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Greece Moves Refugees From Burned Camp to New Shelter

Greek authorities have begun moving thousands of refugees to a new army-built camp on the island of ..

Greek authorities have begun moving thousands of refugees to a new army-built camp on the island of Lesbos after a fire destroyed the country’s largest migrant facility last week.

More than 12,500 people from 70 countries, mostly refugees from Afghanistan, African nations, and Syria, were left without shelter and access to food, water, and proper sanitation when fire decimated the overcrowded Moria camp.

Authorities dressed in masks and white protective suits have so far guided some 1,800 migrants and refugees, who had been sleeping in makeshift shelters on the side of the road, to the new temporary facility at Kara Tepe near the port of Mytilene.

Seventy female officers were flown in to organize the transfer of women and children to the new camp. No violence was reported.

A dog sits next to migrants as they they sleep on a road leading from Moria to the capital of Mytilene, on the northeastern…

A dog sits next to migrants as they sleep on a road leading from Moria to the capital of Mytilene, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.

“As long as it is peaceful, we believe it is a good move,” said Astrid Castelein, head of the U.N. refugee agency’s office on Lesbos. “Here on the street it is a risk for security, for public health, and it’s not dignity, which we need for everyone.”

Authorities have charged five Afghan asylum-seekers with starting the fires. Law enforcement officials say that the blazes broke out after 35 people tested positive for the coronavirus, triggering a lockdown of camp residents. A small group of inhabitants objected to being put into isolation. There have been no reported deaths as a result of the fires.

Greek officials say the new camp is equipped to host at least 5,000 people, but many migrants are hesitant to move there. Moria had a capacity of roughly 2,700 people but was home to more than 12,500 at the time of the blaze.

The Greek government said it aims to replace open-air tent facilities with formal migrant centers that have temporary housing options, but a number of migrants and refugees hope to leave Lesbos. They say they fear that the living conditions at camp Kara Tepe will be no better than they were at Moira, which international aid groups had called “appalling.”

Medical care

During the operation to move residents to the temporary camp, they were tested for the coronavirus and so far, 35 have been found positive.

A child sits between plastic bags as migrants pull their belongings in Kara Tepe, near Mytilene the capital of the northeastern…

A child sits between plastic bags as migrants pull their belongings in Kara Tepe, near Mytilene, the capital of the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.

The nongovernmental medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres, known as Doctors Without Borders, says that Greek police denied the health care workers access to its new clinic in Lesbos.

According to the group, it took several hours before its workers were finally allowed to reopen their facilities, but says it was “highly concerning” that their critical medical care services were compromised during the move.

Critics of the Moria camp say that the inhuman conditions there were a symbol of Europe’s failed migration policies.

The number of migrants seeking refuge on Greek islands near Turkey has fallen significantly since 2015, although camps remained overcrowded. In the past, the Greek government has accused wealthier European Union nations of failing to share the burden of assisting refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers as they seek a new life in Europe.

Transfer to Germany

The German government said this week it would take in 1,553 migrants, many of whom are families with refugee status, who had been living at camp Moria at the time of the fire.

Migrants wait to enter a new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe,near Mytilene the capital of the northeastern island of Lesbos…

Migrants wait to enter a new temporary refugee camp in Kara Tepe, near the capital of the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 17, 2020.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that any transfer of migrants to Germany would need to go hand-in-hand with a broader European initiative to support the refugee crisis in Greece.

Merkel has voiced support for the Greek government to build a new reception center for migrants and refugees on Lesbos. The structure would be managed by EU agencies.

Following the fire, Greece’s top public order official said plans to decongest migrant camps will be accelerated. On Tuesday, the Greek government vowed that the island of Lesbos will be emptied of refugees by early April 2021.

In a statement to The Guardian newspaper, Greece’s civil protection minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said, “Of the roughly 12,000 refugees here currently, I foresee 6,000 being transferred to the mainland by Christmas and the rest by Easter. The people of this island have gone through a lot. Theyve been very patient.”

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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