Posts Tagged ‘migrants’

Czech Republic to say “no” U.N. migration pact: report

November 14, 2018

The Czech Republic will not join a United Nations pact that aims to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide, the CTK news agency said on Wednesday, quoting Czech Prime Minster Andrej Babis.

Migration (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/London News Pictures/P. Hackett)

The Czech government had signaled its opposition to the pact earlier this month. It joins the growing ranks of European Union nations opposed to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


Libyan commander Haftar will attend meetings in Italy, not conference

November 13, 2018

Eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar has arrived in Italy for meetings with heads of state, but will not attend a conference on Libya hosted by Rome, his command said on Tuesday.

Italy organized the conference in Palermo, hoping it would resurrect U.N. efforts to stage elections in Libya. Haftar arrived in Palermo late on Monday but did not take part in the opening dinner.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte welcomes Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar as he arrives at the venue of the international conference on Libya in Palermo, Italy, November 12, 2018. (Reuters)

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Editing by Andrew Heavens



See also:

Libya rivals arrive for Italy summit after December election shelved

Japan Believes Robots Will Take Work Away from Humans

November 13, 2018

People in Japan believe robots are coming for their jobs and will yield a more unequal society where it’s harder to find work, according to a Pew survey.

By the numbers: 89% believe robots will do “much of the work” humans do today within 50 years. 83% think that will widen the gap between rich and poor, 74% think unemployment will grow and just 35% believe robots will create “new, better-paying jobs.”

Image result for robots, photos

The big picture: The vast majority in Japan are pessimistic about where the economy is headed. While 44% now say the economy is “good,” up from 7% in 2012, just 26% say things are better than they were 20 years ago, and a mere 15% say today’s children will be better off than their parents.

The bottom line: It’s not just about robots. Japan is facing severe demographic challenges tied to its aging and shrinking population. And while immigration is rising, it remains low. Just 23% would like to see it increase, while 58% say it should remain the same and 13% say it’s already too high. Still, 59% say the immigrants currently in Japan “make our country stronger.”


What jobs will disappear because of AI?

MR. Sinovation Ventures CEO Kai-Fu Lee (China): Customer service, but not every kind. Customer service with very high-end human touch will stay. Telemarketing and telesales will disappear. Dish washing, fruit picking, assembly-line inspection will all disappear. Paralegals and accountants—but not 100%. Some lawyers who do form filling, those would be replaced.

Creativity-oriented jobs are safe. Working in a construction environment is safe. Cleaning is hard to do for a robot and every house is different, so that’s safe.

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Leaders meet in Italy to find settlement in Libya

November 12, 2018

A gathering of leaders of Libya’s quarrelling factions and of countries keen on stabilizing the North African nation opens Monday in Sicily, aimed at finding a political settlement that would bolster the fight against Islamic militants and stop illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe’s southern shores.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and his Libyan counterpart Fayez Al-Sarraj previously met in Italy ahead of the Palermo conference. (File/AFP)

But the meeting’s chances of success appear uncertain, not least because of the difficulties involved in any attempt to get all stakeholders — two rival administrations, unruly militias with considerable firepower and an ambitious army general — to agree on a road map that would reunite Libya after seven years of chaos and bloodshed while not infringing on their current spheres of power.

Image result for Khalifa Haftar, pictures

Gen. Khalifa Haftar, commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, is unlikely to go to the Palermo event, according to officials close to him. The Egyptian- and UAE-backed Haftar, who also maintains close ties with France, views the meeting as lacking a “clear agenda” and designed largely as a media event favoring Italy, the host, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Haftar’s absence would render the meeting largely irrelevant.

Dealing a further blow to the meeting’s chances of success, some European heads of state that Italy had hoped would come — including US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin — are also staying away, sending lower-ranking State Department or Foreign Ministry officials instead.

France’s foreign minister is expected, and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte will be greeting arrivals Monday evening, ahead of the first event, a closed-door dinner.

Italy has for years nervously eyed a lawless Libya across the Mediterranean. Like other European nations, Rome wants to contain the threat of militants based there carrying out terror attacks on its territory and the danger of a continuous flow of migrants arriving by sea.

With hopes already effectively dashed that this week’s meeting would gather all the delegations from Libya’s main factions in one room, Italian daily La Stampa on Saturday noted that the possibility of another conference, in Rome in a few weeks, was being mulled over. A series of bilateral encounters are foreseen in Palermo.

Conte’s six-month-old populist government — and especially anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini — sees a more stable and secure Libya as the best outcome for Italians, and for the right-wing voter base in particular.


Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini (C) visits a migrants" tent city in San Ferdinando - 10 July 2018
Salvini poses with migrants at a camp in Calabria in July. EPA photo

“The Italian government offers itself as a mediator. It … doesn’t demand anything, doesn’t set election dates, doesn’t want to impose its businesses” on Libya, Salvini said Sunday of the meeting, which runs through Tuesday.
Salvini said Italy’s approach is superior to that of France because it focuses on improving political and security conditions on the ground to ensure a future vote is democratic.

France hosted a meeting on Libya in May, when rival Libyan leaders tentatively agreed on a roadmap for parliamentary and presidential elections but declined to sign a declaration outlining their commitments.
Italy has traditionally had strong business ties in Libya, especially through its oil-and-gas giant ENI, as well as various engineering and construction companies.

Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and is now governed by rival administrations in the east and west with both relying on the support of militias. It has also become a haven for Islamic militants and armed groups, including several from neighboring countries, which survive on looting and human trafficking, particularly in the south of the country.

Haftar has been instrumental in the fight against militants, going after them in their eastern hideouts and occasionally foraying into the vast and largely lawless south. However, a deadly overnight attack last month by militants from the extremist Daesh group showed the limitations of his army, which he and his Egyptian backers will likely use to support their tireless calls to lift an international arms embargo on Libya.

Haftar is not the only person in Libya questioning Italy’s motive behind organizing the conference.

“This is Italy’s way of competing for a prime role in Libya’s affairs, especially against France and other western powers,” said Essam Al-Jehani, a lawmaker from the parliament based in Tobruk, eastern Libya. “This will lead to further meddling in our affairs, and we expect nothing positive from this meeting.”

Ghassan Salame, the UN special envoy to Libya, told the UN Security Council last week that the conflict there is essentially a competition over control of resources fueled by personal ambitions. National elections, he said, are unwanted by Libyan factions.

“Libya is caught in a futile and destructive cycle, fueled by personal ambitions and the nation’s stolen wealth,” said the veteran Lebanese politician. “While it is a country endowed with great means in human and material terms it is fast becoming the tragedy of the lost opportunity. The risks are too high to allow this to continue.”

As an example of Libya’s “underlying fragility,” he said a bout of fighting in the capital Tripoli last month claimed 120 lives, including 34 women and children.

This week’s conference is a chance for countries to “offer tangible support to the training of professional security forces,” Salame said.

Central American migrant caravan continues toward US after rest

November 10, 2018

Around 5,000 Central Americans left Mexico City at dawn Saturday, brushing exhaustion and illness aside to get back on the road towards the United States as part of a migrant caravan that has drawn fury from President Donald Trump.

Between coughs and sneezes, the migrants packed up their makeshift camp in a sports park, where they had rested for six nights, and headed to the city’s metro — which opened an hour early to transport them toward neighboring Mexico State.

“We got cold sleeping out in the open, so that’s why we’re sick now. The kids have got lice, there’s not always enough water to bathe them,” Adamari Correa, a Guatemalan traveling with her sister and her sister’s children, told AFP.

© AFP | The metro in Mexico City opened an hour early to transport migrants toward neighboring Mexico State

From there, the plan was to set off once again on foot toward Queretaro in central Mexico, still hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the US border.

“I don’t want to walk, Mommy!” cried one little girl wrapped in a blanket, as her mother — a sleeping mat on her back and two large bundles in each hand — stood in an endless line waiting to board the five designated train, each carrying around 1,000 people, metro authorities estimated.

Some 1,000 police officers kept watch over the operation.

The caravan left San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on October 13 and has covered more than 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) so far.

At least two other caravans have since been established, defying threats from Trump — who has decried what he describes as an “invasion” and ordered thousands of soldiers to the US-Mexico border.

On Friday, his administration unveiled a controversial new crackdown, announcing it would no longer allow people who enter the US illegally to claim asylum. Instead, those seeking political or other kinds of asylum will be heard exclusively at the border crossings.

Also on Friday, a group of 1,300 Central American migrants fragmented from the caravan to embark on the same path from Mexico City.

They quickly amassed on the sides of the wide high-speed road that snakes around the capital, leading to the exit toward Queretaro.

– Taking the risk –

“We’re sick from the temperature changes,” said Wilson Alexander Mejia, a 27-year-old laborer traveling alone.

“But we’re determined to reach the border and beyond.”

On the highway, truck drivers stopped to offer rides. Some migrants clung to vehicles; others found a seat perched on the hood, above the engine.

“Thank you Mexico! We go forward!” they yelled to passers-by, waving.

Other caravan members following behind trekked on foot or took public buses to reach the Queretaro exit, where trucks slowed to pick them up.

Under already intense sun, transport police were also seen helping migrants into one cargo vehicle’s two trailers — but they lacked any ventilation system.

“When you want something, you have to take risks and not care what happens,” said Lucas Rocha, a 31-year-old on his second journey to the border. He said if he doesn’t make it this time, he’ll try again.

Years ago, he rode the notoriously dangerous cargo train route through Mexico known as “La Bestia” — “the beast.”

Along that route, migrants are routinely robbed and assaulted by organized criminals — while scrambling onto moving trains sees many get dragged underneath and lose limbs.


US immigration officials move to curb asylum claims

November 9, 2018

The Trump administration has unveiled new rules barring individuals who illegally cross the United States-Mexico border from seeking asylum. The move comes as thousands of migrants are making their way north.

Aerial view of a Honduran migrant caravan heading to the US

The United States will no longer allow people who enter the country illegally to claim asylum, according to a new proclamation expected to be issued by President Donald Trump on Friday.

The measures released by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice are meant to funnel asylum seekers through official border crossings along the nearly 2,000-mile-long (3,200-kilometer-long) US-Mexico border.

Under current rules a migrant is allowed to make a claim up to a year after arriving in the US, whether if they crossed the border illegally or not. But the new regulations would effectively ban migrants who illegally cross the border from qualifying for asylum.

“Those who enter the country between ports are knowingly and voluntarily breaking the law,” the Justice Department said Thursday.

Trump will invoke the same extraordinary presidential national security powers he used to justify a version of the travel ban that was upheld by the Supreme Court in June, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.

The move comes as caravans of Central American migrants, estimated to be around 7,000 strong, make their way north through Mexico toward the United States.

‘Illegal’ to deny asylum

Much like the travel ban, the new changes are likely to be met with legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Thursday that the right to request asylum must be granted to everyone entering the country, whether illegally or through a border crossing, as stated in the asylum section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

“US law specifically allows individuals to apply for asylum whether or not they are at a port of entry. It is illegal to circumvent that by agency or presidential decree,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Other critics of the new regulations have pointed out that points of entry along the border are overcrowded and already have long lines and waits. Immigration officials are often forced to tell some migrants to come back to make their claims.

More difficult to qualify

The new regulations would largely affect migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who are fleeing violence and poverty at home.

“The vast majority of aliens who enter illegally today come from the Northern Triangle countries,” the legislation text said. “Channeling those aliens to ports of entry would encourage these aliens to first avail themselves of offers of asylum from Mexico.”

Asylum claims in the US have spiked in recent years — there were more than 330,000 claims in the US in 2017 — and there are more than 800,000 asylum cases pending in immigration court. Generally, only about 20 percent of cases get approved.

The Trump administration has already made it more difficult for migrants to qualify for asylum in the US. In June, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was pushed out by Trump earlier this week, issued a decision that narrowed the spectrum of circumstances under which immigrants can use violence in their home country as basis for US asylum.

On Thursday, the Justice Department, now headed by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, justified the new regulations by saying the US asylum system “is overwhelmed with too many meritless asylum claims” which prevent the system from being able to handle legitimate ones.

Hard line on immigration

Trump made immigration a key issue leading up to Tuesday’s midterm elections, where his Republican Party lost control of the House of Representatives but maintained its majority in the Senate. He repeatedly drew attention to the caravan through provocative tweets, brash campaign speeches and a controversial campaign ad.

Read more: What do the midterm election results mean for Trump?

Trump has also sent US troops to the border in anticipation of the migrant arrivals. As of Thursday, there are more than 5,600 troops deployed at the border and the military is expected to have more than 7,000 troops for the mission by Monday.

The soldiers are mostly doctors and engineers providing logistical support. US law prohibits active-duty service members from being involved in law enforcement activities on US soil unless specifically authorized by Congress. The president is authorized under some specific statues to deploy troops for riot control or relief efforts after natural disasters.

dv/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Favoured Merkel successor vows to pursue chancellor’s path

November 7, 2018

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s favoured successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Wednesday presented herself as a moderate continuity candidate, refraining from criticism or bold new vision statements.

The 56-year-old usually dubbed “AKK” — or “mini-Merkel” — is running in December to take over as head of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) while Merkel hopes to serve out her government term as chancellor through to 2021.

While two other top candidates have criticised Merkel’s liberal immigration policy of years past and vowed to return the CDU to its conservative roots, AKK has signalled she will stick with a centrist stance.

At a press conference in Berlin, the former state premier of tiny Saarland said that new leaders “stand on the shoulders of those who came before them”.

She said “an era is ending and a new chapter is beginning” but was careful to refrain from signalling any bold policy changes.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is congratulated by Angela Merkel (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

A poll published on Monday showed more than 60 percent of CDU members favour sticking to Merkel’s centrist line.

Sounding much like the incumbent, AKK said her priorities were to maintain “prosperity and the good life”, to safeguard public security, and to boost social inclusion so that all citizens can “feel at home”.

She also refrained from challenging the other top candidates — corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz and Health Minister Jens Spahn — saying: “I am not campaigning but rather presenting an offer” and pledging to include them in her team if she wins.

The biggest change AKK, currently the CDU’s general secretary, promised was to improve the internal dynamics of a party that has been mocked for its lack of debate and internal democracy under “Mutti” (Mummy) Merkel.

At the height of Merkel’s power, when she regularly won support in the high 90 percent range at party congresses, the CDU was sometimes mocked as “the association for the reelection of the chancellor”.

Kramp-Karrenbauer promised that in future the CDU’s big decisions would trickle up from the party base via its block of lawmakers and into the government, rather than the other way around.


See also:

Merkel taps possible successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as next CDU secretary general

Italy Senate passes government’s anti-migrant decree

November 7, 2018

The Italian Senate on Wednesday cleared the way for far-right leader Matteo Salvini’s tough anti-migrant and security decree to become law following a confidence vote.

The populist government of Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) won the vote with 163 senators for, 59 against and 19 abstentions, including five M5S members opposed to the stringent decree.

The new laws could allow migrants to be removed from the country, even those already living there Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio. (File/AFP)

The lower house of parliament now has until the end of November to approve the decree, which the coalition first put forward in September and makes it easier to expel migrants and strip them of Italian citizenship.

“Salvini decree, a historic day,” Salvini tweeted after the Senate vote.

The government opted for a confidence vote to get the decree through the senate after M5S members tabled a slew of amendments. It should have no problem passing the lower house given the coalition’s majority.

The decree seeks to radically reduce the number of migrants receiving “humanitarian protection” — a lower level of asylum status that is based on Italian rather than international law — that was awarded to 25 percent of asylum seekers last year.

It will now be awarded based on six strict criteria, including whether there is an urgent medical need or if the applicant was the victim of a natural disaster, or if they had carried out “heroic acts” in Italy.

Of the 81,500 decisions handed down by Italian authorities in 2017, eight percent were granted asylum, eight percent subsidiary protection and a quarter humanitarian protection.

The remainder were rejected. If appeals fail, they face the prospect of being classed as economic migrants who must return home.

Those seeking refugee status will also now have their requests suspended if they are considered “socially dangerous or convicted in the first instance” of crimes, while their appeals are ongoing.

They will in future be housed in bigger reception centers, while only minors and those with recognized refugee status will be housed in different parts of the country in order to facilitate integration.

There are currently around 146,000 migrants held in reception centers, down from 183,000 at the end of 2017.

The Italian mayors’ association has railed against the change, saying that having hundreds of unemployed migrants in reception centers can have a negative impact on small communities.

The new law also lets local police have Taser stun guns and makes it easier to evict squatters by getting rid of the obligation of finding provisional housing for the most vulnerable.

One of the most controversial measures in the bill provides for stripping immigrants of their Italian nationality if they are convicted of “terrorism.”

Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has taken a hard-line on immigration since the coalition came to power in June, refusing to allow several ships carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to dock at Italian ports.

Thousands of caravan migrants seek asylum in Mexico

November 7, 2018

Thousands of Central Americans marching towards the US border have applied for asylum in Mexico. Three caravans of people fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have spent the past few weeks trekking north.

Migrants rest at the Jesus Martinez stadium in Mexico City

More than 3,200 Central American migrants traveling with United States-bound caravans have filed asylum requests in Mexico, authorities said Tuesday.

Of those applicants, some 2,697 people have received temporary papers allowing them to work in the country while they wait for further assistance, according to a statement from the Mexican Secretariat of the Interior. All asylum-seekers have received food and medical attention, the statement added.

The first group of migrants set out from Honduras in mid-October, hoping to escape poverty and violence in their home country and reach the United States. The caravan grew in size as it progressed, drawing other Central Americans from Guatemala and El Salvador.

Read more: Migrant caravan ‘could not be larger gift’ for Donald Trump

Three caravans heading to the US border

On Tuesday, the main caravan of up to 4,500 people rested at a sports stadium in Mexico City — still about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from the US border. Hundreds of aid workers were on hand to distribute food, water and other supplies, as authorities warned the stadium was nearing its 6,000 capacity.

Meanwhile, a second caravan of 1,500 to 2,000 people reached Tapanatepec in Oaxaca State, about 750 kilometers southeast of the Mexican capital. A third group of around 2,000 Salvadorans is further south, in Huixtla.

US troops secure the border with MexicoUS troops secure the border with Mexico as thousands of Central American migrants march north

The migrants have said they are determined to cross into the US, despite US President Donald Trump’s threat to stop them at the border. Trump, who sought to use the situation to appeal to his base ahead of the midterm elections, described the caravan as a “national emergency.” He also deployed some 5,000 troops to secure the US-Mexican frontier.

Read more:Caravan of migrants tests Trump’s anti-immigrant policies

nm/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

‘Invasion’ or ‘brother migrants’? Caravans threaten Mexico-U.S. detente

November 7, 2018

A stream of U.S.-bound Central American migrant caravans risks clouding the rapprochement between Mexico’s next leader and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has railed against illegal migration to energize his electoral base.

Image result for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, photos

U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a combative leftist who takes office in December, has signaled he hopes to repair bilateral ties damaged by Trump’s criticism of Mexico for failing to stop migration and his demands for a border wall.

From opposite sides of the political spectrum, he and Trump have so far defied fears they could clash, with both helping to find common ground for a new North American trade deal.

But a spate of Central American migrant caravans pushing into Mexico in recent weeks revived tensions in the run-up to U.S. congressional elections on Tuesday. Trump has threatened to close the U.S-Mexico border if the migrants are not stopped.

“This is one of the potential flashpoints that could end the bromance between Lopez Obrador and Trump,” Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, told Reuters.

Trump’s 2016 election win sent relations between the two neighbors to their lowest ebb in years.

During the campaign, he repeatedly vowed to make Mexico pay for a border wall to keep out migrants, and accused the country of sending rapists and drug runners north.

Tensions over migration spilled over into economic affairs.

Trump tried to use border security to extract concessions in the revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he threatened to scrap before the United States, Mexico and Canada agreed a new deal on Sept. 30.

Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States and the NAFTA renegotiation rattled Mexico’s financial markets and disrupted investment.

Since a convoy of Hondurans left the city of San Pedro Sula on Oct. 13, several thousand Central Americans have crossed into Mexico. Trump has said he will send troops to the U.S. southern border to stop what he calls an “invasion.”

Lopez Obrador, by contrast, has been offering to help his “brother migrants” with visas and employment. He wants to persuade Trump to contribute to a plan to promote development in Central America and Mexico’s poorer south.

However, Sarukhan said Trump would almost certainly continue to campaign divisively on border security and migration as the race for the 2020 U.S. presidential election heats up.

“It’s hard for me to see, given the current dynamics in the United States, how Lopez Obrador is going to either ensure that this doesn’t become a flashpoint or convince Trump to spend significant political, diplomatic and financial capital in holistic development in Central America,” he said.

Angered by the caravans, Trump has threatened to cut aid to Central America – the very opposite of what the region needs, said Hector Vasconcelos, a lawmaker for Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party, and head of the Senate foreign relations committee.

“We need big economic development programs in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador if we really want to reduce migration from those countries,” Vasconcelos said.

Most of the migrants say they are fleeing gang violence and poverty. But Trump suggested, without providing proof, the caravans could be hiding “Middle Eastern” terrorists.

Asked how a Lopez Obrador administration would seek to bridge the differences over migration, incoming foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard told Reuters on Oct. 22 in Canada that, once in office, it hoped to start persuading the United States and others of the benefits of investing in Central America.

However, he added: “It’s not very easy.”


Lopez Obrador has adopted a conciliatory tone toward Trump since winning Mexico’s July election, stressing his desire for good relations.

Privately though, members of his transition team are skeptical whether the goodwill will last as the 2020 U.S. presidential election unfolds.

If Trump returns to the rhetoric he deployed against Mexico during his first election campaign, it could encourage the fiercely patriotic Lopez Obrador to hit back.

Just weeks after Trump took office in 2017, Lopez Obrador went to the United States to address Mexican-American voters, rounding on the new U.S. president in a speech in Los Angeles.

“These astute but irresponsible neo-fascist rulers want to build walls to turn the United States into an enormous ghetto, and put Mexicans in general, and our migrant compatriots in particular, on the same level as the Jews stigmatized and unjustly persecuted in the age of Hitler,” Lopez Obrador said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien