Newspaper headlines: Migrant meltdown, and 'jihadi bride plot'

The news that net migration to Britain is at close to record levels inspires much debate and analysis in Friday's newspapers.

Last year's net migration figure of 318,000 is just 2,000 short of the 320,000 rise in 2005 - just after expansion of the EU into Eastern Europe.

The total dashes David Cameron's pledge to reduce the number to below 100,000, the Guardian notes.

Image caption Foreign nationals filled half of all jobs created in 2014, official figures show

The paper says the rise is driven by increasing immigration - 641,000 people in 2014 - coupled with stable emigration figures.

The majority, the Guardian continues, have come to work or study in the UK, with just 25,020 of the total being asylum seekers.

The Daily Mirror says the total exposes Mr Cameron's "great immigration con".

Its editorial says the prime minister's promise to tighten the borders has "not so much been broken as smashed into smithereens."

The Sun says the PM's decision to join a raid on illegal immigrants on the same day the figures were released smacked of "a pathetic stunt".

Its editorial argues that "Britain is full", adding that while skilled migrants have helped the UK's "success story", the sheer numbers make for an unsustainable pressure on the country's schools, housing and NHS.

The Daily Express says the numbers are "out of control".

In the Daily Telegraph, Matt's cartoon shows border control officers stopping a lorry and one reporting that he found the immigration minister hiding in it, "trying to flee to Calais".

Elsewhere in the paper, Nigel Farage writes a column arguing that the illegal immigration crackdown announced by Mr Cameron this week was a "great smokescreen of half-baked and unworldly policies".

Image caption Riga, location of David Cameron's first post-election EU summit

"It is perfectly clear that the only way for the UK to be able to control those who cross the drawbridge is to leave the EU," he adds.

Changing the EU is the challenge that Mr Cameron now faces on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, detailed in the Times.

But the paper says the PM's idea of stopping EU migrants from claiming tax credits for four years was likely to be ruled illegal, according to European officials it spoke to.

The Independent says Mr Cameron's plans may find some support in Western Europe, but in Eastern Europe some governments are keen to block restrictions on in-work benefits. Poland's administration called the British plan "discriminatory", it adds.

And in the UK, the prime minister faces opposition from business groups who are "bristling" at the pledge to make it harder to hire foreign workers, according to the Financial Times.

"Business is concerned. We respect the government's mandate, but it is right to get the balance right," a corporate figure tells the paper.


Symbolic city

The Daily Mail leads on a plot it says it uncovered to lure a London 16-year-old to Syria to become the bride of a jihadist militant.

The paper reveals that the girl was given a detailed travel itinerary and instructions on how to avoid detection by her sister, who is already in the Middle Eastern warzone with an IS husband.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Islamic State militants in Iraq

The pair communicated using encrypted private messaging apps, but a Mail reporter posing as a potential chaperone was able to provide details to the authorities, and the 16-year-old's family home was subsequently raided by counter terrorism officers.

Elsewhere, the news from Syria is grim, with many papers reporting on atrocities carried out as IS took control of the historic city of Palmyra.

The Times reports the terror group began its occupations of the city with a spate of public beheadings, and posted a picture of a man being executed with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The paper's leader column argues that more coalition partners should join the US in its bombing forays against IS targets in Syria.

Palmyra "is a symbolic rather than strategic city. Sometimes wars are won, however, simply by making a point: that there are things for which the West is ready and willing to fight," it adds.

The fear among many is that the jihadist terror group will bulldoze Palmyra's many ancient treasures, as they have done at other archaeological sites.

The Independent's deputy news editor Rob Hastings recalls visiting the ancient city in peace-time and finding "one of the most enchanting sights in the Middle East.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Palmyra's heritage has already been damaged during fighting between Syrian government troops and rebels

"As the sun sets over its ancient ruins, the stonework of the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel turns red. Shadows of the grand colonnaded street stretch across the sand," he recalls.

However there can be little doubt that IS will destroy the entire site, he writes - and slaughter those locals who made their living from the tourist trade.

The Financial Times says the fall of Palmyra - now 50% of Syria is in IS hands - and of the strategic city of Ramadi in Iraq, exposes the weakness in President Obama's strategy against the group.

The paper says the president is under pressure from his military to increase the US mission in Iraq to include ground-based spotters to aid air strikes, and to unleash special forces missions.

"Mr Obama must now answer the difficult question on how deeply he wants to get involved," the FT adds.


'Denials in ruins'

Newspapers love a story about other papers, and as such the record fines levied on the Daily Mirror's owners are widely covered.

The Sun, whose owners faced similar problems in the past, says the "broken Mirror" is left "reeling" by the massive damages paid to celebrities.

It notes that with 75 claims still outstanding against the Mirror, the paper's set-aside estimate of £8m to settle all claims could be out by as much as £22m.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Former England footballer Paul Gascoigne was awarded £188,250 in damages after his privacy was invaded by the Daily Mirror

The Times recounts many of the stories of celebrities (and friends of celebrities) who say their "marriages, jobs and sanity" were destroyed by the hacked stories, which made them suspicious that friends and family were selling their secrets.

The paper reveals that Mirror journalists would refer to hacking targets as "muppets" and one reporter recalls having a list of 100 celebrities, whose voicemail he checked twice a day.

The Times adds that the judge hearing the case made clear that he believed that senior editorial staff would have been aware of the practice.

The Guardian notes that Trinity Mirror (owners of the daily paper) undertook "years of denial" and made assurances under oath to the Leveson inquiry that there was no culture of phone-hacking in their tabloid.

"It took a single devastating morning at the high court to leave Trinity Mirror's phone-hacking denials in ruins," it says.

The Independent reports: "During the month-long civil trial it was never determined when exactly phone hacking started, only that after the practice took hold it quickly became 'endemic' and was described as 'rife' on the showbusiness desk... by mid-1999."

The paper notes, "there were a few glass-walled offices for the senior editors, but largely everyone was in view", at the paper's HQ.

The story makes an appearance on page 4 of the Daily Mirror, with statements from victims and their solicitor.

Image caption Sadie Frost

The paper says the size of the damages awarded dwarfs those awarded against News of the World publisher News UK over the same offence.

It notes actress Sadie Frost was awarded £260,250 damages against the Mirror, but reached a £50,000 settlement when News of the World admitted similar trespasses in 2012.

Trinity Mirror's chief executive Simon Fox is quoted as saying: "I deeply regret the activity which went on in the past and the distress we have caused to the claimants.

"However, the award of damages made today appears out of all proportion to personal injury claims or to any previous privacy case and that is why we are considering whether we should seek permission to appeal."


Sarcophagus

What else is in the papers? Well after the headlines made by the discovery of King Richard III's bones beneath a Leicester car-park, another medieval mystery tickles Fleet Street's fancy.

The Daily Telegraph is among the papers reporting a search beginning for the remains of King Henry I.

Image caption Henry I ruled England for 35 years before overdoing the fishy treats

The influential king, who died in 1135 of a "surfeit of lampreys", was buried in Reading Abbey, whose site was destroyed during Tudor times.

In a strange echo of his successor's fate, the Telegraph says Henry is now believed to be in a sarcophagus buried below a school car-park in the town. Test digging will begin next year.

Elsewhere in the paper it reports that two boys helping their father dig a duck pond unearthed something even older than a Plantagenet monarch.

Richard and Adam Ferguson of Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancs, unearthed a prehistoric ancestor of the modern wolf.

The boy's father Simon tells the paper: "You don't expect to find something like this on a housing estate."

The wolf was 20,000 years old and its skeleton was 92% complete.

More history in the papers, with the Daily Mirror's report on the sale of Britain's largest home.

Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham, is an 18th century "super mansion" which is twice as wide as Buckingham Palace, has 365 rooms and five miles of corridors.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Picasso's Women Of Orleans (Version O): too rude for Qatar

It can be yours for £8m, the Mirror says, but it is, as estate agents are wont to say, "in need of some modernisation".

And finally, spare a thought for Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani.

The Qatari royal has been revealed to be the buyer of the £115m Picasso masterpiece Women Of Algiers (Version O) but he will not be able to display it in his native country.

The emirate's Islamic laws prohibit the display of paintings which contain nudity.

Which makes for a bit of "bad nudes" for the sheikh, according to the Mirror.

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