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Election exit poll shows victory for incumbent Polish President Duda

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Poland's nationalist incumbent Andrzej Duda won the first round of a presidential election on Sunday but will have to face the centrist mayor of Warsaw in a run-off on July 12, in a race that could transform the nation's ties with the European Union.

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Poland's nationalist incumbent Andrzej Duda won the first round of a presidential election on Sunday but will have to face the centrist mayor of Warsaw in a run-off on July 12, in a race that could transform the nation's ties with the European Union.

The re-election of government ally Duda is crucial if the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party is to implement further its socially conservative agenda, including judiciary reforms the EU says contravene democratic standards.

An exit poll showed Duda winning 41.8% of ballots on Sunday, against 30.4% for Rafal Trzaskowski from the Civic Platform party. Final results could differ slightly but any changes are not expected to affect who will compete in the second round.

Two opinion polls conducted late on Sunday for private broadcaster TVN and the state-run TVP showed Duda having a lead of less than 2 percentage points over Trzaskowski in two weeks.

PiS has cast Duda as the guardian of its generous welfare programmes, which have helped it win national elections in 2015 and 2019, and of its pledge to protect traditional family values in predominantly Catholic Poland.

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A devout believer himself, Duda had campaigned on a promise to ban classes about gay rights in schools, saying LGBT "ideology" was worse than communist doctrine.

"The campaign goes on because Poland needs it," Duda told jubilant supporters in the central town of Lowicz. "Some people have a complex and think we are not Europeans. We are, and have been… since we converted to Christianity."

But his long-held lead crumbled in the weeks ahead of the election, after a late entry by Trzaskowski who appears to have galvanised many voters keen to end Poland's isolation within the EU or angry over Duda's allegiance to PiS.

Fragile majority

The Civic Platform, a party once led by former EU Council president Donald Tusk, replaced its flagging candidate with Trzaskowski after the election was postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic by seven weeks.

A former EU emissary for his party, Trzaskowski has promised to work towards repairing relations with Poland's European allies, and to oppose any government efforts to tighten already restrictive abortion rules.

The election is being closed watched in Brussels.

Under PiS, Poland became the only EU state to refuse to commit to the bloc's 2050 climate goal in December 2019, which critics said could undermine its aRead More – Source

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London police chief vows crackdown on illegal street parties as officers face more attacks

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London police will crack down on illegal street parties after officers came under attack for the second night running as they tried to disperse an unauthorisedgathering, the capital's police chief said on Friday.

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As Britain lifts its coronavirus lockdown, police have had to deal with a number of illegal parties and raves across the country.

"It's hot, some people have drunk far too much, some people are just angry and aggressive, and some are plain violent," London police chief Cressida Dick said.

The gatherings were unlawful and should not be happening, she said, warning: "We will come and close them down."

Her comments came hours after British police officers were attacked in the early hours of Friday while attempting to disperse an illegal party overnight in west London, the second such incident in as many days.

Police said officers tried to disperse an unlicensed music event near Colville Gardens, in west London, overnight.

"Objects have been thrown at officers dispersing the crowd," police said. "Violence will not be tolerated."

Officers are at the scene of an unlicensed music event near Colville Gardens, #W11. Objects have been thrown at officers dispersing the crowd. Violence will not be tolerated & units are responding appropriately. This gathering is illegal & we ask anyone in attendance to leave.

— Kensington & Chelsea Police (@MPSKenChel) June 26, 2020

Police injured at Brixton illegal event

The previous night, 22 police officers were hurt during trouble at an unauthorised music event in Brixton, south London.

Two officers and two people at the party were taken to hospital following the "unlicensed music event" in Wednesday night.

Four people were arrested during the attack, which the Metropolitan Police described as "totally unacceptable".

Scotland Yard said it was undertaking an "enhanced policing operation" across the capital to ensure there was an "effective and prompt response to any reports or disorder".

In a Twitter post, Commander Bas Javid said, "Our role is to keep our communities safe and this evening people can expect to see a heightened police presence out in areas where we know these events are taking place."

Commander Javid @BasJavidMPS: "Our role is to keep our communities Read More – Source

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Irish parties strike three-way coalition deal to end months of deadlock

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Ireland's two dominant centre-right parties and the smaller Green Party agreed on Friday to form a new coalition government that will focus on climate action and end four months of political stalemate.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin is set to be elected prime minister on Saturday, replacing Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar, in a deal that for the first time unites the two rival parties that have dominated Irish politics since independence a century ago.

Varadkar is then due to return to the prime minister's office halfway through the five-year term under a novel rotation agreement.

The Greens needed the backing of two-thirds of its grassroot members, a higher bar than the larger parties that kept the deal struck last week in doubt until the votes were counted. It passed by a margin of 76% to 24%, a similar level to the two other parties.

After Varadkar's caretaker government had to lock down the country to slow the spread of coronavirus, Martin said the reopening of the majority of the economy from Monday was "a moment of opportunity and a moment of hope for our people."

He said he hoped the new government could tackle problems in housing, healthcare and climate change, which he described as "the existential challenge of our time."

Upon Martin's election at a special socially distant sitting of parliament on Saturday, Irish politics will be broadly split down left-right lines for the first time with the pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein taking over as the main opposition.

Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the Irish Republican Army, shocked the political establishment in February's election by securing more votes than any other party for the first time. It has 37 seats in the fractured 160-seat parliament, the same number as Fianna Fail and two more than Fine Gael.

As kingmakers, the Greens were able to drive a hard bargain, including a commitment to a 7% average annual cut in greenhouse gas emissions, versus just 2% currently, an end to the issuing of new licenses for the exploration andRead More – Source

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Trump says US moving some troops from Germany to Poland after Duda meeting

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President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the United States plans to move some troops from Germany to Poland, speaking as he hosted Polish leader Andrzej Duda at the White House just four days ahead of Polands election.

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“We are going to be reducing our forces in Germany” from 52,000 to 25,000 troops, Trump said after an Oval Office meeting with his populist ally Duda.

“Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places,” Trump said. “Poland would be one of those other places.”

Duda called it a “very reasonable decision” and said he had asked Trump not to withdraw US troops from Europe “because the security of Europe is very important to me”.

Asked what kind of a message the redeployment sends to Russia, Trump said: “I think it sends a very strong signal.”

Dudas meeting with Trump came just four days before voters in Poland decide on Sunday whether to give him a second term, and the timing of the meeting was criticised by his opponents as an attempt to gain a pre-election windfall.

Trump, who is seeking to demonstrate that the coronavirus pandemic – which has damaged his own re-election chances – is abating was lavish with his praise of Duda.

The meeting was Trumps first with a foreign leader since the Covid-19 pandemic, which has left more than 121,000 people dead in the United States, hit in March.

“President Duda is doing very well in Poland,” Trump said following the third Oval Office meeting between the two men. “Hes doing a terrific job.”

Responding to critics of the timing, Trump said “the people of Poland think the world of him.”

“I dont think he needs my help,” Trump said.

Troubled

The main aim of the Polish side ahead of the visit was a boost in US military assistance – a constant demand from Warsaw, particularly since Russias annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Trump did not provide any figures for how many US troops would be shifted from Germany to Poland.

He also repeated his frequent accusation that Germany is not paying its fair share of NATOs defense budget.

According to the Polish newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, 30 US F-16 fighter jets stationed in Germany could be moved to Poland along with some 2,000 troops.

NATO promised Russia in 1997 not to set up permanent bases in the former eastern bloc.

As tensions have grown however, the alliance has rotated troops through frontline countries.

Even though the US troops would still be rotated under any scenario, Polish officials have raised the prospect of a more permanent US presence – perhaps in a facility paid for by Warsaw dubbed “Fort Trump”.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer alluded to the agreement with Russia in an interview with the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.

“If for example US troops in Europe are moved to Poland, this must be done with the NATO-Russia pact in mind,” she said. “We must not lose sight of this point.”

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EU regulator recommends approving remdesivir as first Covid-19 treatment

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The European healthcare regulator has recommended the conditional approval of Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral treatment remdesivir for use in Covid-19 patients, making it the first treatment to be on track to be green-lit in the continent.

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday its human medicines committee (CHMP) recommended the drug's use in adults and adolescents from 12 years of age with pneumonia who require oxygen support.

"Remdesivir is the first medicine against Covid-19 to be recommended for authorisation in the EU," the agency said, adding that the recommendation still needs approval from the European Commission.

The price of the drug in the region is not yet known. In the United States, it could be priced up to $5,080 (€4,532) per course, while Indian generic drugmakers will sell the treatment between 5,000 rupees to 6,000 rupees (€59-€71).

The EMA endorsement, which comes just weeks after a speedy review, means physicians can prescribe the Gilead drug, to be branded Veklury, in Europe once approved by the European Commission, which usually follows CHMP recommendations.

The EU's conditional marketing authorisation allows a treatment to be sold for a year in the 27-nation trading bloc before all necessary data on its efficacy and side-effects are available. Gilead has to submit final data by December.

Demand for the drug soared after it became a front-runner following promise in trials.

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Serbian Ruling Party Scores Landslide Victory in General Elections

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Serbia’s Progressive Party and its coalition partners won over 60% of the vote in Sundays elections, boycotted by major opposition parties.

President Aleksandar Vucic, the party leader, told jubilant supporters that he did not expect such a landslide victory.

“I have long been in politics, but I have never experienced such a moment. Tonight we have gained the tremendous trust of the people, the biggest ever in Serbia, under conditions where not many believed in it. We got a warning from the people that we have to be even more responsible, more serious, more diligent and that we have to make best possible results for our people and our citizens,” Vucic said.

In the new parliament, the Serbian Progressive Party will hold about 190 out of 250 total seats.

“We have won everywhere, where we have been losing (before). We have won in every place abroad, where we have never been winning in the past,” Vucic said.

Serbia became the first country in Europe Sunday to hold general elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The elections, initially scheduled for April, were postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The turnout among the 6.6 million voters eligible to cast ballots for the 250 seats in parliament and for local governing bodies was lower than in previous elections.

Several main opposition parties boycotted the vote, claiming a lack of free and fair conditions and accusing Vucic of dominating the election campaign through his control of the mainstream media. Vucic denied the accusations.

However, some smaller groups decided to participate, saying the boycott would only help Vucics party.

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Greece Demands Return of Parthenon Marbles from Britain

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Ratcheting up fresh pressure, Greece has blasted the British Museum for exhibiting the Parthenon marbles, calling the collection “stolen” treasures and demanding the masterpieces be returned to Athens.

The call comes as Greece celebrates the 11th anniversary of the New Acropolis Museum, a four-story, state of the art edifice built to house the ancient treasures and weaken Britain’s claim that it is best able to look after the 2,500-year-old masterpieces.

“Since September 2003 when construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” the countrys culture minister Lina Mendoni said.

“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally,” she told the Athens daily Ta Nea.

Depicting figures of ancient Greek mythology, the 75-meter frieze and its 17 statues were sawed off the Parthenon temple and shipped to London by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, during his tenure as Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Bankrupted by the venture, the British aristocrat sold them to the British Museum in 1816, where they became a major attraction and began one of the worlds longest running cultural disputes.

Mendoni said “It is sad that one of the worlds largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views.”

While successive governments in Britain have opposed calls for the return of the sculptures to Greece, pressure has mounted in recent years with a bandwagon of celebrities and politicians joining the repatriation campaign.

Greeces center-right government is also stepping up efforts to win back the treasures as the country gears up for its bicentennial independence anniversary next year.

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A municipal worker wearing a protective suit sprays disinfectant outside Acropolis museum as the Parthenon temple is seen in the background in Athens on March 24, 2020.

While 50 meters of the 115-block Parthenon frieze is displayed in Athens, eight other museums scattered across Europe house fragments of it, including the Louvre and the British Museum.

Last year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis secured a key agreement from French President Macron to allow the Louvre to lend a small fragment of the Parthenon in light of those celebrations.

Macron has become the first Western leader to initiate a comprehensive review of colonial looting, repatriating significant collections to Africa – a move traditionally resisted by leading museums in the West, including the British Museum.

A similar loan request was made to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson but it was quickly knocked down by the British Museum, saying any swap would require Athens to relinquish ownership claims to the prized treasures — a request Greece has emphatically refused.

“Without the supreme symbol of culture, the Parthenon, Western Civilization cannot exist, and this symbol deserves to be reunited with its expatriate sculptures,” Mendoni told a local broadcaster in May.

Government officials have refused to clarify whether Athens has followed up with any alternative proposal to the British Museum. Nor have they said whether Greece would resort to legal action against Britain in a bid to win back the marbles.

“In law, a thief is not allowed to keep his or her ill-gotten gains, no matter how long ago they were taken, or how much he or she may have improved them,” said Geoffrey Robertson, a leading human rights attorney whom the government in Athens recruited in 2014 to consider legal action.

“In the past, a lot of cultural property was wrongfully extracted from places that are now independent states. They want the loot sent back to where it was created and to the people for whom it has most meaning.”

In its pamphlets, the British Museum argues that its free-of-charge entrance attracts millions of visitors every year from around the work, making the ancient Greek masterpieces available to the public within the context of a wide swath of human civilization — a claim Greece insists is now defunct with its $200 million mammoth museum.

An austere building wedged within the chaotic sprawl of a crowded old neighborhood, the new Acropolis museum was initially scheduled to open in time for the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

But legal fights over the expropriation of some 25 buildings, as well as archaeological findings unearthed at the site, derailed the project by more than 5 years.

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Diasporas in the coronavirus era, Part 5: Algerian singer Idir

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This week, FRANCE 24 has been looking at how those who have come to live here from elsewhere have coped during France's stringent coronavirus lockdown. In the fifth and final episode of the series, we meet with the daughter of late Kabyle musician Idir, who passed away during the pandemic.

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Singer Idir was a leading cultural ambassador of his native Kabylie and its Berber language and an icon of the Algerian community in France. When he died in May at the age of 70 of an illness unrelated to Covid-19, the news was difficult to stomach for many of his fans, already going through trying times.

FRANCE 24 met with Idir's daughter, Tanina Cheriet, at the singer's home outside Paris. Cheriet says she and her father were very clRead More – Source

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Hollie Doyle partners breakthrough winner at Royal Ascot

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Record-breaking rider Hollie Doyle claimed her first Royal Ascot success with a last-gasp triumph aboard Scarlet Dragon in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

Doyle enjoyed a stellar 2019, riding 116 winners – more in a calendar year than any other female jockey, becoming only the third woman to reach a century after Hayley Turner and Josephine Gordon.

The Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon was a largely unconsidered 33-1 shot for the finale on day four of the showpiece meeting and remained well back in the field rounding the turn for home.

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However, Doyle kept her cool and managed to weave a passage between horses to pick up both the front-running West End Charmer and Deja, beating the latter by half a length.

Doyle becomes the third female jockey to ride a Royal Ascot winner after Gay Kelleway in 1987 and Hayley Turner, who on Thursday landed the Sandringham Stakes for the second year running aboard Onassis.

Doyle, who has regularly been in the winner’s enclosure since the resumption of racing, said: “I can’t talk, it feels amazing, it’s so weird I’ve done it on this horse, as he was my first big handicap winner as an apprentice so to do it on him and for Mr (Henry) Ponsonby (owner) is great.

“I used to find him incredibly keen as an apprentice, he was one of the reasons I knew I had to strengthen up. I have to thank Mr Ponsonby, he’s given me so many opportunities. I know this lad well now, the day we won the Old Rowley Cup I had to sit and suffer on him a bit, but he travels really well and it suited him today.

“This means a huge amount – you arrive every year with high hopes, but it’s very hard to come across winners.”

She added: “This is the icing on the cake given how well it has gone since the resumption. I can’t really put it into words and there are so many people to thank.

“Hayley has been there and done it and ridden Group One winners, I can hardly imagine doing that myself, but I know it’s possible one day.

“My aim is to improve year on year ability-wise so I’ve been lucky to get the opportunities, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

“I’ve finally for once in my life beaten Tom (Marquand, her partner) to something (Royal Ascot winner). Luckily we’re in separate cars so it won’t be an awkward journey home.”

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‘We were very lucky nobody died’: How a Covid-19 outbreak in an Irish town spiraled

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She had been waiting months for a decision to be made on her asylum status. But the letter wasn't about that. Misha, and dozens of other asylum seekers at the Dublin hotel were notified that they would be moved to a rural town over 200 miles away, on the west coast of Ireland, due to concerns over Covid-19 spreading through the accommodation, which was also shared by paying guests. She had less than 24 hours to pack her things.When she was transferred to the Skellig Star accommodation center in Cahersiveen, County Kerry, on March 18, she was hopeful it would be safe. But, after arriving and being told to bunk with another asylum seeker she didn't know, she began to fear the worst."I was scared for my life," said Misha, who asked that her real name not be used for fear it might impact her asylum claim.About 100 people in total were transferred from a handful of centers, including from one Dublin hotel where a guest from Italy had reportedly contracted the virus.Just days after they arrived, one of the residents started showing symptoms, according to three people CNN talked to. Then the rumors started.

"I was scared for my life."

Misha

The Cahersiveen community had been given just as little time to prepare; locals found out only a few days before that the Skellig Star — rebuilt in 2006 on the promise of drawing tourists with a swimming pool and other leisure facilities — was being converted into accommodation for asylum seekers.Despite their lack of consultation and concerns over losing business from the only major hotel in town, people in Cahersiveen welcomed the group, bringing them clothes and toys. But when news began swirling that asylum seekers were getting sick, and still shopping in the local stores, people in the small town began to panic. "Rural Ireland would love to have these people living in the community … they'd be more than welcome," said Jack Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Cahersiveen Community and Business Alliance. "But, this is not the way to do it, to plunk 100 people into a very congested hotel in the midst of a pandemic."The outbreak, which swiftly spread through the hotel, infecting 25 people at its peak, was declared over on May 20 by Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE), but local residents and asylum seekers are continuing to push for the center to be shut down, joining together as a united front in a series of demonstrations. Under a system known as Direct Provision, overseen by Ireland's Department of Justice and Equality and operated by private businesses on lucrative contracts, asylum seekers are housed in emergency accommodation while they wait to find out if they will be granted refugee status and permission to stay in the country.Calls for reform of the system, introduced initially as an emergency measure by the state in 1999 after a sudden increase in asylum applications, have coincided with sweeping, global protests for racial justice following the killing of George Floyd in the US. Asylum seekers — many of whom are from African countries — have condemned Direct Provision for "institutionalized racism" on the part of the government, arguing that no one else in the country is treated in the same way as they are. While their appeal is being assessed, they're provided with free accommodation, food and utilities, and have access to healthcare and education, but they have almost no autonomy and cannot choose where they live. And they are unable to apply for a work permit until at least eight months into their application process — expected to survive on a weekly allowance of €38.80 ($43) instead. Commenting on the comparison between Direct Provision and the murder of George Floyd earlier this month, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar conceded that while some Direct Provision accommodation was substandard and needed to change, it "ultimately is a service offered by the state … involves people being provided with free accommodation, food, heat, lighting, health care, education, and also some spending money.""It's not the same thing as a man being killed by the police."Decisions on asylum cases in Ireland can take years, a fact that has been criticized by the United Nations Refugee Agency, which recently called for the process to be sped up. And rejection rates are high — around 70%, according to recent figures. Dozens of people have died waiting, according to a Freedom of Information request from The Irish Catholic.

Not fit for purpose

Ireland's Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green Party struck a draft deal to form a new coalition government on Monday, which, if ratified by the members of the three parties, will end months of political stalemate since the country's election in February. It will also inject urgency into reforming the Irish asylum system. One of the key commitments outlined in the agreement is a pledge to end Direct Provision and replace it with an accommodation policy centered on a not-for-profit approach.Liam Thornton, a law lecturer and Direct Provision expert, greeted the decision with cautious optimism. "After 20-plus years of government denial that anything much was wrong, it's interesting to see," he told CNN. "While we haven't been here before, it is implementation that will be key." Thornton tweeted: "Direct Provision is one of the darkest chapters in the Dept of Justice history. But it takes people to design, administer, implement such awfulness. New mindsets needed ASAP."Asylum seekers, human rights campaigners and legal experts such as Thornton say the pandemic has shone a spotlight on structural problems that have long existed in Ireland's asylum system. Against the backdrop of Covid-19, the often crowded, poor conditions have become that much more apparent. "HSE has been advising us, and everybody, on social distancing, but you cannot social distance where there is no space," Misha said."We were sharing bedrooms with strangers. We were sharing the dining room. We were sharing the salt shakers. We were sharing the lobby. We were sharing everything. And if you looked at the whole situation, you cannot really say that it was fit for purpose."Skellig Star residents, locked inside the center during quarantine, chant "move us out" on April 29.Misha says she watched in horror as people started falling sick around her, before being pulled into makeshift isolation rooms. The first suspected case of Covid-19 in the center was reported as early as March 24, the Justice Department has conceded, adding that the person did not test positive. They did not say when the test was conducted.According to asylum seekers and a previous manager, testing of asylum seekers didn't start until weeks later in mid-April. After positive cases were confirmed, all residents at the Skellig Star were ordered to stay inside and quarantine. "I have verifiable evidence of a written communication from the Skellig Star to the Department of Justice and Equality on 24 March confirming a suspected case of Covid-19. The resident concerned was placed in isolation on 20 March, one day after arrival in Cahersiveen," Member of Parliament for Kerry, Norma Foley, said in a special parliamentary committee hearing on the government's Covid-19 response."The timeline might not be of importance to either the HSE or the Department of Justice and Equality but it is very important to the residents of the Skellig Star and the community of Cahersiveen. This timeline confirms unequivocally that Covid-19 was transported by bus on 18 March and 19 March to the Skellig Star and the community of Cahersiveen."In a statement to CNN regarding the timeline, the Department said it had made an "honest mistake" in failing to receive the March 24 communication and that "there was no attempt by the Department … to intentionally mislead or conceal the facts" related to the outbreak.

"Our biggest fear is a second wave … We're afraid it will spread like wildfire in the hotel again, but next time it may also go through the community."

Jack Fitzpatrick

After her roommate tested positive and was taken away to self-isolate at another center, Misha thought that someone would move her, so that the room could be disinfected. When no one came, she said she raised her concerns with an HSE worker on site, who told her there was no reason to worry."It was an embarrassment to my intelligence," Misha said. She tested positive 10 days later. Ireland's Justice Department told CNN that an HSE Development Worker was at the hotel to monitor the health of residents and staff throughout the outbreak, and is now providing more general support, including accessing mainstream health services and integrating in the local community. The Department said it was continuing to work closely with the HSE and Cahersiveen center managers to ensure the wellbeing of all residents and staff, including offering all single residents their own bedrooms and providing enhanced cleaning services. The center also intends to provide self-catering facilities so that residents can cook in their rooms, instead of eating together in a communal dining room. Townbe, the company that operates Skellig and three other Direct Provision centers, did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The Justice Department said it was unable to comment on the value of thRead More – Source

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