Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others: Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power, Reuters reported.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Monday, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”.
They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
The US and French embassies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.
A US State Department spokesperson said it was aware of the reports and was seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Russia might put strategic nukes in Belarus, leader says
Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country intended to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus, AP reported.
The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the nation address would pose an even greater threat, if Moscow moves them to the territory of its neighbor and ally.
Belarus was a staging ground for amassing Russian troops before the invasion of Ukraine a little over 13 months ago. Lukashenko, the only person to have served as president since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, delivered his annual address amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Both he and Putin have alleged that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.
“Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside,” the Belarusian leader said. “We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”
Earlier in the address, Lukashenko called for a cease-fire in Ukraine.
A truce must be announced without any preconditions, and all movement of troops and weapons must be halted, he said.
Belarus and Russia have intensified their cooperation since the start of the Ukraine war. The Russian military has used its troops and missiles stationed in Belarus, although no Belarusian troops have participated in the fighting.
Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan all relinquished nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under the so-called Budapest Memorandum that accompanied giving up the weapons, Russia, the United States and Britain agreed to respect the territorial integrity of those countries.
Ukraine has repeatedly complained that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the 2022 invasion violate that agreement.
Lukashenko said Friday that he did not want to lose his country’s nuclear weapons but was pressured into doing so by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Fire on Philippine ferry kills 29, including children; 225 rescued
Philippine rescuers searched the smouldering ruins of a burnt-out ferry on Thursday for any survivors or more victims of a fire that swept through the inter-island vessel killing 29 people, including a 6-month old baby, Reuters quoted authorities said.
Investigators have yet to identify the cause of the fire that started at about 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday off the southern island of Basilan, when many passengers were asleep in air-conditioned cabins on the ferry’s lower deck.
“I thought I was dreaming but when I opened my eyes it was dark and we were surrounded by smoke,” Mina Nani, 46, a passenger on the MV Lady Mary Joy 3, told DZRH radio.
She said she survived by jumping off the vessel and sharing a floatation device with another passenger until they were rescued.
There were conflicting figures of the number of people on the ferry, which officials said was not overloaded. The coast guard said 225 people including 36 crew were rescued, read the report.
Eleven people, including three children, drowned after jumping off the burning ship, while 18 died in the blaze on board, Governor Hadjiman Hataman Salliman told DZRH.
“We have yet to explore the entire ship because it’s still hot,” Salliman said of the beached vessel.
Commodore Rejard Marfe, coast guard chief in the Mindanao region, told Reuters there was “chaos” after the spreading fire roused people from their sleep and the 18 victims found onboard were “totally burnt”.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many ageing ships in use, Reuters reported.
In May, at least seven people died in a fire on a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.
In 1987, about 5,000 people died in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island south of the capital, Manila.
Fire during protest at migrant center kills 38 in Mexico, officials say
At least 38 migrants from Central and South America died after a fire broke out late on Monday at a migrant detention center in the Mexican northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, apparently caused by a protest over deportations, officials said Tuesday.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute lowered the death toll on Tuesday evening to 38 from 40, saying a visit to the city’s hospitals where victims were being treated had confirmed the lower number, Reuters reported.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said authorities believed the blaze in the city opposite El Paso, Texas, broke out around 9:30 p.m. local time (0330 GMT) as some migrants set fire to mattresses in protest after discovering they would be deported. He did not provide more details about how so many had died in the incident.
“They didn’t think that would cause this terrible tragedy,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference, noting that most migrants at the facility were from Central America and Venezuela.
The fire, one of the deadliest migrant tragedies in years, occurred as the United States and Mexico are battling to cope with record levels of border crossings at their shared frontier, read the report.
A video shared on social media, which appears to be security footage from within the center, shows a flame in part of a cell which is filling up with smoke as men kick desperately on the bars of a locked door.
In the 30-second video, three people in what appear to be official uniforms walk past but make no attempt to open the door. By the end of the video the smoke is so thick the cell can no longer be seen, read the report.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the video. Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez in an interview broadcast on local media appeared to confirm its veracity saying the government had the video since shortly after the incident, without commenting in any detail on its content.
Alejandra Corona, a representative of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which visits the facility once a week to monitor conditions, confirmed the video showed the men’s cell. The door the men were kicking on was the only exit, she said.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), which runs the center, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.
In a statement Tuesday evening, in which the INM revised down the death toll it listed the names of 68 men at the detention center, without clarifying who on the list had or had not survived.
Thirteen of the dead were Hondurans, according to the country’s deputy foreign minister.
A Reuters witness at the scene overnight saw bodies laid out on the ground in body bags behind a yellow security cordon, surrounded by emergency vehicles. The fire had been extinguished.
The migration institute said it was also providing assistance to 15 women who had been safely evacuated from the center when the fire started, read the report.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday evening he had been informed that those “directly responsible” had been turned over to the Attorney General’s office, which is investigating the incident. He provided no further details.
Two migrants told Reuters that authorities had rounded up migrants off the streets of Ciudad Juarez on Monday and detained them in the center.
Activists have frequently flagged concerns of poor conditions and overcrowding in detention centers as migration has risen.
“Last night’s events are a horrible example of why organizations have been working to limit or eliminate detention in Mexico,” said Gretchen Kuhner, director of the Mexico-based Institute for Women in Migration, which supports migrant rights.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement that the secretary-general called for a “thorough investigation” of the tragic event.
Mexico’s INM did not respond to a request for comment about when the Ciudad Juarez site was opened, or how many migration centers are currently in operation.
As of 2019, there were 53 INM detention centers operating across Mexico, according to a report from Mexico’s Human Rights Commission (CNDH), with a total official capacity of around 3000.
Viangly Infante, a Venezuelan national, had been waiting outside the center when the fire started.
“I was here since one in the afternoon waiting for the father of my children, and when 10 p.m. rolled around, smoke started coming out from everywhere,” the 31-year-old Venezuelan national told Reuters.
Her husband, 27-year-old Eduard Caraballo, was detained on Monday by Mexican migration authorities and put in a holding cell inside the facility.
He managed to survive by dousing himself in water and pressing against a door as the fire blazed, said Infante.
“His chest was really hurting, struggling to breathe because of all the smoke, but he wasn’t burnt,” said Infante of her husband, who is now in a hospital.
The couple and their three children left Venezuela last October in search of better economic opportunities and a good education for their kids, as well as to escape rampant crime.
By late December, they had reached the U.S. border and crossed into Eagle Pass, Texas, where they handed themselves over to U.S. migration authorities. But they were immediately returned to Mexico, where they then headed by bus to Ciudad Juarez.
Recent weeks have seen a buildup of migrants in Mexican border cities as authorities attempt to process asylum requests using a new U.S. government app known as CBP One, Reuters reported.
Many migrants feel the process is taking too long and earlier this month clashes occurred between U.S. security and hundreds of mostly Venezuelan migrants at the border after frustration welled up about securing asylum appointments.
Mexico’s migration law says migrants can only be detained for 15 days under normal circumstances, though the Supreme Court in March ruled that such lengths were unconstitutional, and that migrants should be held no longer than 36 hours.
In January, the Biden administration said it would expand Trump-era restrictions to rapidly expel Cuban, Nicaraguan and Haitian migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to contain the border flows.
That came after a decision in October to the expand expulsions, under a controversial policy known as Title 42, to Venezuelans.
At the same time, the United States said it would allow up to 30,000 people from those countries to enter the country by air each month, Reuters reported.
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