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Trump Address in State of Union

WASHINGTON — BY –RIZWAN AFTAB President Trump address second time the State of the Union address Tuesday night, the address delayed two weeks because of shut down in US. He urges to be united in his speech. He said to reject the politics of revenge, confrontation to his nation. He also added to embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common well,” Trump told Congress and nation Regarding to build a wall on the Mexican border he states "I will get it built," vowed Trump, promising a "smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier." In his speech another high lightened part was Economy, he states he added jobs to boost economy. He also states “The only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous one-sided investigations,” he said, in an apparent swipe at the special counsel investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign, as well as the upcoming congressional investigations.

WASHINGTON — BY –RIZWAN AFTAB President Trump address second time the State of the Union address Tuesday night, the address delayed two weeks because of shut down in US. He urges to be united in his speech. He said to reject the politics of revenge, confrontation to his nation. He also added to embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, ... Read More »

Russia detains model claiming Trump secrets

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday detained a Belarusian model who claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office, sources told . Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen-name Nastya Rybka, was held for questioning at a Moscow airport on Thursday evening after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a “sex training course,” other passengers on the flight told source. Russian authorities detained her and several others including Alex Kirillov, a self-styled Russian seduction guru, witnesses said. Plain-clothes officials led away four of the group including Vashukevich and Kirillov, a woman who gave her name as Kristina told source after emerging at Sheremetyevo airport arrivals. Describing herself as Kirillov’s wife, Kristina said she heard the group shouting and asking for an explanation of “why they were being detained” and saying they were suspected of recruiting for prostitution, a crime punishable by up to six years in jail. A law enforcement source told TASS state news agency that four including Vashukevich and Kirillov were detained at the airport over recruiting for prostitution. Model claiming Trump secrets deported from Thailand Vashukevich was held with several others in a police raid last February in the sleazy seaside resort of Pattaya. In a case that veered between salacious and bizarre, Vashukevich said she had travelled to Thailand after becoming embroiled in a political scandal with Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska — a one-time associate of Trump’s disgraced former campaign director Paul Manafort. She then set tongues wagging by promising to reveal “missing puzzle pieces” regarding claims the Kremlin aided Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory. But the material never surfaced and critics dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt. In the risque Pattaya seminar led by Kirillov, some participants wore shirts that said “sex animator” — though one person at the time described it as more of a romance and relationship course. Vashukevich pleaded guilty alongside seven others to multiple charges, including solicitation and illegal assembly at a Pattaya court on Tuesday, which ordered the group be deported. Kirillov, who has served as a quasi-spokesman for the mostly Russian group, told reporters as they arrived at court Tuesday that he believed they were set up. Model claiming to know Trump secrets arrested for running ‘sex training course’ “I think somebody ordered (our arrest)… for money,” he said. Vashukevich looked sombre as she entered the courthouse and did not respond to questions from the media. On Thursday afternoon, Vashukevich and the majority of the convicted were put on an Aeroflot flight for Moscow, bringing to an end the Thai side of a baffling case. Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said the last of the group would leave the country later that evening. They were also blacklisted from returning to Thailand. It was unclear what would happen to them on arrival in Moscow but as a Belarusian citizen, Vashukevich was expected to transit to Belarus. Vashukevich, who has more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and penned a book about seducing oligarchs, already faces legal problems in Russia. Deripaska won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against her and Kirillov in July after a video apparently filmed by the model showed the tycoon vacationing with an influential Russian deputy prime minister at the time. “I don’t think she wants to get out in Moscow,” a Russian friend in Thailand who helped with the case told source on Thursday. Both Washington and Moscow publicly shrugged off Vashukevich’s story, which the US State Department described as “bizarre”. Kremlin-connected Deripaska and Manafort, Trump’s ex-campaign manager, did business together in the mid-2000s. Manafort has since been convicted in the US of financial crimes related to political work he did in Ukraine before the 2016 election as well as witness tampering.

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday detained a Belarusian model who claimed she had evidence of Russian efforts to help Donald Trump win office, sources told . Anastasia Vashukevich, known by her pen-name Nastya Rybka, was held for questioning at a Moscow airport on Thursday evening after she was deported from Thailand as part of a group convicted of participating in a ... Read More »

US sanctions on Iran raise concern in Turkey

Turkey has been exempt from oil sector sanctions imposed by Washington on the regime in Tehran. But Turkish businesses fear the possible consequences of a likely shift in Donald Trump's mood toward Turkey. The Trump administration announced sanctions against Iran earlier this week, with a strong focus on hitting the country's oil and petrochemical sectors especially hard. So far, however, Turkey and seven other nations have been spared the US president's wrath as they were allowed to continue importing Iranian oil. But the six-month exemption from the ban granted to Turkey seems only cold comfort for the country's companies and businesses, which have enjoyed booming trade with Tehran in recent years. They fear a massive slump in their business with the neighboring Mullah regime. Umer Kiler, head of the Committee for Turkish-Iranian Trade Relations within the Council for Foreign Trade (DEIK) considers the American sanctions as the "lesser evil." What worries Turkish business leaders more, he says, is the temporary nature of the exemptions to Turkey because they had hoped for complete sanctions relief. "Turkey is the country which stands to be the most affected by the sanctions. That is why we'd initially thought the US administration would adopt a more considerate approach," Kiler told DW. After the new sanctions regime has come into effect on Monday, all the Turkish trade official is now hoping for is a partial relief for some sectors of the economy. "What we are demanding is improvements for trade in the oil and gas sectors. No matter how long the sanctions will remain in place, it's impossible for us to completely shutter trade in those sectors because of our common border with Iran. The traders will always find a loophole." What gives Kiler hope in this respect is the recent rapprochement between Washington and Istanbul that he hopes will have a positive effect on Trump's willingness to exempt Turkey from the trade embargo for a longer period of time. Whipsaw trade Over the past three decades, trade between Turkey and Iran has seen ups and downs. From a meager $1 billion (€880 million) in 1996, goods exchanges grew significantly during the presidency of current Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a peak reached in 2012 when $22 billion worth of goods and services were traded. However, bilateral trade has fallen substantially over the past five years, slumping from $21 billion to $10 billion in the period. While Tehran in the past exported primarily oil, Turkish cross-border shipments were mainly gold to pay for it. As a result, the trade balance between the two countries used to be skewed in Iran's favor up until 2016, when Turkey's exports grew to $5 billion overtaking $4.7 billion worth of imports from its neighbor for the first time ever. Volumes changed back in Iran's favor in 2017, with Istanbul suffering a trade deficit that year of $4 billion. While Iran has continued to ship primarily oil, Turkish exports now include a range of manufactured goods such as automobiles, machinery, textile and food products. The latest trend of falling bilateral trade was manifested in data released recently by the Council of Turkish Exporters (TIM), showing that cross-border shipments reached only a volume of $1.8 billion in the first nine months of 2018. The main reasons for the downturn given by the industry group was US pressure exerted on those countries doing business with Iran, and secondly, higher taxes on Turkish exports imposed by Tehran. Mixed picture Bulent Aymen, deputy chairman of the Union of Mediterranean Exporters (AKIB) says Iran is traditionally a major competitor of Turkey in a number of markets and sectors in the region. Nevertheless, a weakening Iranian economy will have "consequences for Turkish companies doing trade with Iran," he told DW. Other experts are not convinced of the negative scenarios for Turkey. Eyup Ersoy, Middle East expert at Bilkent University, says he thinks US sanctions are mainly targeted at Iran's energy and financial sectors and won't impede trade in goods. "Sectors outside oil will only be indirectly affected by the sanctions," he told DW. Ersoy is also convinced that a further thaw in US-Turkish relations will lead to more sanctions relief for Ankara, substantially benefitting the oil trade between the two countries. Nevertheless, he thinks that if Washington won't prolong the exemptions, Turkey will find ways to secure supply and limit the effects of an oil embargo. "For Turkey to find alternative solutions doesn't mean a lot of risk and higher costs," he told DW.

Turkey has been exempt from oil sector sanctions imposed by Washington on the regime in Tehran. But Turkish businesses fear the possible consequences of a likely shift in Donald Trump’s mood toward Turkey. The Trump administration announced sanctions against Iran earlier this week, with a strong focus on hitting the country’s oil and petrochemical sectors especially hard. So far, however, ... Read More »

US-Russian honeymoon turns sour over Syria

Where to now for US/Russian relations in the wake of Trump's actions against Syria? Fiona Clark looks at the convoluted relations between the two players. So, the honeymoon might be over, but does US President Donald Trump's decision to unilaterally bomb a Syrian airfield really mean divorce is imminent? Despite a barrage of baseless conspiracy theories bantering about the bombing being a cunning way to divert attention away from Trump's alleged ties to the Kremlin, the view from Russia certainly appears to be one of abject disappointment. Cries of foul play resounded with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accusing Trump of breaking international law and describing the airstrikes as "an act of aggression with an invented pretext," which, he hoped, would not lead to irreparable damage to US-Russian relations. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev went further. He said trust was gone and that relations were "completely ruined" by an action that put them "on the verge of a military clash." Read: Gabriel: Russia backs Syrian chemicals attack probe And it seems the disappointment may only get worse. Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, has indicated that the US is adding the ousting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to its list of priorities alongside the defeat of IS in the region. She also raised the prospect of further sanctions against Russia over its support of the Assad regime. Tillerson's task The statement is going to make US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job in Moscow this week all the more difficult. He maintains Washington's first priority is the defeat of the "Islamic State" (IS) group, and that the United States is still hopeful it can help bring all parties to the table to begin the process of hammering out a political solution. "If we can achieve ceasefires in zones of stabilization in Syria, then we hope we will have the conditions to begin a useful political process," Tillerson told CBS's Face the Nation. A long-time friend of Moscow, Tillerson may have a shot at smoothing the troubled waters, but the underlying problem will remain. Trump's actions, which many see as justified as drawing a belated line in the sand against the use of chemical weapons, was, it appears, sparked by an emotional response. There appears to be no long-term strategy or plan and the risk is, if challenged again by another chemical weapons strike, he will have to take further action and end up embroiled in a regional battle he hadn't really bargained for and that brings him into direct conflict with Russia. Read: Putin and Rouhani condemn US missiles against Syria Predictability, reliability and foreign policy Russia's support for Assad isn't because they love the man or what he stands for - it's about regional influence and oil. If they can find a suitable replacement for Assad who would ensure Russia's interests in the region, they'd probably jump at it. But if the US steps in any further and rocks its boat, extending its influence beyond the Saudi-backed states further south, the Kremlin will not be happy. So how can you have a political dialogue when you don't know whether the people you're negotiating with are going to uphold their end of the bargain? As Lavrov pointed out: "An attack on a country whose government fights terrorism only plays into the hands of extremists, creates additional threats to regional and global security." And if Trump had considered the consequences, then he certainly didn't care about them. Irrespective of whether the decision was right or wrong, Russia will see this as an example of US arrogance and imperialism. Read: Syria, Russia to dominate G7 meeting amid questions over US strategy Not only that, but it highlights the central problem with Trump - his unpredictability. The Kremlin may be duplicitous and opportunistic, but it's rarely random, and it will find it very hard to deal with impulsive behavior and wavering foreign policy. Tillerson will have his work cut out for him in trying to convince the Kremlin that Trump can be trusted. There's only about one certainty in all of this - as US warships steam ahead toward North Korea, President Putin may well be ruing the Kremlin's alleged involvement in getting Trump elected. The monster it supposedly helped created may pose more problems for it than it ever envisaged.

Where to now for US/Russian relations in the wake of Trump’s actions against Syria? Fiona Clark looks at the convoluted relations between the two players. So, the honeymoon might be over, but does US President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally bomb a Syrian airfield really mean divorce is imminent? Despite a barrage of baseless conspiracy theories bantering about the bombing ... Read More »

Germany won’t spend 2 percent on defense, says SPD candidate

In a Q&A session with foreign journalists, Social Democrat Martin Schulz said there would be no big defense spending boosts in the context of NATO. Instead, he stressed the primacy of the European Union. US President Donald Trump has called loudly and long for NATO members to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. If Social Democratic chairman and candidate for chancellor Martin Schulz wins power in Germany's national election in September, Trump won't get anywhere near that much. "I'm not of the opinion that NATO has agreed to achieve this 2 percent goal in defense spending," Schulz told members of the foreign press in Berlin. "Twenty billion euros ($21 billion) or more in additional defense expenditures would certainly not be a goal my government would pursue." At their 2014 summit in Wales, NATO members set 2 percent as a "guideline." Trump's White House treats this as a commitment, but the SPD led by Schulz say it's no such thing. "If I interpret it correctly, all that was agreed was that we'd try to approach it," Schulz said. "It doesn't seem to me to be the highest priority to spend 20 billion euros more just to have a force armed to the teeth in the middle of Europe." In the exact, ambiguous wording of the Wales Summit Declaration, members who didn't already meet the target promised to "move towards the 2 percent guideline within a decade." Schulz's remarks came in response to a question about how his foreign policy would differ from that of the current government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the hour-long Q&A session, Schulz repeatedly stressed that the European Union would be his focus over other partnerships and narrowly defined national interests. Ja, yes and oui to Europe Chancellor Merkel is known as one of the most prominent and vigorous proponents of the EU anywhere today. But Schulz, a former president of the European parliament who spent 13 years of his career in Brussels, clearly thinks that there's room to be even more pro-Europe. "There will be no talking down Europe with me in charge," Schulz said. "There'll be no saying 'everything good is national and everything bad comes from Brussels.' I'm for strengthening and reforming the EU." Schulz said that decisions which could be made better at the local or national level should be made there. But he stressed that global economic relations, the fight against tax havens, climate policies, developmental aid, combating terrorism and security were all issues "that no one country today can handle alone." As if to underscore his cosmopolitanism, Schulz took and answered questions in English and French as well as German. He discussed Germany's relations with South America at length, rattled off the tongue-twisting names of Turkish ministers when asked about Erdogan and the upcoming constitutional referendum in Turkey, and addressed questions about countries ranging from Greece to Israel to Ukraine. And he repeatedly returned to the theme that foreign policy problems needed to be solved by the EU, and not Germany alone. "I think the Federal Republic of Germany should make its contributions within the EU," Schulz said when asked about Russia and the conflict with Ukraine over Crimea. "One conclusion that I've drawn from my experience at the European level is that a basic element of politics is the search for mutual interests." Such bromides may be short of specifics, but they seemed to go over as well with the foreign journalists as they did with the SPD rank and file, who unanimously nominated Schulz their candidate for the chancellery at a special party conference in March. But there's one question Schulz finds difficult to answer: whether he would be willing to form a coalition with the controversial Left party in order to gain power. No ja or nein to the Left Since being made party leader, Schulz has lifted the SPD from its doldrums in the polls. The lone setback was last month's defeat by Merkel's CDU in a local state election in Saarland. Many observers put that loss down to voters rejecting the idea that the SPD could govern together with the Left, the successor to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in the communist former East Germany. The CDU has ruled out working with the Left. In Berlin on Monday, Schulz again steadfastly refused to say anything about possible coalitions other than that his aim was to attract the most votes and then invite others to talk to him. When queried whether the lack of clear positioning vis-a-vis a preferred coalition was hurting the SPD, the otherwise loquacious Schulz answered with a terse "nein." In response to a similar question, Schulz dodged the issue by blaming the SPD's poor showing in Saarland on the individual popularity of the CDU's lead candidate there, implying that the situation would be different in September's national election. Not only is the Left party tainted in many voters' eyes by its association with communism, but the party also wants to distance Germany from NATO and build closer ties with Vladimir Putin's Russia - a position that scares many people in the political mainstream. The foreign journalists weren't particularly adamant about pinning the SPD leader down on the issue. Domestic reporters won't be so forgiving. The question of whether or not he's willing to do a deal with the Left party is one that Schulz will likely have to answer at some point, if he is to have any real hope of prying Angela Merkel from the chancellor's office.

In a Q&A session with foreign journalists, Social Democrat Martin Schulz said there would be no big defense spending boosts in the context of NATO. Instead, he stressed the primacy of the European Union. US President Donald Trump has called loudly and long for NATO members to increase their defense spending to 2 percent of their GDP by 2024. If ... Read More »

US agencies may have spied on Trump communications, Republican lawmaker says

A leading Republican lawmaker has claimed the communications of Donald Trump's transition team - and maybe even the US president himself - were possibly captured in incidental surveillance against foreign targets. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Republican Devin Nunes, told reporters on Wednesday that US spies may have swept up information on Donald Trump "inadvertently" during the president's transition period. The comments prompted the intelligence committee's ranking Democrat, Alan Schiff, to accuse his opposite number of acting on behalf of the White House, instead of behaving impartially. Read: US Congress hearings on Russia could descend into a partisan slugfest Citing anonymous sources, Nunes - who was himself part of the Trump transition team - said Trump and his associates may have been "monitored" as part of an "incidental collection." He added that the revelation did not bolster Trump's unproven assertion that he was wiretapped at the behest of outgoing President Barack Obama. 'Somewhat' vindicated Trump - potentially in hot water for his tweets accusing Obama and spy agencies of collusion that would have been illegal - welcomed Nunes' comments, saying he felt "somewhat" vindicated. "I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found," Trump said. For Democrat Schiff, however, the comments created "profound doubt" about the efficacy of the investigation being carried out. In particular, he lamented the way that Nunes - as committee chairman - had shared the information with the president and media before the committee itself had been consulted. "This is not how you conduct an investigation," Schiff told a news conference. "You don't take information that the committee hasn't seen and present it orally to the press and to the White House before the committee has a chance to vet whether it's even significant." Chairman or patsy? In comments to the news organization CNN, Schiff said Nunes needed to decide "whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation... or he's going to act as a surrogate of the White House, because he cannot do both." The brief of the committee is to investigate potential Russian influence on the 2016 presidential race. It began before Trump took office on January 20. Read: Constant information drip deepens Donald Trump's Russian woes Lines of questioning from Republican and Democratic committee members appeared to diverge during Monday's questioning of security officials. While Democrats concentrated on unmasking Russian officials allegedly in contact with the Trump team, Republicans wanted to hear about the importance of identifying and prosecuting those responsible for intelligence leaks. Trump's claims about the Obama wiretap led the administration to claim the spying had been conducted not by the FBI or National Security Agency, but by Britain's GCHQ surveillance agency. The claim was vehemently denied by Britain.

A leading Republican lawmaker has claimed the communications of Donald Trump’s transition team – and maybe even the US president himself – were possibly captured in incidental surveillance against foreign targets. The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Republican Devin Nunes, told reporters on Wednesday that US spies may have swept up information on Donald Trump “inadvertently” during the president’s ... Read More »

FBI confirms it’s investigating links between Russia, Trump campaign

The director of the FBI has confirmed for the first time that the bureau is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in last year's US election. He also shot down President Donald Trump's wiretapping allegations. FBI Director James Comey told a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday that the agency's investigation would include "the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" as well as any possible coordination between the campaign and Moscow's activities. The congressional committee is examining allegations of Russia-linked meddling in the 2016 US election. Comey told the panel he had taken the extraordinary step of confirming an ongoing investigation because of the extreme public interest in the case. He said the probe is part of the FBI's counter-intelligence mission, and would look at whether crimes were committed. "Because it is an open, ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining," Comey added. The director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Mike Rogers, also testified before the panel. It is the first time the two intelligence chiefs have spoken publicly about their investigations into the possible links between Russia and associates of US President Donald Trump. Russia denies that it attempted to influence the election. Wiretapping allegations The committee was also examining controversial allegations by Trump that his Trump Tower in New York was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama's administration. Trump first announced the unsubstantiated claim in several misspelled tweets on March 4. FBI Director Comey told the hearing Monday there was "no information that supports those tweets," adding that it was outside the power of the president to order electronic surveillance of any US citizen. The White House last week suggested Britain's GCHQ signals intelligence agency had helped Obama with the alleged surveillance - a charge the UK government dismissed as "utterly ridiculous." Rogers also rejected the accusation in the hearing, saying he had seen no evidence at the NSA to support it. Relations with Russia US intelligence agencies last year announced that hacking attacks against Democratic Party institutions were likely directed by the highest levels of the Russian government. The agencies said the hackers released embarrassing messages with the goal of helping Republican candidate Trump defeat his rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Both Rogers and Comey told the hearing that the intelligence community stands by that assessment. The question of whether Trump and his campaign were coordinating with Russia has dogged his administration for weeks. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired last month after it emerged that he lied about contact with Russian officials before entering office. New information surfaced last week that Flynn was paid $65,000 (60,350 euros) in 2015 by companies with ties to Russia. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also been accused of lying about his meetings with Russian officials.

The director of the FBI has confirmed for the first time that the bureau is investigating Russian efforts to interfere in last year’s US election. He also shot down President Donald Trump’s wiretapping allegations. FBI Director James Comey told a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Monday that the agency’s investigation would include “the nature of any links between individuals associated ... Read More »

Refugees flee US on foot, seek safety in Canada

Canada has seen a surge of refugees crossing into the country illegally from the US. Advocates say the number will rise as fears grow over President Donald Trump’s policies. Jillian Kestler-D'Amours reports from Toronto. Dozens of families, women and young children, are making the journey in blistering cold and waist-high snow, while young men have been stranded for hours and lost several fingers and toes to frostbite. They are all among a rising number of refugee claimants illegally crossing into Canada on foot from the United States, which many now say they feel is no longer safe under the administration of US President Donald Trump. "The concern really comes from the fact that people are walking across in very, very frigid winter weather, across deep snow, in fields, and really risking their health and their safety,"said Rita Chahal, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, a non-profit organisation that assists refugees and immigrants in the province. Chahal said about 300 refugee claimants that have entered Canada without legal permits have made in-country applications for protection in Manitoba since last April. In previous years, 70 refugee claimants in a similar period would have been a high number, she told DW. No fair hearing While the reason for the surge is unclear, Chahal said many people say they feared being deported from the US back to their home countries, or felt they wouldn't receive a fair asylum hearing. Others "are concerned about the political climate and the social climate within the US and how they might be treated there," she said. Most asylum seekers cross into Manitoba near the small town of Emerson, about 110 kilometers south of Winnipeg, the provincial capital and its largest city. The US states of Minnesota and North Dakota are across the border from Emerson, which has a population of about 700 residents. Twenty-two refugees crossed into Canada near Emerson over the first weekend of February, according to the national police service (RCMP), while 21 others made it across last week. Asylum seekers are also crossing at other points along the porous, nearly 9,000-kilometer US-Canada border: the RCMP intercepted 823 refugee claimants in the province of Quebec between Apr. 1 and Nov. 30 last year, according to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) figures. Most asylum seekers arriving in Manitoba are Somali citizens, followed by Eritrea and Djibouti passport holders, according to CBSA data. In Quebec, most are originally from Eritrea, Sudan and Syria. But so many asylum seekers are crossing over near Emerson that the town organized an emergency meeting with the RCMP and CBSA last week. "Safety was the biggest [concern]," Greg Janzen, the town's top official, said after the meeting. "Now we know the protocol if we get an influx of people… The governments have been very supportive in this whole issue." Maggie Yeboah is a social worker and president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba. She said about 30 Ghanaian refugee claimants have walked over the US border into Manitoba in recent months. Most of the men did not set out to come to Canada, Yeboah said, but many fled persecution and violence related to their sexual orientation in Ghana. Male homosexuality is illegal under the country's penal code. "They are being persecuted or being attacked back home in Ghana because of their sexual orientation," she told DW. Yeboah said many of the men were advised to take a bus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a taxi from Minneapolis to the US-Canada border. From there, they were told they could walk into Canadian territory. "It's not as easy as people think or people say, and they did not set out to come to Canada the wrong way, or [to] jump over the [border]. They thought they were going to [stay in] America, where they would be safe or where they would be welcomed. But they realised that it's not like that … so they took the chance," she said. Dangerous journey Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said asylum seekers are forced to take dangerous routes into Canada due to a deal that came into force in 2004 known as the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). The agreement means that most asylum seekers applying for protection in Canada at a US-Canada border crossing will be immediately sent back to the US, which Canada deems a safe country. But the agreement does not apply to anyone who is inside Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada will likely hear their refugee claim. The agreement "prevents people from applying in a safe and orderly way at the border points,” Dench told DW. The CCR and other human rights groups, including Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have long called on Canada to rescind the agreement. They say it's especially crucial in light of US President Donald Trump's travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa, and general policies towards refugees. The order has been challenged as unconstitutional, and as of last week, a federal court has upheld a stay on its implementation. But the Trump administration's policies more generally toward refugees have raised concern about whether the US still meets the requirements in Canadian law to be considered safe. "From our perspective, Canada should withdraw from the agreement. We were never in favour of the agreement and the irregular crossings [are] one of the very obvious and known consequences," Dench said. US no longer safe for refugees Amnesty International Canada Executive Director Alex Neve agreed. "It is, to put it generously, fiction to continue to believe that the United States at this time is safe for refugees." But Canada's Immigration Minister, Ahmad Hussen, recently said the STCA would remain in place. Trump's executive order deals with refugee resettlement, and does not affect the US asylum program, while Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act involves the continual review of whether conditions that led a country to be designated as safe continue to be met, said a ministry spokesperson. "The STCA remains an important tool for Canada and the US to work together on the orderly handling of refugee claims made in our countries," Spokesperson Nancy Caron told DW in an emailed statement. "We continue to monitor the situation." Meanwhile, Chahal said while it's hard to speculate, the general sense is that the number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada illegally will continue to increase, especially as the weather gets warmer. "I'm not sure we've peaked yet," she said, "so we'll just wait and see."

Canada has seen a surge of refugees crossing into the country illegally from the US. Advocates say the number will rise as fears grow over President Donald Trump’s policies. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reports from Toronto. Dozens of families, women and young children, are making the journey in blistering cold and waist-high snow, while young men have been stranded for hours and ... Read More »

French left debates migrants and Trump ahead of primary

An ex-premier has proposed a carbon tax on American goods and reinforcing national identity through language. But his left-wing rival said Europe will not get away "with warships and barbed wire" in combatting migration. After their first televised debate last week, France's leftist presidential candidates on Sunday discussed their positions on migration and US President-elect Donald Trump ahead of a primary vote later this month. Former premier Manuel Valls, considered the leading candidate by several national polls, said he wants to "respect the right of asylum," but that France has "already faced the migratory crisis," according to French newspaper "Le Monde." France must "reinforce work for the integration of asylum seekers," in particular exhorting them to learn French, he said. However, former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg criticized the ex-premier's response, saying more needed to be done to address the causes of migration. "We will not get away with warships and barbed wire," Montebourg said, referring to attempts to bolster the EU's borders after 2015's influx of more than 1 million migrants, many fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The migration crisis prompted a political crisis between EU member states, with the Visegrad group, comprised of Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, refusing to take in refugees allocated under a bloc-wide quota system. Jean-Luc Bennahmias, a center-left outlier and founder of the Democratic Front, called for a "true European foreign policy." "The minimum would be sharing" the burden, especially seeing that "our Italian and Greek friends continue to welcome thousands of people," Bennahmias said. 'Europe must be strong' The debate later shifted to the incoming US administration, with euroskeptic politicians flocking to the divisive President-elect Donald Trump. Vall rejected that Europe should submit to American policy, saying "Europe must be strong and united." His comments come amid reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to warn Trump over protectionist measures aimed at shoring up the US economy. The EU will have to impose a "carbon tax on the import of American products," Valls said. "These are power relations. France must be strong at these times." However, some of the other candidates expressed a less reactionary vision for European-American relations Sylvia Pinel, head of the Radical Left Party, said France needed to lead instead of following, proposing the "strengthening of the Franco-German relationship." Under French President Francois Hollande, Paris has witnessed warm ties with Berlin. The primary to decide who will represent the left for the Socialist Party is scheduled for January 22, with a runoff expected on January 29. Despite seven contenders in the race, Valls is expected to lead the nomination for the presidency.

An ex-premier has proposed a carbon tax on American goods and reinforcing national identity through language. But his left-wing rival said Europe will not get away “with warships and barbed wire” in combatting migration. After their first televised debate last week, France’s leftist presidential candidates on Sunday discussed their positions on migration and US President-elect Donald Trump ahead of a ... Read More »

Obama seeks to reassure wary country and allies ahead of foreign trip

President Obama has expressed confidence that Donald Trump would maintain America's strategic partnerships. Before departing on his final trip abroad, he lauded his working relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Shortly before his departure for Europe US President Barack Obama sought to reassure a nervous country and a worried global community that president-elect Donald Trump would maintain America's alliances. "Do I have concerns?" Obama added. "Absolutely." The president is heading off on a three-nation valedictory trip, which includes a stop in Germany, and a final meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he said, "has probably been my closest (international) partner." Obama sought to reassure skittish European leaders after a divisive campaign marred by charges of racism, sexism, a potpourri of offensive rhetoric and a questioning Trump who cast doubt security relationships in Europe and Asia. The foreign press has been filled with fear and loathing at the prospect of a Trump presidency, including the latest cover of the German magazine "Der Spiegel," which featured a comet-like image of the president-elect hurtling towards earth with the caption: "It's the end of the world (as we know it)." In what appeared to be Obama's most revelatory comment during a lengthy press conference that stretched well beyond an hour, Obama said of Trump, ''he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships," including "strong and robust NATO" partnerships. The president reminded the assembled press core that "the trans-Atlantic and NATO alliance has endured for decades under Democratic and Republican leaders." On his final international trip Obama will stop in Greece, before arriving for a two-day visit to Germany on Thursday and wrapping his trip with a stop in Peru. A smooth transition The president said his team would accelerate efforts to ensure a smooth transition to the Trump administration. Strikingly, Obama declined to criticize Trump, who just a week earlier he had described as "woefully unprepared for the job" of president and couldn't "handle the nuclear codes." The president's posture came as the president-elect came in for a storm of criticism from human rights advocates for his selection of Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist. Bannon was a key figure in Trump's campaign and the owner of the Breitbart website, which critics say spews xenophobia and hostility towards minorities Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-governmental organization that opposes all forms of racism and bigotry, said on CNN that he was very troubled by Trump's appointment. He said he views Bannon as a proponent, if not instigator, of such rhetoric "We saw anti-Semitic memes coming out of campaign," he said, adding, "and a surge in hate crimes across the country, including swastikas in Philadelphia and Maryland." While Trump has made some conciliatory comments towards women and minorities in the aftermath of the election, the ADL chief said that's not enough. "The statements are fine," Greenblatt said, "but we want to see action."

President Obama has expressed confidence that Donald Trump would maintain America’s strategic partnerships. Before departing on his final trip abroad, he lauded his working relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Shortly before his departure for Europe US President Barack Obama sought to reassure a nervous country and a worried global community that president-elect Donald Trump would maintain America’s alliances. “Do I ... Read More »

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