UN Human Rights Office Condemns Executions in Iran

Protests in Tehran following the death of Mahsa Amini (File photo: Reuters)
Protests in Tehran following the death of Mahsa Amini (File photo: Reuters)
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UN Human Rights Office Condemns Executions in Iran

Protests in Tehran following the death of Mahsa Amini (File photo: Reuters)
Protests in Tehran following the death of Mahsa Amini (File photo: Reuters)

The United Nations condemned on Thursday the Iranian authorities' execution of a 17-year-old boy and a 22-year-old young man, urging Tehran to stop implementing the death penalty.
The UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson, Liz Throssell, said the execution of Hamidreza Azari, who was accused of murder, is the first reported execution of an alleged child offender in Iran this year.
Throssell reminded Iranian authorities of their obligation, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to prohibit death sentences and their implementation for crimes committed by individuals below the age of 18.
She also denounced the execution of 22-year-old Milad Zohrevan on the same day, the eighth person executed as part of the September 2022 protests.
The spokeswoman continued that the "available information indicates that his trial lacked the basic requirements for due process under international human rights law. There are also troubling reports that Zohrevand's parents were arrested following his execution."
The September 2022 protests erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran.
The campaign to suppress the demonstrations left hundreds dead and led to the arrest of thousands of people, according to human rights organizations.
"Iran is one of the countries with the highest death penalty figures, particularly for drug-related offenses. Minorities also continue to be disproportionately sentenced to death," Throssell said.
"We urge the Iranian Government to immediately halt the application of the death penalty and establish a moratorium on its use."
She said that until then, the death penalty may only be imposed for the most serious crimes, which refers to crimes of extreme gravity that result intentionally and directly in death.
The UN Official concluded: "We also call on the Government to stop using criminal procedures to punish political activists and others for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly."



Hardliners Set to Tighten Grip in Iran Vote as Frustration Mounts

People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
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Hardliners Set to Tighten Grip in Iran Vote as Frustration Mounts

People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
People walk past campaign posters for the parliamentary election during the last day of election campaigning in Tehran, Iran, February 28, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran began voting for a new parliament on Friday, seen as a test of the clerical establishment's popularity at a time of growing frustration over economic woes and restrictions on political and social freedoms.
State TV said polling started at 8 a.m. (0430 GMT), and it is scheduled to last for 10 hours but can be extended.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has called voting a religious duty, was the first to cast his vote in Iran.
"Vote as soon as possible ... today the eyes of Iran's friends and ill-wishers are on the (election) results. Make friends happy and disappoint enemies," Khamenei said.
The election is the first formal measure of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiraled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Iran's rulers need a high turnout to repair their legitimacy, damaged after nationwide protests.
But with heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of the race and reformists calling it an "unfree and unfair election", the contest is between hardliners and conservatives who proclaim loyalty to Iran revolutionary ideals and official polls suggest only about 41% of Iranians will vote.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear on Saturday.
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote and #ElectionCircus widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize Iran.
"I'm seeking a change in regime, and I've decided not to vote as it would only serve to reinforce Iran’s hold," said university student Mehran, 22, in the central city of Isfahan. "I want to live freely."
Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, a women's rights advocate, has called the election a "sham".
Khamenei has accused the country's "enemies" - a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel - of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
Tehran housewife Zahra, 26, said she would vote because “the world will understand that we support our leader (Khamenei) as he said voting is our duty".
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, which has scant impact on Iran's foreign policy and nuclear row with the West, since these are determined by Khamenei.
Many pro-reform Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that large numbers of Iranians no longer think the ruling clerics capable of resolving an economic crisis caused by a mix of US sanctions reimposed after the failure to revive Iran's nuclear deal, mismanagement and corruption.
The parliamentary election is twinned with a vote for the 88-seat Assembly of Experts, an influential body that has the task of choosing the 84-year-old Khamenei's successor.


Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
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Italy: Interior Minister Calls Violence Against Minors at Pro-Palestine Demo 'a Defeat'

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi addresses the parliament in Rome, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

Italy’s interior minister acknowledged as a “defeat” the use of police batons against high school students demonstrating in the Tuscan city of Pisa last week, while warning lawmakers Thursday of growing violent tendencies among pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Italians have expressed outrage at police violence against two pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Pisa last Friday; the one in Pisa included high school students who are minors, at least 11 of whom suffered bruises when police responded with batons, The Associated Press reported.
President Sergio Mattarella told the interior minister over the weekend that “the authority of law enforcement is not measured by truncheons but by its ability to ensure security while protecting, at the same time, the freedom to publicly express opinion. With kids, truncheons express failure.”
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi told the lower house of parliament that in Pisa law enforcement reacted after demonstrators tried to beach a police barrier with “pushes, kicks, insults, spitting and attempts to remove the shields.” Seventeen demonstrators were injured, among them 11 minors, along with two police officers, he said.
"We all hope that public demonstrations take place peacefully and without incidents, and when it comes to physical contact with minors it is in any case a defeat,'' the minister said, underlining the need for a transparent investigation.
Video of the incident taken by bystanders shows half a dozen officers in riot gear brandishing wooden batons striking demonstrators in a narrow alley leading to a piazza. The officer in charge of the mobilization has been transferred, Italian media reported.
The minister said both the Pisa and the Florence demonstrations were illegal, having failed to file official notice of the intent to gather at least three days in advance.
In Florence, at least 300 protesters chanting anti-Israel and anti-American slogans attempted to reach the US Consulate, which had been the target of a firebomb attack on Feb. 2, the minister told lawmakers. At least five demonstrators were treated at hospitals, he said.
He noted a “climate of growing aggression toward law enforcement” in the pro-Palestinian demonstrations, with the apparent aim to provoke a police reaction. Incidents have been reported at 33 of the 1,076 demonstrations since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, he said.


Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
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Putin Warns West of Risk of Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual address to the Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in Moscow, Russia, 29 February 2024. EPA/SERGEI ILNITSKY

President Vladimir Putin warned Western countries on Thursday that there was a genuine risk of nuclear war if they sent their own troops to fight in Ukraine, and he said Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.
Addressing parliament and other members of the country's elite, Putin, 71, repeated his accusation that the West is bent on weakening Russia, and he suggested Western leaders did not understand how dangerous their meddling could be in what he cast as Russia's own internal affairs.
He prefaced his warning with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine - a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.
"(Western nations) must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don't they get that?!" said Putin.
Putin, who was speaking ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, lauded what he said was Russia's vastly modernized nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world, Reuters reported.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Putin has previously warned of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.
Visibly angry, Putin, Russia's paramount leader for more than two decades, suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those, like Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler and France's Napoleon Bonaparte who unsuccessfully invaded his country in the past.
"But now the consequences will be far more tragic," said Putin. "They think it (war) is a cartoon," he said.


Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
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Poland Detains Russian Citizen Accused of Being an ISIS Member in Syria

27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
27 February 2024, Poland, Warsaw: Farmers wave Polish flags during farmers protest in downtown Warsaw against the European Union's agricultural policies. Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Poland's Internal Security Agency (ABW) has detained a Russian citizen accused of being a member of ISIS, the National Prosecutor's Office said in a statement on Thursday.

"The prosecutor... charged the detainee with being part of armed groups in the Syrian Arab Republic aimed at committing crimes of a terrorist nature," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

It said that the accused had been a part of Jabhat Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda before joining ISIS.
The man is being held in pre-trial detention for three months and if found guilty could face eight years in prison.


Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
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Ukraine Repels Russian Attacks but Situation is Difficult

This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)
This grab taken from video released by the head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin's telegram channel on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, shows damaged buildings, after Russian forces completed their takeover of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Russian-controlled Donetsk region. (Head of the Russian-controlled Donetsk region Denis Pushilin telegram channel via AP)

Ukrainian forces have pushed back Russian troops from the village of Orlivka, west of Avdiivka, but the situation on the eastern front remains difficult, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Thursday.
Orlivka is less than 2 kilometers northwest of Lastochkyne, which was recently occupied by Russian forces, Reuters said.
Russian forces last week captured the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka after a months-long assault and are pressing on several other areas along the front line, Ukrainian authorities say.
Ukraine's military said this week it had withdrawn from two more villages near Avdiivka, losing more territory as support from its Western allies runs short.
"The enemy continues active offensive actions in many areas of the front line. The situation is particularly tense in the Avdiivka and Zaporizhzhia sectors," Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.
He said Russian assault units were trying to break through the Ukrainian defenses and capture the settlements of Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi and Krasnohorivka.
Syrskyi, who visited troops on the eastern front, said some commanders had revealed certain shortcomings in their "situational awareness and assessment of the enemy", which directly affected the sustainability of defense in certain areas.
"I took all measures to remedy the situation on the ground, with the allocation of additional ammunition and material resources, as well as the necessary reserves," Syrskyi said.
The Ukrainian military and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy have repeatedly said that troops are lacking military equipment and ammunition needed to repel Russian attacks because of a shortage of military aid from Western allies.


Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
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Biden 'Continues to Be Fit for Duty,' His Doctor Says, after President Undergoes Annual Physical

US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
US President Joe Biden looks on before speaking during a roundtable discussion on public safety at the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, US, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

President Joe Biden “continues to be fit for duty,” his doctor wrote Wednesday after conducting an annual physical that is being closely watched as the 81-year-old seeks reelection in November.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden's physician, wrote that the president is adjusting well to a new device that helps control his sleep apnea and has experienced some hip discomfort but also works out five times per week, The Associated Press said.
“President Biden is a healthy, active, robust, 81-year-old male who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” O’Connor said in a six-page memo on the president’s health, following a physical that took Biden to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for more than 2 1/2 hours.
His memo added that Biden “feels well and this year's physical identifies no new concerns.”
The oldest president in US history, Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term, should he win one. His latest physical mirrored one he had in February last year when O'Connor described Biden as “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House duties.
Still, voters are approaching this year’s election with misgivings about Biden’s age, having scrutinized his gaffes, his coughing, his slow walking and even a tumble off his bicycle.
After he returned to the White House on Wednesday, Biden attended an event on combating crime and suggested that when it came to his health “everything is squared away” and "there is nothing different than last year.”
He also joked about his age and people thinking "I look too young.”
Former President Donald Trump, 77, is the favorite to lock up the Republican nomination later this month, which would bring him closer to a November rematch against Biden. Trump was 70 when he took office in 2017, which made him the oldest American president to be inaugurated — until Biden broke his record by being inaugurated at 78 in 2021.
O'Connor's report said that Biden’s stiff walking was no worse than last year and was the result of arthritic changes in his spine. He said the president also noted “some increased left hip discomfort.” There were no signs of stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or other similar conditions in what the report called an “extremely detailed neurologic exam.”
Biden, last summer, began using a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine at night to help with sleep apnea, and O'Connor wrote that the president had responded well to that treatment and is “diligently compliant" about using it.
A recent special counsel’s report on the investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents repeatedly derided Biden's memory, calling it “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” It also noted that Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.
Still, addressing reporters the evening of the report's release, Biden said "my memory is fine” and grew visibly angry as he denied forgetting when his son died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that O’Connor was one of a team of 20 different medical specialists who helped complete the physical.
Asked why Biden wasn't undergoing a cognitive test as part of the physical, Jean-Pierre said that O'Connor and Biden's neurologist “don't believe he needs one.”
“He passes a cognitive test every day, every day as he moves from one topic to another topic, understanding the granular level of these topics,” Jean-Pierre said, noting that Biden tackled such diverse issues as Wednesday's crime prevention event before his planned trip to the US-Mexico border on Thursday and next week's State of the Union address.
“This is a very rigorous job," she added.
That picture of the president doesn’t reflect the type of struggles with routine tasks that might indicate the need for further tests, said Dr. Michael Rosenbloom, a neurologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“Constantly questioning older folks who may have an occasional lapse is a form of ageism,” Rosenbloom said.
From sleep apnea to arthritis, Biden’s health report “seems pretty run of the mill for an 81-year-old person,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, chief of general internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
“His doctors are in a unique position to assess his cognitive ability on a daily basis,” Linder said. "These doctors are able to see how he’s functioning day to day. That’s much more useful” than a cognitive assessment.
Many Americans, including Democrats, have expressed reservations about Biden seeking a second term during this fall's election. Only 37% of Democrats say Biden should pursue reelection, down from 52% before the 2022 midterm elections, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Biden counters that his age brings wisdom, and he has begun to criticize Trump for the former president’s recent public gaffes.
The president joked that his age was classified information and suggested during a taping in New York on Monday of “Late Night With Seth Meyers ″ that Trump mistakenly called his wife Melania, “Mercedes” during a weekend speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference -- though the Trump campaign says he was correctly referring to political commentator Mercedes Schlapp.
Trump has indeed had his share of verbal miscues, mixing up the city and state where he was campaigning, calling Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the leader of Turkey and repeatedly mispronouncing the militant group Hamas as “hummus.” More recently, he confused his Republican primary rival Nikki Haley with former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While he was president, Trump's annual physical in 2019 revealed that he had gained weight and was up to 243 pounds. With his 6-foot, 3-inch frame, that meant Trump's Body Mass Index was 30.4. An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone obese under this commonly used formula.
Wednesday's report listed Biden as 6-foot tall and weighing 178 pounds.


Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
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Canada Says It's Working to Airdrop Aid to the Gaza Strip as Soon as Possible

A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A plane drops aid over Gaza, amid the ongoing the conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2024. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Canada is working to airdrop humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a cabinet minister said Wednesday.
The confirmation that an active effort is underway comes after Canadian International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said Ottawa was exploring new options to deliver aid, The Associated Press said.
He said the provision of airdrops in partnership with like-minded countries in the region, such as Jordan, was on the table.
Hussen said last week that the provision of aid is nowhere near what’s needed and a tedious inspection process was slowing down the movement of supplies brought in by truck.
He made the comments following a trip to the Rafah border crossing, the only way in or out of the Gaza Strip since the Israel-Hamas war began in October.
Canada has put $100 million Canadian ($74 million) toward aid for the besieged territory since the start of the conflict, including $40 million Canadian ($30 million) committed in January.


Asylum Bids in EU Reach 7-year High with Syrians, Afghans Topping List

An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
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Asylum Bids in EU Reach 7-year High with Syrians, Afghans Topping List

An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)
An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying illegal immigrants rescued at sea passes near a tourist boat on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, on September 18, 2023 (Reuters)

Asylum applications in the EU surged to over one million last year, a seven-year high, with Syrians then Afghans remaining the top groups seeking protection, the bloc's asylum agency said Wednesday.

The data from the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) means the number of asylum-seekers in 2023 neared a level last seen in 2015-2016, when hundreds of thousands of people -- many of them Syrians fleeing civil war -- sought refuge.

Immigration, including of asylum seekers, is a headline issue for Europe as it heads for elections in June.

Far-right nationalist parties arguing for tougher entry criteria are predicted to increase their representation in the European Parliament, AFP reported.

Germany, the EU country receiving the biggest number of asylum applications in 2023 -- around 29 percent of the total -- has been roiled by the issue.

Members of that country's far-right AfD party -- soaring in the polls -- last year met extremists to discuss expelling immigrants and "non-assimilated citizens" according to a report by investigative outlet Correctiv. That sparked big counter demonstrations in Berlin and elsewhere against racism.

According to the EUAA, a total 1.14 million asylum applications were registered last year across the 27-nation European Union plus its Schengen-associated nations Norway and Switzerland.

That was an 18 percent increase over 2022 and confirmed an upward trend evident since 2020, as the EU emerged from the coronavirus pandemic during which travel was curbed.

Germany's 334,000 asylum applications received was double that of France's 167,000, and also far above Italy's 136,000.

Across the EU, Syrians submitted 181,000 applications.

Afghans lodged 114,000 which, though they were the second-biggest group, was 11 percent lower than for 2022.

There were 101,000 applications from Turkish nationals -- an 82 percent rise over the previous year -- with most lodged in Germany.

Spain saw a third more applications from Venezuelans and Colombians, at more than 60,000 for each group. They are often able to enter Spain regularly, without needing visas.

Around half that number was recorded for Moroccans, applying mostly in Austria, and for Egyptians, most of them in Italy.

Smaller numbers of Guineans and Ivorians sought asylum, mostly in France.

While Germany received nearly one in three of lodged asylum bids, it was Cyprus, followed by Austria and Greece that had the highest proportion in relation to their much smaller populations.

The EUAA noted that Hungary -- whose nationalist government is opposed to an EU drive to share responsibilities for arriving asylum-seekers -- received a mere 30 asylum applications in 2023.

That was likely because Hungary requires asylum-seekers to make a "declaration of intent at a Hungarian embassy in a non-EU country before they can enter the country" to apply, it said.

Not all applications made across the EU are approved.

The EUAA said the overall recognition rate last year was 43 percent, which was the highest since 2016 -- but results are highly correlated to nationality.

Syrians and Afghans were often granted protection -- in 80 percent and 61 percent of cases, respectively -- though the status of that protection varied.

Syrians over the past few years have tended not be classed as refugees but rather given subsidiary protection, which allows them to stay but with more obstacles to acquiring citizenship or getting permanent residency.

For Afghans, refugee status was being generally approved, reflecting the persecution many face in their country since 2021 under Taliban rule.

For Turkish nationals, the recognition rate in the EU has "significantly" decreased since 2019, the EUAA said, with only a quarter of applications winning protection.


German Police Defuse Grenade Found in Red Army Faction Suspect's Home

German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
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German Police Defuse Grenade Found in Red Army Faction Suspect's Home

German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters
German police officers guard a building where Daniela Klette, a 65-year-old alleged member of Germany's notorious Red Army Faction (RAF) militant group, has been arrested after decades on the run from armed robbery and attempted murder charges, in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2024 - Reuters

The Berlin apartment block in which a suspected Red Army Faction (RAF) militant lived during three decades on the run had to be evacuated on Wednesday after authorities found a grenade in her apartment, police said.

Daniela Klette, 65, and two other suspects are alleged to have belonged to the third generation of the leftist militant group which from the early 1970s committed a string of murders and kidnappings of government officials, US soldiers and German diplomats, originally in protest against the Vietnam war.

"Our specialists have so far removed one grenade from the flat on Sebastianstrasse in (Berlin's) Kreuzberg and defused it in a safe place," police wrote on social media. "Other objects are still being examined."

It was unclear if a person detained on Tuesday and released the following morning was linked to the two remaining suspects: Burkhard Garweg, 55, and Ernst-Volker Staub, 69, who have also been at large for 30 years. Authorities declined to comment on media reports of a third arrest on Wednesday, according to AFP.

The charges against the three relate not to the militant group's political crimes but to bank robberies and at least one attempted murder committed between 1991 and 2016 to finance their life underground.

It remained unclear where Klette, now in custody in the northern city of Bremen after her arrest in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, hid out over the past three decades, though newspaper Die Welt published footage appearing to show her dancing at a Berlin carnival in 2011.


Congress: Deal Reached to Avoid Partial Government Shutdown Friday

US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
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Congress: Deal Reached to Avoid Partial Government Shutdown Friday

US Congress general photo (File/AFP)
US Congress general photo (File/AFP)

Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress reached an agreement in principle on Wednesday to extend the federal budget by a few days and defer the threat of a government shutdown.

The agreement by Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would push back the start of a shutdown from Friday until March 8, giving policymakers some breathing room to try to reach a deal to fund the government.

"We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government," they said in a statement, AFP reported.

They added that "a short-term continuing resolution to fund agencies through March 8 and the 22 will be necessary, and voted on by the House and Senate this week."

For several months, the United States has been deadlocked over the adoption of a finance bill for 2024.

The two parties have been entangled in partisan wrangling, and have only been able to pass a series of mini-bills to extend the US federal budget by a few days or months at a time.

The consequences of a government shutdown would be significant, and would include air traffic controllers going unpaid, some government agencies grinding to a halt, and the closure of America's much-beloved National Parks.

It must now be passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and then signed into law by President Joe Biden to postpone this threat.