Refugees face eviction in Greece as thousands more wait for homes

A police officer kicks a protesting migrant during clashes outside a refugee camp in the village of Diavata, west of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, Saturday, April 6, 2019. (AP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Refugees face eviction in Greece as thousands more wait for homes

  • Greece currently hosts over 70,000 refugees, including nearly 15,000 in overcrowded Aegean island camps

ATHENS: Abdullah Ahmadi, an Afghan living with his wife and five children in an apartment in the Athens suburbs allocated by the UN refugee agency, is about to lose his home for the past three years.
“In two months I have to leave. I have been looking for work in Greece and have only found random jobs that are not enough to support my family,” says Ahmadi, who spent a year on the island of Lesbos before being able to reach the Greek capital.
“I do not know how I’m going to get along, and I’m scared that I will end up on the street with my family,” he says, distraught.
Thousands of refugees like Ahmadi are facing possible eviction from EU-paid homes in Greece this year as more await to take their place to manage a slow but steady flow of new arrivals from Turkey, support groups have warned.
Nearly 6,800 people currently hosted in rooms and flats around the country under a program funded by the European Union and run by UNHCR in cooperation with local non-governmental groups could be affected.
Ahmadi took part in a demonstration last week by refugees in central Athens to protest against the evictions, supported by far-left activists, NGO workers, and students.
Following a controversial EU deal with Turkey in 2016 the flow of migrants and refugees to Greece has slowed to a few dozen daily.
But even these numbers are enough to overwhelm limited facilities on several Aegean islands opposite Turkey, which are already crammed many times over their nominal capacity.
With nearly 9,000 arrivals since the beginning of this year, the situation on the islands is explosive — especially on Lesbos and Samos — and the ministry of migration is desperate to remove as many people from the camps as possible.
As of March 31, the first 160 refugees who were granted asylum before August 2017 had to give up their homes on the mainland to other asylum seekers, with another round of evictions expected in the next two months.

“(This) will free up spaces for those in Lesbos and Samos who live in difficult conditions,” immigration minister Dimitris Vitzas told Radio News 247 last month.
According to UNHCR spokesperson in Greece Boris Cheshirkov, the Estia program designed to help asylum-seekers “will continue to operate with three components: financial assistance, accommodation and administrative support.”
But he adds that “after securing asylum, they would theoretically have to leave the dwellings in the next six months, but so far the Greek government had not applied this principle.”
The immigration ministry notes that recognized refugees can now draw on state benefits normally allocated to poverty-stricken Greeks, such as rent subsidies.
In addition, for three months after leaving Estia homes, “the refugees will retain the economic aid they receive, and will be helped to obtain a tax number, open a bank account, register at jobs centers,” a migration ministry official said.
They are also to receive vocational training.

Ahmadi, however, seems to be completely unaware of the procedure for obtaining benefits: “I have never heard of this!,” he sighs.
NGO worker Christina Svana, who was part of the Athens protest, says the decision to evict was “taken hastily.”
“The first expulsions took place a few days ago and the next will take place on June 30. The movement will accelerate and we are afraid that among the evicted people, a large majority cannot fend for themselves and find an apartment,” she warns.
“There are no realistic solutions for refugees who will leave their homes or lose their economic aid,” medical charity Doctors Without Borders said in a statement last month.
“Theoretically, it is good to say that refugees must integrate and no longer depend on aid provided by the associations and the UNHCR, but for that it was necessary to plan an integration program,” adds Svana.
Over 22,000 people were accommodated thanks to the Estia program last year.
Greece currently hosts over 70,000 refugees, including nearly 15,000 in overcrowded Aegean island camps.


Jersey City attack being investigated as domestic terrorism

Updated 13 December 2019

Jersey City attack being investigated as domestic terrorism

  • Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack was driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism
  • The attackers killed three people in the store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away, before dying in an hourslong gunbattle with police

JERSEY CITY: The couple who burst into a kosher market in Jersey City with assault weapons appear to have acted alone even though they had expressed interest in a fringe religious group that often disparages whites and Jews, New Jersey officials said.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the attack was driven by hatred of Jews and law enforcement and is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.
The two killers were armed with a variety of weapons, including an AR-15-style rifle and a shotgun that they were wielding when they stormed into the store in an attack that left the scene littered with several hundred shell casings, broken glass and a community in mourning. A pipebomb was also found in a stolen U-Haul van.
“The outcome would have been far, far worse” if not for the Jersey City Police, Grewal said Thursday. Authorities noted that a Jewish school is next to the market, and a Catholic school is across the street.
The attackers killed three people in the store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away, before dying in an hourslong gunbattle with police Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.
“The evidence points toward acts of hate. I can confirm that we’re investigating this matter as potential acts of domestic terrorism fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs,” the attorney general said. He said social media posts, witness interviews and other evidence reflected the couple’s hatred of Jews and police.
Grewal noted that after killing three people in the store, the couple concentrated their fire on police and did not shoot at others who happened to be on the streets.
Grewal said the attackers, David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50, had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites, whose members often rail against Jews and whites. But he said there was no evidence so far that they were members, and added that the two were believed to have acted alone.
The pair brought their cache of weapons in a U-Haul van they drove from Bay View Cemetery, where they shot and killed Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, according to the attorney general.
Anderson fired away with the AR-15-style rifle as he entered the store, while Graham brought a 12-gauge shotgun into the shop. They also had handguns with a homemade silencer and a device to catch shell casings. In all, they had five guns — four recovered in the store, one in the van — in what Grewal called a “tremendous amount of firepower.”
Serial numbers from two of the weapons showed that Graham purchased them in Ohio in 2018, the attorney general said.
The victims killed in the store were: Mindel Ferencz, 31, who with her husband owned the grocery; 24-year-old Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student from Brooklyn who was shopping there; and store employee Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, 49. A fourth person in the store was shot and wounded but managed to escape, authorities said.
Members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community gathered Wednesday night for funerals for Ferencz and Deutsch. Thousands of people, mostly men, followed Ferencz’s casket through the streets of Brooklyn, hugging and crying.
The bloodshed in the city of 270,000 people across the Hudson River from New York City spread fear through the Jewish community and weighed heavily on the minds of more than 300 people who attended a vigil Wednesday night at a synagogue about a mile from where the shootings took place.
In the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, 11 people were killed in an October 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Last April, a gunman opened fire at a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and wounding a rabbi and two others.