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.
Internet watchdog took down record number of child sex abuse images last year
The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has revealed that it took down more than 100,000 webpages containing sexual imagery of children and young people aged under 18 last year.
In its latest annual report, the IWF, which works to remove child abuse images from the internet, said it discovered and took down a record 105,047 webpages featuring indecent material last year.
Many of those pages contained hundreds of indecent images and videos, it said.
That figure was up from the 78,589 pages the organisation identified and removed from the internet in 2017.
The IWF said the increase was in part thanks to its use of improved technology to help its analysts speed up the detection and assessment of child abuse material.
Figures for 2018 show that the amount of indecent images hosted in Britain has reached the lowest level ever recorded by the group.
Just 0.04% of the global total dealt with by the IWF last year was hosted in the UK, which was down from 18% in 1996.
In contrast, nearly half (47%) of the illegal content reported to the organisation last year was hosted in the Netherlands.
The IWF said it has offered to provide support to a Dutch organisation that deals with indecent images of children online.
Four-fifths of the child sex abuse images processed by the IWF last year were found to be hosted in European countries.
Over the first six months of last year, the IWF discovered that more than a quarter (27%) of the content it assessed was “self-generated”, and predominantly involved girls aged between 11 and 13 who had been manipulated into livestreaming images of themselves from their bedrooms or elsewhere in a home setting.
In a statement issued to coincide with the launch of the report, IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves commented: “Despite us removing more and more images than ever before, and despite creating and using some of the world’s leading technology, it’s clear that this problem is far from being solved.
“The cause of the problem is the demand. Unfortunately, and as the police tell us often, there are 100,000 people sitting in the UK right now demanding images of the abuse of children.
“This is a global challenge and no doubt every country’s police force will have their own estimations of this criminality.
“With this continued demand for images of child rape, it’s a constant battle.”
US authorities could reclassify synthetic opioid fentanyl as ‘weapon of mass destruction’
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has suggested that synthetic opioid fentanyl could be reclassified as “a weapon of mass destruction”, according to an internal memo obtained by military news site Task & Purpose.
In the memo, the DHS argues that the toxicity of the drug, which is said to be as many as 100 times more potent than morphine, makes it a suitable candidate to be categorised as a non-conventional chemical weapon, which would allow law enforcement agencies greater power to inspect suspected shipments and develop new tools with which to detect them.
“Fentanyl’s high toxicity and increasing availability are attractive to threat actors seeking non-conventional materials for a chemical weapons attack,” DHS Assistant Secretary for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction James McDonnell wrote in the memo.
“In July 2018, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate assessed that… fentanyl is very likely a viable option for a chemical weapon attack by extremists or criminals.”
McDonnell notes that human consumption of as little as two milligrams of the synthetic opioid can result in death.
The memo only focuses on quantities of the drug that could be used to create mass-casualty weapons, but fails to outline how much fentanyl would be required to produce such a threat.
Going on to make clear that reclassifying the drugs could help curb its role in America’s spiralling opioid crisis, McDonnell writes: “[M]any activities, such as support to fentanyl interdiction and detection efforts, would tangentially benefit broader DHS and interagency counter-opioid efforts.”
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that US overdose deaths linked to fentanyl rocketed between 2011 and 2016, increasing from fewer than 1,700 to over 18,000 over the five-year period.
Back in October 2017, US President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis engulfing America a public health emergency, and outlined a series of measures designed to clamp down on the importation of cheap synthetics such as fentanyl from China and parts of Latin America.
Months later, Trump signed a bill designed to tackle the issue into law, providing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with $15 million of extra funding to be spent on new screening devices and lab equipment.
Taking to Twitter, the President wrote: “Together, we are committed to doing everything we can to combat the deadly scourge of drug addiction and overdose in the United States!”
Dread Pirate Roberts 2.0 jailed for running second iteration of Silk Road dark web marketplace
A jobless university drop-out from the UK city of Liverpool has been jailed after being convicted of running the Silk Road 2.0 dark web marketplace while collecting indecent images of children.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Thomas White, 24, helped run the original Silk Road marketplace until it was closed down by FBI investigators in 2013.
Within a month of its shutdown, White had launched Silk Road 2.0, which like its predecessor was used by vendors to offer illicit items including drugs, weapons, cyber crime tools and stolen credit card details on the dark web.
White, who abandoned his accounting degree at Liverpool John Moores University after just one term, rented a £1,700 ($2,225)-a-month apartment on the waterfront in Liverpool city centre at the time of his arrest, despite ostensibly being unemployed.
While investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said they could not be sure how much money White made while operating Silk Road 2.0, it is estimated that illegal goods worth some $96 million were sold on the platform, on which he would take a commission of between 1% and 5%.
During a raid on White’s apartment, police discovered a laptop computer under his bed, which was found to contain 464 indecent images of children in the most serious category.
It later emerged that White had discussed setting up a hidden website on which to publish child abuse material during an online chat with a Silk Road 2.0 administrator.
Like Ross Ulbricht, who was jailed for life with no parole for running the original Silk Road marketplace in 2015, White used the online alias Dread Pirate Roberts, a reference to a fictional character in the novel the Princess Bride by William Goldman.
White was sentenced to more than five years behind bars.
Speaking after he was jailed, Ian Glover from the NCA said: “White was a well-regarded member of the original Silk Road hierarchy.
“He used this to his advantage when the site was closed down.
“We believe he profited significantly from his crimes which will now be subject to a proceeds of crime investigation.”
Separately, one of Britain’s most senior cyber detectives has warned that Europeans gangs are targeting autistic gamers in the hope of turning them into the next generation of hackers.
Peter Goodman, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for cyber crime, told the Press Association that more than eight out of 10 (82%) of young people being enlisted by online criminals develop skills while gaming, with many of those targeted on the autistic spectrum.
- It is only a matter of time before terrorists use drones to launch mass-casualty attacks
- Internet watchdog took down record number of child sex abuse images last year
- US authorities could reclassify synthetic opioid fentanyl as ‘weapon of mass destruction’
- Why organised criminal gangs are actively grooming teenagers to become the next generation of cyber hackers
- Dread Pirate Roberts 2.0 jailed for running second iteration of Silk Road dark web marketplace
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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