Germany deports 100 Egyptians for visa violations

A file photo showing Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Germany deports 100 Egyptians for visa violations

CAIRO: Germany deported 100 Egyptians and sent them to Cairo over violations of residency requirements, including those whose asylum requests were rejected, Egyptian airport officials said Thursday, the first action of this kind from Berlin.
The move signals intent to implement a sharper migration policy by Germany, which accepted over a million refugees between 2015 and 2016, mostly from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but later experienced a populist backlash that drove support of far-right politicians.
The deportees landed in Cairo on Wednesday on a flight from Frankfurt that included a robust security detail of 50 German officers, who returned after handing over the Egyptians to authorities at Cairo’s international airport.
Police then investigated the individuals and the circumstances surrounding their deportations, including whether any had warrants issued for their arrest. Most of them were released but over a dozen were still in custody on Thursday.
Human rights organizations often oppose deportations to Egypt over concerns those returning may face harsh treatment by authorities, who have a long history of abuses, including extensively documented cases of torture.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters, said the flight full of deportees was a first for Germany, although they noted that Italy had also organized a similar deportation in the past.
Germany offered support during the migrant surge, but the number of attacks against migrants and sometimes against their supporters also rose sharply.
The issue was a key theme of last year’s election, which saw the rise of the nationalist AfD party, and was one of the biggest stumbling blocks in forming a coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats.
Germany’s new government, which will be sworn in next week, has vowed to continue pushing for voluntary returns of migrants and enforce deportations of rejected asylum seekers, who until now have often remained in Germany in legal limbo.
Compared with many other European countries, Germany has generous asylum laws. They are enshrined in the German constitution in reaction to the Third Reich, when many people fleeing the Nazis survived only because they were able to get asylum in other countries.
The recent influx of mostly young, male migrants into Germany has led to an increase in violent crime in the country, a government-funded study has shown, adding to the ongoing debate in about how to tackle migrant crime, which has been fanned by a number of high-profile incidents.
Parties on the right, including Merkel’s Union bloc, want a tough response and more deportations, while those on the left say more needs to be done to integrate refugees into German society.


Turkey may launch new offensive against US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria

Updated 22 September 2018
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Turkey may launch new offensive against US-backed Kurdish militia in Syria

  • The operation is expected to begin from Turkey’s southeastern border town of Suruc
  • Turkey maintains its regional alliance with Russia as leverage against US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia

ANKARA: Turkey is gearing up for a military offensive on Tal Abyad in Syria, according to some news reports, with video footage showing the Turkish military deploying troops near its border town Akcakale. 

Experts interviewed by Arab News noted that the military deployment to the Syrian border with many tanks and howitzers was aimed at putting additional pressure on the US to accelerate the implementation of a roadmap endorsed by Turkey and the US in June for the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

A recent agreement between Ankara and Moscow that forestalled a full-scale Syrian regime offensive against the Syrian province of Idlib also triggered Turkey’s ambitious military activities along the border. 

Turkey maintains its regional alliance with Russia as leverage against US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen as a domestic security threat to Turkey due to their links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state for more than three decades. 

And the Manbij roadmap between Turkey and the US consists of the withdrawal of the YPG from the city to stabilize the region.

Tal Abyad, an Arab-majority town located to the north of Raqqa city and near the Turkish border, was captured from Daesh in 2015 by the YPG in an offensive supported by US-led airstrikes. The YPG remains a reliable American partner in Syria. 

A potential operation in Tal Abyad, if it happens, would likely mark a new phase in Turkey’s military intervention in Syria by directly clashing with the YPG on the ground. 

Mete Sohtaoglu, an analyst on Syrian politics, expects Turkey’s operation in Tal Abyad to start by March 2019. 

“Turkey’s main objective is to wipe out all YPG presence in the east of the Euphrates. The details of the operation, if it occurs, will become clear following an upcoming meeting between Turkish and American presidents,” he told Arab News. 

“The operation is expected to begin from Turkey’s southeastern border town of Suruc, then will specifically include the zone between Tal Abyad and Kobani cantons,” he said. 

Although not officially confirmed, Trump and Erdogan are likely to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s 73rd session, which will begin on Sept. 25. 

According to Sohtaoglu, the prime condition for the US to address Ankara’s concerns and withdraw its support for the YPG would be a change of policy by Turkey about Iran. 

Ankara recently gave the green light for military cooperation with Washington in Syria. Since June 18, US and Turkish troops have been conducting “coordinated independent patrols” to the north of Manbij as part of the roadmap. 

In a press conference on Friday, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin announced that Turkey would soon start joint training and patrols with the US in the Syrian Kurdish-held town of Manbij, but said Washington’s continuous arms support of the YPG was unacceptable.

The US State Department omitted the YPG and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from its 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism, which was released on Wednesday.

However, some experts do not expect any decrease of US support to its local partner YPG, while mobilizing the forces alongside the border is a tactical move. 

“I don’t expect an imminent and direct military operation to Tal Abyad. I think the recent military reinforcement intends to put pressure on the US to quickly operationalize the joint roadmap on Manbij, another Kurdish-held province,” Oytun Orhan, a Syria expert at the Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, told Arab News. 

Orhan thinks that Turkey’s tactical move would change the local balance in Tal Abyad. 

“It would create a sense that the Turkish army wants to enter the area and would incite some rebels. The removal of YPG from this province would undermine the terror group’s aim to create an integrated zone in this region because it will break the geographical continuity between the cantons,” he said. 

Further increasing its geographical importance, Tal Abyad is located on an intermediate point between the major cantons of Kobani and Qamishli. 

Orhan said that Turkey already had the support of Arab tribes that took refuge in Turkey from Tal Abyad, and Ankara’s ability to rally this support in an Arab-majority town would force the US to reconsider its alliance with the YPG. 

“In the past, the Arab tribes that took shelter in Turkey often expressed their willingness to take part in an Turkish operation to Tal Abyad if Ankara supports them,” he said. 

Last year in March, Turkey convened a meeting of about 50 Sunni Arab tribal leaders in the Turkish southeastern province of Sanliurfa that lies to the north of Tal Abyad, and their position against the YPG was put on the table.