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Are Germany and the EU prepared for a new influx of refugees?

Thousands are stranded on the Greek-Turkish border. Some have drawn parallels to the 2015 crisis but both Berlin and Brussels reject the comparison. DW breaks down what’s changed since then, and where problems remain.

Thousands of migrants and refugees have gathered at the Turkish-Greek border, desperate to make it into the European Union. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Europe to share the migrant “burden.” Some now are drawing parallels to the 2015 migrant influx, saying the past few weeks have felt like deja vu — but whether the EU is any better prepared than it was five years ago remains to be seen.

What happened in 2015?

At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016, Germany took in around 1 million asylum-seekers — many fleeing conflicts in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and who were looking for safety in Europe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to rally the country with the phrase: “We can do this” (“Wir schaffen das”).  Thousands of volunteers nationwide stepped up to support the new arrivals — but the rallying cry rang hollow to border authorities and local officials who were swamped and felt unsupported.

“The problem in 2015 was that the countries in southern Europe simply waved through unregistered refugees and sent them in the direction of northern Europe,” Heiko Teggatz, the head of the federal police union, told DW. “That shouldn’t have happened.”

The authorities who registered the new arrivals and took on their cases lacked not only personnel, but key equipment. As recently as 2017, nearly 40% of the immigration offices in Germany lacked technical equipment used for identification — with many names incorrectly spelled in the system and fingerprints attributed to the wrong person.

Much of the work fell to Germany’s nearly 11,000 municipalities, who were responsible for housing as well as integrating the new arrivals. Due to a lack of space, many asylum-seekers were placed in makeshift centers built from shipping containers, or housed in gymnasiums.

“From the perspective of the municipalities, a situation like the one in 2015 should not be repeated,” Alexander Handschuh, the spokesperson for the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, said. “That would lead to an overload.”

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What’s changed in Germany since then?

Although many stepped up to help during the crisis in 2015, the arrival of refugees and the bureaucratic chaos that ensued also fed into the rise of right-wing populism in Germany. In 2017, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) garnered enough support to enter the German parliament for the first time after campaigning on an anti-immigration platform.

Five years later, Merkel stands by her decision and says it was necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis, but she also says that “mistakes” were made in the way it way handled.

New systems and personnel have helped Germany’s towns and municipalities become better prepared to handle new arrivals — up to a certain point. Cross-border cooperation within the EU has also improved, including the creation of a central data bank which stores the fingerprints of asylum-seekers.

The German government has also since pushed for increased security at the country’s borders, with around 3,000 to 5,000 officers. Teggatz told DW that the police powers have also been expanded so that officers are also now allowed to use pepper spray and water cannons to deter “unauthorized border crossings.”

Infografik Flüchtlingsrouten nach Europa EN

Where does the EU stand?

Politically, things have taken a turn to the right. Efforts to come up with an EU-wide asylum policy have failed, with countries including Hungary and Poland rejecting efforts to distribute migrants equally among member states. “Hot spotarrival points in Greece and Italy remain under pressure, with authorities there arguing that they’ve been left alone by Brussels.

An EU project following the developments over the past few years came to the conclusion that in response to the situation in 2015, governments enacted “very restrictive measures” to discourage migrants and refugees.

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“Nothing has really changed for the better since 2015,” Professor Sabine Hess, one of the project leaders and a cultural anthropologist at the University of Göttingen, told DW.

Hess noted that politicians have only been able to come up with ideas on bolstering the borders “instead of thinking about the global problems that cause people to flee.”

What is the EU-Turkey refugee accord and is it still active?

In a bid to prevent another wave of migration into Europe, the EU and Turkey signed a deal in 2016 to regulate the flow of migrants. Under the agreement, Turkey agreed to prevent human traffickers from sending refugees to the EU and to take back Syrian refugees who arrived in Greece.

In exchange, Brussels agreed that for every Syrian refugee sent back to Turkey, another would be resettled in the bloc. The EU also agreed to provide Ankara with financial assistance and speed up EU accession talks, as well as loosening visa requirements and extending the customs union.

Under the deal, migrant arrivals in the EU dropped off significantly compared to the situation in 2015 and in 2016.

Since then, the EU has either already paid or has budgeted around €6 billion ($6.7 billion) in financial aid and projects for the around 3.6 million Syrian refugees who are being hosted by Turkey. Ankara has regularly complained that the EU has not held up its part of the bargain, and that payments have been slow. Due to concerns about rule of law in Turkey, the EU has also not yet followed through on membership talks or loosening visa requirements.

When Erdogan announced his country’s borders with the EU were open over the weekend, many viewed the move as a signal that the deal was off.

However, both Germany and the EU said this week that they continue to operate under the assumption that the deal with Turkey is still being implemented — although they’ve strongly criticized the move.

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Both France and Austria have slammed Turkey for “blackmailing” the EU, while Merkel said it was “completely unacceptable” that Turkey is using refugees as political pawns.

What role is Frontex playing?

Since the mass arrival of asylum-seekers in 2015, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency — or Frontex — has played an increasingly important role in the EU’s refugee policies.

“After the crisis of 2015, a pool of officers for rapid intervention was created, and that’s the pool we’re drawing on right now to deploy in Greece — both at the sea border and at the land border,” Frontex spokesperson Ewa Moncure told DW.

This week, Greece requested additional support from Frontex, which helps member states patrol the external borders of the European Schengen Area.

The German government said this week that it will send 20 additional officers to support Greek authorities at the border as well as an amphibious helicopter. There are currently 60 German federal police officers taking part in Frontex operations in Greece.

Frontex is also building up its own standing corps after a new regulation went into effect in 2019, with the agency getting a massive budget boost amounting to €1.6 billion ($1.7 billion) in the coming year.

“We are still using the old mechanism that is used for the rapid deployment — but in the future that will be more flexible,” Moncure said.

Source: DW

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Edo goes after assets, properties of traffickers

 

The Edo State Government plans to go after the assets and properties of persons behind the wanton trafficking of indigenes of the state.

Governor Godwin Obaseki told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja yesterday that proceeds from such properties would be ploughed into the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees.

Convicting the perpetrators and liquidating their assets, according to the governor, will serve as a deterrent to others who are still scouting for vulnerable Nigerians to traffic.

The governor, who was among guests at an event held at the British High Commission in Abuja on Thursday, however, said that the state had been hindered by delays in prosecution.

He said whereas government had recruited competent prosecutors, judicial processes, long adjournments and handling of victims’ testimonies were delaying government’s move to get convictions.

He said: “We have been able to intensify investigation and prosecution. But unfortunately, we have not been able to get any conviction.

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“Not because the prosecutors are not doing their utmost best, but because of the very nature of our legal system.

“We are working very hard with the high courts and NAPTIP to ensure that we get convictions.

“This can serve as a deterrent and punishment to the perpetrators, ensuring that they lose property and they lose assets with which we will now use in supporting the rehabilitation of victims.

“We will work with the judiciary to try and reduce the long adjournments and also the way they treat evidences from victims.

“Many of these victims are afraid of revealing information on their traffickers because of threats, but we are taking measures to provide safe houses for them and to provide cover for them until we are able to get prosecutions.”

The governor said that in the last four years under his watch, the number of persons trafficked from the state had reduced with rehabilitation and reintegration of over 6,500 returnees.

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He said that the focus for the government, working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is to re-humanise the victims and restore their dignity.

He added that the government also, in the process of rehabilitation, extracts information from the victims in a bid to understand the scope and nature of the network.

“We have rehabilitated over 6,500 victims of trafficking and irregular migration working with partners like the IOM.

“We have also used the opportunity to extract a lot of data to understand the nature and scope of all these trafficking network and crisis.

“With that information, we now understand what drives people and what have driven people to be trafficked, the areas they come from, their social situation and economic situations.

“That has helped us to put strategies in place to combat trafficking in Edo state.

“You would see from records available that the incidence of trafficking and irregular migration in Edo state over the last three years has dropped dramatically,” he said.

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JIFORM to African leaders: give youths social security to combat human trafficking

Ajibola JIFORM President

JIFORM President Ajibola

As the world marks the 2021 Day Against Trafficking In Persons on July 30, the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) has urged government in Africa to pay more attention to the social security schemes to stem the tide of human trafficking on the continent.

The global media body with over 300 journalists covering migration across the continents is hosting its 3rd global migration summit in partnership with the Altec Global Inc, Toronto Canada and others at the Niagara Falls in the country between November 29 to December 6, this year.

The President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi in a statement noted that “the major pull factor of human trafficking in Africa is poverty. The youths being trafficked need jobs, shelter, security and empowerment. Before we can ensure that the victims’ voices lead the way as the theme of the 2021 anti-human trafficking day implies, every government on the continent must not pretend on the relevance of improved socio- economic status for their citizens. Time to do needful is now by being honest and set aside undue semantics and theories.

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“We salute the doggedness of the National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) in Nigeria. The law establishing the agency should be reviewed to mandate the leadership of the agency to be totally professional and hierarchically structured as uniformed organization.

“NAPTIP needs more funding to recruit more hands and have its presence in the 774 local governments in Nigeria. The agency should be more strategically involved in the migration process of mostly young Nigerian ladies to be sure of their mission at the airports through collaboration with the Nigeria Immigration Service.

“Youth empowerment is very key to any preventive measure. Poverty, economic hardship and ignorance are the major weapons being used by the traffickers to sway victims in Africa especially Nigeria.

“Therefore, for the theme of this year’s anti-human trafficking day to be meaningful in Nigeria and Africa, JIFORM agrees totally that listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking are very important. Survivors are key actors in the fight against human trafficking.

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“But how well have we re-integrate many of them into the society? The victims play a crucial role in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identifying and rescuing victims and supporting them on their road to rehabilitation.

“We cannot agree less with the United Nations that many victims of human trafficking have experienced ignorance or misunderstanding in their attempts to get help. They have had traumatic post-rescue experiences during identification interviews and legal proceedings. Some have faced revictimization and punishment for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. Others have been subjected to stigmatization or received inadequate support. So, we must rise to implement the preventive measures and defend the victims.

“Learning from victims’ experiences and turning their suggestions into concrete actions will lead to a more victim-centered and effective approach in combating human trafficking. The media too must play its roles to carry out more campaigns to complement what is expected from the government” Ajibola added.

READ  Paris Police evacuates last big migrant tent camp

 

 

 

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IOM rushes to help refugees as deadly monsoon rains wreak havoc in Bangladesh

 

IOM, Rohingya volunteers and partners are working relentlessly to assist those affected by this week’s heavy rains in Bangladesh. Photo: IOM/Mashrif Abdullah Al

Cox’s Bazar – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today many of the more than 13,000 Rohingya refugees forced out of their camps by flooding in Cox’s Bazar which has killed at least six people were returning to their shelters to salvage belongings after a break in heavy rains, but the risk of more casualties remained high.

IOM said a total of more than 21,000 refugees had been affected and almost 4,000 shelters were destroyed. Food distribution centres, health facilities and water points have been damaged during three days of non-stop rain.

The six confirmed dead were killed in landslides or drowned in two IOM-managed camps and officials fear more flooding and landslides will prevent help reaching others among the total of 884,000 Rohingya refugees in the country.

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Access to the camps is hazardous as constant landslides block the main roads leading to the camps, and major routes used by refugees and humanitarian actors are under water.

Up to 2,000 people have been evacuated from landslide-prone areas in Teknaf upazila (sub-district).

“Heavy rainfall is expected during the next few days, and as such, challenges are likely to increase,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.

“Over the past few months, IOM has been assessing the risk of landslides, strengthening drainage networks, installing slope protection measures and upgrading key pathways. However, despite multiple disaster risk reduction measures being implemented, the camp congestion, excessive rain and poor soil quality, make it extremely difficult to cope with the elements,” Pereira said.

One hundred Rohingya Disaster Management Unit (DMU) volunteers trained in each camp have been working around the clock and focusing on helping the most vulnerable, including the elderly and pregnant women. IOM teams are assessing the damage and working closely with the different sectors to refer those affected for relevant assistance. Mobile medical teams have been deployed and the protection emergency response unit has been activated.

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Staff on the ground are clearing drainage pipes, repairing damage and distributing emergency shelter kits, core relief items, and aquatabs to prevent waterborne diseases.

IOM has sent in Cyclone Preparedness Programme volunteers to urgently assist host community members.

Families have taken refuge in six different multi-purpose cyclone shelters where they are currently being assisted with relief items, protection and medical support. Since 2019, IOM has been supporting the rehabilitation of MPCS so community members can take shelter in case of disasters.

The current flood emergency further exacerbates the massive humanitarian needs of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. After almost four years since the latest influx of Rohingya refugees who arrived in Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar, IOM is relying on its partners to continue to support the response.

Additional support is needed to enable teams to continue to assist those affected, as well as the rest of the refugees currently residing in the camps. As always, IOM advocates for the continuation of a comprehensive humanitarian assistance for refugees across all camps.

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