Daily Archives: March 11, 2016

EU on alert for alternative migration routes as borders close


European Union interior ministers expressed concern Thursday that migrants might seek alternative routes to northern Europe after their passage through the Balkan countries was sealed off, while the arrivals in Greece continued undeterred.

Europe has struggled with an influx of migrants and asylum seekers that brought more than 1 million people to its shores last year, with some 141,000 more following since January. Many are fleeing the war in Syria, but economic migrants have also joined their ranks.

The main route for people trying to reach wealthy northern Europe has been from Turkey via Greece, and onward through the Western Balkans. But countries along that route shuttered their borders this week, leaving thousands stranded and creating a bottleneck in Greece.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said his country is working with Albania to prevent a new migration route from opening across the Adriatic Sea, ahead of talks in Brussels with his 27 EU counterparts.

“Logic suggests that, if there were an influx from Turkey into the Balkan route and if walls were to interrupt the journey towards northern Europe, this route could open,” Alfano said, while noting that there was no evidence of this happening at present.

Without legal pathways into Europe, “we shall see migrants and the smugglers, the ruthless smugglers that are behind them, trying to find new routes,” warned EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.

“The concern remains that there are other routes,” German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, referring specifically to Libya and Italy. Before Greece became the main conduit, many migrants crossed by sea from the northern African state to Italy’s southernmost islands.

Others have raised the prospect of Bulgaria becoming a new transit country. The EU member state shares a land border with Turkey, but is not part of Europe’s free-travel Schengen zone.

Despite this week’s border closures, migrants are still attempting the dangerous Aegean Sea crossing to Greece.

Five people, including a baby, drowned off Turkey’s coast when their boat capsized, the Dogan news agency reported. The Turkish coastguard saved nine migrants late Wednesday, the reports said. The migrants were mainly from Afghanistan and Iran.

In recent days, NATO began monitoring the sea route to help crack down on migrant smugglers. But the arrivals in Greece have so far remained steady.

“Yesterday, 2,073 people arrived on the islands,” the spokesman for the Greek migration crisis management body, Giorgos Kyritsis, said Thursday.

An overall 1,100 people were expected to be brought from the islands of Lesbos and Chios to the port of Piraeus on Thursday, the Greek coastguard said.

A further 13,000 people are stranded in a camp at Idomeni on the Greek border, where two days of relentless rain have turned the ground into an ocean of mud. The camp was set up as a pass-through facility for around 2,000 people.

Doctors from the nearby town of Polikastro said that hundreds of children and adults were suffering from respiratory and intestinal infections.

Around 250 people, mostly families with children, agreed to be relocated to a camp in the Athens area, 550 kilometres to the south.

Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas hinted that the Idomeni camp could be evacuated because of the conditions, but a police officer in the area told dpa that “no police action is presently planned.”

In Brussels, Avramopoulos warned that the border closures along the Western Balkan route have created a “humanitarian crisis that risks to turn to a humanitarian disaster” in Greece.

The future of those stranded along the migration route is uncertain, after EU leaders agreed Monday to work with Turkey on a plan under which Ankara would take back any new arrivals to Greece, while the bloc would directly resettle Syrian refugees out of Turkey.

The deal, which is still being finalized, has drawn heavy criticism from rights groups and EU lawmakers, who have described it as inhumane and have questioned its legality.

Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner asked if the EU is not “ultimately throwing our values overboard” with the deal, which also offers Ankara concessions on visa-free travel for its citizens and on its long-running EU membership bid.

But her British counterpart Theresa May welcomed the deal, arguing that Europe is now “taking tough action against economic and illegal migrants.”


George Tannous not guilty by reason of mental illness for murder of wife Margaret Tannous


They had been married for more than 18 years. But, in the past few, George Tannous became increasingly obsessed with one thing.

He was adamant his wife Margaret was cheating on him – sleeping with men in her office, flirting with tradesman, even having an affair with his cousin.

She was provoking him with such acts and leaving deliberate clues for him to discover, he believed.

It ended with him using a broom handle to bash his 49-year-old wife to death in their Bankstown home on February 17, 2014, despite none of his delusional fears being true.

On Thursday, NSW Supreme Court judge Jane Mathews found Mr Tannous, 59, not guilty of murder by reason of mental illness following a judge-alone trial that lasted less than one hour.

Both the defence and the prosecution agreed with an assessment by forensic psychiatrist Adam Martin, who told the court he had diagnosed Mr Tannous with a major psychotic disorder he referred to as delusional jealousy or morbid jealousy.

Mr Tannous was “overwhelmingly preoccupied and angry about his wife’s supposed acts of infidelity”, Crown prosecutor Terry Thorpe told the court, paraphrasing from Dr Martin’s report.

He confronted a carpenter working in their home one day, making accusations of flirting. He was suspicious of a man who shared his wife’s office. He was convinced she was sleeping with his cousin. Eventually, Mr Tannous was stalking his wife.

He was “not open to any alternative explanations of that behaviour… [of] innocent things that were occurring”, Mr Thorpe said, stressing that not one of Mr Tannous’ beliefs had “basis in fact”.

See your ad here
“Did you come to the view that he had very limited insight into what was going on?” Mr Thorpe asked Dr Martin in court.

“Yes, I think he had no insight,” he replied.

However, this obsessive disorder had developed only in recent years.

Before that, Mr Tannous exhibited controlling and suspicious behaviour. He told Dr Martin he had a mental health plan drawn up for him in 2012 but he stopped taking antidepressants because he was “concerned it would do something to his brain”.

Dr Martin concluded that the paranoid personality style and the development of the delusional disorder were not mutually exclusive.

“Delusions of jealousy against a backdrop of having a long history of controlling behaviour,” was his final conclusion, Mr Thorpe said.

Justice Mathews found that this disorder directed Mr Tannous’ actions in killing his wife and substantially impaired his judgement.

“There is no dispute at all that it was he who killed the victim,” she said. “And indeed he has always accepted responsibility for the act of killing her but the medical evidence is clear that at the time he did that he was suffering a mental illness.”

She assured Mrs Tannous’ family and supporters that he would be locked in a mental health facility until it was proven he wasn’t a danger.

“He’s not being exonerated. He’s not being allowed out into the community,” she said.

An agreed statement of facts said Mrs Tannous had returned from a trip to Lebanon on February 17 to find her husband had kicked out a man who shared her office space and had refused to allow a real estate agent in to sell their Bankstown unit.

An argument ensured and she said she wanted a divorce. He then took a broom stick from the laundry and repeatedly bashed her on the head, leaving her in a pool of blood.

As he made his way to Bankstown police station to hand himself in, he made phone calls to his children, his mother-in-law and other relatives telling them he hit his wife because he was “mad” at her but he didn’t think she was dead.

Mr and Mrs Tannous’ two adult children, Elie and Therese, were too distraught to attend court on Thursday and are understood to be angry and upset at what they believe is feigned illness by their father.

Elie posted an emotional tribute to his mother on Facebook after her death, saying she was “my angel my life my queen the closest person to me”.

He said she had spent 18 years suffering in a marriage that most women would have “let go” after three months.

Mrs Tannous’ niece and nephew attended in their place and shook their heads when Mr Tannous, wearing prison greens and a religious cross around his neck, entered a not guilty plea.

Her nephew said “f— you” to Mr Tannous when he appeared in the dock. Outside court, niece Jessica Karam said her aunt was “a beautiful person”.

“I think that violence against women is wrong in any case and I miss my aunty very much,” she said.

❏ Support is available by phoning National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732; Men’s Referral Service 1300 766