Europe refugees flows set to continue amid sharp rise in asylum applications

African migrants stand on the deck of the Italian rescue ship Vos Prudence run by NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as it arrives in the port of Salerno carrying 935 migrants, including 16 children and 7 pregnant women rescued from the Mediterranean sea. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2018
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Europe refugees flows set to continue amid sharp rise in asylum applications

LONDON: The flow of migrants into Europe shows no signs of abating, say experts with the number of asylum seekers increasing in some countries and many living in dire conditions as they wait for their applications to be processed.
While Germany saw a decline in the number of refugee applications in 2017, France witnessed the highest number of asylum applications in 40 years during 2017 and anticipates a further rise this year.
Pascal Brice, director general of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra) told French broadcaster CNEWS that the number of asylum applicants in the country had increased by 17 percent, with more than 100,000 requests registered last year.
“France is one of the top countries for seeking asylum in Europe” after Germany, which expects to receive just under 200,000 requests for asylum in 2018,” Brice said.
Brice noted a sharp rise in the number of requests from Albanian and West African nationals with 7,630 applications from Albania and 5,987 from Afghanistan — the second most common country of origin.
Speaking to Arab News, professor Christian Dustmann, director of the Center for Research and Analysis on Migration (CReaM) said: “The political fallout has been quite tremendous in Europe so clearly European countries have tried to make sure that the influx of asylum seekers will be reduced.”
“That has seen some success so things have calmed down a little bit but in the longer run this will not totally abate.”
Neil Grungas, executive director of the organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration (Oram) pointed to “signs of instability” elsewhere in the region, including the recent uprising in Iran and the possibility of further crackdown on protesters by the regime. “We don’t yet know what will be the impact in terms of outflow from Iran.”
“Also, the fact that ISIL (Daesh) has been apparently quelled in some sections of Syria and in Iraq doesn’t mean they are gone. We can expect the kind of radicalism and the kind of political pressures that we’ve seen to carry on further and further.”
“People will need to leave…some because they are living in war zones and others because they are tired of living in situations of perpetual displacement,” he added.
“There is a lot of political instability in the Middle East so I don’t see that this will now disappear completely, I think we will live with this challenge for a very long time to come,” Dustmann said.
A series of regime air strikes in rebel-held Idlib in Syria on Sunday, which killed at least 40 people, sent thousands fleeing north toward the Syrian border.
Kerem Kinik, president of the Turkish Red Crescent Society, told Arab News earlier this week that in the past fortnight around 64,000 Syrians have traveled from the south of Idlib toward the north.
“We are doing our best to accommodate them in our camp between Idlib and our southern border,” he said.
A report released by The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in March 2017 found that counties bordering Syria hosted the vast majority of refugees, with more than 5 million people seeking refuge in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as Egypt and Iraq.
The controversial deal struck between the EU and Turkey last year, which left many refugees stranded on Greek islands, was designed to stem the flow of migrants crossing into Europe but relations between the signatories have since deteriorated.
The EU’s deal with Turkey is “beginning to fray around the edges” said Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, and a senior fellow of the UK in a Changing Europe program.
“It’s quite possible that you will continue to have very large numbers of people displaced from Syria to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and that many of those will continue to try and make their way to Europe if they see that as being a potentially feasible thing to do.”
For those trying to cross into Europe, the journey has grown increasingly difficult and perilous since more countries closed off migration routes.
“Even if applications are going up in France, there’s still quite a strong cohort of people in Calais who are in the dire conditions because there is no official camp and there are more and more restrictions on what services can be provided for them,” said Fizza Qureshi, Director of the Migrants’ Rights Network.
“For us the concern is there are no easy routes for protection, so a lot of people are having to put themselves into the hands of traffickers.”
“Its incredibly difficult for people who end up in places like Hungary and some of the other Eastern European countries that are very unwelcoming at the moment to refugees.”
“There needs to be a much more rights-based approach to refugee protection.”


Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

An ambulance is pictured surrounded by thousands of protesters dressed in black during a new rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

  • Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night before.
The police asked for cooperation in clearing the road. Protesters, many in masks and other gear to guard against possible use of tear gas, responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers. The move came after activists rejected an apology from the city’s top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.
Hundreds of protesters sat on and along a main road through downtown, but they were scattered over a relatively wide area.
Activists called on Hong Kong residents to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many might heed that call.
Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march. A week earlier as many as 1 million people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory’s special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.
After daybreak Monday, police announced that they want to clear the streets. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong.
The night before, as protesters reached the march’s end thousands gathered outside the city government headquarters and the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who on Saturday suspended her effort to force passage of the bill.
Hong Kong residents worry that allowing some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy. One concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.
The protesters are demanding that Lam scrap the proposal for good and that she step down.
Protesters are also angered over the forceful tactics by police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government’s headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Lam’s decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong.”
“The chief executive apologizes to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.
Not enough, said the pro-democracy activists.
“This is a total insult to and fooling the people who took to the street!” the Civil Human Rights Front said in a statement.
Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule. But some were skeptical that having Lam step down would help.
“It doesn’t really matter because the next one would be just as evil,” said Kayley Fung, 27.
Many here believe Hong Kong’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence that it is still honoring its promise, dubbed “one country, two systems,” that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover in 1997.
After Lam announced she was suspending the legislation to avoid more violence and allow additional debate, Chinese government officials issued multiple statements backing that decision. Lam, however, made clear she was not withdrawing it.
She has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last week’s clashes with demonstrators.
Lam insists the extradition legislation is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
Prosecutions of activists, detentions without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.