Iraqis and Syrians block protest by other refugees
Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30
Several hundred Iraqis and Syrians in the Idomeni border camp stood between protesters and police yesterday, thwarting the protesters’ efforts to march toward the fence separating Greece from Macedonia.
Scuffles broke out between the two groups.
The protesters twice broke through the barrier the Iraqis and Syrians had formed, only to be pushed back by Greek riot police, who used only their shields.
People speaking for the Iraqis and Syrians, including Kurds from both countries, told police that they were not taking part in the protest and that the protesters were from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They also said that activists were circulating at the camp Saturday, urging people to join the protest.
“There were people, whom we do not know, telling us that they would help us open the border at noon today, but obviously this was not true,” Syrian refugee Hassan Fatuhlla said.
Fatuhlla, one of those who formed a chain around the police, has been at the camp for 37 days. His child was born in a tent 10 days ago, he said.
Iraqis and Syrians are allowed into the European Union as war refugees, although the route through the Balkans is now closed and refugees are discouraged from taking the perilous sea journey to Greek islands from Turkey.
Leftist activists from Greece and other European countries have staged protests outside the transit centres and appear determined to sabotage the deal.
The rumours spread by them that the border would open yesterday led some people who had gone to the centres to return to Idomeni. Greek police said they stopped two buses and 10 cars carrying Italian activists 3km from the border protest.
Elsewhere, al-Qa’ida has shot down a fighter jet in Yemen with a surface-to-air missile, it was claimed at the weekend, raising fears that jihadists are gaining access to more sophisticated weaponry.
The Emirati plane was destroyed this month while flying low during a strike on al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula targets.
Local authorities insist that the French-made mirage jet crashed due to a “technical malfunction”.
Sources in Yemen said it was shot down with a Russian SA-7, a heat-seeking missile with a ‘kill zone’ of up to 15,000 metres at altitude.
“Al-Qa’ida has confiscated huge amounts of weapons from bases in Yemen,” a source said. “[They] are smarter than Isil. They speak with the tribal elders, they co-opt people, get them on their side.”
The source also claimed “co-operative army officers” were helping the jihadists to obtain weapons.