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

Far-right not far behind in 2017 German election results

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe

A far-right campaign sign urging Germans to stop “Islamification” of Germany. Image courtesy of Getty Images. 

BERLIN, Germany – German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term after the general election on September 24th.

The results come during a shift in European politics. Many frustrations have risen over the migrant crisis, including Germany’s high intake of refugees coming from the middle east.

Despite this, Chancellor Merkel’s conservative party won a slim majority in Germany’s coalition government. The Social Democrats, whom the conservatives work closely with, came in second with 33%.

But 13% of the vote went to the far-right party Alternative for Deutschland, raising concerns for many about potential opposition.

Indeed, Alternative for Deutschland (“AfD”) has already begun to express this sentiment.

The head of the AfD party, Alexander Gauland, has already told supporters that the government should “dress warmly” in preparation.

The vote makes AfD the third largest party in the coalition government.

This is the first time in over 60 years that a far-right nationalist party has had any control in the German government.

AfD raises many concerns within Germany. The party is vehemently anti-immigration, including the taking in of refugees, and has expressed anti-Muslim sentiment in many of its platforms.

Leaders of the party have suggested that Germany stop “apologizing” for its past Nazi ideology, stating, “If the French are rightly proud of their Emperor…We have the right to be proud of the German soldiers in two world wars.”

The AfD favors closure of German borders, citing fears over “Islamification” of the west.

Part of the policy platform includes banning the Burka, a common clothing item for Muslim women, and cutting off any foreign funding for mosques in Germany.

Its election “manifesto” contains a section explaining why the party believes that “Islam does not belong in Germany.”

“It is worrying,” said Michael Fuchs, a member of the Christian Democrat Bundestag*. “[For the first time since World War II] there will be a political party within the walls of the Reichstag building which does not distance itself from the Nazi past and which tolerates members who publicly express themselves in racist and xenophobic language.”

Political scientists in Germany cite disillusionment and frustration with establishment as two possible reasons for why AfD received such a large percentage of the vote.

“Many voters have felt that the two parties have not addressed the issue of immigration and German cultural identity,” Gideon Botsch, a political scientist from the University of Potsdam said.

“And that has led them to consider voting for the AfD.”

This election leads to a complicated situation for Chancellor Merkel. It remains to be seen whether the AfD will have any impact on the refugee population of Germany in the future.

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Angela Merkel Is Headed for German Election Victory as Far Right Enters Parliament – 24 September 2017

The Guardian – German elections 2017: Angela Merkel makes gains, exit poll says – live updates – 24 September 2017

CNN – German election: Angela Merkel set for fourth term as far-right surges – 24 September 2017

The Independent – German elections: Far-right wins MPs for first time in half a century – 24 September 2017

ABC News – Merkel wins fourth term as German far-right party makes gains – 24 September 2017

NPR – Far-Right German Party Could Lead Opposition After Sunday’s Election – 22 September 2017

Al-Jazeera – Who are Germany’s far-right AfD? – 21 September 2017

BBC News – What does Alternative for Germany (AfD) want? – 18 September 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

Battle over EU migrant crisis continues in Court of Justice

By: Sara Adams
Impunity Watch News Reporter, Europe 

Migrants enter Austria and Hungary in 2015. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg – The European Court of Justice held against Asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan in a case on June 26.

The asylum seekers arrived in Croatia during the migrant crisis of 2015-2016. The families were then transported to Austria and Slovenia without proper visas. Many migrants seek to move north upon entry in places like Greece and Turkey. Countries in the north often have more resources to give refugees a better life.

Austria sought to deport the refugees back to Croatia under the Dublin rule.

Under the rule, individuals coming into Europe must seek asylum in the first country of entry. In this case, that country is Croatia.

While an exception to the rule does exist, the court held that it was not applicable in this case. Asylum seekers are only permitted to be transferred to another country under “exceptional circumstances.”

Despite the influx of migrants coming in to southern European countries, the court ruled that this did not constitute an “exceptional circumstance”.

Countries can also allow entry of an asylum seeker on humanitarian grounds. However, the court reasoned that the exception is not “tantamount to the issuing of a visa, even if [the admission] can be explained by exceptional circumstances characterized by a mass influx of displaced people into the EU”.

The asylum seekers will be deported to Croatia, where they can seek asylum there.

Austria is one of several northern European countries that has declined to take on refugees, despite the European Union’s quotas. The quotas were designed to offset the influx into poorer countries like Italy and Greece.

Hungary and Slovakia have also been against taking in refugees. The Court of Justice released an additional decision on July 26 that dismissed the two country’s claim against the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers.

The two nations sought to have the EU plan for relocation annulled. The arguments were rejected by the Advocate General of the court, Yves Bot.

“The contested decision automatically helps to relieve the considerable pressure on the asylum systems of Italy and Greece following the migration crisis of 2015,” he said. “[It is] thus appropriate for attaining the objective which it pursues.”

The relocation of migrants in the EU reached a “record level” in June, according to the European Commission. The EU continues to push forward against the countries that have failed to meet their obligations for accepting migrants.

The EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos is calling on EU member states to “step up efforts” to re-locate migrants from Italy.

“Relocation works if the political will is there,” he says, adding, “Italy still needs our support.”

For more information, please see: 

CNN – Court: Responsibility remains with state of entry – 26 July 2017

CNN – Lawyer urges dismissal of Hungary, Slovakia case – 26 July 2017

Reuters – Top EU court adviser deals blow to easterner’s refugee battle – 26 July 2017

The Guardian – EU court backs migrant deportations by Austria, Slovenia – 26 July 2017

Politico – Top court clears Austria, Slovenia of turning back asylum seekers – 26 July 2017

Washington Post – The Latest: EU migrant relocation reached record in June – 26 July 2017

BBC News – EU migrant crisis: Austria can deport Asylum seekers, court says – 26 July 2017

Cameroon Forcing Refugees to Return to Nigeria

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

YAOUNDE, Cameroon– Word is spreading that Cameroon is returning refugees to Nigeria despite the fact the country is still facing conflict with Boko Haram.  UNHCR and other international organizations that work to protect refugees are deeply concerned by Cameroon’s actions.  According to reports 2600 refugees have been forcefully returned to Nigeria from Cameroon.

Refugees at a camp in Cameroon. (Photo Courtesy of UNHCR)

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch detailed a specific situation where Cameroon soliders forced refugees out of the country.  “UNHCR teams have heard and documented accounts about Cameroonian troops returning refugees against their will – without allowing them time to collect their belongings. In one incident on March 4, some 26 men, and 27 women and children, were sent back from the Cameroonian border town of Amtide, in Kolofata district, where they had sought refuge, according to UNHCR monitoring teams in the border regions.”  UNHCR has acknowledged Cameroon’s generosity in accepting 85,000 refugees but is calling upon Cameroon to be responsible for its obligations under international law.

Boko Haram has killed 15,000 and displaced 2 million in Nigeria.  While a regional coalition has been able to push back Boko Haram they have been successful in being more active in the the Lake Chad area.  Boko Haram is also not only an issue for Nigeria, but Cameroon.  200,000 Cameroonian’s have left their homes because they fear Boko Haram’s violence may spread.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – Boko Haram crisis: Cameroon ‘forcing Nigeria refugees home’ – 21 March 2017

news 24 – Cameroon expelled 2 600 Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram: UN – 21 March 2017

Thomson Reuters Foundation – Cameroon forcing thousands of refugees to return to Boko Haram-hit Nigeria – UN – 21 March 2017

UNHCR – UNHCR concerned about return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon – 21 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

 

Report Shows 10 Hate Crimes Per Day on Refugees in Germany in 2016

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

BERLIN, Germany — According to a report conducted by the German Interior Ministry, over 2,500 migrants in Germany were attacked in 2016 as the result of hate crimes.  560 migrants were injured, including 43 children.  Nearly 1,000 of the attacks were on migrant housing, and 217 of the attacks were on refugee organizations and volunteers.  An average of 10 attacks per day occured.

Police in Heidenau secure a refugee center from attacks from far-right extremists opposed to asylum accommodation (Photo Courtesy of The Independent)

In February 2016, a neo-Nazi was sentenced to eight years in jail for burning down a sports hall which housed refugees and caused $3.7 million worth of damage.  In another instance, a group of onlookers cheered as an asylum shelter in eastern Germany was engulfed in flames.

German authorities have recently tightened their refugee procedures, practicing stricter benefit rules, speeding up the process of removing failed asylum seekers, and paying refugees to voluntarily return to their home countries.  Though the country is still struggling with a backlog of asylum applications, Germany’s intake of refugees fell in 2016 to 280,000 from 890,000 in 2015.

The German government issued a statement strongly condemning the violence on refugees, commenting that “people who have fled their home country and seek protection in Germany have the right to expect safe shelter.”

A left-wing politician with the Die Linke party, Ulla Jelpke, blames the violence on far-right extremism, and called upon the government to take stronger action to eliminate the violence.  Jelpke asked whether “people have to die before the right-wing violence is considered a central domestic security problem and makes it to the top of the national policy agenda” and called on the government to “stop giving the impression through new tougher asylum laws that refugees are a threat.”

International human rights group Amnesty International commented that “there are structural problems in Germany with how it prevents and deals with hate crimes.”  Amnesty called for “better risk assessments, more protection at certain locations and prosecutions of these appalling racist crimes.”

2016 was the first year in which data was collected on the amount of attacks on refugees, so the total number of attacks cannot be compared with those of previous years.

 

For more information, please see:

Aljazeera — ’10 Attacks a Day’ Against Refugees, Shelters in 2016 — 26 February 2017

BBC — Germany Hate Crime: Nearly 10 Attacks a Day on Migrants in 2016 — 26 February 2017

The Independent — Nearly 10 Attacks on Refugees a Day in Germany in 2016 — 26 February 2017

International Business Times — Germany sees Hate Crimes Against Migrants Surge in 2016 to 3,500 — 26 February 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

U.N. Officials Fear South Sudan is on the Brink of Genocide

By Samantha Netzband 

Impunity Watch, Africa Desk Reporter 

JUBA, South Sudan– Officials at the United Nations are growing concerned that the situation in South Sudan could possibly turn into a genocide.  This conclusion comes as the newest country in the world has experienced increased violence since its creation.  Two years of violence has left about 50,000 people dead.

A refugee sits waiting at a reception centre in a Uganda settlement

A refugee sits in a camp in Uganda, displaced from the conflict in South Sudan. (Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa)

Since South Sudan was created the country has seen widespread violence.  Although violence has been present for two years things have picked up since July when aid workers were killed in the capital in Juba and violence increased in the capital city.  The conflict in South Sudan is the result of a rift between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar and other oppositition groups.

For more information, please see: 

BBC Africa – South Sudan refugee crisis: The wooden bridge between death and safety – 16 December 2016

Newsy – How Genocide In South Sudan Could Be Prevented – 21 December 2016

NPR – U.N. Worries South Sudan Is On the Brink of Genocide – 21 December 2016

Radio Tamazuj – Ban Ki-moon warns of imminent genocide in South Sudan – 21 December 2016

 

Demolition of Calais Migrant Camp Begins

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France — On Tuesday, a group of workers in orange jumpsuits and hardhats began demolishing the migrant camp in Calais, France known as “the jungle” by tearing down shelters used by the migrants with sledgehammers.  The workers also disposed of migrants’ possessions by throwing them into dumpsters.

Workers demolish makeshift shelters in the Calais migrant camp (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)
Workers demolish makeshift shelters in the Calais migrant camp (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

Tuesday was the final day that residents were officially allowed to reside in the camp.  On Monday, over 3,100 migrants were bussed out of the camp and sent to other regions around France to begin the process for resettlement.

Some migrants appear determined to stay in the camp for as long as possible.  On Monday evening, a group of migrants threw stones at police officers, who responded by firing tear gas back at them.  Two migrants from Afghanistan told reporters that they refuse to leave the camp because doing so would mean giving up on their dreams to make it to Britain.

Other migrants are ready to leave the camp in hopes of finding better living conditions elsewhere.  One Sudanese migrant, Hassan Jibril, explained how “it is a very bad situation here” and that he and his companions are “ready to leave.”  Another Sudanese migrant, Abdullah Umar, explained that “[t]he Jungle is no good” and “[t]here are problems. Sometimes there’s fighting. And it’s cold.”

It is unclear how French authorities will enforce removal from the camp.  Prior to the destruction process, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said that migrants would not be forced to leave the town of Calais.  Brandet maintained that the evacuation process was to be “done on a voluntary basis and no coercive measures will be taken towards the migrants.”

Children are the only group allowed to remain in Calais throughout the demolition process.  They will be housed in converted shipping containers while the deconstruction process continues throughout the rest of the camp.  Save the Children, a non-governmental organization working with the children in the camp, fears “many children may disappear” or end up in the hands of traffickers if the camp is cleared completely before the children are secured safe places to stay.

The French government’s goal is to remove all migrants from the camp by the end of the week, and clear the camp site completely by the end of December.

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Calais ‘Jungle’: Demolition Crews Pull Down Migrant Camp — 24 October 2016

CNN — Calais ‘Jungle’: Demolition of Massive Migrant Camp Begins — 24 October 2016

The Guardian — Calais Camp: Demolition Crews Move In — 24 October 2016

NY Times — ‘We Are Ready to Leave’: France Clears Out Calais ‘Jungle’ — 24 October 2016

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    

Migrants Aid in Rescue Efforts in Wake of Italian Earthquake

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

ROME, Italy — In the wake of Wednesday’s earthquake in Italy, thousands of migrant refugees currently hoping to gain asylum in Italy flocked to the sites most affected by the quake to aid in rescue efforts.  These refugees hail from multiple countries, including Senegal, Niger, and Burkina Fasso, and arrived in Italy via boats run by human traffickers.   In Calabria, a group of over 70 refugee asylum seekers pooled their daily allowance money of two euros ($2.30) to donate to earthquake survivors.

A volunteer prepares food after the earthquake in Amatrice, Italy (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)

In the Italian town Arquata del Tronto, one West African migrant named Abdullai told reporters that while he was scared of the earthquake at first, he soon realized that the survivors of the quake needed his help as much as possible.  Abdullai and 16 other migrant workers spent a day weeding, cleaning, and preparing an area to be used as an emergency operations center.  Another group of 20 Muslim migrants used gardening tools to prepare the grounds for tents to be set up, and cleared a field for a helicopter landing space.  While taking a break from their physical labor, the migrants all knelt and prayed together.

According to Letizia Bellabarba, a coordinator of a charity that hosts asylum seekers, the refugees came up with the idea to aid in rescue efforts themselves.  Bellabarba says that the refugees “said that Italy welcomed and helped them, and it was now their turn to help Italians.”  Approximately 50 asylum seekers associated with the charity came forward to help, were split up into groups of 15-20 per day, and were given assignments through Italy’s Civil Protection Department.

The outreach and assistance of these asylum seekers does not quash the anti-immigration movement in Europe, however.  Amidst the tragedy surrounding the earthquake, a priest in Boissano, Father Cesare Donati, expressed his anti-immigration stance through a Facebook post saying “it is now time to put the victims into housing and send the migrants to the tents…”  A lumberjack who was left homeless by the earthquake said that while he is grateful for the help of the migrants, he is worried they are using up resources that should be going to the victims of the quake instead.

For more information, please see:

The Huffington Post — The Refugees Who Helped Survivors of Italy’s Earthquake Know What it Means to Suffer — 28 August 2016

NPR — Migrants Help in Relief Effort After Deadly Earthquake in Italy — 28 August 2016

The Huffington Post — Refugees in Italy Donate Money and Help Clean up After Earthquake — 26 August 2016

Reuters — African Migrants go to Italian Quake Zone to Help Survivors — 26 August 2016

German Music Festival Targeted by Suicide Bomber

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany —  A 27-year old Syrian detonated an explosive backpack near the entrance to a music festival in the German town Ansbach on July 25, killing himself and injuring 15 people with injuries ranging from serious to non-life threatening.  Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann stated that the backpack explosive device contained nails and screws, a measure indicative of an attempt to inflict widespread damage onto others. The bomber was rejected entry to the festival because he did not have a ticket to the event, and was seen lingering around the outside seating area of a wine restaurant around 10pm right before the bomb was detonated.

Police inspect the area near the wine bar in Ansbach where the bomb was detonated (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

The suicide bomber left behind a video on his cell phone pledging his allegiance to ISIS, and stated that the attack was revenge against Germans because they “obstruct Islam”.  Upon searching the bomber’s room after the attack, police also found bomb-making materials, as well as computer images and film clips linked to ISIS.  The bomber arrived in Germany in 2014 and applied for asylum, however found out two weeks ago that his application as denied, and he would have been deported to Bulgaria within 30 days of the denial.  Within the past two years, he had been in trouble with local authorities for drug-related offenses, and was under psychiatric observation following two previous suicide attempts.

This attack occurs in the midst of widespread criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lenient immigration policy.  This past week alone, Germany has been the target of several violent attacks linked to ISIS, including a shooting rampage at a shopping mall in Munich and an ax attack on a train in Wurzburg.

Despite its loose immigration policy, Germany has been taking steps over the past couple of months to tighten security regarding asylum seekers in hopes of limiting the number of refugees who enter the country.  A newly proposed law would help speed up the application process for refugees, quickening the deportation process for those who are denied asylum.  Berlin has been in the process of negotiating a deal with Turkey to take back their citizens who are denied asylum in Germany.  These efforts seem to be successful, as the number of refugees arriving in Germany has fallen dramatically over the past year.

 

For more information, please see:

CNN — Ansbach Bomber in Germany Pledged Allegiance to ISIS Leader — 26 July 2016

DW — As Attacks Rattle Germany, Chancellor Merkel Finds Herself in the Spotlight — 25 July 2016

NBC — 12 Injured, Bomber Killed Outside German Music Festival — 25 July 2016

New York Times — Suicide Bomber in Ansbach, Germany, Pledged Loyalty to ISIS, Officials Say — 25 July 2016

Reuters — Bavarian Bomber Pledged Allegiance to Islamic State: Minister — 25 July 2016

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