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.
Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ jailed in Tanzania for heading up elephant tusk smuggling operation
A Chinese woman dubbed the “Ivory Queen” has been jailed for 15 years in Tanzania after being convicted of smuggling hundreds of elephant tusks.
Yang Fenglan was found guilty of running one of the largest ivory smuggling operations ever discovered in Africa, and is said to have been responsible for the trafficking of tusks from as many as 400 elephants worth an estimated $2.5 million.
A court heard how the 69-year-old businesswoman had managed to pose as an upstanding member of the Chinese expatriate community in Tanzania for decades, while all the while overseeing a major smuggling operation that involved huge quantities of illicit ivory being trafficked between Africa and China.
Yang was yesterday found guilty of being behind the smuggling of 860 tusks between 2000 and 2014.
She is said to have used her connections with wealthy and powerful individuals she met while working as Secretary General of Tanzania’s China-Africa business council to facilitate the trafficking operation.
Sentencing Yang to 15 years behind bars for heading up an organised crime gang, a magistrate also ordered her to hand over a fine equal to twice the market value of the ivory she was convicted of smuggling or face another two years in prison.
According to court documents, Yang, who is reported to have worked as a Swahili translator and run a successful Chinese restaurant since arriving in Tanzania in the 1970s, organised the smuggling of ivory weighing a total of 1,889 tonnes.
Authorities believe she may have been active in the illicit ivory trade from as far back as the 1980s.
Speaking after Yang was jailed, campaigners said the prison time she was handed was not sufficiently long enough.
In comments made to the Reuters news agency, WWF Country Director Amani Ngusaru said: “[It] is not punishment enough for the atrocities she committed, by being responsible for the poaching of thousands of elephants in Tanzania.
“She ran a network that killed thousands of elephants.”
The poaching of ivory in Africa, which is estimated to have caused a 20% decline in the population of elephants across the continent over the course of the past 10 years, is driven by demand in Asia, where elephant tusk is used to make ornaments and jewellery.
Ivory is also used widely in Chinese medicine, and is thought by many in Asia to contain properties that can remove toxins from the body and contribute towards a glowing complexion.
Number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa falls below 1,000 for first time in five years
The number of rhinos that were killed by poachers for their horns in South Africa fell below 1,000 for the first time in five years in 2018, according to the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs.
In a statement issued last week, Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane revealed that 769 rhinos lost their lives to poachers last year, making 2018 the third consecutive 12-month period during which the number of rhinos killed for their horns fell in South Africa.
As well as a fall in the number rhinos that were killed by poachers, last year also saw police in South Africa arrest 365 suspected rhino poachers, 229 of whom were detained inside or adjacent to Kruger National Park.
“The decline is not only indicative of the successful implementation of the Integrated Strategic Management of Rhinoceros Approach countrywide, but also a confirmation of the commitment and dedication of the men and women working at the coalface to save the species,” Mokonyane said.
“Combating rhino poaching remains a national priority, and as such, all the relevant government departments will continue their close collaboration to ensure that this iconic species is conserved for generations to come.
“Although we are encouraged by the national poaching figures for 2018, it is critical that we continue to implement collaborative initiatives to address the scourge of rhino poaching.”
While rhino poaching deaths fell in the country last year, there was an increase in the number of elephants who were killed by wildlife criminals.
Across 2018, 72 elephants lost their lives to poachers who killed them for their tusks, with all but one of these being slaughtered in Kruger National Park.
While cautiously welcoming the fall in the number of rhino poaching deaths in South Africa last year, WWF International warned that the global crisis affecting rhino numbers is very far from over, noting that poaching remains high across the region.
Dr Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader, commented: “Corruption remains a major part of the challenge in addressing rhino poaching and trafficking of wildlife products.
“To address this, we need to consider what draws people into wildlife crime.
“We must find a way to empower people working and living around protected areas to be invested in a future with wildlife, including helping identify those who break the law.”
American sniffer dog helps find cocaine stashed in decorative tombstone
A US drug sniffer dog has helped his handlers locate a “decorative tombstone” stuffed full of cocaine that had been imported into the country from Canada.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) drug dog Freddy sniffed out the shipment while working at an express consignment facility in Cincinnati.
Border officers moved to x-ray the container the tombstone was being shipped in after Freddy flagged it as potentially containing drugs, resulting in the discovery of a white powder hidden in a compartment inside the resin item.
Tests carried out later confirmed that the substance was in fact cocaine.
Commenting on the discovery, CBP Cincinnati Port Director Joshua Shorr said: “Our officers are committed to keep our country and communities safe from illegal and dangerous drugs.
“This seizure is one example of the quality enforcement work they do on a daily basis.”
In a statement relating to the seizure, CBP Cincinnati highlighted how its officers had recently discovered shipments of cocaine hidden inside items such as documents, piston heads and wheels.
At the beginning of January, CBP officers in Cincinnati intercepted two packages of tinfoil-wrapped sweets that later tested positive for methamphetamines.
After x-raying the packages of sweets, which were on their way from Mexico to Gridley in California, inspectors noted a number of anomalies, prompting them to take a closer look.
Having done so, they discovered that several of the sweets contained plastic capsules holding small bags of a white crystalline powder.
Police said both shipments contained a total of approximately 4kgs of methamphetamines.
“Cocaine and methamphetamines are dangerous and highly addictive stimulants,” the CBP said.
“Abuse of these drugs can lead to paranoia, exhaustion, heart conditions, convulsions, stroke, and death. Both are classified as Schedule II stimulants under the Controlled Substances Act.”
In a separate announcement, CBP officers in California last week revealed they had impounded more than 100kgs of cocaine concealed in produce cargo vessels arriving at Port Hueneme from Ecuador and Guatemala.
The drugs were discovered in two separate shipments, with just over 92kgs being found beneath the floorboards of a refrigerated vessel that had arrived from Ecuador, with the remainder uncovered on a cargo vessel arriving from Guatemala.
“This is the largest drug seizure at Port Hueneme in the last quarter of a century,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Port Director of the LA/Long Beach Seaport, and Port Hueneme.
“I’m extremely proud of the results of this joint effort, it shows the professionalism, vigilance and keen focus of both agencies in preventing dangerous drugs into our communities.”
- New technology designed to identify food fraud will count for little if tighter penalties are not introduced
- Chinese ‘Ivory Queen’ jailed in Tanzania for heading up elephant tusk smuggling operation
- Shamima Begum could not have made a less compelling case as to why she should be allowed to return to Britain
- Number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa falls below 1,000 for first time in five years
- American sniffer dog helps find cocaine stashed in decorative tombstone
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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