Posts Tagged ‘asylum seekers’

US cites ‘security crisis’ as illegal border crossings mount — DHS ‘concerned’

May 4, 2018

Illegal crossings on the border with Mexico climbed in April to triple the year-earlier levels, the US Department of Homeland Security said on Friday, warning undocumented immigrants they will be prosecuted.

With the Trump administration concerned that its crackdown on illegal immigration is not working, DHS said 50,924 people were apprehended in April trying to enter the United States illegally from Mexico.

Image result for Tijuana, border wall, photos, may 2018

That was the highest level for April since 2014, an increase of more than 600 people over March, and up from 15,766 people detained a year ago, in a sharp immigration downturn that followed the election of President Donald Trump.

The numbers of unaccompanied children, 4,314, and family units, 9,647, also rose compared with March.

DHS says the level of detentions is a strong indicator of the overall flow of illegal immigration, and a surge in detentions is a sign of a concomitant jump in successful entries by paperless migrants.

The latest numbers “underscore the continuing security crisis along our southwest border,” said DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton.

The increase came as a well-publicized caravan of families and children from violence-plagued central America marched through Mexico during April toward the US border, many saying they would seek asylum.

Media coverage of the US-bound caravan triggered a flurry of furious tweets from Trump, who ordered thousands of National Guard troops to the border and called on Mexico to stop the migrants.

The caravan set out with 1,000 people, but most later dispersed, leaving some to travel on their own.

Mexican officials said on Thursday that 145 had so far entered the United States to seek asylum — a process that can separate parents from their children — while about 150 others remain at a camp in the border city of Tijuana, Mexico.

The US Justice Department said it had arrested and charged 11 members of the caravan for illegally entering the United States.

US authorities are seeking tougher legal powers to prevent and deter illegal immigration.

“To those seeking to abuse our generous laws — we are watching. We will not sit back and watch our laws exploited,” Houlton warned in a statement.

“If you make a false immigration claim, you will be referred for prosecution. If you assist or coach individuals in making false immigration claims, you will be referred for prosecution.”

Trump wants to build a border wall against illegal migrants, and has repeatedly tried to link immigration with crime.


Hungary’s Orban threatens EU budget veto

May 4, 2018

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned Friday that Budapest could veto the European Union’s first post-Brexit multi-year budget plan which proposes linking funds to democratic standards like the rule of law.

© AFP | Prime Minister Viktor Orban, pictured at a news conference last month, warned on Friday that Hungary could veto the EU’s budget that proposes to link funds to democratic standards

The one-trillion-euro-plus ($1.2 trillion) budget proposal covering 2021 to 2027 was unveiled Wednesday by the European Commission after months of difficult consultations with the 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Britain leaves.

“There has to be unanimity, so Hungarians don’t have to be worried,” the fiercely anti-immigration Orban said during a radio interview in Budapest.

“As long as Hungarians don’t give the go-ahead then there will be no budget,” he added.

“I don?t support a European budget that takes from farmers, or research and development, or regional development, and gives it to countries which let in migrants,” said Orban.

Wednesday’s proposal is seen as a way to rein in EU members like Hungary, which Brussels has repeatedly criticised over democratic standards, and Poland which faces unprecedented sanctions over its judicial reforms.

The mechanism would allow the EU to “suspend, reduce or restrict access” to EU funding if “rule of law deficiencies” were found.

In an angry response Thursday Budapest said it would oppose any attempt to impose conditions on the billions in funds it gets from the bloc.

The proposed link meant EU funding could be used to “blackmail” member states using “subjective” criteria, said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.

Orban insisted Friday that Hungary’s judicial system and rule of law standards were given a clean bill of health following an investigation by Brussels in 2013.

The 54-year-old was reelected last month for a third consecutive term as premier with a landslide two-thirds parliamentary majority that gives him legislative free rein for the next four years.

Pledging to build an “old-fashioned” type of “Christian democracy rooted in European tradition”, Orban said tough anti-migration bills would be the first to pass through the new parliament which convenes May 8.

A so-called “Stop Soros” legislative package will be aimed at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) backed by Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros, whom Orban has long accused of facilitating immigration into Europe.

The bills would “bring (Soros’) shadow army into the light,” Orban said.

The package apes similar laws in Russia and would slap taxes on foreign-funded NGOs that “support” illegal immigration.

Under the proposals, foreigners deemed to support asylum seekers could be stopped from entering Hungary, NGO staff face being barred from approaching border areas and organisations will undergo “security tests”.

An amendment to the constitution to prevent migration that was thwarted by the opposition in 2016 will also be re-submitted to parliament.

© 2018 AFP

German police catch fugitive asylum seeker following raid

May 3, 2018

A large-scale raid was carried out at an asylum center in Germany after a failed attempt to deport a Togolese man. Experts say the difficult conditions and limited prospects at such facilities often fuel tension.

Police in Ellwangen (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Puchner)

German police sough to re-establish their authority by force at a home for asylum seekers in the small town of Ellwangen, in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, after a large and extraordinary operation on Thursday morning.

A 23-year-old from Togo — whose deportation to Italy was prevented by a group of between 150 and 200 asylum seekers in the early hours of Monday morning — was recaptured during the operation.

Twenty-seven asylum seekers offered resistance during Thursday’s police action, which involved hundreds of armed officers. Some asylum seekers were injured jumping out of windows.

Police said they had arrested five asylum seekers on suspicion of theft or drug-related offenses, while 17 inhabitants are to be moved to other homes. The operation was still ongoing at noon, with asylum seekers being led away, though the situation was described as “under control.”

“We will not allow any law-free zones to be established,” Bernhard Weber, vice president of the local police force, said at a press conference on Thursday morning. Peter Hönle, the local officer who directed Thursday’s operation, described the situation as “very tense and very overheated.”

Deportations had already been carried out “hundreds of times” before without any violent incident, Weber told German channel N24, keen to underline how unusual the situation was. “It was very simple at first, until the four officers tried to leave, when hundreds of people prevented them.”

Sean McGinley, head of the Baden-Württemberg Refugee Council’s office, told DW that the Ellwangen center had not been considered particularly problematic before Monday’s incident — though he said it was one of about half-a-dozen in the state. “There are some general difficulties with these first reception centers when it comes to these people,” he said. “There are conditions there that are not okay, and that are in some cases legally questionable — but I don’t know to what extent that can explain the events in the last few days. I do know that people who are deported to Italy are often left on the streets, and that it is understandable that people feel like they are in an emergency situation and that they are very scared, and they want to do whatever they can to prevent it.”

“The fact that it is legal to send people away is beyond question, but on a human level you are putting people in an extreme situation,” he added.

Read more: Thousands of deportations fail due to lack of papers

Horst Seehofer CSU (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen)Seehofer’s solution is to be build more asylum centers

‘A slap in the face’

The incident has created an enormous political media conflagration in Germany, where conservative politicians — spooked by the rise of far-right populists — have been lining up to impose even more stringent measures on asylum seekers in Germany.

The country’s newly-sworn-in interior minister, Horst Seehofer, staged his own press conference on Thursday morning to denounce the events in Ellwangen as a “slap in the face for the law-abiding population.”

“The right to hospitality must not be trampled on,” he added.

Seehofer’s solution is to build new “anchor centers” for asylum seekers across Germany — large-scale facilities where entire asylum procedures can be processed under one roof, and where asylum seekers are forced to spend their entire time — not unlike the first-reception center in Ellwangen. The law was changed last year to allow states to keep asylum seekers in the first reception centers for up to two years — which critics say further hinders their chances of being integrated into communities.

Five or six pilot anchor centers are to be prepared for testing across the country in the coming months, Seehofer said, amid criticism from police unions, who argued officers were not trained to operate “police prisons.”

Seehofer is head of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister-party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is facing a bitter battle for votes against the far-right, anti-refugee Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Bavaria’s state election in September.

But other political parties have questioned whether creating even more large-scale centralized shelters for asylum seekers was a wise option, considering the events in Ellwangen. “That creates a dynamic and a potential for violence, and it all goes on the backs of police officers,” commented Green party interior policy spokeswoman Irene Mihalic.

A system programmed to fail

Stephan Dünnwald, of the Bavarian Refugee Council, described the living conditions in large-scale homes in distressing terms. “Imagine you’re stuck there with three or four hundred other people and every other night the police come and pick one of you up, and you don’t know who is going to be next,” he told DW. “That creates enormous tension among the inhabitants.”

Deutschland Protest gegen Abschiebungen in Stuttgart (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Murat)Protests against the EU’s Dublin system have been increasing in Germany

Asylum seekers are often left to live in the homes for months at a time while they wait for their applications to be processed — they are not allowed to look for work in that time, or even to take German classes or do any job training, which leaves them facing some difficult choices. “They sit around and wait to see what happens to them,” said Dünnwald. “For one month you might think of it as a holiday, but if you’ve been sitting there for half-a-year and you can’t do anything — nothing at all — then of course you think about what you’re going to do: Do I stay here? Do I go into hiding? Do I try and find a job illegally? Or do I start doing something criminal?”

Asylum policy in the European Union is regulated through the so-called Dublin system, which stipulates that migrants must be transferred to the member state where they first enter the EU. In practice that often means Greece or Italy, where the Togolese man was due to be deported on Monday.

According to Dünnwald, these countries often don’t maintain the EU’s basic humanitarian standards. “In Italy, most people aren’t looked after — they don’t get shelter, they live on the streets. They don’t get any money, so they have to get by through doing illegal work, or begging, or prostitution,” he said. “So obviously people don’t want to go back there.”

The whole of the EU’s asylum policy, in other words, is based on the principle of trying to “scare people off,” Dünnwald said.

German police raid migrant shelter after clashes — “The rule of law is being trampled on by its ‘guests'”

May 3, 2018

Image may contain: car and outdoor

German Police arrive at the migrants home in Ellwangen, Germany May 3, 2018. REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS) – German police launched a raid on a migrant shelter on Thursday where three days ago 150 asylum seekers clashed with police and prevented the deportation of a 23-year-old man from Togo.

The confrontation, which police described as “extremely aggressive and violent”, has prompted some far-right and conservative politicians to say the arrival of more than 1.6 million migrants since 2014 has led to a collapse of law and order.

Germany is still grappling with the integration of its migrants, many of whom fled war or conflict in the Middle East. Authorities are still wading through a backlog of asylum case decision, migrants’ integration into the labor market is a big challenge and the government is discussing rules for family reunions of migrants.

Police in the southern town of Ellwangen had on Monday night released the man they wanted to deport, identified by media as Yussif O., saying they wanted to avoid an escalation.

During the clashes asylum seekers thumped police cars with their fists and leaving one damaged. The authorities have launched investigations into breach of the peace and other possible offences but have given no further details.

Police also declined to provide further details of Thursday’s early morning raid on the shelter, which it said is home to about 500 people seeking asylum. Most are from countries in Africa including Nigeria, Guinea and Cameroon.

It was not clear whether Yussif O. had been deported.

Senior police official Bernhard Weber said in a statement the rule of law could not be damaged by an outbreak of aggression by a group of people.

“We believe that these people, acting in a highly tense situation, may have drawn into a group dynamic and behaved in a way that they would not have done in a more sober environment.”

Right-wing politicians jumped on the clashes.

“The rule of law is being trampled on by its ‘guests’. This is just the beginning,” said Alice Weidel, co-leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) which scored nearly 13 percent in last year’s election and is the main opposition party.

“If Germany continues to be led round the ring by the nose instead of making law and order count, the existing problems in this country will become intolerable.”

Conservative politician Armin Schuster demanded a tougher line. “There are red lines in our country that are being breached on an almost daily basis by asylum seekers,” Schuster told Focus Online. “Anyone who steps over red lines must have their asylum application ended and be deported.”

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Refugees attack German police over deportation

May 3, 2018

About 150 asylum seekers have confronted police officers in a small German town to prevent the deportation of a Togolese man. Authorities said due to exceptional circumstances, they had no option but to release the man.

Migrant accommodation in Ellwagen (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Puchner)

A refugee, who was due to be deported by authorities in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, has disappeared, after about 150 asylum seekers attacked two police patrol cars that had been ordered to remove him, police admitted on Wednesday.

The incident took place in the town of Ellwangen, between Nuremburg and Stuttgart, early on Monday morning.

Four officers arrived at a migrant reception center in the town to collect the 23-year-old Togolese man, officials said.

The refugee group then started attacking the patrol vehicles, and harassed and punched the officers, before giving them an ultimatum to free the man.

“They were very aggressive and ordered us to leave the man (…) behind,” said one officer who was involved in the fracas.

Read more: Thousands of deportations fail due to lack of papers

Deportee freed

Due to the seriousness of the threat, police at the scene said they ordered a security guard to find the key to unlock the asylum seeker’s handcuffs. He then fled the scene.

Although about 20 officers and officials were eventually involved in the standoff, police said they had no time to call in additional back up from other police forces.

Read more:  Mass deportation of rejected Afghan asylum seekers from Germany imminent: report

The incident was immediately seized upon by the regional leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, Bernd Gögel, who described it as a case of the state being “blackmailable.”

Other politicians demanded those behind the attack be found and punished, including Uli Sckerl, a Green party spokesman in Baden-Württemberg’s state parliament.

“Attacks on police officers are unacceptable,” he said. “In a constitutional state, such conduct must have criminal consequences. It’s clear that frustration is no excuse for crime.”

Read more: German pilots refuse to carry out deportations

Officers praised for composure

The officers’ actions were praised by Bernhard Weber, Vice President of the Aalen Police Headquarters, who told the German news agency DPA that although the attack justified a violent response from police, the officers “kept a cool head.”

Another Police spokesman Bernhard Kohn, told the online edition of Germany’s Focus magazine that officers “face a question of proportionality.”

“Just to carry out a deportation, a violent confrontation with such a large crowd would not have ended well.”

German daily Die Welt cited government figures that revealed how Baden-Württemberg had witnessed the largest increase in refugees convicted of crimes being deported directly from prison last year. Some 488 prisoners from the state were repatriated after serving their sentences.

Will Israel’s Government Self-destruct Over a Bill That Would Cripple the High Court? It’s Up to Netanyahu

April 28, 2018

Where does Netanyahu stand on the explosive legislation that would weaken the bedrock of Israeli democracy? Stay tuned

The upcoming month – which a former director of Military Intelligence has described as the most dangerous May Israel will have faced since May of 1967 – also bears the potential for political-coalition upheavals. 

 In fact, many are wondering which will come first: an escalation of tensions along the borders or an implosion of the government that will generate a general election. Of course, it’s possible that neither will happen and that we will experience containment on all fronts.

On Monday, the Knesset returns from the spring break for three months of work. During that period the coalition will deal with two political land mines: legislation that would allow the Knesset to bypass or “override” High Court of Justice rulings, and the bill that would ease or end the draft for ultra-Orthodox men. Disputes over the latter almost led to the coalition’s dismantlement in the winter session.

But reports from that arena now indicate calm: Both Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) are signaling that they want a peaceful resolution. At least that is the view of a certain senior minister who heads another coalition party and who met with both sides, separately, this week. His impression, which may be partly wishful thinking, is that an agreement is achievable.

According to the minister, discussion will now revolve around the blueprint that a Defense Ministry committee will present quite soon. “The army isn’t wild about drafting Haredim [ultra-Orthodox men],” says the minister. “It can get along just as well without them. A quota will be set on which Litzman and his admor [teacher and rabbi] can agree.”

The other issue is more fraught. Efforts to come to an agreement regarding the relationship between the High Court, the Knesset and the government touch upon the most sensitive nerves of Israeli society. The left sees this as a struggle for the essence of democracy – with the High Court serving as the last barrier between civil rights and the rule of law, on the one hand, and the crude actions of the ruling authorities.

For the right wing, it’s a question of “governance”: The justices throw monkey wrenches into the government, pour sugar into its gas tank, prevent it from implementing policy, and trample the Knesset and make a mockery of its decisions. The justices need to be reined in. Put in their place. Who and what do they think they are?

Meanwhile, the country’s 39,000 asylum seekers, a drop in the bucket for Israel, have become the poster boys for the campaign of revenge the right wing has launched against the High Court. After the fence near the southern border was erected, completely preventing the entry of asylum seekers and labor migrants into Israel, the whole story of the refugees could have been resolved by means of cooperation between the relevant ministries, without abortive attempts to deport these people. For example, by dispersing the refugees across the country, in kibbutzim and moshavim that are desperate for working hands in agriculture.

But when the prime minister decides to appropriate an issue personally, due to the pressures and threats of his electoral base, an (unfunny) comedy of errors and failures and meaningless moves ensues, mixed with feverishly prepared and illusory notions, a pompous presentation of blueprints and panicky reversals. Before you know it, we’re back to square one. And the interior minister, who in any well-run country would be assigned to deal with the issue, is barely involved.

Precisely because of the critical importance Netanyahu attributes to the matter of the refugees, his lethargy and procrastination following the collapse of the “agreement” with the United Nations (according to which about half would have been resettled in Western countries and half allowed to remain in Israel) – less than five hours after it was announced – are incomprehensible. Someone was sent to Uganda to see whether that country would agree to take in a few thousand refugees, but Netanyahu should have come up with an alternative, an entire package. He should have worked around the clock, convened all the relevant ministers and produced a plan. What possessed him to wait for the state’s response to the High Court in order to make a joint announcement with Interior Minister Arye Dery (Shas) about the next steps? After all, the state is him.

Apparently the premier had a few more important things to do during the last few weeks. Such as conniving secretly with his Sancho Panza, Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud), about how to take over the Independence Day-eve torch-lighting ceremony and humiliate Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud).

In the waning weeks of April, the torches were his beacon. Let’s see if May produces more heat than light.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Olivier Fitoussi

They shall overcome

On Sunday morning, Netanyahu and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) will meet with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut in her chambers. The executioners are coming to visit their intended victim. The conversation will be polite and correct: Shaked is chummy, Netanyahu is a gentleman and a charmer. But Hayut will not be thrown off-balance. She knows that the honorable institution she heads has become a plaything in the hands of the politicians. It’s her life’s mission, no less, to block these schemers, whose middle name is cynicism and who espouse only one value: the need to bend the rival into submission.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of Habayit Hayehudi, and Shaked are determined to exploit the issue of the asylum seekers to quash the independence of the Supreme Court, Israel’s most magnificent creation, and something that is tremendously esteemed around the world. Moreover, they discern an opportunity to gloat over the predicament of the prime minister; indeed, his distress is manifest in light of the dead end Israel has reached, due to its failed treatment of the matter of the African asylum seekers.

Bennett and Shaked would never wish for the High Court to be bulldozed into the earth. They’re ultra-polite and cultured. But the legislation they will submit for a vote in another 10 days is a constitutional D9. If they succeed in pulling it off, the High Court (the court of first instance) – which more than any other body symbolizes Israel’s essence as a state based on the rule of law and as a potent democracy – will be suppressed and become a dead letter.

With a wave of the hand, the pushing of a button, 61 MKs in coalitions that typically number around 70 MKs would be able to resuscitate laws that the High Court has struck down, usually because they would infringe on basic human rights. That’s the proposal of Bennett and Shaked.

And what does Netanyahu want? The indefatigable zigzag artist who has occupied the Prime Minister’s Bureau for the past nine years has already advocated every option: from determined defense of the Supreme Court’s independence, to support for the “British model,” which allows Parliament to ignore completely High Court rulings – which he retracted within two days. Now there’s no knowing where he stands. But we’ll soon find out.

If Netanyahu insists on the Bennett-style, sweeping formulation of the legislation, we will infer that he is out to dismantle the coalition and advance the next election to early September, before the attorney general decides whether to indict the premier in the criminal cases now under consideration.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon would not be able to swallow the 61-MK poison pill.

Kahlon holds frequent meetings with former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak. They’ve met 20 times since the leader of the Kulanu party took over at the treasury. Barak, the spearhead of the constitutional revolution, is Kahlon’s rabbi in such matters. Kahlon doesn’t want an election anytime soon, but is less fearful of one than he was several months ago, in light of recent encouraging reports concerning the cost of housing in the country.

Kahlon thinks that Netanyahu is aiming for a compromise. He finds it hard to believe that the prime minister, in his fraught legal situation, wants to make the Supreme Court and the entire judicial system his enemy. The prime minister would not have met with Barak, a week ago, or be going to see Hayut on Sunday, if he wanted to generate a Big Bang. What would be the compromise? It’s too soon to say. Kahlon wants 70 MKs instead of 61, echoing the position of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, and apparently of Barak as well.

Would he agree to compromise on a lower number? Say 68, or 65? At the moment, Kahlon doesn’t show signs of breaking. In any case, definitely not 61. That’s a joke.

Bennett, though, won’t countenance a number greater than 61, and even that is a compromise solution for him – less extreme than the British model, but enough to restore things to their proper course: namely, to allow the Knesset and the coalition to legislate and govern, while the court passes judgment within boundaries that would be demarcated for it. He follows with amusement Netanyahu’s flip-flops, his change of positions, his contradictory messages. “If I were the one who had gone to meet with Barak, the Bibists would kill me,” Bennett said this week, in an internal forum.

Bennett is in a combative mood. The struggle against Netanyahu imbues him with joie de vivre. From his point of view, this is a win-win battle. He will insist on what he wants, just as right-wing voters, including in Likud, expect of him. If the prime minister yields to him, he wins; if the prime minister goes for a compromise with a more diluted law, he wins again. The electorate will know who fought for them and who capitulated, once again, in the face of the High Court. Who was a man and who was a dishrag.

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett at a conference of their Habayit Hayehudi party, 2017.
Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett at a conference of their Habayit Hayehudi party, 2017.David Bachar

Orli’s choice

In 1980, a Japanese video-game designer invented the arcade game Pac-Man, which took the world by storm. A small circle with a gaping mouth that recalls a pizza with a slice taken out of it, moves swiftly through a maze, gobbles up dots and wins bonuses. Orli Levi-Abekasis, the one-woman Knesset faction, is shaping up as the Pac-Woman of the next election campaign – gobbling up everything in her path. There’s hardly a party that evades her reach: from Habayit Hayehudi to Likud, and from the center parties to Zionist Union and Meretz. All are paying the head tax. All are being swept by the tornado of the next election.

As of today, and as long as no new political comet flashes across the skies, Levi-Abekasis is the default vote of Israelis who are fed up with the regular galaxy. She’s attractive to the right and to the left, to the religious and the secular publics alike. The less that’s known about her, other than that she’s totally committed to a “social” agenda, the greater her drawing power seems to be.

A television poll this week gave her a projected eight seats in a future Knesset election. She’s been tracked by the pollsters for two months, and the trend is clear. She started with four seats and where she’ll stop nobody knows.

Three weeks ago, Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay received the results of an in-depth survey he commissioned about possible election results; the number of respondents exceeded 1,000, twice the usual number in such polls. There, too, Levi-Abekasis was predicted to muster eight seats. So the number is solid. We can take it that Netanyahu, too, has seen the same trend in the polls he commissions. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all the party leaders are following Levi-Abekasis’ rise with interest and concern, not to say fear and trembling.

In Gabbay’s survey, Levi-Abekasis’ as-yet unnamed party would take almost two seats away from Zionist Union, 1.5 seats from Yesh Atid and three-quarters of a seat from Meretz. She reduces Likud by 1.5 seats, Habayit Hayehudi by half a seat, Kulanu by more than one seat, and takes a little away from Shas and a smidgeon from Yisrael Beiteinu, the party of her former patron, Avigdor Lieberman.

In other words, she draws half her strength from the three left-center parties: They are the worst hit. The other half derives from right-wing/right-center parties. Gabbay’s conclusion from this is that the prospect of his camp forming a coalition after the election has gone up in smoke. Four (virtual) seats have been ripped away from the bloc that was supposed to – with great effort and in difficult conditions – thwart the formation of a fifth Netanyahu government.

Gabbay is convinced that Levi-Abekasis will opt for the right wing. He has no doubt of that, because she’s from a right-wing home and because three years ago she was part of a right-wing party. She did speak firmly this week against Bennett’s legislation intended to override the High Court, and has in the past expressed clearly left-wing views, in an interview with Yedioth Aharonot. But Gabbay attributes that to her understanding that she needs to adopt a moderate posture so as not to alienate her most solid base of support. “She’s very smart,” he says.

Gabbay is frustrated to the depths of his being. These leftists never learn. It’s the same thing every time. Something new appears, something nice, innocuous – once it was the pensioners, now it’s Orli – and Labor voters abandon their home and flock in huge numbers to join the new trend. But at the moment of truth, the Labor leader is certain, when the parties recommend to the president the candidate who should be tapped to form the next government, she will say: Netanyahu. In this way, voters from the left will help him land a fifth term.

However, there are some who say that Netanyahu doesn’t see it that way: A high-ranking political source reported this week that the prime minister’s working assumption is that Levi-Abekasis will not recommend him to the president. If her party holds the balance of power – and in the polls she’s in that dream position – her preference will be to crown the candidate of the other camp, goes the thinking. And at the moment that is Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.

Orli is the daughter of David Levy – a veteran politico, a 2018 Israel Prize laureate, who could never abide Netanyahu. Since 1988, they have been bitter foes. Time and again Levy was disappointed by “antibibiotics,” as he referred to him in the good days. Time after time Levy was trampled by him, humiliated, pushed aside.

The last disappointment came three years ago, in the race for president. Levy hoped that Netanyahu would lead Likud to choose him as the its candidate. In that scenario he would have considered running. But Netanyahu looked for others; he went all the way to New York to see Elie Wiesel about the matter, anyone but “our David.”

Netanyahu is a highly suspicious person and even more of a paranoid. He always takes into account the worst possible scenario and prepares for it to the best of his ability. True, he can’t be sure that Levi-Abekasis is in his pocket. He knows that for three decades he’s been cursed around the Sabbath-eve table at the Levy home in Beit She’an. But there’s nothing much he can do about it, other than to hold off calling for an early election and let the new star twinkling in the political skies fade. A year from now, the Orli Levi-Abekasis brand will look different. Look what happened to Moshe Ya’alon.

Yinon Magal.
Yinon Magal. Ofer Vaknin

Magal redux?

Don’t hold your breath, but it’s possible that in the next election, whenever it’s held, we’ll once again see the former short-lived MK Yinon Magal as a candidate on the Habayit Hayehudi slate.

Actually, in the 2015 election, his place on the slate was guaranteed by Bennett. This time he’ll have to fight for it. A senior party figure predicted this week that Magal would have no trouble winning a spot in the top third of the candidates’ list in a primary. “The right wing adores him,” the source said. “He expresses its voice well, in his tweets and broadcasts. He left political life in an honorable way, once allegations of sexual harassment were raised about him. The case was closed for lack of guilt. No one disputes that he paid his debt, the full price.”

Bennett and Magal met a few days ago. They have remained friends, even though Bennett had condemned Magal’s behavior, which had been exposed by a former female employee of his. He told the former MK that he reserves the right to ask him to return.

Magal says he doesn’t rule out the possibility. The price, however, as he’s discovered first-hand, could be high. In any event, it’s not relevant now.

I asked Bennett what he thinks and he replies quickly: “Yinon and I are good friends. I would be happy, and more than happy, to have him at my side in the next election, and I told him so. But in the end it’s a decision he has to make.”

If that’s not an invitation, what is?

Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban warns of immigration threat at National Day rally — “The situation is that those who don’t block migration at their borders will be lost. They will slowly but surely be digested … [they] will live to see when they become a minority in their own country and lose the only place in the world to call home.”

March 18, 2018

Speaking to tens of thousands of his supporters, Prime Minister Viktor Orban used emotive language as he focused on immigration. He has been branded as a racist, xenophobe and bully by the UN’s human rights chief.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban

The rally in front of the Hungarian parliament building during a national holiday on Thursday was a large one: Up to 100,000 Orban supporters came to hear the prime minister make a 25-minute speech on what has become the main theme of the elections: immigration.

“They want us to voluntarily give [our country] to others, to foreigners from other continents who don’t speak our language, don’t respect our culture, laws or lifestyle,” Orban told the crowd. “They want to exchange ours for their own. There is no exaggeration in this.”

The elections are to be held in three weeks time, on April 8, and Orban has a significant lead in the opinion polls. His policies to block immigration have been the main focus of his campaign to gain the premiership for a third time.

Banners with the words “Homeland before all” and “God protect Hungary and Poland from left-wing ideology!” were prominent in the rally.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke at the rally which also marked the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against AustriaPrime Minister Viktor Orban spoke at the rally which also marked the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against Austria

“The situation is that those who don’t block migration at their borders will be lost. They will slowly but surely be digested,” Orban told the crowd. “The youth of Western Europe will still live to see when they become a minority in their own country and lose the only place in the world to call home.”

Buses brought in supporters from towns across Hungary and several thousand Poles traveled to the Hungarian capital to support the rally.

“Large western European countries bit by bit are losing their own countries, they want to force us to do the same,” he told the crowd. “Africa wants to kick down our door, and Brussels is not defending us.”

Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein described Orban as a racist, xenophobe and bully whose “racial rhetoric is increasingly delusional.”

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. UN Photo by Rick Bajornas

Warning for the opposition

Orban also had a warning for the opposition, who he claimed were working with foreign powers to remove the fences his administration had built on the southern border three years ago to prevent migrants coming into Hungary.

“We will take moral, legal and political revenge after the elections,” he said, in what some opposition politicians have interpreted as a threat. He also criticized the Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, placing him among Hungary’s historical enemies: The Ottoman Empire, the Habsburgs and the Soviet Union.

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The rally was held on the 170th anniversary of the outbreak of the revolution against the rule of the Austrian Habsburgs in March 1848. A year later, combined Russian and Austrian forces defeated the Hungarians.

There were small counter-demonstrations held in Budapest on Thursday, but the opposition remains fragmented.

In February, Orban’s ruling Fidesz party lost a by-election, giving impetus to the idea that the election could be closer than the opinion polls suggest.

jm/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

Germany’s Seehofer says EU ‘patronizing’ eastern members on migrants — EU is unable to protect its external borders — Said European Commission’s “moralizing” tone toward eastern European states is wrong

March 18, 2018
March 18, 2018, at 12:02 a.m.

Germany’s Seehofer Says EU ‘Patronizing’ Eastern Members on Migrants

BERLIN (REUTERS) – German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has accused the European Union of adopting a patronizing stance in talks with eastern European members about the distribution of migrants.

Seehofer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CSU Bavarian allies, made the comments in an interview with German Sunday newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, days after sparking a public outcry by saying Islam did not belong to Germany.

Image result for Die Welt am Sonntag, seehofer, photos

The former Bavarian premier is keen to show his party is tough on migration abuses ahead of October state elections in Bavaria, to win back voters who defected in large numbers to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Sept. 24 national election. The AfD has also been critical of the EU.

Seehofer called for continued German border controls as long as the EU is unable to protect its external borders, and criticized the European Commission for what he called a “moralizing” tone toward eastern European states who have refused to take in asylum seekers under an EU-wide quota system.

Such an attitude was “counter-productive,” Seehofer said, adding, “Every country has its pride.”

The conservative politician, whose party has long been to the right of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, urged the EU to stop making decisions “over the heads” of member states.

“The EU commission is often patronizing,” he told the newspaper. “We need to put more energy into dialogue on the distribution of refugees. If we keep negotiating patiently, a majority of countries will support (it).”

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel

New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told Bild newspaper “Islam doesn’t belong to Germany,” but added that “the Muslims who live with us are, of course, part of Germany.

Other countries could contribute in other ways, perhaps by sending more personnel to the EU borders, or by contributing more for joint border patrols, he said.

Seehofer’s remarks could exacerbate tensions in the uneasy new “grand coalition” between Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats.

Merkel firmly rebuffed Seehofer last week, saying that Germany’s 4 million Muslims belonged to the country, as did their religion. Leading SPD members also criticized his remarks on Islam.

Johannes Kahrs, a member of parliament and spokesman for the conservative wing of the SPD, accused Seehofer of using his new ministerial post to campaign for the CSU in Bavaria.

“Building bridges and not digging trenches is the responsibility of all decent Germans,” he told the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Germany’s future interior minister Horst Seehofer vows to increase deportations — Announces “master plan” — “The new broom sweeps clean”

March 11, 2018

The incoming interior minister has said he has a “master plan for faster asylum procedures, and more consistent deportations.” He also said there was a need for a strong state to protect Germany’s liberal values.

CSU chief Horst Seehofer talking to reporters

Horst Seehofer, Germany’s designated interior minister, said he plans to put in place a “master plan” to speed up asylum procedures and ensure consistent deportations in comments published on Sunday.

“The number of deportations must be increased significantly. We need to take tougher action, especially in the case of criminals and perpetrators among asylum seekers,” Seehofer told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Seehofer, who has been critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, said decisions on asylum applications must be made in a few months rather than in a year or more.

Read moreOpinion: An ‘upper limit’ on refugees — by any other name

‘Strong state’

The head of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) vowed to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward criminals.

“We want to remain an open-minded and liberal country. But when it comes to protecting our citizens, we need a strong state. I’ll make sure of that,” Seehofer said.

The future interior minister called for effective video surveillance at every hot spot in the country.

“There has to be a consensus throughout Germany that we will no longer tolerate lawless zones,” he said.

Seehofer will take over the newly renamed and enhanced Interior, Construction and Homeland (“Heimat”) Ministry in the upcoming coalition government.

Read moreA deeper look at Germany’s new Interior and Heimat Ministry

ap/aw (Reuters, dpa)

German free-meals charity bars new migrant clients — No room at the inn

February 22, 2018


© dpa/AFP/File | Refugees, mainly rejected asylum seekers, hold a banner reading ‘Justice we need’ as they face police officers at a train station in southern Germany

BERLIN (AFP) – A German food bank said Thursday it would temporarily stop accepting new non-German clients, citing a huge influx of migrants that was displacing locals in need.”We want the German granny to be able to keep coming to us,” said Joerg Sartor, chairman of the charitable group that serves free meals to the poor in the western city of Essen.

He said especially German elderly people and single mothers had been gradually displaced over the past two years as the share of migrants had risen to three-quarters of recipients.

More than 1.2 million asylum seekers have come to Europe’s biggest economy since 2015, more than half from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, in mass influx that sparked a xenophobic backlash.

The website of the “Essener Tafel” charity said it had taken the step in order to avoid frictions between needy locals and foreigners that could harm acceptance of the newcomers.

“Since the number of foreign citizens among our clients has risen to 75 percent in recent years … we are forced to only accept customers with German identity cards in order to facilitate proper integration,” it said.

The charity announced the change in December and implemented it in mid-January, but it was only widely reported on Thursday, initially by the newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ).

The group, like hundreds of similar charities nationwide, collects surplus food that would otherwise be discarded by supermarkets and other businesses to prepare and serve it to the poor.

Typically, people have to register to qualify for regular free meals by proving that they are recipients of unemployment or other social benefits.

Sartor told the WAZ daily that his charity would maintain the additional demand that new clients show German identity papers to register “until the balance is restored”.