In Britain, LGBTQ Migrants Fear Being Sent To Rwanda

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Matt Dunham / POOL / AFP

 

 

As Britain pushes ahead with plans to send migrants to Rwanda, Hadi, a gay asylum-seeker who fled Iraq, said he would rather be sentenced to death.

Under a controversial law passed in April, the UK plans to send asylum-seekers deemed to have arrived illegally on British soil to Rwanda, an East African country 6,000 kilometres (3,728 miles) from London, starting in mid-June.

Sitting in a park in Manchester’s Gay Village, a neighbourhood in the heart of the northern English city, Hadi — not his real name — told AFP about his escape from persecution and rape attempts in Iraq.

He still bears the scars.

“I was hit on the arm and back and I lost consciousness because of the pain,” he said.

Hadi, who is in his twenties, sought asylum in Britain in January 2022 after crossing Europe from east to west.

When he heard about the plan to send migrants to Rwanda, he thought he was reliving his worst nightmares.

“We suffered and escaped death, we crossed the sea, all to be sent to Rwanda? Kill me or sentence me to death instead of sending me there,” he said.

He described the move as “unjust and criminal”, amounting to “a death sentence for all refugees” — and urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson and interior minister Priti Patel to abandon the plan.

Although homosexuality is not banned in Rwanda, LGBTQ people are frequently sacked from their jobs, disowned by their families, deprived of medical care and sometimes beaten up.

Britain’s interior ministry, the Home Office, admitted in a report to having “concerns” about the treatment of LGBTQ people in Rwanda.

– ‘Fear’ –
“Why do you want to deport them to Rwanda? So that they will be persecuted more?” said Aderonke Apata, who founded the NGO “The African Rainbow Family” and helps LGBTQ migrants integrate into British society.

Apata, herself a lesbian and former asylum-seeker, said Hadi “lives in fear every second”.

“He thought the UK respected gay rights… Now that he is there, he is suddenly faced with the prospect of being deported.”

She expressed fears there would be “no oversight of what’s happening… in detention”, and argued the monitoring mechanisms set to be put in place in Rwanda are not realistic.

“Here in the UK, personally, I had a homophobic attack when I was in detention,” she recalled.

“That was here in the UK. Now tell me, if people are now taken to Rwanda, who is going to protect them?

“For me, what the government is doing is a way of washing their hands of the conventions that guarantee human rights for refugees,” Apata added.

The government says its plan aims to deter the growing number of migrants making the perilous journey across the English Channel.

More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain having crossed the Channel from France in small boats in 2021, compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019, and 299 in 2018.

But the move has drawn strong criticism from human rights groups, which on Wednesday launched legal action to block it.

It is unclear when the first flight will be able to depart, given the court challenge.

UK Imposes Heavy Sanctions On Russian Imports, Including Vodka

 (Photo: AFP)

 

Britain on Tuesday imposed an additional 35 per cent tariff on a swathe of Russian imports, from vodka to steel, and banned exports of luxury goods over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We want to cause maximum harm to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine while minimising the impact on UK businesses,” the Department for International Trade said.

“Russian vodka is one of the iconic products affected by the tariff increases, while the export ban will likely affect luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art.”

The list of goods covered by the additional tariffs includes steel, wood, cereals, drinks, fur and whitefish — worth £900 million ($1.2 billion, 1.1 billion euros) a year.

“The export ban will come into force shortly and will make sure oligarchs and other members of the elite, who have grown rich under President Putin’s reign and support his illegal invasion, are deprived of access to luxury goods,” the DIT said.

Britain will deny Russia and its ally Belarus access to Most Favoured Nation tariffs under World Trade Organization rules.

“The UK is working with our international partners and is supporting the WTO to prevent those who fail to respect the rules-based international order from reaping its benefits,” it said.

“These tariffs build on the UK’s existing work to starve Russia’s access to international finance, sanction Putin’s cronies and exert maximum economic pressure on his regime,” said Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine almost three weeks ago, the UK has sanctioned more than 500 Russian individuals and entities.

That includes travel bans and asset freezes on 18 oligarchs with a combined worth of over £30 billion, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, as well as Putin himself and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

The UK has also severed ties with Russian banks, barred Russian planes and vessels and will phase out Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

AFP

UK Unemployment Falls Below Pre-Pandemic Level

UK To Boost African Partnership With £30m
UK Flag

 

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen below its pre-pandemic level, data showed Tuesday, but wages are eroding at the fastest pace in eight years as inflation soars.

The UK unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent in the three months to the end of January from 4.1 percent in the final quarter of last year, “returning to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Welcoming news that the number of unemployed fell to around 1.34 million people, finance minister Rishi Sunak added he was confident the labour market was in a “good position to deal with the current global challenges”.

There are worries that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, soaring global inflation and renewed Covid lockdowns in China will hamper the world’s economic recovery.

The ONS added that the number of UK workers on payrolls jumped 275,000 to a record-high 29.7 million in February.

Wages Hit

Wages, however, are being eroded with Britain experiencing the highest rate of annual inflation in almost 30 years.

Taking inflation into account, average pay excluding bonuses was down one percent in the quarter to the end of January.

“Bumper bonuses are skewing pay figures, so on initial glance everything in the jobs market looks rosy,” said Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“However, something far more worrying is lurking underneath the headline figures, because once you take inflation into account, pay excluding bonuses has fallen faster than at any time for almost eight years.”

The cost of living is set to soar further from April owing to a tax hike on UK workers and businesses plus increases in energy bills.

And the Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates for a third meeting in a row on Thursday to help bring down inflation.

“The further tightening in the labour market in January will only encourage the Bank of England to raise interest rates on Thursday, probably from 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent,” said Capital Economics chief economist Paul Dales.

UK Defence Minister Takes A Swipe At Putin, Says He Has ‘Gone Full Tonto’

A handout picture released by the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) shows Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (C) hosting a meeting of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) Defence Ministers meeting at at Belvoir Castle near Grantham, central England on February 22, 2022. (Photo by Sgt Jimmy Wise / MOD / AFP)

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has “gone full tonto” by ordering his troops into two rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine, Britain’s defence secretary said Wednesday in unguarded comments to military officials.

Ben Wallace made the candid comments suggesting Putin had lost his mind while also comparing the Russian leader to Tsar Nicholas I, who struggled for allies during the Crimean War in the mid-19th century.

“We’ve got a busy adversary now in Putin, who has gone full tonto,” Wallace — a former army officer — told serving personnel in a government building in Westminster, Britain’s Press Association news agency reported.

“Tsar Nicholas I made the same mistake Putin did… he had no friends, no alliances.

“The Scots Guards kicked the backside of Tsar Nicholas I in 1853 in Crimea — we can always do it again,” Wallace, who served in the same regiment, was overheard saying.

READ ALSO: Germany Can Do Without Russian Gas, Minister Says

The minister’s unvarnished assessment came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said Putin was in an “illogical and irrational frame of mind”.

Asked about Wallace’s reported assessment, Johnson’s official spokesman told reporters: “The defence secretary is more astute to make that judgment than I.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meanwhile said Putin was “highly likely” to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and attack Kyiv.

Britain and the US have repeatedly cited intelligence as indicating that Moscow is planning such a move.

However, Truss noted London does not yet have “the full evidence” that Russian troops have crossed into Ukrainian territory, including rebel-held areas, calling the current situation “ambiguous”.

– ‘Defensive weapons’ –

Meanwhile in parliament, Johnson confirmed Britain would send further military supplies to Ukraine “in light of the increasingly threatening behaviour” from Russia.

“This will include lethal aid in the form of defensive weapons and non-lethal aid,” he told MPs.

The UK last month deployed some 2,000 anti-tank weapons to Kyiv along with military trainers — who have since left the country — as Western nations stepped up their support for Ukraine.

London is ready to guarantee up to $500 million (£368 million) in loans to Kyiv to promote economic stability and reforms, the foreign office said ahead of Johnson’s comments.

READ ALSO: Gas Prices ‘In God’s Hands’, Producers Warn As Ukraine Crisis Sparks Surge

In December, it increased the amount of financial support available to Ukraine to £3.5 billion and signed a treaty on modernising its navy.

Earlier this month it also announced £100 million in extra assistance to be provided over three years to help the ex-Soviet country boost the economy and reduce dependency on energy imports.

The latest commitments come a day after Britain slapped sanctions on five Russian banks and three billionaires, in what Johnson branded “the first barrage” of measures in response to the Kremlin’s actions.

However, he faced criticism from numerous lawmakers, including from within his ruling Conservatives, that the measures were woefully insufficient.

He and his ministers have insisted tougher measures are set to follow but depend on Moscow’s actions.

Johnson also announced Wednesday that his culture minister had asked media regulator Ofcom to review the UK broadcasting licence of Kremlin-backed television channel RT.

In a leaked letter to Ofcom, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries urged the agency to take “timely and transparent” action against RT, which she warned seeks to spread “harmful disinformation”.

An Ofcom spokesperson confirmed receipt of the letter to AFP, adding: “All licensees must observe Ofcom’s rules, including due accuracy and due impartiality.

READ ALSO: Pope Warns Of ‘Increasingly Alarming Scenarios’ In Ukraine

“If broadcasters break those rules, we will not hesitate to step in. Given the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis, we will examine complaints about any broadcaster’s news coverage of this issue as a priority.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back on Telegram saying “If Britain turns its threat towards Russian media into a reality, retaliatory measures will not take long to come.

“British journalists can ask their German colleagues what this looks like,” she said.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle closed its Moscow bureau at the start of this month after Russia shut the outlet’s local operations to punish Germany for banning a service of a Russian state TV network.

UK Promises To Hit Russia ‘Very Hard’ With Sanctions

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacting as he updates MPs on the Covid-19 situation in the country, in the House of Commons, in London, on February 21, 2022. (Photo by Elena FUSCO / various sources / AFP)

 

Britain on Tuesday vowed to “hit Russia very hard” with targeted sanctions and promised tougher measures in the event of a full-scale invasion, after the Kremlin ordered troops into two Moscow-backed rebel regions of Ukraine.

After an early morning meeting with security chiefs, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to reveal a “first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia” in parliament later.

“They will hit Russia very hard and there is a lot more that we are going to do in the event of an invasion,” he told reporters.

“Be in no doubt that if Russian companies are prevented from raising capital on the UK financial markets, if we unpeel the facade of Russian ownership of companies, of property, it will start to hurt.”

Johnson said he might have to go further given the expectation of “more Russian irrational behaviour to come” as “all the evidence is that President Putin is indeed bent on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.

READ ALSO: Putin Orders Russian Military To Act As ‘Peacekeepers’ In Ukraine Regions

Such a move would be “absolutely catastrophic”, he added, saying it was “absolutely vital that that effort, that conquest of another European country, should not succeed and that Putin should fail”.

Putin on Monday recognised the independence of the rebel-held Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine and instructed the defence ministry to assume “the function of peacekeeping” in the separatist-held regions.

The move ratcheted up weeks of tensions and Western diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation, after a massive build-up of troops on Ukraine’s border.

Britain’s relations with the Kremlin have been frosty since the radiation poisoning death of a former Russian spy in London in 2006, and the attempted murder of another double agent in the southwestern city of Salisbury in 2018.

Successive governments in London, however, have faced sustained pressure to act against illicit Russian money circulating through the city’s financial markets since the fall of the Soviet Union.

AFP

UK, US, Other Countries Tell Nationals To Leave Ukraine

Ukrainian servicemen are at work to receive the delivery of FGM-148 Javelins, an American man-portable anti-tank missile provided by the US to Ukraine as part of military support, at Kyiv’s airport Boryspil on February 11, 2022, amid the crisis linked with the threat of Russia’s invasion.
PHOTO: Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

 

Britain on Friday urged its nationals in Ukraine to “leave now while commercial means are still available” amid fears about an escalation of the crisis on the Russia/Ukraine border.

The Foreign Office “now advises against all travel to Ukraine. British nationals in Ukraine should leave now while commercial means are still available”, it said in an update on its website.

Also on Friday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called on Americans to immediately leave Ukraine, warning a Russian attack “is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians.”

The United States also updated its travel advisory on Ukraine to a level 4, the highest in its four-tier system, on Thursday. The U.S. Department of State urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine “due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19.”

READ ALSO: ‘Russia Could Invade Ukraine Any Day,’ US Warns

Americans currently in Ukraine were told to leave immediately via private or commercial means.

The U.S. travel advisory also stated that the U.S. government will be unable to evacuate Americans if Russian military action occurs in Ukraine.

The White House issued a warning Friday that any U.S. citizens still in Ukraine should leave in the next “24 to 48 hours.”

Several EU countries have also asked their nationals to leave Ukraine, notably Belgium, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Belgium on Saturday advised its nationals to leave Ukraine.

Belgium joins the US and several European countries, who have called on their citizens in Ukraine to leave the country for fear war breaks out.

“Nationals who are currently in Ukraine and whose presence is not strictly necessary in the country are strongly advised to leave the country,” the Belgian foreign ministry said on its website.

It said it strongly advised against travel to the country, adding that an evacuation could not be guaranteed.

The ministry said that in case of a “sudden deterioration, communication links including internet and telephone lines could be seriously affected” and air links hampered.

The European Union has told non-essential staff from its diplomatic mission in Ukraine to leave the country but has not issued an evacuation order.

AFP

 

UK Records Highest Ever Daily COVID-19 Cases

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference to update the nation on the Covid-19 booster vaccine program in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 15, 2021.  AFP

 

Britain on Wednesday recorded a further 78,610 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest daily total since the pandemic hit the country last year.

The arrival of the Omicron variant has sent cases spiralling, with the daily total overtaking the previous highest figure of 68,053, which came in January as the Alpha variant spread.

Britain’s Konta Retires From Tennis

Johanna Konta of Great Britain returns a shot to Karolina Muchova of Czech Republic during the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 17, 2021 in Mason, Ohio. AFP

 

Former British number one Johanna Konta announced her retirement from tennis on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old has struggled with persistent knee trouble over the past couple of seasons and has slipped to 113 in the world rankings — a far cry from her career-high of number four.

Konta, who reached the semi-finals of three of the four majors, plus the quarter-finals of the US Open, made her announcement on social media with a post headlined ‘Grateful’.

She wrote: “This is the word that I’ve probably used the most during my career and is the word that I feel explains it best in the end.

“My playing career has come to an end, and I am so incredibly grateful for the career that it turned out to be. All the evidence pointed towards me not ‘making’ it in this profession.

“However my luck materialised in the people that came into my life and impacted my existence in ways that transcended tennis.

“I am so incredibly grateful for these people. You know who you are. Through my own resilience and through the guidance of others, I got to live my dreams. I got to become what I wanted and said as a child.

“How incredibly fortunate I count myself to be. How grateful I am.”

In June, Konta won the Nottingham Open, becoming the first British woman to lift a WTA title on home soil since Sue Barker in 1981.

But that victory was soon overshadowed by the astounding success of then 18-year-old compatriot Emma Raducanu in becoming the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam when she took the women’s singles title at the US Open in September.

AFP

UK To Enforce New COVID-19 Rules From Tuesday

The front page of the Evening Standard newspaper leads with the story that the government is contemplating making it compulsory that all visitors to the UK will have to quarantine in a hotel, after arriving here, outside Victoria train station in central London on January 25, 2021, as Londoners continue to live under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)

 

Britain’s government on Sunday defended the pace and scale of its response to the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 against criticism that it is again falling behind the curve.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said mandatory mask-wearing would return to shops and public transport in England on Tuesday, but told families to plan for Christmas “as normal”, despite new rules to combat the Omicron variant.

Also effective Tuesday, the government’s website is instructing all passengers entering the UK to take a PCR test for Covid-19 two days after their arrival, and to self-isolate until the receive a negative result.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had announced the tougher measures at a hastily arranged news conference on Saturday, but did not specify when they would take effect.

Johnson was widely criticised for his travel and quarantine policy earlier in the pandemic, when he kept borders open to foreign travellers even as infection rates, yielding Britain one of the world’s worst per-capita death tolls from Covid.

READ ALSO: Israel Closes Borders To All Foreigners Over Omicron

The government controversially dropped the masks mandate in July for England, after a prior lockdown, while the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland kept it in place.

All four UK nations are expected to adopt the same PCR rule, after England again diverged in July by requiring only a simple lateral flow test for incoming passengers on flights, ships and trains.

Travel from 10 countries in southern Africa is now banned because of Omicron, but Javid conceded that hundreds of passengers had arrived on flights from South Africa on Friday without being tested.

But he told BBC television: “I think the speed at which we acted at could not have been any faster.”

‘Holes in the defences’

Javid added that the government was “nowhere near” reintroducing social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance, which were also controversially discarded in England earlier this year against the advice of scientists.

He said it was too early to judge the effectiveness of existing vaccines against Omicron, as drugs manufacturers rush to research new treatments against the emergent strain.

But the government is seeking approval from its Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to expand the rollout of booster jabs, shortening the time-frame between second and third shots, and broadening the age range to all over-18s.

The JCVI is expected to respond early next week, Javid said.

He added that no further cases of Omicron had been detected in Britain, after the government on Saturday confirmed the first two cases, both linked to travel from southern Africa.

The opposition Labour party said the government was again doing too little, too late after Omicron emerged.

Even after Tuesday, passengers can enter Britain without a pre-departure test and travel freely from their port of entry on public transport, Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy noted.

“We desperately want to see them tighten up the travel restrictions,” she said on Sky News.

“There is a real problem when for 18 months the government has been warned that there are holes in those defences and still hasn’t taken action to plug (them).”

UK Confirms First Two Cases Of Omicron, The New COVID-19 Variant

A file photo of Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on October 5, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Britain on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of the new Omicron strain of Covid-19, both linked to travel from southern Africa, and expanded travel restrictions on the region.

“After overnight genome sequencing, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed that two cases of Covid-19 with mutations consistent with B.1.1.529 (Omicron) have been identified in the UK,” a government statement said.

“The two cases are linked and there is a link to travel to southern Africa,” it said.

READ ALSO: WHO Renames New COVID-19 Variant ‘Omicron’

One case was detected in the central English city of Nottingham, and the other in Chelmsford east of London, officials said.

“We have moved rapidly and the individuals are self-isolating while contact tracing is ongoing,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

He added that the government was placing another four African countries on its travel “red list” — Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola — effective from 4:00 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday.

Britain has already said it is banning travel from six southern African nations because of the emergence of Omicron: South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The government was widely criticised for its travel and quarantine policy earlier in the pandemic, when it kept borders open to foreign travellers even as infection rates spiralled.

“This is a stark reminder that we are not yet out of this pandemic,” Javid said, urging the public to get follow-up booster jabs of vaccines. “We will not hesitate to take further action if required.”

AFP

27 Die In Channel’s Deadliest Migrant Boat Tragedy

channel-death
Migrants are helped ashore from a RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on November 24, 2021, after being rescued while crossing the English Channel.  Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

At least 27 migrants trying to reach England from France died on Wednesday when their boat sank off the northern French coast, the deadliest disaster since the Channel became a hub for clandestine crossings.

President Emmanuel Macron vowed France would not allow the Channel to become a “cemetery” and also spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree on stepping up efforts to thwart the traffickers blamed for the surge in crossings.

“It is Europe’s deepest values — humanism, respect for the dignity of each person — that are in mourning,” Macron said.

The disaster caused the highest death toll since at least 2018 when migrants began using boats en masse to cross the Channel. It comes as tensions grow between London and Paris over the record numbers of people crossing.

Prosecutors opened a manslaughter probe after the boat sank off the northern port city of Calais. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said four suspected traffickers accused of being directly linked to the doomed crossing in a long inflatable boat had been arrested.

Darmanin told reporters in Calais that only two survivors had been found and both of their lives were in danger. He said five women and one little girl were among those who died, while Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart said a pregnant woman was also one of the victims.

The nationality of the migrants was not immediately clear. An initial toll said 31 migrants had died but the interior ministry later revised this down to 27.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will hold a crisis meeting early on Thursday, his office said.

France-Britain Tensions 

Migrants sit beside a boat used to cross the English Channel as more migrants are helped ashore from a RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat at a beach in Dungeness, on the south-east coast of England, on November 24, 2021, after being rescued while making the crossing. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

French officials said earlier three helicopters and three boats had searched the area, uncovering corpses and people unconscious in the water, after a fisherman sounded the alarm.

Johnson said he was “shocked, appalled and deeply saddened by the loss of life at sea”, following a crisis meeting with senior officials.

But he also said Britain had faced “difficulties persuading some of our partners, particularly the French, to do things in a way that the situation deserves”.

Britain has urged tougher action from France to stop migrants from making the voyage.

The issue has added to growing post-Brexit strains between Britain and France, with a row on fishing rights also still unresolved.

“The response must obviously also come from Britain,” said Darmanin, calling for “a very tough coordinated international response”.

In telephone talks, Johnson and Macron agreed on the “urgency of stepping up joint efforts to prevent these deadly crossings” and that “it is vital to keep all options on the table” to break the business model of the smuggling gangs, according to Downing Street.

 Winter Warning 

One of the French lifeboat workers, Charles Devos, described seeing “a flat, deflated inflatable boat with the little air that remained to help it float” surrounded by bodies of the drowned.

Pierre Roques of the Auberge des Migrants NGO in Calais said the Channel risked becoming as deadly as the Mediterranean, which has seen a much higher toll from the migrants crossing.

“People are dying in the Channel, which is becoming a cemetery. And as England is right opposite, people will continue to cross,” he said.

According to the French authorities, 31,500 people attempted to leave for Britain since the start of the year and 7,800 people have been rescued at sea, figures which doubled since August.

In Britain, Johnson’s Conservative government is coming under intense pressure, including from its own supporters, to reduce the numbers.

Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for the British Channel port of Dover, called the sinking “an absolute tragedy” and demonstrated the need to stop the crossings at their source.

“As winter is approaching, the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater,” she said.

Charlotte Kwantes of Utopia56, an association that works with migrants in Calais, said “more than 300” migrants had died since 1999 in the area.

“As long as safe passages are not put in place between England and France, or as long as these people cannot be regularised in France… there will be deaths at the border,” she told AFP.

According to British authorities, more than 25,000 people have now arrived illegally so far this year, already triple the figure recorded in 2020.

AFP

UK To Expand COVID-19 Booster Shots To Younger People

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as nurse Sandra Guy (R) gives vaccine booster jab against covid-19 during a visit to Hexham General Hospital on November 8, 2021, in Hexham in northern England. PHOTO: Peter Summers / POOL / AFP

 

Britain’s booster programme for COVID-19 vaccinations is to be expanded to younger people after scientists gave the green light on Monday.

The UK government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said all healthy adults aged 40-49 should be offered a booster, six months after their second dose.

Previously, the booster programme was limited to those aged 50 and over, and the clinically vulnerable. Some 12.6 million Britons have received the third jab.

The JCVI also said that 16 and 17-year-olds should now be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

READ ALSO: In Paris, Buhari Calls For Equitable Distribution Of COVID-19 Vaccines

That age group had previously been offered only one dose in Britain, pending more data on the jab’s safety in under-18s.

The expanded age groups covered by the new advice will “help extend our protection into 2022”, professor Wei Shen Lim of the JCVI said in a statement.

The UK launched the Western world’s first mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19 in December 2020, about a year after the disease emerged in China.

But Britain’s government has been repeatedly criticised for its response to the pandemic more generally.

So far, nearly 143,000 people have died in Britain within 28 days of a positive test for Covid, the second-worst toll in Europe behind Russia.

But senior Conservative politician Oliver Dowden said the public could be confident of a more normal Christmas than last year when the inoculation drive was still in an early stage.

“There are no plans to stop Christmas happening. The huge difference this time is the vaccine,” the co-chairman of Britain’s ruling party told Sky News earlier Monday.

“It is in our hands. If you get the booster when the call comes, that is the biggest wall of defence that we have against Covid.”

AFP