not ready for ‘good faith’ talks
Updated 15 sec ago
Follow

Ukraine tells China that Russia not ready for ‘good faith’ talks

Ukraine tells China that Russia not ready for ‘good faith’ talks
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said Kuleba told Wang that Kyiv was prepared to negotiate with Russian representatives when Moscow is willing to hold talks “in good faith“
It cited Kuleba as saying: “I am convinced that a just peace in Ukraine is in China’s strategic interests, and China’s role as a global force for peace is important“

BEIJING: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told his Chinese counterpart that his government did not believe Russia was ready for “good faith” negotiations to end the war, his ministry said Wednesday.
Kuleba’s statement to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi came as he visited China for talks starting Tuesday with Russia’s most important ally.
China presents itself as a neutral party in the war, insisting that the only way to end it is by bringing both Ukraine and Russia to the negotiating table.
It says it is not sending lethal assistance to either side, unlike the United States and other Western nations, though it is a key political and economic partner of Russia, with NATO members branding Beijing a “decisive enabler” of the war.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said Kuleba told Wang that Kyiv was prepared to negotiate with Russian representatives when Moscow is willing to hold talks “in good faith.”
“Dmytro Kuleba reiterated Ukraine’s consistent position that it is ready to negotiate with the Russian side at a certain stage, when Russia is ready to negotiate in good faith, but stressed that currently there is no such readiness on the Russian side,” the ministry said Wednesday.
It cited Kuleba as saying: “I am convinced that a just peace in Ukraine is in China’s strategic interests, and China’s role as a global force for peace is important.”
Kuleba is the first senior Ukrainian official to visit China since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
His trip is scheduled to last until Friday.
China’s foreign ministry had said Kuleba and Wang held talks in the city of Guangzhou, with spokeswoman Mao Ning telling journalists they “exchanged views on the Ukraine crisis.”
“Although the conditions and timing are not yet mature, we support all efforts that contribute to peace and are willing to continue to play a constructive role for a ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks,” she said.
“China has always been firmly committed to promoting a political solution to the crisis,” she added.
China has sought to paint itself as a mediator in the war, sending envoy Li Hui to Europe on multiple visits, and releasing a paper calling for a “political settlement” to the conflict.
However, Western countries said the plan, if applied, would allow Russia to retain much of the territory it has seized in Ukraine.
Beijing has rebuffed claims it is supporting Russia’s war effort, insisting last week that its position was “open and above board” and accusing the West of fueling the conflict through arms shipments to Kyiv.
China did not attend a peace summit in Switzerland last month in protest against Russia not being invited.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called during that summit for Beijing to engage seriously with developing peace proposals.
Kuleba said on arrival in China Tuesday that “we must avoid competition between peace plans” and urged Beijing to “look at relations with our country through the prism of its strategic relations with Europe.”
Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, told AFP that Kyiv would likely seek this week to “convince China that it should participate in a second peace summit.”
“Beijing can try to extract a price, even for sending somebody like special envoy ambassador Li Hui,” he said.
China has offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy since the conflict began.
But that economic partnership has come under scrutiny from the West in recent months, with the United States vowing to go after financial institutions that facilitate Russia’s war effort.
The United States and Europe have also accused China of selling components and equipment necessary to keep Russia’s military production afloat.

Colombo struggles to repatriate hundreds of Sri Lankans fighting Russia’s war

Updated 28 sec ago
Follow

Colombo struggles to repatriate hundreds of Sri Lankans fighting Russia’s war

Colombo struggles to repatriate hundreds of Sri Lankans fighting Russia’s war
  • At least 455 retired Sri Lankan soldiers joined Russian army after Ukraine invasion
  • According to Moscow, 96% of them are in process of obtaining Russian citizenship

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s negotiations to repatriate hundreds of its nationals fighting alongside Russian troops in Ukraine have been legally complicated, as most are believed to have applied to Moscow for citizenship.

According to Sri Lanka’s government data, at least 455 retired servicemen have joined the Russian armed forces as mercenaries since the beginning of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The beginning of the war coincided with Sri Lanka being hit by an unprecedented economic crisis and a surge in its nationals seeking employment abroad. But while most of such opportunities were facilitated officially, it was not the case with the soldiers.

“(The) Sri Lankan government had no role to play in this and these people have left the country without any approval from the Sri Lankan government, Defense Ministry or Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry told Arab News on Tuesday.

Many of the soldiers have been injured or taken prisoner by the Ukrainian military. At least 17 were killed on the frontline.

Their families have been protesting for months, asking Sri Lankan authorities to intervene, repatriate the dead and help negotiate an earlier release for others who had entered legal working agreements with the Russian army.

 

 

Two rounds of negotiations have already taken place this year.

“They are Sri Lankan citizens and in view of the pleas from their families, we are trying to negotiate for their safe return,” Sabry said. “We have nothing to do with this conflict, but in the meantime, since they have entered into a legally binding agreement, we need to negotiate and find a way to get them back to Sri Lanka.”

The legal situation has been further complicated as many have reportedly begun the process to gain Russian citizenship.

“According to information provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, about 96 percent of them have applied for Russian citizenship, so it’s a difficult situation for us,” Sabry said.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has taken a heavy toll on its troops, and it has been searching for fighters abroad, including in South Asia.

Sri Lanka’s military is one of the world’s largest per capita. According to World Bank data from 2018, the nation of 22 million people had about 317,000 armed personnel — double that of the UK, whose population is three times bigger.

Those who enlist serve for 20 years before their release, meaning that many who are now retired gained frontline experience during the deadly Sri Lankan Civil War from 1983 to 2009.


Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to the heat

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to the heat
Updated 6 min 58 sec ago
Follow

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to the heat

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to the heat

KARACHI: School summer holidays will be extended by two weeks in southern Pakistan because of high temperatures, affecting more than 100,000 schools, an education official said Tuesday.
Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change, including heatwaves that are hotter and more frequent and monsoons that are heavier and longer.
“We decided to close schools for an additional 14 days for the children’s well-being,” Atif Vighio, a spokesperson at the education department in Sindh province, told AFP.
Planned power cuts, also known as load-shedding, happen frequently in Pakistan due to an ongoing power supply crisis.
The load-shedding varies from city to city, but in rural areas of Sindh they can last for more than 12 hours a day, leaving schools without fans.
“As a teacher, I am worried about how I will complete the curriculum, but as a mother, I am concerned about kids going to school in this heat,” a public school teacher told AFP, asking for her name not to be used.
“It is the load-shedding we are worried about, not just the heat.”
The government has said more than 26 million children are out of school due to poverty.
Pakistan struggled through a series of heatwaves in May and June, with temperatures peaking at more than 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of rural Sindh.
Authorities in Punjab province, the country’s most populous, started summer vacations in May one week early to protect children from the searing heat.
The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than three-quarters of children in South Asia — or 460 million — are exposed to temperatures above 35C (95F) for at least 83 days per year.
Despite contributing less than one percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan has experienced severe weather-related disasters in recent years due to changing weather patterns.


Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections

Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections
Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections

Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections
  • China has long been irked by the Philippine missions to its small contingent of troops aboard the rusty ship Sierra Madre
  • Rival vessels have clashed in the past year and heated diplomatic rows have ensued with growing frequency

MANILA: The Philippines has reached an agreement with Beijing on its resupply missions to soldiers aboard a grounded naval vessel in the South China Sea, but will not submit to inspections from China, a top security official said on Wednesday.
The Philippines and China, which have sparred repeatedly at sea this past year, have reached a “provisional arrangement” on resupply missions to the ship at the Second Thomas Shoal, as both sides agreed to ease tensions and manage differences.
Philippine national security adviser Eduardo Ano said, however, the arrangement does not include agreeing to Chinese vessels conducting “on-site” inspections.
China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China has long been irked by the Philippine missions to its small contingent of troops aboard the rusty ship Sierra Madre, which was intentionally run aground in 1999 to try to reinforce Manila’s territorial claim to the remote shoal.
“There’s no such kind of on-site inspection. What the two sides agreed are really a common understanding,” Ano told a forum.
Details of the arrangement would be kept confidential unless both parties consent to make them public, Ano added.
“Both sides agreed the tension will be reduced ... to prevent skirmishes, anything that may lead to injury, harm to soldiers or to anyone,” Ano said.
“We did not agree on anything that will undermine our position,” he added.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including territory in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. In 2016, a Hague-based tribunal said China’s sweeping claims had no basis under international law, a decision Beijing has rejected.
With the backing of defense treaty ally the United States, the Philippines has been bolder in its asserting itself in the South China Sea, engaging in joint patrols and training exercises and deploying vessels to areas of its EEZ where China has long maintained a heavy coast guard presence.
Rival vessels have clashed in the past year and heated diplomatic rows have ensued with growing frequency, prompting regional concern that an incident could escalate and trigger conflict in the important trade route.
The Philippines and United States have accused China of unlawful aggression, while Beijing has been outraged over what it sees as deliberate provocations, territorial encroachments and US interference.


Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor
Updated 24 July 2024
Follow

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor
  • Nepal has a woeful track record on aviation safety and has seen deadly light plane and helicopter crashes
  • The country has some of the trickiest runways to land on, posing challenges even to accomplished pilots

KATMANDU: A passenger plane crashed on takeoff in Katmandu on Wednesday, with the pilot rescued from the flaming wreckage but all 18 others aboard killed, police in the Nepali capital told AFP.
Nepal has a woeful track record on aviation safety and the Himalayan republic has seen a spate of deadly light plane and helicopter crashes over the decades.
The Saurya Airlines flight was carrying two crew and 17 of the company’s staff members, Nepali police spokesman Dan Bahadur Karki told AFP.
“The pilot has been rescued and is being treated,” he added. “Eighteen bodies have been recovered, including one foreigner. We are in the process of taking them for post-mortem.”
The flight was being conducted for either technical or maintenance purposes, Gyanendra Bhul of Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority told AFP without giving further details.
Bahadur and Bhul were unable to confirm the nationality of the sole foreigner aboard.
Images of the aftermath shared by Nepal’s military showed the plane’s fuselage split apart and burnt to a husk.
Around a dozen soldiers in camouflage were standing on top of the wreckage with the surrounding earth coated in fire retardant.
The plane crashed at around 11:15 am (0530 GMT), the military said in a statement, adding that the army’s quick response team had been lending assistance with rescue efforts.
News portal Khabarhub reported that the airplane had caught fire after skidding on the runway.
The plane was scheduled to fly on Nepal’s busiest air route between Katmandu and Pokhara, an important tourism hub in the Himalayan republic.
Saurya Airlines exclusively flies Bombardier CRJ 200 jets, according to its website.
Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.
But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance — issues compounded by the mountainous republic’s treacherous geography.
The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.
The Himalayan country has some of the world’s trickiest runways to land on, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.
Nepal’s last major commercial flight accident was in January 2023, when a Yeti Airlines service crashed while landing at Pokhara, killing all 72 aboard.
That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Katmandu airport.
Earlier that year a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.