Home » Entries posted by SYLVIA HUI Associated Press

Johnson confirms most British troops have left Afghanistan

Johnson confirms most British troops have left Afghanistan

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that most British troops have left Afghanistan, almost 20 years after the U_K_ and other Western countries sent troops into the country to engage in what they described as a “war on terror.”By SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJuly 8, 2021, 4:46 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Thursday that most British troops have left Afghanistan, almost 20 years after the U.K. and other Western countries sent troops into the country to engage in what they described as a “war on terror.”Johnson stressed that the threat posed by al-Qaida to the U.K. has substantially diminished, but he sidestepped questions about whether the hasty military exodus by his country and its NATO allies risks undoing the work of nearly two decades or leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to the Taliban, who have made rapid advances in many northern districts.The prime minister declined to give details about the troop withdrawal, citing security reasons. But he said that “all British troops assigned to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan are now returning home,” adding that “most of our personnel have already left.”Most U.S. and European troops have also pulled out in recent weeks.“We must be realistic about our ability alone to influence the course of events. It will take combined efforts of many nations, including Afghanistan’s neighbors, to help the Afghan people to build their future,” Johnson said. “But the threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valor and by the sacrifice of the armed forces of Britain and many other countries.”He stressed that Britain remains committed to helping achieve a peace settlement in Afghanistan through diplomacy.“We are not walking away. We are keeping our embassy in Kabul, and we will continue to work with our friends and allies, particularly with the government of Pakistan, to try to bring a settlement,” Johnson said.Britain will continue to fund education, especially girls’ schooling, in Afghanistan, he said. The U.K. will also back the Afghan government with over 100 million pounds ($138 million) in development aid this year, as well as 58 million pounds for the Afghan security forces.A total of 150,000 British servicemembers have served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, and 457 have died — a much higher death rate compared to the U.K. involvement in Iraq. Britain’s last combat troops left Afghanistan in October 2014, though about 750 remained as part of a NATO mission to train Afghan forces.Britain’s Defense Ministry has said the withdrawal of the last troops would be “complete within a few months.” A “small number” of U.K. military personnel will stay on temporarily as part of the transition to the new phase of British support to the country.U.S. President Joe Biden announced in April that the last 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. soldiers and 7,000 allied NATO soldiers would depart Afghanistan.On Tuesday the U.S. military said 90% of American troops and equipment had already left the country, with the drawdown set to finish by late August. Last week, U.S. officials vacated the country’s biggest airfield, Bagram Air Base, the epicenter of the war to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said the U.K. had been put in a “very difficult position” to continue the mission once the U.S. announced its decision to leave.Gen. Nick Carter, head of the British Armed Forces, said Thursday there was now a danger of “state collapse” as half of Afghanistan’s rural districts are now under Taliban control, but he said he did not believe the Taliban could gain complete control of the country.He held out hope that the Afghan government could work with the Taliban to reach a political settlement.“It is entirely possible that the Afghan government defeats the Taliban for long enough for the Taliban to realize that they have to talk,” he said. “I think the Taliban recognize that they can’t rule all of Afghanistan without a compromise.”

Thousands of EU citizens may lose legal status to live in UK

Thousands of EU citizens may lose legal status to live in UK

LONDON — Marlies Haselton has called Britain home for more than 30 years. The Dutch national married a Briton, had her children there, and considers herself “part and parcel” of the U.K. Until Britain’s divorce from the European Union, she had never given a thought to her immigration status in the U.K.Haselton, 55, is among the millions of Europeans who have freely lived, worked and studied in the U.K. for decades, but whose rights are no longer automatically granted due to Brexit. Britain’s government introduced a “settlement” plan for the country’s large European migrant community in 2019, and the deadline for applications is Wednesday.From Thursday, any European migrant who hasn’t applied will lose their legal right to work, rent housing and access some hospital treatments or welfare benefits in the U.K. They may even be subject to deportation.Meanwhile, the freedom of movement that over 1 million Britons have long enjoyed in EU countries is also ending. Those applying for post-Brexit residency permits in France also face a deadline on Wednesday.Campaigners in the U.K. are worried that tens or even hundreds of thousands of Europeans may not have applied by the deadline. Many older people who have lived in the U.K. for decades are not aware they have to apply, and official figures show that only 2% of applicants were 65 years old or older. Many parents also don’t realize they have to apply for their children, migrants rights’ groups say.Other vulnerable people, such as an estimated 2,000 children in social care, also risk falling through the cracks and ending up with no legal status.For Haselton and many others, it’s a moment that drives home the impact of Britain’s referendum to leave the EU five years ago. Although Haselton successfully received her “settled” status, meaning she can reside permanently in the U.K., she said the whole process has made her feel insecure about the life she built in Britain.“I don’t feel settled,” she said. “I’m concerned about the future. I just don’t have a safe feeling about growing old here as a foreigner. The sense of home I used to have is gone.”Britain’s government says some 5.6 million people — the majority from Poland and Romania — have applied, far more than the initial estimates. While about half were granted settled status, some 2 million migrants who haven’t lived in the U.K. long enough were told they have to put in the paperwork again when they have completed five years of residency in the country.And about 400,000 people are still in limbo because they’re waiting to hear a decision, said Lara Parizotto, a campaigner for The3million, a group set up after the Brexit referendum to lobby for the rights of EU citizens in the U.K.“These are the people we’re hearing from a lot,” she said. “You want to be secure and safe, you want to continue making plans for your future … you can imagine how complex it is not to have that certainty in your life right now when things are about to change so much.”Daria Riabchikova, a Russian woman who applied in February as the partner of a Belgian citizen living in the U.K., said it’s been “incredibly frustrating” waiting four months for her paperwork to be processed. She fears the delay will affect a new job she is about to start.“I feel like a third-rate citizen, despite working here and paying taxes with my partner and living here, and contributing to the past year of struggle with the pandemic,” she said. “Now I can’t even have my straightforward application processed on time.”Figures are not available to show exactly how many people will have missed the deadline. But even a small percentage of the European population in the U.K. would total tens of thousands of people, Parizotto said. In recent weeks, the 25-year-old Brazilian-Italian has travelled with other volunteers across England to urge European communities working in rural farms and warehouses to sign up before it’s too late.One key concern is that the immigration policy could leave a disastrous legacy similar to Britain’s “Windrush” scandal, when many from the Caribbean who legally settled in the U.K. decades ago were wrongly caught up in tough new government rules to crack down on illegal immigration.Many in the “Windrush generation” — named after the ship that carried the first post-war migrants from the West Indies — lost their homes and jobs or were even deported simply because they couldn’t produce paperwork proving their residency rights.Many Europeans, especially young people whose parents failed to apply, “won’t necessarily realize they have lost their status right away,” said Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory.“For some, it will only become clear later on — for example, when they get a new job or need to be treated in hospital,” she said. “It may be many more years before the legal, political, economic and social consequences start to emerge.”Britain’s government has conceded that it will give the benefit of the doubt to people who have “reasonable grounds” for applying late, but that hasn’t eased campaigners’ worries. Many, including those who secured settled status, no longer feel confident in their future in Britain.Elena Remigi, a translator originally from Milan who founded “In Limbo,” a project to record the voices of EU nationals in the U.K. since the Brexit referendum, said many Europeans say they still feel betrayed by how their adopted country treated them.“It is really sad that people who were living here before are now made to feel unwelcome and have to leave,” she said. “That’s really hard for some people to forgive.”Haselton, the Dutch migrant, said her British husband is mulling moving the family to the Netherlands as a direct consequence of Brexit. She is torn.“I still love this country, it would break my heart if I had to move,” she said. “At the same time I’m not sure I want to stay. When it comes to a sense of feeling that you belong, that isn’t something that you can do with a piece of paper.”

Report: Classified UK defense papers found at bus stop

Report: Classified UK defense papers found at bus stop

Sensitive defense documents containing details about the British military have reportedly been found at a bus stop in EnglandBy SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 5:09 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Sensitive defense documents containing details about the British military have been found at a bus stop in England, the BBC reported Sunday.The papers included plans for a possible U.K. military presence in Afghanistan, as well as discussion about the potential Russian reaction to the British warship HMS Defender’s travel through waters off the Crimean coast last week, the BBC said.The broadcaster said a member of the public who wanted to remain unnamed contacted it when they found the pile of documents — about 50 pages in all — in a soggy heap Tuesday behind a bus stop in Kent, southeast of London.The Ministry of Defense said an employee had reported the loss of the documents last week. It did not provide details about the incident or confirm the documents were found at a bus stop.“The Ministry of Defense was informed last week of an incident in which sensitive defence papers were recovered by a member of the public,” it said in a statement. “The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched.”“The department takes the security of information extremely seriously and an investigation has been launched,” it said in a statement. “It would be inappropriate to comment further.”John Healey, the defense spokesman for the opposition Labour party, said the incident was both embarrassing and worrying.“Ministers must be able to confirm to the public that national security has not been undermined, that no military or security operations have been affected and that the appropriate procedures are in place to ensure nothing like this happens again,” he said.The HMS Defender upset Russia’s military on Wednesday when it sailed south of the Crimean Peninsula in a Black Sea area that Moscow claims as its territorial waters. Many nations, including the U.K., do not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and consider that area to be Ukrainian waters.Russia said one of its warships fired warning shots in response to the destroyer’s intrusion, but Britain denied that account and said the warship was not in Russian waters. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said the ship was “conducting innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”The documents showed officials conducted high-level discussions before Wednesday’s clash about how Russia may react if HMS Defender sailed close to Crimea, the BBC said.

UK government accused of hypocrisy as health minister quits

UK government accused of hypocrisy as health minister quits

Britain’s health secretary has resigned after a tabloid splashed photos and videos of him kissing an aide in his officeBy SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 3:25 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Britain’s health secretary has resigned after a tabloid splashed photos and videos of him kissing an aide in his office — breaking the same coronavirus social distancing rules he imposed on the nation.While Matt Hancock was swiftly replaced, the scandal was another blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative government, which has repeatedly come under criticism for incompetence and hypocrisy in its handling of the pandemic over the past year.“People have made huge sacrifices to beat the pandemic and what riles them is the whiff of hypocrisy that people make the rules and don’t stick to them themselves,” Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen told the BBC on Sunday.Hancock announced his resignation Saturday, a day after apologizing for breaching social distancing rules after the Sun tabloid published images showing him and senior aide Gina Coladangelo embracing and kissing in his office. The Sun said the images were taken on May 6, before lockdown rules were eased to allow hugs and physical contact with people not in one’s own household.Hancock, who is married, wasn’t the first senior British politician caught red-handed for breaking the government’s own COVID-19 rules.Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, was accused of undermining the government’s “stay home” message during Britain’s first lockdown in 2020 when he broke a travel ban and drove across England to his parents’ home. The breach caused a furor and was widely seen to erode public trust in Johnson’s government.And Neil Ferguson, a leading government scientific adviser who advocated for strict lockdown rules, quit his position in May 2020 after it emerged he didn’t practice what he preached and allowed his girlfriend to visit him at home. At the time, Hancock remarked that the social distancing rules in place “are there for everyone” and are “deadly serious.”On Sunday, many questioned why Johnson publicly stood by Hancock after evidence of the latest rule breach emerged. Johnson had expressed confidence in the health minister, and his office said he had considered the matter closed after Hancock’s apology, despite widespread calls to fire him.“Boris Johnson should have had the guts, the spine, the awareness, the judgment, to sack him on Friday,” said Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party’s health spokesman.Hancock had come under fire for his leadership in the government’s response to the pandemic long before the publishing of the intimate photos.He was accused of cronyism for hiring his friend, businesswoman Dido Harding, to run the much-criticized national test and trace system. Questions were also raised after the government awarded a lucrative coronavirus testing contract to a company run by a pub landlord near Hancock’s former constituency home. Hancock has denied involvement in the contract.Some are now also asking how Coladangelo, a close friend of Hancock’s from university, landed her job as a non-executive director at the Department of Health.The scandal came on the back of wider accusations from the opposition about “sleaze” in the Conservative party. Last month, former Prime Minister David Cameron was called before lawmakers to answer questions about lobbying work he did to win government funds for a now-bankrupt financial services company.Lucy Powell, a Labour lawmaker, said the fact that Hancock wasn’t fired reflected poorly on Johnson’s judgment.“I’m afraid it feels to me that the prime minister has a very dangerous blind spot when it comes to issues of integrity and conduct in public life,” she told Sky News. “That’s a really big problem and it’s an even bigger problem when you’re in the middle of a pandemic and you’re asking the public to also have integrity and conduct in the way that they go about with their own lives.”

UK government accused of hypocrisy as health minister quits

UK government accused of hypocrisy as health minister quits

Britain’s health secretary has resigned after a tabloid splashed photos and videos of him kissing an aide in his officeBy SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJune 27, 2021, 3:25 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Britain’s health secretary has resigned after a tabloid splashed photos and videos of him kissing an aide in his office — breaking the same coronavirus social distancing rules he imposed on the nation.While Matt Hancock was swiftly replaced, the scandal was another blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative government, which has repeatedly come under criticism for incompetence and hypocrisy in its handling of the pandemic over the past year.“People have made huge sacrifices to beat the pandemic and what riles them is the whiff of hypocrisy that people make the rules and don’t stick to them themselves,” Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen told the BBC on Sunday.Hancock announced his resignation Saturday, a day after apologizing for breaching social distancing rules after the Sun tabloid published images showing him and senior aide Gina Coladangelo embracing and kissing in his office. The Sun said the images were taken on May 6, before lockdown rules were eased to allow hugs and physical contact with people not in one’s own household.Hancock, who is married, wasn’t the first senior British politician caught red-handed for breaking the government’s own COVID-19 rules.Johnson’s former top aide, Dominic Cummings, was accused of undermining the government’s “stay home” message during Britain’s first lockdown in 2020 when he broke a travel ban and drove across England to his parents’ home. The breach caused a furor and was widely seen to erode public trust in Johnson’s government.And Neil Ferguson, a leading government scientific adviser who advocated for strict lockdown rules, quit his position in May 2020 after it emerged he didn’t practice what he preached and allowed his girlfriend to visit him at home. At the time, Hancock remarked that the social distancing rules in place “are there for everyone” and are “deadly serious.”On Sunday, many questioned why Johnson publicly stood by Hancock after evidence of the latest rule breach emerged. Johnson had expressed confidence in the health minister, and his office said he had considered the matter closed after Hancock’s apology, despite widespread calls to fire him.“Boris Johnson should have had the guts, the spine, the awareness, the judgment, to sack him on Friday,” said Jonathan Ashworth, the opposition Labour Party’s health spokesman.Hancock had come under fire for his leadership in the government’s response to the pandemic long before the publishing of the intimate photos.He was accused of cronyism for hiring his friend, businesswoman Dido Harding, to run the much-criticized national test and trace system. Questions were also raised after the government awarded a lucrative coronavirus testing contract to a company run by a pub landlord near Hancock’s former constituency home. Hancock has denied involvement in the contract.Some are now also asking how Coladangelo, a close friend of Hancock’s from university, landed her job as a non-executive director at the Department of Health.The scandal came on the back of wider accusations from the opposition about “sleaze” in the Conservative party. Last month, former Prime Minister David Cameron was called before lawmakers to answer questions about lobbying work he did to win government funds for a now-bankrupt financial services company.Lucy Powell, a Labour lawmaker, said the fact that Hancock wasn’t fired reflected poorly on Johnson’s judgment.“I’m afraid it feels to me that the prime minister has a very dangerous blind spot when it comes to issues of integrity and conduct in public life,” she told Sky News. “That’s a really big problem and it’s an even bigger problem when you’re in the middle of a pandemic and you’re asking the public to also have integrity and conduct in the way that they go about with their own lives.”

UK infected blood probe focuses on school where dozens died

UK infected blood probe focuses on school where dozens died

A public inquiry into Britain’s contaminated blood scandal, which led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people in the 1970s and ’80s, began hearing evidence MondayBy SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJune 21, 2021, 4:41 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — A public inquiry into Britain’s contaminated blood scandal, which led to the deaths of more than 2,000 people in the 1970s and ’80s, began hearing evidence Monday from former students at a disabled children’s school where dozens died after being given blood products tainted with HIV and hepatitis.Former students and parents from Treloar’s College, an English boarding school, were testifying to the Infected Blood Inquiry because the school’s health center gave children infected blood products such as plasma to treat their haemophilia, a condition that impairs the body’s ability to make blood clots.Some 89 former students were infected with HIV or hepatitis as a result and less than a quarter of them are still alive.Gary Webster, one of several former students giving evidence this week, recalled the day the school informed him that he was infected. He was told “the outlook’s not good, we can’t guarantee you will be alive in a couple of years,” he said. “That was it, really.”“I am angry because of what’s happened, because I think it was avoidable. When they told us afterwards, ‘Oh it was just an accident,’ I just think what could have been,” he added.The inquiry into what happened at the school is part of a larger investigation into what’s been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of Britain’s revered public health care system.The contaminated blood was linked to supplies of a clotting agent called Factor VIII, which British health services imported from the United States. Some of the products turned out to be infected. Some of the plasma used to make the blood products was traced to high-risk donors, including U.S. prison inmates, who were paid to give blood samples.In all, at least 2,400 people died as a result of the scandal.Britain’s government ordered a new inquiry in 2017 after previous investigations were branded a whitewash by activists. A final report is expected to be published next year or in 2023.

From vaccine sharing to climate, G-7 talks yield agreements

From vaccine sharing to climate, G-7 talks yield agreements

The Group of Seven wealthy democracies have wrapped up their first face-to-face summit in two years at a seaside resort in southwest EnglandBy SYLVIA HUI Associated PressJune 13, 2021, 5:13 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleFALMOUTH, England — The Group of Seven wealthy democracies have wrapped up their first face-to-face summit in two years at a seaside resort in southwest England. The leaders of the G-7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — made commitments on a range of topics, from sharing coronavirus vaccines to tackling climate change and making corporate taxation fairer.Their final agreement from the three-day meeting also included a section on challenging China over “non-economic” economic practices and calling on Beijing to respect human rights.Here are details on the key topics they covered:VACCINE SHARINGThe presidents and prime ministers committed to sharing at least 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries over the next year, with deliveries starting in August. U.S. President Joe Biden pledged 500 million doses. Britain and Canada committed to 100 million shots each, and France said it would pitch in with 60 million doses.However, the World Health Organization has said that 11 billion doses are needed to truly end the pandemic. Public health advocates also argue that promising vaccine doses isn’t enough, and that money and logistical help are needed to get shots into the arms of people in poorer countries.THE ENVIRONMENTLeaders committed to ending new direct government support for “unabated international thermal coal power generation” — the use of coal without technology to reduce carbon emissions – by the end of the year, and backed a $2-billion coal transition fund.They also pledged to conserve or protect at least 30% of their countries’ land and marine areas by 2030 as part of global biodiversity targets. And they agreed to increase financing for projects to curb climate change until 2025 and reaffirmed their support for a target of producing net-zero carbon emissions no later than 2050.Leading climate groups said the summit fell far short of delivering meaningful details. They urged rich countries to go beyond reiterating existing obligations and to put concrete new climate financing on the table.CHINAThe G-7 leaders said they would work together to challenge China’s “non-market policies.” They also agreed to call on Beijing to respect human rights in Xinjiang, the remote western region where Chinese authorities are accused of committing serious rights abuses against the Uyghur minority, and in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.U.S. President Joe Biden had wanted to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing and to strongly call out China’s “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses.”The leaders committed to remove forced labor in global supply chains, “including state-sponsored forced labor of vulnerable groups and minorities.” This section of their meeting communique did not mention China by name, but the White House said the language was aimed at the main supply chains of concern in the Xinjiang region.CORPORATION TAXG-7 leaders endorsed a global minimum tax of at least 15% on multinational corporations, a measure meant to stop businesses from using tax havens to shift profits and to avoid taxes.Their agreement backed a plan outlined earlier by G-7 finance ministers. The seven countries hope many more will sign on, but that’s a fraught proposal in nations with economies based on using low corporate taxes to attract businesses.GLOBAL INFRASTRUCTURELeaders agreed to an infrastructure proposal called “Build Back Better for the World” that calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector to finance greener infrastructure projects in poorer countries.It is designed to compete with China’s multi-trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, which funds a vast network of infrastructure covering large portions of the world, primarily Asia and Africa.FUTURE PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESSLeaders said that in the event of a future pandemic, they will seek to ensure the availability of safe and effective vaccines, treatment and diagnostic tests within the first 100 days.Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, said a “100 Day Mission” report gave leaders recommendations for speeding up responses to another pandemic but acknowledged that any such response must be global and include countries that don’t belong to the G-7.GIRLS’ EDUCATIONThe leaders said COVID-19 has exacerbated underlying inequalities and led to an education crisis, especially for girls. They backed a target of getting 40 million more girls in school by 2026 in poorer countries, and committed to a combined $2.75 billion in funding over the next five years for the Global Partnership for Education.

Page 1 of 212