Costa del Sol – There are an estimated 1.3 million British expatriates living in the European Union. The greatest number live in Spain. Officially, 310,000 Britons live there, although this figure is believed to be a third of the actual number.
Al Jazeera spoke to British people living in Costa del Sol and in the Valencian Community about their home country’s impending divorce from the EU.
‘My biggest concern is losing freedom of movement’
Molly Williams, 24, volunteer
“My biggest concern around Brexit is losing freedom of movement, which is the right that my family and I have used throughout our lives, as I have lived, travelled, worked and studied across Europe.
“I think it is actually a fundamental right that should be accessible to everybody across the continent, not just EU citizens but also third-country nationals. If we want to be a truly inclusive society and continent, we need to give everyone access to that.”
‘I don’t trust the creaking NHS’
Alison Curtis, 72, retiree
Alison Curtis says she depends on the Spanish health system
“I was a teacher all my life until I ran a small care-home to look after my parents until they died, during which time I lost a lot of money. Then, after the home shut, I came out here for Christmas to see my daughter who has lived out here since she was 19 and thought why am I going back? And so, I stayed.
“I previously had surgery for uterine and ovarian cancers followed by extensive radiation therapy in the UK to remove a rare lymphoma. However, they gave me the highest dose of radiation before new, safer regulations came in and as a result I have had to cope with life-challenging internal damage ever since.
“I have had related symptoms for which I have needed the support of the excellent Spanish health system and last August I was hospitalised for 12 days for a barrage of tests. I don’t want to go back [to the UK]. I don’t trust the creaking NHS and it would not allow the 24-hour support of my family as is the system here.
“A no-deal Brexit could mean that I lose this essential healthcare provision that I get for free in Spain, it’s the third best in the world. Lack of money wouldn’t drive me home but a complete loss of access to healthcare could drive me home, albeit against my will.”
‘There is so much uncertainty’
Malcolm Perry, 48, tourism business owner
Malcolm Perry owns a business and fears a no-deal Brexit
“Me and my partner came here to build a tourism business. We’re based in the Granada province up in the mountains.
My partner works in communications for a UK company and can work from here but travels to the UK regularly. It’s now costing us an extra 400 to 500 euro ($460-$570) to live here per month and run our business thanks to the downturn in the value of the pound.
“The loss of freedom of movement is, however, probably our biggest concern though as my partner is freelance and if he couldn’t work from here and travel from Germany or Italy to work it will reduce his employment opportunities massively.
“If there is no deal, we’re going to be totally reliant on what the UK government is going to do for EU citizens there, as to how the Spanish treat us in turn. There is so much uncertainty.”
‘My children are a real concern’
Jo Chipcase, 47, copywriter
Jo Chipcase worries moving back to England would disrupt her children’s education
“My biggest concern is that no one really knows what is going to happen. We have lived under extreme uncertainty for over two years now, causing me sleepless nights and bouts of panic.
“Are my two children and I going to revert to being third-country nationals? Will my children be able to enjoy their birth-right, which was to have free movement in 27 countries across the EU? Will we even be entitled to stay here, as third-country nationals have different residency requirements regarding work and income?
“My children are a real concern. My main fear is being forced to move back to England and the life we have built here being destroyed. My children are used to the local Spanish school system, which is different to the English system, and they have various school friends here. My eldest would like to study at university here in Spain so for him, it would be a big upheaval. My youngest isn’t the keenest of students and I feel that suddenly moving him to an entirely different school system would be detrimental to his progress.”
‘Our members in Bremain in Spain are very worried about the prospect of no deal’
Sue Wilson, 65, chair of Bremain in Spain
Sue Wilson, 65, is worried a falling pound could impact people’s income
“I’m still convinced that a no-deal Brexit won’t happen – surely both sides including [Prime Minister] Theresa May and her government know that it would be a terrible idea.
At the moment, we are reliant on an extension to Article 50 so that a no deal can be avoided – it’s just not possible for all the legislation required to facilitate Brexit, to be passed before March 29.
“Our members in Bremain in Spain are very worried about the prospect of no deal as they read about it constantly and hear politicians talking about it all the time. That’s what they fear the most, more than a bad deal – at least with a bad deal, some of our rights would be protected by the withdrawal agreement.
“No one knows what is going to happen to the pound, who knows what it is going to buy in three or six months time. It’s a big misconception that retired people here are well-off, there are plenty who come here because they can live a cheaper, healthier life and pensions have already gone down by 15 to 20 percent since the referendum.
“Potentially, if the worst came to the worst with a no deal, pensioners or those reliant on earnings from the UK could see their income reduce even further.”
New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report
NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York. “Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s…
NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.
“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.
Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.
The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.
Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.
Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.
While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.
The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”
In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”
Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.
Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.
But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.
“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.
“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.
The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.
The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know
What happened on the day Navalny fell ill? On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a…
What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?
On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13.
He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.
In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.
He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.
Was he poisoned?
Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.
A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.
Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.
Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body.
US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.
How is Navalny’s condition now?
On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”
On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia.
If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?
Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied.
Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport.
What effect has the alleged poisoning had?
The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government.
MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.
For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.
Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”
A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny:
August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport
August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital
September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence
September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’
September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’
September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma
September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities
September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone
September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany
September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle
September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia
Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan to lend voice to Amazon’s Alexa
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be the first Indian celebrity to lend his voice to Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant starting next year, as the Silicon Valley giant expands its presence in the significant market.The 77-year-old actor has been a household name in India for nearly half a century, and his deep baritone is instantly recognisable…
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan will be the first Indian celebrity to lend his voice to Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant starting next year, as the Silicon Valley giant expands its presence in the significant market.The 77-year-old actor has been a household name in India for nearly half a century, and his deep baritone is instantly recognisable to listeners in the country of 1.3 billion.Foreign firms such as Amazon have spent tens of billions of dollars in India in recent years as they fight for a piece of the Asian giant’s burgeoning digital economy.In a blog post on Monday, Amazon India said Bachchan’s “voice experience” feature will become available for purchase on Alexa next year.”It will include popular offerings like jokes, weather, shayaris (poetry), motivational quotes, advice and more,” the firm said.Alexa first rolled out celebrity voice option last year with actor Samuel L Jackson, following a similar move by Google the year before, which gave users the option of hearing singer John Legend on the Google Assistant.”I am excited to create this voice experience,” the Bollywood megastar said on Amazon’s blog.”With voice technology, we are building something to engage more effectively with my audience and well-wishers.”His earlier foray into vocal blogging in 2010, Bachchan Bol-Bachchan Speak, allowed fans to listen to pre-recorded messages by the star at the push of a button.In addition to competing with voice-activated devices such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant for consumers, Amazon is battling Walmart-backed Flipkart and JioMart, owned by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, for a share of the online retail market.The tech giant, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, is also trying to win eyeballs with its streaming service that competes with Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar.Bachchan and his family have been among India’s highest-profile coronavirus patients. The superstar, his actor son Abhishek, actress daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, and granddaughter Aaradhya were all admitted to hospital in July. All four have since been released.The veteran star returned to work last month filming India’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? after authorities eased coronavirus curbs on movie and TV shoots.Nevertheless, with cases in India nearing five million, authorities in Mumbai – the home of Bollywood – have asked production houses to ensure that common facilities are regularly sanitised, masks worn and social distancing “followed as far as possible”.Bachchan’s last film, comedy-drama Gulabo Sitabo, went straight to Amazon’s streaming service in June, after theatres in India shut down in March due to pandemic fears.