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March 10, 2023

Into The Big Blue

This week saw the announcement of a world-famous ocean bill that, for the first time, saw United Nations members agree on a unified treaty on Saturday, to protect biodiversity in the high seas — nearly half the planet’s surface. In a tragic incident in Germany, a gunman opened fire on a group at a Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in Hamburg, Germany, on Thursday resulting in the deaths of seven people. And finally, a new bill by the UK government introduces controversial new laws and powers to deter migrants from coming to the country.

A coral reef off the coast of France. For the first time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty on Saturday, March 4, 2023, to protect biodiversity in the high seas — nearly half the planet’s surface. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil, File)

Historic agreement reached after decade of talks

After a decade of negotiations, nations have achieved a significant milestone by reaching a historic consensus to safeguard the world's oceans. The High Seas Treaty has been enacted with the objective of designating protected areas that cover 30% of the seas by 2030, with the goal of preserving and restoring marine ecosystems. The treaty was finalised on Saturday evening, following an exhaustive 38-hour discussion at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

After a decade of negotiations, nations have made a groundbreaking agreement to safeguard the world's oceans.

The High Seas Treaty aims to establish protected areas for 30% of the seas by 2030, promoting the recovery and preservation of marine life.

The treaty was ratified after 38 hours of discussion at UN headquarters in New York, following years of disputes over funding and fishing rights.

The last international pact to protect the ocean was signed in 1982 - the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - which created a territory known as the high seas where all countries have rights to fishing, shipping, and research.

However, only 1.2% of these waters are protected, leaving marine life outside these areas vulnerable to climate change, overfishing, and shipping traffic.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, nearly 10% of global marine species are at risk of extinction.

The High Seas Treaty aims to establish protected marine areas to achieve the UN's objective of preserving 30% of the world's oceans, which was declared at the biodiversity conference in 2022.

These protected areas will regulate fishing quotas, shipping routes, and deep-sea mining activities, which pose a threat to marine habitats, animal breeding grounds, and generate noise pollution.

The International Seabed Authority overseeing licensing affirms that future activities on the deep seabed will follow rigorous environmental regulations to ensure sustainable and responsible practices.

Dr. Robert Blasiak, an ocean researcher at Stockholm University, spoke to journalists, saying that one of the key challenges in protecting ocean resources is that their worth is unknown, making it difficult to determine how to divide them.

Laura Meller, an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, praised the nations involved in the agreement for putting aside their differences and establishing a treaty that will safeguard the oceans, build climate resilience, and protect the lives and livelihoods of billions of people.

She hailed the pact as a historic day for conservation and proof that nature and people can triumph over geopolitical divisions.

Forensic experts walk to a Jehovah's Witness building in Hamburg, Germany Friday, March 10, 2023. Shots were fired inside the building used by Jehovah's Witnesses in the northern German city of Hamburg on Thursday evening, with multiple people killed and wounded, police said. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Seven dead in gunman attack in Hamburg

Seven people, including an unborn baby, have been killed in a shooting at a Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in the German city of Hamburg, police say. The authorities said that the gunman acted alone in the attack on Thursday, and subsequently took his own life. The motives behind his actions remain unknown. The suspect, identified as Philipp F, reportedly harboured negative feelings towards the religious community, despite having been a member in the past.

On Thursday, a shooting occurred at a Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in Hamburg, Germany, resulting in the deaths of seven people, including an unborn baby.

The police have reported that the gunman acted alone and later took his own life, but the motive behind the attack is unknown.

The suspect, Philipp F, was a former member of the religious community and harbored negative feelings towards them. A video has emerged showing him firing through a window of the hall.

During the attack, four men and two women were killed, and eight others were injured, including a Ugandan and a Ukrainian.

A pregnant woman was also shot, causing the death of her unborn baby, but the mother survived.

The first emergency call was made at 21:04 local time, and the police arrived on the scene four minutes later, quickly followed by special forces.

The suspect, who was a 35-year-old sports shooter with a gun license, had managed to shoot nine magazines of ammunition, and 20 more were found in his backpack.

Despite receiving an anonymous tip-off about his mental state, the police did not have sufficient grounds to take away his gun prior to the attack.

Police confirmed that the attack was the worst crime in Hamburg's recent history, and Senator Andy Grote praised the fast and decisive actions of the police officers, which saved many lives.

The federal warning app, NINAwarn, was used to alert locals to the ongoing police operation, and residents were advised to stay in their homes. Video footage showed police escorting people out of the meeting hall, some of whom required ambulance transportation.

The German police have since released information saying that the man was visited by police last month after a tip-off raised concerns about his mental health.

According to the police, the suspect, Philipp F, who had a gun license for sporting purposes, cooperated with the officers and there were insufficient reasons to revoke his gun ownership.

However, following the shooting at the Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in the city that killed seven people, including an unborn baby, the country's interior minister announced plans to implement stricter gun ownership regulations.

The incident was reported on Thursday evening at 21:04 local time (20:04 GMT), and the gunman was seen in a video firing through a window. He later entered the building where many people had gathered and fired nine magazines of ammunition before taking his own life after the police arrived.

In Europe, Germany has some of the strictest gun laws, which mandate that people under the age of 25 must undergo a psychological evaluation before being allowed to obtain a permit.

According to the National Firearms Registry, approximately one million Germans were private gun owners in 2021, with lawful firearms and components totaling 5.7 million, most of which belonged to hunters.

Migrants in a dinghy navigate in the English Channel toward the south coast of England after crossing from France, on Sept. 1, 2020. (GLYN KIRK/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

UK introduces new law to ban illegal migrants into the country

The UK government has proposed new legislation to curb illegal immigration into the country. However, the announcement of the Illegal Migration Bill has sparked significant controversy. The bill proposes the detention and expulsion of individuals who enter the UK without authorization, including those who arrive in small boats across the English Channel. Additionally, the bill stipulates that individuals who attempt illegal entry will be barred from returning and will not be eligible for British citizenship.

A new law proposed by the UK government to prevent illegal immigration has caused controversy.

The Illegal Migration Bill includes provisions to detain and deport individuals who enter the country without permission, including those who cross the English Channel in small boats.

Those who attempt to enter the UK illegally will be prohibited from returning and applying for British citizenship.

The opposition parties have criticized the proposal, with Labour MPs condemning it as a dehumanizing policy for vulnerable people, and the Liberal Democrats calling it immoral.

Human rights groups, including the Refugee Council, have also expressed concern that the Bill violates the UK's obligations under the UN Human Rights Convention.

During a House of Commons address on Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman presented the government's proposals, stating that "Failing to respond to the influx of illegal immigrants crossing our borders would be a betrayal of the people we are elected to represent."

She added that without immediate action, the issue would only escalate in the future.

Setting out the government's plans in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the home secretary Suella Braverman said, "For a government not to respond to waves of illegal arrivals breaching our borders would be to betray the will of the people we are elected to serve, unless we act today, the problem will be worse tomorrow."

The Illegal Migration Bill will change the law so that those who arrive in the UK illegally will not be able to stay here and will instead be detained and then promptly removed, either to their home country or a safe third country.

The bill has the following objectives, to:

  • Put a stop to illegal migration into the UK by removing the incentive to make dangerous small boat crossings
  • Speed up the removal of those with no right to be here, in turn this will free up capacity so that the UK can better support those in genuine need of asylum through safe and legal routes
  • Crack down on the opportunities to abuse modern slavery protections, by preventing people who come to the UK through illegal and dangerous journeys from misusing modern slavery safeguards to block their removal
  • Ensure that the UK continues to support those in genuine need by committing to resettling a specific number of the most vulnerable refugees in the UK every year.

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