Italian premier admits she hoped to do ‘better’ on controlling irregular migration

Migrants walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023. (AFP)
Migrants walk by the jungle near Bajo Chiquito village, the first border control of the Darien Province in Panama, on September 22, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2023
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Italian premier admits she hoped to do ‘better’ on controlling irregular migration

Italian premier admits she hoped to do ‘better’ on controlling irregular migration
  • After 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days earlier this month, Meloni demanded the EU do more to help relieve the pressure

ROME; Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has admitted she had hoped to do “better” on controlling irregular migration, which has surged since her far-right party won historic elections a year ago.
“Clearly we hoped for better on immigration, where we worked so hard,” she said in an interview marking the win, broadcast late Saturday on the TG1 channel.
“The results are not what we hoped to see. It is certainly a very complex problem, but I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it.”
Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party was elected in large part on a promise to reduce mass migration into Italy.
But the number of people arriving on boats from North Africa has instead surged, with more than 130,000 recorded by the Interior Ministry so far this year — up from 70,000 in the same period of 2022.
After 8,500 people arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in just three days earlier this month, Meloni demanded the EU do more to help relieve the pressure.
Brussels agreed to intensify existing efforts, and this week said it would start to release money to Tunisia — from where many of the boats leave — under a pact aimed at stemming irregular migration from the country.
But Meloni’s main coalition partner, Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigration League party, has been dismissive of EU efforts to manage the surge of arrivals that he dubbed an “act of war.”
The League this weekend also condemned the German government for providing funding for an NGO conducting at-sea rescues in the Mediterranean, saying it represented “very serious interference” in Italian affairs.
Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, a member of Meloni’s party, added his criticism on Sunday, telling La Stampa newspaper that it was a “very serious” move that put Italy “in difficulty.”
Salvini, who closed Italy’s ports to charity migrant rescue ships while in government in 2019, is agitating for Rome to take tougher action.
Since taking office in October, Meloni’s government has restricted the activities of the charity rescue ships, which it accuses of encouraging migrants, while vowing to clamp down on people smugglers.
It has also sought to boost repatriation of arrivals ineligible for asylum, including by building new detention centers and extending the time migrants can be held there.

It emerged this week it would also be requiring migrants awaiting a decision on asylum to pay a deposit of 5,000 euros or be sent to a detention center, prompting accusations the state was charging “protection money.”

The center-left Democratic Party said earlier this week that “on immigration, the Italian right has failed.”

“It continues on a path that is demagogic and consciously cynical, but above all totally ineffective both in the respect and safeguarding of human rights, and for the protection of Italy’s interests,” it said in a note.

 


Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

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Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says
Slater, 19, went missing on June 17
Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley

SANTIAGO DEL TEIDE, Spain: Spanish police are examining CCTV footage from a local town on the island of Tenerife near where British teenager Jay Slater disappeared, its mayor said on Tuesday.
Slater, 19, went missing on June 17 and his phone was last traced to the Masca ravine in a remote national park on the Canary Islands archipelago.
Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley located on the island’s west coast, using dogs, drones and a helicopter.
Warren Slater, the teenager’s father, on Monday shared a blurry still picture from a security camera in the town of Santiago del Teide of a person that could be his son in the hope it would help with the search, British media reported.
“We know the police are investigating (the CCTV images). They have asked for the town hall’s security cameras and they are also working with the company that handles those cameras,” mayor Emilio Jose Navarro told Reuters.
The image shared by the family to British media outlets shows a person walking through town, but it is impossible to make out a face.
Navarro said police had interviewed several people who may have seen him, including some who said they thought they had spotted him on the coast watching matches in the Euro 2024 soccer tournament.
British national Tom Beckett, who is familiar with the area where Slater last used his phone and was in Santiago del Teide on Tuesday, said he believed the teenager may not have reached the town.
“Had he been on the road, he would have been seen by numerous tourists. It’s a very narrow road so they wouldn’t have missed him, they would have seen him,” Beckett told Reuters.

Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring
Updated 28 min 18 sec ago
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Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring
  • Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons
  • Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation

BARCELONA: Spanish police have smashed an international network led by Turkish nationals suspected of smuggling “large amounts” of marijuana and heroin from Spain to other European nations, police said on Tuesday.
Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons, as well as 10 luxury vehicles and over two tons of marijuana, Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said.
Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation, including the suspected leader of the network, a man of Turkish origin who lived in Spain and was the target of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkiye, they added.
The group “was focused on exporting large amounts of marijuana and heroin from our country to Germany and other nations in eastern Europe,” police said.
The arrested suspects also included nationals from Argentina, Austria, Germany, Montenegro, Romania, Spain, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
European Union police force Europol, which coordinated the investigation, said over 400 officers from French, Spanish and Turkish law enforcement agencies took part in the operation.
Spain is one of the main entry points for drugs into Europe given its close ties with Latin America and its proximity to Morocco.
Latin America is the main source of cocaine and Morocco is a key source of hashish, a sticky brown substance made from the resin of the cannabis plant.


Who is Julian Assange, the polarizing founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks?

Who is Julian Assange, the polarizing founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks?
Updated 42 min 56 sec ago
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Who is Julian Assange, the polarizing founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks?

Who is Julian Assange, the polarizing founder of the secret-spilling website WikiLeaks?
  • Assange drew global attention in 2010 publishing war logs and diplomatic cables detailing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • He is seen either as a persecuted hero for open and transparent government, or a villain who put American lives at risk 

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: He emerged on the information security scene in the 1990s as a “famous teenage hacker” following what he called an ” itinerant minstrel childhood” beginning in Townsville, Australia. But the story of Julian Assange, eccentric founder of secret-spilling website WikiLeaks, never became less strange — or less polarizing — after he jolted the United States and its allies by revealing secrets of how America conducted its wars.
Since Assange drew global attention in 2010 for his work with prominent news outlets to publish war logs and diplomatic cables that detailed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other matters, he has provoked fervor among his admirers and loathing from his detractors with little in-between — seen either as a persecuted hero for open and transparent government, or a villain who put American lives at risk by aiding its enemies, and prompting fraught debates about state secrecy and freedom of the press.
Assange, 52, grew up attending “37 schools” before he was 14 years old, he wrote on his now-deleted blog. The details in it are not independently verifiable and some of Assange’s biographical details differ between accounts and interviews. A memoir published against his will in 2011, after he fell out with his ghostwriter, described him as the son of roving puppeteers, and he told The New Yorker in 2010 that his mother’s itinerant lifestyle barred him from a consistent or complete education. But by the age of 16, in 1987, he had his first modem, he told the magazine. Assange would burst forth as an accomplished hacker who with his friends broke into networks in North America and Europe.
In 1991, aged 20, Assange hacked a Melbourne terminal for a Canadian telecommunications company, leading to his arrest by the Australian Federal Police and 31 criminal charges. After pleading guilty to some counts, he avoided jail time after the presiding judge attributed his crimes to merely “intelligent inquisitiveness and the pleasure of being able to – what’s the expression? – surf through these various computers.”
He later studied mathematics and physics at university, but did not complete a degree. By 2006, when he founded WikiLeaks, Assange’s delight at being able to traverse locked computer systems seemingly for fun developed into a belief that, as he wrote on his blog, “only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.”
In the year of WikiLeaks’ explosive 2010 release of half a million documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the non-profit organization’s website was registered in Sweden and its legal entity in Iceland. Assange was “living in airports,” he told The New Yorker; he claimed his media company, with no paid staff, had hundreds of volunteers.
He called his work a kind of “scientific journalism,” Assange wrote in a 2010 op-ed in The Australian newspaper, in which readers could check reporting against the original documents that had prompted a story. Among the most potent in the cache of files published by WikiLeaks was video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.
Assange was not anti-war, he wrote in The Australian.
“But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies,” he said. “If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.”
US prosecutors later said documents published by Assange included the names of Afghans and Iraqis who provided information to American and coalition forces, while the diplomatic cables he released exposed journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates and dissidents in repressive countries.
Assange said in a 2010 interview that it was “regrettable” that sources disclosed by WikiLeaks could be harmed, prosecutors said. Later, after a State Department legal adviser informed him of the risk to “countless innocent individuals” compromised by the leaks, Assange said he would work with mainstream news organizations to redact the names of individuals. WikiLeaks did hide some names but then published 250,000 cables a year later without hiding the identities of people named in the papers.
Weeks after the release of the largest document cache in 2010, a Swedish prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Assange based on one woman’s allegation of rape and another’s allegation of molestation.
Assange has always denied the accusations and, from Britain, fought efforts to extradite him to Sweden for questioning. He decried the allegations as a smear campaign and an effort to move him to a jurisdiction where he might be extradited to the US
When his appeal against the extradition to Sweden failed, he breached his bail imposed in Britain and presented himself to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he claimed asylum on the grounds of political persecution. There followed seven years in self-exile inside the embassy — and one of the most unusual chapters in an already strange tale.
Refusing to go outside, where British police awaited him around the clock, Assange made occasional forays onto the embassy’s balcony to address supporters.
With a sunlamp and running machine helping to preserve his health, he told The Associated Press and other reporters in 2013, he remained in the news due to a stream of celebrity visitors, including Lady Gaga and the designer Vivienne Westwood. Even his cat became famous.
He also continued to run WikiLeaks and mounted an unsuccessful Australian senate campaign in 2013 with the newly founded WikiLeaks party. Before a constant British police presence around the embassy was removed in 2015, it cost UK taxpayers millions of dollars.
But relations with his host country soured, and the Ecuadorian Embassy severed his Internet access after posts Assange made on social media. In 2019, his hosts revoked his asylum, allowing British police to arrest him.
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said he decided to evict Assange from the embassy after “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.” He later lashed out at him during a speech in Quito, calling the Australian native a “spoiled brat” who treated his hosts with disrespect.
Assange was arrested and jailed on a charge of breaching bail conditions and spent the next five years in prison as he continued to fight his extradition to the United States.
In 2019, the US government unsealed an indictment against Assange and added further charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents. Prosecutors said he conspired with US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning had served seven years of a 35-year military sentence before receiving a commutation from then-President Barack Obama.
At the time, Australia’s then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had no plans to intervene in Assange’s case, calling it a matter for the US The same year, Swedish prosecutors dropped the rape allegation against Assange because too much time had elapsed since the accusation was made over nine years earlier.
As the case over his extradition wound through the British courts over the following years, Assange remained in Belmarsh Prison, where, his wife told the BBC on Tuesday, he was in a “terrible state” of health.
Assange married his partner, Stella Moris, in jail in 2022, after a relationship that began during Assange’s years in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Assange and the South Africa-born lawyer have two sons, born in 2017 and 2019.


WHO, scientists call for urgent action on mpox strain

WHO, scientists call for urgent action on mpox strain
Updated 38 min 24 sec ago
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WHO, scientists call for urgent action on mpox strain

WHO, scientists call for urgent action on mpox strain
  • “There is a critical need to address the recent surge in mpox cases in Africa,” Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for mpox, said
  • John Claude Udahemuka of the University of Rwanda said the strain spreading there was extremely dangerous

LONDON: The spread of mpox in Africa needs to be addressed urgently, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, as scientists warned separately of a dangerous strain in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“There is a critical need to address the recent surge in mpox cases in Africa,” Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for mpox, said in a briefing note to journalists.
In a separate briefing, John Claude Udahemuka of the University of Rwanda, who has been working on an outbreak in Congo’s hard-to-reach South Kivu province, said the strain spreading there — a mutated version of the clade I mpox endemic in Congo for decades — was extremely dangerous. It has fatality rates of around 5 percent in adults and 10 percent in children.
This year, roughly 8,600 mpox cases have been reported in Congo, and 410 deaths, Cris Kacita, the doctor in charge of operations in the country’s mpox control program, told Reuters last week.
Mpox is a viral infection that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions. Most cases are mild but it can kill.
A different, less severe form of the virus — clade IIb — spread globally in 2022, largely through sexual contact among men who have sex with men. This prompted the WHO to declare a public health emergency. Although that has ended, Lewis said on Tuesday the disease remained a health threat. Two people died in South Africa this month of this form of the virus after a handful of cases were diagnosed.
Vaccines and treatments were used to combat the global outbreak, but they are not available in Congo.
The WHO and scientists said efforts were ongoing to address that.
In South Kivu, Adahemuka and other researchers said the new strain was spreading partly by sexual contact among men and women, and particularly among sex workers.
He said other close contact routes needed study, with evidence of transmission at school and from caregiver to child. The disease also seemed to be causing miscarriages among pregnant women as well as a longer-term rash and other lingering symptoms, the team said.
Leandre Murhula Masirika, research co-ordinator in the health department in South Kivu province, said 20 cases were arriving at hospital in the mining town of Kamituga every week.
“At the rate things are going, we risk becoming a source of cases for other countries,” said Kacita. South Kivu borders Rwanda and Burundi.
He said 24 of 26 provinces in Congo were affected and the outbreak was the worst mpox epidemic yet.


Zelensky says ICC warrants show justice for Russia ‘inevitable’

Zelensky says ICC warrants show justice for Russia ‘inevitable’
Updated 25 June 2024
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Zelensky says ICC warrants show justice for Russia ‘inevitable’

Zelensky says ICC warrants show justice for Russia ‘inevitable’
  • “This decision is a clear indication that justice for Russian crimes against Ukrainians is inevitable,” Zelensky said
  • “Every criminal involved in the planning and execution of these strikes must know that justice will be served“

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday welcomed a decision from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue arrest warrants for Russia’s chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, and former defense minister Sergei Shoigu.
The warrants — issued over strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure that constitute alleged war crimes — are the latest in a series of actions by the court over the Ukraine war, including an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“These barbaric missile and drone strikes continue to kill people and inflict damage across Ukraine,” Zelensky said.
“This decision is a clear indication that justice for Russian crimes against Ukrainians is inevitable,” he added.
“Every criminal involved in the planning and execution of these strikes must know that justice will be served. And we do hope to see them behind bars,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on social media.
The two men are accused of the war crimes of directing attacks at civilian objects and causing excessive incidental harm to civilians, as well as the crime against humanity of “inhumane acts” in Ukraine, the ICC said in a statement.
The Ukrainian presidency’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote that “Shoigu and Gerasimov bear individual responsibility” for the strikes.
“This is an important decision. Everyone will be held accountable for evil,” he said.
“Every war criminal should be held accountable,” said Ukraine’s human rights commissioner Dmytro Lubinets.
The country’s prosecutor general’s office also welcomed the news in a statement.
“This is a new significant step toward full accountability for the aggressor,” it said.