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Friday 23 March 2018

Vatican City takes in first family that fled Syria war

Socialists have narrow lead in Portugal and Alexis Tsipras brushes off election polls suggesting leftist Syriza might lose to its conservative rival in Greece

‘A DREAM COME TRUE’: Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who was filmed being tripped up by a camerawoman as he fled police in Hungary with his young son, kisses his son Zaid upon their arrival at Barcelona’s Sants train station
‘A DREAM COME TRUE’: Osama Abdul Mohsen, a Syrian refugee who was filmed being tripped up by a camerawoman as he fled police in Hungary with his young son, kisses his son Zaid upon their arrival at Barcelona’s Sants train station Newsdesk Newsdesk

Responding to a call from Pope Francis for every church parish to house refugees, the Vatican City said on Friday that it had taken in a family that had fled the war in Syria.

The family - a father, mother and their two children - came from Damascus and are Melkite Greek Catholics, a Christian church with close ties to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican said in a statement that the family, which was not named, arrived in Italy on September 6, the day Pope Francis made his appeal for European parishes to open their doors to refugees. The four Syrians have since asked for asylum.

"According to the law, for the first six months following the request for asylum, those seeking international protection cannot work.

"During this time, they will be helped and accompanied by the Parish of Santa Anna," the Vatican said.

The Vatican City, a micro state which sits in the heart of Rome, contains two parishes, Santa Anna and St Peter's Basilica. The Vatican said it could not yet provide any information about a second family that is expected to be housed by the St Peter's administration.

Meanwhile, in Greece, former prime minister Alexis Tsipras has brushed off election polls suggesting that his leftist Syriza party might lose to its conservative rival in Greece's election.

Mr Tsipras said he had a large group of supporters who are not reflected by pollsters.

The former prime minister - who was elected on an anti-austerity platform but ended up signing up to a new bailout with punitive conditions attached - was speaking on the last day of formal campaigning for today's general election, with polls showing a cliffhanger vote expected and some pointing to a win by the conservative New Democracy party.

Neither party, however, is expected to get the proportion of the vote needed - roughly 38pc - to gain a majority in the 300-seat parliament, meaning a coalition is a near certainty.

"There is a voting body that is below the radar, it is not being traced," Tsipras, who was to stage a final rally later in the day, told Greece's ANT 1 television.

Five opinion polls on Thursday and Friday underlined the tightness of Greece's election campaign, offering different outcomes but all pointing to no outright winner when ballots are cast.

The winner of today's vote will need to oversee deep economic reforms required for an €86bn bailout brokered in August, a recapitalisation of the country's banks and the unwinding of capital controls imposed this year to prevent an implosion of the financial system.

All the polls showed Syriza and the conservative New Democracy of Vangelis Meimarakis within spitting distance of each other.

Of the five polls that were published on Thursday and Friday, two put Syriza ahead, two had New Democracy ahead and one was a tie.

Elsewhere, Portugal's opposition Socialists held a narrow lead over the ruling centre-right coalition in a poll published on Friday, which indicated the election race ahead of the October 4 general vote remains in a technical draw.

The survey, by pollsters Eurosondagem and published in the weekly Expresso, showed the Socialists slipping 0.5pc to 35.5pc support and the ruling coalition down 1pc at 34pc.

The projected result was complicated by the fact that if the Socialists garnered that percentage of the vote they would win between 95 and 101 seats in the 230-seat parliament, while the coalition would get between 99 and 102 seats, Expresso said.

That would happen because of different weightings of electoral mandates across the country.

Analysts have warned that Portugal's election could bring political uncertainty because no one side is currently likely to win a full majority in parliament.

The poll was carried out between September 11-16 and surveyed 1,510 people. The margin of error was 2.52 percentage points.

Meanwhile, a Syrian refugee who was tripped by a camerawoman as he fled police in Hungary with his young son said on Thursday that he was hoping to resettle his family in Spain, after a soccer school offered to help find him work there. Videos of the man and child falling after the journalist stuck out her leg as he ran past went viral on media last week, sparking outrage internationally.

Osama Abdul Mohsen and two of his sons, including seven-year-old Zaid, who was in his arms as he fell, arrived in Madrid in the early hours of Wednesday after a local soccer coaching academy had tracked him down and sought to help his family.

"This is a dream come true," Mohsen told Reuters television on the train from Barcelona to Madrid, the final leg of a rail journey across Europe that took him via Munich and Paris.

Mohsen, who had previously coached Syrian first division team Al-Fotuwa, will be housed in Getafe, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Madrid, where the Cenafe soccer school is based.

The academy is helping to pay for his lodging and along with local authorities is working to try and get his wife and the rest of his family, currently in Turkey, to join him.

The head of Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees, which has been criticised for being slow in processing applications from a record number of asylum seekers, has resigned for personal reasons, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Manfred Schmidt had been president of the office since 2010.

As many 30,000 people could be involved in the trafficking gangs charging refugees thousands of euro for a perilous trip to Europe, the head of Europe's police agency said on Wednesday.

Europol director Rob Wainwright The discovery of 71 bodies in the back of a truck in Austria last month led Europol to the massive people-smuggling operation and the identification of that number of suspects - far larger than the agency had thought. Europol, which has roughly 950 staff working out of The Hague, is co-ordinating 1,400 different people-smuggling investigations across the continent, Mr Wainwright said.

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