Stories Chosen For You
Selvin Allende is worn out. With his one-year-old daughter on his shoulders and his pregnant wife beside him, he crossed the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Piedras Negras into Eagle Pass, Texas -- a dangerous journey that thousands of migrants undertake every year seeking a better future.
"I was afraid for my daughter in the river. I feel tired, defeated, but with the dream of working if the immigration services listen to us with their hearts," says the 30-year-old Guatemalan.
The family left their home in Honduras because of crime and a lack of work, and made the long trip by train and on foot to get here.
He and his wife, walking with a painful gait and eyes half-closed, make their way over to the border patrol waiting for them under one of the bridges that link Mexico and the United States. Their belongings fit in a pair of plastic bags.
The agents look over their passports and those of other people who recently arrived, and take them into custody to study their asylum claims.
The scene repeats itself several times a day under the resigned gaze of the security forces. "This never stops. They can cross wherever and whenever," said one National Guard soldier, who did not want to be named.
The reinforcement of security in the last few months has not stemmed the arrival of migrants without visas. In May, authorities detained more than 239,000 people on the Mexican border, a record, though the figure also includes those who tried to enter the US multiple times.
And yet, the journey comes with serious risks, as demonstrated by the case of 53 migrants found dead after being abandoned in a sweltering tractor trailer in San Antonio on Monday.
The man suspected of driving the truck has said he was unaware the trailer's air conditioning had failed, according to media reports.
'Crying with happiness'
On the Mexican bank of the river trucks come and go, letting off people crossing to the other side.
This afternoon the temperature hits 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), and some migrants cool off in the water as they wait for more people to arrive with whom they can cross the treacherous river, which has claimed many lives.
One Venezuelan family – five men, two women and two children – decide the moment has come. Their crossing lasts 10 minutes, and halfway through, they grab onto each other to brace themselves against the strong currents.
When they arrive on the American side, they shout with happiness before turning themselves over to the border patrol.
The relief can be seen in every face. Alejandro Galindo, another Venezuelan crossing the river nearby, is emotional after 26 days of traveling with two companions.
"I'm crying with happiness. I want to help my family. In Venezuela we have no future," the 28-year-old says.
A changing profile
Eagle Pass, a city of 22,000 people about 230 kilometers (143 miles) from San Antonio, has learned to live with the daily presence of the migrants.
A few meters from the bridge over the border, several men play golf in the yellowish grass, paying no mind to the people crossing the river.
Valeria Wheeler, the director of the shelter Mission Border Hope, witnesses every day the challenges of the wave of migration.
In two years, her facilities have gone from taking in between 20 migrants a week to up to 600 a day.
The recent arrivals spend a few hours there, in a large warehouse with benches, bathrooms and showers, waiting for a relative to pay for their transportation to another city.
The migrants' economic profile has changed in recent times, explains Wheeler, 35.
Before, they were usually people who could buy an airplane ticket to somewhere near the border. But now they are poorer, and arrive after walking from Mexico or Central America.
"They come with physical and emotional wounds," says Wheeler, whose shelter receives only those released by the border patrol and able to seek asylum after getting around Title 42.
The measure, invoked under the administration of former president Donald Trump, applies to all Mexicans and Central Americans, and allows for the deportation of migrants without visas, even if they are seeking asylum, under the pretext of stopping the spread of Covid-19.
For those who try to elude the border patrol and deportation, the journey is even more dangerous than for others.
So-called coyotes, or traffickers, are one option, but the price can climb as high as $10,000, and that's not the worst part, as seen in the case of the 53 people found dead in San Antonio.
"We're here so the people who arrive at the shelter don't have to go through the same thing," says Wheeler. "That's what we're working for."
© 2022 AFP
World leaders must do more to protect the oceans, a major United Nations conference concluded on Friday, setting its sights on a new treaty to protect the high seas.
"Greater ambition is required at all levels to address the dire state of the ocean," the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon said in its final declaration.
The meeting in the Portuguese capital -- attended by government officials, experts and advocates from 140 countries -- is not a negotiating forum.
But it sets the agenda for final international negotiations in August on a treaty to protect the high seas -- those international waters beyond national jurisdiction.
"Biodiversity loss, the decline of the ocean's health, the way the climate crisis is going... it all has one common reason, which is... human behavior, our addiction to oil and gas, and all of them have to be addressed," Peter Thomson, the UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, told AFP.
Oceans produce half the oxygen we breathe, regulate the weather and provide humanity's single largest source of protein.
They also absorb a quarter of CO2 pollution and 90 percent of excess heat from global warming, thus playing a key role in protecting life on Earth.
But they are being pushed to the brink by human activities.
Sea water has turned acidic, threatening aquatic food chains and the ocean's capacity to absorb carbon. Global warming has spawned massive marine heatwaves that are killing off coral reefs and expanding dead zones bereft of oxygen.
Humans have fished some marine species to the edge of extinction and used the world's waters as a rubbish dump.
- Patchwork of agreements -
Today, a patchwork of agreements and regulatory bodies govern shipping, fishing and mineral extraction from the sea bed.
Thomson said he was "very confident" national governments could agree on a "robust but operable" high seas treaty in August.
Tiago Pitta e Cunha, head of Portuguese foundation Oceano Azul (Blue Ocean) said: "Pressure has increased a lot on less interested countries to create an effective mechanism to protect the high seas."
Laura Meller from Greenpeace called for more action.
"We know that if words could save the oceans, then they wouldn't be on the brink of collapse," she told AFP.
"So in August when governments meet at the United Nations, they really need to finalize a strong global ocean treaty."
Efforts to protect the oceans will then continue at two key summits later this year -- UN climate talks in November and UN biodiversity negotiations in December.
Overfishing, mining, plastic
At the heart of the draft UN biodiversity treaty is a plan to designate 30 percent of Earth's land and oceans as protected zones by 2030.
Currently, under eight percent of oceans are protected.
A number of new, protected marine areas could be declared off-limits to fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities which scientists say disrupt fragile seabed ecosystems.
Making things worse is an unending torrent of pollution, including a rubbish truck's worth of plastic every minute, the United Nations says.
"The ocean is not a rubbish dump," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday. "It is not a source of infinite plunder. It is a fragile system on which we all depend."
© 2022 AFP
A series of strong earthquakes rocked southern Iran on Saturday, killing at least five people and causing damage to dozens of buildings, state media reported.
The quakes, including two of magnitude 6.0, struck west of the major port city of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan province, the US Geological Survey said.
The first rattled an area north of the town of Dezhgan shortly after 2:00 am (2130 GMT), before a 5.7 tremor hit two hours later followed quickly by the second 6.0 magnitude quake, said the USGS.
Hormozgan governor Mehdi Dousti said five people were killed, as cited by the official news agency IRNA.
Dousti said most of the damage occurred in the village of Sayeh Khosh, close to the epicenter.
State television said 49 people were injured and showed video footage of residential buildings reduced to rubble in Sayeh Khosh, which was plunged into darkness in a power outage.
Ambulances and other vehicles tried to navigate roads covered in debris as shocked residents took to the streets or tried to recover items from their flattened homes.
People also spent the night outdoors in the provincial capital Bandar Abbas, with a population of more than 500,000, located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of the epicenters, where long queues formed in front of gas stations, state media reported.
Village half destroyed
The Red Crescent said in the morning that search and rescue operations were nearly over.
"We are concentrating on housing the victims of the earthquake," Dousti told television, adding that half of Sayeh Khosh was destroyed.
Iran sits astride the boundaries of several major tectonic plates and experiences frequent seismic activity.
The Islamic republic's deadliest quake was a 7.4-magnitude tremor in 1990 that killed 40,000 people in the north, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless.
In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude quake in southeastern Iran leveled the ancient mud-brick city of Bam and killed at least 31,000 people.
In November 2017, a 7.3-magnitude quake in Iran's western province of Kermanshah killed 620 people.
In December 2019 and January 2020, two earthquakes struck near Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Iran's Gulf Arab neighbors have raised concerns about the reliability of the country's sole nuclear power facility, which produces 1,000 megawatts of power, and the risk of radioactive leaks in case of a major earthquake.
In February 2020, a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in northwestern Iran killed nine people, including children, in neighboring Turkey and injured dozens on both sides of the border.
One person was killed in November last year when Hormozgan province was hit by twin 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes.
© 2022 AFP