Joe Gerrard

Joe Gerrard

CHLOE SMITH, Britain’s Constitution minister, has spoken for the government on a bill set to be debated today that would lift current restrictions on expat voting rights if passed.

The Overseas Electors Bill will end the 15 year limit on people from Britain who now live abroad casting a ballot in the country’s elections if Parliament approves it.

The bill, tabled by Conservative MP Glyn Davies, will go up for debate in the House of Commons today.

Chloe Smith said the proposals had the support of the government and that she hoped it would be backed by members of parliament from all parties.

“British citizens who live overseas find themselves abruptly disenfranchised after they have lived abroad for 15 years, even where they still feel closely connected to our country.”

“To many, this has been a terrible injustice,” she said.

The constitution minister added that the bill would also enfranchise anyone who was previously registered to vote in Britain but now lives overseas.

“These changes are part of the Government’s wider ambition to strengthen the foundation of democracy and continually increase voter registration by ensuring every voter’s voice is heard.”

She added that decisions taken in Britain still affected expats and therefore they should have their say in who should govern.

“I am grateful to the many campaigners over the years who have asked for this rule to be changed, with dignity and passion.”

“The Government pledged in our manifesto to make this change and I’m proud to deliver it,” she said.

Sue Collard, a Politics lecturer at the University of Sussex, wrote in an article for the London School of Economics that it seemed the government was committed to the plans.

She added the debate around the plans may become increasingly politicised if it makes it beyond the second reading.

“Opposition parties see the plans not as a progressive move to end the disenfranchisement but as a cynical ploy to increase Tory votes and donations,” she wrote.

The Conservative government first made the pledge to grant expats the right to vote while David Cameron was Prime Minister in 2014.

Campaigners, including prominent war veteran Harry Shindler, have made demands to do away with the current 15 year limit for some time.

Many of them were reportedly angered that the government failed to implement the policy before the EU referendum in 2016.

Some campaigners proposed the creations of overseas constituencies, such as those in the legislatures of France, Italy and Portugal to represent expats. The government has rejected this idea.

British expats currently have one of the lowest levels of voter registration of any group. Around 20 per cent of those eligible registered on electoral rolls to vote in the June 2017 election, according to the British government.

An estimated three million people could be enfranchised if the bill becomes law, according to reports.

A MOROCCAN man accused of charging 22 migrants up to €900 for a passage to Spain aboard his boat is due to appear in court today.

Prosecutors have requested four and half years in prison for the man should he be found guilty. They said his boat was stopped by coast guards and a Guardia Civil patrol four and a half nautical miles south of Balanegra.

Prosecutors claimed in their report to the court the 22 Moroccan passengers paid the accused between €800 and €900 for a place on board his boat.

He and others in the country then arranged for them to travel to Spain. The vessel set out from Africa at night and the passengers had no lifejackets or lights. Two children were among those onboard.

There was a risk that the boat may have been shipwrecked but the accused decided to go ahead with the voyage despite this, prosecutors said.

The 22 migrants onboard were rescued by the Salvamento Maritimo and the Port of Almeria after the boat was intercepted at around 11.40pm on July 31 2017.

A MAN accused of trying to sell war weapons on the internet has been arrested by the Guardia Civil in Sevilla.

Police began their investigation after reportedly discovering two Spanish Civil War era artillery shells for sale on a second hand items website.

Guardia Civil explosives experts analysed the shells and found them to be 70-millimetre and 75-millimetre projectiles that were made in Granada and Sevilla. They also found a 9-millimetre pistol was up for sale.

Officers secured a search warrant to secure the weapons, fearing that they were at risk of exploding. They then arrested the suspect on charges of illegally possessing war weapons.

Explosive experts have since destroyed the shells after gaining authorisation from the courts.

The police operation is part of a wider effort to combat the illegal distribution of weapons and explosives.

Proceedings for the case have been sent to a court in Sanlucar la Mayor.

THE Basque nationalist group ETA is set to decide on dissolving itself after its leadership submitted proposals for a vote.

The process to wind up the organisation’s operations has reportedly entered its final stages following months of discussions.

The group’s leaders have rejected the possibility of becoming a conventional civil organisation. But they have said they wish to continue contribution to the Basque political process, according to a statement written in April 2017 which is now central to talks.

“The end of the political-military strategy marked the beginning of the end of the organisation’s cycle,” the document stated.

“We must close the time of armed conflict and related situations and offer all our strength to enhance the political process. The only way to do that is to take the initiative directly without waiting for anything or anyone,” it added.

The statement also defended the organisation’s contribution to the Basque “independence process” made with “militant force”.

“This is not the time to go home. On the contrary, the current political phase will need the strength and momentum of everyone as never before,” it said.

ETA, or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Liberty), was established in 1959 in the Basque region of northern Spain and southern France.

It morphed from a group promoting Basque culture, language and traditions into a paramilitary organisation dedicated to achieving independence for the region by violent means.

Several countries have listed the group as a terrorist organisation and more than 820 people, including 340 civilians, were killed during its attacks. More than 300 of its members are in prison in Spain, France and elsewhere.

ETA declared the end of its armed activity in October 2011 following several ceasefires in the decades before.  

It announced that it had given up all its weapons and fully disarmed in April 2017. Talks to disband the group have since followed, leading to the upcoming vote on the documents submitted by its leadership.

ALMERIA, Malaga and many other regions in Spain could be in for more severe droughts because of the rising global temperatures, according to a Europe-wide study.

The number of droughts in and around the city could double between 2050 and 2100 according to research conducted by the University of Newcastle in Britain. That is in the most optimistic scenario.

Malaga may also see twice as many droughts during the same period while Madrid could suffer droughts up to 14 times worse, according to the study.

Figures show the Costa Blanca area - and most of Europe - is also likely to experience more heatwave's and higher temperatures.

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Heatwave day's and maximum temperatures are expected to go up throughout most of Europe in all scenarios. © Selma B Guerreiro et al.

Professor Richard Dawson, a co-author of the report, said: “The research highlights the urgent need to design and adapt out cities to address these future conditions.”

Newcastle University’s research, published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, has forecast an increase in droughts in Southern Europe and heat waves across the continent.

Greater flooding in river basins in the continent’s North West has also been predicted in the study which looked at 571 European cities. The lowest risk scenario forecasted rising temperatures across all the cities studied.

Selma Guerreiro, the study’s lead author, said it highlighted the substantial challenge that cities across Europe will face in managing the risks of climate change.

The study used all available climate models to make the predictions, which are sorted into three possible scenarios: low, medium and high impact. The low impact scenario was the most optimistic of these.

A GROUP of people accused of being members of an illegal cockfighting club have had their charges sent to court.

Prosecutors have requested 10 months in prison for each of the eleven defendants, who reportedly organised the fights in a warehouse in Viator’s industrial estate.

More than a hundred people were at one fight when police raided it in 2016. Seven young people were also at the fight and spectators were also placing bets on the outcome of the matches, according to reports.

Around 84 cages for the animals were found in the warehouse, along with a ring, stands and a bar. Police were able to rescue 17 cockerels during the raid, according to the Guardia Civil.

Prosecutors claim the group organised a series of fights in January, February and in the first days of March 2016.

The birds reportedly had tape and glue applied to their limbs so that they would be more harmful to their opponents.

Thirteen roosters had to be slaughtered because of their injuries from the fights and two died after losing both their eyes, according to prosecutors.

Andalucian environmental authorities have announced they will pursue sanctions against the group which could lead them to receive fines of up to €30,500.

OFFICIALS from a United Nations body are set to visit Spain to examine the human rights situation of people with African heritage.

The delegation of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent plan to visit Madrid, Barcelona, Almeria and Ceuta.

They are set to meet with communities, government representatives, civil society groups and people working on race relations issues during the visit from today (Monday) to February 26.

Sabelo Gumedze, the head of the Working Group, said her and her colleagues would be assessing the human rights situation Spain’s African-descended population.

“We will collect information on any form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, afrophobia and related intolerance,” he said.

Gumedze, along with Marie-Evelyne Patrus-Barry and Ricardo Sunga are set to study measures to prevent racism and help protect the victims of it. They also plan to examine protection, integration and inclusion measures for migrants and refugees.

The group will present its findings to the UN’s Human Rights Council next September. They are also set to promote the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), a UN initiative to promote African culture and descendants.

THE Council of Ministers in Madrid has approved a 16-part action plan to help combat the illegal plant and animal shipping trade.

Spain’s first plan against illegal trafficking and the international poaching of animal and plant species is set to be enacted over the next two years until 2020.

It commits the Foreign Affairs, Environment, Economy and Finance ministries as well as the Guardia Civil and the Attorney General’s Office to help combat the trade.

An increase in funds for awareness campaigns on poaching designed to reduce demand for goods made from endangered plants and animals is part of the plan. There is also set to be an increase in diplomatic efforts to address the issue at its source.

Support to encourage the development of alternative livelihoods for communities who are involved in the trade and efforts to combat corruption associated with poaching are also part of the plans.

The trade in products from poached plants and animals is reportedly the third most profitable organised criminal activity, dealing in an estimated almost €21 billion every year. This includes the trade in live animals prohibited for sale.

Spain is one of the leading entry points into the EU for the illegal goods because of its location, with exports from Africa and the Americas arriving in its ports.

The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) estimated that between 2013 and 2014 9,500 cases of animal trafficking and 10,000 of illegal plant shipping were opened.

Products from reptiles were most commonly trafficked into Spain due to the demand for their skin by collectors and leather makers, according to the NGO.

Exotic birds, especially parrots from South America were also trafficked in large numbers. Products from large mammals, some from species nearing extinction, were also common. Authorities recently seized a shipment of 70 whole elephant tusks.

Government plans do not have a set budget but includes details on how much each department will spend from their own funds, according to Spanish media.

ALMERIA’S representative in the Congress of Deputies has accused the Spanish government of throwing itself into the arms of the United States and Donald Trump over radioactive waste at Palomares.

Diego Clemente, from the Ciudadanos party, made the claim during a session of the parliamentary committee on the cleanup of the waste.

Pablo Garcia-Manzano, the government’s Undersecretary for Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda, was in the meeting taking questions from deputies on the Almerian town.

Clemente said: “Palomares cannot wait a second more.”

“The silence and ignorance of the Government on the waste at Palomares brings us back to the dictatorial ways of 40 years ago,” he told the committee.

Government energy officials have said the plan for the United States to take the waste from Palomares was still in place.

Clemente said the United States had always been reluctant to remove the radioactive debris.

“With or without the USA, Palomares cannot wait,” Clemente said.

He added the Spanish government should implement the original Palomares Rehabilitation Plan as soon as possible.

“Waste management and evacuation plans for Palomares should also be enacted and a destination for radioactive substances should be found in one of the world’s nuclear cemeteries,” he said.

“Get back to reality and stop lying to the people of Almeria because the United States’ plan gives no hint of following through on the removal of the waste,” he said.

Palomares was covered in radioactive debris following a mid-air collision of two American planes in 1966, one of which was carrying four nuclear bombs.

The cleanup operation was never completed and parts of the town are still off limits due to the continued existence of waste.

DEATHS due to accidents in the workplace numbered 20 in Almeria last year and the rate of fatalities in Andalucia rose by 15.4 per cent.

Almeria came second among Andalucia’s provinces in terms of deaths resulting from accidents at work. It came behind Seville which had 31 fatalities and ahead of Malaga which registered 16, Granada with 11, Cadiz with 10, Jaen with nine and Cordoba with eight.

Figures from the Ministry of Employment stated that the total of 112 workers lost their lives as a result of work-related incidents in Andalucia.

Of that total 95 died during the workday itself, with the remaining 17 fatalities occurring on the way to or from work.

Andalucia saw a greater rise in the number of such deaths than Spain experienced overall. A total of 618 people died in work-related accidents in 2017, a rise of 1.8 per cent compared to the previous year.

More than 583,000 accidents resulted in sick leave nationally last year, an increase on 2016 levels of 5 per cent. The number of those which resulted in minor injuries was more than 499,000.

The manufacturing industry saw the greatest number of accidents at more than 94,100, followed by retail, wholesale and car repairs at a total of almost 72,000.

More than 59,500 of the accidents were in construction, followed by the hospitality industry at almost 51,000.

Most workplace accidents were due to physical overstress, falls, stumbles and hitting objects or sharp and hard metals, according to data.

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