INDEPENDENT 2024-03-18 10:03:50


Iceland declares state of emergency amid huge volcano eruption – live

Iceland has declared a state of emergency after a volcano erupted for the fourth time since December on the Reykjanes Peninsula, spewing bright orange lava high into the air.

The eruption has sent fountains of molten rock soaring from a 3km long fissure, with lava now flowing just a few hundred metres from Grindavik, which was first evacuated back in November.

The powerful lava stream has threatened the region’s main water pipe and is just 200m away, the Icelandic Met Office (IMO) said. The water pipe is close to the Svartsengi power plant, a geothermal power plant that provides hot water to most of the peninsula.

The IMO head warned of “dangerous” consequences of lava possibly reaching the sea if it flows southward.

Residents of the fishing town of Grindavik have once again been evacuated from the area, having received text messages telling them to leave with just a few minutes notice.

Iceland’s civil defence director, Vídir Reynisson, said the main concern is the impact on infrastructure and expressed concerns about pools of lava accumulating near volcano defences.

Sunak facing potential rebellion over Rwanda deportation for Afghans

Rishi Sunak is bracing for a rebellion over plans to exempt Afghan heroes who have supported UK troops from being deported to Rwanda.

The House of Lords backed an amendment to the prime minister’s flagship small boats bill which would prevent deportation of anyone who supported British armed forces in an “exposed or meaningful manner” to the east African country.

It comes after extensive reporting by The Independent on the plight of Afghan heroes who helped the British but were left behind after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

And, as the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill this week returns to the House of Commons, MPs are set to vote on whether to strip out amendments made by peers. Labour is poised to back the 10 amendments sent back by peers, including on Afghans, meaning a Tory rebellion could force the PM’s hand.

The amendment was backed by two former chiefs of the defence staff, a former defence secretary and a former British ambassador to the US.

It was one of several defeats for Mr Sunak over the Rwanda bill in the House of Lords this month.

The Independent has documented several cases of asylum seekers who supported the UK armed forces efforts in Afghanistan and who have since been threatened with removal to Rwanda after arriving in the UK via small boat.

The bill will now go through an extended tussle between the Commons and Lords during “ping-pong”, where legislation is batted between the two Houses until agreement is reached.

The prime minister had previously warned the Lords against frustrating “the will of the people” by hampering the passage of the bill, which has already been approved by MPs.

Mr Sunak’s government is using the bill to try and prevent any legal challenges by asylum seekers to their deportation.

It also currently gives ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights, aiming at clearing the way to send asylum seekers on flights to Rwanda by spring.

Other amendments which the PM will seek to strip out of the bill include one that would overturn the government’s plan to oust the domestic courts from the process of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Peers also voted to enable UK courts to consider appeals against age assessment decisions before a person claiming to be an unaccompanied child is removed to Rwanda.

The Afghan amendment was brought forward by former Labour defence secretary Lord Browne of Ladyton, who highlighted his concerns with the proposed law by citing four examples of cases uncovered by The Independent.

They include former members of the Afghan special forces units, known as The Triples, who fought alongside and were paid and trained by the UK special forces. One former senior British diplomat said it “beggared belief” that these soldiers, who were forced to flee the Taliban, could face being deported to the east African country after all they had been through.

Under the terms of the Illegal Migration Act, the government is required to remove illegal migrants who entered the country after 20 July 2023, when the act received royal assent. The act also bans ministers from granting asylum to anyone who entered the UK illegally on or after 7 March 2023, when it had its first reading.

The new clause, which is also being proposed by crossbench peers Lord Houghton of Richmond, Lord Stirrup, and Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, would mean that people of any nationality who supported the armed forces overseas in an “exposed or meaningful manner” or who were “employed by or indirectly contracted to provide services to the UK government in an exposed or meaningful manner” would be ineligible for Rwanda deportation. It would also exempt their family members from deportation.

Tory MP Julian Lewis indicated he was “sympathetic” with Afghans at risk due to their work helping British and Nato forces fight the Taliban.

But Mr Lewis said it should not be necessary for them to come to Britain in small boats, which would mean they should not have to risk deportation to Rwanda.

Stephen Kinnock MP, Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “We owe many Afghans a debt of gratitude for supporting British aims in Afghanistan, yet the government’s Operation Warm Welcome has fast become Operation Cold Shoulder.

“It beggar’s belief that, instead of processing their claims, the Tories are leaving them in indefinite limbo, unable to get on with their lives, and threatening to send them to Rwanda. It’s time for the government to rethink.”

A Downing Street source said there were no “particular concerns” about a potential rebellion this week.

Kemi Badenoch insists Tory party ‘works well together’ – then urges MPs to back Sunak

Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch has insisted that the party “works very well together” despite reports of an internal plot to oust Rishi Sunak.

Ms Badenoch said on Monday infighting was “just part and parcel of politics” and that we “need to move away from disagreements being portrayed as plots or rows”.

“The facts are that the party works very well together,” she told LBC. “Yes of course, there will be some people who are unhappy, I’m not going to deny that.”

The cabinet minister also dismissed the row over Tory donor Frank Hester’s alleged comments about Diane Abbott as “trivial” and said the businessman – who donated £10m to the Conservative party last year – should not have the money returned.

When asked if the party should return the money, Ms Badenoch said: “I’m actually quite surprised that people suggest this. This was something that happened five years ago. He wasn’t talking to Diane Abbott. It wasn’t even really about Diane Abbott. He used her in a reference that was completely unacceptable. He’s apologised for it.

“I think that it is far more important that we accept the apology and not moving on is taking too much attention away from what is actually meaningful to the people around the country.”

Ms Badenoch was the first cabinet minister to label Mr Hester’s comments “racist” after it was revealed by the Guardian that he had said Ms Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and said she should be “shot”.

But the cabinet minister today called the row “trivia” and said his comments were “in no way reflective of the work that he has been doing while we have taken his money.”

She said: “Now, this is trivia Nick. I’m sorry, but I really do believe it is.

“If you look at the work that this government has been doing to tackle racism, when you look at the really serious issues that people have around violence, around life chances, what this man may or may not have said five years ago, in private, in a casual reference, racist though the comments as reported were, I am afraid is not really in the high priorities of how we deal with racism in this country.”

More follows….

Manchester United’s epic comeback rewrites Klopp’s farewell story

Erik ten Hag was skipping down the touchline in ungainly, awkward joy. A match to save Manchester United’s season, in his own description, may end up saving his job. It certainly ensured that Liverpool will not win the quadruple, that Jurgen Klopp’s reign will not end at Wembley in May’s FA Cup final and, as a result, that he will not face Pep Guardiola in England again.

But while United often delight in Liverpool’s misfortunes, the euphoria reflected an extraordinary end to an epic encounter. This was about United, about the manner of their rescue act and the improbability of it all. Amad Diallo’s lone United goal came three years ago. He has been a bit-part figure at best, but he emerged from the margins to come off the bench, deliver an extra-time winner and be sent off for his celebration. While Ten Hag danced, Amad removed his shirt, at a cost of a second caution, but the telling part was the lightning counterattack, Alejandro Garnacho releasing the Ivorian to slide his shot past Caoimhin Kelleher.

Finally, in a seven-goal affair of fluctuating fortunes and emotions, seven months into Liverpool’s astonishing season, someone had found a way of stopping them in a competition. United did it the long way, the hard way, the dramatic way. They mustered a rousing, rattling start, capped by Scott McTominay’s 10th-minute opener. They trailed twice but they came back on each occasion.

Amad was not the only surprise scorer. Not when their 88th-minute equaliser was doubly unlikely, in that it came from Antony and via a right foot he generally only uses for standing on. It was his first goal against anyone other than Newport County for 336 days. When Ten Hag required a saviour, he may have found one in his worst signing.

Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, had his own redemption tale. Having missed the chance to win it with the last kick of regulation time, shooting wastefully wide, his radar was better attuned in extra time when he latched on to McTominay’s pass to level.

For United, it was a show of spirit that they have only infrequently produced this season. It was a major scalp for a team who, two wins over Aston Villa apart, have rarely beaten the better sides. It was a sign Ten Hag could still motivate them, that they could still perform under pressure. For a manager whose first United victory was against Liverpool, 19 months ago, it was another way of exorcising the ghost of last season’s 7-0 hammering.

And it left Liverpool in a strange position: out of something. This was a match that had many of the hallmarks of their triumphs this season, yet it brought defeat. They are practised in the art of the comeback and staged a four-minute turnaround at the end of the first half. Their season has been notable for the success of Klopp’s signings, and Alexis Mac Allister scored as he and Wataru Endo excelled, despite the Japanese’s inability to stop the winner.

Substitutes have been a story of Liverpool’s season, Klopp conjuring goals and assists from the bench. He found another scorer from the ranks of his replacements. Harvey Elliott’s 105th-minute strike seemed to be an Old Trafford winner by a Liverpool fan.

Instead, that advantage was swept away as United, irrepressible and ultimately irresistibly, rebounded. The replacements to finally exert a decisive impact were Antony and then Amad, two of a raft of attacking changes by Ten Hag. Perhaps Liverpool’s Herculean efforts of late took a toll as they were unable to hold on to leads. Certainly they have been able to fight on four fronts even without a watertight defence. On a day when Kelleher made several saves, he still conceded four. As the shot count for the two teams passed half a century, he and Andre Onana both showed a defiance.

And while a gulf can sometimes seem to separate Liverpool and United, there were two tales of resolve and resourcefulness to the responses. United struck first, subjecting Liverpool to a dose of their own medicine with a swift start. Kelleher had already denied Rashford when he blocked a Garnacho shot, only for McTominay to poke in the rebound.

Liverpool assumed control. Endo had a goal disallowed then Mac Allister’s shot was deflected in off Kobbie Mainoo. He was teed up by Darwin Nunez but the instigator of the move was Jarell Quansah, surging out of defence in the manner of the injured Joel Matip. Then Mohamed Salah fired in his ninth goal in six games against United after Onana parried Nunez’s shot.

But a different, less prolific, left-footed right winger had his say, Antony squeezing in a shot on the turn. Then it was Elliott, fresh from hitting the post with an audacious shot from an acute angle, whose effort deflected in off Christian Eriksen.

Yet when Ten Hag felt beleaguered, his side showed the traits of Sir Alex Ferguson. They never gave up. They saw their season coming to a death and gave it new life. There was Rashford, then there was Diallo. Behind after 112 minutes, ahead after 120, United turned the game around; perhaps a campaign and a reign too. Because there were four goals for them. And now there won’t be four trophies for Liverpool.

Miriam Margolyes urges adult Harry Potter fans to ‘grow up’

Miriam Margolyes has told adult Harry Potter fans to “grow up” and “get over it”.

The actor, 82, who played Professor Pomona Sprout in the film series, has said in two recent interviews that she worries about adult fans of the 25-year-old franchise because “they should be over that by now”.

“It was 25 years ago, and I think it’s for children,” Margolyes told New Zealand’s 1News.

“I do cameos [personalised video messages] and people say they are doing a Harry Potter-themed wedding, and I think, ‘Oh gosh what is their first night of fun going to be?’  I can’t even think about it. Harry Potter is wonderful, I’m very grateful to it. It’s over. That’s what I think.”

The Call the Midwife actor later told ABC News Australia that once teens are through puberty, “it’s time to forget about it and go on to other things”.

“If your balls have dropped, then it’s time to forget about it. You know, go on to other things,” she said.

“I just think that it’s for children. And then it’s time to move on.”

She insisted that she was proud of being in what she called a “great series” and a “wonderful set of films” but fans need to let go and “grow up”.

The Harry Potter books, written by JK Rowling, were released between 1997 and 2007, and the eight films between 2001 and 2011.

Speaking to British Vogue for its pride issue in June, Margolyes said that the Harry Potter franchise “wasn’t important” to her.

She told the publication: “For me, Harry Potter wasn’t important. I was very glad I got the part and I enjoyed being in it and meeting all the people, but it’s not Charles Dickens.”

That said, she admitted that she does enjoy the impact the role has had on her life: “People come up to me and say ‘I just love you’, and want to hug me. And that is dazzling.”

Margolyes played the herbology professor who was a witch who worked as Head of Hufflepuff House and Head of the Herbology department at Hogwarts.

Though her speaking parts in the movies are limited, and she only appeared in two out of the eight films – Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Margolyes’s role in the franchise is nonetheless a fan favourite.

She has previously acknowledged that, despite her 60-year-long acting career, she will be remembered for her small part in the magical saga.

“It’s a very humbling thing actually,” Margolyes told the BBC’s Imagine programme last year, “to realise that the part for which I will be most known and most remembered is one scene really.”

She continued: “I’m just an infinitesimal part of a franchise.”

Algarve golf break goals: All-round trips that will suit you to a tee

Stretching 125 miles along Portugal’s southern coastline, the Algarve is famous for its beautiful beaches, golden cliffs and warm climate. It’s also known for being one of the world’s finest golf destinations. With over 40 courses and resorts across the region, there’s no shortage of options, no matter your level or budget. Choose from courses overlooking the ocean, or those surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. Spectacular views are matched by first-class amenities, making the Algarve the perfect spot for an indulgent golfing getaway.

To make your break even better, if you book with Jet2holidays, you can find the perfect golf-friendly base in this beautiful region, ideal for resting and relaxing between rounds.

From hotels with golf courses on-site or close by, to a choice of three, five or seven-night stays with a number of golf rounds included in the price, plus travel to and from the course and the option to add 22kg golf carriage to your booking, Jet2holidays ensures your trip tees off perfectly. All holidaysinclude accommodation, return flights, transfers and 22kg baggage, all wrapped up in an ABTA and ATOL-protected package for a low £60pp deposit*. There are thousands of Free Child Places** available, and infants under two go free✝. Meaning it couldn’t be easier to book a great value getaway with the Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023 and Tripadvisor’s Best UK Airline.’

To help you plan the perfect trip, we’ve plunged into the Algarve golf scene, from its incredible courses and key tournaments, to the best locations to play…

The Algarve’s standing as one of Europe’s top golfing destinations began in 1966, when British businessman John Stilwell created the region’s first traditional grass golf course near Portimão in the west of the region. The course was designed by British golfer, Sir Henry Cotton, who moved to the Algarve after retiring from the sport and recognised its potential as a golfing destination. Cotton went on to design more courses in the Algarve, as did other legendary players and golf architects, including Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Rocky Roquemore and Ronald Fream.

In the years since that first course opened, the Algarve has built a reputation as something of a golfer’s paradise. Portugal was named ’World’s Best Golf Destination’ at the 2023 World Golf Awards – and almost half of the country’s golf courses can be found in the Algarve. The area plays host to many important international tournaments, including the Portugal Masters, which is part of the PGA tour.

Why are the courses here so special? There’s the stunning scenery for a start. Play a round here and you’ll be surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, from turquoise oceans and lagoons to dramatic clifftops and mountains. Then there’s the facilities: many of the region’s most famous courses are part of luxury resorts that also offer excellent food and drink options, spas and wellness centres.

Whether you want to be right by the ocean or further inland, prefer a hilly course or a flat one, are looking for 27, 18 or 9 holes, there is a huge variety on offer. The courses are often as challenging as they are beautiful, and you can expect to be making shots over ravines, lakes and beaches.

There are courses dotted the whole width of the Algarve, starting in the west, with many near the historic and beautiful town of Lagos, as well as the dramatic coastline of Sagres and the panoramas of the Serra de Monchique mountain range. In central Algarve, in the area between Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo, you’ll find some of the most exclusive resorts in the region. The area is home to many of the most stunning courses in Europe, perched on clifftops or overlooking lakes, set amidst umbrella pines and golden cliffs. In Sotavento (the eastern Algarve), courses are more level, but still set amidst spectacular scenery, with some overlooking the Ria Formosa Natural Park and River Guadiana.

Wherever you choose to play, many golf courses in the Algarve have accommodation on-site, whether that’s a luxury five-star hotel or family-friendly self-catering options. Most are within easy reach of bustling towns and picturesque villages, so when you’re done teeing off, you’ll find a wealth of attractions to explore, including Michelin-starred restaurants, stylish bars, bustling markets and designer boutiques.

While the Algarve does attract plenty of pro golfers (Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have been spotted on the region’s courses), it’s a great destination for all abilities, even complete beginners. Those wanting to learn the basics or improve their handicap can book into one of many golf academies and schools, which offer everything from a few hours one-on-one tuition to intensive week-long courses, many led by PGA pros. Specially designed golf fitness classes can help you improve skills like mobility, balance and rotation.

For those already feeling confident about their game, there are many amateur competitions and championships to sign up for throughout the year. Meanwhile families can have fun in golf parks with themed mini adventure courses.

And if you need a break from all the chipping and putting, there are plenty of other activities for you to try your hand at, from surfing or sailing to tennis, kayaking and horse-riding. Or just take some time out to relax and explore this beautiful part of the world.

To make it even easier for you to enjoy the ultimate break in the Algarve, Jet2holidays provides the perfect package holiday, looking after you at every step of the way with award-winning customer service and In-Resort Customer Helpers to ensure your stay goes smoothly.

With accommodation to suit every budget and need, Jet2holidays offers a range of hotels, apartments and villas with a variety of board options, from Self Catering to All Inclusive Plus.

Fly to the Algarve from 11 UK airports: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London Stansted. To find out more and start planning your trip, visit Jet2holidays

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. Full payment required by balance due date.

** One free child place per two paying adults. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply, please see www.jet2holidays.com/promotions#fcp for further details.

Applicable for all infants under the age of two years on the date of return. Infants are not entitled to a flight seat (they must be seated with a parent or guardian) or a 22kg baggage allowance.

Russian voters are standing up to Putin – it’s time we did, too

In today’s Russia, any form of dissent against Vladimir Putin is a brave act. Given the president’s iron grip on the country – a grip that has only tightened across his more than two decades in power – the choice to protest is taken with the knowledge that a lengthy jail term is likely.

The crackdown from the Kremlin has intensified since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine a little more than two years ago. Nearly a thousand other critics and anti-war dissidents have been imprisoned across Russia, while Putin’s fiercest critic, Alexei Navalny, was announced dead a month before the vote, by officials in the brutal Arctic prison in which he was being held on charges that countries around the world lined up to decry as trumped up to silence him. Mr Navalny’s widow, Yulia, made clear that her husband had been killed by Putin, and Western leaders again lined up to declare the Russian leader responsible.

Just before his death, Mr Navalny put out a call for people to vote en masse at midday on Sunday across Russia, a symbolic gesture to show Russians – and Putin – that however much he tried to clamp down on dissent, he cannot stamp it out, and one providing a clear picture that those who seek change are not alone.

Will Rishi Sunak be replaced before the election?

If Rishi Sunak was hoping for a relaxing end to a torrid week, he will have been bitterly disappointed to see talk of a leadership challenge splashed across the weekend’s papers.

The prime minister is losing control of a restless Conservative Party, with backbench MPs increasingly concerned about the prospect of a general election wipeout.

With Mr Sunak’s repeated relaunches and “stick to the plan” mantra failing to boost the Tories’ poll ratings, some MPs are even questioning whether it is time to pick a new PM altogether.