Connect with us

World News

United States lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries

Published

on

…As Saudi anti-corruption drive generates $106bn in settlements***

The United States announced today it was lifting its ban on refugees from 11 “high-risk” countries, but said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past.

Applicants from 11 countries, unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea, will face tougher “risk-based” assessments to be accepted.

“It’s critically important that we know who is entering the United States,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

“These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”

The 11 countries, hit with a ban in October in the Trump administration’s revised refugee policy, have not been identified officially.

But refugee groups say they comprise Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Speaking anonymously, a senior administration official told journalists that the policy of enhanced security assessments for the 11 countries was not designed to target Muslims.

“Our admissions have nothing to do with religion,” the official said, adding that there is “nothing especially novel” about tougher screening for countries deemed to have a higher level of risk.

Donald Trump has pursued a much tougher stance on immigrants and refugees from all countries since becoming president one year ago.

His predecessor Barack Obama set refugee admission in fiscal 2017, which began on October 2016, at 110,000.

When Trump took office a year ago, he slashed that to 53,000, a number that was cut again to a maximum of 45,000 in fiscal 2018.

But refugee arrivals this year could come in significantly lower than that, due to the backlog from the 120-day halt and a slowdown in processing because of generally tougher applicant reviews.

DHS would not explain what the tougher vetting measures for the 11 countries would include.

But all applicants are being asked to supply more detailed histories and evidence of their past activities, and many are having to allow access to personal electronics and social media accounts.

The move comes as Trump presses for a sharp turn in overall US immigration policy that critics say will result in a 50 per cent cut in arrivals each year and bias admissions away from African, Asian and Muslim countries.

Last week, Trump proposed to end the 27-year-old “green card lottery” program that aims to diversify the source of immigrants, leading to an upturn in those from Middle Eastern and African countries.

He also proposed to tightly limit the family members who can join immigrants to only spouses and younger children. Until now, such “chain migration” could extend to immigrants’ parents, grandparents, siblings and extended family.

The White House said the policy was necessary to protect national security from terror and crime threats.

In the meantime, a sweeping anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia has generated an estimated $106.7bn (£75.6bn) in settlements, the kingdom’s attorney general has said.

Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said 56 of the 381 people called in for questioning since 4 November remained in custody.

The others had been cleared or admitted guilt and handed over properties, cash, securities and other assets, he added.

Sheikh Mojeb did not name any of those involved, but they reportedly include princes, ministers and businessmen.

In recent days, the billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Alwalid al-Ibrahim, owner of the Arab satellite television network MBC, were released from detention at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter.

Both men insisted they were innocent, but Saudi official sources said they had agreed to financial settlements after admitting unspecified “violations”.

Others known to have been freed include Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, a son of the late King Abdullah who sources said had handed over more than $1bn in assets; and state minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was reportedly cleared of any wrongdoing.

Sheikh Mojeb said he had “refused to settle” with the 56 individuals still being detained “due to other pending criminal cases, or in order to continue the investigation process”.

They are believed to have been transferred to prison from the Ritz-Carlton, which will reopen to the public next month.

Last week, Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said the money recovered through the settlements would be used to fund a $13.3bn programme to help Saudi citizens cope with the rising cost of living.

The anti-corruption drive is being spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old son of King Salman, who has rejected as “ludicrous” analysts’ suggestions that it is a power grab. He said many of those detained had pledged allegiance to him since he became heir apparent in June.

Zee with additional report from BBC

Latest News

U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

Published

on

The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
Continue Reading

Latest News

Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

Published

on

Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

Continue Reading

Latest News

U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

Published

on

A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

Continue Reading
ADEBAYO SARUMI: Doyen of Maritime Industry Marks 80th Anniversary, Saturday 

Editor’s Pick

Politics