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.
Drugs gangs recruiting pensioners to act as mules on cruise ships travelling between South America and Europe
Police in Portugal have warned that drugs gangs are recruiting aging cruise line passengers to act as mules on ships travelling from South America and the Caribbean to Europe.
Speaking with Portuguese daily Correio da Manha after police arrested a British septuagenarian couple on suspicion of attempting to smuggle cocaine worth an estimated $2.5 million into Europe after returning from the Caribbean on a cruise liner, an official source said trafficking gangs are using elderly people as mules due to the fact they arouse less suspicion than younger passengers.
The source spoke out after it was revealed that married couple Roger and Susan Clarke, aged 72 and 70 respectively, were arrested by detectives in Lisbon after police there were tipped off by the UK’s National Crime Agency.
Portuguese investigators said they discovered a large quantity of cocaine “ingeniously” concealed in four suitcases in the pensioners’ cabin.
Police said the drugs were hidden in false bottoms that had been created inside the bags, and that the cocaine was evenly distributed between the four pieces of luggage.
It is believed the couple were handed the drugs while they were holidaying on a Caribbean island.
In comments given to Correio da Manha, Vitor Ananais, who led the investigation that led to the arrest of the pensioners, noted that the pair would have blended in well on the cruise liner, on which the majority of passengers were of a similar age.
He told the paper that the couple, who are reported to have gone on as many six cruises every year, did not protest their innocence after they were detained, and that they had said nothing about how the drugs came to be concealed in suitcases that were found in their cabin.
The couple were arrested at the boat’s penultimate stop before it reached its final docking point of Essex in the UK.
Ananais said: “We acted when we did rather than wait for a possible handover because we wanted to protect the investigation and ensure we seized the drugs.
“We do not know for sure at the moment where the cocaine was going to be brought ashore,” he added.
“We believe the couple were given the drugs in a Caribbean island but are still looking into which island at this stage.”
It was reported yesterday that both of the Clarkes have criminal records in the UK, and that they now live in Spain.
Shoppers in Ireland warned to be on lookout for counterfeit cosmetics prior to Christmas
Irish consumers have been warned to exercise caution when purchasing “high-end” beauty products in the lead-up to Christmas.
Health regulators in the republic this morning cautioned that counterfeit beauty products sold through certain online and physical markets over the festive season could pose a potential serious threat to consumers’ health and safety.
Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) said the availability of fake beauty products tends to peak in the country prior to Christmas, noting how a significant quantity of such items were seized by Irish customs officers last year.
The fake items, some of which purported to be from popular brands such as Urban Decay and Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner, were often purchased from websites based outside of the European Union or from sellers on social media.
Tests carried out on these products, many of which were eye shadow and lip colourants, revealed that some contained harmful substances such as lead and arsenic.
In addition to lead and arsenic, which is widely referred to the “king of poisons”, counterfeit cosmetic products have also been known to contain a number of other unpleasant substances including mercury, cyanide, paint-stripper and even faeces.
The consequences of using counterfeit cosmetics that contain some of these substances can include mild skin irritation, chemical burns and even long-term damage to the central nervous system and the brain, the latter of which may be permanent.
In a statement on the regulator’s website, Emer O’Neill, Cosmetics Product Manager at the HPRA, said: “We can’t emphasise enough the need for consumers to exercise caution and to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas.
“While it may be tempting to avail of cheaper prices, counterfeit products could cost you your health. Unfortunately, the Christmas season is generally the peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products, which are often found when purchasing products online or from temporary stalls or outlets.
“Shoppers are strongly urged to apply common sense and to ask themselves; if a product seems very cheap, is it really likely to be the genuine article? The danger of counterfeit products is that their quality and safety is not known.”
In advice on how to avoid purchasing counterfeit beauty products, the HPRA cautions consumers to steer clear of items on offer for considerably less money than they would typically cost if bought through a major retailer.
It also tells shoppers to physically examine potential counterfeit cosmetics where possible, looking out for anomalies such as uneven fill levels, faded packaging and misspellings on packaging or in information leaflets.
Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to flood Europe with heroin, migrants and terrorists in revenge for sanctions imposed on the country by the US over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Addressing a six-nation counter-terrorism conference in Tehran attended by lawmakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia over the weekend, Rouhani told delegates that crippling US sanctions would prevent Iran’s security services from stopping drug traffickers and people smugglers targeting western countries, noting how the criminal groups behind such trades are often linked to terrorist groups.
In a speech that was carried by state TV, Rouhani said: “Weakening Iran by sanctions, many will not be safe. Those who do not believe us, it is good to look at the map.”
He added: “Imagine what a disaster there would be if there is a breach in the dam.
“I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected…, you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.”
While Iran is by no means a major drug-producing nation, large quantities of opium pass through the country on major smuggling routes that link Afghanistan and Pakistan with Europe.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, the primary ingredient of heroin, with Helmand Province, which is close to the border with Iran, being the country’s largest opium-producing region.
Iran claims to incinerate around 100 tonnes of seized drugs every year as a symbol of its determination to halt the flow of narcotics through trafficking routes that cross its borders.
In June 2017, Iranian media reported that drug addiction across the country had more than doubled over the previous six years, with research showing that approximately 2.8 million Iranians were regularly consuming drugs.
Iran also serves as a major hub on a number of people smuggling routes used by migrants looking to make their way to Turkey.
Many of these asylum seekers pay large sums of money to people smuggling gangs, some of which are thought to be closely linked to terrorist organisations.
Over recent weeks, scores of mostly Iranian migrants have been picked in flimsy boats while attempting to cross the English Channel from the French border town of Calais.
Rouhani said worsening economic conditions in Iran brought about by the sanctions had led to an increase in the number of migrants illegally crossing the border from Iran into Turkey since the summer.
- Buying knock-off consumer goods this Christmas could be a serious threat to the health of you and your loved ones
- Drugs gangs recruiting pensioners to act as mules on cruise ships travelling between South America and Europe
- Shoppers in Ireland warned to be on lookout for counterfeit cosmetics prior to Christmas
- Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
- Customs officers on US-Mexico border intercept multiple shipments of methamphetamine worth more than $1.2 million
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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