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Europes once biggest migrant centre to close in Italy

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What was once Europe's biggest migrant reception centre, in Mineo in Sicily, is to officially close on Tuesday in the presence of its biggest critic, far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

"Promise kept," Salvini, in government also as deputy prime minister for the past year, said last week when the centre's final inhabitants were removed, to be sent to another centre in Calabria.

This reception centre, a former housing complex for the US military that resembles an American suburb, is now guarded by Italian troops who block access under a roasting Sicilian sun.

At its peak in 2014, Mineo housed more than 4,100 people.

Its population then steadily dropped. When anti-migrant Salvini and the populist Five Star Movement came to power in June last year, it housed 2,500.

Psychologist Massimiliano Terrasi stood amid the arid countryside outside the centre where he worked since 2011, disappointed at what he said could have been.

"Hopes were high when the centre first opened and we grew professionally," he told AFP-TV.

"Well managed, it could have been an asset for the area and for people's mutual understanding," he lamented, voicing anger at the abrupt end to his years of work, final wages still unpaid.

In the beginning, care and hygiene conditions were decent, he said. But things started to deteriorate when the population went over 3,000.

"If you look at how the centre was in the end, it's a good thing that it closed. But if you think what it could have been, it's a pity," he said.

– Built 'on numbers' –

Local resident Sergio Mastrilli was more critical, as he drank a beer on a Mineo bar terrace.

"When the centre first opened, I immediately thought it wasn't a good thing," he said.

"It wasn't a reception centre built on integration but on numbers."

Mastrilli, a 25-year-old law student, is a supporter of Luigi di Maio's anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is in a ruling coalition with Salvini's Lega for the last 13 months.

"There were more than 4,000 people from 85 different ethnicities, while Mineo has around 5,000 inhabitants," he said.

He called for a Europe-wide solution to migration, and suggested "many migrants would like to stay in their own countries," if they could.

The centre's 400 small yellow and pink houses lie in tidy rows, a reminder of the time when US families from the neighbouring base at Sigonella called it home.

But the US military gave up its lease in 2010, and the arrival of the reception centre and migrants made Sicilians in the area both worried and jealous.

The migrants were notably prepared to work for 10 or 20 euros (11-22 dollars) a day during the orange harvest, angering locals who could not work for so little.

– 'A big illusion' –

But the centre also employed 400 people in the area, and Mineo's current mayor, Giuseppe Mistretta, has threatened to resign if the state doesn't help with the post-migrant transition.

"Mineo's closure is the inexorable epilogue of a big illusion, in a region starved of jobs," said Sicily's conservative regional president Nello Musumeci.

Several judicial probes are currently underway, implicating notably Mineo's former mayor and the centre's former director.

Allegations include preferential awarding of contracts, and an exaggeration of migrant numbers to attract state subsidies that accompanied each new arrival.

In January, police broke up a Nigerian organised crime drug dealing group based within the centre and a prostitution ring.

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SOCAR rep clarifies poisoning incident at Azerbaijans Sumgait plant

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Thirteen employees of Azerbaijan’s Ustay company appealed to the management in connection with dizziness and nausea, Ibrahim Ahmadov, deputy head of the Public Relations and Event Management Department of the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR, told Trend on Nov. 16.

Ahmadov was commenting on the poisoning incident at the Sumgait plant.

Several media outlets spread the information about the mass poisoning at one of the Sumgait plants on Nov. 16. In accordance with the information, the poisoned people were SOCAR employees.

“The employees were sent to the Unikal clinic for a check-up,” the deputy's head said. "Ten of 13 people left the clinic to undergo treatment. Three people were transported to the toxicology department of the Clinical Medical Center."

Ahmadov stressed that the cause of their malaise is unknown.

"No gas leaks were detected in the company,” the deputy's head said. “Our employees from SOCAR, working in the adjacent territory, feel good. There are no problems."

So far, the cause of the incident is unclear.

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Azerbaijani President congratulates Sultan of Oman

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The President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has sent a congratulatory letter to the Sultan of Oman His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on the occasion of the National holiday of the Sultanate of Oman, APA reports citing Presidential press-service.

The letter reads:

"Your Majesty,

It is on the occasion of the National holiday of the Sultanate of Oman that on my personal behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan I offer my cordial congratulations to you and through you, the people of your country.

On this prominent day, I wish strong health and success in every endeavor to you and everlasting peace and prosperity to the friendly people of Oman."

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Graham blocks resolution on the disputed Armenian issue

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Following a meeting with US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the US senator stood up to tell his colleagues they should not sugarcoat or rewrite history, according to TRT World.

On October 29, as Turkey celebrated the 96th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic in Washington, the House of Representatives voted 405-11 in favor of the resolution to recognize the alleged killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

The resolution was not legally binding unless the Senate passes it.

On Wednesday 13 November, US Senator Lindsey Graham blocked the passage of the resolution which would officially recognize the so-called Armenian genocide. Graham's objection came hours after he took part in a White House meeting with US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan alongside a group of Republican senators.

Graham objected to passing the resolution in the Senate, saying senators shouldn't "sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it".

The House vote came in the wake of Ankara's operation in northern Syria to secure its borders from the YPG/PKK terrorist organisation in order to establish a safe zone for Syrian refugees who are currently in Turkey.

The YPG is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization in the EU, US and Turkey. The YPG/PKK is responsible for more than 40,000 deaths in Turkey.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who has faced corruption allegations in the past and been accused of “poor judgement” in accepting illegal campaign donations, has been one of the main people pushing for the Armenian resolution.

Graham, however, said that he was objecting to the resolution "not because of the past but because of the future" adding on the Senate floor that he hoped “Turkey and Armenia can come together and deal with this problem".

Erdogan has in the past repeatedly reiterated his call for historians to investigate the issue.

"If the US side really wants to act fairly, it should refrain from taking a political stand on a matter that historians should decide," Erdogan has said.

In recent times the main triggers of voting and blocking the Armenian resolutions have been related to politics and not humanitarian sensibilities.

The Turkish operation in Syria was this time the main impetus for this resolution there has also been a distinctly anti-Turkish shift amongst US politicians in the House and the Senate.

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