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Greece will not be ‘gateway’ to Europe for Afghans fleeing Taliban, say officials | Global development

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Greek officials have said that Greece will not become a “gateway” to Europe for Afghan asylum seekers and have called for a united response to predictions of an increase in refugee arrivals to the country.

Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotaki, has spoken to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, about the developing situation in Afghanistan this week. Greek migration minister Notis Mitarachi last week said: “We cannot have millions of people leaving Afghanistan and coming to the European Union … and certainly not through Greece.” The country has just completed a 25-mile (40km) wall along its land border with Turkey and installed an automated surveillance system with cameras, radars and drones.

Asylum seekers from Afghanistan have made up 45% of arrivals to the Greek islands so far this year, according to figures from UN refugee agency.

In June, Greece declared Turkey a “safe third country” for people from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This provides legal grounds for ruling an asylum claim inadmissible. The decision has sparked an outcry from many NGOs and rights groups including the International Rescue Committee and the Greek Council for Refugees, who, in a joint letter, noted that most people from countries such as Afghanistan had a “high recognition rate for international protection”, and asked for the decision to be “immediately revoked”.

Afghan asylum seekers and refugees in Greece have been anxiously waiting for news from relatives back home. Ali* lives in the Lesbos refugee camp but most of his family, including his parents, are still in Kabul. The 21-year-old has recently had his asylum claim rejected in Greece. Ali said Afghans in Lesbos now hoped their asylum claims would be reconsidered. “We really hope that the situation of Afghanistan affects our asylum case,” he said. “We hope to get a positive decision about our asylum because now, you know, the situation in Afghanistan is very bad and we can’t go back.”

Marion Bouchetel from the Legal Centre Lesbos told the Guardian that Greece’s decision to class Turkey as a safe third country for refugees was “an abusive and dangerous misapplication of the safe third country concept provided under EU law”.

She said: “Turkey is not a safe third country for migrants and does not offer for asylum seekers the potential of being recognised as refugees or to be protected against refoulement. Afghans already represent nearly 75% of the population in Mavrovouni camp in Lesbos and the majority of asylum seekers in the Greek islands. Most of them are families and have already been rejected in the asylum procedure based on the assumption that Turkey is a safe third country for them.

“Given the gravity of the situation in Afghanistan, there is no doubt that more Afghans will soon flee and move via the eastern Mediterranean route through Turkey and Greece in search of safety and asylum.”

Last week, hundreds gathered outside the Greek parliament in Athens to protest the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. “We are here to raise the voice of Afghans, the millions who are left and are suffering,” said Naquib*, 32, a refugee who had lived in the Moria camp on Lesbos.

“We are here also to raise the voice of women back in Afghanistan. The Taliban are equal to terrorists, they don’t respect women or women’s rights,” he said.

Naquib, who had worked with US forces and international NGOs in Afghanistan, said it was important for Europe to take in Afghans to save lives but it must also tackle the Taliban. “We need to get to the root of the problem,” he said.

Parwana Amiri, 17, living in a tent outside Athens, said: “This is the last time they will call Afghan refugees economic migrants. Everybody’s life is in danger, it is very hard for women and girls. People are trying to reach here but there is no chance to escape because the Taliban don’t easily let people leave.

“Greece says they are not ready and they don’t want to face the same crisis as 2015. It means that other EU member states should start relocation and give a chance for new arrivals to reach here. We have been suffering in the refugee camps, but it is better than the mouth of death.”

The Guardian approached the Greek migration ministry for comment on the classification of Turkey as a safe country for Afghans but has had no response.

*Names have been changed on request to protect identities.

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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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Ten women and girls killed every day in Mexico, Amnesty report says | Global development

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At least 10 women and girls are murdered every day in Mexico, according to a new report that says victims’ families are often left to carry out their own homicide investigations.

The scathing report, released on Monday by Amnesty International, documents both the scale of the violence and the disturbing lack of interest on the part of Mexican authorities to prevent or solve the murders.

“Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,” says the report, Justice on Trial.

“Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country,” the report adds.

Femicide has been rife in Mexico for decades – most notoriously in an epidemic of murders which claimed the life of some 400 women in the border city Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. In recent years, a growing feminist movement has held massive street protests against the violence, but authorities have proved unwilling to take action to stop the killing.

“It’s always a question of political will,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s activist in the state of Querétaro.

Ocampo has been part of teams lobbying state governors to issue an alert when femicides reach scandalously high levels – a move to raise awareness and mobilise resources. But officials often resist such moves, she said, as governors worry about their states’ images and investment.

“They refuse to recognise there is a problem,” she said.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also downplayed the problem. He branded the women protesting on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as “conservatives” and alleged a dark hand manipulating the demonstrations.

When asked last year about rising violence against women, he responded, “Tell all the women of Mexico that they are protected and represented, that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee peace and quiet and that I understand that our adversaries are looking for ways to confront us.”

Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Some 940 of those murders were investigated as femicides.

The Amnesty report focused on Mexico state, a vast collection of gritty suburbs surrounding Mexico City on three sides. It has become notorious for femicides over the past decade – and for the way the former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former Mexico state governor, ignored the problem.

The report found cases of families carrying out their own detective work, which were ignored by investigators. In many cases, authorities contaminated crime scenes or mishandled evidence. They often did not even pursue leads such as geolocation information from victims’ mobile phones.

In the case of Julia Sosa, whose children believe she was killed by her partner, two daughters found her body buried on the suspect’s property – but had to wait hours for police to arrive and process the crime scene. One of her daughters recalled the subsequent interview process, in which “the police officer was falling asleep”.

Sosa’s partner hanged himself, prompting police to close the case, even though family members said there were more leads to pursue.

In states rife with drug cartel violence, activists say cases of femicides go uninvestigated as impunity is commonplace.

“The authorities say it’s organised crime and that’s it,” said Yolotzin Jaimes, a women’s rights campaigner in the southern state of Guerrero. “Many of these aggressors find protection under the excuse of organised crime.”

The persistence of femicides is a stark contrast to recent gains by the women’s movement in Mexico. The country’s supreme court decriminalised abortion earlier this month. A new congress recently sworn in has gender parity and seven female governors will be installed by the end of year – up from just two before last June’s election’s

The decriminalisation of abortion “let off some steam” from the pressure driving the protests “because part of the demands was over the right to choose,” Ocampo said. “But when it comes to violence, we still see it everywhere.”

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US official urges EU to speed up enlargement

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Gabriel Escobar, the US’ newly-appointed acting deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, has urged Europe to speed up Western Balkans enlargement. “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing,” he told the RFE/RL news agency Friday, referring to his last post in Europe in 2001. “We would like to see a more rapid integration,” he said.

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