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Afghans jailed in Greece over Moria migrant camp blaze

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2021)

Four Afghan asylum-seekers were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Greece on Saturday for their part in a fire that destroyed the Moria migrant camp last year, in a case that highlighted the chronic refugee problem on Europe’s borders.

The men, charged with arson with risk to human life over the fire on the island of Lesbos last September, were found guilty after a court rejected a request by lawyers for three of them to be tried by a juvenile court because they were under 18 at the time.

Before the blaze, Moria was considered Europe’s biggest migrant camp, a sprawling and overcrowded town of tents and improvised shelters notorious for its poor and often dangerous living conditions.

Described by rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR as unfit for humans, the camp had become a symbol of Europe’s stumbling response to the migration crisis on its southern borders, which left much of the burden to be carried by small islands like Lesbos.

Greek authorities believe the fire was deliberately lit by camp occupants after quarantine measures were imposed following the discovery of COVID-19 cases among people living on the site.

The blaze sent more than 12,000 people, mostly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees who had already endured a dangerous sea crossing, fleeing for their lives, forcing most to sleep in the open for days without shelter, food or water or sanitation.

No one was killed in the fire.

A new temporary camp was set up on the site of an old army firing range but tenders have been launched for new closed centres on Lesbos and the nearby island of Chios that the government says will provide safer accommodation but which critics say risk becoming like prisons.

The four men were among a group of six Afghans detained by police following the fire. The other two were sentenced in March to five years in prison.

Defence lawyers said the men had been framed by a witness and that the court’s decision was “an inconceivable conviction without evidence”.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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