The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has charged the newly inaugurated board of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to ensure speedy completion of the deep blue sea project.
Amaechi, while inaugurating members of the board on Thursday in Abuja, said that the project, when completed, would eradicate insecurity challenges on the country’s waterways.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the board has as Chairman, Mr Honourable Asita, with Bashir Jamoh and Victor Ochei as members.
NAN reports that other members of the board are Chudi Offordile, Shehu Ahmed, Adekola Adefemi, Muhammed Abubakar, Hassan Mahmud, Eyewumi Neburagho and Rear Adm. Ibikunle Olaiya.
According to Amaechi, the deep blue sea project has been approved by the Federal Government, with over 60 per cent of its cost paid.`
”It is one project I have vowed to promote, inspite of all the interests, and there are too many interests fighting to stop it.
”Now, this board and the management is charged to go and complete that project.
”The Director-General NIMASA has reported in the past one or two weeks, several successful attempts at kidnapping people; they were kidnapped on our waterways and this project is geared toward stopping that.
”Where we are now is the local content of the project, in fact the gentlemen have virtually supplied almost everything for the project.
”I plead with you, so we do not become agents of those who don’t want this to succeed. I am sure we will be able to solve the insecurity problem if this is completed.
”So, you have the responsibility to discharge that quickly and discharge it according to law,” he said.
Amaechi said the success of NIMASA to a great extent would be dependent on the success of the deep blue sea project.
He, therefore, urged the management to work with the board to ensure the success of the project, which would ensure safety of the country’s waterways, a core mandate of the agency.
“Go and work together. Let the board know that there is a difference between board and management. Board initiates policies and management executes policies,’’ he said.
Responding on behalf of members of the board, Asita commended President Muhammadu Buhari for giving the members the opportunity to serve the country, pledging their commitment to deliver on their mandate.
”I have had cause to express some concerns to you before the inauguration about the insecurity on our waterways.
” I have also had cause to interact with members of the board and have had a few meetings with the Director-General of the agency.
”I want to assure you that we will work together peacefully, harmoniously, knowing the responsibilities of the board and management, and we will work together peacefully to deliver on our mandate.
”We are lucky to have a team of very competent eminent Nigerians as members of the management team of NIMASA.
”So, with the support of members of the board, I assure you that we will take the assignment you have given us very seriously and on behalf of the board, I want to thank you for the honour bestowed on us.
“If we must trade as a country, we need the waterways to be safe, so we thank you for this opportunity and assure you that we will deliver on the mandate,’’ Asita said.
Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)
China-Thailand railway agreement likely be signed in October: Thai transport minister
The “Contract 2.3” for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima high-speed railway between Thailand and China is likely to be signed in October, said Thai Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob on Monday.
The minister said the Thai and Chinese team had agreed that the contract, estimated at 50.6 billion baht (1.58 billion U.S. dollars), involves the cost of purchasing track, electricity systems and machinery, as well as procurement of train carriages and training.
Under the contract, 80 percent of the payment will be made in the U.S. currency and the remaining 20 percent in Thai baht.
There is a total of 14 contracts involved in the 253-km rail route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in the Northeast as a part of the Sino-Thai high-speed train project, linking Bangkok to Nong Khai, bordering Laos.
The minister said that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the signing ceremony at the Government House, and according to the plan, the first 253-km leg of the railway will commence service in year 2023.
Cameroonian minister warns of “complicated phase” as COVID-19 cases soar
Cameroon’s heath minister Manaouda Malachie has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is entering a “complicated phase” in the country, calling for strict respect of social distancing measures to curb its spread.
“It is important to note that we are entering a complicated phase of the pandemic,” Manaouda said in a tweet early Monday. “More than ever, we must protect ourselves, protect our families and protect others by observing barrier measures. Wear a mask when going out and wash your hands regularly.”
The warning came as the country’s new cases of COVID-19 continued to rise lately.
Cameroon reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 6, an imported case from Europe, and has since March 18 closed national borders, schools and applied social distancing.
So far, Cameroon has reported 4,890 confirmed cases. The tally nearly doubled in half a month.
Foreign ministers recommit to German-Russian cultural cooperation
German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Monday recommitted their countries to closer cultural cooperation at the opening of an annual conference held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a welcome speech read out online to mark the start of the 23rd Potsdam Meeting, a German-Russian discussion forum, Maas said he hoped the pandemic would help the two countries pursue a positive agenda.
“We should not draw back from our joint responsibility at this point.
“The coronavirus pandemic will, in the immediate future, be one of the most important factors in developing joint approaches in foreign policy in the global economy to boost cooperation between countries,’’ Lavrov said.
He added that Germany and Russia would focus on the leading role of their countries in a rapidly changing world.
The Potsdam Meetings, set up by the German-Russian Forum in 1999, run parallel to the Petersburg Dialogue, established in 2001.
Report says the forums aim to promote understanding between German and Russian civil societies.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye (NAN)
Gov’t support to virus-hit economy amounts to 450 bln euros: French minister
French government’s rescue measures to limit coronavirus economic fallout and inject dynamism into economic activities have cost 450 billion euros (490.6 billion U.S. dollars), Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday.
“If we take everything that has been done with the budget and in support of businesses’ cash flows, it’s 450 billion euros — 20 percent of the nation’s wealth on the table to save our economy, our enterprises,” Le Maire told BFM TV.
The coronavirus epidemic has forced companies to shut down, plants to halt production, aircraft to ground and millions of people to be put under strict lockdown, triggering the country’s worst economic crisis since the World War II.
To help mitigate the impact, the government has launched a range of measures including state-guaranteed loans, tax relief, specific support plans to worst-hit sectors such as tourism and auto industry, and state-subsidized partial unemployment scheme.
While reining in high spending that pushed up the budget deficit to 9 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), the highest since 1940s, the government eyes repaying billion-worth coronavirus-linked expenditure thanks to boosted growth.
“The question is, when should we repay the loans? Not now. We must not make the same mistakes as after the 2009 crisis: revive the economy and at the same time immediately reduce public spending,” the minister said.
“The time will come when we will have to reimburse and this will be done through growth, it is our strategic choice. We must develop and modernize the industry, cross a technological course and find room for maneuver that will allow us to repay,” he added.
The French government expected the GDP to shrink by 8 percent and public debt to hit 115 percent of the GDP this year. (1 euro = 1.09 U.S. dollars)
Spanish minister invites foreign tourists to start booking holidays
Spanish Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Reyes Maroto on Monday issued an invitation for foreign tourists to start booking holidays in Spain from July as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on radio station Onda Cero, Maroto said it was “perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July.”
She said that once Spain ends the State of Alarm, which limits freedom of movement into and around the country (it will currently last until June 7) and the accompanying quarantine measures which have also been imposed on foreign visitors, “tourists will be allowed back into Spain.”
Spain was the second most popular tourist destination in the world in 2019, with just under 84 million visitors providing around 12 percent of the country’s GDP. The minister said she hoped saving at least part of the tourist season would help alleviate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.
“If we work as we have done in the past two years to strengthen the trademark and train workers in the sector, we are going to be able to save some of the summer… I am convinced the sector will help us out of the social and economic crisis,” she said.
“People can plan their holidays. We will guarantee tourists will not be at risk and will not present a risk to us either… I want to announce there will be a tourist season. I publically invite all of the establishments at the beach and in the interior to prepare to renew their activity in the coming days,” said Sanchez in a televised speech.
British Flairjet to pay N1m penalty for airport violation, says Minister
FlairJet, a British private charter company, which is also an affiliate of Flexjet, is to pay one million naira for violating COVID-19 airport directives in Nigeria.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure on Sunday via his verified twitter handle.
“The maximum penalty for each is N500, 000.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the company was recently authorised to conduct humanitarian flights but was caught operating commercial flights.
Only passenger flights, which evacuate people or repatriate Nigerian citizens are currently allowed to operate as all airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until at least June 4.
However, flights for essential services, such as delivery of food supplies and items for humanitarian use are allowed to operate.
Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Silas Nwoha (NAN)
Indian government to decide IPL’s fate, not cricket board —– Minister
“In India the government has to take a call and it will be depending on the situation of the pandemic, how we progress as a nation,” Rijiju said.
The T20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in Australia during those months.
It was scheduled to start at the end of March but was indefinitely postponed because of the pandemic.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi) (NAN)
Eid-el-Fitr: FCT minister urges Muslims to intensify prayers for end to COVID-19
Bello gave the advice in his Sallah message to FCT residents which was made available to newsmen on Saturday in Abuja.
“On behalf of the FCT Administration I wish to congratulate Muslim faithful across the Territory for the successful completion of the Ramadan fast and wish them a pleasant and joyous Eid-el-Fitr celebration.
“While the Holy month of Ramadan was no doubt used to pray fervently for the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative consequences on the society, I must urge the Muslim Ummah not to relent in their prayers but rather intensify them even after Ramadan.
“Because in times of tribulations, true supplications to the Almighty indeed yield positive results,” Bello said.
The minister also used the occasion to express his appreciation on behalf of the FCTA and all residents of the FCT to the health and other essential workers in the frontline of the battle against the Coronavirus disease.
He praised health workers for their dedication to duty and the sacrifices they were making in ensuring that there was no dramatic spike in the number of positive cases in the FCT and keeping the numbers within manageable limits.
Bello also thanked individuals, corporate, religious and Non-governmental organisations as well as some government establishments for their contributions in the provision of medical equipment, facilities and palliatives for the less privileged.
He said their generosity underscored the significance of the FCT as Nigeria’s centre of unity.
The minister also advised residents that while enjoying the festivities, they should obey all laid down protocols of hand washing, face covering, staying at home and physical distancing.
He reminded residents that the measures were put in place for the safety and wellbeing of everyone.
“Remember that COVID-19 is not a death sentence and there is the need to avoid stigmatising anyone who has been infected.
“Defeating it will require the cooperation and collaboration of all,” he said.
Bello wished the residents a happy Eid-el-Fitr celebration and encouraged them to enjoy the festivities from the safety of their homes.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Donald Ugwu (NAN)
India’s aviation minister says to try to resume int’l flights before August
India’s federal aviation minister Hardeep Puri Saturday said the country would try to resume international passenger flights before August.
“We will try to start good percentage of international passenger flights before August,” Puri said during a session on facebook.
The domestic flights in India are going to be resumed from May 25 in a “calibrated manner.”
The federal ministry of civil aviation Thursday issued new rules for people intending to avail domestic flight services.
The guidelines include mandatory thermal screening before entering airport terminals, use of face masks for the entire journey and downloading Aarogya Setu app on mobile phones, before commencing their journey.
Aarogya Setu is an Indian COVID-19 tracking mobile application developed by government of India.
On Friday Tamil Nadu government amid a spurt in the number of cases appealed to the federal government to rethink its decision on resumption of flights.
Presently, a ban is in force on domestic and international flight operations. However, international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by Directorate General of Civil Aviation are exempted from the restrictions.
Myanmar’s former regional chief minister jailed for 30 years over graft cases
Myanmar’s former Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister Daw Lei Lei Maw was sentenced to a 30-year imprisonment in connection with four graft cases which violated the Anti-Corruption Law, an official of the regional court told Xinhua on Friday.
“She can apply for an appeal within 90 days,” said Daw Aye Aye Than, chief officer of justice of Tanintharyi Region Court.
The female chief minister who relieved of her duty in March last year, was arrested and charged with corruption, along with three local company officials after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed cases against her under Article 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law.
Lei Lei Maw is the first chief minister to be charged with corruption since the incumbent government, led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), took power in 2016.
According to the commission’s findings, she had been abusing her position as the regional chief minister and committed corruption since April 2016.
In October 2018, she was found to allocate 1.9 billion kyats of the regional government funds to the Road Management Department under the Construction Ministry, contradictory to the budgetary management rules set by the government and failed to pay the department for building fences for two compounds owned by her husband until when the commission started investigations.
It was also found that she abused her position in granting a number of projects to a local company F-22 Sunny Construction Co., Ltd, including construction of a pavilion for traditional Thingyan Water Festival and a costly mowing contract near Dawei Airport worth 400 million kyats (285,714 U.S. dollars) without undergoing any tender process or holding a government meeting for approval of the project in 2016, the ACC’s report said.
For third case, the former regional chief minister favored the Global Grand Services (GGS) in a joint venture contract for electricity generation between the company and the regional government and the Electricity and Energy Ministry had to pay 8 billion kyats (5.7 million U.S. dollars) leaving the loss of the state money as the company failed to pay the money to the government in 2017.
The commission’s investigation also discovered that Lei Lei Maw sold her two-storey house to the GGS company at a much higher price in exchange for granting the company permission for construction projects.
The managing director and director of the GGS were sentenced to 10-year imprisonment each while a manager of the company received a five-year imprisonment for involvement in two cases.
A house in Thayetchaung township owned by the former chief minister was confiscated by the regional court and declared it as a state property on Friday.
Myanmar signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2012 and its Anti-Corruption Law took effect in September 2013.
Japan’s Abe, justice minister under pressure as top prosecutor quits for gambling
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Justice Minister Masako Mori came under pressure from opposition party members Friday to take account for a scandal involving Japan’s second-highest ranking prosecutor gambling during the the coronavirus state of emergency.
The pair have also come under fire for Hiromu Kurokawa, former head of the Tokyo High Public Prosecutors Office, allegedly favored by Abe and his administration, being allowed to stay in his post beyond the retirement age for prosecutors.
“I have been entrusted with stopping the spread of coronavirus, and protecting the health and lives of the people as well as employment and businesses,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, having said he has no plans to step down to account for the scandals.
“It will be a very difficult road ahead, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there can’t be a delay in implementing judicial policy,” Mori, for her part, told a press briefing on the matter, having sough the opinion of Abe who supported her staying on in her role.
The opposition camp, however, have accused the pair of not assuming their political responsibility over the ordeals.
Jun Azumi, from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said that neither Abe nor Mori had “assumed political responsibility at all.”
Kurokawa’s resignation was formally approved by the Cabinet on Friday, a day after he tendered his resignation after admitting he played mahjong for money with reporters on multiple occasions during the coronavirus state of emergency.
The senior prosecutor played mahjong on May 1 and May 13 for money with two reporters working for the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and an employee from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, according to a scoop carried in the online edition of the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday, prior to the print version being released the following day.
Reports claim that Kurokawa played mahjong a total of four times with the reporters after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency for Tokyo and several other prefectures on April 7.
The emergency period was then expanded to the whole country and officially extended to the end of May. It is still effective for Tokyo and neighboring regions as well as Hokkaido, with social distancing measures still in place, as well as stay-at-home requests, to further curb the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus.
Mori described Kurokawa’s actions as being “truly inappropriate and extremely regrettable.” She added that he had been formally admonished for his wrongdoing.
Kurokawa, for his part, said in a statement that he was “deeply reflecting on his thoughtless actions.”
Kurokawa hit the headlines in January when the Cabinet permitted him to remain in his post despite having reaching the retirement age of 63 for prosecutors.
Amid criticism of his tenure being extended past the retirement age, a possible breach of the law regarding the Public Prosecutors Office, the government along with the ruling coalition set about trying to push legislation to revise the law to raise the retirement age for prosecutors to 65.
The controversial move, seen as favoritism towards Kurokawa as it would allow him to at some point become the nation’s highest ranking prosecutor, was met with a harsh backlash of condemnation from opposition parties and the public.
On Monday, Abe decided to postpone the seeking of passage of the contentious bill aimed at extending the retirement age of public prosecutors.
Many opposed to the bill believe the move would have led to the undermining of the independence of prosecutors and could lead to the partisan appointment of personnel being made by the government.
The Japanese hashtag meaning “I oppose the revision of the public prosecutors office law” began trending on Twitter from May 8 and has attracted wide swathes of public support as well as increasing support from influential celebrities.
As for Kurokawa’s gambling gaffe leading to his wish to resign, the former top prosecutor could be facing criminal charges and slapped with a fine of up to 500,000 yen (4,600 U.S. dollars), as Japanese law prohibits unauthorized gambling.
Eid-el-Fitri: Minister tasks Muslims on COVID-19
Sen. Tayo Alasoadura, the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, on Friday urged Muslim faithful to strictly adhere to instructions issued by health professionals on COVID 19 as they celebrate the Eid-el-Fitri
The minister’s plea was contained in a statement issued in Akure by his media aide, Mr Dayo Joseph.
He also appealed to Muslim faithful to sustain the lessons of the Ramadan and replicate them in their daily lives for a better society.
The minister, who stressed the need for peace, unity and tolerance among the diverse people of the country, advised Muslim faithful to extend support to the needy.
”I urge the Muslim ummah to continue with the lessons imbibed during Ramadan, especially the values of good neghbourliness, dedication, self-discipline and patriotism exhibited during the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.
Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)
Madrid to ease lockdown restrictions next Monday: health minister
Madrid, the Spanish capital, will on Monday ease the lockdown restrictions imposed over two months ago to halt the spread of COVID-19, the country’s Health Minister Salvador Illa confirmed on Friday at a press conference.
Illa thanked the different regional authorities for their “magnificent work over the past weeks.”
The Madrid region has finally been allowed to progress after the Health Ministry had previously concluded twice that the region’s health system didn’t meet the requirements for easing lockdown measures.
After 10 weeks of virtual lockdown, ‘Madrilenos’ will be able to enjoy a drink at outside terraces, which can open at 50 percent of their capacity, and to move around the region to visit family members without restrictions.
Meetings of up to 10 people will also be allowed, while places of worship may open at 30 percent of their capacity and up to 15 people can attend a funeral. The city’s main parks will also be reopened.
The urban regions of the Autonomous Community of Castilla-Leon will also move to the next phase on Monday as will Barcelona and its metropolitan area.
While Madrid and Barcelona move into Phase 1, every other Autonomous Community in Spain, with the exception of the Comunidad Valenciana in eastern Spain and some provinces of Catalonia and Aragon in northeast Spain, has been allowed to progress from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
Phase 2 sees a further lifting of restrictions with no time limits on when people can take exercise outside, while bars and restaurants can open their indoor areas at 30 percent capacity. Commercial centers, cinemas and theaters are also permitted to re-open, although they too have their capacity limited to 33 percent for cinemas and theaters and 40 percent for shopping centers.
On Thursday, the ministry confirmed 48 COVID-19 deaths in the previous 24 hours, which brought the the county’s toll to 27,940.
COVID-19 may increase school drop-outs, girl-child enrolment – Minister
Tallen expressed her concern on Friday while flagging off the 2020 National Children’s Day celebration, themed: “Promoting Girl-Child Education for Sustainable Development’’, in Abuja.
“As we are all aware, the country is already facing the struggle of getting the girl-child enrolled and retained in school, the COVID-19 pandemic has a high tendency to set us back as the likelihood for increased school drop-out rates of those already enrolled.
“These issues will further widen the gender gaps in education and lead to increase in all forms of violence such as sexual, physical and emotional exploitation, early and forced marriages, child trafficking and child labour,” she said.
The minister, therefore, appealed to parents to ensure their children returned to school as soon as academic activities commenced, to bridge gender gaps in line with the SDGs 4.
She also expressed concerns over the plights of Almajiri children, who were subjected to inhumane conditions, calling on state governments to develop strategies that would address the situation.
“Apart from hunger and starvation, the Almajiris are saddled with the inhuman treatment of transporting them to their states of origin in trucks meant to convey cargo, the trauma of being rejected by their own state government is painful, shameful and unacceptable,’’ she said.
Tallen, however, appealed to the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) to bring the issues of Almajiri to a logical conclusion, as well as respect and protect their human rights by implementing the Child Rights Act in states yet to pass it into law.
In commemoration of the 2020 World Menstrual Health Day, the minister stressed the need to protect females from negative effects of poor menstrual health and hygiene management to enable them realise their full potentials and contribute to national development.
Ms Elizabeth Jeiyol, the National Coordinator, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), said the theme for the World Menstrual Hygiene Day, “Periods Don’t Stop for Pandemics’’ highlighted the difficulty of accessing menstrual products during the lockdown.
Jeiyol, therefore, reiterated the commitment of the council toward ensuring access to WASH facilities.
“We urge stakeholders to ensure that WASH facilities in schools and public spaces are made easier for women and girls to manage their menstrual hygiene and create awareness in removing stigma around menstruation,” said the coordinator.
The UNICEF Country Representative, Milen Kidane, reiterated their commitment toward providing services during the pandemic as well as ensuring that the Almajiri children transferred back to their states reunited with their families.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)
German health minister pushes for large-scale COVID-19 tests in hospitals, nursing homes
Preventive COVID-19 tests should be carried out in hospitals and nursing homes in Germany on a large scale, German Minister of Health Jens Spahn said on Friday.
“My goal is to present a regulation before the end of May that will enable preventive serial tests in hospitals and nursing homes,” Spahn told the German newspaper Die Welt on Friday. “When patients and residents are hospitalized or transferred, SARS-CoV-2 (or novel coronavirus) testing should be the norm.”
In the case of an infection in a facility, all staff, residents and patients should also be tested as a precautionary measure. Even symptom-free contacts of infected persons should have the right to be tested, Spahn added.
In the past few weeks, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had repeatedly pointed out that COVID-19 related deaths in Germany were likely to increase further as there were severe outbreaks of the disease in hospitals and nursing homes.
The risk to the health of German population was still high or even very high for risk groups such as the elderly, the RKI stressed in its daily situation report for Thursday.
Last week, the German parliament passed a law enabling the Ministry of Health to oblige statutory health insurance companies to pay for coronavirus tests, even if a person would not have any symptoms.
This decree would enable tests to be carried out on a “wider scale than previously possible,” said the ministry.
“Last week, 425,000 tests were carried out throughout Germany. But the test capacity is more than twice as large,” stressed Spahn.
German interior minister ‘disappointed’ over new EU Commission
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has expressed disappointment over the performance of the new European Commission with particular reference to migration.
Seehofer said this in an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine published on Friday.
“I was full of hope on the new European Commission. Today I am, to put it mildly, disappointed.
“I’m expected to worry about the rescues at sea and about the children in refugee camps in Greece. I’m expected to concern myself with a joint asylum policy.
“But these are all tasks for the EU,’’ Seehofer said.
The new European Commission under former German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen took office in December.
Seehofer expressed further disillusionment at the fact that the drive for a European investment programme to alleviate the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic had to come from Berlin and Paris, rather than Brussels.
The interior minister also showed little understanding for von der Leyen’s announcement of possible legal proceedings against Germany for breach of EU treaties.
With regard to the ruling at the beginning of May by the German Constitutional Court against government bond purchases by the European Central Bank (ECB).
“I’ve noticed that the EU raises treaty infringement proceedings and complaints against its member states unusually frequently.
“I would like to query how increased European unity is advanced by this means,’’ Seehofer said.
Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)
Maltese minister warns of more migrant arrivals in coming summer
Malta’s Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo on Thursday warned of more migrant arrivals in the coming summer, as Malta has seen 1,500 migrant arrivals so far this year.
Bartolo said in a televised statement on Thursday that “So far this year, 1,500 arrived in Malta which is half the total we had all last year. As summer approaches, there will be more arrivals as the situation in North Africa gets worse.”
Bartolo said that all Malta was asking for was support to deal with the migration problem, as it could not be expected to deal with the burden on its own.
“We will do our part on migration but it (Malta) will not and cannot become Europe’s crisis centre,” he said.
He explained that Malta’s centres for migrants were not only full but were operating with double number they were equipped to accommodate.
“One percent of the population in Malta are irregular migrants waiting to be processed. Since 2005, almost 9 percent came through irregular migration routes,” said the foreign minister, attributing the influx to the profitable activities of human traffickers and people smugglers.
He said the European migration problem is a collective responsibility and had to be addressed together.
“Words of sympathy are not enough. We need practical help by relocating migrants to other countries,” he said, adding that Malta was receiving very little solidarity, which was the value on which the European Union was built.
Cyclonic storm Amphan kills 72 in India’s West Bengal: chief minister
Chief Minister of India’s eastern state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, said on Thursday that 72 people were killed in her state due to the severe cyclonic storm Amphan.
“Seventy-two people were killed because of the cyclone here yesterday,” Banerjee told a press briefing. “The damage caused by Amphan is more than the coronavirus pandemic. I would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and visit cyclone Amphan-affected areas.”
The cyclonic storm triggering gusty winds up to 190 kmph and rain battered West Bengal and coastal Odisha on Wednesday evening, flattening makeshift houses and uprooting electric poles and trees.
“There have been casualties. I announce a compensation of 3,310 U.S. dollars (INR 250,000 to each family that lost a member in the cyclone,” she said.
Officials are yet to decide on the losses the state has suffered in the cyclone. However, Banerjee put the damages at around 13.20 billion U.S. dollars in the affected parts of state.
Earlier Modi said he would leave no stone unturned to help those affected by cyclonic storm Amphan in West Bengal and Odisha.
“Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal,” Modi said in a brief statement posted on social media. “Authorities are working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance to those affected.”
Reports said the cyclone has also killed five in the neighboring state of Odisha.
The deaths, according to officials in the two states, have been caused due to falling of trees, electric poles, failing structures and house collapses.
Authorities have rushed additional teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata.
Spanish minister warns against rapid reopening of tourism sector
Spain will be able to reopen its international tourism sector in July, Fourth Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera said Thursday, warning that allowing visitors to return sooner would be “irresponsible.”
“Our thought at the moment is that we will be able to work over safe destinations and countries of origin in July, rather than June,” said Ribera, who is also minister for ecological transition, in an interview on national TV network RTVE.
“We have to be very careful that whoever comes to Spain isn’t in danger and arrives at a safe destination, and also ensure they don’t pose a threat to the local people,” she said.
These measures have battered the country’s tourism sector, which accounts for over 11 percent of its gross domestic product, and has drawn complaints from hotel chains and travel agencies.
Shark deterrent technology among 77 projects funded by Australian Research Council: minister
Australian Education Minister Dan Tehan has announced funding for 77 research projects considered to be in the national interest.
Tehan on Thursday announced 35.1 million Australian dollars (23.1 million U.S. dollars) in Australian Research Council (ARC) grants.
The round of funding includes 751,260 Australian dollars (494,539 U.S. dollars) for University of Melbourne researchers to discover new ways to kill parasites that live in their host animal and 399,155 Australian dollars (262,756 U.S. dollars) for a Macquarie University project aiming to improve shark deterrent technology.
A team from the Queensland University of Technology was awarded 620,765 Australian dollars (408,638 U.S. dollars) for research into how a lack of access to technology impacts on low-income families’ education, parenting and employment.
“The research funded by our government will take place at universities around Australia covering a range of topics, from improving surf safety by investigating shark repellents to finding new ways to helping Australia’s farmers better manage their farms,” Tehan said in a statement.
“Our investment in research supports the development of long-term strategic research collaborations between university researchers and businesses, industry and community organizations to find solutions to problems and improve the lives of Australians.”