Balkans

Migrant resistance —from Calais to Macedonia

French police resumed their eviction of the Calais migrant camp known as "the Jungle" on March 1 after a night of violent clashes with camp residents. Riot police fired tear gas after migrants began throwing rocks, and at least 12 shacks were set ablaze. Those living in the camp, mainly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa, hope to cross the Channel. The government is promising to offer alternative shelter to all of those in the camp, said to number between 800 and 3,500, according to various estimates. Demolition crews reportedly left standing shacks that were clearly inhabited. (EuroNews, March 1; BBC News, Feb. 29) Aslo Feb. 29, Macedonian police fired tear-gas at a crowd of migrants who destroyed the barbed-wire fence on the Greek border using a makeshift battering ram. It is unclear if any migrants succeeded in crossing the border at Idomeni, where some 7,000 are stranded on the Greek side as Macedonian authorities let only a very few pass. (BBC News, Feb. 29)

Palestinian fugitive 'assassinated' in Bulgaria

Escaped Palestinian prisoner Omar al-Nayif was found dead inside the headquarters of the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria on Feb. 26, in what senior Palestinian officials and his family say was an "assassination" carried out by Israel. Nayif, a 52-year-old man from Jenin, had been living in Bulgaria for years, but late last year sought refuge in the Palestinian embassy after Israel demanded his extradition so he could see out a life sentence over the killing of an Israeli settler. Palestinian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Taysir Jaradat told Ma'an News Agency that embassy staff found Nayif lying in the embassy's garden covered in blood. He was rushed to hospital but died en route.

Two Gitmo detainees released, third refuses transfer

Two of three Guantánamo Bay detainees scheduled for release boarded a plane for transfer on Jan. 20 while the third detainee turned down the opportunity. Though the two released detainees were natives of Egypt and Yemen, they were resettled in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The third detainee, Yemeni national Mohammed Bawazir, has gained a reputation for hunger striking as a protest against his 14 years of captivity without trial. Though Bawazir originally agreed to resettle in an unidentified country, he changed his mind reportedly upon realizing that he would not be returning to any family. Currently, 91 detainees remain in Guantánamo Bay, and 34 await resettlement in foreign countries.

Refugee resistance on Balkan border

Riots broke out in the early hours of Dec. 3 at Greece's frontier with Macedonia as migrants and asylum seekers stranded there for the past two weeks blockaded the border, preventing people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan from crossing. Since Nov. 18, only refugees from those three countries have been admitted into Macedonia, while other nationalities have been turned away. Many of those refused entry have boarded buses and returned to Athens in recent days, but about 3,000 have stayed to protest being discriminated against on the basis of nationality. Some have embarked on hunger strikes while several Iranian asylum seekers sewed their lips closed last week. (IRIN)

German torture case against CIA official

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) on Oct. 19 filed a criminal complaint against a high-ranking CIA official for mistreatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was detained and allegedly tortured for four months in 2003. El-Masri was on vacation in Macedonia when he was mistaken for Khalid al-Masri, a suspect in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. El-Masri was then transported to Afghanistan where he was detained and questioned for four months under the direction of Alfreda Frances Bikowsky. At the time, Bikowsky was deputy chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's Bin Laden Issue Station. ECCHR asserts in the complaint that the US Senate Torture Report ties Bikowsky to el-Masri's detention, and ECCHR requests that the German federal prosecutor investigate.

UN: no short-term end to refugee crisis in Europe

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sept. 25 announced that the flow of refugees into Europe shows no signs of easing or stopping, as approximately 8,000 refugees a day seek to enter Europe. Amin Awad, the regional refugee coordinator for then UNHCR stated that problems now facing governments may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Awad stated that the UN is planning for the potential displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces fight to recapture the city from Islamic State. Also that day, the UNHCR reported about the high number of migrants entering Europe along the Serbian-Croatian border. More than 50,000 migrants have entered through the town of Tovarnik, Croatia since mid-September.

Hungary to Syrian refugees: Stay out!

Hungary's increasingly fascistic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in Brussels to pitch the EU on his tough new anti-immigrant policy, issued a warning to Syrian refugees: stay out of his country. In a statement all the more sickening for being veiled in an Orwellian cloak of "morality" and "humanitarian" concern, he told reporters: "The moral, human thing is to make clear 'please don't come! Why you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there, it's risky to come! We can't guarantee that you will be accepted here.'" And of course by "can't guarantee that you will be accepted," what he really means is "we will not accept you." Orban hopes to push through his new anti-immigrant law by Sept. 15, making it a criminal offense to cross the Hungarian border without proper documentation, or to cause damage to the new "security fence" being built along the 175-kilometer frontier with Serbia. (Euronews)

Srebrenica at 20: 'door open for a new war'?

At the July 11 ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was chased off by stone-throwing protesters—the first violence at the annual commemoration. He later said he was hit in the face with a rock (although he was not injured) as the crowd chanted "Kill, kill" and "Allahu Akbar!" At issue is Serbia's official denialism on whether the massacre of more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims after the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 constituted "genocide." Vucic wrote up a open letter for the ceremony that said: "Serbia clearly and unambiguously condemns this horrible crime and is disgusted with all those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice." But it (pointedly) did not use the word "genocide." The New York Times notes that Bosnian Muslims still recall Vucic's bloodthirty statement during the 1992-95 war that for every dead Serb, 100 Muslims should be killed. But much more to the point is that Serbia's government last week asked Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would formally designate the Srebrenica massacre an act of genocide. (Jurist, July 5) On July 8, Russia obliged, with Moscow's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling the UK-drafted text "confrontational and politically-motivated." In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic, the head of Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP that Russia's veto made "trust and reconciliation impossible." She added: "Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children. By deciding [to veto] Russia has left the door open for a new war." (Al Jazeera, July 9)

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