Migrant crossings to UK hit new record, heaping pressure on Sunak

Migrant crossings to UK hit new record, heaping pressure on Sunak
A grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Rishi Sunak attending a Parliamentary Liaison Committee hearing, London, Mar. 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Migrant crossings to UK hit new record, heaping pressure on Sunak

Migrant crossings to UK hit new record, heaping pressure on Sunak
  • HO spokesperson: ‘The unacceptable number of people who continue to cross the Channel demonstrates exactly why we must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible’
  • ‘We continue to work closely with French police, who are facing increasing violence and disruption as they work tirelessly to prevent these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys’

LONDON: More than 4,600 asylum seekers have arrived in Britain on small boats so far in 2024, a record total for the first three months of the year and giving Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a fresh political headache.
Provisional data from the Home Office, or interior ministry, showed on Wednesday that 4,644 people had been detected arriving across the Channel on small boats such as inflatable dinghies up to March 26 this year.
That compares with 3,770 for the same period last year and 4,162 for 2022, the previous record high.
Sunak is hoping his flagship scheme to deport those arriving in Britain without permission to Rwanda will deter people from making the dangerous cross-Channel crossings. Legislation which aims to get that plan up and running after a series of legal setbacks is due back in parliament next month.
“The unacceptable number of people who continue to cross the Channel demonstrates exactly why we must get flights to Rwanda off the ground as soon as possible,” a Home Office spokesperson said last week.
“We continue to work closely with French police who are facing increasing violence and disruption on their beaches as they work tirelessly to prevent these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary journeys.”
Overall annual numbers fell 36 percent last year from 2022’s record total, which led to Sunak claiming the government was beginning to have success in “stopping the boats,” one of his key priorities ahead of an election expected later this year.
But the latest increase will add to pressure on Sunak, whose Conservatives are well behind the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls with immigration a major concern for some voters.
“Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Rishi Sunak keeps on telling the British people that small boat arrivals are coming down and his promise to stop the boats remains on track,” said Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s immigration spokesperson.


Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates

Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates
Updated 18 sec ago
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Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates

Independent candidates Kennedy and Stein challenge exclusion from US presidential debates
  • CNN and ABC News will circumvent the Commission on Presidential Debates to host their own one-on-one debates

CHICAGO: Third-party candidates for president, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. Jill Stein, filed federal complaints this week alleging that they were being unfairly excluded from media debates hosted by CNN and ABC News between US President Joe Biden and former president, Donald Trump.

CNN and ABC News will circumvent the Commission on Presidential Debates, which imposes ground rules to ensure debates are conducted fairly for all qualifying candidates, to host their own one-on-one debates. The CNN debate is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, and the ABC debate is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10.

The presidential election is on Nov. 5, and although Kennedy and Stein are excluded from the media debates, they have filed enough signatures to be accepted on a majority of state ballots and expect to meet upcoming deadlines to file to appear on all 50 state ballots.

Stein filed a formal complaint with the US Federal Election Commission on June 19, while Kennedy filed an FEC complaint on May 28; both arguing no candidates had been certified to be included on any state ballots yet, and that they were victims of partisan political bias.

“The media’s job is to impartially inform the voters about all the choices on their ballot, but what CNN is doing is a coordinated communication and prohibited corporate contribution to benefit two candidates to the exclusion of all others,” Stein said in a statement sent to Arab News.

“The (CNN) debate is far from independent, having been actively negotiated by the Biden Committee, the Trump Committee, and representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties for the purpose of ensuring that all independent and third-party candidates are excluded and denied an opportunity for consideration by the voting public.”

Both Biden and Trump believe Kennedy and other independent candidates could play spoilers in what many believe will be a close contest between the two major party contenders.

The FEC complaint argues CNN, Biden and Trump “flagrantly violated a federal law” that requires media broadcasters to use “pre-established” and “objective” criteria to determine candidate participation in debates. Failure to use objective criteria makes the CNN and ABC debates “campaign contributions,” which are subject to strict financial and cost donation limits, Kennedy said in a statement sent to Arab News.

“Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand,” Kennedy said.

“My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly. Americans want an independent leader who will break apart the two-party duopoly. They want a President who will heal the divide, restore the middle class, unwind the war machine, and end the chronic disease epidemic.”

Kennedy received support from former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who said: “If the American people could hear what all three candidates had to say about the critical issues facing our country, the choice between these three men would be clear.”

Third-party candidates in past elections have been included in presidential debates under the guidelines of the Commission on Presidential Debates, formed in 1987 “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States are a permanent part of the electoral process.”

Third-party candidates could siphon off votes and prevent one or both major party candidates from winning enough votes in many states to become president. A candidate must win a majority of votes in each of the 50 states to take the Electoral College votes in each state, which vary by state population size. A candidate must receive 270 EC votes to win the presidency.

Kennedy argues in his statement that CNN’s published debate criteria requires that “a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 Electoral (Electoral College) Vote threshold. CNN is holding Kennedy to this requirement but is not requiring Presidents Biden and Trump to meet this requirement by claiming they are each the ‘presumptive nominee’ of a political party.”

Kennedy’s campaign claimed that they had satisfied the requirements to appear on the ballot in 22 states, with a combined 310 electoral votes, although it is months away from states confirming any of the candidate’s ballot placement. California, for example, which has 54 EC Votes, will not certify any candidates until Aug. 29, raising questions about the media’s EC Vote rule.

Technically, although Biden and Trump are the presumptive nominees for their political parties, they will not become official candidates on state ballots until after their nominations are confirmed at the conventions. The Republican Convention begins July 18 in Milwaukee and the Democratic Convention begins August 19 in Chicago.

Stein also accused CNN of “collusion” with the Trump and Biden campaigns, arguing the media outlet used biased polling that “intentionally marginalize candidates other than Biden and Trump” by framing the election as an exclusive two-candidate affair and marginalizing her, and others, to prevent them from receiving a minimum 15 percent polling favorability.

“The poll cited by CNN as its standard mentions Trump 169 times and Biden 146 times, but mentions Jill Stein, Kennedy, and Cornel West only once, suppressing support for candidates outside the two-party system by design,” Stein said.

Neither CNN nor ABC News officials organizing the debates responded to requests for comment, but CNN officials were quoted by Associated Press arguing that the Kennedy FEC complaint lacks merit.

Biden and Trump will not have a live audience during their debate on Thursday, and their microphones will be muted when the other speaks to prevent interruptions. Journalists and campaign supporters will be seated in alternative halls.


EU top diplomat warns Georgia door to membership could ‘close’

EU top diplomat warns Georgia door to membership could ‘close’
Updated 12 min 34 sec ago
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EU top diplomat warns Georgia door to membership could ‘close’

EU top diplomat warns Georgia door to membership could ‘close’
  • Ruling party in Georgia adopted a controversial ‘foreign influence’ law this month
  • Critics say legislation is modelled on Russian legislation used to stifle dissent

LUXEMBOURG: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Georgia Monday that its push to join the bloc could be ended, as Brussels weighs options to punish the authorities over a “foreign influence” law.
“The door for Georgia to become a member of the European Union is open,” Borrell said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
“But if the government continues on the same track, continues doing what they are doing, this door will be closed, and the Georgian people will pay the consequences, will suffer.”
The ruling party in the South Caucasus country — which formally became a candidate to join the EU last year — adopted a controversial “foreign influence” law this month that critics say is modelled on Russian legislation used to stifle dissent.
The move was condemned by Georgia’s Western supporters, with the United States banning several officials from the South Caucasus nation from visiting.
Concerns were further fueled by proposed new legislation to ban what the ruling party calls “LGBT propaganda,” in another conservative shift that drew fresh comparisons with repressive Russian laws.
The 27-nation EU is now pondering its response to the shifts from the governing Georgian Dream party, but is wary of pushing the ex-Soviet state closer toward Moscow.
Despite the moves from the government, the population in the country remains overwhelmingly in favor of moving closer toward the EU.
Borrell said that initial moves being discussed by ministers could include halting funding for Georgia’s security forces, cutting government financing, or severing high-level contacts.
“We don’t want to affect civilians. We don’t want to put more pain on the civilian people,” Borrell said, adding that no firm decision was expected Monday.
Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna said there would also be discussions on Schengen visa bans for high-ranking Georgian officials.
“The situation for Georgia is serious, and all the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Georgian government,” he said.
“The Georgian people are supporting the way to the European Union.”
Meanwhile, his counterpart from Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis complained that stronger measures were not yet being put forward in a paper presented by the EU’s diplomatic arm.
“Unfortunately, there are certain options in the paper that are not mentioned, such as actually stopping Georgia’s EU integration, which I think it has to be mentioned,” he said.


At least 16 dead in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea

At least 16 dead in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea
Updated 21 min 39 sec ago
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At least 16 dead in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea

At least 16 dead in a fire at a lithium battery factory in South Korea
  • Rescue workers at the factory in Hwaseong city, just south of Seoul, retrieved the bodies after combing through the site

SEOUL: A fire at a lithium battery manufacturing factory near South Korea’s capital on Monday left at least 16 people dead, seven injured and six missing, officials said.

Rescue workers at the factory in Hwaseong city, just south of Seoul, retrieved the bodies after combing through the site, local fire official Kim Jin-young told a televised briefing.

Kim earlier said most of the missing people were foreign nationals including Chinese.

He said the mobile phone signals of the missing people were tracked to the second floor of the factory. Kim said a witness told authorities that the fire began after batteries exploded as workers were examining and packaging them, but the exact cause would be investigated.

Kim said those found dead likely failed to escape via stairs to the ground. He said officials will investigate whether fire extinguishing systems worked.

Kim said a total of 102 people were working at the factory before the fire occurred.

President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier ordered officials to mobilize all available personnel and equipment to find survivors, according to his office.


Philippines accuses China of using ‘illegal force’ to deliberately disrupt resupply mission

Philippines accuses China of using ‘illegal force’ to deliberately disrupt resupply mission
Updated 36 min 32 sec ago
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Philippines accuses China of using ‘illegal force’ to deliberately disrupt resupply mission

Philippines accuses China of using ‘illegal force’ to deliberately disrupt resupply mission
  • Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro: ‘It was not a misunderstanding or an accident’
  • Chinese coast guard vessels deliberately disrupted a resupply mission last week

MANILA: The Philippines’ defense chief said China used “aggressive and illegal force” to disrupt a resupply mission in the South China Sea and said last week’s maritime incident, which injured a sailor, was neither a misunderstanding nor an accident.

“We are not downplaying the incident,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a media briefing after the chairman of the Philippine maritime council said on Friday that last week’s maritime clash was probably a misunderstanding or an accident.

A Philippine sailor suffered serious injury after what its military described as “intentional-high speed ramming” by the Chinese Coast Guard, aiming to disrupt a resupply mission for troops stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal on June 17.

Chinese Coast Guard personnel carrying knives and spears looted firearms and “deliberately punctured” Philippine boats involved in the mission, the Philippine military said.

China’s foreign ministry has disputed the Philippines’ account, with a spokesperson saying last Thursday that the necessary measures taken by the coast guard were lawful and professional.

“We see the latest incident in Ayungin not as a misunderstanding or an accident. It is a deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission,” Teodoro said, using the local name for the Second Thomas Shoal.

“It was an aggressive and illegal use of force. We, however, continue to find peaceful solutions to this issue,” Teodoro said.

Teodoro said the Philippines will continue to resupply its troops stationed on a rusting warship grounded on Second Thomas Shoal, but it will not publicize schedules of missions, which he said do not require permission or consent from anyone.

In response to Teodoro’s remarks, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that the Philippines “should stop its infringement and provocation” and “work with China to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

It also urged Manila to stop “violations” and “misleading the international community.”

President Ferdinand Marcos said on Sunday that the Philippines was not in the business of instigating wars and would always aim to settle disputes peacefully.

The Second Thomas Shoal is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea with its so-called nine-dash line, which overlaps the exclusive economic zones of rival claimants Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling, which Beijing does not recognize, invalidated China’s claim in the strategic waters.


Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler

Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler
Updated 24 June 2024
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Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler

Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler
  • Elizabeth Wolf, 42, reportedly racially abused mother
  • Woman allegedly also attacked girl’s brother, aged 6

LONDON: A woman in Texas has been charged with attempted murder and injury to a child after allegedly trying to drown a 3-year-old Palestinian-Muslim child in a pool and attacking her older brother, CNN reported on Sunday.

The Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged law enforcement to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

On May 19, police officers responded to an alert of a disturbance at an apartment complex pool involving 42-year-old Elizabeth Wolf and the victim’s mother.

The police stated that according to witnesses “a woman who was very intoxicated had tried to drown a child and argued with the child’s mother.”

The victim’s mother told the police Wolf had asked where she was from and if the two children playing in the pool were hers.

The mother was clearly Muslim, wearing a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, and modest swimwear, according to the council.

Wolf also stated that the mother was not an American and made other racist remarks, according to the police.

“When the mother answered her, she stated that Wolf tried to grab her 6-year-old son but he pulled away from her grasp, which caused a scratch on his finger. The mother began helping her son when Wolf grabbed her 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater,” the news release said.

The mother was able to get her daughter out of the water, but she “had been yelling for help and coughing up water.”

Both children received medical clearance from a local health facility.

“We are American citizens, originally from Palestine, and I don’t know where to go to feel safe with my kids,” the council quoted the mother as saying.

“My country is facing a war, and we are facing that hate here. My daughter is traumatized; whenever I open the apartment door, she runs away and hides, telling me she is afraid the lady will come and immerse her head in the water again.”

The Euless Police Department confirmed that Wolf was released on bail.

“The bond for the Attempted Capital Murder charge was $25,000. The bond for the Injury to a Child charge was $15,000,” captain Brenda Alvarado told CNN.

“We ask for a hate-crime probe, a higher bail bond, and an open conversation with officials to address this alarming increase in Islamophobia, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian sentiment,” Shaimaa Zayan, the council’s Austin operations manager, said.

Texas Rep. Salman Bhojani said he was “shocked and appalled by this alleged racist, Islamophobic occurrence that took place in my town.”

He added: “Hate has no place in Euless, District 92, or anywhere in our great state. I want to thank Euless PD for quickly apprehending the alleged provocateur, and I extend my service to the affected family.”