- EU States to Return Migrants to Greece From March
The EU recommended Thursday that member states resume sending asylum seekers back to Greece from March next year, after transfers were halted for five years because of poor conditions there.
Brussels said it was a key step towards restoring the European Union’s migration policies and the passport-free Schengen zone, which nearly collapsed under the pressure of the 2015 migrant crisis.
But rights group Amnesty International said it was “outrageously hypocritical” to put pressure on Greece when it had borne the lion’s share of the more than one million migrants who have flooded into the EU.
“We are recommending the gradual resumption of Dublin transfers of asylum seekers starting next year” from March 15, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference.
Avramopoulos said Athens had made “significant progress” in improving conditions for asylum seekers in line with 2011 court rulings, which had suspended transfers because of “degrading” conditions at time in Greece.
The commissioner, who is Greek, insisted there would be a “very small number of people” going back to Greece as a result of the change announced Thursday.
Only people who move countries from Greece after March 15 will be affected, while unaccompanied minors and vulnerable people will be excluded, he added.
Greece and Italy have been the first point of entry for most of the more than one million migrants who have entered the bloc since 2015 fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
– ‘Outrageously hypocritical’ –
Under the EU’s Dublin asylum rules, the country where a migrant first lands must first process their asylum request, and must also take them back if they travel to other countries in the 28-nation bloc.
But many of those who landed in Greece moved on to richer northern countries like Germany, especially after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the door to all Syrian refugees.
In turn, that huge pressure on transit countries, leading to many to bring back border controls and effectively suspending free movement in the Schengen area.
Merkel led calls to overhaul what she called the “obsolete” asylum system, and Brussels has since pushed all EU countries to share the migrant burden, while sending aid to Greece.
But there has been heavy opposition from Eastern Europe and a scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy around the bloc has moved at a snail’s pace with only 8,162 having moved so far.
Greece is however benefiting from an deal with EU membership-candidate Turkey which has drastically cut the number of refugees and migrants making the dangerous sea crossing to the Greek islands.
Crossing have dropped to 90 a day from 1,740 before the March 20 EU-Turkey deal, the European Commission said.
Under the deal, 748 people, including 95 Syrians, have been returned from Greece to Turkey since March 20, while 2,761 Syrian refugees have been resettled from Turkey to Europe.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has however threatened to sink the deal amid tensions with Europe.
Amnesty’s Iverna McGowan slammed the commission for implying that Greece alone is to blame for the poor conditions.
“It seems that for the European Commission all roads for refugees lead to Greece,” McGowan said in statement.
“It is outrageously hypocritical of the European Commission to insinuate that Greece alone is to blame for dire conditions, when the overcrowding and insecure climate on the Greek islands are for the most part caused by the EU-Turkey deal,” she said.
The conditions — including overcrowding, freezing temperatures and violence — were compounded by a “lack of solidarity from other EU countries to relocate people”, she added.
Oil Posts 2% Gain for the Week Despite India Virus Surge
Oil prices steadied on Friday and were set for a weekly gain against the backdrop of optimism over a global economic recovery, though the COVID-19 crisis in India capped prices.
Brent crude futures settled 0.28% higher at $68.28 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude advanced 0.29% to $64.90 per barrel.
Both Brent and WTI are on track for second consecutive weekly gains as easing restrictions on movement in the United States and Europe, recovering factory operations and coronavirus vaccinations pave the way for a revival in fuel demand.
In China, data showed export growth accelerated unexpectedly in April while a private survey pointed to strong expansion in service sector activity.
However, crude imports by the world’s biggest buyer fell 0.2% in April from a year earlier to 40.36 million tonnes, or 9.82 million barrels per day (bpd), the lowest since December.
In the United States, the world’s largest oil consumer, jobless claims have dropped, signalling the labour market recovery has entered a new phase as the economy recovers.
The recovery in oil demand, however, has been uneven as surging COVID-19 cases in India reduce fuel consumption in the world’s third-largest oil importer and consumer.
“Brent came within a whisker of breaking past $70 a barrel this week but failed at the final hurdle as demand uncertainty dragged on prices,” said Stephen Brennock at oil brokerage PVM.
The resurgence of COVID-19 in countries such as India, Japan and Thailand is hindering gasoline demand recovery, energy consultancy FGE said in a client note, though some of the lost demand has been offset by countries such as China, where recent Labour Day holiday travel surpassed 2019 levels.
“Gasoline demand in the U.S. and parts of Europe is faring relatively well,” FGE said.
“Further out, we could see demand pick up as lockdowns are eased and pent-up demand is released during the summer driving season.”
Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange to Commence Gold Trading
With the admission of Dukia Gold’s diversified financial instruments backed by gold as the underlying asset, Lagos Commodities and Futures Exchange is set to commence gold trading.
According to Dukia Gold, the instruments will be in form of exchange-traded notes, commercial papers and other gold-backed securities, adding that it will enable the company to deepen the commodities market in Nigeria, increase capacity, generate foreign exchange for the Nigerian government to better diversify foreign reserves and create jobs across the metal production value chain.
Tunde Fagbemi, the Chairman, Dukia Gold, disclosed this while addressing journalists at Pre-Listing Media Interactive Session in Lagos on Thursday.
He said, “We are proud to be the first gold company whose products would be listed on the Lagos Futures and Commodities Exchange. The listing shall enable us facilitate our infrastructure development, expand capacity and create fungible products.
“This has potential to shore up Nigeria’s foreign reserve and create an alternative window for preservation of pension funds. A gold-backed security is a hedge against inflation and convenient preservation of capital.”
“As a global player, we comply with the practices and procedures of London Bullion Market Association and many other international bodies. Our refinery will also have multiplier effects on the development of rural areas anywhere it is located,” he added.
Mr Olusegun Akanji, the Divisional Head, Strategy and Business Solutions, Heritage Bank, said the lender had created a buying centre for verification of quality and quantity of gold and reference price to ensure price discovery in line with the global standard.
Oil Nears $70 as Easing Western Lockdowns Boost Summer Demand Outlook
Oil prices rose for a third day on Wednesday as easing of lockdowns in the United States and parts of Europe heralded a boost in fuel demand in summer season and offset concerns about the rise of COVID-19 infections in India and Japan.
Brent crude rose 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $69.81 a barrel at 1008 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.54 a barrel.
Both contracts hit the highest level since mid-March in intra-day trade.
“A return to $70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high,” he said.
Crude prices were also supported by a large fall in U.S. inventories.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) industry group reported crude stockpiles fell by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30, according to two market sources. That was more than triple the drawdown expected by analysts polled by Reuters. Gasoline stockpiles fell by 5.3 million barrels.
Traders are awaiting data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday to see if official data shows such a large fall.
“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar said in a note.
The rise in oil prices to nearly two-month highs has been supported by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States and Europe.
Euro zone business activity accelerated last month as the bloc’s dominant services industry shrugged off renewed lockdowns and returned to growth.
“The partial lifting of mobility restrictions, the expectation that tourism will return in the near future, and the lure of the psychologically important $70 mark are all likely to have contributed to the price rise,” Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said.
This has offset a drop in fuel demand in India, the world’s third-largest oil consumer, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in India.
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