Afghan refugees in Germany moved from govt housing amid Ukrainian influx

Afghan refugees in Germany moved from govt housing amid Ukrainian influx
Afghan refugees are processed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Sept. 8, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 27 April 2022

Afghan refugees in Germany moved from govt housing amid Ukrainian influx

Afghan refugees in Germany moved from govt housing amid Ukrainian influx
  • ‘Some people had lived there for years and were ripped out of social structures’: Refugee council member
  • Tareq Alaows said the blame does not lie with Ukrainian refugees, but there is a difference in their treatment and how authorities handled the Afghan refugee influx

LONDON: Germany has moved hundreds of Afghans from temporary government housing to accommodate Ukrainian refugees, The Independent reported on Wednesday.

Over the past decade, about 630,000 Afghans applied for EU asylum, with Germany accepting some of the highest refugee numbers in Europe.

The German government said the evictions in Berlin were taking place because the Afghan families had been using short-term arrival centers.

But Tareq Alaows, a board member of the Berlin Refugee Council, said some of the Afghans had been evicted from housing that they had used for years.

“The evictions purposefully weren’t publicized,” he added. “Some people had lived in their homes for years and were ripped out of their social structures, including children who were moved to locations far from their respective schools.”

Alaows told Foreign Policy magazine: “Few people’s living conditions improved, but most were afraid to speak up, afraid it could impact their immigration status.”

He said the blame does not lie with Ukrainian refugees, but there is a difference in their treatment and how authorities handled the Afghan refugee influx.

“The last months showed that different treatment of refugees is possible, and this needs to be systematically anchored in our society,” he added.

Berlin’s Senate Department for Integration, Labor and Social Services cited “operationally necessary and difficult considerations” as a basis for the evictions, and said there was “no alternative” due to Ukrainian arrivals needing immediate shelter.

Stefan Strauss, the department’s press secretary, said: “We regret that this caused additional hardships to the Afghan families and that the affected people had to move out of their familiar surroundings, and now possibly have to keep up with their social connections with great difficulty.”

He added that the German capital hosts about 22,000 refugees in 83 accommodation centers, but that Ukrainian arrivals need to be housed together for processing purposes. He said the evicted Afghans were provided with equivalent housing elsewhere.

Germany has officially admitted 160,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict on Feb. 24.

However, the real figure is thought to be much higher due to visa-free access between the two countries and lack of checks on the German-Polish border. 


Taliban raise concerns over ‘problems’ faced by Afghan refugees in Iran 

Taliban raise concerns over ‘problems’ faced by Afghan refugees in Iran 
Updated 45 sec ago

Taliban raise concerns over ‘problems’ faced by Afghan refugees in Iran 

Taliban raise concerns over ‘problems’ faced by Afghan refugees in Iran 
  • About 3 million Afghans are living in Iran, most of whom are undocumented 
  • Afghan refugees in Iran face many hardships, including abuse by Iranian authorities 

KABUL: The Taliban administration has raised concerns with Tehran over difficulties faced by Afghan refugees in Iran, an official said on Sunday, as reports of mistreatment continue to emerge from the neighboring country.

Iran has for decades hosted millions of Afghans fleeing armed conflict in their country.

Nearly 600,000 Afghan passport holders live in Iran and about 780,000 are registered as refugees, according to 2022 data from UN High Commissioner for Refugees, while 2.1 million Afghans remain undocumented.

The number of Afghans crossing into their western neighbor has increased since 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country and international sanctions slapped on their administration shattered the economy. Many have since been forcibly expelled back to Afghanistan, and reports of their abuse at the hands of Iranian security forces have been on the rise.

This month, videos circulated on social media shed new light on the ordeal faced by Afghan refugees in Iran. At least one clip showed topless Afghan men chained together and kneeling on the sand, crying and pleading as they are whipped with a belt. Other footage has emerged since last year, with reports of abuse not only by the Iranian police but also by criminal gangs and human traffickers.

“There is no doubt that Afghans have faced a number of problems in neighboring Iran,” Abdul Mutalib Haqqani, spokesman for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, told Arab News on Sunday.

“We have talked to Iranian officials…and shared such concerns and problems of Afghans with them,” Haqqani added. “One of the problems is that a big number of Afghans have been forcibly expelled from Iran.”

Iranian security forces have “unlawfully killed” at least 11 Afghans, according to a report by Amnesty International published last August, which also documented the forced returns and torture of Afghans.

Last April, viral footage showing the mistreatment of Afghan refugees in Iran prompted a wave of protests targeting Iranian diplomatic missions in Kabul and Herat.

Those reports, however, have not deterred Afghans from seeking a better life in Iran, said social activist Dr. Azad, who is based in the western province of Herat.

“About 80 percent of Herat residents have been living in poverty and economic problems,” he told Arab News. “Almost one member of each family from Herat province is traveling to neighboring Iran to find work until they can provide food for their family.

“Those who have passports and those without any documents have all had to face different problems with the Iranian authorities.”

But problems faced by Afghan refugees in Iran are multifaceted and do not always directly involve Iranian officials, said Attaullah Khogyani, an Afghan activist based in Tehran.

“Afghan refugees have a lot of problems in Iran. Sometimes they are arrested and beaten very badly, and after the arrest, they are forcibly expelled to Afghanistan,” Khogyani, whose work focuses on refugee rights, told Arab News in a phone interview.

“There are some groups who abduct Afghans and then ask them to pay money, taking away their passports and other legal documents too,” he added.

“Our neighbors are not treating us well at all and haven’t given us support or help,” he said. “Afghans are suffering a lot now.” 


First Palestinian American to win Illinois state seat sworn into office

Cook County commissioners Frank Aguilar and Donna Miller, State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, and Samantha Steele. (AN photo)
Cook County commissioners Frank Aguilar and Donna Miller, State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, and Samantha Steele. (AN photo)
Updated 29 January 2023

First Palestinian American to win Illinois state seat sworn into office

Cook County commissioners Frank Aguilar and Donna Miller, State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, and Samantha Steele. (AN photo)
  • Abdelnasser Rashid seeks social, economic aid for all citizens
  • Vows to tackle Israeli military, US police brutality and killings

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Abdelnasser Rashid, the first Palestinian American to win a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, was sworn into office Saturday before a gathering of prominent state and local officials, and Arab American community leaders.

After taking the oath, Rashid demanded justice for “innocent victims of violence everywhere.” This includes Palestinian civilians being targeted by the Israeli military, and also African Americans like Tyre Nichols who died three days after being beaten by police during a routine traffic stop in Memphis on Jan. 7.

Rashid said the rights of Palestinians and African Americans were just as important as the issues that every US citizen faces including improved education for their children, more jobs, a stronger economy, and support for their families.

“I am honored to be the first Palestinian to be elected to the Illinois General Assembly along with my sister, Nabeela Syed. Let’s (give) her a round of applause,” said Rashid who represents the 21st State House District. Syed, a Muslim, was also elected with Rashid in the Nov. 4 General Election and represents the north suburban 51st State Legislative district.

“We recognize the high stakes of the moment that we are in. I had planned to give a celebratory speech that was focused almost exclusively on the progress we are making. But to be honest I couldn’t only speak about progress after seeing the video of Tyre Nichols being brutally murdered by five officers in Memphis Tennessee. A video that reminds us of just how much we still have to do. And videos from Gaza and the West Bank where Palestinians continue to suffer under brutal Israeli occupation.”

Rashid said these issues of African American and Palestinian rights were just as important as the nation’s broken healthcare system and the region’s housing crisis, and he demanded that “we build durable coalitions to fight for justice and equity” for everyone.

A Democrat, Rashid’s district includes parts of the state’s growing Palestinian American population based in the southwest suburbs of Chicago including in Bridgeview and Burbank.

Several prominent elected officials attended the swearing-in citing Rashid’s election as proof that the system can change and become more representative.

Among those speakers was US Senator Dick Durbin, who during his term in office hired several Palestinian and Arab American staff members, including Reema Dodin who served as his deputy chief of staff in Washington D.C.

Dodin was tapped by President Joe Biden to serve as deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, the highest-ranking position to be held by a Palestinian American. Dodin’s parents immigrated to America from Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Newly elected Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, whose former election campaign manager Palestinian American political consultant Hanah Jubeh is now the deputy secretary of state, praised Rashid as a symbol of the openness and inclusion that Illinois embraces.

“This community should be very, very proud of what Abdelnasser Rashid has accomplished ... the first Palestinian American and one of only two Muslims in the history of the General Assembly in the State of Illinois,” said Giannoulias, whose office is considered to be more powerful than that of the state governor.

“You represent the next generation, Abdelnasser. The people who came to this country with nothing. Who worked hard. Who were

discriminated against. Who made sacrifices and had challenges we couldn’t even fathom, are looking at you now as the reason why they came to this country and the reason why they made those sacrifices. They can point to you and say he is one of us. If he can do it, we can do it.”

Rashid defeated 14-year incumbent Democrat Michael Zalewski. Observers said Rashid’s success represents the growing influence of the Palestinian and Muslim American vote in the southwest suburbs of Chicagoland.


Ten children killed in northwest Pakistan boat capsize

Ten children killed in northwest Pakistan boat capsize
Updated 29 January 2023

Ten children killed in northwest Pakistan boat capsize

Ten children killed in northwest Pakistan boat capsize

PESHAWAR: Ten children died when their boat capsized on Sunday in northwest Pakistan, a local police official said.
All of the dead so far recovered from Tanda Dam lake, near Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, were between seven and 14-years-old, according to local police official Mir Rauf.
Rauf said 11 children had been rescued from the water, with six in critical condition. The boat was carrying between 25 and 30 students on a daytrip from a local madrassa when it overturned.
“A rescue operation is underway,” Rauf told AFP.
Mass drownings are common in Pakistan, when aged and overloaded vessels lose their stability and pitch passengers into the water.
Many in the country do not know how to swim, particularly women who are discouraged from learning owing to conservative social mores. Their all-covering clothes also weigh them down once they become sodden.
In July, 18 women drowned when an overcrowded boat carrying a wedding party across the Indus river in Punjab province capsized.


At least 40 killed in southwest Pakistan bus crash

At least 40 killed in southwest Pakistan bus crash
Updated 29 January 2023

At least 40 killed in southwest Pakistan bus crash

At least 40 killed in southwest Pakistan bus crash
  • Passenger buses are frequently crammed to capacity and seatbelts are not commonly worn

QUETTA: At least 40 people died when a bus plunged off a bridge in southwestern Pakistan and burst into flames, a government official said Sunday.
“The dead bodies...are beyond recognition,” Hamza Anjum, a senior official of Lasbela district in Balochistan province, said at the accident site.
Anjum said three survivors had been rescued and the bus was reportedly carrying 48 passengers when it hit a pillar on the bridge and careened off course.
Ramshackle highways, lax safety measures and reckless driving contribute to Pakistan’s dire road safety record.
Passenger buses are frequently crammed to capacity and seatbelts are not commonly worn, meaning high death tolls from single vehicle accidents are common.
According to World Health Organization estimates, more than 27,000 people were killed on Pakistan’s roads in 2018.


Trump kicks off White House campaign with events in New Hampshire, South Carolina

Trump kicks off White House campaign with events in New Hampshire, South Carolina
Updated 29 January 2023

Trump kicks off White House campaign with events in New Hampshire, South Carolina

Trump kicks off White House campaign with events in New Hampshire, South Carolina
  • Rob Godfrey, a Columbia-based political strategist, said many Republicans are holding off on a Trump endorsement because of the wide range of possible candidates who could run for the party's nomination

COLUMBIA, South Carolina: Former U.S. President Donald Trump hit the campaign trail on Saturday for the first time since announcing his bid to reclaim the White House in 2024, visiting two early-voting states and brushing aside criticism that his run was off to a slow start.
"I'm more angry now, and I'm more committed now, than I ever was," Trump, a Republican, told a small crowd at the New Hampshire Republican Party's annual meeting in Salem, before heading to Columbia, South Carolina, for an appearance alongside his leadership team in the state.
New Hampshire and South Carolina are among the first four states to hold presidential nominating contests, giving them outsized influence as candidates jockey for position.
In contrast to the raucous rallies in front of thousands of devotees that Trump often holds, Saturday's events were comparatively muted. In Columbia, Trump spoke to about 200 attendees, with Governor Henry McMaster and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina flanking him.
Once the undisputed center of gravity in the Republican Party, an increasing number of elected officials have expressed concerns about Trump's ability to beat Democratic President Joe Biden, if he decides to run again as is widely expected.
Numerous Republicans are considering whether to launch their own White House bids, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely seen as the biggest threat to Trump.
Several top Republicans in both states that Trump visited on Saturday - including New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley - are weighing presidential campaigns. Many high-ranking Republicans in New Hampshire, where Trump's 2016 victory confirmed his status as a top contender, say they are looking for an alternative.
There were several conspicuous absences in South Carolina, including the state party chairman, several Republican U.S. representatives from the state and South Carolina U.S. Senator Tim Scott, who has himself been floated as a potential Republican presidential candidate. Scott and others have cited scheduling conflicts.
Several Republican state lawmakers decided against attending after failing to gain assurances from Trump's team that doing so would not be considered an endorsement, according to a person with knowledge of the planning.
Rob Godfrey, a Columbia-based political strategist, said many Republicans are holding off on a Trump endorsement because of the wide range of possible candidates who could run for the party's nomination.
"I think there are a fair number of people that are keeping their powder dry because there's such a deep bench for Republicans this year," he said.
At both stops on Saturday, Trump echoed some of the themes that animated his first campaign, including railing against illegal immigration and China.
But he also emphasized social issues such as transgender rights and school curricula on race, perhaps in response to DeSantis, whose relentless focus on culture wars has helped build his national profile.
To be sure, Trump retains a significant base of support, particularly among the grassroots. While he loses in some head-to-head polls against DeSantis, he wins by significant margins when poll respondents are presented with a broader field of options.
Trump did not spent much time echoing his familiar grievances over the 2020 election, though he made allusions to his false claim that the election was stolen from him.
Since launching his campaign in November, Trump has maintained a relatively low profile. He called multiple conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives in early January to persuade them to vote for Kevin McCarthy, an ally, for the new Speaker.
Most brushed off his entreaties, though McCarthy was elected to the position after a bruising battle.