Abusive pushbacks of migrants ‘normalized’ in Greece: MSF

Abusive pushbacks of migrants ‘normalized’ in Greece: MSF
Greece has "normalised" abusive pushbacks of migrants under a broader EU policy that ignores violence against people in need, the international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 02 November 2023
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Abusive pushbacks of migrants ‘normalized’ in Greece: MSF

Abusive pushbacks of migrants ‘normalized’ in Greece: MSF
  • Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have entered Greece in recent years
  • “MSF teams have borne witness to how normalized pushbacks have become, and to the stark absence of protection for people who seek safety in Greece,” MSF said in a report

ATHENS: Greece has “normalized” abusive pushbacks of migrants under a broader EU policy that ignores violence against people in need, the international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of migrants, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, have entered Greece in recent years from the sea and land borders with Turkiye.
Greece has stepped up patrols in the Aegean Sea with the help of the European Border Surveillance Agency, Frontex.
“MSF teams have borne witness to how normalized pushbacks have become, and to the stark absence of protection for people who seek safety in Greece,” MSF said in a report.
“Despite extensive and credible evidence, Greek authorities, the EU and its member states have failed to hold to account the perpetrators of these violations,” it added.
In June, a dilapidated and overloaded former trawler capsized and sank off Pylos in the Peloponnese, drowning 82 people, while hundreds were reported missing.
Forty of the survivors have filed a group lawsuit against Greek authorities for failing to take appropriate action before the boat sank.
MSF said the current situation at Europe’s borders “is the result of EU policies that condone and enable continued violence against individuals in need.”
Despite extensive documentation and reporting of violent pushbacks at both land and sea “there is a striking and longstanding lack of accountability at Greek and Europe,” it said.
The charity says it has provided emergency medical assistance to nearly 8,000 individuals over the past two years, including over 1,500 children.
Most patients treated by the group said they had survived multiple pushbacks while many “were trapped in cycles of violence on arrival,” MSF said.
The organization said it had recorded testimonies of “violence, physical assault, strip searches and intrusive body searches on children, women and men” by uniformed officers and unidentified masked individuals.
The Greek migration ministry has been contacted by AFP for comment.
Between August 2021 and July 2023, MSF said its teams on the Aegean islands of Samos and Lesbos treated 467 survivors of sexual violence and 88 patients who had survived female genital mutilation in their country of origin.
Many of these women and girls were also suspected survivors of trafficking, while some were pregnant or had given birth after being raped.
The group also acknowledged reports of pushbacks on land, with people detained, forcibly placed on life rafts and left to drift back to Turkish waters.
On several occasions, MSF said its teams rushing to provide assistance to people in distress on Greek islands were delayed for checks by local law enforcement.
On five occasions, they were actively blocked from reaching the scene.
Greece and Turkiye in December are expected to discuss a renewal of a 2016 EU deal restricting migration.
Greece’s migration ministry this week said arrivals began increasing in mid-2022, peaking in September before declining in October.
In the first nine months of the year, migrant arrivals in Greece spiked to over 29,700 people, compared to 11,000 in the same period in 2022, the ministry said.


Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago
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Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran

Spanish politician shot in Madrid points finger at Iran
  • Alejo Vidal-Quadras was shot in the face in broad daylight near his home in the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood on November 9 by a motorcycle passenger
  • "I have no doubt that it was the Iranian regime," the 78-year-old, who was European Parliament vice-president between 2009 and 2014, told a news conference

MADRID: A right-wing Spanish politician who was shot in November in Madrid on Friday accused Iran of being behind his attempted murder during his first public appearance since the attack.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a founder of Spain's far-right Vox party and former head of its centre-right People's Party in Catalonia who has long supported Iran's opposition movement, was shot in the face in broad daylight near his home in the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood on November 9 by a motorcycle passenger.
"I have no doubt that it was the Iranian regime," the 78-year-old, who was European Parliament vice-president between 2009 and 2014, told a news conference in the Spanish capital.
Tehran has "a long tradition, a track record, of extraterritorial terrorist activities" against "dissidents and against foreigners who support then," he added, without offering any proof to back up his claim.
Four people have been arrested as part of the investigation into the shooting, but the suspected gunman -- a French national of Tunisian origin with several previous convictions in France, remains at large.
Police have not commented on a possible motive for the shooting.
Vidal-Quadras, who already pointed the finger at Iran when he was questioned by police after the shooting, said it was a "miracle" that he survived.
"I made a movement of my head that meant that the shot, which was supposed to be fatal, was not," he said.
The bullet entered one side of his jaw and exited the other, and Vidal-Quadras spent time in hospital recovering from a jaw fracture.
"The detonation sounded like a thunderclap in my head, in fact I have a perforated eardrum, and I started bleeding, it caused a puddle on the floor," he said.
Vidal-Quadras said he believes the quick intervention of a passer-by, who stopped the bleeding with a piece of clothing, saved his life.
He said he has suffered from after-effects since the shooting, including "some paralysis of the facial muscles".
Vidal-Quadras, a top member of the International Committee in Search of Justice which supports the "Iranian resistance", has long called for the international community to harden its position towards Iran.


Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta
Updated 23 February 2024
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Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta

Five migrants die as boat capsizes during rescue off Malta
  • Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center
  • They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt

VALLETTA, Malta: Five migrants, including a woman, died when their boat capsized as they were being rescued off Malta on Friday, the island’s armed forces said.
Another eight were injured and taken to hospital, including two who swallowed a considerable amount of seawater and fuel.
Armed Forces of Malta deputy commander Col. Edric Zahra told reporters that the incident happened at about midday when the eight-meter (26-ft) boat was four miles (6.5 km) south of Malta.
Some 21 migrants were rescued and taken to a migrant center. They are believed to be from Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Egypt.
Mediterranean sea crossings from North Africa to Italy or Malta are among the most dangerous migration routes in the world. Last year almost 2,500 migrants died or went missing on those routes, the International Organization for Migration says.
The vast majority of migrants head for Italy. Malta’s armed forces rescued 380 migrants at sea last year, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said in parliament in January.


Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka
Updated 23 February 2024
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Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka

Russia says its forces push further west after taking Ukraine’s Avdiivka
  • Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons
  • The frontlines in the war had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka

MOSCOW: Russian forces have advanced further to the west after taking control of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, the defense ministry said on Friday.
It said Russian forces had also destroyed a number of Western-provided Ukrainian weapons in the past week including seven British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, a US Patriot anti-aircraft guided missile and launch vehicle, and 42 HIMARS rockets fired by multiple launch systems.
Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.
The frontlines in the war, which started two years ago on Saturday, had not shifted substantially since late 2022 before the taking of Avdiivka, and Russia still controls just under a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
The capture of Avdiivka, following months of fighting with heavy casualties on both sides, was Russia’s first significant gain since taking the city of Bakhmut last May.
After taking Avdiivka, units of the “Center” group of Russian forces “continued advancing in a westerly direction,” the defense ministry statement said.
“In cooperation with aviation and artillery, they defeated accumulations of manpower and equipment of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” in six nearby settlements, it said.


UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

UK, EU border agency sign migration pact
Updated 23 February 2024
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UK, EU border agency sign migration pact

UK, EU border agency sign migration pact
  • Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force
  • It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added

LONDON: The United Kingdom on Friday signed an agreement with the EU border agency Frontex to jointly crack down on irregular immigration, the government in London said.
Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made stopping migrants from crossing the Channel on boats from France a priority before a general election due this year.
Friday’s agreement provides for the exchange of intelligence between Frontex and the UK Border Force to help disrupt people-smuggling gangs, Britain’s interior ministry said in a statement.
It also agrees to collaborate on the development of new technologies, such as the use of drones to protect borders, the Home Office added.
UK Border Force director general Phil Douglas and Frontex executive director Hans Leijtens signed the arrangement in London, witnessed by UK interior minister James Cleverly and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
“Organized immigration crime and people smuggling are global challenges that require shared solutions and ambitions,” Cleverly said.
“Our landmark working arrangement between the UK and Frontex is another crucial step in tackling illegal migration, securing our borders and stopping the boats.”
The UK government says the number of migrants arriving on England’s south coast in rudimentary vessels fell by a third last year from a record high of 45,000 migrants in 2022.
The UK government called the deal “the latest step” in its “plan to tackle illegal migration and criminal gangs,” with the issue set to feature prominently in the general election campaign.


New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line
Updated 23 February 2024
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New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line

New Delhi calls on Moscow to release Indians on Russian front line
  • Testimonies of Indians in Russian army sent shockwaves across the media this week
  • Government urges Indian nationals to ‘stay away’ from Russia’s conflict

New Delhi: India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday it was in contact with Moscow regarding the release of Indian nationals, who according to media reports have been deployed in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Testimonies of Indian men hired as “army security helpers” for Russian troops, their families and an agent involved in their employment sent shockwaves across the Indian media after The Hindu daily broke the news earlier this week.
A few Indians are known to have volunteered to join the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine created to counter Russia’s invasion since February 2022, but until The Hindu’s report, there was no indication of Indian nationals fighting on the Russian side.
Those who spoke to the newspaper said they had been given basic army training and expected to continue as kitchen helpers, but later were sent to the front instead.
Most of the men came from Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir, and said they had been told they would not be sent to the battlefield.
The Indian government was “aware that a few Indian nationals have signed up for support jobs with the Russian army,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a statement.
“The Indian Embassy has regularly taken up this matter with the relevant Russian authorities for their early discharge. We urge all Indian nationals to exercise due caution and stay away from this conflict.”
The issue has been flagged on social media by lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been approached by some of the men’s relatives.
On Wednesday, Owaisi made a plea to Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar in an X post, which has since gone viral.
“Kindly use your good offices to bring these men back home,” he said. “Their lives are at risk & their families are justifiably worried.”