Recommended: click link: Amnesty International Report on Hungary’s treatment of refugees
Recommended: click link: Amnesty International Report on Hungary’s treatment of refugees
There have been two important meetings this week in Brussels. On Tuesday 22nd, the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the EU plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland adopted a decision to relocate 120,000 people from Greece and Italy over a period of about two years. The states joining in this scheme will receive 6,000 euro for each relocated person. The ministers invoked the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility between Member States and despite squawking from the usual suspects, the decision was agreed on by a very large majority. Poland opted in with the majority abandoning her Visegrad fellows. Hungary has opted out of the scheme, the whole purpose of which is to lighten the load of the countries which have been overwhelmed by asylum seekers. There are about 50,000 asylum seekers on Hungarian soil at this moment and the Hungarian government are building walls and bringing in the army to stop any more from entering. Before the meeting ministers were each in turn greeted by the press of their countries and it was the moment for a short slogan filled audiovisual opportunity. Swiss President Simonetta Somarruga hit the nail on the head by saying that only a coordinated approach would do – a patchwork of national solutions was no longer on the table.
The 120,000 registered asylum seekers will be allocated to various countries on the basis of the agreed proportional quota system. Not discussed was a standard procedure and time period necessary for processing asylum applications. This varies very widely from state to state and is an opportunity for corruption. There is also the issue of choice. German Foreign Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said that refugees may not choose where in Europe they will settle but in practice it is difficult to imagine asylum seekers being forcibly transported to countries where they don’t want to go. Only after a period of five years will they have the right to settle in countries outside the one which has granted asylum. Priority will be given to Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans, especially to more vulnerable people.
The second important meeting was the informal summit of European leaders and Heads of State held on the 24th which went on until after one o’clock in the morning. At the press conference Donald Tusk, President of the European Council announced a list of measures which had been adopted and Commission President Junkers added that the atmosphere had been better than expected. “Hotspots” – that is to say centres for registering and fingerprinting will be established at the borders of the Union to ensure efficient classification of the status of those entering and their subsequent relocation or return – at the latest by November. The utter inefficiency of the Hungarian government to provide decent facilities where people entering could wait was one of the reasons for tensions flaring and for Angela Merkel unilaterally citing emergency provisions to enable Germany to register and process the people who had entered the EU in Hungary. According to the Dublin III regulation it is the state of entry that should do this. Rather than decent receptions centres Viktor Orban’s government has preferred to spend EU resources on fences and avoid allocating funds to any measures which might have made the asylum seekers feel welcome. We have all seen the pictures. I was dismayed to hear more racist ranting on a radio station this morning as Slovak citizens expressed disgust at all these horrible migrants coming through their country “because they want better life”. Is it extraordinary to dare for a better life, especially when your last year has been spend in an unsanitary camp in Jordan with few prospects? The fact that some refugees have not come directly from Syria but from these camps has some people up in arms with indignation as they are saying that they are just economic refugees and shouldn’t be allowed in. I have talked to members of the extreme right in Hungary and asked them if they don’t think this is a hypocritical stance as there are so many Hungarians who have moved to the richer parts of the EU because they just want more stuff but the answer is invariably that they have to go because the government is not capable of assuring them a livelihood. Another assertion popular on right wing blogs and in the press is that asylum seekers from war zones are cowards who should stay behind and fight to get their country back from ISIS. At the same time disgruntled Hungarians seem to thing it’s OK to abandon their country and leave it up to the governmnent to sort out its economic problems – surely a much less daunting prospect than being caught between ISIS and Assad’s forces no matter how much of a mess the economy is in. So sad that now that the former Soviet Block countries have been safely welcomed into the European fold – a place of aspiration for decades during the cold war, they don’t want anyone else coming in. And certainly not if they are the wrong colour or creed.
I’ve never been a great fan of Vladimir Putin but he got it right yesterday when speaking at the inauguration of the renewed Grand Mosque in the Russian capital. In a country where extremist haters are not shy, his speech sent a strong signal about the country’s Muslims being an integral part of society in Russia. I had had the impression that the farther east you travel in Europe, the more islamophobic, but Putin appears to have seized this opportunity to set a very welcoming tone. However cynical a move, it’s an intelligent one. Rejecting whole groups in your community will turn them against you and provide a fertile ground for recruitment for extremist groups. Compare this with Orban publicly qualifying Roma Hungarian citizens as aliens which he generously was not bothering the rest of Europe with. A Roma mayor resigned in protest at the slur. It’s a good illustration of how to create enemies.
A further important point is that Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey will be assisted by the EU in dealing with the refugee crisis. Turkey has over two million refugees so far and between 30 and 40% of the Lebanese population are refugees. A particularly difficult point is that Lebanon was occupied by Syria between 1976 and 2005 so understandably there are tensions, not to mention the situation of Syrian Kurds in Turkey. The EU will give one billion euro additional funding for the UN High Commisioner for Refugees and for the World Food Programme. More money will also be allocated to address the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. A plea was also made for renewed diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis in Syria and to ensure the formation of a government of national unity in Libya where refugees tend to be IDPs (Internally Displaced People).
The next European Summit will be held on the 15th – 16th October where the European leaders and heads of state will once again focus on migration.
Asma al-Assad (born 11 August 1975, née Asma Akhras) is a British-Syrian. She was born to Syrian-born parents, raised and educated in the United Kingdom, and graduated from King’s College London in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and French literature. She briefly pursued a career in international investment banking before moving to Syria to marry President Bashar al-Assad in December 2000.
She grew up in Acton where she went to Twyford Church of England High Schooland her friends called her Emma. Afterwards, she moved on to a private girls’ school, Queen’s College. Finally, she graduated from Kings College London in 1996 with a first-class bachelor of science degree in computer science and a diploma in French literature.
A serious blow was dealt to her public image since the Syrian Civil War intensified in early 2012 amid reports of her extravagant personal shopping. A new picture emerged in western media “of a woman closer in spirit to Imelda Marcos than the moderating counselor to her husband’s excesses that she was once seen as being”. The Daily Telegraph reported that in January 2012, despite worldwide condemnation of her husband’s government, she appeared with him and two of their children at a pro-government rally.
The first lady was criticized for remaining silent throughout the beginning of the Syrian uprising. She issued her first official statement to international media since the insurrection began in February 2012, nearly a year after the first serious protests. She sent an e-mail to The Times stating: “The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the first lady supports him in that role.” The communique also described her continued support for charities and rural development activities. Also in early February, she sent an email to the The Times declaring her support for her husband and related that she “comforts” the “victims of the violence”.
On 23 March 2012, the European Union froze her assets and placed a travel ban on her and President Assad’s other close family members as part of escalating sanctions against the Syrian government. Asma al-Assad herself remains able to travel to the UK because of her British nationality but she is barred from entering the rest of the EU.
On 16 April 2012, Huberta von Voss Wittig and Sheila Lyall Grant, the wives of the German and British ambassadors to the United Nations, released a four-minute video asking Asma al-Assad to stand up for peace and urge her husband to end the bloodshed in her country.
She had not been seen in public regularly since the July 2012 bombing of the Military Intelligence Directorate that took place in Damascus, leading to press speculation and government denials that she had fled the country or the capital city of Damascus. She made a public appearance at the Damascus Opera House for an event called “Mother’s Rally” on 18 March 2013, refuting the rumors. She made another public appearance in October 2013 and further dispelled the rumors of her fleeing the country by saying “I was here yesterday, I’m here today and I will be here tomorrow.”
In March 2011, Vogue published a flattering profile of Syria’s first lady titled “A Rose in the Desert” authored by veteran fashion writer Joan Juliet Buck. The article was later removed from Vogue’s website without editorial comment that spring. Responding to media inquiries about the disappearance of Assad’s profile, Vogue’s editor stated that “as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that [Syria’s] priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue“. After strong public and media reaction to the article, Buck’s contract was not renewed with Vogue although she had been employed by the magazine for over 30 years and had been an editor of French Vogue for seven years. The New York Times later reported that the piece was intended as part of a larger Syrian government-sponsored image campaign coordinated by the public relations firm Brown Lloyd James. Buck has since written another article for Newsweek giving an extremely critical account of Asma al-Assad, concluding that she is the “first lady of hell”. Separately, Buck’s original profile of Assad was satirized in The Philadelphia Inquirer and additional critical articles.
This truly saddens and disgusts me.
This petition is about humanitarian outreach and offering people a chance at life.
That’s why I created a petition to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-8), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (MD-1), and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (MD-2), which says:
“Children, the faces of the future have no fault in the economic and social ills racking their country. While receiving refugees does not get at the root of the problem, it does help to save those who would like to see a better world for themselves and thus, for us all in an increasingly globalized, connected world. Be a global humanitarian representative to share the burden with Europe.”
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
Syrian Child at Keleti Station, Budapest – excited about catching the train to Germany
|Migrants stranded as Hungary bars them from rail station – BBC News Hundreds of migrants are stranded outside a major railway station in Budapest after police seal off the terminal to stop them travelling through the EU.|
At Keleti Station in Budapest this evening there was a crush as people tried to board the trains taking them to Germany. The news that they would actually be allowed to get on trains had spread fast amongst refugees and there was a huge throng. The mood was anxiously optimistic. Many people tugged at my sleeve and asked me to photograph them in family groups. Some people posed with their tickets, clearly relieved to be getting away from Hungary at last. A young Syrian spoke to me about the appalling and unsanitary conditions in the camp where he had not even been able to take a shower for seven days. He was angry and said that he didn’t want any money from anyone, he just wanted to be treated like a human being and not an animal and to remember that he and others were fleeing a war.