In the face of the brutal and immoral reaction of the European Union to the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing into Europe from wars and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa, Barcelona council has taken the initiative to set up a network of Mediterranean city councils prepared to welcome and house asylum seekers. Barcelona is already part of a broader network of European cities welcoming refugees.
French riot police fired tear gas as they began demolishing the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp on February 29, Morning Star Online said. Tear gas was reportedly used in response to stone-throwers at the shanty town, which is home to about 4000 people. Lines of police vans gathered on the perimeter of the camp's southern section and people were prevented from entering the site.
Britain: Austerity killing the poor Cuts to social spending could be killing large numbers of vulnerable people in Britain, Public Health England said on February 16, as new figures show last year featured the largest rise in the national death rate for decades. TeleSUR English said the next day that the new preliminary figures from the Office for National Statistics show mortality rates last year rose by 5.4% compared with 2014.
“In a touching tribute to thousands of refugees who lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Turkey into the EU, two Greek football teams orchestrated a sit-in at the start of the match to protest against the policies of 'brutal indifference',” RT.com said on February 1.
A 24-hour general strike in Greece against the “odious plan to dismantle the country’s social security system” shut down transportation, schools, courts, pharmacies and non-emergency hospital services on February 4. Up to 100,000 people attended, according to organisers, while police estimated 50,000 hit the Athens streets. The strike is the largest since the leftist Syriza party took power in January last year on a platform of opposing the type of austerity measures the strike targetted.
“This year has not started easy, and I am not optimistic,” the EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference on January 25. He was warning Europe that its worries about security had to be balanced with the Schengen agreement (which allows free movement) and the protection of asylum seekers. He said: “Last year, more than a million people reached Europe's shore looking for protection. More than 30,000 have already arrived by sea in 2016 so far, in only three weeks!”
Greek pensioners rally in Athens on January 21. Thousands of Greek white-collar professionals, including doctors, lawyers and engineers, took to the streets on January 21, protesting against major tax and pension reforms required by the country’s creditors.
We have all heard the story of when, during a visit to the United States, a journalist asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilisation, and Gandhi is said to have replied that he thought it “would be a very good idea.” Former Greek finance minister and outspoken opponent of the savage austerity programs forced on Greece, Yanis Varoufakis recalled Gandhi’s words in the talk he gave at the University of Sydney on November 26. Varoufakis’ message was clear: Like Western civilisation, European democracy would indeed be a very good idea.
Protesters from the PAME union take part in an anti-austerity march during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, November 12.
SYRIZA pulled off a remarkable victory at the September 20 Greek election. Although burdened by its acceptance of the draconian austerity measures in the third memorandum imposed by Greece's creditors and eight months of rule in the midst of recession, closed banks and capital controls, SYRIZA's vote fell by only 0.88% and its parliamentary seats by just four.
It is a long and perilous journey for those fleeing war-torn Syria in hopes of reaching safety. But one such refugee refused to make journey without his cat. Photos have emerged in Greek media showing the moment the unnamed refugee landed on the island of Lesbos, cradling the tiny cat he could not bear to leave behind. The man had few other possessions when he crossed the Mediterranean Sea, according to Greek news outlet Protothema.
It is hard to imagine two election campaigns more different than that leading up to SYRIZA's triumph in Greece's January 25 elections and country's September 20 vote. In January, SYRIZA's winning slogan was “Hope is on the Way” — hope for a government that would end the six years of suffering inflicted on Greece by austerity measures in the first two memoranda of the “Troika” (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund).