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Space invaders: check-in queue for Eurostar trains at London St Pancras International before the coronavirus pandemic (Simon Calder)

Rail, ferry and Eurotunnel passengers travelling between the UK and France could face chaos next year when the EU’s long-planned Entry/Exit System (EES) is implemented.

Transport chiefs told peers on the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee that the system, related to the Etias e-visa scheme, was designed for airlines rather than for terrestrial operators.

The EES was developed while the UK was a member of the European Union, ahead of the 2016 EU referendum. Following the decision to leave, the UK has become subject to the requirements for facial and fingerprint biometrics to be collected from every non-EU visitor to Europe’s Schengen area.

The schedule is for checks to become mandatory from May 2022, though it is thought that this is likely to slip until later in the year.

Tim Reardon, head of EU Exit for the Dover Harbour Board, said: “The challenge in our context is that in all those environments where biometric controls happen at the moment – whether it’s an e-gate or a fingerprint reader or previously an iris scanner that the UK authorities had – individuals pass through the frontier one at a time and on foot.

“In our context, virtually everybody crosses the border in a vehicle and in a group.

“There is no such thing as an e-gate for a car, and there is no such thing as an e-gate process for people travelling as a group. They’re all one-at-a-time processes.

“So there is a mismatch between the concept on which biometric controls as they exist now are operated and the way traffic moves in our context. There is no way of doing a biometric control without getting everyone out of the vehicle.

“That’s the one thing on our site which cannot happen because you’re in the middle of live traffic. It would be equivalent to asking people to get out of their car at a motorway toll booth. It’s fundamentally unsafe and it can’t happen.

“So the challenge is to find a way of squaring that circle and matching those two incompatible concepts.”

John Keefe, director of public affairs for Getlink – which operates Eurotunnel shuttles between Folkestone and Calais – said: “Any disruption to the French inbound control has an immediate knock-on effect on traffic in minutes.

“We carry 11 million passengers each year, the majority of those at holiday time. 

 

“On a peak summer’s day, we would be carrying something in the region of 600 cars per hour, approximately 2,400-2,500 passengers.

“We would be looking at 1,600 to 1,700 passengers per hour to be processed for the first time.

“That’s an impossible task in the space that we have available.

“The risk of congestion is to our motorways, to the M20, the A20 and A2. Once all of those areas are congested, Kent becomes impassable.”

Mr Keefe said that professional truck drivers would follow instructions.

“Managing passenger vehicles, individual consumers, when they have an imperative, ‘We must get there’, is a completely different kettle of fish.

“They disobey rules quite happily, and will leave the motorway and will look for alternative routes which they’ll then congest, and we’ll very quickly have a very widespread issue in Kent.”

Eurostar, which runs passenger-carrying trains linking London St Pancras with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, faces space constraints at its UK hub.

Gareth Williams, the train operator’s strategy director, said: “This is coming at us fast, in a very underdeveloped way.

“We don’t currently see a practical solution. If we take the peak of August, up to 80 per cent of people will have to go through the system.

“In a peak hour in August we have 1,800 passengers. About 1,500 of those would be required to go through the the EES, of whom 830 would be first-time travellers.

“There’s at least one day like that every month.

“We do have a very extreme space challenge. At a minimum we would require over 30 kiosks, and an area about the size of our entire check in area at St Pancras.”

The rules will not apply to EU citizens.

Lord Blunkett, the former Labour home secretary, said: “I’m going to ask my wife to explore her heritage with the Republic of Ireland … to get joint citizenship.”

The hope is that many travellers will pre-register for the scheme before going to the port or railway station. But Mr Williams warned that getting the message out could be tricky.

“The information we give, and have to read out to each passenger around Covid, it’s the length of a Tolstoy novel,” he said.

“You just get that information overload and in the end people just switch off.”

The Eurostar director also criticised the current UK passenger locator form which, he says, “runs on a list of redundant questions for six pages and is only available in English.” Source: Yahoo News/Telegraph

BABATI, Tanzania

A relentless campaign over the past few years to use school children to combat graft in the government and society has helped the East African country of Tanzania to improve its ranking in the global transparency index.

In 2015, Tanzania began experimenting with involving school children to campaign against corruption.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Holle Makungu, a senior official at the country’s Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) said the anti-corruption clubs set up in schools and institutes of higher learning have helped to cultivate the culture of integrity among students.

Tanzania which ranked 99nd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption perceptions index (CPI) was at 96th place in 2019, gaining four points.

The global watchdog has also acknowledged that Tanzania’s scores have been steadily improving since 2015.

“The clubs are aimed to nurture appropriate value and positive attributes among students to enhance their knowledge of ethics and integrity thus promoting their ethical behavior,” said Makungu.

He added that these clubs are not only creating awareness but also working to inculcate moral uprightness in the younger generation.

Benedicta Mrema, a program officer with HakiElimu – a voluntary group working in the education sector -- said the anti-corruption clubs in schools have helped promote integrity.

“When children are taught to reject corruption when they are still very young, they are likely to uphold the highest degree of ethical conduct when they grow up,” she told Anadolu Agency.

But many experts believe that fighting corruption in the East African country is an uphill struggle, which requires hard decisions.

The anti-corruption clubs in primary and secondary schools also teach the values of open and responsible governance.

Effective in spreading awareness

According to Makungu, these anti-corruption clubs comprising students have not only proved effective in spreading awareness but are also working as watchdogs to report incidents of graft.

“We have been receiving hundreds of calls through our hotline numbers, where people report about corruption. We investigate them and many times have prosecuted those involved in bribery,” he said.

Around 7,788 such clubs with 555,770 members have been set up in many primary and secondary schools across the country so far, said Sultan Ngaladizi, the head of the public education desk at the PCCB.

Over the years the PCCB has been involving the youth to fight corruption by holding seminars, symposiums, debates, public meetings, drawing, and essay competitions as well as using radio and television programs, said Makungu.

These clubs not only combat graft but also work as watchdogs in their institutions, ensuring that teachers take classes and students attend them regularly.

At a secondary school in Nachingwea district, the students used to dodge classes. But ever since the school formed an anti-corruption club, the students hardly miss out on lessons.

“This club has also helped to make lessons interesting and interactive. I don’t want to miss a class now” said Mikidadi Msigwa, a student. Anadolu Agency

The step comes after the US said that it was "gravely concerned" about the expansion of hostilities in Ethiopia. (AP)

The United States embassy in Addis Ababa has authorised the voluntary departure of non-emergency government staff and family members because of armed conflict in Ethiopia.

"On November 3, the (State) Department authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members of emergency and non-emergency employees from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possiblesupply shortages," the embassy said on its website on Thursday.

The step came after the US said on Wednesday it was "gravely concerned" about the escalating violence and expansion of hostilities in Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency, with rebels from the northern region of Tigray threatening to advance on the capital, Addis Ababa.

The government has denied rebel claims of gains but declared a nationwide state of emergency and ordered residents of Addis to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.

 

Failed diplomacy

Efforts to calm Ethiopia’s escalating tension have so far failed as Ethiopian government officials and leaders of Tigray rebel group refuse to talk.

Instead, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called on citizens to rise up and “bury” the Tigray forces.

The lack of dialogue “has been particularly disturbing,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement on Thursday.

In Washington, the US State Department said it was sending Jeffrey Feltman, special envoy for the Horn of Africa, to the country this week, in a new bid to break the deadlock.

Feltman is due to hold talks on Thursday and Friday to urge "all Ethiopians to commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue," it said.

The spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond on Thursday when asked whether he would meet with Feltman.

READ MORE: Facebook removes Ethiopian PM's post for “dehumanizing rhetoric”

Source: TRT World and agencies

Entebbe airport Covid-19 screening terminal

Over 40 Ugandan migrant workers who were deported from Saudi Arabia were blocked from leaving Entebbe airport after failing to pay for the mandatory Covid-19 tests. 

Uganda commenced mandatory Covid testing for all arriving passengers last week Wednesday. Only children under six years and vaccinated airline crew are exempted from taking the tests. Each arriving passenger is expected to pay $30 (about Shs 105,000) for the tests. 

Although ministry of Health spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona says deportees with documentation are supposed to be tested at zero cost, on Wednesday, 43 deportees were asked to pay for the tests or risk sleeping at the airport.

The deportees landed at about 1 pm aboard Ethiopian Airlines. But the first deportee only departed the airport at 7 pm. This was after her mother and sister mobilized funds for the test. Her very bitter mother said the government should have some compassion for its citizens.

"These people do not have any money. Their phones and personal belongings were confiscated when they were put in deportation centres in Saudi Arabia. So how will some of them pay for these tests when they cannot even contact their relatives?" she said. 

Some of the deportees who spoke to our reporter but did not want their names revealed said they are extremely disappointed with the government. Hamidah and Eve, who say they spent four and nine months respectively in deportation centres in Saudi Arabia said given their predicament, the government shouldn't have charged them for the tests. 

Hamidah, 35, says her former employer dumped her on the streets in Saudi Arabia because she had demanded payment of her salary arrears for three months.

"When I insisted, my boss drove me out of his home and left me on the street. I didn't know anybody or even where I was. I was later arrested by police where I spent one month in detention and another three months in the deportation centre until I was deported with other Ugandans on Wednesday." She says it's illogical to charge deportees who are already in distress.  

Eve, 23,  shares a similar story, saying her employer became hostile and the working conditions became unbearable.

"I would sleep for only three hours and work for the rest of the time, yet I was not being paid. So when I requested for reduced working hours and my salary arrears of four months, I was thrown out," said Eve.

She says she pleaded with security officers to release her without paying for the tests. "I was surprised that the police officers allowed me and two other girls to exit without paying money. But this was after we had begged for some time."

But unbeknown to her, other passengers had come to their rescue and paid for their tests but now 11 other deportees were still stranded at the airport by the time of filing this story. They are mainly Ugandans who have failed to contact their relatives or friends to raise money for the tests because they do not have phones. 

Zaina Namissi, a domestic worker who voluntarily returned home, says it is sad that she was tortured abroad and is now being subjected to inhuman treatment at home. She says her employer did not pay her salary arrears of four months. She departed for Saudi Arabia early this year. But by August, she had fallen out with her employer, resulting in her eventual return to Uganda.

The deportees and those returning from work decry long working hours, non-payment, harsh and rude employers, and sickness as some of the reasons they could have failed to complete their contracts in Saudi Arabia. By URN, The Observer

NAIROBI: Kenya's shilling weakened on Thursday to nearly an 11-month low due to increased importer dollar demand across all sectors and low inflows, traders said.

At 0733 GMT, commercial banks quoted the shilling at 111.45/65 to the dollar, compared with Wednesday's close of 111.25/45.

The shilling hit 111.55/75 in earlier trade, a level last hit on Dec.17, 2020, according to Refinitiv data.

It is shy of its all-time low of 111.65/75 hit on Dec.3, 2020. Reuters

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