BERLIN – The Latest on Europe’s response to mass migration (all times local):
The European Union’s statistics agency says more than 300,000 people were granted asylum within the bloc last year, a drop of almost 40 percent from 2017.
Eurostat said Thursday that around 333,400 people were deemed eligible for international protection, most of them Syrians, Afghans or Iraqis fleeing conflict or persecution.
The agency says 67,000 of the total 96,100 Syrians determined to be bona fide refugees across the 28-nation EU in 2018 were granted asylum in Germany.
Germany, Italy and France were the EU countries that recognized the most refugees.
Well over 1 million migrants entered the EU in 2015, a relatively small number compared to arrivals in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. However, the influx caused a political crisis and immigration became a hot-button topic. .
EU countries remain deeply divided over the best approach despite the sharp drop in new arrivals.
A survey has found that Germans are increasingly hostile toward asylum-seekers, whereas prejudices toward homeless or gay people have declined.
The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which commissioned the survey, said Thursday that 54.1% of respondents expressed negative opinions about asylum-seekers, up from 49.5% in 2016 and 44% in 2014.
Germany saw a significant increase in migrant arrivals in 2016, with almost 746,000 people seeking asylum that year. Numbers have since declined again, with about 186,000 asylum requests last year.
The representative telephone survey, which is conducted every two years, involved 1,890 respondents and took place between September and February.
The study also examined for the first time how receptive Germans are to conspiracy theories. It found that about 46% of respondents believed secret organizations influence political decision-making.
Source: Fox News World
Sisters of two of the alleged Sri Lanka suicide bombers revealed Thursday that their siblings – who have been described by officials as “well-educated people” — became increasingly distant and “totally crazy” in the years leading up to the coordinated Easter Sunday massacre.
Their comments come as reports emerged that one of the bombers was let go by police after being arrested earlier at some point.
“He told male relatives off for trimming their beards and became angry and totally crazy,” Samsul Hidaya, who identified herself as the sister of suspected bomber Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, told the Daily Mail. “So I just stopped speaking to him because it got to the point where it was getting out of hand.”
In an interview published Thursday, Hidaya confirmed reports that her brother – who was in his late 20s — studied abroad in the U.K. and Australia before returning to Sri Lanka. But she says after coming home from Down Under, he was “a different man”.
“I had many arguments with him,” she said. “At first he started quoting scripture and I would say ‘OK, you’re right.’”
“But then the conversation got deeper and deeper into religion and I couldn’t follow what he was saying any longer,” she added.
Mohammad Hashim Madaniya, who identified herself as the sister of radical Islamic cleric Zahran Hashim (alternately known as Mohammed Zahran) – told the BBC a similar story.
Her brother has been mentioned in media reports as being one of the suicide bombers and possibly the mastermind of the attacks. Hashim also purportedly has appeared in ISIS-affiliated propaganda claiming responsibility for the bombings, which have left 359 dead and hundreds more wounded.
But before Hashim’s descent into radicalism — as evident by the hate-filled online sermons he posted on YouTube – he broke off contact with his sister
“We had a very good relationship during our childhood. He was very friendly with everyone in the neighborhood,” Madaniya told the BBC. “But for the last two years, he has not been in contact with us.”
Madaniya says she learned about her brother’s alleged involvement in the bombings through the media.
“I never thought, even for a moment, that he would do such a thing,” she said. “I strongly deplore what he has done. Even if he is my brother, I cannot accept this. I don’t care about him anymore.”
Madaniya says Hashim went off the grid after Sri Lankan police tried to arrest him years ago for allegedly stoking violence between Muslim groups. She also claimed her elderly parents left their home in Sri Lanka days before the bombings and have not been heard from since.
“It makes me think that my brother could have kept in touch with them,” she said.
Police reportedly though have tracked down the father of two sons suspected of blowing themselves up in the attacks.
Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, a wealthy spice trader in Colombo – the city where many of the bombings happened – is in custody over suspicions that he helped his sons, according to CNN.
A government spokesperson also told the network that one of the sons, Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, had been arrested before and then released. He is suspected of targeting a hotel.
“It was the suicide bomber of the Cinnamon Grand bomb attack who was released earlier,” Sudarshana Gunawardana said, without elaborating.
As of Thursday, 58 people have been arrested and police are still setting off controlled detonations of suspicious items as they continue to investigate the attacks.
Source: Fox News World
Slovakia’s first female president-elect is an unapologetic liberal who will soon take power in a region increasingly consumed by right-wing populism and anti-European Union sentiment.
Last month, Zuzana Caputova, an accomplished lawyer with no previous political experience, secured 58 percent of the vote in a second round run-off against European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic. She will assume office on June 15, becoming the first woman to hold the presidency, as well as the youngest at 45. Although Slovakia’s president is mostly ceremonial and political power rests with the prime minister, they do have the power to appoint judges and act as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Prior to her electoral victory, Caputova was an activist and anti-corruption lawyer who was well known for fighting against a landfill site in her hometown of Pezinok for more than 10 years.
In a combative presidential election, Caputova campaigned on fighting corruption and restoring civility in Slovak politics, refusing to engage her opponents in political smears, preferring to stay above the fray and focused on the issues she believed most affected voters.
One of the biggest issues facing Slovaks is deeply entrenched public corruption, especially in light of the February 2018 assassination of Jan Kuciak, a journalist who was reporting on graft and links to organized crime at the highest levels of power. The murder prompted mass protests against the government and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The Kuciak murder inspired Caputova to run on a platform of transparency and tackling powerful corrupt elites.
Also top of her agenda is promoting progressive values, which are currently under assault from conservative nationalists in Eastern Europe.
Caputova defends LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, women’s equality, and supports same-sex unions in a country where same-sex marriage is still illegal.
She has positioned herself as a positive voice while also capitalizing on the anti-establishment mood that is prevalent across the democratic world.
“Caputova’s election happened at a time when voters across Europe are protesting their traditional leaders and supporting political newcomers. Some of them are right-wing and nationalist, which makes them ideologically different from Caputova, but Caputova shares with them the anti-establishment element,” Adriano Bosoni, Senior Europe Analyst at Stratfor, told Fox News.
Even the ruling center-left Smer party has drifted rightward in recent years and has tried to increase its electoral base by appealing to Christian voters.
Caputova’s win is even more shocking given the strong tide of right-wing populism and nationalism that has dominated European politics over the last several years, particularly in Eastern Europe following the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.
The likes of Viktor Orban in Hungary and other leaders around Central Europe have exploited the migrant crisis and stoked anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment to stir up their base of support. Caputova, meanwhile, is unafraid of defending her liberal views and represented a sober and rationally based perspective on public policy matters.
Populists championing conservative values such as Orban’s Fidesz Party and Poland under the Law and Justice Party have experienced significant democratic backsliding, with nationalist leaders undermining the rule of law, independent media and civil society organizations, and assaulting the judiciary, while railing against Brussels and E.U. institutions.
Attacks against the E.U. and west have become commonplace for extremist forces that have risen in Eastern Europe. Caputova, on the other hand, has made it clear she supports the E.U., NATO, and western values and considers Slovakia an integral component of the rules-based international order.
Although anti-E.U. parties espousing similar xenophobic and anti-institutionalist rhetoric are expected to win in the upcoming E.U. elections in May, Caputova’s surprise victory is proof that far-right populism based on fear and hate does not have to be the paradigm in Eastern Europe.
“The notable thing about Caputova’s victory is that it shows that moderate candidates can win an election, and that voters will not always turn to far-right or anti-immigration candidates to show their dissatisfaction with the mainstream political parties,” Bosoni said.
Source: Fox News World
CAIRO – Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has extended a state of emergency imposed after deadly church bombings by the Islamic State group in 2017.
The decision to extend the state of emergency by three months was announced Thursday, ahead of Coptic Easter.
Egypt has been battling Islamic militants for years, but the insurgency gained strength after the 2013 military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president and is now led by a Sinai-based Islamic State affiliate.
Suicide bombers targeted Palm Sunday services at two churches in April 2017. Christians make up about 10% of the population in Muslim-majority Egypt.
Source: Fox News World
BEIRUT – A Bahraini rights group says sexual abuse and torture are widespread and systematic in jails in the Gulf island nation.
The SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights group released a 30-page report Thursday, documenting abuses it says “use the most intimate and personal parts of a person in order to inflict suffering.”
The report was released in Beirut as the group is barred from Bahrain.
At the release, Bahraini citizen Ebrahim Sarhan recounted the torture he was subjected to in 2017, describing how he was stripped naked in front of other inmates as officials threatened to “bring in a bottle” — a veiled threat of sodomy.
Bahrain, which is conducting a yearslong crackdown on dissent, has dismissed such allegations in the past. It didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Source: Fox News World
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Thousands of people in Bosnia have attended the funeral of a prominent businessman and government critic who was gunned down this week in a mafia-style ambush.
Slavisa Krunic, who owned several businesses including a private security firm, Sector Security, was buried Thursday in his home village outside the northern Bosnian city of Banja Luka. Krunic was slain Monday in a late-night ambush outside his family home by men believed to have been hired assassins.
Krunic’s bodyguard and one of the attackers were also killed in the execution, which sparked a shootout. After the attack, critics of the ruling Bosnian Serb nationalist party and its hard-line leader, Milorad Dodik, have voiced fears that they too might be targeted.
Source: Fox News World
The climate change activists who have disrupted transportation around London in recent weeks continued to their outlandish demonstrations by gluing themselves to the London Stock Exchange building on what is supposedly their “last day” of protests.
The group – who call themselves Extinction Rebellion – also climbed onto the roof of a train in Canary Wharf as part of the latest wave of protests on Thursday. They said the demonstrations targeted the financial section “to demand they tell the truth about the devastating impact the industry has on our planet.”
“The global financial industry is currently enabling climate and ecological destruction on an almost unimaginable level, and a considerable proportion of this money flows through London. ‘Business as usual,’ especially through the toxic finance system, will kill all life on this planet,” the group said in a statement.
The self-described “rebels” made headlines in recent weeks by snarling traffic and public transit in the British capital through a series of blockades. Members also stripped down to their underwear in the public gallery at the House of Commons earlier this month.
The demonstrations on Thursday – which began when two men and five women glued themselves to a wall and to each other at the London Stock Exchange at around 6:45 a.m. – come a day after the group said they were packing up and heading home.
“We will leave the physical locations and but a space for truth-telling has been opened up in the world,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement. “We know we have disrupted your lives. We do not do this lightly. We only do this because this is an emergency.”
The group threatened more small “actions” across the financial district on Thursday including demonstrations outside banks like Goldman Sachs, the Bank of England and Deutsche Bank.
On Thursday, five other members climbed aboard a Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train in Canary Wharf in London, holding signs saying “business as usual = death” and “don’t jail the canaries.”
British Transport Police officers used ropes, harnesses, and ladders to remove the demonstrators, which included an 83-year-old, Sky News reported. All five were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the railway.
One woman glued herself to the train.
“It’s bizarre we have to do this in order for governments to listen to scientists,” Diana Warner, 60, told Sky News.
More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested since the disruptive demonstrations began more than a week ago. Only about 70 are currently facing charges, the Associated Press reported.
At the height of the protests, London’s busy Waterloo Bridge was closed for days and rail travel was temporarily delayed after demonstrators glued themselves to the sides of train cars.
Among those supporting the protesters was Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who flew from Los Angeles to London to join in on the demonstrations last week.
Speaking to a crowd in Oxford Circus, Thompson, according to the Associated Press, remarked that “it makes me so happy to be able to join you all and to add my voice to the young people here who have inspired a whole new movement.”
Then, while in conversation with reporters, she admitted that “unfortunately sometimes I have to fly but I don’t fly nearly as much as I did, because of my carbon footprint and I plant a lot of trees.”
Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News World
DAKAR, Senegal – The head of the Norwegian Refugee Council says the humanitarian situation has become dire in parts of Cameroon amid a two-year conflict between separatists and government forces.
Jan Egeland, secretary general of the organization, said Thursday that tens of thousands in Cameroon’s English-speaking areas are living in the bush — too afraid to return home or to seek refuge in major towns.
Separatists who complain that Cameroon’s English-speaking regions are marginalized by the government have been waging an insurgency since 2017.
President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, has branded the separatists as terrorists.
Egeland said many of the people he spoke with this week had fled after their villages were attacked at night. Often people didn’t know whether the violence was caused by military or rebels.
Source: Fox News World
BAGHDAD – A high-level Russian delegation is visiting Iraq to discuss trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
The delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov, met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Alhakim on Thursday.
Borisov said the two sides discussed trade in agriculture and industry and said his country is seeking to increase food exports to Iraq.
Iraq is reliant on imports to feed its population, and imports a significant portion of food items from Iran.
The Russian delegation is expected to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi later in the day.
Source: Fox News World
MADRID – A new generation of young and media-savvy political leaders is vying to become Spain’s next prime minister in a general election Sunday. They are all men and less than 50.
A deeply divided parliament is expected to emerge from the ballot, and whoever gets the most votes will likely need to sit down and negotiate a complicated governing alliance.
Here’s a look at the main candidates vying to take office:
Sánchez, the Socialist party leader and incumbent prime minister, is aiming to pull off yet another unexpected political turnaround.
He was forced to call an early election when his minority government failed to pass a national spending bill in February.
Now, all polls forecast that the Socialists will overtake the conservative Popular Party to garner the most votes on Sunday, but it will be nowhere near a majority.
That would be another surprising victory for the 47-year-old former basketball player who temporarily lost his party leadership in 2016 in an internal spat following two crushing defeats in consecutive national elections.
But rank-and-file party members took back Sánchez as the Socialists’ general secretary in mid-2017 and a year later he engineered a stunning maneuver and became prime minister, forcing his predecessor Mariano Rajoy to face a no-confidence vote over corruption cases tainting the Popular Party.
Casado is facing his first election as head of the Popular Party, Spain’s dominant conservative political force for the past three decades.
The 38-year-old lawyer, who has made most of his career in politics, took over as party chief in July vowing to clean up party corruption with a zero-tolerance approach.
Casado has been dragging the party toward more conservative ground and calling for a stronger stance on Catalan separatism. The goal is to prevent a flood of votes going to the center-right Citizens party, perceived as tougher on the Catalonia issue, and the far-right Vox.
The 39-year-old Rivera is anything but shy. A university debate champion and water polo player in his youth, Rivera made his debut in politics in 2006 at age 27 by posing nude for a campaign poster.
He has since led Citizens. It began as a tiny party in Barcelona, created to fight the local Catalan secessionist movement, and it has now spread across Spain.
Presenting himself as a champion of free market, Rivera’s party has tried to carve out a space in the center of Spanish politics, enticing voters from both the Socialists and the Popular Party.
Citizens’ newcomer status is now threatened by the upstart Vox, which is also luring conservative voters.
Iglesias was tipped to lead a leftist takeover of Spain in 2015. Now, the pony-tailed former TV politics commentator is struggling to keep his far-left United We Can party from breaking apart.
United We Can has been wracked by in-fighting among its leaders and the polls show it may pay a heavy price.
After returning from paternity leave to care for his premature twins he had with party No. 2 Irene Montero, the 40-year-old Iglesias is trying to rekindle the indignation of the jobless and those most hurt by austerity measures.
Sánchez may need to rely on Iglesias for support in a coalition.
Abascal is the scion of a family targeted by the now-defunct separatist group ETA in his native Basque region.
He made his career as a member of the Popular Party and now hopes he and others from his Vox party will become the first far-right lawmakers to sit in parliament since 1982.
The platform of Vox, which means voice in Latin, is to defend Spain from what it says are the dangers of separatism, Muslim immigration, feminism and liberals.
The 43-year-old Abascal unapologetically defends hunting, bullfighting and traditional and Catholic family values.
He has said that he wants to “reconquer” Spain, a reference to the 15th-century expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spanish territory.
The pistol-carrying politician has called for dropping strict gun controls.
Source: Fox News World