(AE) RUSSIE: Moscou pointe le doigt sur la question des droits de l'homme dans l'UE
Publisher: Agence Europe
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: Français

Bruxelles, 07/12/2012 (Agence Europe) – Le Commissaire pour les droits de l'homme, la démocratie et les droits de l'homme du ministère russe des Affaires étrangères, Konstantin Dolgov, a présenté, jeudi 6 décembre à Bruxelles, un rapport sur la situation des droits de l'homme dans l'Union européenne, publié la veille. Soulignant une dégradation de ces droits, il a mis en avant, entre autres, le racisme, la xénophobie, le néonazisme, les violations des droits de l'homme des minorités dont la minorité russe, des prisonniers, des réfugiés ainsi que l'inégalité entre les sexes et la liberté des médias... « Nous ne disons pas que les pays européens ne sont pas démocratiques mais que des questions doivent être abordées », a expliqué M. Dolgov, rappelant aussi l'importance de la souveraineté nationale.

« Nous croyons que personne ne devrait avoir le monopole d'évaluer la situation des droits de l'homme dans d'autres pays », a-t-il précisé, alors que l'UE critique régulièrement les droits de l'homme dans son pays.

Le rapport d'une soixantaine de pages, fondé sur des informations venant de différentes organisations nationales et internationales, rappelle que des pays européens n'ont pas signé certains traités internationaux concernant les droits de l'homme. « L'UE elle-même n'a pas signé la Convention européenne des droits de l'homme alors que tous les États membres l'ont signée. C'est incroyable », a ajouté M. Dolgov.

Le diplomate russe a regretté que les droits de l'homme soient une prérogative nationale. « Il y a une situation paradoxale. Il y a beaucoup d'intégration économique et financière mais l'intégration humanitaire est à la traine », a-t-il noté. Rappelant le rôle du Représentant spécial de l'UE pour les droits de l'homme, M. Dolgov a précisé que Stavros Lambrinidis était tenu de promouvoir ces droits dans le monde entier, excepté dans l'UE. « Qui s'occupe des droits de l'homme au sein de l'UE ? Il n'y a pas de grande réponse à ce sujet », a-t-il questionné, alors que Viviane Reding est pourtant Commissaire européenne aux droits fondamentaux.

M. Dolgov a aussi appelé à une coopération plus étroite entre l'UE et la Russie. « Nous avons besoin d'une coopération constructive, d'interaction. J'espère que cela va arriver avec nos partenaires européens. (...) Il y a des problèmes qui dépassent les frontières, nous devons penser ensemble à la manière de les résoudre », a-t-il souligné. Les droits de l'homme seront abordés lors du sommet UE/Russie du 21 décembre. Le rapport est disponible à l'adresse suivante: www.mid.ru (CG)
 

Desperate need for refugee shelters in Berlin
Publisher: Deutsche Welle
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: English

The number of people seeking refuge and asylum in Germany has risen dramatically this past year. To cope with the influx, authorities in Berlin have created shelters, but they' are only temporary.

A gray, three-story box – that's the way this new home looks for some 90 people. It's a pre-fab building at a busy intersection in Grünau, in southeastern Berlin. Once built to house police headquarters, it's become a temporary shelter for refugees stranded in the German capital.

Michael Grunewald, a determined-looking 47-year-old, runs the home. He opens the door to one of the rooms on the ground floor, which contains six cots and a table. Blinds cover the windows; the sink hanging from the wall does not work. It is just enough to do the job for now.

"At least we've managed to furnish the rooms on one floor of the building with completely new items: beds, cabinets, tables and chairs," said Grunewald. He's been tasked with doing the next-to-impossible: turning the former police offices into living space for refugees virtually overnight.

The number of asylum-seekers growing

That refugees have to live in such emergency shelters has to do with the fact that more and more are coming to Germany, according to the Berlin authorities.

"We've managed to create a few extra places since 2010, but it's not enough to shelter all the new people who arrive," said Franz Allert, director of the Berlin Office for Health and Social Affairs. Now that winter has also arrived, the matter is all the more urgent, he said.

The number of people applying for asylum in Germany rose this year. 9,950 applications were submitted to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in October alone – around double the number from the previous month. And similar figures have been registered for Berlin. While some 2,300 refugees arrived in Berlin for all of 2011, already by the end of October this year, some 2,850 have filed for asylum. "Berlin is popular, also among refugees," Allert said. "Urban life is more appealing than living out in the country."

Berlin has responded by turning empty buildings, such as former schools, hospitals, or police stations, into temporary shelters.

A sympathetic ear

The 90 people living in the former police precinct in Grünau must share four shower stalls at the moment, but shelter director Grunewald hopes more bath facilities can be installed soon. Even more important is responding to the other needs of the refugees, he says: "If they need medical care, we make an appointment for them and explain which tram they need to take to get there."

One hears a variety of languages in the hallways of the shelter: several African ones, Arabic, but most frequently: Bosnian and Serbian. The proportion of refugees coming from the Balkans to Germany has jumped, even though these people have little chance of gaining asylum. German authorities see them as economic refugees. Not a single Serbian refugee was granted asylum in October.

Attending school? Impossible

Asylum seekers spend most of their time waiting in the temporary shelters. Waiting for a letter from the German government agencies that determine whether they will be deported or can stay in Germany for a while longer. Should it be the latter, they then can move to more long-term asylum-seeker facilities. It can take up to six weeks for a letter from the agencies to arrive and it's difficult to be patient, especially for the 40 children currently in the Grünau building.

"They actually should be going to school because that is the law in Germany, but that simply isn't possible to organize," Grunewald said. "If they only stay anywhere from one day to six weeks here, how are we supposed to register them at a school? The schools would go crazy," he says.

The shelter director often feels like he's more of a manager of shortages. He's grateful for any and all donations: baby bathtubs, winter clothes for kids – all things people in Berlin pass his way.

Grunewald is supposed to run the temporary shelter until the end of March. By then, Berlin agencies hope to have set up more space in long-term shelters, bringing living out of a suitcase to an end.
 

Insight - Tortured, detained and ordered out: a migrant's tale in Greece
Publisher: Reuters
Author: By Renee Maltezou and Deepa Babington
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: English

SALAMINA, Greece | Thu Dec 6, 2012 7:26pm GMT

SALAMINA, Greece (Reuters) – Egyptian immigrant Waleed Taleb says demanding his unpaid wages in Greece came at a heavy price; 18 hours chained and beaten by his boss, a stint in jail and orders to leave the country he calls home.

One of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who toil in Greece's black labour market, Taleb had just finished cleaning the bakery where he worked one November morning on the island of Salamina when he sparked his boss's fury.

What followed would end up symbolising how migrants have become among the biggest and most defenceless victims of Greece's economic crisis, facing racist attacks, police apathy and a system that punishes them rather than their assailants.

The baker and two others fastened an 8-metre long metal chain around Taleb's neck with a lock and dragged him to a stable, he said, where another man joined them. There they tied him to a chair, tightened the noose and punched him while he drifted in and out of consciousness, he said.

The men drank beer – which they also forced into Taleb's mouth – and taunted him for being a Muslim, he said.

"They dragged me around like a dog," said Taleb, recounting the attack from a mattress on the floor of his dingy apartment tucked away amid Salamina's low-roofed houses and tavernas.

"I thought this was the end for me. I kept fainting, and every time I fainted they would hit me with rods to wake me up."

After 18 hours, Taleb managed to escape when his captors left to reopen the bakery. But his nightmare was not over.

Found at dawn under a tree with the heavy chain still around his neck and his face swollen beyond recognition, Taleb was initially taken to a hospital and given first aid.

But police later whisked him away to detain him on the charge that he lacked documents to live in Greece – though he says he complained he could barely walk and was in pain.

"Everyone could see I was suffering. I couldn't even see, and I couldn't eat," says Taleb, 29. A month later he has a neck brace, an arm bandage and can only eat semi-solid food.

"I thought I would die. The problem wasn't that I didn't have papers; the problem was that I had been beaten."

Calling his ordeal one of "striking brutality", the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said his case followed a pattern in which migrants are "immediately arrested with the view to be deported" when they go to police to report an attack.

After an outcry over the case – including condemnation by the Egyptian embassy and a protest by other Egyptians – Greece's public order minister on Tuesday said Taleb would not be deported due to "humanitarian reasons". But rights groups said it was not clear how long he would be allowed to stay.

"ALL OUT BUT ME"

Taleb says he spent four days in two detention centres and was given documents telling him to leave Greece in 30 days, while his boss was released after three days pending trial.

The baker, a former deputy mayor in Salamina, admitted to beating Taleb – but not brutally – and accuses him of stealing 13,000 euros that Taleb says is his money, police said. The other men Taleb accused were charged but are free pending trial since police failed to arrest them in the required 24-hour window after the crime.

"There was a phone in prison, and when I called other people, they told me my boss had already been released," he said. "They hit me, robbed me and then everyone was out of jail except me."

Indeed, the lack of any convictions in Greece over racist attacks has allowed migrants to be targeted with impunity, said Nikitas Kanakis, head of Doctors of the World in Greece.

"The state should apologise to a man found under a tree in chains. We treated him like a dog – that's bad enough," Kanakis said, attacking the move to detain Taleb after his ordeal.

"If we don't convict any of these people nothing will change. Then everyone feels that they can get away with it."

Police officials defended their actions by saying Taleb was pulled out of hospital only after they were given the go-ahead by doctors and that Greek law required the detention of illegal immigrants. A Greek police spokesman declined to comment beyond the statement by the minister saying Taleb's deportation had been suspended.

Taleb and others in the Egyptian community say his injuries were serious enough for him to be sent back to hospital for a week after his four days in detention were over.

A CROSS ON HIS BACK

Two Greek immigration lawyers said Taleb was lucky to be given 30 days to leave – many others are often given just seven days to get out of Greece. Still others – like Hassan Mekki, a 32-year-old Sudanese migrant who fled conflict in his country in hope of a better life in Europe – suffer silently.

In August, he and a friend were walking in Athens when black-shirted men on motorcycles holding Greek flags came up and knocked him unconscious with a blow to the head, he said.

When he came to, he was covered in blood. Only later would he realise that his attackers, whom he says were likely tied to the far-right Golden Dawn party, had left large gashes resembling an "X" across his back.

"I don't have the right papers, so I can't go anywhere to ask for help," Mekki said. "I can't sleep. I'm scared, maybe they will follow me, and my life is in danger now."

Tapping into resentment towards illegal immigrants, Golden Dawn emerged from obscurity to enter parliament this year pledging to kick all immigrants out. The fast-rising party, which has been linked to racist attacks, denies it is neo-Nazi.

In the latest criticism of Greece's handling of migrants, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on migrants' rights condemned Greece for doing little to curb rising racist attacks.

Much of the violence went unreported because victims were afraid of deportation if they went to the police, who were sometimes involved in the attacks, Francois Crepeau said.

IMMIGRATION CRISIS

A major gateway for Asian and African immigrants trying to enter Europe through its porous borders, Greece has long struggled with illegal immigration. In the last few years, the problem has exploded into a full-blown crisis as Greece sank into a deep recession, leaving one in four jobless and hardening attitudes towards migrants who were blamed for a rise in crime.

Ill equipped at the best of times to deal with the hordes of immigrants crossing its border with Turkey or arriving in plastic boats, Greece now finds itself grappling with a rising number of migrants when it can barely keep itself afloat.

Stepped-up border patrols this year have stemmed the flow only slightly – in the first 10 months of the year, over 70,000 illegal migrants were arrested for crossing into Greece, down from about 82,000 in that period last year.

Many often find shocking conditions at detention centres with food shortages, no hot water or heating and open hostility from Greeks embittered by years of austerity, Crepeau and other rights groups say.

Greek officials say the root of the problem is the so-called Dublin II treaty, which deems asylum seekers to be the responsibility of the country where they entered Europe and thus puts a heavier burden on border states like Greece.

Greek governments have repeatedly asked for the treaty to be repealed, to no avail, and the U.N.'s Crepeau also said Europe needed to do more to help Greece with the flow of migrants.

Still, Greece needs to stop blaming Europe for its failure to properly deal with migrants, said Dimitris Christopoulos, vice president of the Hellenic League for Human Rights. The treaty should be scrapped but Athens could take steps like registering migrants before asking Europe for help in sending them back to their countries or processing them, he said.

"In reality, Greece is doing nothing on this issue, saying 'I can't deal with this issue, I raise my hands,'" he said.

Instead, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's conservative-led government – fearful of losing votes to the fast-rising Golden Dawn – has gone on the offensive with police sweeps to arrest migrants and more checks along the Turkish border.

Police said 59,000 migrants have been detained in waves of raids since August, with about 5,000 deported and the rest released or sent to temporary detention centres.

Samaras has also defied opposition from leftist coalition allies and moved to scrap a law that makes it easier for those born to immigrant parents in Greece to become citizens – which critics say is reflective of his New Democracy party's growing shift to the right.

"New Democracy is trying not to lose this group of very conservative voters," said Theodore Couloumbis, vice president of the Athens-based ELIAMEP think-tank. "The traditional right-wing party is trying to win back some of these people who think that illegal immigration is a big problem."

Far away from the corridors of power, the changing attitudes towards migrants are plainly visible in Salamina, where the reaction to Taleb's ordeal ranges from shock to undisguised glee.

The island's mayor, Yannis Tsavaris, told Reuters the attack was shocking and questioned whether Taleb should have been detained rather than kept in hospital. Some residents agreed.

"It's despicable," said Manos Kailas, 50, who owns a shop at the island's busy port. "This incident is evidence of the social disintegration in Greece. The debt crisis has hit Greeks badly and they feel that illegal immigration is part of the problem."

Some others felt little sympathy for a migrant.

"Was he badly beaten up?" said one man as he walked away from the port. "If so, good – he deserved it."
 

International: Syria: Greece: Refugees say border police are pushing them back to Turkey
Publisher: The Guardian
Author: Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, Edirne, Turkey
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: English

On the edge of Europe, where the river Evros meanders towards the Aegean sea, a new tragedy involving two of the world's most troubled peoples is unfolding.

On one side of the river border are gathered clusters of Syrian refugees, desperate to escape the misery of war and put the Turkish camps behind them. But beyond the perilous currents lies Greece, a nation so economically bereft it has little time or resources for them.

The Evros has always been a barrier to those seeking asylum in the European Union, but now the surging tide of migrants fleeing Syria faces something new. Refugees, non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers and lawyers have told the Guardian that border forces have been pushing asylum seekers back into their boats and escorting them back to the Turkish side.

This summer two people smugglers left 25 Syrian refugees to cross the Evros alone at night. There were two rubber dinghies. The first disappeared across the river into the night. The second floated towards Greece, developed a leak, spun for 15 minutes and then capsized. Most of the men, women and children could not swim. The bedraggled Syrians who made it ashore walked for a couple of miles through dense woodland and asparagus fields.

It was nearly dawn but still dark when they arrived in a small Greek village. Hungry, muddy-booted migrants are a common sight across northern Greece. Since the start of this year, 23,000 migrants and asylum seekers were arrested in Greece after crossing the border from Turkey. Syrians were the second-largest nationality arrested.

After their arrest, they are usually detained in administrative holding centres by the EU border police, Frontex, which has been deployed a few miles from the border since 2010. However, the group of Syrian refugees who made it across the Evros that night were not registered.

Instead, they were arrested by officers in "blue uniforms" and driven back to the river. "There were between 100 to 150 people by the river," said Farouk (not his real name), a 29-year-old from the Qamishli region in northern Syria. "They were of many nationalities, mainly Syrian. Some tried to make problems: they had paid a lot of money to get that far. When that happened, the police beat them. The police kicked and slapped them, including the women, they picked up children and threw them into the boat."

The officers put people in small plastic boats, which they tied to larger, motorised boats, and returned them to Turkish territory.

The accusation that Greek or Frontex officers returned refugees from Syria without screening them first is a serious one. Italy and Malta have been fiercely criticised for using "push-back" methods in the Mediterranean. This year the European court of human rights found that Italy had breached international human rights law by returning a boat of migrants back to Libya.

NGOs, lawyers, and locals working in Greece and Turkey say it is well known that Greek border police sometimes push back undocumented migrants and asylum seekers.

Levent Dinceli, a Turkish lawyer based in Edirne, close to the border with Greece, represents asylum seekers held in detention centres around Turkey. Many of his clients tell him about being pushed back by Greek border police. "There is a readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey, but it is not working well," he said.

"Very few people are sent the legal way. It is either the push-back method or they regroup these people in detention centres, then send them back to Turkey with boats. These boats are not safe. Putting people in these boats is also pushing them to their death."

Kelly Grivakou, a lawyer at the human rights NGO Aitima in Athens, said they often heard of Greek border police acting in breach of the law. "When you send a man from Iran or Afghanistan back to Turkey, when you know that maybe he is going to be deported back to his country, and might face danger or violence, you violate article 33 of the Geneva conventions."

Pasxalis Syritoudis, police chief of the northern Evros region, denied that his officers operated a push-back policy.

However, he admitted that his main goal was to "prevent people entering Greek soil". He said: "Using the thermal-vision vans and night cameras, we try to see them [migrants] before they enter the river. We go to the spot and by using police sirens and lights, we make our presence clear to them to prevent them from entering."

Greece is under huge pressure to seal off its borders, from the EU and at home, because of rising anti-immigrant sentiment among ordinary Greeks. Operation Shield, paid for by the European commission, is the government's latest attempt to stop illegal crossings from Turkey.

Since the start of Shield in August, 900 extra police officers have been sent to Orestiada, a small border town in northern Greece. The effects have been immediate: in July 6,000 migrants were arrested in the area. This dropped to 1,800 in August and September.

The government has also spent euros 3m (pounds 2.4m) on a barbed-wire fence for its eight-mile land border with Turkey, a few miles from the river Evros. Demiertzis Nasos, whose company is building the fence, said he saw refugees crossing the border. "We see families, once even a four-month-old baby. They were wet from the river."

Many of those pushed back or stopped from entering Greece through its northern border have simply chosen to try their luck by boat across the Aegean sea. This route is fraught with danger. In September 58 people died after their boat sank off the west coat of Turkey. A number of the dead were Syrians who had travelled with Farouk weeks before.

The effort spent on keeping migrants and refugees entering Europe brings little return because there is no structure in place in Turkey to stop them simply trying again. When a person is caught crossing the border to Europe they are put in one of Turkey's immigration removal centres. Between January and July this year, Turkish police arrested 14,559 such migrants.

Increasingly, as border controls tighten between Greece and Turkey, migrants and asylum seekers choose to enter Europe through Bulgaria. Mahmud, 39, and his wife, Fadwa, 35, are one such Syrian family. As Damascus collapsed around them, they packed up their four children and left. The family has spent six months at an open camp in Pastrogor, an isolated border village in Bulgaria.

Farouk is living at the same camp. "We don't know what to do. We cannot go back because there is a problem with our country. We cannot continue because we have no money. We are like slum dogs. Before we came here we heard that Europe is a country of humanity. But after all these experiences we see the opposite."
 

Les Syriens d'Istanbul se sédentarisent à contrecœur.
Publisher: La Croix
Author: NERBOLLIER Delphine
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: Français

Les Syriens qui avaient des réseaux familiaux ou d'amis en Turquie ont pu échapper aux camps de réfugiés où se trouvent leurs compatriotes les plus démunis, et essaient d'organiser un retour à une vie « normale ». Une école, première du genre, a vu le jour, et scolarise une centaine de jeunes Syriens à Istanbul. ISTANBUL de notre correspondante

Il est 13 heures et la valse des minibus scolaires a commencé dans une ruelle du quartier stambouliote d'Esenler. Des dizaines d'enfants s'engouffrent dans ces véhicules blancs destinés à les ramener chez eux après une matinée de cours. Amar, 15 ans, un foulard rose encadrant son visage long, est ravie d'avoir commencé l'école, « après des mois à s'ennuyer à la maison ». Originaire de Latakia en Syrie, elle est arrivée à Istanbul il y a cinq mois, avec sa mère tandis que son père, médecin, est resté à la frontière turco-syrienne pour soigner les victimes du conflit. « Je suis heureuse d'aller à l'école, explique la jeune fille. Je ne perdrai plus mon temps et pourrai peut-être oublier la guerre. »

L'établissement dans lequel se rendent Amar et ses amis depuis trois semaines est unique à Istanbul et en Turquie. Il a été créé par un groupe de Syriens ayant fui leur pays sans passer par les camps de réfugiés montés à la frontière – qui comptent 135 000 personnes – et dans lesquels écoles, soins médicaux et logement sont pris en charge par le gouvernement turc.

« Tout est parti d'une conversation sur Facebook entre amis », explique Mohamed Nizar Bitar, un chef d'entreprise syrien, opposant de longue date au régime de Bachar Al Assad et qui s'est installé à Istanbul en 2010, quelques mois avant le début du conflit. « Cette école est le résultat d'une campagne de solidarité. Certains de nos concitoyens ne souhaitent pas financer l'Armée syrienne libre, mais ils ont sauté sur l'occasion pour aider à la création de cet établissement. »

Hébergé à titre gracieux par une école privée turque, cet établissement fonctionne grâce aux dons de Syriens installés en Turquie ou à l'étranger, et accueille une centaine d'enfants de 7 à 17 ans. Quant aux enseignants, ils ont été recrutés parmi les réfugiés eux-mêmes à l'instar de Kaled Sultan, 45 ans, originaire de Homs, qui donne des cours d'anglais. « Nous n'avons pas assez de livres et travaillons avec des photocopies, explique-t-il. Nous constatons que la plupart des enfants ont des troubles psychologiques, ils font des dessins sur lesquels coulent des rivières de sang et où des gens fuient sous les bombes. Venir à l'école leur fait du bien. En plus, ils peuvent rencontrer des psychologues. »

La plupart des élèves de cette toute nouvelle école sont issus de familles ayant fait le choix de retrouver des parents ou des amis déjà installés en Turquie. Mohamed Nizar Bitar estime à 6 000 le nombre de Syriens dans ce cas à Istanbul, souvent diplômés. « Ce sont des ingénieurs, des médecins, des personnes qui ont déjà des liens sur place ou qui parlent turc, explique ce propriétaire d'un restaurant. Cela leur facilite la vie bien sûr, même si tout est très fragile. La solidarité est très forte, nous nous entraidons le plus possible. »

Vingt mois après le début du conflit, la création de cette école stambouliote indique clairement une sédentarisation à contrecœur des réfugiés, signe d'un enlisement de la situation dans leur pays. « Je n'avais jamais imaginé vivre un jour en Turquie, explique Kaled Sultan. Nous avons quitté notre pays et tout sacrifié pour le bien de nos enfants. Je ne rêve que d'une chose : rentrer chez moi, mais quand ? Je n'arrête pas de me dire : demain peut-être... »
 

Refugees 'are forced into destitution'
Publisher: The Independent
Author: By NIGEL MORRIS Deputy Political Editor
Story date: 09/12/2012
Language: English

Thousands of people who have fled some of the world's most dangerous countries are being forced into destitution, begging and prostitution on British streets because they cannot be sent back, the Home Office is warned today.

A majority of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe are refused asylum, but few are forcibly returned because their home countries will not accept them or because immigration officers lose track of them.

In a bleak report, the Refugee Council says nearly 25 per cent of failed asylum-seekers who approached it for emergency help over the last two years were from those five countries. Most do not qualify for state support or housing once their asylum applications have been rejected unless they can prove they are planning to leave.

But the charity says many are too frightened to return because of the human rights situations in their homelands and end up living in the shadows in Britain.

"This can force people into homelessness, begging and sex work. Women who are destitute are particularly exposed to the risk of further violence in the UK," it warns. In the report, published to mark Human Rights Day, the Refugee Council urges the Government to offer rejected asylum-seekers from such nations a special form of protection until their home countries are considered safe for their return.
 

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