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N Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US-S Korea drills

Japan condemns ‘unprecedented pace’ of North Korean missile launches, lodges official protest through Beijing embassy.

Published On 25 Sep 2022

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile towards its eastern seas, ahead of planned military drills by South Korea and the United States.

South Korea’s military said Sunday’s weapon test involved a single, short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of North Pyongyang Province just before 7am (22:00 GMT on Saturday).

It did not immediately release further specifics about the weapon, including what type of missile it was or how far it flew.

Japanese defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated it reached maximum altitude at 50 kilometres (31 miles) and may have flown on an irregular trajectory.

Hamada said it fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.

Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years have been designed to evade missile defences by manoeuvring during flight and flying on a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts have said.

“If you include launches of cruise missiles, this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented pace,” Hamada said. “North Korea’s action represents a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do this as the Ukraine invasion unfolds is unforgivable.”

He added that Japan had delivered a protest through North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.

The launch comes after the arrival of the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in South Korea to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces, and ahead of a planned visit to Seoul this week by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

It was the first time North Korea carried out such a launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day in early June, which led the US to call for more sanctions for violating United Nations Security Council resolutions.

North Korea rejects UN resolutions as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defence and space exploration, and has criticised previous joint drills by the US and South Korea as proof of their hostile policies.

The drills have also been criticised by Russia and China, which have called on all sides not to take steps that raise tensions in the region and have called for an easing of sanctions.

After North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests earlier this year, including of intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017, South Korea and the US said they would boost joint drills and military displays of power to deter Pyongyang.

“Defence exercises are not going to prevent North Korean missile tests,” Leif-Eric Easley, an international affairs professor at Ewha University in Seoul, told Reuters news agency.

But US-South Korea security cooperation helps to deter a North Korean attack and counter Pyongyang’s coercion and the allies should not let provocations stop them from conducting military training and exchanges needed to maintain the alliance, he added.

On Saturday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea might also be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), citing South Korea’s military.

A North-Korea focused think-tank, 38North, also said last week that Pyongyang was possibly preparing to launch a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles. The group said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows multiple barges and other vessels gathered at the eastern port of Sinpo, where the country has a major shipyard building submarines.

North Korea has been working to acquire the ability to fire nuclear-armed missiles from submarines, which would, in theory, bolster its deterrent as they would ensure retaliation after absorbing a nuclear attack on land.

Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to North Korea’s growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from land vehicles, which are being developed with an apparent aim to overwhelm missile defence systems in South Korea and Japan.

Still, experts say the heavily sanctioned nation would need considerably more time, resources and major technological improvements to build at least several submarines that could travel quietly in seas and reliably execute attacks.

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Russians defy Putin’s mobilisation push, hundreds arrested

Rights groups say more than 730 people were detained at anti-war protests across the country.

Published On 24 Sep 2022

Russian police have dispersed peaceful protests against President Vladimir Putin’s military mobilisation order, arresting hundreds, including some children, across the country, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Russians that their president was knowingly “sending citizens to their death”.

Police detained nearly 750 people, including more than 370 in the capital Moscow and some 150 in St Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an independent website that monitors political arrests in Russia. Some of the arrested individuals were minors, OVD-Info said on Saturday.

Protests erupted within hours on Wednesday after Putin announced a call-up of 300,000 army reservists in a move to beef up his forces fighting in Ukraine after the Russian military suffered battlefield setbacks. A Russian general who handled supplies at the Ukraine front lines was replaced on Saturday.

Police deployed in cities where protests were scheduled by opposition group Vesna and supporters of jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny, quickly arresting demonstrators before they could hold protests.

The Ukrainian president, in his late-night address, called on Moscow’s forces to surrender, saying they would “be treated in a civilised manner… no one will know the circumstances of your surrender”.

The comments came just hours after Russia passed a law making voluntary surrender and desertion a crime punishable by 10 years of imprisonment.

A separate law, also signed on Saturday, facilitated Russian citizenship for foreigners who enlist in the Russian army for at least a year, bypassing the normal requirement for five years of residency in the country.

Russia officially counts millions of former conscripts as reservists – most of the male population of fighting age – and the “partial mobilisation” gave no criteria for who would be called up.

Reports have surfaced of men with no military experience or who are past draft age receiving call-up papers, adding to the outrage that has revived anti-war demonstrations.

Criticism appeared to be spreading

Criticism also appeared to be spreading among Putin’s supporters. The head of the Russian president’s human rights commission, Valery Fadeyev, called on defence minister Sergei Shoigu to put a halt to the brutal manner with which many draft boards were proceeding.

The editor-in-chief of pro-Kremlin Russian television RT also expressed anger at the new recruitments. “They’re infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite. As if they’d been sent by Kyiv,” she said.

In another rare sign of turmoil, the defence ministry said the deputy minister in charge of logistics, four-star General Dmitry Bulgakov, had been replaced “for transfer to another role”, giving no additional details.

As long queues of men trying to leave the country formed at Russia’s borders, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov delivered a fiery speech at the UN General Assembly accusing Western nations of seeking to “destroy” the nation.

“The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented, now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov said.

“They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.”.

Meanwhile, Russia staged its second day of the so-called referendums in four occupied regions of Ukraine and appears set to formally annex a swath of the territory next week.

Kyiv and the West have denounced the votes as a sham and said outcomes in favour of annexation are pre-determined.

Putin this week warned that Moscow would use “all means” to protect its territory, which former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev said on social media could include the use of “strategic nuclear weapons”.

The annexation raises concerns that Russia could then view any military move on the occupied regions as an attack on its own territory.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Could Lebanon’s economic collapse create new humanitarian crisis?

Video Duration 25 minutes 40 seconds From: Inside Story

Dozens of migrants drown as their boat sinks on way to Europe.

Lebanon’s economic meltdown is pushing more people to take dangerous sea journeys to seek better lives abroad.

Dozens drowned off the coast of Syria in the worst capsizing of a migrant boat this year.

The vessel carrying up to 150 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugees and migrants had sailed from Tripoli, the poorest city in Lebanon.

Many reportedly paid smugglers thousands of dollars to take them to Europe.

Years of war, sectarian violence and corruption have led to Lebanon’s economic collapse.

The currency has lost 95 percent of its value, and most people cannot afford food, clean water or medicine.

Can anything prevent people from taking risky boat journeys?

Presenter: Imran Khan

Guests:

Zeina Mohanna – Board member, Amel Association International

Patrick Mardini – President and founder, Lebanese Institute for Market Studies

Bente Scheller – Director, Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Middle East office in Beirut

Published On 24 Sep 2022

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At UN, Mali army-appointed PM slams France, praises Russia ties

Abdoulaye Maiga lashes out at the former colonial ruler, the UN as he praised the ‘exemplary’ cooperation with Russia.

Published On 24 Sep 2022

Mali’s military-appointed prime minister has lashed out at France and the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security situation while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.

Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.

While it was Goita and his allies who overthrew a democratically elected president by military force two years ago, Mali’s prime minister repeatedly referred to a “French junta” throughout his 30-minute speech.

“Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maiga, who was appointed prime minister last month, said.

“Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he added.

The Malian prime minister also offered a grim assessment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, while openly praising the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia” and the influence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group.

“We must recognise that nearly 10 years after its establishment, the objectives for which MINUSMA was deployed in Mali have not been achieved,” Maiga said. “This is despite numerous Security Council resolutions.”

France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, leading an effort to remove armed groups from the control of the northern Malian towns they had overtaken. Over the past nine years, Paris had continued its presence in a bid to stabilise the country amid repeated attacks by armed groups.

The French departure in August raised new concerns about whether those fighters will regain territory with security responsibilities now falling to the Malian military and UN peacekeepers.

The Wagner Group, a Russian network providing fighters for hire, has been allowed to operate in Mali despite evidence collected by the UN pointing to their involvement in mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances in the Central African Republic.

The Malian prime minister also criticised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his recent comments on the standoff between Mali and Ivory Coast over 46 detained Ivorian soldiers.

“Since friendship is based on sincerity, I would like to express my deep disagreement with your recent media appearance, in which you took a position and expressed yourself on the case of the 46 Ivorian mercenaries,” he said in comments aimed at Guterres.

The nature of the offences in the case “does not fall within the remit of the secretary-general of the United Nations”, he added.

Maiga reiterated claims that the soldiers were sent to Mali as mercenaries, which the Ivorian government has vigorously denied. Ivory Coast says the soldiers were to provide security for a company contracted by the UN, but Maiga maintained on Saturday that there is “no link between the 46 and the United Nations”.

Three female Ivorian soldiers have been released as a “humanitarian gesture”, but there have been no updates about the others.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Israeli forces accused of killing ‘defenceless Palestinian’ man

Israeli forces say the Palestinian man ‘attempted ramming attack’, but the Palestinian foreign ministry says it was a ‘traffic accident’.

Published On 24 Sep 2022

Israeli forces have shot dead a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank after what the army called an “attempted ramming attack”, but the Palestinian authorities have accused Israeli police of intentionally killing the man, identified as Muhammad Ali Hussein Awad.

“The Israeli police deliberately shot Awad, with the aim of killing him, after his vehicle collided with a police vehicle in a traffic accident,” the Palestinian foreign ministry said on Saturday.

The 36-year-old from the West Bank town of Beit Ijza, near Jerusalem, was a “defenceless Palestinian” who was not “posing any danger”, the ministry added.

The Israeli military said a soldier and a police officer saw a vehicle speeding up as it headed straight at them in an apparent attempt to ram into them. The soldier then shot towards the vehicle, it said, and the suspect was “neutralised”.

The victim’s family also contested the Israeli army’s version of the incident, saying the 36-year-old likely lost control of the car, according to Reuters.

Al Jazeera could not immediately verify rival accounts of the incident.

The father of three worked as a teacher in a school in Bir Nabala village, northwest of occupied East Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

His cousin, Ramadan, told WAFA that the Israeli forces opened fire rather than assisting him after the crash.

They have faced criticism over their frequent use of lethal force, including in the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin in May.

Israel has been on high alert in advance of the Jewish holiday season, beginning on Sunday evening with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

Car-ramming incidents and other attacks by Palestinians on Israeli military vehicles at checkpoints have regularly taken place in recent years in the West Bank, which Israel occupied after the Six Day War of 1967.

The northern West Bank – notably Jenin and Nablus – has seen near-daily Israeli military operations since March.

Israel has launched hundreds of raids in the area in pursuit of individuals it accuses of involvement in deadly attacks targeting Israelis.

These raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians and inflamed tensions across Israel and the occupied territories.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Death in the USA — a botched experimental execution

I began my work against the death penalty in the United States in 1981. It would be reasonable to suppose that by now, four decades on, I would have seen it all.

Not so. On September 22, Alabama lost a round in a ghoulish battle to execute Alan Miller. Initially, they promised a federal judge that they were ready to experiment with a novel method — nitrogen hypoxia (essentially, suffocating him by replacing oxygen in the air with pure nitrogen). The state then had to backtrack, saying they were not sure they knew how to do it, and so they would kill him by lethal injection.

In one of those midnight battles with which I am achingly familiar, the Supreme Court voted five-to-four to let the Alabama executioners go ahead with their ritual sacrifice, but by then it was too late for their probing needles to find a vein. So, Miller is safe for a short while, though doubtless Alabama will set another date soon.

In one sense his close — and temporary — escape is a metaphor for everything that is wrong with the death penalty. The inspiration for dabbling with nitrogen hypoxia as a new “kinder, gentler” method of execution is, bizarrely, a television programme recorded several years ago by Michael Portillo, former shadow chancellor for Britain’s Conservative Party.

In the 1980s, then a member of parliament, Portillo voted to reintroduce capital punishment to the United Kingdom. The bill was defeated. His ardour for executions faded as he learned how many innocent men and women had been sentenced to die. When the subject came up again in the 1990s, he switched his vote. Thankfully, the UK never mustered a majority to step backwards to rejoin the execution governments.

Meanwhile, in 2008, Portillo made a BBC documentary titled How to Kill a Human Being, focused on making any executions as humane as possible. For his film, he toured around the US considering — and rejecting — accepted execution methods, each of which he found barbaric. There was the electric chair: Jesse Tafero had a strong claim of innocence (his co-defendant, Sunny Jacobs, was later freed and now lives in Ireland). Tafero’s head caught fire when Florida electrocuted him in 1990. Portillo illustrated this in his documentary by running 2,400 Volts through a dead pig.

The gas chamber proved no better. The Mississippi Department of Corrections used Zyklon B for their executions. They allowed a BBC crew to film them testing this out on a black bunny rabbit, which died in agony (they were preparing to kill my African-American client Edward Earl Johnson). We sued on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz to put an end to this barbarism.

Next the proponents of the lethal injection “three-drug cocktail” claimed it was a more civilised way to kill someone. It was advertised as nothing more than the kind of anaesthetic applied every day in thousands of hospitals.

Yet if there is one rule, it is that the history of executions is full of false promises. They were ignoring an obvious problem: the Hippocratic Oath forbids medical professionals from “doing harm”. The task of inserting the needle was delegated to technicians who had little skill. Hence even Dr Jay Chapman, who invented the three-drug cocktail, decried botched executions carried out by incompetent people who could not find a vein.

By the way, the “three drugs” are a sedative, a paralytic and a poison. Why the paralytic? Because it prevents the witnesses from seeing the victim thrash in pain when the sedative fails. Sometimes the paralytic agent failed as well, and the victim thrashed around in pain. All of this became increasingly problematic when the drug companies announced that they did not want their life-saving medicines used to kill people.

In short, none of these methods satisfied Portillo. They were not, he said, humane. Thus far, I can agree with him, having watched six of my clients die in front of me, two executed by each system.

Therefore, Portillo took his quest to an experimental laboratory run by the Dutch air force, where they were studying the hypoxia caused by high-altitude flying. They experimented on Portillo himself: he breathed in pure nitrogen. He described a kind of euphoria as he gradually lost consciousness. All in all, it was a kind way to kill someone, he concluded, as reflected by the calm response of laboratory mice to their euthanasia.

It does not take my 40 years of experience in this dark world to see what nonsense Portillo’s claim was: experimental mice have no idea that an omnipotent and vengeful government is planning to kill them. A human being, his euphoria replaced by panic, would tear at the gas mask, and howl in terror – and we would have to adopt another protocol to protect witnesses from the horror of it all.

Yet it is the extraordinary progenesis of this new form of execution that is most shocking. Surely an American government should not elect to execute its citizens based on a television programme?

Thus it was that this week we found ourselves on the cusp of conducting a human experiment on Miller, who was convicted for shooting three people – a senseless tragedy of a nature that takes place far too often in the US. He grew up in extreme poverty in a house overrun by rodents, the family money spent on his father’s drug habit. He was represented at trial by a court-appointed lawyer who made it clear to the jury that he did not want the job.

All of this is, sadly, fairly typical of capital punishment, where those without capital get the punishment.

Perhaps none of this matters to some people. Portillo interviewed New York University law Professor Robert Blecker, wary and wiry, outside a prison. As Portillo outlined his proposal for a supposedly humane method of execution, Blecker exhibited a rising disgust. “Punishment is supposed to be painful,” he said. The idea of a killer dying easily would be the “opposite of justice”.

Blecker must be a very superior person to feel comfortable wishing agony on people he has never met, about whom he knows so little. I wonder whether he will one day change his mind, as Portillo did, in the face of the diverse fallibilities that characterise the rest of us.

Regardless, since 1947, the Nuremberg Code (PDF) has stated that “no [human] experiment should be conducted where there is reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur”. Perhaps we should accept that our grotesque human experiments should be left in centuries past, where they belong.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Bermuda weathers Hurricane Fiona as storm moves towards Canada

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico continues to grapple with widespread power outages in the aftermath of the deadly hurricane.

Published On 23 Sep 2022

Hurricane Fiona brought heavy rain and strong winds to Bermuda, but the island in the North Atlantic largely weathered the storm, now moving towards eastern Canada, where it is expected to be one of the worst in the country’s history.

Overnight, the storm approached Bermuda as a monster Category 4 hurricane but diminished a notch to Category 3 as it passed well to the west of the British territory, which lies 1,126km (700 miles) off the US state of North Carolina.

Still, gusts reached as high as 165km per hour (103mph), with sustained winds of up to 128kmph (80mph), the Bermuda Weather Service said in a bulletin.

The Bermuda Electric Light Co, the island’s sole power provider, said about 29,000 customers, or more than 80 percent of its customer base, had no electricity on Friday morning.

But Michelle Pitcher, the deputy director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said the territory appeared to be largely unscathed.

“It’s been a long night but there are no reports of injuries or fatalities,” she said. “There may be people with roof damage, but so far we haven’t heard of anything bad. As I said, we build our houses strong.”

The latest projections show Fiona making its next landfall on Cape Breton Island, home to about 135,000 people in Canada’s eastern province of Nova Scotia, Environment Canada said on Friday.

A hurricane warning was in effect for most of central and eastern Nova Scotia, as well as Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The eye will move across Nova Scotia later on Friday, into the Gulf of St Lawrence on Saturday and over Labrador on Sunday.

Forecasters say areas close to its path could get up to 200mm (8 inches) of rain, while winds could damage buildings and cause utility outages, with storm surges swamping the coastlines. The country’s two largest carriers, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines, are suspending service within the region starting Friday evening.

Fiona is shaping up to be one of the most powerful hurricanes to reach Canada in decades, comparable to Juan in 2003 and Dorian in 2017.

“A lot of the computer forecast models are indicating that this could set a record for the lowest-observed atmospheric pressure in Atlantic Canada,” said David Neil, an Environment Canada meteorologist. “So this does have a chance to be certainly a very, very intense storm, and a possible record setter.”

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico continues to grapple with widespread power outages in the aftermath of Fiona, which has been blamed for eight deaths on the island and brought heavy rainfall that has cut off hundreds of residents from much-needed supplies.

A growing number of businesses, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across the US territory as the outages drag on, sparking concern about the availability of fuel and basic goods.

Handwritten signs warning of closures have been popping up more frequently, eliciting sighs and groans from customers on an island where 62 percent of 1.47 million clients still do not have power more than four days after the hurricane hit.

Betty Merced, a retiree who lives in the southern coastal city of Salinas, said she has spent several days looking for diesel to fill up her generator to no avail. She uses a sleep apnea machine and cannot risk going without it.

“There are a lot of people with a lot of needs,” she said. “If there is no diesel, we’re going to be very much in harm’s way.”

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Uganda confirms three more Ebola deaths

The health ministry also says four more infections confirmed in the past 24 hours in the outbreak detected in Mubende district.

Published On 23 Sep 2022

Health authorities in Uganda have confirmed the death of three more Ebola patients in the country, days after declaring an outbreak of a strain of the disease in a central district.

In a statement released on Friday, the health ministry said the total deaths attributable to the outbreak – confirmed and suspected – stood at 11.

It also said the total number of confirmed cases now stood at 11 after four more infections were confirmed in the past 24 hours. Nineteen others suspected of contracting Ebola were receiving treatment at a hospital, the ministry added.

UPDATE ON EBOLA VIRUS DISEASE OUTBREAK

Cumulative cases: 11

Cumulative deaths: 11

Active cases on admission: 25

Contacts listed: 58#EbolaOutbreakUG pic.twitter.com/cCHBE1av3z

— Ministry of Health- Uganda (@MinofHealthUG) September 23, 2022

Authorities declared an outbreak – attributed to the Ebola Sudan strain – in the district of Mubende on Tuesday, announcing the death of a 24-year-old man. Mubende is about 130km (81 miles) from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

Ebola is an often fatal viral haemorrhagic fever. It has a typically high death rate, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Human transmission is through body fluids, with fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhoea the main symptoms.

Outbreaks are difficult to contain, especially in urban environments. People who are infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.

The WHO says the Ebola Sudan strain is less transmissible and has shown a lower fatality rate in previous outbreaks than Ebola Zaire, a strain that killed nearly 2,300 people in the 2018-20 epidemic in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

At present, there is no licensed medication to prevent or treat Ebola, although a range of experimental drugs are in development and thousands have been vaccinated in the DRC and some neighbouring countries.

The worst epidemic in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 killed more than 11,300 alone.

Source

:

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Why Republican governors are relocating migrants across US

Washington, DC, – For months, the Republican governor of Texas has been sending asylum seekers on buses to Democratic-run states – without prior warning or coordination – to draw attention to the rising number of migrants crossing into the United States through its border with Mexico.

Arizona followed soon after, and more recently, the governor of Florida has joined the effort by sending some 50 migrants from Texas on planes to a wealthy island in Massachusetts. Officials say the migrants were promised jobs and financial assistance when there were none.

The Republican governors blame President Joe Biden’s immigration policies for the rise in arrivals at the border and say their campaign is necessary in order to share the burden of hosting the asylum seekers.

But with midterm elections coming up in November, migrant advocates say the move is a cruel political stunt to gain votes.

Al Jazeera looks at what is going on:

How many people have been bussed or flown across the US?

So far, more than 13,000 migrants have been affected by the Republican legislators’ campaign.

Texas says it has bussed more than 8,000 migrants to Washington, DC, and another 2,500 more to New York City since April. More than 600 migrants from Texas also have been sent to Chicago since late August, the state said.

Arizona has bussed 2,000 migrants to the nation’s capital, according to local media reports.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also took credit for flying approximately 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month.

Where are the migrants from?

According to officials and volunteers, many of the migrants are from Venezuela, which has seen a mass exodus in recent years amid dire socioeconomic conditions and a rise in violence.

Others have been from Nicaragua, Colombia, Cuba, and Haiti, among other countries.

How do the Republican legislators justify their campaign?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said the Biden administration is to blame for the growing number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, and that northern, Democratic-run states should share the burden of hosting them.

Texas, which borders Mexico, is often the first state asylum seekers land in.

“The Biden-Harris Administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years,” Abbott said in a statement on September 15.

Migrants
A group of mainly Venezuelan migrants was taken by bus from Texas to the home of US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC, this month [File: Marat Sadana/Reuters]

How are people being moved across the US?

Abbott and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey have been sending buses to transport the migrants and asylum seekers in more than 30-hour journeys to other parts of the country.

The campaign intensified this month, however, when Florida’s DeSantis put migrants on private planes to Martha’s Vineyard.

That has raised questions about the legality of these transfers of migrants, as US media have reported that the people sent to Massachusetts – most of whom were from Venezuela – were recruited by another migrant in Texas and misled into believing that upon reaching the island they would be given housing, work and other assistance.

So is this legal?

It remains unclear if any US or international laws were broken, but the effort is already being challenged in court.

Earlier this week, a county sheriff in Texas announced that he had opened a criminal investigation into the migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters that the 48 migrants were “lured under false pretences” and “stranded unceremoniously in Martha’s Vineyard … for nothing other than a photo op”.

The following day, Alianza Americas, a coalition of 53 migrant-led organisations, and three migrants who were flown to Massachusetts filed a class action lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida state officials for what they said was a “premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme” that was aimed at “advancing their own personal, financial and political interests”.

But DeSantis has defended the flights. “Immigrants have been more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned, homeless, and ‘left to fend for themselves.’ Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected,” his office said in a statement.

Martha's Vineyard migrants
Migrants waiting outside the City of San Antonio Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio, Texas [Jordan Vonderhaar/Reuters]

How have receiving cities responded?

Washington, DC, New York and Chicago have struggled to cope with the arrivals. Local leaders have denounced the Republican governors and called on the Biden administration to provide federal assistance.

On Thursday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced that the city would open so-called “Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers” to support the migrants coming from Texas. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot set up a website for donations and volunteers.

Earlier this month, Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, DC, declared a public health emergency over the arrivals and on September 20, the city council voted unanimously to set up a new $10m Office of Migrant Services.

Bowser said the new office will be charged with welcoming the migrants and giving them temporary shelter, food, medical support and transport to their final destinations. Earlier, she had made two requests for help from the National Guard, but both were denied by the Pentagon.

Why have those cities been singled out?

Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago are run by Democratic Party leaders.

They also are so-called “Sanctuary Cities”, which means that city officials will not ask residents about their immigration status or deny them services on the basis of that status, nor will they share such information with federal immigration authorities.

Sanctuary cities were targeted by former US President Donald Trump, who threatened to pull funding over their immigration policy.

What has Biden said about the current Republican campaign?

Biden has blasted the effort, calling it “reckless” and “un-American”.

“Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” he said on September 15. “What they’re doing is simply wrong … And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane.

“Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging these political stunts,” Biden added.

Migrants
Migrants boarding a Border Patrol van after being processed in Eagle Pass, Texas [File: Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP]

How have the migrants been treated?

Local organisations, charities and volunteer groups have stepped in to provide food, shelter, transportation and other forms of assistance to the migrants and asylum seekers. Many people have also donated items and money or volunteered to host migrants in their homes.

But the journey, especially for young children and the elderly, has been gruelling, and several people have required hospitalisation upon their arrival. Most migrants are travelling with very few belongings and little money, which makes them reliant on aid.

How have migrant rights groups responded?

Advocacy groups have blasted the Republican governors – as well as the Florida-funded flights, in particular – for a campaign they say is cynical and cruel.

“This is nothing but a cruel political stunt. Seeking asylum is a human right and legal under US and international law,” Paul R Chavez, the senior supervising lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project, said in a September 16 statement.

“The abuse of desperate children and families as political pawns is a failure of leadership and not in keeping with our nation’s values.”

America’s Voice, a pro-immigration advocacy group, also called the effort a deliberate attack on people of colour. “Shipping vulnerable migrants, including children, across the US is a calculated systematic attack on a targeted population – here immigrants of color, many of whom are lawfully in the U.S. as asylum applicants,” David Leopold, a legal adviser with the group, said in a statement.

Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended the bussing campaign [File: LM Otero/AP Photo]

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ECOWAS sanctions Guinea, condemns Mali over Ivorian troops

West Africa regional bloc announces new sanctions over Guinea’s schedule for a transition to democracy.

Published On 23 Sep 2022

The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has announced more sanctions on Guinea’s military government after it failed to establish a new schedule for a transition to democracy.

In an extraordinary summit held on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, leaders from West Africa’s main political and economic bloc agreed to freeze military government members’ financial assets and bar them from travelling to other countries in the region.

The regional bloc also gave Guinea until October 22 to establish a “reasonable” timetable or face additional sanctions.

“These sanctions were taken with a view to facilitating the process of an early return to constitutional order in Guinea, a prerequisite for peace, stability and development,” the bloc said in a statement following the summit.

Guinea has been ruled by the military since a coup in September 2021 removed President Alpha Conde, who had held power since 2010.

Guinea’s military-appointed prime minister, Bernard Gomou, earlier slammed ECOWAS chief Umaro Sissoco Embalo, describing him as a “puppet wearing the mantle of a statesman”.

It was not made clear who would be affected by the new sanctions, with much of the military leadership already under strict financial and travel restrictions since taking power.

The ECOWAS Development Bank said in a statement that it would suspend financing to Guinean development projects as part of the new sanctions. The bank currently supports at least two energy projects in the country.

ECOWAS first sanctioned Guinea’s military rulers and their families in the days following the September 2021 coup.

Interim President Mamady Dumbouya proposed a three-year transition schedule in May, which ECOWAS rejected in early July. They said the military rulers would face additional sanctions if no new date were set by the beginning of August.

In late July, Embalo said Guinea had agreed to cut the timeline of its planned transition to civilian rule from three to two years.

Embalo however warned on Wednesday that if the military rulers maintained that timetable, there would be sanctions.

Colonel Amara Camara, a senior military figure, responded by accusing Embalo of “lies” and “intimidation”.

The West Africa bloc has been struggling with a string of military coups in the region in the past two years.

ECOWAS leaders also used the summit as an opportunity to condemn the ongoing detention of 46 Ivorian soldiers in Mali, who have been held in the capital Bamako since July 10 on accusations of acting as mercenaries.

Ivory Coast, which has repeatedly called for their release, says the soldiers were deployed as part of a security and logistics support contract signed with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

ECOWAS leaders condemned Malian authorities for using “blackmail” in their negotiations with Ivorian authorities and said the presidents of Ghana, Togo and Senegal will soon travel to Mali to negotiate for the soldiers’ unconditional release.

Source

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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