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

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.”


For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

Updated 31 May 2020

For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

  • Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41, speaks to Arab News

NEW YORK CITY: In the 1980s and 1990s, Colorado’s Muslim community was made up of fewer than 30,000 people, and there were only five mosques in the entire state.

“It was really small, but we were happy,” said Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41.

Ever since she was a child, on the first day of Ramadan, Jodeh has sent teachers a letter, written on the mosque letterhead, saying: “For the next 30 days, Muslims will be fasting. So if your Muslim students seem lethargic by the end of the day, please understand why.”

Today, there are over 100,000 Muslims in Colorado.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Those Muslims are starting to make up a big voting bloc, a big portion of our legislators’ constituency. And it is incumbent upon those legislators to make sure they are listening and taking into account the views of the constituents, regardless of their race, creed or religion. And I constantly remind them of that,” Jodeh told Arab News by phone.

The Democrat hopeful grew up in the shadow of two Gulf wars, and shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the Afghan and the Iraqi wars. She remembers the anonymous phone calls at dinnertime threatening to kill her father Mohammed, and recalls her mother, who wears a hijab, being frightened to leave the house.

“It changed my life. In the wake of 9/11, I was a sophomore in college and had not declared my major yet. Two days later, I was a political science major and, again, speaking to crowds having to defend my religion.”

Being a first-born, first-generation American, with perfect English, understanding the cultural nuances of America, I had to walk that line of also understanding the Arab heritage and Islamic culture and nuances, and marrying those two to be able to communicate the need of being an Arab Muslim American woman.

Iman Jodeh

Jodeh, a trained political scientist, spent the years following those events advocating for the Muslim community and the Middle East, “the most misunderstood region of the world, and the people who call it home.” She taught about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Denver, held cultural events about the region and discussed Islam.

The most effective results, according to Jodeh, came via her non-profit “Meet the Middle East,” which invited Americans to take an “educational immersion journey” to the region to meet various stakeholders there, from Arab Bedouin to Palestinians living in Nablus, and both right-wing and left-leaning Israelis.

The travelers were invited to spend time in Jordan, Egypt, and sometimes Iraq and Morocco.

“From the Berbers of Morocco to the Kurds of Iraq, all these cultural and regional nuances must be understood before you can even attempt to understand the complexities of the conflict, and the kaleidoscope that make up the Middle East,” Jodeh said.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“There are things we can highlight to prove to the world that the Muslim world is one of the most fascinating places to be: There are nine women heads of state in the Muslim world, and the US has yet to see our first. It was Arabs and Muslims who discovered contagion; Arabs and Muslims who discovered latitude and longitude.

“Some of the first and oldest libraries were in Alexandria and Baghdad. And one of the oldest universities was in Morocco, founded by a woman.

“The more we can show that to Americans, the more we’re going to see further understanding and commitment to ending violence in the Middle East, as well as asymmetrical policies from the US and how we look at the region.”

Jodeh said her love for Palestine is ingrained. She was never introduced to it. She did not have a first language: It was Arabic and English her entire life. She was never just American. She was Palestinian American.

I am running to make the American dream a reality for everyone. The American dream has become harder and harder to realize. It is not a trite or cliched phrase for me. I am someone who is the product of a family who came here to realize that dream and with the cost of living, the lack of health care, our climate being threatened, our lack of criminal justice reform, civil rights being accosted... These are all things that are hurting the American dream. This is un-American, this is not the Colorado that I want to see.

Iman Jodeh

“This is my identity, I will never abandon this narrative, because I feel I have an obligation to all Palestinians everywhere to advocate when I can.

“The age of learning, that renaissance period is coming. But we have to get through our dark ages before we can get there. And, unfortunately, that is what we are witnessing today in the Middle East. And it’s heartbreaking.

“But the majority of people in the Middle East are under the age of 35, people like myself. We are just learning how to step outside dictatorship and implement something that we have known our entire lives to be true, which is democracy.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Democracy is not a concept that is new to the Arab world. Shariah law has paved the way for democratic processes like social welfare,” she said.

To Jodeh, being a Muslim and a progressive Democrat complement each other. She gained her knowledge of Islam from her father, a Palestinian immigrant who co-founded the largest mosque in the Rocky Mountain region, and took his daughter with him when he taught or gave speeches on Islam. That put her in contact with scholars whom she still consults today.

In Aurora, a city she calls home and “one of the best and most diverse cities in the nation, a true reflection of America,” Jodeh has been working at the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, where she speaks, often as a Muslim voice, on contentious bills, such as Equal Pay for Equal Work.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“I testified that, 1,400 years ago, God came down with a verse in the Qur’an: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you, for any work you do, be you male or female — you are equal to one another.’

“It was ironic to me as a woman following a religion that is often deemed as primitive, that this was prescribed to the people 1,400 years ago.

“In Islam, there’s a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Al-Nisa’ or ‘The Woman.’ There is not a chapter called ‘The Man.’

“What’s beautiful about the Qur’an is that it grants women rights not granted to women in the West until the 1920s,” Jodeh said.

“The fact that those rights were laid out for women so early on is proof of the sanctity of a woman in Islam: Her right to divorce, to own land, to take part in government, to own her own business. These were all things that have been practiced and continue to be practiced.”

The Democratic Party primaries in Colorado will take place on June 30.