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EU sticks to Libya strategy on migrants, despite human rights concerns

After more than two years struggling to stem the flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the EU is now showing signs of optimism that it is finally in control.

FILE PHOTO: Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

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BRUSSELS  – The European Union is determined to go on preventing migrants setting off from the coast of Libya, interior ministers said on Thursday, despite criticism from rights advocates who say the strategy is aggravating human suffering.

After more than two years struggling to stem the flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa, the EU is now showing signs of optimism that it is finally in control.

A 2016 deal with Turkey effectively closed one major migratory route and this year Italy has led the EU’s efforts to curb sea crossings from Libya, supplying money, equipment and training for Libya’s border and coast guard, and striking deals with local groups in control on the ground in a country still largely lawless after the 2011 death of Muammar Gaddafi.

Mediterranean crossings have dropped from nearly 28,000 people in June to below 10,000 in August, according to U.N. data. Sources told Reuters late last month a new armed group on Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving.

Image result for Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving

Armed group on Libya’s coast was stopping migrant boats from leaving.

Human rights groups decry the EU’s support for Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Seraj and allied militias who run migrant detention centers they have compared to concentration camps.

The top U.N. human rights official said the EU strategy was “very thin on the protection of the human rights of migrants inside Libya and on the boats, and silent on the urgent need for alternatives to the arbitrary detention of vulnerable people.”

To offset that, the bloc has stepped up financing for the U.N. agencies for migration (IOM) and refugees (UNHCR) to have them try to improve conditions for migrants inside Libya.

“We also need to redouble our efforts to provide assistance to the migrants stranded in Libya and …. exposed to unacceptable, inhumane treatment and human rights violations,” EU’s migration chief, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told journalists.

But the EU is not changing tack on keeping them there.

“If we look at the flows of migrants across the Mediterranean a few months ago and now, the decrease in illegal migration has been big in numbers,” Estonia’s Interior Minister Andres Anvelt said ahead of talks in Brussels with his EU peers.

“We’ll have a discussion about how to have this success story going on.”

Image result for Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017.

FILE PHOTO: Migrants are seen at the centre of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Authority in Tripoli, Libya September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

Avramopoulos said the bloc’s executive European Commission backed a U.N. call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya, Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan, an effort to offer legal ways into the EU instead of smuggling or trafficking.

“TRUST IN ITALY”

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters: “I‘m happy that the number of people sent across the Mediterranean by the smugglers to Italy has really fallen in the last two months … These developments need to be carried on.”

“We really need to work to ensure that many people simply do not make the trip across the desert to Libya. The neighborhood policy with Africa is very important for a sustainable decline in migrants coming to Italy.”

Struggling to come up with a plan, the EU has increasingly let Libya’s former colonial power Italy take the lead.

Image result for Interior Minister Marco Minniti

File Photo : Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti speaks during a press conference after a security meeting.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti has sponsored those efforts, curbing the sea operations of non-governmental aid groups and striking deals with Libyan mayors to fight people-trafficking, among other moves.

Rome has also played a central role in training the Libyan coast guard, which has been accused of abuses, including shooting at aid workers trying to rescue migrants.

The EU has denied that any of its funding goes to the militia in the coastal city of Sabratha, which has often prevented migrants from departing for Europe by locking them up.

But a senior EU diplomat said the EU’s strategy was complex.

“It is hard to know exactly what is going on in Libya. We have increasingly entrusted Italy with doing the job there, we give them money. There would never be any proof of EU money going directly to some armed group somewhere,” the person said.

“Some of the methods may seem controversial. But there is also preventing loss of life at the sea and political stability in Italy to consider. We shouldn’t be too judgmental.”

Source : Reuters

Middle East

Abbas says to address UN assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians

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Mahmoud Abbas

Ramallah, Sep 16 : Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he will address the upcoming UN General Assembly on issues causing suffering to Palestinians.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting he chaired for Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Xinhua reported.

“We will go to the United Nations to confront the world with the issues that our people are suffering,” said Abbas, who is scheduled to deliver a speech at the UN headquarters in New York on September 27.

The addressed issues include the Israeli decision to demolish Al-Khan Al-Ahmar Bedouin village east of Jerusalem, and the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque in the holy city, he added.

“We are consulting with our brothers in Jordan to form a unified position to go to the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice on what is going on at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Abbas noted.

The Palestinian President said the final decision will be made by the PLO central council after he returned from the UN assembly.

The United States and the Palestinians have almost severed ties since US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017.

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Middle East

Iran to increase uranium enrichment if EU fails

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Iran President

Tehran, Sep 16 (IANS) Iran would increase uranium enrichment if the European Union (EU) fails to implement its obligations following the US withdrawal from the Iranian landmark nuclear deal, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Saturday.

“The Europeans and the other signatories must act in order to compensate for the effects of the US sanctions,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Press TV.

He downplayed the possibility of Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, but cautioned the EU partners that Iran might act if they fail to secure Iran’s interests in the deal.

“Oil and banks” are the “litmus test,” he said, alluding to the EU pledges to help Tehran in the face of US re-imposition of sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and banking transactions.

European parties need to decide whether being ready to follow their words, Zarif said, adding that “they should also decide if they want to submit to US pressure.”

Iran and six world powers, namely Russia, Britain, China, France, the United States and Germany, struck a landmark agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme in 2015, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

However, US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw Washington from the deal on May 8 and re-impose sanctions, including oil embargo, on Iran.

Iran has held several rounds of talks with France, Britain and Germany to revive the blocking statute, a 1996 regulation that prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with foreign sanctions laws.

Iran has incessantly urged Europe to take “practical and tangible measures” to protect Iranian interests since the US pullout.

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Middle East

Palestinians still committed to making just peace with Israel: Abbas

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Mahmoud Abbas

Jerusalem, Sep 14 (IANS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the Palestinian people are still committed to making just peace with Israel.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting at his headquarters in Ramallah with the leaders of three main religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, in the Palestinian territories.

He stressed on the necessity of making peace with Israel based on international resolutions related to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, Xinhua reported.

Abbas was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA as saying that the Palestinian people deserve an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital, “which will be open for the three main religions”.

“Palestine is a model to be followed and a good example in coexistence and social peace,” the Palestinian leader said.

The religious leaders affirmed to Abbas their support to his policies that aim at achieving the hope and aspiration of the Palestinian people, namely freedom and independence.

Abbas is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 27.

Ahmad Majdalani, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that Abbas’ speech “will be like the worksheet for the coming stage”.

He told the official Voice of Palestine Radio that the Palestinians will carry on with their steps that will be escalated within the coming period, in response to the American and Israeli policies and measures that were taken to terminate the Palestinian cause.

The Palestinian Authority has been boycotting the US administration led by President Donald Trump as a peace broker, after Trump announced last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and relocated the US ambassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed holy city in May.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been stalled since 2014 after nine months of US-sponsored talks failed to make progress to resolve the decades-long conflict.

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