EU leaders face calls to take swift action on migrants

Updated 23 April 2015

EU leaders face calls to take swift action on migrants

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders gathering for an extraordinary summit are facing calls from all sides to take emergency action to save lives in the Mediterranean, where hundreds of migrants are missing and feared drowned in recent days.
The leaders will examine a plan to respond to the crisis, after more than 10,000 migrants were plucked from seas between Italy and Libya in a week, and are widely expected to approve swift action.
EU President Donald Tusk urged the leaders from the 28 nations “to agree on very practical measures,” including “strengthening search-and-rescue possibilities, by fighting the smugglers and by discouraging their victims from putting their life at risk, while reinforcing solidarity.”
A key part of the action plan is to crack down on the people-smugglers operating off Libya and destroy their boats, to stop people sneaking into Europe.
“European Union naval operations in the Horn of Africa have successfully fought piracy — and a similar initiative must be developed to effectively fight against human trafficking in the Mediterranean,” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. “Trafficking vessels should be put out of operation.”
The EU’s executive commission has floated the idea of a civil-military mission to do the job, but it faces many legal hurdles and has proved controversial ahead of the summit.
The leaders are also to assess a concern raised by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who called for a stronger EU search-and-rescue operation and more legal migration channels. “We all have a moral imperative to act swiftly,” Ban says in a letter to Tusk obtained by The Associated Press.

EU officials say the leaders will commit to doubling the size of the European border agency effort in the Mediterranean, but those operations are designed for monitoring migrant movements, not necessarily saving lives.
A senior EU official said they are also expected to give the green light for a pilot project to resettle around 5,000 refugees. The official, who is involved in preparing Thursday’s summit in Brussels, is not permitted to speak publicly.
That resettlement plan would amount to about half of those who have arrived in just the last week and a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands likely to arrive this year.
Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders want a multinational rescue effort launched to help the thousands fleeing conflict and poverty from places like Syria, Eritrea and Somalia.
“The stakes are very high. The number of hours, literally, that it takes to take action will make the difference between life and death,” Iverna McGowan, Acting Director of Amnesty’s European Institutions Office told The Associated Press.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, 219,000 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean last year, and at least 3,500 died trying. Perhaps 1,000 have already died this month alone.
Critics blame the increased deaths on the phasing-out of Italy’s big rescue operation in 2013-14, Mare Nostrum, which worked close to the coast of Libya — the biggest migrant transit route.
A smaller EU mission dubbed Triton was left to fill the vacuum, but it has no mandate for rescue work, although it does respond to distress calls under international obligations and has saved thousands of lives since its launch late last year.
Some lawmakers are concerned that the leaders may stump up rescue assets while the media spotlight is on their summit, but that commitments to solidarity could quickly fade away, as they have in the past.
“I fear that what will happen ... is that they will try to water down a few of the points and the actual reason why they are meeting — to urgently seek solutions to what is happening today — will not be the focus of the deal,” Roberta Metsola, the leading EU parliament lawmaker on migration, told the AP.
Currently, five of the 28 member states — Italy, Greece, Malta, Germany and Sweden — are handling almost 70 percent of the migrants coming in.


Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

Updated 03 August 2020

Russia aims to produce ‘millions’ of virus doses by 2021

  • The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago
  • Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience

MOSCOW: Russia said Monday it aims to launch mass production of a coronavirus vaccine next month and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.
The country is pushing ahead with several vaccine prototypes and one prepared at the Gamaleya institute in Moscow has reached advanced stages of development.
“We are very much counting on starting mass production in September,” industry minister Denis Manturov said in an interview published by TASS news agency.
“We will be able to ensure production volumes of several hundred thousand a month, with an eventual increase to several million by the start of next year,” he said, adding that one developer is preparing production technology at three locations in central Russia.
Health Minister Mikhail Murashko on Saturday said the Gamaleya vaccine had “completed clinical trials” and that documents were being prepared to register it with the state.
Another vaccine, developed by Siberia-based Vektor lab, is currently undergoing clinical trials and two more will begin human testing within the next two months, Murashko said.
Gamaleya’s vaccine is a so-called viral vector vaccine, meaning it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the needed immune response into cells.
Gamaleya’s vaccine employs the adenovirus, a similar technology to the coronavirus vaccine prototype developed by China’s CanSino, currently in the advanced stage of clinical trials.
The Gamaleya institute came under fire after researchers and directors injected themselves with the prototype months ago, with specialists criticizing the move as an unorthodox and rushed way of starting human trials.
Scientists have told AFP that Russia will struggle to adapt the vaccine to mass production because the country lacks raw materials, adequate facilities and experience, particularly with advanced technology like viral vector.
Some Russian officials have boasted that the country will be the first to come up with the vaccine, even comparing it to the space race to produce the first satellite in the Soviet era.
Moscow has dismissed allegations from the UK, the United States and Canada that a hacking group linked to Russian intelligence services tried to steal information about a coronavirus vaccine from labs in the West.
Russia’s coronavirus caseload is currently fourth in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.