Migrants scuffle with Hungary police; dead toddler’s image shocks Europe

admin   •   September 4, 2015   •   2279

Hungarian policemen stand by the family of migrants as they wanted to run away at the railway station in the town of Bicske, Hungary, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Migrants forced from a train in Hungary scuffled with helmeted riot police and some clung to railway tracks on Thursday, as politicians across Europe struggled to respond to public opinion appalled by images of a drowned 3-year-old boy.

France and Germany said European countries must be required to accept their shares of refugees, proposing what would potentially be the biggest change to the continent’s asylum rules since World War Two.

Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s has strained the European Union’s asylum system to breaking point, dividing its 28 nations and feeding the rise of right-wing populists.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees from wars in the Middle East, along with economic migrants fleeing poverty in Africa and Asia, have braved the Mediterranean Sea and land routes across the Balkans to reach the European Union. Thousands have died at sea and scores have perished on land.

Nearly all first reach the EU’s southern and eastern edges before pressing on for richer and more generous countries further north and west, above all Germany, which has emphasized its moral duty to accept those fleeing genuine peril.

Accusing some European countries of failing to “assume their moral burdens”, French President Francois Hollande said he had agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on “a permanent and obligatory mechanism” to allocate refugees across the bloc.

“I believe that today what exists is no longer enough,” he said. “So we will need to go further.”

Merkel said Germany was prepared to accept more refugees per capita than its neighbors, but others must do their part with “quotas and rules that are fair and take into account what is possible in each country”.

She also acknowledged that laws requiring refugees to apply for asylum in the first EU country where they arrive were “not working any more”. Germany has caused confusion among its neighbors by announcing it will accept applications from Syrians regardless of where they enter the EU.

Politicians across the continent acknowledged the impact on Thursday of images of a 3-year-old boy in a red T-shirt and tiny sneakers face down in the surf of a Turkish beach, which gave a haunting human face to the tragedy of thousands dead at sea.

“He had a name: Aylan Kurdi. Urgent action required – A Europe-wide mobilization is urgent,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Twitter.

The boy’s 5-year-old brother Galip and 35-year-old mother Rehan were also among 12 people who died when two boats carrying 23 capsized while trying to reach a Greek island.

His father Abdullah Kurdi, who was rescued barely conscious, collapsed in tears after emerging from a morgue where the bodies were held.

“The things that happened to us here, in the country where we took refuge to escape war in our homeland, we want the whole world to see this,” Abdullah told reporters.

“We want the world’s attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last,” he said.

Hungary has emerged as the primary entry point for those reaching the EU overland across the Balkans, and its right-wing government has become one of the most vocal on the continent opposing large-scale immigration.

Thursday brought a days-long stand-off to a pitch as Hungarian authorities who refused to let migrants board trains for Germany for days finally allowed hundreds onto a train bound for the Austrian frontier – only to halt it at Bicske, a town outside Budapest with an immigration registration center.

Hundreds of exhausted people had crammed aboard, clinging to doors and squeezing their children through open carriage windows. When the train was halted, most refused to get off.

Police cleared one carriage, while five more stood at the station in the heat. Fearing detention, some migrants banged on windows chanting “No camp! No camp!”

One group pushed back dozens of riot police guarding a stairwell to fight their way back on board. One family – a man, his wife and their toddler – made their way along the track next to the train and lay down in protest. It took a dozen riot police wrestling with the man to get them up again.

“We need water,” said a Syrian man still on the train who gave his name as Midu. “Respect the humans in here; no respect for the humans. We want to go to Germany, not here,” he said in English.

OPPOSING POSITIONS

Hollande’s announcement of an agreement with Merkel on a mandatory system to allocate refugees would transform the asylum rules for the 28-member EU, which operates common frontiers but requires countries to process refugees separately.

The major EU states have taken sharply opposing positions on how far to open their doors, symbolized most prominently by Germany and Britain.

Germany, led strongly on the issue by Merkel, plans to receive 800,000 refugees this year and has budgeted billions in additional welfare spending for them.

“As one of the world’s richest countries, with good infrastructure, a viable welfare state and a solid budget surplus, we are in a position to rise to the occasion,” German Labor and Social Affairs Minister Andrea Nahles said at a briefing ahead of a G20 meeting in Turkey on Thursday.

Britain, by contrast, has set up a program to allow in vulnerable Syrians that has admitted just 216. It has also granted asylum to around 5,000 Syrians who managed to reach British shores since the war began four years ago, but Prime Minister David Cameron has opposed mandatory EU refugee quotas.

“There isn’t a solution to this problem that’s simply about taking people,” he said in televised comments on Thursday.

His hardline stance has come under fire even from within his own Conservative Party: “We cannot be the generation that fails this test of humanity. We must do all we can,” tweeted Conservative member of parliament Nicola Blackwood.

Other EU states are also likely to strongly resist a system that would require them to take in large numbers of refugees.

But Austria’s foreign minister, whose country is also a popular destination for the refugees, backed the quota system idea and called for a greater sense of urgency over the crisis.

“It’s unfathomable that during the financial crisis it was possible to meet all the time and find a common solution, and with this refugee crisis nothing is happening for weeks or months,” Sebastian Kurz told Reuters.

Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban described the crisis as a problem for Germany – which had offered to admit the refugees – not for Europe as a whole.

Europeans were “full of fear because they see that the European leaders … are not able to control the situation,” he added.

Lawmakers in Budapest were debating raft of amendments to Hungary’s migration laws that the ruling party said would cut illegal border crossings to “zero”. They provide for holding zones on the country’s southern border with Serbia, where construction crews are completing a 3.5-metre-high fence.

In an opinion piece for Germany’s Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, Orban wrote that his country was being “overrun” with refugees. He noted that most were Muslims, while “Europe and European culture have Christian roots”.

(This story corrects the spelling of child’s name in the 11th paragraph to `Aylan’.)

(Additional reporting by Krisztina Than and Sandor Peto; Writing by Matt Robinson and Peter Graff; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Mexico’s National Guard halts advance of latest wave of migrants

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

Hundreds of Central Americans traveling as part of a migrant caravan walk on 23 January 2020 near the southeastern Mexican town of Frontera Hidalgo. EPA-EFE/Juan Manuel Blanco

Frontera Hidalgo, Mexico – Thousands of Central Americans crossed into Mexico illegally Thursday from Guatemala, taking advantage of scant monitoring of a section of the Suchiate River, the natural border between those two countries.

The migrants traveled several kilometers inside Mexico and said they planned to move in orderly fashion and formally apply for asylum, but more than 200 members of Mexico’s National Guard halted their advance on a road in Chiapas state near the Guatemala-Mexico border after an attempt at dialogue between the migrants and Mexican authorities broke down.

National Migration Institute (INM) buses arrived at that spot near the town of Frontera Hidalgo to take hundreds of detained migrants to immigration-processing centers such as the Siglo XXI station in the city of Tapachula.

Carrying the flags of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and signs with the message “We Want to Talk Directly to the President,” the migrants set out early Thursday and walked more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, to the nearby town of Frontera Hidalgo.

They said they were taking up an offer from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who last Friday offered jobs to thousands of migrants but said they would need to apply for asylum in Mexico.

The migrants also said they were looking to obtain safe-conduct passes – at least in Chiapas – and thereby avoid being targets of the National Guard, a recently formed militarized police force.

“Right now what we’re going to do is heed the call of (Lopez Obrador) … He’s promised us that they won’t touch us with an (asylum application) in hand. That’s what we’re going to do. If they touch us, I don’t know who’s lying there. But we’re going to do our part,” Honduran Jose Luis Morales told Efe Thursday.

However, tensions escalated Thursday when the migrants and some activists accompanying them confronted officials with the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) and the INM and demanded they respond to some 2,000 requests for asylum made in recent days by members of their caravan.

On Monday, between 500 and 1,000 migrants – part of a caravan that originally consisted of as many as 5,000 people – ran across the Suchiate River near the Rodolfo Robles bridge.

The National Guard responded with tear gas and captured more than 400 people; the National Migration Institute said 40 other migrants opted to return to Guatemala of their own accord, while 58 others disappeared into the jungle.

The INM says that a total of 679 Honduran members of the caravan, which left that impoverished Central American country a week ago, have been deported by air or land.

That institute said Wednesday that more than 2,000 migrants had been intercepted in a single day in the southeastern Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco.

On Thursday, the migrants crossed the Suchiate River at a different point to avoid being turned away by the National Guard.

Despite having crossed the river by surprise, the Central Americans had pledged on Thursday to migrate in peaceful and orderly fashion.

“We’re traveling because it’s the only way that maybe they’ll show mercy and let us travel to the north. My (preferred) destination is the United States, but if I can stay in Mexico I’ll stay because for me it’s a big advantage, since we’re supported here by all the Mexican people,” Honduran Marco Tulio Polanco told Efe.

Mexico’s equivalent of an ombudsman’s office, the National Human Rights Commission, which has come under fire for its lukewarm response to Monday’s events on the border, on Thursday issued a statement saying that its officials have been gathering up complaints and that it condemns “all acts of violence against the physical integrity of migrants.”

Unemployment, poverty and, above all, high levels of gang violence are the reasons most cited by Central Americans for leaving their native countries.

Mexico’s response to this first migrant caravan of 2020 reflects a sharp change in policy by Lopez Obrador’s administration, which had previously offered fast-track visas to migrants for humanitarian reasons and had sought to enlist the US in a development plan for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

That plan focused on boosting job opportunities in countries that have some of the highest homicide rates in the world and where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

But under pressure from US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican imports if that country did not halt the northward movement of Central Americans, Lopez Obrador’s government agreed with the US in June 2019 on a plan to curb migration.

Last month, Mexico announced a 70 percent reduction in the number of people arriving at its border with the US and said that the INM had deported 178,960 foreigners in 2019. EFE-EPA

ppc/mc

At least two dead, 25 missing as migrant boat capsizes off Libya

Robie de Guzman   •   June 3, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

At least two migrants died and around 25 others were missing after their inflatable boat capsized off the western Libyan coast, the coastguard said on Sunday (June 2).

A total of 73 migrants were picked up by a coastguard patrol about 14 miles off Qarabulli town, some 49 km (30.5 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, including 40 men, 25 women and eight children from Sudan, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

The bodies of a woman and a child were recovered.

“A fisherman called in the incident of a rubber dinghy with migrants having capsized, they had rescued them, and were on their way to the port,” said Eissa, spokesperson for Garabulli Coastguard.

Earlier, the coastguard spokesman said there were eight missing people but that number was later upgraded to 25.

Libya’s western coast has become a main departure point for migrants as smugglers exploit the county’s chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (REUTERS)

WHO says migrants risk illness in host countries, lack access to health care

admin   •   January 22, 2019

Female migrants standing in line to get their temperatures checked by a Red Cross worker in Malaga, Spain on January 15, 2018 | Reuters

Migrants and refugees arriving in Europe are likely to be healthy but risk falling sick due to poor living conditions in their host countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a first-ever report on migrants’ health.

WHO regional director for Europe, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said on Monday (January 21) that refugees and migrants in Europe do not bring “exotic” diseases but are in higher risk to of getting sick because they lack access to health care.

Poor living conditions also increase their risk for cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer, though they are less affected than their host populations on arrival, WHO said.

The report said that a significant proportion of migrants and refugees who are HIV positive acquired the infection after they arrived in Europe. Despite a widespread assumption to the contrary, there is only a very low risk of refugees and migrants transmitting communicable diseases to their host population.

Jakab said that in some European countries “citizens estimate that there are three or four times more migrants than they are in reality”. — Reuters

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