US Asylum Seekers from Cuba, Africa and South Asia Take Perilous Jungle Crossing in Panama
Our June NER article, Trojan Horse Federal Refugee Program Brings Jihadi Threat to America: An Interview with Ann Corcoran noted the increasing numbers of illegal migrants making global treks by air and water to Latin America and the trek north to the US border for asylum. They sought this difficult passage for a variety of reasons; but really one, “to seek a better life”. Although there may be some among the 3,400 who have undertaken this dangerous long distance passage who may have other reasons in mind. Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Weekend Edition had a front page article, focusing on the passage through the Darien jungle of Panama, “Panama's?Perilous?Jungle Is?a New?Route?for?Migrants”. There are also costly water passages by human traffickers that avoid the Darien jungle equivalent to those we have written about in the Mediterranean. However, ike the experience of illegal migrants fleeing Syria, Sub Sahara Africa endeavoring to reach the EU via Libya and other crossing points they may be robbed and murdered by ‘coyotes,’ human traffickers.
Among those interviewed in the WSJ article were illegal migrants from Guinea, Somalia, Pakistan and Cuba. Note that common thread is escape from Jihadis; Sharia arranged marriages or tyranny, as in the case of Cuban refugees in this group. What is also not lost is that all illegal migrants have prior knowledge, that if they survive the trek north and illegally cross the US southern border, they can present themselves as asylum seekers. Because of US asylum privileges for Cuban border crossers, they will likely not be detained but released to possible relatives. In other cases, as we have seen, they will be transported to a DHS Immigration Customs Enforcement Detention Center, to await a hearing before a Justice Department, Executive Office for Immigration Review, immigration judge. Before him they will invoke the important words, ‘fear of physical or political threats’ before a quick decision is gaveled down admitting them as a refugee. They will then obtain benefits under the Refugee Act of1980, including community placement, unless they can claim relatives here in the US. The US Refugee Admissions Program then takes over providing a smorgasbord of welfare, Medicaid, housing assistance and a pathway to ultimate citizenship. All without any reasonable means of screening asylees as documentation may be absent or virtually unavailable from their country of origin.
Ahmed Hassan staggered through dense Panamanian jungle, crazy with thirst, his rubber sandals sliding in the mud, fearing he would die thousands of miles from his homeland in Somalia.
“I told my family I would go to the U.S., that was the plan,” said the 26-year-old truck driver, who said he fled late last year when al-Shabaab militants took his village. He flew to Brazil and made a cross-continental bus trip to Colombia.
In March came his biggest test: crossing the Darien Gap that connects South America with Panama and Mr. Hassan’s ultimate goal, the U.S.
“There was no water. There were snakes,” he said in a small holding center in Metetí, north of the jungle, gashes and bites covering his legs under his traditional sarong. “I thought I might die in that jungle.”
There is still the journey through Central America and Mexico, but migrants say the Darien is the hardest. “I want to get to the U.S.,” said Hawa Bah, 20, who fled Guinea in West Africa. She spoke as she lay weak on a cot in a Panamanian holding center after getting lost in the Darien for more than 10 days.
“I was being forced into marriage, and I was worried about Ebola,” she said. “I’d rather have died in the jungle than go back.”
A Cuban Couple:
Yamil Gonzales, a Cuban, staggered up an incline above the beach, wheezing. “Agua,” murmured Mr. Gonzales, 45, collapsing against a tree as companions frantically dug through black garbage bags for water.
Soon, he was plowing through underbrush littered with bottles and broken sandals left by prior processions.
“It’s been hard, really hard,” said his wife, Yalile Alfonso, 47. “But in Cuba, there’s nothing. We had to come this way.” The couple was well-prepared, with passports, detailed plans to take buses to the U.S. border and knowledge of U.S. asylum laws.
But unlike the jungle route, this approach is close to Colombia, so border authorities can easily deport migrants without passports. That was Mohammed Khan’s fate. A father of four from Swat, a Pakistani area plagued by Taliban violence, he had landed with Mr. Gonzales. Months before, people of his village had pitched in $7,000 for his trip, he said.
A small pack on his back, Mr. Khan, 38, looked elated as he scrambled down the slope toward the tiny town of La Miel. People had told him Panama police would be hospitable.
But he had dumped his passport much earlier. The border authorities shook their heads as he pleaded: “Please, please, help me.” They marched him back up the mountain to Colombia.
Early this month, Mr. Khan texted that he re-entered Panama via the jungle, where he had seen “a lot dead.” He was in Guatemala, waiting to head north.
“Go USA,” he texted. “Plz pray.”
Note the open pathway to the US once access to Panama is obtained:
Critics like Otto Reich, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, have said Ecuador’s open-door stance may result in a threat to the U.S. And Panamanian officials “know they are coming to the U.S. and then once here they will no longer be Panama’s problem,” said Mr. Reich, who heads a government-relations and trade-consulting firm.
Javier Carillo, director of Panama’s National Migration Service, says it is unfair to blame Panama for the problem, since migrants arrive illegally and pass through some nine other countries on their way to the U.S. A spokesman for Colombia’s immigration authority said it combats human smuggling and offers migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum or safe-conduct papers.
Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “is not aware of this human trafficking route.” Officials at Ecuador’s immigration authority didn’t respond to requests for comment. Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry has said the country doesn’t support criminal activity.
Cubans, who say crossing the Florida Straits has become too tough, are the biggest group flowing across and around the isthmus. Others from far-off countries are also arriving in growing numbers: Panama processed 210 Somalis crossing the Darien this year through March, up from 60 in the year-earlier period.
Where have we heard about the Darien Gap in what is now Panama? Think of the brief Scottish colony of “Caledonia” established in the 1690 in the Gulf of Darien, that was supposed to conduct trade in both the Atlantic and Pacific. The so-called “Darien Scheme” failed for a host of reasons including poor planning, provisions and being ravaged by epidemics until the colony was overrun by Spanish military in 1700. Because it was backed by upwards of 50 percent of currency in circulation in Scotland, its failure ultimately forced the merger that created the United Kingdom in 1707.
Even those who deplore his understanding of men and events no doubt wished that his upcoming last-lap performance in Geneva would go well. Merde, in bocca a lupo, break a leg. Kerry has been accused of wanting imagination, of being a literalist. Apparently, it's true.
Soccer is a great sport and the international football competition hosted by the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), located in Zurich, every four years is the most watched sporting event in the world. The soccer world has now been disgraced and dishonored in two ways, by the inherent corruption among FIFA officials, and by the effort of Palestinians to politicize the organization.
On May 1, 2015 Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Football Association and deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, announced he would present a resolution on May 29 to the Congress of FIFA. The resolution would call for Israel to be suspended or expelled from FIFA’s governing body. This would mean that Israel would not be able to compete in the Euro qualifiers and its clubs could not participate in European or international competition.
No doubt there have been some minor problems concerning permits for Palestinians to travel. But the whole issue has nothing to do with competitive soccer. It is another missile aimed by Palestinians and their supporters at isolating and vilifying Israel and internationalizing their effort to achieve statehood. It is part of the Palestinian policy of “internationalism,” bringing all alleged grievances of Israel into all international arenas.
A vote to suspend by FIFA has been done only twice before, in the case in the 1960s of apartheid South Africa that had refused to comply with nondiscrimination policies of FIFA, and in the case of Yugoslavia, then led by Slobodan Milosevic, for a short time in May 1992. Israel has not violated any FIFA rules. The result of the suspension would have been that Israel, which is affiliated to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) could not compete in the 2016 qualifiers, and its clubs would be barred from European competition.
The FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, who has held that position since 1998, was uncharacteristically blunt about the issue, regarding the proposed resolution as an abuse of FIFA statutes. He tried to reach a compromise to avoid a vote. Believing that football has the power to connect people, he wanted to build bridges by proposing a game between the two teams to be played in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Palestinians refused his proposal, reiterating their complaint that Israel was guilty of humiliating treatment of Palestinians by Israeli security and border forces as involves restricted movements of Palestinian players, staff, and officials between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for those travelling to international matches. They had other complaints. Another was FIFA had hindered the establishment of Palestinian soccer clubs in East Jerusalem by refusing permits for visits of foreign delegations. A third is that Israel limits the import of sports equipment into Palestinian territories.
The most serious Palestinian argument was that five teams in the Israeli Football Association based in the settlements should be expelled from the league.
The Israeli position, stated by IFA President Ofer Eini, was that the restrictions on movement were needed for security reasons. The Israel FA has no influence over them and had nothing to do with them. The Israelis in 2015 have in fact approved 95% of the requests for travel permits. Nevertheless, Rajoub declared that Israeli “security should not be used …as a tool in order to keep this racist, apartheid policies.”
At the FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 pro-Palestinian demonstrators, chanting “Israel out” disrupted the meeting. Nevertheless, at the last minute Rajoub withdrew the motion to suspend Israel, “at any rate for the present,” explaining that this “did not mean that I give up the resistance.”
The central factor in the whole issue is that Rajoub has been more concerned with political strategy than with sport. At the age of 17 he threw a grenade at an Israeli truck near Hebron, and was imprisoned for 18 years. He was one of the 1150 Palestinian prisoners released in the deal on May 21, 1985 for the three Israeli soldiers held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Since 2009 he has been deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and has made belligerent statements. He refers to Israelis as “the new Nazis,” and still calls for resistance “in the occupied territories in order to bring an end to the occupation using all forms of resistance. One of his reported remarks was, “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
Rajoub has joined in the anti-Israeli, and indeed anti-Semitic charade that the situation in the West Bank was far worse than the apartheid that existed in South Africa. His political decision in August 13, 2014 is “using all forms of resistance in the occupied territories in order to bring an end to the occupation.” Under no circumstances, Rajoub stated on May 17, 2012 will “there be normalization” with Israel.
The Palestinian threat has been a minor part of the storm and devastating blow to the soccer world. FIFA is facing two criminal investigations. On May 26, 2015 Swiss police arrested seven FIFA officials, including three present or past vice presidents, at the request of the U.S. They now face extradition. The U.S. Department of Justice, by U.S. law, has authority to indict foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that has been used in cases of international terrorism. Switzerland will start an inquiry, a criminal probe concerning criminal mismanagement and money laundering, about the selection of Russia (for 2018) and Qatar (for 2022) to host World Cup competitions.
At the same time the U.S. Department of Justice drew up a 47 count, 161-page indictment against 9 current or former FIFA officials and five others, and mentioned 25 other co-conspirators in a federal court in Brooklyn. The indictment involves $150 million in bribes and kickbacks, dating back to 1991, given to FIFA officials in exchange for commercial rights to soccer tournaments. Federal prosecutors will begin criminal proceedings, for criminal mismanagement and money laundering concerning FIFA’s awarding of the World Cups to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar in 2022. The choice of Qatar, questionable because of its political system and its temperature over 100 degrees in summer, raised obvious questions.
Among the sponsors of FIFA are Adidas, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Coca Cola, Gazprom, and Visa. Those commercial enterprises likely will refuse to be tarnished any longer by association with a corrupt organization. Nor are they likely to have approved the use of FIFA for Palestinian political objectives. Like every lover and supporter of soccer, they will welcome the decision of Rajoub to drop the bid to suspend Israel from FIFA. Play ball is better than foul play.
A fighter with the Islamic State group in a new online video was trained in counterterrorism tactics in the U.S., the State Department confirmed.
Col. Gulmurod Khalimov, a former police commander from Tajikistan, is shown in black garb worn by the Islamic State group and holding a sniper rifle and a bandolier of ammunition in the terror group’s new video. He claims that he participated in training programs on U.S. soil three times, one of which was in Louisiana, CNNreported Friday.
“From 2003-2014 Colonel Khalimov participated in five counterterrorism training courses in the United States and in Tajikistan, through the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security/Anti-Terrorism Assistance program,” Pooja Jhunjhunwala, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told CNN.
Now Mr. Khalimov has joined the very kind of terrorists he was trained to fight.
The State Department said Mr. Khalimov was trained in crisis response, tactical management of special events, tactical leadership training and related issues, CNN reported.
Experts say Mr. Khalimov’s counterterrorism experience will give him a major advantage against U.S. forces.
Egyptian Historian Maged Farag: Egypt Should Drop The "Palestinian" Cause
A remarkable appearance, showing an Egyptian of note expressing, with complete lucidity, the reasons why Egypt has lost so much in joining in the pan-Muslim (and pan-Arab) cause of the "Palestinians," over the past 70 years, and why it now has everything to gain from closer and friendly relations with Israel.
Maged Farag, Al-Sisi, and others like them share the view first expressed in the 1920s by Taha Husain, the celebrated Egyptian scholar, who insisted that only through emphasizing Egypt itself, Egyptian identity, Egyptian history, including its pre-Islamic and non-Islamic aspects -- could Egypt save itself from the distempers of the world of Arab (and other) Islam. He called this "Pharaonism." And it was clearly an allternative to both the Islam of the Ikhwan and Hasan Al-Banna (and Mohamed Morsi), and the pan-Arabism of Nasser who, though secular, wanted to be the leader of the Arab camp and thus, in throwing in his lot with pan-Arabism, necessarily had to embrace the "Palestinian" cause. The resulting loss in June 1967 hastened his death, and diminished Egypt.
Among intelligent Egyptians, worried about their country, Taha Husain's views have great appeal. And, not least, because they make perfect sense.
Of course, what the Arabs in North Africa want is lots and lots of Western aid. You know -- the bottomless pit of ending "poverty" and other "root causes" of that migrant flow. But since the poverty of the Muslim and sub-Saharan Africa is forever, and since these peoples continue to have families with eight, ten, fifteen children apiece (just look at the population figures, since 1920, of the Arab states, and compare, for example, the ten-fold increase in Iraq's population, with the steady state of indigenous populations in France, the United Kingdom, Italy). and is the result of a cultural incapacity which, in the case of Muslim migrants, has everything to do with Islam and the ways it stunts mental growth, discourages free inquiry, punishes "bida" (new ways of doing things), and encourages the habit of mental submission, until Islam's power is diminished -- and when will that be? -- there will always be these attempts to migrate to the advanced, well-run, and much-too-generous West, that should close its doors to such disruptive, expensive, and dangerous immigrants, whose unwelcome presence is steadily degrading in so many ways, recognized and unrecognized, the lives of the indigenous non-Muslim peoples of Europe.
An Ayatollah's Daughter Who Has Slipped Her Mental Traces
A story, told possibly a bit too breathlessly, of an Ayatollah's daughter who has -- it isn't stated but you and I know -- had her fill of Islam, and become familiar, living in the West, of a wider world, and as part of her self-enlightenment, has come to see that Persians and Jews, the odd men out in the Sunni Arab world, need not be at daggers drawn. But that, of course, depends on the Persians being more Persian, and less Muslim.
Should we be concerned about the latest Anthrax Release?
US Army Dugway, Utah Proving Ground
The abrupt news that live anthrax samples had been shipped from the US Army Dugway proving ground to laboratories in the US, an air base in South Korea and possibly Australia came as a reminder to Americans and the world that biological warfare training exercises might lead to troubling inadvertent releases. Fortunately, 22 military personnel exposed at the south Korean airbase are being treated with the antibiotic Cipro. However, this latest release of a BW agent has caused both the US Army bio-warfare directorate and the CDC to review safety precautions, packaging and procedures for the transmission of possible live anthrax spores and why samples had not been made inert?
picture of microscopic anthrax spores
The BBC reported that the US military has ordered a review of how it handles anthrax after discovering more cases of live samples being accidentally sent to labs:
Live anthrax samples were believed to have been sent to a total of 24 labs, in 11 US states as well as South Korea and Australia, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon says that there is no known risk to the general public.
Experts in bio-safety have heavily criticized the lapse and called for improved precautions.
Symptoms of anthrax exposure include skin ulcers, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can cause death if untreated.
News of the live shipments first emerged on Wednesday, as the US said it had accidentally shipped live anthrax spores from Utah to labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, as well as an air base in South Korea.
Those shipments took place between March 2014 and April 2015, a US official said, according to Reuters.
On Friday, the Department of Defense said it had identified "additional inadvertent live anthrax shipments", including a suspect sample sent to Australia from a batch of anthrax from 2008.
It is not clear when that sample was shipped to Australia.
The military has ordered all of its labs that have previously received inactive anthrax samples to test them. In addition it is advising all labs to cease working with these samples until told otherwise.
Shortly after 9/11, the American public concern over bio-terrorism was raised by the release of Anthrax in powdered form in letters sent to members of Congress and randomly to private persons. 22 persons were sickened, 5 died, the US Senate building was shut down and inspected. Anthrax exists naturally, but more powerful variants have been developed synthetically by dual use laboratories in rogue states like Iran, North Korea and Assad’s Syria. Bio-warfare laboratories have been established by Al Qaeda and ISIS has been rumored to have obtained access to materials in Syria, as well. Remember the arrest in Afghanistan, prosecution and conviction in the US of Brandeis University and MIT trained scientist, “Lady Al Qaeda”, Aafia Siddiqui . There is also evidence that Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah may have been transferred BW capabilities and agents by Syria that could be deployed against America’s ally , Israel and globally through major transportation nodes in Europe.
Dr. Jill Bellamy
We asked Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted expert on biological warfare and threat reduction about this latest incident. We have published articles by Dr. Bellamy on Syrian, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Iranian BW programs in both the NER and our blog the Iconoclast.
Clearly from a bio-safety perspective this is a very serious breach of protocol and demands a full and transparent investigation. As anyone who works with inactivated anthrax would be routinely vaccinated with AVA, exposure from a clinical perspective is probably not as much of a concern as the general public may believe. Of course if anyone outside military labs the live anthrax was sent to and persons who have not been routinely vaccinated were exposed, this would be concerning. I would worry about the time frame from exposure. It appears from the reports that we are talking about several weeks or months during which the anthrax was shipped. It is probably a good sign that none of the labs has reported a laboratory acquired disease or LAD. If exposure is known Cipro (ciprofloxacin hydrochloride) is given for inhalation anthrax and usually a 60 day course is advised. The lab workers in these labs would surely have all been vaccinated, so how much of a health risk it poses is debatable.
The bio-safety side is more worrying. CDC and a number of other labs have previously had exposures from the accidental handling of live anthrax. There are very stringent regulations in place for the shipping and transport of live agents. It is doubtful there was any risk to public health during the transport as this would be handled by the military. What is more problematic is that the research done at US Army labs and Dugway proving ground are critical to national security. Incidents like this feed an uninformed section in non-proliferation circles who then call for the closing of these labs or hype the danger they pose to the general public. It makes it more difficult to assure the public that such labs are a vital aspect to protecting citizens from BW attacks and ensuring vaccines and therapeutic countermeasures are available and stockpiled in the event of a deliberate attack. Hopefully this is an incident we will learn a great deal from in terms of bio-safety training, protocols and bio-security.