You are here: Home » Tag Archives: refugees

Tag Archives: refugees

Feed Subscription

AfD top candidate Alexander Gauland: Close Germany’s borders

Alexander Gauland, the top candidate for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany, has told DW there should be a clear path for repatriating migrants. Accepting refugees is not in Germany's interest, he said. Alexander Gauland is the top candidate for Alternative for Germany (AfD) in September's general election. In an interview with DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl and moderator Jaafar Abdul-Karim, he said that Germany and Europe's borders should be closed. The former, long-time member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) said it is wrong that people without papers can enter Germany. "These people shouldn't even be allowed into the country," he said. Ayslum seekers should be in asylum centers outside Germany, even outside Europe, where they can apply for asylum if they really qualify, he added. Those fleeing a war zone, such as Syria, are entitled to only limited asylum according to the Geneva Convention, he said. Gauland is running with Alice Weidel as right-wing populist party's top candidates for the Bundestag. Most migrants are arriving for economic reasons, and while people have a legitimate right to seek a better life, he said, it is equally legitimate for a state to deny them a place. "We have to take our own interests into account, and taking in masses of refugees is not in the interests of Germany," Gauland said, adding that Germany is "not the world's doormat." "It's all voluntary, nobody's forcing them to come from southern Africa to or through Libya," he said. "So anybody who comes through Libya of their own accord can also be sent back there." Refugees as campaign centerpiece The AfD has grown in popularity since the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. Germany's refugee policy is one of the party's core issues for the 2017 general election campaign. The party holds seats in 13 of the country's 16 state parliaments, and could enter the Bundestag for the first time in the general election on September 24. Polls suggest it may capture 8 percent of the vote. The threshold to hold seats is 5 percent. "Chancellor [Angela Merkel's] misguided refugee policy is a gift to the AfD," said Gauland, who quit the CDU in 2013 after more than four decades working for the party. Islam: No place in Germany The AfD stands in contrast to Germany's other parties not only on refugees, but also on the topic of Islam in Germany, which is home to around 5 million Muslims. "Islam as a cultural and religious entity has no place in Germany," Gauland said, underlining a stance contained in the AfD's party platform. "It disturbs me that Islam, with its Sharia law and certain provisions, is a religion that we can clearly say is not compatible with the Basic Law." Gauland went onto say that while the Basic Law, Germany's constitution, protects one's private beliefs, "what is not OK is to open a so-called back door to the gradual insertion of Islamic rules." When asked why he himself does not meet with Muslims, Gauland said: "I have no need to talk to Muslims in any official capacity. But if I have somebody at hand, then of course I'm ready to talk to them. That's not a problem." 'Russia will never give Crimea back' On foreign policy, the AfD opposes sanctions placed on Russia following its illegal annexation of Crimea. "Russia will never give Crimea back," he said. "I don't think sanctions will have any effect." Gauland opposes EU membership for Turkey, saying: "All payments in this regard should be stopped immediately." However, he said the AfD would like to see Turkey remain a part of NATO, "provided [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan refrains from neo-Ottoman policies." "During the Cold War, Turkey was always a sentry," he added. "I see no reason to exclude it from the alliance." Gauland is responsible for the AfD's foreign affairs "to a certain extent," he said. "But an anarchistic party doesn't have a real boss. And that's what we are." The AfD is well known for its regular infighting. The DW series interviewing each of the party's top candidates concludes by asking the candidates to pick one of their opponents to have as company on a deserted island. Gauland chose Sahra Wagenknecht, the top candidate for the Left party.

Alexander Gauland, the top candidate for the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany, has told DW there should be a clear path for repatriating migrants. Accepting refugees is not in Germany’s interest, he said. Alexander Gauland is the top candidate for Alternative for Germany (AfD) in September’s general election. In an interview with DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl and moderator Jaafar Abdul-Karim, ... Read More »

Report: Rate of deportations stagnating in Germany

The German government is falling short of its goal to deport significantly more rejected asylum seekers, a newspaper report has found. Over 8,000 migrants have been sent back so far this year, compared to 25,000 in 2016. Within the first four months of the year, the German government has deported a significantly lower number of migrants compared to last year, according to a German newspaper report on Saturday. Citing information from Germany's federal police, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that by the end of April, a total of 8,620 rejected asylum-seekers had been sent back to their countries of origin. The figures indicated a marked stagnation compared to last year, which saw a total of 25,375 deportations. This year has also seen fewer numbers of rejected asylum-seekers who voluntarily opted to return to their countries of origin. According to police figures, only 11,195 such voluntary return trips were approved during the first four months of the year. In 2016, a total of 54,006 migrants took advantage of the volunteer return program in Germany, which covers certain costs including travel expenses. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "national effort" last year to encourage rejected asylum-seekers to return to their home countries. 'Lack of cooperation' with some countries After the recent drop-off in the number of refugee and migrant arrivals in Germany, Merkel and the premiers of Germany's 16 states declared that only those whose applications were approved were allowed to stay while all others "should leave Germany." A spokeswoman with the German interior ministry told Welt am Sonntag that the reason for the lower repatriation figures is that an exceptional amount of people returned to their countries of origin last year. "Repatriations and voluntary departures in 2016 took place to a particularly large extent in the west Balkan countries," the speaker said. Repatriations to other areas have proven to be much more difficult due to a "lack of cooperation" with other countries, the interior ministry said. The state interior ministry of Hesse told the newspaper that deportations to northern African countries have failed in the past due to the fact that some of the rejected asylum-seekers do not have travel documents. The deportation of rejected asylum-seekers from Germany has sparked several protests and political debates, particularly for those being sent back to Afghanistan. The German government had been sending Afghans back to supposed "safe" regions within their homeland. Following this week's deadly bombing in Kabul, Merkel announced on Thursday that Germany would be temporarily suspending all deportations to Afghanistan.

The German government is falling short of its goal to deport significantly more rejected asylum seekers, a newspaper report has found. Over 8,000 migrants have been sent back so far this year, compared to 25,000 in 2016. Within the first four months of the year, the German government has deported a significantly lower number of migrants compared to last year, ... Read More »

Austria calls for less money for EU states opposing refugee distribution

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for increased pressure on countries shirking their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees. "Solidarity is not a one-way street," the Social Democrat said of the EU. Ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for increased pressure on countries in the 28-member bloc that continue to fail to take in refugees. "In future, the money from the EU budget must be distributed more equally among the member countries," Kern told German daily "Die Welt." "If countries continue to duck away from resolving the issue of migration, or tax dumping at the expense of their neighbors, they will no longer be able to receive net payments of billions from Brussels," Kern said in the article published on Wednesday, arguing that "solidarity is not a one-way street." On issues such as economic development, security interests or sanctions against Russia, some EU countries expect solidarity from other member states, Kern said, "but on other important issues they do not want to know anything about solidarity." "Selective solidarity should in the future also lead to selective payability among the net payers," the Social Democrat (SPÖ) leader said. EU members shirking responsibility In net terms, Austria accounted for some 851 million euros ($898 million) of contributions to the European Union in 2015. Other net contributors were Germany (14.3 billion euros), the UK (11.5 billion euros) and France (5.5 billion euros). Several Eastern European countries, on the other hand, receive more money from the EU than they contribute. The largest net recipient is Poland with 9.5 billion euros, followed by the Czech Republic (5.7 billion), Romania (5.2 billion) and Hungary (4.6 billion). At the same time, some of the same countries have also so far refused to help in the redistribution of a total of 98,000 refugees by September this year. So far only 13,500 refugees have been redistributed within the EU area. Poland which, by now, should have taken in 6,182 aslyum seekers, has not yet received a single person, while the Czech Republic, which was due to accept 2,679 refugees has so far accepted a total of 12 people. Austria for a strong Europe Speaking to "Die Welt" Kern emphasized that he did not want to threaten any of his 27 fellow EU member states but merely wanted to point out connections. "Germany or Austria will struggle to transfer billions to the EU budget if nothing's done about wage and social dumping, and a fair distribution of refugees to all EU countries is deemed impossible," he said. Insisting that his country has an interest in a strong Europe, Kern said: "If Europe is weak, it will also weaken Austria."

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has called for increased pressure on countries shirking their responsibility in the redistribution of refugees. “Solidarity is not a one-way street,” the Social Democrat said of the EU. Ahead of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for increased pressure on countries in the 28-member bloc that continue to fail to ... Read More »

Refugees flee US on foot, seek safety in Canada

Canada has seen a surge of refugees crossing into the country illegally from the US. Advocates say the number will rise as fears grow over President Donald Trump’s policies. Jillian Kestler-D'Amours reports from Toronto. Dozens of families, women and young children, are making the journey in blistering cold and waist-high snow, while young men have been stranded for hours and lost several fingers and toes to frostbite. They are all among a rising number of refugee claimants illegally crossing into Canada on foot from the United States, which many now say they feel is no longer safe under the administration of US President Donald Trump. "The concern really comes from the fact that people are walking across in very, very frigid winter weather, across deep snow, in fields, and really risking their health and their safety,"said Rita Chahal, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, a non-profit organisation that assists refugees and immigrants in the province. Chahal said about 300 refugee claimants that have entered Canada without legal permits have made in-country applications for protection in Manitoba since last April. In previous years, 70 refugee claimants in a similar period would have been a high number, she told DW. No fair hearing While the reason for the surge is unclear, Chahal said many people say they feared being deported from the US back to their home countries, or felt they wouldn't receive a fair asylum hearing. Others "are concerned about the political climate and the social climate within the US and how they might be treated there," she said. Most asylum seekers cross into Manitoba near the small town of Emerson, about 110 kilometers south of Winnipeg, the provincial capital and its largest city. The US states of Minnesota and North Dakota are across the border from Emerson, which has a population of about 700 residents. Twenty-two refugees crossed into Canada near Emerson over the first weekend of February, according to the national police service (RCMP), while 21 others made it across last week. Asylum seekers are also crossing at other points along the porous, nearly 9,000-kilometer US-Canada border: the RCMP intercepted 823 refugee claimants in the province of Quebec between Apr. 1 and Nov. 30 last year, according to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) figures. Most asylum seekers arriving in Manitoba are Somali citizens, followed by Eritrea and Djibouti passport holders, according to CBSA data. In Quebec, most are originally from Eritrea, Sudan and Syria. But so many asylum seekers are crossing over near Emerson that the town organized an emergency meeting with the RCMP and CBSA last week. "Safety was the biggest [concern]," Greg Janzen, the town's top official, said after the meeting. "Now we know the protocol if we get an influx of people… The governments have been very supportive in this whole issue." Maggie Yeboah is a social worker and president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba. She said about 30 Ghanaian refugee claimants have walked over the US border into Manitoba in recent months. Most of the men did not set out to come to Canada, Yeboah said, but many fled persecution and violence related to their sexual orientation in Ghana. Male homosexuality is illegal under the country's penal code. "They are being persecuted or being attacked back home in Ghana because of their sexual orientation," she told DW. Yeboah said many of the men were advised to take a bus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a taxi from Minneapolis to the US-Canada border. From there, they were told they could walk into Canadian territory. "It's not as easy as people think or people say, and they did not set out to come to Canada the wrong way, or [to] jump over the [border]. They thought they were going to [stay in] America, where they would be safe or where they would be welcomed. But they realised that it's not like that … so they took the chance," she said. Dangerous journey Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said asylum seekers are forced to take dangerous routes into Canada due to a deal that came into force in 2004 known as the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). The agreement means that most asylum seekers applying for protection in Canada at a US-Canada border crossing will be immediately sent back to the US, which Canada deems a safe country. But the agreement does not apply to anyone who is inside Canada, and the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada will likely hear their refugee claim. The agreement "prevents people from applying in a safe and orderly way at the border points,” Dench told DW. The CCR and other human rights groups, including Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have long called on Canada to rescind the agreement. They say it's especially crucial in light of US President Donald Trump's travel ban on immigrants and refugees from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa, and general policies towards refugees. The order has been challenged as unconstitutional, and as of last week, a federal court has upheld a stay on its implementation. But the Trump administration's policies more generally toward refugees have raised concern about whether the US still meets the requirements in Canadian law to be considered safe. "From our perspective, Canada should withdraw from the agreement. We were never in favour of the agreement and the irregular crossings [are] one of the very obvious and known consequences," Dench said. US no longer safe for refugees Amnesty International Canada Executive Director Alex Neve agreed. "It is, to put it generously, fiction to continue to believe that the United States at this time is safe for refugees." But Canada's Immigration Minister, Ahmad Hussen, recently said the STCA would remain in place. Trump's executive order deals with refugee resettlement, and does not affect the US asylum program, while Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act involves the continual review of whether conditions that led a country to be designated as safe continue to be met, said a ministry spokesperson. "The STCA remains an important tool for Canada and the US to work together on the orderly handling of refugee claims made in our countries," Spokesperson Nancy Caron told DW in an emailed statement. "We continue to monitor the situation." Meanwhile, Chahal said while it's hard to speculate, the general sense is that the number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada illegally will continue to increase, especially as the weather gets warmer. "I'm not sure we've peaked yet," she said, "so we'll just wait and see."

Canada has seen a surge of refugees crossing into the country illegally from the US. Advocates say the number will rise as fears grow over President Donald Trump’s policies. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours reports from Toronto. Dozens of families, women and young children, are making the journey in blistering cold and waist-high snow, while young men have been stranded for hours and ... Read More »

Protesters in Britain demonstrate against Trump immigration policy

Several thousand people have protested in the UK against a US travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations. Critics see the ban as inflaming religious tensions and violating international laws on refugees. Thousands of people on Saturday heeded a call from rights groups and Muslim organizations in Britain to protest outside the US Embassy in London against President Trump's executive order suspending travel to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. Protesters held banners bearing slogans such as "No to Trump, No to War" and "Trump: Special Relationship? Just say no." The protest is taking place the day after a US judge temporarily suspended the order, saying the order had caused "immediate and irreparable injury." It is the third protest addressing various aspects of Trump's presidency to have taken place in the British capital in two weeks. A similar protest was to take place on Saturday afternoon before the US embassy in the Germany capital, Berlin. Trump, on Saturday, criticized a "so-called judge" for suspending the ban saying it was "ridiculous" and would be overturned. Anti-Muslim order? The executive order signed by Trump suspended entry to the United States to people traveling from seven Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen - for 90 days, as well as putting a temporary halt to the entire US refugee program.The administration said the move is designed to combat terrorism. The US State Department on Friday said that 60,000 visas had been revoked following Trump's order, after media reports quoted government lawyers as saying that more than 100,000 people had been affected. Critics of the order say that the ban has separated families, harmed thousands of US residents and goes against international law on taking in refugees fleeing conflict. Rights groups have also warned that the move could heighten religious tension and encourage Islamophobia. Australian protests The order also brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets in Australia on Saturday, with protesters coupling their outrage at Trump's move with calls for Australia to close its offshore processing centers on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Australia's hardline refugee policy, which denies asylum to anybody attempting to enter the country by boat, has been slammed by rights groups, and the United Nations have called for the offshore centers to be shut amid allegations of violence, sexual assualt, degrading treatment and self-harm. The protests in Australia come following a diplomatic spat between Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with Trump calling a deal between the two nations struck by his predecessor, Barack Obama, "dumb." The deal is to see the United States taking up to 1,250 asylum-seekers held on Nauru and Manus to enable Canberra to stick to its "no boat" policy. In return, Australia would take in refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Trump later said he planned to stand by the agreement, which has been widely criticized in Australia. Student rallies against Trump's immigration policy were also held in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and outside the US embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila.

Several thousand people have protested in the UK against a US travel ban that affects several Muslim-majority nations. Critics see the ban as inflaming religious tensions and violating international laws on refugees. Thousands of people on Saturday heeded a call from rights groups and Muslim organizations in Britain to protest outside the US Embassy in London against President Trump’s executive ... Read More »

Some 1,600 migrants rescued from Mediterranean in two days

More migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean have been taken aboard rescue ships, aid organizations said. The rescues come as EU leaders adopt controversial measures in cooperation with Libya. Aid organizations on Saturday rescued 300 people from waters in the Strait of Sicily after some 1,300 refugees and migrants were saved off the Libyan coast the day before, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. The Italian coast guard confirmed the number of those rescued on Saturday, saying they had been on board two rubber dinghies and a punt. Aid organizations on Saturday rescued 300 people from waters in the Strait of Sicily after some 1,300 refugees and migrants were saved off the Libyan coast the day before, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. The Italian coast guard confirmed the number of those rescued on Saturday, saying they had been on board two rubber dinghies and a punt. Dangerous route Another 1,300 people were rescued on Wednesday. The sea crossing from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy is currently the main route to Europe for migrants. More than 5,000 are believed to have drowned attempting the crossing in 2016, with many consigned to flimsy and often overfilled boats run by people smugglers. A record 181,000 people made the journey last year. Controversial cooperation The latest rescues come a day after European Union leaders meeting in Malta adopted a number of plans in cooperation with Libya aimed at cutting the number of migrants attempting the sometimes perilous sea crossing from Africa to Europe. Among other things, they agreed to give financial aid to the Libyan coast guard to help it intercept boats shortly after they set off. They also intend to set up "safe" refugee camps in Libya. The proposed measures have met with criticism from rights groups, who say cooperation with Libya is dangerous for migrants owing to the country's fragile security situation and record of violent conflict. MSF was among those to slam the plans forged at the Malta summit. Since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in 2011, Libya has remained divided between militias. It currently has a UN-backed Tripoli-based government that controls only sections of the country's vast coastline.

More migrants attempting to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean have been taken aboard rescue ships, aid organizations said. The rescues come as EU leaders adopt controversial measures in cooperation with Libya. Aid organizations on Saturday rescued 300 people from waters in the Strait of Sicily after some 1,300 refugees and migrants were saved off the Libyan coast the day ... Read More »

Donald Trump slams Angela Merkel’s refugee policy

US President-elect Donald Trump labeled German Chancellor Angela Merkel's stance on refugees a "catastrophic mistake." He said the policy would lead to even more countries leaving the European Union after Britain. President-elect Trump heavily criticized Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy on refugees in a joint interview published on Sunday with German tabloid newspaper "Bild" and British newspaper "The Times of London." "I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know, taking all of the people from wherever they come from,” he said. "And nobody even knows where they come from. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake.” In 2015 about 900,000 migrants, many coming from Syria, entered Germany after Merkel opened the country's doors, famously saying "we can do this." The bilionaire businessman said Germany had "got a clear impression" of the consequences of her policy from a Berlin terror attack that killed 12 people in December. Trump insisted he had "great ­respect” for Merkel and would start his presidency trusting the "fantastic leader," but that his trust might not last long. Brexit deal Trump promised he would offer the United Kingdom a trade deal within weeks of taking office to help make Brexit a "great thing”. "We're going to work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides,” Trump said. "I will be meeting with [British Prime Minister Theresa May]. She's requesting a meeting and we'll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it'll be, I think we're going to get something done very quickly.” May said on Saturday she would lead the country towards a "hard Brexit." Others will leave Trump warned that other countries in the 28-member EU would follow suit after Brexit because of immigration. "I think it's very tough,” he said. "People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity.” "If refugees keep pouring into different parts of Europe ... I think it's going to be very hard to keep it together because people are angry about it." He said the mass arrivals in 2015 were "the last drop that made the barrel overflow" in convincing British voters to back leaving the bloc in a June 24 referendum. "If they hadn't been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it... entails, I think that you wouldn't have a Brexit. This was the final straw that broke the camel's back." He further said the European Union had become "a vehicle for Germany”. Nato obsolete Trump described the NATO alliance as an "obsolete" organization. "I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago," he said. He insisted that NATO remained "very important to me," but that some NATO allies weren't paying enough. "We're supposed to protect countries. But a lot of these countries aren't paying what they're supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States." "With that being said, NATO is very important to me. There's five countries that are paying what they're supposed to. Five. It's not much," he added. US contributions to NATO accounted for about 70 percent of spending by the bloc's nations. Taxes for BMW He threatened German carmaker BMW with a border tax of 35 percent on cars that it planned to build at a new plant in Mexico and export to the US. He told the German daily that BMW should instead build its new car factory in the US because this would be "much better" for the company. A BMW spokeswoman said a new plant in San Luis Potosi would build the BMW 3 Series starting from 2019. Merkel, who is facing elections later this year, criticized Trump's protectionist policies on Saturday, and earlier said there was no guarantee of cooperation between the two countries. "From the point of view of some of our traditional partners - and I am thinking here as well about the transatlantic relations - there is no eternal guarantee for a close cooperation with us Europeans," Merkel told an audience in Brussels. On Friday the outgoing US ambassador to the EU warned against Trump supporting the bloc's breakup, saying it would be "sheer folly." Trump was interviewed for "The Times of London" by prominent Brexit campaigner and conservative British member of parliament, Michael Gove; and for "Bild" by its publisher and former editor Kai Diekmann, a prominent German journalist who will soon depart the business.

US President-elect Donald Trump labeled German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stance on refugees a “catastrophic mistake.” He said the policy would lead to even more countries leaving the European Union after Britain. President-elect Trump heavily criticized Chancellor Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees in a joint interview published on Sunday with German tabloid newspaper “Bild” and British newspaper “The Times of London.” ... Read More »

Bavarian government to release new refugee policy so ‘Germany remains Germany’

Amid an ongoing dispute with Berlin, Bavaria's government is due to finalize its proposal for Germany's refugee policy. As well as a yearly cap on refugee arrivals, Premier Horst Seehofer is calling for tighter borders. The ever-growing divide between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), showed no sign of resolving itself on Saturday, with Munich's local newspaper the "Münchner Merkur" reporting that the Bavarian government is due on Tuesday to finalize its overall concept on refugee and immigration policy in Germany. The charter titled "So that Germany remains Germany" was reportedly written by CSU leader and Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer. At the top of the agenda is the CSU's long-time demand for an upper-limit on the number of asylum seekers accepted in Germany - something Bavaria aims to achieve through EU quotas. For months, the CSU has called a yearly cap of no more than 200,000 refugees, a move that Merkel has repeatedly rejected. The debate has prompted an unwelcome divide in the so-called "Union" of conservative CDU and CSU - particularly in the year of Germany's federal election. Watch video02:10 CSU stands by demand for refugee cap (04.01.2017) Unrest among conservatives The CSU, which often takes more conservative stances than the CDU, has sharply criticized Merkel's open-door policies that allowed more than a million people to enter the country as refugees and migrants since 2015. Last month Seehofer even ruled out governing with Merkel's CDU should they refuse to introduce an upper limit on the number of migrants entering Germany. In an apparent attempt to calm the rumbling debate, Merkel's CDU proposed on Friday the idea of flexible annual targets for asylum seeker numbers. The Christian Democrats gave no precise numbers but called for Germany to set a new target each year based on the humanitarian situation in global crisis zones and Germany's ability to absorb newcomers. Alongside its refugee cap, the Bavarian state government is also proposing further restrictions on family reunions for refugees, possibly calling for asylum-seekers to secure a livelihood independent of state subsidies before being permitted to apply for family members to join them in Germany. The basic protection for migrants in old age should also be restricted if they have not spent the most important period of working life in Germany, the Bavarian government wrote, adding that asylum-seekers who commit a criminal offense in Germany also "forfeit their right to hospitality" and must be deported. 'Humanitarian responsibility' At the same time, however, the paper also states its commitment to the reception of refugees. "The admission of those in need of protection is a requirement of Christian and humanitarian responsibility," the document reads, adding that Germany must proceed with "zero tolerance against xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism." The charter also calls for the expansion of aid to developing countries, with Seehofer demanding an "African Act" from the European Union (EU). Aid programs can no longer be underfunded, the paper continues, noting that without the financial support, misery and distress would increase in refugee camps. Schengen under pressure In light of the terror attack on Berlin last month, the Bavarian government is also proposing tighter border controls. Twelve people were killed and almost 50 others injured, when a truck was rammed into a Berlin Christmas market. Police suspect Tunisian asylum-seeker and "Islamic State" (IS) sympathizer Anis Amri was behind the wheel. After fleeing the scene on Decmeber 19, Amri was able to cross Germany's border into the Netherlands and travel via France to Italy, where he was later killed in a police shootout in Milan. His unchecked travel was possible due to the Schengen Zone - the EU's borderless travel region. In light of the growing number of terror attacks, however, the Schengen agreement is being put under increasing pressure, with Merkel also ordering a comprehensive review of Germany's security infrastructure.

Amid an ongoing dispute with Berlin, Bavaria’s government is due to finalize its proposal for Germany’s refugee policy. As well as a yearly cap on refugee arrivals, Premier Horst Seehofer is calling for tighter borders. The ever-growing divide between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), showed no sign of ... Read More »

German high court stops one Afghan deportation, dozens more go ahead

Germany's Constitutional Court has postponed the deportation of an Afghan man until he can complete an application for asylum. The court did not, however, stop the deportation of some 34 other Afghans. The German Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of a 29-year-old asylum-seeker and issued a stay of his deportation order. The court did not, however, stop the deportations of some 34 other Afghans who were deported on Wednesday, according to German media. In its ruling, the court left open the question of whether deportations to Afghanistan are constitutionally justifiable and instead addressed only the case of the 29-year-old. The man had filed an asylum application 30 months ago and more recently filed a follow-up application, citing the poor security situation in Afghanistan as the reason why he could not return. The Constitutional Court said he could not be deported until that application had been processed. The court denied an application from a second Afghan who requested an injunction against his deportation. Protests at airport A spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Refugees said authorities were expecting a plane with 50 returnees from Germany to arrive on Thursday in Kabul. Several hundred people gathered at Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday to protest against the planned deportations, chanting: "Deportation is torture; deportation is murder; the right to remain for all, immediately." A charter flight carrying a group of rejected Afghan asylum seekers back to their home country left Germany on Wednesday evening, according to Reuters news agency and Germany's ARD public broadcaster. "Spiegel Online" reported earlier Wednesday that 50 Afghans would be on board the flight from Frankfurt to Kabul, which is to be just the first in a series of such deportations, with the next one planned for January. A spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry would not confirm details about the flight. Ahead of the deportations, she said the time and place were being kept confidential so as not to endanger the measure, which was agreed as part of a deal with the Afghan government in October. Lawmakers and rights groups react to deportations The chairman of the Green Party parliamentary group in Berlin decried the deportations, accusing German Justice Minister Thomas de Maiziere of playing a "ruthless game" with the well-being of the asylum seekers. The human rights organization Pro Asyl called on local Green Party lawmakers to fight future mass deportations of Afghan migrants denied asylum status. Pro Asyl's head, Günther Burkhardt, told German news agency DPA: "We are appealing to Green Party members in Hessen, Baden-Württemberg and Hamburg to do all they can to stop these people from being deported." However, leading figures from the Christian Social Union (CSU) party, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies in Bavaria, welcomed the deportations. CSU leader Horst Seehofer told German broadcaster ARD that he hoped Wednesday's deportations would "not be a one-time event." Returning rejected asylum seekers would also disparage radicalized forces within Germany, he added. Eight of the deported Afghans were living in Bavaria. Bavaria's interior minister, Joachim Herrman (CSU) also refuted claims that the deportations were a violation of human rights. With German soldiers and police forces supporting local security forces in Afghanistan to stabilize the region, "this warrants the return of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan's secure provinces," he said. Afghans caught in the middle According to "Spiegel," the Afghan returnees will first be handed over to local authorities before returning to their home regions, if these are considered to be "halfway safe." More than a million migrants, mainly fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, have entered Germany since 2015. In 2016, Afghans were the second biggest group of asylum-seekers in Germany after Syrians, according to data from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Germany has sought to speed up the processing of applications for people most likely to receive asylum, such as those fleeing the conflict in Syria. But that also means the government has sped up the process of expelling certain groups, with Afghans falling somewhere in between. While some areas aren't considered safe enough to send asylum seekers back, others are. The German and Afghan governments signed an agreement on deportations several weeks ago.

Germany’s Constitutional Court has postponed the deportation of an Afghan man until he can complete an application for asylum. The court did not, however, stop the deportation of some 34 other Afghans. The German Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday in favor of a 29-year-old asylum-seeker and issued a stay of his deportation order. The court did not, however, stop the ... Read More »

Brisk business for smugglers in Greece

After a period of quiet following the closure of the Balkan route, people smugglers have returned to northern Greece and profits continue to roll in. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Thessaloniki. In a small kebab shop across the broad avenue that runs in front of the Thessaloniki train station, clusters of migrants drink tea and huddle around electrical outlets charging their phones. Over the past two years the shop, a family-run business operated by Evangelia Karanikolas and her husband, developed into a key stopping point for many migrants and refugees looking to travel the so-called Balkan route to northern Europe. Karanikolas offered free use of the electricity and bathrooms to people sleeping rough in the nearby square and abandoned buildings. She also provided free food when she could, and even a warm place to sleep for some families when the weather was cold. For this reason she has become known to many migrants as 'Mammi'. Today, even following the sealing of the border with Macedonia, little appears to have changed. The numbers of migrants and refugees may be well below the great tide of people who traveled the route in 2015 and early 2016. Yet migrants are still coming - and going. "In any way, they are trying to find some way out," Karanikolas told DW. When asked, a number of the migrants in the shop confirm that they are seeking passage out of Greece. Moving in and out of the shop over the course of the day one can also see other, distinctly better dressed individuals. One such person, Sharif,* told DW that he was a "tourist" in town for a few days. Speaking in an accent with heavy East London tones he claimed that he was visiting the shop merely to be with other Afghans. A few hours later however he could be seen in a nearby dark, abandoned building conversing heavily with an Afghan family who had set up tents for the night. Other migrants told DW that the family had recently attempted to head north but had been picked up by the police in Macedonia and returned to Greece. Now they were considering their options. For a tourist, Sharif behaved very much like a smuggler. Leaky borders The unprecedented movement of people that saw approximately 1 million mainly Syrian and Iraqi refugees reaching northern Europe in 2015-2016 may have been stemmed following efforts to seal Greece's northern borders coupled with the EU-Turkey agreement. Yet today migrants and refugees continue to head north through a number of illicit channels, passing under the radar of immigration officials and filling the coffers of criminal people smuggling networks to the tune of tens of millions of euros. "I would say it is on the rise," one high-ranking police official involved in efforts to combat people smuggling networks in Thessaloniki told DW with regards to the smugglers' activity. "Following the closure of the Balkan route there was a period of relative calm, shall we say, while people waited to see what would happen, what the policies were going to be. Now in recent weeks we have seen a rise in arrests... There are active organizations and there are people who wish to be smuggled, it's the law of supply and demand." The precise numbers of people successfully being smuggled out of Greece are impossible to know for certain. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal citing European immigration officials stated that the whereabouts of as many as 13,000 migrants and refugees who had been registered in Greece is currently unknown. The same article, citing unnamed Greek and European officials, claimed that about 500 per week were being smuggled over the northern border. Yet experts say this figure is necessarily little more than an estimate. Nebulous networks According to police to be smuggled from Thessaloniki to Belgrade usually costs at least between 800 and 1,300 euros ($852-$1,384) per head. Another 1,500 euros is required to reach Germany. Often this money is not paid by the migrants directly but by their families through networks spread across multiple countries. Such prices reflect both the demand for smugglers as well as the difficulty in crossing the border. When movement across the border was largely unimpeded, prices collapsed. Now that the Balkan route is more difficult for migrants, it is more lucrative for the smugglers. "The smugglers certainly celebrated," the police official said of the closure of the Balkan route. "We heard from people involved in this that they were pleased because they would be better able to work." Yet the police describe people smuggling operations as loose criminal networks that are different from the closed pyramid structures associated with the Italian or Russian mafias. While this makes the groups easier to infiltrate, it also means that when significant arrests are made other players can quickly adapt to fill the void. "We have observed that the networks, when they receive a major blow, they go quiet for a period of time. But we can't say they stop. They reorganize themselves, they start recruiting other players, and this has to do with the law of supply and demand. This phenomenon will not stop as long as there are people who want to migrate, who want to leave their countries, due to wars, due to poverty," the police official said. Terror threat The latter is a sentiment that is echoed by Angeliki Dimitriadi, a migration expert and Research Fellow with the think tank ELIAMEP in Athens. She argues that past experience dating back to the 1990s indicates that even supposedly successful efforts to seal Europe's external borders such as in the case of Spain usually only deflect the problem elsewhere. "The fact of the matter is there is going to be a way in, there is no way to create Fortress Europe that prevents entry 100 percent. It's not going to happen," she told DW. One way of addressing the rules of supply and demand would be to create legal routes, thereby removing the incentive for refugees to use illegal smuggling alternatives, according to Dimitriadi. The criminal activity may also be making Europe less safe. This is because the same underground networks funded largely by the movement of asylum seekers can also be exploited by criminal and terror groups. "That these networks are used to send some fighters, that has been proven recently with the events in Paris," the police official told DW. "To put it very plainly it is always safer if we know who's coming," Dimitriadi says. "In order to know who's coming, it always better if we can 'choose' also who that person will be. Why not make it legal? We can choose that. We can know who is coming. It will be safer for us and beneficial for them. It is a win win." However, with Europe showing little appetite for the creation of new legal migration routes, the cat and mouse game between police and smugglers on Greece's borders looks set to continue, with increasingly desperate migrants caught in the middle. *Name has been changed.

After a period of quiet following the closure of the Balkan route, people smugglers have returned to northern Greece and profits continue to roll in. Pavlos Zafiropoulos reports from Thessaloniki. In a small kebab shop across the broad avenue that runs in front of the Thessaloniki train station, clusters of migrants drink tea and huddle around electrical outlets charging their ... Read More »

Scroll To Top