Turkey has been forcibly returning up to 100 refugees to Syria per day since mid-January, Amnesty International (AI) reported April 1. In addition to Turkish authorities rounding up refugees in migrant camps near the border, AI has also alleged that some migrants attempting to register in Turkey were, instead, removed back to Syria. The report criticized the recent migrant deal between Turkey and the EU, expressing concern over the possible future of the refugees to be sent back to Turkey after arriving in Greece. "If the agreement proceeds as planned, there is a very real risk that some of those the EU sends back to Turkey will suffer the same fate" AI said. If true, the allegations are illegal under not only international law, but the laws of the EU, and Turkey itself.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed concerns March 8 for a proposed migrant exchange program between the EU and Turkey. The Joint Action Plan (PDF), was proposed to decrease human smuggling along the shores of southern Europe and to help alleviate the massive influx of refugees hosted by Turkey. The most controversial aspect of the deal is the objective "to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States."
French police resumed their eviction of the Calais migrant camp known as "the Jungle" on March 1 after a night of violent clashes with camp residents. Riot police fired tear gas after migrants began throwing rocks, and at least 12 shacks were set ablaze. Those living in the camp, mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel. The government is promising to offer alternative shelter to all of those in the camp, said to number between 800 and 3,500, according to various estimates. Demolition crews reportedly left standing shacks that were clearly inhabited. (EuroNews, March 1; BBC News, Feb. 29) Aslo Feb. 29, Macedonian police fired tear-gas at a crowd of migrants who destroyed the barbed-wire fence on the Greek border using a makeshift battering ram. It is unclear if any migrants succeeded in crossing the border at Idomeni, where some 7,000 are stranded on the Greek side as Macedonian authorities let only a very few pass. (BBC News, Feb. 29)
The Independent on Feb. 3 reports on a very encouraging project organized by a group calling itself I Am Your Protector—"a community of people who speak up and stand up for each other across religion, race, gender and beliefs"—to highlight the often forgotten stories of Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust. With interfaith ceremonies in several European and American cities on Holocaust Memorial Day, Jan. 27, IAYP celebrated the lives of such figures as Abdol Hossein Sardari, the "Iranian Schindler" who as a diplomat helped Persian Jews escape from wartime France by issuing passports and letters of transit. He was able to convince Nazi and Vichy authorities that Jugutis (Persian Muslims descended from Jews) should not be considered "racial" Jews—and was then able to secure travel documents for actual Jews under cover of being Jugutis. A similar personage is Selahattin Ulkumen, a Turkish diplomat in Nazi-occupied Greece, who interceded with the Germans to allow Jews of Turkish origin escape to neutral Turkey.
Riots broke out in the early hours of Dec. 3 at Greece's frontier with Macedonia as migrants and asylum seekers stranded there for the past two weeks blockaded the border, preventing people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan from crossing. Since Nov. 18, only refugees from those three countries have been admitted into Macedonia, while other nationalities have been turned away. Many of those refused entry have boarded buses and returned to Athens in recent days, but about 3,000 have stayed to protest being discriminated against on the basis of nationality. Some have embarked on hunger strikes while several Iranian asylum seekers sewed their lips closed last week. (IRIN)
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sept. 25 announced that the flow of refugees into Europe shows no signs of easing or stopping, as approximately 8,000 refugees a day seek to enter Europe. Amin Awad, the regional refugee coordinator for then UNHCR stated that problems now facing governments may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Awad stated that the UN is planning for the potential displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces fight to recapture the city from Islamic State. Also that day, the UNHCR reported about the high number of migrants entering Europe along the Serbian-Croatian border. More than 50,000 migrants have entered through the town of Tovarnik, Croatia since mid-September.
Greece is in turmoil over what can only be seen as the ruling Syriza party's bait-and-switch: the government called a referendum on the EU-mandated austerity plan, voters said "No," and then the administration went ahead and agreed to a similar plan, sparking the worst riots in Athens in years. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis stepped down, and most Syriza MPs have broken with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Amid all this, the Jerusalem Post reports more news that will alienate Tsipras from his leftist base. It seems that on July 6, Tsipras' Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias spoke in Jerusalem of developing what the JP calls an "axis of security" (uncertain if Kotzias himself used that phrase) made up of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. This is an ostensible response to what Kotzias called a "triangle of destabilization" delineated by Ukraine, Libya and Iraq/Syria. "We have to create inside this triangle a security and stability framework, and the relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece are very important," Kotzias said. "I call it the stabilization line in this area."
We were very enthused that Alexis Tsipras, the new prime minister from Greece's leftist Syriza party, in his first act after being sworn in today laid flowers at the National Resistance Memorial in the Athens suburb of Kaisariani, where the Nazis executed 200 Greek communist partisan fighters on May 1, 1944. (Sky News) An unsubtle message, both to Greece's own resurgent neo-Nazi right, and to contemporary German financial imperialism. We applaud. Especially since the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (its leadership in prison awaiting trial for running a criminal organization) came in a highly disoncerting third in the election. This is a sign of polarization, with the pro-austerity "center" collapsing, and far right and radical left in a contest to seize the populist space. What's not so good is that Tsipras and Syriza, just short of the outright majority needed to govern alone, have quickly formed a bloc with lawmakers from a right-wing anti-immigrant populist party, the Independent Greeks. (AP)