Juncker de­fends refugee plan de­spite Paris at­tacks

Syr­ian refugees brace for back­lash

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

AN­TALYA, Tur­key: Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker firmly de­fended yes­ter­day the EU’s hotly-con­tested plan to re­dis­tribute refugees across Europe de­spite calls by Poland to scrap the scheme af­ter the deadly at­tacks in Paris.

The EU’s east­ern-most mem­bers have been fu­ri­ous over the re­dis­tri­bu­tion plan agreed in Oc­to­ber, call­ing in­stead for a stronger EU outer-border, but Juncker warned against us­ing the tragedy in Paris as means to roll it back.

“I would like to in­vite those in Europe who are try­ing to change the mi­gra­tion agenda we have adopted... to be se­ri­ous about this and not to give in to th­ese ba­sic re­ac­tions. I don’t like it,” Juncker told re­porters on the side­lines of the G20 lead­ers’meet­ing in An­talya, Tur­key.

The fresh crit­i­cism of the plan emerged af­ter of­fi­cials in Greece said a Syr­ian pass­port found at the scene of the mass shoot­ing in a Paris con­cert hall be­longed to an asy­lum seeker who reg­is­tered on a Greek is­land in Oc­to­ber. Greek po­lice did not rule out that the pass­port had changed hands be­fore the at­tacks. Poland’s in­com­ing Euro­pean Af­fairs Min­is­ter Kon­rad Szy­man­ski led the charge against the EU say­ing that War­saw no longer con­sid­ered the plan as a “po­lit­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity” in the light of the Paris at­tacks.

But Juncker said that “those who or­gan­ised, who per­pe­trated the at­tacks are the very same peo­ple who the refugees are flee­ing and not the op­po­site.”“And so there is no need for an over­all re­view of the Euro­pean pol­icy on refugees,” Juncker said. The pol­icy is also staunchly de­fended by Ger­many, which urged against any over-re­ac­tion af­ter the events in Paris, as it deals with con­se­quences of ab­sorb­ing an ex­pected one mil­lion asy­lum seek­ers this year.

“I would like to make this ur­gent plea to avoid draw­ing such swift links to the sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing refugees,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere said in Ger­many on Satur­day. Care­fully shield­ing a lit can­dle against the cold pour­ing rain, Syr­ian refugee Ghaled, 22, had come to the French em­bassy in Berlin to pay trib­ute to vic­tims of the Paris at­tacks.

“We are with them right now, just to help them with this cri­sis. What’s hap­pen­ing to them is hap­pen­ing ev­ery day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means,” he told AFP. Ghaled was a stu­dent in den­tistry in Da­m­as­cus, but de­cided to leave the Syr­ian cap­i­tal af­ter see­ing no end to the violence en­gulf­ing his home­land. Like tens of thou­sands of his fel­low coun­try­men, he first risked his life cross­ing the Mediter­ranean in an in­flat­able boat, be­fore trekking for 17 days to get to Ger­many five months ago.

But just as he be­gan look­ing for­ward to re­build­ing his life with Ger­man lan­guage classes which he hopes would help him re­turn to den­tistry school one day, Fri­day’s at­tacks that killed 129 peo­ple in Paris have raised fears of a back­lash in Europe. French po­lice’s dis­cov­ery of a Syr­ian pass­port near the body of one at­tacker in par­tic­u­lar has sparked con­cerns that some of the as­sailants might have en­tered Europe as part of the huge in­flux of peo­ple flee­ing Syria’s civil war.

“It’s a prob­lem,” said Ghaled, who urged against vic­tim­iz­ing his coun­try­men, say­ing the at­tack­ers “are not Syr­i­ans” and that the pass­port link was sim­ply make­be­lieve.

“I think it’s a big lie be­cause all the area is de­stroyed, and just the pass­port is still ok? That’s silly, really silly,” he said, suggest­ing that the pass­port was ei­ther fake or had been planted “be­cause they hate refugees... so many peo­ple hate Syr­i­ans”. An­other Syr­ian refugee, Wil­liam, 24, who had also ar­rived in Ger­many five months ago, was equally anx­ious. “Many news speak about Syr­i­ans, po­lice find Syr­ian pass­port. Of course I’m wor­ried. It’s not good,” said the 24-year-old tourism stu­dent from the north­ern town of Hama.

“Syr­i­ans are not ter­ror­ists. we need life and peace for work,” he said, adding that he wanted to re­turn home once the war is over. Mouhanad Da­wood, who had reached the EU through Italy be­fore even­tu­ally seek­ing asy­lum in Ger­many 11 months ago, said his host coun­try has been“very wel­com­ing”.

“Peo­ple here understand not ev­ery­one are ter­ror­ists, a lot of peo­ple are run­ning from ter­ror­ists, es­pe­cially from IS,”said the trained ar­chi­tect.

But he con­ceded that he was “a lit­tle bit” afraid that at­ti­tudes could change. “I have my fam­ily here now, I want to start my life here.” To those who have doubts about Syr­i­ans af­ter the French at­tacks, Da­wood said: “A ter­ror­ist is a ter­ror­ist. It doesn’t mat­ter where they come from.” In Ger­many, where a de­bate had al­ready been rag­ing be­fore Paris at­tacks over the in­flux of asy­lum seek­ers ex­pected to top a mil­lion this year, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Thomas de Maiziere came out quickly to counter any at­tempt at draw­ing a link be­tween ter­ror­ists and mi­grants.

“I would like to make this ur­gent plea to avoid draw­ing such swift links to the sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing refugees,”de Maiziere said on Satur­day fol­low­ing a cri­sis cab­i­net meet­ing. He said au­thor­i­ties would watch far­right ex­trem­ists closely, not­ing there have al­ready been in re­cent months “ap­palling scales of at­tacks against asy­lum seek­ers and asy­lum seeker shel­ters”. Yes­ter­day, the in­te­rior min­is­ter con­firmed that se­cu­rity would be stepped up at asy­lum seeker shel­ters.

‘Bombs fall­ing like rain’

The anx­i­ety was also pal­pa­ble on so­cial me­dia among asy­lum seek­ers in Europe.

“Will yes­ter­day night’s at­tacks in Paris af­fect our lives as refugees?” asked one user on “Bus Stop for the Lost Ones”, a Face­book page that is ex­tremely pop­u­lar among Ara­bic-speak­ing mi­grants tak­ing the Balkan route to Europe.“Of course,”replies an­other mem­ber.

“Curse the guy who blew him­self up... Did he have to take his pass­port with him? He should have put it away some­where and gone to hell,” wrote Jalal Abazid on Face­book, a Syr­ian refugee in Ger­many. — AFP

PARIS: A French po­lice of­fi­cer pa­trols at the Sacre Coeur basil­ica in Paris yes­ter­day. — AP

PARIS: Imam of one of the Nimes Mosque, Hocine Drouiche (2nd R), French au­thor Marek Hal­ter (L), Imam of the Drancy Mosque, Hassene Chal­ghoumi (C) and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Jewish com­mu­nity gather at a makeshift me­mo­rial near the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall in Paris yes­ter­day. — AFP

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