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The EU has agreed to deploy warships to stop the flow of weapons into Libya, as the bloc wound down a military mission that had once rescued migrants and refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, announced that 27 foreign ministers had agreed to launch a new operation with naval ships, planes and satellites in order to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.

To counter objections that the operation could morph into a rescue mission, Borrell promised the ships would be withdrawn if they became “a pull factor” that encouraged people to attempt the risky crossing from Libya to Europe. This commitment helped lift opposition to the mission from Italy and Austria, whose governments had blocked an earlier compromise.Borrell hailed the agreement after “the longest discussion that I can remember”, and said he had not been sure at 9am on Monday that an understanding would be reached. Read more HERE.

Published on 19/02/2020 @ 13h22  |

The threat posed by unexploded bombs is rising exponentially in wartorn Libya, experts have warned, with the use of banned cluster weapons a source of particular concern.

The UN’s Mine Action Service (Unmas) said that even parts of the country previously cleared of explosive material had been recontaminated following a surge in fighting since April last year, when the warlord Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign to seize the capital, Tripoli.

“The threat posed by explosive remnants of war has increased,” said Bob Seddon, Unmas’s threat mitigation officer, at a meeting of experts in Geneva last Wednesday. The UN’s mission in Libya reported last month that the volume of unexploded ordnance in Tripoli had increased “exponentially” and it had received hundreds of reports from civilians living in areas affected by fighting. Read more HERE.

Published on 17/02/2020 @ 14h02  |

The leader of Italy's popular populist party, Senator Matteo Salvini, has lost his legal immunity from a criminal investigation and potential trial over his 2019 treatment of a group of migrants.

Salvini was accused of abusing his powers last July, when as interior minister he prevented 131 migrants from disembarking an Italian coastguard boat at the port of Catania, Sicily, as he waited for European Union states to agree to take them in.
Italy's Senate voted on Wednesday to exceptionally lift the legal immunity Salvini is granted as a member of the chamber, giving magistrates in Catania a green-light to consider a case against him.

If the legal process moves forward and he is found guilty, Salvini could face up to 15 years in jail and a ban on holding elected office. A conviction would scuttle his hopes to become Italy's next prime minister and return his euroskeptic League party back to power. Read more HERE.

Published on 14/02/2020 @ 11h04  |

Health officials raise concerns that many African countries are ill-equipped to combat the virus. African countries are rushing to reinforce their defences against the rapidly spreading coronavirus, as health officials say many countries on the continent are ill-equipped to combat the potentially lethal disease.

There have been no verified infections in Africa to date, but porous borders, a continuing flow of travellers and poorly resourced healthcare systems have raised fears that the virus could spread rapidly if the precautions of local authorities prove inadequate.

Dr Ambrose Otau Talisuna from the World Health Organization’s Africa office said on Tuesday that the risk of an outbreak on the continent was “very, very high” and that there were significant concerns about the ability of “fragile health systems” to cope with the epidemic. Read more HERE.

Published on 07/02/2020 @ 11h40  |

Turkey intervenes, raising tensions, after weeks of aerial bombardment of rebel territory. More than half a million people have been displaced in Syria’s last rebel stronghold by a deadly regime offensive that has led Turkey to intervene in the fighting and has raised tensions between Damascus, Ankara and Moscow.

Weeks of intensive aerial bombardment by the forces of Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies and a bruising ground offensive have emptied entire towns in north-west Idlib province and sent huge numbers of civilians fleeing north towards the Turkish border. On Monday, a rare exchange of fire between newly deployed Turkish troops and Assad’s forces killed eight Turkish military personnel and at least 13 Syrian troops, the most significant clash between the two sides in the nine-year-old conflict. Read more HERE.

Published on 05/02/2020 @ 13h14  |