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Greece Tag

Church bells across Greece tolled in mourning on Friday as neighboring Turkey held its first Islamic prayer marking the conversion of Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, Greek newspapers reported. Hagia Sophia, the first cathedral of the Eastern Roman Empire, is particularly sacred to Christian Orthodox believers, represented largely by the Greek Church. 

Police in Greece fought back on Saturday to repel thousands of illegal immigrants along the Turkish border. The push back comes as tens of thousands of migrants are beginning to amass along the Turkish-Greek border. Angry migrants pelted stones at Greek guards and attempted to cut through border fences, news reports said. The Greek police fired tear gas in response.

It looks like putting the left wing Syriza Party in control of Greece hasn't changed much. The country is still broke, still struggling to make cuts and there is still unrest. In fact, recent pension cuts nearly led to rioting. The Telegraph UK reports:
Greek police pepper spray protesting pensioners Greek police on Monday fired pepper spray at pensioners protesting against cuts in their state income. Thousands of pensioners responded to a protest call by the communist opposition and tensions increased as their protest march approached the prime minister's residence.

In the wake of the EU deal to return refugees to Turkey en masse, Greece is preparing for further violence and protests. The Guardian reports:
The Greek government is bracing itself for violence ahead of the European Union implementing a landmark deal that, from Monday, will see Syrian refugees and migrants being deported back to Turkey en masse. Rioting and rebellion by thousands of entrapped refugees across Greece has triggered mounting fears in Athens over the practicality of enforcing an agreement already marred by growing concerns over its legality. Islands have become flashpoints, with as many as 800 people breaking out of a detention centre on Chios on Friday.
The Greek government is expecting more violent protests and riots as the implementation begins tomorrow.

WAJ Intro: Mirit Hadar is our friend in Ithaca. She is Israeli, and is traveling to Greece over winter break as a volunteer with IsraAID. Mirit will post about her journey, at Legal Insurrection and her own website. This is her second post. Part 1 is here. ---------------------------------- Volunteering was mostly about meeting people, seeing new places, and learning from the experience of others who are already here. I must say I felt a little bit misplaced myself, not sure what to do, how I can contribute here and what is my role in all of this. Some people come for few days, some people are here for months and some came to bring supplies for the refugees. People come here to volunteer for different reasons although what unifies them when asked is that they all tell me they feel there was no question in their mind that they must help these refugees. The medical team here is amazing and go out of their way to help people in need. [caption id="attachment_155300" align="alignnone" width="600"]http://mirithadarisraaid.blogspot.gr/2015/12/28-hours-of-intensity-and-susan-sarandon.html [Mirit Hadar with members of IsraAID Medical team, Greece][/caption]

Alexis Tsipras overcame fierce yet concentrated opposition from the Greek anti-austerity movement this Sunday as voters returned his far-left Syriza party to power. With just 25% of the vote in, the election was called for Syriza, causing the right-wing New Democracy party to concede defeat, and thus the opportunity to seize coalition-based control of parliament. Syriza is expected to end the count with around 35% of the vote, which will translate to around 144 seats in parliament---just short of a true majority. Tsipras is expected to form a government within three days, alongside leaders from the nationalist wing of Greek parliament. More from the BBC:
Mr Tsipras said his decision to call an early election was vindicated and that he had been given a clear mandate. He told thousands of jubilant supporters in central Athens: "In Europe today, Greece and the Greek people are synonymous with resistance and dignity, and this struggle will be continued together for another four years.

The Greek island of Lesbos has been a popular landing point for refugees fleeing the Middle East by boat. The numbers have been so great that rafts and other flotation devices are piling up on the shore. The UK Daily Mail reports:
Piled 12ft high, the ever growing mass of rubber dinghies and life jackets abandoned on Lesbos by migrants who have risked crossing the Mediterranean by boat Shocking images have emerged of a huge pile of deflated dinghies and life-vests, left behind on the Greek island of Lesbos by the refugees and migrants who have successfully made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. The pile of abandoned dinghies, some still intact and others worn through by the journey, which tens of thousands have already made this summer. But the crossing is notoriously perilous. Some 34 refugees, including 15 children, died this week off the coast of the southern Greek island of Farmakonisi. The UN said the accident had the largest recorded death toll from any in Greek waters since the migrant crisis began. The youngest victim was just one-year-old. Some 132 people were travelling on the wooden fishing boat when it capsized at around 3am, off the tiny island which is primarily a military base.

Greece received the first chunk of its multibillion euro bailout package yesterday---to the tune of 13 billion euros---but all is not well in Athens. Political opposition to the harsh austerity terms laid out by Eurozone creditors has caused a revolt in the far-left Syriza party and prompted Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to tender his resignation and call for early elections. More from the BBC:
Alexis Tsipras made the announcement in a televised state address on Thursday. "The political mandate of the 25 January elections has exhausted its limits and now the Greek people have to have their say," he said. "I want to be honest with you. We did not achieve the agreement we expected before the January elections." Mr Tsipras said he would seek the Greek people's approval to continue his government's programme.
You can watch Tsipras' announcement here, via Reuters.

The migrant crisis in Europe has now reached historic proportions. Unwilling to secure EU’s borders and coastline, the European leaders have surrounded their foreign policy to human traffickers and people smugglers. Among all the EU member states, Greece has been worst hit by the influx of migrants on its shores. According to United Nation’s figures, the number of refugees entering into Greece has gone up a whopping 750 percent compared to last year. Margaret Wente explains the motivation of the refugees swarming the Greek islands in her column for The Globe and Mail:
The moment these people set foot on Greek soil, or are rescued by the coast guard, they’ve won the lottery. They can’t be deported unless they have applied for asylum and been rejected – and that can take years. Nor can they be returned to any place that is deemed unsafe. Because continental Europe has no internal border controls, they can go wherever they want. And if they don’t report for their asylum hearing, the system can easily lose track of them.
In July 2015 alone, more than 50,000 migrants landed on Greek beaches. That means, more migrants entered Greece last month than in the whole of 2014. The influx could not have come at a worse time for the Hellenic Republic, almost on the verge of a financial collapse. In the face of mounting crisis in Greece, EU bureaucrats and leaders are acting clueless and pleading helplessness.
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