Syrian ‘hero migrants’ deserve medals: German politicians

Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere and head of the Federal Agency of Migration and Refugees Frank-Juergen Weise hold a press conference regarding the numbers of asylum seeker for September 2016 as well as the third quarter 2016 in the Federal press conference in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 12 October 2016

Syrian ‘hero migrants’ deserve medals: German politicians

BERLIN: Two Syrian refugees should get medals for their bravery after capturing a fellow migrant suspected of planning to bomb a Berlin airport, German politicians said on Wednesday.
The actions of the two men, who tied up the suspect in a Leipzig apartment and alerted police, have been seized on as a rare good news story in the midst of the migration crisis facing Germany and Europe.
“The young men have earned the Federal Cross of Merit,” Social Democrat defense expert Johannes Kahrs told Bild newspaper, adding they had shown a profound respect toward Germans. “It is hard to imagine more integration, it is exemplary,” he said.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the fact they had acted to assist the security authorities, regardless of the risk to their own safety, deserved to be “fully recognized and appreciated.”
Maiziere said Germany registered 213,000 asylum seeker arrivals in the year’s first nine months, a sharp slowdown from the record influx of 2015.
Migrants’ influx to Germany has raised fears about security, especially after migrants were involved in bomb, knife and machete attacks in July. Chancellor Angela Merkel has drawn criticism from her own conservative camp and shed support to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany.
Investigators believe Syrian Jaber Albakr, 22, who arrived in Germany last year, was close to staging an attack comparable to those that killed 130 people in Paris
last November and 32 in Belgium in March. They suspect he was inspired by the Daesh terror group.
His fellow-Syrians picked him up at Leipzig train station after he contacted an online network for Syrian refugees. After recognizing him from pictures on Facebook as the target of a police manhunt, they overpowered him and alerted the authorities.
“He resisted a little bit, he didn’t want to be tied up and then he said, ‘I will give you money, don’t turn me in. I got into this by mistake.’ But of course we didn’t agree,” one of his captors, Mohamed, told RTL German television.
“We respect this country and its people, its government and its laws. We don’t want something like this to happen here,” he said.
The manner of Albakr’s arrest has led to renewed calls for a review of all migrants who were granted asylum in last year’s influx. It has also raised questions about whether the police botched an earlier attempt to arrest him.
Bild showed a picture of Albakr on a sofa in the Leipzig apartment with his ankles bound by an electric cable and one of the migrants holding him in a headlock. “Why didn’t the police manage that?” it asked.


Anger over EU’s ‘historic mistake’ on Skopje, Tirana

Updated 18 min 52 sec ago

Anger over EU’s ‘historic mistake’ on Skopje, Tirana

  • A handful of countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania
  • EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he felt ‘really embarrassed’ but urged the two countries not to lose heart

BRUSSELS: The EU has made a “historic mistake” that risks destabilising the Balkans, senior officials warned Friday, after a handful of countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania.
There was widespread frustration and disappointment, particularly among eastern European countries keen to broaden the EU club, at the failure of the 28 leaders to agree to start formal accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana.
Leaders were deadlocked after some seven hours of heated backroom wrangling at a Brussels summit, with France alone in rejecting North Macedonia but joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania.
“It’s a major historic mistake and I hope it will only be temporary and won’t become engraved in the collective memory as a historic mistake,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner who has led efforts to push the two countries to reform to fit EU norms, said it had left the bloc’s credibility damaged “not only in the Western Balkans but beyond.”
“This is a matter of extreme disappointment,” he tweeted.
“To refuse acknowledgement of proven progress will have negative consequences, including the risk of destabilization of the Western Balkans, with full impact on the EU.”
North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski urged his people to push on with reform despite the disappointment, while his Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov urged the EU to come clean about its true intentions.
“If there is no more consensus on the European future of the Western Balkans... the citizens deserve to know,” he tweeted.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would look again at the matter before a summit with Western Balkans leaders in Zagreb early next year.
The summit deadlock came days after EU ministers hit a similar impasse at talks in Luxembourg — following two earlier delays by EU countries on making a decision.
Apart from France, all the other EU states accept that North Macedonia has made enough progress on reforms — including changing its name from Macedonia to appease Greece — to start talks.
But Albania has less support, with the Netherlands and Denmark joining France in voicing serious reservations about its efforts against corruption and organized crime.
Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein said the summit failure was “extremely regrettable.”
“I have spoken to the two prime ministers to express my great disappointment, and they are also extremely disappointed,” she told reporters in Brussels.
“This is not a good sign for the solidarity of the EU or the stability of the region.”
EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he felt “really embarrassed” but urged the two countries not to lose heart, saying he had “absolutely no doubt” they would one day join the bloc.
“Both countries, they passed their exams, I can’t say this about our member states,” Tusk said.
The European Commission has said both countries have done enough to at least begin talks, but Macron now says this should not happen until the whole accession process has been reformed, arguing that it does not work properly.
But diplomats suspect the French are playing tough for domestic political reasons linked to immigration, and there is frustration that Macron appears to be trying to move the goalposts.
“These countries deserve it, they fulfil the criteria, the momentum is right,” said one diplomatic source.
“It’s not fair to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game.”
Another said “there’s no logic to it. It’s incoherent — an excuse.”
After the earlier failure in Luxembourg another diplomat accused France of “repeating the same stupid arguments again and again,” warning Paris would bear “responsibility for the consequences of this.”
Politicians in North Macedonia and Albania have warned that their people’s patience with the EU is not unlimited and repeated rejections risk emboldening nationalist and pro-Russian forces.