UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 26 November 2021

UK PM asks France to take back Channel-crossing migrants

  • Britain and France had earlier called for a coordinated European response to stop people-trafficking in the Channel after the deadliest accident

CALAIS, France: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday asking France to immediately start taking back all migrants who land in England after crossing the Channel, after at least 27 died when their boat foundered off Calais.
Taking back migrants "would significantly reduce — if not stop — the crossings, saving thousands of lives by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs" behind the trafficking, he said in a letter sent to Macron on Thursday evening.
The record wave of illegal migrants seeking to cross the English Channel is a volatile issue for both leaders amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment and controversy over what critics say is a callous attitude in both capitals.
Johnson's letter also set out areas for greater cooperation with France, proposing joint border patrols, aerial surveillance and intelligence sharing.
"We are ready to begin such patrols from the start of next week," Johnson said.
Britain and France had earlier called for a coordinated European response to stop people-trafficking in the Channel after the deadliest accident since the waterway in 2018 became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia trying to reach England from France.
Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke with French counterpart Gerald Darmanin to put forward plans for greater "collaboration and innovation", according to a statement.
The two will meet this weekend and Patel will send officers to Paris after having offered to provide more people on the ground, it said.
However even as Paris invited European ministers to an emergency meeting at the weekend, the response risked being undermined by continued Franco-British squabbling after Brexit.
Macron, after vowing France would not allow the Channel to become a "cemetery", spoke earlier to Johnson to agree on stepping up efforts to thwart the traffickers blamed for the surge in crossings.
And in a terse readout of the talks, the Elysee Palace said Macron told Johnson that France and the UK have a "shared responsibility" and added he "expected the British to cooperate fully and refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political ends".
Patel had earlier refused to rule out the controversial step of turning migrant boats back across the Channel, under legislation now making its way through parliament."France is a transit country, we are fighting against these networks of smugglers who exploit people's misery, but for this we must improve European cooperation," Macron said on a visit to Croatia, saying that when the migrants arrived in northern France "it is already too late".
Seventeen men, seven women and three minors died when the inflatable boat lost air and took on water off the northern port of Calais on Wednesday. A manslaughter probe has been opened.
Darmanin said five suspected traffickers accused of being directly linked to the doomed crossing had been arrested.
Darmanin said only two survivors, an Iraqi and Somali, had been found and they were recovering from extreme hypothermia and would eventually be questioned.
Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart said a pregnant woman was also one of the victims.
About 200 people, mainly activists and some exiles, gathered early on Thursday evening in Calais to pay tribute to the victims.
The circumstances of the tragedy have not yet been clarified, but Mohamed, a 22-year-old Syrian, told AFP he was one of the last people to see them: "They were with me here in Calais three days ago.
"Three days ago, the group told us 'we're leaving for England', and they left," he said.
He said conditions were dangerous yesterday.
"In addition they went to sea without equipment," he said.In telephone talks, Johnson and Macron agreed on the "urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings", according to Downing Street.
But Johnson told British media London had faced "difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that the situation deserves".
In a sign of the tensions, Britain's biggest-selling tabloid newspapers all carried a front-page picture of a French police vehicle apparently sitting idly by as migrants entered the waters off northern France.
More than 25,700 people have made the cross-Channel journey in small boats this year -- three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by Britain's PA news agency.
Darmanin insisted that Paris was doing all it could to break the trafficking networks, saying France had arrested 1,500 people smugglers since the start of the year.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also held a crisis meeting on Thursday with ministers to discuss new measures and invited the British, Belgian Dutch and German immigration ministers to a meeting in Calais on Monday.


Israel lawmakers outraged over claim police used NSO spyware

Updated 4 min 17 sec ago

Israel lawmakers outraged over claim police used NSO spyware

  • Israeli police denied the allegations, saying they operate according to the law
  • NSO Group said it does not identify its clients

JERUSALEM: Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday called for a parliamentary inquiry into the police’s alleged use of sophisticated spyware on Israeli citizens, including protesters opposed to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following a newspaper report on the surveillance.
Hebrew-language business newspaper Calcalist reported that in 2020, police used the NSO spyware Pegasus to surveil leaders of protests against Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. It said police also hacked the phones of two sitting mayors suspected of corruption and numerous other Israeli citizens, all without a court order or a judge’s oversight.
The Israeli police denied the allegations, saying they operate according to the law, and the NSO Group said it does not identify its clients.
Sophisticated spyware made by the Israeli company has been linked to eavesdropping on human rights activists, journalists and politicians, from Saudi Arabia to Mexico. The US has barred the group from American technology, saying its products have been used by repressive regimes.
The company says its products are intended to be used against criminals and terrorists, and that it does not control how its clients use the software. Israel, which regulates the company, has not said whether its own security forces use the spyware.
The report — which cited no current or formal officials from the government, police or NSO corroborating the paper’s claims — referred to eight alleged examples of the police’s secretive signal intelligence unit employing Pegasus to surveil Israeli citizens, including hacking phones of a murder suspect and opponents of the Jerusalem Pride Parade. The report did not name any of the people whose phones were allegedly hacked by the police.
“In all the cases mentioned in the article, and in other instances, use of Pegasus was made at the sole discretion of senior police officers,” the report said. “The significance is that with Pegasus, the police can effectively hack without asking a court, without a search or entry warrant, without oversight, to all cell phones.”
The report sparked an outcry across Israel’s political spectrum, briefly uniting everyone from Jewish ultra-nationalists to Arab opposition lawmakers in shared outrage.
Cabinet Minister Karine Elharrar told Israeli Army Radio that such surveillance “was something that a democratic country cannot allow.”
Opposition lawmaker Yuval Steinitz said that surveillance of citizens by law enforcement without judicial oversight is improper and that if the claims are correct, it should be investigated.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose department oversees the police, tweeted that he would verify that police received explicit authorization from a judge to use the spyware.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party called on the Knesset speaker to launch a parliamentary investigation. Merav Ben Ari, an Israeli lawmaker who heads the Knesset’s internal security committee, said the panel would hold a hearing into the report’s claims.
Israeli police issued a statement after the report’s publication, saying that “there’s no truth to the claims raised in the article” and that “all police operations in this field are in accordance with the law, in line with court orders and meticulous protocols.”
Amir Ohana, who was public security minister during the protests, said he had no knowledge of the reported surveillance.
The Black Flags protest movement, whose leaders were allegedly surveilled during weekly demonstrations in recent years calling on Netanyahu to resign, called on the police to release the names of the people whose phones were hacked. Spokesman Roee Neuman said the protest leaders only learned of the digital surveillance following the publication of the report.
Pegasus software surreptitiously grants full access to a person’s cellphone, including real-time communications.
Tuesday’s report was the latest blow for the company, which has faced growing scrutiny and criticism for its software’s use by repressive governments.
NSO’s software has repeatedly been blamed for cellphone surveillance of activists, dissidents and journalists. Last month, the Internet watchdog Citizen Lab said dozens of journalists and human rights defenders in El Salvador had their cellphones repeatedly hacked with sophisticated spyware over the past year and a half.
In November, Citizen Lab said it had identified Pegasus software on the phones of six Palestinian human rights activists affiliated with groups that Israel has controversially claimed are involved in terrorism.
Citizen Lab has been identifying Pegasus victims since 2015, when abuses of the spyware against journalists and human rights activists were discovered in Mexico and autocratic Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia. Dozens of cases have since been uncovered, including of a dozen US State Department employees in Uganda, British lawyers and a Polish senator who led the opposition’s 2019 parliamentary campaign.
The NSO Group said that it could neither confirm nor deny any specific clients, adding that “the company does not operate the system once sold to its governmental customers and it is not involved in any way in the system’s operation.”
“NSO sells its products under license and regulation to intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent terror and crime under court orders and the local laws of their countries,” the company said.


Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

Updated 12 min 32 sec ago

Government says central bank autonomy not without checks and balances

  • The IMF wanted Pakistan to grant maximum independence to the central bank to end any possible political interference
  • A senior Pakistani minister says the oversight mechanism was built into the law after ‘hard negotiations’ with the lending agency

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani minister on Tuesday criticized the opposition for making a legislation regarding the central bank’s autonomy controversial, saying the new law was not without checks and balances which were incorporated after “hard negotiations” with the International Monetary Fund.
The law was approved by the country’s national assembly last week and was enacted on the international financial institution’s insistence which had been demanding it to protect the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from any political interference.
The IMF executive board is scheduled to review Pakistan’s progress in terms of the implementation of structural reforms under a $6 billion loan program and may release another tranche of $1 billion later this month.
Pakistan’s energy minister Hammad Azhar told a news conference in Islamabad that central banks were always kept autonomous in the world since there was enough evidence that it allowed developed nations to bring down inflation and ensure economic growth.
“The federal government will appoint the central bank’s board of directors whose members can even remove the state bank governor,” he said, adding: “We managed to secure this concession of appointing the state bank board along with its governor and deputy governor from the IMF after hard negotiations.”
Azhar maintained previous administrations tried to influence central bank officials while dictating them how to manage the county’s monetary policy.
He added a similar bill was also suggested in 2015 by the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party wherein it was willing to surrender all its powers to the central bank board.
The minister noted the government had brought about a comprehensive reform in the area which was also “demanded by serious Pakistani economists for a substantially long period.”
Refuting the opposition’s criticism over the law, he said it was only going to strengthen the country’s economy and ensure sustained growth momentum.


Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

Updated 56 min 23 sec ago

Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

  • The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behaviour and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister
  • Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail

LONDON: The trial of former Manchester United soccer player Ryan Giggs has been delayed to August 8 due to a lack of court space, the BBC reported after a hearing on Tuesday.
The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behavior and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister. The trial at Manchester Crown Court had been due to start on Jan. 24.
Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail.
“Unfortunately it has become necessary to vacate this trial from the list,” the BBC quoted Judge Hilary Manley as saying. “The reason for this is because there is not a court available to accommodate this trial.
“Due to the large backlog of court cases, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the need for social distancing, this is a situation which is a daily reality for the criminal courts.”
Giggs’ lawyer said his client was “extremely disappointed.”
The former player was charged last April when a magistrate’s court heard a prosecutor read out a summary of charges including that he struck Kate Greville with a “deliberate headbutt.”
He was first arrested in the case and released on bail in Nov. 2020.
Giggs made 963 appearances over 23 years for Manchester United as a player, a club record, winning a haul of honors including 13 Premier League winner’s medals and two UEFA Champions League winner’s medals.
He represented Wales as a player 64 times between 1991 and 2007 and took over as national coach in 2018.


Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

Updated 18 January 2022

Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

  • Top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges
  • "It's amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn't ask for any more," said Murray

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and favorite Daniil Medvedev set up a blockbuster second-round showdown with Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, while Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka also won despite struggling with their serves.
Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, was also victorious on her tournament debut but there was defeat at the first hurdle for her fellow 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez — the woman Raducanu beat in the Flushing Meadows decider.
Canada’s Fernandez, the 23rd seed, went down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and many are eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organizers of the so-called “Happy Slam,” said in a statement Tuesday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning Djokovic by name.
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and heading into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favorite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev, who lost last year’s final in Melbourne to Djokovic but then beat the Serbian in the US Open final in September, plays combustible but talented Australian showman Kyrgios in round two.
Another of the “Next Gen” young talents challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The fourth seed was a comfortable winner in three sets over practice partner Mikael Ymer to get his tournament up and running.
In the women’s draw, Spanish world number three Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, eased past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
There was also little trouble for Kontaveit, despite some early nerves, and Swiatek, but Romania’s Halep was far from comfortable.
The former number one labored into round two 6-4, 6-3 after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks.
Second seed Sabalenka, who was reduced to tears and serving underarm in a disastrous lead-up to Melbourne, had Mark Philippoussis to thank after she revealed the Australian former world number eight helped iron out some of her serving problems.
She was far from perfect on her serve but survived to beat Storm Sanders 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
In the last action of the day, Raducanu ousted the American Sloane Stephens — a former US Open champion — 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a performance that will make the Briton’s rivals sit up and take notice.


Poland: some 600 migrant crossings into EU foiled this year

Updated 18 January 2022

Poland: some 600 migrant crossings into EU foiled this year

  • Border guards said on Twitter that on Monday, 23 migrants were detained after having crossed the razor-wire barriers into Poland
  • Poland is planning to build a high, metal barrier in the coming months to prevent any illegal crossings from Belarus

WARSAW, Poland: Poland’s Border Guard authorities say that almost 600 attempts by migrants at crossing the border from Belarus have been foiled so far this year.
The attempts have continued since their peak in the fall, but the number of registered tries has dropped significantly, to dozens a day from nearly a thousand a day in November.
Border guards said on Twitter that on Monday, 23 migrants were detained after having crossed the razor-wire barriers into Poland, a European Union member. They were from Syria, Iraq, Cuba, the Palestinian territories and Turkmenistan. Earlier, Yemenis were also detained.
Poland says Belarusian officers are helping the migrants cut and cross the border barriers and attack Poland’s border guards.
Poland is planning to build a high, metal barrier in the coming months to prevent any illegal crossings from Belarus. Border guards continue to receive backup from Poland’s military.
Poland and the EU say the migrant pressure was organized by the government of Belarus’ authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko to destabilize the 27-member bloc in retaliation for sanctions that the West introduced after Belarus’ 2020 presidential election that it says was rigged.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said Sunday it has flown back from Belarus some 4,000 Iraqis who got stuck at the border with Poland. The return flights were organized after pressure from the EU, alarmed by the plight of the migrants stuck in woods in freezing winter weather.
In 2021, Poland’s Border Guard registered 39,700 attempts to illegally cross from Belarus.
German federal police say that 11,228 unauthorized entries “with a connection to Belarus” were recorded last year — 5,294 of them in October alone. They say that numbers are continuing to fall.