Friday, May 13, 2016

Migrants Are Avoiding Greece in Effort to Reach Europe

The rescue of over 800 migrants off the coast of Sicily over the past two days is emblematic of a new strategy by those desperate and determined to escape their war-torn native countries and enter Europe.

An Italian coast guard ship arrived in the Sicilian port of Augusta Friday carrying 340 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, many of them from Syria and Iraq.

They were passengers aboard one of two ships that were spotted sailing off the coast of western Sicily. The coast guard said 515 people were rescued from the other boat.

International refugee groups say this is the largest group of Syrian refugees who have arrived in Italy this year, and signals a change in tactics among refugees who are now unable to enter the continent via Turkey.

Ankara reached a deal with the European Union in March under which it would take back all migrants who land in Greece in an effort to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, which last  year totaled more than 1 million people, making it Europe's biggest immigrant crisis since World War II.

Efforts backfire

The International Organization for Migration said more than 187,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea between January 1 and May 8, with 1,357 fatalities.

Along with the deal with Turkey, the EU has launched a naval mission to disrupt people smuggling on the Mediterranean seas. But a British parliamentary committee has determined the mission a failure.

The mission, known as Operation Sophia, authorizes EU naval vessels to seize and destroy vessels used in people smuggling. But the House of Lords EU Committee said the effort has simply forced smugglers to switch from wooden boats to "even more unsafe" rubber dinghies.

And the EU's deal with Turkey also appears to be at risk in a standoff over Ankara's legal definition of terrorism.

In exchange for curbing the flow of immigrants, Turkey would narrow its anti-terrorism laws, and its citizens would be allowed to travel to Europe without the need for a passport.

The EU said Turkey's broad definition of terrorism can be used to target free speech and political dissent.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defiantly said Thursday that his country could not change its anti-terrorism laws while it is fighting Kurdish militants.

  •     Refugees in Greece: "We Did Not Expect to Live This Life in Europe"

Almost one month after the signing of the EU-Turkey deal, the situation across Greece remains chaotic and inhumane. In improvised camps and detention centers across the country, around 50,000 people are stranded in appalling conditions. In what is becoming unbearable heat, many are unable to access the asylum system and are rapidly losing hope that they will be able to join their relatives or find places to live in peace.
The 10,000 People Trapped at Idomeni Must Not Pay for Europe’s Poor Policy with Their Health

In Idomeni, Greece, following the closure of the Balkans route to Europe, thousands are stranded and vulnerable to violence at the hands of the border police or smugglers. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have treated babies as young as six weeks old for exposure to tear gas and ten-year-old children for rubber bullet wounds. MSF teams also deal with the health consequences of long term settlement in a camp that does not provide adequate shelter, health services, or sanitation.

MSF is also collaborating with Greek authorities to conduct an immunization campaign to protect children in the camp from vaccine-preventable diseases.

"Some of these children were born on European soil, others have been displaced for months, some for years, and most of them have not received all of the routine childhood vaccination that they need," said Emmanuel Massart, MSF field coordinator in Idomeni. "Europe has decided to stop thousands of people from moving through Greece but did not properly plan to address their basic needs. This was a fully predictable crisis, caused by the deliberate neglect of European governments and institutions."
Helplessness and Frustration Add to the Tension in Athens

The situation is no better in Athens, where, in spite of the relief provided by volunteers and local charities, basic living conditions for refugees are not being met. Feelings of helplessness and frustration add to the tension between refugees who feel that their cases are categorized arbitrarily according to their nationalities. "Disputes between Syrians and Afghans break out every night," explains Mohammad, a Syrian refugee from Latakia who arrived at the port mid-March. "The decision to accept Syrians and Iraqis as refugees but not Afghans is not fair at all, because many Afghans’ suffering was even worse than the Syrians. That’s what make Afghans angry with the Syrians.".................

***[GREECE recognized this country with the name "FYROM"]
***[UN  resolution A/RES/47/225 of 8 April 1993]
***El Kratos uses the recognized name FYROM.
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