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IMMIGRATION

Pianist James Rhodes just trolled Vox leader in the most brilliant way

Outspoken British pianist James Rhodes, a resident of Madrid, has waded into the political row over the plight of migrants trapped on board the Open Arms rescue ship.

Pianist James Rhodes just trolled Vox leader in the most brilliant way
James Rhodes (left) has trolled VOX leader Santiago Abascal. Photos: Jose Gutierrez/Jamesrhodes.tv and AFP

Outraged at sentiments expressed by Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain's far-right party Vox, over the migrants and the Spanish charitable organisation that can to their aid, the British composer found a brilliant way to troll him.

The 44-year-old musician donated €1,000 to the NGO in the name of the far right leader then twitted the notification with the message: “I hope this generous gesture inspires many of his followers.”

Rhodes was responding to a tweet by Abascal in which he slammed the Spanish rescuers: “Open Arms is not an NGO, it is an instrument of the extreme left…immigrants are their political merchandise. Nothing else.”  

It's not the first time he has taken on Vox in this way. Earlier this month he made a similar donation, also to Open Arms, in the name of Isabel Pérez Moniño, a local councillor for Vox in the Madrid satellite town of Fuenlabrada after her public comments against helping migrants.

The Londoner, who has made his home in Madrid, has endeared himself to Spaniards after publishing a “love letter” to the people of Spain in El Pais, extolling of the virtues of his new home.

He regularly appears on Spanish chat shows and has met with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to campaign to end the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children. 

Rhodes wrote about the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child in his book Instrumental.

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POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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