Welsh solidarity, Canadian governmental inhumanity, toward refugees


Three-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi, dead on a Turkish beach

By Luke James in Wales:

Cardiff MP opens doors for Calais aid

Friday 4th September 2014

Jo Stevens and councillors call for Wales to show its best spirit

LABOUR MP Jo Stevens has converted her constituency office into a collection centre for aid that will be rushed to refugees across Europe.

As Tory PM David Cameron continued to sit on his hands in the face of a humanitarian crisis yesterday, Ms Stevens threw open the doors of her office for donations.

The Cardiff Central MP issued an urgent call to residents of the Welsh capital for clothes, sleeping bags, tents, blankets and baby slings.

Two former Cardiff Labour councillors, Cerys Furlong and Siobhan Corria, are also running drop-off points in other parts of the city.

The political pals began the collection after seeing the distressing photo of young child Aylan Kurdi, who was found drowned on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey.

Ms Stevens told the Star: “I was chatting to a couple of friends and we thought what can we do that’s practical to help.

“All three of us are mothers so the photograph of the young boy was absolutely horrific to us.

“That photo has galvanized people into taking action.”

The plight of refugees, particularly from war-torn Syria, is something Ms Stevens has been passionate about since well before she was elected in May.

But with more than 922 asylum seekers in Cardiff — three times as many as nearby Bristol — the crisis is a major issue in her constituency.

By comparison, there are just 10 in the whole of Oxford where Mr Cameron is an MP, according to official figures obtained by Labour MP Paul Flynn through a freedom of information request.

“I have a lot of Syrian refugees who come to my surgery, along with people from other war-torn countries in the Middle East,” said Ms Stevens.

“So every week I’m seeing and hearing horrific stories — and that’s from people who have managed to get here.”

“We need some leadership from the government. This is a humanitarian disaster and we just need to something about it.”

Four sleeping bags were the first donation received by the MP yesterday, while “lots more” constituents had called to say they would be making deliveries.

One constituent had even contacted her on social media to offer their home to a refugee.

All donations must be received by Friday September 11 when they will be taken to Calais and distributed across Europe by aid agencies.

More details can be found at www.jostevens.co.uk.

This video from Canada says about itself:

Aunt of Syrian Migrant Blames Canada for Deaths

3 September 2015

The sister of a Syrian refugee who lost his family on a smuggling boat accident says she blames the Canadian government for the deaths. Teema Kurdi had applied to sponsor the family’s entry into Canada, but was denied because of paperwork.

Little Aylan Kurdi and his family had fled the Syrian town Kobani, destroyed by war brought there by ISIS terrorists. They tried to leave Turkey, where they were not in any way safe: Turkish soldiers had killed Syrian Kurds like them, including refugees like the Kurdi family, before.

However, that did not seem to move the Canadian Conservative government of Stephen Harper to show any humanity.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Canada shunned family of boy who drowned

Friday 4th September 2015

Refugee father tells how sons and wife died

CANADA refused an immigration request from the Syrian family whose two small boys and mother tragically drowned on Wednesday, an MP has revealed.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Fin Donnelly submitted a request on behalf on the boys’ aunt, Teema Kurdi, only to see it turned down by immigration officials.

The boys’ father Abdullah Kurdi described how the people-trafficker in charge of their overloaded rubber boat had panicked in the rough waters of the Aegean Sea and jumped overboard.

“I took over and started steering. The waves were so high and the boat flipped. I took my wife and my kids in my arms and I realised they were all dead,” he said.

“All I want is to be with my children at the moment.”

The heartbreaking photo of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a beach in Turkey after he died along with his elder brother Galip and mother Rehan, has encapsulated the horror of the Mediterranean refugee crisis.

A report by the UN Human Rights Council said yesterday that more than 2,000 Syrian refugees had drowned while trying to reach Europe since the start of the civil war in their country in 2011.

In Hungary, police allowed refugees to board trains at Budapest’s Keleti station following a two-day stand-off, only to take them to a refugee camp in Bicske, 22 miles west of the capital.

Desperate and angry people who had been trying to reach the relatively welcoming destinations of Austria or Germany resisted as riot police forced them off.

Amid the scenes reminiscent of the second world war, one woman clutching her small child lay on the tracks in protest until she was forcibly removed.

Hungary’s bitterly anti-immigration Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed Germany for the crisis, claiming: “We Hungarians are full of fear.”

In the Czech Republic, police said that they had ended the practice of writing identification numbers on refugees’ arms, which critics had said harked back to the nazi Holocaust.

The Greek coastguard reported yesterday morning that it had rescued 751 people in 19 separate incidents in the previous 24 hours, down on more than 1,000 the previous day.

European Union correctly criticized about refugees’ deaths


Drowned three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan, dead on the Turkish coast

This photo shows three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, a refugee from the war-destroyed town Kobani, dead on the Turkish coast. Aylan drowned this week, together with his mother, his brother and other Syrian refugees.

Again and again, on this blog there has been sharp well-deserved criticism for President Erdogan of Turkey.

However, even broken clocks indicate the right time twice a day.

Even politicians who are wrong nearly all the time may be right a few times.

Today, it’s Erdogan’s turn for that.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

European Union is partly responsible for death of each refugee

Today, 18:32

“Europe is making the Mediterranean a refugee grave. The EU by its policy is partly responsible for the death of all refugees losing their lives.” That is the harsh criticism by Turkish President Erdogan of the current refugee problem.

“In the Mediterranean not only refugees drowned, but also our humanity,” said Erdogan. His country has since 2011 accepted about one and a half million refugees from the Middle East. The EU is 5.5 times bigger than Turkey and is struggling this year with the reception of between half a million and a million refugees.

Britain: Ukip candidate sparks outrage after blaming Aylan Kurdi’s ‘greedy’ parents for his death: here. And here.

By Markus Salzmann:

Thousands of refugees held at Budapest train station

3 September 2015

More than 3,000 refugees—the majority of them families with children—have been held at the Budapest East Train Station in miserable conditions since the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban blocked the access of refugees to the station.

Hundreds of refugees participated in a demonstration Wednesday demanding the right to continue their journey to Germany. They shouted slogans such as “freedom, freedom!” Jeering could be heard outside the station as angry refugees shouted at the hundreds of heavily armed police blocking the main entrance.

Since Tuesday, refugees have been camping outdoors since they are no longer permitted on the grounds of the station from which trains leave for Austria. A few found shelter in the neighboring subway station.

The hygienic conditions are disastrous. Only four portable toilets have been provided. The refugees have received no public assistance or accommodation. Help has come only from small organizations and private individuals who have distributed donated food and clothing and provided basic medical care. A reporter for the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel called the situation a “fundamental violation of human rights.”

The clearing of refugees from the train station was abrupt and harsh. Departures from the station were completely halted. Then, after a few hours, the station was reopened to passengers, but refugees were no longer permitted to enter, even though many had already bought tickets.

“The police came and told the Syrians: the trains are open,” a refugee told the German television news program Tagesschau. “Then they all bought a ticket here, 200 euro per person. Then the police came back when they had blocked everything off and said: ‘The trains are closed for you.’ We have not gotten our money back.”

The Hungarian police had unexpectedly allowed refugees to travel on Monday. The trains out of Hungary were stopped at the Austrian border, however, and the passengers had to wait for hours in extreme heat. According to the Austrian police, refugees who had already been registered in Hungary had to return to Budapest. The others would be permitted to seek asylum in Austria. The “aid” promised by the government for refugees in Budapest is contemptible given the situation. A tent camp is supposed to be erected beside the station within two weeks. With a capacity of between 800 and 1,000, it will barely accommodate a third of the immigrants.

Though EU countries such as Germany shed crocodile tears over the brutal treatment of refugees by Eastern European governments, the measures being carried out have their full support.

The heavy influx of refugees from Syria and other countries that have been devastated by the military and political interventions of the Western powers has led to the breakdown of the so-called Dublin Rule, which requires refugees to register and be processed in the first EU member country they enter. The authorities in Greece and Hungary are unable and unwilling to deal with the large numbers passing through their territories.

Berlin, in particular, has exerted pressure on the government in Budapest to prevent the refugees from traveling. As asylum seekers left for Germany on Monday, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry declared, “Germany has not suspended Dublin.” In other words, the refugees should stay in Hungary and not seek better conditions by travelling to the north and west.

One can assume that the German government is frantically working behind the scenes to ensure that the Hungarian government prevents the onward journey of more refugees. This may well be the reason why the Orban government cordoned off the train station again.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is also exerting pressure on Orban to stop the stream of refugees. The two will meet on Thursday in Brussels to discuss the crisis.

In spite of the dramatic scenes unfolding in the Hungarian capital, Orban announced that he would treat refugees more harshly in the future. Chancellery Minister János Lázár said the police would be mobilized at the border and equipped with water cannon and rubber bullets. The security forces would not actively prevent refugees at the border from entering the country. “But the time for that will arrive,” Lázár declared.

Lázár confirmed media reports that the right-wing government in Budapest wants to deploy the army against refugees. The parliament will create the necessary legal framework in the coming week, he said. The government plans to use 13 new emergency laws to reduce the flow of refugees, starting in the middle of the month.

Hungary has erected a 175-kilometer fence on its border with Serbia. Most refugees travel through Greece and the Balkans until they get to Serbia. From there, they cross into the so-called Schengen area, the contiguous territory of 28 EU member-states where there is free movement across internal borders.

According to press reports from the German federal police, between 750 and 800 refugees a day travel to Hungary by land from Greece, through Macedonia and Serbia. The refugees originate predominantly in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.

At a meeting of the Visegrád countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Orban and his counterparts discussed plans for treating refugees even more harshly.

Twenty-five years after the collapse of Stalinism in these countries, the false promises of democracy and freedom have been replaced by chauvinism and police repression. Capitalism is revealing its ugly and inhuman face. Refugees who have been on the road for weeks are being greeted by the authorities with hostility and rejection.

Czech Republic Finance Minister and Vice President Andrej Babis is demanding a NATO deployment to keep refugees out of the EU. “We must close the Schengen area from the outside,” the millionaire businessman and founder of the right-wing liberal party ANO declared Tuesday on Czech radio. The flow of refugees is “the biggest danger for Europe,” he added.

Czech President Miloš Zeman echoed these remarks and accused countries such as Greece and Italy of a “lack of will power” when it came to protecting their borders. At the beginning of August, he said in an interview: “No one has invited refugees here.” He added that his country would rather take Ukrainian refugees because they “integrate themselves better in society than Muslims.” Social Democratic Minister President Bohuslav Sobotka spoke against the required quotas of refugees announced by the EU.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico denounced the refugees and said it was impossible to determine for certain that there were no terrorists among them. Before that, Ivan Metik, spokesperson of the Slovakian Interior Ministry, said that Slovakia would accept only Christian Syrians.

Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke in favor of closing the border to refugees, adding that Poland wanted to take only Ukrainian refugees. “Other European countries should take that into account when we talk about readiness to help,” Duda told the German Bild newspaper.

The right-wing Polish government has already explained to Brussels that it is willing to accept only 2,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea. Even this token number has prompted harsh criticism from Duda’s national conservative camp, which refers to the “Islamization” of Poland.

The Balkan countries Macedonia and Serbia, which are not EU member-states, are likewise taking harsh action against refugees. Macedonia blocked the border with barbed wire for two days and fired tear gas and rubber bullets on refugees.

The xenophobic attitude of the Eastern European governments, which are highly unstable and lack significant public support, is encouraging attacks on refugees by the most right-wing forces in the region.

On August 27, the fascist “64 Burgkomitate” held a demonstration in front of the Budapest East train station. Ahead of the demonstration, a group of neo-Nazis attacked several refugees who were waiting for their train. When the police arrived, they left the attackers alone and detained the refugees, including children, and took them to provisional refugee lodgings.

Refugees and Hungarian supporters at the train station in Szeged faced a similar situation when refugees were attacked by fascist gangs with close ties to the ultranationalist Jobbik party. Here as well, the police did not intervene. Various groups publicly and repeatedly boasted on social networks that they were hunting refugees on the Serbian border and “maintaining order.”

In Slovakia, the government campaign against refugees has led to riots. On Tuesday, several hundred right-wing extremists from the Our Slovakia party of Marian Kotleba demonstrated in the village of Gabcikovo, where some 500 refugees have been taken.

Meanwhile, today a train departed from Budapest station. Refugee passengers thought that at last their train tickets to Austria and Germany would bring them to Austria and Germany indeed. The xenophobic Hungarian government had a cruel surprise for them: it made the train stop at a prison camp in Bicske town.

Hungarian police dragging refugee family off railway track

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Refugees lie down out of despair on rails at Hungarian camp

Today, 17:10

In protest, a man pulls his family on the train rails at the station where the train stopped. “I will not go,” he shouts. “I had to leave my country. I left everything. I’m staying here on this track.”

Many of the refugees who just arrived on a train from Budapest do not know how to cope. They were on their way to Sopron, near the Austrian border, but were stopped in the Hungarian town of Bicske, where there is a refugee camp.

Policemen pull the man harshly off the track. They have been trying to catch all afternoon refugees from the trains, but these resist strongly. Before this man and his family already dozens of others lied down on the rails.

‘No camp’

The train left at the end of the morning from Budapest. It is the first train since Tuesday transporting migrants. The vehicle seemed on the way to the Austrian border, but stopped already after 40 kilometers.

In Bicske, the Hungarian police has by now sent all journalists away from the station. The refugees are still not giving in. …

Meanwhile refugees bang on the windows of the train. “No camp, no camp!” they cry.

UPDATE 3 September, 22:52, NOS TV: Refugees in three trains are now surrounded by police at Bicske.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany:

German chancellor feigns sympathy for refugees

3 September 2015

Merkel has finally found the right words,” “Merkel’s words are encouraging,” and “Suddenly chancellor for refugees” read the headlines on the traditional summer press conference given Monday in Berlin by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The press was enraptured by Merkel’s references to “human dignity” and the “incredible suffering” of refugees, her description of the refugee problem as a “national task that affects everybody,” and her threat to confront violent xenophobes with “the full force of law.”

In fact, the policy of the German government has not changed. It continues to be characterised by a brutal disregard for refugees fleeing for their lives from the war zones in the Middle East and Africa.

For months, Merkel remained silent on the fate of refugees and the series of arson attacks on refugee shelters in Germany. As recently as mid-July, a video went viral showing Merkel in her typically bureaucratic manner reducing a Palestinian student to tears by telling her that she still faced deportation despite her excellent academic performance.

Merkel has adopted a different tone in recent days basically for two reasons.

First, she completely misjudged the mood of the population. Despite determined efforts, in particular by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Saxony and the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria, the government has failed to incite xenophobic sentiments on a large scale. Refugees have been met with a wave of solidarity, which intensified after the recent series of arson attacks and neo-Nazi demonstrations in front of refugee centres. Many people instinctively realise that the refugees are victims of a policy that is also a threat to themselves.

Merkel’s cynical expressions of compassion are aimed at absorbing such sentiments. The pastor’s daughter from East Germany is adept at such gestures. She owes her stunning political ascent not to any firmly held beliefs, but rather to her ability to detect and adapt to the prevailing trend—only to steer it in a reactionary direction.

Second, even if it sought to do so, the government could not immediately curb the influx of refugees. The Dublin Rule that for years kept asylum seekers away from Germany’s borders has virtually collapsed. The agreement, which came into force in 1997, stipulates that refugees must seek asylum and remain in the first European Union (EU) country they enter. The agreement has proved extremely beneficial for Germany, which has no external borders with the regions from which most of the refugees come.

The massive influx of refugees from Syria and other countries that have been ruined as a result of the military and political intervention of the Western powers has overwhelmed the Dublin agreement. Refugees are either prevented from crossing borders by means of brute state force, or handed on as soon as possible to the next country.

This begins on the Greek islands, where fugitives, having crossed the Aegean Sea, are housed under unspeakable conditions, and continues at the borders of Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

The Hungarian government has sealed off its border with Serbia with a fence and is considering the use of the military. The main railway station of Budapest was temporarily blocked and then cleared of refugees by the police. On Monday, thousands of desperate refugees were able to board packed trains before the station was cordoned off again. The trains were stopped again at the Austrian border, ostensibly for security reasons. Finally, Austria organised special trains to transport some of the refugees to Germany.

Previously, the Dublin Rule kept refugees out of Germany. Now, it is doing the opposite. There is no country to which the German government can pass on the refugees.

In addition, many EU countries, especially Greece, have been so impoverished by the austerity policies imposed by Berlin that many refugees have concluded that better opportunities await them in Germany. Merkel was cynical enough to cite this as proof that “the world sees Germany as a land of hope and opportunity.” She added, with a nod to Germany’s past, “This really was not always the case.”

If one looks at Merkel’s statements to the press more carefully, it becomes clear that she is trying to buy time. She wants to impose her conditions on the other EU member states to remove refugees to the fringes of the EU and—under the pretext of combatting the roots of the refugee problem—prepare new wars and military interventions in Africa and the Middle East.

She has insisted that other European countries, and eastern European countries in particular, take in more refugees. “Europe as a whole needs to move,” she declared. The EU as a whole would be damaged, she said, if Europe failed to address the refugee issue. She announced that, together with France, she will push for the rapid erection of registration centres in Greece and Italy.

In Brussels, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who works closely with Merkel, wrote a letter to all EU member governments threatening them with fines if they failed to comply with the Dublin procedure. On Thursday, Juncker will admonish Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán personally in Brussels.

In Germany itself, Merkel announced, the processing of asylum applications is to be accelerated, so that rejected applicants can be deported quickly. Refugees will be compelled to remain in prison camp-like reception centres until their applications are processed. Only in the event of acceptance will they be transferred to accommodation in the municipalities.

By September 24, the government plans to present a programme that will significantly lower the standards for accommodation of refugees under the pretext of reducing bureaucratic hurdles. For example, the regulations for fire and pollution control are to be watered down.

Merkel promised that the federal government would support the states and municipalities with “billions” to bear the costs of accommodation and management of refugees. She did not specify an exact amount. However, it is assumed that the sum will be well below the €5 billion Finance Minister Schäuble is due to rake in this year due to increased tax returns.

In the media, there is a growing chorus demanding that the refugee crisis be fought at its root—i.e., via military intervention in those countries already destroyed by previous Western military actions.

On Monday, Richard Herzinger thundered in Die Welt against the “conspiracy theory” that “with its aggressive intervention, especially in the Middle East, the West created the bloody chaos that has forced millions of people to flee.” He continued: “Not the intervention of the West, but its shameful retreat has detonated the region…. The current crisis reminds the West, and particularly Europe, to undertake not less, but more global interventionism.”

Refugees, the German government and neo-nazis


This video is about the big demonstration on 29 August 2015 in Dresden, Germany; against nazi anti-refugee violence and governmental anti-refugee policies helping xenophobia.

By Marianne Arens in Germany:

German interior minister plans further attacks on refugees

31 August 2015

After a number of fires at refugee camps over recent weeks, and the intimidation of asylum seekers by neo-Nazis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck belatedly issued an official statement last Wednesday.

Merkel visited the refugee camp in Heidenau, Saxony, where right-wing extremists ran riot over recent days, and declared her commitment to the humane treatment of refugees. Gauck also made an appearance in front of a refugee camp in Berlin and praised volunteers who were carrying out official tasks in their free time.

But these official media appearances as well as the condemnation of anti-immigrant chauvinism by the Social Democrat (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel—who described the neo-Nazi rioters as a “mob”—are aimed above all at diverting attention away from the government’s responsibility for the miserable conditions confronting refugees.

Not only does the German government bear joint responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the intolerable conditions in many regions from which millions are fleeing for their lives, but they are also consciously promoting anti-immigrant sentiments and placing as many hurdles as possible in the way of refugees.

Just a day before Merkel and Gauck publicly shed crocodile tears over the refugees, interior minister Thomas de Maizière sent a catalogue of wide-ranging legislative reforms to reduce levels of immigration to the other ministries for approval.

On Sunday both Merkel and de Maizière both stressed that deportation procedures against so-called “economic refugees,” i.e. those forced to flee their countries due to extreme poverty and destitution, would be intensified.

Refugees from so-called secure states of origin, including Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, will practically be imprisoned and immediately be deported. They will have to stay in refugee camps twice as long, i.e. six instead of three months and accept residency legislation, which means they can be deported at any time. Welfare for refugees is to be cut drastically, with what remains being provided mainly in the form of material aid rather than cash.

“In the view of the interior minister, accelerated legal proceedings for people who have little hope of asylum in Germany should send a signal to their countries—and thus restrict the flow [of refugees],” commented Spiegel Online, which had early access to the text of the proposals.

In another remarkable response to the developing crisis, the chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD) in Thuringia, Andreas Bausewein, went public with a major attack on the refugees. In an “open letter” to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Thuringia’s state premier Bodo Ramelow (Left Party), he demanded that the children of refugees be removed from the schools.

Bausewein demanded that children of refugees not be sent to school until their residency status, and that of their family, had been decided. In his own words, he called for a “suspension of the requirement to attend school until the determination of the residency status of the children/family, and no requirement to attend school during ongoing application, at least for asylum seekers from secure countries of origin.”

The number of children attending school without residency status was very high, the SPD politician complained. All children between six and sixteen years of age are sent to school after three months in Germany, but “the capacity of the schools has been overstretched.”

Bausewein’s demand undoubtedly violates the law. The obligation to attend school goes back to the Reformation and Martin Luther (1483-1546) and has been law in many parts of Germany for centuries.

Bausewein’s choice of an “open letter,” which he signed in his capacity as mayor of Erfurt, is, to put it mildly, remarkable. The SPD forms the government in Thuringia with the Left Party, so Bausewein could have spoken directly with Ramelow at any time. However, he is obviously concerned with the promotion of anti-immigrant sentiment and the encouragement of right-wing prejudices.

Bausewein also used his open letter to call for better surveillance of the refugees by expanding the financial resources for state security services. He wrote that the “recognition of the scale of surveillance deemed necessary by municipalities and the covering in full of the costs arising from this” was necessary.

In addition, Bausewein, like de Maizière, aims to arbitrarily strengthen asylum laws and make the laws, which are already extremely restrictive, as strict as possible. He demanded, “The existing list of secure countries of origin must be urgently reviewed and adjusted to the current situation…the departure of asylum seekers who have not been recognised as refugees, whose asylum applications have been rejected and who have no right to appeal, should proceed quickly and, if necessary, be enforced by deportations.”

Such language is hardly distinguishable from the crude “foreigners out!” cries of the radical right-wing agitators. Bausewein cynically adds that the reason for his initiative was that he “does not want to see another ‘Heidenau’—whether in Erfurt or any other city.” But in his letter, he is promoting precisely the sentiments that will encourage further racist attacks.

Bausewein is a leading Social Democrat. The 42-year-old mayor of Erfurt, who is an electrician by training with a diploma in social pedagogy, has been described as the “rising star of the SPD” (taz) or a “dyed-in-the-wool SPD” politician (MDR). He was formerly state leader of the young Social Democrats (Jusos) and an employee of the German confederation of trade unions (DGB). Since October 2014, he has served as state chairman of the SPD in Thuringia.

His latest intervention underscores once again the source of anti-immigrant acts: the establishment politicians who promote and facilitate them. They greet exhausted refugees upon arrival with bullying, repressive measures and intimidation, providing encouragement to the neo-Nazis. They attempt to divide the population and smother widespread sympathy for the refugees.

The measures being deployed against refugees today will confront the entire working class tomorrow: unprecedented attacks on basic democratic rights, such as the right to education. In Greece, democratic rights have already been trampled underfoot by the German government.

At the same time, under the pretext of combatting the causes for the growing number of refugees, the German government is preparing new imperialist wars and military interventions in the Middle East and Africa.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is using the refugee crisis to prepare a major deployment of the army within Germany. The armed forces will participate in the accommodation of refugees nationwide. Barracks are being revamped into refugee camps and soldiers brought in to carry out tasks normally assigned to civil authorities, such as registering refugees: here.

Syrian refugees welcome in Iceland: here.

Big anti-nazi march in Germany


A demonstrator in Dresden, Germany holds a sign that reads ‘refugees welcome’ on Saturday. Photograph: Oliver Killig/dpa/Corbis

From AFP news agency:

German pro-immigrant protest welcomes asylum seekers to Dresden

Anti-Nazi Alliance organisers estimate 5,000 people took part in march through Pegida stronghold in response to rightwing protests against migrants

Sunday 30 August 2015 01.05 BST

Thousands of people took to the streets of the German city of Dresden on Saturday to send a message of welcome to refugees after a string of violent anti-migrant protests in the region.

Led by protesters holding a huge banner that read “Prevent the pogroms of tomorrow today”, the crowds marched peacefully through the eastern city under the watch of police in riot gear.

“Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here,” they chanted.

Police said 1,000 people took part in the protest, which was called by the Anti-Nazi Alliance, while organisers put the numbers at 5,000.

Dresden is the stronghold of the anti-Islam Pegida movement, whose demonstrations drew up to 25,000 people at the start of the year.

The eastern state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, has suffered a series of ugly anti-migrant protests, with the government saying on Friday it was sending police reinforcements to the state.

“We’re here because what is happening in Germany, particularly in Saxony, is unbearable,” said Eva Mendl, a teacher who was among the demonstrators.

“Hating refugees, who live here because they can no longer live at home, because they have been through a war … that shouldn’t happen in a rich country,” she added.

Afterwards, several hundred participants in the rally gathered in the nearby town of Heidenau, which has been the theatre of protests over the opening of a new refugee centre.

Local authorities had initially banned all outdoor public gatherings in the town of 16,000 this weekend, fearing a repeat of last weekend’s clashes between police and far-right protesters in which several dozen people were injured.

But the federal constitutional court on Saturday struck down the ban, paving the way for the pro-refugee rally, which passed off peacefully, with refugees and their supporters dancing together in the street.

Germany is struggling to absorb a vast wave of asylum seekers that is expected to reach a record 800,000 this year.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was booed by far-right activists during a visit to Heidenau’s new refugee centre this week, with about 200 people shouting “traitor, traitor” at her.

Nazi violence, anti-nazi pro refugee demonstration in Germany


Welcome party for refugees in Heidenau, Germany

This video is about the welcome party for refugees from wars in Heidenau, Germany, yesterday. The caption of the photo says (translated):

The deputy leader of the Left Party, Caren Lay, takes part in the welcoming party in Heidenau. She said: “I am delighted that the festival can take place thanks to the court decision, the Saxon CDU [‘center right’ governing party] has once again demonstrated their complete failure in the asylum policy. And because they have been doing nothing for years when one needs to combat the right-wing mob, it bears partial responsibility for the situation!”

Translated from weekly stern in Germany today:

Pirna – In Pirna in Saxony an office of the Left Party has been attacked in the night. Unknown attackers destroyed in the district office five window panes and damaged the front door, as police in Dresden said. Whether there is a connection with the xenophobic protests in neighboring Heidenau, the police could not say. Heidenau itself has remained calm after protests by the far right. Left-wing groups in Dresden have called for a demonstration today for the protection of refugees and against the government’s asylum policy in Germany.

See also here.

Refugees from wars, welcomed by people, abused by governments


This video from Germany says about itself:

Germany: Heidenau holds “Welcome Festival” for newly arrived refugees

28 August 2015

Hundreds of volunteers gathered in Heidenau on Friday to host a celebration aimed at welcoming newly arrived refugees to Germany, after last weekend’s attacks on the refugees by far-right radicals.

From Deutsche Welle in Germany:

Cake and politicians at ‘Refugees Welcome’ party in Heidenau

28 August 2015

The party took place in Heidenau after all, despite a police ban that was lifted following a political outcry. As Ben Knight reports, the event was largely peaceful, as refugees gathered [around] a truck full of donated clothes.

Few disused hardware stores in neglected eastern German towns have received this much attention from major politicians in recent years. The Praktiker store in Heidenau, closed two years ago and hastily converted into a makeshift refugee shelter last week, has now hosted three major political leaders in the space of a week.

But the last of these visits, on Friday by Green party leader Cem Özdemir, was initially undertaken in a more troublemaking spirit than the first two. Both Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel‘s visit on Monday and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s on Wednesday were standard displays of political defiance against the far-right violence that made Heidenau the most infamous town in Germany last weekend.

But Özdemir was here to a defy a ban, imposed by regional Saxony authorities on the grounds that “the available police resources are not capable of getting the measure of predicted developments in the situation.”

In the event, Saxony police were spared the embarrassment of handcuffing a party leader, as an expedited court order ruled the ban unlawful, allowing a planned “welcome party” to show support for the refugees to go ahead.

Özdemir milder, with cake

Özdemir arrived, bearing cherry cake, and told reporters, “When I got on the train they said the party couldn’t take place, and by the time I got off, they said it could.” He also struck a much more conciliatory note than during his outraged appearance on the TV news show “Morgenmagazin,” when he accused the Saxony state government of “suspending democracy.”

“I’m pleased that the administrative court shares my opinion, and I think the opinion of everyone here, that there can’t be a state of emergency, if only because one can call for help from neighboring states,” he told reporters in Heidenau. “When there’s a G7 summit, when there’s a football game, [the police] can call for help from other states, why can’t they do it when neo-Nazis and fascists threaten people?”

Özdemir got a much friendlier reception from volunteers than Markus Ulbig, Saxony’s Christian Democrat interior minister, who had to be carefully shielded by security guards. Ulbig, who has been blamed for the failure to prepare for last weekend’s violence and for condoning the police ban, was jeered as he tried to deliver statements to the press. “Get out! You weren’t invited!” demonstrators chanted. “You could’ve come last Sunday.”

“All I can say is that it is good that this party is taking place here today,” Ulbig managed to tell reporters, before virtually being driven from the grounds by angry leftists.

With no sign of neo-Nazis throughout the afternoon, except for an isolated cluster of men who shouted abuse at passing anti-fascists from behind a bush across the road, this was as close as the party came to spilling over into violence. The police also kept their distance, though many were dressed in riot gear, while other units had been positioned around the town and at the train station.

Donations and local pride

In the event, the politicians’ visits were largely overshadowed by the “Refugees Welcome” party itself – which came complete with barbecue, salad, fruit, Özdemir’s cake, “anti-fascists” who juggled, span plates, and sang left-wing anthems, and a bouncy castle. There was also a truck full of donated clothes, toys, shampoo, and toothpaste, much of which was desperately needed in the shelter, which, the refugees said, had only the most basic hygiene facilities.

A few Heidenauers appeared at the party too, as much to defend the honor of their home town as to bring donations. “I was ashamed on Wednesday, when the chancellor came and they [nazis] shouted ‘traitor’ at her,” one old man told DW. “I was a refugee myself – at the end of the war, I was twelve when I came here.”

“People left East Germany after the Wall came down, for much smaller reasons than these people are coming here,” said a Heidenau woman, adding some of grandchildren’s discarded toys to the pile. “I wouldn’t like to have to flee a war.”

The truck of donations, and the party, had been organized by a network of “anti-fascist” groups from Dresden and elsewhere, as well as a refugee group from the Oranienplatz protest camp in Berlin. Among these was Adam Bahar, himself a refugee from Sudan who has been in Germany for three years.

“It was important for us to show solidarity with other refugees,” he said. “But we are also doing something good for Germany – we are showing that people are welcoming, you know, and that they have an open mind.”

Bahar also expressed shock, as many in Germany have, that the authorities have appeared so unprepared to cope with the new influx of refugees. “There’s been a war in Syria for more than four years,” he said.

“I’m really surprised that the people who have the power in this country don’t see this. Instead they make propaganda and say, ‘Ah! Too many people are coming.’ It’s not true – for example in Turkey there are more than two million refugees from Syria – but I don’t see Turkish people attacking refugees.”

True for the big majority of Turkish people; though some Turkish soldiers did kill refugees.

By Marianne Arens and Patrick Martin:

Casualties of “Fortress Europe”: Refugees dead on land and sea

29 August 2015

The death toll among desperate refugees fleeing war zones in the Middle East and Africa continues to mount, with horrifying scenes that go beyond anything seen in Europe since World War II.

The vast majority of these refugees are seeking to escape violence unleashed on their homes and families by the imperialist powers, above all the United States, with its accomplices including France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Once they escape their home countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and various countries in east and west Africa, the refugees encounter still more violence at every step: from police and border guards, from smugglers like those who asphyxiated refugees in the hold of a ship and the van of a truck, and from neo-Nazi mobs in Saxony, who were permitted to attack them by German police.

More than 300,000 have already crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year, more than in all of 2014, according to UN and EU figures. This includes an estimated 180,000 making the short crossing from the Turkish mainland to Greek offshore islands, then trekking through Greece, Macedonia and Serbia to Hungary, and from there throughout the EU.

The UN forecast this week that 3,000 migrants a day were passing through the Balkans by this land route—an annual rate of more than one million people, the bulk of them fleeing the civil war in Syria, fomented by Washington and fueled by weapons supplied by US allies like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

Another 100,000 or more have made the even more dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, in the course of which at least 2,500 have already lost their lives this year. This toll increased by another 250 Thursday night and Friday morning, as two more ships capsized off the Libyan coast.

At least 150 bodies have been recovered from the twin disasters, involving a small dinghy with perhaps 100 people aboard, and a larger fishing boat loaded with more than 400 people. The Libyan Red Crescent told UN officials Friday that they did not have enough body bags for all the victims of the second, larger sinking.

Most of the victims on the fishing boat had been locked in the ship’s hold when it sank shortly after leaving the port city of Zuwarah, leaving them no escape. About 100 people were rescued alive, and the search was going on for additional bodies among those missing in the sea. The migrants were mainly Africans, officials said.

The International Organization for Migration said that 4,400 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean near Sicily August 22-23, making it one of the busiest weekends for rescue operations this year.

The gruesome tragedy on the A4 motorway between Budapest and Vienna showed the deadly dangers of the supposedly safer land route for refugees. In an abandoned refrigerated truck lay 71 dead people, 59 men, eight women and four children; a girl who was not yet two years old, and three boys, ages between eight and ten years.

An Austrian employee of the motorway company Asfinag discovered the parked truck on Thursday when attending a breakdown near Lake Neusiedl; decomposition fluids were already dripping from the vehicle. The police had the truck towed to a veterinary border service at Nickelsdorf on the Hungarian border, where police investigators retrieved the dead and examined the vehicle before the corpses were taken to the coroner’s office in Vienna.

The cause of death is thought to have been asphyxiation. The truck’s refrigerator compartment, meant for poultry meat, had no fresh air openings. Dents on the side of the vehicle point to what horrific scenes must had occurred in the interior, as the refugees desperately tried to escape the agonizing suffocation.

On Friday, the Hungarian police arrested four people, three Bulgarians and a Hungarian as the owners and drivers of the truck, after surveillance footage at several tollbooths was analyzed. Since then, the media and politicians have indulged in tirades against the criminal traffickers. According to estimates, each of the 71 refugees had to pay up to a thousand euros for the ride.

People trafficking is only such a lucrative business because the EU member states have sealed up their borders so tightly. They are trying to prevent people who are fleeing war and terror from crossing the borders with fences and razor sharp barbed wire, with rigid police controls and attack dogs.

“Whoever really wanted to put a stop to traffickers would deprive them of the basis of their business, i.e. open up Europe’s borders to refugees,” Florian Hassel wrote quite rightly in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “European politicians,” he added, “are not ready to do this.”

The corpse-filled van was discovered while the Western Balkans Summit was taking place a few miles away at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met with the leaders of six Balkan countries. The aim of the gathering was to agree on better control over the routes taken by refugees and to further fortify the EU’s external borders.

Merkel responded to the news of the tragedy by saying that one should approach the subject of migration “quickly and in the European spirit, that is, in the spirit of solidarity.” How this works in practice can be seen by the fact that her government now wants to declare Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania safe countries of origin in order to more rapidly deport people coming to Germany from these countries.

This had been demanded by German Interior Minister de Maiziere only two days previously. He also wants to speed up the deportation of refugees, cut benefits and replace cash in kind support to deter refugees from coming to Germany.

In Austria, the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives is also moving harshly against refugees. Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner responded to the recent refugee crisis by demanding even more restrictive border controls and that traffickers be punished even more stringently.

The night before on the newscast “Zeit im Bild,” Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz had called for a tightening of asylum policy, “much more intensive border controls” and “rapid proceedings” for asylum seekers. He cited Hungary, which is building a four-metre-high fence along its entire 109-mile southern border, as a model, and threatened that other EU members, “not only the Hungarians, but also perhaps we [will] take measures which are not so pleasing.”

A five-point plan presented by the Austrian government in Vienna also includes the use of force to combat criminal gangs and IS forces in the Middle East. The EU had already presented plans in May that provide for a military intervention in Libya. This would amount to a further expansion of the wars that are the main reason millions of people have been forced to flee.

The attitude of the imperialist powers toward the Syrian people is particularly cynical. For four years, they have cited the killing of Syrians by the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the reason for a stepped-up campaign of subversion and violence to overthrow the Assad regime. Yet, when millions of Syrians flee the resulting killing field, they are demonized as invaders threatening the jobs and welfare of the European population, who must be deported or walled off.

The 71 refugees who were found dead in Austria were likely from Syria, as a Syrian travel document was reportedly found among the bodies. This means that they had completed an arduous journey of 3,500 kilometres. An increasing number of Syrians are fleeing to Turkey and from there travel via the Balkan route and over the Aegean to Western Europe, since the North Africa-Italy route has proven to be extremely dangerous and the Mediterranean has increasingly become a mass grave.

The authors also recommend:

The refugee crisis and the inhuman face of European imperialism
[28 August 2015]