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‘Preyed upon’: Texas sheriff opens probe into US migrant flights | Migration News

A county sheriff in Texas has opened a criminal investigation into flights that transported dozens of migrants from the US state to Martha’s Vineyard last week, after observers raised questions about the legality of the move.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said at a news conference on Monday evening that 48 migrants were “lured under false pretenses” from the streets of San Antonio, put up in a hotel, and bused to planes taking them to the wealthy vacation island in Massachusetts.

The group, which included children, was “stranded unceremoniously in Martha’s Vineyard … for nothing other than a photo op”, the sheriff said.

“What infuriates me most about this case is that we have 48 people who are already on hard times, they are here legally in our country,” Salazar, a Democrat, told reporters. “I believe they were preyed upon.”

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is up for re-election in November and seen as a possible presidential contender in 2024, claimed credit for the two flights from San Antonio.

DeSantis, as well as Republican governors from Texas and Arizona, have been sending migrants to Democratic-controlled cities, including two buses of migrants dropped off near the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, DC last week.

The campaign comes amid Republican criticism of Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of a record number of crossings along the United States-Mexico border – and as the GOP seeks to use immigration as a rallying point ahead of the November 8 midterms.

Since April, Texas has bused about 8,000 migrants to the US capital, 2,200 to New York City and 300 to Chicago. Arizona bused more than 1,800 to Washington, DC since May, while the city of El Paso, Texas bused more than 1,100 to New York since August 23.

DeSantis said last week that Florida paid to fly the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard because many migrants who arrive in Florida come from Texas.

A spokesperson for DeSantis said immigrants have been “more than willing to leave Bexar County after being abandoned”.

“Florida gave them an opportunity to seek greener pastures in a sanctuary jurisdiction that offered greater resources for them, as we expected,” DeSantis’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, said in an emailed statement to news agencies on Monday.

But migration rights advocates and Democrats have slammed the campaign as inhumane.

The Biden administration said the Republicans are using migrants as “political pawns”.

“These were children, they were moms,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday. “And what did Governor DeSantis and Governor [Greg] Abbott [of Texas] do to them? They used them as political pawns, treated them like chattel in a cruel, premeditated political stunt.”

Migrants, among them children, gathered outside St Andrews Episcopal Church on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts last week [Ray Ewing/Vineyard Gazette via AP Photo]

Vanessa Cardenas, deputy director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant group, said in a statement on Monday that “in the absence of real solutions, Ron DeSantis and other Republicans seek to distract by cruelly scapegoating immigrants”.

“Yes, there are real concerns about border issues and real needs for solutions instead of gamesmanship,” Cardenas said.

Julio Henriquez, a lawyer who met with several migrants in Massachusetts, told the Associated Press news agency that they “had no idea of where they were going or where they were”.

He said a woman who approached the migrants at a city-run shelter in San Antonio put them up at a nearby hotel where she visited daily with food and gift cards. She promised jobs and three months of housing in Washington, DC, New York, Philadelphia and Boston, said Henriquez.

The US has seen a rising number of migrants and asylum seekers streaming to its southern border with Mexico.

According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data released on Monday, authorities apprehended migrants 2.1 million times at the US’s southern border between October last year and the end of August.

The new statistics include an increased number of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and others who cannot be expelled to Mexico under Title 42, a public health order in place since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many seek to pursue asylum claims.

Salazar, the Texas sheriff investigating the Martha’s Vineyard flights, said his office was working with advocacy organisations and lawyers representing the migrants and would coordinate with federal authorities as needed.

“It’s wrong from a human rights perspective. What was done to these folks was wrong,” he said.



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Haiti reports cholera deaths for first time in 3 years

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Haiti’s government on Sunday announced that at least eight people have died from cholera, raising concerns about another potentially catastrophic epidemic like the one that broke out a decade ago and killed nearly 10,000 people.

The cases – the first cholera deaths reported in three years – came in a community called Dekayet in southern Port-au-Prince and in the gang-controlled seaside slum of Cite de Soleil, where thousands of people live in cramped, unsanitary conditions.

“Cholera is something that can spread very, very quickly,” warned Laure Adrien, director general of Haiti’s health ministry.

Food or water contaminated with the cholera bacteria can lead to severe diarrhea and dehydration that can be deadly.

The United Nations said in a statement that it is working with Haiti’s government to “mount an emergency response to this potential outbreak,” stressing that health teams need to be guaranteed safe access to areas where cases have been reported.

The deaths come as a lack of fuel and ongoing protests shut down the availability of basic services across Haiti, including medical care and clean water, which is key to helping fight cholera and keep patients alive.

Haiti’s most powerful gang continues to control the entrance to a main fuel terminal in the capital of Port-au-Prince, leading to a lack of fuel amid soaring prices that have unleashed widespread protests that have paralyzed the country for more than two weeks.

The absence of fuel and increasing number of roadblocks have prevented water trucks from visiting neighborhoods to provide potable water to those who can afford it. It also has prompted some companies to temporarily shut down operations.

On Sunday, Caribbean Bottling Company said it could no longer produce or distribute potable water because its diesel reserves were “completely depleted,” adding that the lack of such a vital resource would affect “all sectors of society.”

Adrien said health officials were trying to visit communities where cholera has been reported, but that his agency, too, has been affected by a lack of fuel as he called on people blocking the gas terminal and organizing protests to “have a conscience.”

“This is a real problem,” he said of how the country has virtually been paralyzed. “We’re hoping this will not spread.”

Adrien noted that all those who died were unable to reach a hospital in time.

Haiti Health Minister Alex Larsen said people have a right to protest but asked Haitians to allow potable water supplies into neighborhoods that have been cut off by roadblocks and protests.

“Water has not been in these areas for a long time, and people are not drinking treated water,” he said, adding that cholera cases could spike again. “We ask people who can afford it to add a little chlorine to the water.”

Haiti’s last cholera epidemic sickened more than 850,000 people in a country of more than 11 million, marking one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the preventable disease in recent history.

United Nations peacekeepers from Nepal were blamed for introducing cholera into Haiti’s largest river in October 2010 by sewage. The U.N. has since acknowledged it played a role in the epidemic and that is has not done enough to help fight it, but it has not specifically said it introduced the disease.

Haiti would have been declared cholera-free by the World Health Organization only after reaching three consecutive years with no new cases.

———

Associated Press writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

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‘Dilemma for the Russians’ after surrendering key Ukraine city | Russia-Ukraine war News

The recapture of Lyman city in the east – in territory recently annexed by Moscow – raises questions about how Russia can hold surrounding areas with supply routes severed.

Questions about Russia’s faltering military operation in Ukraine continue to be raised as Kyiv announced it was in full control of the key eastern city of Lyman after Moscow’s troops pulled back.

It is Kyiv’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks, providing a potential staging post for increased attacks to the east while heaping further pressure on the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Sunday that his forces had taken over Lyman after encircling it the day before.

“As of 12:30pm (09:30 GMT) Lyman is cleared fully. Thank you to our militaries, our warriors,” he said in a video address.

Russia’s military did not comment on Lyman on Sunday after announcing the previous day it was withdrawing its forces there to move to “more favourable positions”.

‘Sort of a dilemma’

The loss of Lyman is a significant blow to Russian forces, who have used the city for months as a crucial logistics and rail hub in the Donetsk region to move military equipment, troops, and other necessary supplies.

“Without those routes, it will be more difficult so it presents a sort of a dilemma for the Russians going forward,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

Lyman, which Ukraine recaptured by encircling Russian troops, is in the Donetsk region near the border with the Luhansk region. These are two of the four regions or oblasts that Russia annexed on Friday after people there voted in referendums, which Ukraine and the West called illegitimate.

The Institute for the Study of War, a United States-based think-tank, said the fall of Lyman suggested Russia was “deprioritizing defending Luhansk” to hold occupied territory in southern Ukraine. 

“Ukrainian and Russian sources consistently indicate that Russian forces continued to reinforce Russian positions in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts, despite the recent collapse of the Kharkiv-Izyum front and even as the Russian positions around Lyman collapsed,” it said

‘Courage, bravery, skills’

In a daily intelligence briefing on Sunday, the United Kingdom’s military described the recapture of Lyman as a “significant political setback” for Moscow. Taking the city paves the way for Ukrainian troops to potentially push farther into Russian-occupied territory.

Ukraine’s capture of a city within territory of President Vladimir Putin’s declared annexation demonstrates that Ukrainians are able to push back Russian forces, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

“We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, are able to push back the Russian forces because of the courage, because of their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with American broadcaster NBC.

Ukrainian forces have retaken swaths of territory, notably in the northeast around Kharkiv, in a counteroffensive in recent weeks that has embarrassed the Kremlin and prompted rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war.

A pomp-filled Kremlin annexation ceremony on Friday has failed to stem a wave of criticism within Russia of how its “special military operation” is being handled.

Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, on Saturday called for a change of strategy “right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons”.

Other hawkish Russian figures criticised Russian generals and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on social media for overseeing the setbacks, but stopped short of attacking Putin.

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Will Israel and Lebanon resolve their maritime border dispute? | Oil and Gas

Video Duration 25 minutes 00 seconds

A long-running dispute between Israel and Lebanon may soon be resolved.

Both countries lay claim to the same stretch of ocean in the eastern Mediterranean that could contain lucrative gas deposits.

A US mediator has sent a written proposal to both nations to demarcate their border.

Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah have welcomed the offer. Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid also supports the deal, but former leader Benjamin Netanyahu has labelled it an “illegal hijacking” of Israeli territory.

So what is at stake?

Presenter: Folly Bah Thibault

Guests:

Laury Haytayan – Oil and gas analyst and political activist

Russell Shalev – Researcher, Kohelet Policy Forum

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