Italy: Diplomatic tensions flare as migrants head to Spain

CATANIA, Sicily — Italy escalated its standoff with France over migration Wednesday, challenging Paris to take in more asylum-seekers and demanding an apology after the French president accused the new populist Italian government of cynical, irresponsible behavior by refusing entry to a rescue ship with 600 people aboard.

Italy summoned the French ambassador for consultations and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini chided French President Emmanuel Macron by name during a speech before Parliament’s upper chamber.

Salvini said France had taken in only a fraction of the 9,816 migrants it had pledged to welcome under a 2015 EU relocation plan to relieve frontline countries Italy and Greece of the burden of caring for newly arrived migrants.

“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,000 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” Salvini said to applause in the Senate chamber.

“I speak in the name of a government but I also have the ambition of speaking for a people who have nothing to learn from anyone about generosity, volunteerism, welcome and solidarity,” he said.

Italy has defended its decision to refuse to allow the Aquarius rescue ship to dock, saying it has never abandoned the ship and is escorting it to Spain. Spain stepped up and offered the Aquarius safe harbor in Valencia after Italy and Malta both refused.

The standoff over the Aquarius appeared a clear tactic by Italy’s new government to force Europe’s hand at the upcoming summit of EU leaders in Brussels June 28-29. Italy for years has complained that it has been left largely alone to manage Europe’s migrant crisis, but the new government says its tactics have finally gotten the point across.

Salvini has accused European aid groups of essentially operating taxi services for Libya-based human traffickers, and has said Italy will now refuse their rescue ships entry. Italian maritime vessels, however, are still docking in its ports: on Wednesday, an Italian coast guard vessel docked in Catania, Sicily with 932 migrants aboard.

The Diciotti was greeted in Catania’s port by activists criticizing the new policy, with a banner draped at the port saying “Stop the attack on refugees.”

French President Emmanuel Macron had blasted what he called Italy’s cynicism and irresponsibility in turning away the Aquarius, which is operated by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee and the French-founded Doctors Without Borders.

Macron’s office said Tuesday that France doesn’t want to “start a precedent” that would allow some European countries to breach international laws and rely on other EU member states to take in migrants.

In his speech, Salvini shot back and said France had turned back 10,249 migrants at Italy’s northern border since January “including women, children and disabled people.” The border crossing point at Ventimiglia has been the scene of protests and desperation for years as France has refused to let in migrants, many of whom are seeking to reach family in France or Germany.

Under the EU’s asylum laws — currently the subject of revision amid a major political dispute — migrants must apply for asylum in the country where they first enter Europe. In practice, this has placed a heavy burden on Italy and Greece, where hundreds of thousands of people have entered in recent years. Some countries feel justified in stopping migrants from entering when they should have registered elsewhere.

Salvini also demanded that France make good on its pledge to relocate migrants under a 2015 EU scheme that never fully got off the ground.

France was to have accepted a total of 19,714 migrants from Italy and Greece; in all, it accepted 4,677. Across the European Union, only a third of the 98,255 migrants that were supposed to be relocated under the scheme had been relocated by the time it ended last year.

Salvini’s League campaigned during the March 4 national election on a strong anti-migrant agenda that included promises of mass expulsions of migrants already here. According to government figures, Italy has accepted 640,000 migrants since 2014, but the number of arrivals this year is at a five-year low: 14,441 since January.

The number of migrants arriving in Italy began plummeting last year after the Italian government under the center-left Democratic Party negotiated controversial deals with Libya that beefed up its capacity to better patrol its coasts and discouraged land-based smugglers.

Earlier Wednesday, Salvini accused France of having caused the instability in Libya that has allowed smuggling networks to thrive by spearheading the 2011 NATO-led military campaign that led to the downfall of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The Aquarius and two Italian ships that have taken some of the migrants are now expected to arrive in Valencia on Saturday night, weather conditions permitting, said SOS Mediterranee’s co-founder Sophie Beau. The port is some 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from where the ship had been on standby since Saturday night.

“It’s a relief for everyone, our teams and of course above all for the survivors to know that they are finally allowed to head to a safe port in Europe,” Beau told reporters in Marseille, France.

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France Increases Migrant Expulsions in 2017

Paris, Jan 16 (Prensa Latina) The expulsions of migrants in France have increased by 14.6 percent in 2017 to reach 14,859, according to figures released today by the Ministry of the Interior.

While the number of expulsions from the national territory in 2016 was 12,961, they almost reached 15,000 last year, the General Directorate of Immigration said in a report.

The announcement comes when the French government is boosting a new asylum law aimed at toughening immigration policy, so that humanitarian associations fear that these numbers can continue to grow.

According to data published today, the number of undocumented people rejected trying to enter the country also increased by 34 percent last year, going from 63,732 in 2016 to 85,408 in 2017.

The French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) stated that France recently responded positively to only 36 percent of asylum claims filed in 2017, less than 38 percent reported in 2016.

According to disclosed figures, refugee applications also grew by 17 percent, reaching 100,412.

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‘Indiscriminate use of violence’: Police clash with migrants protesting eviction in Rome (VIDEO)

Riot police with water cannons in Rome clashed with stone-throwing migrants at a makeshift camp where they were protesting their eviction from a building they have occupied for years. MSF says 13 people were injured in “indiscriminate use of violence.”

Scuffles broke out in central Rome early Thursday, as officers tried to squeeze out around a hundred refugees from Independence Square, which they have occupied since the weekend. Police in riot gear deployed water cannon against the migrants, who used pepper spray and threw stones and bottles at the officers, La Reppublica reports. Two people were arrested, according to Reuters.

Italian police unleash water cannons on migrants in Rome

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says that 13 people have been injured, most of them women. On its Twitter feed, the organization said the “indiscriminate use of violence” followed the eviction, without specifically blaming the police or protesters.

Police, citing the risk that some refugees had gas cylinders and flammable liquids, say force was used in order to remove them from the square, which they refused to do. Protesters have camped inside an office building for the past five years, and have defied an eviction order since last week. According to Italian media, the refugees refused to accept the housing proposed by the municipality yesterday.

On Saturday, 500 police officers cleared the Palazzo Curtatone building, where around 800 refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Ethiopia, had lived since 2013. According to Il Post, the migrants were not offered alternative lodgings immediately after the eviction. As hundreds of displaced people had to sleep on the pavement outside the building, the authorities allowed women and children onto the first floor, Reuters reports.

READ MORE: Tent city: Refugees crowd Paris after ‘Jungle’ closure, residents don’t recognize own city

With most of the squatters having been granted asylum in Italy, banners reading “We are refugees, not terrorists” or “We are not terrorists. We want a house to live in” were hung on the building.

“This is a very sad situation: we are talking about 800 people with refugee status, survivors of wars, persecution or torture, which in some cases have also obtained Italian citizenship, thrown into the streets in inhuman conditions without a real sustainable alternative by the city of Rome, which we have in vain expected in the square,” UNICEF Italy spokesman Andrea Iacovini wrote in a Facebook post.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Italy previously issued a statement, voicing “deep concern” over the eviction, calling on the authorities “to ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection.”

One of the Eritrean squatters, named Simon, told Internazionale newspaper that two women were beaten after police entered the building to take the refugees to the station.

Saturday’s eviction is said to be the fourth such operation since July, conducted as a security measure, AP reported.

As of July, nearly 84,000 migrants have reached Italy by sea this year in an almost 20 percent spike, compared to the same period of last year. Almost 200,000 accommodation places across Italy are nearly filled, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said.


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Donald Trump is not Superman

Life is stubbornly showing that a country like U.S. cannot be run in the style of a large capitalist enterprise.

Thus starts to understand it, by the force of blows, who thought the opposite, its current billionaire president, Donald Trump.

Over sixty days ago, he took office, and has already faced two serious political setbacks, so deep that they’re still floating in the international public opinion.

In the first case, he decided to close the doors of the United States to travelers from six Muslim-majority nations.

Balance? That a sort of wildfire spread across the world to challenge the move.

Even in his own national territory there were demonstrations rejecting it and some turned violent.

Last week, Trump and his men could not repeal the Obamacare health plan (also known as Affordable Care Act).

It was a failure because they bombed it without knowing how to replace it properly.

Since then, the current president had turned it into one of his main banners to gain supporters, especially from the far-right.

Now they believe the time had come to, using the scenario of the House of Representatives dominated by them, remove the aforementioned plan.  

But in the face of significant clashes even with their allies in the Capitol building, they withdrew the bill.

That is, an assertive political setback that deeply hit both, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Another concern joins this new exhausting fact: the expensive wall to be built in the US-Mexico border.

AP journalist Alicia A. Caldwell wrote last Saturday that such a huge work “has its own obstacles”.

And she details some:

For example, Trump does not know how he would pay for that huge 30-foot-high wall and with a wonderful view for those who watch it from the north.

Caldwell also writes that Washington will have to contend with an unfavourable geography and “many legal problems”.

Then she takes a look at those obstacles:

Trump vowed that Mexico would pay for the wall, demand that the Mexican government has repeatedly rejected.

The first cost estimate sent to Congress requested $2.6 billion for the wall.

Nevertheless, an internal report prepared by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly concluded that a wall for the whole border would cost about $21 billion.

For his part, Trump assures the cost would be around $12 billion. Chaos within the bigger chaos?

AP notices that, at this point, it is not defined yet how much money the Congress would approve in that regard.

Nearly 50 percent of the 2000-mile (3200-km) the US-Mexico border is in Texas and marked by the Bravo River.

According to AP, Trump will be forced to deal with treaties maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission, as well as several environmental regulations that limit certain type of construction areas.

Moreover, almost the whole land on the Texas border is privately held and most of it belongs to families settled in the area for several generations.

So, observers warn, based on historical experience, that buying their land won’t be easy.

Another unfavourable sign for the Trump collection was the following:

After gathering opinions on Trump’s debacle in Congress, two AP journalists, Michael Warren and Sudhin Thanawala, wrote on Saturday:

Americans benefited with Obamacare “breathed a sigh of relief” with the failure of the Republican attempt to repeal it.

Even more importantly, what happened with the bill corroborates, so to say, that Donald Trump is not superman.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Trudeau Defends Support for Foreigners in the USA

Washington, March 16 (Prensa Latina) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recalled the need today to support foreigners during the performance of a musical at a theater in Broadway, New York.

'The world gets to see what it is to lean on each other and be there for each other through the darkest times,' he said when introducing the play on the reception in his country of about seven thousand passengers whose flights were diverted from the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Along with his wife, Sophie, and Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the American president Donald Trump, Trudeau enjoyed the musical 'Come from away' in Gerald Schoenfeld Theater of Broadway, that exhibits it from last Sunday.

The musical, written by the Canadian couple Irene Sankoff and David Heinse, addresses how the residents of the city of Gander, Newfoundland, took in about six thousand 600 passengers and crew of 38 commercial flights that were forced to land at the local airport.

US authorities diverted a total of more than 200 aircraft to Canada when they closed down US air space after the Twin Towers terrorist attacks, which resulted in more than 3,000 deaths and 6,000 injuries, mostly in New York.

When the capacities of hotels were filled, schools, fire stations and churches, took in passengers, while food and general services were provided by the residents of that small town of about 10,000 inhabitants.

Through her Twitter account, Ivanka Trump wrote that she was honored to accompany the head of government and his wife in an emotional tribute to the way the international community joined after September 11.

The media often point to the contrasts between Trudeau government, which has so far welcomed 40,000 Syrian refugees, and the policies of the US president, who promotes a four-month ban on the entry of refugees from any country.

The head of state also wants to avoid for 90 days the arrival of nationals of six Muslim-majority countries through an order that was to enter into force today, but which was blocked temporarily last night by a judge in Hawaii.

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Trump signs new immigration order

President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order placing a 90-day ban on people from six mainly Muslim nations.

Iraq - which was covered in the previous seven-nation order - has been removed from the new one after agreeing additional visa vetting measures.

The directive, which includes a 120-day ban on all refugees, takes effect on 16 March.

The previous order, which was blocked by a federal court, sparked confusion at airports and mass protests.

What is different about the new order?

Citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the other six countries on the original list, will once more be subject to a 90-day travel ban.

Iraq was taken off the banned list in the first order - which was issued on 27 January - because its government has boosted visa screening and data sharing, White House officials said.

The new directive says refugees already approved by the State Department can enter the US. It also lifts an indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees., such as former US army translator Hameed Darwish, will no longer be subject to a travel ban, according to reports / Reuters

Green Card holders (legal permanent residents of the US) from the named countries will not be affected.

The new order does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous directive.

Critics of the Trump administration had argued that this was an unlawful policy showing preference to Christian refugees.

Green Card holders (legal permanent residents of the US) from the named countries will not be affected.

The new order does not give priority to religious minorities, unlike the previous directive.

Critics of the Trump administration had argued that this was an unlawful policy showing preference to Christian refugees. Tillerson: "President Trump is exercising his rightful authority to keep our people safe"

What does the administration say?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly held a joint news conference on Monday morning to discuss the new directive.

America's top US diplomat said the order was meant to "eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends".

Mr Sessions said that, according to the FBI, more than 300 people who entered the US as refugees are under investigation for potential terrorism-related offences.

The top US prosecutor said three of the countries were state sponsors of terrorism.

The other three, Mr Sessions said, had lost control of territory to militants such as the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda.

Mr Kelly added that unregulated and unvetted travel was putting national security at risk.

He said the US cannot tolerate "malevolent actors using our immigration system to take American lives".

None of the cabinet secretaries took any questions after the press conference.

Analysis - Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

Donald Trump has, at last, unveiled his new immigration order, and it looks like government lawyers - and not just White House political operatives like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller - have had their input.

Gone are the most controversial measures of the old order, such as preference for Christian refugees and the suspension of existing visas and green cards.

The details of the action's implementation are outlined with greater clarity this time, with more than a week before the new rules kick in.

It's still an open question as to what, if anything, this order will do to prevent violent attacks on US soil, given that past high-profile incidents have not involved individuals from any of the six named countries.

Mr Trump promised bold action on border security, however - the kind of move that would unnerve traditional politicians and anger civil liberties advocates.

Given the early reaction from groups like the ACLU and Democratic leaders, the story is unfolding as expected.

Although Mr Trump's campaign-rally talk of sweeping Muslim bans are a thing of the past, his supporters will likely revel in the uproar and consider this latest move a campaign promise kept.

Why the delayed implementation? Syrian family were reunited at Chicago's O'Hare airport in February / Getty Images

The new order is set to take effect on 16 March.

White House officials hope the 10 days' notice will help to avoid some of the chaotic scenes at US airports that occurred on 27 January when the first executive order was announced without warning.

Travellers with valid visas who were in the air at the time found themselves detained by border officials on arrival.

Mr Trump had defended the lack of notice, tweeting that "if the ban were announced with a one week notice, the 'bad' would rush into our country during that week".

Will the new executive order face legal challenges?

Yes. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman - the state's highest ranking law enforcement officer - issued a statement on Monday saying his office is ready to take the Trump administration to court.

"While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear," he said.

"My office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to litigate - again - in order to protect New York's families, institutions, and economy."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), an Arab-American grassroots civil rights organisation, immediately called for donations to fight impending legal battles ahead.

"The ban is about xenophobia and Islamophobia," the group said in a statement to the BBC.

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Bodies of more than 70 migrants wash up on Libya's coast

(CNN)The bodies of 74 migrants have been recovered by the Libyan Red Crescent after washing up on the country's northern coast near the city of Zawiya.

Circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear but a torn rubber dinghy was reportedly found nearby. Volunteers, who responded to a call yesterday morning, say they believe the individuals drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
"There are still bodies in the sea but our team could not reach them because the sea is very troubling and they don't have boats so they can't reach them easily," Taha K. Sultan Elbarghathi, international relations officer for the Libyan Red Crescent, told CNN.
"74 have been collected and the rest are expected to wash ashore too," Elbarghathi said, adding that this was the biggest number of bodies retrieved by the local Zawiya branch in a single mission.
He said the bodies are all those of African men, of varying ages; their boat is thought to have got into difficulties at the weekend.
Libyan Red Crescent volunteers collect the bodies of men who drowned and were washed ashore.
Elbarghathi said they are uncertain how many migrants were on the vessel but that there could have been around 150 individuals on board, given the type of dinghy recovered nearby.
He said: "We don't know the exact time the boat capsized but the boat did not totally sink ... One of the sides has lost its air."
Photographs posted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Twitter account for the Middle East and North Africa show dozens of black body bags lining the shore as aid workers stand nearby.
Volunteers have spotted more bodies in the water but have so far been unable to reach them.
Volunteers are continuing to collect bodies as they wash ashore and prepare them for transfer to a local hospital.
"It's another one of the tragic incidents that have happened so far this year and certainly reminds us that the risk faced these days (is) one that often goes unnoticed by most of the world," Stephen Ryan, IFRC spokesperson told CNN.
Ryan said statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicate the number of migrants crossing between Libya and Europe is on the rise.

"And in fact, although still early, the numbers of people that have successfully made the journey is higher than it was last year."
In the first weeks of 2017, 272 migrants and refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean, according to the IOM. Last year was the deadliest year on record for migrant deaths at sea, with 5,082 lives lost.
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Canada to Host Victims of Persecution, Terror and War

Ottawa, Jan 30 (Prensa Latina) Canada will welcome people fleeing persecution, terror and war regardless of their faith, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Diversity is our strength, Trudeau said this weekend in his Twitter account.

These statements contrast with the executive order of US President Donald Trump, which prohibits the entry of refugees to this country for four months.

According to the head of state, the measure, signed yesterday and that also makes it impossible to issue visas to citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days , aims to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.

'We want to make sure we are not admitting the threats our soldiers are fighting abroad,' the Republican president said at the Pentagon's headquarters.

Trump's disposition accumulates inside and outside the United States a growing rejection by politicians, the media, intellectuals, celebrities and ordinary citizens.

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