All utterly predictable, of course. Item No. 1, from Germany:
A food queue fight in an overcrowded German refugee centre this week escalated into a mass brawl pitting 70 Pakistanis against 300 Albanians, fighting with fists, sticks and pepper spray. By the time it ended, 14 people were injured, including three of the 50 police called in to contain the riot in a former airport building housing 1,500 asylum-seekers from 20 nations near the central city of Kassel.
Such disturbances have been rare, considering that Germany has taken in around half a million asylum-seekers this year and put them up in flats, army barracks, sports halls and tent cities. Nonetheless, the mayhem Sunday served as a warning of how tensions can escalate between often traumatised people from different cultures sharing densely packed spaces as they battle tedium and uncertainty.
There has been trouble before. Six weeks ago a 25-year-old refugee started a riot when he ripped pages from a Koran and threw them into a toilet in a centre in Suhl, central Germany, according to police. The ensuing violence left six police and 11 refugees injured. Police this week, after viewing video footage of the altercation, arrested 15 suspects on charges including attempted manslaughter.
Germany’s police union Tuesday called for refugees to be separated by religion — especially between Christians and Muslims — and by country of origin, to minimise the potential for conflict. Groups banding together by ethnicity, creed or clan were “attacking each other with knives and homemade weapons,” said union chief Rainer Wendt, calling for special protection for Christians, women and minors.
Item No. 2, also from Germany:
A woman in Germany is being evicted from her home of 23 years to make way for asylum-seekers, in the second such case to emerge. Gabrielle Keller has been given until the end of the year to leave her flat in the small southern town of Eschbach, near the border with France. The flat belongs to the local municipality, which says it is needed to house refugees. “I think it’s a scandal to throw tenants out of their apartments,” the 56-year-old Ms Keller told SWR television. “I can’t see the sense of it.”
Towns and cities across Germany are struggling to find accommodation for the tens of thousands of refugees streaming into the country.
Ms Keller’s case follows that of Bettina Halbey, a nurse who is being evicted from her home of 16 years in the town of Nieheim, hundreds of miles to the north. Mario Schlafke, the mayor of Eschbach, says the town had no choice but to ask Ms Keller to leave. “The council hasn’t taken a frivolous decision,” he told Welt newspaper. “The alternative would have been to set up beds in the gym.”
Item No. 3, from Finland:
More than 350 Iraqi asylum seekers lodging at former army barracks in Hennala, Lahti say they plan to go on a hunger strike to protest Finland’s intention to take a harder line on refugees coming from Iraq and Somalia. They are calling on Iraqis in other reception centres to join their protest. The Iraqi asylum seekers say they are embarking on the protest action following immigration authorities’ declared intention to introduce stricter criteria for processing asylum applications from Iraq and Somalia. Altogether some 359 Iraqi refugees, who are being accommodated at a former army barracks in Lahti’s Hennala district, say they want Iraqis in other reception centres to follow suit. The Hennala centre also houses some 20 Somali asylum seekers.
Immigration officials say they’re concerned that Finland’s policies are more lenient than those of other EU countries–including neighbouring Sweden. At present many asylum seekers from Baghdad and the central regions of Iraq are granted protection in Finland, in contrast to some EU countries, which return some refugees to regions deemed to be safe. Finland is looking to bring its practices in line with the rest of Europe, meaning a tougher approach for refugees who’ve arrived this year.
Item No. 4, from far-away Japan:
Japan must improve the living standards of its own people before it can consider accepting Syrian refugees, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe said, as he announced $1.6bn in new assistance for Syrians and Iraqis caught up in conflicts in the Middle East. Abe’s consistent refusal to consider allowing even a modest number of refugees to relocate to Japan has prompted criticism of the country’s strict policy on asylum: last year, it received a record 5,000 applications but accepted just 11 people.
Speaking at the UN general assembly in New York, Abe insisted Japan must first tackle crises posed by its falling birth rate and an ageing population, and continue its push to boost the number of women in the labour market.
“It is an issue of demography,” Abe told reporters after his speech to the UN general assembly. “I would say that before accepting immigrants or refugees, we need to have more activities by women, elderly people and we must raise our birth rate. There are many things that we should do before accepting immigrants.”
This won’t end well.