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Saudi Arabia’s military pressure on Assad served only to make him seek more help from Russia, precipitating intervention which the US was not prepared to oppose

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The Independent Online

saudi-arabia-prince-mohammad-bin-salman.gif Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the most powerful figure in Saudi decision making Getty

As recently as two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s half century-long effort to establish itself as the main power among Arab and Islamic states looked as if it was succeeding. A US State Department paper sent by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in 2014 and published by Wikileaks spoke of the Saudis and Qataris as rivals competing “to dominate the Sunni world”.

A year later in December 2015, the German foreign intelligence service BND was so worried about the growing influence of Saudi Arabia that it took the extraordinary step of producing a memo, saying that “the previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leading members of the royal family is being replaced by an impulsive policy of intervention”.

An embarrassed German government forced the BND to recant, but over the last year its fears about the destabilising impact of more aggressive Saudi policies were more than fulfilled. What it did not foresee was the speed with which Saudi Arabia would see its high ambitions defeated or frustrated on almost every front. But in the last year Saudi Arabia has seen its allies in Syrian civil war lose their last big urban centre in east Aleppo. Here, at least, Saudi intervention was indirect but in Yemen direct engagement of the vastly expensive Saudi military machine has failed to produce a victory. Instead of Iranian influence being curtailed by a more energetic Saudi policy, the exact opposite has happened. In the last OPEC meeting, the Saudis agreed to cut crude production while Iran raised output, something Riyadh had said it would always reject. 

In the US, the final guarantor of the continued rule of the House of Saud, President Obama allowed himself to be quoted as complaining about the convention in Washington of treating Saudi Arabia as a friend and ally. At a popular level, there is growing hostility to Saudi Arabia reflected in the near unanimous vote in Congress to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government as bearing responsibility for the attack.

Under the mercurial guidance of Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the most powerful figure in Saudi decision making, Saudi foreign policy became more militaristic and nationalistic after his 80 year old father Salman became king on 23 January 2015. Saudi military intervention in Yemen followed, as did increased Saudi assistance to a rebel alliance in Syria in which the most powerful fighting force was Jabhat al-Nusra, formerly the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Nothing has gone well for the Saudis in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis apparently expected the Houthis to be defeated swiftly by pro-Saudi forces, but after fifteen months of bombing they and their ally, former President Saleh, still hold the capital Sanaa and northern Yemen. The prolonged bombardment of the Arab world’s poorest country by the richest has produced a humanitarian catastrophe in which at least 60 per cent of the 25 million Yemeni population do not get enough to eat or drink.

The enhanced Saudi involvement in Syria in 2015 on the side of the insurgents had similarly damaging and unexpected consequences. The Saudis had succeeded Qatar as the main Arab supporter of the Syrian insurgency in 2013 in the belief that their Syrian allies could defeat President Bashar al-Assad or lure the US into doing so for them. In the event, greater military pressure on Assad served only to make him seek more help from Russia and Iran and precipitated Russian military intervention in September 2015 which the US was not prepared to oppose.  

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is being blamed inside and outside the Kingdom for impulsive misjudgments that have brought failure or stalemate. On the economic front, his Vision 2030 project whereby Saudi Arabia is to become less wholly dependent on oil revenues and more like a normal non-oil state attracted scepticism mixed with derision from the beginning. It is doubtful if there will be much change in the patronage system whereby a high proportion of oil revenues are spent on employing Saudis regardless of their qualifications or willingness to work.  

Protests by Saudi Arabia’s ten million-strong foreign work force, a third of the 30 million population, because they have not been paid can be ignored or crushed by floggings and imprisonment. The security of the Saudi state is not threatened. 

The danger for the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states is rather that hubris and wishful thinking have tempted them to try to do things well beyond their strength. None of this is new and the Gulf oil states have been increasing their power in the Arab and Muslim worlds since the nationalist regimes in Egypt, Syria and Jordan were defeated by Israel in 1967. They found – and Saudi Arabia is now finding the same thing – that militaristic nationalism works well to foster support for rulers under pressure so long as they can promise victory, but delegitimises them when they suffered defeat.

Previously Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states had worked through allies and proxies but this restraint ended with the popular uprisings of 2011. Qatar and later Saudi Arabia shifted towards supporting regime change. Revolutions transmuted into counter-revolutions with a strong sectarian cutting edge in countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain where there were Sunni and non-Sunni populations.

Critics of Saudi and Qatari policies often demonise them as cunning and effective, but their most striking characteristic is their extreme messiness and ignorance of real conditions on the ground. In 2011, Qatar believed that Assad could be quickly driven from power just like Muamar Gaddafi in Libya. When this did not happen they pumped in money and weapons willy-nilly while hoping that the US could be persuaded to intervene militarily to overthrow Assad as Nato had done in Libya.   

Experts on in Syria argue about the extent to which the Saudis and the Qataris knowingly funded Islamic State and various al-Qaeda clones. The answer seems to be that they did not know, and often did not care, exactly who they were funding and that, in any case, it often came from wealthy individuals and not from the Saudi government or intelligence services.

The mechanism whereby Saudi money finances extreme jihadi groups was explained in an article by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times in December on how the Saudis had bankrolled the Taliban after their defeat in 2001. The article cites the former Taliban Finance Minister, Agha Jan Motasim, as explaining in an interview how he would travel to Saudi Arabia to raise large sums of money from private individuals which was then covertly transferred to Afghanistan. Afghan officials are quoted as saying that a recent offensive by 40,000 Taliban cost foreign donors $1 billion.

The attempt by Saudi Arabia and Gulf oil states to achieve hegemony in the Arab and Sunni Muslim worlds has proved disastrous for almost everybody. The capture of east Aleppo by the Syrian Army and the likely fall of Mosul to the Iraqi Army means defeat for that the Sunni Arabs in a great swathe of territory stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. Largely thanks to their Gulf benefactors, they are facing permanent subjection to hostile governments.

Source=http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/saudi-arabia-syria-yemen-oil-prince-salman-down-in-flames-a7513636.html?cmpid=facebook-post

Italy rescues 2,300 people off Libyan coast

Sunday, 21 May 2017 11:29 Written by

Italy rescues 2,300 people off Libyan coast

File photo of rescued migrants on their way to Italy: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

Some 2,300 migrants headed for Italy in 22 barely seaworthy vessels were rescued off the Libyan coast on Thursday, the Italian coastguard said.

Coastguard and military vessels joined forces with others chartered by humanitarian organizations to come to the rescue of the migrants, who were packed into ten wooden boats and 12 rubber dinghies.

"About 2,300 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean today," the coastguard said in a statement.

READ ALSO: How a new wave of children's books is tackling the migrant crisis

Prudence, a vessel chartered by medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres, picked up 770 people, many of them young children - one a baby aged just six weeks, it said.

SOS Mediterranee's and MSF's Aquarius vessel rescued 560 people and Phoenix, chartered by Maltese NGO Moas, hauled in another 360.

Some 46,000 migrants had reached the Italian coast this year even before Thursday's drama, around a third up on the same period last year, according to the Italian interior ministry.

At least 1,229 people have drowned making the perilous trip, according to the International Organization for Migration - one death for every 39 persons rescued.

The latest wave of people picked up comes as Italy beefs up security ahead of next week's G7 summit at Taormina in Sicily.

The summit poses a challenge given that local authorities on the island have banned migrants from disembarking at Sicilian ports.

Southern mainland ports or and those in the of Sardinia will instead take the strain.

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170519/italy-rescues-2300-people-off-libyan-coast

New legislation makes it easier to deport and monitor migrants, but rights groups call it an assault on refugee rights.

19 May 2017 18:42 GMT

 
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The legislation also restricts freedom of movement for all failed asylum seekers [File: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters]

The German parliament has passed legislation making it easier to deport failed asylum seekers and monitor those deemed dangerous in a move that has been slammed by opposition parties and rights groups as an assault on the rights of refugees. 

In legislation passed by the Bundestag late on Thursday, German authorities will be able to detain refugees due for deportation for 10 days rather than four, and monitor by ankle bracelet those deemed potentially dangerous.

The legislation also restricts freedom of movement for all failed asylum seekers. It grants the federal refugee agency BAMF and other government bodies more leeway to use and share data retrieved from migrants' mobile phones.

OPINION: Angela Merkel is not the great progressive messiah

Refugee organisation Pro Asyl criticised the measures, saying that they robbed refugees of their right to privacy.

"The agreed package of measures for tougher deportation policies is a programme that will deprive asylum-seekers of hope for protection in Germany and is aimed at discouraging them," the organisation said in a statement.

Defending the move, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere referred to the new measures as "a conclusion of efforts to tighten asylum laws in this legislative period". 

The measures were decided partly as a response to a truck attack in Berlin in December in which 12 people were killed. Although attacker Anis Amri's asylum request had failed and he was under surveillance by police, the authorities failed to deport him.

Amri, a 24-year-old, had been living in Germany as an asylum seeker. He was killed in Italy after he pulled a gun and shot an Italian officer in the shoulder during a routine police check.

Hundreds of German investigators are investigating how Amri managed to flee Germany after the attack and whether he may have had accomplices or a support network that helped him escape.

Source=http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/germany-approves-deportation-asylum-seekers-law-170519175532590.html

Below is a press release from the Aid Organisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Israel.

The organisation (ASSAF) explains the impact of a new law, imposed by the Israeli parliament on African refugees. These men and women already face terrible pressure to leave Israel, including deporation to African countries. Now they have this additional burden.

Martin

Source: ASSAF

These days we are preparing for the fateful consequences of the "Deposit Law", a legislation that withholds a fifth of African refugees' monthly salary. The law came into force on May 1. By harming asylum seekers economically, and consequently also socially and psychologically, the purpose of the law is to encourage "voluntary" departure of asylum seekers from Israel.

The law states that 20% of the wages of asylum seekers, in addition to 16% of their salaries taken from their employers, will be deposited into a fund that will be held by the state. Asylum seekers will have access to their money only if and when they leave Israel permanently.

We expect that asylum seekers will feel the brunt of the law as soon as the first pay day in June. In March we petitioned the High Court of Justice alongside asylum seekers and other human rights organizations. Unfortunately, the Court rejected our request for an interim order and the draconian law came into force.

We are currently waiting for a hearing on the petition, scheduled for July, hoping that the Court will cancel this legislation. At the same time, we sent an urgent request to the Director General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and demanded that his Ministry prepares itself to care for an additional hundreds of women and children at risk, as well as families. We expect that many will be in need of immediate assistance, due to the consequences of the law. We addressed the Mayor of Tel Aviv with a similar request.

"A catastrophe is about to unravel in Neve Sha'anan, Shapira and Hatikva neighborhoods", said ASSAF's Head of Public Awareness and Advocacy Orit Marom to Channel 2 news earlier this month. "The refugees will once again live in yards, stairwells and parks, they will be homeless and hungry, and once again people will talk about how great the distress here is." To view the story (in Hebrew) click here.

 

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Italy gives Libya four patrol boats to help fight illegal immigration
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti (2L) and Libyan Defence Minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi (L). Photo: Mahmud Turkia/AFP
08:14 CEST+02:00
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti on Monday handed over to the Libyan coastguard four patrol boats repaired in Italy as part of cooperation in the fight against illegal immigration.

The crews were trained in Italy "to monitor Libyan territorial waters...and contribute, together with Italy and Europe, to security in the Mediterranean", Minniti said in remarks translated into Arabic.

A Libyan naval officer told AFP the vessels had been due for delivery in 2014, but this date was pushed back because of violence and instability in the North African country.

Libya has long been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe. People smugglers have stepped up their lucrative business in the chaos which has engulfed the country since its 2011 revolution.

Minniti said on Monday another six patrol boats would be handed over to Libya soon after the training of the crews.

Libya's authorities have complained about lacking the means to deal with the floods of migrants who try crossing the Mediterranean in makeshift boats.

Italy registered nearly 42,500 migrant arrivals by sea by mid-April, 97 percent of them from Libya, Minniti said in a joint letter written with his German counterpart to the European Commission.

In the letter dated May 11th, which AFP obtained a copy of on Sunday, Minniti and Thomas de Maiziere said they "are convinced that we all must do more" to "prevent that hundreds of thousands of people once again risk their lives in Libya and on the Mediterranean Sea in the hands of smugglers."

Last year, a record 181,000 migrants reached Italy, 90 percent of them from Libya.

During his brief visit on Monday to Tripoli, Minniti also held talks with Government of National Unity head Fayez al-Sarraj on fighting illegal immigration.

READ MORE: The changing face of the Mediterranean migrant crisisThe changing face of the Mediterranean migrant crisis
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170516/italy-gives-libya-four-patrol-boats-to-bolster-coastguard

One of Italy's largest migrant centres was mafia-run, say police

File photo of an anti-mafia police officer taking part in a previous raid. Photo:Roberto Salamone/AFP
16:50 CEST+02:00
 
One of Italy's largest migrant reception centres was in the hands of a mafia clan for ten years, police said on Monday.

A police operation in the early hours of the morning led to 68 arrests, many of whom belonged to the Arena clan, part of the powerful Calabria-based 'Ndrangheta mafia. 

The clan reportedly made millions through its involvement in the running of a reception centre for migrants in Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Calabria - one of the largest in the country.

"Over 500 agents overnight arrested 68 people... accused of mafia association, extortion, carrying illegal weapons, fraud, embezzlement to the detriment of the state, (and) theft," police in Catanzaro said in a statement.

Their investigation revealed "that the clan controlled, for profit, the management of the reception centre" at Isola di Capo Rizzuto - which has held up to 1,500 migrants at a time - and had been doing so for over a decade.


The entrance to the centre. Photo: Revol Web/Flickr

Police arrested Leonardo Sacco, head of the Catholic Misericordia association which officially runs the centre. The 35-year-old has boasted of links to high-powered political figures.

Local priest Edoardo Scordio was also detained in the sting, according to Italian media reports.

Police believe that it was thanks to Sacco that the clan won contracts for supplying catering and other services to the centre, allowing it to syphon of millions of euros of EU funding destined for the migrants' care.

It also provided food services to the reception centre on Lampedusa, the Italian island which for several years was the frontline of the migrant humanitarian crisis, the biggest influx in Europe since World War II.

'Ghost' migrants

https://tag-dyn.omnitagjs.com/fo-dyn/native/preview/image?key=5fde3007f78213559615c8794722acae&kind=INTERNAL&ztop=0.411784&zleft=0.404455&zwidth=0.177368&zheight=0.177368&width=258&height=170&width=258&height=170');">

The head of the country's anti-mafia commission, Rosy Bindi, said the sting was "an important result in the fight against the 'Ndrangheta and the infiltration of mafia in the management of migrants".

About 175,000 people are currently living in reception centres, where the state provides food, clothing, Italian lessons, psychological support, health care and a small amount of pocket money.

Italy's finance ministry has estimated the 2017 budget for migrant reception at three billion euros ($3.3 billion), depending on how many people are rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to the country.

More than 45,000 people have arrived so far this year, a 44 percent increase from the same period in 2016.

The Calabrian centre had long been on the authorities' radar: In 2015 Italy's L'Espresso magazine published an investigative report alleging that managers at the camp were stealing funds earmarked for migrants and making money by starving them.

The Crotone prefecture said in 2014 that it appeared the official number of people recorded at the centre was grossly inflated, with management pocketing funds from the state for "ghost" migrants.

L'Espresso said it had got hold of a police report putting the figure at over 10,000 euros a day.

A health inspection in 2013 revealed that asylum seekers were being given miserly portions of out-of-date food, and that the centre was illegally hosting 70 unaccompanied minors who went barefoot and slept in a hangar with only two toilets.

The Arena clan hit the headlines in 2012 after police seized assets from them worth 350 million euros, including one of Europe's largest wind farms.

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170515/one-of-italys-largest-migrant-centres-was-mafia-run-say-police

by Martin Plaut

Norway Eritrea

There is fresh pressure on the Norwegian authorities to halt illegal tax collection by the Eritrean government from members of the exile community.

Norway  closed the Eritrean embassy in October 2013, following a strong warning from the Norwegian Parliament - or Storting - to halt these activities. But despite this the pressure on the Eritrean diaspora to send money to the Eritrean regime has continued, via the Eritrean 'Information Office.'

All Eritreans living abroad are faced with demands to pay a tax of 2%  on all of their income to the government of President Isaias Afwerki.

This tax collection has taken place despite the UN Security Council calling on all member states to halt this tax collection by passing resolution 2023, which was unanimously adopted on 5 December 2011.

First in the United States (2007) and Canada (2013) and Norway (2013), then the UK (2014) and the Netherlands (2017) the international community took action against the Eritrean regime for its extortion of funds from its nationals living abroad.

Despite this, the tax collection continues.

A group - 'Mothers for Peace' - has now handed in a dossier of fresh information to the Norwegian police giving evidence about this extortion. Their dossier is below. It has been translated using Google translate.

Martin


Review of the business of Eritrean Information Office at 4 Karl Johansgt.

With owners - including the Eritrean embassy in Stockholm and employees for financial crime and other offenses.

Background information:

The name of this business has varied from year to year from "Eritrean Embassy", "Eritrean Interest Office", Eritrean Information Society "and the like. We think this is a way to hide your business. In the following we use the denomination office which is the Eritrean office in Karl Johansgate 4 in Oslo.

The office has no agreements with the Norwegian state and is a private and political department for PFDJ's operations in Norway. PFDJ is the only legal party in Eritrea, but at the same time it has associations around Norway and owns this office in Oslo. They have connections to the Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm, which is the right embassy for Norwegian Eritreans.

In other words, the office is in close contact with the regime in Eritrea. According to the UN Human Rights Council, the regime wants control over the Eritrean diaspora, including the 20,000 Eritreans living in Norway. The control is achieved by criticizing the dictatorship and ensuring that 2% tax on all income in Norway is paid to the regime in Eritrea (see UN Appendix 3).

The youth wing of the party is Young PFDJ, which has an office with the PFDJ office in Karl Johansgt. It is one of Oslo's most expensive rental rooms. The tax money collected is controlled by and forwarded to a regime. A UN report believes that PFDJ commits crimes against humanity. 5000 escape every month. Thousands die in the Mediterranean and some come to Norway and meet an office in Oslo that requires them for tax! It is in this context that this matter must be incorporated into. The least we can demand is that Norwegian laws are followed.

1.    The basis for the notification is the following four points that we believe violate Norwegian law:

Illegally registered "public" Eritrean office at 4 Karl Johansgt.

A) The office has for over 30 years - from approx. 1986 until Oct. 2016, has been run as an Eritrean embassy in Oslo without the approval or permission of the Norwegian authorities. The office has driven tax collection from Eritrean residents in Norway. This has been in violation of the Foreign Affairs Committee, see Appendix 1. The Office took no note of this strong statement by the Storting in 2012 and continued to conduct illegal embassy and economic activities. The office has been mentioned several times in the Storting context (Question Time) as a private office without legal agreements with Norwegian authorities. Nevertheless, the office continued with public tax collection and other economic activities. This is a violation of Norwegian law. Former Foreign Minister Jonas Gard Støre and current Foreign Minister Børge Brende have pointed out from the Storting's speeches and must have consequences.

B) Illegal activities are still run even after the "embassy" was closed October. 2016.We can provide documentation of this claim. This is a breach of Norwegian law as in pt.1a. And also shows no respect for our government's decision.

2.    Illegal economic activities without payment of taxes and fees.

A) The "Embassy" has created and operated the illegal collection of 2% tax from Norwegian citizens living in Norway without agreement with the Norwegian authorities. In Finansavisen, Waldo acknowledges that he accepts money / tax in Norwegian bank account and forwards the amounts to the Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm. See Appendix 2. How have these big money amounts been processed by Oslo Office? What remuneration received the receipts?

B) The "Embassy" has undertaken transactions from Norway to Eritrea and obtained official documents from Eritrea to eriters in Norway against economic opposition.

C) Payments to the office show no information without the child no. Or amount on individual transactions. See Appendix 3

D) The Office has broken and violates laws and regulations in connection with the Accounting Act, Authorizations, Authorizations, to operate all the different payments. There is no registration of fees or accounting / or approval of the accounts. See Appendix 4

E) No payment of taxes and fees in Norway for financial transactions and services.

Point. 1 and 2 violate the Establishment Act, the Purchasing Act, the Tax Act and the Accounting Act.

3.    Refugee espionage.

The Office exercises control and pressure against the Eritrean diaspora in Norway.

When registering at the Oslo office, the authorities of Eritrea know who have fled from military service and the like. This puts their families in Eritrea at risk of reprisals.

A) It is known that an injunction letter must be written by those who come to the contest where they admit to have fled and admit that they will receive punishment if they return to Eritrea. This reveals Eritrean refugees for Eritrean authorities who can punish them / push them in Norway.

B) The office in Oslo cooperates with agents in Norwegian cities that receive the 2% tax. If possible, these agents should be investigated at the same time as the office to secure proof and get a complete picture of the illegal activity.

C) An office in the office will, in all likelihood, reveal unlawful control of Eritrean associations and Eritrean orthodox churches who collaborate with the regime in Eritrea in secret. The aim is to suppress eriters in Norway by opposing the opposition and that the diaspora pushes in a number of ways to pay 2% tax.

We believe this office has violated section 91a of the Criminal Code:

"Anyone who, in secret or in illegal means for the benefit of a foreign state, seeks to gather information about political or personal circumstances if communication to another state that he knows or ought to understand may harm Norway's interests or endanger the lives, health, liberty or property of individuals, Or contributing to this, be punished by booklet or jail for up to 2 years. "

In order to obtain evidence in such cases, search and telephone wrecking must be initiated. There are 20,000 Norwegian Eritreans living in fear of being declared to Eritrea's Eritrean authorities. That's not how it should be.

4.    Political cooperation with Norwegian authorities.

(A) Eritreans seeking asylum have been instructed by the UDI to go to this unofficial private office for the purpose of obtaining Eritrean passports and the like to document Eritrean Citizenship. This practice continues after the Secretary of State's office stopped in October. 2016. This despite the fact that the Minister of Justice considers the office to be private. There is no agreement between UD's rejection of an Eritrean public office in Norway and UDI's claim to asylum seekers to go to this private office to be registered, have to pay taxes and so few papers on their eritual identity. See Appendix 1.

B) This illegal office has caused many Norwegian-eriters large illegal payments an illegal activity that has not yet been stopped. Appendix 3

C) UDI exposes asylum seekers at risk and exposes the asylum seeker's family in Eritrea to the risk of reprisals in Eritrea when they are referred to this office and must disclose all information about who they are and why they fled from Eritrea.

5.    The Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm continues violations

We also want to report to the Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm to be responsible for collecting taxes and charges against Norwegians on Norwegian soil for decades after decades from Norwegian citizens with and without Norwegian passports. We believe this embassy is responsible for the office of Karl Johansgt. 4 and that they command the tasks of the Norwegian office. Even after the reinstatement and demand for closure of tax and tax operations in the autumn of 2016, the embassy in Stockholm has contributed to the continued illegal taxation activities from the Oslo office.

Against this background, we ask that the case be investigated and prosecuted. We also refer to Finansavisen, where Foreign Minister Brende calls for notification.

We will, at the police's request, provide witnesses and documentation.

Receipts on payment of tax before October 2016 when the office had no agreement with the state any foreign minister pointed out. Receipts on payment of tax after October 2016 after the Foreign Minister demanded that the office tax and tax business be terminated:

Witnesses: Norwegian Eritreans who have paid taxes before and after Oct. 2016. UDI staff who have sent and send Eritrean asylum seekers to an unofficially erratic office.

Regards.

Hilde W. Heimdal

Leader of "Mothers of Peace"

 

16 November 2016


BBC Broadcasting HouseImage caption The World Service has been called the jewel in the BBC crown

The BBC World Service will launch 11 new language services as part of its biggest expansion "since the 1940s", the corporation has announced.

The expansion is a result of the funding boost announced by the UK government last year.

The new languages will be Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.

Map

African languages:

  • Afaan Oromo: Language of Ethiopia's biggest ethnic group
  • Amharic: Ethiopia's official language
  • Tigrinya: The main working language of Eritrea, along with Arabic. Also spoken in Ethiopia
  • Igbo: An official Nigerian language. Also spoken in Equatorial Guinea
  • Yoruba: Spoken in south-western Nigeria and some other parts of West Africa, especially Benin and Togo
  • Pidgin: A creole version of English widely spoken in southern Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea

Pidgin - West African lingua franca

Asian languages:

  • Gujarati: Native to the Indian state of Gujarat but found around the Indian subcontinent and the world
  • Marathi: From the Indian state of Maharashtra, including India's commercial capital Mumbai
  • Telugu: Huge numbers of speakers, like many Indian languages, primarily in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
  • Punjabi: One of the world's most populous languages, it is widely-spoken in Pakistan and parts of India
  • Korean: Spoken in North and South though the dialects have diverged. Pop culture slang and foreign loan words are notably more common in the South
line break

"This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s," said BBC director general Tony Hall.

"The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown - for the BBC and for Britain.

"As we move towards our centenary, my vision is of a confident, outward-looking BBC which brings the best of our independent, impartial journalism and world-class entertainment to half a billion people around the world.

"Today is a key step towards that aim."

'Relevant as ever'

The plans include the expansion of digital services to offer more mobile and video content and a greater social media presence.

On Wednesday the BBC launches a full digital service in Thai, following the success of a Facebook-only "pop-up" service launched in 2014.

Other expansion plans include:

  • extended news bulletins in Russian, with regionalised versions for surrounding countries
  • enhanced television services across Africa, including more then 30 new TV programmes for partner broadcasters across sub-Saharan Africa
  • new regional programming from BBC Arabic
  • short-wave and medium-wave radio programmes aimed at audiences in the Korean peninsula, plus online and social media content
  • investment in World Service English, with new programmes, more original journalism, and a broader agenda

BBC World Service expansion

£289m

investment

11

new languages

  • 12 new or expanded daily TV and digital bulletins

  • 40 languages covered after expansion

  • 500m people reached by 2022 - double the current number

  • 1,300 new jobs, mostly non-UK

Getty Images

Fran Unsworth, the BBC's World Service director, said: "Through war, revolution and global change, people around the world have relied on the World Service for independent, trusted, impartial news.

"As an independent broadcaster, we remain as relevant as ever in the 21st Century, when in many places there is not more free expression, but less.

"Today's announcement is about transforming the World Service by investing for the future.

"We must follow our audience, who consume the news in changing ways; an increasing number of people are watching the World Service on TV, and many services are now digital-only.

"We will be able to speed up our digital transformation, especially for younger audiences, and we will continue to invest in video news bulletins.

"What will not change is our commitment to independent, impartial journalism."

The new language services mean the BBC World Service will be available in 40 languages, including English.

Lord Hall has set a target for the BBC to reach 500 million people worldwide by its centenary in 2022.

Source= http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37990220

by Martin Plaut

 

In August 2006, while I was working for the BBC, I received reports that aid provided to Eritrea by the European Union (EU) was being sold by the Eritrean government, and the proceeds used for government work programmes.

The European Commission's ambassador to Eritrea, Geert Heikens, explained in a BBC  interview that he had attempted to discuss this abuse with the authorities, but to no avail. He said he had written endless letters to the government, but had received no reply.

The ambassador pointed out that Eritrea was not a democracy and this kind of behaviour was symptomatic of its lack of transparency.

Ambassador Heikens was recalled by the EU and has now explained what took place, in the email below.

Martin


I found the article Martin wrote for the BBC, August 2006, about the EC food aid for Eritrea. In this email I will try to reconstruct the events based upon my memories.

 

In 2005 the EC donated for an amount of 3 million Euros food aid to Eritrea. The ship delivered the wheat in 2005 in the harbour or Massawa. See photo enclosed.

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In the agreement between the EC and Eritrea it was stated that the aid should be made available freely to a target group to be agreed between the EU and Eritrea. Examples of target groups were e.g. children, nursing mothers, elderly persons. The food was stored in warehouses in Eritrea, most of it, if not all, in Asmara.

 

After almost a year the food aid was still in warehouses, while one could see hungry people in the streets of Asmara. Requests to talk and agree upon the target group remained unanswered.

 

At a morning, May - June 2006 I was informed that bags with the EU logo containing our food aid were sold in the market, in the streets of Asmara and perhaps also in other places. My wife who walked every morning with a friend and our dog through Asmara discovered the bags.

 

I contacted and reported this discovery to HQ in Brussels. After consultations I contacted the Eritrean government, the EU National Authorising Officer (NAO), the official counterpart for EU development aid with the ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific), Dr Woldai.

 

However, I did not get an answer. Requests for a meeting were neither answered.

 

At a certain moment Martin heard from our problems and asked for a telephone interview. I agreed and early August I believe we spoke by telephone and I explained the situation and the history. When the subject EU Food Aid was finished Martin asked me if he could ask some questions on the situation in Eritrea. I agreed.

 

Without remembering the whole and exact exchanges I remember I said something like ...... well however you look at the situation,  you cannot call it a democracy, it is a dictatorship under President Issaias. For the exact wording see the article of Martin.

 

That evening we, Rita and I, were watching BBC world service and in the moving bottom line we could read the text EC ambassador calls Issaias a dictator, or a text with similar meaning.

 

A few days later I was called for a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a meeting with the NAO, minister of national development,  Dr Woldai.

 

I acknowledged that I have used the words as written in the article.  The MFA just took note of what I said. With the NAO the exchanges evolved into a discussion about democracy.

 

In detail I reported both meetings to Brussels HQ, both DG Development and DG AIDCO.

 

After some exchanges Brussels decided to call me back for consultations. In Brussels we had a long exchange after which it was decided to call me back, ending my assignment to Eritrea and offer me another posting.

I did not return to Asmara. Rita, whose diplomatic visa was expired, received a tourist visa and could go back to Asmara in December 2006 for a few days to arrange the removal. She could say farewell to the staff of the EU Delegation and some colleagues and friends and read a message from me for the staff of the Delegation.

 

 
Deaths and rescues continue in the Med as rescuers fight accusations of trafficking links
File photo of migrants being rescued from a sinking dinghy. Photo: AFP
15:58 CEST+02:00
 
Rescuers in the Mediterranean raced Friday to the aid of more than 20 migrant dinghies in distress as the debate in Italy over privately-funded aid ships intensified and the death toll at sea ticked steadily upwards.
 

"There are over 20 boats in difficulty off Libya and an already tense situation has worsened with people in the water," said Mathilde Auvillain, communicator officer for SOS Mediterranee.

Charities Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Save the Children were taking part in a senate meeting in a bid to clear the air after weeks of speculation over whether some of the rescue vessels may have links to traffickers in Libya.

NGOs have fiercely denied claims of collusion with smugglers made by Sicilian prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro, who has suggested they are worsening Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II - but also admitted he has no proof.

"We are under political attack, probably because we are giving a voice to those we save at sea, and pointing the finger at Europe for its failure to respond" to the crisis, said MSF search and rescue coordinator Michele Trainiti.

'Never too soon'

The MFS boat Vos Prudence disembarked six bodies recovered from the Mediterranean in the port of Catania Friday morning, five of whom were young women of African origin aged between 16 and 35.

"We think they were in the water for around a week, we can't be more specific because of the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies," MSF nurse Elena Zandanel, 33, told AFP.

The furore has been stoked by the populist Five Star Movement and anti-immigrant Northern League, whose leader Matteo Salvini said this week that the rescues were little more than "a financial and commercial operation".

Zuccaro appealed on Wednesday for more resources to expand his investigation, including intercepting the satellite calls made by traffickers, saying European Border Agency Frontex had intelligence of contact between NGOs and smugglers.

A Frontex spokesperson in Warsaw said Frontex had never accused the NGOs. "They want more resources, the resources should be used to save those risking their lives at sea," said Trainiti.
"Frontex has said there is no proof linking us to traffickers, as has (anti-smuggling operation) EU Navfor med and the (Sicilian) prosecutor of Siracusa", he said.

He also rubbished Zuccaro's suggestion the NGO boats were intervening to rescue people before they needed help.

"There's never a 'too soon' when you speak of rescues. According to the rules of the sea, as soon as one of these dinghies leaves land it is a vessel in distress, because it has over ten times the number of people it could legally carry.

"It doesn't need to send a distress signal, it doesn't need to call for help, the law of the sea says it is a boat that needs assistance, full stop".

'Entire families raped'

The flimsy dinghies used by traffickers are launched from the North African coast with an average of 122 passengers crammed aboard.

More than 1,000 people have died or are missing feared drowned on the central Mediterranean crossing so far this year.

The debate - which saw Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni wade in Thursday to hail the NGOs - is distracting from the real issue, the chaotic situation in Libya which is forcing ever larger numbers of people to flee across the sea, Trainiti said.

"We are very worried the situation will get worse with the summer and good weather. The situation in Libya becomes more critical by the day, there are stories of prolonged violence, torture and rape, including the rape of entire families".

Giancarlo Perego, director of the Migrantes foundation, said it was "right that prosecutors and the judiciary be vigilant and take note of the current situation in the Mediterranean, so that migrants are not victims twice over".

"But indistinct political fire on the nine NGOs operating in the Mediterranean to save lives using the resources of banking and private foundations, of civil society, is hypocritical and shameful."

By Ella Ide with Fanny Carrier in Rome

READ ALSO: The changing face of the Mediterranean migrant crisisThe changing face of the Mediterranean migrant crisis

Photo: AFP

Source=https://www.thelocal.it/20170505/deaths-and-rescues-continue-in-the-med-as-rescuers-fight-accusations-of-trafficking-links