GREECE ““ (BBC) Greek police say more than 1,600 illegal immigrants will be deported following a major crackdown in Athens in recent days. More than 6,000 people have been detained, though most were released. Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias defended the crackdown. He said Greece’s economic plight meant it could not afford an “invasion of immigrants.” He called the immigration issue a “bomb at the foundations of the society and of the state.” Some 88 illegal immigrants were sent back to Pakistan on Sunday. The Greek authorities have increased the number of guards at the border with Turkey amid fears there may be a sudden influx of refugees entering Greek territory as the situation in Syria deteriorates. More than 80% of migrants entering the European Union do so through Greece, which is in the grip of its worst recession in decades. Greece has frequently come under criticism for its handling of immigrants. Amnesty International accused it of treating asylum seekers like criminals and holding them in detention centers. Greece has frequently called on other European nations to do more to help tackle illegal migration into the EU, arguing that it bears a disproportionate burden.
ITALY ““ (BBC) Divers say they have discovered a ship off the coast of Italy which they believe is about 2,000 years old. The ship, which was found in the seat off the town of Varazze in the province of Liguria, is thought to be a Roman-era commercial vessel. Fishermen in the area said they had been finding shards of pottery in their nets for years, prompting police divers to launch a search. The ship is said to be in a very well-preserved condition. “The peculiarity of this is that the wreck could be almost intact,” Lt. Col. Francesco Schilardi of the police divers’ group told the BBC. “We believe it dates to sometime between the 1st Century BC and the 1st Century AD,” Schilardi said. The mud on the seabed had hidden but also protected the wreck, he added. For the moment, the area has been secured, and no fishing or passage of any other boats will be allowed, Lt. Col. Schilardi added.
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) Russian prosecutors have asked for three years in prison for three musicians accused of inciting religious hatred during a protest in a cathedral. The three members of the punk band Pussy Riot played a song attacking Russian leader Vladimir Putin in front of an altar on February 21st. they told the court their performance was a political act, not aimed at hurting the feelings of believers. Concern about the case has been voiced by the EU and others. Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, could have faced a maximum sentence of seven years. They said their performance of the “punk prayer” was a reaction to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, publicly backing Mr. Putin in elections. Last week, Mr. Putin, who was re-elected president in March, called for leniency toward the women during a visit to London for the Olympic Games. Feelings about the case within Russian society, where the Orthodox Church has enjoyed a revival since the collapse of the atheistic USSR, have been mixed. “The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity,” state prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in closing arguments. “Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God.” He said the women had “set themselves up against the Orthodox Christian world.” International musicians including Sting and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have appealed for leniency. “A sense of proportion – and a sense of humor – is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness,” Sting said in a statement carried by Amnesty International last month. Verdicts in the trial are expected later this week.
SPAIN ““ (BBC) Fires on Spain’s Canary Islands have destroyed more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of land, including part of a UN World Heritage site. The Garajonay National Park on the island of La Gomera is home to hundreds of plant species, some of which are unique to the island in the Atlantic. Firefighters later managed to stop the advance of the blaze, which they suspect was started deliberately. A fire on the neighboring island of La Palma was also contained on Monday. Spain has been hard hit by forest fires this year after experiencing its driest winter in 70 years. A number of houses were gutted in one village inside the Garajonay National Park. Local residents were evacuated after the fire erupted on Saturday. The park is home to nearly 500 plant species, including rare subtropical forests. Officials said they had managed to stop the progress of the blaze by Monday evening with water-dropping aircraft. Firefighters on the Canary Islands and mainland Spain have been battling blazes for weeks after a winter that saw almost no rainfall. Last month, four people died in forest fires in the northeastern Catalonia region.
UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) Seven Cameroonian athletes have disappeared while in Britain for the Olympics, officials said. David Ojong, the head of the Cameroon delegation, said five boxers, a swimmer, and a football player had been missing since the weekend. The reason for their disappearance is not known, amid some reports that they wanted to stay in the UK for economic reasons. Mr. Ojong said the athletes had visas allowing them to stay until November. “What began as rumor has finally turned out to be true,” Mr. Ojong said in a letter sent to the Cameroonian sports ministry. “Seven Cameroonian athletes who participated at the 2012 London Olympic Games have disappeared from the Olympic Village.” The home office said it could not comment on whether any of the seven had sought asylum in the country, the Associated Press reports. According to the news agency, it is not the first case of its kind, with Sudan’s embassy confirming last month that three athletes had gone missing. One had applied for asylum and the other two were expected to do so, reports AP.