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Germany's Refugee Crisis

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  • Full article:
    German asylum scandal: What is the Interior Ministry hiding?

    Germany's conservative interior minister, Horst Seehofer, is coming under increased pressure from both within and outside the government over his handling of what have been described as "massive irregularities" in asylum cases.

    It's alleged that the Bremen branch of the Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF), which is subordinate to the Interior Ministry, simply admitted more than 1,200 refugees to Germany without properly reviewing their cases. Bremen prosecutors are currently investigating whether bribes changed hands, and questions have been asked whether BAMF head Jutta Cordt kept herself adequately informed and did enough to investigate the possible irregularities.

    On Tuesday, Seehofer told a German newspaper that he would be taking "organizational and possibly personnel decisions" related to the scandal next week. Members of the grand-coalition government have called on Seehofer to be more forthcoming with information about the scandal, including when he first learned of it.

    Seehofer has also confirmed that he will testify before a special meeting of the Bundestag internal affairs committee next Tuesday. The meeting is being convened at the request of the opposition Green Party. Two of Germany's other opposition parties — the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the center-right FDP — are calling for a full-blown parliamentary investigation.

    Thus far, the Greens have resisted that idea. But they say that they could change their minds, if Seehofer doesn't provide them with quality information.

    Is Seehofer stonewalling?

    The votes of one-quarter of the Bundestag's deputies are needed to convene a full parliamentary investigation, which could be an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and Seehofer in particular. With the Greens' support, such a procedure could go ahead. For now, though, the Greens say they prefer other options.

    "We're not categorically ruling it out, but a parliamentary investigation takes a long time," Green refugee policy spokeswoman Luise Amtsberg told DW. "It's not enough to achieve results in two years. We can't permit that. Ultimately the BAMF decides on asylum cases every day, and if there are shortcomings, they would be prolonged."

    Amtsberg complained that despite her requests, Seehofer has yet to provide her party with access to internal BAMF documents pertaining to the case, even though some of their contents have been leaked to newspapers.

    "That really takes the cake," Amtsberg said, adding that if the Greens felt Seehofer is stonewalling they would consider forcing information out of him with a parliamentary investigation.
    "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


    • According to FAZ (liberal-conservative newspaper, pro-FDP):
      • BAMF as an agency may have gotten first internal reports of "irregularities" in 2014 and 2015, with "external complaints" in 2016 and 2017; the BAMF head supposedly was notified of the situation when she got her post in early 2017*
      • the former head of the Bremen branch was relieved of her duties in July 2016 and subject to a disciplinary hearing in which she got demoted in rank in March 2017; supposedly she continued "having influence on ongoing cases" afterwards
      • part of the crisis for the agency is a bad personnel move in which a Bavarian was moved into the Bremen head post; the woman, a politician who used to be with Seehofer's CSU but is currently a candidate for the FDP in Bavaria, went a bit too public, and even worse was suddenly removed from that post - presumed over that talkativeness - with supposedly a day's notice after she held it for five months.

      According to Tagesspiegel (centrist-liberal):
      • The former head of BAMF during 2010-2015 who was removed from his post when the Syrians started arriving has filed for a disciplinary hearing against himself with the intention to formally clear himself of any suspicion with regard to the first internal reports 2014.
      • Seehofer has experiences with "inherited problems". In 1993, upon becoming Minister of Health, he faced a crisis over HIV-infected blood donations; in 2005, upon becoming Minister of Agriculture, he faced one over rotten meat being relabeled and sold. From experience from those we can expect to see heads rolling aplenty.
      • The Greens (and Left) will not support any FDP/AfD-sponsored parliamentary investigation since the intention behind that one is to question the entire refugee politics since 2014, not the current problems. Both Greens and Left are slightly more ambivalent, but still definitively against a parliamentary investigation limited to just the current BAMF problem.

      Also, BAMF's processes are being audited by the Federal General Accounting Office on behalf of Seehofer now.

      * Whether she was notified is a bit contested. Basically it's about whether she was CC'd in an email in early 2017 in which a staff worker was warning his department head about possibly Lower-Saxonian inquests into cases handled in Bremen.


      • Randomly placing this here.

        Chechen refugee interrogated in Germany for sharing a DW article

        Police in Bavaria have searched the room of Chechen refugee Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov and seized his phones and tablet after he shared an article posted by DW. The article features a photo of "Islamic State" fighters.

        Bavarian authorities launched an investigation against asylum-seeker Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov over content he posted on his Facebook account, namely a DW article on "Islamic State" (IS) weapon suppliers and a separate video apparently showing Israeli military dogs biting a Palestinian child.

        He is now suspected of violating the bans on displaying IS symbols and propagating graphic violence.

        German police interrogated Abdurakhmanov, a 23-year-old refugee from the Russian state of Chechnya, after searching through his room in a Bavarian refugee shelter and seizing two of his smartphones, a tablet and several USB drives on May 17.

        During the search, the authorities also found a flag of the 'Chechen Republic of Ichkeria' — an entity established by Chechen separatists in the early 1990s — in Abdurakhmanov's room.

        Read more: 'Islamic State' finds fertile ground for recruiting in Chechnya

        'We'll take it to court'

        Abdurakhmanov shared the article on IS weapons posted by DW Russian in early March. The story, which originally appeared in German on our website, details how jihadists obtained weapons from NATO countries in Europe, including Bulgaria. It also features a third-party photo of a group of Islamic militants wielding assault rifles in Syria.

        The Chechen asylum seeker posted the article with a comment: "I don't know who supplied what and where, but those are AKs on the photo."

        The photo was also what drew attention of the German police, namely the black headscarves worn by two of the jihadists which displayed the IS logo.

        German authorities claim Abdurakhmanov "knew that both IS and this logo were banned" in Germany since 2014, according to official documents obtained by DW. "The suspect also knew that this posting could be seen by everyone," they added.

        In addition to sharing the image, Abdurakhmanov is also under investigation for sharing the video of an attack on a Palestinian boy. The video shows Israeli soldiers holding the collars of two large dogs who are clawing and biting at the youth. Posting this clip, according to the police, is against German regulations on displaying graphic content.

        Talking to DW, Abdurakhmanov said he hired a lawyer to dispute the grounds for the police search. "Of course we are going to challenge it, we'll take it to court," he said.

        Fleeing from Kadyrovs in Chechnya

        Abdurakhmanov told DW he arrived to Germany in May last year after he and his older brother, prominent Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, were refused asylum in Georgia. The brothers were reportedly forced to leave Chechnya because Tumso Abdurakhmanov got into a confrontation with the powerful state official Islam Kadyrov in 2015. At the time, Islam Kadyrov served as head of administration for Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, who is also his second cousin.

        Read more: Russian NGO hit by arson attack near Chechnya

        "The main reason for leaving is this conflict of my brother's and the fact there is collective responsibility in Chechnya," Mokhmad Abdurakhmanov told DW Russian. "We are members of his immediate family and if we had stayed behind, we would have been severely punished."

        Former guerilla leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his pro-Kremlin clique hold undisputed power in the Muslim-majority Russian state.


        • A bit more on topic:

          Germany: Aid groups slam planned asylum centers as unsuitable for children

          In an open letter sent to the German government, over 20 organizations criticized plans to open so-called "anchor centers" for asylum-seekers. They said the centers would infringe on the rights of children and families.

          Family and refugee aid organizations urged the German government in an open letter on Saturday to take the needs of children and families into consideration in their plans for asylum-seeker "anchor centers," arguing that they're currently unsuitable and possibly unsafe.

          German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has defended plans for the centers, saying they are would help streamline asylum procedures and increase deportations by keeping asylum-seekers in the centers for up to 18 months.

          Read more: Refugee children making a new life in Germany

          Child's wellbeing 'must take precedence'

          In their letter, the organizations argued that the rights of children were not being taken into account, including the right to attend school and kindergarten, or nursery.
          They also said that children should be provided a place to live where they can grow up healthily and safely and have some privacy.
          The aid organizations said it was important to take the interests of youths into account as 45 percent of refugees who came to Germany in 2017 were underage.
          "The child's wellbeing must take precedence over security policy considerations," Meike Riebau, the legal policy spokesperson of Save the Children Germany said.
          A total of 24 organizations signed the open letter, including: Save the Children Germany, Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (German child welfare organization), Pro Asyl, and the German branch of Youth without Borders.

          Read more: Germany's CSU and CDU want 'values' taught to refugee children in schools – report

          What are 'anchor centers?'
          These centers would be used to house asylum-seekers — including families — from their arrival in Germany to their deportation or voluntary return to their home country should their applications be rejected.

          Unaccompanied minors would be taken under the care of Germany's youth services, but if the age of an asylum-seeker is in question, they would remain in the "anchor center."

          The government says it wants to limit the time an asylum-seeker would stay in the center at 18 months. Families with underage children would be capped off at six months and then be moved into a local council.

          Read more: German churches preventing deportations

          Where would they be located?
          Seehofer plans on setting up six pilot centers starting in September. According to information from news agency dpa, only two centers located in Seehofer's southeastern home state of Bavaria and the southwestern state of Saarland are ready.

          Criticism of Seehofer's 'masterplan:'
          It's still unclear exactly how the centers will function, how free the asylum-seekers will be to move around as well as who will run the centers. The federal police have pushed back against Seehofer's plans to put them in charge of the centers, with one Police Union (GdP) official comparing them to prisons. Local councils have also criticized that housing people in such centers can lead to violence and hinders migrants from integrating in Germany.
          That said, at least in my region there's currently only one "center" holding more than a few hundred refugees. And that's the state's initial distribution center, from where refugees are shoved off into other places within weeks. The only housing area for refugees considerably larger in my area is currently closing down. It houses 700 refugees with a maximum capacity of about 3,800 in current buildings (9,000 back when it was at maximum capacity).
          Most places housing a few hundred - and those were dozens in my area - were closed down during the last six months, resulting from responsibility for refugees shifting from district administration to local municipalities 24 months after their asylum request - i.e. those who arrived in mid-2015 have already all been shifted over and they have been diluted into the general population.

          The refugees that they want to place in these "anchor centers" aren't the ones from 2015, but the new arrivals. Nigerians, Yugoslavians, Russians pretty much.


          • Full article:
            German interior minister 'sorry' for asylum scandal

            German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer on Tuesday apologized on behalf of the government for a scandal engulfing the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) during a closed-doors parliamentary committee hearing that lasted five hours.

            Seehofer told the committee that he wanted to reform how asylum requests are processed in Germany. He has previously proposed so-called anchor centers where asylum seekers could be placed while authorities process their requests.

            Prosecutors are investigating claims bribes may have been accepted to waive through asylum requests en masse.

            New probe

            The Interior Ministry on Tuesday announced it will review 18,000 asylum applications which had been approved at the BAMF office in Bremen.

            The Bremen bureau is at the heart of the scandal for reportedly mismanaging and approving more than 1,000 asylum applications.

            The new probe will involve a team of 70 people. Since BAMF will be shifting resources into the probe, it is likely that Germany will see a rise in the backlog of asylum requests.

            BAMF director Jutta Cordt said pending applications are likely to rise to 80,000 cases, up from the current 50,000. Cordt told the parliamentary committee that the investigation will be transparent, saying: "Nothing will be glossed over."

            In an open letter published by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday, the BAMF staff council said upper-level management pressured staff to swiftly process asylum applications, a policy that had significant knock-on effects.

            "The so-called executives, and not the low-ranking employees of the federal office, must be in focus," said council chairman Rudolf Scheinost and deputy chairman Paul Müller in the open letter.
            "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


            • Some positive things coming out of the affair: The CDU is now in favour of backing up BAMF with more money for additional and more permanent staff.


              • Full article:

                BAMF office in Bremen allowed at least two extremists to enter Germany

                The government office at the heart of Germany's ongoing asylum scandal was thrust into even deeper controversy on Sunday, after the Interior Ministry confirmed that at least two extremists were granted asylum after their requests were not properly processed.

                The government's confirmation came on the back of an investigation by Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (German Editorial Network), a journalism association, which found that the Bremen office of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) allowed more than 80 migrants to enter Germany since 2000 who instead should have been flagged to authorities.

                An Interior Ministry spokeswoman told Germany's DPA news agency that one of the extremists was labelled as a potential terrorist threat, while the other was known to have Islamist extremist ties.

                In all, 46 approved migrants were found to have some form of Islamist ties.

                The findings mark the latest embarrassment for the BAMF's regional office in Bremen.

                Last month, the office was suspended from assessing any further asylum requests amid accusations that a regional officer falsely allowed some 1,200 migrants to settle in Germany between 2013 and 2016, possibly in exchange for bribes. The Bremen office has been placed under investigation.

                The accused officer, identified under German privacy laws only as Ulrike B., has described the allegations as "nonsense" and accused the government of making her a scapegoat for its own failure to efficiently reform Germany's asylum system.
                "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


                • Full article:

                  Bavaria plans tougher approach to asylum-seekers in Germany

                  Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder has unveiled new measures to speed up the asylum process and deport rejected applicants. He believes the rest of Germany should follow his lead.

                  With Bavaria's elections only a few months away, state Premier Markus Söder of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), is advocating a tougher stance on asylum-seekers. The CSU, which has traditionally dominated Bavarian politics, fears large numbers of voters could turn their backs on the party and support the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) instead. That is why Söder now wants to speed up asylum applications, deter others from coming in the first place and swiftly deport rejected applicants.

                  Söder's approach matches that of his predecessor, Horst Seehofer, who now serves as Germany's interior minister and has proposed a similar plan for the whole country. It envisions establishing centers to house asylum-seekers after their arrival, process their asylum applications and deport them if their application has been rejected. Seehofer, however, has so far been unable to convince other German states to adopt this approach, including those governed by the Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the sister party to Bavaria's CSU.

                  Söder's plan

                  Regardless of how the plan has been received at the national level, Söder has vowed to adopt this tough stance on asylum-seekers in Bavaria. His plan envisions the following:
                  • Asylum centers will be established in each of Bavaria's seven administrative districts. Already existing institutions will be repurposed.
                  • Asylum-seekers will be housed in these centers, which will also carry out their application processes. Rejected applicants will be directly deported. Those who are granted asylum are only then distributed throughout Germany.
                  • Asylum-seekers shall, if legally possible and practicable, receive noncash benefits instead of money.
                  • Rejected applicants will be deported from Bavaria using chartered planes and a specially trained police force.
                  • The state will increase its capacity to incarcerate rejected asylum-seekers prior to deportation. Violent applicants must expect to be jailed and to lose their right to reside.
                  • A funding program will support deportees in their home countries. Financial and other support will also be provided to entice countries to take their citizens back.
                  • Asylum-seekers will be prohibited from working. Instead, they will be encouraged to take up charitable work.

                  Interior Ministry has no objections

                  Söder's plan is unique because it proposes putting the Bavarian state in charge of deportations — that process is currently coordinated and carried out by authorities on the national level. Bavarian leaders are seeking to independently charter aircraft to deport rejected asylum-seekers instead of waiting for the authorities in Berlin provide a plane, and Söder wants to use a specially-trained state police force to do the job.
                  "Every man has his weakness. Mine was always just cigarettes."


                  • Söder's plan is unique because it proposes putting the Bavarian state in charge of deportations — that process is currently coordinated and carried out by authorities on the national level.
                    Uh... no? The states are entirely responsible for deportations.

                    The federal government does socalled collective deportations, i.e. using aircraft and federal police as guards - to assist the states because they don't want to pay for that. Although the feds don't really pay for it too, because they have FRONTEX foot a large share of the bill. What Bavaria wants to do now is to charter smaller aircraft using their own funds, and man them with state police. The "smaller aircraft" thing is the decisive part in that, since currently the choice is basically between individual seats on commercial flights and the typical fed-chartered large aircraft for up to 200 passengers plus guards where it can take awhile to "collect" enough deportees for a single flight.

                    Asylum-seekers shall, if legally possible and practicable, receive noncash benefits instead of money.
                    This statement may need some explanation: Asylum seekers basically get reduced welfare benefits. This is calculated as a bunch of items and services worth certain amounts individually, and unless you want to provide those specifically, you have to pay out everything that you don't provide so the person can procure it for themselves on the economy; for asylum seekers who get room and board provided for that ends up at around 100 Euro per month cash (with no food around 250 Euro). Some of the items and services in the portfolio are not really feasible to provide centrally, so it's not really reducable to zero.


                    • Apparently Germany's letting it's ... contacts ... play down in the sandbox pretty heavily these days.

                      There's a case of a 20-year-old Iraqi refugee who, after raping and killing a girl (and hiding the corpse), fled before police got onto the case. He, along with his family fled to Turkey last saturday, driving from Istanbul across the country to get to the Iraqi border. Police in Germany got a tip as to the circumstances of the crime 24 hours later from another refugee. And found the corpse 3 days later. Stuff gets complicated from here, since we don't have any extradition treaties with Iraq and we can't ask Iraq to prosecute him either since he'd face the death penalty down there. So that's where our relations with some other guys come in.

                      Some 24 hours after the corpse was found, the guy crosses the border into Iraq - and Kurdish police is waiting for him being notified in advance, letting him pass through seemingly without problems and then arresting him in the middle of the night in bed after the family had settled into a hotel. 24 hours later, Kurdish police has a "confession" from him, and another 12 hours later the Kurdish autonomous government has signed off on his extradition and he's escorted onto a flight back to Germany by German officers to arrive within a week of having fled. Gee.
                      Last edited by kato; 09 Jun 18,, 14:53.


                      • P.S.: Turns out there wasn't an extradition.

                        Instead Kurdish Police shoved him onto a Lufthansa aircraft conveniently just about to take off from Arbil International, where the present armed air marshals ensure air security by making sure he sits and stays seated for the flight. Guess he just ended up on the wrong flight. With 20 people onboard, including coincidentally the head of the German Federal Police and his bodyguard detail, plus some reporters, it wasn't quite filled to capacity either. And those people onboard must have landed in the wrong place, because they never got off the plane and onto Iraqi soil. Once back in Frankfurt, that Federal Police group is greeted by a detail of the local state police, gee, in full SWAT gear - and oh my, aren't we looking for you? you're arrested.


                        • The airline should complain to the manufacturer. I mean navigation can be off course but not this off course. It should be fixed free of charge and an apology issued to the German head of police for having his trip spoiled.


                          • The official press release of the police reads: The possible suspect was arrested at 8:55 pm upon travelling into Germany at Frankfurt Airport due to a standing arrest order.

                            Technically the airline could now be suspect to a fine of up to 2000 Euro for transporting a person without a valid visum into Germany. Plus a free flight back. Once he's available.

                            His next travel looked like this (him in white):
                            Click image for larger version

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                            And a P.P.S.: He was dragging along his five younger brothers, including a friend of the girl, as well as his father in a wheelchair and his mother. One of those slipped the exact travel plans to the police at some point. His target was "a neighboring country of Iraq".


                            • Originally posted by kato View Post
                              And a P.P.S.: He was dragging along his five younger brothers, including a friend of the girl, as well as his father in a wheelchair and his mother. One of those slipped the exact travel plans to the police at some point. His target was "a neighboring country of Iraq".
                              That's one hell of an expensive extraction. There must have been an desire to allow the Kurds to handle the problem for the Germans.


                              • His first stop getting out of Germany was Istanbul, and we're not exactly cushy with the Turkish with regard to judicial proceedings, extradition and prisoners in general these days.