Egypt Independent: World-Main news en EU 'gives Greece three months' to tighten border against migrants <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>EU member states on Friday gave Greece a three-month ultimatum to remedy &quot;deficiencies&quot; in controlling the influx of migrants or effectively face suspension from the Schengen passport-free zone.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The decision &mdash; taken by ministers over Greek objections &mdash; culminates weeks of pressure on Greece, the main gateway for the million refugees and migrants who entered Europe last year, stoking the continent&#39;s biggest such crisis since World War II.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A report adopted 10 days earlier by the European Commission, the EU executive, found Greece was failing to properly register and fingerprint migrants during inspections at the Turkish land border and several islands in the Aegean Sea last November.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is of utmost importance that Greece addresses the issues identified in the report adopted by the Commission as a matter of priority and urgency,&quot; EU ministers said in the recommendation that two EU sources said was adopted Friday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The document, seen by AFP, gave Greece, which is already struggling to emerge from a massive debt crisis, one month to &quot;establish an action plan to remedy the deficiencies.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>After a further two months, Greece must report back on how the scheme is being implemented.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The document was not immediately published on EU websites, which nonetheless confirmed that member states had given Athens a three-month ultimatum to fix the problems or face effective suspension from Schengen.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>If Greece fails to remedy the problems by mid-May, Brussels could authorize other member states to exceptionally extend border controls within the EU&#39;s cherished Schengen area, including with Greece, for up to two years, instead of the normal six months.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Such a scenario is outlined under article 26 of the Schengen border code.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Germany, which along with other member states introduced such border controls late last year, on Thursday extended the measures until May, the limit under current Schengen provisions.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Schengen area allows passport-free travel through 26 countries, most of them in the EU, and is put forward as one of the major European achievements on unity.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Greece&#39;s &#39;substantial&#39; costs</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>An EU source told AFP that Greece voted against the ultimatum, while Cyprus and Bulgaria abstained.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a meeting with EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday, Greece registered its objections to the recommendation to be adopted.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a document published on the European Council website, Greece rejected the report&#39;s contention that it was responsible for &quot;serious deficiencies&quot; in border control and denied it was &quot;seriously neglecting its obligations.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Greece also said it had taken a number of measures at &quot;substantial national financial and social cost&quot; and reminded Brussels that the massive influx on its borders would put any member state under &quot;severe pressure.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>However, it said it would continue cooperating with the EU and its institutions in dealing with the crisis.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In formally announcing the three-month deadline, the European Council website noted that any member state would have been hard pressed to deal with such an unprecedented influx.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Greece had to take action on registration procedures, sea border surveillance, border checks, risk analyses, human resources and training as well as equipment and international cooperation, it said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Germany, which saw 1.1 million asylum seekers enter the wealthy country last year, has been the main destination for most of the migrants once they land in Greece or other points in Europe, with Athens accused of just letting them through.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>German Chancellor Angela Merkel&#39;s liberal refugee policy came under fire again as French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned Friday it is not sustainable in the long run.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Valls&#39;s criticisms came after his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev lambasted Merkel&#39;s asylum policy as a &quot;total failure.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Tensions between Brussels and Ankara continue to mount as the EU seeks to enforce a November aid-for-cooperation deal to curb the tide of migrants making their way from Turkey, which hosts 2.7 million mostly Syrian refugees.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A senior Turkish official said Friday that some 100,000 Syrian refugees are being looked after in camps inside Syria close to the Turkish border as they flee the latest upsurge in fighting.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As Ankara came under EU and UN pressure to open its border, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday threatened to send the millions of refugees in Turkey to EU member states.</div> Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:02:00 +0000 Reuters 2466565 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/08/07/484151/island_chaos.jpg Thousands of Iraqi refugees leave Finland voluntarily <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Thousands of Iraqi refugees who arrived in Finland last year have decided to cancel their asylum applications and to return home voluntarily, citing family issues and disappointment with life in the frosty Nordic country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Europe is in the grip of its worst migrant crisis since World War Two, with more than a million people arriving last year, fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and beyond.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Germany and Finland&#39;s neighbor Sweden have taken in many of the migrants but Finland too saw the number of asylum seekers increase nearly tenfold in 2015 to 32,500 from 3,600 in 2014.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Almost two thirds of the asylum seekers last year were young Iraqi men, but some are now having second thoughts, so Finland will begin chartering flights to Baghdad from next week to take them home.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Officials said about 4,100 asylum seekers had so far canceled their applications and that number was likely to reach 5,000 in the coming months.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;My baby boy is sick, I need to get back home,&quot; said Alsaedi Hussein, buying a flight back to Baghdad at a small travel agency in Helsinki.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Somalia-born Muhiadin Hassan who runs the travel agency said he was now selling 15 to 20 flights to Baghdad every day.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It&#39;s been busy here for the past few months,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A majority of the home-bound migrants have told immigration services they want to return to their families, but some expressed disappointment with life in Finland.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Some say the conditions in Finland and the lengthy asylum process did not meet their expectations, or what they had been told by the people they paid for their travel,&quot; said Tobias van Treeck, program officer at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&quot;Too cold&quot;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Echoing that comment, travel agent Hassan said: &quot;Some say they don&#39;t like the food here, it&#39;s too cold or they don&#39;t feel welcome in Finland. There are many reasons.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nearly 80 percent of the migrants returning home are Iraqis. Just 22 of the 877 Syrians - whose country is racked by civil war - and 35 of the 5,214 Afghans who sought asylum in Finland last year have asked to return to their home country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Along with other Nordic states, Finland has recently tightened its immigration policies, for example requiring working-age asylum seekers to do some unpaid work.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Hostility to migrants has also increased in Finland, a country with little experience of mass immigration and which now has economic problems.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Germany too, which took in 1.1 million people in 2015, has seen small numbers of Iraqi refugees choosing to go home.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Finland had been preparing to reject up to 20,000 asylum seekers from 2015, but the number of voluntary returnees could significantly reduce that figure.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The number of returnees is increasing steadily ... All asylum seekers are informed about the options for voluntary return and about the available financial assistance,&quot; said Paivi Nerg, a senior official in the Finnish interior ministry.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>However, most Iraqi returnees pay for their own flight home or seek help from Iraq&#39;s embassy in Helsinki, she added.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last year the Finnish government and the IOM provided financial help to 631 returnees and a similar number is expected this year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The charter flights will carry up to 100 passengers back to Baghdad from Helsinki every week for as long as demand lasts, officials said.</div> Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:58:00 +0000 Reuters 2466564 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/01/27/501010/refugrees.jpg Suspected Islamist militants attack Mali UN base, several dead <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Suspected Islamist militants attacked a UN peacekeepers&#39; base in the northern Mali town of Kidal on Friday, killing several people and wounding others, a spokesman for the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) told Reuters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;There is gunfire and mortar fire against the MINUSMA (UN peacemaking mission) camp. It is an attack by the Islamists, apparently involving a suicide car bomb,&quot; said CMA spokesman Radouane Ag Mohamed Aly.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A UN spokesman said there were some dead and wounded in the attack, which began at 6:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m. ET). He said there had been eight mortar shells as well as gunfire. A separate UN source, who was at the base but declined to be identified, said two people had been killed.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The base forms part of an attempt by the MINUSMA mission to keep the peace in Mali in the wake of a takeover of the north by Islamists in 2012, which was thwarted by a French-led intervention force that forced the militants out of key towns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The UN mission has not stopped the violence, however, and Islamist militants have expanded their attacks in recent months into other parts of Mali and beyond.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>These have included an attack on a hotel in Mali&#39;s capital in November in which 20 people died, and one on Burkina Faso&#39;s capital in January in which 30 were killed.</div> Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:18:00 +0000 Reuters 2466560 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/06/09/501010/mali_06-09-15.jpg Pakistan arrests 97 Al-Qaeda and other militants; foils jailbreak plan <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Pakistan has arrested 97 Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants, including three commanders, in the southern city of Karachi and foiled a planned attack to break US journalist Daniel Pearl&#39;s killer out of jail, the army said on Friday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The men are accused of involvement in major attacks on two Pakistani air bases, the Karachi airport, several regional intelligence headquarters and on police installations between 2009 and 2015, the military said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The LeJ&#39;s Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan, as well as Farooq Bhatti, deputy chief of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), were captured by Pakistani forces in recent raids, military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Our conclusion is that all of the terrorist groups are trying to cooperate with each other in order to carry out terrorist attacks,&quot; he told a news conference.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The LeJ and AQIS had been working &quot;in collusion&quot; with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, Bajwa added.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an Islamist group whose sectarian ideology is closely aligned with Islamic State, as it wants to kill or expel Pakistan&#39;s minority Shi&#39;ites and establish a Sunni theocracy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was formed by global Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in September 2014, and is one of dozens of Islamist militant groups, some aligned against Pakistan and others against its neighbors, that operate in the country.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Pakistan has been under domestic and international pressure to crack down on all such groups, and launched a renewed operation against some of them in June 2014.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Bajwa declined to give details of the raids, including their timing.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Several of those arrested, including Bokhari, were in the advanced stages of planning a jailbreak attempt on the Hyderabad Central Jail, Bajwa said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Khalid Omar Sheikh, who kidnapped and killed the Wall Street Journal&#39;s Daniel Pearl in 2002, is being held at that jail and was to be released during the raid, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Six suicide bombers had been enlisted in the attack plan, in addition to 19 involved in facilitating it, Bajwa said. More than 350 kg (772 lb) of explosives had been recovered from a building believed to be a hideout, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The attackers planned to raid the prison compound with two vans filled with explosives, and had a list of about 35 prisoners they planned to kill, Bajwa said, displaying pencil sketches of the prison allegedly made by the militants.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>They had a separate list of about 100 prisoners, including Sheikh, whom they were supposed to release, he added.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Video images of the militants&#39; hideout showed blue plastic barrels filled with explosives, washing machines that had been used to transport arms and ammunition, long lengths of detonating cord and dozens of ball bearings.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The footage also showed several rifles that Bajwa said had been stolen from police in earlier targeted attacks.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;This plan was 90 percent ready for execution,&quot; he added.</div> Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:53:00 +0000 Reuters 2466556 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/02/12/503194/pakistan_aq.jpeg