Banksy mural to be protected after London paint attack

Banksy mural to be protected after London paint attack
People look at a new Banksy painting on a wall in London, on Mar. 18, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 20 March 2024
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Banksy mural to be protected after London paint attack

Banksy mural to be protected after London paint attack
  • The enigmatic artist appeared to confirm his role in the creation
  • “It’s sad to see the piece has been defaced,” an Islington Council spokesperson said

LONDON: A London authority said on Wednesday it had imposed “temporary measures” around a new mural by British street artist Banksy, after it was defaced within days of appearing.
Islington Council, in north London, said it had erected fencing, camera surveillance and ordered visits by community officers to manage on-lookers to help protect the artwork.
The stencilled mural of a person having spray painted tree foliage onto a white wall behind a leafless tree, appeared on a street near Finsbury Park this week.
The enigmatic artist appeared to confirm his role in the creation, posting before and after pictures of the transformed wall on Instagram on Monday.
But following a flurry of media reports and public attention, it had by early Wednesday been defaced. Images shared on social media showed two streaks of white paint strewn across the bright green artwork.
“It’s sad to see the piece has been defaced,” an Islington Council spokesperson said.
“We are discussing future solutions with the homeowner, to enable everyone to enjoy the artwork while protecting it, the tree, and the surrounding area.
“We’re also in the process of installing a CCTV camera.”
In December, police arrested two men on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after a Banksy artwork was removed from a south London street corner within hours of appearing there.
That installation, a traffic stop sign covered with three aircraft resembling military drones, emerged at an intersection in the Peckham neighborhood.
Witnesses filmed it being removed by a man with bolt cutters, with the help of another man.


Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK

Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK
Updated 9 sec ago
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Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK

Strict asylum rules and poor treatment of migrants are pushing people north to the UK
AMBLETEUSE, France: The rising tide crept above their waists, soaking the babies they hugged tight. Around a dozen Kurds refused to leave the cold waters of the English Channel in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable: French police had just foiled their latest attempt to reach the United Kingdom by boat.
The men, women and children were trapped again on the last frontier of their journey from Iraq and Iran. They hoped that a rubber dinghy would get them to better lives with housing, schooling and work. Now it disappeared on the horizon, only a few of its passengers aboard.
On the beach of the quiet northern French town of Ambleteuse, police pleaded for the migrants to leave the 10-degree-Celsius (50-degree-Fahrenheit) water, so cold it can kill within minutes. Do it for the children’s sake, they argued.
“The boat is go!” an increasingly irritated officer shouted in French-accented English. “It’s over! It’s over!”
The asylum-seekers finally emerged from the sea defeated, but there was no doubt that they would try to reach the UK again. They would not find the haven they needed in France, or elsewhere in the European Union.
Europe’s increasingly strict asylum rules, growing xenophobia and hostile treatment of migrants were pushing them north. While the UK government has been hostile, too, many migrants have family or friends in the UK and a perception they will have more opportunities there.
EU rules stipulate that a person must apply for asylum in the first member state they land in. This has overwhelmed countries on the edge of the 27-nation bloc such as Italy, Greece and Spain.
Some migrants don’t even try for new lives in the EU anymore. They are flying to France from as far away as Vietnam to attempt the Channel crossing after failing to get permission to enter the UK, which has stricter visa requirements.
“No happy here,” said Adam, an Iraqi father of six who was among those caught on the beach in a recent May morning. He refused to provide his last name due to his uncertain legal status in France. He had failed to find schooling and housing for his children in France and had grown frustrated with the asylum office’s lack of answers about his case. He thought things would be better in the UK, he said.
While the number of people entering the EU without permission is nowhere near as high as during a 2015-2016 refugee crisis, far-right parties across Europe, including in France, have exploited migration to the continent and made big electoral wins in the most recent European Parliamentary elections. Their rhetoric, and the treatment already faced by many people on the French coast and elsewhere in the bloc, clash with the stated principles of solidarity, openness and respect for human dignity that underpin the democratic EU, human rights advocates note.
In recent months, the normally quiet beaches around Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne-Sur-Mer have become the stage of cat-and-mouse games — even violent clashes — between police and smugglers. Police have fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. Smugglers have hurled stones.
While boat crossings across the Channel represent only a tiny fraction of migration to the UK, France agreed last year to hold migrants back in exchange for hundreds of millions of euros. It’s an agreement akin to deals made between the European Union and North African nations in recent years. And while many people have been stopped by police, they are not offered alternative solutions and are bound to try crossing again.
More than 12,000 people have reached England in small boats in the first five months of the year, 18 percent more than during the same period last year, according to data published by the UK’s Home Office. The Home Office said 882 people arrived in the UK in 15 boats on Tuesday, the highest daily total of the year.
The heightened border surveillance is increasing risks and ultimately leading to more deaths, closer to shore, said Salomé Bahri, a coordinator with the nongovernmental organization Utopia 56, which helps migrants stranded in France. At least 20 people have died so far this year trying to reach the UK, according to Utopia 56. That’s nearly as many as died in all of last year, according to statistics published by the International Organization of Migration.
People are rushing to avoid being caught by authorities and there are more fatalities, Bahri said. In late April, five people died, including a 7-year-old girl who was crushed inside a rubber boat after more than 110 people boarded it frantically trying to escape police.
Authorities in the north of France denied AP’s request for an interview but have previously defended the “life-saving” work of police and blamed violence on smugglers who have also attacked officers.
A spot on a flimsy rubber dinghy can cost between 1,000 to 2,000 euros (around $1,100-$2,200) making it a lucrative business for the smuggling networks led primarily by Iraqi Kurdish groups. They can earn up to $1 million a month (approximately 920,000 euros) according to a report published earlier this year by The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Sitting around a fire in an abandoned warehouse-turned-migrant camp in Calais, Mohammed Osman contemplated his limited options. The 25-year-old Sudanese man was studying medicine in Moscow when the civil war broke out in his home country a year ago. He suspended his dream of becoming a doctor. Forced to flee the fighting, his family could no longer afford to pay for his university fees and Osman was forced to leave Russia, where his visa only allowed him to study, not work. He crossed to Belarus and then to Poland where he says he was pushed back and beaten by Polish guards several times.
Eventually, he made it across the border and reached Germany where he tried to apply for asylum but was ordered to return to Poland, as per EU rules. All he wants now is to finish his medical studies in the UK, a country whose language he, like many other Sudanese people, already speaks. The issue, as always, is how to get there. Talks of potential deportation to Rwanda have only added more stress and frustration.
“So where is the legal way for me?” he asked. “I am a good person. I know that I can be a good doctor. … So what is the problem?”
In another makeshift camp near Dunkirk that police routinely attempt to clear, more dreams were held in suspense. Farzanee, 28, left Iran to follow her passion: becoming a professional bodybuilder. Back home she was banned from taking part in competitions and persecuted for her sport.
“I was even threatened with my family, that’s why I left my country,” she said, refusing to provide her last name out of fear for her and her loved ones’ safety.
Together with her husband, they managed to get a visa for France with a fake invitation letter. But even on EU soil they fear they could be deported back to Iran and believe only the UK to be safe. They have tried — and failed — to board boats to the UK “seven or eight times” but have vowed to keep trying until they make it.
“Us and other Iranians like me, we have one thing in common,” explained Farzanee’s husband Mohammad. “When you ask them they will tell you: ‘free life or death.’”
A few days after this interview, Mohammad and his wife Farzanee made it safely to the UK

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
Updated 27 min 43 sec ago
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UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak

UK migrant boat crossings hit 19-month high, adding to pressure on Sunak
  • Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300

LONDON: More than 800 asylum seekers arrived in Britain via small boats on Tuesday, the highest single-day figure since late 2022, adding to pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a July 4 national election.
Provisional data from Britain’s interior ministry showed 882 migrants arrived on Tuesday, taking the yearly total so far to above 12,300. The daily figure was last higher in November 2022, when 947 migrants arrived in a single day.
Trailing far behind the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and with immigration a major concern for some voters, “stopping the boats” and curbing illegal migration has been one of Sunak’s flagship pledges.
The centerpiece of Sunak’s immigration policy is a plan to deport asylum seekers from Britain to Rwanda and create a deterrent for migrants using small boats to cross from France.
But, because he calling the election earlier than many expected, that plan has yet to come into effect.
The opposition Labour Party, which is about 20 points ahead in opinion polls, has said it would scrap the Rwanda policy if it comes to power.
Instead, its proposed solution is to create a Border Security Command that would bring together staff from the police, the domestic intelligence agency and prosecutors to work with international agencies to stop people smuggling.


Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
Updated 19 June 2024
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Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
  • Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water
  • In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14

LAGOS: Nigerian health officials are issuing warnings over a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 30 people, many of them in the commercial capital Lagos, since the start of the year.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. It typically causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps — and sometimes death.
Lagos State health officials reported 15 deaths so far and 350 suspected cases, according to a statement on X, formerly Twitter this week.
Lagos Water Corporation warned against consuming water from unreliable or untreated courses.
“According to the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the primary cause of the cholera outbreak has been linked to the consumption of contaminated water and inadequate sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Last week, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the public of the increasing trend in cases of the disease across the country as the rainy season intensifies.
The agency said 30 people had died since the start of the year. An outbreak killed 128 people with more than 3,600 suspected cases across Africa’s most populous country last year compared to two deaths in 2022.
Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to cholera outbreaks.
In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14, according to health authorities.


Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
Updated 19 June 2024
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Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
  • President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures

N’DJAMENA: A deadly fire erupted at a huge military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, sending powerful explosions into the night sky and shaking buildings miles from the blast.
The explosions from the late Tuesday blaze turned the sky red and could be heard miles away as ordnance fired off in the flames at regular intervals, according to AFP journalists and witnesses on the scene.
President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures.
“Peace to the souls of the victims, sincere condolences to the grieving families and a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Deby wrote on Facebook, promising to open an investigation into the fire.
The sky burst into flames above the Goudji area, where the army’s largest depot of ammunition is located, for several hours before tapering off and finally ceasing after midnight.
The explosions shook buildings as far as seven kilometers (four miles) away and the flames were visible for miles.
“The roof of our house was blown off by one of the explosions,” said resident Kadidja Dakou, who lives in the Amsinene area near Goudji.
The 36-year-old and her three children took refuge in the street alongside their neighbors, for fear their houses would collapse, she said by phone.
Authorities had cordoned off the area with a heavy security presence, where thick red smoke hung in the air long after the blasts stopped.
Foreign Minister Abderaman Koulamallah, who is also the government spokesman, said on Facebook that there were “huge explosions” at the site and urged the population to keep calm.
There are multiple homes in the neighborhood that is the site of the depot, which sits near the international airport and a base where French troops are stationed.
The blaze “caused explosions of ammunition of all calibres,” an official with the French forces said on condition of anonymity.
“For the moment, no French military personnel have been wounded,” he said.
Chad’s president officially won 61 percent of a May 6 vote that international NGOs said was neither credible nor free and which his main rival called a “masquerade.”
Deby was proclaimed transitional president in April 2021 by a junta of 15 generals after his father, president Idriss Deby Itno, was shot dead by rebels following 30 years in power.
Chad, one of the world’s poorest nations, is considered vital in the fight to stop the march of jihadists through the Sahel region.


Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
Updated 19 June 2024
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Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
  • Relations with communist China have historically been fraught
  • The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Wednesday called for prayers for the Chinese people, in unscripted remarks coming amid the Vatican’s desire to upgrade its relations with Beijing.
Relations with communist China have historically been fraught, but Francis has made it a priority to normalize them, building on a landmark 2018 pact on appointing bishops.
“This also makes me think about the beloved Chinese people: let us always pray for this noble and very courageous people who have such a beautiful culture,” the pope said.
Francis spoke during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, adding to pre-written remarks as he greeted an association that honors a late Vatican envoy to Beijing.
The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement toward a country accused of trampling on religious freedom and human rights.
Beijing has been following a policy of “Sinicization” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
There are an estimated 10 to 12 million Catholics in China. (Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Alex Richardson)