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France expands sea monitoring as migrants vow to pursue UK dream

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France pledged on Thursday to step up surveillance of its northern shores, but migrants huddling in makeshift camps said neither that nor a tragic drowning the day before would stop them from trying to cross the Channel to Britain.

Seventeen men, seven women and three teenagers died on Wednesday when their dinghy deflated in the Channel, one of many such risky journeys attempted in small, overloaded boats by people fleeing poverty and war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

The deaths deepened animosity between Britain and France, already at odds over Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said France was at fault and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin accused Britain of “bad immigration management”.

President Emmanuel Macron defended Paris’s actions but said France was merely a transit country for many migrants and more European cooperation was needed to tackle illegal immigration.

“I will … say very clearly that our security forces are mobilised day and night,” Macron said during a visit to the Croatian capital Zagreb, promising “maximum mobilisation” of French forces, with reservists and drones watching the coast.

“But above all, we need to seriously strengthen cooperation … with Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain and the European Commission.”

Johnson later on Thursday announced that he had offered to meet Macron and other European leaders to discuss five steps that he said could reduce the crossings.

They included joint patrols to prevent more boats from leaving French beaches from as soon as next week, using sensors and radar and immediate work on a returns agreement with France and a similar deal with the European Union, Johnson said.

“This would have an immediate effect and would significantly reduce – if not stop – the crossings, saving lives, by fundamentally breaking the business model of the criminal gangs,” Johnson said in a letter that he sent to Macron and published on Twitter.

When Britain left the EU, it was no longer able to use the bloc’s system for returning migrants to the first member state they entered.

‘MAYBE WE DIE’

Wednesday’s was the worst such incident on record in the waterway separating Britain and France, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

But migrants in a small makeshift camp on the outskirts of Dunkirk, near the seashore, said they would keep trying to reach Britain, whatever the risks https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/choosing-between-bad-worse-migrants-dilemma-after-channel-tragedy-2021-11-25.

“Yesterday is sad and it is scary but we have to go by boat, there is no other way,” said 28-year old Manzar, a Kurd from Iran, huddled by a fire alongside a few friends.

“Maybe it’s dangerous, maybe we die, but maybe it will be safe. We have to try our chance. It’s a risk, we already know it is a risk.” Manzar said he had left Iran six months ago and arrived in France 20 days ago, after walking across Europe.

Britain repeated an offer to have joint British-French patrols off the French coast near Calais.

Paris has resisted such calls and it is unclear whether it will change its mind five months before a presidential election in which migration and security are important topics.

Migration is also a sensitive issue in Britain, where Brexit campaigners told voters that leaving the European Union would mean regaining control of borders. London has in the past threatened to cut financial support for France’s border policing if it fails to stem the flow of migrants.

British interior minister Priti Patel is due to meet her counterparts from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany on Sunday in Calais.

Johnson said in his letter to Macron that he was ready to upgrade the meeting into a leaders’ summit.

Patel was sending officials to Paris on Friday.

EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she would offer France financial help and assistance from the bloc’s border force, Frontex.

‘A TRAGEDY THAT WE DREADED’

Rescue volunteers and rights groups said drownings were to be expected as smugglers and migrants take more risks to avoid a growing police presence.

“To accuse only the smugglers is to hide the responsibility of the French and British authorities,” the Auberge de Migrants NGO said.

It and other groups https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britains-channel-graveyard-will-swallow-more-migrants-charities-say-2021-11-25 pointed to a lack of legal migration routes and added security at the Eurotunnel undersea rail link, which has pushed migrants to try the perilous sea crossing.

Johnson’s spokesperson said providing a safe route for migrants to claim asylum from France would only add to the incentives for people to make dangerous journeys.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has surged to 25,776 so far in 2021, up from 8,461 in 2020 and 1,835 in 2019, according to the BBC, citing government data.

Before Wednesday’s disaster, 14 people had drowned this year trying to reach Britain, a French official said. In 2020, seven people died and two disappeared, while in 2019 four died.

(Reporting by Ardee Napolitano in Calais, Lucien Libert in Zagreb, Alistair Smout, Paul Sandle, Kylie MacLellan and William Schomberg in London, Richard Lough and Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris, Gabriel Baczynska in Brussels; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mike Collett-White, Timothy Heritage, Giles Elgood, William Maclean, Kevin Liffey and Daniel Wallis)

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday – CBC News

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The latest:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that people who aren’t vaccinated will be excluded from nonessential stores, as well as cultural and recreational venues, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate, as part of an effort to curb coronavirus infections that again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period.

Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who haven’t been vaccinated.

Merkel is cited by media reports as saying that “culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered.”

“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an “act of national solidarity.”

She said officials also agreed to:

  • Require masks in schools.
  • Impose new limits on private meetings.
  • Aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year.

Merkel also said that parliament will debate the possibility of imposing a general vaccine mandate that would come into force as early as February.

About 68.7 per cent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 per cent the government is aiming for.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a centre-left coalition next week, said Tuesday that he backs a general vaccine mandate, but favours letting lawmakers vote according to their personal conscience rather than party lines on the matter.

The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that medical services in the country could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.

Agreeing what measures to take has been complicated by Germany’s political structure — with the 16 states responsible for many of the regulations — and the ongoing transition at the federal level.

Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.

WATCH | WHO expert talks about omicron’s early days — and what scientists are doing to learn more about the new variant: 

WHO warns how world should respond in omicron’s ‘early days’

The World Health Organization says that every tool used to fight the delta coronavirus variant needs to be strengthened against omicron. (Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters) 2:17

-From The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 9:35 a.m. ET


What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Doctors search to solve long COVID as patients fight to recover: 

Doctors search to solve long COVID as patients fight to recover

13 hours ago

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and health experts are searching to find a cause and treatment for long COVID, while patients are simply fighting for their recovery. 6:14


What’s happening around the world

WATCH | Omicron variant renews uncertainty for travellers

Omicron variant renews uncertainty for travellers

14 hours ago

The uncertainty around the omicron variant and new COVID-19 testing and isolation requirements has some wondering if international travel is about to be upended again. 2:04

As of early Thursday morning, more than 263.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.

In Africa, the heavily mutated omicron variant of the coronavirus is rapidly becoming dominant in South Africa, less than four weeks after being identified there, authorities said, as other countries tightened their borders against the new threat.

In Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Thursday that the omicron variant, which the World Health Organization has deemed a variant of concern (VOC), could be responsible for more than half of all COVID-19 infections in Europe within a few months. According to a document the EU public health agency published on Thursday, preliminary data from South Africa suggests omicron may have “a substantial growth advantage” over delta.

“If this is the case, mathematical modelling indicates that the omicron VOC is expected to cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,” the document says.

The European Union and European Economic Area includes the 27 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea broke its daily record for coronavirus infections for a second straight day on Thursday with more than 5,200 new cases, as pressure mounted on a health-care system grappling with rising hospitalizations and deaths. The rapid delta-driven spread comes amid the emergence of the new omicron variant, which is seen as potentially more contagious than previous strains of the virus, and has fuelled concerns about prolonged pandemic suffering.

Jung Eun-kyeong, commissioner of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said the government plans to conduct omicron testing on all international passengers who test positive for the coronavirus and will work with biotech companies to develop new tests that could detect the variant faster. Anyone who comes in close contact with a person infected with omicron will be required to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, even if they are fully vaccinated, she said in a briefing.

Women wearing masks walk under a Christmas illumination at a shopping district in central Seoul on Wednesday. South Korea is dealing with an uptick in COVID-19 cases. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Meanwhile, India on Thursday confirmed its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in two people who travelled abroad, and a top medical expert urged people to get vaccinated.

India’s Health Ministry said the cases include two men in southern Karnataka state who came from abroad. It did not say which country. Health official Lav Agarwal said all contacts of the two men had been traced and tested for the virus.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates reported its first case of the new omicron variant in an African woman arriving from an African country through an Arab country, according to state news agency WAM.

In the Americas, U.S. President Joe Biden is set to kick off a more urgent campaign for Americans to get COVID-19 booster shots Thursday as he unveils his winter plans for combating the coronavirus and its omicron variant with enhanced availability of shots and vaccines but without major new restrictions.

Meanwhile, the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to soon spread to other countries in North and South America after being detected in Canada and Brazil, the Pan American Health Organization said.

-From Reuters and The Associated Press, last updated at 9:25 a.m. ET

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First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.

The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”

“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.

“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.

The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.

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U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia

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The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.

Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.

“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.

In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.

“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.

“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”

In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.

Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.

“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.

Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)

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