Greek ship ferries hundreds more migrants to mainland

admin   •   September 2, 2015   •   3101

Refugees and migrants disembark from the passenger ship “Tera Jet”, following their trip from the island of Lesbos to the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece September 1, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

A ship bringing about 1,800 migrants and refugees from an eastern Greek island to the port of Piraeus arrived on Tuesday night, the Greek coastguard said.

Greece has seen a spike in the number of refugees and migrants arriving on the islands by rubber dinghies via nearby Turkey this summer, with aid agencies estimating about 2,000 crossing over daily last month.

After a hiatus of a few days last week, Greek authorities on Saturday resumed carrying the refugees – mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – to the mainland by ship from the islands of Kos, Lesbos, Samos, Symi and Agathonissi.

Many then carry on their journeys across mainland Europe.

“You have to help us,” said 27-year-old Isham, a Syrian teacher who left his wife and two children behind in Turkey.

“We are human,” he said, appealing to governments not to block the refugees’ attempts to travel through Europe in search of a better life.

A coastguard official said the ship, the Tera Jet, carrying 1,749 migrants from Lesbos docked in Piraeus, adding that another ship with 2,459 migrants was expected to arrive from the island in the early hours on Wednesday.

An average of 1,700 migrants crossed into Greece daily in July, with the number topping 2,000 a day in August.

Cash-strapped Greece has said it lacked the infrastructure to cope with influx.

President Prokopis Pavlopoulos told French counterpart Francois Hollande by telephone that migration should be addressed at a top European level, according to a statement by Pavlopoulos’ office.

Greece’s caretaker Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou will chair a ministerial meeting on migration on Wednesday. Thanou took over last week after former Greek premier Alexis Tsipras, who heads the leftist Syriza party, resigned last month to pave the way for a snap election on Sept. 20.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Georgia Kalovyrna; Editing by Matthias Williams and Alison Williams)

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Mexico’s National Guard halts advance of latest wave of migrants

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

Hundreds of Central Americans traveling as part of a migrant caravan walk on 23 January 2020 near the southeastern Mexican town of Frontera Hidalgo. EPA-EFE/Juan Manuel Blanco

Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico – Thousands of Central Americans crossed into Mexico illegally Thursday from Guatemala, taking advantage of scant monitoring of a section of the Suchiate River, the natural border between those two countries.

The migrants traveled several kilometers inside Mexico and said they planned to move in orderly fashion and formally apply for asylum, but more than 200 members of Mexico’s National Guard halted their advance on a road in Chiapas state near the Guatemala-Mexico border after an attempt at dialogue between the migrants and Mexican authorities broke down.

National Migration Institute (INM) buses arrived at that spot near the town of Frontera Hidalgo to take hundreds of detained migrants to immigration-processing centers such as the Siglo XXI station in the city of Tapachula.

Carrying the flags of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and signs with the message “We Want to Talk Directly to the President,” the migrants set out early Thursday and walked more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, to the nearby town of Frontera Hidalgo.

They said they were taking up an offer from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who last Friday offered jobs to thousands of migrants but said they would need to apply for asylum in Mexico.

The migrants also said they were looking to obtain safe-conduct passes – at least in Chiapas – and thereby avoid being targets of the National Guard, a recently formed militarized police force.

“Right now what we’re going to do is heed the call of (Lopez Obrador) … He’s promised us that they won’t touch us with an (asylum application) in hand. That’s what we’re going to do. If they touch us, I don’t know who’s lying there. But we’re going to do our part,” Honduran Jose Luis Morales told Efe Thursday.

However, tensions escalated Thursday when the migrants and some activists accompanying them confronted officials with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) and the INM and demanded they respond to some 2,000 requests for asylum made in recent days by members of their caravan.

On Monday, between 500 and 1,000 migrants – part of a caravan that originally consisted of as many as 5,000 people – ran across the Suchiate River near the Rodolfo Robles bridge.

The National Guard responded with tear gas and captured more than 400 people; the National Migration Institute said 40 other migrants opted to return to Guatemala of their own accord, while 58 others disappeared into the jungle.

The INM says that a total of 679 Honduran members of the caravan, which left that impoverished Central American country a week ago, have been deported by air or land.

That institute said Wednesday that more than 2,000 migrants had been intercepted in a single day in the southeastern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco.

On Thursday, the migrants crossed the Suchiate River at a different point to avoid being turned away by the National Guard.

Despite having crossed the river by surprise, the Central Americans had pledged on Thursday to migrate in peaceful and orderly fashion.

“We’re traveling because it’s the only way that maybe they’ll show mercy and let us travel to the north. My (preferred) destination is the United States, but if I can stay in Mexico I’ll stay because for me it’s a big advantage, since we’re supported here by all the Mexican people,” Honduran Marco Tulio Polanco told Efe.

Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, the National Human Rights Commission, which has come under fire for its lukewarm response to Monday’s events on the border, on Thursday issued a statement saying that its officials have been gathering up complaints and that it condemns “all acts of violence against the physical integrity of migrants.”

Unemployment, poverty and, above all, high levels of gang violence are the reasons most cited by Central Americans for leaving their native countries.

Mexico’s response to this first migrant caravan of 2020 reflects a sharp change in policy by Lopez Obrador’s administration, which had previously offered fast-track visas to migrants for humanitarian reasons and had sought to enlist the US in a development plan for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

That plan focused on boosting job opportunities in countries that have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

But under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports if that country did not halt the northward movement of Central Americans, Lopez Obrador’s government agreed with the US in June 2019 on a plan to curb migration.

Last month, Mexico announced a 70 percent reduction in the number of people arriving at its border with the US and said that the INM had deported 178,960 foreigners in 2019. EFE-EPA

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Greece elects first female head of state

UNTV News   •   January 22, 2020

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of Council of State, reacts to the announcement of the result of voting in the parliament electing her as the new President of the Greek Republic, in Athens, Greece, 22 January 2020. EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

By Ana Mora Segura

Athens
– Greece on Wednesday elected a woman head of state for the first time in the country’s history after the male-dominated parliament voted in favor of appointing well-known judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou as president.

She received the backing of 261 lawmakers in the Hellenic chamber, well above the necessary 200, with the support of almost all members of the conservative New Democracy government and the left-wing opposition Syriza and center-left Movement for Change.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Greece enters a new era today, the country enters the third decades of the 21st century with a woman president.”

He described her as a “great personality” who united Greek people.

Although Sakellaropoulouwon a large majority, she couldn’t count on the vote of one of New Democracy’s best knowns faces, former prime minister Andonis Samaras, who was out of the country.

Several names had been mulled for the position of president by Greek media, including Samaras himself.

Parliament’s speaker Konstantinos Tasoulas will formally communicate Sakellaropoulou’s appointment and the new president is expected to take office on 13 March, a day after the first and only term of her predecessor Prokopis Pavlopoulos comes to an end.

In Greece, it is common for leftist governments to propose conservative presidential candidates and vice versa to project an image of institutional consensus.

While never openly campaigning for a political party, Sakellaropoulou is considered as progressive and was the first person to preside over the Greek Council of State after being appointed by the previous Syriza government in 2018.

In addition to the image of institutional cohesion, Mitsotakis achieves three things with his proposed head of state: weakening the narrative from the opposition that he is on the far-right, putting a conservative judge in charge of the Council of State and removing Pavlopoulos from office.

Outgoing presidents are usually chosen for a second term. This is the first time that a government has decided not to propose a candidate from its own ranks.

Sakellaropoulou’s election as president is an indicator of change in a deeply unequal country.

According to the European Union’s agency for equality, Greece has the dubious honor of leading the list in terms of gender disparity.

Only 18 percent of lawmakers and 9 percent of company executives are women, according to the research.

“The time has come for our country to choose a woman as president,” Mitsotakis said when he announced the candidacy. EFE-EPA

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Smoke blankets Athens from wildfire on Evia island

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2019

A large wildfire on Greece’s Evia island on Tuesday (August 13) fanned by strong winds blanketed the capital Athens some 110 kilometers (70 miles) away.

The fire, which generated thick smoke, destroyed tracts of forest on Evia, firefighters said, as authorities prepared to evacuate two villages potentially in the path of the flames.

Wildfires raged uncontrolled in at least four other Greek regions, and the fire brigade said it had been called to put out 182 fires in the last three days.

More than 120 firemen, aided by helicopters and other aircraft, battled the blaze on Evia, the country’s second-largest island, where a monastery had already been evacuated.

No fatalities had been reported, and the winds were expected to subside in the evening, a fire brigade official said.

Greece often faces wildfires during its dry summer months, and authorities have warned of the high risk of blazes this week.

Last year a wildfire killed 100 people in the seaside town of Mati near Athens, and in 2007 devastating fires killed 65, scorched thousands of hectares of forest and farmland and threatened archaeological sites. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vasilis Stogiannis, Phoebe Fronista)

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