Viktor Orban: ‘Significant Changes’ can be Expected in Hungary

By: Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Viktor Orban has just won re-election in Hungary, and wants the nation to know that “significant changes and modifications can be expected.”

Viktor Orban addressing a crowd in Budapest. Photo courtesy of Tamas Kovacs.

Orban’s party now has a supermajority of seats in Hungary’s parliament, having won 134 of the 199 seats in the national assembly.

Orban led his campaign on an anti-immigration platform. As the incumbent Prime Minister, Orban has employed various tactics in order to gain public support.

His influence has even found its way into school textbooks. One book espouses Orban’s belief that refugees pose a threat to Hungary, stating that “it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist.”

Orban’s tactics have been a point of contention in the European Union. As part of his campaign for re-election, he pledged to tighten Hungary’s borders and prevent migrants from getting into the country.

Orban believes that the European Union, the United Nations, and philanthropist George Soros intend to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country.”

As part of his efforts to prevent migrants from coming into the country, Orban supports the “Stop Soros” bill that would prevent civic workers in their efforts to assist and support asylum seekers. If the bill is passed, civic groups would be forced to obtain government permits. In addition, they would not be able to operate within five miles of Hungary’s borders, which is typically where migrants file claims seeking admission into the country.

Orban is outspoken in his belief that Hungary’s borders should not be opened to migrants. He once said to a Hungarian television station: “We will never allow Hungary to become a target country for immigrants. We do not want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary.”

Between 2015 and 2016, a wave of over one million migrants arrived in Europe. During that time, the European Commission proposed compulsory quotas be enacted to distribute the asylum-seekers to European Union member nations. Orban vehemently opposed the proposal, and in June of 2015 erected a barrier fence along the southern border of Hungary.

During his campaign, Orban refused to speak to opponents or the media, instead choosing to limit his appearances to rallies for is supporters.

Opponents of Orban believe that he is weakening the democratic system and attempting to concentrate too much power in too few hands. He has responded to these observations with assurances that “Hungary continues to stand on constitutional foundations. Within those, we will do everything that serves the interests of the Hungarian people.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – The man who Thinks Europe has Been Invaded –  6 April 2018

BBC News – Viktor Orban Victory in Hungary: German Minister Warns EU – 9 April 2018

The New York Times – How Viktor Orban Bends Hungarian Society to His Will – 27 March 2018

Time – Hungary’s Far Right Leader Is Going Nowhere—and Europe Should Be Worried – 11 April 2018

The Washington Post – Hungary’s Viktor Orban to Make ‘Significant Changes’ in Govt – 10 April 2018

Protests in Italy Follow Racially-Motivated Shooting Spree

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – Thousands of protesters across several Italian cities marched against racism on February 10, 2018, days after an Italian extremist opened fire on African migrants in the city of Macerata.

Far-Right Demonstrators From the Group Forza Nuova Clash With Police on February 8, 2017. Photo Courtesy of Fabio Falcioni.

Approximately 15,000 protestors showed up in Macerata in an effort to quell the rise of neo-fascist parties in Italy. Protesters also marched in Milan, Turin, Rome and other cities across Italy.

The protests came in response to a February 3rd attack on migrants. An Italian gunman identified as Luca Traini, opened fire in the city of Macerata in drive-by shootings that lasted about two hours. By the time he was apprehended by authorities, Traini had shot and wounded six African migrants.

Traini’s attack was racially motivated, partly in retaliation for the recent murder of a young Italian woman. A Nigerian migrant was arrested in connection with her murder.

The protests come just weeks ahead of elections in Italy.

Immigration has become a highly-discussed topic in Italy since the nation experienced  a wave of migrants starting in 2011.  It has been a key theme in campaigns.

Matteo Silvini, the anti-migrant leader of the political party known as the League, has pledged to expel thousands of migrants from Italy if elected. At a recent campaign rally, Silvini expressed his eagerness “to start expelling all the illegals one by one, to defend, above all, the women, the girls.”

At a rally, Silvini said the protest made him “ashamed as an Italian.”

Surveys show that many Italians believe that migrants are responsible for many violent crimes in the nation.

In anticipation of the government-authorized demonstration, schools and shops were closed down and mass-transit was halted. There was a heavy police presence at the protest in Macerata, which was held inside a fenced-off perimeter.

Far-right protests coincided with anti-fascist protests. In Piacenza, a city in Northern Italy, a far-right fringe group known as CasaPound clashed with police. Supporters of Forza Nuova, a neo-fascist party, clashed with police days earlier in an unauthorized demonstration.

Many marchers carried banners denouncing violence and racism. Some carried balloons bearing the names of the shooting victims.

One more coordinated anti-fascist demonstration is scheduled to take place on February 24th, a week before the election.

Francesco Piobbicchi, a demonstrator, told Reuters: “We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Marchers Protest Racism in Italy After Africans are Shot – 10 February 2018

BBC News Macerata: Anti-Racism Protest After Migrant Shooting in Italy – 10 February 2018

CNN – Italians Protest Against Fascism Following Shooting of African Migrants – 10 February 2018

Reuters – Italians March Against Racism After Shooting Spree Against Migrants – 10 February 2018

Far-Right Extremist Wounds Six in Two-Hour Shooting Rampage

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy – In a rampage that lasted two hours, a right-wing Italian extremist shot and wounded six Africans on February 3rd in the small Italian city of Macerata.

Luca Traini is accused of shooting six people in Macerata, Italy. Photo Courtesy of Guido Picchio.

Draped in Italy’s tricolor flag, Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian, shot six victims in drive-by shootings that he carried out for two hours before he was detained by authorities. He specifically targeted dark-skinned pedestrians.

Traini’s rampage was in retaliation to an 18-year-old Italian woman’s murder weeks before. A 29-year-old Nigerian immigrant has been charged in her murder.

“He did it out of an ill-conceived sense of revenge,” said Lt. Col. Michele Roberti, local commander of  Italy’s Carabinieri, an elite police force.

Traini has confessed to the  racially-motivated rampage. Italian authorities discovered a copy of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and other Nazi paraphernalia in a search of Traini’s home following the attacks.

An acquaintance of Traini said that he has become radicalized over the past six years. “More than a criminal, he’s an individual with psychological problems,” said Francesco Clerico, owner of the gym where Traini trained for a decade before being he was banned.

Italy has become one of a number of European nations to experience an influx of migrants who have come by way of crossing the Mediterranean. Since 2011, over 625,000 migrants have crossed into Italy, many having been rescued off of boats at sea.

Italy’s electoral campaign has become heated, with anti-migrant sentiments being a key theme.

Traini was an unsuccessful  candidate for Italy’s Northern League, an anti-migrant party that is now known simply as League, in elections in 2017.

As national elections approach on March 4th, anti-migrant sentiments have become prevalent, with party leaders such as Matteo Salvini vowing to expel 150,000 migrants from the country and close off the border to newcomers.

Although he denounced violence as a solution to the problem, Salvini stated that “out-of-control migration brings chaos, rage, social clashes. Out-of-control migration brings drug-dealing, rapes, thefts and violence.”

Opponents of the League criticize Salvini’s rhetoric as inciting violence in the country. Laura Boldrini, president of the lower house of the Italian Parliament , said “what happened today in Macerata demonstrates that inciting hatred and excusing fascism, as Salvini does, has consequences.”

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni urged leaders on both sides of the debate to end the “cycle of violence… Hate and violence won’t be able to divide us.”

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Hitler Book, Supremacist Flag Found in Italy Suspect’s Home – 4 February 2018

CNN – Silvio Berlusconi Says Migrants Causing ‘Serious Social Alarm’ in Italy – 5 February 2018

Los Angeles Times – Italian With Extreme Right-Wing Sympathies Suspected of Shooting 6 Africans – 3 February 2018

The New York Times – Italy’s Populists Turn up the Heat as Anti-Migrant Anger Boils – 5 February 2018

Reuters – Opponents say Berlusconi to Blame for Italy’s Migrant Crisis – 5 February 2018

The Washington Post –  Man Shoots, Wounds at Least 6 ‘People of Color’ in Italian City Amid Tensions – 3 February 2018

The Washington Post – Italy’s Berlusconi: 600,000 Migrants ‘Ready to Commit Crime’ – 5 February 2018

The Washington Post – A Gruesome Murder. A Hate-Filled Shooting Rampage. And a Reckoning With Immigration Before Italy Votes. – 6 February 2018

EU’s Top Court Condemns ‘Gay Testing’ of Asylum Seekers

European Court of Justice, Luxembourg. Photo Courtesy of Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

LUXEMBOURG – The European Union’s top court issued a ruling requiring Hungary to reconsider the case of a Nigerian man whose asylum application was denied after psychological tests could not determine his sexual orientation.

Officials in Hungary administered improper psychological tests, “namely the ‘Draw-A-Person-In-The-Rain’ test and the Rorschach and Szondi tests,” on an unidentified Nigerian man seeking refuge in the country, according to the ruling. The man was seeking asylum due to feared persecution he faced in Nigeria on account of his sexuality.

In April 2015, the man, known as “F”, applied for asylum in Hungary. He was then subjected to several psychological assessment tests that were allegedly used to determined his sexuality. At the conclusion of the tests, the psychologist determined the results of the tests were inconclusive and the man’s asylum application was rejected.

Same-sex marriage is prohibited in Nigeria.  According to polls conducted in the country, 90% of citizens support a continued ban on same-sex relationships. Homosexual acts are illegal in most African countries.

The EU ruled in 2013 that asylum could be granted to those who were jailed because of their sexual orientation.

The European Union’s top court found that the tests amounted to “a disproportionate interference in the private life of the asylum seekers.”

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reports that hundreds of asylum seekers seeking refuge in European Union are homosexuals fearing persecution in Africa, the Middle East and Chechnya.

In a similar case  in the Netherlands in 2014, the EU ruled that sexuality tests there violated the rights of asylum seekers.

The Court allows countries to seek expert opinions in assessing “the facts and circumstances relating to the declared sexual orientation of an applicant” but mandates that the procedures respect the EU Charter’s guaranteed fundamental human rights. Additionally, authorities may not base decisions on expert opinion alone and expert opinions must be considered as non-binding.

The use of psychological tests has been criticized for their intrusion into “the most intimate aspects of life”, according to the judgment. In 2010, authorities in the Czech Republic were criticized for their use of pornography in psychological tests.

The ruling has been called an “important step against one of the many problems and humiliations LGBT refugees still face in many EU member states” by Katrin Hugendubel, Advocacy Director for ILGA-Europe, a human rights advocacy organization in Europe.

The ruling is binding in the 28 member states of the EU.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Asylum Seekers Must not be Forced to Take ‘gay’ Tests – 25 January 2018

Newsweek – ‘Gay Tests’ for Refugees in Europe Should be Banned, Says Court – 25 January 2018

NPR – EU Court Rejects ‘Gay Test’ for Asylum Seekers – 25 January 2018

Reuters – EU Court Bars ‘Gay Test’ for Asylum Seekers – 25 January 2018

French President Defends Migration Policy

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

CALAIS, France – Amidst continued criticism of his treatment of France’s migrant issue, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to the port city Calais, a center of the country’s migrant problem, to defend his policies.

President Macron Visited A Migrant Center in France. Photo Courtesy of Michel Spingler.

Before Macron was elected in May 2017, he campaigned as a supporter of migrants. At the time, his opponent was staunchly against allowing migrants into the country.

However, since his election, critics complain that Macron has betrayed his supporters by allowing continued expulsions of migrants and police crackdowns targeted at migrants.

The coastal city of Calais has become a symbol of France’s migrant problem. Upwards of 700 migrants are currently in the area, most hoping to make it to the United Kingdom by way of the English Channel.

Calais was once home to a migrant camp of 7,000 people that became known as the “Jungle.” The camp was dismantled in 2016.

During his visit, Macron outlined France’s stance toward immigration and asylum. He maintained that those entitled to be in France will be given shelter and support, while those who are in the country illegally will be expelled.

“To stay in Calais and build makeshift shelters and even set up squats is a dead end. The alternative is clear; people can get to the reception centers where everyone’s case will be examined and those who have the right, given asylum in our country,” Macron said in a speech while in Calais.

In his speech, Macron also called for French law enforcement officers to act with respect towards migrants. According to a Human Rights Watch Report published in the summer of 2017, French police “routinely use(d) pepper spray on child and adult migrants while they…[were]… sleeping or in other circumstances in which they pose(d) no threat.” Although Macron discredited some accounts, he maintained that if the alleged abuses did occur that they will be punished.

Macron has worked to establish checkpoints overseas in order to separate economic migrants from asylum seekers. Those who are seeking political asylum are given priority over those seeking entry into the country for economic reasons.

A new migrant policy is expected to be released next month. Plans will be unveiled to quicken the application process for those seeking asylum as well as expel those who are in the country illegally faster.

France received over 100,000 asylum applications in 2017. Approximately 85,000 migrants were refused entry into the country.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – France Will not Allow Another ‘Jungle’ Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018

The Guardian – France Will not Allow Another Refugee Camp in Calais, Says Macron – 16 January 2018

The New York Times – Macron Defends Migration Policy in France, Walking A Fine Line – 16 January 2018

The Washington Post – France’s Macron Pushes Back Against Angry Allies to Defend Crackdowns on Migrants – 16 January 2018

Italy Lays to Rest 26 Young Women Lost at Sea

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

SALERNO, Italy – The bodies of twenty-six Nigerian girls were laid to rest in Italy on November 17th after they were discovered drowned in the Mediterranean Sea on November 5th.

Women pass by coffins of 26 Nigerian girls that drowned at sea. Photo Courtesy of Alessandra Tarantino.

The women, ranging in age from 14 to 18, are believed to have drowned after the dinghies in which they were traveling sank. One victim had suffered internal bleeding from blunt trauma before falling into the water.

Another 100 victims are missing and believed to have drowned. Search and rescue missions have brought nearly 400 migrants to safety.

An investigation into the deaths of the girls was initiated due to fears that they were abused and then killed.

After the discovery of the bodies, two men who are believed to have skippered the boats were arrested on human trafficking charges.

Approximately 168,000 migrants arrived in Italy this year. This represents a 32 percent decline from 2016 and is the result of a controversial agreement between Libya and Italy to keep boats from leaving Libya.

UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called the agreement between Libya and Italy “inhuman,” as it results in migrants seeking refuge to be sent back to Libya’s lawless detention centers.

This year, more than 2,700 people have died or are missing at sea.

Since the 1980s, tens of thousands of Nigerian girls have been taken to Italy and forced into prostitution. In the last three years, there has been a 600 percent increase in sex-trafficking victims arriving by sea. Of the 11,000 Nigerian girls who made the trip last year, 80% of them are believed to be victims of trafficking.

In 2014, 1,454 girls arrived. That number rose to 11,009 in 2016.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, 90% of the women arriving in the country display bruises and other signs of violence.

Only two of the victims buried have been identified. “Most of the Nigerian girls travel alone, part of a huge trafficking network, and no one knows exactly who they are,” said Marco Rotunno, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy.

The unidentified victims were buried with white cards simply stating the number of their coffins.

A group of Nigerian girls watched the funeral from a distance. “It is not easy for them because they have all made that crossing, that journey,” said Alessandra Galatro, who works with young Nigerian women to help them escape prostitution. “The cruelty that women faced in Libya, they all experienced.”

For more information, please see:

The New York Times – Two Dozen African Girls Dead at Sea – 13 November 2017

The Guardian – Teenage Nigerian Girls Drowned at Sea, Italian Autopsies Confirm – 16 November 2017

CNN – 26 Young Nigerian Migrant Women Laid to Rest in Italy – 17 November 2017

The Washington Post – Italy Buries 26 Nigerian Women – Most Without a Name – 17 November 2017

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

According to UN Report, Migrant Children Endure Severe Human Rights Abuses

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

GENEVA, Switzerland – According to a September 5th report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 75 percent of migrant children attempting to reach Europe are victims of severe human rights abuses.

Young Child Awaiting Rescue. Photo Courtesy of Yahoo! News UK.

The findings are based on testimonies obtained from over 22,000 migrants and refugees, including 11,000 children, given to the International Organization for Migration, the UN’s Migration Agency.

Afshan Khan, UNICEF Europe Regional Director, said of the findings, “the stark reality is that it is now standard practice that children moving through the Mediterranean are abused, trafficked, beaten and discriminated against.”

The victims reported being subjected to a myriad of abuses, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, child marriage and beatings.

A 17-year-old girl from Nigeria reported being raped, held captive and threatened with violence. An Afghan boy recalled being forced into labor and beaten if he stopped working. Another child said, “if you try to run, they shoot you. If you stop working, they beat you. We were just like slaves. At the end of the day, they just lock you inside.”

UNICEF reports that children originating from sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk. Those travelling from Libya along the Mediterranean route are vulnerable due to the route being laden with crime and a lack of policing. The risk also increases for children who are travelling alone and over long periods of time.

The UNICEF report comes amid a substantial increase in the number of children migrating to Europe in recent years. Between 2010 and 2011, 66,000 children travelers were reported. That number has now surged to over 300,000.

The children making these harrowing journeys are often unaccompanied. Of those under 18 years of age arriving to Italy via the Mediterranean Sea passages from North Africa in 2016, 92% were alone.

“For people who leave their countries to escape violence, instability or poverty, the factors pushing them to migrate are severe, and they make perilous journeys knowing that they may be forced to pay with their dignity, their wellbeing or even their lives,” said IOM Regional Director for the European Union, Norway and Switzerland, Eugenio Ambrosi.

UNICEF’s report has prompted calls for the European Union and other parties to “put in place lasting solutions that include safe and legal migration pathways, establishing protection corridors and finding alternatives to the detention of migrant children,” said Khan.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – CORRECTION: United Nations – Children Migrants Story – 12 September 2017

Abdolu Agency – UNICEF says Many Young Migrants Face Exploitation – 12 September 2017

UNICEF – Up to Three Quarters of Children and Youth Face Abuse, Exploitation and Trafficking on Mediterranean Migration Routes – 12 September 2017

UN News Centre – Abuse, Exploitation and Trafficking ‘Stark Reality’ for Migrant Children Trying to Reach Europe – 12 September 2017

Reuters – ‘Just Like Slaves’; African Migrant Children Face Highest Risk of Abuse: Report – 11 September 2017

Yahoo! News UK – Young Migrants Face Abuse on Way to Europe – UN – 11 September 2017

Disputes rise among European nations over refugee crisis

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

Migrants line up for food in a migrant camp in Rome, Italy. Image courtesy of Reuters.

EUROPE – The European Union has begun legal action on June 13 against three member countries for not taking in their fair share of refugees. The action will be brought in the European Court of Justice.

The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are the countries that may face fines for ignoring EU plans to resettle asylum seekers in the region. This proposal, formed in 2015, was to relocate 160,000 refugees across the European mainland.

In March, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern suggested cutting EU funds to nations that refuse to comply with the measures.

Hungary has taken hardline measures in its asylum policy. They passed a law that would detain asylum seekers into border camps for them to wait for their cases to be handled.

Under the EU plan, each country is assigned to take a certain number of refugees or migrants from the vast number of those coming in. Poland has not accepted any. The Czech Republic has taken 12 of their 2,000 allotment.

Further south, the populist mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, has asked the national government not to send any more migrants into the city. Italy has had an influx of refugees and migrant workers coming in from North Africa for the past three years.

In March, when the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban passed the bill allowing detainment of migrants before asylum, he reinforced his hardline stance on immigration. He claimed that immigration is the “Trojan horse of terrorism,” and argued that this was necessary to “defend [Hungary’s] borders…[So] no one will try to come to Hungary illegally.”

The rising fears among Europe regarding refugees are often based on security concerns. With the recent terror attacks in the United Kingdom, member nations of the EU remain on guard. Anti-immigrant sentiment is by and large in the continent and is an especially popular topic of discussion in local elections.

Immigration advocates push against the rhetoric pushed by anti-refugee leaders around the world. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called Hungary’s law an act “[promoting] toxic notions of ethic purity”.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also been outspoken against the anti-immigration sentiment of the three countries involved in the EU legal action. The European office director of the group, Iverna McGowan, said that the EU’s action shows that “countries will not be allowed to get away with dragging their feet to avoid accepting refugees.”

She continues, “Solidarity is the key to a fair and humane response to refugees in Europe.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Don’t send more migrants, Rome mayor tells Italy’s government – 13 June 2017

BBC News – EU targets Poland, Hungary, and Czechs for not taking refugees – 13 June 2017

New York Times – E.U. Move Against 3 Countries That Don’t Take Refugees – 13 June 2017

ABC News – EU warns 3 countries of legal action over refugee plan – 13 June 2017

Reuters – Rome’s 5-Star mayor calls to half migrants’ flow into city – 13 June 2017

The Guardian – Austria threatens EU funding cuts over Hungary’s hard line on refugees – 8 March 2017

BBC News – Hungary to detain all asylum seekers in border camps – 7 March 2017

 

 

Hungary Tightens Asylum Laws

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary — On Tuesday, Hungary’s parliament voted to detain all asylum seekers within the country over the age of 14. Expected to take effect later this month, the new law will mandate authorities to detain all asylum seekers who are currently in guarded and enclosed migrant camps. Hungary previously detained all asylum-seekers, however suspended the practice in 2013 after pressure from the United Nations refugee agency and the European Court of Human Rights.

A Hungarian Police Officer stands guard at a makeshift migrant camp on the border between Serbia and Hungary (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

Asylum seekers will be detained until their applications are reviewed, which is a process that usually takes months to complete. The process will be termed “assigned residency,” however is considered by many to constitute detention. The new law will apply to newly-arrived asylum seekers as well as those who are currently in the country waiting for their applications to be processed.

Human rights advocates called the new law a “reckless breach of international law.” According to Cecile Pouilly, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the new law means that “every asylum seeker, including children, will be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time.” The UNHCR predicts that the new legislation will “have a terrible physical and psychological impact on women, children and men who have already greatly suffered.”

Human rights groups protested the new asylum law, including Amnesty International Hungary and the Hungarian Association for Migrants and the Migrant Solidarity Group for Hungary. These groups insist that the law would “serve the government’s xenophobic and discriminatory political propaganda purposes.”

Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, justified the measure in saying it will help secure the European Union’s borders from migrants. Orban also believes the law act as a deterrent against migration, which he called the “Trojan horse of Terrorism.” Orban noted that the “flood of migration has slowed down but has not stopped” and that Hungary’s laws “apply to everyone” including “migrants who want to cross Hungary’s border illegally.” According to Orban, the laws which are applicable to everyone “is the reality, which cannot be overruled by charming human rights nonsense.”

Other nations restrict the movement of migrants for security reasons, however Hungary would be the only European nation with such restrictive measures.   The new law can still be vetoed by the Hungarian president, but is not expected to happen.

 

For more information, please see:

USA Today — Hungary Will Detain Asylum Seekers in Shipping Containers — 8 March 2017

The Washington Post — Hungary Votes to ‘Detain’ All Asylum Seekers in Camps — 8 March 2017

Hungary Today — Hungary Parliament Tightens Asylum Law to Throw Migrants Back to the Other Side of the Border – Updated — 7 March 2017

The New York Times — Hungary Approves Detention of Asylum Seekers in Guarded Camps — 7 March 2017

 

Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Enter Spanish Territory

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

MADRID, Spain — On February 17, about 700 migrants stormed an 8 kilometer long, 6 meter high barbed-wire security fence separating Morocco from Ceuta, which is a Spanish territory in North Africa.  Security cameras filming the incident showed some migrants breaking through the fence using wielding shears and clubs.

Migrants sit aside Spanish police after storming a fence to enter the Spanish territory of Ceuta (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)
Migrants sit aside Spanish police after storming a fence to enter the Spanish territory of Ceuta (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post)

498 migrants successfully made it onto Spanish territory.  Those that successfully scale the fence are usually taken to migrant centers where they are repatriated or released, with the majority choosing to seek asylum or work undocumented in Europe.  Those that are intercepted before making it onto Spanish territory are usually returned to Morocco.

Two migrants were hospitalized as a result of the invasion, 30 were treated at a migrant center for fractures and other injuries, 10 members of Morocco’s armed forces were injured, and 11 police officers were injured.  In the video footage, some migrants can be seen with blood on their faces.

The border invasion was one of the largest since the fence was built in 2005.  According to an unidentified Civil Guard spokesman, police officers clashed with the migrants at the Tarajal section of the fence.  The last similar attempt took place on New Year’s Day 2017, when over 1,000 migrants attempted to jump a fence between Morocco and Ceuta.  Only two of those migrants were successful in reaching the Spanish territory, however both required hospital treatment.  Other recent successful attempts were made by 400 migrants in December, and by 200 migrants in October.

The video footage of the invasion captured migrants celebrating their arrival onto Spanish territory.  Some screamed “Libertad, libertad!” while others wrapped themselves in Spanish and European flags.  One migrant was heard shouting “I love you Mamma, long live Spain.”

Hundreds of migrants regularly attempt to enter Ceuta via climbing the fence, swimming along the coast, or hiding in vehicles.  Many consider reaching the Spanish territory as safer than attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  These migrants are hopeful in eventually reaching Europe and fleeing poverty and violence.  The migrant center in Ceuta has recently been struggling to host over 600 migrants, and has been using military tents as makeshift shelters for migrants in nearby parking lots.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Reach Spanish Enclave of Ceuta — 17 February 2017

DW — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Spain’s Ceuta, Clashing with Police — 17 February 2017

The Local — Hundreds of Migrants Storm Fence to Enter Spain from Morocco — 17 February 2017

The Washington Post — Almost 500 Migrants Smash Through Border Fence into Spain — 17 February 2017

Italy Dedicates 200 Million Euros to African Migrant Fund

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

ROME, Italy — On Wednesday, Italy pledged 200 million euros ($215 million) to several African countries to aid in their efforts of better controlling their borders. The goal of the fund is to reduce the number of migrants who leave these countries and risk their lives traveling to Europe by preventing them from leaving their home countries. The fund also hopes to deter human traffickers and smugglers who control the migration routes from Africa to Europe.

Migrants disembark from an Italian coast guard vessel in the Sicilian harbor (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)
Migrants disembark from an Italian coast guard vessel in the Sicilian harbor (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

The fund, known as the Africa Fund, will aid in the “fight against human trafficking and illegal migration” according to Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano. The money will help train each nations’ security forces that control the borders, as well as pay for equipment to better monitor their borders. The funding will also be allocated partially towards Libya’s coastguard, as well as United Nations refugee and migrant agencies that can use the money to improve the living conditions of migrants in those countries.
At a press conference, Alfano further explained the fund’s goal of focusing efforts on the African countries migrants leave from, saying that Italy does not “build walls in the Mediterranean – we can’t and don’t want to do that.” Instead, Alfano emphasized the need to “strengthen the bond between solidarity and security.”
Some European leaders have suggested the possibility of financing camps in different locations on the southern shores of the Mediterranean to house potential refugees, however Alfano’s goal with the Africa Fund is to prevent exactly this. According to him, there have not been talks of setting up camps in Tunisia or Libya yet due to the lack of security in those nations. Italy is “trying to work so that there will be no need for camps.”

The majority of the funding will be given to Niger, Libya, and Tunisia, which are three major departure points for African migrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean and reach Italy. Other African countries can also request money to improve their border control.

Last week, the EU’s executive European Commission proposed making another 200 million euros available for other African countries to prevent migrants from leaving their home countries to journey across the Mediterranean Sea in hopes of reaching Europe.

 

For more information, please see:

Daily Nation — Italy Pledges 200 Million Euros to African Countries to Address Immigration — 1 February 2017

Euractiv — Italy Sets up Fund to Help African Countries Stop Migrants — 1 February 2017

European Online Magazine — Italy Unveils 200-Million-Euro Africa Fund to Curb Migration — 1 February 2017

 Reuters — Italy Sets up Fund to Help African Countries Stop Migrants — 1 February 2017

UK to Build Wall in Calais to Prevent Migrants from Entering

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

PARIS, France —  Construction will soon begin on a wall in the French city of Calais in order to prevent migrant refugees from entering the UK from France.  Calais is currently home to a migrant refugee camp known as “the jungle” which is known for its unsanitary living conditions.  Many of the migrants living in the camp refuse to register as refugees in France, because their preferred final destination is Britain.

The Calais wall will be built on the port’s main dual-carriageway approach road (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian).

The wall will be 13 feet high, run one kilometer long, and will cost an estimated $23 million to build.  The UK is funding the construction of the wall, while France is choosing the measures through which it is completed.  Set to be built in two sections on either side of the road, one of the goals of the wall is to protect lorries and other vehicles traveling in the area from migrants’ attempts to intercept the vehicles and climb aboard.  The wall will be constructed with smooth concrete in hopes of making it harder to climb, and will be landscaped with plants around it in an attempt to reduce its visual impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

The wall is a joint project between Britain and France, and is one of many attempts at addressing security concerns and general displeasure with the migrant camp located on the English Channel, less than 30 miles away from the English port of Dover.  In addition to the construction of the wall, security measures have increased around the Channel Tunnel, making it more difficult for migrants to sneak on to ferries or trains which are traveling across the English Channel.

Local residents and groups question the effectiveness of the wall.  François Guennoc of Auberge des Migrants, a French aid group currently working in Calais, predicts that the wall will “just result in people going further to get round it.”  Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association, called the construction of the wall a “poor use of taxpayers’ money,” and believes that that money would be better used on increased security in the surrounding area.

After visiting the camp last week, French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, announced that French authorities would eventually completely dismantle the camp, however did not specify when.

Construction of the wall is expected to begin this month, and end by the end of this year.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Calais Migrants: Work to Start on UK-Funded Wall — 7 September 2016

CNN — Calais Wall: UK to Build ‘Big New Wall’ in Calais to Stop Migrants — 7 September 2016

The Guardian — UK Immigration Minister Confirms Work to Start on £1.9m Calais Wall — 7 September 2016

NY Times — Britain and France to Begin Work on Wall Near Calais to Keep Migrants from Channel Tunnel — 7 September 2016

French Interior Minister Vows to Destroy Calais ‘Jungle’

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

PARIS, France — The French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has vowed to gradually dismantle the migrant camp in Calais known as “the jungle,” where migrant refugees are currently living in “dire sanitary conditions.”  In attempt to unblock Calais, Cazeneuve plans to close the site in stages, while simultaneously creating accommodations for thousands of migrants elsewhere in France in hopes of persuading the migrants to leave the Calais jungle voluntarily.  This has posed problematic, however, as migrants were also offered bus rides to other locations around France, but did not utilize this service as much as authorities had hoped.

Tents in the Calais ‘jungle’ (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Calais is currently home to an estimated 7,000 migrants, the majority of whom have traveled to Calais in hopes of crossing the English channel to Britain.  The site was create by the state in 2015 in an attempt to concentrate refugees into one wasteland who had been evicted from other camps across the Calais area.  1,900 police officers are currently patrolling the camp to prevent the migrants from the camp from smuggling themselves onto lorries traveling to Britain.  There has recently been an increase in the number of violent attacks on lorry drivers who are headed to the UK.

In March, French authorities shut down the southern part of the part of the camp in an aim to “radically reduce numbers.”  However Daniel Barney, of the health center Médecins Sans Frontières which opened up a satellite center in the camp, warns that the French authorities’ decision to close the southern part of the camp worsened the issue of overcrowding.  Double the population is fit into half as much land, and access to more water and toilets has not increased to reflect this population increase.

Citizens UK, a campaign group, claims to have identified around 400 children living in the Calais jungle that are eligible to go live in the UK.  About half of these children are eligible to move to the UK under the Dublin III regulation, which would allow them to live there due to their close family ties to the country.  According to Citizens UK, there are approximately 800 unaccompanied children currently living in the camp.

French lorry drivers, and local shopkeepers and farmers are planning to stage a blockade of the port on Monday in order to demonstrate their opinion that the camp is demolished.  Cazeneuve claims that the northern part of the camp has already begun by his orders.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Calais ‘Jungle’ Camp: UK Urged to Take in 400 Refugee Children — 2 September 2016

France 24 — Calais ‘Jungle’ Migrant Camp to be ‘Gradually Dismantled’ — 2 September 2016

The Guardian — France Vows to Dismantle ‘Jungle’ Refugee Camp in Calais — 2 September 2016

RT — France Vows to Destroy Calais ‘Jungle’ as Paris Authorities Plan 2 More Refugee Camps — 2 September 2016    

Massive Brawl at Hungarian Refugee Camp Near Serbian Border

By Sarah Lafen
Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Eight people have been hospitalized as the result of a massive brawl at a migrant processing center in the southern Hungarian town Kiskunhalas.  The refugee camp at Kiskunhalas is one of three closed camps in Hungary where asylum seekers are processed.  Over 200 asylum seekers participated in the fight, and approximately 200 police officers were sent to the camp to subdue the uprising.

Police patrol a migrant reception center in Hungary near the Serbian border (Photo Courtesy of ABC News)

Though the exact cause of the fight is not clear, Gyorgy Bakondi, chief advisor to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, believes the fight was triggered when a group of 20 asylum seekers from Algeria, Syria, Pakistan, and Mongolia threw furniture at each other.  Bakondi also stated that other incidents have occurred at the camp within the past week.

Through a report released in mid-July, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced Hungary for “cruel and violent treatment” of migrants in April and May.  The report accused police officers and soldiers manning the camp of beating refugees, then forcing them to return to Serbia.  Other human rights organizations have recently admonished Hungary for breaking its legal obligations to accept war refugees by making it nearly impossible for those seeking asylum to attain refugee status in the country.  The Hungarian government rejected these accusations, stating that the HRW misconstrued the rules of asylum proceedings.

As of July 5, any illegal migrant detained by Hungarian authorities within 8 kilometers of the Hungarian Serbian border can be returned the Serbia without any legal processing in Hungary.  Hundreds of migrants each day enter Hungary through Serbia, who enter Serbia through Macedonia and Bulgaria.  A majority of these migrants are expelled from Hungary and are sent back to Serbia.  Fearing a backup of migrants as a result of this new system, Serbia has deployed army and police teams to better patrol its borders.  Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic emphasizes that Serbia cannot be a “parking ground” for migrants whom no other European country is willing to accept.

For more information, please see:

Global Post — Migrants Injured in Mass Brawl at Hungary Refugee Camp — 18 July 2016

The Irish Times — Migrants Brawl in Hungarian Camp as Border Tensions Grown — 18 July 2016

Reuters — Migrants Fight in Hungarian Camp Near Serbian Border, Nine Injured — 18 July 2016