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.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 11 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.