Category Archives: Refugees

“By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis” Inspired by Trump, the world could be heading back to the 1930s – Jonathan Freedland.

The US president tears children from parents, and in Europe his imitators dehumanise migrants. We know where such hatred leads.

“Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

‘Where’s my seven-year-old? This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

You’ll remember Godwin’s law, which holds that the longer an online debate goes on, the likelier it is that someone will mention Hitler or the Nazis. It was an amusing observation and one that served a useful purpose, guarding against hyperbole and fatuous comparison. Except last August, as the American far right staged a torchlight parade in Charlottesville, Mike Godwin suspended his own law. “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis,” he tweeted. “Again and again. I’m with you.”

Despite that dispensation, I’ve tended to abide by my own version of Godwin’s law. I try to avoid Nazi comparisons, chiefly because they’re almost always wrong and because, far from dramatising whatever horror is under way, they usually serve to minimise the one that killed millions in the 1940s. And yet, there’s a cost to such self-restraint. Because if the Nazi era is placed off limits, seen as so far outside the realm of regular human experience that it might as well have happened on a distant planet Planet Auschwitz then we risk failure to learn its lessons. That would be to squander the essential benefit offered by study of the Third Reich: an early warning system.

So yes, when Donald Trump ordered US government agents on the southern border to separate migrant children from their parents, to tear screaming toddlers from their fathers and even to pull a baby from its mother’s breast, he was not re-enacting the Holocaust. He was not ordering the eradication of an entire people or sending millions to their deaths.

But there were echoes. And we must hear them.

For one, there’s the elemental act of separation itself. If you interview survivors of the Holocaust, one thing you notice is that even those who’ve grown used to describing events of the most extraordinary cruelty, and who can do so without shedding a tear, often struggle when they recall the moment they were parted from a parent. Mostly now in their 80s or older, they are taken back to that moment of childhood terror, one that never leaves them.

The parents ripped from those 2,300 children on the Mexican border were not led off to be murdered. But there are grounds to believe they may never again see their sons or daughters, some of whom were sent thousands of miles away. There is no system in place to reunite them. The children were not properly registered. How can a two-year-old who speaks no English explain who she is? Eighty years from now, perhaps, old men and women will sob as they recall the mother taken from them by uniformed agents of the US government, never to be seen again.

But the echoes don’t end there. The wire cages. The guards telling weeping children they are forbidden from hugging each other. And then this chilling detail, reported by Texas Monthly. It turns out that US border guards don’t always tell parents they’re taking their children away. “Instead, the officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ The child goes off, and in a half-hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, ‘Where is my flve year old?’ ‘Where’s my seven-year-old?’

‘This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

And if the mechanics of this operation strike a familiar note, so too does the rhetoric and propaganda deployed by those behind it and defending it. You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month.

They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, one time shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trumb not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”.

Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.

The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too.

Put starkly:

The norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us.

It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in Check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead.

Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand and now the tide is coming in.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?

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Fortress Europe, the Inhumanity of Europe’s Refugee Policy – Costas Georgiades and Luca Bücken.

Officials undertaking vulnerability assessments at Moria refugee camp are left asking not whether someone has been raped, but how brutally and how often.

This is no longer a “refugee crisis” or even a “refugee management crisis.” It is now a humanitarian crisis by design.

Are Europe’s citizens and leaders really prepared to abandon basic values like solidarity and empathy for a future of walls guarded by Libyan mercenaries, an arguably unlawful deal with Turkey, and unconscionable conditions for people seeking refuge from poverty and conflicts that Europe helped to create?

Many promising policies with the potential to create a safe and humane asylum process have been proposed. Yet the EU continues to allow asylumseekers to languish in unconscionable conditions, betraying its values for the sake of deterrence.

For the asylum seekers in the Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, the word “almost” has become a source of devastation. They almost made it. They are almost at the end of their brutal journey. As Aarash, a 27-year-old father of a young daughter and an MBA graduate from Kabul, Afghanistan, put it, “When all is said and done, we are only almost human.” And Europe only almost welcomes them.

“Almost” causes unbearable despair to the asylum-seekers trapped on Lesbos and Samos, who have already endured the trauma of their journey and camp life. According to a report released in October by Doctors without Borders, nearly 50% of refugees on Samos experienced violence while passing through Turkey, and close to 25% had experienced violence since arriving in Greece. Officials undertaking vulnerability assessments at Moria are left asking not whether someone has been raped, but how brutally and how often.

Against this background, it is unsurprising that residents suffer psychologically. Yet the waiting list for psychological treatment is over 500 names long, meaning that few will end up receiving any support at all. In the meantime, a small clinic run by the Greek nonprofit Emergency Response Center International in Moria confronts cases of self-harm daily, and suicide is not uncommon.

The trauma specialist Paul Stevenson described a demoralization syndrome that he observed during his work at migrant detention centers on Nauru, off the Australian coast. Following a natural disaster, he says, the incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder is about 3%. After a terrorist attack, that figure rises to about 25%. In the case of torture and incarceration, it jumps to 50%, because that “is considered to be the most demoralizing situation” a person can experience.

Psychological torture and incarceration are effectively what asylum-seekers in the Moria camp now face. Although they are permitted to come and go as they please, there are no alternative living spaces or food-distribution points. And conditions in the camp are characterized by cramped and inadequate facilities an estimated 6,600 asylum-seekers are currently residing in a camp built for 3,000 not to mention the constant threat of abuse.

This situation contrasts sharply with the European Union’s narrative. A year after the European refugee crisis or, more accurately, refugee-management crisis peaked in the summer of 2015, the EU declared that the situation was under control. But, while it is true that fewer refugees were arriving on Europe’s shores, anyone who has been to Lesbos lately knows that the crisis is far from over.

Analysts have likened the EU’s asylum and security policies in the Mediterranean since 2015 to the construction of a “fortress Europe.” If the EU is a fortress, Moria camp is its torture chamber, with nightmarish conditions that have been well documented. This is no longer a “refugee crisis” or even a “refugee management crisis.” It is now a humanitarian crisis by design. Given the EU’s data and resources, this outcome can be viewed only as intentional.

In fact, appalling conditions are being allowed to prevail in refugee camps, because authorities want to deter other asylum seekers including some who arguably have no right to international protection from trying to get in, and potentially even to impel some who have arrived to return home. Better camp conditions and allowing refugees to reach the Greek mainland, the logic goes, would contribute to another surge in crossings. Greece’s highest administrative court has called into question the legality of this containment policy, a result of the controversial EU-Turkey agreement. The Greek government, however, has defied the court’s ruling.

It is a heartless, cynical strategy of reckless disregard for human dignity, justified by bigoted discourse and biased narratives. Are Europe’s citizens and leaders really prepared to abandon basic values like solidarity and empathy for a future of walls guarded by Libyan mercenaries, an arguably unlawful deal with Turkey, and unconscionable conditions for people seeking refuge from poverty and conflicts that Europe helped to create?

Against all logic, and despite “almost” after “almost,” Moria camp residents remain hopeful that Europe will soon remember and abide by its commitments to upholding human rights. In the meantime, they demonstrate that it is often in inhumane conditions that humanity shines the brightest.

New arrivals receive support from their communities, including lessons on survival in the camp’s demoralizing environment. The camp’s different ethnic communities often act together to ensure that compatriots who develop psychosis, for example, are among those who actually receive treatment. Waqi, despite incredible personal trauma experienced before and after her arrival in Greece, cares for the children of two families because their depressive parents cannot.

It does not have to be this way. Many promising policies with the potential to create a safe and humane asylum process have been proposed. These include humanitarian visas, preference matching between host countries and asylum seekers, resettlement, and much stronger support for frontline countries.

Advocating for such solutions may not be comfortable or politically popular. Developing and implementing new asylum policies that respect the rights and humanity of asylum-seekers then will demand bold leadership. But the status quo is clearly unacceptable.

The refugee crisis isn’t about refugees. It’s about us – Ai Weiwei.

I was a child refugee, writes the Chinese artist and activist. I know how it feels to live in a camp, robbed of my humanity. Refugees must be seen to be an essential part of our shared humanity.

I was born in 1957, the same year China purged more than 300,000 intellectuals, including writers, teachers, journalists and whoever dared to criticise the newly established communist government. As part of a series of campaigns led by what was known as the anti-rightist movement, these intellectuals were sent to labour camps for “re-education”.

Because my father, Ai Qing, was the most renowned poet in China then, the government made a symbolic example of him. In 1958, my family was forced from our home in Beijing and banished to the most remote area of the country – we had no idea that this was the beginning of a very dark, long journey that would last for two decades.

In the years that followed, my father was sentenced to hard labour cleaning latrines in a work camp in north-west China. He was also forced to criticise himself publicly.

From my youth, I experienced inhumane treatment from society. At the camp we had to live in an underground dugout and were subjected to unexplainable hatred, discrimination, unprovoked insults and assaults, all of which aimed to crush the basic human spirit rooted in my father’s beliefs. As a result, I remember experiencing what felt like endless injustice. In such circumstances, there is no place to hide and there is no way to escape. You feel like your life is up against a wall, or that life itself is a dimming light, on the verge of being completely extinguished. Coping with the humiliation and suffering became the only way to survive.

I share this personal background because it sheds light on my emotional connection to the current global refugee condition, which I documented in the film Human Flow. My experience clarifies why I identify so deeply with all these unfortunate people who are pushed into extreme conditions by outside forces they are powerless to resist.

During two years of filming, we travelled to 23 nations and 40 refugee camps. Some of the camps are relatively new, coping with those who have fled from the war in Syria. Other camps – such as the Ain al-Hilweh camp in Lebanon – have existed for decades and have now sheltered three generations of refugees.

In the months since the film’s release, some of the areas we covered have deteriorated even further. The Rohingya refugee situation in Myanmar, for example, has erupted in a wave of more than half a million newly displaced people, adding to the already existing 65 million refugees worldwide.

Observing and researching recent and historical refugee events makes some conclusions abundantly clear. Not a single refugee we met had willingly left their home, even when home was impoverished and undeveloped. The promise of economic prosperity is not more important than place. People left their homes because they were forced to by violence which caused the deaths of family members, relatives and fellow citizens. Often it is not just a single house that is destroyed, but entire villages vanish under indiscriminate bombing. There is simply no way for them to stay. Fleeing is the only choice they have to preserve their own lives and the lives of those they love.

A common argument is that many of the people who try to reach the west are economic migrants who wish to take unfair advantage of its prosperity. However, this view ignores the contradiction between today’s physical borders and the real political and economic boundaries of our globalised world. Also implicit is a refusal to acknowledge that through globalisation, certain states, institutions and individuals have greatly profited at the direct expense of those in many parts of the world who are vulnerable and increasingly exploited.

At this moment, the west – which has disproportionately benefited from globalisation – simply refuses to bear its responsibilities, even though the condition of many refugees is a direct result of the greed inherent in a global capitalist system. If we map the 70-plus border walls and fences built between nations in the past three decades – increasing from roughly a dozen after the fall of the Berlin Wall – we can see the extent of global economic and political disparities. The people most negatively affected by these walls are the poorest and most desperate of society.

In nature there are two approaches to dealing with flooding. One is to build a dam to stop the flow. The other is to find the right path to allow the flow to continue. Building a dam does not address the source of the flow – it would need to be built higher and higher, eventually holding back a massive volume. If a powerful flood were to occur, it could wipe out everything in its path. The nature of water is to flow. Human nature too seeks freedom and that human desire is stronger than any natural force.

Can physical borders stop refugees?

Instead of building walls, we should look at what is causing people to become refugees and work to solve those conditions to stem the flow at its source. To do so will require the most powerful nations in the world to adjust how they are actively shaping the world, how they are using political and economic ideology – enforced by overwhelming military power – to disrupt entire societies. How do we think the poor, displaced or occupied can exist when their societies are destroyed? Should they simply disappear? Can we recognise that their continued existence is an essential part of our shared humanity? If we fail to recognise this, how can we speak of “civilised” development?

The refugee crisis is not about refugees, rather, it is about us. Our prioritisation of financial gain over people’s struggle for the necessities of life is the primary cause of much of this crisis. The west has all but abandoned its belief in humanity and support for the precious ideals contained in declarations on universal human rights. It has sacrificed these ideals for short-sighted cowardice and greed.

Establishing the understanding that we all belong to one humanity is the most essential step for how we might continue to coexist on this sphere we call Earth. I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself.

• Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist, activist and advocate of political reform in China

The Guardian

How Australia ended up with a neo-fascist propounding his views on immigration on national television – Jason Wilson. 

Australia doesn’t need a Breitbart, our conservative media does the job just as well.
Australia’s ‘African gang crisis’ has been brewing for years.

How do you end up with a neo-fascist propounding his views on immigration on national television? To answer this question, you need to understand how a racially motivated moral panic has brewed in right-leaning media over months, and even years. You then need to see how such a panic is part of a political project, which includes state and federal politicians.
The panic over Sudanese immigrant gangs has reached fever pitch in this new year of 2018. Even though it’s rooted in selective distortions, both of crime rates, and the concept of a “gang”, it’s triggered a hasty policy response.

This month, it has dominated the news in Victoria to such an extent that it seems that premier, Daniel Andrews, is unable to talk about much else. After his immigration minister, Peter Dutton, inflamed the situation, the prime minister has recently chosen to weigh in on an issue which is clearly not on his constitutional patch.
But if the panic has only come into bloom in recent weeks, it has been nurtured like a delicate sapling for two years. This long-term effort has been made by the rightwing outlets that still dominate print and online media in Australia.

If you search Australia’s news archives, there are relatively few mentions of the “Apex gang”, a group which has increasingly come to stand in for the Sudanese-Australian community as a whole, before 2016. On 13 March that year, people identifying as members of the group were involved in a brawl in Melbourne’s CBD, during the Moomba Festival.

That led to an initial flurry of coverage. Some of this was in the Age, but the story was led by News Corp’s Melbourne tabloid, the Herald Sun, and the Australian edition of the Daily Mail, which presented the brawl in populist terms.
By 14 March, the Mail and the Hun had established the habit of referring to the young men in these groups as “thugs”, a term which has, in the USA, been described as a “nominally polite way of using the N-word”.

The same day, Andrew Bolt wrote in a column that “there seems almost a conspiracy to stop the public knowing that our refugee and immigration policies have become a threat, introducing new levels of violence and gun crime to our cities”.
This take was dutifully, and approvingly, reposted on several far right forums. That’s unsurprising – the idea that refugees are in themselves social poison, and that this is being covered up, is a central claim of the contemporary far right.

From this moment on, the “Apex gang” became a way for right-leaning media to establish a connection between crime, immigration, race, and even terrorism.
While Fairfax, the ABC and Guardian Australia gradually turned to other matters, rightwing outlets continued their focus on the gang over the succeeding two years.

According to Nexis searches, the Australian edition of the Daily Mail has published the largest number of articles on the “Apex gang”, with 344 in the last five years. But the Herald Sun is close on its heels with 320. Each have run more than four times the number of articles that the Age has run, with a mere 76. The Age only just beat out News Corp’s national daily, the Australian, with the quantity of its coverage.

Many of the Age’s articles came around specific incidents. But the combined News outlets and the Daily Mail kept things bubbling along even when there was little to write about.

News and MailOnline breathlessly reported run of the mill property crimes as the work of “Africans”. The Australian took the opportunity, to try to connect the Flinders Street car attack to Sudanese youth, as did Peta Credlin in News tabloids. Stories about ”African” crime persisted in the face of efforts by police to point out that the story had been blown out of proportion, and the refusal of local residents to say there was a problem.

On the other hand, the same outlets soft-soaped far right vigilantism when it emerged in 2016. When the Soldiers of Odin, a white supremacist group, announced that they would be the patrolling Melbourne’s CBD, the Daily Mail ran their comments uncritically, including the idea that they were representing “old-school Aussie values”.

In a way, Channel Seven’s uncritical interview with Blair Cottrell was just following the precedent set in moments like this, and in the fawning coverage given to Milo Yiannopoulos late last year.

Rightwing politicians picked up this ball and ran as far and fast as they could with it. Their interventions show the symbiotic relationship between racial politics, ginned up in conservative newspapers, and conservative politics. Last November, federal liberal MP Jason Wood was calling for 16 year olds who had offended to be deported to their home countries. In December, Liberals worked hard to insert a discussion of Sudanese crime into a parliamentary committee report on immigration late last year. So the ground was well prepared for Peter Dutton to threaten deportation of young offenders, too.

This is all part of the normal, repetitive functioning of Australia’s conservative media and its conservative politics. The reason Australia has never given birth to a Breitbart-style far right outlet is that there is no niche for them to occupy. The country’s print media market is dominated by outlets whose politics – on immigration, culture wars, and the “war on terror” – are indistinguishable from websites that elsewhere, dwell on the margins.

So we shouldn’t be shocked when far right ideologues, whose views on immigration don’t really differ much from the conservative consensus in Australia, get on TV. Tabloids and mainstream politicians have worked long and hard to push ideas that, as a by-product, accord legitimacy to the far right. All sides benefit from a project that leads to heightened fear, demands for a crackdown, and political problems for a Labor government.

The reason that Channel Seven felt that Blair Cottrell’s views on Sudanese crime needed to be aired – despite his history of far right street activism, and his criminal history – is that by degrees, Australia’s right-leaning media have come to frame the issue in terms of reactionary populism for some years.

This is what they do.

The Guardian 

    Migration can benefit the world. This is how we at the UN plan to help – António Guterres. 


    The global compact on migration aims to change a source of abuse and conflict into a driver of prosperity. Now what’s needed is the support of governments.

    Managing migration is one of the most profound challenges for international cooperation in our time. Migration powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies. Yet it is also a source of political tension and human tragedies. The majority of migrants live and work legally. But a desperate minority are putting their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse.
    Demographic pressures and the impact of climate change on vulnerable societies are likely to drive further migration in the years ahead. As a global community, we face a choice. Do we want migration to be a source of prosperity and international solidarity, or a byword for inhumanity and social friction?

    This year, governments will negotiate a global compact on migration through the United Nations. This will be the first overarching international agreement of its kind. 


    It will not be a formal treaty. Nor will it place any binding obligations on states. Instead, it is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to counter the pernicious myths surrounding migrants, and lay out a common vision of how to make migration work for all our nations.

    This is an urgent task. We have seen what happens when large-scale migration takes place without effective mechanisms to manage it. The world was shocked by recent video of migrants being sold as slaves.

    Grim as these images were, the real scandal is that thousands of migrants suffer the same fate each year, unrecorded. Many more are trapped in demeaning, precarious jobs that border on slavery anyway. There are nearly six million migrants trapped in forced labour today, often in developed economies.

    How can we end these injustices and prevent them recurring in future? 

    In setting a clear political direction about the future of migration, I believe that three fundamental considerations should guide discussions of the compact.

    The first is to recognise and reinforce the benefits of migration, so often lost in public debate. Migrants make huge contributions to both their host countries and countries of origin.

    They take jobs that local workforces cannot fill, boosting economic activity. Many are innovators and entrepreneurs. Nearly half of all migrants are women, looking for better lives and work opportunities.

    Migrants also make a major contribution to international development by sending remittances to their home countries. Remittances added up to nearly $600bn ($445bn) last year, three times all development aid. 

    The fundamental challenge is to maximise the benefits of this orderly, productive form of migration while stamping out the abuses and prejudice that make life hell for a minority of migrants.

    Second, states need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants – for the benefit of their economies, their societies and the migrants themselves. Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration – or place severe restrictions on migrants’ work opportunities – inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labour needs met in an orderly, legal fashion.

    Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration. Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods. This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments’ authority. The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration, removing the incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of their labour markets for foreign labour.

    States also need to work together more closely to share the benefits of migration, for example through partnering to identify significant skills gaps in one country that migrants from another are qualified to fill.

    Third and finally, we need greater international cooperation to protect vulnerable migrants, as well as refugees, and we must reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime in line with international law. 

    The fate of the thousands who die in doomed efforts to cross seas and deserts is not just a human tragedy. It also represents the most acute policy failure: unregulated, mass movements in desperate circumstances fuel a sense that borders are under threat and governments not in control. In turn this leads to draconian border controls that undermine our collective values and help perpetuate the tragedies we have too often seen unfold in recent years.

    We must fulfil our basic obligations to safeguard the lives and human rights of those migrants that the existing system has failed. We must take urgent action to assist those now trapped in transit camps, or at risk of slavery, or facing situations of acute violence, whether in North Africa or Central America. We have to envisage ambitious international action to resettle those with nowhere to go.

    We should also take steps – through development aid, climate mitigation efforts and conflict prevention – to avoid such unregulated large movements of people in future. Migration should not mean suffering.

    We must aim for a world in which we can celebrate migration’s contributions to prosperity, development and international unity. It is in our collective power to achieve this goal. This year’s global compact can be a milestone on the road to making migration truly work for all.

    *

    António Guterres is secretary general of the United Nations. 

    The Guardian 

    The ungrateful refugee: ‘We have no debt to repay’ – Dina Nayeli. 

    Dina Nayeli was just a child when she fled Iran as an asylum seeker. But as she settled into life in the US and then Europe, she became suspicious of the idea that refugees should shed their old identities and be eternally thankful. 

    A few weeks ago I dusted off my expired Iranian passport photo, an unsmiling eight-year-old version of me – stunned, angry, wearing tight grey hijab and staring far beyond the camera. It’s not the face of a child on the verge of rescue, though I would soon escape Iran. I have kept that old photograph hidden since the day I threw away my last headscarf, and now it’s the bewildered face and parted lips, not the scarf, that capture my interest.

    No matter how hard I try, I can’t reconcile this child with the frazzled American writer in my recent pictures.

    In 1985, when I was six years old, my family left our home in Isfahan for several months to live in London. The move was temporary, a half-hearted stab at emigration; nonetheless, I was enrolled in school. In Iran I had only attended nursery, never school, and I spoke only Farsi.

    At first, the children were welcoming, teaching me English words using toys and pictures, but within days the atmosphere around me had changed. Years later, I figured that this must have been how long it took them to tell their parents about the Iranian kid. After that, a group of boys met me in the yard each morning and, pretending to play, pummelled me in the stomach. They followed me in the playground and shouted gibberish, laughing at my dumbfounded looks.

    A few weeks later, two older boys pushed my hand into a doorjamb and slammed it shut on my little finger, severing it at the first segment. I was rushed to the hospital, carrying a piece of my finger in a paper napkin. The segment was successfully reattached.

    I never went back to that school, but later, in the chatter of the grownups from my grandmother’s church and even in my parents’ soothing whispers, I heard a steady refrain about gratefulness. God had protected me and so I shouldn’t look at the event in a negative light. It was my moment to shine! Besides, who could tell what had motivated those boys? Maybe they were just playing, trying to include me though I didn’t speak a word of their language. Wasn’t that a good thing?

    Eventually we returned to Iran. I was put under a headscarf and sent to an Islamic girls’ school.

    Three years later, my mother, brother and I left Iran for real, this time after my mother had been dragged to jail for converting to Christianity, after the moral police had interrogated her three times and threatened her with execution.

    We became asylum seekers, spending two years in refugee hostels in Dubai and Rome. By that time I had lived my first eight years in the belly of wartime Iran – for most of the 80s, the Iran-Iraq war wrecked our country and trapped us in a state of almost constant fear. I had grown accustomed to the bomb sirens, the panicked dashes down to the basement, the taped-up windows.

    So the time that followed, the years in refugee hostels, felt peaceful, a reprieve from all the noise. My mother urged me to thank God in my prayers.

    When I was 10, we were accepted by the United States and sent to Oklahoma, just as the first gulf war began. By the time of our arrival in the American south, the nail on my pinkie had grown back, my hair was long, and I was (according to my mother) pretty and funny and smart.

    The first thing I heard from my classmates, however, was a strange “ching-chongese” intended to mock my accent. I remember being confused, not at their cruelty, but at their choice of insult. A dash of racism I had expected – but I wasn’t Chinese; were these children wholly ignorant to the shape of the world outside America? If you want to mock me, I wanted to say, dig down to the guttural “kh”s and “gh”s, produce some phlegm, make a camel joke; don’t “ching-chong” at me, you mouth-breather. (See? I had learned their native insults well enough.)

    Of course, I didn’t say that. And I didn’t respond when they started in on the cat-eating and the foot-binding. I took these stories home and my mother and I laughed over chickpea cookies and cardamom tea – fragrant foods they might have mocked if only they knew. By then it was clear to me that these kids had met one foreigner before, and that unfortunate person hailed from south-east Asia.

    I needn’t have worried, though; the geographically correct jokes were coming. Like the boys in London, these kids soon spoke to their parents, and within weeks, they had their “turban jockeys” and their “camel-fuckers” loaded and ready to go.

    Meanwhile, I was battling with my teacher over a papier-mache topographical map of the US, a frustrating task that was strangely central to her concerns about my American assimilation. When I tried to explain to her that only a few months before I had lived with refugees outside Rome, and that most of the social studies work baffled me, she looked at me sleepily and said: “Awww, sweetie, you must be so grateful to be here.”

    Grateful. There was that word again. Here I began to notice the pattern. This word had already come up a lot in my childhood, but in her mouth it lost its goodness. It hinted and threatened. Afraid for my future, I decided that everyone was right: if I failed to stir up in myself enough gratefulness, or if I failed to properly display it, I would lose all that I had gained, this western freedom, the promise of secular schools and uncensored books.

    The children were merciless in their teasing, and soon I developed a tic in my neck. Other odd behaviours followed. Each time something bad happened, I would repeat a private mantra, the formula I believed was the reason for my luck so far, and my ticket to a second escape – maybe even a life I would actually enjoy. I said it again and again in my head, and sometimes accidentally aloud:

    I’m lucky. I’m grateful. I’m the smartest in my class. I’m lucky. I’m grateful. I’m the smartest in my class.

    That last sentiment (which I did a poor job of hiding) didn’t go over too well. What right did I, a silly Iranian, have to think I was better than anyone?

    Still, my mother suffered more. In Iran, she had been a doctor. Now she worked in a pharmaceuticals factory, where her bosses and co-workers daily questioned her intelligence, though they had a quarter of her education. The accent was enough. If she took too long to articulate a thought, they stopped listening and wrote her off as unintelligent. They sped up their speech and, when she asked them to slow down, they sighed and rolled their eyes. If someone messed up a formula, she was the sole target for blame.

    The hate did eventually wane; some would say that that’s the natural cycle of things. We assimilated. No longer dark strangers from war-torn lands, at some point we stopped frightening them. We went to work, to school, to church. We grew familiar, safe, no longer the outsiders.

    I don’t believe in that explanation. What actually happened was that we learned what they wanted, the hidden switch to make them stop simmering. After all, these Americans had never thought we were terrorists or Islamic fundamentalists or violent criminals. From the start, they knew we were a Christian family that had escaped those very horrors. And they, as a Protestant community, had accepted us, rescued us.

    But there were unspoken conditions to our acceptance, and that was the secret we were meant to glean on our own: we had to be grateful. The hate wasn’t about being darker, or from elsewhere. It was about being those things and daring to be unaware of it. As refugees, we owed them our previous identity. We had to lay it at their door like an offering, and gleefully deny it to earn our place in this new country. There would be no straddling. No third culture here.

    That was the key to being embraced by the population of our town, a community that openly took credit for the fact that we were still alive, but wanted to know nothing of our past. Month after month, my mother was asked to give her testimony in churches and women’s groups, at schools and even at dinners. I remember sensing the moment when all conversation would stop and she would be asked to repeat our escape story.

    The problem, of course, was that they wanted our salvation story as a talisman, no more. No one ever asked what our house in Iran looked like, what fruits we grew in our yard, what books we read, what music we loved and what it felt like now not to understand any of the songs on the radio. No one asked if we missed our cousins or grandparents or best friends. No one asked what we did in summers or if we had any photos of the Caspian Sea.

    “Men treat women horribly there, don’t they?” the women would ask. Somehow it didn’t feel OK to tell them about my funny dad with his pockets full of sour cherries, or my grandpa who removed his false teeth when he told ghost stories.

    Such memories, of course, would imply the unthinkable: that Iran was as beautiful, as fun, as energising and romantic, as Oklahoma or Montana or New York.

    From then on, we sensed the ongoing expectation that we would shed our old skin, give up our former identities – every quirk and desire that made us us – and that we would imply at every opportunity that America was better, that we were so lucky, so humbled to be here.

    My mother continued giving testimonials in churches. She wore her cross with as much spirit as she had done in Islamic Iran. She baked American cakes and replaced the rosewater in her pastries with vanilla.

    I did much worse: over years, I let myself believe it. I lost my accent. I lost my hobbies and memories. I forgot my childhood songs.

    In 1994, when I was 15, we became American citizens. I was relieved, overjoyed and genuinely grateful. We attended a citizenship ceremony on the football field of a local college campus. It was the Fourth of July and dozens of other new citizens would be sworn in with us.

    It was a bittersweet day, the stadium filled with cheering locals, a line of men, women and children winding around and around the field towards a microphone at the end zone, where each of us would be named and sworn in.

    I remember staring in wonder at the others in line: I didn’t realise there were this many other brown and yellow people in Oklahoma. Yes, there were a handful of black people, a few Jews here or there. But this many Indians? This many Sri Lankans and Pakistanis and Chinese and Bangladeshis and Iranians and Afghans? Where had they been hiding? (Not that I had looked.)

    Halfway through the ceremony, an Indian man, around 80 years old, was led to the microphone, where he introduced himself and swore allegiance to the United States. When he was finished, he raised his fists and thrashed the sky. “I AM AMERICAN!” he shouted into the microphone. “FINALLY, I AM AMERICAN!” The crowd erupted, joining his celebration. As he stepped away, he wobbled and collapsed from the effort, but someone caught him. He turned back and smiled to the crowd to show he was OK, that this fit of joy hadn’t killed him, then walked away.

    That’s my favourite day as an American, my first one, still unsurpassed. No one was putting on a face that day. No one felt obliged or humbled, imagining their truer home. That old man was heaving with love. The people in the stands were roaring with it.

    It’s a complicated memory for me now. I refuse to deny the simple and vast beauty of it, though I know they cheered not the old man himself, but his spasm of gratitude, an avowal of transformation into someone new, into them.

    Years passed. I became as American as a girl can be, moved far away, grew into my mind and body and surrounded myself with progressive, educated friends. The bad feelings disappeared. I started to love the western world and thought of myself a necessary part of it. I moved around with ease, safely flashing my American passport, smiling brightly when customs officers squinted at my place of birth. It didn’t matter: I was no longer an asylum seeker. I had long ago been accepted. I had a stellar education.

    My confidence showed (and maybe it helped that I had caramel highlights in my hair). Again and again I was welcomed “home” at JFK with a polite nod or a smile.

    Other immigrants have written about this moment: the “welcome home” at JFK, its power on the psyche after long flights. For me, as soon as those words leave the officer’s mouth, my confidence is replaced by a gush of gratitude. “Thank you!” I say breathlessly. Thank you for saying it’s my home. Thank you for letting me in again. In that instant before my passport is returned to me, I’m the old man punching the air.

    When I was 30, I had another citizenship ceremony. This one wasn’t the sleepless obsession that the American one had been. It was simply that I had married a French citizen, he had applied on my behalf, and, having passed the language and culture tests by a whisker, I became a Frenchwoman of sorts. I travelled a lot in those days and so I decided to have my fingerprints taken (the last step in the paperwork) on a stopover in New York.

    The police officer whose job it was to oversee the process asked why a nice girl like me needed fingerprints. I told him, to which he replied: “Couldn’t you find an American man?”

    Though I hadn’t given it much thought back then, I said: “American men don’t like me.” He gave me a puzzled look, so I added, “The American men I know never try to impress you … or not me, at least. They think I should feel lucky to have them.”

    He gave a weary sigh. “No man likes to work for it.”

    “Some men work for it,” I said, trying to sound defiant.

    He laughed and bashed my fingers into the ink.

    My second citizenship ceremony was held at the French embassy in Amsterdam (my then home) beside families from Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and a number of sub-Saharan countries. The image that stays with me is of families singing the French national anthem, the Marseillaise. The awe in their faces as they sang that song, every word practised, moved me. Even the small children straightened their shoulders and sang from memory. I had made a stab at memorising the words, but mostly I read off a sheet. I was proud, but they were experiencing something else: a transformation, a rebirth. They were singing their way into a joyous new life. I took a moment to think of that old Indian man from years before, to do an imaginary fist-pump in his honour.

    I’ve been moving back and forth between New York and Europe pretty much my entire adult life. When I lived in Amsterdam, even highly educated people openly complained of “too many Moroccans and Turks” in certain neighbourhoods. Geert Wilders, the head of the far-right Party for Freedom, had warned that the country would soon become “Nether-Arabia”.

    In Amsterdam, I got to know Iranian refugees who didn’t have my kind of luck with their asylum applications. One man in our community set himself on fire in Dam Square in 2011. He had lived in Amsterdam for a decade, following their rules, filling out their papers, learning their culture, his head always down. He did all that was asked of him and, in the end, he was driven to erase his own face, his skin.

    Remembering Kambiz Roustayi, a man who only wanted a visa, his family and his own corner of the world, I want to lash out at every comfortable native who thinks that his kind don’t do enough. You don’t know what grateful is, I want to say. You haven’t seen a young man burn up from despair, or an old man faint on a football field from relief and joy, or a nine-year-old boy sing the entire Marseillaise from memory. You don’t know how much life has already been spent settling into the cracks of your walls. Sometimes all that’s left of value in an exile’s life is his identity. Please stop asking people to rub out their face as tribute.

    With the rise of nativist sentiment in Europe and America, I’ve seen a troubling change in the way people make the case for refugees. Even those on the left talk about how immigrants make America great. They point to photographs of happy refugees turned good citizens, listing their contributions, as if that is the price of existing in the same country, on the same earth.

    Friends often use me as an example. They say in posts or conversations: “Look at Dina. She lived as a refugee and look how much stuff she’s done.” As if that’s proof that letting in refugees has a good, healthy return on investment.

    But isn’t glorifying the refugees who thrive according to western standards just another way to endorse this same gratitude politics? Isn’t it akin to holding up the most acquiescent as examples of what a refugee should be, instead of offering each person the same options that are granted to the native-born citizen? Is the life of the happy mediocrity a privilege reserved for those who never stray from home?

    This semester, I’m teaching an American literature course at a private international school in London. My students have come with their families from all over the world and have empathy and insight, but for the most part, they have lived privileged lives.

    For the last semester, I’ve forced them to read nothing but “outsider fiction”. Stories by immigrants and people of colour. Stories about poverty. Stories about being made to sit on the periphery.

    Most are loving it, but some are frustrated. “I’ve already learned the race stuff,” one said, after our third story with a protagonist of colour. More than one parent advised me that Bharati Mukherjer and James Baldwin are not important when these kids have yet to read “classic writers” such as Harper Lee (because how could they develop their literary taste if they hadn’t first grounded themselves in the point of view of the impossibly saintly white family?).

    Even among empathetic, worldly students, I’m finding a grain of this same kind of expectation: the refugee must make good. If, in one of our stories, an immigrant kills himself (Bernard Malamud’s The Refugee), they say that he wasted his opportunity, that another displaced person would have given anything for a shot at America. They’re right about that, but does that mean that Malamud’s refugee isn’t entitled to his private tragedies? Is he not entitled to crave death? Must he first pay off his debt to his hosts and to the universe?

    Despite a lifetime spent striving to fulfil my own potential, of trying to prove that the west is better for having known me, I cannot accept this way of thinking, this separation of the worthy exile from the unworthy. Civilised people don’t ask for resumes when answering calls from the edge of a grave. It shouldn’t matter what I did after I cleaned myself off and threw away the last of my asylum-seeking clothes. My accomplishments should belong only to me. There should be no question of earning my place, of showing that I was a good bet. My family and I were once humans in danger, and we knocked on the doors of every embassy we came across: the UK, America, Australia, Italy. America answered and so, decades later, I still feel a need to bow down to airport immigration officers simply for saying “Welcome home”.

    But what America did was a basic human obligation. It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks. It is your duty to answer us, even if we don’t give you sugary success stories. Even if we remain a bunch of ordinary Iranians, sometimes bitter or confused. Even if the country gets overcrowded and you have to give up your luxuries, and we set up ugly little lives around the corner, marring your view.

    If we need a lot of help and local services, if your taxes rise and your street begins to look and feel strange and everything smells like turmeric and tamarind paste, and your favourite shop is replaced by a halal butcher, your schoolyard chatter becoming ching-chongese and phlegmy “kh”s and “gh”s, and even if, after all that, we don’t spend the rest of our days in grateful ecstasy, atoning for our need.

    In 2015, I moved to England again, a place I no longer associated with the permanently numb tip of my little finger, or the strange half-sensation of typing the letter “a” on a keyboard.

    I became a mother in a London hospital. Now I have a little girl who already looks Iranian. The first major event of her life was Brexit. The second was Trump’s election. At 5am on Brexit morning, as I was feeding her, the memory of my pinkie returned. We had just learned of the referendum results. On Facebook, every former immigrant I knew released a collective shudder – all of them recalling their first days in England or America or Holland. They began sharing their stories.

    What I remembered was that boy who pushed my finger into the hinge of a door. That other boy who slammed the door shut. They’re adults now. Most likely, they’ve lived lives much like their parents, the ones who taught them to hate me in 1985. Most likely they believe the same things. England doesn’t want us, I thought. It doesn’t want my daughter. It doesn’t want me.

    Nowadays, I often look at the white line through my pinkie nail, and I think I finally understand why gratefulness matters so much. The people who clarified it for me were my students, with their fresh eyes and stunning expectations, their harsh, idealistic standards that every person should strive and prove their worth, their eagerness to make sense of the world. They saw right through to the heart of the uneasy native.

    During our discussion of Flannery O’Connor’s A Displaced Person, the class began unpacking Mrs Shortley’s hatred of Mr Guizac, the Polish refugee whose obvious talents on the farm would soon lead to her mediocre husband’s dismissal as a farmhand. “She’s seen the images from the Holocaust, the piles of bodies in Europe,” said one student. “So if one of those bodies in the pile can escape death and come to America and upend her life, then how much is she worth?”

    I was stunned silent (a rare thing for me). By the time I formulated my next question the conversation had moved on, and so I presented the question to my next class. “Would anything be any different, then, if Mr Guizac had been grateful to Mrs Shortley for making room for him?”

    Around the table every head shook. No. Of course not. Nothing would change. “Mrs Shortley wants to be above him, to be benevolent, to have control,” said one insightful student. “Once the guy starts doing better on his own, control goes, no matter how grateful he acts.”

    The refugee has to be less capable than the native, needier; he must stay in his place. That’s the only way gratitude will be accepted.

    Once he escapes control, he confirms his identity as the devil. All day I wondered, has this been true in my own experience? If so, then why all the reverence for the refugees who succeed against the odds, the heartwarming success stories?

    And that’s precisely it – one can go around in this circle forever, because it contains no internal logic. You’re not enough until you’re too much. You’re lazy until you’re a greedy interloper.

    In many of the classes I’ve taught, my quietest kids have been Middle Eastern. I’m always surprised by this, since the literature I choose should resonate most with them, since I’m an Iranian teacher, their ally, since the civilised world yearns for their voices now. Still, they bristle at headlines about the refugee crisis that I flash on the screen, hang their heads, and look relieved when the class is finished.

    Their silence makes me angry, but I understand why they don’t want to commit to any point of view. Who knows what their universe looks like outside my classroom, what sentiments they’re expected to display in order to be on the inside.

    Still, I want to show those kids whose very limbs apologise for the space they occupy, and my own daughter, who has yet to feel any shame or remorse, that a grateful face isn’t the one they should assume at times like these. Instead they should tune their voices and polish their stories, because the world is duller without them – even more so if they arrived as refugees.

    Because a person’s life is never a bad investment, and so there are no creditors at the door, no debt to repay. Now there’s just the rest of life, the stories left to create, all the messy, greedy, ordinary days that are theirs to squander.

    *

    Dina Nayeri’s new novel, Refuge will be published by Riverhead Books in July

    The Guardian 

    Republicans call Trump’s travel ban ‘a self-inflicted wound’ – Julian Borger. 

    US and European officials have expressed anxiety about the damage the Trump administration’s ban targeting Muslim refugees could inflict on western security.

    The ban is believed to have been drafted by an ideologically-driven group around Donald Trump without consultation with the justice, state, defence or homeland security departments, which could have weighed on its implications for US foreign relations, as well as the country’s security concerns and legal obligations.

    Officials say the clear anti-Muslim intent behind the executive order will prove to be a recruiting tool for extremist movements such as Islamic State, while alienating governments in the Arab and Islamic world, whose cooperation is essential for identifying potential terrorists.

    There have also been reports that Israeli and British intelligence were cautioned by the outgoing Obama national security team over sharing sensitive information with the Trump team until investigations were concluded on whether they had colluded with Moscow to skew the US elections.

    There is also concern about the arbitrary nature of the list of the countries affected by the ban. A western official pointed out that Muslim-majority nations where Trump has business interests – such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – were excluded, while noting that no terrorist attacks on US soil have been carried out by nationals of the seven countries listed in the executive order.
    The Guardian

    Cold weather reignites fears for refugees poorly sheltered in Greece – Helena Smith. 

    For the first time in history a whole continent commits a heinous humanitarian crime. And the rest of allow this to continue. We are despicable. 

    A new bout of cold weather across southern Europe has reignited fears for thousands of refugees and migrants sheltered in deplorable conditions in Greece.

    Forecasts of freezing temperatures have also been met with trepidation by international agencies, aid groups and local mayors on islands.

    “Thousands of people are poised to suffer needlessly in conditions that are becoming increasingly desperate,” said Eva Cossé at Human Rights Watch. “Europe’s failed policies have contributed to immense suffering for people warehoused on the Greek islands.” Greece was the focus of public outcry this month after shocking footage emerged of refugees on Lesbos living in flimsy, snow-swamped tents as an arctic blast sent temperatures plummeting to -14C. The outcry prompted the government to dispatch a naval ship to temporarily house up to 500 people detained at the island’s vastly overcrowded Moria reception centre. Others were moved into heated containers, hotel rooms and apartments.

    The Guardian

    The Canadian who spent C$1.5m to rescue more than 200 Syrian refugees – Ashifa Kansas. 

    On a recent snowy Saturday, Jim Estill went knocking on his neighbours’ doors, offering to shovel snow from walkways and driveways for cash.

    Behind him stood a handful of Syrian refugees, newly arrived to the Canadian city of Guelph, in south-western Ontario. Estill, the CEO of multimillion-dollar appliance company Danby, was acting as the group’s salesman, and helped the refugees land 50 snow-clearing jobs.

    It was a glimpse into the deep relationship that has been forged since the mild-mannered executive decided just over a year ago to spend C$1.5m to bring 200 Syrian refugees to Canada. 

    In the summer of 2015, moved by the headlines emerging from what he called one of the “the greatest humanitarian crises of our lifetime”, Estill began working out how many families he could help under Canada’s private sponsorship programme, which was launched 35 years ago after the Vietnam War and has brought more than 275,000 refugees to Canada. It allows private citizens to welcome and settle refugees as long as they commit to covering the expenses for the first year or so and helping the newcomers ease into their new lives.

    The Guardian

    Australia’s Death by Numbers – Roger Cohen. 

    The dead refugee had a name. But even in death Australia did not want to humanize him. For years now he had been no more than a registration number — BRF063 — under the country’s cruel refugee deterrence system known as “offshore processing.”

    The brief announcement on Dec. 24 from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “A 27-year-old Sudanese refugee has sadly died today from injuries suffered after a fall and seizure at the Manus Regional Processing Center.”

    This was all that Australia could muster for Faisal Ishak Ahmed, who fled the Darfur region of Sudan in 2013. His was a death foretold, like that of the other deceased asylum seekers and refugees banished by Australia to the small island nation of Nauru and to Manus, a remote corner of the Papua New Guinea archipelago.

    Since July 2013, Australia has herded more than 2,000 desperate people into these island prisons. There has been no “process” in centers housed in poor countries paid by Australia to do its dirty work. Human beings have been left to fester, crack up and die, as I observed on Manus during a five-day visit last month. Draconian nondisclosure contracts have gagged staff, although the whole system is beginning to crumble under the weight of its iniquity.

    The conservative Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argues that its policy has “stopped the boats” at a time when more refugees are on the move across the world than at any time since 1945. The argument’s flaw is its inhumanity. Despite being a signatory of all major international human rights treaties, Australia has instituted an indefensible policy of cruelty as deterrence

    New York Times 

    Faisal Ishak Ahmed

    Educating Syria’s Rebuilders – Gordon Brown. 

    In Aleppo, the devastated Syrian city and former rebel stronghold that has now been retaken by Syrian government forces, there was a glimmer of hope even as the bombs were falling. Amid the ruins, learning endured, as 15 young Syrians prepared for their university exams. They could not walk to a college campus, because so many of the country’s universities have been reduced to rubble. But they could still earn their degrees, thanks to a unique online program made available by the University of the People (UoP).

    Every week, the Syrian students participate in online courses alongside pupils and instructors from around the world. Through these virtual classrooms, they pursue their chosen degree in business administration, computer science, or health science. The courses are so well prepared that many of these highly motivated students will be invited to attend Western universities later in their studies.

    Project Syndicate 

    University of the People 

    All we want for Christmas is to be safe in New Zealand. 

    About 300 refugees have arrived here since the Government announced it would take 750 over 2.5 years from Syria in September last year. Yesterday the Government announced an extra $1 million in aid.

    The Morad family languished in tough conditions in Lebanon for three years before recently moving to New Zealand, along with Mohamad’s mother Gazala Dib Fayon.

    NZ Herald 

    An utterly unacceptable and callously insignificant contribution by NZ to a massive international situation.

    We are accepting 70,000 migrants annually yet we have no room for desperate people fleeing a situation that is entirely a consequence of western Middle East policy. 

    We spend millions on bullshit. Flags nobody wants, dairy farms in the desert, etc etc, yet our government is proud to announce with a perfectly straight face an extra 1 million in aid.

    New Zealand once had a caring population that was always at the ready to speak out and help in situations such as this. 

    We have lost our hearts in the swamp of Neoliberal greed. 

    These Are The Criminals and Corporations That Have Gotten Really, Really Rich Off The Refugee Crisis – The Huffington Post. 

    The biggest refugee crisis in recorded history has engulfed continents, swung elections and fueled the rise of nativism. It has also made a lot of people very, very rich. These are the stories of the CEOs, criminal masterminds, pencil-pushers and low-flying vultures who have figured out how to profit from global instability, also known as human suffering.

    Huffington Post 

    Help Refugees: ‘We will never abandon them’ – The Guardian. 

    Driving through northern Greece on a recent December night, a pair of volunteers from the grassroots aid group Help Refugees Help Refugees have just received this SOS from another aid worker. It is 7.32pm, and a young Afghan refugee is about to go into labour at one of Greece’s worst refugee camps. It is a few dozen tents on a remote and windswept hillside – but the government and the UN refugee agency can’t move her anywhere better. 

    As the temperature drops to 3C, the group’s network whirs into action. A call goes out to Filoxenia, a housing project funded by Help Refugees, to see if it can take in the pregnant woman. Behind the wheel in the car, Crystallynn Steed Brown says if the worst comes to the worst, she will put up the family at her flat in Thessaloniki. But can they get to the woman in time?

    It is a typical night for Help Refugees, one of three beneficiaries of the Guardian’s Christmas charity appeal. The group is one of the unsung heroes of the European refugee crisis, a young grassroots collective that has tried to create a more dynamic form of aid in Calais and Greece, where even seasoned aid workers admit their traditional models have failed.

    The Guardian

    Broken Men in Paradise. The world’s refugee crisis knows no more sinister exercise in cruelty than Australia’s island prisons.

    A 60-mile-long slice of heaven. But for more than 900 asylum seekers from across the world banished by Australia to this remote corner of the Papua New Guinea archipelago, Manus has been hell; a three and a half year exercise in mental and physical cruelty conducted in near secrecy beneath the green canopy of the tropics.

    Endless limbo undoes the mind. But going home could mean facing death: Refugees do not flee out of choice but because they have no choice. Satah’s light brown eyes are glassy. His legs tremble. A young man with a college degree in English, he is now nameless, a mere registration number — FRT009 — to Australian officials.

    The toll among Burmese, Sudanese, Somali, Lebanese, Pakistani, Iraqi, Afghan, Syrian, Iranian and other migrants is devastating: self-immolation, overdoses, death from septicemia as a result of medical negligence, sexual abuse and rampant despair. A recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report by three medical experts found that 88 percent of the 181 asylum seekers and refugees examined on Manus were suffering from depressive disorders, including, in some cases, psychosis.

    New York Times 

    Far-Right group attacks refugee camp on Greek island of Chios. Molotov cocktails and rocks as big as boulders. 

    Dozens of people have been driven out of a refugee camp on the Greek island of Chios after two successive nights of attacks by a far-right group.

    The Guardian

    I’m a rabbi, and I’m applying for a German passport. Here’s why. 

    Why on earth would I want a German passport? My feelings about Germany were pretty negative for the best part of 50 years. Most of my mother’s family, from Heilbronn in southern Germany, perished. Some of my father’s family perished too, including his beloved grandmother.

    I have felt enormous admiration for Chancellor Angela Merkel, for her open arms to the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, which is in deep contrast to the meanness shown by our own government – with the enormous effort needed even to persuade it to take a few hundred children from Calais.
    Britain took 10,000 Kindertransport children before the second world war, and many others, my mother included. Why could we not do the same now?

    The Guardian 

    The refugee crisis fills us with despair but it can be a chance for hope and kindness. 

    For three years during the Syrian civil war, Nisreen gave her children a tranquilizer every night so they might sleep through the airstrikes. Secretly, she preferred for them to die in their sleep than live every day in such incapacitating fear. 

    When Islamic State took over his school, Ahmad pretended to be dead while his classmates were first raped and subsequently burned alive. He was in third grade.

    Nisreen and Ahmad are two of the 2.7 million refugees now living in Jordan – a small country with a population of slightly less than 10 million. Accepting such a great number of people, now comprising a substantial proportion of our population, has taught us a few lessons. We’ve learned of humans’ gut-wrenching ability to go to extreme lengths to hurt, destroy and deny others their humanity. We’ve seen refugees’ indelible marks of torture and heard their stories of adversity.

    On the other hand, we’ve also learned of refugees’ incredible resilience and sense of hope against all odds – their ability to acclimate to a new environment and still feel committed to do what they can to be of service to others. Today Nisreen resides in a refugee camp in Jordan and leads group therapy for women with persistent trauma symptoms. By speaking about her own experience every day, she’s encouraging others to do the same. The Guardian 

    Refugees in Greece. ‘We’re never getting out of here’. European Solidarity?

    On June 26, 2015, as asylum seekers were rushing into Europe in growing numbers, EU leaders met until the wee hours in Brussels. Two countries were bearing the brunt of the crisis – the Mediterranean entry points of Greece and Italy. In what leaders heralded as a remarkable show of “solidarity,” the rest of the EU agreed to share the burden.

    The EU would relocate 40,000 refugees – mostly Syrians – to member countries from Portugal to Finland. They would be given shelter, aid and a chance to rebuild their lives. As the number of asylum seekers surged, the EU later boosted its pledge – promising to relocate up to 160,000.

    But 16 months after its initial decision, the EU has lived up to only 3.3 percent of that pledge, relocating 5,290 refugees – 4,134 from Greece and 1,156 from Italy. NZ Herald 

    Charity takes legal action against Home Office over child refugees. 

    Lawyers for a leading refugee charity have begun legal proceedings against the Home Office, arguing that ministers have failed in obligations to give sanctuary to some of the thousands of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Europe.

    Help Refugees says the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has breached her relocation duties to some unaccompanied children in Europe, by misconstruing or misapplying the May Immigration Act under which the government was obliged to take some children into the UK. The Guardian 

    “I’ve seen a lot of death, but not this thing. This is shocking and this is what makes you feel you are not living in a civilized world”

    These horrifying pictures are the product of global economic inequality, victims of a world where 71% of the world owns only 3 percent of global wealth. People come from all over Africa. Some are fleeing extremist violence from groups like Nigeria’s Boko Haram or Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Others are simply people without opportunity or any hope for bettering their lives and their families in home countries where jobs are nonexistent and money is funneled to the ruling elites, who guard their wealth jealously. Occupy Democrats 

    56% of Hungary’s voters not as ignorant as their Govt. Referendum Invalid. 

    The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has failed to convince a majority of his population to vote in a referendum on closing the door to refugees, rendering the result invalid and undermining his campaign for a cultural counter-revolution within the European Union. 
    More than half of the electorate stayed at home, rendering the referendum constitutionally null and void. The Guardian 

    ‘TOTAL CONTROL’

    EU should set up ‘giant refugee city’ in Libya, says Hungary Prime Minister.

    The European Union should build a “giant refugee city” on the Libyan coast to process the asylum claims of refugees arriving there from elsewhere in Africa, the Hungarian Prime Minister has proposed.

    Speaking after a summit on the refugee crisis, Viktor Orban said the EU’s external borders should be under “total control” and said a new Libyan government could help establish the camp. The Independent

    Refugee camps are breeding and recruiting grounds for extremists. Full of disillusioned young people and growing children. Bored, angry and rebellious. Camps are meant to be ‘temporary’ but that rarely works out when people have nowhere to go and certainly can’t go back to the circumstances they fled. Assimilation into society is the only humane and smart way forward. Europe needs the people! Let’s get clever now Europe! There’s 508 million of you. You can’t find it in your hearts to help a couple of million frightened, exhausted and desperate people? Perhaps you never learned anything from your World War Two experiences after all, despite all your talk about unity and brotherhood. 

    A Moral Duty to Help.

    New fears for 1,000 lone children in Calais refugee camp.

    Up to 1,000 unaccompanied minors will be left to fend for themselves when the so-called jungle camp for refugees in Calais is bulldozed next month. The French authorities have made no plans to rehouse the children, the Observer has learned, because it is hoping to force Britain to honour a promise to help child refugees.

    The French interior ministry has informed charities and aid organisations that it intends to destroy the camp in less than four weeks. 

    Almost 400 unaccompanied youngsters in the camp, some of whom have relatives in the UK, have already been identified as having a legal right to come to Britain.

    In May, David Cameron announced that Britain would accept as many as 3,000 unaccompanied minors. James Brokenshire, immigration minister at the time, said Britain had “a moral duty to help”. 

    However, Home Office figures reveal that by mid-September, only 30 children had arrived under the scheme. The Home Office did not respond to queries over whether it intended to help lone child refugees once the Calais camp was destroyed. The Guardian

    Why is it our response to any problem is always brute force? The West has created this refugee flow with seven decades of misguided and greedy meddling in the Middle East. 

    Is this civilisation? “Anger has filled everyone who remains in this city of rubble. God curse humanity if this is what it has become.”

    Residents of rebel-held east Aleppo have described scenes of devastation after one of the heaviest and most sustained nights of bombardment the city has experienced. Activists said that Syrian and Russian warplanes attacked the city hours after the announcement of a major new offensive dashed any hopes of restoring a US-Russian ceasefire. The Guardian 

    Redneck Scum On The Run. 

    Leader of Pegida anti-refugee movement flees to Tenerife to ‘escape persecution’ in Germany.
    Lutz Bachmann has previously called asylum seekers fleeing conflict and persecution ‘scum’. The 43-year-old is a leading member of Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West”, and has led anti-immigration marches of tens of thousands of people. The Independent 

    Theresa May’s Plan To Spend £100m Keeping Migrants Away From UK Torn Apart. 

    Children’s charity War Child said it was “disappointing” that May will spend the money on trying to stop the flow of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean, when children affected by conflicts are in desperate need of safe homes and education. Huffington Post 

    Too many nations have taken part in atrocities in Syria, Ban Ki-moon tells UN

    United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched a blistering attack on the Government of Syria this morning. His speech to the opening of the UN General Assembly followed a deadly attack on a UN aid convoy on Monday that killed more than 20 people.

    “Many groups have killed many innocents but none more so than the Government of Syria, which continues to barrel-bomb neighbourhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees. Just when we think we cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower.
    Yesterday’s sickening, savage and apparently deliberate attack on UN-Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy is the latest example.”
    NZ Herald 

    A desperate sea dash for a better life.

    The Libyan coast is where traffickers launch overloaded and underpowered boats at about midnight. There’s no captain, no navigation, not enough fuel or water. Almost no one wears a lifejacket; no one can swim. Some people think the Mediterranean is a river they can cross by dawn.

    It’s impossible to know how many die but the UNHCR calls it the deadliest year on record. No one deserves to die like that. NZ Herald

    Germany Stands By Its Commitment In The Refugee Crisis. –  Peter Wittig, German Ambassador to the U.S. 

    “Contrary to what some populists claim, the security situation in Germany remains stable. Crimes committed by migrants dropped by more than 36 percent between January and June of 2016. And many of the crimes were more of the petty sort, such as attempting to ride a train or bus without a ticket. The crime rate is especially low among refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the countries from which most new refugees in Germany come.” Huffington Post

    The New Colonialism: Britain’s scramble for Africa’s energy and mineral resources. 

    British companies now control Africa’s key mineral resources, notably gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, oil, gas and coal.
    War On Want

    Refugees Boxing On

    How sports and activies in the Calais jungle are improving the lives and mental health of the camp’s residents. The Independent