Europe’s refugee crisis simmers despite efforts to solve it — A country by country run down

August 28, 2016

By Geir Moulson, Associated Press | Posted Aug 28th, 2016 @ 12:50am

BERLIN (AP) — Faced with more than 1 million migrants flooding across the Mediterranean last year, European nations tightened border controls, set up naval patrols to stop smugglers, negotiated an agreement with Turkey to limit the numbers crossing, shut the Balkan route used by hundreds of thousands, and tried to speed up deportations of rejected asylum-seekers.

Yet many issues still remain.

European nations continue to squabble about whether, and how, to share the newcomers between them and the issues that drove refugees to Europe in the first place — such as Syria’s unrelenting war — are unresolved.

Overall, 2,901 people have died or disappeared crossing the Mediterranean in the first six months of 2016, most along the dangerous central route to Italy — a 37 percent increase over last year’s first half, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Here’s where things stand in key countries:

TURKEY

Turkey is hosting some 3 million refugees, including more than 2.7 million Syrians. Most refugees there don’t get government support, but the agreement with the EU calls for the bloc to provide up to 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal also provides for one Syrian refugee from Turkey to be relocated to EU countries for each Syrian who arrives illegally in Greece and is sent back. So far only 1,152 have been resettled under the program — more than half of them to Germany and Sweden.

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GREECE

The numbers of migrants arriving in Greece have dropped dramatically since the March agreement with Turkey, but several thousand a month still make the journey, some 160,000 in the first half of this year.

Over 58,000 people remain stuck in the financially struggling country, most hoping to continue north to nations like Germany or Sweden. The majority have applied for asylum, hoping to be relocated among EU nations — but the program is moving at snail’s pace amid fierce resistance from eastern and central European countries.

So far, only around 4,400 people have been relocated from southern Europe under a plan that’s supposed to see 160,000 moved over two years through September 2017. Yet there’s little Brussels can do to force any nations to comply.

New arrivals now are insignificant compared to 2015, but they have increased since the July 15 attempted coup in Turkey, topping 2,300 in the first three weeks of August. This is straining resources on the eastern Aegean Sea islands and the government has promised to build more housing on the mainland.

Fears are also growing that the EU-Turkey deal might fall apart as Ankara presses for the 28-nation bloc to allow its citizens visa-free entry.

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ITALY

About 70,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean into Italy from January to June this year, similar to the same period last year. But with routes northward now restricted, there’s nowhere for them to go and, as smugglers resort to more dangerous practices, more migrants are dying en route.

Migrants are sleeping in hotels, homeless shelters, train stations and tent camps. The Tuscan city of Capalbio is putting them in fancy villas and Milan is readying a jail to take in some.

Nigerians make up the biggest group of newcomers to Italy, followed by Eritreans, Gambians, Ivorians and Sudanese, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

The wave of arrivals is testing Italy’s social services and Premier Matteo Renzi’s patience as he faces domestic resistance from the anti-immigrant Northern League and reluctance from Italy’s EU partners to resettle asylum-seekers. To date, only 961 would-be refugees have moved out of Italy, according to the IOM.

Earlier this month, France returned to Italy some 200 migrants who plunged into the sea at the Ventimiglia border crossing. The latest hotspot is Como on the Swiss border. There authorities have approved a tent camp to house the estimated 300-500 migrants who have camped out at the train station after taking trains daily into Switzerland, only to be returned.

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GERMANY

Germany has seen a much-reduced number of newcomers this year after taking in hundreds of thousands in 2015, the majority of those entering Europe.

Up to the end of July, 238,424 new arrivals were recorded — 92,000 of them in January, before the Balkan route was shut down. The figure has since leveled out at around 16,000 per month.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has stuck to her insistence that Germany will give shelter to those who need it and that Germany “will manage” the refugee crisis. That mantra has fueled ongoing strife in her conservative bloc, and benefited the nationalist, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party.

Two attacks this summer by asylum-seekers that were claimed by the Islamic State group have also fueled concerns.

Meanwhile, Germany has moved to tighten asylum rules, deport more rejected asylum applicants and turn more people back at the border

Merkel has criticized other European countries’ unilateral moves to shut the Balkan migration route at Greece’s expense but was a leading advocate of the Turkey-EU agreement. She insists the deal remains necessary, despite tensions with Ankara over visa-free travel.

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AUSTRIA

The discovery of 71 suffocated people in the back of a smuggler’s truck in Austria a year ago triggered an outpouring of support for refugees. That now seems a distant memory.

Then-Chancellor Werner Faymann urged Austrians to open their arms to the migrants, but faced increasing concerns that the country couldn’t cope. Faymann changed course early this year, suddenly backing calls to shut Austria’s border. He resigned in May amid falling support.

His successor, Christian Kern, has continued on the restrictive path welcomed by most Austrians, even as he urges them to be open-minded toward new arrivals.

Austria was the main force in the shutdown early this year of the Balkan route. After accepting more than 80,000 migrants last year, the country stands ready to turn back the first would-be refugee over the 37,500 limit it has set as a quota for 2016.

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SERBIA & HUNGARY

The flow of migrants into Serbia has diminished drastically but not dried up entirely.

Instead of thousands a day registering at organized centers, hundreds a day now try to enter illegally. Illustrating the dangers, a 20-year old Afghan migrant crossing illegally from Bulgaria was shot and killed this week by a hunter in an apparent accident.

Human Rights Watch says migrants and refugees at Hungary’s border with Serbia are being forced back, in some cases violently.

UNHCR estimates that some 4,400 asylum-seekers are now stranded in Serbia, mostly since Hungary started enforcing new regulations in July that allow authorities to “escort” migrants and refugees caught within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the border back to Serbia.

Two “transit zones” on the Serbian side now process around 30 asylum applications a day, while 1,000 or more people are waiting in poor conditions to file asylum claims, most of which are rejected.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called migrants “poison” and said Friday that Hungary will build a new, “more massive” fence on its southern border to defend against a possible surge in numbers. A government-initiated referendum on Oct. 2 is meant to rally political support against any EU plan to resettle migrants among the bloc’s members.

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FRANCE

Migrant numbers in Calais have soared this month, even though authorities shut down half of the city’s wretched camp earlier this year, and the British and French governments erected security fences and announced measures to deter new arrivals.

The French government says the number of migrants in the makeshift Calais camp known as the “jungle” has reached its highest official level yet: 6,901. Aid groups say it’s closer to 9,000.

This week, a Sudanese migrant died after a clash between groups of Sudanese and Afghans, the 11th migrant to die in Calais this year.

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Nicole Winfield in Rome, Nicholas Paphitis in Athens, Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Elaine Ganley in Calais, George Jahn in Vienna and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

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National Health Service (NHS) will simply collapse unless politicians have the courage to reform it

August 28, 2016

By Simon Heffer
The Telegraph

Despite the Conservative Party having promised to increase NHS spending by £8 billion a year during this parliament – the minimum demanded by its managers – we learn of a crisis within the institution that promises a financial shortfall of £20 billion by 2020-21. Without (so far) any consultation, the NHS proposes a massive reorganisation that could include hospital closures and cuts, and these could start within months, just as the NHS suffers its winter overload.

Why have things come to this? According to Government figures, the £437 million spent in the first year of the NHS’s existence in 1948-49 is equivalent to £15 billion today. Yet the UK total spent on the NHS is now £116.4 billion, £101.3 billion of which is spent in England. The population is nearly a third larger than in 1948-49; we are 64 million people against the 50 million at the 1951 census, thanks not least to the last Labour government’s mass immigration policies and the EU’s refusal to let us control our borders.

Yet this population growth cannot account for such an enormous real increase in spending. The problem is that the NHS is doing things its founders never envisaged.

It also suffers from grotesque overmanning in non-medical staff, a lack of strategic planning to cope with demographic change, and many of the failures associated with the absence of an effective price mechanism. Without rethinking its whole purpose and method of operation, it will, within a decade or two, simply collapse.

Even though this is no longer 1948 – our standard of living, our disposable income, our awareness of the dangers of smoking are all radically different from then – governments have avoided profound NHS reform for decades.


Labour wouldn’t touch it because of the mythology it has sedulously created: that the NHS, free at point of use and controlled on the shop floor by comrades in the trades unions, for whom it represents a considerable employment opportunity, is “safe” only in Labour’s hands.

“Safe” in this context equates to eating up a sixth of public spending without worrying too much about how and where that money is spent. The NHS now employs 1.5 million people. As its website proudly proclaims, only McDonalds, Walmart, the US Defence Department and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have larger payrolls. It may not have occurred to the NHS that this is not necessarily something to be proud of.

Campaign group warns over hospital closures and cutbacks Campaign group warns over hospital closures and cutbacks Play! 01:12

The Tories haven’t addressed the NHS with serious radicalism because they fear reinforcing the Labour mythology: that any reduction in spending, irrespective of how it is found, must prove an underlying Tory hatred of the NHS and, therefore, of the people it serves.

This is utter nonsense, but nonsense that has so crippled the Tories that in one whole election campaign – 2001 – they tried not to mention the NHS at all. One hopes the Government has noted the near-death of the Labour Party, and the near-certainty that it will be at least another five years before Britain has a credible Opposition, and will now take reform of the NHS to a hitherto unimagined level.

We are in this mess not least because of the refusal by all governments over the past 30 years to think strategically. Lord Fowler, one of the best health ministers Britain has ever had, warned colleagues in the mid-Eighties that the growth in the ageing population would put impossible strains on the NHS.


Large amounts of beds and resources are devoted to elderly people in hospital because there is no place for them in a care home, and they can no longer manage at home. This is scandalous and, next to the dismal state of Britain’s defences, the present Government’s greatest dereliction.

An insurance system must be introduced now to provide residential care for the elderly. It would offer dignity for them and take a huge burden off the NHS. A contingency fund must be established for those for whom an insurance scheme would come too late and who lack the resources to fund themselves. There is no way round this in a supposedly civilised society.

The NHS must also review what it provides. Except in shocking cases of disfigurement, cosmetic surgery should be a luxury and the province of the private sector.

And while I deplore the unhappiness of those men who wish to be women, and vice-versa, there can be no obligation on the state to fund such options in the way it funds, say, treatment for cancer.

The insurers of boy racers who mangle themselves in car accidents should be made to pay for their treatment. And those who engage in benefit tourism to come to Britain for NHS treatment should be invoiced for it, and pursued until they pay. If such treatment is not life-saving, it should be refused.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/27/the-nhs-will-simply-collapse-unless-politicians-have-the-courage/

Kill drug lords, Philippines’ top cop tells addicts

August 28, 2016

AFP

Philippines — An activist holds a banner during a protest condemning extra-judicial killings related to President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drugs, in Manila on August 24, 2016. AFP photo

AFP

The Philippines’ police chief has called on drug users to kill traffickers and burn their homes, escalating President Rodrigo Duterte’s deeply controversial crime war that has claimed 2,000 lives.

“Why don’t you give them a visit, pour gasoline on their homes and set these on fire to register your anger,” Ronald dela Rosa said in a speech aired on television Friday.

“They’re all enjoying your money, money that destroyed your brain. You know who the drug lords are. Would you like to kill them? Go ahead. Killing them is allowed because you are the victim.”

Dela Rosa was speaking Thursday to several hundred drug users who had surrendered in the central Philippines.

Dela Rosa’s comments followed Duterte’s own controversial directives that have sparked criticism from the United Nations and human rights groups.

Duterte, 71, won May elections in a landslide on a vow to kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals in an unprecedented blitz that would eliminate illegal drugs in six months.

He promised on the campaign trial that 100,000 people would be killed and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that fish would grow fat from feeding on them.

Days after his election win, Duterte also offered security officials bounties for the bodies of drug dealers.

And when he took office on June 30, Duterte told a crowd in Manila: “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

The UN special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, said such directives “amount to incitement to violence and killing, a crime under international law”.

Philippine national police director General Ronald Dela Rosa

However Dela Rosa and Duterte have insisted they are working within the law and their aides have dismissed some of their comments as merely “hyperbole” meant to scare drug traffickers.

‘Sad, mad and sorry’

After a barrage of bad headlines, Dela Rosa on Friday apologised for his remarks the previous day and described them as due to an “emotional outburst”.

“Yesterday, I said that because I felt so bad. I was in front of those poor people, pushers and users, they looked like zombies. I was so mad, that’s why I said that,” he told reporters.

Philippine national police director, General Ronald Dela Rosa, speaks during a senate hearing in Manila, on august 23, 2016, on the spate of extra judicial killings.

“I’m sorry if I said something unpleasant. Many people are reacting. I am very sorry. I am just a human being who gets mad.”

When asked earlier Friday if Duterte supported Dela Rosa’s call to murder and commit arson, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella denied that was the police chief’s intent.

“There is no such call. It’s a passionate statement,” Abella said, without elaborating.
Dela Rosa told a Senate inquiry this week that the confirmed number of people to have died in the drug war was 1,946.

He said police had shot dead 756 suspects in self-defence.

He said there were another 1,190 killings under investigation, but they were likely due to drug gangs murdering people who could implicate each other. He also emphasised the crime war had so far been a success.

“I admit many are dying but our campaign, now, we have the momentum,” he told the Senate.
Many Filipinos continue to support Duterte, accepting his argument that drastic measures are needed to stop the Philippines becoming a “narco state”.

Child deaths

But criticism has continued to mount, with fears that security forces and hired assassins are roaming out-of-control and killing anyone suspected of being involved in drugs or for other reasons.

The US government on Monday expressed its concern about “reports of extrajudicial killings”.
Local media have also reported a growing number of children who have been killed in the crossfire.

Human Rights Watch released a statement condemning the death of a five-year-old girl who was shot this week when unknown gunmen reportedly entered her home and tried to kill her grandfather, an alleged drug user, who was wounded.

“Duterte’s aggressive rhetoric advocating violent, extrajudicial solutions to crime in the Philippines has found willing takers,” the US-based group’s Asia deputy director, Phelim Kine, said in a statement.

More than 10,000 migrants are ‘smuggled into Britain each year’

August 28, 2016

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Jungle migrant camp near Calais. AFP photo by Philippe Huguen

By David Chazan, Paris
The Telegraph
27 August 2016 • 9:00pm

About 200 migrants from the Calais area are being smuggled into Britain in lorries each week, French officials and security sources said on Saturday.

The estimate — equivalent to more than 10,000 illegal migrants arriving each year — represents a surge in the number of so-called “lorry drops”, when migrants hiding in the back of goods vehicles jump out after safely reaching the UK.

Official figures show a continuing rise in the number of migrants found in the backs of lorries and cars in Britain, which more than doubled to 6,400 last year, the chief inspector of borders and immigration said in a report last month.

A migrant climbs a security fence of a Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles near Calais, northern France, on July 30, 2015 Credit: AFP/PHILIPPE HUGUEN

The new French estimate suggests that many more are coming through undetected.

Gangs of armed people-smugglers operating around Calais have started systematically forcing lorries to stop before they reach the port so migrants can break in.

Philippe Mignonet, deputy mayor of Calais, has described the main route to the port as a “no-go area” between midnight and 6 am.

The motorway is regularly blocked with felled trees and debris by masked smugglers, often brandishing large sticks and sometimes knives.

French police responded to mounting political pressure by rushing 140 additional officers to the area this weekend.

Security was tightened around the ferry port and the entrance of Eurotunnel last year after a spate of nightly incidents that saw hundreds of people at a time attempt to enter both facilities, often disrupting tourist traffic.

A few dozen migrants were estimated to succeed in making it to Britain each night at the peak of the incidents.

Efforts to enter the ferry and tunnel terminals tailed off with the introduction of new security measures, including a “moat” of flooded, low-lying land around the tunnel entrance.

Consequently, migrants are now forced to travel further from Calais to stow away in lorries heading for the tunnel or cross-Channel ferries.

“Each lorry is packed with dozens of migrants and many are stopped before they reach England,” a regional security official said.

“But we are certain that a few get through. The estimate is around 200 a week. We know others are crossing in small boats or vans,” the official added.

The Home Office keeps no official tally of the number of illegal migrants entering Britain as it is difficult to estimate the numbers who pass through without being caught, but an official suggested that the figure might be “exaggerated”.

However, unprecedented numbers of migrants are flooding into the notorious “Jungle” camp in Calais, indicating that that they know their chances of crossing the Channel are good.

After months of increasing violence in and around the camp, the number of migrants sheltering there has swelled to a record of about 9,000, according to Xavier Bertrand, the conservative president of the Calais region.

Not only are migrants continuing to arrive in Calais from Italy and other Mediterranean countries, they are now also coming from Germany, apparently preferring to attempt to reach Britain rather than staying where they are to take up Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offer of resettlement.

Repeated clearances of squalid camps in Paris by the city’s increasingly exasperated authorities have led many migrants to travel to Calais.

Mr Bertrand urged the French government to get tough on people-smugglers and migrants terrorising motorists and lorry drivers heading to Calais.

“When migrants are found in a lorry, they’re usually escorted by police a few hundred metres (yards) away, but most of the time there are no legal proceedings and that must change,” Mr Bertrand said.

The lack of security is damaging the local economy in an area where unemployment is nearly double the national average and the far-Right Front National is gaining popularity.

Local officials blame the influx of migrants on what they claim are “lax” British controls on migrants, arguing that the Border Force lacks staff and Britain has too few boats to patrol the coasts and stop migrants.

Mr Bertrand, who is lobbying for a renegotiation of a bilateral agreement allowing UK border controls on French soil so that the Calais migrants’ problem would be shifted to Britain, accused the UK authorities of being content to let the problem fester.

“I am fed up with hypocrisy. Let’s tell the truth, there are migrants who get to England each day thanks to people-smugglers,” he said.


Migrant climbs a security fence of a Eurotunnel terminal in Coquelles near Calais, northern France, on July 30, 2015. AFP photo by Philippe Huguen

“Have you seen a lot of migrants expelled from England? No. Because there are no identity cards and there are certain employers who are happy to hire them and underpay them, knowing that they won’t make a fuss because they’re illegal.”

Many migrants who reach Britain claim asylum as soon as they are caught, making it impossible to deport them immediately. Nearly 18,000 migrants have been arrested for working illegally in the past three years, Home Office figures show, but only one in three was deported.

Rob Whiteman, a former head of the Border Agency, has warned that up to a million illegal immigrants may be living in Britain and are unlikely to be kicked out.

Andrew Bridgen, a Tory MP, said: “It shows that we need to redouble our efforts to secure our borders – that will remove the incentive for migrants to remain in the camps in Calais. We need more use of heat sensors to detect illegal migrants in commercial vehicles – 200 a week is nearly 30 a day.”

“Surely the French can help us? They don’t want the jungle camp there in Calais either,” he added.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/27/more-than-10000-migrants-are-smuggled-into-britain-each-year2/

China’s Disregard For International Laws and Norms in the South China Sea Should Serve as a Warning For Hong Kong

August 28, 2016

If rocks, atolls and reefs are a “core interest” to the Communist Party, the city must be far more important – which is why it should be wary of provoking Beijing

By Bilahari Kausikan
South China Morning Post

Sunday, August 28, 2016, 10:03 a.m.
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The South China Sea disputes have severely challenged Asean. At the Asean-China meeting held in Kunming (昆明) in June 2016, a senior Chinese official, sitting beside Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅), bluntly told Asean foreign ministers that, as far as China was concerned, Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) was not central to the issue.

In 2012, the 45th Asean Ministerial Meeting, under Cambodia’s chairmanship, failed to issue a joint statement for the first time in Asean’s history because Cambodia, at China’s behest, blocked consensus on the South China Sea. Afterwards, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen said it had been a “strategic choice”.

This year, before an international tribunal ruled against China on July 12, Beijing had repeatedly and in hectoring terms warned Asean against taking a common position on the ruling.

Twice, Hun Sen said Cambodia would not agree to a common Asean position.

 Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅)

The Asean charter makes clear that decisions will be by consensus. As an organisation of diverse sovereign states, Asean must reconcile national interests. Consensus ensures civility and order between members. This is Asean’s fundamental purpose and its most underappreciated success: despite tensions in the South China Sea, Southeast Asia is today at peace with itself, at peace with the world and prospering. This would not have seemed likely in 1967 when Asean was formed.

In Southeast Asia sovereignties are still tender; historical enmities often still raw. If consensus is repeatedly abused, the consequences will be unpredictable. This is in no one’s interest. Do Asean and China realise this? I think so, at least minimally and, in China’s case, grudgingly.

The 2012 fiasco in Phnom Penh shocked Asean. Subsequent chairs – Brunei, Myanmar, Malaysia and now Laos – were determined to preserve minimal consensus around general principles, the most crucial being respect for international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Malaysia added an expression of concern over China’s reclamation works. The July 2016 Vientiane joint statement – agreed after an eleventh-hour appeal by Laos to Hun Sen – preserved all this and included language on respect for legal and diplomatic processes, an indirect reference to the tribunal’s decision taken from the February 2016 US-Asean Summit.

In Vientiane, Wang was more conciliatory than in Kunming, where China overplayed its hand: all 10 Asean members resisted Beijing’s attempt to ram its own version of a South China Sea ‘consensus’ down Asean’s throat. China knows that of late its diplomacy on the South China Sea has been less than a dazzling success and has at least made tactical adjustments.

What has all this got to do with Hong Kong?

 U.S. Navy

The Commander of the PLA Navy, Admiral Wu Shengli (吳勝利), recently told an American admiral that the South China Sea was a “core interest” for China on which the Communist Party’s governance depended.

If rocks, atolls and reefs in the South China Sea are a “core interest”, Hong Kong must be far more important to the party. For a hundred years, the legitimacy of every Chinese government has depended on its ability to protect China’s sovereignty. The party cannot compromise over Hong Kong.

China speaks threateningly, but knows that stopping the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet from operating in the South China Sea would be a casus belli. War with the United States can have only one outcome. Defeat would jeopardise party rule. Neither the US nor China will stop asserting their interests in the South China Sea. But they also deter each other from going too far. China does not want Asean to swing entirely to America, and so reluctantly accepts its minimal consensus.

Will America defend Hong Kong, which it does not dispute is Chinese territory? Will China really allow Hong Kong to choose its leaders? Can Beijing even tactically compromise on democracy for Hong Kong without giving other citizens including those in Tibet ( 西藏 ) and Xinjiang ( 新疆 ) evil thoughts about Chinese Communist Party rule? China’s emphasis must always be on one country – not two systems.

 Chris Patten, Tony Blair at the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997

Lord Patten left a poisoned chalice for Beijing. As governor, Patten’s primary considerations were Britain’s amour propre and his personal legacy, not the interests of the Hong Kong people. Hong Kong was a British colony. How could it ever be a Western-style democracy in China? Since 1997, Hong Kong governments have not adequately explained these harsh realities to the Hong Kong people.

Consequently too many Hong Kong people seem to take sweet Western words too seriously.

The city’s historical role was to act as an interface between China and the world. The world now deals directly with China and Hong Kong is no longer irreplaceably unique.

Sooner or later Shanghai will replace it as China’s main financial centre. Hong Kong will then become just another Chinese city. Why hasten that day by continually provoking Beijing?

Occupy Central and its aftermath could only have enhanced Beijing’s suspicions and its determination to cut Hong Kong down to size. On Hong Kong, China is not just blustering. Hongkongers have less room for manoeuvre than Asean.

Better to understand the lessons of the South China Sea and preserve what autonomy you can for as long as you can.

Bilahari Kausikan is the former permanent secretary of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2009574/lesson-hong-kong-must-learn-south-china-sea

Philippines: Duterte’s Drug War Death Toll Tops 2,000 — Addicted surrounded by death

August 28, 2016

AFP

© AFP / by Cecil Morella | Philippine Scene of the Crime Operatives work at the site where two suspects were shot dead following a shootout with police in Manila on August 28, 2016

MANILA (AFP) – Pedicab driver Reyjin dives into a neighbour’s house for a quick meth fix, fearful of taking a bullet to the head in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs but unable to quit.More than 2,000 people have died violent deaths since Duterte took office two months ago and immediately implemented his scorched-earth plans to eradicate drugs in society, ordering police to shoot dead traffickers and urging ordinary citizens to kill addicts.

The bloodbath has seen unknown assailants kill more than half the victims, according to police statistics, raising fears that security forces and hired assassins are roaming through communities and shooting dead anyone suspected of being involved in drugs.

Armed police constantly circle in Reyjin’s Manila slum community, but he continues to snort the fumes of the highly addictive methamphetamine known as “shabu” that Duterte has warned is destroying the lives of millions of poor Filipinos.

“It’s scary because I could be next,” said the gaunt, gap-toothed 28-year-old, speaking to AFP on the condition his identity not be revealed for security reasons.

The father-of-three said two masked motorcycle gunmen riding in tandem on a motorcycle had shot dead a woman who sold small amounts of drugs to him and other residents.

“She was sitting in the alley when she took two bullets to the head,” he said.

Such riding-in-tandem murders are one of the most common forms of killings by the shadowy assassins.

– ‘Cardboard justice’ –

Often a piece of cardboard, with “drug peddler” or “drug addict” written on it, is placed on the corpse. This has led to the war on crime becoming known as “cardboard justice”.

Meanwhile, police have reported killing 756 people they have branded drug suspects.

National police chief Ronald dela Rosa has repeatedly defended his officers, insisting they only kill when their own lives are in danger.

However two policemen have been charged with murder over the jailhouse deaths of a father and son, who autopsies showed to have been beaten so badly before being shot that their limbs were broken.

The United Nations, the US government and human rights groups have expressed alarm at the bloodshed, with some critics warning the Philippines is in the midst of a reign of terror as authorities act with no regard for the law.

Duterte and Dela Rosa have repeatedly insisted they are acting within the boundaries of the law, while accusing their critics of siding with the drug traffickers and ignoring the devastating consequences of what they describe as a national shabu crisis.

They say most of the unexplained deaths are being carried out by drug syndicates waging war on each other.

Yet on the day he was sworn into office, Duterte gave a speech to a crowd in a Manila slum in which he called on them to kill drug addicts in their own community.

And in an address to a group of drug addicts who had surrendered to police last week, Dela Rosa called on them to kill their suppliers and burn down their homes.

Dela Rosa later apologised for the comments, saying they were made because he was angry, but they nevertheless added to an atmosphere of a dramatic breakdown in the rule of law.

– Resilient drug trade –

In Reyjin’s Manila slum, the violence and security presence has slowed the drug trade and made shabu more expensive.

But lots is still available, in what could be a worrying sign for Duterte who vowed during the election campaign that he could completely wipe out the trade within six months.

“If you want to buy, you just go stand there on the street and somebody will approach you,” said Reyjin, who took his first hit of shabu when he was 13.

“You hand over the money and he will tell you to wait and have somebody else deliver the drugs to you.”

Even the shabu “dens”, in which people rent out their huts for addicts to take a hit, are still operating, according to Reyjin.

Reyjin said he earned about 400 pesos ($8.50) a day, taking passengers on short pedicab trips and occasionally doing odd jobs.

He said he was spending about one quarter of his earnings on shabu. It used to be a 50-peso-a-day habit, but the price of shabu had doubled because of the drug war, according to Reyjin.

Neighbours told AFP the eldest of Reyjin’s three children, a grade-schooler, looked malnourished and often went to school hungry.

The two other siblings looked dirty and were forced to wear hand-me-down clothes in their one-room house, they added.

The neighbours said they also suspected him of stealing small items from their homes to fund his habit.

Reyjin said he was aware of the toll his habit took on his family.

But, even compounded by the threat of his children being orphaned in the drug war, he said he could not stop taking shabu.

“Sometime I tell myself I have to stop,” he said.

“But my body craves it.”

by Cecil Morella

© 2016 AFP

Turkey: Rocket Attack On Airports Believed To Be From Kurdish Militants — No immediate reports of casualties

August 28, 2016
Passengers at Diyarbakir Airport, in the southeast Turkish province of the same name, on Saturday night sought shelter in a terminal building after an apparent rocket attack, local media report. The airport is used for both military and civilian air traffic

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Suspected Kurdish militants fired rockets at the airport in Turkey’s main southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Saturday, sending passengers and staff scrambling for shelter, Dogan news agency said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Four rockets were fired at a police checkpoint outside the VIP lounge, and passengers and staff were taken inside the terminal building for safety, the private news agency said. The attack happened not long before midnight (5.00 p.m. ET) on Saturday.

Turkey — Diyarbakir airport

Broadcaster NTV said the rockets landed on wasteland nearby. There were no casualties and no disruption to flights, Diyarbakir governor Huseyin Aksoy told the news channel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Diyarbakir is the main city in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast, where Kurdish militants have waged a three-decade insurgency. The attack comes days after Turkey launched a military incursion into Syria aimed at driving back Islamic State and preventing territorial gains by Kurdish fighters.

Rebels supported by Turkey fought Kurdish-backed forces in northern Syria on Saturday, and Ankara said it had launched air strikes against both Kurdish militia fighters and Islamic State.

Turkey fears Kurdish militia fighters will fill the void as Islamic State is pushed back. It wants to stop Kurdish forces gaining control of a continuous stretch of Syrian territory on its frontier, which it fears could deepen the insurgency by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants on its own soil.

Diyarbakir airport largely handles domestic flights and is served by carriers including Turkish Airlines.

The PKK, which first took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. A ceasefire collapsed just over a year ago, and violence has since surged.

(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Nick Tattersall)

see also:

https://www.rt.com/news/357427-turkey-airport-rocket-attack-diyarbakir/

New Heroin laced with Elephant Tranquilizer is 10,000 Times more Potent than Morphine

August 27, 2016

New Heroin laced with Elephant Tranquilizer is 10,ooo Times more Potent than Morphine

A new variety of heroin that is laced with elephant tranquilizer is said to be exponentially more potent than morphine.

A nurse injects a heroin addict. Photo by Aaron Goodman

Saturday, August 27, 2016 07:10AM

Eyewitness News talked with a man who is recovering from a near-death experience after overdosing on heroin.

“I was introduced to it by friends who said, ‘This will make it stronger, make it to where you have to use less,'” said David Gomez, who is recovering from his heroin addiction at Cenikor in Deer Park.

It’s a type of high Gomez said has a psychedelic and calming effect. He would use heroin laced with tranquilizers, never thinking it was too powerful and he could overdose — but he did.

“It was a traumatic experience,” he said. “I felt like I was going to die and the paramedics said, ‘No, you are not going to die, you just died.”

He was mixing heroin with fentanyl, but now there’s a much more powerful mix being sold: heroin laced with carfentanyl.

“It’s kind of a continuation of pattern that we have been seeing of heroin that laced with fentanyl,” said Katherine Neill, PH.D., of Rice University.

Neill, who studies drug use, said cutting heroin generates more money for drug dealers.

“Most people that are getting heroin on the street don’t know what’s laced on that drug,” said Neill.

Officials in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are now forming a coalition and talk about the dangers of the tranquilizer-laced heroin after officials said they saw about 60 overdoes in just 48 hours.

“It’s a tranquilizer for elephants, but again — since it’s an opioid — all opioids react the same way on a human brain,” said Neill.

As for Gomez, he feels he is lucky to have a second chance after his near-death experience.

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 (Duterte’s drug war has resulted in 1,900 deaths – 750 of them caused by policemen who said they acted in “self-defence” during “buy and bust” operations — Duterte was inaugurated on June 30, 2016)

Turkey in Syria: Rocket Attack on Turkish Tanks Kills One Souldier, Wounds 3

August 27, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | One Turkish soldier was killed and three more wounded on Saturday in a rocket attack on two tanks taking part in Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, the Dogan news agency and NTV television said

ISTANBUL (TURKEY) (AFP) – One Turkish soldier was killed and three more wounded on Saturday in a rocket attack on two tanks taking part in Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, the Dogan news agency and NTV television said.

The tanks were hit in the area of the Syrian town of Jarabulus, which Turkish forces helped pro-Ankara rebels seize from jihadists on Wednesday. The reports said that the rockets had been fired from an area where the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia has been active.

Related:

Turkish army tanks make their way towards the Syrian border town of Jarablus, Syria August 24, 2016. Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office/Handout via REUTERS

Dangerous confrontations between US and Iranian navies have increased 50% this year despite the nuclear deal, officials say –New world order?

August 27, 2016
  • Defense officials say there were 30 dangerous incidents in total in 2015
  • In the first six months of this year there were 26 incidents, officials added
  • That is despite the nuclear deal which was hailed as a ‘new era’ of relations
  • There were four dangerous incidents in the last week alone which led to warning shots and flares being fired at Iranian boats 

The number of dangerous confrontations between Iranian and US navies has increased by 50 per cent compared to last year, defense officials said.

In total there were 30 dangerous incidents recorded between the two navies in the Persian Gulf in the whole of 2015, according to the Navy’s 5th fleet.

That is compared to 26 in the first half of this year, and four that took place in the last week alone.

Defense officials say there were 30 dangerous confrontations between the US and Iranian navies in 2015, compared to 26 in the first six months of 2016 (pictured, the USS Nitze fires flares at two Iranian vessels earlier this week) 

Defense officials say there were 30 dangerous confrontations between the US and Iranian navies in 2015, compared to 26 in the first six months of 2016 (pictured, the USS Nitze fires flares at two Iranian vessels earlier this week)

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Officials say the figures are on course to increase by more than 50 per cent before the end of the year, despite the nuclear deal (pictured, an Iranian boat approaches the Nitze)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZDb91Mw
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Speaking anonymously to Fox News, the official said: ‘We are on pace to exceed last year’s numbers by more than fifty per cent.’

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The is despite the signing of the Iranian nuclear deal that President Obama and other world leaders vowed would usher in a ‘new era’ of relations with Iran.

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As part of that deal, Tehran was handed a $1.7billion payment, including $400,000 in cash flown into the country by plane.

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Overall encounters with the Iranian navy, which most consists of fast patrol boats, has also increased, officials added.

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On Wednesday the USS Squall was forced to fire three warning shots at Iranian vessels, less than 24 hours the USS Nitze was ‘harassed’ in an ‘unsafe manner’.

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The incident involving the USS Squall was just one of three separate confrontations involving American and Iranian ships in a single day, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

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Meanwhile the USS Nitze was passing through international waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway between Iran and the United Arab Emirates, when it was confronted on Tuesday.

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Four of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessels ‘harassed’ the Nitze, a U.S. defense official said.

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The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that two of the Iranian vessels came within 300 yards of the USS Nitze in an incident that was ‘unsafe and unprofessional.’

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There were four dangerous incidents in the last week alone including one in which the USS Squall (pictured) was forced to fire three warning shots at Iranian patrol vessels
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There were four dangerous incidents in the last week alone including one in which the USS Squall (pictured) was forced to fire three warning shots at Iranian patrol vessels
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Defense officials say there were 30 dangerous confrontations between the US and Iranian navies in 2015, compared to 26 in the first six months of 2016 (pictured, the USS Nitze fires flares at two Iranian vessels earlier this week)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZFOUrrX
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

There were four dangerous incidents in the last week alone including one in which the USS Squall (pictured) was forced to fire three warning shots at Iranian patrol vessels

There were four dangerous incidents in the last week alone including one in which the USS Squall (pictured) was forced to fire three warning shots at Iranian patrol vessels

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Navy officials said four Iranian revolutionary Guard vessels approached the Nitze (pictured) at high speed and behaved in an 'unsafe and unprofessional' manner

Navy officials said four Iranian revolutionary Guard vessels approached the Nitze (pictured) at high speed and behaved in an ‘unsafe and unprofessional’ manner

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZFOUrrX
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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The vessels harassed the destroyer by ‘conducting a high speed intercept and closing within a short distance of USS Nitze, despite repeated warnings,’ the official said.

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IRGC, the Islamic Republic’s praetorian guard, is suspicious of U.S. military activity near Iran’s borders and appears to be sticking to a familiar posture in the Gulf that predates last year’s nuclear accord.

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Iranian commanders put out a statement on Thursday, saying the navy will continue to warn and confront any vessels that stray into its waters.

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General Hosein Dehghan told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that ‘if any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it’s an invasion, we confront.’

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He added that Iranian boats patrol to monitor traffic and foreign vessels.

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The United States and other countries are concerned about Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, its ballistic missile program, and its backing for Shiite militias that have abused civilians in Iraq.

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The U.S. defense official said that in Tuesday’s incident, the USS Nitze tried to communicate with the Iranian vessels 12 times, but received no response.

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It also fired 10 flares in the direction of two of the Iranian vessels.

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The encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south

‘Unsafe and unprofessional’ 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZErXySS
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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The encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south

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‘The Iranian high rate of closure… created a dangerous, harassing situation that could have led to further escalation, including additional defensive measures by Nitze,’ the official said.

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USS Nitze had to change course in order to distance itself from the Iranian vessels, the official said, adding that the incident could have led to a diplomatic protest, but the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.

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The encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south.

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This was not the first maritime scare between the United States and Iran.

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In January, 10 U.S. sailors aboard two patrol craft were detained by the IRGC when they inadvertently entered Iranian territorial waters.

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They were released the next day after being held for about 15 hours.

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The Gulf separates Iran from its regional rival Saudi Arabia and a U.S. naval base in Bahrain.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZE41OO1
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south 

The encounter occurred in international waters in the strait, a vitally important choke point with Iran to its north and the United Arab Emirates to the south

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3760606/Dangerous-confrontations-Iranian-navies-increased-50-cent-year-despite-nuclear-deal-officials-say.html#ixzz4IZEHE8FT
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Related:

Defense official: Iran confrontations with US Navy up 50 percent this year

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/08/26/defense-official-iran-confrontations-with-us-navy-up-50-percent-this-year.html

Related:

  (USS Nitze encounter with Iranian boats)

  (USS Nitze encounter with Iranian boats)

© Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Website/AFP/File | A picture released by the news website and public relations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shows US sailors being apprehended by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on January 13, 2016

 


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