Australia to Impose “Lifetime Ban” on Anyone Caught Immigrating Illegally

you-wont-be-settled-in-australiaThe Australian government is set to introduce legislation that will set a lifetime ban on refugees trying to enter the country by boat.

Australia has some of the strictest immigration laws in the world. People who enter the country without a visa are placed in off-shore detention centers indefinitely. The country has been widely criticized for the policy and moved to close one of its largest detention camps in Papua New Guinea in August.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government want to deter refugees from even trying. By setting a lifetime ban on this form of illegal immigration, the government is sending a message to people smugglers that “Australia is not an option for you.”

“This will send the strongest possible signal to the people smugglers,” Turnbull told reporters Sunday in Sydney. “They must know that the door to Australia is closed to those who seek to come here by boat with a people smuggler. It is closed.”

Refugees will not be able to return under any circumstances, not even on a tourist visa or as a spouse of an Australian citizen. The ban will work retroactively and affect all cases after July 19, 2013.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Duttonau

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said the law will not change the outlook for refugees significantly, as the ones who are already in detention centers “are living in false hope.”

“There are still people, advocates in Australia and elsewhere, who are messaging to people on Nauru and Manaus that at some stage you are coming to Australia,” Dutton said. “Those people are living in false hope and it cannot continue.”

The government will introduce the proposal this week as an amendment to the 1958 Migration Act.

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ISIS hides bombs inside teddy bears and toy trucks, using improvised devices to target children as forces close in on Mosul

northern-iraq-mapIn the war-ravaged town of Mosul, a teddy bear or truck is a rare treasure to a child.

But these innocent-looking toys are actually the trigger for sinister booby traps that detonate as soon as they are touched.

An innocent-looking teddy bear is actually a bomb meant for Iraqi children
An innocent-looking teddy bear is actually a bomb meant for Iraqi children

The ploy marks a sickening new low for Islamic State, who currently hold Iraq’s second largest city, as they can only be intended to target children. Adults would walk straight past them.

These and other cunningly disguised improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been put on display at a training center for locally-trained bomb disposal experts as 40,000 soldiers, state-sanctioned militia members and other fighters prepare to encircle Mosul to cut off ISIS forces from outside help.

Colonel Nawzad Kamil Hassan, an engineer with the Kurdish forces, asked, ‘Why would ISIS use something nice, like a bear or a rabbit?

‘They used this toy because they know the Peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] will not touch it but children will.’

This seemingly harmless toy truck is actually a trigger for an explosive device
This seemingly harmless toy truck is actually a trigger for an explosive device

He added: ‘They are not even animals. They are worse than animals.’

His unit has cleared 50 tons of explosives in two years from areas once controlled by militants, including five tons from a single school in Sinjar city to the west of Mosul.

The city, around 250 miles north of Baghdad, has been under ISIS control since June 2014. 

The offensive to take it back is the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 invasion by the U.S. and coalition forces.

isis-flagThe U.S. military estimates ISIS has up to 5,000 fighters inside Mosul and between 1,500 and 2,500 in a defensive belt around the city. 

Of these, around 1,000 are believed to be foreign fighters.

Other IEDs, including some with detonators attached to playing cards, watches and lengths of hosepipe, have been laid out to slow the encroaching forces and delay recovery should they succeed in seizing control.

17 Dead, 41 Wounded In Chicago Weekend Shootings

Welcome to Chicago 01At least 17 people, including four teenagers, were killed and 41 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago between Friday evening and Monday morning.

The weekend’s latest homicide happened shortly after 4 a.m. Monday in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. A 28-year-old man was found with gunshot wounds to the chest and head on the kitchen floor of a second-floor apartment in the 1100 block of West Garfield, according to Chicago Police. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The Cook County medical examiner’s office did not immediately provide information on fatality. Area South detectives are conducting a homicide investigation.

About 3:15 a.m. Sunday, twin 17-year-old brothers were killed in a drive-by shooting in the Old Town neighborhood on the Near North Side. Edwin and Edward Bryant were standing outside in the 1300 block of North Hudson when a dark-colored vehicle drove by and someone inside opened fire, authorities said. Edwin was shot in the chest and back, while Edward suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and head. They were both taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Edwin was pronounced dead at 3:45 a.m., and Edward died about an hour later. They both lived in the 700 block of South Kedzie.

About 15 minutes earlier, 19-year-old Raqkown Ricks was killed and a 40-year-old man was wounded in a Near West Side shooting. The men were in a car at 2:59 a.m. in the 2100 block of West Jackson when someone walked up and fired shots in their direction, authorities said. The driver tried to speed away, but their vehicle struck a parked vehicle before coming to a rest. Ricks, of the 1200 block of South Sawyer, suffered several gunshot wounds to the back and was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:38 a.m. The older man was shot in the shoulder and also taken to Stroger, where his condition was stabilized.

At 2:34 a.m., a 24-year-old woman showed up in the 10700 block of South Hoxie in the South Deering neighborhood on the Far South Side and told witnesses she was shot, police said. The woman had suffered a gunshot wound to the body and someone took her to Trinity Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said. The medical examiner’s office has not yet released her name.

About 1 a.m., officers responded to a call of shots fired in the 7900 block of South Vernon in the South Side Chatham neighborhood and found a man lying on the sidewalk, police said. The man, thought to be between 35 and 45 years old, was shot in the head and chest and pronounced dead at the scene at 1:19 a.m. He has not been identified.

Fifteen minutes earlier in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the West Side, officers responding to a call of shots fired found a 31-year-old man lying on the sidewalk in the 3400 block of West Hirsch, according to police. He suffered a gunshot wound to the face and was taken to Norwegian American Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His name has not been released.

At 8:05 p.m. Saturday, 19-year-old Luis Corona was shot to death in the Archer Heights neighborhood on the Southwest Side. He was in a parked vehicle in the 4800 block of South Karlov when two males announced a robbery, according to police and the medical examiner’s office. Corona tried to escape but was shot in the chest and crashed his vehicle into two parked vehicles at the end of an alley. Corona, who lived in the 6100 block of South Moody, was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:25 p.m.

Less than an hour earlier, a 28-year-old man was sitting in a parked vehicle in an alley in the 8300 block of South Hermitage in the South Side Gresham neighborhood when someone walked up and shot him in the head, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:45 p.m., according to the medical examiner’s office. His name has not yet been released.

About 20 minutes earlier, a 36-year-old man was shot in the Englewood neighborhood and died later Sunday morning. Walter McCurry was standing in the street at 7:23 p.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of West 57th Street, when someone in a dark-colored car fired shots, hitting him in the chest, arm and hip, authorities said. McCurry, who lived in the 6300 block of South Morgan, was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:47 a.m. Sunday.

At 4:50 p.m., a 17-year-old boy was fatally shot in the West Garfield Park neighborhood, authorities said. He was discovered outside in the 200 block of South Kostner with gunshot wounds to his back and leg. The boy was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:14 p.m. His name has not been released.

At 1:23 a.m., a 14-year-old boy was gunned down in the West Side Austin neighborhood. DeMarco Webster Jr. was on the street in the 500 block of South Central when someone in a dark-colored car shot him in the torso, authorities said. Webster, who lived in the 700 block of South Kedzie, was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, where he died at 3:15 a.m.

At 12:04 a.m. in the South Side Auburn Gresham neighborhood, someone walked up to 25-year-old Martell Turner as he sat in a vehicle in the 1200 block of West 79th Street and shot him in the chest and abdomen, authorities said. Turner was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. He lived in the 7900 block of South Throop.

Five minutes before that in the South Shore neighborhood, officers responding to a call of a person shot found 30-year-old Tyrice Anderson lying in the street in the 7800 block of South South Shore Drive, authorities said. Anderson was shot in the head and taken to Christ Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:03 a.m. He lived on the same block as the shooting.

About 10:20 p.m. Friday, two people were gunned down at a Back of the Yards neighborhood gas station on the South side. Chiquita Ford and Brian Fields, both 30 years old, were sitting in a vehicle at the station in the 1900 block of West Garfield when a gunman walked up and fired at them, hitting the woman in the side and the man in the chest, authorities said. They were both pronounced dead at the scene at 11:02 p.m. Ford lived in suburban Westchester and Fields was from the 7200 block of South Wolcott.

The weekend’s first homicide happened about 9 p.m. Friday in the West Side Austin neighborhood. Hernando Caster, 38, was on a sidewalk in the 4900 block of West Huron when two gunmen walked up and shot him in the back and thighs, authorities said. Caster, of the 5300 block of West Washington, was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he died at 10:58 p.m.

The latest nonfatal shooting happened shortly after 2 a.m. Monday in the South Chicago neighborhood. A 37-year-old woman was a passenger in a vehicle driving south in the 8000 block of South Exchange when she heard gunfire and realized she’d been shot in the left shoulder, police said. She later showed up at South Shore Hospital, where her condition was stabilized.

At least 39 more people were wounded in other shootings across the city between 4:45 p.m. Friday and 9:15 p.m. Sunday.

African leaders sign ‘historic’ maritime deal against piracy and smuggling

A French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) boat on an anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast
A French EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) boat on an anti-piracy mission off the Somali coast

African leaders signed a deal to boost security off the continent’s economically crucial coasts, hoping to shore up development by tackling maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.

Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso hailed the African Union agreement as “historic”, while Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said it showed Africa’s ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso

Sassou Nguesso said 43 nations had adopted the binding agreement — which will see countries pay into a special fund for maritime security — at a summit in Togo’s capital Lome.

The deal is designed to improve information-sharing between African nations, a weakness that pirates and smugglers have benefited from in the past, slipping between territorial waters with little trouble.

The talks drew 18 heads of state — an unusually high figure for an AU meeting of this kind, signaling the importance that governments have placed on the need to cut piracy and other crime in Africa’s waters.

Chad's President Idriss Deby
Chad’s President Idriss Deby

As he opened the summit, Chad’s President Idriss Deby, the current AU chief, noted that some 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are transported by sea, making maritime security key to the continent’s economic future.

Of the AU’s 54 member states, 38 have coastlines.

Deby said the charter would “allow the promotion of commerce and the exploitation of the huge potential of the maritime sector, as well as the creation of wealth and jobs in several industries”.

It would also “mark a decisive new step in the push to preserve the maritime environment”, he added.

The deal will create new national and regional institutions to improve security in African waters, while the signatories pledged a string of measures to protect the maritime environment and fight trafficking in drugs, arms and people.

Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey
Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey

Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey told AFP ahead of the summit that there was a clear need for African countries to work together to combat an upsurge in piracy in order to make full use of the continent’s maritime resources.

Piracy, smuggling and other crimes at sea have cost the African maritime sector hundreds of billions of dollars in recent decades, according to the AU.

World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to violent attacks by mostly Somali-based pirates.

gulf-of-guinea-mapBut the focus of concern has shifted to the Gulf of Guinea, where a new class of pirates — mostly offshoots of militant groups from the Niger Delta — have become active.

At least 27 attempted or successful hijackings and kidnappings at sea have been recorded off West Africa since April, according to the International Maritime Organization, compared to just two off east Africa.

The 17 countries lining the Gulf of Guinea have poor maritime surveillance capacities and have been trying for several years to boost cooperation to clamp down on piracy.

The deal will need to be ratified by at least 15 countries before it comes into force, and Barthelemy Blede, an ISS maritime researcher in Ivory Coast, said it remained to be seen whether there was “real will” to make the deal a reality.

“It’s a historic act, but it’s one thing to adopt a text and sign it, and another thing to ratify it,” he said.

Philippine leader Duterte says he wants foreign troops out

President Rodrigo Duterte
President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in a country that is a staunch U.S. ally and hosts 50,000 American troops, said Wednesday that he wants his country to be free of foreign troops, possibly within two years.

“I want to be friends to China,” he told an audience of businesspeople in Tokyo. “I do not need the arms. I do not want missiles established in my country. I do not need to have the airports to host the bombers.”

He was referring to visiting U.S. troops, whose presence in five Philippine military camps was established under a security deal signed under Duterte’s predecessor as a counterbalance to China’s growing military assertiveness in the region.

Since taking office at the end of June, Duterte has reached out to Beijing while criticizing U.S. foreign policy. His approach has caused consternation in both the U.S. and Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to ask Duterte about his foreign policy when they meet later Wednesday.

In his speech, the Philippine leader departed at the end of his prepared remarks on economic development and investment to address the topic that he said he knows is “what is in everybody’s mind.”

He said he is pursuing an independent foreign policy, and that he wants foreign troops to leave, maybe in the next two years. “I want them out,” he said.

“I may have ruffled the feelings of some but that is how it is,” he said. “We will survive, without the assistance of America, maybe a lesser quality of life, but as I said, we will survive.”

Duterte is on a three-day visit to Japan. After meeting Abe, he is attending a banquet hosted by the Japanese leader. On Thursday, he is set to meet Emperor Akihito.

Pakistan arrests National Geographic’s ‘Afghan girl’ Sharbat Gula

Sharbat Gula in the women's jail of Peshawar.
Sharbat Gula in the women’s jail of Peshawar.

An Afghan girl with haunting green eyes whose portrait on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 became one of the world’s most recognizable photographs has been arrested in Pakistan on charges of possessing forged identity papers, officials say.

Sharbat Gula, whose iconic image by photographer Steve McCurry earned her the title of “Mona Lisa of the Afghan war”, was taken into custody from her home in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar with two men, said to be her sons, police official Tahir Khan said.

An official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a department that deals with forgery cases, confirmed the arrest.

“Our team together with police raided her house and recovered both Pakistani and Afghan IDs,” said FIA director Imran Shahid.

Sharbat Gula - then and now
Sharbat Gula – then and now

Now in her 40s, Sharbat Gula — also known as Sharbat Bibi — was arrested in Peshawar on Tuesday for falsifying documents and staying illegally in Pakistan, officials said.

An official of Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) said she could face seven to 14 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 or be deported if convicted by court of fraud.

Omar Zakhilwal
Omar Zakhilwal

The top Afghan envoy in Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, who has been pursuing the case of 46-year-old Sharbat Gula with Pakistani officials, said a court in Peshawar will hear case on November 1, “in which we expect Sharbat Gula to be released”.

He said in a post on his official Facebook page that an Afghan legal team had taken up Sharbat Gula’s case with legal departments. He also took up her case with Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz.

peshawarThe arrest in Peshawar of Sharbat Gula, one of the world’s most recognized and famous and Afghanistan’s most beloved image, has deeply saddened all Afghans without exception and has hurt their emotions,” Zakhilwal wrote in his post.

The action was a “complete contradiction” of the Pakistan government’s efforts to “win hearts and minds” in Afghanistan, he added.

Zakhilwal also dismissed the charges leveled against Sharbat Gula, saying the Pakistani identity card she had “was not fake and neither was it obtained fraudulently”. He added there were more than 500,000 Afghan refugees who had been issued Pakistani IDs and the interior ministry was “very well aware” of this.

“In light of the implications Sharbat Gula’s arrest as well as release can have for Pak-Afghan people-to-people relations and also the legal weaknesses with the case on which she is charged, I requested Mr Sartaj Aziz that the Pakistan federal government issues a directive to release Sharbat Gula immediately. Mr Sartaj Aziz gave me his assurances for which I am grateful,” Zakhilwal said.

He pointed out a deadline set by Pakistan for Afghan refugees to return these ID cards was November 15, which was more than two weeks away.

If Sharbat Gula is released, the Afghan government will facilitate her family’s immediate repatriation and support her to resettle in her own country, Zakhilwal said. The envoy said Sharbat Gula’s husband and eldest daughter had died and she had sold her house just before her arrest.

Soviet army invades Afghanistan
Soviet army invades Afghanistan

Gula’s family fled to Pakistan with thousands of Afghan families when Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Some obtained identity papers in a bid to stay on in Pakistan. Some three million Afghan refugees live in Pakistan, especially in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the semi-autonomous tribal areas.

ng_afghangirlIn 1984, National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry took the haunting image of Sharbat Gula, then aged about 12, at Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the edge of Peshawar. The photo, which became the most famous cover image in the magazine’s history, was likened to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The photograph appeared on the National Geographic cover in June 1985, and was widely used to publicize the plight of refugees.

Last year Pakistan’s government began a crackdown on Afghan refugees who allegedly used forged documents to obtain Pakistani nationality. That’s when Gula’s name surfaced.

“It is a sign of the times in Pakistan, that it has now reached someone who was something of a celebrity in the ’80s, someone more high profile than the average,” said Nicholas Bishop, project development officer for the IOM in Afghanistan.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists undocumented migrants, says the arrest — although legal if the ID card is proven to be false — is symptomatic of the mounting pressure on Afghan refugees in Pakistan to return home.

Pakistan has said that it plans to send all of the estimated 2.5 million refugees back to Afghanistan as they have become an “unbearable” burden on the economy.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard unveils its 1st ‘suicide’ drone

Iran’s ‘suicide’ drone
Iran’s ‘suicide’ drone

On Wednesday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard unveiled a drone that was built for combat targets and to execute suicide missions. The Iranians have reported that the tiny aircraft can fly a distance of 1,000 km for four straight hours. 

According to reports out of Iran, the “suicide” drone is equipped with advanced military-grade cameras that enable day-time and night-time espionage missions. It should be able to fly from a height of half a meter to 914 meters, allowing the drone to hit any target on land or at sea.

Furthermore, the Iranian drone can fly at a maximum speed of 250 km per hour and is also able to land on water. Although missiles cannot be loaded onto the drone, it can be filled with a large amount of explosives in order to carry out suicide missions.