World View: Europe Tries to Deal with Increasing Flood of Migrants from Africa

This morning's key headlines from

  • Europe tries to deal with increasing flood of migrants from Africa
  • United Nations accuses Syria of continuing use of chemical weapons
  • Israel's army exchanges fire with Syria's al-Nusra front

Europe tries to deal with increasing flood of migrants from Africa

The number of migrants leaving Africa on unsafe smugglers' boats hoping to reach Europe has been surging this year. This year, 110,000 people have been rescued from drowning on the unsafe trip, hoping to reach the southern tip of Sicily. That figure is up from 42,000 in all of 2013. Some 1,900 others have died this year during the perilous crossing. The numbers have surged this year because of the unrest in Syria and Libya. Last weekend, an Italian navy patrol boat found 73 migrants on board a rubber dinghy, along with 18 dead bodies. 

There were two tragic shipwrecks last October in which more than 400 Eritrean, Somali, and Syrian migrants drowned. ("16-Oct-13 World View -- Sicily declares state of emergency as African migrants flood in"

After that, Italy began spending $13 million dollars per month on a program called "Mare Nostrum" to rescue drowning migrants trying to reach Sicily. The Italian program has had the undesirable consequence of motivating more migrants to risk making the trip, since they have a good chance of being rescued by the Italians in case of mishap. 

In fact, critics are complaining that Italy's rescue program is making the problem worse. These are presumably not the same critics who, last October, were condemning Italy for doing nothing to keep migrants from drowning. 

Italy has been demanding that the EU do more to help out, since most of the migrants want to settle in northern Europe, not in Italy. Unsurprisingly, northern European countries are not rushing to spend their own money on illegal migrants, since they can just leave Italy stuck with the entire bill, and because paying to save drowning migrants is politically unpopular. 

Still, the European Commission agreed Wednesday to expand its Frontex border agency into a program called "Frontex Plus," which will take some of the load from Italy. EU member states will be encouraged to contribute planes, ships, and personnel to the program, scheduled for launch in November. Euro News and AP and Daily Mail (London)

United Nations accuses Syria of continuing use of chemical weapons

A new report by the U.N. Human Rights Council's independent commission of inquiry on Syria accuses the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad of multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the use of chemical weapons. 

Both Syria's government and the opposing unnamed "non-state armed groups," presumably referring to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS), or one of its predecessors, are accused of massacres and war crimes.

However, the U.N. report singles out the al-Assad regime for the continuing use of chemical weapons: 

Government forces continued to perpetrate massacres and conduct widespread attacks on civilians, systematically committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance amounting to crimes against humanity. Government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of murder, hostage-taking, torture, rape and sexual violence, recruiting and using children in hostilities and targeting civilians.

Government forces disregarded the special protection accorded to hospitals and medical and humanitarian personnel. Indiscriminate and disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling led to mass civilian casualties and spread terror. Government forces used chlorine gas, an illegal weapon...

116. Witnesses saw helicopters drop barrel bombs an d smelled a scent akin to domestic chlorine immediately following impact. Accounts of victims, and of medical personnel involved in administering treatment, provide descriptions of symptoms compatible with exposure to chemical agents, namely vomiting, eye a nd skin irritation, choking and other respiratory problems.

117. Chlorine gas is a chemical weapon as defined in the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, of 1992. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances under customary international humanitarian law and is a w ar crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

As we've pointed out in the past, the policy of Russia's president Vladimir Putin to continue to provide masses of heavy weapons for the al-Assad regime to use against innocent civilians makes Vladimir Putin a war criminal as well. 

Al-Assad's actions, starting in 2011 against innocent protesters, including women and children, has turned Syria into a global "jihadist magnet," and has led to the creation of ISIS. If ISIS is now a danger to the al-Assad regime, then al-Assad has no one to blame but himself, although the rest of us have to suffer as well.

U.N. report and Full Report PDF

Israel's army exchanges fire with Syria's al-Nusra front

Forces from the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) militias in southern Syria apparently overran Syrian regime forces and took control of the town of Quneitra, on the border with the Golan Heights, as well as the Quneitra border crossing into Israel. Mortar shells, apparently fired by al-Nusra, landed in Israeli territory, wounding one Israeli and damaging several vehicles. 

Al-Nusra began as a rebel militia fighting against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and later joined al-Qaeda. It's frequently fought against ISIS to gain territory, as often as it's fought the al-Assad regime. What appears to be happening is that al-Nusra is gaining ground in southeastern Syria, defeating both ISIS and the Syrian regime. 

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded to the cross-border fire with artillery fire of its own. However, Israel has no intention to get involved in fighting over Quneitra, according to Yaakov Amidror, former head of Israelis National Security Council. According to Amidror, Israel will not get involved unless one of three red lines is crossed: 

  • Firing across the border into Israel's Golan Heights,
  • The transfer of strategic weapons to Hezbollah,
  • The proliferation of chemical arms.

According to Amidror, "From our point of view there is a very clear red line, and this is the border. We should not interfere on the other side of the border to save [either] one of the two sides." Times of Israel and Jerusalem Post

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Europe, Africa, Sicily, Libya, Mare Nostrum, Frontex Plus, Syria, Bashar al-Assad Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front, UN Human Rights Council, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Quneitra, Golan Heights, Israel, Yaakov Amidror 

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