Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders

Police detain a protester at Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market during a rally amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2020

Dozens held in Melbourne for flouting stay-at-home-orders

  • Demonstrators ignore official warnings and gather at Queen Victoria Market

MELBOURNE: Authorities in Melbourne arrested more than 70 people for flouting stay-at-home orders to protest against lockdown restrictions Sunday, with some demonstrators clashing with riot police at a market in the city.
About 250 people attended the illegal protest — the second in as many days in the city— promoted by coronavirus conspiracy groups on social media.
The demonstrators ignored official warnings and public health orders to gather at the central Queen Victoria Market, calling for an end to a weeks-long lockdown of Australia’s second-biggest city.
They were met by a heavy police presence, with scuffles breaking out as the riot squad swept through market’s fruit and vegetable aisles.
Police arrested 74 people and fined 176, saying in a statement that “many protesters were aggressive and threatened violence toward officers.”
One man believed to be a “primary agitator” is facing charges of incitement while another was charged with assaulting police, according to the statement.
Last weekend, “Freedom Day” events were held across Australia to protest what some labelled the government’s “overblown” response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 900,000 people worldwide.

BACKGROUND

Australia has recorded more than 26,600 cases and 810 deaths in a population of 25 million, the vast majority in Melbourne and its surrounds.

The latest rallies come ahead of the gradual easing of virus restrictions in Melbourne, with daily outdoor exercise increased to two hours and small “social bubbles” allowed for people living alone from Monday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, who has previously branded the protesters “selfish,” said on Sunday the state could not afford to reopen too quickly.
“No one is enjoying the reality we face, but none of us have the option of ignoring the reality that we face,” he said.
“We cannot open up now and stay open. It would not be safe, it would not be smart.”
An overnight curfew, restrictions on visitors to homes and a limit on traveling more than 5 km are set to remain in place across Melbourne until Oct. 26.
Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has been relatively successful in containing the virus, allowing other regions to roll back restrictions.
The nation has recorded more than 26,600 cases and 810 deaths in a population of 25 million, the vast majority in Melbourne and its surrounds.


Migrants hoping to reach EU stranded in Bosnian woods as cold sets in

Updated 30 September 2020

Migrants hoping to reach EU stranded in Bosnian woods as cold sets in

  • As the EU attempts to overhaul its defunct migration policies, thousands of people fleeing Asia, the Middle East and Africa are stranded on the fringe of the wealthy bloc
  • In ethnically-divided Bosnia, the Serb and Croat-dominated regions refuse to accept migrants, and so they concentrate in the Bosniak-dominated Sarajevo and Krajina

VELIKA KLADUSA, Bosnia: Hundreds of migrants hoping to reach the European Union are sheltering in forests and ruined former factory buildings near Bosnia’s border with Croatia, with the cold setting in and conditions becoming more miserable.
On a cold Wednesday morning, migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Morocco and Algiers shivered in their makeshift tent camp high in the woods above the town of Velika Kladusa, built of cardboard and tree branches and covered with nylon sheets.
Some set up fires to warm up and cook modest meals. Others washed themselves and their clothes in a freezing forest stream, and brushed their teeth with ashes.
As the EU attempts to overhaul its defunct migration policies, thousands of people fleeing Asia, the Middle East and Africa are stranded on the fringe of the wealthy bloc, trying and often failing to enter and continue their journey.
Migrants and refugees mostly bypassed impoverished Bosnia during their mass movements across the Balkans in 2015-2016, but in recent years the country has become a key transit route after EU countries closed their borders to new arrivals.
“[There are] many problems here,” said Mahmood Abal from Bangladesh. “No rooms, no water, no medical facilities, no sanitation.”
He is one of about 500 men who were turned away from the Bosnian towns of Bihac and Velika Kladusa. Authorities are refusing to host large groups of migrants any longer and are preparing to close down some reception centers.
Sympathetic at first to the plight of the migrants, similar to their own during the war in the 1990s when they were forced to flee, Bosnians in the Krajina border region have become anxious, demanding that other regions share the burden.
But in ethnically-divided Bosnia, the Serb and Croat-dominated regions refuse to accept migrants, and so they concentrate in the Bosniak-dominated Sarajevo and Krajina.
Most migrants are smuggled to Bosnia in rubber boats over the Drina River, the natural border with Serbia, said Azur Sljivic, a Bosnian border police officer.
“Many of them drown because the Drina River is unpredictable, full of whirlpools,” Sljivic told Reuters while patrolling along the border in the eastern town of Zvornik.
Yet they do not give up.
On Tuesday night, about 50 migrants left their Bosnian forest tents to try cross the Croatian border.
“Italy, see you soon!,” one of them shouted cheerfully.