Voice of America’s immigration news

Subscribe to Voice of America’s immigration news feed Voice of America’s immigration news
Voice of America is an international news and broadcast organization serving Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia, the Middle East and Balkan countries
Updated: 15 min 37 sec ago

VOA Newscasts

48 min 48 sec ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Belarus Official: West Left Us No Choice but to Deploy Nuclear Arms

1 hour 16 min ago
Western countries left Belarus no choice but to deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons and had better take heed not to "cross red lines" on key strategic issues, a senior Belarusian official was quoted as saying on Sunday.  Alexander Volfovich, state secretary of Belarus' Security Council, said it was logical that the weapons were withdrawn after the 1991 Soviet collapse as the United States had provided security guarantees and imposed no sanctions.  "Today, everything has been torn down. All the promises made are gone forever," the Belta news agency quoted Volfovich as telling an interviewer on state television.  Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994, is Russia's staunchest ally among ex-Soviet states and allowed its territory to be used to launch the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.  Russia moved ahead last week with a decision to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory aimed at achieving specific gains on the battlefield.  Russia says its "special military operation" in Ukraine was aimed at countering what it says is a drive by the "collective west" to wage a proxy war and inflict a defeat on Moscow.  "The deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus is therefore one of the steps of strategic deterrence. If there remains any reason in the heads of Western politicians, of course, they will not cross this red line," Volfovich said.  He said any resort to using "even tactical nuclear weapons will lead to irreversible consequences."  Lukashenko last week said the weapons were already on the move, but it is not yet clear when they will be in place.  The United States has denounced the prospective deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus but says its stance on the use of such weapons has not been altered.  Western sanctions were imposed on Belarus long before the invasion in connection with Lukashenko's clampdown on human rights, particularly the repression of mass protests against what his opponents said was his rigged re-election in 2020.  After independence from Soviet rule, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan agreed to their weapons being removed and returned to Russia as part of international efforts to contain proliferation. 

VOA Newscasts

1 hour 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

70 Years of Mount Everest

1 hour 50 min ago
Seventy years ago, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepali Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first humans to summit Everest on May 29, 1953.     The British expedition made the two men household names around the world and changed mountaineering forever.    Hundreds now climb the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak every year, fueling concerns of overcrowding and pollution on the mountain.     AFP looks at the evolution of the Everest phenomenon.    What is the mountain called?  Initially known only to British mapmakers as Peak XV, the mountain was identified as the world's highest point in the 1850s and renamed in 1865 after Sir George Everest, a former Surveyor General of India.     On the border of Nepal and China and climbable from both sides, it is called Chomolungma or Qomolangma in Sherpa and Tibetan — "goddess mother of the world" — and Sagarmatha in Nepali, meaning "peak of the sky."    How has climbing Everest changed?  The 1953 expedition was the ninth attempt on the summit and it took 20 years for the first 600 people to climb it. Now that number can be expected in a single season, with climbers catered to by experienced guides and commercial expedition companies.    The monthslong journey to the base camp was cut to eight days with the construction of a small mountain airstrip in 1964 in the town of Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region.    Gear is lighter, oxygen supplies are more readily available, and tracking devices make expeditions safer. Climbers today can summon a helicopter in case of emergency.      Every season, experienced Nepali guides set the route all the way to the summit for paying clients to follow.    But Billi Bierling of Himalayan Database, an archive of mountaineering expeditions, said some things remain similar: "They didn't go to the mountains much different than we do now. The Sherpas carried everything. The expedition style itself hasn't changed."    What is base camp like?  The starting point for climbs proper, Everest Base Camp was once little more than a collection of tents at 5,364 meters (17,598 feet), where climbers lived off canned foods.    Now fresh salads, baked goods and trendy coffee are available, with crackly conversations over bulky satellite phones replaced by Wi-Fi and Instagram posts.    How does the news of a summit travel?  Hillary and Tenzing summited Everest on May 29, but it only appeared in newspapers on June 2, the day of Queen Elizabeth's coronation: the news had to be brought down the mountain on foot to a telegraph station in the town of Namche Bazaar, to be relayed to the British Embassy in Kathmandu.    In 2011, British climber Kenton Cool tweeted from the summit with a 3G signal after his ninth successful ascent. More usually, walkie-talkie radios are standard expedition equipment and summiteers contact their base camp teams, who swiftly post on social media.    In 2020, China announced 5G connectivity at the Everest summit.     What are the effects of climate change?    Warming temperatures are slowly widening crevasses on the mountain and bringing running water to previously snowy slopes.    A 2018 study of Everest's Khumbu glacier indicated it was vulnerable to even minor atmospheric warming, with the temperature of shallow ice already close to melting point.    "The future of the Khumbu icefall is bleak," its principal investigator, glaciologist Duncan Quincey, told AFP. "The striking difference is the meltwater on the surface of the glaciers."    Three Nepali guides were killed on the formation this year when a chunk of falling glacial ice swept them into a deep crevasse.  It has become a popular cause for climbers to highlight, and expedition companies are starting to implement eco-friendly practices at their camps, such as solar power.    What is the impact of social media?  Click, post, repeat — the climbing season plays out on social media as excited mountaineers document their journey to Everest on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms.    Hashtags keep their sponsors happy, and the posts can catch the eyes of potential funders.     That applies to both foreign climbers and their now tech-savvy Nepali guides.    "Everyone posts nowadays, it is part of how we share and build our profile," said Lakpa Dendi Sherpa, who has summited Everest multiple times and has 62,000 Instagram followers.    Mountain of records?  Veteran Nepali guides Kami Rita Sherpa and Pasang Dawa Sherpa both scaled Everest twice this season, with the latter twice matching the former's record number of summits before Kami Rita reclaimed pole position with 28.    There are multiple Everest record categories for first and fastest feats of endurance.    But some precedents are more quixotic: in 2018, a team of British climbers, an Australian and a Nepali dressed in tuxedos and gowns for the world's highest dinner party at 7,056 meters on the mountain's Chinese side.  How many people have attempted to climb Mount Everest?    Since 1953, more than 6,000 people have attempted to summit Mount Everest, and at least 310 people have died on the mountain, according to the online site Everett Base Camp Trek.  

VOA Newscasts

2 hours 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Ukraine's Kostyuk Booed at French Open, Refused Handshake With Belarus Player

3 hours 12 min ago
Unable to sleep the night before her first-round match at the French Open against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the Grand Slam tournament's No. 2 seed, Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine checked her phone at 5 a.m. Sunday and saw disturbing news back home in Kyiv. At least one person was killed when the capital of Kostyuk's country was subjected to the largest drone attack by Russia since the start of its war, launched with an invasion assisted by Belarus in February 2022. "It's something I cannot describe, probably. I try to put my emotions aside any time I go out on court. I think I'm better than before, and I don't think it affects me as much on a daily basis, but yeah, it's just — I don't know," Kostyuk said, shaking her head. "There is not much to say, really. It's just part of my life." That, then, is why Kostyuk has decided she will not exchange the usual post-match pleasantries with opponents from Russia or Belarus. And that is why she avoided a handshake — avoided any eye contact, even — after losing to Australian Open champion Sabalenka 6-3, 6-2 on Day 1 at Roland Garros. What surprised the 20-year-old, 39th-ranked Kostyuk on Sunday was the reaction she received from the spectators in Court Philippe-Chatrier; They loudly booed and derisively whistled at her as she walked directly over to acknowledge the chair umpire instead of congratulating the winner after the lopsided result. The negative response grew louder as she gathered her belongings and walked off the court toward the locker room. "I have to say," Kostyuk said, "I didn't expect it. ... People should be, honestly, embarrassed." Kostyuk is based now in Monaco, and her mother and sister are there, too, but her father and grandfather are still in Kyiv. Perhaps the fans on hand at the clay-court event's main stadium were unaware of the backstory and figured Kostyuk simply failed to follow usual tennis etiquette. Initially, Sabalenka — who had approached the net as if anticipating some sort of exchange with Kostyuk — thought the noise was directed at her. "At first, I thought they were booing me," Sabalenka said. "I was a little confused, and I was, like, 'OK, what should I do?’" Sabalenka tried to ask the chair umpire what was going on. She looked up at her entourage in the stands, too. Then she realized that while she is aware Kostyuk and other Ukrainian tennis players have been declining to greet opponents from Russia or Belarus after a match, the spectators might not have known — and so responded in a way Sabalenka didn't think was deserved. "They saw it," she surmised, "as disrespect (for) me." All in all, if the tennis itself was not particularly memorable, the whole scene, including the lack of the customary pre-match photo of the players following the coin toss, became the most noteworthy development on Day 1 in Paris. Sabalenka called Sunday "emotionally tough" — because of mundane, tennis-related reasons, such as the nerves that come with a first-round match, but more significantly because of the unusual circumstances involving the war. "You're playing against (a) Ukrainian, and you never know what's going to happen. You never know how people will — will they support you or not?" explained Sabalenka, who went down an early break and trailed 3-2 before reeling off six consecutive games with powerful first-strike hitting. "I was worried, like, people will be against me, and I don't like to play when people (are) so much against me." A journalist from Ukraine asked Sabalenka what her message to the world is about the war, particularly in this context: She can overtake Iga Swiatek at No. 1 in the rankings based on results over the next two weeks and, therefore, serves as a role model. "Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Nobody — normal people — will never support it. Why (do) we have to go loud and say that things? This is like: 'One plus one (is) two.' Of course, we don't support war," Sabalenka said. "If it could affect anyhow the war, if it could like stop it, we would do it. But unfortunately, it's not in our hands." When a portion of those comments was read to Kostyuk by a reporter, she responded in calm, measured tones that she doesn't get why Sabalenka does not come out and say that "she personally doesn't support this war." Kostyuk also rejected the notion that players from Russia or Belarus could be in a tough spot upon returning to those countries if they were to speak out about what is happening in Ukraine. "I don't know why it's a difficult situation," Kostyuk said with a chuckle. "I don't know what other players are afraid of," she said. "I go back to Ukraine, where I can die any second from drones or missiles or whatever it is."

Mogadishu Book Fair Drives Literary Revival

3 hours 46 min ago
The Mogadishu Book Fair, an annual literary event that was launched in 2015, took place last week after a three-year break because of the COVID pandemic. The fair, meant to promote reading and Somali culture and heritage by bringing together literary creatives and young people, was held at the National Theatre of Somalia. Mohamed Sheikh Nor has more from Mogadishu.

VOA Newscasts

3 hours 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Report: North Korea Notifies Japan of Plan to Launch Satellite

4 hours 8 min ago
North Korea has notified Japan of its plan to launch a satellite between May 31 and June 11, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Monday, citing a Japanese government official. "We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from launching while cooperating with relevant countries such as the U.S. and South Korea," the Japanese prime minister's office said in a tweet on Monday. The office said the Japanese government would do all it could to collect and analyze information from the launch. Japan's Kyodo news agency carried the same report, citing the Japanese Coast Guard. Earlier in May, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a military satellite facility, his government's state media KCNA reported. The KCNA report said Kim had approved the next steps of the non-permanent satellite-launching preparatory committee.

Mpox Is Down, But US Cities Could Be at Risk for Summertime Outbreaks

4 hours 21 min ago
The mpox health emergency has ended, but U.S. health officials are aiming to prevent a repeat of last year's outbreaks. Mpox infections exploded early in the summer of 2022 in the wake of Pride gatherings. More than 30,000 U.S. cases were reported last year, most of them spread during sexual contact between gay and bisexual men. About 40 people died. With Pride events planned across the country in the coming weeks, health officials and event organizers say they are optimistic that this year infections will be fewer and less severe. A bigger supply of vaccine, more people with immunity and readier access to a drug to treat mpox are among the reasons. But they also worry that people may think of mpox as last year's problem. "Out of sight, out of mind," said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who is advising the White House on its mpox response. "But we are beating the drum." Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert to U.S. doctors to watch for new cases. On Thursday, the agency published a modeling study that estimated the likelihood of mpox resurgence in 50 counties that have been the focus of a government campaign to control sexually transmitted diseases. The study concluded that 10 of the counties had a 50% chance or higher of mpox outbreaks this year. The calculation was based largely on how many people were considered at high risk for infection and what fraction of them had some immunity through vaccination or previous infection. At the top of the list are Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; and Cincinnati — cities where 10% or fewer of the people at highest risk were estimated to have immunity. Another 25 counties have low or medium immunity levels that put them at a higher risk for outbreaks. The study had a range of limitations, including that scientists don't know how long immunity from vaccination or prior infections lasts. So why do the study? To warn people, said Dr. Chris Braden, who heads the CDC's mpox response. "This is something that is important for jurisdictions to promote prevention of mpox, and for the population to take note — and take care of themselves. That's why we're doing this," he said. Officials are trying to bring a sense of urgency to a health threat that was seen as a burgeoning crisis last summer but faded away by the end of the year. Formerly known as monkeypox, mpox is caused by a virus in the same family as the one that causes smallpox. It is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals but was not known to spread easily among people. Cases began emerging in Europe and the U.S. about a year ago, mostly among men who have sex with men, and escalated in dozens of countries in June and July. The infections were rarely fatal, but many people suffered painful skin lesions for weeks. Countries scrambled to find a vaccine or other countermeasures. In late July, the World Health Organization declared a health emergency. The U.S. followed with its own in early August. But then cases began to fall, from an average of nearly 500 a day in August to fewer than 10 by late December. Experts attributed the decline to several factors, including government measures to overcome a vaccine shortage and efforts in the gay and bisexual community to spread warnings and limit sexual encounters. The U.S. emergency ended in late January, and the WHO ended its declaration earlier this month. Indeed, there is a lower sense of urgency about mpox than last year, said Dan Dimant, a spokesman for NYC Pride. The organization anticipates fewer messages about the threat at its events next month, though plans could change if the situation worsens. There were long lines to get shots during the height of the crisis last year, but demand faded as cases declined. The government estimates that 1.7 million people — mostly men who have sex with men — are at high risk for mpox infection, but only about 400,000 have gotten the recommended two doses of the vaccine. "We're definitely not where we need to be," Daskalakis said, during an interview last week at an STD conference in New Orleans. Some see possible storm clouds on the horizon. Cases emerged this year in some European countries and South Korea. On Thursday, U.K. officials said an uptick in mpox cases in London in the last month showed that the virus was not going away. Nearly 30 people, many of them fully vaccinated, were infected in a recent Chicago outbreak. (As with COVID-19 and flu shot, vaccinated people can still get mpox, but they likely will have milder symptoms, officials say.) Dr. Joseph Cherabie, associate medical director of the St. Louis County Sexual Health Clinic, said people from the area travel to Chicago for events, so outbreaks there can have ripple effects elsewhere. "We are several weeks behind Chicago. Chicago is usually our bellwether," Cherabie said. Chicago health officials are taking steps to prevent further spread at an "International Mr. Leather" gathering this weekend. Event organizers are prominently advising attendees to get vaccinated. Chicago health officials put together social media messages, including one depicting three candles and a leather paddle that reads: "Before you play with leather or wax get yourself the mpox vax."

NATO Chief Urges Kosovo to Ease Tensions With Serbia

4 hours 38 min ago
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg called on Kosovo to tone down tensions with Serbia on Sunday, two days after clashes between Kosovan police and protesters who are opposed to Albanian mayors taking office in ethnic Serbian areas. Stoltenberg, the transatlantic military alliance's Norwegian secretary-general, said he had spoken to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about Kosovo and that Pristina and Belgrade must engage in the EU-led dialog. "Pristina must de-escalate & not take unilateral, destabilizing steps," Stoltenberg said in a tweet. Serbs, who form the majority of the population in Kosovo's northern region, do not accept its 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and still see Belgrade as their capital more than two decades after the war ended in 1999. Ethnic Albanians make up more than 90% of the population in Kosovo as a whole. Serbs refused to take part in local elections in April and Albanian candidates won all four municipalities with a 3.5% turnout. Local Serbs, backed by Belgrade, said they will not accept the mayors and that they do not represent them. On Friday, three out of four mayors were escorted into their offices by police, who were pelted with rocks and responded with tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. Heavily armed police in armored vehicles were still guarding the mayors' offices on Sunday. A joint statement from the embassies of the United States, Italy, France, Germany and Britain, known as the Quint group, and the EU office in Pristina warned Kosovo against any other measures to force access to the municipality buildings. "We strongly caution all parties against other threats or actions which could impact on a safe and secure environment, including freedom of movement, and that could inflame tensions or promote conflict," Quint and the EU said. "New unilateral actions will negatively impact relations with the Quint countries and the EU." The United States, Britain and the EU are Kosovo's main backers as the country is still not a United Nations member due to objections from Serbia, Russia, China and others.

VOA Newscasts

4 hours 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

‘The Little Mermaid’ Makes Box Office Splash With $95.5 Million Opening

4 hours 53 min ago
"The Little Mermaid " made moviegoers want to be under the sea on Memorial Day weekend. Disney's live-action remake of its 1989 animated classic easily outswam the competition, bringing in $95.5 million on 4,320 screens in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday. And Disney estimates the film starring Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as her sea witch nemesis Ursula will reach $117.5 million by the time the holiday is over. It ranks as the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever. It displaces "Fast X" in the top spot. The 10th installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise starring Vin Diesel lagged behind more recent releases in the series, bringing in $23 million domestically for a two-week total of $108 million for Universal Pictures. In its fourth weekend, Disney and Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" made an estimated $20 million in North America to take third place. It's now made $299 million domestically. Fourth went to Universal's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," which keeps reaching new levels in its eighth weekend. Now available to rent on VOD, it still earned $6.3 million in theaters. Its cumulative total of $559 million makes Mario and Luigi the year's biggest earners so far. Comics couldn't stand up to Ariel as the week's other new releases sank. "The Machine," an action comedy starring stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer, finished fifth with $4.9 million domestically. And " About My Father," the broad comedy starring stand-up Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro, was sixth with $4.3 million. Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday. 1. "The Little Mermaid," $95.5 million. 2. "Fast X," $23 million. 3. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," $20 million. 4. "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," $6.3 million. 5. "The Machine," $4.9 million. 6. "About My Father," $4.3 million. 7. "Kandahar," $2.4 million. 8. "You Hurt My Feelings," 1.4 million. 9. "Evil Dead Rise," $1 million. 10. "Book Club, The Next Chapter," $920,000.

New Greek Parliament Convenes, May Be Dissolved on Monday

5 hours 2 min ago
Newly elected Greek lawmakers were sworn in Sunday but the Parliament in which they sit may be dissolved as early as Monday, ahead of fresh elections on June 25. No party achieved an overall majority in the May 21 election, which was held under simple proportional representation. The ruling New Democracy, with 40.79% of the vote, won 146 seats, five short of an overall majority in the 300-member chamber. The main opposition Syriza, with 20.07% - almost 11.5 points lower than in the previous election – won 71. The socialist PASOK was third. There was no attempt to form a coalition and the leaders of the three main parties returned their mandates to form a government almost as soon as they got them. A constitutionally mandated meeting Wednesday with President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and all five leaders of the parties represented in parliament merely confirmed that a second election would take place. A caretaker government headed by a senior judge was sworn in Thursday. The next election will be contested under a different system. The lawmakers will elect the speaker and deputy speakers Monday morning. Parliament will be dissolved either Monday or Tuesday, signaling the start of the electoral campaign. The new election will be fought under a different system awarding a bonus of 25-50 seats to the winning party, depending on its performance. Although New Democracy is the clear favorite, an overall majority is by no means automatic: the more parties there are in parliament, the higher the share of the vote needed for an outright majority will be. On May 21, two more parties barely missed the 3% threshold for gaining parliamentary representation. If they get in on June 25, this could raise the score required for the election winner to achieve an overall majority to about 39%. New Democracy officials appealed to voters not to take the result for granted and abstain, while opposition leaders called on the people to clip New Democracy’s wings and avoid the prospect of an all-powerful conservative government.

Newgarden Gives Penske His 19th Win in Dramatic Indianapolis 500

5 hours 10 min ago
Josef Newgarden finally captured his long-awaited Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and gave team owner Roger Penske his 19th win and first since buying Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making an audacious pass of defending race winner Marcus Ericsson during a frantic four-kilometer sprint to the finish. After the race was red-flagged for the third time in the closing laps, Newgarden was moved from fourth to second by race control. The two-time IndyCar champion, who had been 0 for 11 in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," took advantage of it by slingshotting around Ericsson on the restart and then holding him off through the last two turns for the win. Newgarden brought his Chevrolet-powered car to a stop on the front stretch, jumped out and found a hole in the fence, diving into part of a crowd estimated at more than 300,000 to celebrate. Then he climbed the fence to mimic longtime Team Penske driver and four-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Ericsson finished second in a Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. He was followed by Santino Ferrucci, who gave 88-year-old A.J. Foyt his team's best finish in the race he won four times since Kenny Bräck won it in 1999. Pole sitter Alex Palou, the race favorite, was fourth for Ganassi and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five for Arrow McLaren.

VOA Newscasts

5 hours 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

Nearly a Decade On, Over 80 of Nigeria’s ‘Chibok Girls’ Still in Captivity

5 hours 50 min ago
Nigeria’s military this month rescued three more schoolgirls abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram more than nine years ago in northeastern Borno state. In that 2014 incident, Boko Haram raided a government secondary school in the town of Chibok and seized nearly three hundred schoolgirls. Many of the girls have been freed through negotiations, but scores more remain captive. From Abuja, Timothy Obiezu has this report, narrated by Vincent Makori.

UK Health Minister Says Will Not Negotiate on Pay With Nurses' Union

6 hours 36 min ago
Britain's health minister, Steve Barclay, said on Sunday that the government would not negotiate on pay with the nurses' union, as the threat of further strikes looms. The government's offer, which includes a one-off payment equivalent to 2% of salaries in the 2022/23 financial year and a 5% pay raise for 2023/24, was rejected by the members of the Royal College of Nursing in April. When asked by Sky News whether the government would resume talks with the union, Barclay said, "Not on the amount of pay." The union is already balloting its 300,000 members on further strike action over the next six months. The union did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for a comment on Barclay's remarks on Sunday. It has said that the government must pay National Health Service staff "fairly." The relationship between the union, which has staged multiple strikes that have disrupted patient care, and the government became strained in late April when the health department limited the length of a strike after legal action against the RCN.

VOA Newscasts

6 hours 48 min ago
Give us 5 minutes, and we'll give you the world. Around the clock, Voice of America keeps you in touch with the latest news. We bring you reports from our correspondents and interviews with newsmakers from across the world.

In Nigeria's Hard-Hit North, Families Seek Justice as Armed Groups Seek Control

6 hours 55 min ago
Christian Jonathan's mother was holding the 9-month-old boy in her arms when she was shot dead during an attack on their village in northwestern Nigeria. The assailants cut off one of Christian's fingers and abandoned him by the side of the road with a bullet wound in his tiny leg. "They left him on the ground beside his mother's body," said Joshua Jonathan, Christian's father. "They thought the boy was dead." The late-night attack in April in Runji in Kaduna State left 33 people dead, most of them burned alive or shot dead. Many more have been killed since in the continuing clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farming communities in northwest and central regions of the West African nation, including more than 100 this month in Plateau state. The decades long violence is becoming deadlier, killing at least 2,600 people in 2021, according to the most recent data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. Once armed with sticks, the groups now fight with guns that have been smuggled into the country. Both sides accuse the government of injustice and marginalization, but the clashes have also taken on a religious dimension, giving rise to militias that side with the herders, who are primarily Muslim, or the farmers from Christian communities. The growing security crisis presents a huge challenge for Nigeria's incoming president, Bola Tinubu, who rose to power in Nigeria — Africa's largest economy and among its top oil producers — promising to improve the lives of affected communities and address the root causes of the crisis by providing jobs and ensuring justice. Tinubu's inauguration is scheduled for Monday. If the violence isn't reined in, analysts say, it could further destabilize the country and drive more of its 216 million people into poverty. U.N. agencies say the violence affects mostly children, who are already threatened by malnutrition, and women, who are often abducted and forced into marriage. The response of security forces can be slow and arrests are rare, prompting a growing number of communities to defend themselves when they come under siege. "There is a substantial loss of confidence in the government as a protector of citizens," said Nnamdi Obasi, the senior adviser for Nigeria at the International Crisis Group. Obasi warned that the failure of the incoming administration to speedily resolve the conflict would lead to "more people seeking their own self-defense, more proliferation of weapons, more criminal groups and a rise in organized armed groups." In Runji, an agrarian village, The Associated Press spoke to some survivors in hospital beds and others touring a mass grave and their razed houses. They said they were under attack for hours and that the gunmen fled long before security forces arrived. Every household bears a scar. Christopher Dauda's family was trying to escape when the gunmen caught up with his wife and four children, killing all five. Danjuma Joshua's two daughters were shot in the back while they tried to flee. In the home of Asabe Philip, who survived but has burns all over her body, the assailants burned five children alive as they cowered in one room. Christian's aunt has tried to fill the void left by the killing of his mother. His father said Christian cries a lot and barely sleeps, although his physical wounds are gradually healing. "We try to manage with what we have left," Joshua Jonathan said. On the other side of the conflict, the herders say they are also under attack. They complain of cattle rustling and extrajudicial killings by local security groups working as community vigilantes. Abdullahi Bello Bodejo, the president of the national herders' association, denied that anyone in the group was responsible for the violence. Most of the herders belong to the Fulanis, an ethnic group. "Fulanis are not the killers. Any person carrying out killings is not our member. Sometimes, when communities accuse us of killings, 75% is not true; they have their own crisis but always blame Fulanis," said Bodejo. Nigerian security forces say they have arrested dozens of gunmen and recovered their weapons. But the assailants are estimated to number in the thousands and can easily recruit new members, according to Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, a conflict researcher. "There is a limit to the kinetic (military) operations, as it doesn't address the socioeconomic issue that gave rise to banditry in the region in the first place," said Oluwole Ojewale of the Africa-focused Institute for Security Studies. He said the incoming Tinubu administration must work with state governments to address unemployment, poverty and social injustice. The recent violence has led to the formation of community, state and regional security outfits that experts say could create bigger problems for Nigeria's security architecture if not properly monitored. And their recruits are young. Felix Sunday, a college student in Kaduna, said that he was 16 when he joined a local vigilante group in 2021, and that he struggles to combine the night watch with his studies. Across much of West and Central Africa, porous national borders facilitate the smuggling of weapons. A survey-based report published in 2021 by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey in collaboration with the Nigerian government found that at least 6 million firearms may have been in the hands of civilians in the country at the time. The military and police have recovered hundreds of firearms in Nigeria in the last year, but weapons dealers elsewhere are exacerbating the problem. "Things have gotten considerably worse. Some are large military weapons imported from other countries," said Confidence MacHarry with the Lagos-based SBM Intelligence security firm. With sophisticated weapons, the gunmen have launched daring attacks in areas with a heavy security presence, including a military base and an airport in Kaduna, indicating that the problem may be the motivation of the security forces themselves. Survivors of the attack in Plateau told the AP that the police didn't arrive until the next day, echoing comments from people living in Runji, which has a security checkpoint nearby. "When we call the soldiers, it is after the attackers have left that the soldiers come. Even if we hear they (the attackers) are coming and we report to the government, they don't take proactive action," said Simon Njam, a vigilante leader near Runji who uses bows, arrows and locally-made guns to secure the area. Part of the problem is that the security forces are disorganized and unprepared to respond to the attacks, according to Kabir Adamu, the founder of Beacon Consulting, a security firm based in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. "We don't have a coordinated security sector that identifies and counters threats," he said. "They need to work together to protect lives and currently, we are not seeing enough of that." The Nigerian military and police didn't respond to written and phone inquiries seeking a response to the claims. As more families mourn the loss of their loved ones, forced to replace farmland with graveyards, their priority is demanding justice. "How can people just come and kill and nothing will happen?" asked Dauda in Runji, remembering his life with his wife and four children. "They cannot bring back my lost family, but the government can at least rebuild my home and ensure justice."