Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany commits suicide

An Afghan man deported from Germany has been found dead in a hotel room in Kabul after apparently committing suicide. The case highlights the adverse circumstances faced by Afghan returnees.

    
Afghanistan abgeschobene Flüchtlinge aus Deutschland kommen in Kabul an (Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar)

A failed Afghan asylum seeker deported from Germany on July 4, 2018, killed himself in a Kabul guesthouse on Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told DW. The 23-year-old man was staying at a hotel used by the IOM as temporary accommodation for returnees.

“We can confirm that a 23-year-old Afghan, who was deported to Afghanistan along with 68 other Afghans on July 4, 2018, killed himself on Tuesday,” Masood Ahmadi from the IOM said.

Read more: Afghan refugees in Pakistan face mass deportation

The deportee, who has not been identified by officials, was waiting to travel to western Herat Province, according to Ahmadi. An official investigation into the incident is underway.

Mirwis Hashimi, another deportee from Germany staying at the same guesthouse, was among the first people to reach the room where the man hanged himself. “The whole building smelled bad. The police were called. When we went upstairs we saw that he had hanged himself,” he told DW.

“His body had swollen and smelled bad. It was in very bad condition,” he added.

Sent to an alien home

In 2016, the German government signed a deal with Kabul to repatriate Afghans who had failed to obtain asylum, and began expelling people in December 2016. So far this year, Germany has deported 148 Afghans to areas it considers safe.

Germany had initially said it would deport failed asylum seekers who had failed to provide documents about their identity or committed a crime. German chancellor Angela Merkel recently stated that Berlin was no longer limiting deportations to Afghanistan to people convicted of crimes.

Read more: Calls to rethink German refugee policy on Afghanistan

In the present case, however, authorities in the German city of Hamburg, where the Afghan asylum seeker had lived prior to his deportation, confirmed that the deportee in question had been convicted of theft, attempted bodily harm, resisting law enforcement officials and violation of the narcotics act. He was also charged with committing robbery and grievous bodily harm, a spokesperson for Hamburg’s foreigners office was quoted by Germany’s DPA news agency as saying.

While Merkel’s decision to boost deportations to Afghanistan made her conservative coalition partners in the government happy, critics say Berlin is sending Afghans back to difficult conditions and with no proper measures in place to support returnees.

The IOM provides temporary accommodation for Afghan deportees and helps them travel to a different province if they choose not to stay in Kabul. Hashimi, however, told DW that the support provided was not sufficient. “We are provided accommodation for just 15 days. They will ask us to leave after that. This is very difficult for me because I don’t have anywhere to go,” he said.

“It is a scandalous act that Germany is even deporting Afghans who had been living in Germany for years to a government in Afghanistan which is already overburdened with the returnees from Iran and Pakistan,” German refugee organization Pro Asyl told DW.

Some of the deportees have spent most of their lives living outside of Afghanistan before being deported. Many others have either sold or lost all their belongings to afford the trip to Germany. Going back to Afghanistan, they say, means they have to start from scratch in a country they fled long ago.

According to Pro Asyl, these asylum seekers find it difficult to rent an apartment or get a job after being sent back to Afghanistan.

DW | Politics

@dw_politics

This is how German Interior Minister Horst describes today’s deportation of Afghan migrants:

Is Afghanistan safe?

The German government insists there are safe zones across war-ravaged Afghanistan where returnees could live in peace and security. Cities like Herat, Kabul and Balk are among these so-called safe zones. But the situation on the ground is different from the picture painted by Berlin, critics lament.

According to data released by the US government, the Taliban control 14 percent of Afghan districts while 30 percent more are contested between insurgents and Afghan security forces. Against this backdrop, Afghan asylum seekers contend that even if they were deported, they would have no other option but to again flee the conflict-stricken nation.

The German government, however, seems unconvinced. Recent comments made by the nation’s conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer seem to suggest that he will continue to push for more deportations to Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Seehofer finally got to present his migration “master plan,” a month after it was blocked at the last minute by Chancellor Merkel, precipitating a crisis in the German government that almost cost both of them their jobs.

Seehofer pointed out that the delayed release of his plans came on his 69th birthday, noting that this coincided with the deportation of 69 people to Afghanistan from Germany, quipping, “That was not on my order.”

Abdul Azim Sultani, who had lived in the southern German state of Bavaria for three years and was among the latest group of deportees, told DW that he was not sure where to go and if he could survive in Afghanistan. “I really cannot live here. They tell me to live in other provinces. No province is safe. There are suicide attacks in Kabul regularly,” Sultani said. “I don’t have anyone here to help me. I have nowhere to live,” he added.

Hussian Sirat and Waslat Hasrat Nazimi contributed to this story.

COURTESY: DW

Austria brings hard-line refugee policy to EU as migrants at home face more hurdles

Austria assumed the presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, and its chancellor has made refugee policy a key issue. Currently, migrants in the country who don’t learn enough German face cuts in benefits.

    
German language course in Austria (DW/C. Martens)

Every morning, Waltraud Gsell teaches German to refugees at Diakonie, a protestant social welfare organization in Vienna. Students from Syria, Afghanistan, Serbia and Iran sit in her current class. One of them, Emmanuel, is taking his second three-month language course. The young Iranian has lived in Vienna for two years and his German has become quite good.

Learning German is very important for me,” Emmanuel says, “so I can speak with friends, and find work later on.”

Language key to integration

Everyone in Gsell’s class has a story to tell. The students quickly learn to trust one another and open up a little bit, she says, stressing how important it is that they feel comfortable. “They are very hard-working and motivated,” Gsell says. “They came here under the worst of circumstances, they all face difficult situations — but every morning, my students show up here with their homework done.”

Iranian German language student Emmanuel (DW/C. Martens)Iranian student Emmanuel says learning German is important if he wants to find work in Austria

That, the she says, never fails to impress her.

Michael Chalupka, who heads Diakonie in Austria, says that their “Integration from day 1” project has been successful thus far. “We also offer language classes for asylum-seekers — not just once they are approved, but from the start.” That greatly simplifies integration he adds, explaining that asylum procedures often take up to two years — much too long to wait for language training.

Read moreAustrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: The EU’s new power broker?

Lately, he has been worried about the new plans the country’s right-wing government has for refugees, which he believes could hamper people’s ability to quickly integrate into Austrian society.

Aid organizations warn of rise in child poverty

Chalupka is very critical of refugee policy in general under hard-line Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, which includes reducing language classes for migrants nationwide while introducing language tests on an advanced-learner level for those who have been officially granted asylum status. Under a proposed law, families will only receive full welfare benefits of €863 ($1,007) if they successfully pass a challenging language test. Refugees who flunk the exam are to receive €300 less.

Michael Chalupka, Diakonie (DW/C. Martens)Chalupka is critical of the hard-line approach Austria’s government has taken when it comes to refugees

Kurz and his conservative party’s junior coalition partners, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), have announced a plan to put an end to “migration into the Austrian welfare system” once and for all.

Read moreAsylum benefits in the EU: How member states compare

“That is absurd,” says Chalupka. “You can’t reduce the number of language classes and at the same time demand that foreigners speak German at a very advanced level.” They are deliberately aiming at the weakest link, and those are mainly foreigners, he adds.

Chalupka believes such policy will have grave consequences, including a rise in child poverty. A few hundred euros more or less can make a huge difference in a city like Vienna, which has limited and expensive housing. “Draft laws can’t possibly be allowed to push people toward homelessness,” he says.

Basic rights on merit?

Language experts, too, say that tying basic human rights to social benefits is highly problematic. Verena Plutzar of SprachenRechte, a language rights network, who has more than 10 years of experience with people learning German, is convinced the level of the planned language tests is too high. Special vocabulary would be called for that students as a rule only know after an average two years of intensive language training. That, she say, is not doable for adult refugees.

DW-Reportage aus Wien | Flüchtlinge & Integration | Regierungssitz (DW/C. Martens)In July, Austria took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, a post it will hold for six months

The move is out of proportion and it violates exam ethics, says Plutzar, explaining that conditions would simply not be fair. In the end, nobody’s livelihood should be endangered because of a language test — which is exactly what might happen, she explains. A migrant who does not pass the test loses a basic right, “a grave consequence for the person’s daily life,” says Plutzar.

Read moreEurope can’t take in ‘new wave of refugees,’ says Austrian conservative MP

The FPÖ’s EU representatives have not responded to interview requests by DW, but Vienna-born Monika Vana, a European lawmaker for the Green party, says the draft law is anti-European through and through. It is an attack on the welfare state, and Chancellor Kurz is tacitly accepting a threat to social peace in Europe, she says. The planned cuts also fuel the image of refugees as the enemy, Vana argues, adding that the idea of basic benefits for just a select few runs counter to EU legislation as well as Austria’s constitution.

Austria holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the next six months. At least where refugee policy is concerned, the hard-line approach taken by the government in Vienna is a clear indicator of its plans for the rest of Europe

COURTESY: DW

Germany divided: 5 snapshots of discontent in a wealthy country

Germany is a very affluent country. The average German earns €3,771 ($4,400) a month and has a life expectancy of more than 80 years. So why is there so much quarreling? DW criss-crossed the nation in search of answers.

    
German flags on a balcony (imago/Schöning)

Cottbus: ‘Our government doesn’t act — it reacts’

You wouldn’t guess from Cottbus’ restored historic city center that at the start of this year this city of 100,000 declared a moratorium on migrants because residents felt overwhelmed. If anything, it feels somewhat underpopulated and empty.

But head to the outlying district of Sachsendorf, and you’ll see evidence of the fact that the proportion of foreigners increased from 2.2 to 8.5 percent in Cottbus in only two years. Women wearing headscarves and young men speaking Arabic are no rarity in this lower-class neighborhood with its Communist-era pre-fab apartment blocks, small shopping centers and otherwise very European-looking populace.

The neighborhood of Sachsendorf in Cottbus (DW/J. Chase)The big apartment blocks of Sachsendorf are typical of outlying districts in many eastern German cities

There have been several prominent instances of migrant violence. The far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party holds up places like Sachsendorf as typical of a Germany being “flooded” by dangerous foreigners. That’s the advertised theme of a podium discussion the AfD is hosting back in the city center. The 200-odd people in the audience are there to vent their anger at what they repeatedly call a “loss of control” over politics and society. And the person they vent it at is Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The biggest problem is the government,” Andreas Kalbitz, the AfD chairman in the eastern state of Brandenburg, says. “It doesn’t act, it reacts. And the result is a colorful bouquet of political problems. The most important issues in our country, from the refugee question to social problems, don’t get addressed.”

Read moreCottbus grapples with violence between refugees and residents

For Kalbitz and his supporters the way forward is clear: Get rid of Merkel, deport nearly all of the people they say entered Germany illegally under the pretext of asylum and empower the people over the politicians. But which people? Parallel to the AfD event, another crowd of roughly 200 people gather for an event entitled “Integration by involving refugees in everyday life.”

Sozialarbeiterin Julianne Meyer und Flüchtling Hassan (DW/J. Chase)Hassan from Syria volunteers his time to help other refugees

In the audience is Juliana Meyer. She coordinates scores volunteers from Cottbus who help migrants fit in. Meyer scoffs at the city’s moratorium on refugees, saying that it has prevented “only around 30” people from moving there.

Many migrants also donate their time as a way of repaying German society for its generosity, she adds. As living proof, she’s brought Hassan, a Syrian refugee who’s well on his way toward learning German and who helps his fellow asylum-seekers by translating and filling out necessary state forms.

“The biggest problem is that people don’t talk to one another enough and don’t debate things properly with objective arguments and issues we all care about,” Meyer tells DW. But when asked if she’d sit down with the AfD, she says no. For her the party, whose leaders flirt with taboo racist language, is too closely associated with “misanthropic and xenophobic” positions to be a legitimate discussion partner.

Watch video03:48

Migration protests in east German city of Cottbus

Both the social worker and the AfD politician agree that Germany is deeply divided. Perhaps more surprisingly, they both speak of social divisions, like disparities in wealth and unequal educational opportunities — and not only of the native-migrant distinction. But the chances of them exchanging views, to say nothing of reaching any common middle ground, are zero.

“It’s a shame,” says Hassan, when asked what he thinks about Germany’s social divisions, although he too believes the far-right populists are racists.

Author: Jefferson Chase

The presence of so many foreigners represents a challenge to a small city like Cottbus, but what about Germany’s cosmopolitan capital Berlin? To find out we went, not to a techno club, but to that most quintessentially German of locations: an allotment garden.

Pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Full article

COURTESY: DW

Can EU summit help Merkel survive her domestic battle over migration?

Battening down the EU’s hatches: Can ideas from Sunday’s mini-summit appease Germany’s CSU in its quarrel with the chancellor over refugees? Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.

    
Horst Seehofer and Angela Merkel (picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Schreiber)Buying time: Chancellor Merkel and Interior Minister Seehofer have postponed their migration showdown until after this week’s EU summit

Sunday’s mini-summit in Brussels on asylum policies that convened at the behest of beleaguered German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended without decisions, and left nothing in writing.

But the speeches by the 16 heads of state and government did offer insight into the direction the EU is headed at the summit later this week. The question is whether the proposals raised can bolster Merkel in her current dispute with her interior minister, Horst Seehofer from conservative sister party the CSU, or whether it’s migration hardliner Seehofer who stands to profit. He is demanding short-term effective measures, namely turning back asylum seekers at Germany’s borders. Merkel advocates bilateral accords between EU countries to fix the bloc’s migration problem. To what extent are the ideas floated in Brussels likely to impact Merkel’s government crisis?

Improve protection of EU’s external borders:

Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, can expect to employ 10,000 new officers by 2021. Their powers are very limited at this point, so the EU would like to expand their mandate. But who exactly are they supposed to protect the EU from, and are they expected to prevent refugees, asylum-seekers or migrants from entering the EU? A larger fleet would be necessary to safeguard the borders in the Mediterranean Sea.

Impact on the German domestic dispute: The proposal isn’t likely to affect the CSU’s dispute with the chancellor, simply because it would take too long to implement. Horst Seehofer wants action now.

Frontex border guard (picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius)Beefing up Frontex is on the agenda, but it’s a longer term project

Reception centers for migrants outside the EU:

Several EU member states – including Austria – advocate setting up reception centers in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants picked up on the Mediterranean. The idea is to prevent travel to the EU, while deciding on site which people actually stand a chance of being granted asylum. The idea is not new; it was previously floated 14 years ago by former German Interior Minister Otto Schily. But foreign “hotspots” have never taken off because no one country has agreed to set up such a center. Now, several EU member states want to push the issue by offering Libya a substantial amount of money. Some have mentioned setting up a processing center on an uninhabited island in the Mediterranean – that’sthe “Australian” model favored by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz .

Impact on the German domestic dispute: This proposal, too, is unlikely to have much of an impact. Horst Seehofer may like the idea of setting up hotspots, but the plan would take months, if not years, to implement.

Reception centers within the EU:

France, Spain and Italy could also imagine reception centers in port cities within the EU for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants rescued from the Mediterranean – likewise for on-site decisions concerning entry into the EU or immediate deportation. The “hotspots” would have to be guarded to prevent illegal entry into the respective EU state. Hungary follows this practice on its border with Serbia: people are held in a transit zone right on the border and sent back after very brief asylum proceedings. Merkel, too, has suggested deciding on asylum at the EU’s external borders, even hinting at a “common European asylum office.”

Impact on the German domestic dispute: Horst Seehofer may like the idea, but the plan would take months, if not years.

Guard looks through barbed wire fence (Reuters/L. Balogh)Hungary has already sealed off its border

Deport rejected asylum-seekers:

Deportation has long been a legal option, demanded time and again by the EU Commission. The aim is to return at least 70 percent of the rejected asylum seekers back to their native countries, a quota that neither Germany nor other affected countries such as Italy currently fulfill. The plan involves speeding up the asylum process: at the moment, a process that according to European guidelines should take a maximum of six months can take several years in Germany.

Impact on the German domestic dispute: This would require an overhaul of the German asylum system, something both the CDU and the CSU have repeatedly pledged to do.

Prevent “secondary” migration:

Refugees, asylum seekers and migrants leave their country of entry into the EU, say Italy or Greece, and simply head on to another EU country. Some enter a country with a valid visa and simply stay after the visa has expired. In the hope of deterring secondary migration, the EU is proposing larger fines as well as stripping secondary migrants of all social benefits, board and lodging.

Impact on the German domestic dispute: This is a procedure Horst Seehofer is bound to like. However, from a legal standpoint it is currently not possible to immediately turn back all illegal entries at the border. People who apply for asylum have the right to an investigation into which EU country is actually responsible for them. That is almost impossible at the border because Eurodac, the database used for fingerprinting asylum seekers, is neither comprehensive nor made for rapid scans.

Bilateral and trilateral accords:

The chancellor has resorted to speaking of bilateral and trilateral accords because she has realized that there will be no comprehensive European solution. It remains unclear what deals she plans with which states. Neither Austria nor Italy are interested in taking back people turned away at the German border. Italy’s rightwing populist interior minister has in fact outright refused any such proposition – even if the Dublin Regulations are clear on the responsibilities concerning asylum proceedings.

Impact on the German domestic dispute: Horst Seehofer might like such agreements if they had a timely effect.

Bye-bye, Dublin?

Watch video26:03

Germany’s refugee row: Can Merkel survive?

Italy wants to cancel the regulation stipulating the responsibility of the country of first entry, and instead immediately distribute new arrivals throughout the EU using a quota system. Both Merkel and Seehofer are against scrapping the Dublin Regulations, arguing that without the procedure, even more people would try to travel directly to Germany without registering anywhere else. Merkel has indicated that she is not totally opposed to distributing asylum seekers in an effort to relieve Italy, while Seehofer is likely not in favor of the quota solution.

The next step is the actual EU summit to be held later this week with all 28 member states. Only after the summit will Seehofer decide whether he’s prepared to put Germany’s hard-won coalition government with Merkel’s conservative CDU and the Social Democrats at risk over the migration issue.

 

COURTESY: DW

How hundreds of Yemenis fleeing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis ended up on a resort island in South Korea


Yemeni refugees line up to register for a jobs forum at the Jeju immigration office on June 19. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

 This is the end of the line for hundreds of Yemeni refugees fleeing war 5,000 miles away.

The setting is a new one in a world of migrants and asylum seekers on the move: a resort island off South Korea’s southern coast where tourists come to dive the reefs, golf and eat local seafood specialties.

But the wider story unfolding on Jeju Island is familiar. It is about desperate people looking for any loopholes or undiscovered pathways on the migrant trails crisscrossing the globe, seeking a place willing to take them in.

It is how Africans have shown up on the U.S.-Mexico border after an overland trek from Brazil, how Syrians came ashore on Greek beaches in 2015 and how Iranians are among those in holding camps on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. And how South Korea is now thrust into a refugee quandary that caught it by surprise.

 0:43
Yemeni refugees find their way to South Korea’s resort island of Jeju

Yemeni’s fleeing war began arriving on the island of Jeju, South Korea in early spring. Drawn by tourist-friendly visas, they now number in the hundreds. 

Jeju’s improbable turn began in early spring.

Word was out already of Jeju’s tourist-friendly visa policies, making it one of the few places that did not require advance visas for Yemenis. A few Yemenis reached Jeju in recent years to make claims for refugee status in South Korea.

What changed this year was a new direct flight to Jeju on a budget airline from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which also grants Yemenis a visa on arrival. At first, a trickle of Yemenis arrived. Then many more — all willing to risk sometimes all their savings to flee more than four years of warfare and deepening humanitarian miseries.

The hope was that Jeju would be a springboard to reach Seoul and apply for refugee protections. But that proved wrong. South Korean officials quickly blocked Yemenis from leaving the island, and on June 1, Jeju dropped Yemen from the no-visa rules to join a handful of other countries including Syria, Iran and Nigeria.

The more than 500 Yemenis who made it to Jeju before the door closed — mostly men, but some families with children — are stranded. They can’t reach the mainland, and few have the money or inclination to return to Malaysia.

“We are not wanted anywhere,” said Ahmed Abdu, 23, who left Ibb in central Yemen in April on a more than $2,000 trip through Jordan and Qatar, then to Kuala Lumpur and on to Jeju. “America doesn’t want us. Europe doesn’t want us. Saudi Arabia doesn’t want us. When we heard about Jeju, we thought, ‘Maybe this is a place that can save us.’ ”


Ahmed Abdu stands outside the Jeju immigration office, which was holding a jobs forum. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

He paused to think about what he had just said. “We can’t leave. That is true,” he added. “But we are alive. We are not worrying about war. That is something very good.”

Abdu, like many Yemenis in rebel-held territory, was caught in the middle. His neighborhood was blasted by waves of Saudi-led airstrikes — using U.S.-made warplanes and weaponry — against rebel fighters, known as Houthis, controlling most of northern Yemen. Riyadh and its allies claim the Houthis receive direct support from Iran, something Tehran officials deny. Abdu did not want to talk about how many relatives and friends had been killed. “Many,” he said.

The tipping point came after Houthi forces tried to conscript young men in his area, he said. “I knew there was no way I could remain.”

Yemen continues to sink deeper into chaos. A push by Saudi-led forces to claim the port of Hodeida, a critical entry point for food, fuel, medicine and other supplies, has touched off another civilian exodus, and international aid groups warn that an all-out fight for the city could inflict another staggering blow.

At first, Abdu and the other Yemenis arriving in Jeju, which has a population of about 600,000, were left to fend for themselves. They piled into hostels, cheap hotels and campgrounds, getting an occasional meal from a restaurant or volunteers.

Slowly, some help has taken shape.

On Monday, more than 200 Yemenis received free health screenings conducted by the Korean Red Cross and lined up for jobs arranged by Jeju officials while their refugee status was being assessed, which could take months or longer. Some took tough work that Koreans do not want — on fishing boats or fish farms making the legal minimum wage of about $1,500 a month. The luckier ones found jobs in restaurant kitchens. A local migrant aid society — which normally deals with Filipinos and other Asians — started Korean language classes for Yemenis.


Yemenis line up for a free health screening by the Korean Red Cross. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

Yemenis attend an information session on life in South Korea at the Jeju immigration office. (Min Joo Kim/The Washington Post)

But the Yemenis in Jeju have opened a difficult conversation in a nation where only a small fraction of refugees have been approved to stay since the 1990s. Last year, South Korea completed reviews of 6,015 refugee claims, rejecting all but 91 of them, according to the Justice Ministry. Eleven of the Yemenis who passed through Jeju in earlier years were among those granted refugee status.

“About 500 people from Yemen may not seem like a lot for countries that have dealt with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of refugees and people fleeing war,” said Lee Il, a rights attorney with Seoul-based Advocates for Public Interest Law. “Here, it has forced people to think about the wider world of suffering and, in a rich country, how we fit in.”

On May 31, the Yemeni arrivals sparked perhaps the first anti-
immigrant march in Jeju, an island still identified by many South Koreans as the scene of bloody anti-communist purges by the U.S.-backed government in Seoul before the Korean War. The demonstrators complained that Jeju’s visa-free program has been “abused as a gateway for illegal entry” into South Korea.

In Seoul, an online petition calling for a pause in the acceptance of refugees drew more than 200,000 shows of support Monday on the presidential Blue House website — meaning the government must issue a response within 30 days. The answer will lack legal force but can indicate a direction for policy.

Kim Eui-keum, a spokesman for the presidential office, said Wednesday that police patrols on Jeju will be stepped up to “avoid unnecessary clashes or interference.”

Jeju’s governor, Won Hee-
ryong, said Monday that he believes authorities and private businesses should band together to help the Yemenis.

“Jeju can set an example for the first refugee crisis our country is facing,” he said at a meeting.

Still, resources are thin. There was only one immigration investigator on Jeju to hear refugee cases when the Yemenis began to arrive. Just two people on the island spoke Arabic. On Monday, one of them led the translation for a crash seminar on South Korean culture for about 100 Yemenis, all men.

“I thought I’d be in Jeju maybe two weeks and then head on to Seoul,” said Gamdan, a 36-year-old from Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, who arrived in Jeju last month. “It was a big surprise when I learned that I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Gamdan, who gave only his first name, serves as an Arabic-English translator for the increasing number of groups on Jeju who need it.

Sister Cristina Gal, part of a Roman Catholic aid service, handed a cellphone to Gamdan.

“Tell her that we found her a house to live in,” she said.

Gamdan told the Yemeni woman on the phone the good news — someone in Jeju had offered her a place to stay for at least a month.

In the next room, a South Korean volunteer quizzed Yunes Melhi Naji, a 27-year-old waiting for a free dental check for an aching molar. The volunteer, who knew almost nothing of Ramadan, wanted to know more about the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting that had just ended.

“But you must drink water during the day?” the woman asked in English.

“Nothing,” answered Naji.

“But no water ever?”

“No, ma’am,” he said. “The Ramadan fast is no problem. What is a problem is being here without work and not knowing what will happen.”

Min Joo Kim contributed to this report.

EU asylum policy: Chances for consensus seem slim

A common EU asylum policy before next week’s summit? Some say that would require a miracle. German Chancellor Merkel could seek bilateral solutions, but that is no easy task either. Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.

    

Migrants look at train timetables (Getty Images/AFP/M. Medina)Migrants study train timetables in the northern Italian city of Ventimiglia

EU member states have been negotiating a comprehensive reform of the European asylum system as well as ways to secure the bloc’s external borders for the last three years. The European Commission has introduced a legislative packet of seven reforms in an attempt to make headway on the topic. The Commission’s proposals are aimed at speeding the asylum process, standardizing criteria for granting applicants asylum and making it easier for states to deport migrants back to their countries of origin. Many of the proposals enjoy broad support, yet others remain contentious.

No agreement in sight on Dublin IV 

The thorniest sticking point is reform of the so-called Dublin III Regulation. It determines which member states are responsible for which asylum-seekers. The European Commission has proposed providing relief to potentially overburdened countries of first entry — mainly Italy and Greece — through redistribution. Yet many Central and Eastern European countries are strictly opposed to that concept.

Watch video02:34

Building a life in Germany despite threat of deportation

European diplomats in Brussels are convinced that if German Chancellor Angela Merkel thinks the argument can be defused before the upcoming EU summit on June 28-29, she is kidding herself. Observers are asking what interest the Polish or Hungarian government could possibly have in helping the chancellor out of her current crisis with truculent coalition partner and Bavarian sister party, the CSU? Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long maintained that the problems posed by refugees and asylum-seekers are Germany’s, because Chancellor Merkel is the one who “invited” them to the EU.

Bilateral agreements as a way out?

Merkel with Italy's Giuseppe Conte (Reuters/H. Hanschke)Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte with Merkel: a deal with the new populist government in Rome is highly unlikely

The only thing the chancellor might be able to do is seek bilateral, rather than European, solutions. Article 36 of the Dublin III Regulation allows agreements between EU member states in order to speed the asylum process and find practical solutions to border problems within the EU. Italy and France, for instance, have had such an agreement for six years. It allows French authorities to send immigrants back to Italy — if that happens to be the immigrant’s first country of entry — with only a cursory appraisal of a person’s status. The chancellor could choose to use such agreements as a template for her own bilateral negotiations. That approach, however, would be beset with troubles.

Italy

Italy’s new populist and far-right governing coalition has already begun to crack down on immigrationby turning away life boats operated by refugee aid groups at its maritime borders. After a recent meeting with Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “The Dublin system must be overhauled.” That means countries of first entry — like Italy — no longer want to be left alone with the problem. Far-right Interior Minster Matteo Salvini has already called for refugees and asylum-seekers to be resettled in other EU countries.

So what could Angela Merkel offer the Italians to entice them to take back refugees stopped at the German border? An appeal for solidarity with the EU’s most popular target country — Germany — would bear little fruit. The Italian government will not have forgotten the fact that Angela Merkel refused to support a widely discussed EU quota system to provide relief to Italy and Greece back in 2015.

Police check traffic at Schwarzbach on the Austrian-German border (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Hoppe)Police check traffic at Schwarzbach on the Austrian-German border

Austria

Asylum-seekers who enter the EU via Italy and attempt to enter Germany will be stuck in Austria — which lies between the two — if the new, right-wing populist government in Vienna does not form a bilateral agreement. At this point, Austria has shown no inclination to do so. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has long been a vehement critic of Angela Merkel’s asylum policies. He recently proposed creating an “axis of the willing” to seal the EU’s exterior borders, keeping migrants from even reaching the continent in the first place. Kurz has also said that asylum procedures would be best conducted outside the EU — in North Africa, or on an isolated island. That idea is supported by Italy. Such asylum centers are also said to be part of German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s “Migration Master Plan.” It will be a difficult task to sculpt all of that into concrete form before the coming summit.

Read more: Bavaria’s Markus Söder and Austria’s Sebastian Kurz unite on migration

Graph showing expenditure for asylum-seekers in EU countries

Greece

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras effusively praised Chancellor Merkel for her asylum policies a few days ago. He said he was impressed by the fact that she was trying to solve the problem on a European level. The EU’s agreement with Turkey, which has provided great relief to Greece, owes much to the chancellor’s personal engagement. One can suppose Greek enthusiasm for taking back rejected asylum-seekers trying to reach Germany via the Balkan route is minimal. And unless those rejected asylum-seekers are put on a plane and sent straight back to Greece, it is unlikely that they will ever return anyhow. Such people would have to traverse a number of other states before arriving back in Greece.

Western Balkans

Chancellor Merkel could also negotiate deals with non-EU member states, allowing asylum-seekers and immigrants in transit to be returned when denied entry to Germany. From Germany’s perspective, returns to a number of states have already worked quite well. Numbers of asylum-seekers from Serbia, Kosovo and Albania, for instance, have fallen dramatically of late. Still, it remains to be seen whether these Balkan countries will be willing to take in people from other states. Theoretically, a type of “domino” return system could be possible, extending from Germany, to Austria, to the Balkans and all the way back to Greece.

Watch video02:24

Merkel, Macron call for unified response to migration

European solutions a far-off dream

The European Commission’s head of immigration, home affairs and citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, is convinced that a reform of the Dublin system is imperative to finding a European solution. Yet, as long as member states continue to block that, many other aspects of asylum reform will remain out of reach.

Most EU states agree in principle to the expansion of the Eurodac data system to include asylum-seekers. Another novelty is set to be the issuance of a complete EU list of countries of safe origin. Chancellor Merkel even envisions an EU asylum authority that would, in time, make its decisions in a transit zone at the EU’s external borders.

 

COURTESY: DW

Angela Merkel promises to support Italy on migration after Giuseppe Conte meeting in Berlin

The German chancellor says she wants to work with Italy to reduce the number of refugees entering the European Union. Merkel is facing a rebellion inside her governing conservative alliance over migration.

    
Conte shake hands after giving a statement to the press before their meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany (Imago/ZUMA Press/E. Contini)

Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to support Italy in tackling mass migration from outside the European Union during a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Monday.

“We want to support Italy’s desire for solidarity, and also hope that Germany receives understanding when it comes to European solidarity on the question of migration,” she said in Berlin.

Read more: Angela Merkel buys time in government crisis over asylum

Merkel and Conte agreed on the need to beef up Frontex, the EU’s external border police, and to work with international organizations to tackle the causes of migration in Africa and the Middle East, Merkel said.

They also agreed that EU asylum applications should be processed in origin or transit countries before would-be migrants enter the bloc, she added.

Read more: Angela Merkel seeks EU talks on migration amid coalition row: report

‘Italian borders are European borders’

Millions of refugees have traversed the Mediterranean Sea in the last few years to apply for asylum in the EU. The influx has led to an anti-migrant backlash in Italy, where many arrivals first landed, and in Germany, the preferred end destination for many refugees.

Watch video02:33

Germany’s chancellor survives rebellion in her government

Conte, who was visiting Germany for the first time since assuming office on June 1, said Italy wanted changes to EU immigration rules to ensure other EU countries share the burden of handling refugees. Current rules stipulate that refugees need to register their asylum application in the first EU country they arrive in.

“The Italian borders are European borders,” he said.

Read more: Germany’s political crisis over asylum: What happens now?

Merkel-Seehofer dispute

The meeting in Berlin followed a week of political upheaval in Germany and the rest of Europe in response to mass migration into the EU.

Merkel’s own position as chancellor appeared to be threatened after her hardline interior minister and conservative ally, Horst Seehofer, called for Germany to start refusing some refugees at the German border. Merkel opposed the move, arguing that Germany should work with other EU countries to find a common solution to the problem.

Read more: CSU leader Horst Seehofer: The man who could bring down Angela Merkel?

Seehofer and his Christian Social Union (CSU) party has clashed with Merkel, who leads the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on refugee policy. Merkel must now attempt to build a solution with EU partners by the beginning of July.

Merkel is reportedly aiming to negotiate individual deals with Germany’s neighbors to allow Berlin to refuse refugees who have already been registered in another EU country. France and Italy have already agreed to a similar arrangement.

Read more: Italian PM Giuseppe Conte says row with Emmanuel Macron over, calls for EU immigration reform

Watch video42:34

Aquarius: Rescue in deadly waters

Italy-France dispute

Conte’s own anti-establishment government had a separate dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier in the week after Italy’s anti-immigration interior minister, Matteo Salvini, refused to allow a ship carrying more than 600 migrants and operated by a charity organization to dock at an Italian port.

Conte lashed out at the French president after Macron’s spokesman said Italy had acted with “cynicism and a measure of irresponsibility” in refusing to allow the ship, which has since arrived in Spain, to dock.

amp/kl (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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COURTESY: DW

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