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US Watchdog Reveals Grim Migrant Detention Details

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Some illegal border-crossers were held ten times longer than rules permit, DHS inspectors said

The largest US Border Patrol detention facility held almost 90% of illegal border-crossers for far longer – some up to ten times longer – than allowed under current government policy, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report published this week.

The DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) made unannounced visits to seven facilities in the El Paso, Texas district and found the border patrol treating migrants well, but detaining them for more than 72 hours.

OIG inspectors visited seven Border Patrol facilities in October 2021 – at the start of the federal fiscal year – to verify compliance with the standard on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS) protocols. These require migrants to be processed and deported within three days of capture, “as appropriate and operationally feasible.”

The inspections and subsequent analysis “found that Border Patrol held 493 migrants in custody longer than specified in the TEDS standards, which generally limit detention in these facilities to 72 hours,” the OIG report said.

“Despite prolonged detention times, none of the facilities we inspected was overcrowded,” the report noted, while Border Patrol took “consistent measures” to provide “access to medical care, showers, a change of clothing, blankets and mats, and food and snacks.”

The report zeroed in on the El Paso CPC, a facility built in 2019 in response to “kids in cages” reports critical of the Trump administration’s handling of illegal migration. At the time of the OIG visit, there were 569 migrants detained at the facility – of which 493, or 87%, had been there for longer than 72 hours. Of those, 23 had been detained for 30 days or longer – ten times the TEDS limit.

Inspectors also found “inconsistent implementation of standards related to segregating juveniles from unrelated adults or legal guardians and providing interpretation to detained individuals.”

One of the reasons so many people were held beyond the three-day limit was that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not have enough pilots, forcing the cancellation of three scheduled deportation flights to Ecuador between October 19 and October 29, the OIG noted. The migrants who were supposed to be deported were instead given notices to appear before an immigration court and released into the US.

The Customs and Border Patrol recorded more than two million “encounters” on the southern US border between October 2021 and June 2022. Because some of the encounters are duplicates – migrants who were sent back but try to cross again – the OIG report lists the actual number of individuals who crossed the border illegally in that time period as 1,634, including 104 as of June. The total number for fiscal year 2021 was 1,659,206.

The number of illegal crossings on the US-Mexico border surged following Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2020, with the new president vowing to reform the immigration and asylum process to be more “humane” and “equitable.” On Monday, the Biden administration discontinued its predecessor’s policy of sending asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, making over 5,000 migrants eligible to cross into the US and stay until their claims are adjudicated – a process that can take several years.

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US Officials ‘obsessed’ With Wagner Group – Media

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The CIA and State Department have reportedly tried to pressure African governments into kicking out the Russian contractors

The Biden administration has attempted to pressure African nations into expelling the Wagner private military company, with the firm’s presence in Sudan and Libya “at the top of every meeting” between American and Egyptian officials, the Associated Press reported.

CIA Director William Burns focused on the group during recent trips to Egypt and Libya, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Wagner with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi during a jaunt to Cairo last month, the news agency reported on Saturday.

“Wagner obsesses [the American officials],” said an Egyptian senior government official. “It is at the top of every meeting.”

Egypt is a key conduit for American policy, with the Biden administration going as far as using Cairo to pass messages to Moscow, rather than communicating through direct channels. According to the report, the Egyptians reached out to their Sudanese and Libyan counterparts to relay Washington’s displeasure with Wagner.

Abbas Kamel, the director of Egypt’s Intelligence Directorate Agency, urged the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan to address Wagner’s “use of Sudan as a base” for operations in Central Africa, a Sudanese official said. Burns himself visited Libya to speak to the country’s competing governments, discussing Wagner with Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar, the report claimed.

Egypt reportedly asked that Haftar not station Wagner soldiers near its borders, while the US demanded that Wagner fighters be removed from their posts safeguarding Libyan oil facilities.

Founded in 2014, Wagner has mainly operated as a security contractor in Africa and the Middle East. The precise details of its deployments are not made public, although Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has confirmed that his forces fought in Libya. He denied involvement in Sudan when asked by American journalists last year, saying at the time that he was “not aware of any evidence that the Wagner Group exists,” and that he had personally donated humanitarian aid to the conflict-stricken country.

“Who arranged wars and revolutions in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Mozambique, Central Africa, and so on?” he told RT last month. “Some of these countries later turned to the Wagner PMC, which put an end to these wars with an iron fist.”

The US declared the Wagner Group a “transnational criminal organization” last month, after Wagner forces notched up a series of victories against the Ukrainian military in Donbass.

Despite Washington’s apparent “obsession” with the group, “there is no evidence yet that the Biden administration’s pressure has yielded results in either Sudan or Libya,” the AP report noted.

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Serbia Names ‘greatest’ Mistake by West

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The decision to supply Kiev with battle tanks has only further united Russians, Aleksandar Vucic has said

The West’s recent announcement that it would be supplying Ukraine with main battle tanks marks a major miscalculation, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said on Friday. That’s as Moscow has threatened to burn any Western equipment that enters Ukraine and has vowed to retaliate “far beyond the scope of armored vehicles.”

Vucic noted that the decision to supply Ukraine with tanks, especially with the “terrifying” German Leopard 2s, is the West’s “biggest” political mistake because it effectively manages to “unite the Russians like never before.”

Last month, Germany and the US agreed to provide a number of heavy tanks to Kiev. Washington has promised between 30 and 50 of its M1 Abrams tanks, while Berlin pledged 14 Leopard 2A6s from the Bunderswehr’s own stocks. An additional 51 of the same model and 88 of the older Leopard 1 model may also come from Rheinmetall as they get refurbished, Germany said.

Berlin also gave the green light to countries that have expressed a desire to export their own Leopards to Ukraine. Those include Poland, Finland, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands. The UK and Canada have also said they would be sending their heavy equipment to Kiev.

The decision has been heavily criticized by Russia, which has called it an “extremely dangerous” move that threatens to escalate the conflict in Ukraine. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin likened the new threat of “German Leopard tanks with crosses on their hulls” to the Soviet Union’s struggle against Hitler’s forces and warned that Moscow’s response would not be limited to weapons.

Other countries have also voiced their concerns about the West’s move. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the delivery of NATO tanks to Ukraine was a “high-risk endeavor” that would fail to help end the conflict and only “line the pockets of gun barons.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also slammed Germany’s decision, noting that these Western countries are “drifting” towards becoming active participants in the conflict. Orban has insisted that instead of arming Kiev, the West should be pursuing “a ceasefire and peace talks” in Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly objected to Western weapon deliveries to Ukraine, arguing that non-stop arms shipments only serve to prolong the conflict and risk direct confrontation with NATO. The Kremlin has also insisted that no amount of military aid will prevent Moscow from reaching its objectives and warned that the tanks would “burn like the rest of Western weapons” supplied to Kiev.

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Germany Approves Retired Tanks for Ukraine

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Berlin has given German defense industry companies permission to export older Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, the German media reported on Friday, citing government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

The official confirmed to journalists that a relevant export license was granted, without providing any further details.

“I do not want to say much more at the moment,” Hebestreit told journalists during a government press conference on Friday, according to Der Spiegel weekly. The official also said that further clarifications on the issue would be provided “within the coming days or weeks.”

Rheinmetall, one of Germany’s top arms manufacturers, suggested sending Leopard 1 tanks from its stocks to Ukraine as early as April 2022. At the time, the company stated it could supply up to 50 tanks to Ukraine within just six weeks if granted the government’s approval. The company also added that it was still checking on the condition of the tanks at the moment.

In mid-January, Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told the tabloid Bild that it would take a long time to prepare the Leopard 1 tanks for potential export to Ukraine even if the company got a relevant license “tomorrow.” The tanks were “completely disassembled and built anew,” he said. According to Papperger, the delivery might take up to a year.

Der Spiegel reported on Friday that there were 29 Leopard 1 tanks largely ready for delivery, which were being stored by another defense manufacturer – the Flensburger Fahrzeugbau Gesellschaft (FFG). However, both Der Spiegel and SZ newspapers cited a lack of ammunition for the tanks in connection with the potential delivery.

Both Rheinmetall and FFG said they could potentially supply dozens of Leopard 1 battle tanks to Ukraine, but only if Kiev was willing to buy them, SZ reported. Earlier, Rheinmetall said that overhauling the heavy equipment would cost hundreds of millions of euros – a cost it could not cover on its own.

Earlier, Berlin also vowed to send 14 modern Leopard 2 main battle tanks out of the army’s stockpiles to Ukraine. Moscow has repeatedly criticized the West for supplying weapons to Ukraine, arguing that they only served to prolong the conflict and human suffering.

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