Germany: 150 percent rise in number of homeless since 2014

German government figures estimate the number of homeless people in the country to total around 860,000 — more than half of whom are refugees. That number is expected to rise a further 40 percent to 1.2 million by 2018.

Obdachlosen in Ungarn (FERENC ISZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Figures released on Tuesday by Germany’s federal working group for homeless persons’ assistance (BAG) point to a shrinking supply of affordable and social housing, coupled with the government’s decision to allow to almost one million refugees to enter Germany in 2015, as reasons for the country’s exponential rise in the number of homeless.

According to federal statistics for 2016, 440,000 of the country’s 860,000 homeless people were refugees. However, BAG stressed that its data does not show hundreds of thousands of refugees living on the streets, since it also took refugees living in communal housing and shelters into account. Officials said they chose to include these refugees in their latest census as they are also in need of housing.

Read more: Mini-houses shelter Cologne’s homeless during pre-Christmas chill

BAG managing director Thomas Specht stressed that “while immigration has dramatically aggravated the overall situation, but it is by no means the sole cause of the new housing shortage.” The main cause, he said, was misguided government housing policy.

Watch video03:05

A hairdresser for the homeless

Germany’s homeless data by the numbers:

·     Of Germany’s 860,000 homeless, 440,000 are refugees.

·     Excluding refugees, of the 420,000 remaining homeless people, 52,000 live on the streets.

That amounts to a 33 percent rise in just two years.

·     Some 130,000 people are thought to be living with partners or children.

·     Excluding refugees, 32,000, or eight percent, of homeless people in Germany are thought to be children or minors.

Federal government’s social housing failure

According to Specht, the number of social housing units has fallen across Germany by around 60 percent since 1990 to just 1.2 million, as communes, states authorities and the federal government continue to sell their stock of housing to private investors. “These policies have made affordable housing inaccessible for many,” Specht said.

Read more: Germany drafts bill to ease bank account access for homeless, refugees

A lack of housing has in turn led to a sharp hike in rental prices, with one-to-two room apartments in conurbations seeing the steepest rise. To put the issue into context, Germany has an estimated 17 million single-person households, although last year only saw 5.2 million one-to-two room apartments available on the market.

Following the latest homeless statistics, BAG managing director Werena Rosenke called on the federal government and municipal authorities to take greater responsibility in future housing policy. This would, she said, include the introduction of quotas for letting subsidized apartments to homeless people and “the acquisition of available housing stock from private landlords and businesses.”

Watch video01:14

Mini-homes for the homeless in Cologne

dm/jm (dpa, AFP)

Courtesy: DW

Paradise Papers expose tax schemes of global elite

Reporters have unveiled some 13.4 million secret documents detailing evidence of tax avoidance among high-ranking politicians and the super wealthy. Some in US President Donald Trump’s cabinet have been implicated.

Tax havens (Fotolia/Trueffelpix)

Some 400 reporters from 67 countries have scoured 13.4 million secret documents and uncovered tax-avoidance techniques used by the super rich and high-ranking politicians, German media reported on Sunday.

The leaked data was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which said that the majority of the documents stem from offshore law firm Appleby, which was founded in Bermuda but has offices in several other locations. The company reported last month that it had been hacked.

Read moreParadise Papers — what you need to know

The documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, appear to show ties between members of US President Donald Trump’s cabinet and Russian firms.

Watch video02:02

Paradise Papers implicate US commerce chief

Shrinking taxes

The documents also show that by using shell companies, corporations such as Nike, Apple, Uber and Facebook are able to shrink their taxes to low rates.

Rock star Bono, as well as British Queen Elizabeth II’s private estate, has also been involved in offshore funds, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Over 120 politicians from 47 countries are involved in the tax-avoidance schemes, the paper reported.

Economist Gabriel Zucman told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the global elite have parked an estimated 7.9 trillion euros ($9.1 trillion) in offshore tax havens.

The data was published by a number of news organizations in cooperation with the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Read morePanama Papers: Ex-PM Nawaz Sharif faces graft charges in Pakistan

Trump’s Cabinet and Russian links

The leaks expose US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, alleging links with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies.

“Billionaire Wilbur Ross makes money from business with Russia. That he sits in US President Donald Trump’s cabinet does not appear to change that,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung said in its report.

Ross is reportedly a major shareholder in an ocean freight company called Navigator, which has contracted more than $68 million through transactions with Russian energy group Sibur since 2014.

Read moreWhat indictments of former Trump campaign officials mean for the president

In turn, Sibur’s biggest shareholders include Putin-ally Leonid Mikhelson, who controls another energy company sanctioned by the US Treasury for its close ties to the Russian president.

Sibur’s two other owners include Gennady Timchenko, who is also sanctioned by the US government for his ties to Putin, and Kirill Shamalov, who is married to Putin’s youngest daughter.

In addition to Ross, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that over a dozen Trump advisers, cabinet members and campaign donors appear in the leaked data.

German ex-chancellor implicated

Data from the Paradise Papers shows that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had a management role at an offshore company.

In 2009, he was part of a so-called “independent supervisory board” of the Russian-British energy company TNK-BP, the documents show. The joint venture by Britain’s BP and Russia’s Alfa-Group was based, like many other oil joint-ventures, in the British Virgin Islands.

Read moreRussian money flows into Germany despite sanctions

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (Getty Images/AFP/E. Piermont)The leaks link former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to an offshore British-Russian energy company

Schröder and two others on the board contacted Appleby “about certain procedural company affairs under the laws of the British Virgin Islands,” according to an email from a London-based lawyer in October 2011. Appleby declined to offer their services due to a conflict of interest with another client.

Read moreThe Rosneft seat and Gerhard Schröder’s Kremlin credentials

In December 2011, Schröder stepped down from his post on the board. In 2013, TNK-PB was taken over by Russian oil giant Rosneft — Schröder was appointed chairman of Rosneft’s supervisory board a few weeks ago.

Several German companies also had dealings with Appleby, including car rental service Sixt, Deutsche Post (DHL), Siemens, Allianz and Deutsche Bank.

Panama Papers — the sequel

The Süddeutsche Zeitung was also involved in exposing the so-called Panama Papers leak last year.

The papers were initially leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung last year. The Panama Papers consist of some 11.5 million leaked documents implicating individuals stashing their wealth in offshore tax havens.

The documents revealed how Mossack Fonseca had created some 200,000 shell companies and listed the names of individuals, including politicians, celebrities and athletes, who had hidden their wealth in those companies.

Watch video01:20

How do tax havens work?

Courtesy: DW

Germany marks 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation in Wittenberg

German leaders are meeting in Wittenberg to mark 500 years since Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation. Alongside ceremonies in Wittenberg, events are underway across Germany.

Watch video02:31

How Martin Luther changed the world

Germany celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on Tuesday with a national holiday and ceremonies in the eastern city of Wittenberg, where Martin Luther began a split in the Catholic Church that transformed Christianity and Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Saxony-Anhalt state Premier Reiner Haseloff have been attending several ceremonies in Wittenberg that started with an afternoon church service in the city’s Castle Church and will end with a ceremony in the city hall in the evening.

Read moreLuther in the US: Tattoos, Playmobil and the grace of God

Other German politicians and numerous international guests were also attending ceremonies in the city.

Speaking at an event in Wittenberg’s All Saints’ Church Tuesday evening, Merkel said Luther “got a ball rolling that could not be stopped and that changed the world forever.”

She also took the opportunity to stress the importance of religious and political tolerance in Europe, saying “whoever believes in diversity must also practice tolerance; that has been the experience of our continent over the years. It’s been painstakingly learned that the basis for peaceful co-existence in Europe is tolerance.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Wittenberg celebrationsChancellor Angela Merkel at the Wittenberg celebrations

Luther (1483-1546), a theology professor and priest, questioned the Catholic Church’s teachings and challenged the Vatican’s authority through his “95 Theses.” He is believed to have nailed the theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church on October 31, 1517.

Read moreOpinion: Commemorating Luther’s ongoing Reformation

Read moreHow Martin Luther became the first Christian pop star

Performances by musicians and comedians took place in Wittenberg’s historic city center throughout the day. Several other events, exhibits and church services were also held across Germany to mark the anniversary.

On Monday, members of Berlin’s protestant youth organization nailed their own theses to the doors of around 300 churches in the German capital. Berlin state youth pastor Sarah Oltmanns told protestant news agency EPD that the youths prepared their church reform suggestions for two years in workshops and other events.

amp, rs/jm (dpa, epd)

Courtesy: DW

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report
A “brute force” attack on British MPs back in June has allegedly been traced to Iranian hackers, the Times reported citing intelligence sources. The article came as London urged Washington not to derail the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

An unsourced report by the Times claims that a “brute force” hack attack on the Parliament’s computers was attributed to Iranian hackers. The cyberattack that occurred on June 23 affected 9,000 email accounts, including those of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and other government members.

Citing “a secret intelligence assessment,” the Times wrote the June attack “is believed to be Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain and underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest cyberpowers.” 

The Times’ sources referred to alleged Iranian perpetrators as “highly capable actors in the cyberworld.” One source said: “It was not the most sophisticated attack but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.”

The timing of the publication is particularly noteworthy as it comes only a day after Prime Minister May issued a joint statement on Friday together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in support of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by six world powers plus Iran.

“We stand committed to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and its full implementation by all sides,” the three leaders said, adding that preserving the agreement “is in our shared national security interest.”

The UK, Germany, and France said that the nuclear deal “was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes,” and that they will “take note” of the Trump’s administration intent not to certify the deal by the deadline set for October 15.

May, Merkel, and Macron urged the Trump administration and Congress “to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA,” including imposing renewed sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.

Downing Street did not comment on the Times’ article, though the newspaper said senior British officials acknowledged that “the revelation had complicated Mrs. May’s response to Mr. Trump.”

Middle East tensions: ‘‘s real objective is to make walk away from nuclear deal’ – Martin Jay to RT https://on.rt.com/8pre 

The hack attack in question targeted the private email accounts of up to 90 members of the UK Parliament, and was designed to access parliamentary user credentials by identifying weak email passwords.

Later, it was announced the attack was likely masterminded by amateur hackers rather than a state entity. Cybersecurity experts familiar with the investigation said the perpetrators were only able to break into the accounts of MPs who set up simple and easily deducible passwords.

READ MORE: ‘Iran deal not a bargaining chip’: Trump proved US can break agreements at any time, Moscow says

The revelation contradicted earlier claims that a foreign government was behind the hack, as many Western commentators immediately pointed the finger at Russia.

There is an ongoing investigation into the incident by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency. An NCSC spokesperson told the Times: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while enquiries are on-going.”

Courtesy: RT

German police in widespread raids on ‘visa marriages’

Authorities have said that they know of at least 70 cases stemming from the same criminal gang. Nigerian men are suspected of paying for fake marriage licenses to Portuguese women in exchange for EU residency.

Deutschland Bundesweite Razzien gegen Scheinehen (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

Hundreds of German police officers carried out dozens of raids on Tuesday morning searching for couples believed to have created sham marriages in order for the “husbands” to receive residency permits for the European Union.

Some 41 apartments were searched in Berlin, Potsdam, Frankfurt and Görlitz. The raids resulted in the arrest of one man and four women, although the authorities said they know of at least 70 sham marriage cases involving the same trafficking gang. Police said the female suspects were between the ages of 46 and 64 and that the man was 50 years old.

The criminal organization finds Nigerian men who wish to stay in the EU and pairs them up with women from Portugal. The men pay around 13,000 euros ($15,550) for counterfeit marriage certificates from Nigeria that are shown to the German authorities along with a well-rehearsed love story confirmed by the Portuguese “wife.”

The women usually fly back to Portugal within a matter of days. According to the federal police, the purpose of the raids is to determine whether the homes look like a couple lives there. German authorities then work with Europol to prove that the marriage is a sham.

Similar raids were reportedly carried out in Portugal in tandem with the ones in Germany.

‘Fake father’ bust

This is the second major raid against visa fraud in recent months. In June, German police took down a “fake father” ring – wherein German men were paid to put their names on the birth certificates of children born to immigrants from Vietnam, parts of Africa and eastern Europe. The babies were automatically granted German citizenship, which allows their mothers to claim German residency permits.

Authorities estimate that about 5,000 of these false paternity claims are made every year. They are notoriously difficult to prosecute however, because police cannot order DNA tests and have to follow strict guidelines when probing into a suspect’s personal life.

DW RECOMMENDS

  • Courtesy, DW

World leaders mourn loss of Helmut Kohl

World leaders are paying tribute to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who has died at the age of 87. The EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker said flags would fly at half-staff in Brussels to honor a “great European.”

Watch video05:04

Angela Merkel pays tribute to Helmut Kohl

The news of Helmut Kohl’s death, which broke on Friday, triggered a wave of responses from politicians around the world, expressing sadness at the passing of the leader credited with reunifying Germany.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Kohl “was a great European and a great friend.”

Helmut’s death hurts me deeply. My mentor, my friend, the very essence of Europe, he will be greatly, greatly missed http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-17-1680_de.htm 

Flags at European institutions would be flying at half-staff as a tribute to the man who “filled the European house with life.”

‘A rock – both steady and strong’

Former US President George H. W. Bush, who cooperated with Kohl and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to reunite East and West Germany at the end of the Cold War, also mourned Kohl’s death.

Bush described Kohl as “a true friend of freedom,” saying he considered him “one of the greatest leaders in post-war Europe.”

DW RECOMMENDS

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl has died, aged 87. Having led Germany for 16 years, he is remembered for reuniting the country as well as for making a huge political and economic contribution to the integration of Europe. (16.06.2017)

“Working closely with my very good friend […] will remain one of the greatest joys of my life. Throughout our endeavors, Helmut was a rock – both steady and strong,” Bush said Friday.

Kohl had spoken to his biographers at length about his friendship with Bush, whom he met while the American was still serving as vice president under Ronald Reagan.

Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR, said Kohl was an “outstanding person” whose impact on world history would stand the test of time.

According to Gorbachev, the former German chancellor “would be noted in the chronicles of our time not only because of his personal qualities, but also because he found himself at the helm of his country during a time of unprecedented turmoil” including the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“In such cases, a lot depends on the people taking decisions. It was very fortunate that the leading countries, at the time, had statesmen with a sense of responsibility […] capable of reaching through the barrier of suspicion towards partnership and trust.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also praised Kohl as a “great statesman,” and lauded his legacy of helping Europe grow closer.

“A great German has died,” Gabriel said.

Watch video07:48

Helmut Kohl, German patriot and European

Merkel lauds her CDU predecessor’s foresight

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on a diplomatic visit to Rome when the death of Kohl, a Roman Catholic, was made public. She described her mentor as a “stroke of luck” for Germany.

“Helmut Kohl decisively influenced the course of my life, too,” she said in Italy.

Her spokesman Steffen Seibert responded to the news on Twitter, saying Berlin was “deeply mourning” the death of the conservative politician.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, mourning the passing of “one of the patriarchs of European and global politics.”

“I was fortunate to personally meet Helmut Kohl. I was honestly amazed by his wisdom, his ability to take thought-out, far-sighted decisions even in the most complex of situations. In Russia, he will be remembered as a principled advocate of friendly relations between our countries,” Putin said.

French President Emmanuel Macron posted a German language tweet praising Kohl for paving the road to “united Germany and German-French friendship,” showing a renowned image of Kohl standing side-by-side with the late French President Francois Mitterrand. The two leaders were in Verdun marking the 70th anniversary of the start of World War I.

Wegbereiter des vereinten Deutschlands und der deutsch-französischen Freundschaft: Mit Helmut Kohl verlieren wir einen sehr großen Europäer.

President Steinmeier said Kohl was an “exceptional politician” with a “strong character.”

“He was deeply convinced that Europe was our destiny,” Steinmeier said.

Meanwhile, Merkel’s Social Democratic challenger in this year’s German federal election, Martin Schulz, said that despite their political differences, Kohl deserved “respect and recognition” for his accomplishments.

“Helmut Kohl was the chancellor of German reunification; in 1989 it was thanks to his spirit, his political courage and his leadership that the restoration of German unity was made possible,” Schulz said. “Kohl’s vision of a European Germany, which guided this great statesman in the reunification just as much as the Treaty of Maastricht, is a legacy to the German nation and to all of Europe.”

Even Germany’s Left party, the spiritual successor to the East German communists, said that Friday’s focus should be on “mourning a great European.” The party leaders hinted that Kohl’s tenure was more productive than that of his successors Gerhard Schröder and Merkel. He embodied German reunification, they said, “even if the course he set led to severe social upheaval in eastern Germany.”

‘Prepared Europe for 21st century’

Helmut Kohl remains the longest serving German chancellor, from 1982 to 1998. Kohl’s successor in the chancellery, Gerhard Schröder, praised Kohl as a German patriot.

“Even though we led a tough election battle in 1998 and differed on many political issues, I have the greatest respect for his historic efforts,” Schröder said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Kohl as a “friend of Israel” who was “fully committed” to the security of the Jewish state.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the German politician “a giant of European history.”

“We have lost the father of modern Germany,” she said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also mourned Kohl as a “personal friend” and praised his historic role in uniting Germany, according to his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. The UN chief served as Portuguese prime minister between 1995 and 2002.

European Council President Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also posted their reactions online.

I will always remember Helmut Kohl. A friend and a statesman who helped reunite Europe.

Helmut Kohl was the embodiment of a united Germany in a united Europe. When the Berlin Wall fell, he rose to the occasion. A true European.

US President Donald Trump hailed the former German chancellor as a “friend and ally of the United States.”

In a statement released by the White House, Trump said: “He was not only the father of German reunification, but also an advocate for Europe and the transatlantic relationship. The world has benefited from his vision and efforts.”

Former US President Bill Clinton said Kohl’s “visionary leadership prepared Germany and all of Europe for the 21st century.”

“I will never forget walking with him through the Brandenburg Gate in 1994 for a large rally on the eastern side, and seeing genuine hope in the eyes of tens of thousands of young people,” he said. “I knew at that moment that Helmut Kohl was the man who could help them realize their dreams. History continues to prove that he delivered.”

Watch video05:21

DW studios in Berlin, Washington on Kohl’s death

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Germany presents racism action plan, invests millions into preventing extremism

Germany’s Family and Interior Ministries have announced a new national action plan against racism. In tackling extremism, some 100 million euros are to be specifically invested in preventing Islamist radicalization.

Berlin Aufmarsch rechter Gruppierungen Gegendemonstration (picture-alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

Newly-appointed Family and Youth Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) on Wednesday called to further strengthen efforts to prevent all forms of extremism, calling for a federal law on the prevention of extremism to stabilize projects and initiatives against, for example, right-wing extremism.

Although there is now more money available for prevention, “we aren’t yet on target,” Barley said on Wednesday.

Announcing the findings of a report into extremism prevention, Barley said at a press conference in Berlin that in fighting Islamist extremism, “we must not wait until young people have become radicalized.”

“Security and prevention must go hand in hand,” she added.

Katarina BarleyGerman Family and Youth Affairs Minister Katarina Barley

According to Barley, prevention work must begin where the threat is particularly high, for example in the school yard, on the internet, and also in the prisons.

100-million-euro investment

As part of Germany’s 2018 “national prevention program” against extremism, some 100 million euros will be invested into specifically combating Islamist extremism. Some funds will be allocated to supporting mosque communities, while money will also be invested in expanding the prevention of radicalization online.

“Every euro we invest [in prevention] is a very well-spent euro, as it serves to create security,” Barley said.

Watch video01:59

Combating the Islamist threat

In the crackdown on Islamist radicalization, Barley rejected demands made earlier this month, however, to allow the surveillance of minors who may be involved in Islamist groups.

– German minister advocates rule change to allow surveillance of children

“Minors have already committed serious acts of violence,” Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told the Funke media group, adding that Germany “must consequently deal” with such cases.

Barley on Wednesday described Herrmann’s demand as a “misguided approach,” arguing that children should be protected from slipping into radicalized violence.

Germany’s governing “grand coalition” has already reduced the minimum age for monitoring by Germany’s intelligence agencies from 16 to 14 years.

Watch video06:03

Experiences of racism in Germany – Q&A with Marianne Balle Moudoumbou

National anti-racism action plan

Together with Parliamentary State Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Günter Krings (CDU), Barley also presented on Wednesday the updated National Action Plan against Racism.

In principle, the aim is to “show clear boundaries, regardless of where discrimination occurs, whether in leisure time, online or in the workplace,” Barley said.

– Over 200 attacks on Muslims in first quarter of the year in Germany

– Opinion: Germany must take anti-Semitism fear seriously

 – UN experts accuse Germany of ‘structural racism’

At the center of the new action plan are issues including human rights policy, protection against discrimination in daily life, for example in the workplace, as well as the punishment of criminal offenses.

Other elements include education and political education, as well as racism and hate speech online.

On the basis of the coalition agreement, the action plan has also been expanded to cover the issues of homosexuality and transphobia.

– Homophobic crimes in Germany up almost 20 percent

Greens politician Volker Beck criticized the plan, however, saying it was lacking in concrete proposals for action.

“Instead of binding measures, only the current situation of gays, lesbians, bi-, trans- and intersexuals was described,” Beck said.

Watch video11:25

Right-wing movements a major threat to LGBTI success

Petra Pau, a member of the executive committee of the leftist Linke faction, and member of the inquiry committee into the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground (NSU), welcomed the action plan and increase in subsidies for social initiatives against right-wing extremism and racism.

“So far so good,” she said in a statement, adding, however, that the subsidies are limited in time: “This is ineffective and short-sighted, as the fight against right-wing extremism and racism requires continuity and endurance.”

– Bundestag: Neo-Nazi NSU ‘had more than three members’

– Opinion: New Bundestag NSU inquiry is necessary work

Infografik Rechtsextremismus Straftaten Deutschland ENG

DW RECOMMENDS

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC