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tv   Inside Story  LINKTV  November 19, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PST

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safety. ♪ >> time for a check of the headlines. hundreds of iraqis who gave up trying to enter the european union have arrived back home. the migrants and refugees have been stranded at the belarus poland border in cold and wet conditions. u.s. president joe biden is holding his first in person meetings with leaders of canada and mexico at the white house since the first -- the first gathering of the three nations in five years. they are discussing everything from the covid and connect to climate change. president biden said the summit
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was crucial to tackle major challenges facing north americans. >> our north american mission for the future draws on our shared strengths as well as three vibrant democracies with dynamic populations, and an economy wishing to work together. that today and we can meet all of the challenges if we just take the time to speak with one another by working together. and we have to end the pandemic and take decisive actions to curb the climate crisis. >> biden says he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the winter olympics in china in february. he made the remarks during a meeting with canadian prime minister justin trudeau. it is expected to take the form of u.s. government representative is not attending the athletes expected to remain unaffected. several governments in europe are cracking down on people who have not been vaccinated against covid-19.
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the virus is spreading again in a number of countries including germany and deaths are also on the rise. the canadian province of british columbia is under a state of emergency as torrential rainfall continues. one person confirmed dead and at least three missing. 18,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in the countries westernmost province. flooding and landslides have cut off major roads, making turns petition of goods difficult. protesters in sudan have clashed with security forces a day after 15 people were killed by gunfire. tear gas was fired at demonstrators in a cartoon. widespread anger of the military's refusal to head back power after the takeover. the prime minister still in custody. the news continues on al jazeera after inside story. thanks so much. ♪
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>> until recently, they were helping refugees and grace. now a group of aid workers is on trial, accused of spying and many other charges. but is this politically motivated and what does it mean for aid work worldwide? this is inside story. ♪ >> hello and welcome to the program. more than two dozen aid workers from different nations are facing trial on the greek island of lisboa's. they are accused of helping migrants reach grace. among them is a refugee who was
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granted asylum in germany and is analytics number. -- the sister of anil bixler. they came under fire in 2015 when they dragged their boat to safety for kilometers when the engine failed. also accused of spying, people smuggling and money laundering, among other charges some could face up to 25 years in prison. they say they were only helping fellow humans. >> i never for a moment thought that trying to help somebody out at sea would lend you in prison, pretrial prison for 3.5 months, and that we would face 25 years in prison. i'm terrified of going back to prison. it is incredibly frightening. when we were first put into tension, you are held in pretrial present but you are innocent until proven guilty. i did not see any innocence or being treated like i was
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innocent. >> many groups have condemned the trial, saying it is politically motivated. amnesty international has called the trial farcical. >> we are here to say how outraged we are that the government is pursuing a criminal case, charges against these people who did nothing wrong. it is a typical work -- case, an example of what is going on europe. people being criminalized for doing the right thing. helping people in need, helping refugees and migrants in need. they must drop the charges and let these people carry on with their lives. >> we will begin our discussion in a moment, but first let's go to john in athens. how do the greek people react to this particular trial. >> >> at the moment this is not well-publicized. the news is not widespread. there are other things like
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coronavirus claiming the limelight. but this has -- is a story that has been ongoing since september 2018 when the indictment took place. there is high awareness among the humanitarian committee -- community and the community, and the reactions are people are appalled because the emergency response center was an aid group working very closely with authorities, including the hellenic coast guard, local authorities almost post, the government, they had cleared all of the hurdles in terms of registration with the government and following the regulations and the national law. this indictment of all 30 of its members came out of the blue. i've spoken both then and more recently this year with the lawyer representing the group who tells me there were serious procedural problems with the way these indictments were handled. first, the names of individuals
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who were indicted were leaked to the press, which is a contravention of european privacy law and shifts the burden of proof away from the european prosecutors. there were leaked documents being included which is highly irregular, and then there's the problem that the inquisitor issued arrest warrants for the defendants had had an opportunity to make efforts response. this is very unusual and not only in cases where there is a serious flight risk on the part of the defendant. critics -- >> critics are saying that the nature of the charges could be an implication that the best indication that the government is trying to silence organizations operating in greece. >> those indictments in
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september 2018 were not the only ones against search and rescue operations. they were followed in september 2020 by the indictment of another four groups, another 33 individuals, including groups i've spoken to since then who also say that they were absolutely honest with the coast guard about their whereabouts and what they were doing. they usually operate vessels that place themselves deliberately in areas where refugee diggings are expected to be found in order to alert the hellenic coast guard to come and pick them up or for the coast guard to ask the turkish coast guard to them up. they are simply there as spotters and facilitators. they also were very surprised september of last year to be
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indicted and they also have absolutely no idea where they have done wrong. these are very serious charges being leveled, purges of trafficking and espionage which could land people life imprisonment sentences. i have been told by the lawyer representing him that looking into the evidence presented by the prosecutor, many of these charges don't stand up. for example, one of them accused is the swimmer from syria who was at the time and 23 years old, volunteering with the rci. he told me that on many of the times and dates when she was supposed to have been in less posts breaking the law, she was in germany applying to university. there seem to be some serious problems. >> thank you. ♪
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>> let us bring in our guest, a senior campaigner on migration at amnesty international and cambridge -- in cambridge, a journalist and researcher focusing refugees and far righ . movements in greece. welcome. you joined many other human rights organizations discredit the prosecution of absurd and farcical. is it because of the nature of the charges or the proceeding itself is flawed? >> i just came out of a call and it is false, but more importantly it is farcical because the things they are accused of doing. the what the authorities are doing is taking people who are doing, necessary work, helping
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the coast guard and drugging them record. they have been criminalized for doing a good thing matters -- not should not stand. this trial should never have happened. >> what happened in between? these were aid workers operating in lesbos, helping refugees. now the government is saying there's something that has to be addressed. these people were involved in many charges. >> basically -- it is false because you cannot -- [indiscernible] this is a case of criminally facing-- european union. why they are a target i cannot
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say. in the past we have had similar examples but they were not targeted. >> many say this is a politically motivated trial. to what extent are -- is the greek government taking advantage of the divide within the european union about migration to move forward with this aggressive stance? >> it is a complex issue. i saw some of the charges include face liking -- base license plates in those r0 -- there are serious charges like human smuggling and espionage. it is hard as an outsider to claim if these are justified or not, but to the extent that criminalizing aid workers is meant to stop some of the
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problems and the situations over there, i don't think it is the right strategy to follow. the thing is that you have a thin line between smuggling and putting your boat somewhere knowing that human smugglers would abuse it. i think it would be much more sensible for the greek government to say we know that you are willing to help, but you have to restrict your activities to these areas because otherwise criminals will take advantage of your good intentions. that does not seem like the strategy. >> you have been at the trial, the general prosecutor has his own justifications about the prosecution. the case of the syrian refugee and the sister, they are
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celebrated by international community as heroes and is seen by the greek authorities as criminals who might spend many years behind bars. hugs no one should be convinced he's a criminal because he is not. she was someone who gave her private time, her personal time and a commmmitment to come hereo help people in need. she was filling a gap with other rescuers when very often others were calling up those who help them. cpr training, getting people out of the water. she and the rest of them should be celebrated. let's not forget, but she has spent three months in prison because the greek authorities thought they were at risk of flight. i just came out of the courtroom
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and i was there, but she could not be there because the greek authorities won't let her travel to greece to purchase a paid in her own trial. she wants to come here, she wants to show her face because she has done nothing wrong. she has done a lot of good. and she should be celebrated. what i have seen today is the opposite of that. it is basically part of a wider trend across europe to criminalize this and it has a chilling effect, not only in less post but elsewhere. everyone who is trying to help him who is trying to offer solidarity who might have to think twice in doing so. this is not only immoral but it is also illegal responsibility. >> could this trial be an indication that the conservative government in greece is adamant about not to repeat what happened in 2015 and 2016? >> it
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is an example of the authoritarian nature of the government there and we have seen that everyone there is acting against the government is coming allies. even though the people who were arrested in 2018 were arrested before the current president, he seems to have exacerbated the power the government has over the legal system. and this is problematic. every single person that does not agree with him is chased and targeted by an online herd of trolls and they are being chased outside of the country like the example of the dutch journalist that asked about specs. >> are we likely to see european
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countries step in in this case and say it is time to give justice to the emergency response center international and the brave people who are working hard day and night to help refugees? >> i think this is a desperate attempt to crackdown on human smuggling and indeed i think we should put some question marks around some of the things that are happening there. fundamentally the question is why do we have all of that human smuggling in the first place? and on occasion human smugglers use aid workers for their purposes. the answer is of course easy to respond to. it is because if you are an asylum seeker and you want to request asylum in europe, there is hardly any other route done to use human smugglers.
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i think that has to change. for now, the -- the migration policies have not managed to improve march on that front. i think fundamentally we need to look at very different approaches, the one explored by denmark is quite interesting. the idea is that there is a deal with it country where people can go and apply for asylum. he would have safe corridors from refugee centers in crisis areas. so people no longer have to use human smuggling. it would also entail but if you illegally enter would be brought to an offshore processing center. i know there is a lot of criticism on this. australia has done it, it has made mistakes, the conditions were were very bad. but there were also successes in the sense that the number of
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drownings from people trying to get into australia has gone to dutch drownings from people try to get interest -- into australia has gone to virtually zero. we have to avoid people risking their lives and drowning at sea or are the victim of these gangs. but also if they are welcomed and a reception center, conditions have to be at high standards. they need to get an answer quickly. they should not be there for too long. i think that is the route to follow. >> the prisoners and the other end workers were traumatized by this experience and the charges brought about by the court. one of the options for them in the future? >> they have no option but to continue to fight. the charges must be dropped. the greek authorities must use
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the opportunity of the trial to be tried by a high court to drop charges. let's look at the cause on people's lives. they are 25 years old. the face the prospect of spending 25 years in prison, possibly the best years of their life. what options to these people have? they're going through a system which does not even allow them to face these absurd accusations. they will have to fight and i'm going to send with them all of the way because this case is simply an example. it is an example of what is going on in europe and as far as greece is concerned, it goes to show how far the greek authorities are prepared to go to criminalize workers and keep people off the source. let's not forget, this chilling effect has other effect.
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there are hardly any independents and observers over the course dutch off the coast of less post and we need people to verify facts -- off the coast of less post and we need people to -- lesbos and we need people to verify. we need to fight with them. it is very pertinent to what is happening. i don't get is a good idea, solving the problem by disappearing asylum-seekers out of sight is hardly a solution. we need to allow people to be given fair procedure and by no means they have the fair share of refugees. the rest is excuses. >> migration is the center of this case. you have the top migration official saying we need migrants because you're up is aging and we have to show solidarity. the greek government is saying
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it is time to class -- clamp down on migration. is this divide going to put more pressure on the migrants trying to reach europe? >> migrants and asylum-seekers will continue to try to reach europe because they are conflict zones. those differences between the european union, i don't think it is a real difference because the european union is fully aware of the tactics and they seem to endorse them, not publicly, but the fact that they are not stopping greece from committing international crimes is showing its approach to migration. the european union does not want refugees. >> one of the biggest problems
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here is the european stance when it comes to welcoming refugees and the most contentious issue in particular was showed every country the obliged to receive refugees. something which has been dismissed by the hungarians and the polish government. is this the main reason this is likely to continue deepening the divide between european countries about migration? >> i think it is true that some of the things we are seeing are the result of public opinion in europe that is very much against not so much migration and asylum-seekers but i would say disorderly migration flows, especially the crisis in 2015 and 2016 has traumatized public opinion. i think it is very important for proponents of migration and i include myself among them, especially i think europe could definitely benefit from skilled
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migration happening in an orderly manner while also welcoming asylum-seekers. i think you are -- if you are in favor of that you should realize how important it is that it happens in an orderly way. that is why i would like to see more attention for the danish, the australian model. which are not perfect, absolutely not, and should be improved, but are absolutely not meant to avoid migration or avoid asylum-seekers, but are meant to make sure it happens in an orderly manner. i cannot stress how important this is. the case going after aid workers like my colleague said, young workers do this out of the good of their heart, is i think a symptom of how traumatized public opinion can engage in desperate measures that are obviously not going to do much
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to help with border protection. >> you described the prosecution as farcical, the environment itself in europe, to what extent has it been conducive to what we are seeing now? because when you look at the center-right, it is embracing the same steps taken by the far right. the far right is on the rise. you have a far right hundred friends who said that immigration was a threat to the french identity. is that environment responsible for those actions taken by countries, particularly the greek government? >> i think it is clear there's is been some sections of the public opinion, i still don't think the public opinion in europe in general is hostile to migration, the we have to be manic and say what happened in 215 was not all perfect.
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the real issue is how to organize a system that is orderly, does not put people at risk, and not can go by safe and legal roots. dutch routes. some cannot reach europe in a safe and legal route, and what we need to do to make it appear is have a system where migrants can be distributed evenly and fairly among states. those who are refusing to do so should taken their fair share. we are not going to go against this climate of xenophobia and racists by becoming more xenophobic or approaching the positions been --being expressed. we want a society that welcomes
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refugees and migrants and not get in trouble for shifting our views. because not only the human rights need to be respected, but like humanity is at stake. >> i appreciate your insights. thank you and thank you for watching, you can see the program any time by visiting our website. for further discussion go to our facebook page, also our twitter handle which is aljazeera.com. -- which is @ajinsidestory. indo hall, -- in doha, bye for
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