(Photo: Ed Crisostomo, AP)The State Department said Friday fewer than 60,000 visas were revoked in the week since President Trump suspended travel arrivals for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. The figure contradicted a Justice Department lawyer, who said in U.S. District Court on Friday that 100,000 visas were revoked, according to news reports from CNN and The Washington Post. The department clarified that the higher figure used by the Justice Department lawyer included diplomatic and other visas that were exempted by the travel ban, as well as expired visas. Before the clarification, Justice Department lawyer Erez Reuveni told Judge Leonie Brinkema that 100,000 visas had been rejected, according to CNN and the Post. The State Department also granted nearly 11 million non-immigrant visas in 2015, the most recent year available, including visas for 29,007 Iranians, 11,399 Iraqis, 1,613 Libyans, 219 Somalians, 4,354 Sudanese, 9,003 Syrians and 3,787 Yemenis.
The German chancellor says Europe will build a relationship on the basis of shared values with Donald Trump’s governmentGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the European Union’s approach to the United States will be to continue working on the basis of shared values and a desire for trans-Atlantic cooperation.“There will be areas where we are in agreement, such as the fight against terrorism, and there will be others where we do not agree. After the Turkey statement, we must now turn to Mediterranean,” she said, adding that the EU had learnt valuable lessons from the past two years.The EU’s main priorities for the deal, said Merkel, were to bring stability to Libya, and to tackle “human traffickers and the mafia-like structure” that exploits vulnerable people. “We must remember how many people have died in the Mediterranean, despite SOPHIA [the EU’s anti-human smuggling military operation in the Mediterranean].”She acknowledged however, that Libya is going through a “difficult situation,” and said that the EU will have work closely with neighbouring countries to make the agreement work. “Libya does not yet have the necessary stability so we will also have to work closely with Algeria and Egypt to bring about a government of national accord that is worthy of that name.” Ultimately however, she stressed that the agreement is designed to start a process that will lead to Libya being “capable of tackling migration itself.”Questioned by journalists on whether UK prime minister Theresa May is “too close” to the new US administration, Merkel said that she acknowledged that there has always been a somewhat special relationship between the UK and the US.“I was pleased to hear Theresa May say that she wants a strong Europe. It is up to us, as 27, to determine how strong, and how good Europe is at solving its problems.”
‘We are not supporting an agreement without knowing the pitfalls… but this is an unprecedented step’ – Joseph Muscat on Libya migration plan'No silver bullet to tackle migration problem''No silver bullet to tackle migration problem'Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has described a migration plan to stem the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe as “level-headed”.This morning, the 28 EU leaders agreed to roll out a €200 million migration plan whereby the EU would support Libya in controlling its borders, provide training and assistance in refugee camps where dire conditions have sparked concerns among human rights organisations.The EU claims that its actions will reduce migratory flows and break the business model of smugglers, by working with Libya as the main country of departure.The plan includes training and support to the Libyan national coats guard for the interception of migrant boats, in collaboration with the EU’s Operation Sophia.“I think that this is the first time that the EU leaders reached a consensus without delaying the meeting… it’s an important progress which shows our unity.“It also shows that we can tackle migration from a level-headed point of view. It’s not a black and white issue but there can be sensible ways how we can move ahead.”But Libya is far from being a stable country and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) doesn’t hold effective control over all factions.“There is no silver bullet so it’s not a question that with one decision you solve everything,” he said, referring to the Libya agreement signed with Italy. “The Libyan authorities are asking for assistance in monitoring their borders and in managing their camps where refugees and migrants are kept.”There is going to be direct engagement with the tribes in the south of Libya, Muscat said, who during the peak season of migration can rake in between €5 million to €6 million per week working with criminals.“Only time will tell if this can be enough,” he added.The Maltese Prime Minister said the Libyan government has acknowledged that it needed to strengthen national dialogue, including with the General of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.“We are not supporting an agreement without knowing the pitfalls. But this is a step, an unprecedented first step.”Muscat said that, only today, 12 smuggling boats left the coast of Libya with asylum seekers; two days ago, 1,400 people were rescued by the Italian navy.“The next phase is to create humanitarian corridors to making it possible for people to come to Europe without crossing one of the most dangerous seas in the world.”Addressing a joint press conference with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Muscat reiterated that the Libyan situation “was not an excuse not to engage”.“To the contrary, it means we need to do more.”The trio was reluctant to express their opinion on who was worse for the European Union between US President Donald Trump and Russia President Vladimir Putin.During the working lunch, the EU28 discussed the US administration, which Tusk had earlier described as an “external threat” to the bloc.“There was concern amongst the EU28 on some decisions taken by the new administration and on some attitudes being adopted… but there was no sense of anti-Americanism.”Muscat said that the EU needed to engage with the US, whilst showing that they would not remain silent where principles are being trampled on.But when asked a pointed question and who was the worse threat for the EU, Muscat and Tusk opted for a diplomatic reply… whilst Juncker jokingly raised a finger to say “me”.“The biggest threat is if we don’t acknowledge that we’re living in historic times and that we need to get out act together.”Expressing the same sentiment, Tusk said the EU leaders needed to unite to address the challenges facing the EU: “It can become a real threat if we don’t stand united.”
Italy and EU pledge finance for migrant camps in LibyaItaly and the European Union have pledged to finance migrant camps in Libya run by the U.N.-backed government, an agreement showed on Friday, as part of a wider European Union drive to stem immigration from Africa. But the U.N. refugee agency said running camps where migrants and refugees are detained in Libya would mean forcing them to live in poor conditions and would put them further risk of abuse. In 2016, some 4,500 are estimated to have perished attempting to cross from North Africa to Italy. Italy would provide training to camp personnel, medicine and medical supplies for the migrants, it said. "Running camps in Libya would mean keeping migrants in inhumane conditions and putting them further at risk," Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told Reuters.
EU leaders want to process asylum seekers inside Libya in €200 million pledge that includes action on southern Libyan bordersEuropean Union leaders have agreed on a Malta plan to forge ahead with a €200 million package that includes stopping refugee boats from Libya and intensifying defence operations on the south of the Libyan land border.In what is now being known as the 'Malta Declaration' the EU said it was determined to act “in full respect of human rights, international law and European values” together with UNHCR and IOM, as NGOs and unions warned leaders that stopping migrants in a Turkey-style agreement with Libya would breach international human rights.In 2016, arrivals decreased to one-third of the levels in 2015. On the Central Mediterranean route, however, over 181,000 arrivals were detected in 2016, while the number of persons dead or missing at sea has reached a new record every year since 2013.The EU claims that its actions will reduce migratory flows and break the business model of smugglers.The plan includes training and support to the Libyan national coats guard for the interception of migrant boats, in collaboration with the EU’s Operation Sophia.The EU wants an “integrated” approach between Libya and Europol, military operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy, and the European Border and Coast Guard.Inside Libya, the EU said it wants to “enhance border management capacity”, track alternative smuggling routes, and through the Italian agreement with Libya sighed yesterday, introduce “better operational cooperation with Member States and the European Border and Coast Guard on preventing departures and managing returns.”The EU will also pay local communities on Libyan coasts and other land borders which are involved in trafficking, “to improve their socio-economic situation and enhance their resilience as host communities.”At the same time as preventing migrant crossings, asylum seekers will be process inside Libya, for which the EU says it will “ensure” adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya “together with the UNHCR and IOM”; and step up assisted voluntary returns.The EU wants to carry out information campaigns at migrants in Libya and countries of origin and transit, to encourage them not to make the crossing.In line with the Valletta Action Plan, the EU will increase migration funding within the €31 billion Official Development Assistance for Africa, which includes €1.8 billion funded by the EU budget and €152 million from Member States’ contributions.“We agree to act determinedly and speedily to achieve the objectives set out in this Declaration,” the Council said.The European Council will review progress on the overall approach at its meetings in March and in June on the basis of a report from the Maltese Presidency.
EU leaders want to close down that route across the central Mediterranean through naval and economic assistance to the beleaguered government in Libya. Under the plan approved Friday, the EU will provide an additional 200 million euros ($215 million) for migration-related projects in Libya. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told reporters the aim of Europe is to “decrease loss of life at sea and in the desert” of southern Libya along smugglers’ routes. Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni has said the Libyan-Italian deal calls for EU economic assistance to improve Libyan lives. Serraj was in Brussels during the Malta summit trying to lock in EU support he can use to bolster his beleaguered position at home.
EU leaders are gathering in Malta today for a council meeting which will involve talks on Libya today. The EU announced last week it was pouring money into processing camps in North Africa as the European migrant crisis continues. Now European leaders will congregate in Malta today to try to understand the full scale of the migrant crisis and demand action. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced a record 181,000 migrants used the Mediterranean Sea to access Europe last year. And Germany has tightened laws to be able to return criminals as well as halting immigration of family members.
The European Commission initially appeared to shoot it down, but it seems like the plan is still gaining support.“We are looking for a solution so that we can prevent illegal human trafficking. But agreeing a deal with Libya worries human rights organisations, given that the North African country is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees. "In this context, we will also discuss the future new asylum system in Europe," Merkel said.Also on the agenda is Donald Trump and the new US administration with several EU leaders admitting being wary of the American president.UK Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to brief her colleagues on her visit to Washington. Her arguments will echo the rationale behind Trump's criticism.Mogherini told reporters that the EU remained “friends” with the American administration: “To differ is normal among friends… but we have clear priorities. We do not believe in walls.”
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (R) and his Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Sarraj shake hands after signing a bilateral agreement during a meeting at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy February 2, 2017. Medecins Sans Frontieres, which works on the ground, said the summit proved EU leaders were "delusional" about Libya. On Thursday, Seraj signed an agreement with Italy, which offered 200 million euros ($215 million) of its own. Many EU governments are skeptical that the latest measures can have much effect on migration. Some European leaders disapprove of May's rush to embrace Trump, although some, notably in the east, have endorsed his tough line against Muslim immigration.
EU president Donald Tusk said after talks with Fayez Serraj 'it is time to close the (migrant) route from Libya to Italy'Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni and Libyan counterpart Fayez al-Serraj yesterday announced they had signed a memorandum of understanding to combat illegal migration and human trafficking in the Mediterranean.As EU leaders meet in Malta for a summit under the Maltese presidency, European Council President Donald Tusk said that the goal of stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy was “within reach” under the new deal.Tusk said after talks with Serraj, that “it is time to close the (migrant) route from Libya to Italy” and that “the EU has shown it is able to close the routes of irregular migration, as it has done in the eastern Mediterranean.”Tusk said the Central Mediterranean route, which is yet to pick up ahead of the spring season, was “not sustainable either for the EU or for Libya”, where he said traffickers were undermining the Libyan state’s authority for their profit.Serraj’s embattled administration in Tripoli has so far been unable to contain warring factions in Libya, led by militias, Islamists and the army of renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who enjoys Russian support.Malta’s human rights NGOs have however called on the European Commission to refrain from taking action on the Maltese presidency’s plans for a €200 million migration plan that has proposed the suspension of the key humanitarian principle of non-refoulement.“Anything short of an absolute and clear non-engagement will inevitably result in complicity in flouting the Union’s values and making these Europe’s darkest day,” the NGOs said in a stark warning over the Maltese plan.The Maltese government has suggested a way of bypassing non-refoulement in times of “international crisis” in a bid to stem the migration flow from Libya.
It is therefore with extreme repulsion that the undersigned Maltese non-governmental organisations read of Malta’s appeal to brush this value aside. Conditions for refugees in Libya would be much worse than in Turkey. Obliging refugees to stay in Libya would be in disregard of the EU’s international obligations and humanitarian duty. Closing the Mediterranean route merely shifts the burden of responsibility even more onto Africa, and does nothing to address the root causes. "Any major financial capital outlay by EU to address the refugee tragedy, should remain and be recirculated in Europe.
It explained that the sale was not concluded and it had therefore invoiced the defendant company for the 331 hours of work performed, at the contractually agreed rate of €100 per hour. VAT at 18% accounted for the remaining €5,958.As MHMC and its representatives had never appeared in court to contest the case, the court upheld the claim.According to documents submitted in court, legal representation of MHMC is vested in Syed Imranullah and Irfan Iqbal, both US citizens. In May 2015, the company opened subsidiaries Vitals Global Healthcare, Vitals Global Healthcare Management, and Vitals Global Healthcare AssetsBut with Shaukat Ali Chaudry’s own Malta company – Pivot Holdings – Bluestone also opened Crossrange Holdings, a company that owns Gozo International Medicare, and Gozo Global Healthcare. Vitals Global Healthcare will be refurbishing and expanding the Gozo general hospital, as well as the Karen Grech and St Luke’s hospitals to provide beds for both Maltese patients as well as paying foreign patients. However this has not placed any burden whatsoever on the local operations of the Group.”Additional reporting by Matthew Vella
Doctors and scientists denounce Trumps immigration order Dozens of medical and scientific groups, universities and advocacy organizations have piled on to protest President Donald Trump's immigration order. Trump's executive order bars Syrian refugees from coming to the United States and stops resettlement work for at least four months. Separately, the heads of the Departments of Medicine at seven top medical centers called the immigration order a step backward. They include the American Society for Hematology, American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, the Association of American Cancer Institutes and the American Society for Radiation Oncology. For Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology, it's personal.
Ambassador Kathleen Hill insists US President Donald Trump cares about refugees, but wants to see thorough vetting in placeThere should be no marked changes in bilateral relations between Malta and the United States under US President Donald Trump, even if he is “out of the norm when compared to previous presidents”, the US Ambassador to Malta, G. Kathleen Hill, said on Thursday.The Ambassador, who appeared on Saviour Balzan’s current affairs programme Xtra, aired on TVM, said that – from her experience – such relations hardly ever changed upon the election of a new president, although the order of priorities could be different.Confronted with European Commission president Donald Tusk’s claim – that the “worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable” – Hill said that Donald Trump has only been president for two weeks and was still putting his team together.She said the US’s top foreign policy was national security, as evidenced by some of the executive orders President Trump has signed since taking office on 20 January.On trade, Hill said that people needed to realise that many Americans voted for Trump because they were worried about trade agreements that had been signed previously.“Donald Trump has taken us out of the TPP (trans-Pacific Partnership deal put together by the previous president, Barack Obama) and has said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA,” she said.As to the resurgence of defunct industries like steel, Hill said the US had a lot of options on the table to consider.With reference to matters close to Malta, the ambassador said that new suspension of visas for Libya was only a temporary measure for 90 days.She pointed out that visas for officials, including Libyan government officials and UN representatives, were still being processed.“The US has committed to seeing Libya become a viable state once again,” Hill said. “But the primary focus of the US in Libya remains ISIL (ISIS) and is still focused on counter-ISIL efforts.”On refugees, she said the Trump administration was still evaluating its refugee policy, although the President had already announced the country would be accepting 50,000 refugees in 2017.“Donald Trump cares about refugees, but wants to ensure that the US is vetting anyone coming into country as thoroughly as possible,” Hill said. “You need to let the administration work these things out.”She also said that although the Trump administration had not yet established an environmental policy, they do have plans for the protection of the environment.And in a final comment on the media, and the emergence of new buzzwords like ‘fake news’ and alternative truth’, Hill said the US was facing a change in its capital, Washington D.C.“Donald Trump is out of the norm compared to other presidents we had, having no previous political background,” she said. “And the news media is also still figuring out how cover this new president.”
(Photo: Emilio Morenatti, AP file)VALLETTA, Malta (AP) — European Union leaders are poised to take a big step on Friday in closing off the illegal migration route from Libya across the central Mediterranean, where thousands have died trying to reach the EU, the EU chief said. EU Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday the EU summit would pave the way for humanitarian action to save lives of poor people with no chance to stay on in Europe. Last year, 5,083 people died in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the International Organization for Migration. Beyond Libya, EU investment to counter people from leaving Africa would have to be extended over a big swathe of nations from Ethiopia to Nigeria, making for a very costly arrangement. In Turkey, EU committed 3 billion euros through to the end of the year to help the mostly Syrian refugees there.