Thirty-one people, including five women and a little girl, died on Wednesday after their rubber boat capsized while crossing the English Channel from France to Britain, in the worst disaster on record involving migrants in the waters separating the countries.
The Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and currents are strong. Overloaded dinghies often barely stay afloat and are at the mercy of waves as they try to reach British shores.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people had been onboard, of whom 31 died, two were rescued and one was still missing.
“There are two survivors … but their life is in danger, they are suffering from severe hypothermia,” he said.
The nationalities and identities of the migrants were not known, Darmanin said, adding that four human traffickers suspected of involvement in the accident had been arrested.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that European Union border agency Frontex should get more financial means to protect the EU’s external borders and prevent the arrival of more migrants on France’s northern shores.
He also called for an emergency meeting of European ministers to discuss the problem.
“France will not let the Channel become a graveyard,” Macron said.
More migrants than usual had left France’s Channel coastline to take advantage of calm sea conditions on Wednesday, according to fishermen, although the water was bitterly cold.
One fisherman, Nicolas Margolle, told Reuters he had seen two small dinghies earlier on Wednesday, one with people on board and another empty.
He said another fisherman had called rescue services after seeing an empty dinghy and 15 people floating motionless nearby, either unconscious or dead.
Darmanin said the migrants’ dinghy had deflated, and when rescuers had arrived it was “deflated like an inflatable garden pool.”
While French police have prevented more crossings than in previous years, they have only partially stemmed the flow of migrants wanting to reach Britain – one of many sources of tensions between Paris and London.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” by the deaths.
“My thoughts and sympathies are with the victims and their families … but this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way,” he said after chairing an emergency Cabinet meeting.
Though both governments blamed smugglers, a number of French politicians, including Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart blamed Britain for the problem, saying it should change its immigration policies.
Some rights groups said tighter surveillance was pushing migrants to take greater risks as they sought a better life in the West.
“To accuse only the smugglers is to hide the responsibility of the French and British authorities,” said l’Auberge des Migrants, an advocacy group that supports refugees and displaced people.
Before Wednesday’s disaster, 14 people had drowned this year trying to make it to Britain, a local maritime prefecture official said. In 2020, a total of seven people died and two disappeared, while in 2019 four died.
Early on Wednesday, Reuters reporters in France saw a group of over 40 migrants head towards Britain on a dinghy. Members of the same group were later seen by Reuters reporters arriving on the British coast.
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Tassilo Hummel, Ingrid Melander, Pascal Rossignol, Andrew MasAskill, Paul Sandle; Writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Richard Lough, Mike Collett-White and Leslie Adler)
U.S. condemns militant attack in Mali that killed 31
The United States “strongly condemns” a militant attack on a bus in central Mali that killed at least 31 people and wounded 17, the State Department said on Sunday.
Unidentified gunmen on Friday opened fire on the bus as it traveled from the village of Songho to a market in Bandiagara, 6 miles (10 km) away.
The villages sit in the heart of the Mopti region, an epicenter of violence in Mali fueled by insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
“The United States strongly condemns the attack on civilians on Saturday near Bandiagara, Mali, which left 31 dead and 17 injured,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the Malian people and will continue to partner with them in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous, and democratic future,” Price said.
Jihadist attacks have surged across Africa’s Sahel region, killing thousands and displacing millions across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Tearful reunions, music comebacks and pop freedom: 2021 showbiz stories
From the return of cinema’s favourite spy to “Friends” reuniting, an array of stories dominated entertainment news headlines this year. Below are some of the biggest stories.
* After several delays, the release of James Bond movie “No Time To Die” gave pandemic-hit cinemas a much-needed boost.
Studios shuffled schedules and in some cases, films were released simultaneously in cinemas and on streaming platforms.
New York’s Broadway and London’s West End re-opened, albeit with COVID safety measures in place. Live music also returned.
* Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish took the top prizes at the Grammy Awards while Beyonce became the most awarded female artist in Grammy history, with a total 28 wins.
The Oscars saw “Nomadland” scoop best picture and best director for Chinese-born Chloe Zhao, making her the first Asian woman and only the second woman ever to win the prize.
* U.S. television network NBC dropped its broadcast of the 2022 Golden Globes after a backlash over the ethics of the HFPA group which hands out the annual film and television awards and its lack of diversity. The group has said it has made sweeping changes and will hold its ceremony in January.
* Now living in California, Prince Harry and wife Meghan sent shock waves when, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan accused Britain’s royal family of raising concerns about how dark the skin of the couple’s first child would be.
She said the stress of life as a royal newlywed had pushed her to the brink of suicide.
* Pop star Britney Spears regained control of her personal life and money when a judge ended a 13-year conservatorship after a long legal battle.
* Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed when a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin fired off a live bullet on the set of Western “Rust”. Baldwin said the revolver went off when he was cocking the gun. The incident is being investigated.
* Ten people died in a stampede at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston. Lawsuits were filed against the rapper and promoters.
* On television, the cast of “Friends” reunited for a tearful TV special. South Korean Netflix series “Squid Game” became a global sensation.
* In music, ABBA released their first album in 40 years. Adele stormed the charts with comeback record “30”. Swift released re-recorded albums to take back control of her early catalogue.
* Billionaire Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, now known as Ye, announced their divorce. Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck rekindled their romance after nearly 20 years.
* Criminal cases during the #MeToo era saw former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein extradited from New York to Los Angeles to face trial on rape and sexual assault charges.
Singer R. Kelly was convicted by a federal jury of sex trafficking.
* The world said goodbye to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, actors Christopher Plummer, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Cicely Tyson, Helen McCrory and Olympia Dukakis, comedian Jackie Mason, rapper DMX, The Supremes co-founder Mary Wilson, TV interviewer Larry King, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, fashion designers Alber Elbaz and Virgil Abloh and composers Stephen Sondheim and Mikis Theodorakis. Record producer Phil Spector died in prison.
(Compiled by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Gareth Jones)
China says market views of monetary policy moves too ‘simplistic’
A Chinese newspaper run by the State Council, or cabinet, warned the market against “simplistic” interpretations of monetary policy moves as easing expectations gathered steam, suggesting China is not about to unleash a huge wave of credit in panic.
Expectations the central bank will ease policy have sharply risen after Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday that the amount of cash that banks must keep as reserves will be reduced “in a timely way”, amid growing economic headwinds whipped up by an increasingly troubled property sector.
“This is a rather simplistic interpretation of macro policy, which could easily lead to misunderstandings,” the Economics Daily said in a commentary on Monday.
China’s monetary policy will be more focused on its continuity and stability while taking into account the government’s short-term and long-term goals, according to the commentary.
Severely indebted property behemoth China Evergrande Group cautioned on Friday that there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments.
The yield on China’s 10-year treasury bonds – the most actively traded in the interbank market – fell almost 5 basis points in early trade on Monday on the easing expectations.
Nomura analysts said in a note on Monday that they expect the economy and the property sector in particular to worsen further, and Beijing may have to significantly step up policy easing measures in the spring of 2022 to avert a hard landing.
But the financial daily ruled out the possibility of a flood of stimulus to prop up the economy, saying China would make its policies more targeted to cope with any downward pressure.
It added that coordination between monetary policy, fiscal policy and industrial policies will be stepped up.
After a broad-based cut to the amount of cash banks must hold as reserve in July, the Chinese central bank has since defied market expectations for further policy easing.
Advisers to the government will recommend that authorities set a 2022 economic growth target below the “above 6%” target set for 2021, some of the advisers told Reuters previously.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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