Migrant deaths in Mediterranean `hit 10,000`

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  • Corporal kills, buries inspector over N300,000

More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, the UN said Tuesday, as the EU unveiled fresh plans to stem the migrant flow from Africa.

Following a rash of deadly shipwrecks that have claimed hundreds of lives, the UN refugee agency said the number of deaths at sea had risen sharply, with a record 2,814 people drowning since January.

With Europe in the grip of its worst migrant crisis since World War II, the rising death toll has prompted urgent efforts to tackle the problem.

Brussels has been seeking ways to clamp down on the Africa route after a deal with Ankara in March slashed numbers trying to cross from Turkey.

“We cannot tolerate the loss of life on this scale, we need to do everything to stop it,” said European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

The new proposal involves using EU funds to promote private investment of up to 60 billion euros ($68 billion) in countries where many migrants come from — Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal, as well as Jordan and Lebanon, Timmermans said.

Eight billion euros of EU funds are available to support migration deals with external countries, many of which were first mooted at a crisis summit last year.

The Commission also wants to speed up readmission deals with African countries and with Pakistan and Afghanistan to make it easier to send back people who do not win refugee status.

“There will be consequences for those that refuse to cooperate,” Dutchman Timmermans told the European Parliament, alongside EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The European Commission is also set to unveil a plan for a “blue card” system for skilled migrants to come to Europe legally.

The aim is to reduce the incentive for people to try to smuggle themselves into the continent on flimsy boats and put their lives at risk.

“If we ever want to compete with the US Green Card, we need an EU Blue Card that deserves the same merit,” Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.Breaking down the figures, the UN said a total of 3,771 people had died at sea in 2015 and 3,500 the year earlier, plus this year`s deaths.

“You`ve now had since the start of 2014 — when this phenomenon of rising numbers across the Mediterranean happened — 10,000 deaths,” said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.

“This is clearly an appalling number of deaths that have occurred in the Mediterranean, just on Europe`s borders, just in the past couple of years,” Edwards told AFP.

Shortly after the UN announcement, the Libyan coastguard said it had intercepted 117 migrants, including six pregnant women, on a boat bound for Europe, which they brought back ashore.

More than one million people made the journey to Europe in 2015, the majority fleeing war in Syria and the Middle East, and a further 204,000 have come since January, the UNHCR says.

Crossings on the deadly route between Libya and Italy have dropped sharply since a controversial deal between the EU and Turkey designed to halt the flow of largely Syrian migrants across the Aegean Sea.

Two migrants have filed the first cases with the EU`s top court seeking to overturn the Turkey deal, sources close to the matter said on Tuesday.

The EU has been anticipating legal challenges, particularly over the asylum application processing system set up in the Greek islands to manage such claims quickly.

Separately, the EU`s top court ruled Tuesday that countries cannot imprison illegal migrants just for crossing borders in the Schengen passport-free area, in a new blow to efforts to crack down on the crisis.

The Schengen passport-free area of 26 European countries has come under severe pressure from the migration crisis, with many countries bringing back border controls that were dismantled a decade ago.

In the meantime, a police corporal, Daramola Tosin, attached to the Ekiti Police Division in the Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, has been dismissed from the Force for allegedly killing an inspector, Mr. Lateef Shuaib.

Tosin allegedly shot Shuaib after secretly withdrawing up to N300,000 from Shuaib’s bank account without his consent.

PUNCH Metro learnt that Shuaib had entrusted Tosin with his Automated Teller Machine card when he fell ill.

The suspect was said to have initially withdrawn money for the use of the father of two.

However, it was learnt that the suspect started taking money in bits from the account for his own use until he withdrew up to N300,000.

Shuaib was said to have chided him for the action.

The inspector was reportedly defecating when Tosin shot him dead with an AK-47 rifle and buried him at the back of a police barracks.

The victim’s sister, Sherifat Hammed, was said to have reported to the Osi Police Station on May 10, 2016, that Shuaib had been missing since May 6.

Hammed said she suspected Tosin because her elder brother informed her when he was sick that he entrusted his UBA ATM card to the suspect to help him in withdrawing money.

The Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sam Okaula, said when the matter was brought to his attention he ensured that discreet investigation was conducted, adding that the suspect was arrested.

According to him, the corporal confessed to the crime and was dismissed.

Our correspondent learnt that the corporal was made to face an orderly-room trial for leaving his place of duty and for discreditable conduct and was found guilty.

The CP said, “We do not condone crime. We go after anyone including members of the Force who go out of their way to commit crime. We will investigate and prosecute them if found culpable and ensure we gain conviction. This particular dastardly act will not be an exception.”

The suspect was arraigned on Tuesday before a magistrate’s court in Ilorin.

According to the First Information Report obtained by our correspondent in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the suspect buried the late inspector at the back of the Osi Police Barracks.

It said, “Investigation conducted at the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, Ilorin, revealed that on May 6 at about 10pm, while Inspector Lateef Shuaib was defecating inside the bush, very close to the barracks at the Osi Police Station, you Daramola Tosin, callously and viciously traced him to the bush and shot him with your AK-47 rifle that led to his untimely death and you later buried him inside the bush at the back of Osi Police Barracks without the knowledge of anybody.”

The FIR said the offences were culpable homicide, breach of trust and theft, and were contrary to sections 221, 312 and 289 of the Penal Code.

When the case was called up, the police prosecutor, Inspector James Odaodu, said the offence of murder was capital in nature, adding that the suspect could not be admitted to bail.

He prayed the court to remand the suspect in prison custody.

The magistrate, Mr. Nurudeen Adeyanju, who did not take the plea of the accused, said his court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter since it was a murder charge.

He added that it should be handled by the high court.

He, however, ordered that the accused be remanded at the Federal Prison, Mandalla.

The case was adjourned till June 21, 2016, for mention.

Meanwhile, Shuaib’s wife, Mosunmola , 47, of Ife, Olukotun, in the Yagba East of Kogi State, said the death of her husband by someone he trusted was devastating to the family.

She stated that their children, Kudirat, 23, and Sadiat, 20, had been traumatised by the calamity.

She, however, commended the CP and other officers of the command for the investigation and the arraignment of the accused.

Mosunmola said she was hopeful that justice would be done.

Zee News with additional report from Punch