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National security wrap

Posted By , , and on March 14, 2019 @ 13:21

The beat

Composition of Northern Irish police force a threat to peace?

Journalist Susan McKay writes [1] that a crisis is brewing in the Northern Ireland police force. She argues that impartial policing is central to the Good Friday agreement, but since the deal was reached, equality between Protestants and Catholics in the police force hasn’t been realised. McKay says that could exacerbate tensions rising due to Brexit.

International Women’s Day protest dispersed by police

On International Women’s Day, riot police in Istanbul used tear gas and dogs [2] to disperse thousands of demonstrators, most of them women, gathering to mark the day. Since the 2016 coup, police in Turkey have cracked down [3] on protesting and public demonstrations. Marches also took place across the rest of Europe [4], with thousands gathering peacefully to mark ongoing gender inequality and violence against women.

Italian police crack down on counterfeit balsamic vinegar

Italian police are targeting the production of counterfeit balsamic vinegar. During operation ‘Global Wine’, police seized [5] more than 9,000 tonnes of crushed table grapes falsely certified for balsamic vinegar production. Local media reports said eight million litres [6] of vinegar was seized across Italy. In 2016, the European Union designated [7] balsamic vinegar from Modena (the traditional centre of production) as a protected geographical product. This latest raid seeks to protect the vinegar’s branding and high export value.


NZ border fees could lead to drop in tourists

A new border screening system [8] in New Zealand will cost more than A$13.5 million to run and may lead to a drop in visitor numbers of up to 15,000 in 2021. After 1 October, overseas visitors will be required to buy a new electronic travel authority that will also be used to collect an A$34 per person tourism and conservation levy, which is expected to raise between A$56 million and A$79 million a year. NZ’s immigration minister says that the ETA will improve border security and reduce clearance times [9]. Australian passport holders will be exempt from the changes.

Turkey–Syria border crossing reopens

Turkey has reopened [10] its southeastern border gate with Syria, which was closed when the Syrian civil war began in 2011. Turkish trucks which previously had to transfer goods to Syrian vehicles at the Öncüpınar [11] border post are now able to pass after showing relevant travel documents. A new border gate, dubbed ‘Olive Branch’, is due to open next week between Turkey and Afrin in Syria’s north.

Latvia strengthens border with Russia

Latvia has completed a 93-kilometre barbed-wire fence [12] on its border with Russia to block illegal immigration. As part of a €21 million (A$33.5 million) plan to modernise the border, the 2.7-metre-high fence has sensor-based systems and surveillance camera zones. Construction began in December 2015 [13], and, though the border between the two countries was agreed on in 2007 [14], it remains a point of tension [15] between them.

CT scan

Counterterrorism operations affected by border force shortcomings

Leaked documents [16] have revealed that the Australian Defence Force was forced to scale back counterterrorism patrols with the Philippines because of problems faced by the Australian Border Force. [17] Fewer Australian navy vessels attended Operation Augury [18], in which Australia helps the Philippines patrol its porous maritime border with Indonesia and Malaysia. The documents also revealed that deficiencies in the ABF have required Defence to cancel an aviation exercise with Indonesia and a fisheries operation with Pacific neighbours.

Group claims responsibility for UK letter bombs

A group claiming to be the Irish Republican Army has claimed responsibility for five letter bombs [19] sent to targets in London and Glasgow last week. The fifth bomb, which the group said it sent to an unnamed army recruitment centre, is yet to be found. Police believe the group behind the letter bombs is the New IRA [20], which detonated a car bomb [21] outside a courthouse in Northern Ireland in January. There has been speculation [22] over whether the violence is linked to Brexit.

US–Taliban talks end with agreement on parts of peace deal

Talks between the US and the Taliban in Qatar have ended with an agreement [23] to draft a deal on troop withdrawal and counterterrorism, two of the four agreed elements to achieve peace in Afghanistan. The other two are ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ and a comprehensive ceasefire. The Taliban have agreed to a general promise that Afghanistan won’t be used as a haven for anti-Western terrorists, but have refused to identify specific groups [24].

First responder

Thousands displaced by flooding in Malawi

Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, has declared a state of disaster [25] after a tropical disturbance [26] in southeast Africa brought major flooding to the country. It is reported that almost all of Malawi’s available hydropower capacity is offline, and an estimated 80,000 people have been displaced. Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries [27] and among the most susceptible to the effects of climate change. In 2017 [28], 6.5 million of the country’s 18.6 million people were affected by extreme drought.

EU promotes Copernicus program in Philippines

A European Union delegation has travelled to the Philippines to promote [29] its earth observation program, Copernicus. It provides [29] high-resolution satellite imagery and data collected from earth-based sensors to monitor the earth’s climate in near real-time. As natural disasters are frequent in the Philippines, it’s hoped [30] the program, which will be managed by the European Commission and the European Space Agency, will improve the Philippines’ disaster response capabilities.

Kerala expands list of ‘state-specific disasters’

In response to an intense heatwave [31], the southwest Indian state of Kerala has added heatwaves, sunstroke and sunburn to its list of state-specific disasters [32]. The state emergency operations centre has also allocated 10% of its disaster response fund to compensate people affected by the heat. Assistance with disaster relief became a major issue in Kerala last year when, after devastating floods, the central government refused to accept foreign aid [33].

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URLs in this post:

[1] writes: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/11/policing-crisis-northern-ireland-good-friday-agreement-psni-brexit

[2] tear gas and dogs: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/istanbul-police-tear-gas-disperse-women-day-marchers-190308193151561.html

[3] cracked down: https://www.newsweek.com/you-cant-protest-government-turkey-new-ankara-policy-700333

[4] rest of Europe: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-womens-day/womens-day-unites-activists-turkish-police-break-up-crowd-with-tear-gas-idUSKCN1QP18R

[5] seized: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/09/grapes-of-wrath-italian-police-target-fake-balsamic-vinegar

[6] eight million litres: https://www.efanews.eu/it/item/6797-aceto-balsamico-blitz-dei-nas.html

[7] designated: https://ec.europa.eu/chafea/agri/campaigns/balsamic-vinegar-modena-original-protected-geographical-indication-europe

[8] new border screening system: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/111197910/new-tourism-levy-will-cost-14m-to-collect-and-could-cause-travel-chaos

[9] ETA will improve border security and reduce clearance times: https://www.mbie.govt.nz/assets/16d17de29a/cabinet-paper-electronic-travel-authority-further-policy-decisions-1.pdf

[10] reopened: https://www.yenisafak.com/en/video-gallery/news/turkey-reopens-key-border-crossing-with-syria-2199697

[11] Öncüpınar: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/search/%C3%96nc%C3%BCp%C4%B1nar

[12] 93-kilometre barbed-wire fence: https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/03/12/latvia-builds-barbed-wire-fence-russian-border-combat-migration-a64773

[13] Construction began in December 2015: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/latvia-border-fence-russia-2015-12?r=US&IR=T

[14] agreed on in 2007: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-latvia/russia-latvia-finally-seal-border-treaty-idUSL185044920071218

[15] point of tension: https://www.apnews.com/d2674a62c11445edbbf47d9f878f9981

[16] Leaked documents: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/politics/federal/defence-chiefs-forced-to-reduce-anti-terror-operations-to-pick-up-border-force-slack-20190307-p512jj.html

[17] Australian Border Force.: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/leaked-briefing-reveals-defence-warning-on-state-of-australian-border-force-20190305-p511yl.html

[18] Operation Augury: http://www.defence.gov.au/Operations/OpAuguryPhilippines/

[19] claimed responsibility for five letter bombs: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/12/group-calling-itself-ira-claims-it-sent-parcel-bombs-uk-addresses

[20] New IRA: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/new-ira-looking-to-capitalise-on-disillusionment-1.3823559

[21] detonated a car bomb: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jan/20/northern-ireland-police-condemn-reckless-derry-bomb-attack

[22] speculation: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/analysis-northern-ireland-brexit-ira-violence-190205090903441.html

[23] have ended with an agreement: https://thehill.com/policy/defense/433744-top-envoy-us-taliban-agreed-in-draft-on-counterterrorism-troop-withdrawal

[24] refused to identify specific groups: https://www.apnews.com/ed7c4e471cbb44bba5b71d4ad03f9241

[25] state of disaster: https://reliefweb.int/report/malawi/malawi-floods-flash-update-no-1-9-march-2019

[26] tropical disturbance: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/80-000-displaced-malawi-flooding-190313183741712.html

[27] least developed countries: https://foodsecurityindex.eiu.com/Downloads

[28] In 2017: https://www.ifrc.org/en/news-and-media/news-stories/africa/malawi/in-pictures-malawi-drought-affects-65-million-people/

[29] has travelled to the Philippines to promote: https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/content/687606/eu-unveils-satellite-technology-for-environmental-monitoring-disaster-response-in-the-phl/story/

[30] it’s hoped: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/03/11/1900543/eu-brings-copernicus-earth-observation-program-philippines

[31] intense heatwave: http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2019/mar/06/kerala-heat-wave-chief-minister-convenes-meet-with-collectors-1947269.html

[32] list of state-specific disasters: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/heatwave-sunstroke-victims-eligible-relief-aid-kerala-disaster-response-fund-98135

[33] refused to accept foreign aid: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/23/world/asia/india-kerala-floods-aid-united-arab-emirates.html

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