Obama Vetoes Bill To Allow Sept. 11 Victims To Sue Saudi Government

Visitors honor victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., earlier this month. Gene J. Puskar/AP hide caption

toggle caption Gene J. Puskar/AP

President Obama made good today on earlier threats by vetoing legislation passed unanimously by the House and Senate. The rejected bill would waive sovereign immunity protections for Saudi Arabia and allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks or their relatives to sue the Saudi government for allegedly helping at least some of the 19 hijackers who carried out those attacks. Fifteen of the attackers were Saudi nationals.

The veto, the 12th of Obama’s presidency, sets the stage for likely showdown votes next week in both the House and Senate. If two-thirds majorities of each chamber vote to override the president’s veto, it will be the first time that’s happened during Obama’s nearly eight years in office.

It’s a strange turn of events for a president who is widely seen by congressional Republicans as an unreliable ally of Saudi Arabia — and for a GOP-led Congress that is more typically a dependable supporter of that kingdom.

This time Obama is siding with the Saudis, who vehemently oppose the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. The Saudis have threatened to dump hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. assets that could possibly be frozen by any American judge hearing a lawsuit. Lawmakers from both parties have chosen the interests of the Sept. 11 families seeking justice over those of the House of Saud.

In a three-page statement that accompanied the veto, Obama spelled out his reasons for seemingly defying the wishes of the grieving families. JASTA, he wrote, “would be detrimental to U.S. interests.” It would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor make the U.S. response to such attacks any more effective.

He said it would take the official response to any foreign government supporting terrorism “out of the hands of national security and foreign policy professionals” and instead place it in the hands of private litigants and courts.

The president said it would expose U.S. officials, service members, and even businesses abroad to lawsuits by setting a precedent for removing longstanding sovereign immunity protections.

Obama also raised the prospect of different U.S. courts reaching different conclusions about foreign defendants — and of complications in relations with U.S. allies who may be the objects of litigation and wide-ranging discovery based on “even minimal allegations.”

Some key lawmakers appear open to considering such arguments. “I want to hear the president’s reasons for vetoing,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told NPR Thursday. “I want to read his veto message. I’m not going to make a decision until I see the president’s concerns.” As the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Cardin’s decision could influence other Democratic senators who say they’re still on the fence about whether to override or sustain the JASTA veto. “I think this is going to be a close call,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a Thursday interview.

But another influential Senate Democrat is openly opposing the president’s veto. “This is a disappointing decision that will be swiftly and soundly overturned by Congress,” said JASTA co-sponsor Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement. “I believe both parties will come together next week to make JASTA the law of the land.”

Schumer may be right. An aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., JASTA’s other co-sponsor, tells NPR that virtually every one of the Senate’s 54 Republicans can be counted on for a veto override. And while Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has remained on the sidelines of this family fight, he told reporters earlier this week he expects the votes to be there for overcoming the veto.

A veto override in the House also appears highly likely. Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters this week he worries about “trial lawyers trying to get rich off of this and I worry about precedence.” Still, Ryan said the Sept. 11 victims “need to have their day in court,” and declared there are enough votes in the House for a veto override to pass.

The Senate is likely to go first in voting to scuttle the veto. Such a vote won’t happen before Tuesday, when that chamber meets for the full day.

Advocates for the Sept 11 families are eager to see JASTA remove the legal veil of protection that’s prevented them from moving forward against Saudi officials in a lawsuit filed in the Southern District Court of New York. “”If all JASTA does is say that the families of these murdered Americans can have their day in court,” says Jack Quinn, a co-counsel in the lawsuit, “why is (Saudi Arabia) on the other side?” If the Saudis are as entirely innocent as they say they are, Quinn adds, “why be afraid of an exploration of the facts?”

A statement issued after the veto by the group 9/11 Families & Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism takes aim directly at Obama. “We are outraged and dismayed at the President’s veto of JASTA and the unconvincing and unsupportable reasons that he offers as explanation,” they wrote. “JASTA is a narrowly drawn statute that restores longstanding legal principles that have enjoyed bipartisan support for decades.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Ugandan Actress' Journey Mirrors That Of Her 'Queen Of Katwe' Character

Queen of Katwe was filmed in English, but that isn’t Madina Nalwanga’s first language. “She worked extremely hard,” co-star Lupita Nyong’o says, “and I think her discipline as a dancer came in very handy.” Edward Echwalu/Disney Enterprises Inc. hide caption

toggle caption Edward Echwalu/Disney Enterprises Inc.

The new movie Queen of Katwe has a familiar theme: It’s the real-life story of a girl from the slums who discovers an unlikely talent (chess) and becomes an unlikely champion. But in other ways, the film is revolutionary: It may be the first time a major studio (Disney) has set a movie in Africa with all black actors and no animals.

The cast includes Lupita Nyong’o, an Oscar-winning actress who is on the current (October) cover of Vogue, and Madina Nalwanga, a teenager from a poor neighborhood in Kampala, Uganda, who has never made a movie before. (A casting director found Nalwanga in a community dance class.)

First-time film actress Madina Nalwanga (left) says she often copied co-star Lupita Nyong’o’s warm-up exercises on the set of Queen of Katwe. Edward Echwalu/Disney Enterprises Inc. hide caption

toggle caption Edward Echwalu/Disney Enterprises Inc.

Like her character, Phiona, Nalwanga grew up struggling to help her family pay for basic things, like education. And like Phiona, who travels the world for chess championships, Nalwanga is now rocketing through worlds she never imagined. Nyong’o, who plays Phiona’s mother in the film, has been Nalwanga’s guide through that world. And as the actresses tell NPR’s Ari Shapiro, Nalwanga was Nyong’o’s guide to Uganda.

“I told her how to make Ugandan food, matoke [mashed plantains], to prepare all of that,” Nalwanga says. She also taught Nyong’o Luganda, the major language of Uganda, and some Ugandan lullabies.


Interview Highlights

On Nalwanga’s first red carpet

Nyong’o: When we were at TIFF [the Toronto International Film Festival] we were getting ready together and I was nervous that she was going to do this. And then I see video of her coming out of the car and she just looks like she is in her element, you know.

Nalwanga: It wasn’t so easy for me hearing all these people calling my name. … Please do this, do that. I wasn’t used to that. I’ve never dreamt of standing on that red carpet. Actually what I knew about the red carpet — it’s just a carpet that is supposed to be inside the house. … These are all new things to my eyes.

Nalwanga walks the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10. Jesse Herzog/Invision/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jesse Herzog/Invision/AP

On what Nyong’o taught Nalwanga about acting

Nalwanga: Lupita, she really helped me, like, to get into the character all the time. I could see her getting ready to be the character and then I copied her. I would copy everything that she does, but in a silent way because I never wanted her to see me doing what she was doing. … We had tough scenes whereby we have to cry. And it was kind of hard to me to cry, but I saw her getting ready — she was exercising all the time.

Nyong’o: I was loosening my jaw, like you know, with my hands. … She came up to me and she asked me what I was doing and why, and I told her. I was loosening my jaw. … Sometimes when you’re nervous or something like that, your jaw gets caught up and then you can’t really enunciate. Then she walked away, and then shortly after that I walked by the set when she was doing a scene without me and between takes she was loosening her jaw. Very sweet.

On what Nalwanga plans to do after the red carpets

Nalwanga: I want to go back to school. And I want to continue with acting and also dancing.

Nyong’o: What I love about Madina is that she shares that fierce, fierce determination with Phiona of finishing her education. Phiona didn’t come to our set because she was in school. That kind of fierce, fierce determination — these are lives that are still very much being formed. This is Phiona’s history and she has a complete future ahead of her and she knows she has to work to get to where she wants to get to. And I think Madina understands that, too. In fact, she’s been lamenting about not having enough time to study, and I really admire that and encourage that in her.

On whether Nalwanga and Nyong’o will stay in touch

Nyong’o: We’ve talked to each other at least once every two, three weeks. … So yeah, I am here for her if she will have me.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Native Hawaiians Now Have A Pathway To Form A Government

A beach near the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which was expanded earlier this month, and is considered a sacred place by Native Hawaiians. Saul Loeb /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Saul Loeb /AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Department of the Interior has announced that Native Hawaiians can now choose whether to form a unified government, which could eventually enter into formal government-to-government relations with the U.S.

It would be the first time the Native Hawaiian community had their own government since their Kingdom was overthrown in 1893 by merchants and sugar planters.

This is a result of a reconciliation process that has lasted more than 20 years, as Hawaii Public Radio reported, and “the new relationship would be similar to the tribal status of Native American Indian groups.”

Any change would come following a referendum, the Interior Department said. Native Hawaiians are under no obligation to form a unified government as a result of the new rule – rather, it’s meant to decide on its future “as an exercise of its self-determination.”

“If a formal government-to-government is reestablished, it could provide the community with greater flexibility to preserve its distinct culture and traditions,” the department added. “It could also enhance their ability to affect its special status under Federal law by exercising powers of self-government over many issues directly impacting community members.” Additionally, a Native Hawaiian unified government “could establish courts or other institutions to interpret and enforce its laws.”

Many Native Hawaiians welcomed the new rule, like Annelle Amaral, the president of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. “What it allows us to do is to finally have control over our sacred sites, over health care for our people, over the education of our children,” Amaral told the member station. “Instead of waiting for someone else to do something about our problems, with our own government we can begin to initiate change.”

Additionally, “Native Hawaiians have been the only major indigenous group in the 50 states without a process for establishing a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. This rule finally remedies this injustice,” the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairperson Robert K. Lindsey said, according to Hawaii Public Radio.

The new rule does not “authorize or in any way contemplate compensation for any past wrongs,” the department said. Hawaii Public Radio spoke to an activist named Bumpy Kanahele who opposed the announcement: he said “the involvement of the federal government is not welcome. And stands in the way of a return to an independent, sovereign Hawaiian nation.”

The new pathway to federal recognition comes after another major federal decision regarding Hawaii earlier this month. As we reported, President Obama quadrupled the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, off the coast of his home state. In the announcement, the White House said that “Native Hawaiian culture considers the Monument and the adjacent area a sacred place.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Did Russia Hack The NSA? Maybe Not

Adm. Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, speaks at Georgetown University on April 26. Three years after Edward Snowden disclosed NSA files, the agency is checking to see if was recently hacked. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lately Russia has been taking the blame for hacking everyone from the Democratic National Committee to former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the National Security Agency.

When it emerged last month that the world’s most elite hackers might themselves have been hacked, all eyes turned to Russia. It is, after all, hard to imagine a juicier target for a hacker sitting in Moscow.

“This required advanced skills, and that narrows you down to a very short list of countries pretty fast,” Thomas Rid, a cyber-security expert at King’s College London, told NPR at the time. “Also, what country other has demonstrated an interest in dumping information right now?”

But as the investigation proceeds, the facts of what happened may turn out to be more complicated.

“I would be very surprised if Russia had successfully hacked the NSA,” says former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis. “Do they try? Oh, I bet they do. But have they succeeded? I don’t think so.”

Pressed in an interview on why he thinks this, Inglis picks his words carefully. He says he doubts Russia is capable of breaching NSA systems in the way people typically think of that happening, “that they cracked a firewall somewhere and they [burrowed] into the internals of NSA.”

This careful choice of words leaves open the possibility that Russia got into some other way. Say, with the help — unwitting or not — of an NSA employee.

The Shadow Of The Snowden Case

Inglis was the Agency’s number two at the time when Edward Snowden copied top-secret files and disclosed them to the world. The prospect of another possible inside job is not lost on him.

“In 2016, three years after Edward Snowden, most would hope — ‘Hey, I thought you solved that problem.’ Turns out the problem’s not static and stable, all right? You can’t solve it once and for all,” Inglis says.

Current NSA officials did not respond to our request for comment.

But on Aug. 1, Adm. Mike Rogers, head of US Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, gave an interview to NPR.

We asked him: could there be another Snowden?

“Listen, there can always — wherever you have a human dimension, you have the potential for that kind of challenge,” Rogers replied. “What I want to make sure is, it doesn’t happen on that scale and it doesn’t happen with any kind of duration.”

To be clear, the Rogers interview was taped before news of the apparent hack broke. It’s not clear whether he and others at NSA already knew about the breach, or whether they learned about it a couple of weeks later, when the rest of the world did. Nor is it clear — if an NSA employee was involved — whether this was a rogue operator intentionally revealing classified code, or a mistake.

Looking For Insider Involvement

“The hypothesis I’ve seen which makes the most sense is that an NSA operator screwed up,” says Nick Weaver, a security researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

Under this scenario, an NSA staffer or contractor uploaded the toolkit they needed for an operation and then, “somebody came along and stole it,” says Weaver. “Could be Russia. Could be China. The smart money is on Russia.”

Which brings us full circle. Of the various explanations that have been floated for the NSA breach, cyber security experts say that while Russia may have been responsible for making the files public, Russia likely got them from an NSA insider.

This prompts questions about timing. The leaked files date from 2013 — the same year Snowden stunned the world with his disclosures — and since then the NSA has tightened internal security. The agency belongs to the Defense Department, whose Inspector General just wrapped up a review of whether those reforms go far enough.

The report, dated Aug. 29, is classified. The Inspector General’s office declined to comment on its conclusions.

All you can see online is the title, which begins: “NSA Should Take Additional Steps.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Candidates Want To Raise The Economic Tide To Lift Opportunity, But How?

Coleson McCoy watches Heather Milliron work on a project in advanced physical science at the Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield, Ohio. The city, which lost jobs as factories closed, is trying to boost local incomes with education. Maddie McGarvey for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Maddie McGarvey for NPR

Much of the anger and anxiety in the 2016 election is fueled by the sense that economic opportunity is slipping away for many Americans. This week, as part of NPR’s collaborative project with member stations, A Nation Engaged, we’re asking the question: What can be done to create economic opportunity for more Americans?

The number of Americans who believe their children will have an equal shot at getting ahead in life has fallen in the past decade. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have talked about economic opportunity in this year’s presidential campaign, but they’re doing it in very different ways.

The notion of the level playing field is fundamental to the way Americans see themselves. And both Trump and Clinton say the country right now is falling short of that goal.

“We need to grow the economy and we need to make it fairer,” Clinton said in a speech in Michigan last month. “The tide is not rising fast enough, and it is certainly not lifting all boats. Since the crash, too many of the gains have gone to the top one percent.”

To Mike Schmidt, senior adviser to her campaign, the principle of opportunity for all is suffused throughout Clinton’s entire vision of American life. “One of the things she’s emphasized throughout this campaign, and really throughout her career, has been this notion that she wants every American to live up to his or her God-given potential because she says only then will our country live up to its potential,” he says.

For example, when Clinton talks about spending more money on public transportation, Schmidt says, she’s trying to ensure that more Americans have access to the best-paying jobs. “It’s about using infrastructure investment to unlock opportunity for those who currently aren’t seeing enough of it,” he says.

Republicans see dwindling economic opportunity over the past decade as one of Clinton’s real vulnerabilities in this year’s election.

“Hillary’s basically saying, I’m going to provide four more years of what we’ve been doing for the last eight years where we’ve had two percent growth that’s now slowed to one percent growth,” says Stephen Moore, a senior fellow in economics at the Heritage Foundation and an adviser to the Trump campaign.

The Trump campaign itself did not respond to an interview request for this story. But Trump himself frequently uses rhetoric about economic opportunity in his speeches. He describes a political and financial elite that has rigged the system in its favor and is indifferent to what he calls the country’s forgotten men and women.

“People who work hard but don’t have a voice,” Trump said in a speech at the New York Economic Club earlier this month, “I’m running to be their voice and to fight and bring prosperity to every part of this country.”

Trump’s actual economic platform is less detailed than Clinton’s, and much of it centers generally around familiar Republican themes — school choice, less regulation and tax cuts to spur business investment and growth.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Donald Trump has a much more promising economic approach to providing more opportunity in this country,” Moore says. “Opportunity means you have a job. Opportunity means you get a good education.”

Like Clinton, Trump has also talked frequently about repairing the country’s aging economic infrastructure. In fact, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank, says Trump actually wants to spend more money on infrastructure than Clinton. But Weisbrot says that’s at odds with the large tax cuts Trump also proposes.

“If that’s true, then the question is where is he going to get the money, which is fine if he wants to borrow it. But then he also complains about the size of the deficit and the debt,” Weisbrot says.

Weisbrot says neither candidate has adequately addressed what he sees as one of the underpinnings of opportunity — Federal Reserve policy. If the Fed raises rates this year, it will have an impact on employment. Both Clinton and Trump say they want to ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at getting ahead, Weisbrot says, but without a healthy job market that amounts to little more than rhetoric.

Some candidates have been saying that boosting economic opportunity hinges on making the economy grow faster. “A rising tide lifts all boats” has been a staple of U.S. political rhetoric since President Kennedy used the phrase back in 1963.

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says there’s a lot to that notion, but “it’s not the whole story.” He says that even in 2016, boosting the economy’s growth rate would do a lot to create jobs and opportunity for most Americans.

In the late 1990s, a time when growth was strong, “we got 4 percent unemployment and saw good wage growth up and down the income ladder.”

It’s the only time in the past 40 years that growth was strong enough to reduce income inequality significantly. So how do we get the economy to grow faster? In the 1990s the Fed held off raising interest rates even as unemployment reached historic lows. Baker says today’s Fed should heed that lesson.

He and other economists, including Susan Helper of Case Western Reserve University, say there’s another obvious way to boost growth — spend a big chunk of government money on infrastructure. “We could do that at almost no financing cost because interest rates are so low,” Helper says.

Right now, the government can borrow money for 10 years at interest rates well below 2 percent. Helper says private industry is held back when government fails to invest in roads, bridges and ports. And spending money that way would give more workers jobs and put upward pressure on wages.

“And in the long term it would create infrastructure that allows business to be more efficient and to grow faster,” she says.

Clinton and Trump both support boosting infrastructure spending. But while faster economic growth is necessary to create jobs and opportunity, Helper says it’s not enough to lift everyone’s boat. Just look at the booming growth in places like Boston and San Francisco, while some Midwestern cities are struggling.

Springfield, Ohio, is attempting a comeback with downtown revitalization. Maddie McGarvey for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Maddie McGarvey for NPR

This week, NPR has focused on Springfield, a small Ohio city that once thrived on manufacturing. But for decades it has lost jobs and incomes as factories closed and workers lost jobs. Springfield is attempting a comeback. One strategy is downtown revitalization.

Margaret Mattox is in the middle of that. Eight years ago, she and her brother started an upscale restaurant called Seasons. It was a big risk. “I was scared to death,” Mattox says. “The night before we opened I thought, ‘What if nobody comes? You know, what if nobody shows up?’ “

People did show up. The lawyers, bankers, and medical professionals working downtown became regular customers. But Mattox worries there aren’t enough of them. “It’s a challenge. I think the market is somewhat limited in Springfield of the people who want to pay $12 for a sandwich and a side,” she says.

Springfield is trying to boost local incomes with education. There’s a new public technology and engineering school.

Education is important, says Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, but it’s not a silver bullet. “You can get a good education, but a lot of tech now changes so quickly that that’s rapidly obsolete,” Cowen says. “So the question really is, can you retrain yourself very quickly all the time. And the percentage of people who can do that is relatively small.”

And Cowen says, even getting a decent education in the first place is not a given. “The bottom third of the American system of education is a complete wreck,” he says. Cowen says one way to remedy that is vouchers that give parents the option to move their kids to better-performing schools.

Baker promotes vouchers for another barrier that many Americans face — finding affordable housing in good communities. “When children grow up in these pockets of severe poverty they’re seriously disadvantaged, so if we could allow people, lower-income people to move into middle-income neighborhoods, that’s a really good thing to help people at the bottom.”

Baker says another reason for the widening income gap is that trade agreements have forced U.S. factory workers to compete with workers overseas. Meanwhile, the incomes of U.S. professionals are protected.

“We’ve done little or nothing to make it easy for smart kids from Germany, Japan, Mexico, China to train to our standards and come to the United States and work as a doctor,” Baker says. Opening U.S. professions to the same international competition that U.S. factory workers face would lower the costs of services for all Americans, he says.

So, there’s no shortage of ideas for how to help Americans at the bottom of the income ladder. But Cowen says that despite our political rhetoric, we haven’t made it a priority.

“All of these changes, they would hurt someone,” he says. “We have this myth that we can grow and be dynamic while no one has to lose anything. But some home value must decline. Some people have to live in more integrated neighborhoods, some professions will earn less money as we open them up to competition.”

But, Cowen says, Americans aren’t mentally prepared to face that yet.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Finding Europe Untenable, More Migrants Return To Their Home Countries

Afghan migrants in the initial reception center for asylum seekers in Gera, Germany, in February. Jens Meyer/AP hide caption

toggle caption Jens Meyer/AP

The International Organization for Migration says more people are opting to voluntarily return to their home countries, rather than staying in host countries as migrants.

In a report released Friday, the IOM says it assisted more than 51,000 people leaving host countries, most of them leaving Europe, in the first six months of 2016. By comparison, the organization helped about 69,000 people in all of 2015.

If the current rate continues, 100,000 people are on track to leave host countries by the end of the year, the IOM says.

The top three countries people returned to are Albania, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the vast majority of people left Germany, which has been flooded with migrants in recent years. In 2015, Germany became the largest recipient of first-time individual asylum claims, when almost 442,000 people applied for asylum within its borders.

In Germany, one reaction has been to deport more people, and more quickly. Deutsche Welle reported earlier this year that the German government intends to deport about 27,000 people in 2016. “In Bavaria the deportations have risen significantly,” Stephan Dünnwald of the Bavarian Refugee Council told the German news outlet in June. “The Bavarian interior minister is trying to force through at least one deportation flight a week.”

Deutsche Welle reports the pace of deportations changes how the country treats asylum seekers from places like Afghanistan.

As NPR has reported, 150,000 Afghans arrived in Germany in 2015, less than half of whom the German government expects to qualify for asylum. NPR’s Phil Reeves reported on one man who, despite the war in his home country and the thousands of dollars he paid a smuggler to get to Germany, returned to Kabul.

Reeves reports:

“The Germans are running a PR campaign in Afghanistan, trying to deter Afghans from traveling to their land. They’ve posted announcements on billboards, buses and the Internet, urging Afghans to think twice before setting off.

“Germany views many of the Afghans who’ve arrived on its soil as economic migrants seeking jobs or education.

“German officials maintain that under international law, Germany is not required to grant asylum to those migrants — unlike Syrians, who are fleeing a war zone.

“The United Nations estimates that last year, some 11,000 civilians were killed or injured by conflict in Afghanistan. Afghans say that bolsters proof that there is war in Afghanistan, too — and that Afghans should therefore be granted protection by European nations.”

Some case studies of Iraqis collected by the IOM branch in Germany also cite trouble getting asylum and work as reasons for returning to Iraq. The IOM has a program in Germany designed specifically to assist people who say they want to go back to Iraqi Kurdistan.

One woman, referred to by the IOM as Peiman S., said she arrived in Germany in 2003, and learned German over the course of a decade there. But, although she was allowed to stay, Peiman was not officially allowed to work or study. She realized her asylum application was likely to be denied, and decided to voluntary return to Kurdistan.

The IOM report on voluntary returns comes as the organization also notes that more people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe than this time last year. More than 2,800 people have died trying to make the crossing since January. On Wednesday, a ship carrying hundreds of people capsized off the coast of Egypt.

On Friday, rescuers were still recovering bodies. The AP reports more than 150 people have been confirmed dead and that Egyptian officials say they have rescued 160 people. Survivors told CNN the ship was overfilled, carrying upwards of 500 people, when it sank.

Survivors of a capsized migrant boat at a police station in Rosetta, Egypt, on Wednesday. More than 100 people have been confirmed dead, and hundreds more are unaccounted for. Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Let’s block ads! (Why?)