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Ministers are said to be considering a range of measures to tackle increased Channel crossings (Credit: PA)


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As the entire country faces a battle to contain spiking coronavirus cases, Home Secretary Priti Patel appears to be embroiled in a struggle with her own department.

The Home Office has been under fire after leaked documents shown to the Financial Times revealed the cabinet minister had asked officials to explore the possiblilty of building an immigration centre in the middle of the Atlantic. 

Ms Patel is said to have suggested Ascension Island, a British territory 4,000 miles away from the mainland, as a potential spot to build a processing facility.

The Foreign Office is believed to have carried out an assessment before the plans were eventually abandoned. 

The stunning leak sparked a flurry of revelations over other methods apparently being considered by the government to tackle increased Channel crossings, including:

– Deploying disused ferries, moored off the UK coast, to house asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be dealt with.  According to the Times, Downing Street is exploring the possibility.

“A disused 40-year-old ferry can be bought from Italy for £6 million. It could house 1,400 people in 141 cabins. A disused cruise ship, at present moored in Barbados, would cost £116 million and could accommodate 2,417 people in 1,000 cabins,” the paper reported.

– The same story suggests ministers also considered using disused oil platforms in the North Sea – which are so far offshore they have to be reached by helicopter – for the same purpose. 

“It would be so dangerous. They are designed to be as small as possible and house maybe 100 people, working shifts back to back so they share cabins,” said an industry insider.

– Ministers are said to be considering building new processing centres slightly closer to home than the home secretary might want – on the Isle of Wight, Shetland or the Isle of Man.

According to the Mail, those seeking asylum in Britain could also be sent to facilities in Morocco, Moldova or Papua New Guinea as part of a parallel project.

“Official documents marked ‘sensitive’ and produced earlier this month, summarise advice from officials at the Foreign Office, which was asked by Downing Street to ‘offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru’,” the paper reports.

– Another leak to the FT floated the idea of deploying boats with wave-generating pumps to force smaller vessels back into French waters.  The plan was reportedly scrapped due to the risk of capsizing.

Government sources stress that no final decisions have been made, with a Home Office insider telling the BBC: “As ministers have said, we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the plans were “unconscionable”.

“Even considering this is appalling,” he tweeted, later adding: “This is a vile example of how degraded an environment the Tories have created.

“The Windrush Review was damning about the inhumane culture they have created at the Home Office. They’ve learned nothing.”

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Purdue Pharma to plead guilty in $8bn opioid settlement

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By Natalie Sherman
Business reporter, New York

image copyrightReuters

image captionOxycontin has been widely abused

The maker of OxyContin painkillers has reached an $8.3bn (£6.3bn) settlement and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a probe of its role in fuelling America’s opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma will admit to enabling the supply of drugs “without legitimate medical purpose”.

The deal with US Department of Justice resolves some of the most serious claims against the firm.

But it still faces thousands of cases brought by states and families.

Purdue called the deal an “essential” step to wider resolution of the matter.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice,” said Steve Miller, who joined Purdue’s board as chairman in July 2018, shortly before the firm sought protection from the litigation by filing for bankruptcy.

  • OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy

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The settlement with the DoJ must receive court approval to go forward.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy case will be weighing how it will affect negotiations with other states and cities that have filed lawsuits against Purdue, many of which have already objected to the terms.

image copyrightEPA
image captionJustice Department officials defended the deal as “significant”

They say it lets the company and its owners, the Sackler family, off too lightly for their roles creating a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans since 1999.

“DoJ failed,” said Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey after the settlement was announced.

“Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Justice Department officials defended the deal as “significant”, noting that the department would forego much of the $8bn in fines, allowing the money to be directed to other creditors in the bankruptcy case – such as the communities ravaged by opioid abuse that have sued the company.

They said they continue to review possible criminal charges against executives at the company and the Sackler family.

“This resolution does not provide anybody with a pass on the criminal side,” Rachel Honig, federal prosecutor for New Jersey said at a press conference.

What did Purdue do?

The settlement follows years of investigation into claims that Purdue and other drug-makers encouraged over-prescription of opioids, leading to overdoses and addiction which strained public health and policing resources in cities and towns across the US.

Under the terms of the settlement, Purdue will admit to conspiring to defraud the US and violating anti-kickback laws in its distribution of the addictive painkillers.

Those included payments the firm made to healthcare companies and doctors to encourage prescribing the drugs, which were ultimately paid for by public health programmes.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCampaigners outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford in 2019

What will Purdue actually pay?

Purdue will pay $225m to the Justice Department and a further $1.7bn towards addressing claims made in other lawsuits.

The settlement also includes a $3.54bn criminal fine and $2.8bn civil penalty, which will compete with other claims in bankruptcy court – such as those made by communities affected by the opioid crisis. It is unclear how much of that sum will actually be collected.

The Sackler family has also agreed to pay $225m and give up ownership of the firm.

The company would reorganise as a new company run by a trust for the “public benefit”. It would continue to produce OxyContin and other drugs aimed at treating addiction, with the government likely having a significant role.

Purdue backed that idea in an earlier settlement proposal but it is opposed by many states, including Massachusetts.

What about the other claims?

Along with the reorganisation as a “public benefit” firm, Purdue has proposed to settle the wider claims against it with a deal worth more than $10bn.

But critics of the plan want to see the company sold and greater effort made to recover money from the Sackler family. Court documents revealed last year that the family had transferred more than $10bn out of the company between 2008 and 2017, as scrutiny of its conduct increased.

The Sackler family, which would commit $3bn to the wider settlement, said in a statement that members that had served on the Purdue board of directors had acted “ethically and lawfully” and that “all financial distributions were proper”.

“We reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings,” the family said.

Related Topics

  • Opioids

  • Companies



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Egypt adds restaurant at ancient pyramid site

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Egypt has unveiled new visitor facilities on the plateau outside Cairo where the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx are situated, the country’s most visited heritage site and the sole remaining wonder of the ancient world.

Developers late on Tuesday night opened a new restaurant, “9 Pyramids Lounge”, which covers an area of 1,341 square meters and overlooks the Giza pyramids. There will also be a fleet of new environmentally-friendly buses to guide tourists around the plateau.

“One of the problems always faced is that people say there are no special services for tourists, that there is no cafeteria, no restaurant, nothing that can be offered to visitors,” said Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The new facilities are all easily taken part and reassembled so as to protect the antiquities and Waziri said the open-air restaurant offered “a panorama view that cannot be matched anywhere in the world.”

Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output. However, officials have said previously the sector is losing around $1 billion each month after largely shutting down for several months from March due to the spread of coronavirus.

The changes at the plateau are part of wider efforts to develop key tourist sites in the country. Next year the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to be the world’s largest archaeological museum, is due to open just beyond the Giza Pyramids.

Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the plateau’s main developer, said the 301 million Egyptian pound ($19.23 million)project is part of a greater plan to develop the UNESCO world heritage site and streamline tourists’ experience.

“We will organise the salespeople,” said Sawiris. “We will not deprive them of their income but we will put them into suitable, nice places.”

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Pelosi suggests coronavirus relief deal could slip past November elections

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Talks between the speaker and White House over a coronavirus relief package have remained at an impasse for months, though Pelosi said Tuesday that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are “on a path” to a deal. But a larger relief agreement has met resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have blanched at a multi-trillion dollar price tag.

The California Democrat said she has been buoyed by recent progress made between House Democrats and the White House, but several issues remain outstanding with less than two weeks until Election Day.

“We’re in a better place than we have been,” she said. “None of it is insurmountable if you want to make a decision.”

The speaker said that “it’s up to” President Donald Trump — who has said he wants a relief package with a higher price tag than the $2.2 trillion proposal Democrats are pushing — to cajole members of his party and get the eventual agreement over the finish line.

“I wouldn’t even be having these discussions if we didn’t think the president had some sway as to whether the Senate would take this legislation up,” she said. Senate Democrats on Wednesday also blocked a narrow, $500 billion GOP-pushed Covid-19 relief package from moving forward in the upper chamber, essentially dismissing it as a political stunt.

Pelosi’s comments echoed those she made earlier in the day on Sirius XM, in which she said “the president needs this legislation.”

“We obviously want to have a deal by November 3rd,” she said. “That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so.”

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