‘You’re a trafficker,’ Erdogan told as migrant crisis grows

Migrants and their children at the port of Mytilene on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. (AP)
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Updated 04 March 2020

‘You’re a trafficker,’ Erdogan told as migrant crisis grows

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accused on Tuesday of being a “migrant trafficker” as thousands of refugees continued to surge toward the border with Greece.

It was “painfully clear” that Turkey had “systematically encouraged and assisted tens of thousands of refugees and migrants to illegally enter Greece,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“This is no longer a refugee problem. It is a blatant attempt by Turkey to use desperate people to promote its geopolitical agenda.”

European leaders have demanded that Turkey abide by a 2016 deal to keep refugees inside Turkey in return for cash aid to help with the influx from Syria.

But Turkey accuses the EU of failing to pay. It already hosts about 3.6 million refugees and faces another flood of people fleeing Syria, where the Assad regime backed by Russian air power is pressing a violent offensive to recapture the last opposition-held province of Idlib.

EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged 700 million euros to Greece to help tackle the migration surge. The EU border agency Frontex will also deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed.”

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” she said. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.

“Turkey is not an enemy,” she said, “but people are not just means to reach a goal.”

The EU is desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis, when more than a million migrants entered Europe from Turkey via the Balkans, straining European security and welfare systems and boosting support for far-right parties.


Palestinian cyclists say attacked by Israeli settlers after trail app led them astray

Updated 22 July 2020

Palestinian cyclists say attacked by Israeli settlers after trail app led them astray

  • Komoot led them east toward a rocky path near the Israeli settlement of Shilo

RAMALLAH: A group of Palestinian cyclists say they were attacked by Israelis in the occupied West Bank after a popular trail app landed them on a remote path dotted with Jewish settlements.
Avid cyclist Amer Kurdi set out on Saturday with his brother and three others on what was supposed to be an 80-km (50-mile) ride, using the cycling, hiking, and mountain biking app Komoot to chart a path north from the Palestinian village of Birzeit.
The West Bank, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, is scattered with Israeli settlements which its 3 million Palestinians mostly cannot enter, as well as checkpoints and military bases that Israel says it needs for its security.
Over an hour into their ride, Kurdi said Komoot led them east toward a rocky path near the Israeli settlement of Shilo. He said a group of Hebrew-speaking men, whom the cyclists later took to be Israeli settlers, approached and asked where they were from.
Kurdi, 30, replied that they were from the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Soon after, the men — Kurdi estimates there were five or six — started throwing stones at them, using T-shirts to hide their faces, Kurdi and his brother, Samer, said.
“The others managed to run away, but I tripped and fell,” Samer, 28, said. “When I got up, a settler was behind me, and he started beating me with a metal rod.”
Photos the cyclists took after the incident, which they reported to Israel’s police, show Samer’s legs and arms bruised and bloodied.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said they are investigating.
Palestinians complain that navigation apps fail to grasp the West Bank’s complexity.
Asked for comment, Komoot said it regretted the incident but that its service is not specifically optimized for route planning “through areas of political unrest.”
Amer Kurdi says the incident will not keep him from cycling.
“I’ll wear a camera. I’ll be more careful when using apps,” he said.
“But we won’t stop. We will stand up for our right to bike.”