MILAN, January 26 -- Italy pressured the Netherlands on Friday to accept 47 migrants, including eight unaccompanied minors, who have spent seven days at sea aboard a humanitarian rescue ship that has been allowed to enter Italian territorial waters due to bad weather conditions.
The German aid group Sea-Watch tweeted that it has received no response to multiple requests for the Dutch-flagged Sea Watch-3 vessel carrying people rescued off Libya on Saturday to access a port. The boat was permitted to enter Italian waters Friday because of deteriorating weather conditions, and the Italian coast guard said it just off Syracuse, Sicily, flanked by coast guard and financial police boats. Italy and Malta, the closest EU nations, have both refused to allow entry to rescue vessels operated by humanitarian groups in what they say is a bid to discourage smuggler boats from departing Libya by diminishing the prospect of rescue.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters in Rome that he sent a letter to the government in the Netherlands officially requesting that they organize landings for the migrants "aboard this vessel that waves a Dutch flag." Dutch Migration Minister Mark Harbers said that without the prospect of such a comprehensive solution to how to process migrants rescued at sea that the Netherlands "will not take part in ad-hoc measures." He added that the ship flying the Dutch flag doesn't oblige the Netherlands to take action. European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker's spokesman said that the commission is in touch with member states, and was watching the events closely. "Our position is clear: The safety of the people on board must be our first concern and priority. What is urgently needed in the Mediterranean are predictable arrangements to ensure disembarkations of rescued persons can take place safely," spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
A similar impasse was resolved last month when Malta allowed two to disembark 49 migrants two NGO-operated vessels, including Sea-Watch 3, after the EU brokered a deal to distribute the migrants among eight EU nations. UNICEF's spokesman in Italy, Andrea Iacomini, lamented the frequency of such stand offs. "Is it possible that Europe enters into a sort of humanitarian paralysis every three days for dozens of human beings, including children, without coming up with a structural and shared solution," Iacomini said. "I hope that European governments find a speedy agreement for a humanitarian solution that offers a safe port to the eight unaccompanied minors on the Sea-Watch. A child is a child, not a hostage."
ROTTERDAM, January 19 -- Some 117 migrants who left Libya in a rubber dinghy two days ago are unaccounted for after three people were rescued from the vessel after it sank in the Mediterranean.
Three survivors of a rubber dinghy that sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya say up to 117 other migrants were aboard at the time of the capsizing, a UN migration official said Saturday. Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration told Italian state TV that "unfortunately about 120" migrants were reported by survivors to have been on the overloaded smugglers' dinghy when it was launched from Libyan shores on Thursday evening. "After a few hours, it began sinking and people began drowning," Di Giacomo said.
Among the missing are 10 women and two children, including a two-month-old baby, he said. Survivors indicated their fellow migrants came from West African countries, including Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Gambia. Also among the missing are Sudanese migrants, Di Giacomo said. The three survivors were plucked to safety by an Italian navy helicopter on Friday afternoon, the navy said. The sinking dinghy, when spotted by a navy patrol plane, had about 20 persons aboard, the navy said. The plane's crew launched two life rafts near the dinghy, which inflated, and a navy destroyer some 100 nautical (200 kilometres) away dispatched a helicopter to the scene, the navy said.
BERLIN, December 19 -- Germany is working on a new immigration law that would make it easier for skilled workers from outside the EU to come and work in the country.
But what about those who have already come to Germany as asylum-seekers but have been denied refugee status? Last week, the German cabinet agreed the key points for a “skilled workers immigration law” from third countries. But what are its aims and what will change? The German government is giving hope to migrants that they may be allowed to work in Germany.
How far does the new “skilled workers immigration law” go?
The new “skilled workers immigration law”, by definition, aims to maintain Germany as an economic centre and to secure its social systems. In addition to applying to graduates, the law should now also apply to people with professional qualifications – and not only in professions where there is a shortage of workers. Immigrants with professional training, who can make a living for themselves in Germany will be allowed to come and look for a job for six months. In occupations where there is an acute shortage of skilled labour, such as in IT or care services, if a job has been accepted there does not even need to be proof of qualifications. At the same time, the German government undertakes to better inform potential applicants abroad and to guide them through the jungle of German administration.
What do the current rules look like and what’s new?
The immigration law essentially reiterates opportunities that already exist. It has already been possible for many years for non-EU citizens with a university degree to come to Germany to find work. In its 2015 Annual Report, the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) noted that “Germany has moved from being a ‘latecomer’ or a ‘straggler’ to a ‘pioneer’ in the field of labour market policy and, as a result, has little to learn, at least at a legal-institutional level.”
At the time, the OECD already ranked Germany as being one of the most liberal countries for immigration in the world. However, the experts warned in 2015 that the implementation of liberal rules “in practice is often too cumbersome and bureaucratic”. The fact that this often confounds the legislators’ good intentions was discovered by Green MP Filiz Polat when she was on a trip through the Western Balkans in the spring. In the Western Balkans, German embassy staff deal with a large number of visa applications from a very young population, particularly in Kosovo.
Nevertheless, there are extensive checks as to whether the visa applicants’ specified jobs are fictitious or exploitative – a task which actually concerns the German employment agencies. This places an enormous burden on the visa departments and makes obtaining a German work visa an almost hopeless undertaking. Accordingly, it will be important that the new law does not run aground in practice.
BRUSSELS, December 18 -- Belgian Prime minister Charles Michel lost his majority after a clash with the right-wing N-VA party over the UN Migration Pact.
A dispute in Belgium's center-right government about the UN Migration Pact ended with the Flemish nationalists of N-VA leaving the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Charles Michel was left with a minority cabinet, but still went to Marrakesh to ratify the UN pact with the support of the Parliament. According to the opposition, he should face a vote of confidence in the Parliament, and if this happens he will probably lose. Constitutional experts are divided about the situation. Michel is trying to save his government and avoid a national election five months earlier than scheduled.
But considering how antagonistic the N-VA has become towards its former coalition partners, every scenario is possible.
BERLIN, December 16 -- For months proponents of the UN Migration Pact told us that the pact was non-binding.
The response to the many citizens of nation states worldwide having signed country specific petitions was that it was non-binding so there was nothing to worry about, it was going to be good. The immensely opposed and disastrous document declares unlimited migration to be treated as a human right, thereby deprecating the term ‘illegal migrants’, and criminalises any criticism of migration as hate speech.
The points that raised alarm for most was that it seeks to eliminate all forms of dissent. Media organisations for example, should they criticise anything to do with migration would lose access to state funding. People would be labelled as racists or guilty of hate speech which will now be criminalised. This pact will literally erase our borders. The question I’ve been asking is if the countries that refused to sign, are they still bound to it being members of the UN. Most people were of the mind that it would only affect the signatories. Now we know. In a frank exchange with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Hebner of the AfD drew out an admission that it is, in fact, legally binding. As well, that it will be adopted as rule for all UN Member states once enacted.
Mr. Hebner asks: “You can see for yourself clearly that during the conference, the spokesperson for Morocco emphasised that the agreement was legally binding. He said clearly, in a literal sense, that there is a corresponding legal bond for all nations taking part as well as an obligation of implementation. You and your delegation did not raise a single word of objection to that statement but idly accepted it. I would like to emphasise that the parliamentary motion was not presented at the conference. “
Ms. Merkel’s response not only confirmed what we at Voice of Europe have been suspecting all along, the claim it is indeed binding, but that once voted and accepted it will be valid for all:
“So then, during the UN General Assembly next week, the pact will once again be up for debate and a decision will be made on whether to accept it. At this time, a member state can demand a vote. When two-thirds of the represented countries agree then it is valid for all. That’s how majority decision-making works.”
MARRAKESH, December 10 -- A United Nations conference adopted a migration pact in front of leaders and representatives from around 150 countries in Morocco on Monday, despite a string of withdrawals driven by anti-immigrant populism.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration -- finalised at the UN in July after 18 months of talks -- was formally approved in Marrakesh at the start of a two-day conference. Billed as the first international document on managing migration, it lays out 23 objectives to open up legal migration and discourage illegal border crossings, as the number of people on the move globally has surged to more than 250 million.
Describing it as a "roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos", UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sought to dispel what he called a number of myths around the pact, including claims that it will allow the UN to impose migration policies on member states. The pact "is not legally binding", he said. "It is a framework for international co-operation... that specifically reaffirms the principle of state sovereignty.
"We must not succumb to fear and false narratives", he added, addressing an audience that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela and Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras.
'Based on goodwill'
The United States on Friday had hit out at the pact, labelling it "an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of states". The US was the first government to disavow the negotiations late last year, and since then Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Slovakia have pulled out of the process.
Rows over the accord have erupted in several European Union nations, hobbling Belgium's coalition government and pushing Slovakia's foreign minister to tender his resignation. From the United States to Europe and beyond, right-wing and populist leaders have taken increasingly draconian measures to shut out migrants in recent years.
BRUSSELS, December 9 -- Prime minister Charles Michel takes a plane for Marrakesh today, determined to communicate Belgium’s support for the United Nations’ migration pact, despite the fact that he leaves behind the collapse of his majority government over that very issue.
Michel (pictured) and his supporters are adamant that the N-VA – the largest party in the government coalition – has forced the issue by offering the ultimatum to Michel: travel to Marrakesh and you government without us. The N-VA, on the other hand, insist that Michel has forced them out of the government by his intransigence. “If prime minister Michel leaves for Marrakesh, he is de facto sacking us from the government,” N-VA president Bart De Wever told a press conference on Saturday evening. “Then he is pushing us out of the government.”
The distinction is crucial to N-VA: as past events have shown, parties who bring about the premature fall of a government in Belgium pay for it at the ballot box, the last example being Open VLD as led by Alexander De Croo. N-VA is currently, according to the latest poll, the largest party in Flanders, but any loss of public support would still be a loss. But it is now a battle of words. The demise of this majority has been on the cards since N-VA made its position clear on the UN pact. With a list of 30 objections that essentially boil down to an opposition to unregulated mass migration, the party set a collision course with every other party in parliament other than the Vlaams Belang.
When Michel received assurances that he could count on the support on this issue of even opposition parties CD&V and the Ecolo-Groen alliance, it was clear that N-VA would not be able to stop the Pact from being signed. Once that was established, they could no longer serve in the government – particularly as they were supplying the country’s minister in charge of migration. The matter dragged on and on, however. A meeting of key ministers was postponed when N-VA released an online campaign expressing opposition to the Pact in inflammatory terms that were welcomed by Vlaams Belang – who immediately picked up the baton when N-VA scrapped the campaign. Michel took the question to the parliament’s foreign affairs committee and then to the plenary session of members, receiving majority support both times. Friday’s ministerial meeting did not broach the subject, which was picked up again on Saturday evening, when Michel forced the issue – he would be getting on a plane to Marrakesh on Sunday, and let the chips fall where they may.
The question now is how Michel can go on governing with a minority coalition, in order to avoid a snap election just months before regular parliamentary elections are due. He may be able to rely on N-VA support on some matters, and opposition support on others, but each matter that is raised between now and May will have to be dealt with on an ad hoc basis.
The posts held until now by N-VA politicians, including the job of secretary of state for asylum and migration, face no shortage of place-fillers. Among those being mentioned are Pieter De Crem, who will leave parliament at the elections, but whose experience ensures he is a safe pair of hands for home affairs in the place of Jan Jambon. Migration could go to the ever-popular Maggie De Block, who held the job before, while secretary of state for agriculture and social integration, Denis Ducarme, could step into the shoes of defence minister Sander Loones, who only got the job in November.
If that support is forthcoming, he will then go to a plenary session of parliament for their imprimatur. That done – and opposition greens and socialists have promised their support so it likely will be done – the Flemish nationalists N-VA will probably have no other choice but to step down from the government.
The government has been teetering on the edge of collapse for some weeks now, since N-VA appeared to reverse their previous support for the Pact and become outright opponents. The party itself, and its front-man on this issue, the combative asylum and migration minister Theo Francken, came out with a dossier of 30 points to which it objects.
Those can be summed up under eight main headings: whether the Pact is legally binding; the way it accords universal rights to refugees and migrants; the question of national sovereignty; the grant of identity papers; the provision by states of information on migration; the question of legal migration; the duty of fair, informed and objective journalism free of discrimination; and the question of return of migrants to their homeland.
Matters came to a head yesterday, when a planned meeting of the prime minister with his vice-premiers was cancelled at the last minute to allow bilateral talks to go ahead. The trigger: the launch online of a new campaign by the N-VA against the Migration Pact, with the issue framed in the most inflammatory terms, including photos of women in burqa, Arab youths hanging around shopping centres and a rubber dinghy crossing the sea, filled with all young men.
The campaign provoked horror among other parties, and shock within the N-VA itself, with home affairs minister Jan Jambon describing it as a poor choice of photos and a mistake by the communications department. Peter De Roover, fraction leader for N-VA in the parliament, said, “The tone of the campaign is not the tone I myself have adopted, because we have no need of that to be convincing.” The campaign was later revealed to have been the brainchild of Joachim Pohlmann, the party spokesman considered to be one of Bart De Wever's right-hand men.
Vlaams Belang’s Filip De Winter, meanwhile, congratulated the N-VA on its campaign, which the party promptly withdrew, only to see Vlaams Belang adopt its style and images for its own opposition to the Pact.
The day closed with N-VA meeting in closed session, and not a word leaking out, while Charles Michel planned his appearances before the committee and before parliament. Later this afternoon will show whether, as expected, he gets the support he needs from members to go to Marrakesh, and what the reaction of N-VA will be. After that, the question will be, does the country go to the polls for the second time in as many months, or can Michel soldier on with a minority administration until elections are due in May?
The Czech government on Wednesday decided it will not join a United Nations pact on migration, becoming the latest European state to shun the accord. The non-legally binding Global Compact for Migration was finalized in July and is set to be adopted by UN member states at a meeting in Morocco in December.
"The Czech Republic has long favored the principle of separating legal and illegal migration," Deputy Prime Minister Richard Brabec told a news conference. "That is what the Czech Republic's and other European countries' suggestions aimed for. The final text does not reflect those proposals." Prime Minister Andrej Babis had previously stated he was against the migration pact even though it was non-binding because "it, in fact, defines migration as a basic human right."
Latest country to reject pact
The United States was the first to announce it would not join the pact. It was followed by Hungary, Australia, Bulgaria and Austria. Poland, Slovakia and Italy have signaled they may not sign on.
Among other reasons, opponents of the compact say it does not distinguish between economic migrants and asylum-seekers.
The agreement, officially titled the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, marks the first time the UN has agreed on a list of global measures to tackle the challenges involved in migration while at the same time maximizing benefits for the countries taking in immigrants.
The compact is based on the recognition that the world needs to cooperate if migration flows are to be managed in a humane manner, while still taking account of the principle of state sovereignty. Some 258 million people currently live outside their country of birth worldwide, a number that is expected to increase because of climate change, trade, inequality, and population growth.
STOCKHOLM, November 8 -- Ann Coulter shocked both the audience and Fredrik Skavlan when she said things that few Swedish writers would dare say on TV.
It didn’t go well when Fredrik Skavlan tried to do a critical interview with Ann Coulter in an episode of the SVT and NRK (both public service channels) initiative “Skavlan”. She was outspoken to say the least, and did not mince her words about feminism and immigration when she appeared on SVT prime time on Friday. Maybe Skavlan should have thought twice before he invited the conservative speaker and writer to his well-known show. Coulter, known for her support for Donald Trump, talked, among other things, about the negative consequences of immigration, which she argued drives down wages for Americans, especially the poor.
“For 50 years, we have brought in immigrants from the third world. And whose wages are they driving down? The wages of the poorest.”, she said. The editors on SVT must have torn their hair out when Skavlan then asked her if she is a feminist. “Oh gosh, no. I don’t know what it means in Europe, but in the US it tends to mean that you’re an angry man-hating lesbian.”, she stated. After a brief silence, and a resentful reaction from the audience, a stunned Skavlan replied “Well, it doesn’t does it?” “It does!” Coulter confirmed.
She was also openly critical of the fact that women have the right to vote because, according to her, it has not proved to be good for society. “This is very interesting,” said an even more perplexed Skavlan. She also likened Donald Trump to a necessary “cancer treatment” that could destroy mainstream media, and then let real, more ethical journalism emerge and replace it. At the same time, however, she said she was disappointed that the American president didn’t keep all his promises, like building the US-Mexico border wall and pulling back all troops from Afghanistan.
At the end of the program, Skavlan stated that her thoughts on immigration are “strange” to Europeans and Scandinavians. Coulter then pointed out that mass immigration will ultimately lead to the disappearance of the peoples and cultures of the world and that everyone will look alike.
“You wouldn’t last 5 minutes in Sweden”, Skavlan told her out of the blue. It is unclear what he meant by that, and it is also unclear why the audience applauded his statement. He’s right, though. Beautiful, blonde outspoken women who refuse to cover themselves in hijabs, niqabs or burkas are anything but safe in Sweden these days. She ignored his comment and continued; “It works better if cultures stay in their own countries, that is genuine diversity as apposed to one blend”, she said. “You want to end all cultures”, she told Skavlan, who denied that it is what he wants.
When Skavlan argued that the US “is all about immigration,” Coulter replied that he is wrong, and that the country is a former British colony built on freedom and nothing else. In summary, Skavlan tried to put Coulter on the spot and failed miserably. Coulter was excellent as always, and proved very clearly that the highly biased mainstream media (especially public service) needs to go and be replaced by real, fact based and truthful journalism.