EU agrees on a new migration pact, as mainstream parties hope it will deprive the far right of votes

EU agrees on a new migration pact, as mainstream parties hope it will deprive the far right of votes
Migrants disembark from a Greek coast vessel after a rescue operation, at the port of Mytilene, on the northeastern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos, Greece, on Aug. 28, 2023. (AP/File)
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Updated 15 May 2024
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EU agrees on a new migration pact, as mainstream parties hope it will deprive the far right of votes

EU agrees on a new migration pact, as mainstream parties hope it will deprive the far right of votes
  • EU government ministers approved 10 legislative parts of The New Pact on Migration and Asylum
  • Mainstream political parties believe the pact resolves the issues that have divided member nations since migrants swept into Europe in 2015, most fleeing war in Syria and Iraq

BRUSSELS: European Union nations endorsed sweeping reforms to the bloc’s failed asylum system on Tuesday as campaigning for Europe-wide elections next month gathers pace, with migration expected to be an important issue.
EU government ministers approved 10 legislative parts of The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. It lays out rules for the 27 member countries to handle people trying to enter without authorization, from how to screen them to establish whether they qualify for protection to deporting them if they’re not allowed to stay.
Hungary and Poland, which have long opposed any obligation for countries to host migrants or pay for their upkeep, voted against the package but were unable to block it.
Mainstream political parties believe the pact resolves the issues that have divided member nations since well over 1 million migrants swept into Europe in 2015, most fleeing war in Syria and Iraq. They hope the system will starve the far right of vote-winning oxygen in the June 6-9 elections.
However, the vast reform package will only enter force in 2026, bringing no immediate fix to an issue that has fueled one of the EU’s biggest political crises, dividing nations over who should take responsibility for migrants when they arrive and whether other countries should be obligated to help.
Critics say the pact will let nations detain migrants at borders and fingerprint children. They say it’s aimed at keeping people out and infringes on their right to claim asylum. Many fear it will result in more unscrupulous deals with poorer countries that people leave or cross to get to Europe.
WHY ARE THE NEW RULES NEEDED?
Europe’s asylum laws have not been updated for about two decades. The system frayed and then fell apart in 2015. It was based on the premise that migrants should be processed, given asylum or deported in the country they first enter. Greece, Italy and Malta were left to shoulder most of the financial burden and deal with public discontent. Since then, the ID-check-free zone known as the Schengen Area has expanded to 27 countries, 23 of them EU members. It means that more than 400 million Europeans and visitors, including refugees, are able to move without showing travel documents.
WHO DO THE RULES APPLY TO?
Some 3.5 million migrants arrived legally in Europe in 2023. Around 1 million others were on EU territory without permission. Of the latter, most were people who entered normally via airports and ports with visas but didn’t go home when they expired. The pact applies to the remaining minority, estimated at around 300,000 migrants last year. They are people caught crossing an external EU border without permission, such as those reaching the shores of Greece, Italy or Spain via the Mediterranean Sea or Atlantic Ocean on boats provided by smugglers.
HOW DOES THE SYSTEM WORK?
The country on whose territory people land will screen them at or near the border. This involves identity and other checks -– including on children as young as 6. The information will be stored on a massive new database, Eurodac. This screening should determine whether a person might pose a health or security risk and their chances of being permitted to stay. Generally, people fleeing conflict, persecution or violence qualify for asylum. Those looking for jobs are likely to be refused entry. Screening is mandatory and should take no longer than seven days. It should lead to one of two things: an application for international protection, like asylum, or deportation to their home country.
WHAT DOES THE ASYLUM PROCEDURE INVOLVE?
People seeking asylum must apply in the EU nation they first enter and stay until the authorities there work out what country should handle their application. It could be that they have family, cultural or other links somewhere else, making it more logical for them to be moved. The border procedure should be done in 12 weeks, including time for one legal appeal if their application is rejected. It could be extended by eight weeks in times of mass movements of people. Procedures could be faster for applicants from countries whose citizens are not often granted asylum. Critics say this undermines asylum law because applicants should be assessed individually, not based on nationality. People would stay in “reception centers” while it happens, with access to health care and education. Those rejected would receive a deportation order.
WHAT DOES DEPORTATION INVOLVE?
To speed things up, a deportation order is supposed to be issued automatically when an asylum request is refused. A new 12-week period is foreseen to complete this process. The authorities may detain people throughout. The EU’s border and coast guard agency would help organize joint deportation flights. Currently, less than one in three people issued with an order to leave are deported. This is often due to a lack of cooperation from the countries these people come from.
HOW HAS THE ISSUE OF RESPONSIBILITIES VS OBLIGATIONS BEEN RESOLVED?
The new rules oblige countries to help an EU partner under migratory pressure. Support is mandatory, but flexible. Nations can relocate asylum applicants to their territory or choose some other form of assistance. This could be financial -– a relocation is evaluated at 20,000 euros ($21,462) per person -– technical or logistical. Members can also assume responsibility for deporting people from the partner country in trouble.
WHAT CHALLENGES LIE AHEAD?
Two issues stand out: Will member countries ever fully enact the plan, and will the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, enforce the new rules when it has chosen not to apply the ones already in place? The commission is due to present a Common Implementation Plan by June. It charts a path and timeline to get the pact working over the next two years, with targets that the EU and member countries should reach. Things could get off to a rocky start. Hungary, which has vehemently opposed the reforms, takes over the EU’s agenda-setting presidency for six months on July 1.


Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
Updated 6 sec ago
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Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier

Russian prosecutors ask for nearly five years in prison for US soldier
  • The Pentagon has said that Black broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China

Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of four years and eight months for a US soldier who has been detained in the Russian city of Vladivostok on suspicion of theft and threats to kill his girlfriend, Russian agencies reported on Wednesday.
Gordon Black, who was detained on May 2 in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of threatening to kill his girlfriend but admitted he was “partially” guilty of stealing from her.
“(We ask) to impose a sentence of four years and eight months, to be served in a penal colony,” Russia’s RIA state news agency cited the prosecutor as saying at the court hearing.
The prosecutor has also asked for a fine of 40,000 roubles ($469), RIA reported.
Black’s defense lawyer has asked the court to acquit him of all of the charges, RIA reported.
Earlier, RIA reported that Black “partially” acknowledged his guilt on the charge of stealing 10,000 roubles ($113) from his girlfriend Alexandra Vashchuk’s purse but said that “there was no intent.”
The pair had met in South Korea, where Black was stationed. The Pentagon has said that he broke army rules by traveling to Russia without authorization, having passed through China.


US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
Updated 45 min 49 sec ago
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US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
  • The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza

WASHINGTON: The United States bristled Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested ally Washington was withholding critical weapons to his country as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
With the exception of “one particular shipment of munitions” that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said “there are no other pauses. None.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier Tuesday that Washington is “continuing to review one shipment... with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” a city in southern Gaza.
But the top American diplomat said other weapons were moving as usual and that Washington was “making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”
The pointed reaction from the White House came hours after Netanyahu said Blinken had assured him the US government was working “day and night” to address the delay in the arrival of the weapons.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza crisis, he also said he told Blinken “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
Updated 19 June 2024
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Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say

Religious and cultural mentions removed from names of China’s Xinjiang villages, rights groups say
  • Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities
  • As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Authorities in China’s western Xinjiang region have been systematically replacing the names of villages inhabited by Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities to reflect the ruling Communist Party’s ideology, as part of an attack on their cultural identity, a report released by Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
About 630 villages in Xinjiang have had their names changed to remove references to Islam or the Uyghurs’ culture and history, according to the group's report, done in collaboration with the Norway-based organization Uyghur Hjelp.
The report compared the names of 25,000 Xinjiang villages as listed by the National Bureau of Statistics of China between 2009 and 2023.
Words like “dutar,” a traditional Uyghur string instrument, or “mazar,” a shrine, have been removed from the names of villages, and replaced with words such as “happiness,” “unity” and “harmony” — generic terms often found in the Communist Party’s policy documents.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions about the report and its policies in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is a vast region bordering Kazakhstan that is home to about 11 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. In 2017, the Chinese government launched a campaign of assimilation that has included mass detentions, alleged political indoctrination, alleged family separations and alleged forced labor among other methods.
As part of the crackdown, more than 1 million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other ethnic minorities were estimated to be held in extralegal internment camps. The Chinese government at the time described the camps as " vocational training centers " and said they were necessary to curb separatism and religious extremism.
The U.N. Human Rights Office in 2022 found accusations of rights violations in Xinjiang “credible” and said China may have committed crimes against humanity in the region.
The changes to the names of Xinjiang villages included removing mentions of religion, including terms such as “Hoja,” a title for a Sufi religious teacher, and “haniqa,” a type of Sufi religious building, or terms such as “baxshi,” a shaman.
References to Uyghur history or to regional leaders prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 have also been removed, according to the report.
“The Chinese authorities have been changing hundreds of village names in Xinjiang from those rich in meaning for Uyghurs to those that reflect government propaganda,” said Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch. “These name changes appear part of Chinese government efforts to erase the cultural and religious expressions of Uyghurs.”
The Chinese government wants to “erase people's historical memory, because those names remind people of who they are,” said Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur linguist based in Norway and founder of Uyghur Hjelp.
Most of the village name changes occurred between 2017 and 2019, at the height of the government crackdown in Xinjiang, according to the report.

 


Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
Updated 19 June 2024
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Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
  • Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created

RACINE, Wisconsin: Donald Trump holds a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where he will slam Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, even as a major local factory that Trump broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a flop.
The Republican former president was in this largely working-class, lakeside city in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.
But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.
“I think people look at it as a joke,” said Nancy Anderson, a 67-year-old retired teacher, while having breakfast at a local cafe.
Trump is expected to speak to supporters at a lakeside park at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT). Among the topics he will address, according to the campaign, is how high inflation under Biden has hurt Wisconsin residents.
Foxconn’s underwhelming debut has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to be competitive in the Nov. 5 election.
According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020.
The two candidates are competing furiously for every vote. Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.
“Foxconn turned out to be just that — a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.
Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.
Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.
But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.
“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Racine is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.
Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the US House of Representatives.
His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment.


Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
Updated 18 June 2024
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Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
  • Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government

LONDON: Billionaire John Caudwell, one of the governing Conservative Party’s biggest donors before Britain’s last national election in 2019, said on Tuesday he would instead be backing Keir Starmer’s Labour Party at the upcoming July 4 vote.
“I can declare publicly that I will vote for Labour, and I encourage everybody to do the same,” Caudwell said in a statement.
“We need a very strong Labour Government that can take extremely bold decisions and you can rest assured that I will be doing my best to influence them wherever I can, in putting the great back in Britain.”
Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government. A poll published by Ipsos on Tuesday estimated Labour could win 453 seats to the Conservatives’ 115, giving them a huge parliamentary majority of 256.
Caudwell made nearly 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in 2006 when he sold his mobile phone retailer Phones 4u.
He said he had been despairing about the Conservatives’ performance in government for “many years.”
Previously, in an interview with Reuters, Caudwell had expressed frustration at the Conservatives but described Labour as untested.
On Tuesday he cited current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic — when he was finance minister — and what he said was a lowering of ethical standards under former leader Boris Johnson. He described Liz Truss’s brief spell in charge, which spooked financial markets, as a “debacle.”
Caudwell said he liked the focus on accelerating economic growth in Labour’s manifesto: “As I have always said, the government must be much more commercially minded to grow GDP in order to finance the public services that benefit all of society without increasing taxes.”
Labour leader Starmer welcomed the endorsement.
“I’m delighted that John, someone with such a successful track-record in business, has today thrown his support behind the changed Labour Party that I lead,” he said.
“The message is clear: business backs change and economic stability with Labour, and rejects 5 more years of chaos and decline with the Tories.”