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Delta offers compensation to family forced off plane over car seat squabble

Delta Air Lines has apologized and offered refunds and compensation to a California family who said they were forced off a plane and threatened with jail after refusing to give up a seat on a crowded flight. A video of the April 23 incident was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday and added to the list of recent encounters on airlines that have gone viral, including the dragging of a bloodied passenger off a United Express plane[1]. Brian and Brittany Schear of Huntington Beach, Calif., told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that they were returning from Kahului Airport in Maui with their two toddlers. They wanted to put one of the children in a seat they had purchased for their 18-year-old son, who instead flew home on an earlier flight.

Delta’s website says tickets cannot be transferred and name changes are not allowed. Federal regulations do not bar changing the name on a ticket as long as the new passenger’s name can be run through a database before the flight, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. By late Thursday afternoon, Delta still had not explained why the Schears were removed from the plane. A spokesman said the flight was not overbooked.

[2]On the video, Brian Schear can be heard talking with a person off-camera. It is not clear whether that person is a Delta employee, a security officer or somebody else. After Schear says he wouldn’t leave the airline will have to remove him the person off-camera replies, “You and your wife will be in jail … it’s a federal offence if you don’t abide [by an airline crew’s order].”

“I bought that seat,” Schear protests.

Lap or car seat?

Schear then suggests that his wife could hold one of the toddlers during takeoff and then put the youngster in the car seat. Another person, who appears to be a Delta supervisor, tells him that federal rules require that children under two must stay in a parent’s lap throughout the flight. The Federal Aviation Administration “strongly urges” that infants be in a car seat, although it permits those under two to be held in a parent’s lap. On its website, Delta recommends that parents buy seats for children under two and put them in an approved child-safety seat. Brian Schear spoke briefly to The Associated Press by telephone Thursday and said he has been overwhelmed by media requests. He declined additional comment and said the family may hold a news conference.

It is not yet known if the family has accepted the airline’s compensation offer.

The apology

The Atlanta-based airline issued an updated statement late Thursday afternoon.

“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation,” it said. Delta said its goal is to work with customers to resolve travel issues. “That did not happen in this case and we apologize.”

A spokesman said Delta would not disclose the amount of the refund or compensation. Congress held two hearings this week on airline customer service a response to the video of Chicago airport security officers dragging a 69-year-old man off a United Express flight to make room for crew members who were travelling for work.

Executives from United, American, Southwest and Alaska testified at one or both hearings. Delta was notably absent.

References

  1. ^ bloodied passenger off a United Express plane (www.cbc.ca)
  2. ^ (www.cbc.ca)

For African migrants, ‘extreme vetting’ from US to Europe slams the door shut

On the dangerous journey to Europe this year, hundreds of African migrants have died a horrific death at sea. They die from hypothermia or fuel inhalation, thirst or hunger in drifting boats, or suffocation in overcrowded cargo holds. Hundreds have drowned when their flimsy dinghies capsize.

More than 1,000 migrants, the majority of them Africans, have perished in the Mediterranean in the first four months of this year alone far more than during the same period of last year. Among the dead: more than 150 children, according to Unicef. Despite the terrible risks, more than 37,000 asylum-seekers, mainly from Africa, have survived the ordeal and reached Europe from the Libyan coast this year, including about 9,000 during the Easter weekend alone. With the Balkan migration route through Greece now largely shut down, the flow of people on the Libyan route to Europe has expanded by about 35 per cent from last year. It s an exodus that continues to alarm many European governments, triggering a series of aggressive new measures to clamp down on migration.

And beyond Europe, the crackdown is becoming global. Traditional destinations for African migrants from the United States to South Africa are becoming harder to reach. New barriers are emerging and harsher restrictions are planned. The tactics range from deportations and visa denials to detention camps and arrests. Wealthier countries, using a combination of financial inducements and security deals, often in co-operation with authoritarian African regimes, are finding new ways to hamper Africans who want to leave their impoverished home countries. Migrants are not the only ones to suffer. Ordinary African visitors, too, have been caught up in the crackdown. When an African trade summit was held in California in late March, organizers were shocked to discover that every African had been denied entry. More than 60 delegates were invited from a dozen African countries, but not a single one was able to secure a U.S. entry visa.

The new era of extreme vetting is one of many doors slamming shut for African travellers as the backlash intensifies. Even if they escape the Trump administration s list of targeted Muslim-majority countries which includes three African countries a growing number of Africans have found it difficult to enter the United States this year. Even those with valid visas are increasingly turned back when they arrive at U.S. airports. The rejection rate for Nigerians at the U.S. border after they ve already received visas is reported to have substantially increased this year. The campaign has even reached the agenda of the G20 group of countries, which includes Canada. At the G20 summit in July, host country Germany will push for a Compact with Africa to promote private investment in Africa, combined with what it calls a Marshall Plan to funnel billions of dollars in German development aid to Africa all with the implicit goal of reducing African migration. Some officials say the German aid will have strings attached: African governments won t receive the money until they co-operate with the European crackdown, increasing their interception efforts and accepting planeloads of deported migrants.

The most visible crackdown is in the United States, where President Donald Trump s executive orders on refugees and migrants have wreaked havoc for many Africans. His orders were eventually halted by court rulings, but they had already prevented thousands of African refugees from reaching the United States. At the same time, the Trump administration has ordered U.S. embassies to tighten their screening of visa applicants who warrant increased scrutiny for security reasons. Africans are among the main targets of this screening. The U.S. restrictions have hindered far more than just refugees, as the California trade summit showed. A number of Nigerians have recently reported that they were detained at U.S. airports or barred from entering the United States, despite having valid U.S. visas. An adviser to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari recommended that Nigerians should avoid any non-urgent travel to the United States until the situation was clarified.


For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

A man holds a child while a police officer checks his identity in Hilbrow Johannesburg, an area mostly inhabited by foreign nationals, on April 27, 2015. South Africa has conducted heavy-handed raids on businesses to search for foreign workers.

For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

A foreign national holds a knife after clashes between a group of locals and police in Durban on April 14 ,2015, amidst ongoing violence against foreign nationals living in the South African city. In recent years, South Africa has deported as many as 54,000 people annually, almost exclusively to African countries.

Affluent Africa shuts doors

While the Trump orders have been the most dramatic sign of the crackdown, other countries are launching their own restrictions. Migrants from war-ravaged countries such as Somalia and Sudan usually head northward, to Europe, or southward, to more affluent African countries such as South Africa or Kenya. All of these destinations are increasingly difficult to reach these days.

The South African government has begun a high-profile campaign against undocumented foreigners, including arrests, deportations and detention. In recent years, it has deported as many as 54,000 people annually, almost exclusively to African countries. It is requiring all businesses to limit the number of foreign nationals they hire. And it has approved a new migration policy that will prohibit asylum-seekers from seeking employment. The new South African policy will create a system of processing centres for migrants at its borders, and a network of detention centres to hold high risk migrants a system that human-rights activists have criticized because it could force migrants into detention for years. Asylum-seekers already face delays of many years in getting their claims assessed. As part of the new campaign, South Africa has conducted heavy-handed raids on businesses to search for foreign workers. In one series of raids at a supermarket chain, 63 foreigners were arrested even though it was later confirmed that the majority of the arrested foreigners had valid South African work permits.

Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees, meanwhile, have found shelter in Kenya. But now that door, too, is beginning to close. Kenya s police and other authorities have increasingly harassed the Somali refugees and migrants, seeing them as a security risk, even though most are fleeing war and hunger. The Kenyan government is pushing hard for the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, where more than 300,000 Somali refugees have taken shelter. Kenya is pressuring thousands of the refugees to return to Somalia, and it is aiming to close the camp entirely by the end of May.

For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

Tents cover the landscape at the UNHCR s Ifo Extension camp outside Dadaab, eastern Kenya, 100 kilometres from the Somali border. Migrants fleeing war in Somalia and Sudan usually head south to countries like Kenya or South Africa, or north to Europe. But those destinations are increasingly difficult to reach.

For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

Dadaab, shown in 2012, is the world s largest refugee camp. The Kenyan government is pushing hard to close Dadaab by the end of May, pressing refugees to return to Somalia.


Europe sets aid conditions

But it is the new European crackdown that could have the most far-reaching effect on African migrants. Many European countries, and the European Union itself, are negotiating opaque deals with African regimes to tighten border controls, reduce the migration flow and send migrants back to their home countries. One example of the new tactics is in Libya, where the EU is targeting the Libyan smugglers of migrants, destroying their boats, and providing equipment to the Libyan coast guard to intercept the migrants.

For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

A family from Nigeria rests with dry blankets on the deck of the boat MY Phoenix, just minutes after they were rescued .

For African Migrants, 'extreme Vetting' From US To Europe Slams The Door Shut

A migrant eats a biscuit on the Migrant Offshore Aid Station ship Topaz Responder after being rescued off the coast of Libya on June 23, 2016.

Some of those methods are highly controversial, including a series of security co-operation agreements and deportation deals between the European Union and the repressive regimes of Sudan, Eritrea and other countries. An agreement between the European Union and Sudan last year, for example, included military assistance and migration management aid. This has been followed by a wave of arrests of migrants in Sudan, a key transit route to Libya and the Mediterranean.

Reports suggest that the European security deals have provided support to Sudan s notorious Janjaweed militia, now known as the Rapid Support Force (RSF), which has been increasingly involved in the arrest of migrants in Sudan. The Janjaweed were infamous for atrocities against civilians in Darfur. Yet the RSF has become the primary security force at Sudan s borders with Libya and Egypt, analysts say. It has arrested and deported hundreds of Eritrean migrants, even though it knew that the Eritreans would be subject to persecution in their home country.

Sudan s strategy for stopping migrant flows on behalf of Europe involves a ruthless crackdown by the RSF on migrants within Sudan, says a new report by Suliman Baldo, an adviser to the Enough Project, a U.S.-based human-rights group. He describes the RSF as one of the most abusive paramilitary groups in the country a group that stokes violent conflict, commits atrocities and creates massive displacement of populations within Sudan. And yet the militia group stands to benefit from EU funding, he wrote. There are also reports that EU funds could support the construction of detention centres to lock up migrants at Sudan s borders. This kind of pressure, outsourcing our dirty work to some of the most brutal tyrants, should be beyond the pale, wrote Lee Crawfurd, an aid researcher, on the website of the Center for Global Development.

The detention centre project, he said, is a strong contender for the worst aid project in the world. As part of its carrot-and-stick strategy against migration, the European Union has used financial inducements to supplement the detention and deportation measures. One EU official has called it a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those countries willing to co-operate effectively with us, and to ensure that there are consequences for those who do not. The new money is increasingly attached to a condition: African governments must stem the flow of migrants and promise to accept their citizens who are deported from Europe.

Those who do not co-operate sufficiently cannot hope to benefit from our development aid, said German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in a German media interview.

To persuade African countries to co-operate, the EU is offering billions of dollars worth of increased financial aid to Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Ethiopia and other African countries. In one of the biggest of these deals, the EU is giving $635-million (U.S.) to the government of Niger, a major transit route from West Africa to the Mediterranean, to encourage it to stop migrants from moving through the country. Much of the EU money is being spent on providing equipment and training to local security forces so that they can intercept and arrest those who operate the smuggling routes through the Sahara northward to Libya and the Mediterranean. This has sharply reduced the flow of migrants through a key transit point, the city of Agadez in Niger. The reduction in migrant numbers is due to stronger repressive measures by the government of Niger against the smugglers, according to the International Organization for Migration.

But the restrictions might be leading directly to the deaths of some migrants. To avoid arrest, the smugglers and migrants are increasingly turning to more dangerous and circuitous routes through the Sahara. There are reports that dozens of dead bodies are being discovered along the new desert routes.


MIGRATION, AFRICA AND BEYOND: MORE FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Shelter will open for refugee claimants, catching Gretna off guard …

The province this week is opening a temporary shelter for refugee claimants near the border in Gretna to ease the flow of asylum seekers arriving in Winnipeg at all hours needing housing and help. Gretna’s former seniors home that has been sitting vacant is being repurposed to house asylum seekers for a few days before they can move on to more long-term shelter in Winnipeg, 120 kilometres northeast. The single-storey, wheelchair-accessible building is expected to receive its first guests by mid-week, said Carolyn Ryan with Manitoba Housing, which owns the building. Gretna residents found out about plans for the temporary shelter at a public meeting Wednesday night. Nearly 100 people in the town of 550 were there, said Ryan, who spoke at it.

The short notice caught Gretna off guard, said Don Wiebe, reeve of Rhineland, which includes Gretna. He learned about the province’s plans last Monday and wished the municipality had more time to prepare.

“When this comes so quickly you haven’t got much time to prepare the community with good information about the logistics of it — to understand what supports might be needed from the community,” Wiebe said Friday. “The (Manitoba) Housing people were pretty good, very knowledgeable and answered a lot of questions but it takes time to work through that as a process, to understand the issues and plan for contingencies,” he said.

“We had a lively discussion,” Ryan said. “I think there’s still considerable confusion around the Safe Third Country Agreement and the United Nations Convention on Refugees and why people are allowed to be here ‘Why aren’t they illegal?’ These are questions being asked by many Manitobans ‘Why is this happening?’

Gretna isn’t where refugee claimants are crossing into Canada, but it’s only 28 kilometres from Emerson, which has been inundated with asylum seekers in the past several months. More refugee claimants crossed into Canada on foot at Emerson in the first three months of 2017 (332) than in all of 2016 (266), numbers from Winnipeg’s Welcome Place show. Once in Canada, they’re picked up by RCMP and taken to Canada Border Services Agency at Emerson to be screened. Upon they’re released, they wait there for someone from Welcome Place to pick them up and give them a ride to one of three shelters in the city.

“There was a real unpredictability of people arriving in Winnipeg,” said Ryan, executive director of portfolio management for Manitoba Housing. “They’d be arriving at 2 or 3 in the morning, and there was no way to plan for them,” she said. “You didn’t know who they were, the size of their families or anything about their needs.”

As soon as Wednesday, rather than being transported to Winnipeg right away, the refugee claimants will be taken to Gretna. The shelter there with 17 units that and can accommodate up to 60 people will help manage the flow of arrivals from the border and be more efficient, she said.

“You’re not having people sit for hours and hours waiting to be picked up,” she said. In Gretna, the asylum seekers can get to work filling out their paper work including Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s 10-page Basis of Claim form that they have to present within 72 business-day hours of arriving in Canada, as well as Employment and Income Assistance application forms. Asylum seekers will stay at the Gretna shelter from two to five days at the most, Ryan said. Three provincial social services workers will work at the shelter, rotating every few days. They’ll be on site 12 hours a day with overnight security, said Ryan. Security was a major concern expressed by some Gretna residents at the meeting, she said. Those who had heard inaccurate news reports that half of refugee claimants had serious criminal records said they had misgivings about Gretna sheltering the asylum seekers.

“Some in the community expressed a lot of apprehension,” Ryan said. While the Canada Border Services Agency disputed the report, saying just just two per cent of refugee claimants screened in recent weeks posed a potential threat and were being held in detention, that didn’t calm anyone’s nerves.

“The story that many had criminal records that story really resonated, whether it was accurate or not,” Ryan said.

It would have been good to have more time to address the safety concerns of Gretna residents, Wiebe said. Security had been an issue for them before they learned their town would be sheltering asylum seekers, he said.

“We’d been lobbying the RCMP a month ago for a police presence in Gretna and for all of the municipality,” he said. Since the RCMP pulled out of Altona, the Mounties’ presence is concentrated in Morden and Carman, the closest detachment to Gretna, Wiebe said.

“In the worst-case scenario, it could take an hour” for an RCMP officer to get from Carman to Gretna, he said. Wiebe hopes that in case of an emergency in Gretna, the Altona Police Service, whose detachment is six minutes away from Gretna, could be called on to help. “The RCMP have a good, co-operative arrangement with Altona.” Wiebe said an RCMP officer attended the meeting in Gretna. So did the refugee response co-ordinator for the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations. Hearing Michelle Strain share her experience working with newcomer organization and asylum seekers in Winnipeg helped to allay some of the Gretna folks’ fears, Ryan said.

“She was able to talk about who they are as people,” she said. At the meeting, some Gretna residents said they could identify with the refugee claimants on a personal level, Ryan recalled: “‘Many of us are immigrants ourselves’ and, ‘You don’t have to go too far back to when we were met with a compassionate response and it’s our turn to do the same’… I think the meeting ebbed and flowed, but we ended on a pretty positive note,” said Ryan. Re-opening the seniors building to temporarily house refugee claimants should be good for the local economy, she said. They’re hiring a local housekeeper and will be bringing the asylum seekers meals from the local restaurant. but nothing fancy. They will be served “basic foodstuffs,” she said. Those who have money to buy their own groceries can shop at the local grocery store to prepare their own meals in the units, which each have a little kitchen with a fridge and stove.

“We’re being as creative as we can to minimize the cost of this,” said Ryan. “We’re using a building we already own” and rounding up furnishings, beds and linens they have in stock. “The costs are all borne by the province subject to federal-provincial discussions.”

Wiebe, who lives north of Altona, said he thinks the new use for the seniors home could be good for Gretna.

“This is a pretty expensive operation and they will need resources from the community. That will be an economic benefit,” he said.

“I think it can work and I think there’s enough good people here who’d like to make it work.”

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