Greece plans floating border barrier to stop migrants

Refugees and migrants aboard an overcrowded dinghy as they cross the Aegean Sea, from Turkey, seen in the background, to the coast of Lesbos island, Greece. (AP Photo)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Greece plans floating border barrier to stop migrants

  • The Defense Ministry has invited private contractors to bid on supplying a 2.7-kilometer-long floating fence
  • Greece’s six-month old center-right government has promised to take a tougher line on the migration crisis

ATHENS: The government in Greece wants to use a floating barrier to help stop migrants from reaching the Greek islands from the nearby coast of Turkey.
The Defense Ministry has invited private contractors to bid on supplying a 2.7-kilometer-long (1.7 miles) floating fence within three months, according to information available on a government procurement website Wednesday. No details were given on when the barrier might be installed.
A resurgence in the number of migrants and refugees arriving by sea to Lesbos and other eastern Greek islands has caused severe overcrowding at refugee camps.
The netted barrier would rise 50 centimeters (20 inches) above water and be designed to hold flashing lights, the submission said. The Defense Ministry estimates the project will cost 500,000 euros ($550,000), which includes four years of maintenance.
The government’s description says the “floating barrier system” needs to be built “with non-military specifications” and “specific features for carrying out the mission of (maritime agencies) in managing the refugee crisis.”
“This contract process will be executed by the Defense Ministry but is for civilian use — a process similar to that used for the supply of other equipment for (camps) housing refugees and migrants,” a government official told The Associated Press.
The official asked not to be identified pending official announcements by the government.
Greece’s six-month old center-right government has promised to take a tougher line on the migration crisis and plans to set up detention facilities for migrants denied asylum and to speed up deportations back to Turkey.
Under a 2016 migration agreement between the European Union and Turkey, the Turkish government was promised up to 6 billion euros to help stop the mass movement of migrants to Europe.
Nearly 60,000 migrants and refugees made the crossing to the islands last year, nearly double the number recorded in 2018, according to data from the United Nations’ refugee agency.


India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

Updated 24 min 32 sec ago

India moves into top 10 worst-hit by COVID-19

  • Experts claim lockdown measures have failed as death toll passes 4,000 mark

NEW DELHI: India on Monday climbed into the top 10 countries worst-hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with the number of deaths passing the 4,000 mark.

Sunday saw the highest one-day surge in cases with 6,634 new infections reported, taking the current total to 140,215, slightly ahead of Iran.

The deadly COVID-19 outbreak has now claimed the lives of 4,041 people in India.

Monday’s milestone figures coincided with the resumption of domestic flight services which experts claimed was an indication of the failure of the two-month-long nationwide lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.

“The lockdown was meant to contain the cases but even after 60 days cases are rising, which means the lockdown was not properly planned and executed,” said virologist Prof. T. Jacob John, of the Indian Academy of Sciences.

Harjit Singh Bhatti, of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said: “The government understands that it has failed in its lockdown plan. They could not anticipate the problems and the crisis it would engender. As a result, the government has no other option but to resume the economy. For the government now the focus is livelihood not the life.”

However, the Indian government disputed the claims saying the lockdown had helped to tackle the virus.

“If the doubling rate in India before the lockdown was between three to four days, today the doubling rate is more than 13 days. Lockdown and all its guidelines have acted as a potent social vaccine,” said India’s Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

“Lockdown was imposed in India at the right time. Other developed countries wasted many days to take this decision,” he added.

On March 25, India started the first phase of its nationwide lockdown and the country is now into the fourth phase of the shutdown, which ends on May 31. Two months ago, India had only recorded 550 COVID-19 cases.

The western state of Maharashtra is one of the worst-affected in India with close to 60,000 cases and about 2,000 deaths. Mumbai, its financial capital, has registered more than 30,000 cases alone with at least 1,000 fatalities, forcing local authorities to procure 80 percent of private-hospital beds in the metropolis to deal with the crisis.

“The cases in Mumbai are increasing every day and health workers across the city are working overtime to deal with the situation,” Dr. Shariva Randive, of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), told Arab News.

Pune-based Dr. Avinash Bhonde, of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: “A central team of doctors said a couple of months ago that Mumbai alone would witness more than 150,000 cases but in the whole of Maharashtra the total number is around 60,000, so it is less than what we expected.”

He added that there had been gaps in handling the lockdown. “Had there been micro planning and some corrective steps taken in the middle of the lockdown we could have been in a better situation.”

The length of the lockdown left millions of daily wage workers in big cities jobless and homeless. With no economic incentives or alternative plans put in place for them by the government, and no transport, many walked back to their villages, sometimes up to 800 km from their place of work.

To deal with the unprecedented situation the government, from the first week of May, started running special trains to carry more than 3 million people to the eastern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

On May 10, Bihar had recorded 700 cases of COVID-19, but on Sunday the number was more than 2,600. The state has set up an estimated 14,000 quarantine centers to house thousands of people returning from virus hotbeds such as Maharashtra and Delhi.

“Bihar’s coronavirus cases may be lower than other states right now, but the way it is growing it is alarming and the state might face a huge problem,” a health official in the Bihar government told Arab News.