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Migrant deaths in Mediterranean ‘hit 10,000’

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Migrant Died

Strasbourg (France) : – 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 in recent weeks which claimed the lives of hundreds of people, the UN refugee agency said the number of deaths at sea had risen sharply this year, with a record 2,814 people drowning since January.

And over the past few days, the overall number who have died since the start of 2014 has reached 10,085, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.

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, with Brussels seeking ways to clamp down on the Africa route from 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,” European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said as he unveiled the plans.

The new proposal involves using EU funds to promote private investment of up to 60 billion euros in key countries of origin for migrants, namely 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 of European and African nations in Malta 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 migrants 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 was later 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 illegally 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 had died at sea in 2015 and 3,500 the year earlier, plus this year’s deaths.

– ‘Appalling number of deaths’ –

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

“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.

More than one million migrants and refugees 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.

The vast majority have died on crossings between Libya and Italy, as a controversial March deal between the EU and Turkey designed to halt the flow of largely Syrian migrants using the popular Aegean route has led to a sharp drop in arrivals.

The EU’s top court meanwhile ruled 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 ruling came in the case of a Ghanaian woman, Selina Affum, who was jailed by French police at the Channel Tunnel while on a bus from Belgium to Britain using someone else’s passport.

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.

Election

United States Presidential Election on Nov 3 as planned: WH officials

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

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Washington, Aug 3 : White House officials have confirmed that the upcoming US presidential election will be held as planned on November 3 after President Donald Trump raised the possibility of delaying it.

Speaking to CBS News on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the President was only raising concerns about mail-in ballots when he floated the idea of delaying election in a tweet last week.

“We’re going to hold an election on November 3 and the President is going to win,” Xinhua news agency quoted Meadows as saying to CBS News.

The Chief of Staff added that Trump “has not looked at delaying any election”.

Meadows’s remarks were echoed by presidential campaign adviser Jason Miller, who told Fox News on Sunday that “the election is going to be on November 3 and President Trump wants the election to be on November 3”.

In his tweet on July 29, Trump claimed — without providing any proof or evidence — that “universal mail-in voting” would make November’s vote “the most inaccurate & fraudulent election in history”.

“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” he said.

“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

But later in the day, Trump said that he did not want to delay the election, saying: “I don’t want a delay. I want to have the election… But I don’t want to see a crooked election.

“But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen… that’s common sense. Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud.”

Trump’s delay tweet immediately ignited a political firestorm and drew bipartisan pushback from Capitol Hill, as legal analysts agreed that Trump has no authority to delay the election as the US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date.

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

Top Republicans — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — both dismissed the idea.

Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile said a delay was “not a good idea”.

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Health

Pakistan’s Punjab province lifts COVID-19 lockdown

Punjab has reported 24 new cases of the coronavirus and four more fatalities, according to the government’s COVID-19 portal.

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Pakistan Lockdown
Main Market Islamabad Lal Chowk (Picture @listenAashiq)

Lahore, Aug 3 : Pakistan’s Punjab province, the second worst-hit in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, has lifted a lockdown amid a continued fall in the number of positive cases, it was reported on Monday.

The lockdown was imposed till August 5 across the province ahead of Eid-ul-Adha in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, reports The Express Tribune.

But it was lifted on Sunday, a day ahead of the given date.

In a notification, the provincial health department said all business except those which fall in “negative list” will be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday

The new directives came into effect on Monday.

Punjab has reported 24 new cases of the coronavirus and four more fatalities, according to the government’s COVID-19 portal.

This has taken the total cases in the province to 93,197 while the death toll has risen to 2,148.

More than 82,000 people have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

Pakistan has so far recorded a total of 279,966 cases, with 5,982 deaths.

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World

Iranian prez voices hope for durable peace in Afghanistan

Rouhani also highlighted the boost of ties between Tehran and Kabul on different fronts and called for tapping into the existing economic, trade and transit potentials.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Theran, Aug 3 : The Iranian president expressed hope that dialogue among Afghan political groups will result in durable peace in Afghanistan, official IRNA news agency reported.

In a phone conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday, Hassan Rouhani welcomed the cease-fire in the neighboring country and expressed hope that a temporary truce will lead to standing tranquility and drop of violence in Afghanistan, Xinhua news agency reported.

He announced Iran’s consistent support for the peace process led by the Afghan government.

Rouhani also highlighted the boost of ties between Tehran and Kabul on different fronts and called for tapping into the existing economic, trade and transit potentials.

For his part, Ghani expressed satisfaction with the interaction of the private sectors of the two countries and the economic ties between Iran and Afghanistan.

He also thanked Iran for backing peace efforts in Afghanistan.

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