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EU border agency trials high tech controls as Afghan fighting spreads

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: August 13, 2021)

The EU’s border agency is trialing new high-tech surveillance equipment to detect migrant boats, just as rapid gains by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have raised the prospect of a surge in people fleeing to Europe.

A balloon system equipped with cameras is being tested at Alexandroupolis airport near the Greek-Turkish land border in northeastern Greece, and on the island of Limnos, with the aim of giving border officials a clearer view of approaching boats.

Planned before recent Taleban advances in Afghanistan, it is part of a wider effort that includes analysis of emerging pressures from the region.

“We are observing and following the developments specifically in Afghanistan and Tunisia which might have an effect on migratory flows towards the European Union,” said Frontex spokesperson Piotr Switalski.

The integrated mix of cameras and thermovision sensors with links to ship transponders and satellite communications gives officials a real-time view of a 60 km (40 miles) circle of sea, covering 40,000 square km (15,000 square miles).

“Border surveillance in the maritime area should be greatly improved because of this innovative system,” he said.

More than 400 Frontex officials with several dozen vehicles, including some equipped with thermovision technology, as well as eight patrol vessels, are stationed in Greece, which has been on the front line of the migrant crisis.

Both the agency and the Greek coast guard have been hit by accusations that Greece has pushed back migrants from Turkey while the border agency stood by, but both have denied acting improperly.

Several EU countries have stopped forced returns of Afghans refused asylum while the fighting intensifies. But Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said this week the EU could not handle another major migration crisis.

Greece, which has built high walls along its land border to deter migrants, says its tough stance has paid off, with incoming flows and camp populations decreasing this year. Mitarachi said camps did have the capacity however to take in more migrants if the country was faced by another influx.

After a slowdown last year when coronavirus lockdowns limited movement, irregular migrant arrivals into the EU through the western Balkans have almost doubled this year, Frontex said.

Switalski said arrivals in Greece spiked in July, with some 1,000 detections.

With 22,600 migrants found illegally entering the EU via the western Balkans from January to July, numbers are far from the levels of 2015, when more than 1 million people, mainly from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq passed through Greece.

But what Switalski called the “tricky” geopolitical situation in the region around the EU has heightened fears of a repeat that could put welfare systems under strain and feed already strong political opposition to immigration.

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UN chief says IEA must respect human rights in order to be recognized

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

Laying out his priorities for 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has to respect human rights in order to obtain international recognition.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Guterres stated that it was “absolutely essential” for the IEA “to have full respect for the rights of women and girls and to have a positive approach to human rights in general” in order to obtain international recognition and “getting international support for their own people.”

“To provide a lifeline of help for the Afghan people, inject cash to avoid an economic meltdown, ensure full respect of international humanitarian law and human rights — particularly for women and girls — and effectively fight terrorism,” he said.

UN Secretary-General spoke about global issues as well. Referring to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a morally bankrupt global financial system, the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and diminished peace and security, he told the General Assembly that “we face a five-alarm global fire that requires the full mobilization of all countries.”

“Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges. Now is the time to act. All these challenges are, at heart, failures of global governance.”

On the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Guterres said, “diplomacy is the way to solve problems. Of course, any invasion by one country to another country is against international law, and I hope that this, of course, will not happen in the present circumstances. I am convinced it will not happen. And I strongly hope to be right.”

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Salang Pass, Herat- Badghis highway closed to traffic due to heavy snow

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

Local officials said that due to heavy snowfall and stormy weather, the Salang Pass and Herat-Badghis highway have been closed to traffic temporarily.

Qazi Obaidullah Obaid, head of the Salang Pass maintenance department said they had decided to close the mountain pass in order to avoid casualties amid bad weather conditions.

According to Obaid dozens of motorists and passengers were stranded on the pass but have since been taken to places of safety.

Meanwhile, Mohibullah Asad, deputy governor of Badghis, said that Herat-Qala-e-Naw highway has also been closed to traffic due to heavy snowfall.

He said maintenance crews are working to clear the highway and reopen it to traffic.

Badghis received heavy snowfalls from Friday afternoon, making the highway impassable.

Kabul also received a fair amount of snow overnight which was expected to clear later Saturday. However, temperatures are set to drop to around -12 degrees Celsius during the night.

While Sunday is expected to be sunny, the expected high will only be -1 degrees Celsius, dropping to -15 degrees Celsius on Sunday night.

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IEA delegation due in Norway for humanitarian talks

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2022)

Representatives of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will arrive in Norway on Sunday for three days of talks on how to alleviate a humanitarian crisis, the Norwegian foreign ministry said on Friday, Reuters reported.

“These meetings do not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban [IEA]. But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.

“We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,” she said.

Millions of Afghans have been plunged deeper into poverty since last year’s IEA takeover, which resulted in disruption to aid programmes and deteriorating food security, Reuters reported.

The IEA representatives will meet Norwegian authorities as well as diplomats from several other countries from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25.

“Meetings will also take place between the Taliban [IEA] delegation and other Afghans with backgrounds from a range of fields. These include women leaders, journalists, and individuals working to safeguard human rights and address humanitarian, economic, social and political issues,” Norway said.

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