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Refugee abuse trial opens in Germany

The refugee abuse scandal sent shock waves through Germany when it became public nearly four years ago. Now, 30 guards and workers at the asylum center face a host of charges. The trial of 30 people accused of abusing refugees at an asylum center in Germany started on Thursday in the western town of Siegen. It has been nearly four years since shocking images of abuse against refugees in the small western town of Burbach triggered widespread outrage. The abuse was captured on cellphone photos. One of the Burbach photos showed a security guard posing with his foot on the neck of a handcuffed refugee lying on the floor, while another showed a refugee being forced to lie on a mattress stained with vomit. Security guards also took the refugees to a "problem room" where they were allegedly imprisoned, beaten and robbed. At the time the photos became public, Police Chief Frank Richter from nearby Hagen said: "These are images of the kind we've seen from Guantanamo Bay." The 30 guards and workers at the asylum facility face charges that include grievous bodily harm, deprivation of liberty, coercion and theft. Following the scandal, operations at the refugee center were transferred from the social services company European Homecare to the German Red Cross.

The refugee abuse scandal sent shock waves through Germany when it became public nearly four years ago. Now, 30 guards and workers at the asylum center face a host of charges. The trial of 30 people accused of abusing refugees at an asylum center in Germany started on Thursday in the western town of Siegen. It has been nearly four ... Read More »

Vienna museum cancels migrant ‘propaganda’ play

A controversial theater piece about two refugees, one from Syria and one "from Africa," has been canceled hours before its public premiere. But the government-commissioned play has been seen by thousands of children.

e Weltmuseum in Vienna on Friday canceled the first public performance of “World in Flux” (“Welt in Bewegung”), a play about migrants in Austria, shortly before its premiere following criticism that the government-commissioned work was “crude propaganda” and full of racist stereotypes. The work had already been seen by thousands of schoolchildren as part of a special free viewing program. ... Read More »

Gaps in German foreigner registry risk grave asylum, deportation mistakes

Vastly outdated data, EU citizens listed as needing to leave Germany: Just some of the mistakes that pepper the database, the commissioner for refugee management said. And the resulting consequences could be serious. Erroneous categorizations and sloppy mistakes fill the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR), the former head of Germany's Office for Migration and Refugees, Frank-Jürgen Weise, said in a report seen by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. In an interview with the same paper, Weise warned that the inconsistencies could lead "to some gravely mistaken decisions" in cases dealing with asylum and deportations proceedings. The AZR is a German government database that contains the personal information of around 10 million foreign individuals residing in Germany, 5.7 million of whom come from outside the European Union (EU). Weise was tasked by the German Interior Ministry with compiling the report in order to improve the bureaucratic efficiency of asylum, deportation, and voluntary return processes. His analysis, entitled "Guidelines for the Improvement of Data Quality in the Central Register of Foreign Nationals," highlighted that the AZR data contained some significant errors. No longer alive, but on the list For instance, Weise told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that in certain cases, obsolete data from as far back as 1921 had been found - "belonging to people that are long dead." In other instances, individuals appeared on the list as foreign nationals when, in fact, they had already become German citizens. "The data quality was in part not good because the data has not been adequately maintained," Weise said. The data is administered by around 600 government officials throughout Germany that work on matters pertaining to foreign nationals. Another mistake in the AZR database was incorrectly entered addresses. Such an error could have all kinds of repercussions, Weise said, highlighting delays in bureaucratic appointments that waste the time and resources of administrators, translators, and, of course, the intended recipient of goverment correspondence. In certain cases, "the wrong person may even come into focus" through such entry mistakes, Weise said. According to Weise, EU nationals also popped up in the database - but on lists of individuals who were legally required to leave the country. EU nationals are generally allowed to live and work wherever they please within the bloc. The commissioner pointed out in his analysis that such mis-categorizations could distort the debate about who is legally required to leave Germany. Read more: The German Dream - and immigration nightmares of the bureaucratic experience Bad for the German reputation For Weise, the elementary mistakes in the AZR can cause long-term damage to Germany's reputation. The published report includes tips on how to improve the quality of data management, which had previously lacked clearly defined standards and unified processes, he said. Echoing a frequently heard debate between the role of the federal government and the regional governments in Germany's 16 states, Weise said, "It is now primarily the state's concern to remove all implausibilities from the database." However, he admitted that for German officials facing lines of people out their office doors, prioritizing database clean-up might prove tricky.

Vastly outdated data, EU citizens listed as needing to leave Germany: Just some of the mistakes that pepper the database, the commissioner for refugee management said. And the resulting consequences could be serious. Erroneous categorizations and sloppy mistakes fill the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR), the former head of Germany’s Office for Migration and Refugees, Frank-Jürgen Weise, said in ... Read More »

More asylum requests processed in Germany than rest of EU combined – reports

New figures show Germany received and processed more asylum requests in the first nine months of 2016 than the rest of the EU combined. Italy and France received the second and third highest number of requests. Figures released Tuesday by the EU statistics office, Eurostat, show that around 420,000 asylum requests were processed in Germany in the first nine months of 2016 - more than in all other 27 EU countries combined. A total of 756,000 asylum requests processed in the EU between January and September 2016, 55 percent of which were handled in Germany. Of the overall 988,000 EU asylum requests made in the same timeframe, around two-thirds were made in Germany. Figures vary, however, as to the exact number of requests made in Germany. Eurostat puts the number at 612,000, while the Federal Interior Ministry puts it at 658,000. Speaking to German newspaper Die Welt, which broke the story on Tuesday, Johannes Singhammer, one of the vice presidents of the German parliament, said: "The oft-quoted notion that Europe is shifting responsibility for taking in refugees to the southern countries simply doesn't hold when you look at the figures." The number's also "make clear that refugee crisis in Germany has not been overcome," Singhammer said. The number of asylum requests for 2016 does not necessarily reflect the number of refugees that entered Germany in the same period. Many of those who applied for asylum last year had already entered the country a year before, but had been unable to make a formal request. The German government recorded around 272,000 arrivals in the first nine months 2016 using its electronic registration system. Asylum in the rest of the EU Italy processed some 68,000 asylum requests in the first three quarters of 2016 while receiving around 85,000 requests. France processed nearly the same number at 63,000. Although Italy processed the second highest number of asylum requests, the total still only comes to less than one-sixth the amount processed in Germany. Denmark, meanwhile, saw a sharp decrease in the number of asylum applications, falling from roughly 21,000 in 2015 to 5,300 in the first nine months of 2016. The figures published by Eurostat and Die Welt also shows which other EU have fallen short when dealing with asylum cases. In Greece, the first European destination for many refugees that fled conflicts in the Middle East, the government processed just 7,600 of 30,000 asylum requests. When the migrant crisis broke out in 2015, Greece was widely used my incoming migrants as a transit country than a destination. However, with much of the Balkan route into central and western Europe since close off, the indebted country has struggled to provide basic provision to the some 50,000 migrants still housed in refugee camps.

New figures show Germany received and processed more asylum requests in the first nine months of 2016 than the rest of the EU combined. Italy and France received the second and third highest number of requests. Figures released Tuesday by the EU statistics office, Eurostat, show that around 420,000 asylum requests were processed in Germany in the first nine months ... Read More »

Migrants, aid groups anxious over clearing of Calais ‘Jungle’

Charities said they're worried about the safety of minors and vulnerable adults ahead of the dismantling of the French migrant camp. Police fired smoke grenades as people grew angry at the "Jungle's" impending closure. French and British aid organizations have complained about the lack of information about next week's planned closure of the migrant camp known as the "Jungle." Their warning came as French police clashed with migrants on Saturday night at the camp in the northern French town of Calais. British charities and lawmakers have written to French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve highlighting what they said were "very serious worries concerning the security and well-being of unaccompanied minors and vulnerable adults." The signatories, which included the NGOs Save the Children, the Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee UK, wrote that "the resources currently being deployed … are insufficient to ensure the effective protection of the most vulnerable, notably unaccompanied children." The letter warned that a poorly organized camp clearance would put already at-risk people into an even more precarious situation. The "Jungle," which houses several thousand migrants mainly from the Middle East and Africa has seen its numbers swell in recent months. The migrants head to Calais hoping to reach Britain by ferry or Channel Tunnel train Many of those arriving in Calais are severely traumatized after escaping conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, psychologists say. Most have described being exploited by people traffickers and many have risked their lives by traveling thousands of kilometers to the French port town. Closure to begin Monday France said that it will begin dismantling the camp on Monday and that officials have arranged a "humanitarian" operation to transfer those staying in the makeshift facility to migrant reception centers around the country and abroad. French teacher Michel Abecassis said many migrants "don't know exactly where (the) reception centers are located" or "how many people there will be." Johannes Maertens, a Benedictine monk who has helped support Calais migrants for several years, said there's uncertainty over the fate of many minors who want to go to Britain but may be refused entry. Violence feared Anxious at the lack of information, a group of about 50 migrants reportedly threw stones and bottles at officers on Saturday evening, who responded with smoke grenades, British media reported. Tensions have risen in the camp since its demolition was announced, and there were violent protests when authorities dismantled one section of the "Jungle" earlier this year. Migrants complain about a lack of information. Leaflets were due to be distributed on Sunday, telling migrants to report to a hangar, from which they will be transferred to reception centers where they can apply for asylum. Some people have left Over the past few days, the first unaccompanied child migrants have been transferred to Britain. Around 100 migrants left the camp on Saturday, while another 50 were due to leave on Sunday. "Monday I take the bus!" said Sudanese national Kali, who has stayed at the "Jungle" for some time. But some others are skeptical whether the camp will be dismantled as planned. "We'll see on Monday; I don't believe it," said one Afghan man, who runs a food shop in the camp. Another Afghan shopkeeper, when asked what he would do after the camp was torn down, just said, "I will go to the next Jungle."

Charities said they’re worried about the safety of minors and vulnerable adults ahead of the dismantling of the French migrant camp. Police fired smoke grenades as people grew angry at the “Jungle’s” impending closure. French and British aid organizations have complained about the lack of information about next week’s planned closure of the migrant camp known as the “Jungle.” Their ... Read More »

Germany petitions North African states to take more migrants back

Germany's interior minister is in North Africa to propose the speeding up of repatriation for rejected asylum seekers. The development of biometric identity papers is on the agenda. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is to visit Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with the aim of convincing authorities to speed up the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. "Our goal is to make the procedures more efficient and faster," de Maiziere said ahead of his departure for Morocco on Sunday. He added that many applicants lacked travel documents or gave false names and other personal details. This made it more difficult to send migrants back to their countries of origin. Biometric identity papers could help, de Maiziere said, in speeding up repatriations. He added "we could imagine offering our support" in this area. Germany has taken in more than a million asylum seekers over the last year but is now trying to reduce the number of new arrivals. There was a rise in the number of people arriving from North Africa at the end of 2015, but that figure fell in January to 1,600 from Morocco, 1,600 from Algeria and 170 from Tunisia, according to official figures. Safe countries of origin Germany is also considering a law to declare Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as safe countries of origin. A similar designation for Balkan countries sharply reduced the number of people coming to Germany from that region. But human rights groups have opposed a "safe" designation for the three Maghreb countries. They point to discrimination against homosexuals and curbs on free speech and assembly. De Maiziere rejected the criticism, saying that individual requests for protection would still be considered.

Germany’s interior minister is in North Africa to propose the speeding up of repatriation for rejected asylum seekers. The development of biometric identity papers is on the agenda. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere is to visit Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia with the aim of convincing authorities to speed up the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. “Our goal is to make ... Read More »

German coalition denies fight over new asylum legislation

Despite critical remarks from members of the SPD, Germany's ruling coalition has denied any internal tensions surrounding the latest asylum legislation draft. The government approved the package earlier this week. Germany's ruling coalition party partners - the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) - denied reports on Saturday that a renewed dispute had broken out concerning the latest proposed asylum measures. Although the asylum package was approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet earlier this week, some coalition members seemed unaware of the details and expressed their opposition to some measures in the proposed set of laws. Sigmar Gabriel, vice chancellor, economy minister and leader of the SPD party, said he did not agree with the draft's measure to suspend family reunification for unaccompanied minors, according to the German public broadcaster ARD. Gabriel only learned of the change after being asked about it during an ARD interview and presented with evidence. All ministries, including those led by the SPD, received copies of the draft legislation. Despite conflicting remarks from its party leader, the SPD said on Saturday that the dispute was a "non-issue" during a meeting of SPD, CDU and CSU leaders. Reuters news agency also reported on Friday that circles within the SPD were "not questioning" the asylum draft. Numerous CDU/ CSU politicians asked for SPD politicians on Saturday to stand by the coalition agreement and pass the proposed legislation. Mixed messages CDU politician Thomas Strobl remarked that he was "very surprised" about some SPD members' apparent opposition to the asylum bills. "The rules concerning family reunification were a central issue in the negotiations for 'Asylum Package II' and had been widely discussed for weeks," he emphasized. "It's irritating that the SPD chairman suddenly claims not to be in the know. "One should expect that the SPD departments would carefully read the draft legislation," he added. Opposition parties were also quick to react to the latest coalition quarrels. Green party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt said it was inconceivable that one side of the government is unaware of what the other is doing - especially in a matter that will have major consequences for refugee minors. "It is also extremely worrying that this was not even noticed within the SPD-led ministries," she said. 'Suspended' reunification for refugees In the new bill, family reunification for refugees would be suspended for two years for people with "subsidiary protection." This group is comprised of people who do not have a right to asylum and who have no protection under the Geneva Convention. They are, however, allowed temporarily to remain in Germany if deportation would result in their lives being put in danger. In an earlier draft of the proposed legislation, unaccompanied minors had been excluded from this group, however the clause was not part of the bill as agreed upon by cabinet ministers. The legislation aims to provide German authorities with the ability to manage the environment created by more than 1 million migrants entering the country in 2015, many seeking asylum after fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. After the cabinet's approval, the legislative package will go to both houses of German parliament for debate.

Despite critical remarks from members of the SPD, Germany’s ruling coalition has denied any internal tensions surrounding the latest asylum legislation draft. The government approved the package earlier this week. Germany’s ruling coalition party partners – the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) – denied reports on Saturday that a ... Read More »

Canada to accelerate Syrian, Iraqi refugee application process

Canada's conservative government is to speed up the processing of applications from Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers. The move comes after opposition party criticism ahead of elections next month. The conservative government said on Saturday it will designate people who have fled from Syria and Iraq as "prima facie" refugees, rather than wait for the United Nations agency for refugees to formally process them. "Today, by designating them differently, we are greatly expanding the potential for candidates and sponsorship with the private partners across Canada," Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander (photo) said on Saturday during a press conference. Groups of five and families are to be allowed to sponsor asylum seekers who have not yet received convention refugee status. Alexander said, "These measures will ensure that thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees will have reached Canada by the end of 2015." No extra applications Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government had come under fire - especially in campaigning for October 19 elections - for taking in only 2,500 refugees since January of last year. The number of refugees to be accepted is not to be increased. "Our existing commitment to resettle 10,000 Syrians will be complete a full 15 months earlier than originally anticipated," Alexander added. The number of asylum seekers accepted into Canada has decreased under Harper's government over the last ten years. The government said in January it would accept 10,000 refugees over three years and in August said it would accept an additional 10,000 over four years. More immigration officials are to be deployed to handle applications. The government will also take steps to facilitate private sponsorship and make sure applications from Syrians and Iraqis are processed within six months. The cost of the measures would be $25 million (16.7 million euros) over two years. Canada is also to provide $100 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugee camps. Elections nearing Harper is seeking a rare fourth term as prime minister in the elections next month. His government's record on asylum seekers came under intense scrutiny after it was found the aunt of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who died on a beach in Turkey, had spent months applying for refugee status. Tima Kurdi lives on Canada's west coast. A recent poll showed just under half of Canadians were ready to accept more than 30,000 Syrian refugees. Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien called the government's reaction to the Syrian crisis "cold-hearted." He said the policy had "shamed Canada in the eyes of Canadians and of the international community." The center-left opposition Liberals and New Democrats have pledged to do more to accept additional refugees from the war in Syria if they win next month's elections.

Canada’s conservative government is to speed up the processing of applications from Syrian and Iraqi asylum seekers. The move comes after opposition party criticism ahead of elections next month. The conservative government said on Saturday it will designate people who have fled from Syria and Iraq as “prima facie” refugees, rather than wait for the United Nations agency for refugees ... Read More »

President Joachim Gauck criticizes ‘dark Germany’

German head of state Joachim Gauck has praised volunteers for showing the positive face of Germany while on a visit to a refugee home in Berlin. It follows two xenophobic-related incidents the previous night. German President Joachim Gauck commended volunteers working at a refugee home in Berlin Wednesday, as he visited the shelter in the face of rising number of attacks on asylum seeker accommodation from right-wing extremists. He praised the "many volunteers who want to show that there is a bright Germany shining in the face of the dark Germany that we see when we hear about attacks on asylum seeker accommodation or xenophobic actions against people." Gauck, speaking at the shelter that formerly housed Wilmersdorf town hall, stressed that Germany has shown itself to be "open and helpful" in its dealings with refugees and that this would not be allowed to be ruined by "agitators and arsonists." The shelter in Berlin was adapted for the new arrivals around two weeks ago and accommodates more than 500 refugees, with the set up carried out by Workers’ Samaritan Organization (ASB). Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit a refugee home in Heidenau in Saxony on Wednesday. Heidenau has suffered several nights of riots from anti-asylum seekers when a shelter opened on the weekend. At least 31 police officers were injured on the first night of protests on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday, police said. Men with knife entered refugee home in Parchim In one of two attacks that took place Tuesday evening, two men aged 29 and 31 entered a refugee shelter in Parchim, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Several of the residents who were in the refugee shelter's outdoor area at the time noticed in time that one of the intruders had a knife with a 20.5cm-long (8.1 inches) blade. The shelter residents got to safety and informed the security guard, and the two men fled. The pair were caught a short time later by the police and taken into custody. Both the men, described as living locally, had an alcohol level of more than 2 grams of alcohol per kilogram of blood (2 Promille) - the drink-drive limit in Germany is 0.5 grams per kilo. The men made xenophobic comments as the blood was taken. Police are investigating offences of arms violations and trespass, and said that although the two men don't belong to the right-wing scene, a xenophobic background to their transgression hasn't been excluded. Refugee shelter in Leipzig damaged in alleged arson attack The intrusion took place on the same evening that a masked offender threw an incendiary device through an open window of new refugee accommodation in Stötteritz, a district in the city of Leipzig, on Tuesday night. It came hours before it was due to receive 56 refugees on Wednesday. The damage was minimal, with one mattress burnt in the attack, according to police, who said that an eyewitness had seen the flames and quickly alerted the fire service. Burkhard Jung, mayor of Leipzig, sharply criticized the attack, saying on Wednesday: "We are dealing with a cowardly attack by people who have no humanity. Of course the refugees will move into the house as soon as the damage is repaired." In a separate incident, a suspected arson took place in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a sports hall that was due to be used as a refugee shelter in the coming days in Nauen in Brandenburg, and another suspicious fire at a planned refugee home in the southwest of the country on Monday. By the time firefighters in 16 fire trucks arrived at the scene, they decided that the blaze was so far gone that the best option was to contain it and let the place burn down. Some 130 asylum seekers had been due to be moved there.

German head of state Joachim Gauck has praised volunteers for showing the positive face of Germany while on a visit to a refugee home in Berlin. It follows two xenophobic-related incidents the previous night. German President Joachim Gauck commended volunteers working at a refugee home in Berlin Wednesday, as he visited the shelter in the face of rising number of ... Read More »

Saxony seeks to speed up deportations for low-chance asylum seekers

The premier of the eastern German state of Saxony has announced plans to set up a special camp for refugees with little chance of being granted asylum. This comes as Germany grapples with a mounting wave of migrants. Saxony Premier Stanislaw Tillich told regional public broadcaster MDR on Tuesday that his state's plans to set up a special facility for asylum seekers facing deportation were in keeping with a directive from the federal government. "The federal government has said that it plans to set up four such facilities nationwide, while at the same time calling on the states to the same at state level - we will comply," Tillich said, without telling where or when Saxony planned to do so. Tillich said gathering migrants with no chance of being allowed to stay in the country in central locations would allow the government to deport those who don't meet the criteria for being granted asylum in Germany more swiftly. Safe countries of origin Many such migrants have come from places in the Balkans like Serbia, Bosnia or Macedonia, which the German government declared last year to be safe countries of origin. In a newspaper interview on Tuesday, a prominent member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats called on the government to declare two more Balkan countries "safe," namely Kosovo and Montenegro. With his government's plan to set up the special camp, Tillich was following the lead of the southern state of Bavaria, which earlier announced a plan to set up such a facility by September to temporarily house around 1,500 migrants near the town of Ingolstadt. This comes as the German authorities are under increasing pressure as they struggle to cope with a growing influx of migrants from conflict zones and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

The premier of the eastern German state of Saxony has announced plans to set up a special camp for refugees with little chance of being granted asylum. This comes as Germany grapples with a mounting wave of migrants. Saxony Premier Stanislaw Tillich told regional public broadcaster MDR on Tuesday that his state’s plans to set up a special facility for ... Read More »

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