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US lawmakers try to save shutdown talks as Trump heads to border

As US President Donald Trump plans a rally in the Texas border city of El Paso, Democratic and Republican negotiators in Congress are struggling to reach a deal on the president’s proposed wall on the US-Mexico border.  If an agreement is not hashed out by February 15, the government will fall again into partial shutdown,…

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US lawmakers try to save shutdown talks as Trump heads to border

As US President Donald Trump plans a rally in the Texas border city of El Paso, Democratic and Republican negotiators in Congress are struggling to reach a deal on the president’s proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. 

If an agreement is not hashed out by February 15, the government will fall again into partial shutdown, less than a month after a record-long government shutdown ended with no agreement over the border wall. 

On Monday, the top four Democratic and Republican negotiators in US Congress were planning to meet hours before Trump arrives in Texas for his rally. 

The politicians hope to reach an agreement on Monday to allow time for the legislation to pass the House of Representatives and Senate and get signed by Trump by Friday, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and several other federal agencies expires.

Negotiations broke down during the weekend over funding for immigrant detention beds and physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, US Representative Kay Granger, will attend the meeting with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican, and the panel’s senior Democrat Patrick Leahy, according to congressional aides.

They were tentatively set to meet at 3:30pm (2030 GMT).

Trump’s December demand for $5.7bn to help construct a border wall triggered the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month.

Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow congressional negotiators time to find a compromise on government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, to avert another shutdown on February 15.

Impasse

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has sought to crack down on immigration. 

Trump made a border wall one of his central campaign promises in 2016, saying it is needed to curb irregular immigration, drug trafficking and other crimes.

Democrats, who took control of the House last month from Trump’s fellow Republicans, oppose a wall, calling it ineffective, expensive and immoral.

Some negotiators last week held out the option of passing another stopgap funding bill to avert a shutdown and allow more time to reach a border deal.

But one House aide said the goal of Monday’s meeting was to revitalise the negotiations for funding for the remainder of the fiscal year and not to discuss another short-term spending bill.

Democrats are opposed to the Trump administration expanding its capacity to hold more people arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for eventual deportation.

Republicans want to increase the number of beds in detention facilities to enable holding more people to speed up and expand deportations.

A sticking point in the talks has been a Democratic demand for funding fewer detention beds.

A Trump administration official told reporters on Monday that the Democratic proposal would be “extremely dangerous” to public safety. 

Matt Albence, deputy director of ICE, said this is a “crucial public safety issue”. 

In El Paso, an anti-wall protest will greet the Republican president on Monday, led by hometown Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman who in November lost a close election for a US Senate seat from Texas to Republican Ted Cruz and now is considering seeking his party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials. The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of…

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.
The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.
At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.

Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.
In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.
The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.
Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.

The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel

After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.

As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.

Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.

As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.

While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.

Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.

For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.

Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.

Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.

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