The Friendship, Equality and Peace Party, purportedly representing Greek Muslims in the region of Thrace, described Spiliotopoulos’ referendum proposals as an “insult to the hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in Athens, the only capital in the European Union without a mosque.” The group added:
“The construction of a mosque has been delayed for strange reasons for many years, which has opened a deep wound in terms of freedom of religion. Now, proposing a referendum for a place of worship has created great disappointment. We expect politicians to leave such a mentality, to avoid putting our country Greece in a difficult position within the international arena.”
Meanwhile, Muslim vandals are being blamed for a spate of attacks against Greek Orthodox churches on the island of Crete. Anti-Christian slogans written in Arabic were discovered on the walls of at least three churches.
In Italy, Home Secretary Angelino Alfano on April 4 warned that his country is facing a catastrophic wave of immigration from the Muslim world. “According to our information between 300,000 and 600,000 people are on the other side of the Mediterranean on the North African coastline, waiting to cross sooner or later,” he said at a conference on immigration in Palermo, Sicily.
In the first three months of 2014, more than 11,000 immigrants have landed in Italy, a seven-fold increase on 2013, with the high season for crossings about to begin as the weather improves. “The landings are non-stop and the emergency is increasingly glaring,” Alfano said.
On April 4, an official statement from the Italian Ministry of Health declared “the activation of appropriate measures of surveillance at all international access points to Italy” due to fears that at least 40 immigrants from Africa were infected with the Ebola virus.
The head of the Italian Navy, Admiral Giuseppe De Giorgi, said the influx of migrants is reaching “biblical proportions” and that “Italy is fighting a losing battle.”
Justice Minister Andrea Orlando on April 1 signed an agreement with his Moroccan counterpart to have Moroccan convicts sent back home. The move is aimed at tackling chronic overcrowding in Italian prisons. The agreement will affect Moroccans who have been convicted in Italy and sentenced to one or more years in prison, according to a statement released by the Justice Ministry. The new plan will allow convicts to serve out the rest of their sentences in Morocco while receiving “social reintegration” there, where “they have social and family ties.” There are some 4,000 Moroccan prisoners in Italian prisons.
In the Netherlands, Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk and Rob Bertholee, the head of the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD, on April 23 presented the AIVD annual report for 2013. The report says that more than 100 Dutch citizens or residents traveled to Syria in 2013 with the intention of taking part in jihadist activities there.
The vast majority of Dutch jihadists joined one of two groups: the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) or Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN). A relatively small proportion of jihadists (just over 20) returned home during the course of the year. The AIVD believes that at least ten men from the Netherlands were killed in Syria in 2013, including two Dutch jihadists who took their own lives in suicide attacks.
The report warns:
“The participation of foreign jihadists in the conflict in Syria has contributed to its escalation. Their experiences there, and the contacts they establish with international networks, mean that they may well pose a threat to national security if and when they return home. For the jihadist groups active in Syria, the presence of European fighters represents an excellent opportunity to recruit individuals familiar with our region to commit acts of terrorism here. In addition, returnees could exploit their status as veterans to radicalize others in the Netherlands.