Posts Tagged ‘asylum seekers’

Wrong to have total free flow of people — Singapore, India Forum — “You become a society where people don’t feel it’s their own society”

July 23, 2017

It’s not just wrong politics but also wrong economics, DPM says at a forum in New Delhi

Singapore has been one of the strongest advocates when it comes to the free flow of goods and services, but there must be limits to the movement of people.

Otherwise there will be less push for businesses to be more productive, and “more fundamentally, you become a society where people don’t feel it’s their own society”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday at an economics forum in India.

“This is a reality not just because of (President Donald) Trump in the US or Brexit in UK. It is a reality all over the world,” he said when asked a question about tighter restrictions on Indian professionals moving to Singapore.

Noting that a third of Singapore’s workforce is already made up of foreigners, he added: “It would be mindless to have an open border without any policy framework to govern and constrain the flow of people into your job market. It will not just be wrong politics but wrong economics.”

Mr Tharman, who is in India on a three-day visit ending today, was speaking at the Delhi Economics Conclave held by the Indian Finance Ministry.

Earlier this year, India had expressed concern that curbs on the movement of Indian professionals to Singapore violate the terms of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) signed by the two countries in 2005. A review of the agreement to update the terms has been under negotiation for more than six years as India seeks more access for its professionals and banks.

India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies said earlier this year that the movement of Indian software professionals to Singapore has been “reduced to an insignificant trickle” and that it was becoming tough for Indian software firms to operate in the Republic. Its president, Mr R. Chandrashekhar, estimated that there are fewer than 10,000 Indian software workers in Singapore.

The topic of the Ceca review came up yesterday when Mr Tharman called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who “expressed support for the expeditious conclusion of the Second Ceca Review”, said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office in Singapore last night.

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H. E. Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The two leaders discussed the India-Singapore Strategic Partnership, agreeing that cooperation between the two countries should be deepened in future. A small team of officials from Singapore and India will be formed to explore new areas of cooperation in digital finance, while there is also scope to strengthen air connectivity between the two countries.

Mr Tharman expressed confidence in India’s future despite the complex challenges it faces, including the shift from a labour-intensive economy to one which embraces technology.

The two countries have worked together to set up two vocational skills training centres in India and both Mr Modi and Mr Tharman were hopeful that these could be examples of how skills training in India can be linked closely to jobs.

On Friday, Mr Tharman met India’s Minister of Finance, Defence and Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley.

They discussed ways to strengthen relations in banking and finance, and encourage Singapore investments in India.

Singapore is India’s top investor for the financial year from May 2015 to end April 2016, investing US$13.7 billion (S$18.7 billion).

Women assaulted, bottles hurled at chaotic German town festival — sexual harassment and alcohol-fuelled weekend disturbances

July 17, 2017


© DPA/AFP | Matthias Klopfer (L), mayor of the southwestern German village of Schorndorf, and Aalen police president Roland Eisele give a press conference on July 17, 2017 in the city hall in Schorndorf to comment on disturbances at a local festival

BERLIN (AFP) – German police said Monday several assaults and cases of sexual harassment were reported in alcohol-fuelled weekend disturbances that saw youths rampage through a small town and hurl bottles at police.

No arrests had been made over the alleged harassment, but police were treating as a suspect a 20-year-old Iraqi man and, in a separate case in which a 17-year-old girl was groped, three Afghan asylum seekers aged 18-20.

Police chief Roland Eisele urged other women to come forward if they were abused on Friday or Saturday night during the chaotic scenes that started at a local festival in the southwestern town of Schorndorf, Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

Eisele said “the aggression and escalation of violence” were unprecedented and unexpected in the town of about 40,000 people, located near Stuttgart, and that the local police force had to request backup from other cities.

Police said in a statement that many youths “with migrant backgrounds” were seen in the crowd, but Eisele said that it was impossible to estimate a percentage.

Officers in riot gear moved into a crowd of about 1,000 Saturday night in the town centre to detain a suspect on charges of dangerous physical assault but came under attack as others hurled bottles at them.

Witnesses had reported small groups of youths, some armed with knives or replica handguns that can fire flares and teargas, roving through the medieval town centre, police said.

Several police cars were sprayed with graffiti or otherwise vandalised in the small town also dubbed “Daimler city” because automotive inventor Gottlieb Daimler was born there in 1834.

In a press conference Monday, Eisele evoked the chaos of Cologne’s infamous 2015 New Year’s Eve celebrations when men of North African and Middle Eastern appearance groped and assaulted hundreds of women, sparking widespread public outrage.

He stressed that the rowdy scenes in Schorndorf were less intense than those in Cologne or the riots in the northern port-city of Hamburg before and during the July 7-8 Group of 20 summit, when far-left and anarchist militants burnt street barricades and threw rocks from rooftops.

Quiet Italy hamlets struggle with migrant ‘human warehouses’

July 15, 2017


© AFP / by Ella Ide and Kelly Velasquez | Some locals in the Italian village of Conetta are not happy about the hundreds of migrants housed in a nearby camp, but the local mayor deplores the conditions in which they are held

CONETTA (ITALY) (AFP) – They used to be sleepy hamlets on Italy’s sun-baked Padan Plain. But two years with hundreds of asylum seekers packed into overcrowded centres dubbed “human warehouse” are taking their toll — on both migrants and villagers.

Inside vast white tents erected in a former military zone on the outskirts of the tiny village of Conetta, some 1,400 men from across Africa while away their days, packed onto endless rows of bunks as the temperatures rise.

Many escape for a few hours to cycle around the area: they are met with hostile banners calling for them to leave.

“I used to call this place a modern lager,” Cona mayor Albero Panfilio told AFP, referring to concentration camps. The commune of Cona includes the little village of Conetta.

“After two years this is (still) a place where human beings are squashed in together, with no hope for the future.

“Now I call it a human warehouse. The migrants arrive, they don’t know where to put them, they have a warehouse, they dump them here.” The asylum seekers were treated “like garbage”, he added.

Panfilio says the 190 residents in Conetta have also suffered. Among several protest messages scrawled on sheets and hung up in the village square, one reads simply “Repatriate the migrants”.

– ‘Lots of hostility’ –

Around 10 kilometres away (6.2 miles) in Bagnoli di Sopra, some 700 migrants are crowded into another former military base. There are more barbed wire fences among the endless fields of soybean and corn, and no access to journalists.

Mayor Roberto Milan said the residents there had held sit-ins demanding the migrants be removed, but to no effect.

“The tension is great, there’s a lot of hostility. There are many of them and it’s not possible to create ties (with the local population). That leads to mutual distrust,” he told AFP by telephone.

“They come, they go, they ask for money,” he said.

Moussa Bamba, a 31-year old from the Ivory Coast, said he would “pay a price” for speaking out about conditions inside the Conetta camp, but pleaded for authorities to allow them to use their time profitably.

“I ask for one thing, training: teach us some skills while we wait here. To be a bricklayer, electrician, mechanic. To allow us to integrate if we stay, or return having learned something,” he said.

Over 85,000 people have been brought to safety in Italy so far this year after being rescued in the Mediterranean as they attempt the perilous crossing to Europe. Many are fleeing horrors in crisis-hit Libya.

What has been described as the worst migrant crisis since World War II began in earnest in 2014, when 170,000 people landed in Italy. Europe forced Italy to close its borders in 2015 to prevent people travelling onwards.

Since then, the number of people blocked in the country has risen sharply, along with requests for asylum, which jumped from 63,500 in 2014 to 123,000 in 2016. Those filing the requests can wait up to two years for a result.

In the meantime, humanitarian organisations like the Red Cross warn that the conditions in the reception centres are deteriorating.

– ‘We need you’ –

Guinean Kaba Aissata Mohamed, a 33-year old who worked as a journalist back home, said he and the others inside want nothing more than to be treated like human beings and allowed to join society.

“We need you, we need the local population,” he said. “The local residents should at least be aware of our existence. We want to live with you, with the world outside (the camp), that’s what’s important.

“But here we are hemmed in, we are isolated,” he added.

Italy’s centre-left government has promised to redistribute migrants so small towns do not feel overwhelmed. But so far, little has been done.

“What’s going to happen in the future if they continue to arrive?” asks local Pietro Grapeggia as he watches the young men peddle past on their round-trips to nowhere.

“They are good kids, well behaved, strong, full of energy,” said the 75-year old.

“You see them wasting away their days going around on their bicycles, it doesn’t seem very normal to me.

“And when the government stops paying to look after them, then what will they do?”

by Ella Ide and Kelly Velasquez

Sweden Intensifies Crackdown on Illegal Immigrants (The Rarely Spoken Truth: Donald Trump Was Right)

July 13, 2017

STOCKHOLM — Sweden has intensified its crackdown on illegal immigrants after a failed asylum-seeker killed five people in Stockholm, but the move has raised concerns that more migrants will be driven underground to join a shadowy underclass.

In the past months, police have staged wider sweeps on workplaces to check papers, netting undocumented workers, sending a warning to employers and sparking heated debate in a nation that has been traditionally tolerant to migrants.

In May, police carried out their biggest raid so far when dozens of officers swooped on a constructions site in Stockholm. Nine were caught and sent to detention centers, while another 40 escaped by scrambling onto scaffolding and across roof tops.

Swedish authorities had already started to tighten up on illegal immigrants, but police stepped up their activities after Uzbek construction worker Rakhmat Akilov drove into Stockholm shoppers in April.

“We have an unlimited amount of work,” said Jerk Wiberg, who leads the Stockholm police unit in charge of domestic border controls. A 22-year veteran who has caught thousands of illegal immigrants, Wiberg led the raid at the construction site in May.

After Akilov became another militant in Europe to use a truck as a weapon, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven made it clear that “no means no” for those whose asylum bids are rejected. Akilov, whose lawyer said he had admitted to committing the crime, had been in hiding after his asylum request was denied.

The Migration Agency estimated 10,000 asylum-seekers a year will choose to disappear rather than be deported. Up to 50,000 undocumented immigrants already work in hotels, transport, construction and restaurants, the agency said last year.

Migration Minister Morgan Johansson said that a “dual labor market … where a growing group lives on the outside of society and remains in Sweden” after having been denied residency was unacceptable.

“It also increases the risk of them being exploited. We cannot have it that way,” he said, adding: “One way is to go after the employers … (using) expanded workplace checks.”

While cheap migrant labor is welcomed by some small businesses, government officials and economists worry that the shadow economy undercuts Sweden’s economic model, whose generous welfare provisions and high wages are built on high rates of productivity and one of the world’s heaviest tax regimes.


Tough measures against immigrants go against the grain for many in Sweden, a country of 10 million which once called itself “a humanitarian superpower” that generously welcomed migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

But attitudes appear to be changing and a 2017 study by Gothenburg University showed 52 percent favored taking fewer refugees into the country with 24 percent opposed. Two years ago 40 percent backed reducing refugee numbers with 37 opposed.

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats are now the second biggest party in polls with support of around a fifth of Swedes.

The Social Democrats, the country’s biggest party in every election since 1917 and leader of the governing coalition with the Greens, has been forced to balance its traditional left-wing credentials with the need to enforce immigration laws.

Despite political support for the crackdown and tougher rules on immigration, police struggle to enforce deportations. Between January and April police deported just under 600 people, a third fewer than in the same period last year.

Some of those caught were freed because detention centers were full, while others cannot be deported as they don’t have passports to prove their country of origin or their home countries refuse to take them.

The government never discloses how many are held in detention centers, saying there are about 360 beds and deportees are normally repatriated within three weeks. The government has told the migration agency to add another 100 beds.

An extra 800 million crowns ($95 million) has been added to the police budget this year to bolster the clampdown, but senior officers say this is not enough.


In 2016, police made about 1,100 unannounced workplace checks, almost three times more than in 2015, and caught 232 illegal immigrants. A further increase is expected in 2017 as the net widens. Illegal immigrants are also detained through checks at transport hubs, on vehicles or after committing crime.

Deportations made up a small fraction of the 20,000 rejected asylum seekers who left Sweden last year.

“We have been able to increase the number of people who leave Sweden substantially. But we’re listening to the police and we have paved the way for more resources and wider powers,” Johansson said in an interview, adding:

“We will have to increase that number further.”

Expanded police powers include workplace checks without concrete suspicion of a crime, to be allowed from next year, with sharply higher fines for employing illegal immigrants.

Immigrants themselves have been unnerved. When police burst into a pizzeria in the southern city of Malmo where Ehsanulla Kajfar, a 38-year-old Afghan refugee, was working in May he said he thought they were looking for “terrorists or drug dealers”.

He was surprised to be handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police vehicle as tax officials scrutinized the restaurant’s employee ledger. He was told his papers were not in order and was taken to a detention center.

“Sweden used to be a nice country, even when I was living underground,” he told Reuters. “Now although I have a residence permit from Italy and I am registered at the tax agency in Sweden, I’m still locked in a detention center.”


Nicaraguan Hugo Eduardo Somarriba Quintero, 37, said he was wrongly detained in the big raid in Stockholm in May due to an error by authorities and then released. Migration Agency records confirmed the details of his case.

“But I’ve lost my job – the company where I was working was dropped from the construction site (because of irregularities in not checking work papers properly). Now I am looking for work and there is no job for me,” he tearfully told Reuters, adding:

“Before there was a lot of tolerance for migrants. Now the laws are harder.”

Muhammad, a 22-year old Afghan who declined to give his family name, has been in hiding for three years in Malmo since his asylum application was rejected.

He has moved three times this year and never stays in a place longer than three months. All his belongings are packed in a suitcase and two plastic bags if he needs to leave in a hurry.

Muhammad relies on food stamps from the church and leftover food from restaurants and grocery stores.

He has learned to avoid the city center when there is an increase in policing and gets help from other immigrants and volunteers who work for asylum-seekers’ rights. They warn each other of police checks and raids through text messages.

“Last time the police made a push to find immigrants, my friend stayed inside for 15 to 20 days,” Muhammad said. “But I can’t stay inside all the time, its too depressing.”

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Mansoor Yosufzai, additional reporting by Alister Doyle, editing by Peter Millership)


Trump insists he was RIGHT about violence in Sweden as he tells CPAC he ‘took a lot of heat’ for roping Scandinavian nation into terror talk

Read more:
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Egyptian Migrants Found Dead in East Libyan Desert — Part of Human Migration Waves Intent Upon Crossing The Mediterranean Sea To Europe?

July 9, 2017

BENGHAZI, Libya — Libyan aid workers recovered the bodies of 19 migrants believed to be Egyptians in Libya’s eastern desert, a Red Crescent spokesman said on Sunday.

The migrants appeared to have been smuggled into Libya by foot and have perished due to high temperatures and hunger, said Khaled al-Raqi, a Red Crescent spokesman in the east Libyan city of Tobruk.

They were found on Saturday more than 400 km (250 miles) south of Tobruk, in the Jaghboub desert, Raqi said. Seven of the migrants were identified from papers or identity cards, and the rest were thought to be Egyptian from their appearance, he said.

The seven came from Assiuyt and Minya, areas on the River Nile south of Cairo, and from Kafr el Sheikh, in the Nile Delta north of Cairo.

Libyan television station Libya Alaan broadcast footage of Libyan Red Crescent workers offloading bodies from the back of a truck into black body bags.

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 Egypt — 48 Egyptian migrant workers found dead in Libyan desert

Egyptian migrants have tried to cross to Europe from the African coast, particularly from Libya, though boats have also increasingly departed from Egypt. Most Libyan smugglers sending migrants by sea towards Europe do so from western Libya.

Many Egyptians and migrants of other nationalities also work in Libya, though fewer than in the past.

The Egyptian embassy to Libya, which is currently based in Cairo, said it was working with the Libyan authorities to repatriate the seven migrants confirmed to be Egyptian, and to check the identities of the other 12 migrants.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi, and Lisa Barrington and Amina Ismail in Cairo; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)


  (But the ministers are not at work…)

French Interior Minister Vents Frustration With Paris Migrant Center

July 6, 2017

PARIS — France’s interior minister said on Thursday that hundreds of migrants needed to be moved from an overflowing reception center in Paris and he appeared to take a dig at the city’s mayor for creating the problem.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in November opened the 400-bed center in the city’s Porte de la Chapelle district, but the minister said many migrants were arriving in the capital every week.

“It’s always the same problem,” the minister, Gerard Collomb, told CNEWS. “First off you say ‘I’m going to open a center for 500 people’ and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you’re left having to sort the problem out.”

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Porte de la Chapelle migrant center, near Paris

European Union member-states are at odds over how to tackle the migrant crisis, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and poverty in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Sudan reaching Europe each year.

Large numbers travel to France, often hoping to use its northern port of Calais as a launching pad from which to reach Britain.

President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May, has instructed his interior minister to cut sharply the time required for processing asylum requests and Collomb has said illegal migrants should be repatriated swiftly.

“The situation as it is can not carry on,” Collomb said.

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France — Migrants line-up to register at a processing center in a makeshift migrant camp

Hidalgo meanwhile, speaking at the Porte de la Chapelle center, urged the centrist government to draw up new legislation aimed at ensuring migrants are shown more humanity on their arrival in France.

The legislation, she said, should include a fund to help local authorities assist migrants.

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France destroyed the Jungle migrant camp but it has reappeared

Collomb in late June ruled out a new reception center in Calais, to replace the squalid ‘Jungle’ camp bulldozed by the authorities last year, saying such centers were a magnet for migrants.

France independent rights watchdog has condemned the “inhumane” conditions facing migrants.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Richard Lough and Richard Balmforth)


EU Will Restrict Visas for States Not Taking Back Migrants — Migrant deaths in Mediterranean in 2017 pass 2,000 mark on World Refugee Day after new boat disasters

June 23, 2017

BRUSSELS — The European Union states decided on Friday to restrict visas for foreign countries that refuse to take back their nationals who have no right of asylum in Europe.

The EU is cracking down on immigration following a spike in arrivals across the Mediterranean since 2014.

Italy is now the main gateway to the bloc and most of those reaching European shores after boarding smugglers’ boats in Africa are considered illegal labor migrants.

Some countries, including Bangladesh and Nigeria, are often reluctant to readmit their citizens and the EU has recently doubled down on efforts to expedite such returns.


Migrant deaths in Mediterranean in 2017 pass 2,000 mark on World Refugee Day after new boat disasters

Humanitarian organisations call on EU to stop ‘demonising’ NGOs for saving lives at sea

By Lizzie Dearden

The Independent Online

2,000 migrants drowned by World Refugee Day

More than 2,000 migrants have died attempting treacherous boat crossings to Europe so far this year, following three more shipwrecks announced on World Refugee Day.

The United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said 129 asylum seekers were missing and presumed dead after a dinghy launched by smugglers in Libya started taking on water and sank, leaving only four survivors from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Two rescued Sudanese men told the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) the boat had been at sea for several hours when a group of Libyans described as “pirates” approached in a speedboat and stole their motor.

Passing Libyan fishermen rescued the pair along with two Nigerian men who were the only other survivors, and put them on another migrant boat.

“They were in shock, traumatised by what had happened, and exhausted,” said IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo, adding that motor thefts had caused several recent disasters.

Another boat was carrying at least 85 people from Syria and North Africa, including families with children, when it broke in two and sank on Monday.

Migrants rescued by the Vos Hestia ship off Libya coast on Saturday (Reuters)

A third shipwreck is feared to have left at least seven people dead, with survivors including a pregnant woman taken to Sicily.

The UNHCR said the disasters were a reminder of the “grave dangers” facing people forced to flee their countries by war and persecution.

Of almost 83,000 migrants who have arrived by sea in Europe so far in 2017, the vast majority have crossed the central Mediterranean between Libya and Italy – now the deadliest sea passage in the world.

It has claimed more than 2,000 lives since January, according to UNHCR figures, sparking fresh appeals for enhanced rescue operations and the introduction of safe and legal alternatives for a record 65.6 million displaced people around the world.

“More efforts are needed to address the root causes behind these movements of people to Libya, including by solving conflicts and reducing poverty,” said a spokesperson for the agency.

The UN and humanitarian groups have been raising concerns over increased EU support for the fragile Libyan Government of National Accord.

The UK is among countries training its coastguard, while boats, equipment and millions of euros have been handed over in efforts to slow crossings.

Migrants rescued by Save the Children in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday (Reuters)

But as the Libyan civil war continues to rage six years after the UK supported the removal of Muammar Gaddafi, smugglers have set up a ruthless trade with migrants routinely kidnapped, ransomed, forced into labour, raped, tortured and sold at “slave markets”.

A new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Libyan coastguard was engaging in “reckless conduct” during operations to force migrant boats back to land – in violation of international laws against refoulement.

It highlighted incidents reported by The Independent in May where the coastguard opened fire while blocking rescues by NGO ships in international waters.

“Recent incidents show how wrong it is for EU countries to entrust the lives of those in need of rescue to Libyan coast guard forces when there are safer alternatives,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, calling for Italian authorities who currently coordinate rescues not to hand over command.

The call was repeated by a group of rescue organisations including Sea-Watch, Jugend Rettet and Proactiva Open Arms, who said European plans to “outsource control” of the refugee crisis to Libyan authorities was not practical or legal.

An open letter to mark World Refugee Day on Tuesday called on European naval forces to conduct rescues, stop boats being illegally pushed back to Libya, develop an impartial monitoring system and “support and decriminalise NGOs rather than demonising them”.

Charities and aid agencies operating refugee rescue ships have been accused of aiding and even directly colluding with Libyan smugglers in the increasingly toxic debate, despite research finding no evidence to support the allegations.

Italy, which is housing more than 190,000 asylum seekers in state-funded accommodation, has criticised other European countries for failing to resettle asylum seekers and help rescue efforts.

“I’m sorry that not everyone, including in Europe, has shown the same willingness to take people in [as Italy has],” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a message marking World Refugee Day.

“The refugee issue crosses national borders and involves the entire EU and is, in the end, a global phenomenon.”

The Italian navy and coastguard picked up 41 per cent of migrants rescued at sea last year, NGO ships 26 per cent, and ships from the EU-wide Operation Sophia 25 per cent.

But during the first four months of 2017, the proportion of rescues conducted by NGOs has increased to 35 per cent, with Italian authorities carrying out a third and Operation Sophia carrying out just 16 per cent.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss migration policy on Thursday, after arrivals to Italy jumped by a quarter year-on-year.

Last week, the European Commission opened a legal case against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in asylum seekers under a 2015 plan to relocate migrants from Italy and Greece.

UN refugee chief urges Libya to free refugees and asylum seekers — Thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean

May 21, 2017


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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi

TRIPOLI (AFP) – The head of the United Nations refugee agency on Sunday urged Libyan authorities to free all asylum seekers and refugees from its detention centres as he visited Tripoli.

“I hope first of all that asylum seekers and refugees can be taken out of detention centres,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said after visiting one centre in the Libyan capital.

“I fully appreciate that the government has security concerns,” he said, but added that “other solutions” could be found for people fleeing countries in conflict such as Syria and Somalia.

Thousands of migrants are being held in dozens of detention centres in Libya, after being stopped or rescued from rickety boats as they attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

“I was shocked at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants are held,” Grandi said in a statement released on Sunday by the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

“Children, women and men who have suffered so much already should not have to endure such hardship.”

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Migrants at a detention centre in the city of Zawiya, Libya. Photo by Mathieu Galtier – IRIN

The UN refugee agency has secured the release of more than 800 refugees and asylum seekers from Libyan detention centres over the past year and a half, the statement said.

Grandi promised to reinforce his agency’s presence in Libya if security conditions allowed it, and also to provide assistance to thousands of Libyans displaced by conflict.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 uprising that killed and toppled Moamer Kadhafi, with rival authorities and militias vying for control of the oil-rich country.

Australia PM to reset ties with Trump after icy start — China will be on their minds….

May 3, 2017


© AFP/File / by Daniel DE CARTERET | Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to New York comes as Washington works to shore up regional support against North Korea

SYDNEY (AFP) – Malcolm Turnbull will seek to steady Australia’s longstanding alliance with the United States when he meets Donald Trump this week, after relations soured at a time of growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

His visit to New York on Thursday comes as Washington works to shore up regional support against North Korea, ratcheting up pressure on China to do more to counter Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear ambitions.

But the advent of Trump has invigorated a debate over Australia’s place in the world and whether its future lies with an unpredictable United States, or a closer relationship with China, its top trading partner.

Turnbull, like Trump a businessman-turned-politician, has said he is “delighted” to meet with the US leader and affirm a relationship that has seen its militaries fight side by side for a century.

“We’ll talk about a wide range of security and economic issues, but top of the list obviously at the moment is North Korea,” the Australian prime minister said on Wednesday.

It will be their first encounter since a tetchy phone call rattled ties soon after Trump took office, when he took issue with a deal that the US would settle refugees from Australia’s Pacific island camps.

The president took to Twitter afterwards to label the agreement struck with Barack Obama’s administration as “dumb”.

On a trip to Australia last month aimed at mending fences, Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the US would take the refugees but added it “doesn’t mean we admire the agreement”.

The icy start was cooled further by Washington’s withdrawal from a trans-Pacific trade agreement that would have given Australian businesses greater access to the US and key regional markets.

“The single biggest thing is for the two leaders to establish some kind of rapport and get comfortable with one another,” said Simon Jackman, chief executive at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney.

The meeting will take place at the USS Intrepid museum in New York, where they will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea when US and Australian forces fought against the Japanese advance in the Pacific.

“All that imagery… will help paint a picture of a relationship that is getting increasingly normalised after a surprising and unexpected start,” Jackman told AFP.

“The Australian public in particular might want a bit of reassurance that despite the fact Trump is a very unconventional president — a bit of a wild card — that nonetheless the United States remains a willing partner on a number of important dimensions.”

— Toeing the line —

The history of military cooperation stretches back to World War I, and North Korea recently warned Canberra to think twice before “blindly and zealously toeing the US line” or face the threat of a nuclear strike.

Australia has backed Washington in calling on Beijing to bring the rogue state to heel, although several former senior Australian diplomats have also urged Canberra to rethink ties with the US in light of China’s rise.

Turnbull is expected to reaffirm Australia’s allegiance to the US on Thursday.

“The Trump adminstration is now coming out, indicating quite strongly that it isn’t going to be the isolationist presidency that we had feared,” said the Australian National University’s head of international security and intelligence studies John Blaxland.

“From the Australian point of view we can be more forthright (when dealing with China) because you have greater confidence that the United States is not walking away.”

Nevertheless, Turnbull is expected to exercise caution on just how far he can back an unpredictable US president.

James Laurenceson from the Australia-China relations institute at Sydney’s University of Technology, said Turnbull would be receptive to Trump, “but at the same time he will always have in the back of his mind that Australia’s economic interests are well and truly tied up in China”.

“It doesn’t mean that we won’t criticise China or shy away from that, but it will be factored in to it, in perhaps a way that it’s not factored into US decision making,” he added.


German interior minister speaks out in favor of ‘Leitkultur’ [‘leading German culture’] for immigrants

April 30, 2017

Germany’s interior minister has presented a 10-point plan on the divisive issue of “Leitkultur” – the idea of establishing dominant German values. Thomas de Maiziere believes this will help integrate immigrants.

Italien Treffen Innenminister zum Thema Migration | Thomas de Maizière (Getty Images/AFP/T. Fabi)

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere shared his plan about the controversial issues of fostering a dominant culture in Germany in the Sunday edition of Germany’s daily “Bild” newspaper, saying he wanted to start a public debate about the subject.

In his guest contribution to the paper, de Maiziere defended the idea of advocating a dominant culture in Germany, stating that strengthening set values under such a “Leitkultur” would ultimately create greater tolerance and that feeling secure in one’s culture would in turn create strength.

Critics of the idea of “Leitkultur” argue, however, that among other things it would serve the purpose of limiting immigration by rejecting those who do not succeed in assimilating. Opponents also say that such a set core of values would automatically lead to cultural clashes, with a “Leitkultur” being treated as inherently superior to immigrants’ native cultures, and that they would therefore be designed to inadvertently limit the spreading of multiculturalism.

A political issue

Christian Democrats start ‘Leitkultur’ debate

The issue of “Leitkultur” has been part of much social and political debate in Germany for some 15 years now. The idea, mainly perpetuated by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and especially its Bavarian CSU sister-party, supports the view that immigrants to Germany have to assimilate to a set of shared cultural values. Other parties, such as the Green Party and the SPD, Merkel’s partner in her governing grand coalition, reject the idea.

De Maiziere’s comments came as political parties across Germany started to prepare for the general election, which will be held in September.

Germany’s unique position

The minister’s list comprises his personal view of what the cornerstones of German culture are. Mainly focusing on social aspects of everyday life, de Maiziere’s plan touches upon issues that affect all generations, such as the importance of ensuring general education and embracing performance-based rewards in a meritocratic society. “We regard good performance as something that each individual can be proud of,” de Maiziere explained in his guest commentary.

Burka Verbot in Frankreich (DW)

In his commentary, de Maiziere wrote that the burqa was not acceptable in Germany

However, divisive issues like wearing the burqa are also addressed, with de Maiziere commenting that in Germany, “we shake hands, show our faces, and tell people what our names are. We don’t do [the] burqa.”

He also listed that in German culture decisions are made by majority vote while protecting minority rights.

He also stressed the importance of people in Germany respecting its unique place in history, which he says demands its special relationship with Israel and the taking of neutral positions in its overall world-view. De Maiziere added, however, that Germany’s overall western outlook and its defense of European unity were also part of the cultural make-up of the kind of “Leitkultur” he defends.

“German is part of the West. Culturally speaking, spiritually speaking, and politically speaking. And as Germans, we’re also Europeans as well. Our freedom is protected by NATO,” the minister wrote.

De Maiziere went on to explain that Germany appreciated cultural variety, adding that as a country characterized primarily by Christian values, other religions were still always welcome, addressing one of the main points of criticism often cited against “Leitkultur.”

ss/jlw (dpa, KNA, Reuters)