Sofia Echo


Europe’s immigration issue

Author: Henry Ridgwell Date: Fri, Nov 05 2010 11 Comments, 5115 Views
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From Sweden in the north to Italy in the south, far-right politicians - with anti immigration platforms - have fared well in recent elections across Europe. 

Many of them campaigned against what they call the "Islamisation" of Europe. As tensions rise across the continent, many analysts point to the economic crisis as the cause of the lurch to the right. 

In September, when Sweden's far-right Democrat party won seats in parliament for the first time, shockwaves were felt way beyond its borders.

A country often seen as a European social model appeared to be turning against its non Scandinavian immigrants, less than five per cent of the population. The Democrat's leader was triumphant.

"We are prepared to take responsibility and I assume that the other parties are also prepared to take responsibility for the country, because that is what it is about now," Sweden Democrat Jimmie Akesson said.
Against racism
After the results came out, thousands of protesters marched against racism. 

"It's a very terrible situation because I have grown up in a country where everyone in my surroundings has always been very tolerant, and this is the first time that I have experienced such a thing," one protester said.
But despite this sentiment, far-right, anti-immigrant parties continue to progress across Europe. 

Many, like the Freedom Party in the Netherlands have gained votes on an anti-Islam platform.   

Geert Wilders, the party's head, now wields considerable power in the coalition government. VOA spoke to him before the June elections. 

"I have nothing against Muslims but I believe that Islam is a totalitarian ideology and it goes against our freedom," Wilders said. "We are fighting for the freedom of the Netherlands andEurope, and that's why we are proposing that."

In France and in Italy, far-right parties have also made gains in recent elections. In July, France became one of the first European countries to ban the full Muslim veil. Politicians said it conflicts with French values.  

Many analysts trace the anti-immigrant wave to the economic crisis. Migrants are often blamed for undercutting wages, taking people's jobs or welfare payments from the state.
‘Conflict to come’
German historian Juliane Schutterle believes immigration will be the defining conflict of the 21st century.

"I think the conflict to come probably is not the East-West conflict, but the debate on migration and integration, particularly with the Muslim minority. This is what we are discussing in Europe and Germany," Schutterle said.

Despite the political climate, hundred of thousands of migrants still arrive on Europe's shores every year.

Many are finding they're not as welcome as they hoped.
In recent months there's been a huge influx of migrants across the land border between Turkey and Greece – 58 000 illegal entries in the first six months of 2010 alone.  VOA travelled to Greece and found that once over the border, the migrants' problems are only just beginning.

For Abdul Samat and Nabir Hamad, it's been an epic journey of more than 6000km  starting in Bangladesh. They have finally arrived in Greece and they're exhausted. 

"We came through India and Pakistan, Iran and Turkey," he explained. "It's taken us 20 days. The journey was very hard and we had no food."

Soon after crossing into Greece, Samat and Hamad were arrested. But like the other migrants sheltering here in Alexandroupolis, 10km from the Turkish border, they were released because detention centres for migrants are full. By all measures, the two are lucky.
Almost all the undocumented migrants entering Europe - about 300 every day from Africa, the Middle East and Asia -  cross the Evros River that divides Turkey and Greece.
There are nowhere near enough border guards to stem the flow.  Once in Greece, the migrants are in the European Union.  

But the crossing is dangerous. Hundreds of migrants lose their lives every year.

For those who do make it over, the battle to start a new life in Europe is only just beginning. 

A video was taken outside a police station in Athens where migrants seeking asylum are issued so-called Red Cards. The card allows them to remain in Greece while their cases are being heard. But Red Cards have to be renewed monthly. There's a backlog of more than 45 000 cases.

Amir Hosein is an asylum seeker from Iran, part of a group that set up a protest camp in Athens.  

One in the group has just obtained a Greek passport after he and five others went on a hunger strike.  

"We ask all the governments of the world to hear our voice," Hosein said. "Are you waiting for our children, six or seven year old kids, to sew up their mouths as well until you pay attention to us and hear our voice?"

Meanwhile, many migrants struggle to survive on the streets of Athens where neo fascists often beat them up.  

The United Nations' refugee agency says the situation is a humanitarian crisis and has called on the Greek government to reform its asylum process.

Until that happens, many migrants will find their dream of a new life in Europe has died on these ancient streets in Greece.
Operation Poseidon
Police officers from across the continent have arrived in Greece for Operation Poseidon, aimed at securing the EU's border with Turkey, the gateway. 

It's the middle of the night overlooking the border between Greece and Turkey. A team of Austrian and Greek police uses thermal cameras to detect migrants trying to cross illegally intoEurope.  

"Now we are looking from here to the Greek-Turkey borderline; it is about seven to eight kilometres," an Austrian guard explained.

This border used to separate two countries at war. But with Greece part of the European Union, the Greek-Turkish border now separates the EU from the outside world. An estimated 10 000 people, most from North Africa and South Asia, cross it illegally every month.  

European governments have come together to stem the flow. Under a co-ordinating body called Frontex, they are sending officers to aid Greece in securing the frontier.

Many migrants swim across the Evros River between Turkey and Greece. Others try a more audacious route. 

At official crossing points like Kipi, officers use the latest technology to detect immigrants hiding in vans and trucks.

"The four sensors can detect the heart beat of a person if there's one on board," a German guard said.
Next to the border point is a fleet of impounded vehicles. 

Once the migrants are caught, Frontex officers interview them to learn about the networks used by traffickers. 

"I've been interviewing people for 10 years now, and they say, 'We were hidden in the truck or a boat and we have walked through Turkey,'" says Danish officer Michael Ekmann, "and we've said 'Yeah yeah yeah come on please tell us the real story.' And then suddenly you experience it and you say 'Oh dear, it's true.' They really are being transported like cattle sometimes and it's true there are some people earning a lot of money."

In the Greek port of Pireaus, outside Athens, Frontex has opened an office to cope with the huge numbers of migrants arriving in this region, and to stop those who try to slip into Greecethrough the port.   

The head of the organisation, Ilkka Laitinen, says that migrants from countries like Morocco, Algeria and even Afghanistan try all kinds of ways to enter Greece. 

"It's now more and more possible to fly from northern African countries to Turkey, and Istanbul is the hub where many low-cost carriers are operating, and these flights are fully booked," Laitinen said.

Frontex claims it is having success. But the increased show of force is unlikely to discourage many of the migrants who risk their lives trying to reach Europe's shores.
* Compiled from a series of special reports by

  • Dutch court acquits Geert Wilders
  • Do not put asylum in Europe at risk, UN refugee agency tells Frontex
  • Turkey's president Abdullah Gul says nation belongs in Europe
  • Syrian president to visit Bulgaria
  • Beyond Greece’s November 7 local elections
    • Anonymous
      Bruce Rating:
      #11 01, 01, Thu, Nov 11 2010

      This seems like it would be easy enough to fix, build two walls alongs the river bank. The first wall should be 10 feet high and a 10 foot deep trench dug at its base. The second wall will be build on the other side of the trench, also 10 feet high. Install automatically controlled sentry guns on the first wall filled with non lethal but demoralizing munitions such as paintballs filled with something that smells rancid. Problem solved.

    • Anonymous neutral
      #10 07, 44, Tue, Nov 09 2010

      that's a very interesting advertisement at the top of the page! hmmmmmmm

    • AnonymouszzTue, Nov 09 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      towelhead Rating:
      #8 20, 39, Mon, Nov 08 2010

      Sometimes discrimination is a virtue. We need immigrants who are smart, educated, healthy, and having Western, tolerant mindset. We do not need immigrants who are communists, Nazis, gangsters, or mainstream Muslims.

      There are non violent Muslims (I know a few of them) but it is difficult to find non-violent Islam. There are non-violent Sufi sects, mostly Universal Sufis. Ahmadiyyas and Ismailiyahs are somewhat non-violent. Saudi government bars their entrance to Mecca because, in the opinion of Saudi government, they are not violent enough to be true Muslims. The rest (about 98% of all Muslims) are hateful [...]

      Read the full comment and violent.

    • AnonymousANONYMOUSSun, Nov 07 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousRICHARD .L. HARTSun, Nov 07 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousRICHARD .L. HARTSun, Nov 07 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

      AnonymousCosmosSat, Nov 06 2010

      This comment has been removed by the moderator because it contained

    • Anonymous
      ED Rating:
      #3 17, 29, Sat, Nov 06 2010

      Islam = ignorance + poverty + violence + war + fundamentalism + no rights

      Christianity = the restoration of European values + hope + unity + schools + work + peace for the world

    • Anonymous
      towelhead Rating:
      #2 15, 41, Sat, Nov 06 2010

      Grand mufti of Egypt is the most senior Sunni clergyman in the world. In 2008, Ali Gom’a, the grand mufti of Egypt, said in public: “Muslims must kill non-believers wherever they are unless they convert to Islam.”

      What was the Muslim reaction to this statement? There was no reaction because Muslims already knew that it was their Islamic duty to kill us. Ali Gom’a merely reminded them of this duty. Islam is a crime against ALL humanity.

      Muslim majority always treats kafir (non-Muslim) minority like animals. This rule has no exceptions – [...]

      Read the full comment we will be treated the same way when Muslim invaders of the West become the majority. If the present trends continue, in 50 years European Muslim population will grow from 52 million to 370 million, while U.S. Muslim population will grow from 8 million to 147 million. We have four options: deport Muslim invaders and their quisling friends, sterilize them, kill them, or surrender.

      The essence of Islam is its founder, Muhammad. He was exceptionally cruel bandit, and yet Muslims call him uswa hasana (the model of conduct) and al-insan al-kamil (the perfect man). Their Islamic duty to emulate Muhammad’s crimes is called Sunna. There is no historical precedent of a Muslim majority tolerating kafir minority, but there is plenty of historical evidence that Islam cannot be reformed and that our desperate efforts to appease it have failed. Islam will bring rivers of blood into our cities. There will be no mercy. Millions of Muslims will die, and Islam will die with them.

      The Muslim Arab world does not produce single manufactured product of sufficient quality to sell on world markets. Arab productivity and literacy are the lowest in the world. Nowhere in the Arab world is a world-class university, true democracy, respect for human rights, or a responsible media. Ralph Peters described the Arab Middle East as the world's first entirely parasitic culture because “it imitates poorly, consumes voraciously, spits hatred, exports death, and creates nothing”.

    • Anonymous
      cornell Rating:
      #1 19, 33, Fri, Nov 05 2010

      This site shows its prejudice by labelling Wilders as "far-right".

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