Friday, October 26, 2012

Afghan youth protest treatment of immigrants in Germany

As part of NATO operations, Germany currently has 5,350 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, along with reconnaissance aircraft, armored vehicles, & artillery like howitzers & rocket launchers. It is one of the main contributors of troops & one of the main generators of massive human suffering, dislocation, & death to Afghanis. One would think therefore (in a sane world, that is), that the German government would recognize its responsibilities for the thousands of Afghan refugees, including unaccompanied minors, flooding Germany. As of 2009, the German government estimated there are over 126,000 Afghanis living in Germany (the largest Afghan community in Europe) with only 77,253 given “legal” status.

But of course, we don’t live in a sane world so there are international laws governing the  treatment of war refugees & in particular the treatment of children. There are UN asylum laws & EU asylum directives; all EU member states are signatories of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international framework for child protection. Lord knows, Afghan refugees (including hundreds of unaccompanied minors as young as 12) are traumatized, not just by nearly 30 years of war & occupation but by the migration Odyssey that includes a flight through Pakistan, Iran, & Turkey to Greece, sleeping outdoors, being hunted & maltreated by border guards, injuries, hunger, repeated confinement in detention camps in overcrowded & barbaric conditions, witnessing or experiencing racist attacks, & fear of deportation after all that. But when it comes to human rights, international law isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. That isn’t an overstatement; it’s an understatement.

Reviewing the maneuvers of Merkel & the Bundestag (which has only gone down hill after it supported WW1) on immigration & the humanitarian crisis faced by Afghans (& others, like Roma, who have EU status), one gets further documentation of the bankruptcy of modern parliamentary systems. The Bundestag writes 500-page laws that go nowhere; deny necessary social services to immigrants, including minors & the elderly, the infirm, & disabled; require German language proficiency to new migrants; deport single women & people up to 70-years-old back to a country where they no longer have family & without even the basic structures of social security; massively deport people back to a war zone which is hemorrhaging thousands of refugees per month. Considering the disastrous, life-threatening situation in Afghanistan, it is a crime against several human rights to deport any Afghan refugee back to their homeland.

The heartening news is that in every country where undocumented migration is an issue, there are active human rights & immigration rights groups, including Greece, Germany, & every European country. Such groups include Clandestina in Greece & Pro Asyl in Germany. These activists, students, people of all kinds work tirelessly to change laws, mobilize defense, & forge solidarity with the immigrants. In this photo, an Afghan refugee named Maiwand sits in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin during a hunger strike of 20 refugees from Iran & Afghanistan to demand changes in the treatment of refugees. It is at the Brandenburg Gate that John Kennedy gave his “Ich bin ein berliner” speech about tearing down the Berlin Wall & it appears Maiwand may have written those words on his umbrella. This action is reminiscent--actually, it is part of the same international movement--of undocumented youth in the US who risk deportation to protest the outrages of US immigration law. Immigration is a human right; tear down those damn walls. (Photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters)

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