British Interior Minister Rudd Resigns After Immigration Scandal

Britain’s interior minister has resigned after Prime Minister Theresa May’s government faced criticism for its treatment of some long-term Caribbean residents who were wrongly labeled illegal immigrants, a government official said.

A spokesman for May was not immediately available for comment but a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed a BBC report that Home Secretary Amber Rudd had resigned.

 

For two weeks, British ministers have been struggling to explain why some descendants of the so-called “Windrush generation,” invited to Britain to plug labor shortfalls between 1948 and 1971, had been labeled as illegal immigrants.

 

The Windrush scandal overshadowed the Commonwealth summit in London and has raised questions about Theresa May’s six-year stint as interior minister before she became prime minister in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Rudd had faced repeated calls from the opposition Labor Party to resign after she gave contradictory statements about meeting targets for deportations.

May apologized to the black community on Thursday in a letter to The Voice, Britain’s national Afro-Caribbean newspaper.

“We have let you down and I am deeply sorry,” she said. “But apologies alone are not good enough. We must urgently right this historic wrong.”

 

Iraq Sentences 19 Russian Women for Joining IS

A court in Iraq has sentenced 19 Russian women to life in prison for joining the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Central Criminal Court in Baghdad, which deals with terrorism cases, also sentenced six women from Azerbaijan and four from Tajikistan to life in prison on Sunday on the same charge.

Most of the defendants told the court they had been brought to Iraq against their will from Turkey by IS fighters.

Earlier this month, the Russian Foreign Ministry said between 50 and 70 “Russian-speaking women” were being held in Iraq, along with more than 100 of their children.

IS took over nearly one third of Iraq in a blistering 2014 offensive, seizing control of the country’s second largest city, Mosul, among others.

Baghdad declared military victory over the jihadists in December, after expelling them from all urban centers.

Experts estimate that Iraq is holding 20,000 people in jail over suspected IS membership. There is no official figure.

Iraqi courts have sentenced to death a total of more than 300 people, including dozens of foreigners, for belonging to IS.

 

White House Mystery: Where is Macron’s Gifted Oak Tree?

A mystery is brewing at the White House about what happened to the oak tree President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron planted there last week.

 

The sapling was a gift from Macron on the occasion of his state visit.

News photographers snapped away Monday as Trump and Macron shoveled dirt onto the tree during a ceremonial planting on the South Lawn. By the end of the week, the tree was gone from the lawn. A pale patch of grass was left in its place.

 

The White House hasn’t offered an explanation.

 

The oak sprouted at a World War I battle site that became part of U.S. Marine Corps legend.

 

About 2,000 U.S. troops died in the June 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood, fighting a German offensive.

 

 

Merkel: Europe Will Push Back If Hit with Trade Tariffs

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she and the leaders of France and Britain are ready to push back if the Trump administration does not permanently exempt the European Union from new import taxes on aluminum and steel imports.

 

Merkel said in a statement that she spoke with President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday and Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday after returning from Friday talks with U.S. President Donald Trump.

 

Merkel says the three leaders “agreed that the U.S. ought not to take any trade measures against the European Union,” which is “resolved to defend its interests within the multilateral trade framework.” The chancellor’s statement did not outline specific steps the 28-nation EU might take.

 

The EU’s temporary exemption from the tariffs expires Tuesday.

Power Outage Disrupts Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport was temporarily closed early Sunday as a large power outage hit all operations at one of Europe’s busiest airports.

Authorities closed roads to Schiphol and stopped train traffic to the airport around 0300 GMT to “ensure the safety of travelers,” the airport said, as check-in procedures had become impossible and the airport’s main halls overflowed with waiting passengers.

Roads to the airport were reopened around 0430 GMT, as power was restored, but the disruption of services would have “severe consequences for air traffic during the day,” airport spokesman Jacco Bartels said.

This would also affect flights to Amsterdam at other airports, as Schiphol would be able to handle only 10 arriving planes per hour on Sunday morning, with priority given to the large number of flights waiting to leave the airport, Bartels said.

Schiphol is the third-busiest airport in Europe in numbers of travelers, after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

‘Caravan’ Migrants Weigh Risks of US vs. Life in Mexico

Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans who drew the wrath of President Donald Trump in a monthlong caravan to the U.S. border will make hard decisions Sunday: Risk being deported all the way home by trying to cross in the U.S., or to build a life in Mexico.

After angry tweets from Trump, U.S. border authorities said some people associated with the caravan had been caught trying to slip through the fence, and encouraged the rest to hand themselves in to authorities.

“We are a very welcoming country but just like your own house, we expect everyone to enter through our front door, and answer questions honestly,” San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott said in a statement.

​Sober advice, mood

Most of the group of about 400 travelers who arrived in border city of Tijuana on buses over the past couple of days said they intended to legally seek asylum in San Diego on Sunday, but lawyers advising the group gave them stark advice: Not everyone will be successful.

After the grueling journey, a somber mood took hold as the reality sank in that many of them would be separated from their families. Lovers and parents with slightly older sons and daughters could be forced to split up.

At venues around the city, U.S. immigration lawyers working pro bono Saturday listened to harrowing tales of life in the immigrants’ home countries.

Death threats from local gangs, the murder of family members, retaliatory rape, and political persecution back home prompted them to flee, the migrants and lawyers say.

Many of the immigrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico had been short on knowledge of their legal rights, but at least 24 recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.

As poor migrants from Central America on a perilous route through Mexico, they feared they could be robbed, raped, arrested and assaulted, so traveling by caravan offered their only protection, they said.

The lawyers advised which cases had higher chances of passing the “credible fear” test required to enter the long and often difficult U.S. asylum process, said immigrant rights organization Al Otro Lado, Spanish for On the Other Side.

“A lot will depend on how well they can articulate their case,” said one of the pro bono lawyers, who preferred to remain anonymous.

Some advised to stay in Mexico

The rest were advised to stay put in Mexico, which would remove the risk that U.S. authorities fly them the more than 2,000 miles (3,600 km) back home.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Bryan Garcia, from Honduras, seated beside 4-year-old Nicole, who was eating a strawberry biscuit as they waited for her mother to come out of a meeting with a lawyer.

Nicole and her mother are from El Salvador. They befriended Garcia along the caravan’s journey and the adults had fallen for each other.

But Garcia would not be asking for asylum. He would stay in Tijuana, having already been deported once from the U.S.

“We’ll just have to try to stay connected,” he said as Nicole paused from eating her biscuit and blinked up at him.

Pressure on Mexico

Trump has been pressuring Mexico to stop the migrants before they reached the border, linking the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Mexican efforts to stem the flow of Central Americans.

The friction has coincided with high intensity efforts by U.S., Canadian and Mexican teams to renegotiate NAFTA on Trump’s bidding, with officials saying a deal could be just a few weeks away after months of talks.

Mexico deports tens of thousands of Central Americans every year back across its southern border with Guatemala.

Caravan Migrants Mull Next Move at US-Mexico Border

Members of a Central American migrant caravan that drew the wrath of President Donald Trump during its month-long journey through Mexico to the U.S. border faced hard choices on Sunday, as they decided whether to cross illegally into the United States, ask for asylum at the border or try to remain in Mexico.

U.S. border authorities said Saturday that some people associated with the caravan had already been caught trying to slip through the fence and encouraged the rest to hand themselves in to authorities.

 

“We are a very welcoming country but just like your own house, we expect everyone to enter through our front door, and answer questions honestly,” San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott said in a statement.

The group of about 400 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrived in border city Tijuana on buses over the past couple of days, and most of them said Saturday they intended to legally seek asylum in San Diego on Sunday.

 

“I feel a little cold, I feel anxious,” said Jaime Alexander from El Salvador in the morning, shaking slightly. Later he and some other migrants will go to the border and attempt to request U.S. asylum. U.S. authorities have advised that there may be delays in their ability to process the migrants and that some “may need to wait in Mexico as [border officials] work to process those already within our facilities.”

 

A security guard back home, Alexander said he fled after a death threat. His feet are still swollen from days of walking as the group made its way to the border.

Legal advice

Lawyers advising the group warned the migrants on Saturday that not everyone will be successful. Asylum seekers must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution at home and the overwhelming majority of those from Central America are denied refuge in the United States. Those denied asylum are generally deported to their home countries.

 

After the grueling journey, a somber mood took hold in Tijuana over the weekend as migrants faced an uncertain future in which they are likely to be detained and separated from friends and family.

 

“To anyone that is associated with this caravan, Think Before You Act,” Scott’s statement said, vowing to prosecute migrants entering the country illegally. “If anyone has encouraged you to illegally enter the United States, or make any false statements to U.S. government officials, they are giving you bad advice and they are placing you and your family at risk.”

At venues around Tijuana, volunteer U.S. immigration lawyers on Saturday listened to harrowing tales of life in the immigrants’ home countries.

Death threats from local gangs, the murder of family members, retaliatory rape, and political persecution back home prompted them to flee, the migrants told the lawyers.

 

Many of the migrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.

‘Credible fear’ test

The lawyers advised which cases had a better chance of passing the “credible fear” test required to enter the long and often difficult U.S. asylum process, said immigrant rights organization Al Otro Lado, Spanish for On the Other Side.

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Bryan Garcia, from Honduras, seated beside the four-year-old daughter of his new girlfriend as they waited for her mother to come out of a meeting with a lawyer.

Nicole and her mother are from El Salvador. They befriended Garcia along the caravan’s journey.

Garcia said he would not ask for asylum but would stay in Tijuana, having already been deported once from the U.S.

“We’ll just have to try to stay connected,” he said as Nicole paused from eating her biscuit and blinked up at him.

Trump pressured Mexico to stop the migrants before they reached the border, linking the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Mexican efforts to stem the flow of Central Americans.

 

The friction has coincided with high intensity efforts by U.S., Canadian and Mexican teams to renegotiate NAFTA at Trump’s bidding. Negotiators trying to hammer out a NAFTA deal said on Friday they will take a break until May 7.

Mexico deports tens of thousands of Central Americans every year back across its southern border with Guatemala.

 

China Rapidly Expanding its Technology Sector

If you want your technology sector to expand rapidly, it pays to have strong support from the government, easy access to bank loans and a large market, hungry for your products. All this is available in China, where technology companies are expanding at a rapid pace — making other countries, including the U.S. — a bit uneasy. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Tens of Thousands March for Peace, Justice in Nicaragua

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans joined a march for “Peace and Justice” called by the Catholic Church on Saturday, the second massive demonstration in less than a week following a wave of deadly protests against social security reforms.

The two marches in Managua came after protests and looting last week that Nicaragua’s Permanent Commission on Human Rights said left at least 63 people dead, 15 missing and more than 160 wounded by gunfire. The government of President Daniel Ortega has not confirmed or denied the casualty figures.

Ortega, who began his third five-year term in office last year, withdrew the social security overhaul that sparked the social convulsion last Sunday and agreed to meet with different sectors of society. The rescinded changes would have imposed higher contributions by workers and employers and required retirees with pensions to give up 5 percent of their checks for medical care.

But the protests, which have been largely led by university students, had expanded beyond the original opposition to the social security changes to include broader anti-government grievances. Protesters at times were met with violent police repression and attacks from Sandinista youth and motorcycle-riding thugs.

Business sector behind march

On Monday, Nicaragua’s private business sector organized a march calling for social peace and an end to repression. It drew tens of thousands of participants, making it the largest demonstration seen against Ortega’s Sandinista government.

Saturday’s march called by the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua also drew tens of thousands of participants, including students, representatives of the private sector and opponents of the construction of an interoceanic canal.

“We are going to march for peace so that there is justice. We Nicaraguans need a better country and we will achieve it,” Silvio Baez, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Managua, told local media.

Francisca Ramirez, a leader of the anti-canal movement, said that “it is time for Daniel Ortega to understand that he cannot continue doing whatever he wants with this country.”

“It has been enough. We want peace but with justice for the murders,” Ramirez added.

On Friday, National Assembly President Gustavo Porras announced the creation of a truth commission to look into the deaths and what happened in the protests and clashes, which were seen by Nicaraguan analysts and historians as the most violent and bloody since the Somoza dictatorship.

Similar demonstrations were held Saturday in other cities such as Matagalpa and Leon.

“I came because the young people who died deserve a tribute, that we march for the peace in the country, for justice and for the return of the democracy that has been kidnapped by this government,” said Marlene Alvarez, 26, who works in a laboratory in the capital.