Greek island police fire tear gas at protesting migrants

Riot police use tear gas against protesting refugees and migrants during a demonstration on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos. (AP Photo)
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Updated 03 February 2020

Greek island police fire tear gas at protesting migrants

  • Brandishing makeshift signs with the word freedom, some 2,000 men and women walked out of the overpopulated camp of Moria to demonstrate
  • More than 40,000 asylum-seekers are currently crammed into camps on five islands, where the official capacity is for 6,200 people

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Police on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday fired tear gas at hundreds of migrants protesting against tougher new asylum rules, officials said.
Brandishing makeshift signs with the word “freedom,” some 2,000 men and women walked out of the overpopulated camp of Moria to demonstrate.
The protesters walked some seven kilometers (4.3 miles) toward the port capital of Mytilene, but were blocked by police outside the town.
“A significant backlog of pending applications and serious delays in asylum procedures have been a major contributing factor to the dangerously overcrowded conditions we see on the islands,” Boris Cheshirkov, Greece spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, said in a statement to AFP.
“Long waiting times are also contributing to the mental toll that people are facing,” he said.
After years of procedural delays, Greece faces a backlog of almost 90,000 asylum applications, Cheshirkov said.
In 2019, Greece became the first port of entry for migrants and refugees entering Europe.
The government has struggled to manage the influx, keeping many in overcrowded camps on the Aegean Greek islands near the Turkish coast.
More than 40,000 asylum-seekers are currently crammed into camps on five islands, where the official capacity is for 6,200 people and in conditions repeatedly condemned by aid agencies.
The conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has toughened its approach to asylum-seekers and is trying to speed up the repatriation of people whose applications have been rejected.
At Moria, where over 19,000 people live in and outside a camp built for fewer than 3,000, many are housed in tents and makeshift shelters without access to power, heating, or hot water, Cheshirkov said.
“There aren’t enough latrines and showers and access to health is severely limited,” he said. There are also frequent outbreaks of violence.
The new Greek minister for migration Notis Mitarachi, appointed just two weeks ago, has vowed to expel “on a weekly basis” migrants whose asylum applications are rejected.
“Those not entitled to international protection will be rapidly returned to Turkey,” Mitarachi told Kathimerini daily on Sunday.
“We believe... this will send a loud and dissuasive message to human smugglers,” he said.
In another apparent attempt at deterrence, Greece’s defense ministry last week put out a call for a floating barrier in the Aegean to stop migrant boats.
The system — criticized as unethical and impractical by opposition parties — could involve either barriers or nets, 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) long, and would be used as an emergency measure by the Greek armed forces.


Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

Updated 22 October 2020

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

  • Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ma’arid Street renamed President Joko Widodo Street

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said it was “an honor” for him and his country that a street in the UAE capital had been named after him.

Al-Ma’arid Street, one of Abu Dhabi’s key roads, was on Monday renamed President Joko Widodo Street during a ceremony that coincided with the first anniversary of the Indonesian leader’s inauguration for a second term in office.

Writing on social media, Widodo said: “It is a recognition and an honor, not only for me, but for Indonesia.” He also expressed hope that the two countries’ relations would be “stronger, mutually strengthening, and beneficial for the people of the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, told Arab News: “The initiative to rename the street after President Joko Widodo came from His Highness (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), who also presided over the street renaming ceremony on the spot.”

The envoy said that the street was near to the future location of the Indonesian Embassy compound, which was currently under construction.

According to UAE news agency WAM, the crown prince has also directed officials to build a mosque named after Widodo, in Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area, in recognition of the Indonesian president’s close friendship with the UAE and his efforts to strengthen the relationship.

Indonesia-UAE relations have grown closer since Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, during which he secured investment projects worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history. The visit was to reciprocate the crown prince’s trip to Indonesia in July 2019.

Recent cooperation agreements between the two countries have included plans for the construction of a mosque on a plot of land in Widodo’s hometown of Solo in Central Java.

The mosque will be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated to take place in December.

Widodo is the latest Indonesian leader to be celebrated through an honorific street name in a foreign country. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Avenue Sukarno was named after Indonesia’s first president, while Mohammed Hatta Street in Haarlem, the Netherlands, recognizes the Southeast Asian country’s first vice president. Sukarno and Hatta are considered the fathers of Indonesia’s independence.

The name of the country’s third president, B. J. Habibie, appears on a bridge in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in honor of his decision to hold a referendum there which allowed East Timor to secede from Indonesia.