Merkel Agrees to Limit Refugees Entering Germany

 By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to limit the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany each year to 200,000, a decision that has elicited both support and criticism in the nation.

Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union Party. Image courtesy of The Guardian.

The German Christian Social Union and the Christian Democratic Union  were in talks for hours before an agreement could be reached.

Many German voters had been angered with Merkel’s previous open-door policy, which effectively allowed in anyone who could reach the country. In 2015, this policy allowed over one million people in.

In July, Merkel stated “on the issue of an upper limit, my position is clear. I won’t accept one.”

Many see the policy as a concession to the demands of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which was propelled in September’s elections where Merkel lost millions of voters. The AfD campaigned on an anti-Islam, anti-migrant platform, becoming the third largest party in Parliament. The new measure is seen in many as a way of winning back voters.

Many believe that Merkel must negotiate with smaller parties in order to form a cohesive coalition government. Ms. Merkel believes the policy is necessary, saying that “Germany needs a stable government and the prerequisite for this was a common negotiating position.”

In 2016, the number of refugees capped at 280,000. That number has since fallen drastically, with fewer than 124,000 people applying for asylum in the first eight months of 2017. Experts are saying that the proposed limit is in line with current immigration trends.

The new policy is not being described as a limit, as no one who is seeking asylum will be turned away at the borders once the 200,000 limit has been reached. The figure can be altered should a new refugee crisis emerge.

The policy is being criticized, with Karl Kopp, director for European Affairs at Pro Asyl, a German refugee charity, saying that the policy is “not compatible with international law” and “totally unacceptable.”

Simone Peters, head of the Green Party, claimed that “The figure is completely arbitrary, fixed purely ideologically. As far as we’re concerned the fundamental right to asylum applies. When you throw together asylum seekers, refugee contingents, resettlement programs and family members joining refugees all in one pot, and then set a limit of 200,000, one group will be thrown under the bus.”

For more information, please see:

CNN – Merkel Changes Tune on German Refugee Cap – 9 October 2017

The Guardian – Germany: Merkel Agrees to 200,000 Refugees Cap in Bid to Build Coalition – 9 October 2017

The New York Times – Germany’s Angela Merkel Agrees to Limits on Accepting Refugees – 9 October 2017

Canada Does Good for Refugees, but also Doesn’t?

By Sarah Purtill
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

TORONTO, Canada – Canada is known around the world as accepting of immigrants and refugees. Personal stories about the positive experiences immigrants and refugees have in Canada come out every day. Seidu Mohammad, a Ghanaian refugee in Canada is chasing his dream of being a professional soccer player. His team is currently on a winning streak and the pressure is on to keep it going.

Ahmed Hussen prepares for a citizenship ceremony in Toronto. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

Ahmed Hussen is another refugee who came to Canada from Somalia 25 years ago. He was named immigration czar in January 2017 and is the first refugee to be appointed to the spot.  After coming to Canada, he worked to get himself through college and then law school. He proclaimed “everyday generosity of Canadians … helped me each and every step of the way.”

Hussen continues to promote Canada’s open door policy despite pressure to close the border. This pressure stems from the Canadian refugee processing system being overwhelmed by Haitians who have lined up at a ditch in Champlain N.Y. out of fear of deportation from the United States.

But Hussen is not the only one addressing the refugee problem. While Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally welcomed a planeload of Syrian refugees arriving in Canada in December of 2015, by September of 2017, it appears that welcome does not apply to Haitian refugees from the United States.

Trudeau claims “for someone to successfully seek asylum it’s not about economic migration. It’s about vulnerability, exposure to torture or death or being stateless people.”  The turn away of Haitian refugees disagrees with Trudeau’s statement.

Haitian human rights lawyer Patrice Florvilus believes Canada’s claims that “things have returned to normal” in Haiti is not true. Florvilus believes Canada should grant Haitians refugee status, “if Canada wants to become a real beacon for refugees.”

Haitian refugees are not the only ones having trouble getting into Canada. Syrian refugees who can make it to Canada are usually the “richest and most well-educated members of their society” because they are the ones who are able to pay off human smugglers. The political ramifications here do not bode well for Syria.

Typically, refugees who seek asylum in the geographical vicinity of the country they are escaping from return when the conflict ends. But those who travel across oceans do not come back. This means that when the Syrian conflict ends, the country will see a shortage of doctors, dentists and nurses. Essentially, this system of migration is a lottery for the rich and powerful.

While Canada has done plenty of good for many refugees, it may not have truly earned its reputation as an open and inviting place for refugees and asylum seekers.

For further information, please see:

National Post – Why Canada’s refugee policy may actually be doing more harm than good – 8 September 2017

New York Times – In Canada, an Immigration Minister Who Himself Is a Refugee – 6 September 2017

CBC News – Refugee who lost fingers to frostbite chasing soccer dreams – 5 September 2017

The Guardian – Welcoming Haitian refugees to Canada isn’t about generosity but justice – 29 August 2017

The Gambia Missing $11 Million after President Jammeh Exile

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter

BANJUL, The Gambia– Former President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia has finally relinquished the office of the President after the threat of military intervention in the Gambia.  West African leaders urged former President Jammeh to transfer power to President Adama Barrow.  Jammeh ultimately heard their calls and fled the Gambia on Saturday, two days after his term as President had ended.

Gambia's President Adama Barrow is seen in Dakar, Senegal January 20, 2017

The Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

President Barrow has been in Senegal where he awaited Jammeh’s departure.  He was sworn into office in Senegal and will be returning to the Gambia any day now.  Security forces from other West African nations have entered the Gambia in order to ensure a peaceful transition.  President Barrow has promised to bring change to a country that has been ruled for 22 years by former President Jammeh.  Barrow hopes to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to bring to light some of the human rights abuses that Jammeh committed.  Many of these allegations stem from the 1994 Coup in which Jammeh seized power.

Former President Jammeh on the other hand managed to flee the country while also stealing from the Gambian people.  Jammeh was flown out of the Gambia on a jet reportedly with $11 million from the Gambia’s treasury.  He also made away with three luxury car and has ten more waiting to be shipped to him.  While Morocco has offered Jammeh asylum he is currently staying in Guinea.  It is unclear what country Jammeh will make his final destination.  President Barrow has made himself clear that he does not want Jammeh in the country.  The former President’s presence would be distracting and unhelpful to the new government.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – The Gambia ‘missing millions’ after Jammeh flies into exile – 23 January 2017 

Latest News New Zealand – The Gambia Missing Millions After Jammeh Flies into Exile – 23 January 2017

Voice of America – Regional Security Forces Arrive in Gambian Capital Ahead of New President’s Return – 22 January 2017

Washington Post – Gambia’s Defeated Leader Finally Gave Up Power-and took Luxury Cars and took luxury cars and millions of dollars with him – 23 January 2017 

 

 

Chile to take in Syrian Refugees

By Kaitlyn Degnan
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile will take in refugees, President Michelle Bachelet announced Monday. Speaking at a religious ceremony, she said, “Throughout our history, we have always had our doors open to those, sometimes coming from far away places, bringing their history and cultural to the construction of our nation.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. (Photo courtesy of the Latin Post)

The foreign ministry confirmed the statement on Tuesday, saying that the refugees would come from Syria. A statement released by Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz stated that “it will happen as soon as possible,” and that the country could initially take in 100 families.

The plan, reportedly presented to the government by a former minister of Syrian descent, would provide shelter for 50 to 100 families, and has the support of the Chilean Arab population.

Chile is expediting the visa process for those Syrians that have requested them.

Many world leaders, including spiritual figures like Pope Francis, have called on countries and communities around the world to take in refugees.

A number of other South American countries have also agreed to take in Syrian refugees, including Argentina and Venezuela. Argentina eased entrance requirements last year, but according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, less than 100 Syrians have arrived in Argentina so far. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced that the country is prepared to grant asylum to 20,000 escaping the Syrian conflict.

Brazil has taken in 2,000 Syrian refugees so far, with over 1,400 granted asylum in 2014 alone.

However, not all resettlement schemes have been successful. Uruguay, who accepted a number of refugees last year as part of a resettlement program, is facing criticism from the refugees themselves. The resettled families, who have been living in Uruguay since October, have been protesting outside of the presidential offices, saying, “this is not a place for refugees.” The families say that they are “isolated and struggling,” which may be due to Uruguay’s minute Arab population and high costs of living.

 

For more information, please see:

US News & World Report – Argentina cabinet chief says the country’s doors are open to Syrian refugees fleeing war – 4 September 2015

Reuters – Chile mulls plan to take in Syrian refugees: newspaper – 6 September 2015

Latin Post – Syrian Refugee Crisis: Chile to welcome undisclosed number of refugees – 8 September 2015

Reuters – Chile government says it will take in Syrian refugees – 8 September 2015

Voice of America – Venezuela offers to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees – 8 September 2015

Yahoo News – Bachelet says Chile will welcome Syrian refugees – 8 September 2015

Yahoo News – Latin American nations offer to take in Syrian refugees – 8 September 2015