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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 30 January 2016
NEWS 4 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 30 JANUARY 2016 Aussie lifesaver forced to watch Lesvos refugees drown Volunteer returns to Melbourne with harrowing account of asylum seeker deaths A Melbourne lifeguard who volunteered to help asylum seekers crossing from Turkey to Lesvos says he saw 31 people drown this month because they were in international waters. In the first month of 2016, Lesvos remains the primary gateway into Europe for the greatest migration surge since the Second World War. More than 850,000 people, most fleeing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, entered Greece by sea in 2015 according to the UNHCR, and already in 2016, another 35,000 asylum seekers have arrived - most through Lesvos - despite freezing winter temperatures and storms. Greece has responded furiously to proposals to modify the Schengen agreement, which would see the country’s borders sealed off from the rest of Europe. Earlier this month St Kilda Surf Lifesaving Club's captain Simon Lewis spent nine days on the island as a volunteer in a joint venture between the Greek Lifeguards and the International Surf Lifesaving Association. On his return he told reporters that his team helped save 517 people in 10 days but that he witnessed one horrific event that would remain with him forever. Mr Lewis said he had to stand by helpless as 31 asylum seekers drowned beyond Greek waters because his team was not allowed to intervene. "That's the nature of lifesaving, we put ourselves in that situation to help prevent people from drowning and yet because it's across the way in international water, you're restricted and can't actually do anything about it," Mr Lewis said. Unless asylum seeker boats are sinking, volunteers are unable to assist because helping people cross international borders illegally could see them charged with people smuggling. One more heartbreaking case that Mr Lewis encountered was a mother trying to throw her child five metres to safety. "We realised what she was about to do, you know, throw us the baby and so we had to pull away from her and put some distance between us. Just seeing her face, that heartbreak." Mr Lewis said he was aware of about 2,000 refugees who made the perilous journey to the area in the time he was there. Victorian war veteran and RSL legend passes away MICHAEL SWEET A tireless advocate for marking the duty and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women, Brigadier Keith Rossi died on 20 January in Melbourne at the age of 94. His death is mourned not only by veterans and their families, and the RSL of which he was a member for more than 70 years, but by Australia's Greek community who have lost a true friend and supporter. St Kilda Surf Lifesaving Club’s captain Simon Lewis on duty near Lesvos. PHOTO: FACEBOOK. "These boats are the dodgiest. [They are] built like an inflatable boat, with a fake Chinese engine, they all have fake life jackets on. "These people make the journey because they think it's better than being on land, and that says everything to you [about] their situation, to try to get to freedom, because it's a better option than anywhere else." Mr Lewis ran a crowdfunding campaign that's raised more than $22,000 for a new rescue jet ski for local Greek lifeguards. This week Greece responded furiously to proposals to modify the Schengen agreement, which would see the country's borders sealed off from the rest of Europe. EU interior ministers meeting in Amsterdam on Monday discussed moving the southern frontier of the passportfree travel zone, which includes most of the EU, to the north, and deploying joint police forces along the FYROMGreece border. European states are increasingly putting pressure on Greece to do more to limit the influx of migrants into Europe. Greece's migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas denounced the plans, calling it an "experiment" that would turn Greece into a "cemetery of souls". Source: ABC/Newsweek Jackomos appeals for Aboriginal youth justice Reform of Bail Amendment Bill a ‘no brainer’ says Victorian Commissioner MICHAEL SWEET Victoria's Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos, has called for urgent action to support Aboriginal children, who make up about half of the nation's youth currently in detention. In a statement released on the eve of Australia Day, Commissioner Jackomos (who is of Greek and Aborig- inal heritage) said: "We must urgently address the high rates of Aboriginal children languishing in our youth justice detention centres so that we can all truly feel proud to be Australian". Aboriginal youngsters in Victoria continue to be removed from home and placed into state care at alarming rates and continue to be grossly over-represented in the youth justice system. The Independent Visitors Program (IVP) operated by the Commission for Children and Young People found that 16 per cent of all children and young people detained in the state's youth justice detention centres were Aboriginal when it visited centres at Parkville Greek First Australian: Commissioner Andrew Jackomos. PHOTO: MIKE SWEET. and Malmsbury this month. The commission is also concerned about the escalating rates of children on remand and has recently sought to monitor the conditions of detention more closely. For Aboriginal children, being separated from family, kin and community can compound their loss of identity, culture and community. Commissioner Jackomos has been vocal in his calls to reform the Victorian Bail Act to introduce criteria that are specific to children, and to ensure that breaches of bail do not of themselves trigger police arrest and incarceration. The Bail Amendment Bill 2015 is due for debate again next month. Commissioner Jackomos says reform to the Bail Act is a "no brainer" and has pleaded with all sides of politics to support the amendments "for the benefit of all our children". Despite the fact that he did not serve in Greece during WWII, Brigadier Rossi was a regular attendee on behalf of the RSL at commemorative events marking the WWII Greece and Crete campaigns. Instrumental in the creation of the Australian Hellenic Memorial in Melbourne's Domain Gardens, he was president of the memorial's committee from 1995. Keith Rossi enrolled as a cadet in the militia in 1937 at the age of 15. His service record showing his date of birth as 13 October 1919 is incorrect; he was told to say he was 17 by the recruiting officer. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in March 1941, where he first served as a wireless operator. His operational service began in Egypt six months later where he undertook artillery training before joining the 2/2 Australian Field Regiment. Postings to Ceylon (1942) and New Guinea (1943/1944) followed, before he saw out WWII in Morotai and Borneo. After the war he remained a professional soldier and in 1970 served in Vietnam. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Vale Brigadier Rossi A member of the Citizen Military Forces until 1976, following his Army career Brigadier Rossi devoted his life to the RSL which he had joined in 1943, and became a volunteer historian working five days a week at ANZAC House in Melbourne. Direct and insightful, there his assistance to those seeking his deep knowledge and robust advice became legend. Joining the many tributes to the brigadier, Steve Kyritsis OAM, president of the Hellenic RSL sub branch Victoria, said: "Keith was a Philhellene and supporter of the Hellenic RSL. His knowledge as a historian was always helpful to matters relating to Australian and its Allies' military history. "We have lost a great soldier, veteran, and historian who devoted his whole life for the RSL." Brigadier Rossi was given an honorary life membership of the Pancretan Association of Melbourne in 2012, which described him as "a stern supporter of the Greek community and the Cretan fraternity". Victoria RSL state president, Major General David McLachlan, said his former colleague would be greatly missed. "Keith received an OBE (Military) in 1964 and was recognised with an AM in 1999 for his service to veterans and their families. He held a wealth of military history knowledge and, with a sharp mind, was a significant contributor to ANZAC House." Brigadier Rossi was predeceased by his wife Nan and two sons. RIP Keith Vincent Rossi. AM. OBE. RFD ED (Ret'd). Born: 13 October 1921. Died: 20 January 2016 Brigadier Keith Rossi at the Australian Hellenic Memorial in Domain Gardens, Melbourne. PHOTO: MANNY KARVELAS.
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