Greek navy ship on Lesbos houses latest island migrants

Greek navy ship on Lesbos houses latest island migrants
Recently arrived refugees and migrants enter a warship provided for their accommodation at the Port of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2020

Greek navy ship on Lesbos houses latest island migrants

Greek navy ship on Lesbos houses latest island migrants
  • A Greek defense ministry source said the migrants would stay on the transport ship until a new facility to accommodate them had been created on the mainland
  • Some 500 people, many of them families with small children, have been stranded at the harbor since arriving from Turkey over the weekend

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Greece sent a navy ship to the island of Lesbos Wednesday to house hundreds of migrants who landed on the island in recent days, part of the ongoing surge from Turkey, officials said.
A Greek defense ministry source said the migrants would stay on the transport ship until a new facility to accommodate them had been created on the mainland.
Some 500 people, many of them families with small children, have been stranded at the harbor since arriving from Turkey over the weekend.
Although the Greek vessel arrived at the port of Mytilene Wednesday morning, it was not until 4:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) that the first 15 migrants boarded, said an AFP photographer at the scene.
But the atmosphere at the harbor was tense as the port police and security forces tried to stop two Greek photographers and a German journalist from taking pictures, pushing them back and trying to grab their cameras.
A Greek military source said the migrants would stay on the ship, which normally had a capacity of 400, “as long as necessary.”
Astrid Castelein of the UN refugee agency on Lesbos said they and other aid groups would provide matresses and bedding, as this type of vessel was not normally meant to house people.
On Tuesday evening hundreds of migrants, earlier arrivals on Lesbos who have already filed asylum requests, headed down to the harbor in a bid to get a berth on the ship as news of its impending spread.
After a few brief scuffles, police pushed them back.
In an effort to curb the influx, which began after Ankara said last week it would no longer stop refugees from entering Europe, Athens has suspended asylum procedures and reinforced its borders.
The weekend arrivals, who have not filed asylum requests, will get a place on the boat under this new regime, Fotis Garoufalias, president of the coast guard at Mytilene, told AFP.
“The instructions are to register them, without the possibility of making an asylum request, and to take them on to the boat for them to be transferred,” he said. That process should be finished by the end of the day, he added.
The new arrivals have exacerbated an already combustible situation on the Greek islands in the Adriatic, off the Turkish coast.
Lesbos hosts more than 19,000 refugees and migrants, crammed into squalid conditions around a camp built to house fewer than 3,000, a legacy of the 2015 migration crisis.
Fed up with shouldering the burden of Europe’s over-stretched asylum system, locals have protested against the presence of the migrants on their shores, saying they threaten safety, public health and a tourism-dependent economy.
That anger has spilled over into violence in recent days, with an extremist minority accused of leading attacks on newly arrived migrants, intimidating journalists and targeting aid workers, according to several groups based on Lesbos.
Locals are also angry about the government plans to build a new migrant center on Lesbos and clashed with riot police last week.


Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers
Updated 30 July 2021

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers

Germany to require tests for all unvaccinated travelers
  • From August 1, all people entering Germany will be obliged to have proof of a negative test, vaccination or recovery
  • According to a draft seen by AFP, there will be exceptions for cross-border commuters and transit travellers

BERLIN: Anyone entering Germany from abroad will have to take a Covid-19 test unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the disease, according to new rules signed off by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet Friday.
“From August 1, all people entering Germany will be obliged to have proof of a negative test, vaccination or recovery,” Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement.
“This rule is there to keep the number of new infections brought into Germany as low as possible,” said Demmer, adding that it would apply to all travelers over the age of 12.
According to a draft seen by AFP, there will be exceptions for cross-border commuters and those passing through in transit.
Both PCR tests taken within 72 hours of entry and rapid antigen tests taken within a maximum of 48 hours will be accepted, the draft said.
The rule will apply “regardless of where travelers have come from and the means of transport they use,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Funke media group.
Under current German rules, any unvaccinated person entering the country by plane must get tested, but those entering by road or rail must not unless they are coming from an area deemed high risk.
Those entering from so-called virus variant countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, must get tested even if they are vaccinated — a rule that will still apply under the new system.
Police have said the rules will not be enforced through systematic border controls, but through random checks.
Regional leaders in Germany’s border regions, especially Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate, had been calling for tighter travel measures.
Germany has seen low infection numbers over the summer compared to many of its European neighbors, but cases have been creeping up over the past few weeks, largely fueled by the Delta variant.
The country recorded 2,454 new cases in the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency, and an incidence rate of 17 new cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days — up from a low of 4.9 in early July.
With the country’s vaccination campaign running out of steam, the debate has been heating up around possible restrictions for the unvaccinated, though compulsory vaccination for parts of the population has so far been ruled out.


UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed
Updated 30 July 2021

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

KABUL: The United Nations said on Friday that its main compound in western Afghanistan was attacked by "anti-government elements", killing at least one Afghan police guard and other officers injured.
"The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces," a statement by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said. It added the UN is urgently seeking to establish a full picture about the attack and is in contact with the relevant parties.
It was not immediately clear who attacked the compound. 


Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
Updated 30 July 2021

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
  • The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20 and no date has been set for a new meeting

BERLIN: Germany’s foreign minister is signaling growing impatience with Iran, saying that a revival of the country’s frayed nuclear accord with world powers won’t be possible “forever,” a German magazine reported Friday.
The countries that remain parties to the agreement — Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran — have been trying during six rounds of talks in Vienna to resolve how the United States can rejoin and how Tehran can return to compliance. President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018, but successor Joe Biden has said the US wants to return.
The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20. No date has been set for a new meeting.
“I am seeing with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks on the one hand, and on the other hand it is simultaneously moving further and further away from core elements of the agreement,” news weekly Der Spiegel quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as saying.
Since the US pulled out, Iran has gradually been violating the deal’s restrictions to put pressures on the remaining parties to come up with economic incentives to offset crippling American sanctions.
The accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it is seeking any.
“We want a return to the JCPOA and are firmly convinced that it is in all sides’ interest,” Maas said. “But it is also clear that this option will not be open to us forever.”


EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
Updated 30 July 2021

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
  • Puigdemont and two former ministers are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition
  • The European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court

LUXEMBOURG: The EU’s General Court on Friday upheld a decision by the European Parliament to lift the immunity of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and two fellow pro-independence allies.
The move overturned a ruling in June that had seen the separatist politicians provisionally regain the legal protections afforded to members of the parliament.
Puigdemont, along with that of former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition following an attempt by the Catalan region to gain independence through a referendum that Madrid ruled was unconstitutional.
In March, the European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court arguing that they ran the risk of jail which would prevent them from exercising their mandate as elected European lawmakers.
The latest ruling on Friday rejected the claim that Puigdemont — based in Brussels since fleeing Spain in 2017 — and his colleagues face imminent arrest.
“There is no reason to consider that the Belgian judicial authorities or that the authorities of another Member State could execute the European arrest warrants issued against the deputies and could hand them over to the Spanish authorities,” the court said.
But it added that the three lawmakers — elected to the European Parliament in 2019 — could still reintroduce their demand to have their immunity reinstalled if authorities moved to arrest them and it became “sufficiently probable” they would be sent to Spain.
Madrid last month pardoned nine other jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid and released them from long prison sentences.


Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign
Updated 30 July 2021

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign
WASHINGTON: Some 200 Afghans were set to begin new lives in the United States on Friday as an airlift got under way for translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they worked for the US government during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, US officials said.
The operation to evacuate US-affiliated Afghans and family members comes as the US troop pullout nears completion and government forces struggle to repulse Taliban advances.
The first planeload of some 200 evacuees were expected to be bused to Fort Lee, a US military base in Virginia, for final paperwork processing and medical examinations.
The Afghans who worked for the United States are being granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) entitling them to bring their families. As many as 50,000 or more people ultimately could be evacuated in “Operation Allies Refuge.”
The first group is among some 2,500 SIV applicants and family members who have almost completed the process, clearing them for evacuation, said Russ Travers, President Joe Biden’s deputy homeland security adviser.
The Afghans were expected to remain at Fort Lee for up to seven days before joining relatives or host families across the country.
The evacuees underwent “rigorous background checks” and COVID-19 tests, Travers added. Some were already vaccinated, and the rest will be offered jabs at Fort Lee.
The surging violence in Afghanistan has created serious problems for many SIV applicants whose paperwork is in the pipeline amid reports — denied by the Taliban — that some have been killed by vengeful insurgents.
Some applicants are unable to get to capital Kabul to complete required steps at the US embassy or reach their flights.
“We do lack the capacity to bring people to Kabul from other parts of the country or to house them in Kabul,” Tracey Jacobson, State Department coordinator of the operation, told reporters.
The SIV program has been plagued by long processing times and bureaucratic knots — which the Biden administration and Congress are working to undo — that led to a backlog of some 20,000 applications. The State Department has added staff to handle them.
“The US has had 20 years to anticipate what the withdrawal would look like,” said Adam Bates, policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, which provides legal aid to refugees. “It’s unconscionable that we are so late.”
Kim Staffieri, co-founder of the Association of Wartime Allies, which helps SIV applicants, said surveys the group has conducted over Facebook show that about half of SIV applicants cannot reach Kabul, including many approved for evacuation.
Congress created SIV programs in 2006 for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who risked retaliation for working for the US government.