France: US Must Not Interfere in French Politics

France’s foreign minister Sunday urged U.S. President Donald Trump not to interfere in French politics, following Trump’s tweets on weeks of protests in Paris.

“We do not take domestic American politics into account and we want that to be reciprocated,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told LCI television.

“I say this to Donald Trump and the French president says it too: leave our nation be.”

Le Drian was responding to tweets sent out by the American president on Saturday

“Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes?” Trumps wrote.

An earlier tweet from Trump insinuated that protesters in Paris sided with his decision to leave the Paris agreement — a landmark 2015 agreement between over one hundred countries to combat climate change.

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting “We Want Trump!” Love France.” he wrote.

Nearly 2,000 people were arrested Saturday across France in the latest round of “yellow-vest” protests.

Nationwide, the interior ministry says some 136,000 people rallied against France’s high-cost of living. Protesters also expressed their dismay with the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were held in a number of cities besides Paris, including Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse.

On Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said violent outbreaks in Paris were “under control” despite ongoing disorderly acts he declared “totally unacceptable.”

France closed the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks and mobilized tens of thousands of security forces for the fourth week of violent demonstrations.

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday’s protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off many of the city’s broad boulevards.

President Macron made an unannounced visit Friday night to a group of anti-riot security officers outside Paris to thank them for their work.

The protests erupted in November over a fuel tax increase, which was part of Macron’s plan to combat global warming.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called for new talks Saturday with representatives of the “yellow vest” movement. He vowed the government would address their concerns over rising living costs.

“The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue,” Philippe said in a televised statement.

Since the unrest began in November, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

 

While Macron has since abandoned the fuel tax hike, protesters have made new demands to address other economic issues hurting workers, retirees and students.

Government officials are concerned the repeated weekly violence could weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government’s survival.

The “yellow vest” movement was named after the safety jackets French motorists are required to keep in their vehicles, which the protesters wear at demonstrations.

The weeks of protests have exposed intense resentment among non-city residents who feel that Macron, a former investment banker, is out of touch with struggling middle-class and blue-collar workers.

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UK’s May: ‘Uncharted Waters’ If Lawmakers Reject Brexit Deal

With a crucial parliamentary vote on Brexit looming, British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers Sunday that they could take Britain into “uncharted waters” and trigger a general election if they reject the divorce deal she struck with the European Union.

May is fighting to save her unpopular Brexit plan and her job ahead of a showdown in Parliament on Tuesday, when lawmakers are widely expected to vote down the deal she negotiated with Brussels. Her Downing Street office insisted that the vote will go ahead despite speculation that the government may be forced to delay it.

A defeat in the vote could see Britain crashing out of the EU on March 29, the date for Britain’s exit, with no deal in place – an outcome that could spell economic chaos.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, May said rejecting her deal would “mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal.”

“When I say if this deal does not pass we would truly be in uncharted waters, I hope people understand this is what I genuinely believe and fear could happen,” she said.

May’s government does not have a majority in the House of Commons, and opposition parties – as well as many of May’s own Conservatives – have already said they will not back the divorce deal that May and EU leaders agreed on last month.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal keeps Britain bound too closely to the EU, while pro-EU politicians say it erects barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner and leaves many details of the future relationship undecided.

The main sticking point is a “backstop” provision in the Brexit agreement that aims to guarantee an open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

The temporary measure would keep Britain under EU customs rules, and is supposed to last until superseded by permanent new trade arrangements. But critics say it could leave Britain tied to the EU indefinitely, unable to strike new trade deals around the world.

Boris Johnson, May’s former foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer, argued Sunday that the Irish border issue should be postponed so it forms part of the talks on a future trade deal.

It’s unclear what would happen next if lawmakers vote down the deal.

May could return to Brussels seeking changes to the Brexit deal and bring it back to Parliament for another vote. But EU leaders have insisted the divorce agreement is final and not renegotiable.

However, while the 585-page withdrawal deal is set, the declaration on future relations between the EU and Britain is shorter and vaguer and may be open to amendment.

Meanwhile, pro-Brexit Conservative rebels who have long wanted to oust May can trigger a no-confidence vote if they amass enough support.

The Labour Party may also attempt to force a general election or seek to form a minority government.

“What we would urge (May) to do is either call a general election – because she wouldn’t have the confidence of Parliament to carry on as prime minister,” Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s business spokeswoman, told the BBC. “But alternatively, she could offer to renegotiate around a deal that would provide consensus in Parliament.”

Some have also floated the idea of a second referendum on the question of Britain’s EU membership but the government is firmly opposed to that.

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Paris Cleans Up After Latest Riot; Nearly 1,800 Arrested

Nearly 1,800 people were arrested Saturday across France in the latest round of “yellow vest” protests.

Nationwide, the Interior Ministry says some 136,000 people rallied against France’s high-cost of living. Protesters also expressed their dismay with the presidency of Emmanuel Macron.

Protests were mounted in a number of cities besides Paris, including Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse.

The ministry said Sunday 1,723 people were arrested nationwide, with 1,220 of them ordered held in custody.

Parisian police said they made 1,082 arrests Saturday, a sharp increase from last week’s 412 arrests.

Meanwhile, tourist destinations, including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum, reopened and workers cleaned up broken glass Sunday. 

The man who unleashed the anger, President Emmanuel Macron, broke his silence to tweet his appreciation for the police overnight, but pressure mounted on him to propose new solutions to calm the anger dividing France.

On Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said violent outbreaks in Paris were “under control” despite ongoing disorderly acts he declared “totally unacceptable.”

French police supported by armored vehicles fired tear gas at yellow-vested protesters on the Champs Elysees.

Castaner estimated 10,000 demonstrators had taken to Parisian streets.

He said 135 people had been injured, including 17 police officers.

France closed the Eiffel Tower and other tourist landmarks and mobilized tens of thousands of security forces for the fourth week of violent demonstrations.

Many shops in Paris were boarded up before Saturday’s protests to avoid being smashed or looted, and police cordoned off many of the city’s broad boulevards.

Despite what Castaner said were “exceptional” security measures, protesters still smashed store windows and clashed with police.

More than 89,000 police were deployed nationwide, an increase from 65,000 last weekend.

Police in central Paris removed any materials from the streets that could be used as weapons or projectiles during the demonstrations, including street furniture at outdoor cafes.

Macron made an unannounced visit Friday night to a group of anti-riot security officers outside Paris to thank them for their work.

The protests erupted in November over a fuel tax increase, which was part of Macron’s plan to combat global warming.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called for new talks Saturday with representatives of the “yellow vest” movement. He vowed the government would address their concerns over rising living costs.

“The president will speak, and will propose measures that will feed this dialogue,” Philippe said in a televised statement.

 

WATCH: Clashes and Hundreds Detained in France in ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that the Paris Agreement, a global effort to reduce global warming beginning in 2020, “isn’t working out so well for Paris” and that “People do not want to pay large sums of money … in order to protect the environment.”

Since the unrest began in November, four people have been killed in protest-related accidents.

While Macron has since abandoned the fuel tax hike, protesters have made new demands to address other economic issues hurting workers, retirees and students.

Government officials are concerned the repeated weekly violence could weaken the economy and raise doubts about the government’s survival.

Officials are also concerned about far-right, anarchist and anti-capitalist groups like Black Bloc that have attached themselves to the “yellow vest” movement.

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Protesters March as UN Climate Talks Hit Fossil Fuel Snag

Thousands of people from around the world marched Saturday through the southern Polish city that’s hosting this year’s U.N. climate talks, demanding that their governments take tougher action to curb global warming.

Protesters included farmers from Latin America, environmentalists from Asia, students from the United States and families from Europe, many of whom said climate change is already affecting their lives.

“Climate change is the thing that frightens me the most,” said Michal Dabrowski from Warsaw, who brought his young daughter to the march. “I’m a father and it’s kind of crucial that she will have a decent life.”

Marchers gathered in one of Katowice’s main squares before setting off for the conference center where delegates from almost 200 countries are haggling over the fine print of the 2015 Paris accord to fight climate change.

Some protesters were dressed as endangered orangutans while others wore breathing masks to highlight the air pollution in Katowice, which lies at the heart of Poland’s coal mining region of Silesia.

A group wearing polar bear costumes was expelled from the march after suggesting that fossil fuels should be replaced by nuclear power, a technology that many environmentalists object to.

Chanting “Wake up! It’s time to save our home!” and holding banners including one reading “Make the planet great again,” protesters marched through Katowice accompanied by a heavy police presence that included officers on horseback.

The “March for Climate” passed largely peacefully, though three people were detained after a small scuffle with police, a Katowice police spokeswoman said.

Earlier Saturday, environmental groups had complained that some of their activists were being turned back at the Polish border or deported. One Belgian activist was allowed to enter the country after her country’s ambassador intervened with Polish authorities.

Poland has introduced temporary random identity checks ahead of the U.N. climate conference, arguing they were needed for security.

Inside the U.N. meeting, negotiators were concluding the first week of talks, which are focused on finalizing the Paris rulebook that determines how signatories to the 2015 deal record and report their greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said drastic action would be needed to achieve the Paris accord’s most ambitious target of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Illustrating the sensitivity of this message for some governments, major oil exporting countries including Saudi Arabia and Russia objected to “welcoming” the IPCC’s report. The issue is now one of several that will be left to government ministers, who begin arriving in Katowice on Monday to try to break remaining deadlocks.

Environmental groups want countries to send a strong signal that they’re ready for more ambitious action in the years ahead, but some protesters Saturday felt that governments alone would not do enough to fight climate change.

“I’ve had enough of just sitting and looking at politicians deciding things for us. It’s time for us to tell them what we want and to start a grassroots revolution,” said Anna Zalikowska.

Similar marches for the environment took place in France on Saturday, but those were overshadowed by a larger “yellow vest” protest in Paris staged by people angry over fuel tax increases.

The tax rise, now put on hold, was aimed at encouraging drivers to reduce their use of fossil fuels, a measure experts say is necessary to nudge consumers toward cleaner alternatives.

Resistance to the fuel tax is a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, who sees himself as the guarantor of the Paris accord.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has announced he’s pulling the United States out of the agreement, claimed Saturday that “people do not want to pay large sums of money … in order to maybe protect the environment.”

Economists say the price of curbing climate change is actually far lower than the eventual cost of coping with the catastrophic famines, storms and sea level rises that will happen with a warming climate.

The Climate Action Network, an umbrella group for environmental organizations, on Saturday gave its Fossil of the Day award to the United States after Washington’s diplomats objected to linking human rights to climate change.

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Thousands Protest Serbian President’s Autocratic Rule

Thousands of people have marched in Serbia against the autocratic rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his government.

An opposition alliance called Saturday’s protest after assailants recently beat up and seriously injured a leftist party leader and his associates in a southern Serbian city.

The opposition parties have blamed the incident on what they describe as an atmosphere of violence and intimidation imposed by Vucic’s populist ruling coalition.

Vucic is a former extreme nationalist who now says he wants Serbia to reform and join the European Union. But critics at home say Vucic has restricted democratic and media freedoms in the Balkan country.

The demonstration in Belgrade was dubbed “Stop to bloody shirts,” a reference to the recent beating of Borko Stefanovic, the leader of the Serbia’s Left party.

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Haunted by Colonial Past, Belgium’s Africa Museum Reopens After Revamp

Belgium’s Africa Museum reopened on Saturday after a five-year restoration to repackage its looted treasures with a critical view of the country’s brutal colonial past.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo hailed a “historic moment” and said it would open “a new chapter” in Belgian-African relations.

The reopening of the former Royal Museum for Central Africa in the Tervuren Palace outside Brussels comes amid a renewed European debate about returning stolen artifacts.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to return 26 cultural artifacts to Benin “without delay,” a move likely to put pressure on other former colonial powers to return African artworks to their countries of origin.

Macron said the decision should not be seen as an isolated or symbolic case and proposed a conference in Paris next year to discuss an “exchange policy” for African treasures.

“Restitution should no longer be taboo,” De Croo said on Saturday adding, however, that any returns should be dependent on certain conservation conditions being met.

“It is clear that this implies a respectful attitude on the part of the African authorities with regard to this artistic heritage,” he said.

Before it closed for refurbishment in 2013, visitors to the Belgian museum were greeted by a statue uncritically depicting white European missionaries “bringing civilization to Congo.”

The museum’s research team insists the exhibits will now take a much more critical approach to the depredations of King Leopold II and his agents in Congo.   

With the help of multimedia displays and detailed captions, visitors will be encouraged to take a critical view and to see colonialism through African eyes.

The museum’s academic experts say there is no attempt to cover up the past, but rather to use the collection of 125,000 ethnographic objects more educationally.

Despite the new approach more in keeping with Belgium’s multicultural present, the revamp has not been without controversy.

Activists are demanding a proper memorial to seven Congolese who died in 1897 after being brought to Belgium as living exhibits. They are buried near the Tervuren estate.

Paula Polanco told AFP her group, Intal-Congo, wanted them to be recognized as “victims of a colonialist crime.”

Belgium’s current king, Philippe, meanwhile declined an invitation to the reopening.

The Belgian colonies, run as a private royal estate by Leopold II, covered lands now included in independent Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These countries have suffered a turbulent modern history and for European experts, in DR Congo’s case at least, lack premises to properly house a national history collection.

Meanwhile, DR Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has now said he plans to formally request the return of art and records before his country’s own museum opens next year.

The activists doubt the museum’s sincerity and have urged it, in Polanco’s words, to form a committee to “objectively and materially” determine the origin of the works.  

For Guido Gryseels, the museum’s director general, the political backdrop is part of a broader Belgian conversation about race that goes beyond the rights and wrongs of the ownership of his museum’s exhibits.

“It’s not only our museum. It’s the overall Belgian society which is still very much a white society,” Gryseels said, insisting that everyone wants to see a more racially integrated future.

While France, Britain and the Netherlands, he said, saw large-scale arrivals from former colonies earlier, Belgium’s 250,000-strong African population came in the last 20 years.

And although the museum has been redesigned, statues and street names still honor Leopold, who personally enriched himself through the forced labor of the Congolese during a period in which an estimated half of the local population — up to 10 million people — were wiped out by overwork, violence and disease.

“Personally speaking, I think that indeed someone who is responsible for mass murder is not to be put literally upon a pedestal,” Bambi Ceuppens, doctor in anthropology at the Royal Museum for Central Africa, said.

Other statues should not be hidden, she argues, but used by the museum and educationalists as they explain Belgium and Congo’s intertwined histories.

And, by better understanding the past, Belgium may be better able to integrate Belgian-born Africans into a more diverse future.

“As recently as two months ago our prime minister gave a presentation here for all the top CEOs of Belgium and all the top ministers,” Gryseels said.

“And the whole audience here was full: 220 white people… Ten years from now the situation will be very different.”

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Officials: At Least 6 Dead in Italian Night Club Stampede

Six people, all but one of them minors, were killed and about 35 others injured in a stampede of panicked concertgoers early Saturday at a disco in a small town on Italy’s central Adriatic coast, authorities said.

The dead included three girls and two boys and an adult woman, a mother who had accompanied her daughter to the disco in Corinaldo, where an Italian rapper was entertaining the crowd, police chief Oreste Capocasa said in nearby Ancona.

Twelve of the 35 injured were in serious condition, Capocasa said.

The ages of the victims weren’t immediately given. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were inside when the stampede erupted or the club’s maximum capacity.

Italian fire officials and ANSA news agency said the audience at Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta’s concert at the Lanterna Azzurra nightclub panicked and ran for the exits after someone sprayed a substance similar to pepper spray.

A teenager told ANSA he discovered that at least one of the emergency exits was locked when he tried to flee. The report said authorities were investigating if the emergency exits were working.

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Stranded Sailor in Round-the-World Race is Rescued

A cargo ship has rescued a British woman sailing solo in a round-the-world race who was stranded in the Southern Ocean after a storm destroyed her boat.

Susie Goodall tweeted “ON THE SHIP!!!” after she was rescued Friday by the Hong Kong-registered MV Tian Fu.

“This is fantastic news indeed,” Golden Globe Race officials said on their website.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted to reach Goodall.

Goodall texted Thursday that she was “safe and secure” after being briefly knocked unconscious when a storm flipped her boat end-over-end and destroyed its mast.

Golden Globe Race officials said they had been in regular radio contact with Goodall since she regained consciousness.

The 29-year-old was the youngest skipper and the only woman participating in the 48,280-kilometer race.

On Wednesday, Goodall texted, “Taking a hammering! Wondering what on earth I’m doing out here,’’ to race officials and also sent her location in the ocean.

Hours later, she tweeted:

Goodall said she had lost most of the equipment and was unable to “jury rig. Total loss.’’

 Goodall was stranded about 3,200 kilometers west of Cape Horn near the southern tip of South America.

The race began July 1 in Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, with 18 skippers from across the world. After Goodall’s exit, seven remain. The race will end at the same port.

The sailors are expected to sail alone, nonstop and without outside assistance. They are also not allowed to use most modern technology, including satellite navigation. Yachts are required to have been designed before 1988.

Barry Pickthall, a Golden Globe Race spokesman, said Goodall had undertaken “enormous preparations in readiness” before participating in the race. He said her boat “was probably one of the best-prepared boats” in the race.

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Top Democrat: Moscow Has Closed Cyber Gap With US

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warns the United States is being outgunned in cyberspace, already having lost its competitive advantage to Russia while China is rapidly closing in.

“When it comes to cyber, misinformation and disinformation, Russia is already our peer and in the areas of misinformation or disinformation, I believe is ahead of us,” Senator Mark Warner told an audience Friday in Washington.

“This is an effective methodology for Russia and it’s also remarkably cheap,” he added, calling for a realignment of U.S. defense spending.

Warner, calling Russia’s election meddling both an intelligence failure and a “failure of imagination,” strongly criticized the White House, key departments and fellow lawmakers for being too complacent in their responses.

As for China, Warner called Beijing’s cyber and censorship infrastructure “the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world” and warned when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G mobile phone networks, China is “starting to outpace us on these investments by orders of magnitude.”

In contrast, the Democratic senator laid out a more aggressive approach in cyberspace, with the United States leading allies in an effort to establish clear rules and norms for behavior in cyberspace.

He also said it was imperative the U.S. articulate when and where it would respond to cyberattacks.

“Our adversaries continue to believe that there won’t be consequences for their actions,” Warner said. “For Russia and China, it’s pretty much been open season.”

Warner also delivered a stern message to social media companies.

“Major platform companies — like Twitter and Facebook, but also Reddit, YouTube and Tumblr — aren’t doing nearly enough to prevent their platforms from becoming petri dishes for Russian disinformation and propaganda,” he said. “If they don’t work with us, Congress will have to work on its own.”

The Trump administration unveiled a new National Cyber Strategy in September, calling for a more aggressive response to the growing online threat posed by other countries, terrorist groups and criminal organizations.

“We’re not just on defense,” National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the time. “We’re going to do a lot of things offensively, and I think our adversaries need to know that.”

Top U.S. military officials have also said their cyber teams are engaging against other countries, terrorist groups and even criminal organizations on a daily basis.

Warner on Friday praised elements of the new strategy, particularly measures that have allowed the military to respond to attacks more quickly. But, he said, on the whole it is not enough, pointing to Trump’s willingness to “kowtow” to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Helsinki Summit over Moscow’s election interference efforts.

“No one in the Trump administration in the intel [intelligence] or defense world doesn’t acknowledge what happened in 2016,” he said. “But the fact that the head of our government still [finds] it’s hard to get those words out of his mouth, is a real problem.”

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German Chancellor Stepping Down as CDU Leader

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stepping down after 18 years as the party leader of the center-right Christian Democratic Union.

In her farewell speech at the CDU congress Friday in Hamburg, Merkel thanked her staff and said the party “is never just one person by him or herself, but always all members together.”

Merkel reminded her fellow party members that experience has shown “how much strength and momentum we can develop” when faced with difficulties.

During her half-hour speech she received several standing ovations. Some delegates held up placards saying, “Thank you, boss!”

Merkel announced in October she would not run for re-election as the party chairperson, but she planned to remain chancellor until the end of the current term ending in 2021. However, it is possible that elections could be called before then.

Merkel, 64, is stepping down after a series of polls have shown a decline in popularity because of her liberal refugee policy.

The two main contenders for the leadership post are CDU General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), 56, and corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz, 63.

A third candidate, Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38, an outspoken critic of Merkel’s 2015 decision to welcome more than 1 million asylum-seekers to Germany, is running a distant third.

Merkel has led Germany since 2005, and has moved the CDU steadily toward the political center.

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Last Migrant Rescue Ship to End Operations in Mediterranean

The search-and-rescue ship Aquarius, which has helped about 30,000 migrants avoid death in the Mediterranean Sea, is suspending its operations.

The humanitarian groups Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee said European governments were forcing them to end the rescue runs.

The Aquarius has been docked in Marseille, France, since early October after Panama revoked its registration at the behest of the right-wing, anti-immigration Italian government.

The ship has been rescuing migrants who were trying to make the dangerous crossing from Libya to Europe in inadequate rafts and dinghies.

“The end of Aquarius means more lives lost at sea; more avoidable deaths that will go unwitnessed and unrecorded. It really is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for UK and European leaders as men, women and children perish,” Vickie Hawkins, head of MSF UK, said in a statement.

15,000 deaths

The International Organization for Migration said that about 15,000 migrants have drowned in the central Mediterranean since 2013. An estimated 2,133 have died this year alone.

The Aquarius was the last rescue ship operating in the Mediterranean. Last year, five groups were running rescue ships.

At the height of the migrant influx in 2015 and 2016, NGO vessels worked alongside Italian coast guard ships.

The election of Italy’s coalition government this year on an anti-migrant platform rapidly ended the cooperation, and rescue boats have been prevented from docking in Italian ports. Migrant arrivals in Italy have since fallen to pre-crisis levels following a series of hard-line measures drafted by far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

Now rescue missions fall on national coast guard crews from Europe and North Africa, who tend to return the rescued migrants to the country they set off from, usually Libya.

NGO groups describe conditions for the migrants there as “inhuman,” with allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and killings by human smugglers and security forces.

Henry Ridgwell contributed to this report. 

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