Danes against government stealing refugees’ jewelry

LGBTQ pro-refugee demonstrators at Danish embassy in London

Where is fictional British pilot and jewel thievery crime fighter Biggles, now that we need him in reality to arrest the Danish governmental jewel thieves?

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thefts from refugees are sparking a popular resistance

Saturday 19th March 2016

[Danish daily] Dagbladet Arbejderen editor-in-chief Birthe Sorensen looks at the effect of state racism

IT CAUSED a stir in the world when Denmark in January this year adopted the socalled Jewellery Act.

It is a law that requires Danish police to seize refugees’ belongings if they have a value in excess of 10,000 Danish kroner (approximately £1,050) while having no special sentimental value to the person in question either.

When the law was named Jewellery Act, it was due to the fact that the Danish government originally had planned for the authorities to confiscate asylum-seekers’ jewellery, including wedding rings, if they cost more than 3,000 kroner.

But after some debate, the law was changed. Now jewellery with sentimental value cannot be confiscated. In practical terms the Jewellery Act has hardly any significance. None of the refugees coming to Denmark carry large values with them.

Far worse, however, are all the other measures that the Danish government has carried out. It has now been allowed to detain asylumseekers as well as rejected asylumseekers indefinitely. The waiting period for the right to family reunification of refugees with temporary protection has been extended from one to three years after arrival in Denmark.

Cash allowances for asylumseekers have been reduced by 10 per cent to 57 kroner (£6) a day (for food, clothing, toiletries, telephone, etc), and it has become a lot harder to get permanent residency.

The government justifies all its restrictive measures with the argument that they should act as a disincentive to apply for asylum in Denmark. Thus the government hopes to reduce the number of new asylumseekers.

To this end, the government is also beginning to accommodate the refugees in tent camps, despite the fact that Denmark has plenty of empty houses that could easily be converted into asylum centres.

In 2015, Denmark received 21,225 asylum-seekers, which is the highest number to date. Denmark has historically received many refugees, without our society collapsing.

In 1990, for example, Denmark received 18,994 applications for asylum, Iranians and stateless Palestinians being the largest groups. Two years later, in 1992, 20,071 people requested asylum in Denmark. The high figure was due mainly to a surge in asylum-seekers from ex-Yugoslav states.

The Danish government (a one party, neoliberal cabinet) has been backed by a large majority in parliament for its harsh line against foreigners. Both the bourgeois minority government and its supporting parties, as well as the Social Democrats, have supported the government on these matters.

This should all be seen in light of the fact that the right-populist and anti-immigration Danish People’s Party during the past several years has enjoyed increasing success among voters. Today it is the second largest party in parliament with 37 out of 179 seats. The party’s success has meant that the other parties have competed to implement austerity measures on immigration matters.

At the same time, however, a large popular movement has been growing, working to offer the refugees welcome in Denmark just as there have been several demonstrations, both to welcome refugees and to protest against the government’s anti-immigration measures.

The biggest movement is by far Venligboerne, which translated into English means Friendly Habitants. Originally started in a small town in northern Jutland three years ago, when the town received 500 asylumseekers in a short timespan, the movement today is still growing.

Along with 10 other Facebook groups, 44-year-old nurse Merete Bonde Pilgaard created Venligboerne Refugee Council, which was intended to welcome the then newly arrived refugees.

Today, no less than 80 cities in Denmark have their own group of Venligboerne with volunteers and active citizens who assist and help refugees with the small and large challenges of everyday life. All the groups are organised around different local Facebook pages, and together there are now more than 130,000 Friendly Habitants evenly represented in various cities around the country, including a couple of European cities as well.

“We see the meeting with the new citizens as an opportunity to add some extra joy and insight into life. We want to welcome them to this country, and we will do our utmost to be friendly when meeting them. Hence the name Friendly Habitants,” the group emphasises on its Facebook page. Local initiatives are ever emerging.

In Djursland (the eastern part of the Jutland peninsula), a woman launched a collection aimed to fund a new bus to be used by the local asylum centre Lyngbygard, which in September last year was subjected to an arson attack.

In Copenhagen, locals among other activities have organised legal advice for asylum-seekers and created groups for collecting money for the refugees, and most recently has opened a cafe in Vesterbro in the centre of the Danish capital. Furthermore, Venligboerne organises activities at detention centres all over the country.

Among many other things, people participate in social events with refugees such as barbecues and communal eating, and set up groups where locals invite residents in asylum centres on outings as well as arranging dinners and play dates for children.

Anyone who wants to contribute and show kindness can sign up via the Facebook groups and thus be part of the movement.

“There must be room for everyone in our groups, regardless of political leanings, as long as they want to help create friendships, show kindness and build bridges,” writes Venligboerne Refugee Council.

Danish police seize valuables from asylum seekers for first time. Cash seized from two men and three women under law that allows police to confiscate valuables worth over 10,000 kroner: here.

As a result of the Danish government’s response to a recent European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling, it will now be more difficult for Danes to bring foreign spouses and other family members into the country: here.

Helping refugees on Lesbos island, interview

This video says about itself:

Refugees Welcome – Lesvos Greece

22 December 2015

I’m an English teacher taking a year off to explore film/travel and this was my last trip of the year.

I have no volunteer experience but I wanted to see what was really happening with the refugee crisis in Lesvos, Greece.

I booked a flight, rented a van, and headed for the beaches where I found a hotel and a great volunteer group to join.

Here are some of the “rabid dogs” and “terrorists” I met there.

I would love nothing more than to make this my everyday job. Different countries, different conflicts, different people…but in the end we are all in this together.

Shot with: GoPro 3+ Black, Lumix Gh3, Iphone 5c

Poem: “Home” by Warsan Shire (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

‘Locals avoid coastal roads so they don’t have to see corpses’

Saturday 19th March 2016

[Danish daily] Dagbladet Arbejderen talks to refugee solidarity activist Var I Dali about her experiences helping desperate incomers to Lesbos island

Faroe islander Var I Dali and her sister Simone have spent four months on the Greek island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea helping tens of thousands of refugees arriving from Turkey in flimsy rubber boats.

In October alone 100,000 people arrived on the tiny island’s shores. “I simply acted out of my frustration, I had to do something for these people in need,” says the 27-year-old, who finished her MA in international development language and cultural studies at Roskilde University Center west of Copenhagen last year.

More than a million people sought asylum in Europe last year and every month the United Nations aid agency UNHCR releases statistical data showing where the refugees are coming from.

Around 40 per cent come from Syria, a country more or less completely destroyed by bombings after five years of war. Another 30 per cent are coming from Afghanistan — a country EU president Donald Tusk recently declared “safe.” It has been almost continuously at war since the late 1970s.

One morning, Var and three other volunteers were driving along the northern coast of Lesbos. From the vehicle, they saw a rubber boat approaching. There was unrest on board. “It turned out that the boat en route from Turkey had taken in water, so the Turkish smugglers panicked and threw bags and people’s belongings overboard. In their haste, they overlooked the fact that an infant was wrapped in some of the carpets in the bottom of the boat. “The child was never found. The mother was heartbroken when the boat came ashore. She couldn’t understand why we were saying ‘now you are safe’,” recounts Var.

She accompanied the mother to a nearby refugee center in order to be registered and then contacted the Red Cross and the UNHCR. “It’s the worst thing that can happen to parents, to lose their children like that. Everybody is deeply shocked,” says Var.

Whenever the volunteers on Lesbos can see Greek rescue ships at sea and hear the sound of rushing helicopters, they know that a rubber boat has capsized and a search has begun. Twice Var I Dali has helped organise checks where relatives have had to identify their drowned children, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins.

“The corpses are lying on the beach, and families identify them while weeping heavily. There used to be many drowned children. Normally, psychologists should be present under such circumstances, but it wasn’t the case when I was there,” Var says with regret in her voice.

She explains that several of the passengers have burn marks on their bodies because they have been sitting too close to the rubber boat motor. Others have frostbite due to the cold water.

International migration organisation IOM estimates that more than 22,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean between 2000 and 2014. “Local Greeks tell us that they are deliberately avoiding the roads running close to the coast simply to avoid seeing drowned human beings, or even just baby shoes rolling around in the shallows,” she explains.

Var is critical of narratives which suggest migrants are driven by a desire to earn more. “I refuse to believe that people leave everything they own and hold dear behind just to achieve prosperity and wealth inside Europe.

“When they arrive here, they own only the clothes they are wearing. And they never know if they or their families will survive the journey across the Mediterranean. Why do human lives have to be lost when this problem, in principle, could be solved politically?” asks Var.

“If you meet just one of these refugees while already thinking they are just migrants pursuing wealth, you will change your mind like this,” she says and snaps her fingers.

She then looks ahead, quietly. Var comes from Thorshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands, but lives in Copenhagen. She explains that when the rubber boats finally reach the shores of Lesbos after an hour and a half at sea, passengers are gathered at assembly points where they get some fruit, blankets, dry clothes and medical care if needed.

All too often there are not enough tarpaulins or tents for 300-500 people at the assembly points, which is why Var has frequently witnessed men giving their indoor seats away to women and children. “The men then simply sleep outside in freezing temperatures,” she reports.

After this reception, the refugees either walk or are put onto UN buses which take them to a center where Greek police register and fingerprint them. Var helps to organise queues outside the centre, where thousands of people are given a number while waiting, standing up for hours.

When they have been given a temporary residence permit, refugees then rush to the ferry heading for Athens. Syrians will be allowed to stay in Greece for three months, while Afghans will have to leave after one.

Upon arrival in Athens they mostly set course for northern Greece and the border with Macedonia, then from there follow routes northward through Europe either on foot, or in buses and trains.

Nato actions won’t help. Var does not think Nato warships patrolling the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey in support of EU border force Frontex, currently the EU’s major response plan, will help. Nato vessels are being tasked with picking up shipwrecked refugees and send them back to Turkey.

Experts from the Red Cross and the Danish Refugee Council predict that actually more refugees will emerge out of this scenario. Eight-nine million internally displaced Syrians in refugee camps are already waiting to break up.

“I think that increased border control will create more danger for the refugees, as they will try to come in through other and even more dangerous routes. Some are already sailing at night, which is extremely dangerous,” Var warns.

Var travelled back to Lesbos earlier this month to help more refugees.

Danish government persecutes people helping refugees

Lisbeth Zornig

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Danish author on trial for helping hitchhiking refugees

Today, 16:35

The Danish writer and activist Lisbeth Zornig will be in court today because they she helped a hitchhiking Syrian family. She is suspected of people smuggling. It is one of the many lawsuits against Danes who helped refugees.

Zornig, previously children’s ombudsman in Denmark, saw in September big groups of refugees walking in the south of Denmark, on their way from Germany to Sweden. “I just could not go home with an empty car. I did not know it was forbidden to take hitchhikers,” she said.

The writer let the four adults and two children into her car and took them to Copenhagen. This happened while she was interviewed by a Danish TV station. “I always thought that you smuggle if you cross borders, or if you are asking for money. Not if you just stay within the borders of the country. But unfortunately it appears that is not the case in Denmark.”

The Danish Aliens Act makes it a crime to transport people who have no fixed abode. 279 people have thereto committed such a ‘crime’ from September to January, police say.

In January, a man was fined 670 euros because he had allowed a hitchhiking Afghan family into his car. Yesterday a 70-year-old man was fined for carrying refugees. He has to pay 1675 euros.

Zornig’s husband is being sued because he has treated the family at his home to coffee and biscuits, has brought them to the train station and has bought tickets to Sweden for them.

The author says she is innocent of people smuggling. She says she just wanted to help people who were in trouble. The verdict in the case is expected today.

Confiscating valuables

In Denmark the center-right government of Prime Minister Rasmussen does everything to make the country unattractive for refugees. In September, the government placed advertisements in four Lebanese newspapers with the message: refugees, do not come to Denmark.

Parliament passed in late January a package of measures that should put off asylum seekers in many ways. Under the new law, asylum seekers have to give up their jewelry to pay for their stay.

Danish children’s rights activist fined for people trafficking. Lisbeth Zornig says her fine for giving a lift to family of Syrians is ‘criminalising decency’ amid asylum clampdown in Denmark: here.

Save drowning refugees, get four years in jail?

Susan Sarandon helping refugees

This photo shows United States film actress Susan Sarandon, helping refugees with the charity Team Humanity, near Lesbos island in Greece in December 2015.

However, today sad news about Team Humanity.

From the Copenhagen Post in Denmark:

Two Danish aid workers charged with human trafficking in Greece

Co-founders of Team Humanity were arrested on the island of Lesbos after helping refugees from a sinking boat

January 15th, 2016 8:25 am| by Lucie Rychla

Two Danish aid workers from the non-profit organisation Team Humanity were on Wednesday arrested on human trafficking charges on the Greek island of Lesbos, reports Information.

This reminds me of someone in the Netherlands, who helped a sick refugee child and was arrested on spurious ‘human trafficking’ charges for that. Fortunately, these charges were dropped soon. One should hope this will happen soon now in Greece as well.

These outrageous arrests may be a result of the pressure of European Union governments on the Greek government to have harsher anti-refugee policies.

According to the organisation’s chairman Walle El Ghorba, the two men, aged 26 and 33, are now sitting in custody awaiting a trial that could possibly see them get four years in prison.

El Ghorba told Information the men were saving refugees from a sinking boat in the Aegean Sea.

Escorted by coast guard

Allegedly, they contacted the Greek coastguard, but when it did not show up, the Danes together with three Spanish volunteers began to help the refugees onto their own boat.

According to Dutch NOS TV, the three Spanish Team Humanity volunteers are now in jail as well. Their lifeboat is sponsored from the Netherlands.

Then they called the coastguard again, this time it responded by escorting them to the island.

Later that day, the volunteers were arrested and charged with human trafficking.

El Ghorba said the NGO had a good co-operation with the Greek authorities and the coastguard prior to this incident.

Team Humanity was established spontaneously in the autumn of 2015, when a group of young friends, mostly from Copenhagen, decided to travel to Lesbos to help save refugees from drowning.