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The federal government may house unaccompanied migrant children on an Army National Guard base in central California, officials said.
The Pentagon on Friday approved the use of Camp Roberts to temporarily house migrant children traveling alone, according to a defense official.
It was not immediately clear how many children, if any, are to be placed at the camp, which is along the Salinas River about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Saturday that the camp was “under active consideration.” The department has not yet made its decision.
“When HHS decides to activate an Emergency Influx Site for unaccompanied migrant children, we will notify state and local authorities as well as members of Congress,” the department said in a statement.
HHS had requested the use of the base, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed Thursday.
The California National Guard did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Border authorities encountered more than 9,000 children without a parent in February, the highest figure for a month since May 2019, when more than 11,000 unaccompanied minors came to the border.
After being processed by the Border Patrol, they are transferred to HHS. They will eventually be released to a sponsor, usually a parent or close relative.
Unlike adults in many situations, all unaccompanied minors are allowed to stay in the U.S. That dynamic has prompted many parents either to send kids on the journey to America alone or to get to the border and send them the rest of the way alone. Most children end up at least temporarily in shelters that are currently way beyond capacity.
Voice of America – English
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Ethiopian authorities said on Saturday that Eritrean troops had started withdrawing from Tigray, where they have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces in a war against the region’s fugitive leaders.
The Eritreans “have now started to evacuate” Tigray and Ethiopian forces have “taken over guarding the national border,” Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
It wasn’t clear how many Eritrean troops had left, and some in Tigray asserted that the Eritreans weren’t leaving at all. The region’s leaders have charged that Eritrean troops sometimes have dressed in Ethiopian military uniforms.
Ethiopia’s government faces intense pressure to end the Tigray war, which started in November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed troops there following an attack on federal military facilities. The region’s fugitive leaders have not recognized Abiy’s authority since a national election was postponed last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The G-7 group of nations on Friday issued a strong statement calling for the “swift, unconditional and verifiable” withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray after Abiy said last week the Eritreans had agreed to go.
That statement also urged “the establishment of a clear, inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians, including those in Tigray, and which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process.”
The International Crisis Group, in an analysis released Friday, warned of the risk of a protracted war, citing an entrenched Tigrayan resistance combined with Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities’ determination to keep Tigray’s fugitive leaders from power.
“That would further devastate Tigray and greatly harm Ethiopia, the linchpin state in the Horn of Africa,” the report said. “With a decisive battlefield win for either side a remote prospect, parties should consider a cessation of hostilities that allows for expanded humanitarian aid access. This practical first step would reduce civilian suffering and ideally pave the way for a return to dialogue down the road.”
There are increasing reports of atrocities such as massacres and rapes in the war, and concern is growing about a lack of food and medical care in Tigray, home to 6 million of Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people.
The United States has characterized some abuses in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing,” charges dismissed by Ethiopian authorities as unfounded. Officials in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, haven’t cited a death toll in the war.
The United Nations and an Ethiopian rights agency announced last week they had agreed to carry out a joint investigation into abuses in Tigray, where fighting persists as government troops hunt down fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the party that dominated national politics for decades before the rise of Abiy.
Voice of America – English
North Atlantic right whales gave birth over the winter in greater numbers than scientists have seen since 2015, an encouraging sign for researchers who became alarmed three years ago when the critically endangered species produced no known offspring at all.
Survey teams spotted 17 newborn right whale calves swimming with their mothers offshore between Florida and North Carolina from December through March. One of those calves soon died after being hit by a boat, a reminder of the high death rate for right whales that experts fear is outpacing births.
The overall calf count equals the combined total for the previous three years. That includes the dismal 2018 calving season, when scientists saw zero right whale births for the first time in three decades. Still, researchers say greater numbers are needed in the coming years for North Atlantic right whales to rebound from an estimated population that’s dwindled to about 360.
“What we are seeing is what we hope will be the beginning of an upward climb in calving that’s going to continue for the next few years,” said Clay George, a wildlife biologist who oversees right whale surveys for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “They need to be producing about two dozen calves per year for the population to stabilize and continue to grow again.”
Warmer waters for reproducing
Right whales migrate each winter to the warmer Atlantic waters off the Southeastern U.S. to give birth. Trained spotters fly over the coastline almost daily during the calving season, scanning the water for mothers with newborns.
Survey flights over Georgia and Florida ended Wednesday, the last day of March, typically the season’s end. Spotters will monitor waters off the Carolinas through April 15, hoping to pick up any overlooked newborns as the whales head north to their feeding grounds.
This season’s calf count matches the 17 births recorded in 2015. Right whale experts consider that number fairly average, considering the record is 39 births confirmed in 2009.
FILE – This Georgia Department of Natural Resources photo shows a North Atlantic right whale mother and calf in waters near Cumberland Island, Ga., March 11, 2021.
Scientists suspect a calving slump in recent years may have been caused by a shortage of zooplankton to feed right whales in the Gulf of Maine and the Bay of Fundy off Nova Scotia. They say the uptick in births this season could be a result of whales being healthier after shifting to waters with more abundant food sources.
“It’s a somewhat hopeful sign that they are starting to adjust to this new regime where females are in good enough condition to give birth,” said Philip Hamilton, a right whale researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston.
Regardless, conservationists worry that right whales are dying — largely from manmade causes — at a faster rate than they can reproduce.
Since 2017, scientists have confirmed 34 right whale deaths in waters off the U.S. and Canada — with the leading causes being entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with boats and ships. Considering additional whales were documented in the same period with serious injuries they were unlikely to survive, researchers fear the real death toll could be at least 49.
That would exceed the 39 right whale births recorded since 2017.
“If we reduced or eliminated the human-caused death rate, their birth rate would be fine,” Hamilton said. “The onus should not be on them to reproduce at a rate that can sustain the rate at which we kill them. The onus should be on us to stop killing.”
The federal government is expected to finalize new rules soon aimed at decreasing the number of right whales tangled up in fishing gear used to catch lobster and crabs in the Northeast. Proposals to reduce vertical fishing lines in the water and modify seasonal restricted areas have been met with heated debate. Fishermen say the proposed rules could put them out of businesses, while conservation groups insist they aren’t strict enough.
Allison Garrett, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said the agency is also considering adjustments to federal rules that since 2008 have imposed speed limits on larger vessels in certain Atlantic waters during seasonal periods when right whales are frequently seen. An agency report in January found mariners’ compliance with the speed rules have improved overall, but still lagged below 25% for large commercial vessels at four ports in the Southeast.
Voice of America – English
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