Forever in transit: New report highlights plight of Syrian refugees

For his reportage “Stranded. Refugees Between Syria and Europe” the writer Tayfun Guttstadt travelled to the cities of Turkey and along the Turkish-Syrian border. In conversation with Sonja Galler, he talks about the precarious situation faced by Syrian refugees, their legal status and Turkey′s lack of any kind of integration concept

Turkey is one of the most important transit nations for refugee flows en route to Europe. At the same time, Turkey has itself become a migration country in recent years: at around three million, the nation hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees worldwide. NGOs estimate the actual number of Syrians in Turkey is closer to 3.5 million, as not all refugees have been registered yet.

For the EU and the Turkish government, the six-figure number may first and foremost serve as an argument in a domestic and foreign policy game that both areplaying to serve their own political ends. But how are the refugees themselves faring? Those that are “stranded” in Turkey and decided to remain there for a wide variety of reasons.

The Hamburg writer Tayfun Guttstadt, who reported on the Gezi protests in his first book “Capulcu“, has resumed his travels and spent time talking to (among others) Syrian refugees between Istanbul, Hatay, Gaziantep and Diyarbakir about their lives, political views, hopes and disappointments.

Strong desire to return home

The resulting work is a densely narrated reportage, abundant with conversations with friends, casual acquaintances and people from all walks of life, sprinkled with observations and background information. It provides a manifold insight into the precarious social and legal situation of Syrians and other refugees in the country, people who fluctuate between staying and travelling on.

“Most refugees live in hope of being able to return soon. Others feel at home in Turkey, because for example the culture is quite similar, or they’ve found a job, or made friends. Others stay because they don’t know what else to do. Other reasons to stay are the fear of continuing illegally to Europe or doubts over whether things would be better there,” says Guttstadt.

Only a small percentage of the refugees are living in one of the camps set up by the Turkish government close to the Syrian border and from which only a few more than airbrushed images reach the public domain. Just as it is to other journalists, access is also denied to Guttstadt on his travels.

Poverty risk in the metropolis

The overwhelming majority muddle through in one of the country’s cities. There may be more opportunities here, but the risk of falling into poverty is also high: refugees often live in over-priced, cramped accommodation working without permits “for a pittance in industry or on a building site, fielding accusations that they’re taking work away from Turks and Kurds,” says Guttstadt.

Without a work permit – something that few employers go to the trouble of obtaining for their employees – access to welfare is barely possible. Child labour, in the textile industry for example, is also an issue. However, the authorities frequently turn a blind eye to illegal work or new businesses that haven’t been correctly registered.

But Guttstadt does include more positive biographies in his book and reports on wealthy individuals who have rented or even bought apartments and houses and who have relocated their businesses to Turkey. Artists, intellectuals and musicians gather in Istanbul, which has developed into one of the exile centres of Syrian intellectuals alongside Gaziantep and Berlin.

A peculiarity of the Turkish asylum system means, however, that in accordance with the Geneva Refugee Convention, the refugee status does not apply to Syrians for whom a special status was created in Turkey, which officially allows them to use the public health system and now the education system too. But there is often a lack of appropriate capacity to guarantee these promised rights.

In this context, the reportage also shines a light on civil society efforts: the local initiatives and aid organisations that offer support to the refugees, sometimes under makeshift conditions, trying to offer language courses and provide psychosocial support. Guttstadt also visits the controversial aid organisation IHH, predominantly active in the Sunni milieu – the offshoot of which was banned in Germany.

No integration concept

But we also hear the views of people on the street, taxi drivers and their highly subjective comments, which range from racist resentment through to understanding and expressions of empathy, show that in Turkey too, the issue is emotionally charged.

“First and foremost among nationalist AKP opponents, there is a commonly-held view that the Syrians are living the high life at the expense of the country’s citizens. The most vociferous supporters on the other hand are full of religious pathos, in which the needs and interests of the refugees barely play a role. Very few actors in Turkey recognise that the refugees deserve the same rights as any other person,” says Guttstadt.

Guttstadt also has unequivocal words of criticism for the Turkish government: “There is no discernible integration concept, the situation is characterised by emergency solutions. Always under the assumption that a few ‘guests’ have to be looked after just for a short while, because Assad will in any case be toppled tomorrow or the day after. None of the parties giving serious attention to the rights of refugees. The AKP uses a romanticised rhetoric, which barely conceals its political exploitation of the situation, above all in domestic and EU policy,” says Guttstadt.

The discussion concerning the naturalisation of Syrian refugees is also to be viewed in this context: It is “controversial because the AKP is doing all it can to fit the majority Sunni refugees – non-Sunnis only come to Turkey unwillingly – into its social model.”

Sonja Galler

© Qantara.de 2017

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

Trump’s Muslim registry wouldn’t be illegal, constitutional law experts say

The day after Donald Trump won the White House, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter that if the president-elect attempts “to implement his unconstitutional campaign promises, we’ll see him in court.”

But when it comes to the immigrant registration program that would target Muslims entering the United States — outlined Wednesday by an adviser to Trump’s transition team — three constitutional lawyers say the ACLU won’t have much of a shot before a judge.

That program, labeled the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, required those entering the U.S. from a list of certain countries — all but one predominantly Muslim — to register when they arrived in the U.S., undergo more thorough interrogation and be fingerprinted. The system, referred to by the acronym NSEERS, was criticized by civil rights groups for targeting a religious group and was phased out in 2011 because it was found to be redundant with other immigration systems.

Robert McCaw, director of government affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said a reinstitution of NSEERS would be akin to “just turning back the clock.” CAIR will lobby heavily against the system as not only discriminatory but also ineffective, McCaw said, if it ends up being proposed by the Trump administration.

He also accused Kobach, an architect of the original NSEERS program when he was with the Justice Department under the George W. Bush administration, of having “a long ax to grind with the Muslim community.”

France’s Council of State suspends burkini ban

Mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis, France’s highest administrative court ruled Friday. The Council of State’s ruling suspends a ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, and could affect cities around the country that have prohibited the full-length swimsuit.

More than 30 French towns have banned burkinis, which cover the whole body except for the face, hands and feet. Officials say banning the burkini -worn mostly by Muslim women- is a response to growing terror concerns and heightened tensions after a series of terror attacks.

Human rights activists argue that burkini bans are illegal, and that pushes to outlaw the garment are Islamophobic. They hailed Friday’s ruling as a significant step.

“By overturning a discriminatory ban that is fueled by and is fueling prejudice and intolerance, today’s decision has drawn an important line in the sand,” Amnesty International Europe Director John Dalhuisen said in a statement.

But it’s unclear how other towns with burkini bans will respond to Friday’s decision. If mayors continue to enforce and enact such decrees, they could face similar legal challenges.

No matter what, battles over the burkini in the court- and in the court of public opinion-are far from over.

Friday’s decision was an initial ruling by the Council of State while it continues to prepare its more detailed judgment on the legal issues in the case.

Meanwhile, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said he supports banning burkinis. And former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who plans to run again for president, has said he would immediately enact a national ban of the swimsuits.

Critics of the bans say they discriminate against the women they claim to protect.

“These bans do nothing to increase public safety, but do a lot to promote public humiliation,” Dalhuisen said. “Not only are they in themselves discriminatory, but as we have seen, the enforcement of these bans leads to abuses and the degrading treatment of Muslim women and girls.”

New Poll Finds Anti-Muslim Sentiment Frighteningly High

Call it Trumpism, an ad-hoc term for the cresting wave of white Republican resentment that Donald Trump has been surfing like Duke Kahanamoku. Some find it fascinating. Late-night comics like Stephen Colbert have been treating it like it’s hilarious.

But a lot of people take Mr. Trump completely seriously, and support him fervently. So when do we start being frightened for this country?

A poll came out today. It’s just one poll in one Southern state, North Carolina, by one polling outfit (Public Policy Polling, or PPP) with Democratic Party ties, asking questions of a few hundred Republican primary voters.

But still, these results:

“Do you think a Muslim should ever be allowed to be President of the United States, or not?

A Muslim should be allowed to be President of the United States: 16 percent

A Muslim should not be allowed to be President of the United States: 72 percent

Not sure: 12 percent”

“Do you think the religion of Islam should be legal or illegal in the United States?

Islam should be legal in the United States: 40 percent

Islam should be illegal in the United States: 40 percent

Not sure: 20 percent”

Do these people know what it means to outlaw Muslim worship? Do they teach history in the North Carolina schools? Do they know what would happen if we closed mosques, arrested worshipers and prayer leaders, imposed religious tests for public office? Are these overwrought questions, or do the ugly answers in this poll portend something seriously wrong: an outbreak of a deadly fever this country has seen many times before?

Popular Party (PP) figure calls for the closing of “unlicensed” and “illegal” mosques in Spain

November 11, 2013

 

Alberto Fernandez, deputy of the Popular Party (PP) in Barcelona has asked the mayor Xavier Trias to close all Muslim centers that have no license.
Fernandez has also denounced a Pakistani cultural center located in the Poble Sec (Barcelona) as an illegal center.

Finally, he has asked the City Hall to ensure the legality of these centers, as well as to ensure that they respect the values ​​of coexistence and democracy and that these centers “do not cause the formation of ghettos in some neighborhoods.”

 

Abc.es : http://www.abc.es/local-cataluna/20131115/abci-alberto-fernandez-reclama-cierre-201311151844.html

Daughter of Turkish victim testifies in Nazi terrorism trial

November 5, 2013

 

Gamze Kubasik, daughter of Mehmet Kubasik who was one of the victims of the murder series of the Nationalist Socialist Underground (NSU) testifies against the accused Beate Zschäpe at the court of Munich. Beate Zschäpe has shown no reaction or signs of regret towards any family members of the victims.

April 6th 2006, Mehmet Kubasik was murdered in his little shop in the city of Dortmund. Tragically, the police authorities suspected the victim to be connected to illegal channels of the Turkish mafia.

 

Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/nsu-prozess-verhandelt-mord-an-mehmet-kubasik-a-931954.html

Dutch Public Servant Fired for Informing on Mosque Schools

October 31, 2013

 

The Rotterdam public servant who told journalists that Mosques run illegal boarding schools has been fired by the city council with immediate effect.

Based on confidential documents and interviews, NRC Handelsblad reported last year that mosque boarding schools exist in Rotterdam among other locations which had no licence to have children stay overnight. Fifty girls were living the attic of one of these mosques. The government carried out no supervision of these schools.

The public servant who tipped off the newspaper received a letter of dismissal on Monday in which he was accused by the city council of “serious dereliction of duty.” The letter also says he created a “feeling of unsafeness” at the municipal organisation, by “recording and distributing an internal meeting.”

 

NIS News- http://www.nisnews.nl/whistle-blower-on-illegal-mosque-schools-sacked.html

Euro-Islam summary for original story: http://www.euro-islam.info/2013/05/22/alleged-mosque-boarding-school-revealed-in-rotterdam/

Criticisms of Immigrants, Islam, the EU and Minister Kyenge in Italy

October 28, 2013

 

“We are not moderates” says Giorgia Meloni, but he did not need to specify this. You can tell immediately when Marina Ruffoni, part of the Venetian Brothers of Italy, begins by quoting Ezra Pound: “What you love will not be stripped.” Manuel Negri, of the National Project, referenced Flavio Tosi from Northern League of yesteryear talking about “immigrants who add nothing invade our shores asking for only rights and no contribution.” He continues: “Immigrants are not a resource because they work illegally or they do not work and engage in criminal acts, our jails are full of immigrants who should be transferred to prisons in their own countries.”

These are times in which the MEP Egyptian-born Magdi Cristiano Allam, a journalist who converted to Catholicism during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, and who has now left the church because it is “too relativist and open to Islam” says Negri. When discussing Pope Francis, Allam says he lauched his crusade in defense of “our civilization from immigration, doing good while the Islamic invasion continues and he [Pope Francis] naively favors the proliferation of mosques and places of indoctrination–so that there is no Islamic terrorist who has not attended a mosque [in Italy].” And amongst the ovation of those present, he concludes: “We should be proud of our Judeo-Christian roots, we will not allow Italy to become a land of African conquest.”

This position did not disappoint the lawyer and former Minister of Defense Ignazio La Russa, defying logic, and claiming a determined opposition to every kind of technical government, and then questions why Cécile Kyenge has been appointed health minister. And, emphasizing Kyenge’s opposition to the abolition of the crime of illegal immigration, La Russa says: “They made a Minister of Integration [who is not Italian], that person would be better as a person of Italian origin if nothing else because of the color of his skin.”

 

L’Arena.it: http://www.larena.it/stories/Cronaca/581862_critiche_agli_immigrati_allislam_alla_ue_e_al_ministro_kyenge/?refresh_ce&scroll=1710

Bloody mannequins in front of the town hall: Forza Nuova takes a stance against Kyenge:
Mayor Marino: “shameful episode, Rome is an accepting town.”

Bloody mannequins were found in front of the town hall of Ostia against the minister Cécile Kyenge visit. Today the Minister of Integration participates in a debate right in Ostia which is on the coast. The debate was organized by the Young Democrats club at 18.30 after the visit to the Mosque of Rome in the morning. At the discovery, the mayor Ignazio Marino reacted sharply: “Rome is a city with an ancient tradition of hospitality; the isolated act of a few will not stop the courageous work being done by the Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge. I strongly condemn the shameful episode that occurred this morning and I invite the Minister to Capitol Hill to make her feel welcome by all the citizens of Rome.” And meanwhile, we have increased safety procedures in the neighborhoods on coast where the minister is expected.”

The far-right group, however, has staged the mannequins on the floor and smeared them with tomato stains to reaffirm “the danger in which they will be applied if the Italians allow ius soli, the law that would grant citizenship to those born in Italy” they wrote on Facebook nine days ago along with photos of the mannequins dated August 2 the mannequins were seen in Cervia, near Ravenna, at the end of July, when the minister Kyenge participated in a celebration by the Democratic Party.

“We ask ourselves” explain the group “what she has to say about the policies about youth who are devoted to political disintegration of national identity. Her words are full of racism against European culture. Now this racism is seen in the ius soli and in the abolition of the Bossi-Fini laws, decriminalizing illegal immigration.”

And promises of attacks against refugees and immigrants in the country: “We want to send a strong message that immigration kills, and it will generates time bombs burst violently if left unchecked. We do not want to end up in the banlieues section of Paris. We are speaking as Catholics, far from any racial prejudice, we are just concerned about the Islamist tide that is taking place in Europe, including the crisis in the Middle East and this is just the beginning.”

The mannequins, posted on a gate, were quickly removed by the staff of the municipality. A “horrible gesture, reminiscent of the dark days of the Ku Klux Klan. We are all with Kyenge and we will press ahead,” said the President of the Lazio Region, Nicola Zingaretti on Twitter.

The “fascists of the Third Millennium” however, have posted a banner on the pedestrian bridge in Via dei Romagnoli, near Ostia, with the words : “Italy is not a bureaucracy. No to the ius soli.”

 

Minister of Integration considers the position of the Northern League on Islam as “dangerous”

July 30, 2013

The Minister of Integration, Cécile Kyenge, “affirms that the notion that the Islamic population wants to impose Islam on the Italian civilization and this is dangerous.” said Lorenzo Fontana, leader of the Northern League in the European Parliament, just before Kyenge’s visit to the European Parliament in Verona scheduled for next Sunday. “The Northern League” says Fontana “challenges Kyenge and the EU parliment. The European Parliament has stated that it wants to abolish the crime of illegal immigration and to teach, by law, Italian children Arabic, so they are able to integrate better with their classmates from the Arab world.” Fontana also reiterates opposition to integration is different than in other part of the world especially in under populated countries that need new citizens. Fontana asserts that “this is not the case in Italy and in the Veneto region, where the population density is high and young people are unemployed or underemployed.”

For his part, another Northern League Minister, Mario Borghezio, says that inviting Kyenge to party functions as “laudable and understandable” but also “unnecessary.” For Borghezio “the League militants who are hard-core – even electorally – are the living soul of the Movement and do not change even in response to acts or invitations.” “Racism” concludes the minister “does not matter at all: it is just a matter of Northern common sense.”