Mexico appears willing but unready to hold US refugees

In this file photo taken on December 16, 2018, a group of Central American migrants - travelling in a caravan - are seen after crossing the Mexico-US border fence to San Diego County, from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico. (AFP)
Updated 21 December 2018

Mexico appears willing but unready to hold US refugees

  • Mexico is struggling to say how it will house and protect what could become tens of thousands of Central American migrants
  • Mexico is already hosting thousands of Central Americans who arrived as part of a migrant caravan in November

TIJUANA: Mexico’s willingness to accept US asylum seekers while their applications are processed appears to be yet another sign of the blooming honeymoon between leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and President Donald Trump, though it is also causing concern among officials in Mexican border cities already struggling to deal with thousands of Central American migrants.
Mexico could have simply refused, as it historically has, to accept the return of non-Mexicans. But this week’s announcement of $10.6 billion in US development aid and the personal relationship between the two presidents appeared to smooth the path. It is the same relationship that helped resolve stalled negotiations on Mexico’s free trade agreement with the United States and Canada.
“Right now it’s a honeymoon, in part because even though one is on the left and the other is more to the right, they have things in common — protectionism, the anti-establishment thing, each one’s nationalism,” said Jose Antonio Crespo, a political analyst at Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Training.
Crespo noted Trump was getting along better with Lopez Obrador than with his conservative predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto. “Up to now it’s been a honeymoon, who knows how long it will last.”
Mexico, meanwhile, is struggling to say how it will house and protect what could become tens of thousands of Central American migrants who might wind up in its cities along the border with the United States. It is clearly not ready to shelter so many.
Tonatituh Guillen, the head Mexico’s immigration agency, said, “In the short term, the National Immigration Institute does not have the organizational capacity to operate this kind of program ... the current legislation also doesn’t help us.”
Mexico is already hosting thousands of Central Americans who arrived as part of a migrant caravan in November. Those migrants were dismayed by Thursday’s announcement.
“This is bad, because every country has its sovereignty, it doesn’t have to depend on another country,” said Luis Miguel Conde, a Guatemalan who traveled to Tijuana with his wife and two children to request asylum in the US “When you apply for asylum in Mexico, they don’t send you to Guatemala to wait. You wait for your application within the country’s territory.”
Tijuana is currently the most popular crossing point for asylum seekers waiting to submit claims in the United States, but the border city is already weary of housing over 7,000 migrants who arrived in the caravan in November.
The city’s police staged a raid before dawn Thursday to clear dozens of migrants who had resisted moving to a shelter farther from the border and camped out on a downtown street a few blocks from the border. Riot police loaded about 120 people onto buses to take them to the Barretal shelter, located about 14 miles (22 kilometers) from the San Ysidro border crossing. Officers arrested two dozen who refused to relocate.
“We did have to detain 24 people who refused to leave the street, and we found some who were doing illegal drugs,” Police Chief Marco Sotomayor said.
Cesar Palencia, director of migrant affairs for the city government, reacted with surprise to Thursday’s announcement by the federal government on housing asylum seekers.
“How would it be done? For how long? How many people? We don’t know what the strategy or the plan is, nor have any studies been done,” Palencia told The Associated Press. “We respect the federal government’s decision, but we would ask that it be accompanied by personnel, funding and a strategy.”
The assistant legal counsel for Mexico’s foreign relations department, Alejandro Celorio, said that there will not be any detention centers for migrants. “They will not be detained,” he said.
But Celorio did not say whether shelters, like the former Barretal concert venue in Tijuana, would be built, expanded or made more permanent — and whose money would be used to pay for such shelters.
The only strategy Mexico’s federal government has launched so far is a TV and radio “campaign against xenophobia” announced Thursday to combat suspicion and dislike of migrants.
“Migrants are not a threat, this is not an invasion,” said Alexandra Haas, the head of Mexico’s anti-discrimination agency.
The most outraged reaction came from US immigration activists, but reaction on the Mexican side was muted, in part because Lopez Obrador’s administration was apparently successful in depicting the decision as a humanitarian measure to protect migrants.
“There is a segment of Mexicans who are better off and don’t feel threatened by migrants who can say this is good, we have to be humanitarian, show solidarity,” said Crespo, the analyst. “But for those (Mexicans) who are looking for a job, they perhaps won’t like this.”
All in all, it will be hard for opponents to accuse a die-hard nationalist like Lopez Obrador of being too pro-American.
“Who can stand up in congress and say: ‘You’re selling the country out,’” said Federico Estevez, a political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico. “He (Lopez Obrador) may absorb a cost, but it’s relatively small price to get your neck out of the noose on the immigration issue.”
“I don’t think you can find on the Mexican side much of a coherent stance against these concessions,” Estevez added. “I don’t think you have a very strong constituency on this side” in favor of the Central American migrants.


Father and son linked to murders of Muslims in New Mexico

Updated 6 sec ago

Father and son linked to murders of Muslims in New Mexico

NEW MEXICO: Police in New Mexico have found evidence that appears to tie a father and son to the killings of Muslim men in New Mexico, federal prosecutors said on Monday.
Both Muhammad Syed, 51, and his son Shaheen Syed were in the same area of Albuquerque shortly after an Aug. 5 murder took place, based on cellphone data, federal prosecutors said in court documents.
Agents believe Shaheen Syed observed Aug. 5 murder victim Naeem Hussain attending a funeral service that day for two other Muslim men who were murdered, based on FBI analysis of cell tower data.
Shaheen Syed then followed Hussain to the location where he was gunned down, prosecutors said in documents for a Monday detention hearing.
“Telephone calls between Muhammad Atif Syed and the defendant would be consistent with quick surveillance calls, both before and after the shooting,” federal prosecutors said, citing an FBI analysis of cell tower data.
The reference to the defendant is Shaheen Syed, who was arrested last week on federal firearms charges for providing a false address.
An attorney representing Shaheen Syed described the latest allegations as “exceedingly thin and speculative.”
In a court filing, lawyer John Anderson said federal prosecutors provided no evidence as to the size of the “general area” the father and son’s phones were both in shortly after the Aug. 5 murder.
Muhammad Syed was formally charged with killing Aftab Hussein, 41, on July 26 and Muhammed Afzaal Hussain, 27, on Aug. 1.
Police have said they are working with prosecutors on potential charges for the murders of Naeem Hussain, 25, as well as Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, who was shot dead on Nov. 7, 2021.

Location of first ship to leave Ukraine carrying grain unknown

Updated 15 August 2022

Location of first ship to leave Ukraine carrying grain unknown

  • Razoni was initially heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed
  • The corn’s buyer in Lebanon later refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered much later than agreed

BEIRUT: The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a wartime deal has had its cargo resold several times and there is now no information about its location and cargo destination, the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut said Monday.
The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, which left Odesa on Aug. 1, and moved through the Black Sea carrying Ukrainian corn, later passed inspection in Turkey. It was initially heading for Lebanon with 26,000 metric tons of corn for chicken feed. The corn’s buyer in Lebanon later refused to accept the cargo, since it was delivered much later than agreed.
The Razoni hasn’t had its tracker on for the last three days and it appeared off the east coast of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus at last transmission.
It was not clear if the Razoni had its tracker off because it was heading to a port in Syria, a strong ally of Russia that Ukraine had accused of importing grain stolen from Ukraine.
Syria is also under Western sanctions because of the 11-year conflict there that has killed hundreds of thousands. Syrian port officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
“Our task has been to reopen seaports for grain cargo and it has been done,” Ukraine’s embassy in Beirut said in a statement in English, adding that to date, 16 vessels have left Ukraine carrying more than 450,000 tons of agricultural products since a breakthrough agreement was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine.
The embassy said the Razoni was the first vessel that left Ukraine under the agreement and later successfully passed inspection in Istanbul before moving toward its destination.
“We don’t have any information about (the) position of the vessel and cargo destination,” it said. “We have also information that cargo has been resold a few times after that.”
The embassy said: “We are not responsible for (the) vessel and cargo, especially when it left Ukraine, moreover after vessel’s departure from foreign port.”
The Black Sea region is dubbed the world’s breadbasket, with Ukraine and Russia key global suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of impoverished people in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia rely on for survival.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain — most of it said to be destined for livestock — has been stuck in Ukraine since the start of the 6-month-old war.


One year since takeover, Taliban urge world to ‘improve relations’ with Afghanistan

Taliban fighters and supporters ride in a convoy to celebrate their victory day in Kandahar on August 15, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 39 min 37 sec ago

One year since takeover, Taliban urge world to ‘improve relations’ with Afghanistan

  • Countries have refused to recognize the new government
  • Afghanistan’s aid-dependent economy has been in freefall since Taliban seized power

KABUL: Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mohammed Hassan Akhund called on the international community to improve relations with the country on Monday as the Taliban marked the first anniversary of their return to power.

After the Taliban captured Kabul last August and US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the group’s stunning takeover marked the end of two decades of war that killed tens of thousands of Afghans on their soil.

The Taliban had declared Aug. 15 a national holiday just a day earlier, following a year that saw improved security but also increasing uncertainties about the country’s future.

With the new government still struggling to gain recognition from the international community a year later, the acting premier has urged for better relations.

“The world must improve its relations with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. We are not a threat to any country,” Akhund said in a statement.

“Other countries should also have positive political and economic engagement with Afghanistan.”

Under its new rulers, Afghanistan has been struggling to achieve growth and stability, as foreign governments’ refusal to recognize the Taliban has kept the country isolated.

The aid-dependent economy has been in freefall since the Taliban took over, with billions of dollars in foreign aid suspended and some $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets parked overseas have been frozen.

On Monday, Taliban soldiers celebrated the anniversary with marches on the streets of Kabul as they carried their flags of the Islamic Emirate and played anthems.

“This is the day of the victory of right over wrong and the day of salvation and freedom of the Afghan nation,” Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The country is safer compared to when the Taliban were fighting against US-led troops and their Afghan allies, even as a local offshoot of the Islamic State has carried out several attacks in the past year.

But the UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the country, where nearly 20 million people out of the 38 million population are facing acute hunger.

Forty-year-old Mohammed Ali, a shopkeeper at Kabul’s commercial area of Pul-e-Surkh, went about his daily business on Monday morning, despite the national holiday.

Amid increasing hardships, feeding his family is what matters most for Ali.

“We have to work every day to earn some income and feed our children. It doesn’t matter who’s in power, no one cares much about ordinary people,” Ali told Arab News.

“There are so many anniversaries. This is just another one. When we have enough food on our destarkhan, that’s the best celebration for us,” he said, referring to the meal-setting placement on the ground or floor that is commonplace across Afghanistan.  

The day prompted questions about the future for 21-year-old Shamsia Amini, whose dream of becoming a soccer player was shattered last year when the Taliban barred women from all sports.

“So many women’s aspirations were put on hold for an uncertain time. We don’t even know whether we will have a future under the Taliban,” she told Arab News.

Women’s rights have been curtailed in the past year, as women were ordered to wear face coverings in public, banned from making long-distance journeys alone and prevented from working in most sectors outside of health and education. Education has also been limited for women, even though allowing girls into schools and colleges was one of the key demands made by the international community.

“We should all, men and women, remember Aug. 15 as a dark day for Afghan women,” she added.

Qasim Haqmal, a Taliban soldier based in Kabul, told Arab News that the victory and freedom the group gained a year ago was what Afghans wanted.

“We are trying our best to serve the people the best way possible,” Haqmal said. “I ask people to have some patience.”

 


Dutch court to announce ruling in MH17 murder trial on Nov. 17

Updated 15 August 2022

Dutch court to announce ruling in MH17 murder trial on Nov. 17

  • The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit over Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk region

AMSTERDAM: The Dutch court handling the murder trial of four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 said on Monday it would hand down its verdict on Nov. 17.
Prosecutors say the one Ukrainian and three Russian defendants, who are all at large, helped supply a missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to fire a rocket at the plane on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board were killed.
The prosecution is seeking life terms for all suspects.
Lawyers for Oleg Pulatov, the only defendant who has chosen to participate in the proceedings through counsel, have argued that the trial was unfair and prosecutors did not properly examine alternative theories about the cause of the crash or the involvement of Pulatov.
The other suspects, named as Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko, are being tried in absentia. Under Dutch law Pulatov, while he is also at large, is not considered to be tried in absentia because he is represented through lawyers he has instructed.
The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit over Ukraine’s rebel-held Donetsk region by what international investigators say was a Russian-made surface-to-air missile. The eastern region has also become a key focus of Russia’s nearly six-month-old war in Ukraine.
Most of the victims on board MH17 were Dutch nationals. The Dutch government holds Russia responsible for the crash. Authorities in Moscow deny any involvement.
The MH17 case has seriously strained the Netherlands’ diplomatic relations with Moscow, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on Feb. 24.


3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

Updated 15 August 2022

3 injured in shooting at amusement park near Chicago

GURNEE, Illinois:Three people were injured in a shooting in the parking lot of an amusement park north of Chicago that sent visitors scrambling for safety, authorities said.
Officers responded about 7:50 p.m. Sunday after 911 calls reporting shots fired at Six Flags Great America, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Chicago, the Gurnee Police Department said.
“The shooting ... was not a random act, and appeared to be a targeted incident that occurred outside the park,” police said in statement posted to Facebook.
According to an initial investigation, police said a white sedan entered the parking lot and drove toward the park’s front entrance. People got out of the car and shot at another person in the parking lot before driving away, police said.
Additional detail about the suspects, including the number of people who fired shots, wasn’t immediately released. Police were investigating.
A 17-year-old boy from Aurora, Illinois, had a thigh wound and a 19-year-old woman from Appleton, Wisconsin, had a leg wound, police said. They were taken to a hospital and their wounds were described as non-life-threatening. A third victim had a shoulder injury and declined to be taken to a hospital.
In a statement, Six Flags Great America said park security responded immediately along with Gurnee officers.
WGN News in Chicago spoke with Laurie Walker and her daughter, Grace, who were inside the park when the shooting occurred. Walker said they were waiting in line for an attraction around 7:50 p.m. when she noticed people running.
“There is an active shooter, get down, get down,” Walker said she heard someone shouting. “We didn’t know what was going on, so we get down.”
Walker and her daughter climbed two fences to get where she could call her husband. Walker told WGN she was able to leave the park a short while later.
Gurnee is in Lake County, about 5 miles south of the Wisconsin border. It’s about 20 miles north of Highland Park, where seven people died in a mass shooting during a July Fourth parade.