Friday, April 22, 2016

Migrating Through Greece

It all started with the waving of women and children in your face that underscore the deadly risks, part of the front page and special agenda-pushing section with no letup in sight. They keep arriving at the ports even as they are channelled elsewhere.

"Greece has approved an offer from China’s Cosco group to buy a 67 percent stake in the country’s largest port, a state privatization fund said Wednesday, in a process initially opposed by the left-wing government."

Looks like it is time for new elections because the captain has abandoned the ship.

Greece's Rigged Vote Narrative
Greek Parliament Betrays People

No change there. It will be a more stable government for the bankers, and isn't that what elections are all about?

Pressure in Greece
Greek farmers from the region of Crete clash with police during a protest
Greek farmers end blockade of central Athens in tax dispute

Maybe Greece would be better off if a woman were running it, 'eh?

Greece sells to German firm rights to run 14 airports

Where the migrants will be headed, but they first need to pass through this:

"Greece wants to create a summer global summit like Davos" The Washington Post News Service  October 20, 2015

LONDON — Move over Davos and the snowy Swiss Alps. Enter a barren but sun-drenched Greek island.

Greece is looking to unseat Davos as the host of big-thinking global summits, where the rich and powerful come each year to discuss weighty world matters in the winter wonderland of Switzerland.

Instead, cash-strapped Greece, desperate for foreign investment, wants similar chief executives, business leaders, and policy makers to travel to the tiny island of Aegiali to shape world thinking on the arts and philosophy in the summer playground of Greece.

‘‘It’s a plan we have been working on for months, and we aim to start looking for investors soon,’’ a senior Greek finance ministry official said, according to the London Times Tuesday.

The summer summit idea was floated in September by Greece’s left-wing Syriza party before its reelection. But many Greeks dismissed it at the time as simply a campaign promise, the Times reported from Athens.

What a dumb idea that was (imho) considering whose pushing it!

Greece’s deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas, confirmed over the weekend that the summer Davos project was still plowing ahead.

‘‘The idea is for this (Aegiali island) to become a center for the arts and philosophy, hosting international conferences and meetings of global leaders, on a par with the World Economic Forum at Davos,’’ Mardas told an Athens television channel, the paper reported.

Cash-hungry Greece will ask countries wanting to send delegates to the conference to build the center needed, however.

Mardas told the television channel he was going to send out invitations to all UN member states offering each country the opportunity ‘‘to build its own quarter of luxury, forming a cluster of conference buildings on the isle.’’

Greek legend has it that the barren island was once the home of hundreds of Greek prisoners of ancient Persia. Now, rabbits, sheep, and goats seem to be the main inhabitants.

Migrants coming soon.

The World Economic Forum defines itself as the leading international organization for public-private cooperation.

Some 2,000 multimillionaires and other business and political leaders, influential executives, bankers, and policy makers attend the yearly World Economic Forum at Davos, paying some $40,000 each to talk, schmooze, network, and attend meetings during the snowy Swiss winter.


RelatedGreece, creditors disagree on tougher foreclosure laws

Bankers want your homes now!!

"Greece was formally cleared Monday to get the next batch of bailout loans due from its third financial rescue after the cash-strapped country implemented a series of economic reform measures that European creditors had demanded. The country will get a $2.1 billion payment on Tuesday, money that will be used to meet debt service commitments, clear arrears, and cofund projects with the European Union. The formal approval came after Greece’s parliament last week backed new austerity measures, including higher taxes on wine and road use as well as more limited protection for distressed mortgage holders."

It was worth the price:

"Deal with creditors unlocks $13b for Greece" by Niki Kitsantonis New York Times, November 17, 2015

ATHENS — Greece and its international creditors said Tuesday that they had reached agreement on the country’s next round of economic changes, a deal that is meant to unlock as much as $13 billion, in loan money.

Athens had initially hoped the money would be dispensed after the Greek Parliament passed a package of economic measures last month.

But eurozone finance ministers said then that the steps did not fully meet the conditions required for the next milestone payment from the country’s $91.5 billion bailout package.

The breakthrough this time was a formula for providing some overly indebted homeowners protection from foreclosure, even as Greece and the creditors try to protect Greek banks from the worst effects of borrowers who cannot repay their loans.

The next step is for Parliament to vote on terms of the deal when lawmakers convene Thursday. The measure is expected to pass, because the governing coalition has a majority in the 300-seat Parliament.

Of the money, $2.12 billion would be spent on domestic needs, while up to $10.64 billion would go toward recapitalizing Greek banks — rebuilding their cash reserves to make them less vulnerable to risk.


This is all big $hell game, robbing Peter to pay Paul and keep the scheme going just a little longer.

In Brussels on Tuesday, the head of the eurozone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, hailed the “substantive agreement” as “good news.”

The European Union’s commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, struck a similar tone. “I’m happy,” he said.

Hey, if the bankers are happy and think its good news whose to say otherwise?

Thursday’s parliamentary vote will be the fourth in recent weeks on economic changes demanded by creditors. The previous three votes endorsed some but not all of the 48 economic overhauls demanded by lenders in exchange for releasing the next allotment of loan money.

That used to be called extortion.

Creditors’ demands for home foreclosures in the case of overly indebted mortgage-holders had been a sticking point in negotiations as the leftist-led government has argued that shielding Greek families from losing their homes was necessary to ensure social cohesion.

The government instead is acting as evictor.

Under the agreement described Tuesday, 25 percent of homeowners deemed to belong to “vulnerable social groups” would continue to be granted protection from foreclosures. Issues still to be resolved in subsequent negotiations include determining which nonperforming bank loans can be sold to foreign investors, and whether home mortgages can be included.

Bad loans are one of the biggest problems plaguing Greek banks, although nonperforming business loans are an even bigger burden for the institutions than home mortgages in arrears.

An assessment by the European Central Bank last month found that $15.32 billion would be required to address the problem of bad loans and enable the country’s four main banks to resume operating fully as lenders, helping to pump money into the ailing economy.

Call it what it is, a bailout, and what makes you think inflating the money supply is going to work when its failed time and again?

Since that assessment, Greek banks have sought private funding, which may limit the amount of bailout money they require. The banks and their investors would rather limit the state’s involvement, if they can....




"Greece’s finance minister said his government is pressing lenders for a swift review of the country’s bailout program, warning that delays would prolong market uncertainty and make reaching fiscal targets more difficult. Euclid Tsakalotos said he wanted negotiations with bailout inspectors to last ‘‘weeks, not months.’’ He spoke Monday after returning from a six-city tour of European Union countries that included talks with Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble. The International Monetary Fund has not said whether it will continue as a full bailout partner, but Tsakalotos insisted Athens would welcome its participation, despite the IMF’s ‘‘higher bar’’ on fiscal discipline."

"Greece’s government is entering a new round of talks with creditors who are skeptical about the depth and efficacy of its pension reform plans yet facing protests about those plans from a broad spectrum of professions. Talks with the quartet of creditors — the European Commission, European Central Bank, European Stability Mechanism, and International Monetary Fund — resume Monday. The government says the first phase will last a week and, after a short break, will resume until the completion of the first assessment of Greece’s third bailout deal, signed in August. Labor strikes are scheduled through most of the week: transport workers Tuesday, journalists Wednesday, a general strike Thursday, and transport shipping crews Friday. Farmers continue intermittent blockades of roads across Greece."

The government abandons its people only to be stabbed in the back by the bankers:

"After leak, Greece asks IMF to clarify bailout plan" by LIZ ALDERMAN New York Times  April 02, 2016

PARIS — Greece called on the International Monetary Fund on Saturday to explain whether it was seeking to usher Athens toward bankruptcy ahead of a pivotal referendum in June on Britain’s membership in Europe. Greece’s comments came after IMF officials raised questions in a private discussion published by Wikileaks about what it would take to get Greece’s creditors to agree to debt relief.

The transcript, which captures what Wikileaks said was a teleconference conversation in March between Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF’s European operations, and the IMF’s Greek bailout monitor, underscored a widening rift between the IMF and Greece’s European creditors that could jeopardize Greece’s new 86 billion euro bailout. It also exposed the fraught behind-the-scenes political machinations that have led to a deadlock on how to deal with a country still regarded as Europe’s weakest link.

The IMF did not issue an immediate comment on the Wikileaks transcript. But the document touched off a fresh political frenzy inside Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government, which accused the IMF of trying to “politically destabilize Europe. Nearly a year after creditors granted Greece the new bailout, after a drawn-out financial tempest that pushed the eurozone to the edge of a breakup, the Greek government is blaming the IMF for delaying a review of the progress Greece has made in carrying out its harsh austerity terms. The review is needed so Greece can receive financial aid and avoid a possible default on looming debts just as Greece has largely been left to fend for itself in dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis.

Privately, however, the fund has discussed pulling out of the bailout deal unless European creditors agree to reduce Greece’s mountain of debt, without which Greece could be dealt a new economic blow. An IMF exit would put the bailout in jeopardy and raise the risk of a Greek default in July, when Athens must repay a large loan. But the European creditors, especially Germany, have resisted, and are pushing the fund instead to soften the austerity terms it is trying to wrench from Greece.

In the transcript, Thomsen suggests that only a precipitous event might push the Europeans to give in on debt relief and keep the IMF from leaving the bailout.

So what evil do they have planned?

“What is going to bring it all to a decision point?” Thomsen asks, according to the Wikileaks document. “In the past, there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when they were about to run out of money seriously and to default. And possibly this is what is going to happen again,” he said.

Thomsen added that the June timing of the British referendum on whether to exit the European Union was crucial, because European leaders would be preoccupied with it for at least a month before then and would not want to return to discussions about the Greek bailout until after the vote. 

That is where my print left it, and this is all about getting England to stay in!

That could pose problems for whether Greece receives financial aid from the bailout in time to meet its July debt repayments.

Tsipras’ government met in an emergency session Saturday to discuss the implications. “The Greek government asks the IMF for explanations whether pursuing the creation of bankruptcy conditions in Greece, just before the British referendum, is the fund’s official position,” Olga Gerovasili, a Greek government spokeswoman, said in a statement.

As a condition for it to stick with the bailout, the IMF has pressed Germany hard to agree to Greek debt relief. The IMF has leverage because the German Parliament might not agree to release funds to Greece unless the IMF participates in the program. The IMF has countered that debt relief is needed not only to help the economy, but also because the Greek government is politically constrained in carrying out all the austerity needed to begin improving its tattered finances.

“These guys agree on something and then they give it up the next day,” Delia Velculescu, the IMF’s mission chief for Greece, is reported to tell Thomsen in the transcript. 


Also seeGrexit, others enter Oxford dictionary

They are speaking the same language:

"Uncertain economics influence ‘Brexit’ talk" by Steven Erlanger New York Times  April 02, 2016

LONDON — Britain is one of Europe’s strongest economic performers, having emerged from the financial crisis of the last decade faster and less burdened by debt than competitors like France, Italy and Spain. Unemployment is at a 10-year low of 5.1 percent. London, vibrant and second only to New York as a global financial hub, hums a siren song to the young and ambitious across Europe.

Those campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union in a national referendum on June 23 focus their arguments on reclaiming national sovereignty and reasserting national identity in the face of immigration. But proponents of exit are also now confronting the challenge of convincing the country that any freedom it gains from divorcing the Continent would not be offset by the risks to Britain’s prosperity.

Estimates of the economic impact of a “Brexit” vary, because no one knows what terms would be negotiated in what would most likely be a yearslong divorce. But that very inability to foresee the consequences has become a factor in the debate, especially since the value of the pound started to soften over concern about Britain’s future.

The money manipulators already at work.

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, framed the stakes recently, saying the prospect of British exit is “the biggest domestic risk to financial stability because, in part, of the issues around uncertainty.”

Carney was immediately attacked by “leave” proponents for playing politics and defending the position of Prime Minister David Cameron, who is leading the campaign for Britain to stay. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative member of Parliament who favors exit, responded archly by saying Carney’s position was “speculative and beneath the dignity of the Bank of England.”

The bitter exchange is emblematic of the passionate debate around a Brexit.

Those who favor breaking away argue that a country with close ties to the United States and the Commonwealth as well as Europe would emerge better off, freed from onerous regulations and Britain’s net annual contribution of 8.5 billion pounds ($12.1 billion) to the European Union budget.

If Britons vote to leave, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will come into force, giving the remaining 27 nations of the bloc up to two years to unwind their 43-year marriage to Britain and negotiate a new arrangement.

Boris Johnson, London’s mayor and a prominent advocate of Brexit, insists that leaving the European Union would be “win-win for all of us,” that the bloc is an anachronism that “costs us a huge amount of money and subverts our democracy,” and that voters are like prisoners who are afraid to step outside “into the sunlit uplands.”

But very few economists think that way; most believe that Brexit would create havoc with the pound, cut growth, damage the financial center of the City of London and provoke a lengthy period of uncertainty, with no guarantee that Britain could quickly negotiate free-trade agreements.

Within 10 or 15 years, some of these economists think, Britain would recover from a decision to leave. But the loss of economic growth in that transition period would be very hard to recapture. And the budget gain, quite small compared with the loss of gross domestic product, would be even smaller because some of the money that goes to Brussels would have to be paid directly to Britons anyway, replacing European programs with domestic versions of farm subsidies and research grants.

One of the few pro-Brexit economists, Andrew Lilico, executive director of the consulting firm Europe Economics, says the cost of leaving would be real, but would “roughly net out by around 2030.”

“The costs would rise before the benefits kick in,” he acknowledged, writing for “But few things worth having in life come free.”

Others see harsher consequences. A deal that preserved free trade with the European Union would almost certainly require — as the bloc does with Norway and Switzerland, part of what is known as the European Free Trade Association — acceptance of freedom of movement and labor and a sizable, if smaller, contribution to the European Union budget in any case.

In the case of Brexit, many economists think that the Norway model would be the least bad for Britain’s economy. But according to Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, Britain would be worse off, being subject to EU rules without participating in their formation.

See: Migrating Through Scandinavia

Pier Carlo Padoan, Italy’s minister of economy and finances, said the referendum was risky given the unhappy mood all over the Continent in the wake of the last economic downturn and its lingering effects.

“The Brexit story is the sophisticated U.K. version of the general dissatisfaction in Europe,” he said. “The EU is not delivering growth and jobs 10 years later. People don’t like the machine.”

Still, he said, “Brexit is bad economically for both Britain and for the European Union,” because “there’s no vacuum, no withdrawal from the international system without pain.” But worse would be the political impact, he said, because it could “also show that one can ‘undo’ membership, which is dangerous.”

It's the reason Napoleon had to go into Russia. 

There is a lot of scaremongering, with some supporters of remaining in the bloc talking of the loss of 5 million jobs if Britain votes to leave. (Cameron talks of 3 million jobs dependent on EU membership, plus higher costs for ordinary goods and mortgages.)

The stakes are especially high for Britain’s prominent service sector, which makes up more than 75 percent of economic output, and in particular financial services.

Multinational banks like HSBC and Goldman Sachs have warned that Brexit would mean the export of jobs and headquarters to other European countries, because London-based companies would no longer have “passporting rights” for their services in the European Union. 

Good thing they are looking after you workers (and your homes).

The Center for Economic Performance, at the London School of Economics, which sees itself neutral, says the worst-case scenario in the event of a vote to leave the bloc is a 6.3 percent to 9.5 percent reduction in GDP, “a loss of a similar size to that resulting from the global financial crisis of 2008/09.” The best case, it suggests, is a loss of 2.2 percent of GDP, with the European Union imposing costs on Britain for leaving, and to discourage others from doing so.

That is a case also made by Leszek Balcerowicz, a former Polish deputy prime minister. To deter populists across Europe who might want to push their countries to follow Britain out the door, he said, the European Union, even against its own economic interests, would punish Britain.


Also see:

Missed Brexit
Neglecting Northern England

All in good sport so be optimistic about the rigged vote!

Now back to the big news on the front pages:

"Greece’s coast guard said it rescued 1,743 migrants over the weekend in 57 separate search-and-rescue operations near eastern Aegean islands, while the body of a young child was found washed up on an island beach."

There was a witness to the latest tragedy and some were rescued, but "undeterred by the bitter cold and the rough winter seas, migrants are continuing to risk the journey to Greece in the hope of a better future in Europe. Most of them are Syrian refugees escaping the civil war."

"Hundreds more asylum-seekers crossed the Greek border to reach the refugee transit center in Gevgelija, Macedonia. People are pouring into Greece by the thousands each day, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa. Neighboring countries have sent police to Macedonia to help manage the flow. Also Monday, French officials took steps to improve the lot of thousands of migrants living in dreadful conditions in northern France, the Associated Press reported. They set up containers with bunk beds in Calais, the largest camp, and approving plans to relocate another squalid camp outside nearby Dunkirk. Migrants throng by the thousands to Calais and Dunkirk in a bid to sneak into Britain. But until Monday, authorities had done little to make life easier for migrants — from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and elsewhere — because France and Britain are trying to dissuade them from coming. A group of 140 people moved into the white containers with bunk beds in the Calais camp. The containers can house 1,500, with children and families getting priority. In a separate development Monday...."

They then set fire to the place.

"European Union nations took a step Monday toward isolating Greece amid acrimony over Athens’s failure to stem the flow of migrants at its Mediterranean island borders. Despite choppy seas and wintry conditions, more than 2,000 people are arriving in Greece daily, according to EU figures. Athens is under pressure to register and keep those coming in. Several EU nations have said that they could isolate Greece by closing off their borders so that incoming refugees would have to remain there."

That's really shoving it up their back door, isn't it?

EU chief gives migrant plan 2 months to work

It's a package of sweeteners earmarked for Turkey - including $3.3 billion and easier visa access for Turkish citizens and fast-tracking of the country’s EU membership process.

Europe's migration crisis claims another 46 lives in Aegean

Didn't NATO dispatch warships to stop that?

"Greece has been overwhelmed by the entry of some 850,000 people last year, mostly from Turkey. Thousands are still entering every week. The Greek coastguard has been swamped, and the country has barely 10,000 places to shelter those arriving."

"The seemingly arbitrary decision by some Balkan countries to close their borders has left thousands stranded in Greece."

See: Migrating Through the Balkans

Greece raps inaction by EU on migrants

Others are rallying around them as Greece becomes a human warehouse. Women and children living in fields. An emergency, and only arch-enemy Turkey can help.

UN, rights groups criticize Europe’s draft plan on migrants

Europe’s migration deal faces hurdle from Turkish foe Cyprus

European Union reaches deal with Turkey to return new asylum seekers

Even the New York Times is against it.

EU calls for Greece relief as migrant arrivals hit 1 million

It will be an uphill battle for Europe to grapples with so many migrants. The best place for them might be in detention camps where they can play musical chairs:

"In the deal, Turkey agreed to accept the return of migrants from Greece. In exchange, for every Syrian removed from Greece, one will be sent from Turkey directly to an EU state. Human rights groups have been strongly critical of the deal. The United Nations refugee agency and relief agency Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, have stopped assisting the government at registration facilities on the islands, now being used to detain migrants. All migrants arriving in Greece are being arrested, and on Tuesday, a young Syrian man set himself on fire during a protest there."

It just got hotter from there.

"Turkey is due to receive the first batch of returned migrants on Monday. Plans are underway to build a reception center in Dikili, a development unpopular with locals. ‘‘We definitely don’t want a refugee camp in Dikili,’’ said the town’s mayor, Mustafa Tosun. Demonstrators expressed concern over the impact the European Union deal could have on the economy, tourism, and security in their town. The EU-Turkey deal stipulates that those who reach the shores of Greece unlawfully will be returned to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum. The deal aims to break the lucrative smuggling operations now in Turkey. In Idomeni, more than 200 refugees and migrants staged a protest on a highway linking Greece and Macedonia. Quite a few migrants, including war refugees from Syria and Iraq, are still hoping that Macedonia and other Balkan countries to its north will open their borders. There were rumors circulating in the camp that a ‘‘European summit’’ on Monday will decide to open the borders, but no such summit is scheduled. But many others are giving up hope. Among them is Muthanna al Hashemy, 36, a refugee from Iraq, who has been waiting for 43 days, along with his wife and two boys, ages 4 and 6. ‘‘I do not know what to do. The only solution is to return to my country. Here, the situation is worse than the war . . . They want us to go to the [transit centers] where it is worse than here. I no longer have any money,’’ he says, adding he spent ‘‘over 2,500 euros’’ to get to Idomeni. Still, a glimmer of hope persists. ‘‘I will wait until Monday, see what happens and then return to my country,’’ he said."

Deportation of migrants from Greece to Turkey to start Monday

Greece starts deporting migrants to Turkey

Greece returns 90 migrants to Turkey

Pope to visit Greek island to highlight refugees’ plight

F*** him!

Francis brings 12 refugees back to Vatican City

Given history of the church with sexual abuse.... ugh!

And he blew off Bernie Sanders to do it.

"A migrant deal between Europe and Turkey would include almost $3.4 billion to help Ankara deal with nearly 2.2 million refugees, mostly from Syria, who now live in Turkey. That would include aid for migrants already in the country, as well as tighter asylum procedures and border security. The concession underscored the degree of importance European leaders place on Turkey’s cooperation in trying to contain the largest flow of refugees since World War II, as people flee violence and deprivation in the Middle East and Africa."

That is why some are calling it World War III already.

EU offers Turkey $3b in migrant aid

Site no longer active?

"Turkey detains thousands of migrants" Associated Press  November 30, 2015

ANKARA, Turkey — Detained in a pre-dawn sweep, the migrants were put into buses and taken to a small, overcrowded detention center for foreigners awaiting deportation, the private Dogan news agency said.

The move came a day after Turkey and EU leaders sealed a summit with a commitment to reenergize Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid and bolster their resolve to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the reports of detentions, calling them “alarming but not surprising.”

“Ever since September, we have seen the Turkish authorities detaining scores of refugees, often completely incommunicado, and forcibly returning them to neighboring Syria and Iraq. This is as illegal as it is unconscionable,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher....


They also closed the border:

"Turkey says it will keep taking in refugees, but gates closed for third day" by Mehmet Guzel Associated Press  February 08, 2016

KILIS, Turkey — Turkey has reached the end of its ‘‘capacity to absorb’’ refugees but will continue to take them in, the deputy premier said Sunday. But the country’s border with Syria remained closed for a third day.

Turkey is facing mounting pressure to open its border to about 35,000 Syrians who have fled a government onslaught.

Government onslaught, huh?

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus did not explain why the Turkish border gate at Oncupinar, opposite the Bab al-Salameh crossing in Syria, was being kept closed or why tens of thousands of refugees were not immediately being let in.

In a separate development, the United Arab Emirates joined Saudi Arabia in saying that it was open to the idea of sending ground troops to Syria to battle the Islamic State, raising the possibility of even greater foreign involvement in the five-year-old civil war.

Saudi Arabia, one of the main backers of the rebels battling to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad, said last week that it was willing in principle to send ground troops to battle ISIS.

Anwar Gargash, the Emirates’ foreign minister, echoed that pledge Sunday, saying ‘‘we have been frustrated at the slow pace of confronting Daesh,’’ using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. He stressed that any deployment would be relatively small, saying: ‘‘We’re not talking about thousands of troops.’’

Even a small force, however, could alarm Damascus and escalate regional tensions even further. On Saturday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said any Saudi or other foreign ground troops who enter Syria would ‘‘return home in wooden coffins.’’

Officials in the Turkish border province of Kilis said Saturday that Turkey would provide aid to the displaced within Syria, but would open the gates only in the event of an ‘‘extraordinary crisis.’’

Kurtulmus told CNN-Turk television that Turkey is now hosting a total of 3 million refugees, including 2.5 million Syrians.

You can thank Obama and his wars.

‘‘Turkey has reached the end of its capacity to absorb [refugees],’’ Kurtulmus said. ‘‘But in the end, these people have nowhere else to go. Either they will die beneath the bombings and Turkey will . . . watch the massacre like the rest of the world, or we will open our borders.’’

Kurtulmus said some 15,000 refugees from Syria were admitted in the past few days, without elaborating.

In Syria, progovernment forces pressed ahead with their offensive in the northern Aleppo province, which has caused the massive displacement of civilians toward the Turkish border.

Yeah, it's all the Syrian governments fault. U.S-created and allied-supplied ISIS has nothing to do with it.

Opposition activists said Syrian ground troops backed by Russian airstrikes were engaged in intense fighting with insurgents around the village of Ratyan and surrounding areas north of Aleppo city.

The army has almost fully encircled Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and onetime commercial center, preparing the way for a blockade. The main supply line to the Turkish border has already been cut and many residents of the city were looking to leave, anticipating severe shortages in coming days.

Dr. Ahmad Abdelaziz, of the Syrian American Medical Society, a humanitarian organization, said there were only four general surgeons for the entire city.

‘‘The people there are very worried there could be a siege at any time. We expect a lot of people to get out of the city if the situation remains like this, if there is no improvement,’’ he said.

Abdelaziz, who goes in and out of Aleppo but spoke from the Turkish city of Gaziantep, described a dire scene at the border and said it was difficult to get medicine to the people gathered there.

On Saturday, the European Union urged Turkey to open its borders, saying it was providing aid to Ankara for that purpose. EU nations have committed $3.3 billion to Turkey to help refugees, part of incentives aimed at persuading Turkey to do more to stop thousands of migrants from leaving for Greece.

Kurtulmus estimated that the worst outcome, as many as 1 million more refugees could flee Aleppo and surrounding areas.

The Syrian uprising began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests but escalated into a full-blown civil war after a harsh government crackdown. The fighting has killed more than 250,000 people and forced millions to flee the country.

The war has drawn in regional and international rivals, with a US-led coalition launching airstrikes against the Islamic State and Russian warplanes backing Assad’s forces.

The Lebanese Hezbollah group has sent thousands of fighters to back Assad while Iran has dispatched what it refers to as ‘‘military advisers,’’ many of whom have been killed in combat in recent weeks.



"Turkey denied reports Turkish border guards shot at hundreds of Syrian civilians approaching a border wall as they tried to flee the Islamic State. In a separate development Sunday.... 17 Syrians drown off Turkey coast"

If they can't go to Greece where can they go?

"After Europe and Turkey strike a deal, fears grow that migrants will turn to Italy" New York Times  April 15, 2016

MESSINA, Sicily — Now that the European Union has struck a deal with Turkey to curb the record refugee flow into Greece, the question is whether the migrant flow into the Continent has been stanched, or whether migrants will simply find a different entry point, such as the more dangerous sea route from Libya into Italy.

The bodies are already washing ashore.

Migration into Greece has dropped sharply since the new deal, and it is too soon to know if the Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans who favored that route will shift their attentions to Italy.

Either way, Italy could surpass the record 170,000 migrants who arrived in 2014, a reminder of an often-overlooked dimension of Europe’s refugee crisis. Even as last year’s crush of Syrians through Greece and the Balkans plunged Europe into a political crisis, Italy was absorbing migrants from Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, and other sub-Saharan African countries.

Before last summer, Italy was the epicenter of the refugee crisis — and the rest of Europe largely ignored the problem....


A repurposed military housing complex is now Sicily’s biggest center for migrants.

Also see:

Italy yanks license of helicopter pilot at mafia funeral
Police keep peace at service for reputed gangster in Italy
Venice mayor infuriates activists with comments against same-sex rights

I didn't know Elton John was the mayor of Venice.

Rome’s mayor isn’t quitting after all

I am for today.