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Just before the arrival of the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, we made a quick inspection of the island of Lampedusa. 

This week more than 11,560 migrants have journeyed to this small, stubbly spot in the central Mediterranean, making it both the location and physical symbol of Europe’s current migration crisis.

What we found, as we viewed the central pier at the port and the reception centre inland, was something of an alternative universe.

On Saturday, hundreds of migrants had queued on the dock as their boats and creaky vessels arrived in port.

On Sunday, we found no one.

At the reception centre, known locally as the “hotspot”, we found local workers sweeping the grounds and picking up litter.

Significantly, the number of migrants housed within the centre has been greatly reduced.

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After days of chaos, the island had been sanitised to a certain extent.

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Meloni answers question from Sky News

This was understandable on grounds of security.

The reception centre has a formal capacity of 400, but there were upwards of 3,000 in the place on Saturday.

At one stage, migrants fought their way out as they complained of hunger, overcrowding and non-existent hygiene provisions.

Presenting such scenes to Ms von der Leyen and Ms Meloni would have been unacceptable – certainly to their security teams.

But when they told a news conference they needed to travel to Lampedusa to better understand the issues, we wondered if they would get the full story.

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Will Lampedusa make it harder for Starmer’s rhetoric to pay off?

The commission president said: “It’s very important for me to be here together with you.

“The local community has continued to do its utmost to support the men and women and children who have made it to the island.”

This speedy reimposition of control made for a startling contrast and suggests the Italian authorities do have the capacity to temporarily house and process thousands of migrants on Lampedusa and other coastal communities.

What is in dispute here is responsibility and cost.

Migrants are seen inside the hotspot, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, September 16, 2023. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
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The reception centre had been heavily overcrowded on Saturday

Ms Meloni was clear in her remarks that Italy should not bear the full weight of migration and asylum in the EU.

“If we don’t work seriously all together to fight the illegal departures, the numbers of this phenomenon will not only overwhelm the border countries but all of the others,” she said.

The Italian leader may have softened her stance against the EU since coming to power, but she is still advocating for an “efficient” naval blockade of the North African coast.

Additionally, she wants the EU to forge agreements with countries of origin that allow for the rapid repatriation of migrants.

What she got from Ms von der Leyen was a 10-point EU action plan that seemed light on specific details.

Much like British politicians, the commission president did talk about the “ruthless” and “brutal” smugglers and criminal gangs that she blamed for transporting people to Lampedusa.

But the smugglers and gangs are an easy target.

European leaders (including British ones) know the gangs are servicing a near-limitless demand for safety, security and better life outcomes for many in Africa and the Middle East.

Doing something about it is going to take a far longer and more comprehensive action plan.

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Donald Sutherland, Hunger Games and Kelly’s Heroes actor, dies

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Donald Sutherland, Hunger Games and Kelly's Heroes actor, dies

Donald Sutherland, who appeared in films including The Hunger Games and Kelly’s Heroes, has died at the age of 88.

His agency, CAA, said he died in Miami “after a long illness”.

The Canadian actor won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance in the mini-series Citizen X.

In 2017, he received an honorary Oscar.

His son, fellow actor Kiefer Sutherland, said “with a heavy heart” that his father had “passed away”.

“I personally think [he was] one of the most important actors in the history of film,” Kiefer Sutherland posted on X, adding that he was “never daunted by a role – good, bad or ugly”.

“He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.”

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Sutherland with his son Kiefer. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Sutherland with his son Kiefer. Pic: Reuters

In the Hunger Games franchise, Donald Sutherland played President Snow alongside Jennifer Lawrence.

In Kelly’s Heroes he starred alongside Telly Savalas and Clint Eastwood as Sergeant Oddball – on a mission to steal gold from the Nazis.

“I love to work – I passionately love to work,” Sutherland told US talk show host Charlie Rose in 1998.

“I love to feel my hand fit into the glove of some other character. I feel a huge freedom – time stops for me. I’m not as crazy as I used to be, but I’m still a little crazy.”

Sutherland with Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence in 2015. Pic: AP
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Sutherland with Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence in 2015. Pic: AP

His “breakthrough performances” were in 1967 movie The Dirty Dozen and MASH, CAA said.

He also took parts in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People and Oliver Stone’s JFK.

He is survived by his wife Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren.

“A private celebration of his life will be held by the family,” CAA said.

Born in St John, New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada in July 1935, he was the son of a salesman and a mathematics teacher.

He started university in Toronto as an engineering student but switched to English and started acting in college productions.

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Serbia threaten to pull out of Euro 2024 over Croatia and Albania chants

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Serbia threaten to pull out of Euro 2024 over Croatia and Albania chants

Serbia have threatened to pull its football team out of Euro 2024 if UEFA doesn’t punish Croatia and Albania for alleged hateful chants.

Jovan Surbatovic, general secretary of the Serbian football association, said they have made a formal complaint about “kill, kill, kill the Serb” chants during the 2-2 draw between Croatia and Albania on Wednesday.

He warned the team could pull out entirely if the European football governing body UEFA doesn’t act on their complaint.

“What happened is scandalous and we will ask UEFA for sanctions, even if it means not continuing the competition,” Mr Surbatovic said, according to Serbian broadcaster PTC.

“If UEFA doesn’t punish them, we will think about how to proceed.”

Serbia face Slovenia in Group C on Thursday, having lost to England 1-0 on Sunday.

England's Jude Bellingham in action with Serbia's Nikola Milenkovic. Pic: Reuters
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England’s Jude Bellingham in action with Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic. Pic: Reuters

The Serbian FA was charged by UEFA for incidents during that game.

Supporters displayed a banner that “transmitted a provocative message unfit for a sports event” and threw objects inside the stadium, according to UEFA.

That charge came after the Kosovo Football Federation complained about “Serbian fans displaying political, chauvinistic, and racist messages against Kosovo”.

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Reuters news agency reported a group of Serbia fans chanted “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” in central Munich’s Marienplatz on Thursday, ahead of their team’s game against Slovenia.

“We were punished for isolated cases and our fans behaved much better than the others,” Mr Surbatovic said.

“One fan was punished for racist insults and we don’t want it to be attributed to others. We Serbs are gentlemen and we have an open heart.”

UEFA has been approached for comment.

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Jay Slater: Photographs show Tenerife property where missing British teenager was last seen

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Jay Slater: Photographs show Tenerife property where missing British teenager was last seen

Photographs show the Tenerife property where British teenager Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen before he went missing on Monday.

A Snapchat video shared by the 19-year-old on Sunday night appears to show the property he visited in the northwestern mountain village of Masca after attending the NRG music festival.

Mr Slater, from Oswaldtwistle near Blackburn in Lancashire, was holidaying with friends on the island before he went missing.

The property where Mr Slater is believed to have been last seen
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The property where Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen

His friend Lucy Law told Wednesday’s UK Tonight programme on Sky News that she spoke to Mr Slater on the phone at about 8.15am local time on Monday.

During the short phone call, he told her he had missed a bus trying to get back to his holiday accommodation so was attempting to walk instead – a journey that would take 11 hours.

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Missing British teen’s friend speaks to Sky News

She said he told her he had “cut his leg on a cactus“, didn’t know where he was and his mobile phone battery was down to 1%.

Ms Law also said Mr Slater told her he “needed a drink”.

He was able to send her his last live location which showed as the Rural de Teno Park – a mountainous area popular with hikers – before his phone cut out.

Ms Law said Mr Slater, an apprentice bricklayer, is “not a stupid boy” and would have flagged down any passing car or spoken to a passerby.

Soon after Mr Slater went missing, an American woman offered to drive Ms Law up into the mountains.

There was “literally no sign of him anywhere”, she said. “We drove around all day.”

Ms Law added that they “managed to find the house” where Mr Slater was last seen.

She continued: “I knocked on the door and there were two people there.”

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The property where Jay Slater is believed to have been last seen

They told Ms Law that Mr Slater had gone out for a cigarette before going back in and saying he wanted to go home.

“They told me he’d spoken to the next door neighbours and they’d told him there was a bus every 10 minutes back down to Los Cristianos.

“The bus stop was right next to the house. So obviously if he’d gone to get the bus he wouldn’t have got lost because it [the stop] was visible from the front door.”

Tenerife map for Jay Slater story
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Jay Slater’s phone’s last live location was Rural de Teno Park. The search has also focused on Los Cristianos

The teenager was wearing a T-shirt and shorts and was without food and water, she added.

“It’s very warm in the day and very cold at night,” Ms Law said.

“So in the day he’s going to be really warm without a drink, and then at night he’s going to be very cold without any suitable clothing.”

Read more:
Today is a ‘key day’ in search – local journalist says
Former Coronation Street star prays for his safe return

Jay Slater. Pic: Lucy Law
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Pic: Lucy Law

Pic: Reuters
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A rescue team searches the Masca ravine. Pic: Reuters

Earlier, she told the Manchester Evening News someone Mr Slater had met on the night out had driven him back to their apartment in a hire car without him realising how far away it was.

“He’s ended up out in the middle of nowhere. Jay was obviously thinking he would be able to get home from there,” she told the newspaper.

‘A living nightmare’

Mr Slater’s mother Debbie Duncan, who flew to the island and has joined mountain rescuers and the local civil guard in the search for her son, has called his disappearance “an absolute living nightmare”.

Search teams refocused their efforts on Thursday in the north of Tenerife, where Rural de Teno Park is located, after discounting a potential lead in the south of the island, the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, a Tenerife-based journalist said today is a “key day” in the search for Mr Slater.

Clio O’Flynn told Sky News: “If he’s taken shelter, the hope is he’s waiting for help to come along,”

She added: “The problem will be ‘does he have a phone signal? Will people be able to locate him? Can he hear their cries?'”

Police officers search for a missing  Masca ravine on the island of Tenerife.
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Police officers search the Masca ravine. Pic: Reuters

Ms O’Flynn said the search had been “very intense” with teams using all the resources at their disposal, including “mountain specialists, search dogs, drones and helicopters” and are “taking suggestions from his family, so it’s very coordinated”.

The area where he is believed to have gone missing is a “dry, arid, part of the island”, and, given its volcanic origins, has “ravines and gullies”, Ms O’Flynn said.

She warned there are “no lakes, rivers or streams, so it would be quite hard for him to access fresh water”.

Temperatures have been about 26C (79F), she said, but warned that “if you’re lost, 25C is very hot”.

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has been reported missing in Spain and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The Spanish Civil Guard told UK media they are “doing everything possible” to find Mr Slater.

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