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EU to triple spending to €5bn a year targeting illegal migration

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…As Macron scolds Italy over Aquarius ship with stranded migrants***

The EU will establish a 10,000-strong standing corp of guards to patrol its land and sea borders under plans that will see the bloc triple its spending to €5bn (£4.4bn) a year on targeting illegal migration into the bloc, it has announced.

The building of new border infrastructure including scanners, automated number plate recognition systems, and mobile laboratories for sample analysis, will also be prioritised, along with the establishment of teams of sniffer dogs.

Announcing its €34.9bn spending plan for 2021 to 2027, the European commission insisted, however, that it would not fund the installation of fences on the EU’s borders.

Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orbán, last year called on the EU to co-finance fences along its shared borders with Serbia and Croatia. A commission statement said its funding was “aimed at ensuring proper control of borders, not closing them. The commission has never financed fences and will not do so under the new EU budget either.”

Frans Timmermans, the commission’s first vice-president, said: “Based on past experience and the knowledge that migration will remain a challenge in the future, we are proposing an unprecedented increase in funding. Strengthening our common EU borders, in particular with our European Border and Coast Guard, will continue to be a big priority.”

While the earmarking of extra funding is widely approved by the EU’s member states, they remain deeply fractured over their migration and asylum policies after two years of disputes.

The commission is taking Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to the European court of justice over their failure to respect a mandatory quota system that was designed to relocate about 120,000 largely Syrian refugees. Hungary has not relocated any refugees since the quotas were introduced while Poland has not done so since 2016. The Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August.

Another faultline is the Dublin mechanism under which the member state first receiving a refugee must take responsibility for them.

It has been proposed that this rule could be time-limited, so that refugees finding a home over a number of years in one country could not then be sent to another, but the EU cannot agree on the length of the time limit.

A failure to reach a consensus on the reform of the system has led to Austria, Belgian and Denmark proposing radical plans for shutting the borders and establishing camps in non-EU states.

Herbert Kickl, Austria’s interior minister and a member of the far-right Freedom party, recently suggested the EU requires a “small Copernican revolution” on migration. Austria is taking over the rolling presidency of the European council in July.

The parties in the new Italian government, the far-right League and the populist Five Star Movement, are exploiting the potency of the issue. On Monday, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister, declared victory after a standoff over the fate of 629 people on a humanitarian rescue boat.

Italy had refused to allow the MS Aquarius to dock at the weekend. The Spanish government stepped in to allow the boat to disembark on their territory, although the offer required an additional two days at sea for those on board, including the 100 children.

During a press conference in Strasbourg to announce the new spending, Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, said: “This is only one vessel and incident. Another 937 people have been saved by the Italian coastguard and are being transported to Catania as we speak.”

The commission wants its proposed budget to be agreed by member states and MEPs before the next European parliament elections in May 2019, two months after the UK leaves the EU.

In the meantime, French President Emmanuel Macron has accused the Italian government of “cynicism and irresponsibility” for refusing to let a stranded rescue ship packed with migrants dock in Italy.

A charity looking after the 629 migrants on the Aquarius, stranded off Malta, says two Italian ships will help take them to Spain’s port of Valencia.

Spain is some three days’ sailing away.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hit back angrily at France, calling its stance on migrants “hypocritical”.

He criticised “countries that have always preferred to turn their backs when it comes to immigration”.

In the past five years Italy has taken in more than 640,000 mainly African migrants and says its EU partners must ease the burden.

Most migrants who survive the perilous voyages from North Africa end up in overcrowded Italian camps. Among them are refugees fleeing war and persecution, who have a right to asylum. The Aquarius migrants, mainly sub-Saharan Africans, were picked up off Libya’s coast at the weekend.

They were found in inflatable boats and are now being looked after by Doctors without Borders (MSF) and the Franco-German charity SOS Méditerranée aboard the Aquarius.

Mr Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the French president recalled that “in cases of distress, those with the nearest coastline have a responsibility to respond”.

“There is a degree of cynicism and irresponsibility in the Italian government’s behaviour,” he quoted President Macron as saying.

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The plan is for the Aquarius to be joined by an Italian coastguard ship and a warship, then for all three to head for Valencia.

The coastguard ship Dattilo and the warship are expected to take migrants on board from the Aquarius in the coming hours. There are medics and UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) workers on the Dattilo.

SOS Méditerranée tweeted photos of fresh supplies arriving on board on Tuesday.

Guardian UK with additional report from BBC

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Sri Lankan President Thanks Seychelles Defence Forces For Rescuing Sri Lankan Vessel From Somali Pirates

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President Ramkalawan says Seychellois military boarded boat with utmost courage to take complete control

 The Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) Special Forces and Seychelles Coast Guards on board Coast Guards vessel Topaz led a successful operation to regain control of a Sri Lankan vessel hijacked by armed Somali pirates.

Seychellois special military forces boarded the boat with utmost courage to take complete control of the vessel and rescue our Sri Lankan brothers.

The Commander in Chief of the Seychelles, President Wavel Ramkalawan has spoken to the Chief of Defence Forces, Brigadier Michael Rosette to congratulate the Special Forces and Coast Guards team on a well-executed and successful mission.

“This is the spirit of the Seychelles Defence Forces. Professionalism, courage, and bravery are the tenets of the new spirit in the force. Though small, we will make our contribution to attaining maritime security, peace, and determination in the fight against terrorism to ensure that the world, especially in our part of the Indian Ocean remains a safe and peaceful region. Once again, I reiterate the  pride and confidence of the Seychellois nation in the Seychelles Defence Forces.”

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GoG: Promoting Trans-boundary Management For Sustainable Socio-Economic Development

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…Mission builds upon previous efforts by AU-IBAR in the beneficiary countries (Benin and Togo) for the national validation of the report on the State of the Transboundary Marine Environment (SoME)

NAIROBI, Kenya, January 23, 2024/ — From January 21st to 27th, 2024, AU-IBAR is on a mission in the republics of Benin and Togo. The mission is dedicated to supporting the implementation of a Transboundary Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) initiative between the two nations. Funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), under the project “Conservation of Aquatic Biodiversity within the Framework of the Africa Blue Economy Strategy,” this initiative holds the promise of fostering socio-economic development through the judicious use of marine resources.

Collaborative Efforts: AU-IBAR is collaborating with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) body, the Abidjan Convention, and the World Bank-funded West African Coastal Area Management (WACA) Project. The SIDA-funded project, implemented by AU-IBAR, involves an assessment to map the extent of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) usage in Africa as a management tool for the conservation of aquatic biodiversity and ecosystems in the west, central, and northern regions of Africa.

Mission Objectives: This mission builds upon previous efforts by AU-IBAR in the beneficiary countries (Benin and Togo) for the national validation of the report on the State of Transboundary Marine Environment (SoME). The current objective is to secure joint expert validation of the SoME report and obtain high-level political endorsement for the provisions of the jointly validated report, demonstrating the commitment of both countries to the cause. Participants in the joint validation workshop include WACA project-nominated committee members from Benin and Togo, representatives from the Abidjan Convention, and government authorities from both nations, alongside relevant AU-IBAR staff.

Political Commitment: The opening statements during the joint meeting saw representatives from the Governments of Benin and Togo, the Executive Secretary of the Abidjan Convention, and the representative of the Director of AU-IBAR express unwavering commitment to the transboundary marine management process. Both the Director of AU-IBAR and the Executive Secretary of the Abidjan Convention reiterated their support for the Governments of Benin and Togo in realizing their shared vision for the sustainable management of coastal and marine resources in the designated shared maritime boundary.

Key Outcomes: The pinnacle achievement of the joint meeting is the validation of the study report on the state of the marine environment between Benin and Togo. This validation marks a significant milestone towards establishing the transboundary MSP between the two countries. AU-IBAR Director, DR Huyam Salih, emphasized that this accomplishment is a crucial step forward in enhancing aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental protection in the Gulf of Guinea.

Conclusion: The joint expert consultation workshop serves as a testament to the collaborative efforts aimed at promoting transboundary management of shared marine aquatic ecosystems in the Gulf of Guinea. The validated report and political commitment from Benin and Togo are integral to realizing the socio-economic development potential inherent in the sustainable use of marine resources. As AU-IBAR continues its mission, the hope is that this initiative will serve as a model for other regions seeking to harmonize efforts for the conservation and management of their shared marine ecosystems.
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U.S.-British Strikes In Yemen Left 5 Dead, Say Houthi Rebels

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The U.S. and British military strikes in Yemen have left five Houthi fighters dead and six others injured, the Iran-aligned rebels said on Friday, vowing retaliation.

“The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression,’’ the Houthi military spokesman Yehya Saree said in a statement.

Saree said the massive attack had targeted several Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen including the capital Sana’a.

“It will not pass unanswered and without punishment.

“The Yemeni Armed Forces will not hesitate to target sources of threat and all hostile targets on the ground and in the sea,’’ he said. 

  • dpa
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