Council of Europe concerned over Italy’s migrant policy

            By Yusuf Ozcan</p>  <p>STRASBOURG (AA) – The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner has expressed “deep concern” over Italy’s treatment of migrants at home and at sea.</p>  <p>In a letter to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte released Thursday, Dunja Mijatović said she regretted the “apparent hastiness” with which people of one center were transferred to other centers in the country. </p>  <p>“I note with regret the apparent hastiness of these transfers and have concerns that this could disrupt the commendable efforts put in place in the past years by the local services for the integration and rehabilitation of the residents, and particularly the special care provided to the most vulnerable,” Mijatović said. </p>  <p>&quot;I am deeply concerned about some recent measures hampering and criminalizing the work of NGOs who play a crucial role in saving lives at sea, banning disembarkation in Italian ports, and relinquishing responsibility for search and rescue operations to authorities which appear unwilling or unable to protect rescued migrants from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment,” she added. </p>  <p>According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 2,240 people either died or went missing at sea in 2018 while attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.</p>  <p>In the letter, the commissioner urged Conte “to ensure that the human rights of persons rescued at sea are never put at risk”.

Macedonian president praises Turkey over refugee policy

            By Semra Orkan</p>  <p>ISTANBUL (AA) – Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov praised Turkey over its open-door policy during an event Thursday in Istanbul. </p>  <p>“Turkish people have shown their humanity by opening their doors to 4 million Syrians,” Ivanov said during a conference titled “Europe’s Bermuda Triangle, Changing Balances in Balkans and Turkey”. </p>  <p>“Turkey has also always opened its doors to migrants coming from the Caucasus and Balkans,” he said. </p>  <p>Blasting European countries over their stance on refugees, he said “Islamophobia has emerged when Europe has accepted 1 million asylum seekers”.</p>  <p>&quot;But nobody asks Turkey how much money it’s spent for asylum seekers so far.”</p>  <p>Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world.</p>  <p>The country has spent more than $32 billion from its own national resources for helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.</p>  <p>Recalling the Ottoman Empire’s stance over people with different cultures and languages, Ivanov said “there was respect and understanding during the Ottoman Empire”.</p>  <p>“This meant respecting religions and traditions of different societies. This legacy has established Macedonia.”

UPDATE – Trump strikes conciliatory tone in State of the Union

            ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT </p>  <p>By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump urged bipartisan cooperation in his annual address before the American people Tuesday night while continuing to insist on the need for some of his most controversial policy goals. </p>  <p>The tone Trump struck was at odds with much of what has defined his first two years in office and indeed in his Twitter activity just hours before he took to the Capitol.</p>  <p>Standing before a House chamber packed with federal lawmakers, however, Trump said he was not laying out a Republican or Democrat agenda, but the agenda of the American people. </p>  <p>&quot;We must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century,&quot; Trump proclaimed in nationally-televised remarks. &quot;Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.&quot;</p>  <p>But just moments later, he continued to insist on the need to build a barrier on the Mexican border, a controversial demand that has uniformly fallen on deaf ears within the Democratic Party and has at best lukewarm support among some Republicans.</p>  <p>&quot;In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built,&quot; he said. &quot;Where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.&quot;</p>  <p>Lawmakers have just 10 days remaining to pass a spending bill to fund many government agencies that were given a three-week funding allowance following the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Trump is continuing to demand whatever spending bill clears the federal legislature has roughly $5.7 billion in appropriations for his separation barrier. </p>  <p>Should it not, he has threatened to shut the government down again or declare a national emergency to build the wall -- a recourse that would be challenged in court by Democrats and landowners whose property the president would need to appropriate to build the separation barrier. Even some key Republican lawmakers have voiced concern over circumventing the congressional appropriation process. </p>  <p>Trump further said the U.S. has a &quot;moral duty&quot; to develop an immigration system &quot;that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens&quot; after two years of clamping down on both legal and illegal forms of immigration, including the implementation of policies that have separated migrant children from their parents. </p>  <p>In the formal Democratic response to the president's annual address, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams derided Trump, ripping him on a slew of issues including the government shutdown, which she called &quot;a stunt engineered by the president of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness”.</p>  <p>&quot;Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders, but we must all embrace that from agriculture to healthcare to entrepreneurship America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants, not walls,&quot; she said. </p>  <p>Switching to foreign policy, Trump announced he will meet for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The exact city where the negotiations will be hosted remains unclear. </p>  <p>The U.S.-North Korean talks have stalled since a June 2018 summit between the leaders over the North's insistence that additional progress be met with the loosening of U.S.-led sanctions. Washington has resisted the demand over past missteps, insisting sanctions only be lifted as a final-status matter. </p>  <p>Trump further defended his plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, saying &quot;great nations do not fight endless wars&quot; and arguing Washington is working with its coalition allies to wipe out the last &quot;remnants&quot; of Daesh in Iraq and Syria while saying he has &quot;accelerated&quot; negotiations to end the U.S.'s longest-running war in Afghanistan.</p>  <p>&quot;In Afghanistan, my administration is holding constructive talks with a number of Afghan groups, including the Taliban,&quot; Trump said. “We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.&quot;</p>  <p>The comments come mere hours after the Senate approved legislation that rebukes Trump over the planned withdrawals, claiming the exits could allow al-Qaeda and Daesh to regroup. </p>  <p>The bill still has to pass in the House of Representatives, where Democrats currently in control of the chamber are split over an amendment that lets states penalize businesses that support a Palestinian-led boycott movement of Israel.

Trump strikes conciliatory tone in State of the Union

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump urged bipartisan cooperation in his annual address before the American people while continuing to insist on the need for some of his most controversial policy goals. </p>  <p>The tone Trump struck Tuesday night is at odds with much of what has defined his first two years in office and indeed in his Twitter activity just hours before he took to the Capitol.</p>  <p>Standing before a House chamber packed with federal lawmakers, however, Trump said he was not laying out a Republican or Democrat agenda, but the agenda of the American people. </p>  <p>&quot;We must step boldly and bravely into the next chapter of this great American adventure, and we must create a new standard of living for the 21st century,&quot; Trump proclaimed. &quot;Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.&quot;</p>  <p>But just moments later, he continued to insist on the need to build a barrier on the Mexican border, a controversial demand that has uniformly fallen on deaf ears within the Democratic Party and has at best lukewarm support among some Republicans.</p>  <p>&quot;In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I will get it built,&quot; he said. &quot;Where walls go up, illegal crossings go way, way down.&quot;</p>  <p>Lawmakers have just 10 days remaining to pass a spending bill to fund many government agencies that were given a three-week funding allowance following the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Trump is continuing to demand whatever spending bill clears the federal legislature has roughly $5.7 billion in appropriations for his wall. </p>  <p>Should it not, Trump has threatened to shut the government down again or declare an national emergency to build the wall -- a recourse that would be challenged in court by Democrats and landowners whose property the president would need to appropriate to build the separation barrier. </p>  <p>He further said the U.S. has a &quot;moral duty&quot; to develop an immigration system &quot;that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens&quot; after two years of clamping down on both legal and illegal forms of immigration, including the implementation of policies that have separated migrant children from their parents. 

US to send 3,000 more troops to southern border: Report

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - More than 3,000 additional troops will be deployed to the U.S.'s southern border with Mexico, defense officials told CNN on Thursday.</p>  <p>The additional forces will be joining the 2,300 troops already stationed there and will fulfill a request made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which had been approved by acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan earlier in the month.</p>  <p>The total amount of extra troops being sent is approximately 3,500, a defense official confirmed to the news agency.</p>  <p>The request made by the DHS extended the border mission until September, which would amount to a nearly year-long deployment of troops at the border with Mexico.</p>  <p>The troops had been sent to harden key points of entry along the border in response to large migrant caravans that had been marching their way up from Central America to reach the U.S.</p>  <p>U.S. President Donald Trump also confirmed that additional troops were being sent to the border.</p>  <p>&quot;More troops being sent to the Southern Border to stop the attempted Invasion of Illegals, through large Caravans, into our Country. We have stopped the previous Caravans, and we will stop these also. With a Wall it would be soooo much easier and less expensive. Being Built!&quot; Trump tweeted.

Two boats capsize off Djibouti, 130 migrants missing

            By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – At least 130 migrants are missing Tuesday after their two boats capsized off the coast of Djibouti.</p>  <p>Five bodies were recovered from the sea and transported by Ministry of Health personnel to a hospital in Djibouti's Obock region for examination, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a statement.</p>  <p>&quot;The tragedy occurred off Godoria, a locality in the Obock region of northeast Djibouti. After being alerted by local residents, a team of gendarmerie gathered this afternoon near the reported site of the sinkings and discovered two survivors as well as the bodies of three women and two men,&quot; it said.</p>  <p>According to local witnesses, the boats capsized roughly 30 minutes after leaving due to overloading and heavy swells, the statement said.</p>  <p>&quot;The coast guard was also alerted and launched search and rescue operations. Those operations are still underway with two patrol boats,&quot; it added.

3 dead after migrant boat sinks off Libyan coast

            <p>By Senhal Bolelli</p>  <p>MADRID, Spain (AA) – A boat carrying 20 irregular migrants sank off Libya’s coast, leaving three dead, an Italian news agency said Friday. </p>  <p>Citing Italian navy sources, ANSA reported that an inflatable boat sank 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Libyan capital of Tripoli in the Mediterranean Sea. </p>  <p>Three people on board were rescued, but they were in poor health, it said.</p>  <p>The Libyan Coast Guard is continuing to search for 14 other migrants in the sea, ANSA added.</p>  <p>Last year, more than 2,240 people either died or went missing at sea while attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean, according to the UN Refugee Agency.</p><br>

Greek officers ‘tried to kill us’: Migrant in Turkey

By Ferdi Uzun

AYDIN, Turkey (AA) – An Iraqi irregular migrant who was rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard along with 45 others in the Aegean Sea on Tuesday said Greek naval officers "tried to kill" them.

Coast Guard teams saved the migrants off Kusadasi district of Aydin province after a semi-submerged boat carrying the migrants including children started taking in water.

Iraqi migrant Mohammed Fadil, whose 4-year-old daughter's body was recovered, claimed that Greek naval officers were responsible for the incident.

A boat belonging to the Greek Coast Guard Command stopped us in open sea, Fadil told reporters at the Kusadasi State Hospital.

“There were strong waves. We thought they came to save us. They told us to cut the engine. They tied our boat to theirs with a rope, and then they start to turn us in circles,” Fadil said.

"It was so inhumane. They tried to kill us," he added.

Fadil said they had been left for dead mercilessly until the Turkish Coast Guard teams came and saved them, adding:

"I saved my two children, but I could not save the other.

Roughly 14,000 irregular migrants came to Greece in 2018, according to Greek officials.

Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe, especially since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Turkish coast guard rescues 40 migrants in Aegean Sea

By Ferdi Uzun and Ibrahim Uzun

AYDIN, Turkey (AA) – Turkish Coast Guard has rescued 40 irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea while recovering one body, security sources said on Tuesday.

Coast guard squads rescued the migrants off Kusadasi district of southwestern Aydin province after they were informed that an inflatable boat carrying the migrants including children started taking on water.

A body of a 4-year-old girl was also recovered by the squads, according to sources who asked not to be named, due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

No further detail about the nationalities of migrants and incident was provided.

Coast guard teams continue their searching efforts in the sea, the sources added.