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Greece evacuated nationals and foreigners from Libya

25 February 2011 / 01:02:28  GRReporter
3603 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The Greek authorities organized the evacuation of Greek citizens and receipt of foreigners working in Libya. Three C130 cargo planes are expected to bring the Greeks who work on oil platforms in the North African country.

The planes landed at the airports in Tripoli which is under the control of government forces in the capital city and in the southwestern district of Sabha. The Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dolis and senior officials of the Ministry of Defence are involved in the campaign.

Meanwhile, the two passenger ships that moored in the port of Benghazi arrived at the port in the town of Iraklio on Crete. The ship Hellenic Spirit transported 2400 Chinese, Greeks and nationals of other European countries to Greece. The second ship Olympic Champion arrived later. The Chinese citizens who arrived with it were accommodated in hotels in Iraklio. Benghazi is under the control of the protesting against Gaddafi's regime and the Greek military frigate Psara patrolled the operation for the safe transportation of evacuated citizens.

More than 100 Greeks working in Libya are in Tripoli and more than 40 are in Sabha. According to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Greek government was faced with many difficulties in providing permission for airline flights.

"The Greeks are around 300. We are trying to establish contact with as many of them as possible and as far as the circumstances allow. We are trying to act under very difficult conditions, so I'm going there too," said Dimitris Dolis before the flight to Tripoli.

According to the statements by the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece Dimitris Delavekouras, Greece acts as an interim centre for foreign nationals who leave Libya. In cooperation with Chinese authorities the country has undertaken to evacuate around 15,000 Chinese who are there. The European defense mechanism is in operation since last night which increases the opportunities for evacuation of foreigners from Libya.

Around 15000 people are expected to arrive in Crete until tomorrow. Local authorities in Iraklio organized a campaign for their reception. The Ministry of Interior announced that civil protection services, coast guards, police and emergency medical teams are in full readiness.

And if the European countries’ prime concern now is to successfully evacuate all their citizens from Libya, where it is assumed that those killed in the protests against the regime of Gaddafi are at least a thousand, they will soon face a huge wave of immigrants from the Arab countries in North Africa.

In an interview for BTA the Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva said that in the coming days we would see mobilization that we have not been seen in the European Union. The Commissioner said that it was extremely important to be prepared for the worst scenarios on the possible number of refugees.

Europe's attention is directed to countries that are closest to Libya to receive its refugees. According to Kristalina Georgieva, competent European authorities cooperate with Italy, Malta, Cyprus and Turkey to organize the reception points. She added that Europe is considering the housing and food provision in the short term as well as the possibility the refugees not to become a factor for instability in the host countries.

The Greek government is also worried about the possibility of being confronted with the huge immigration wave, which is expected following the developments in the countries of North Africa.

"It is possible many ships to arrive in the country. What will happen if they all go on hunger strike," asked Interior Minister Yannis Ragousis. He said that his ministry and other competent institutions are in constant contact with the relevant European authorities to resolve this issue. According to the minister, the problem of immigration is expected to be reinforced by climate change which will "force" around 50 million people to flee their homes and seek better life abroad.

In Athens, the hunger strike of immigrants in the building of Ipatiya continues for 31 days in a row. Four of them were taken to hospital and in the words of the activists who support them the lives of some of are within a hair’s breadth of death.

Meanwhile, the government broke its silence on this issue with the statements of the Interior Minister. Today he called on immigrants and the people who support them to end the hunger strike.
Yannis Ragusis emphasized again that there can be no exception made on the granting of immigrants’ residence permits. "It is not possible to carry out mass legalization in Greece, because if this happens the country will be in serious danger. The only thing that the government will make is to implement the law recently voted by the Parliament," the minister said.  

The only choice for the immigrants on hunger strike proposed by him is to allow them to stay for 6 months after which they will have to leave the country.

According to one of the activists supporting the immigrant this solution is unacceptable. Petros Yotis again stressed that the basic condition of immigrants to stop the hunger strike is to be issued residence permits. "This is a non-negotiable condition," said the activist, adding that immigrants have not been on hunger strike to get something that they could acquire with two photographs and a fee of 50 euros.

"Today we are close to a humanitarian catastrophe and Mr. Ragousis says nothing about it. I wonder if the government does not want to remain in modern Greek history as a government of murderers," said Petros Yotis.

Tags: PoliticsSocietyEvacuationLibyaImmigrant flowNorth AfricaEuropean CommissionerReception pointsHunger strike
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