Regardless of whether you feel Europe has a moral responsibility to open its borders to the tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants who continue to mass on the northern coasts of Africa, or whether you believe allowing them to cross the Mediterranean poses an existential threat to the future of the continent, it is hard to argue against the assertion that the European Union and its partners have totally failed to get to grips with the ongoing migrant crisis. After years of dithering, this looks unlikely to change anytime soon. Despite a crackdown on people smuggling boats imposed by the EU, Italy and the Libyan coastguard earlier this year, migrants are continuing to die as they attempt the treacherous journey across the central Mediterranean route. Meanwhile, traffickers are increasingly turning their attentions further west, smuggling their human cargo up through Morocco and into Spain.
While the central Mediterranean crackdown has coincided with a fall in the number of would-be refugees attempting to cross from Libya to Italy, humanitarian organisations operating in the region have claimed the obstruction of their rescue boats has contributed to a spike in the number of migrant deaths at sea over the past few months. At the beginning of July, the International Organisation for Migration said more than 200 migrants had drowned while attempting to cross from Libya to Italy over a three-day period, and that more than 1,000 had died while making the journey since the beginning of the year. Confusion around Europe’s policy on migration was compounded at the end of June when a humanitarian boat carrying 59 migrants was turned away from Italy and Malta, only to later be allowed to dock in Spain, where students were reported to have been turfed out of their publically-owned accommodation to make way for the vessel’s passengers.
Generous as it was of Spain to take in the refugees and economic migrants who were stranded on the Aquarius rescue vessel, the episode perfectly exemplified Europe’s failure to convey a consistent message to those thinking of making the journey to its shores. Even after striking a deal with Turkey to stop migrants crossing the Med, and repeatedly warning that trafficking boats leaving the coast of Libya would be turned back before reaching Europe, the EU has allowed many thousands of migrants to enter its territory via Greece, Italy and Spain, sending out a message that it is possible for people to fulfil their dreams of a better life. As well as encouraging refugees and economic migrants to risk making the journey to Europe, sending out these mixed messages indicates to people smuggling gangs there is still plenty of money to be made, and that the passengers whose lives they risk in boats launched towards the continent still stand a pretty decent chance of making it across the water once they have been picked up rescue boats.
European policy makers need to wake up to the fact that people smugglers will continue to grow rich from sending migrants to their deaths in the Mediterranean all the while this madness continues. Allowing human traffickers to launch dangerous boats full of migrants from the northern coasts of Africa in the knowledge they will most likely be intercepted by humanitarian groups is continuing to fuel the smuggling trade, and is contributing to the loss of migrant lives. The only sensible way to bring an end to this insanity is the introduction of an Australian-style zero-tolerance policy. Earlier this week, Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton revealed that more than 600 people smugglers had been arrested since the country’s government introduced a crackdown on human trafficking in 2013, and that not one migrant life had been lost at sea since he came into post at the end of 2014.
While hugely unpopular on the left, Operation Sovereign Borders has proved instrumental in significantly cutting the number of migrants arriving in Australia by boat every year, which remained high under previous administrations. The policy involves army boats patrolling Australian waters in a bid to intercept migrant vessels. Once identified, the boats are either towed back to their point of departure, or migrants are placed on dinghies or lifeboats to be returned to their country of origin. As well as discouraging people from attempting to make the journey in the first place, introducing such as policy in the Mediterranean could save lives, and severely curtail the activities of people smuggling gangs who prey on desperate migrants in search of a new life in Europe. At the same time, the EU could boost the processing of asylum applications submitted from overseas, and allocate more funding to initiatives designed to deal with the problems that are encouraging people to leave their homes and travel to Europe in the first place. Critics argue such policies are inhumane, but they must surely be better than the status quo, which continues to see hundreds of migrants dying at sea while people smuggling gangs grow rich off their misery.
Crooked vendors exploiting flaw in eBay’s feedback system to con buyers into purchasing bogus and dangerous items
Buyers on eBay are being duped into purchasing substandard and counterfeit products due to a flaw in the online auction platform’s seller feedback system, according to an investigation conducted by UK consumer group Which?
The watchdog found that dishonest vendors can take advantage of these flaws by linking positive reviews of genuine products manufactured by companies such as Apple and Samsung to fake and low-quality items.
Which? found that crooked sellers are able to link thousands of positive reviews to eBay listings they have nothing to do with.
The organisation discovered that real reviews can be associated with fake products that are potentially dangerous, such as counterfeit mobile phone chargers that can pose a fire risk.
Sellers are able to do this by using “product IDs” associated with genuine items when adding their products to eBay, subsequently benefitting from the positive reviews those items have attracted.
The system is intended to make the process of listing products on eBay quicker and easier by allowing sellers to pull information from similar items that have a linked product ID.
As part of its investigation, Which? purchased 20 bogus Apple and Samsung accessories such as chargers and USB cables that were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews as products manufactured by the two technology firms
Calling for online ecommerce platforms to be held accountable for flaws in their seller feedback systems that allow dishonest vendors to pull the wool over buyers’ eyes, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? Natalie Hitchins said: “Our investigation has uncovered yet another example of online reviews being manipulated to mislead people.
“eBay’s product review system is confusing for consumers and could even direct them towards counterfeit or dangerous products sold by unscrupulous sellers.
“Online reviews influence billions of pounds of consumer spending each year.
“The [UK Competition and Markets Authority] must now investigate how fake and misleading reviews are duping online shoppers, taking the strongest possible action against sites that fail to tackle the problem.”
Responding to the findings of Which?’s investigation eBay said in a statement: “The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition).”
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that US politicians had called on lawmakers to hold ecommerce companies such as eBay and Amazon to account if they fail to prevent third-party vendors selling counterfeit or substandard products on their platforms.
Major ‘lover boy’ prostitution gang broken up by coalition of European law enforcement agencies
A Romanian human trafficking and prostitution network that used the “lover boy” method to entrap young women before forcing them into sex work has been broken up a coalition of European law enforcement agencies.
The lover boy method, also known as the “Romeo pimp” method, involves young men seducing victims with the objective of coercing them into prostitution.
Lover boy traffickers groom their victims to believe they have entered into a serious romantic relationship before using emotional, psychological and sometimes physical abuse to intimidate them into working in the sex services industry.
Investigators from Spain, Romania, the Czech Republic and several other European nations were involved in the operation that resulted in the dismantling of the gang, which is said to have groomed and exploited at least 10 young women by forcing them to work as prostitutes.
The operation resulted in the arrest of 14 people in Romania and Spain, the safeguarding of 10 trafficking victims, and the confiscation of a number of items, including a quantity of cash, jewellery, expensive vehicles and several electronic devices.
In total, the agencies taking part in the effort raided 16 properties in the Czech Republic, Romania and Spain.
Having groomed their victims, Romanian members of the network would develop manipulative dependent relationships with the young women they targeted before forcing them into sex work.
Once under the traffickers’ control, victims would be abused and drugged before being sold onto other members of the network for as much as €6,000 ($6,632) each.
The women would then be moved between locations and countries on a regular basis as part of the gang’s efforts to avoid the attention of police.
Profits made by the network were laundered through the purchase of property, expensive jewellery and high-value cars.
Ongoing investigations into the network’s activities are focussed on the theory that it was working in cooperation with another gang.
Enquires have already resulted in the identification of more than 40 additional women who fell victim to the two criminal organisations.
In a statement, Europol said: “Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries, provided coordination support and analysed operational information against Europol’s databases to give leads to investigators.
“Europol conducted a financial analysis based on the information provided which highlighted the extension of the criminal activity of the group and the presence and flow of illicit profits to other jurisdictions.”
Taking cocaine will not cure people struck down with the coronavirus, French government warns public
Authorities in France have been forced to inform the public that taking cocaine will not cure people infected with the coronavirus.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the French Ministry for Solidarity and Health told its followers that cocaine is not only ineffective when it comes to fighting the coronavirus, but is also a highly addictive drug that can cause serious harm to users’ health.
The government department was seeking to counter fake news circulating on social media that taking the drug could cure or prevent the virus, including doctored news stories that appeared to confirm the drug’s effectiveness at fighting the disease.
The ministry’s Twitter post included a link to a government information page that provided further guidance on disinformation circulating about the coronavirus outbreak.
As well as encouraging those worried about the coronavirus to start taking cocaine, online trolls have also suggested that bleach can also help fight the disease.
In a post on Twitter that has attracted many thousands of engagements, @Jordan_Sather_ told his followers: “Would you look at that. Not only is chlorine dioxide (aka ‘MMS’) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too.
“No wonder YouTube has been censoring basically every single video where I discuss it over the last year.”
In August of 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about that dangers of consuming bleach, noting: “Drinking any… chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”
As well as warning about cocaine’s inability to fight the coronavirus, the French government has also told members of the public that spraying bleach or alcohol on their bodies will not neutralise viruses they have already been infected with.
Elsewhere, US Vodka maker Tito’s Homemade was last week forced to urge people not to make DIY hand sanitiser out of its products.
Responding to one of its customers who said they had done just that, the company said on Twitter: “Per the CDC [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention], hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC. Please see attached for more information.”
For its part, the World Health Organisation, which today officially categorised the coronavirus as a pandemic, has published a webpage dispelling misinformation about the disease, noting that the virus cannot be killed of avoided by taking a hot bath or using hand dryers.
- Crooked vendors exploiting flaw in eBay’s feedback system to con buyers into purchasing bogus and dangerous items
- Major ‘lover boy’ prostitution gang broken up by coalition of European law enforcement agencies
- Taking cocaine will not cure people struck down with the coronavirus, French government warns public
- US politicians call for state action against Pornhub over allegations it hosted rape and child abuse videos
- Californian border officers catch Mexican man with enough fentanyl to kill 1.2 million people