Pope Francis I meets refugees on Lesvos

This video says about itself:

Greek minister slams conditions at Idomeni refugee camp

18 March 2016

Greek Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis compared the Idomeni refugee site on the border between Greece and Macedonia to the infamous Dachau concentration camp while on a visit.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to say that this is a modern Dachau,” Kouroumplis said during his visit to the camp where thousands of people live in improvised tents, deprived of basic necessities, on Friday.

Idomeni “is a logical result of closed borders,” he said, adding that Greece “believes in Europe without borders.” Two improvised camps, hosting over 15,000 migrants, sprung up near the Idomeni crossing in late February after the Macedonian authorities closed its borders amid a massive refugee crisis in the EU.

Kouroumplis expressed regret over “the awakening of a kind of nationalism against the persecuted people” in Europe. He acknowledged that accepting 1.5 million migrants in no easy task, but said that the people stuck at Idomeni “didn’t leave their countries by choice, but were forced to flee by wars, in which Europe also participated.”

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Tears and drawings as pope meets refugees on Lesvos

Today, 10:07

Edited today, 11:57

Hundreds of selected migrants could greet Pope Francis this morning. He had traveled to Lesvos to see with his own eyes the consequences of the refugee crisis.

Some migrants were in tears when Francis passed. Others called out their countries of origin: Afghanistan, Syria. The pope took drawings received from children and praised a girl for her work. His entourage received the drawing and were told not to fold it because he wanted to have it on his desk.

Dozens of migrants who were not invited tried to to get a glimpse of the visit from behind the fences. This afternoon there will be a lunch with eight migrants who will tell their stories. Then they will lay a wreath into the sea in memory of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in their attempts to reach Lesvos.

Talking to Tsipras

Francis was accompanied by the leader of the Orthodox Church and the archbishop of Athens. Together they will discuss the situation with the Greek Prime Minister Tsipras. Tsipras said upon receiving the Pope that it is a historic visit, and that he is proud to offer the migrants shelter. “Especially at a time when some of our partners, even dropping the name of a Christian Europe, build walls and fences to prevent defenseless people from finding a better life.”

Greece currently offers more than 50,000 refugees shelter. Most arrive on Lesvos, on boats from Turkey. For two weeks now the people who are coming are returned to Turkey as part of the agreement that the EU concluded with Turkey.

Humanitarian, not political

The Vatican stressed that the visit is of a humanitarian and religious nature and not a criticism of the EU agreement. But at the same time the cardinal who on behalf of the Vatican deals with migration indeed criticized the agreement. According to him, the agreement deals with migrants as goods that can be traded back and forth.

According to Greek media Francis will take ten refugees back with him, eight Syrians and two Afghans. The details thereof are not yet known. Especially the two Afghans are symbolic, because migrants from Afghanistan are no longer automatically recognized as refugees.

Turkish government sending Syrian refugees back to war

This video says about itself:

Turkey is sending Syrian refugees back to war zone, claims Amnesty

1 April 2016

Is Turkey a safe country for Syrian refugees?

Amnesty International doesn’t think so.

And with Europe’s deal on returning migrants there taking effect from Monday, “the rights group claims that Ankara has been forcing thousands of Syrians to go back to their war-torn homeland.

“The Turkish government needs to stop this blatantly illegal and inhumane practice’.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Turkey sends refugees back to Syria

Today, 18:21

Turkey indeed actively sends Syrian refugees back to war zones. According to research by the NOS in the Turkish province of Hatay. Eyewitnesses and refugees themselves declare that almost daily buses with refugees cross the border, including in recent days.

Amnesty International wrote two weeks ago in a report that there has been refoulement for over a thousand people in recent months. Nevertheless, last week Monday the EU-Turkey deal started, and the first expulsions of refugees from the Greek islands to Turkey. Turkey strongly opposed the allegations of Amnesty International.

Buses across the border

Correspondent Luke Waagmeester visited Hatay in response to the Amnesty report. He met eyewitnesses who saw buses with Syrian men, women and children cross the border.

He also met people living in the border area, relatives of refugees who have been sent back and a human rights lawyer who collected many files on the refoulements.


“Two days ago I saw there also four large buses passing by. Children and families,” says Yunus Dolgun. He lives near the border in Hatay.

They went according to Dolgun to the border at Cilvegözü, a border town 50 kilometers west of Syrian Aleppo. “Even last night I saw three minibuses over there. From Antakya to Cilvegözü, from there to Syria.”


“Migration Offices in cities across the country bring refugees here, and from here they go to the border at Cilvegözü. From there they will be deported,” said human rights lawyer Hatice Can, who has collecting eyewitness statements for a number of months.

Can gets those statements regularly to the local immigration office in Hatay. “They say it is not their business. But they do not deny in front of me loudly that deportations happen here.”

Syrian Mahmoud Bitar has been living in Hatay for two years. His cousin fled four times to Turkey, and was sent back four times. “She was already in Turkey and ran into an ambush of the border police. The next day they were deported by bus to Syria. The last time was in February.”

Bitar: “The refoulements do happen, no doubt, I’ve seen them with my own eyes and I have friends on the Syrian side of the border who see it happen. I do not know why the Turkish authorities and Europeans close their eyes to it… and pretend it does not exist.”

War zone

The area where the refugees are sent back to is directly a war zone. Hatay is located on the Syrian border, near Aleppo. In Aleppo there has been since the beginning of the war, five years ago, heavy fighting between ISIS, other opposition groups and the Syrian army.

Eyewitness Yunus Dolgun sees from the roof of his home the refugee camp Atimeh, just across the border in Syria. “This entire region is under the control of the jihadist group Al-Nusra Front. You may wonder if the people who are sent back are certain to stay alive.”

Turkey denies

The Turkish government in Ankara denies the existence of deportations. …

A few weeks ago, the EU reached a deal with Turkey on the refugee issue. For every illegal refugee who is taken back to Turkey, Europe takes one Syrian. Turkey also receives three billion euros extra for refugee relief.

HELPING MIGRANTS IN EUROPE? You might be charged with human smuggling. Here’s a look at anti-migrant policies across Europe. [WaPo]

Bulgarian xenophobic paramilitarists handcuff Afghan war refugees

This 11 April 2016 video shows a Bulgarian paramilitary gang tying refugees from the Afghan war.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands today:

In Bulgaria images have turned up of vigilantes tying migrants. The amateur footage shows three migrants. They are located in a forest on the ground with their hands tied at the back. They are told that they must immediately return to Turkey. “No Bulgaria for you”, says one of the vigilantes.

According to Bulgarian media, the images are from the Strandja region, near the Turkish border. The video was posted Sunday on Facebook by one of the vigilantes, who calls himself Joseph Louis Barrow. Barrow was a famous American boxer.

Illegal action

Border police chief calls the vigilante action illegal. “In Bulgaria, only the authorities may arrest someone,” he says. According to the border police, the migrants come from Afghanistan.

“Apparently our government and the compliant media have forgotten their Bulgarian origin,” Barrow wrote this morning. “Long live Bulgaria … Death, death and death alone to the traitors.”

The BBC reports that more vigilantes are active near the Turkish-Bulgarian border. Last week a volunteer border patrol was given an award by the border police for holding 23 migrants.

AT the Idomeni crossing from Greece into Macedonia refugees are clashing with Macedonian soldiers and police, as they try to reopen the border near their makeshift camp in the northern Greek border village of Idomeni, so as to proceed into Europe. 300 people have been injured by Macedonian police firing teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at them, said ‘Doctors without Borders’. The teargas from the clashes has spread to the nearby camp where children are suffering from respiratory problems, and where two people have already set themselves alight in protest at their treatment: here.

By Peter Schwarz in Germany today:

Not long ago, a bitter conflict raged in Europe between advocates of sealing off Europe’s borders and supporters of a “European solution” to the refugee crisis.

The German chancellor, who insisted most explicitly on a “European solution,” was praised to the skies by liberal journalists and politicians as the “refugees’ chancellor,” who had finally discovered her heart for the vulnerable and persecuted. The Greens and sections of the Left Party joined in. There were even suggestions that Merkel be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Merkel’s opponents accused her of national betrayal and violation of the Constitution.

Now, everyone can see what a “European solution” means: sealing off Europe’s borders. War refugees, who have risked the life-threatening journey across the Aegean Sea, are detained, mistreated and sent back to Turkey, where they are interned once again by the Turkish government and then returned to their country of origin.

The concentration camps on Greek islands surrounded by barbed-wire fences, the batons and tear gas canisters with which Macedonian border police assault defenceless refugees, and the bureaucratic ruthlessness with which desperate people are bullied and expelled throughout Europe recall the grimmest chapter in German history.

7-year-old Afghan refugee boy saves fifteen lives

This music video from England is called The English Disco Lovers protest at M19 Refugees Welcome march central London 19th March 2016.

From Associated Press:

Boy’s trans-Atlantic text, fast police work save 15 migrants


April 8, 2016 11:48 AM EDT

LONDON — The text message from a young boy, writing in broken English on a no-frills cellphone, was frightening enough to set off a frantic, trans-Atlantic search that saved the lives of 15 migrants trapped in a locked truck in England.

The message flashed on the cellphone of volunteer Liz Clegg, who was attending a conference in New York: “I ned halp darivar no stap car no oksijan in the car no signal iam in the cantenar. Iam no jokan valla.” It was written by Ahmed, an Afghan boy of about 7, trying to say: “I need help. The driver won’t stop the car. No oxygen in the car. No signal. I’m in a container. I am not joking. I swear to God.”

In March, Clegg and others volunteering at a squalid migrant camp in Calais, France, had handed out hundreds of basic cellphones to children living there, programming in a number for them to text in a crisis.

She knew Ahmed wouldn’t text something like that if he wasn’t in danger. So she called Tanya Freedman, from the Help Refugees charity in London, to tell her the boy seemed to be suffocating.

Freedman called police in southeast England to tell them of the emergency. The police response was swift and effective, she said.

“I conveyed to them that it was a life-and-death situation,” Freedman told The Associated Press on Friday. “I had Ahmed’s number and the first thing they did was find an interpreter who spoke Pashto to talk to him. They called him and immediately they realized it was an emergency, and they were able to put a trace of his cellphone and find out he was in a lorry (truck) in Leicestershire.”

Kent Police said in a statement they received a call at 2:50 p.m. Thursday reporting that migrants were believed to be in danger in a truck, and that police established the truck was in Leicestershire. The information was given to police in Leicestershire, who quickly found the truck parked at a highway service station, broke into the back and freed 15 oxygen-starved migrants.

Only then did Freedman exhale: “It was absolutely nerve-wracking waiting to see if the police could find this boy in time to save his life,” she said.

Leicestershire Police said 14 migrants were detained on suspicion of entering Britain illegally, with their cases to be handled by immigration officials, and one man was arrested on suspicion of illegal trafficking.

Police said one child was placed in protective care. None involved gave his last name because he is a minor.

“I think it’s extraordinary that a 7-year-old boy knew his life was in danger and had the presence of mind to know what to do and give the right information and save himself and the others in the truck,” Freedman said. “We hope he’s getting the right kind of care.”

Praise for little Ahmed, Ms Clegg and Ms Freedman for helping to save human lives.

And praise for the British police for helping to save human lives. However, no praise at all for the British Cameron government, ordering police to arrest fourteen humans who fled the bloody war in Afghanistan, to which the British government contributed. Arresting them like they were murderers or rapists, instead of refugees from bloodshed.

European Union mass deportation of Afghan refugees: here.

European Union deporting refugees to unsafe Turkey

This video from the USA says about itself:

EU Deports Refugees from Greece to Turkey

7 April 2016

The EU deportations do not solve the problem that refugees fleeing from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere confront, says Hazel Healy of The New Internationalist.

Don’t send us back to Turkey, refugees say

Children hold placards at a makeshift camp for refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni on March 23, 2016. AFP PHOTO

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“We do not want to go back to Turkey also and not to Pakistan

Today, 18:54

Two dozen Pakistanis lean against the high fence that separates them from us and the outside world. They have been for several weeks stuck on the Greek island of Lesbos.

One of them says that inside things are difficult. “There are too many people here,” says the young refugee. “There is not enough food and space.”

It is not clear whether all of them have requested asylum. The Pakistan says it takes a long time before they get an answer. He adds: “Pakistanis don’t get asylum. Only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis.”

Snack bar

Then a Greek guard comes running to the fence. “Please go,” he says. “You can not film, that’s forbidden.”

Since March 20, shortly after the agreement between the European Union and Turkey had come about refoulement of migrants, journalists are no longer allowed in the former hotspots. These places where refugees are collected have become prisons. Also Moriah, where the Pakistanis are imprisoned, turned into a camp where no one can go in and out.

Several aid organizations have withdrawn in protest against the detention. Occasionally, volunteers from the organizations that still are inside go to the main entrance to get coffee and sandwiches at a snack bar.

Some Spanish aid workers say they are not allowed to talk to the press. But Steven of Christian organization EuroRelief has no qualms. “It’s been so overcrowded and there are more people every day. Today again more than 300.”

And there are not enough social workers, says Steven. “There is frustration among the refugees. They are afraid and insecure and do not know what will happen. Also they are not told much, so as not to increase the tensions.”

Because there is tension inside, surely. Last week there were demonstrations of volunteers and activists who oppose the deal between the EU and Turkey. Also tomorrow morning they want to demonstrate as the first migrants will be returned to Turkey. This will be done with two Turkish ferries which already are in the port of Mytilini.

“We do not want to return to Turkey and not to Pakistan,” cries the Pakistani behind the fence. “But some say that we should go back.”

Calais ‘Jungle’: 129 unaccompanied children missing since refugee camp demolition. ‘This is simply not acceptable,’ said the charity Help Refugees UK: here.

Harsh truths behind child refugees fleeing war – alone: here.

Monday saw the first mass deportations of refugees from Greece to Turkey, beginning the implementation of the so-called EU-Turkey deal. At the beginning of March, the 28 European Union heads of government concluded a dirty pact with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to put an end to the influx of refugees into Europe once and for all. Now the ugly content of this deal has become visible. According to press reports, in the morning grey, police units collected 120 refugees from their beds in an internment camp on Lesbos, taking them to two small ferries, which then brought them to the Turkish port city of Dikili. The boats were “accompanied” by German, French, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian officers from the European border force Frontex: here.

With the sailing Monday of ferries packed with hundreds of refugees and migrants expelled from the Greek Aegean islands of Lesbos and Chios to the Turkish coastal town of Dikili, an international crime of historic dimensions has begun to unfold: here.

Helping refugees from Syrian war, a crime in South Carolina, USA?

This video from the USA says about itself:

New Republican Law Targets Refugee Hosts

2 April 2016

South Carolina Republicans have turned to a pretty underhanded tactic to try to crack down on Syrian refugees receiving aid and resettling in the United States. The bill would hold sponsors of refugees responsible for any subsequent crimes committed by the refugee. John Iadarola (ThinkTank) and Jimmy Dore, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“The South Carolina Senate on Thursday passed a controversial bill targeting refugees in the state, prompting concern that it may portend a wave of anti-refugee legislation around the country, particularly in the tense climate following the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

The bill, if passed by the South Carolina House and signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley, would require refugees’ sponsors to register them in a database maintained by the state’s Department of Social Services. It would also impose strict liability on a refugee’s sponsor if the refugee, at some point in the future, commits a terrorist or criminal act.”*

Read more here.