After a trial that lasted more than five years, a court in Greece ruled that the far-right Golden Dawn political party is a criminal organization. The party came to prominence in 2012 when it gained 21 seats in parliamentary elections with openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic politics, using the slogan “Blood, honor, Golden Dawn!”—adapted from the Hitler Youth slogan “Blood and honor.” After the 2012 election, party members unleashed violent attacks on immigrants. The three-judge panel convicted 68 Golden Dawn members of crimes including murder and attempted murder. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Democratic Audit)
Documentation is mounting of Greek authorities carrying out violent “pushbacks” of asylum-seekers and migrants at the country’s land and sea borders with Turkey. The practice violatesEU and international law, but in the past four months rights groups and media have documented an uptick in its use at the Greece-Turkey land border. Monitors have also documented the abandonment of asylum-seekers in “floating tents” without any means of propulsion in the Aegean Sea, and masked men sabotaging boats carrying asylum-seekers. The UN Refugee Agency has urged Greece to investigate. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)
The European Court of Justice ruled that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, “failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law” by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised. (Photo: UNHCR/H.Holland)
Refugees have become political pawns in a power play between the EU, Greece and Turkey. Turkey abrogated its deal with the European Union to contain refugees within its borders, as a means of pressuring the EU to support its military campaign in Syria. Dramatic scenes ensued at the land and sea borders between Greece and Turkey: Greek police tear-gassing and pushing back crowds of asylum-seekers at a northern border crossing; the Hellenic Coast Guard firing warning shots at a dinghy full of asylum-seekers in the Aegean Sea; angry protesters preventing another group in a dinghy from disembarking in the port on the island of Lesvos. Amid all this came a timely reminder of what can happen when people feel compelled to attempt ever more dangerous journeys. The UN migration agency, IOM, announced that the drowning of 91 people off the coast of Libya last month and other recent fatalities had taken the toll in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014 above 20,000. (Photo: IOM)
Amid all the recent talk about how the war in Syria is approaching an imminent end, it suddenly looks set for international escalation. With Turkish forces resisting the Assadist advance into Idlib province, the last rebel-held territory, there is clear potential for direct combat between a NATO member and the Damascus regime or its Russian backers. The humanitarian catastrophe is worsening in Idlib, with over half a million displaced and pouring into camps along the Turkish border. Regime forces this week recaptured Kafranbel, an important symbolic victory, as the town was among the first to rebel against Assad and was long a symbol of the revolution. Regime and Russian aerial bombardment continues to take a horrific toll, with schools and hospitals intentionally targeted. (Photo: White Helmets)
The Turkish air force again carried out raids targeting the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a Yazidi militia, in the autonomous Sinjar area of Iraq’s Ninevah province. Reports said at least four people were killed, including militia commander Zardasht Shingali. The YBS, aligned with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), played a key role in liberating the Sinjar area from ISIS after the Islamic State’s genocide against the Yazidis in 2014. After the new air-strikes, the Kurdish Freedom Movement umbrella group called for protests against the Turkish aggression in cities across Europe. Demonstrations were reported from Athens, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Marseille, Stockholm and Utrecht. (Photo via The Canary)
After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)
The European Union adopted a resolution against Turkey's accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament notes ongoing human and civil rights violations and lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentions the "shrinking space for civil society," arrests and suppression of journalists, and dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of refugees and migrants within Turkey's borders. The body noted that Turkey's government has violated the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of counter-terrorism. It has also intimidated its citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey. (Map: CIA)
European governments are complicit in the systematic, unlawful and frequently violent "pushback" and collective expulsion of thousands of asylum seekers to squalid and unsafe refugee camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Amnesty International charges in a new report. By prioritizing border control over compliance with international law, European governments are not merely turning a blind eye to vicious assaults by the Croatian police, but actually funding such activities. In so doing, they are fueling a growing humanitarian crisis on the edge of the European Union. (Photo Border Violence Monitoring)
The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russian authorities to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, and all the other "illegally detained Ukrainian citizens" in Russia and Russia-annexed Crimea. Sentsov has been on hunger strike in a Russian prison since May 14, demanding the release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners. Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. The 76 MEPs who voted against the resolution are either of far-right formations such as the French National Front, Germany's Alternative für Deutschland, the Greek Golden Dawn, Italy's Northern League, the Netherlands' Party for Freedom, and Britain's UK Independence Party; or "leftist" parties such as the French Left Front, Germany's Die Linke, the Greek Syriza, Italy's The Other Europe, and Spain's Podemos. (Photo via Kyiv Post)
The UN reports a “notable trend of spontaneous returns” of displaced Syrians as regime gains bring a modicum of peace to some areas—but mass killings by regime forces continue.
More than 14,000 asylum seekers currently confined to five Greek islands in the Aegean Sea are facing dire circumstances due to unusually harsh winter conditions.