Crimean Tartars earlier this month launched an ongoing blockade of food deliveries to Crimea from Ukraine in protest of Russia's annexation of the peninsula. Refat Chubarov, a Crimean Tatar leader who was banned from the peninsula by Russia after its March 2014 take-over, told the New York Times no trucks would be allowed through border crossings after barricades went up on Sept. 20. Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed prime minister of Crimea, said the blockade would have little effect, as only about 5% of the goods consumed in the region come through Ukraine. "The trade blockade of Crimea begun by Ukrainian activists with the support of a number of Kiev politicians will not affect food supplies in the region," he told Russia's state-run Rossiya 24 satellite TV. "Crimea will not notice this."
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sept. 25 announced that the flow of refugees into Europe shows no signs of easing or stopping, as approximately 8,000 refugees a day seek to enter Europe. Amin Awad, the regional refugee coordinator for then UNHCR stated that problems now facing governments may turn out to be only the tip of the iceberg. Awad stated that the UN is planning for the potential displacement of 500,000 people from the Iraqi city of Mosul if Iraqi forces fight to recapture the city from Islamic State. Also that day, the UNHCR reported about the high number of migrants entering Europe along the Serbian-Croatian border. More than 50,000 migrants have entered through the town of Tovarnik, Croatia since mid-September.
Hungary's increasingly fascistic Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in Brussels to pitch the EU on his tough new anti-immigrant policy, issued a warning to Syrian refugees stay out of his country. In a statement all the more sickening for being veiled in an Orwellian cloak of "morality" and "humanitarian" concern, he told reporters: "The moral, human thing is to make clear 'please don't come! Why you have to go from Turkey to Europe? Turkey is a safe country. Stay there, it's risky to come! We can't guarantee that you will be accepted here.'" And of course by "can't guarantee that you will be accepted," what he really means is "we will not accept you." Orban hopes to push through his new anti-immigrant law by Sept. 15, making it a criminal offense to cross the Hungarian border without proper documentation, or to cause damage to the new "security fence" being built along the 175-kilometer frontier with Serbia. (Euronews)
A German leftist politician who had faced threats for his work in support of refugees and immigrants escaped unhurt after a bomb placed under his car exploded outside his home July 27. The attack, targeting Michael Richter of Die Linke party, came in the the eastern German city of Freital, near Dresden. Richter and the leftist party are known for their work in support of refugees and immigrants. Die Linke parliamentary group released a statement saying: "The perpetrator or perpetrators have to be swiftly identified and punished. The rule of law cannot stand idly by the increasing violence against refugees and against people like Michael Richter, who take a stand for the well-being of refugees." Martin Bialluch, spokesman for Die Linke, told the Kurdish news agency Rudaw: "We have no proof about the perpetrators yet, but Michael Richter was often threatened for his work, by far right or racist groups."
Greece is in turmoil over what can only be seen as the ruling Syriza party's bait-and-switch: the government called a referendum on the EU-mandated austerity plan, voters said "No," and then the administration went ahead and agreed to a similar plan, sparking the worst riots in Athens in years. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis stepped down, and most Syriza MPs have broken with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Amid all this, the Jerusalem Post reports more news that will alienate Tsipras from his leftist base. It seems that on July 6, Tsipras' Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias spoke in Jerusalem of developing what the JP calls an "axis of security" (uncertain if Kotzias himself used that phrase) made up of Greece, Cyprus and Israel. This is an ostensible response to what Kotzias called a "triangle of destabilization" delineated by Ukraine, Libya and Iraq/Syria. "We have to create inside this triangle a security and stability framework, and the relations between Israel, Cyprus and Greece are very important," Kotzias said. "I call it the stabilization line in this area."
At the July 11 ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic was chased off by stone-throwing protesters—the first violence at the annual commemoration. He later said he was hit in the face with a rock (although he was not injured) as the crowd chanted "Kill, kill" and "Allahu Akbar!" At issue is Serbia's official denialism on whether the massacre of more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslims after the town fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 constituted "genocide." Vucic wrote up a open letter for the ceremony that said: "Serbia clearly and unambiguously condemns this horrible crime and is disgusted with all those who took part in it and will continue to bring them to justice." But it (pointedly) did not use the word "genocide." The New York Times notes that Bosnian Muslims still recall Vucic's bloodthirty statement during the 1992-95 war that for every dead Serb, 100 Muslims should be killed. But much more to the point is that Serbia's government last week asked Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would formally designate the Srebrenica massacre an act of genocide. (Jurist, July 5) On July 8, Russia obliged, with Moscow's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin calling the UK-drafted text "confrontational and politically-motivated." In Sarajevo, Munira Subasic, the head of Mothers of Srebrenica, told AFP that Russia's veto made "trust and reconciliation impossible." She added: "Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children. By deciding [to veto] Russia has left the door open for a new war." (Al Jazeera, July 9)
After years of debate and a 2014 referendum, the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudíos—yeah, that's right, "Fort Kill the Jews"—has officially changed back to its original name of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or "Jew's Hill Fort." It's believed that the town, in Burgos province of Castile and León region, was originally a Jewish town. Residents had to convert under threat of death (generally being burned at the stake) or exile under the 1492 Edict of Expulsion, and adopted the new name as a way of proving their loyalty to the Catholic kings. No self-identified Jews live in the town today, but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David. The city's mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez led the initiative, saying that the name was offensive to many. (No, ya think?) (NPR, June 23)
A British warship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea launched a mission on June 7 to rescue over 500 migrants stranded at sea, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement. A Royal Navy helicopter has found four migrant vessels in need of assistance so far. It was also reported by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and the Italian coastguard that on June 6 over 2,000 migrants were rescued from five wooden boats in the Mediterranean, and there have been reports of seven or more similar boats still currently out at sea.