Paris Trash Strike Ends, Smaller Pension Protest Turnout

A protestor throws a canister towards security forces during a demonstration after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 28, 2023. (AFP)
A protestor throws a canister towards security forces during a demonstration after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 28, 2023. (AFP)
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Paris Trash Strike Ends, Smaller Pension Protest Turnout

A protestor throws a canister towards security forces during a demonstration after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 28, 2023. (AFP)
A protestor throws a canister towards security forces during a demonstration after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Paris on March 28, 2023. (AFP)

Sanitation workers in Paris are set to return to work Wednesday amid heaps of trash that piled up over their weekslong strike as protests against French President Emmanuel Marcon's controversial pension bill appeared to be winding down.

Trash mounds of up to 10,000 tons along the French capital’s streets — reportedly equal to the weight of the Eiffel Tower — have become a striking visual symbol of opposition to Marcon's bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Clean-up crews were set Wednesday to start picking up debris from streets following fresh anti-pension reform protests a day earlier. CGT, the union representing sanitation workers, said its three-week-long strike was over Wednesday. They will join others who were legally requisitioned to earlier to help with the clean-up.

“It’s good that the trash is collected. It’s very unsanitary, and some residents already have trouble with rats and mice. It can be dangerous if it’s left too long,” said artist Gil Franco, 73.

The dwindling number of protesters is seen by some as the beginning of the end of demonstrations against the pension bill.

“People are getting tired of it. There has been too much violence. Paris is a mess, and I want to get on with normal life,” said Paris resident Amandine Betout, 32, getting her morning croissant in Le Marais district. She said it was a “good thing” that the trash is cleaned from the streets.

Tuesday’s protests in Paris saw dozens of arrests and flare ups of violence, though significantly fewer people participated in the action nationwide.

The Interior Ministry put the number of demonstrators nationwide at 740,000, down from more than 1 million five days ago when protesters voiced their rage at Macron’s order to ram the bill through parliament without a vote.

For unions, the fight against the law is far from over. An eleventh day of action is scheduled for April 6.



Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
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Greece Denies New Report of Brutality to Migrants

Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)
Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Türkiye, Feb. 28, 2020. (AP)

Greece on Monday denied a new report that accused its coast guard of brutally preventing migrants from reaching Greek shores, which also alleged that the practice had resulted in dozens of deaths.

A BBC report said it had been ascertained that 43 migrants drowned — including nine who were thrown into the water — in 15 incidents off Greece's eastern Aegean Sea islands in 2020-2023. It cited interviews with eyewitnesses, following reports from media, charities and the Turkish coast guard.

Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis insisted that there was no evidence to support the allegations.

“Our understanding is that what is reported is not proved,” he told a regular press briefing when asked about the claims. “Every complaint is looked into, and in the end, the relevant findings are made public.”

Greece is a major gateway for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia seeking a better life in the affluent European Union. Thousands slip into the country every year, mostly in small boats from neighboring Türkiye. Relations with Türkiye are often tense, and the two countries' coast guards have repeatedly traded accusations of mistreating migrants.

Migrant charities and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Greece's coast guard and police of illegally preventing arriving migrants from seeking asylum by surreptitiously returning them to Turkish waters. Greece has angrily denied that, arguing its border forces have saved hundreds of thousands of migrants from sinking boats.

The country's reputation took a further knock in June 2023, when a battered fishing vessel with an estimated 750 people on board sank off southwestern Greece. Only 104 people survived, despite the Greek coast guard having shadowed the vessel for hours, and survivors claimed the trawler sank after a botched attempt by the coast guard to tow it. Greek authorities again denied these allegations.

The new BBC report included a claim by a Cameroonian man that he and two other migrants were picked up by masked men, including policemen, just after landing on the island of Samos.

The man claimed all three were put in a coast guard boat and thrown into the sea, and that the other two men drowned as a result.

The report also quoted a Syrian man who said he was part of a group picked up at sea by the Greek coast guard off Rhodes. He said the survivors were put in life rafts and left adrift in Turkish waters, where several died after one life raft sank before the Turkish coast guard came to pick them up.

Marinakis said “it is wrong to target” the Greek coast guard. “In any case, we monitor every report and investigation, but I repeat: What is mentioned (in the BBC report) is in no case backed up by evidence,” he said.