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April 20, 2015

Daily News Brief

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EU Holds Emergency Meeting on Migrant Crisis

European Union foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting (Deutsche Welle) in Luxembourg on Monday to assess the escalating migrant crisis. Hundreds are feared dead (NYT) after a fishing boat capsized north of the Libyan shore. The boat had been carrying as many as nine hundred and fifty migrants, according to a survivor. Twenty-eight people have been rescued and twenty-four bodies recovered. Separately, three migrants died (Reuters) and ninety others were rescued by Greek authorities when a ship ran aground off an island on Monday. Meanwhile, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) reported Monday that it received a distress call (BBC) from a sinking boat carrying three hundred migrants. Last year, the EU downsized its search-and-rescue program in a bid to deter migrants from making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, but numbers continue to swell. Before this most recent disaster, the IOM estimated (Guardian) that twenty thousand migrants had arrived in Italy in the first four months of 2015, while nine hundred migrants had died.


"Europe is de facto already an immigration continent. Many countries have to deal with an aging population and will continue to need immigrants in the future. Quotas and point systems could help in making this process legal and transparent. This would help curb those leaving in search of work from running to the boats of human traffickers in the Mediterranean," writes Johannes Beck in Deutsche Welle.

"The overwhelming challenge facing Europe today is the future of its economy and of the eurozone. Millions of jobs and political stability depend on the outcome. Events in the Mediterranean should provoke a crisis of conscience and of memory. Europeans cannot call themselves civilised if they fail to respond generously to people seeking salvation on their own continent," writes the Financial Times.

"It would be foolish to imagine that the migrants and asylum-seekers will stop coming. In lawless Libya and in the migrants' countries of origin—Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Mali—the factors pushing them to gamble their lives on a sea crossing to Italy are still in place," writes the Economist


Aquino Warns China About South China Sea Activities

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said in an interview (SCMP) that China's activities in the South China Sea, including land reclamation efforts, had become increasingly alarming and he compared a lack of international response to China to appeasing Hitler. Vietnam and the Philippines are in the process of negotiating details of a new "strategic partnership" to fend off China’s maritime claims. Meanwhile, the Philippines and the United States launched (WSJ) one of their largest joint military exercises in fifteen years on Monday.

This CFR InfoGuide provides insight and analysis on China's maritime disputes.

JAPAN: Japanese and U.S. officials kicked-off (Japan Times) a two-day meeting in Tokyo on Sunday, ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the United States next week. High-level representatives are seeking to resolve outstanding issues concerning the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

This CFR Backgrounder explores the future of U.S. trade policy. 


Xi Jinping Arrives in Pakistan

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived (Express Tribune) in Islamabad on Monday for a two-day state visit, the first visit by a Chinese president to Pakistan in nine years. China and Pakistan are expected to sign as many as fifty different investment deals for infrastructure and energy projects worth $46 billion.

AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomb exploded (Radio Free Europe) in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Saturday, killing at least thirty-three people and injuring more than one hundred others. President Ashraf Ghani said that the self-declared Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. On Monday, gunmen abducted (Reuters) nineteen people working on a mine clearance project, and militants killed three police officers in separate attacks in eastern and southern Afghanistan, respectively. 


Islamic State Video Depicts Execution of Ethiopian Christians

The Islamic State released a new video on Sunday allegedly showing the execution (National) of thirty captive Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Libya has been in turmoil since the ousting of former dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, and several extremist groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

YEMEN: A Saudi-led air strike on Yemen’s largest cache of weapons in Sana'a caused (Al Jazeera) a huge explosion on Monday. Saudi King Salman pledged (Al Arabiya) $274 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen on Saturday, following an appeal from the UN for aid last week.

Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen could intensify its regional contest with Iran, writes CFR's Ray Takeyh.


Hundreds Held With Ties to South African Violence

More than three hundred people have been arrested (South African Government) in connection to the wave of violence against immigrants in South Africa, according to a government statement. At least eight people have died (Al Jazeera) and another thousand have been displaced in recent weeks.

CFR's John Campbell discusses the sources of South Africa's xenophobia in this recent blog post.

SOMALIA: An al-Shabab bomb attack targeted a convoy transporting UN employees in Puntland in northern Somalia, killing (AP) at least ten people and injuring others on Monday, according to local police and UN officials. 


Dozens of Greece's Far-Right Party Golden Dawn on Trial

Sixty-nine members of Greece's Golden Dawn party, including founder Nikos Michaloliakos, go on trial (France 24) on Monday, facing charges ranging from murder to running a criminal organization. The far-right party transformed from a group on the fringes of politics to a popular political party during the financial crisis in 2009. 


Brazilian Contractor Admits Paying Bribes to Petrobras

Eduardo Hermelino Leite, vice president of a leading Brazilian construction company, admitted (Merco Press) to paying $36 million in bribes to officials of oil giant Petrobras, according to a document prepared by prosecutors. Leite, first arrested in November for his alleged role in the corruption scandal, was later released after making a deal with prosecutors.

The Petrobras corruption scandal has far-reaching consequences for Brazil's economy, says João Augusto de Castro Neves in this CFR Interview.

MEXICO: Mexican authorities arrested (TeleSUR) two leaders of drug cartels operating along the border with the United States over the weekend.