When Muhammed Sandeng first learned that his father, political activist Ebrima Solo Sandeng, had been tortured to death at the Gambian national spy agency’s headquarters, he felt one emotion above all else.

Twenty-six percent of all crossers had previously attempted to cross the border within the last year, which is up from the usual 15 percent between 2014 and 2019, CBP said. 

The largest group to come through was single adults, making up 68 percent of the crossing, with 140,197 people.

Unaccompanied children increased four percent in June, with 15,271 encounters. Family units decreased 13 percent, with 59,534 people. 

The report was published just a few weeks after 53 migrants perished inside a truck that reached 105 degrees in June.

Pacific island nations, courted by China and the United States, put the superpowers on notice, telling the world’s two biggest carbon emitters to take more action on climate change while pledging unity in the face of a growing geopolitical contest.

Leaders at a four-day summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, meeting in Fiji’s capital Suva, bristled at a Chinese attempt to split some of the nations off into a trade and security agreement, while Washington pledged more financial and diplomatic engagement.

The exclusive economic zones of the 17 forum members span 30 million square km (10 million square miles) of ocean – providing half the world’s tuna, the most-eaten fish. The nations are also feeling some of the severest effects of climate change as rising seas inundate lower-lying areas.

At the summit that ended on Thursday, leaders adopted language several members have used in declaring a climate emergency, saying this was supported not only by science but by people’s daily lives in the Pacific.

A communique, yet to be released, shows the nations focussed on the next United Nations climate conference, COP27. They will push for a doubling of climate finance to flow from big emitters to developing nations within two years, money they say is needed to adapt to rising sea levels and worsening storms.

Pacific Islands Forum Chairman and Fiji PM Bainimarama attends the launch of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continen© Reuters/STAFF Pacific Islands Forum Chairman and Fiji PM Bainimarama attends the launch of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continen

The communique, seen by Reuters, also calls for meaningful progress at COP27 on financing for the “loss and damage” to vulnerable societies that cannot adapt and will need to relocate communities – a battle lost at last year’s global climate talks.

“What matters most to us is we secure bold commitments from all countries at COP27 to phase out coal and other fossil fuels and step up finance to the most vulnerable nations and advance causes like ‘loss and damage’ that matter dearly to the most at-risk island communities,” Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama told reporters.

“We simply cannot settle for any less than the survival of every Pacific island country,” said Bainimarama, the forum’s chairman.

More than four months into Russia’s invasion, the wail of air raid sirens warning of an incoming strike has become, to some Ukrainians, a kind of background noise: irritating, alarming, but also possible to ignore.

A series of deadly missile attacks by Russian forces in recent days that have hit civilian targets, however, has changed the calculus, sending Ukraine’s leaders scrambling to reinforce the message that adherence to the advisory to seek shelter saves lives.

“I’m begging you, once again: Please don’t ignore the air alert signals,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a national address this weekend. “Appropriate rules of conduct must be followed at all times.”

Many people in Ukraine still lack access to bomb shelters. In Kharkiv, the nation’s second-biggest city, officials have said they do not plan to reopen schools in the fall, partly because not all schools have them. In Lviv, the western Ukrainian city near the Polish border where hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians have settled, all new buildings must include bomb shelters.

But many Ukrainians in bigger cities have become not just complacent about the danger but too weary of war to worry about the threat of attacks.

On Saturday evening in Kharkiv, where there are Russian artillery strikes almost every night, young people at a popular bar drank at outdoor tables and listened to live music.

“My neighbors go to the basement; older people go, but young people don’t,” said one of the patrons, Maryna Zviagintseva, 28.

“I think in the first month everyone was afraid and they would go down into the metro or somewhere,” said Vladyslav Andriienko, 29, a construction worker. “Now people try to live a normal life.”

In the most deadly strike in the past week, three Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a Russian submarine in the Black Sea hit the center of the provincial capital of Vinnytsia, killing 23 people and wounding 140 others. The dead in the strike on Thursday included Liza Dmytriyeva, a 4-year-old with Down syndrome, and two other children.

The next day, at least 10 Russian missiles slammed into the southern city of Mykolaiv, hitting two universities, a hotel and a mall. Later on Friday, three people were killed and 16 others were wounded when at least one missile struck a target in Dnipro, in central Ukraine.

Anti-aircraft batteries shot down one missile over the Kyiv region in northern Ukraine on Friday and four others in Dnipro, Ukrainian military authorities said.

And on Saturday, a Russian rocket hit a warehouse in the Odesa region, causing a fire, according to a spokesman for the regional military administration, Serhii Bratchuk. He said that there were no casualties because the security guards retreated to a shelter as soon as they heard the siren.

A senior U.S. military official said on Friday that between 100 and 150 civilians may have been killed in Russian strikes in Ukraine that week. Moscow denies that it targets civilians in what it says is a limited military action in Ukraine aimed at ridding the country of Nazis.

Ukrainian officials, however, say the strikes are primarily aimed at spreading terror and form part of a genocidal campaign by President Vladimir V. Putin and his military.

“This is the extermination of Ukrainians as a nation,” said Oleksandr Motuzianyk, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman, on television on Friday. “This is an attempt to break the spirit of Ukrainians and reduce the level of their resistance.”

Moscow’s recent military gains, particularly in Luhansk Province in the eastern Donbas region, flow largely from the superiority of its artillery, but an influx of weapons from the United States and other countries is starting to redress that balance. Mr. Zelensky said that the situation partly explains the increase in recent strikes.

“The occupiers realize that we are gradually becoming stronger,” he said. “The goal of their terror is very simple: to put pressure on you and me, on our society, to intimidate people, to cause as much as possible damage to Ukrainian cities, while Russian terrorists are still able.”

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe, who literally made waves at the last global climate conference by standing knee-deep in seawater to show what his country faces, told Reuters: “There is technology available to protect the islands and raise the islands and that is what we are seeking. It is very costly.”

As the Pacific summit was ending, Australian coal-mining stocks soared on expectations China could resume imports after a two-year political dispute halted coal shipments to the world’s biggest coal burner from its second-biggest exporter.

In contrast to the market’s bullishness, leaders in the forum’s thatched-roof headquarters discussed how to deal with the statehood of people whose nation has sunk in rising seas, or rights to fishing grounds defined by their distance from a landmass that may disappear.

‘SPLINTERING REGIONALISM’

The communique cites an urgent need for assistance on debt vulnerability and the rising cost of food amid the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a video address to the forum, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris pledged to triple funding to Pacific islands over a decade under a fisheries treaty, and open more embassies.

Pacific leaders at times showed irritation at the global focus on the contest between the Washington and Beijing over their region.

Australia, in tune, said less about security and pledged greater support for the climate change agenda of its neighbours, although maritime surveillance announcements to protect sustainable fishing hinted at its core anxiety.

“It’s harder for countries that are responsible for most of the illegal fishing then to argue they are going to support the region to stop illegal fishing,” Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said in an interview, referring to China.

Australian officials privately say they do not want security choices in the region driven by economic ties to China, and although Pacific islands are sophisticated actors, they need funding support because many have historical debts to Beijing.

The death toll in the tragedy is the deadliest human smuggling attempt in American history.

‘We continue to rescue and provide medical assistance to those in distress,’ Magnus said.

‘My message to those considering taking this dangerous journey is simple: this is not an easy passage, the human smugglers only care about your money – not your life or the lives of your loved ones, and you will be placed in removal proceedings from the United States if you cross the border without legal authorization and are unable to establish a legal basis to remain.’

In addition, cocaine seizures went up a shocking 62 percent and methamphetamine seizures also increased 14 percent. However, heroin and fentanyl seizures decreased 49 and 41 percent.

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said it’s normal for migration numbers to fluctuate month-to-month and that the agency is ‘committed to implementing our strategy of reducing irregular migration, dissuading migrants from undertaking the dangerous journey, and increasing enforcement efforts against human smuggling organizations.’

“It was all fear — fear, fear, fear — you had to be wise for your life because you didn’t know what would happen,” the student, 19 at the time, told AFP.

On Wednesday, Sandeng felt something new, “fulfilment and relief”, after the High Court of Banjul found five ex-intelligence officials guilty of the 2016 murder.

His father’s violent death was one of the most high-profile abuses committed under ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s brutal 22-year regime and galvanised a political movement that eventually ousted the dictator.

The former head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Yankuba Badjie, its former operations chief, Sheikh Omar Jeng, and former officials Babucarr Sallah, Lamin Darboe and Tamba Mansary were all handed death sentences.

They will be converted to life sentences because The Gambia has a moratorium on executions.

“We were always there, during the preliminaries, and listening to all of those (hearings) was not easy — it was painful and made us relive most of the trauma,” said Sandeng, now 25.

“The persistence has paid off.”

– ‘Beginning of the end’ –

Solo Sandeng, a key member of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), was arrested at an April 2016 anti-Jammeh protest and died in custody two days later.

According to Abdoulie Fatty, a Gambian lawyer, that was “the beginning of the end” for the dictator, who is accused of committing a litany of crimes, including rape, witch hunts and forcing bogus cures on AIDS patients.

The killing encouraged the political opposition to unite behind Adama Barrow, who beat Jammeh in the December 2016 presidential election.

Launched in 2017, the trial was fraught with tension, reflected by brawls outside the court.

The accused blamed Solo Sandeng’s murder on Jammeh’s private death squad despite it taking place on the intelligence agency’s grounds.

Witnesses recounted how men took turns beating him in custody “until his whole body was bleeding and blood was coming out from his head”.

“These were people who symbolised Jammeh’s dictatorship — the NIA symbolised Jammeh’s dictatorship,” said Fatty.

Badjie, the agency’s director, was “probably the second most powerful individual in the country”, he added.

On Wednesday, security guards had to remove several members of the public when shouting broke out after the guilty verdicts were pronounced.

– Scepticism –

The ruling offers some hope to other Jammeh-era victims.

“For me, personally, as a victim, it means a lot,” said Isatou Jammeh, whose own father — Yahya Jammeh’s brother — disappeared and was later killed after challenging the ex-president.

“Seeing them sentenced means that there is rule of law, and it serves as an example to all those who have committed gruesome crimes,” she said.

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