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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 »

Ai Weiwei’s film “Human Flow” makes Oscar shortlist

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. "Human Flow" is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries to make his first feature length film, "Human Flow," which he hoped would spur people to help refugees. Now the film has been selected from among 170 documentaries for the 15-strong shortlist for the Oscars. Five films will end up receiving a nomination on January 23, 2018, before the Oscars will be awarded on March 4. Among the other contenders are "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," a 2017 follow-up to the climate documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" (2006) that was honored with an Academy Award in 2007. Another favorite is the documentary "Jane" about gorilla researcher Jane Goodall. Read more: Ai Weiwei's 'Human Flow' and 11 other memorable films on refugees German producer Heine Deckert participated in the production of Weiwei's documentary which travelled to refugee camps in Greece, France, Kenya, Lebanon and Gaza, with some scenes set at the borders between the US and Mexico, as well as Serbia and Hungary. Ai Wei Wei, who was once jailed in China and has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light as they were victims of man-made problems. In this light, the artist is critical of Britain's decision to leave the European Union, saying at the December release of "Human Flow" in the UK that Brexit is a backward step that will make the country more isolated. Read more: Progress in Brexit talks, but Britain still divided "I think it is backward in terms of opening up globalisation and will not do Britain any good but rather to become more conservative and more exclusive," Ai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the film's launch on December 5 in London. The documentary has run in German movie theaters since November 16.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first worked with his smartphone camera until he was joined by a German producer on his powerful refugee documentary. “Human Flow” is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars. Filmed over a year armed with drones, his iPhone and about 200 crew members, Ai Wei Wei visited more than 40 refugee camps in ... 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 »

Refugees in Germany lend a hand to displaced persons in Iraq

Refugees in Germany have developed an initiative that provides donations to internally displaced persons in Northern Iraq. These refugees are working alongside Germans to provide for the needy in the Middle East. Haza works as a volunteer teaching German to refugees who are not yet entitled to get integration courses. "I managed to convince the Carnitas organization in Straelen to give German courses to refugees who can't yet participate in integration courses ,and thus began teaching them myself. I want them to reach a sufficient level in order to pass the beginner German proficiency tests," she told DW. Haza Saleh is herself originally a refugee from Kirkuk in Northern Iraq. She now lives with her two sisters, after both her parents died in Iraq, and was forced to leave the country. She can't forget the war and suffering that those at home are facing. She remembers in particular the displacement of thousands of people from the city of Mosul to Kirkuk and Iraqi Kurdistan. "I was forced to leave Iraq and immigrate to Germany in December 2015. During my trek, I faced a harsh winter as I passed through Greece, Serbia and Macedonia along the Balkan route. We didn't have much to cover ourselves from the cold, but some humanitarian organizations distributed warm clothes.” said Haza. She also said that many of those displaced in Iraq these days face similar circumstances. "We were shivering constantly due to the cold, and began to get numb as we walked long distances. It's hard for me to think about the refugees who are are in the situation as I was without doing anything to alleviate their suffering,” she added In addition to teaching German lessons to refugees and providing counseling, Haza is raising money for the displaced Iraqis who fled from Mosul. It all began when Haza began explaining to her teacher Manfred Feldmann about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and the number of displaced people in camps. She explained that she wanted to help them and they then turned to the "Friedensbrücke" or "Peace bridge" charity organization in the German city of Geldern. They soon started collecting donations and items such as warm clothes to send to the Iraqis who are in camps. "We are certainly not the only ones who do volunteer work to help refugees all over the world, but we are currently the only ones in this city. We send donations of winter clothing and other items to displaced people in Iraq,” Feldmann told DW. The clothes and other items are distributed personally by an Iraqi volunteer to those in the camps. "This is to ensure that our donations reach the camps. We then purchase warm blankets with the rest of the money left over,” he said. Haza began going around the city of Geldern to give talks to Germans about the situation in Iraq. "I gave seminars to a number of schools and organizations on the situation of displaced people in Iraq through pictures and videos. I also provided statistics on the crisis from the United Nations,” she said. As a result of these seminars, she was able to collect over one ton of clothing and 1,000 euros, which was used partiallly to fund the transport of the material and partially to buy blankets for 850 families. Other refugee volunteers Haza isn't the only refugee working on this project, as there are four other refugees who are involved. Three of them are from Iraq and one is from Syria. Qutayba, a Syrian refugee, is one of those who volunteered his time working with Haza on the project. "I joined Haza's team after studying German together. I'm now happy to be working on this project for internally displaced persons in Iraq. I used to work with relief organizations in Syria,” he told DW. Qutayba claims that his motivation to be involved in the project does not come from religion or any other reason. It comes from a desire to help others and provide aid to those in need. He's distraught because he can't help the displaced people back home in Syria. "The current circumstances mean that it's difficult to send aid to the displaced in Syria. But that doesn't mean I can't help those displaced elsewhere,” he explained. Mr. Feldmann also stated that this organization has had other volunteer projects in Sri Lanka and Romania over the years. "Working with these refugees on this project is a wonderful thing,” said Mr. Feldmann. "They understand that they have a duty to help others who have been put through the same circumstances they have endured. They now live in a safe country, while those still stuck in Iraq often lack the basic necessities of life," he continued. Qutayba expressed that the volunteer work comes naturally to him, especially after he endured the harsh conditions in his home country of Syria.

Refugees in Germany have developed an initiative that provides donations to internally displaced persons in Northern Iraq. These refugees are working alongside Germans to provide for the needy in the Middle East. Haza works as a volunteer teaching German to refugees who are not yet entitled to get integration courses. “I managed to convince the Carnitas organization in Straelen to ... 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 »

Germany sends hundreds of migrants back to Austria every day

Germany has been refusing an increasing number of migrants at its southern border, according to Austrian authorities. Hundreds of rejected migrants have been sent back to Austria, or finding other routes to Germany. Since January 1, Germany has rejected more and more refugees trying to enter at its southern border, Austrian police reported on Monday. "The daily number of migrants being turned back has risen from 60 in December to 200 since the start of the year," David Furtner, police spokesman in the province of Upper Austria, told the news agency AFP. He added that those who had been rejected were refugees from Afghanistan, Morocco and Algeria who did not wish to apply for asylum in Germany, but rather in Scandinavian countries. "German politicians seem to have decided to act with more firmness. The difficult thing (for us) is to explain if a migrants asks: Why can't I travel further now if my friend could still do it last week?" noted another Upper Austrian police spokeswoman. Speaking with Reuters, a police spokeswoman in Munich confirmed Germany has been sending back up to 100 or so migrants, but she did not confirm an increase in the rejections. "We apply the valid legal rules. They haven't changed," she said. Blocked borders Some believe the increased numbers of rejected refugees is due to increasingly tighter EU border controls. Last week, Sweden tried to lessen the flow of migrants by imposing border controls on those entering the country from Denmark. Denmark then introduced checks on those arriving from Germany. Austria has also tightened controls on its border with Slovenia, sending back 1,652 migrants since January 1, according to police. Others believe the rising refugee refusals could be due to the recent New Year's Eve sexual assault attacks in Cologne, which have prompted hundreds of complaints after police revealed that some of the suspects were asylum-seekers. The backlash has led to protests and put pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policies.

Germany has been refusing an increasing number of migrants at its southern border, according to Austrian authorities. Hundreds of rejected migrants have been sent back to Austria, or finding other routes to Germany. Since January 1, Germany has rejected more and more refugees trying to enter at its southern border, Austrian police reported on Monday. “The daily number of migrants ... 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 »

Merkel, Hollande to meet on Monday to discuss migrant crisis

French and German leaders are due to meet in Berlin to discuss ways of tackling the latest wave of refugees entering Europe. The influx of people seeking asylum is the largest in 50 years. France's President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to meet in Berlin on Monday to discuss strategies to tackle the ongoing refugee crisis, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. The French government also said the two leaders would try to provide a fresh stimulus to the European Union's (EU) response to dealing with the thousands of migrants reaching Europe's shores. About 107,000 refugees arrived in Europe last month, triggering fears that the bloc would not be able to cope with the crisis. Merkel and Hollande were planning to discuss "harmonizing" strategies on asylum policies and thinking of a "complete European policy" to deal with asylum seekers, news agency AFP reported a government official as saying. The two leaders would also prioritize compiling a list of countries, nationals of which would not be granted asylum in Europe. There were also plans to set up reception centers in Greece and Italy to help identify illegal migrants and asylum seekers. The proposed talks come after EU member states rejected a proposal by commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to set mandatory national quotas for refugee intake. More than 108,000 migrants have reached Italy's shores so far this year. The country's navy and coastguard also rescued 4,400 refugees who were crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to southern Europe in flimsy boats. More than 45,000 migrants have in the past two months, with several thousand breaking through barbed wire fences at the Greece-Macedonia border over the weekend. The refugees are people mostly fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan and African countries.

French and German leaders are due to meet in Berlin to discuss ways of tackling the latest wave of refugees entering Europe. The influx of people seeking asylum is the largest in 50 years. France’s President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were to meet in Berlin on Monday to discuss strategies to tackle the ongoing refugee crisis, French ... Read More »

Two refugees die during attempt to cross Channel Tunnel to Britain

An Eritrean woman has died while trying to illegally cross the Channel Tunnel from France to the United Kingdom, a day after another migrant was found dead at the British end of the tunnel. A 23-year-old Eritrean woman died early Friday after being run over by a car as she tried to cross a road leading to the Eurotunnel freight terminal near Calais, in northern France. The woman was the eighth migrant to die while trying to use the tunnel under the English Channel to illegally cross into the United Kingdom, authorities said. A day earlier, another migrant was found dead at the British end of the tunnel, in Folkestone. According to local police, the victim was a young male refugee who travelled on the loading dock of a Eurotunnel shuttle train. At least 3,000 refugees are currently stranded in the area around Calais, with most coming from Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Fleeing conflict and looking for better lives, the migrants have been making life-threatening attempts to cross over from France to the United Kingdom, where they believe they will receive better benefits as refugees. More than 8,000 migrants have so far been prevented from illegally crossing the Channel Tunnel by French and British officials, British Home Secretary Theresa May announced last week. Due to the increasing numbers of migrants, Eurotunnel, the company operating the rail link under the channel, claims it has suffered financial losses due to train delays and increased security. The company has asked the British and French governments to pay $9.7 million euros ($10.6 million) in compensation in order to protect its business from refugees.

An Eritrean woman has died while trying to illegally cross the Channel Tunnel from France to the United Kingdom, a day after another migrant was found dead at the British end of the tunnel. A 23-year-old Eritrean woman died early Friday after being run over by a car as she tried to cross a road leading to the Eurotunnel freight ... Read More »

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