Greece begins migrant repatriation flights

Families board an airplane bound for Iraq at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 06 August 2020

Greece begins migrant repatriation flights

  • Five thousand economic migrants overall will be offered incentives of €2,000 per person to return home
  • More than 25,000 asylum seekers live in camps on the five Aegean islands that were originally built to handle just 6,095 people

ATHENS: A first flight voluntarily returning economic migrants to their home country departed Greece Thursday, launching an EU-funded scheme aimed at relieving pressure on the state where most new arrivals reach the bloc.
The first group to depart Athens, comprising 134 Iraqis, was “the biggest voluntary return our country has ever carried out, and the biggest in Europe this year,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.
Five thousand economic migrants overall will be offered incentives of €2,000 ($2,400) per person to return home.
Applicants must have crossed into Greece prior to January 1, 2020, and still be present on the islands of Leros, Samos, Lesbos, Kos and Chios. They will have a month to apply.
The deadline can be extended by another month to make up the required number in the event of a low turnout, the migration ministry has said.
Announced in March, the EU scheme was inactive until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The money is designed to help asylum-seekers start afresh in their countries of origin, EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said at the time.
More than a million migrants and refugees arrived in Greece in 2015 and 2016, according to the UN refugee agency. There are now around 120,000 in the country.
More than 25,000 asylum seekers live in camps on the five Aegean islands that were originally built to handle just 6,095 people.


Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

Updated 3 min 21 sec ago

Australian jailed for suspected Islamophobic attack on pregnant woman

  • Stipe Lozina sentenced to 3 years for ‘vicious’ assault on victim wearing hijab in Sydney
  • ‘If nobody intervened, I could have been killed’

LONDON: An Australian man has been sentenced to three years in jail for an “inherently vicious” attack on a pregnant woman that is thought to have been motivated by Islamophobia. 

Stipe Lozina, 44, assaulted Rana Elasmar, 32, in a cafe in Sydney in November 2019 after asking her for money. He knocked her onto the floor, striking her at least 14 times and stamping on her head.

Before attacking Elasmar, who was 38 weeks pregnant at the time and was wearing a hijab, Lozina had shouted that “Muslims” had attacked his mother. 

“I made a conscious decision to turn my abdomen away from his punches,” Elasmar said. “I wanted to protect my baby.”

Lozina was restrained by members of the public before his arrest. “If nobody intervened, I could have been killed,” Elasmar said.

Lozina, who the court noted had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, chose to represent himself at the trial, interrupting court proceedings — held via video link — several times and “frequently” lapsing into “incoherent rants,” local media reported.

Judge Christopher Craigie said Lozina was “obviously unwell” and held “obsessive” opinions about Muslims.

“The assault was one with a grave potential to cause very serious harm to both the victim and her unborn child,” Craigie said during sentencing on Thursday.

Elasmar’s baby was born safely later in 2019, but she noted that though she had been spared major physical trauma, she had suffered psychologically in the aftermath of the attack.

“Islamophobia needs to end,” she said, adding that she has avoided going out in public since her ordeal. “Violence against women needs to stop.”