Dozens of protesters have clashed with police in the French capital Paris in fresh demonstrations against a controversial draft security law.
Police fired tear gas after hooded protesters smashed shop windows and set several vehicles alight.
Nearly 100 rallies were planned nationwide on Saturday over the draft bill that would outlaw taking photos of police with malevolent intent.
Opponents say the bill undermines press freedom to document police brutality.
France has seen weekly nationwide protests over the draft bill, which intensified after footage emerged of three white policemen racially abusing and beating a black music producer.
Responding to the backlash, President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party said last week that parts of the law would be rewritten. However, this has not done enough to assuage its opponents.
On Friday Mr Macron acknowledged “there are police who are violent” and said “they need to be punished”, in a live interview with Brut, a youth-focused news portal site.
What happened on Saturday?
Thousands of people, including members of the anti-government Yellow Vest movement, had been marching peacefully in the capital when pockets of protesters, dressed in black and with their faces covered, started launching projectiles at riot police, Reuters reports.
The windows of a supermarket, property agency and bank were smashed, according to the AFP news agency, and police responded to the violence by firing tear gas.
Some of the demonstrators set up impromptu barricades in the street which they set on fire, it added.
Paris police, quoted by BFM TV, said some 500 rioters had infiltrated the protest. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 22 people had been detained over the incidents.
Police had been heavily deployed to the capital in a bid to avoid a repeat of the violent clashes seen there last weekend over the same law, which left dozens wounded.
Peaceful protests were staged elsewhere across France, including Marseille, Lyon and Rennes.
In his interview with Brut on Friday, President Macron lashed out at earlier violence in Paris, which he blamed on “crazy people”.
He said an online national platform would be launched for people to flag up unnecessary police checks, and that police would be wearing body cameras more widely from June 2021.
Why are people angry about the bill?
Article 24 of the proposed bill makes it a criminal offence to publish images of on-duty police officers with the intent to harm their “physical or psychological integrity”.
It says offenders could face up to a year in prison and be fined €45,000 (£40,500; $54,000).
Advocates say the article will protect police from harassment and targeting on social media.
But critics say media freedom and citizens’ right to film police action must not be impeded, as the French police are now under intense scrutiny for alleged racism.
Images of music producer Michel Zecler being kicked and punched at his Paris studio last month by three white policemen shocked the nation, and further enraged opponents to the bill.
Since then, four officers have been placed under criminal investigation and members of President Macron’s ruling party have pledged to “completely” rewrite part of the new law.
“We know that doubts persist about it…while we can never tolerate any reduction of press freedom or images,” said Christophe Castaner, who heads Mr Macron’s group of centrist MPs in parliament.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55201993
Bosnia: Icy struggle for many migrants stuck in freezing tents
Thousands of refugees and migrants urgently need proper shelter in Bosnia-Herzegovina after weeks outdoors in freezing cold, the UN has warned.
Some 2,500 people are in unheated tents or sleeping rough near the northern town of Bihac. A UN official says some are now being moved to heated tents.
Local authorities have refused to reopen a nearby reception centre.
Instead hundreds have been forced to return to a temporary camp that was ravaged by fire last month.
Peter Van der Auweraert of the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has tweeted photos of the basic tents erected at the Lipa camp by the Bosnian army a few days ago.
But his latest post is upbeat. Lipa is carpeted with heavy snow, he says, so the relocation of migrants to heated tents, now under way, is an “important step forward”. The new tents were brought in by the army.
The camp was set up hastily in the summer when the coronavirus pandemic forced crisis measures including border closures.
But aid agencies pulled out of the camp in December, saying it was unsustainable without water and electricity.
Some residents forced to leave the facility looted equipment and set fire to tents, police said.
However, about 900 migrants had to go back there, after local officials refused to let them move to the empty reception centre in Bihac. Another 1,500 are struggling in primitive conditions elsewhere near the town.
The migrants are from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and got stuck in Bosnia while trying to reach Croatia, an EU member state seen as a gateway to the EU.
Some of the migrants have refused to use the tents in Lipa because they lack heating and sanitation. Some also went on hunger strike, angry at the lack of amenities.
But on Tuesday many did receive Red Cross food parcels.
“We want people in proper reception centres where they have access to services, like the 6,000 other people in Bosnia,” Mr Van der Auweraert, the IOM’s head in Bosnia-Herzegovina, told the BBC’s Balkans correspondent Guy De Launey at Lipa.
The IOM says about 8,500 non-EU migrants are living in Bosnia, still hoping to get to northern Europe.
“Here is too much cold. You know, the weather is rainy and the weather is very cold, and we can’t sleep in here,” one migrant told our correspondent.
In recent years thousands of people, including refugees from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, have entered Bosnia hoping to get asylum in the EU.
Bosnia’s central government ordered the reopening of a reception centre in an old factory on the outskirts of Bihac, but the local authorities refused.
The city’s mayor, Suhret Fazlic, told the BBC: “We are not satisfied with approach of EU – people coming from Greece and Bulgaria want to get to Croatia, but stuck in Bihac.”
The EU has told the Bosnian authorities that they “must assume their responsibilities”. The country of 3.5m has ambitions to join the EU.
On Wednesday the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU had funded the still empty shelter in Bihac, but Bosnian officials had “ignored repeated appeals to provide basic and secure living conditions and humane treatment”.
His spokesman Peter Stano said “over the last two years, we provided over 90m euros (£81m; $110m) for centres, equipment, medical and social care.
“We need them to move – not play political games with people’s lives,” he complained.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55589090
Covid: Sweden official defends Christmas trip to Canary Islands
A top Swedish official involved in the coronavirus response has defended a Christmas holiday in the Canary Islands in the face of heavy criticism.
Dan Eliasson is head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel.
He was photographed in Las Palmas airport on the island of Gran Canaria.
Mr Eliasson insisted the trip was necessary “for family reasons”.
He told Swedish media that he had “given up a lot of trips during this pandemic” but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries.
“I celebrated Christmas with her and my family,” he told Expressen newspaper. He also said he had been worked remotely while in the Canaries.
Sweden has had 437,000 confirmed cases and 8,700 deaths – many more than its Scandinavian neighbours. The country has never imposed a full lockdown.
However, alarmed by rising numbers of cases last month, the Swedish government reversed some of its guidance and sent a text message to all Swedes asking them to read updated guidelines.
The guidelines included asking Swedes to avoid unnecessary trips and not to make new contacts during a journey or at the destination.
Mr Eliasson was then photographed several times in Gran Canaria, including at the airport.
There have been calls for Mr Eliasson, an experienced official who has worked at several important departments, to be fired.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and other ministers have not yet commented, according to Swedish media.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-55523587
UK regulator approves Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
UK regulators have approved the use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to distribute than some rivals and could in time offer a route out of the pandemic for large parts of the world.
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