FREE NEWS 14TH – 15TH MARCH

Justice and Home Affairs : Amnesty International critical of EU-Turkey migrant plan (New Europe)
The head of Amnesty International has criticised a draft European Union plan to return some migrants to Turkey.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty said “It’s flawed, morally and legally”.
Under a tentative deal struck on March 7, Turkey will accept migrants who had entered Europe from Turkey in exchange for more funding, an earlier introduction of visa-free travel to Europe for Turks and the promise to speed up Turkey’s EU membership talks.
Shetty told Reuters that he would meet France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, European Council President Donald Tusk and other EU officials this week “to directly express our shock and outrage at what they are coming up with”[…]

Justice and Home Affairs: 3 Afghans drowned in Suva Reka FYROM – Greece border river passage while over 30 photojournalists got arrested by FYROM police (NewEurope)
3 Afghan migrants drowned in Suva Reka river between Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, while atempting to cross the dangerous pass, as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirm, while over 30 photojournalists arrested by FYROM police, as they followed refugees that attempted to cross Greece – FYROM border in Vardar river area.Photojournalists and journalists followed around 2,000 refugees that left Idomeni camp area in order to find open passage, as Greece – FYROM buffer zone keeps being inaccessible since last Monday. The refugees attempted to cross the fenceless border line river passage while realizing FYROM army and police forces were present in the area. ANA-MPA photojournalist stressed that before realizing that they have crossed the border, they were arrested and taken to Moin, a village west of Idomeni, from FYROM side […]

Justice and Home Affairs: Commission assesses Bulgarian request to include Bulgaria – Turkey borders to agreement as “legitimate”  (NewEurope)
“The Bulgarian intention is totally legitimate for Bulgaria to bring forward this request to discuss it,” Margaritis Schinas, Commission Chief Spokesperson said of Bulgaria’s request for the Bulgarian-Russian border to be included in the refugee deal. Schinas spoke on Monday, ahead of Thursday’s EU Summit in Brussels.
The European Commission commented on Bulgaria’s request saying any finalized refugee deal shouldn’t focus on flows of people between Turkey and Greece. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, expressed the opinion that the deal should include the border area between Bulgaria and Turkey, but also other EU maritime borders, such as the Black Sea. Schinas said “we should wait for this discussion to happen” so as to secure the flows and returns of the illegal entrants from Turkey, as a condition from Bulgarian authorities to support the final deal […]

Refugee Crisis: EU-Turkey refugee deal – Q&A (TheGuardian)
What does the deal involve?
It sounds simple enough: one Syrian refugee on the Greek islands will be returned to Turkey and, in exchange, a Syrian asylum seeker in Turkey will be found a home in Europe. The one in, one out scheme provisionally agreed by the EU and Turkey was hailed as a breakthrough by European leaders. But as well as the knotty legal and moral issues, a host of practical questions remain unresolved. How many people would be exchanged? When would it start? These are just some of the questions EU officials hope to iron out ahead of an EU summit on 17-18 March […]

Migration: EU leaders must show conscience on refugees (EuObserver)
One hundred and forty thousand desperate people have already crossed the Aegean Sea in flimsy boats to Europe this year. Thirty five thousand of them are trapped in Greece, in limbo, with no way forward or back.
Thirteen thousand people are in tents on the Greece-Macedonia border, in pouring rain. A further 2,000 are stranded in Serbia. Fourteen people were killed by a train while sleeping, exhausted, on a railway track in Macedonia. Two people froze to death crossing the mountains in Bulgaria. These are the numbers that define Europe’s refugee crisis. On top of the million people who arrived last year they represent a challenge to Europe’s compassion and competence […]

Migration: Three people die after EU border clampdown (EuObserver)
Two men and one woman on Monday (14 March) became the first victims of the EU’s decision to close Western Balkan borders.
They drowned in the Suva river, swollen after days of heavy rain, near the Greek border with Macedonia, Macedonia’s interior ministry said. Police said 23 other people were rescued and taken to a camp on the Macedonian side […]

Refugee Crisis: Refugees frustrated in a Greek cul-de-sac (Euractiv)
Uncertainty is rife among refugees on Greek soil as no one has told them what will happen next or how to proceed. Germany’s interior minister has offered help to Athens, but downplayed the seriousness of their situation. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports. On Friday (11 March), more than 3,000 refugees were in Athens’ main port of Piraeus, many of them huddled in tents. They are merely a fraction of the other tens of thousands of refugees currently on Greek soil, from the Aegean islands to the northern camp of Idomeni on the FYRO Macedonian border.
“The biggest problem is that they don’t know what to do next,” said Nikitas Kanakis, head of Doctors of the World’s Greek branch, adding, “no one has explained to them what will happen next”. He predicted that the number of refugees arriving in Piraeus will only increase, due to the number of people still arriving on the Greek islands in the Aegean […]

Migration: Hundreds of refugees make defiant journey on foot into Macedonia (TheGuardian)
Hundreds of asylum seekers have walked en masse into Macedonia in defiance of European attempts to seal the continent’s southern borders to people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East. Dramatic photographs and videos showed crowds of men, women and children wading through the river on Monday afternoon to cross the Greek-Macedonian border, where more than 12,000 had been stuck for more than a week. Refugees stood in the water and formed human chains to pass babies and toddlers to safety on the other side, desperate to escape a squalid shanty town in northern Greece where medics have reported an outbreak of hepatitis A […]

Refugee crisis: how Greeks opened their hearts to strangers (TheGuardian)
Compassion, kindness, generosity of spirit: all three apply to Panayiota Drougas and her husband, Dimitris, as they pace the platform of the train station at Idomeni.
There is no reason in the world that they should be here. Idomeni, at the best of times, is a godforsaken place: bleak, barren and infused with a melancholy typical of remote border posts. It is a starkness made more haunting still by the thousands of refugees who, following the railway tracks that have led them to this northern corner of Greece, now live in a squalid camp that has sprung up around the Macedonian frontier – which is, of course, why the couple are here.
“We saw their little faces on television, all these children, so hungry, so tired, and just wanted to help,” says Panayiota, a retired headteacher, handing out the 150 chocolate-filled croissants the pair have brought with them […]

Refugee crisis: Balkan countries shut borders as attention turns to new refugee routes (TheGuardian)
European leaders claim to have closed the main refugee route to northern Europe, raising the possibility of tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees being trapped in Greece while the EU attempts to finalise a deal that could see them all returned to Turkey. Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia – three of the countries that lie between Greece and the preferred refugee destinations in northern Europe – all announced on Wednesday that their borders were now shut. Several hundred thousand asylum-seekers have used this route to reach countries such as Germany since it became popular last summer, most of them transported and sheltered by Balkan countries during their journey […]

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