Migration issues compounding at borders in Europe

Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are not accepting refugees despite a European Union agreement to help ease the burden on Italy and Greece.

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Across Europe, the flood of migrants and refugees continues to raise challenges for political leaders, communities and aid groups alike.

Last year, in the northern French town of Calais, authorities demolished a makeshift camp known as The Jungle.

The residents were transferred to various reception centres across France, where they were supposed to be prepared for seeking asylum.

But now, with little movement, hundreds have returned to Calais, hoping instead to cross the English Channel to their desired destination of Britain, and it is fuelling more tension.

French charities have accused police of using excessive force against migrants and refugees and preventing aid groups from distributing meals.

A volunteer for the Calais-based Refugee Community Kitchen, Jacob Strauss, says the closure of The Jungle has presented major obstacles.

“It made distribution of food a lot more difficult. Obviously, it’s the best for everyone if they have the stability of the place where they can live and an area that they can inhabit. Now, they don’t have that. We have to find spaces to meet them and feed them. We’ve had lots of problems with the local authorities, who have made it very clear they don’t want us to use public spaces for this.”

Further east on Hungary’s southern border, it is a different dilemma for migrants and refugees behind razor wire.

About 7,000 are stuck in limbo because of new laws keeping them in detention camps until their asylum requests are processed.

The so-called “container” camps are heavily fortified, and people can only leave towards the country they have come from — Serbia.

Refugee ambassador Tomas Bocek says, even inside, residents can only move around to different sectors if they need to see a doctor.

“This is … let’s say they call it ‘camps,’ but I would say that, according to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, this is rather a deprivation of liberty. And we have had recent cases already that said it. When you have deprivation of liberty, in order not to have arbitrary detention, you have to meet certain conditions. And these conditions, unfortunately, are not met here because the Hungarian authorities don’t consider this settlement as detention.”

Mr Bocek says those inside are dispirited.

“You know, they don’t understand why they are there, why they are in a closed camp — or they call it ‘prison’ — why they ended up in this prison, how they call it. And the question that everybody asked me is, ‘So, when will we get out?'”

Hungary’s hard line on migrants and refugees, along with Poland’s and the Czech Republic’s, has prompted the European Commission to launch legal action.

The commission accuses them of failing to meet their European Union obligations.

Fewer than 21,000 people have been relocated from Italy and Greece, a small fraction of the 160,000 the plan was supposed to involve.

Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos says the refusal by the three countries is not fair on other member states that are shouldering the burden.

“I sincerely hope that these member states can still reconsider their position and contribute fairly. I remind you that the decision that was made in Luxembourg one year and a half ago is a decision that we took all together, and it is mandatory. So, time was consumed, and time has expired. Let’s hope that not only reason, but also the European spirit, will prevail.”

Facing possible financial penalties, the three countries have defended their stance, citing security concerns after a series of major attacks in Western Europe over the past two years.

Their governments are also hoping that confronting the EU powers in Brussels will win them credit from eurosceptic voters back home.

With a lengthy legal and political fight likely, those seeking refuge are set to keep on waiting.

 

 

Death toll rising in huge London tower fire

Police have confirmed at least 12 people died in the fire and another 68 have been hospitalised.

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But they have little idea how many could remain unaccounted for.

The day after an inferno described by firefighters as “unprecedented,” the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London has been reduced to a charred, smoking shell.

Windows are blasted out, and debris is strewn around the blackened building.

London’s Metropolitan Police commander, Stuart Cundy, in citing the early death toll, made it clear the news was probably going to get worse.

“Sadly, I can confirm that there are now 12 people that have died, that we know of. This is going to be a long and complex recovery operation. And I do anticipate that the number of fatalities will, sadly, increase beyond those 12.”

But facing hazardous recovery conditions, the police commander said he could not guess just how much it was likely to rise.

“In cases like this, it’s very, very challenging to put a number on how many people are unaccounted for. Our priority is clearly those who we know would have been resident within Grenfell Tower, but, indeed, there might have been others who were staying with family or friends.”

More than 250 firefighters, using 40 appliances — including drones — tackled the blaze.

The London Fire Brigade’s director of safety and assurances, Steve Apter, says emergency crews did manage to battle the force of the fire to get to the top floor.

“They were hampered for some time by a fractured gas main, which was really difficult and challenging for the utilities to be able to isolate. That obviously, as you can imagine, created quite a significant hazard. Once that was isolated, the crews were able to progress. Conditions in the tower — and you can see for yourselves — the fire’s been burning for some time. The integrity of the building is a significant issue for us as a hazard.”

This witness has described the desperation of those in the building during the blaze.

“It was quite high up, like, just above the middle, and she was screaming, ‘I’ve got a baby. Please, help me get out. I can’t get out. I’m trapped. I need to save my baby.’ I did see a few people jump. People were jumping.”

A resident who did escape has told Sky News the fire started in his neighbour’s fourth-floor flat.

(Man:) “It’s by chance that we had a knock, and the guy who knocked just so happens to be the guy whose (apartment) was the cause of the whole thing. He explained to us as he came down, after we were outside the building, he explained to us that it was due to his fridge, which exploded.”

(Reporter:) “On the fourth floor.”

(Man:) “On the fourth floor.”

The tragedy has forced British prime minister Theresa May to delay her announcement on a deal to form a minority government in Britain.

She has praised the reaction of people in the area.

“The response of people living nearby, who’ve provided help, compassion and support, has, I think, once again shown the fantastic spirit of London. Earlier today, I ordered a cross-government meeting to ensure that every assistance was being given to manage the emergency-service response, and that group will meet again tomorrow.”

Local council leader Nick Paget-Brown has confirmed the tower recently underwent a multi-million-dollar refurbishment.

“To improve the hot-water system, to improve the heating, to improve insulation, put in new windows, new external cladding, to improve the quality of life for people who were living there. Now, clearly, when you do that, there are difficulties, problems, complaints, logistics to resolve, and it is undoubtedly the case that the council received some complaints about the way the work was being conducted.”

Some of the concerns of residents raised related to fire safety.

It is not the first fatal blaze in recent years to hit the apartment-tower blocks that pepper London’s skyline.

In 2009, six residents were killed in the borough of Camberwell, and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn says a review called for more resources for local authorities.

“And the government has that review. I believe we need to ask questions about what facilities and resources have been given to every local authority that has tower blocks within the area. And, frankly, most do.”

With inquiries into the fire already announced, there will be more questions about the aluminium cladding used in building renovations.

Fairfax Media reports the cladding used in the refit is the same product blamed for fuelling nearly a dozen high-rise fires globally in the past decade, including one in Melbourne.

 

 

South Australia in race to power up summer

South Australia is in a “race against time” to get new generation in place for summer, as a report names SA and Victoria as the states most at risk of power supply shortfalls over the next two years.

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The Australian Energy Market Operator says an average summer in 2017/18 would present a low risk of problems for Australia’s power network.

But it says the network remains susceptible to extreme conditions, particularly if limitations on generation or transmission, or low solar and wind conditions, coincide with periods of peak demand.

In its Energy Supply Outlook, the operator says SA and Victoria are most at risk of shortfalls in such conditions, which could result in people losing power through load shedding.

The outlook says all regions will meet the power reliability standard over the next two years but SA, in particular, is “considered most at risk” of dropping below and must meet a range of conditions not to do so.

“Existing generation capacity must be available and operating, Pelican Point Power Station must return to full service,” the report said.

“And the new battery storage and diesel generation contracted for by the government must be available as planned.”

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said “it’s a massive challenge” to get new generation running by summer but it was clear it was “absolutely necessary”.

“It is a race against time,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Thursday.

“We’re working day and night on this.”

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said the operator’s latest analysis showed the power system was changing.

“There will be challenges that will need to be managed proactively on days of extreme conditions to maintain secure, reliable and affordable energy to Australian consumers,” she said in a statement on Thursday.

Ms Zibelman said the operator was working closely with governments and market participants to improve capacity in the system, so it could better cope with extreme situations.

Initiatives already under way to boost capacity included ensuring there was enough generation fuel available, facilitating new generation and storage, and performing generation and transmission maintenance before the summer.

Human immune system matures in the womb

Research shows the human immune system develops much earlier than previously thought.

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International scientists have discovered the fetal immune system is active by the second trimester of pregnancy.

The new understanding may help reveal some causes of miscarriage, say immunologists.

Principal investigator Florent Ginhoux and colleagues at the Singapore Immunology Network studied tissues from 96 fetuses from the second trimester of pregnancy – ranging from 14 to 22 weeks of gestation – collected from clinically indicated terminations of pregnancies.

The study published in journal Nature showed that the human fetus had functional dendritic cells – crucial to immunity – at 13 weeks gestation.

However the cells’ response to foreign proteins differ to adults.

“Similar to adult dendritic cells, fetal dendritic cells migrate to lymph nodes and respond to toll-like receptor ligation; however, they differ markedly in their response to allogeneic antigens,” the authors wrote.

That is, they suppress or dampen an immune reaction to cells from the mother.

“Our results reveal a previously unappreciated role of dendritic cells within the developing fetus and indicate that they mediate homeostatic immune-suppressive responses during gestation,” wrote the authors.

The result challenged the assumption that the human fetus is unable to mount an immune response.

A developing fetus is constantly exposed to foreign proteins and cells, which are transferred from the mother through the placenta.

Fully understanding that development could reveal the reasons for some miscarriages, as well as explain conditions such as pre-eclampsia, which is associated with abnormal immune responses to pregnancy, says immunologist Mike McCune at the University of California.

“It’s important for us to understand the function of the human fetal immune system so that we can treat fetuses that are not doing well,” he told Nature长沙桑拿按摩论坛,.

Johnston’s new three-year deal with Souths

South Sydney have fended off interest from rival clubs to retain speedster Alex Johnston on a three-year extension which will keep him at Redfern until the end of 2020.

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The former Australian representative had been linked with a move to St George Illawarra as a possible replacement for Cronulla-bound Josh Dugan.

However, the Rabbitohs won the race to retain the 22-year-old outside back – the club’s top try-scorer for three years running.

“I’m really happy to have the contract sorted out and to know I will be a Rabbitoh for at least the next three years is a great thing,” Johnston said.

“In the end, it was the best decision for me to stay and to build on what we’ve established since 2014 when I made my debut.

“It’s always a privilege to pull on that South Sydney jersey and I’m glad that I know I will be doing that for at least the next three years.”

Johnston shapes as an important part of coach Michael Maguire’s plans for the 2018 season, with uncertainty looming about Greg Inglis’ place in the side.

Inglis is recovering from a season-ending knee injury and is tipped to move to centre to better preserve his body in the twilight of his career.

Johnston is a potential option for the No.1 jersey along with playmaking utility Cody Walker.

“Alex is establishing himself as one of the leading outside backs in the competition and one of his greatest attributes is his willingness to learn,” Maguire said.

“His work on the wing is right up there with some of the best wingers in the game.

“He’s a South Sydney junior who has proven himself to be a potent try-scorer.”

Johnston has 57 tries from 74 NRL games since debuting against Brisbane in round eight in 2014.

South Sydney have fended off interest from rivals to retain high-scoring utility back Alex Johnston for a further three NRL seasons.

The 22-year-old will remain at Redfern until at least the end of 2020.

Johnston has scored 57 tries in the first 74 games of his NRL career and been the Rabbitohs’ leading try-scorer every season since making his first grade debut in April 2014.