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Pope Francis delivered a Christmas Day message at St Peter’s Basilica, calling for an end to the war in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. Expressing sorrow for the victims of the October 7 attack, he urgently appealed for the liberation of those still held hostage and pleaded for an end to military operations that result in innocent civilian casualties.

The Pope also emphasized the need for increased humanitarian aid to address the desperate situation in Gaza. He highlighted the appalling impact of the conflict and urged for a solution to the humanitarian crisis through the provision of necessary aid.

In addition to addressing the Israel-Hamas conflict, Pope Francis touched on other global conflicts. He called for peace in Ukraine, where the war with Russia has persisted for nearly two years. The Pope also expressed his prayers for political and social stability in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen—countries marked by prolonged periods of war and unrest.

Beyond specific regions, Pope Francis advocated for peaceful solutions to conflicts in various parts of the world, including Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as in different areas of Africa and on the Korean Peninsula. His message resonated with a plea for harmony and resolution in troubled spots across the globe.

In his address, Pope Francis extended his concerns to millions of migrants worldwide, highlighting their plight as “the little Jesuses of today.” He emphasized the challenges faced by migrants on perilous journeys undertaken in desperation and in search of hope, calling for compassion and understanding in addressing their struggles.

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Russia has been recruiting foreign migrants detained at its border with Finland for military service in Ukraine, as evidenced by several cases reported by the BBC. This practice involves coercing individuals in pre-deportation detention centers to sign contracts for army service. While this tactic is not new, the numbers increased significantly as foreign migrants arrived at Russia’s border with Finland. Finland temporarily closed its Russian border crossings, accusing Moscow of using migrants as part of a destabilization campaign after Finland joined NATO.

In the past three weeks, 236 people in Karelia, one of the three Russian regions bordering Finland, were arrested for staying in Russia without valid visas. The pattern was similar in the other two border regions of Leningrad and Murmansk. Migrants, including a Somali man identified as Awad, detained for immigration violations, were approached by military representatives and offered a job in the Russian army, promising good pay, medical care, and permission to stay in Russia upon completing a one-year army contract.

The influx of migrants at Finland’s border led to accusations that Russia encouraged the surge, bypassing visa checks and organizing the distribution of bicycles for migrants. Awad, who had arrived in Russia in mid-July and attempted to enter Poland via Belarus, hired a taxi in November to reach the Finnish border. After being detained, he and others were pressured to sign army contracts to avoid deportation.

The report mentions an Iraqi man facing deportation who claimed he was also pressured to sign an army contract due to the danger he faced in Iraq. According to a representative from the Somali community in Belarus, at least 60 Somali nationals in Russian detention centers were approached by military recruiters, with some reportedly agreeing to sign contracts with the Russian army.

Awad and his group realized they were being sent to fight in Ukraine when they reached a military camp at the border. Despite threats of long prison sentences, the detainees demanded the annulment of their contracts. Some received letters confirming the cancellation, but they remain in the military camp. Awad insists he was deceived and did not fully understand the contract, emphasizing that he is an asylum seeker, not a soldier. The BBC has sought comment from the Russian interior ministry regarding the allegations.

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Finland has decided to close the majority of its border crossings with Russia, accusing Moscow of actively aiding migrants in their entry into the country. With seven out of eight road posts already closed due to a notable increase in crossings, the last remaining crossing, situated in the Arctic Circle, is set to be shut for a two-week period.

The Finnish government asserts that Russia is orchestrating the movement of asylum seekers towards Finland as part of what they describe as an “influence operation” and a “hybrid attack.” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized the government’s commitment to putting an end to these crossings, citing concerns for national security.

In November, Finland saw a surge in the number of asylum seekers, totaling around 900 individuals, who entered the country from Russia. These asylum seekers come from various countries, including Morocco, Pakistan, and Syria. The Finnish government’s response to this influx has been a gradual closure of more border posts. The decision has raised concerns from Finland’s non-discrimination ombudsman, who fears that the closures may compromise the right to seek asylum under international law, particularly considering the remote location of the last remaining border crossing, approximately 900 kilometers north of the capital.

Despite the closures, the Finnish government maintains that asylum seekers arriving by boat and air can still seek asylum. However, advocates worry that the decision to close official crossing points may lead asylum seekers to attempt illegal crossings through the vast forests and rivers that make up the lengthy border between Finland and Russia.

With the arrival of winter, there are heightened concerns about the safety of such attempts. Advocates also emphasize the importance of providing assistance to those in need on the Russian side of the border and urge authorities to avoid pushing individuals crossing illegally back into Russia.

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Certainly, the accident occurred during the early hours of Friday when a minivan, suspected to be involved in people-smuggling, crashed and overturned near Ampfing in Bavaria, Germany. Police had attempted to stop the vehicle at a road check, but the driver accelerated, leading to the tragic incident that claimed the lives of seven individuals. Among the more than 20 passengers were also children, as reported by the authorities.

This unfortunate incident adds to a recent surge in people-smuggling activities in various parts of Europe. Several countries, including Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic, have reinstated border checks in response to the escalating incidents. The A94 motorway, where the crash occurred, is often used as a route by people-smugglers crossing the border from Austria, highlighting the ongoing challenges related to human trafficking and illegal migration.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann emphasized the pressing need to strengthen border controls to prevent smugglers from exploiting vulnerable migrants and endangering lives in the process. With a significant increase in first-time asylum requests in Germany, authorities are intensifying efforts to tackle the root causes of illegal migration and ensure the safety and security of those seeking refuge within the country.

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The Speaker of Poland’s upper house of parliament, Tomasz Grodzki, has urged the government to disclose its knowledge regarding an escalating scandal involving cash for visas. Grodzki expressed concern that the issue was damaging Poland’s international image as a responsible democracy.

Reports suggest that migrants paid substantial sums, up to $5,000 (£4,000) each, to expedite their work visa applications. While seven individuals have been charged in connection with the scandal, none of them are public officials.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland, Piotr Wawrzyk, was dismissed last week in the wake of these allegations. His removal coincided with a search of the foreign ministry conducted by Poland’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA). The director of the ministry’s legal service was also terminated.

In response to the scandal, the foreign ministry announced the termination of all contracts with outsourcing companies responsible for handling visa applications since 2011. Opposition MPs allege that as many as 250,000 visas for individuals from Asia and Africa were irregularly issued through these outsourcing companies, a claim disputed by the government, which maintains that only several hundred were involved.

Donald Tusk, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform party, criticized the government’s migration policy, stating that anyone seeking to travel from Africa to Poland could easily obtain a visa at the embassy. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki dismissed these allegations, asserting that there is no widespread issue.

Speaker Grodzki characterized the scandal as the most significant Poland has faced in the 21st century, with corruption reaching the highest levels of government, posing a direct threat to the country. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro downplayed the scale of the problem in an interview with state-run news channel TVP Info.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) became aware of the matter in July 2022 and has been conducting investigations since then. This scandal has the potential to cast a shadow over the Law and Justice party’s (PiS) anti-immigration stance ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the next month. While PiS currently leads in polls, it remains uncertain whether they can secure the outright majority required to continue governing for a third term.

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Wildfires in Greece have tragically led to the loss of 20 lives and are still raging out of control near Athens and the Evros region close to the Turkish border. Among those killed, 18 are believed to be refugees and migrants who had recently crossed the border and sought refuge in forests north of Alexandroupolis. Greece has expressed deep condolences for the deaths occurring in the Dadia forest near the Turkish border. The fires have been ongoing for five days and have extended along the coast and near the city. Efforts to contain the fires are being hampered by strong winds and scorching temperatures of up to 40°C (104°F).

The victims’ bodies were discovered near a shack close to the village of Avantas, north of Alexandroupolis, by the fire service. The fire service and local authorities had issued evacuation warnings through emergency services. The victims are believed to have recently crossed the border from Turkey along the River Evros, which is a common route for migrants and refugees attempting to enter the European Union. The risk of wildfires adds to the many dangers migrants and refugees face in their journey, including violence, arrest, and drowning in the Mediterranean.

The victims are predominantly male, with two of them being minors. The bodies were found within a relatively small radius, and their identification is expected to be challenging, necessitating the involvement of their relatives. Some individuals had been attempting to follow a well-established path through the forest to avoid detection.

Tensions have arisen in the local communities as some residents blame migrants for causing the fires. However, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that migrants were responsible for starting the Dadia forest fire. A video showing a man “arresting” migrants and refugees and accusing them of arson provoked outrage in Greece, leading to the arrest of the man behind the video and others involved.

In response to the tragic events, the Supreme Court Prosecutor initiated inquiries into both the causes of the fires in the Evros region and incidents of alleged racist violence against migrants following the deaths in the Dadia forest.

As the fires continue to spread, evacuations have been conducted in various areas, including villages near Alexandroupolis and parts of the capital city, Athens. The situation remains challenging for firefighters, compounded by the evacuation of nursing homes and the destruction of homes in some areas.

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The Spanish coast guard has located a boat carrying around 200 migrants that went missing over a week ago. The boat was found 71 miles south of Gran Canaria, and a coast guard vessel has been dispatched for rescue operations.

The fishing boat had departed from a coastal town in southern Senegal, approximately 1,700km away from Tenerife, with 200 people on board, including many children. Two other similar boats carrying additional migrants are also reported missing, with limited information available. This brings the total number of people missing across the three boats to over 300.

The route from West Africa to the Canary Islands is known to be perilous, and last year alone, at least 559 people died attempting to reach the Spanish islands. The exact number of departures and shipwrecks often goes unreported. The migrants attempting this route typically come from countries such as Morocco, Mali, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and other sub-Saharan nations.

Despite a decrease in the number of unauthorized arrivals in the Canary Islands in 2022 compared to the previous year, the route remains dangerous, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) emphasizes that the flows are still high compared to previous years.

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According to the RNLI, lifeboats were sent 290 times last year to rescue migrants in the English Channel.

For the first time, the organisation has made public information about its work on migrant crossings.

The RNLI, which has been chastised for providing a “taxi service” for migrants, reported saving 108 lives in the Channel between France and the Kent coast.

Its CEO stated that he made no apologies for saving lives at sea.

In 2022, lifeboats manned by volunteer crews were launched more than 9,000 times off the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The charity’s annual report for 2022 shows a 3.5% rise in net revenue, part of which came from larger donations, but expenditures also increased.

Some of the funds have gone towards the development of a new gadget known as “sea stairs,” a floating platform that allows workers to rescue people from the ocean more rapidly.

Mr. Ling called the floating platform a “game changer.”

He said that a standard rescue of a sinking small boat would take roughly one minute per person, but the sea stairs allowed 20 people to be rescued in 90 seconds.

The arrival of 616 migrants on tiny boats on Monday brings the total number of migrants crossing in 2023 to 8,380.

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As many as twenty-six people have been booked in Belgium and France in an investigative operation triggered by the unnatural deaths of 39 Vietnamese migrants in a lorry in the UK in the year 2019.

Asphyxia and hypothermia are the reason that led to the deaths of the migrants – who were attempting to migrant to the United Kingdom.

The investigation has been carried out with the support of Europol. The police departments in several European nations have offered support to the investigation team.

At least thirteen of the total arrested people has been booked in Belgium, while the rest has been arrested from France.

The arrested people are said to be the members of a infamous network operate in the region to help migrants reach the United Kingdom illicitly.

As per a preliminary report, through this network, hundreds of people have reached the UK in the recent months.

Recently, the lorry driver who had transported the migrants to the UK plead guilty.

The issue is expected to open up a national wide discussion about the topic across the world – especially in the west where migration is a huge issue.

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The coronavirus outbreak has damagingly interrupted the humanitarian supply chain which work to ensure migrants living in camps across Europe do not starve.

Many charities have had to cease operations, as the virus outbreak has made them incapable to function in a proper way.

This exist of the charities from the scenario has reduced support for large numbers of vulnerable people, though governments have stepped into make up the reduction.

As per a statistics, there are thousands of refugees and asylum seekers living in poverty in the United Kingdom alone.

Though the United Kingdom says it provides support for those who need it, not all charity organisations find that assurance relaxing.

In Calais located in France, close to the UK, many migrants are living in temporary camps hoping to cross to the UK.

The BBC has recently made a touching story to expose how miserable the life of migrants in the continent of Europe is.

Migrants, away from their homelands, deserve the support and care of every one – especially from the people of the country where they have reached in search of a peaceful future.

It is easy to forget them. It needs a courageous heart to look them through a humanitarian prism.

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