Shattered dreams for refugees stuck in Greece – Deutsche Welle


Deutsche Welle
Shattered dreams for refugees stuck in Greece
Deutsche Welle
When Idomeni was evacuated, many refugees in Greece saw their hopes and dreams shattered. Idomeni had been a symbol of hope for all those stuck in the country after the sudden closure of the Balkan route. At the same time Idomeni was not a safe place …

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The children’s trail: How Europe copes with a surge of young refugees – Christian Science Monitor


Christian Science Monitor
The children's trail: How Europe copes with a surge of young refugees
Christian Science Monitor
Until the day he received a phone call from an employee at the school board who had overheard his pleas, in the nearly flawless English he'd picked up on his trek, for an education. … But if there is a larger hope to be found, it's that children like

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Despite deal, refugees still trickling into Greece – Kathimerini


Kathimerini
Despite deal, refugees still trickling into Greece
Kathimerini
Nonetheless, the latest figures still indicate a drop in arrivals compared to the period before the EU-Ankara agreement signed last month to contain the number of refugees crossing over to Greece. According to the latest official figures, there are 53
EU Refugee Crisis: Number Of Refugees Arriving In Greece From Turkey Starting To 'Creep Back Up,' Report SaysInternational Business Times
Refugee hit by police car in Idomeni camp in Greece diesHindustan Times
After a sharp decline, the number of migrants coming from Turkey to Greece is picking up againBusiness Insider
Greek Reporter -Thomson Reuters Foundation -Al-Arabiya
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Iraq’s Artifacts Have Become Refugees, Too

tell-harmal-lion-iraq-artifact

Tell Harmal lion, by Michael Rakowitz

In the initial aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, looters swept through the National Museum in Baghdad and carted off 15,000 items of incalculable value. Some of these items were destroyed in the attempt to spirit them away. Some disappeared into the vortex of the underground art market. Only half of the items were eventually recovered.

In February 2015, after a dozen years in limbo, Iraq’s National Museum reopened. But it was a bittersweet reopening, and not only because of the thousands of missing treasures. That February, Islamic State (ISIS or IS) militants recorded themselves smashing priceless objects in the central museum in Mosul, a city in northern Iraq that IS had occupied since June 2014. U.S. troops had largely left the country, and Washington had declared the war over. But the destruction of Iraq—its heritage and its people—was still ongoing.

Michael Rakowitz is involved in a massive reclamation project. Since 2007, in a project called The invisible enemy should not exist, the Iraqi American artist has been recreating the lost treasures of Iraq. He and his studio assistants locate the description of the objects, along with their dimensions and sometimes a photograph, on the Interpol or Oriental Institute of Chicago websites, which have been set up to deter antiquity dealers from buying looted artifacts. Then they set to work.

“To date, we’ve reconstructed 500 of the 8,000 objects,” Rakowitz says. “It’s potentially a project that will outlive me and my studio.” In addition to the objects looted from the National Museum, they’ve begun to reconstruct pieces that IS has destroyed in Mosul, Nineva, and Nimrod.

Rakowitz recently gave me a tour of an exhibit of these reconstructed objects at the George Mason University School of Art, which was part of the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here Project. The largest piece on display is a brightly colored lion that stands about three feet tall.

“The Tell Harmal lion was destroyed,” Rakowitz says of the lion that once stood in the main temple of the Babylonian city of Shaduppum (today known as Tell Harmal) over 3,500 years ago. “Looters tried to take the head off the lion, and not knowing how fragile the terra cotta was, the entire head shattered beyond repair. We don’t just reconstruct the head but the entire lion: to give the viewer a sense of what that lion’s ghost might look like.”

The lion destroyed in Baghdad in 2003 was various shades of grey and white. But the reconstructed lion has a yellow torso and blue jaws. The difference in coloring is a function of the materials used for the reconstruction. “The artifacts are reconstructed out of the packaging of Middle Eastern foodstuffs and the Arabic-English newspapers available in the US where there are Arab communities,” Rakowitz explains.

The artist got the idea of using such materials during another of his art projects, the reopening the import-export business in Brooklyn that his grandfather established when he moved to the United States from Iraq in the late 1940s. This art project also involved an attempt to import Iraqi dates as a test case for the lifting of sanctions against the country.

In the process, Rakowitz discovered that packages of date cookies, for instance, rarely indicated the provenance of the fruit, often listing the ingredient as coming from countries that don’t even grow dates for commercial purposes. The sanctions had effectively rendered Iraq invisible. Later, for his tribute to the National Museum artifacts, Rakowitz wanted “to enlist these fragments of cultural visibility to construct what are now for all intents and purposes invisible objects.”

Curator in Exile

The person most responsible for retrieving so many of the pilfered objects from the National Museum was the former director, Donny George Youkhanna. Having participated in many of the excavations that uncovered these objects in the first place, Youkhanna felt a deep connection to the museum’s inventory.

After receiving a bullet in the mail that clearly suggested that he was in the crosshairs of militants, Youkhanna went into exile. He left for Syria, where he spent six months, and then accepted an offer from SUNY Binghamton to join its anthropology department.

During the creation of his project, Rakowitz formed a close friendship with Youkhanna and was touched that the former museum director visited his show when it was in New York. “He stayed at the gallery for hours, and as viewers came in, he gave tours of the artifacts on the table in the same way he would have given tours back in Baghdad,” Rakowitz said. “Donny George became very emotional about the artifacts. He said, ‘This is probably as close as I’ll get to them again.’”

Youkhanna passed away in 2011 as a result of a massive heart attack while traveling to Toronto. Not only did he die in exile, Rakowitz points out, but he didn’t even die within a country. He suffered a heart attack in the no man’s land between the United States and Canadian customs.

On Anger and Looting

The Iraq War, Rakowitz insists, was not just a disaster for Iraqis. Because it involved the destruction of so many ancient treasures from the birthplace of Western civilization, it was “a disaster for all of humanity.” He adds that, “It was also a lost opportunity when the outrage for missing objects did not translate into an outrage for missing bodies. So, the project does have an angry side.”

Through the reconstruction of these objects, Rakowitz wanted to make the Iraq War more present for American viewers. “In 2006, it was possible to go through Chelsea and not know that a war was going on,” he remembers. “I wanted to find a way of disturbing that. It is an antiquities market that made these objects desirable for the people who looted them for whatever reason. I’m an artist who is dealing with the contemporary art market, which is allowing me to show in a Chelsea gallery. Why not make an object that essentially haunts these collections as an uncomfortable apparition: to make us think about our complicity, conscious or unconscious.”

The name of the project—The invisible enemy should not exist—is the literal translation of the name of the street that ran from the Ishtar Gate, which Nebuchadnezzar built in 575 BC as a northern entrance to his city of Babylon. The gate was excavated between 1902 and 1914 by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey and then reconstructed at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

“The countries of origin have called for the return of these objects,” Rakowitz argues. “There’s a large debate about this and the value of the imperial museum. For me it’s very simple. When things are taken without permission or under questionable circumstances, like backroom deals, this is a problem.”

The effort to reconstruct the objects looted from the National Museum in Baghdad is designed to be part of this debate. “The project has been acquired by several institutions, including the British Museum,” Rakowitz explains. Both the British institution and the Metropolitan will “take these replicas of looted artifacts from 2003 and put them next to Mesopotamian artifacts that they got under questionable circumstances.”

The juxtaposition of items representing two different eras of looting is a kind of artistic truth-and-reconciliation process.

“I appreciate when museums can be self-reflective or even critical when looking at its immense inventory the provenance and acquisition history of some of these things and to allow for some of the more uncomfortable stories to emerge,” Rakowitz points out.

At the same time, the objects that the British Museum or the Metropolitan essentially looted from Iraq many decades ago have at least been kept safe from the latest round of destruction. “Many Iraqis were calling for objects at the British Museum to return to Iraq,” Rakowitz says with a measure of sadness. “In the immediate aftermath of the looting, this attitude changed and these same Iraqis regarded those artifacts as fellow refugees and exiles just like themselves.”

The post Iraq’s Artifacts Have Become Refugees, Too appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

John Feffer directs the Foreign Policy In Focus and Epicenter projects at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Iraqi, Syrian refugees team up, battle other migrants in Greece – CBS News


CBS News
Iraqi, Syrian refugees team up, battle other migrants in Greece
CBS News
IDOMENI, Greece – Several hundred Iraqis and Syrians in the Idomeni border camp stood between protesters and police on Sunday, thwarting the protesters' efforts to march toward the fence separating Greece from Macedonia. Scuffles broke out between the …
Stranded migrants protest in Greece, demand open bordersSan Francisco Chronicle
Greece removes migrants from Macedonian border campThe Guardian
Greece starts emptying border camp as new arrivals slowYahoo News
Telegraph.co.uk -Hurriyet Daily News
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In Pakistan, Afghan Female Refugees Describe Life in Sector I-12 – Women’s eNews


Women’s eNews
In Pakistan, Afghan Female Refugees Describe Life in Sector I-12
Women’s eNews
… find low-wage work. Her oldest son–Hayat Khan–earns between $ 3 and $ 4 a day selling vegetables and fruits from a donkey cart. … Many mothers and children, Jan said, die in labor or from complications shortly afterwards. … The first wave of

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The Latest: EU Says Only 64 Refugees Have Left Greece – ABC News


ABC News
The Latest: EU Says Only 64 Refugees Have Left Greece
ABC News
Only 64 of the tens of thousands of refugees that Greece's European Union partners should be taking to help lighten the country's migrant burden have actually gone to other EU states. The EU's executive Commission also said on Tuesday that just one of
EU agency reports drop in migrants to GreeceKathimerini
Harsh weather halves migrant arrivals in Greece in November – FrontexThe Star Online

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Why Should the U.S. Accept Syrian Refugees? Because It Helped Displace Them.

(Image: Freedom House / Flickr)

(Image: Freedom House / Flickr)

When a viral photo of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi — a Kurdish boy who drowned while fleeing the ongoing civil war in Syria — captivated international audiences this summer, it became a symbol for the international community’s failure to address the millions of Syrians displaced by the country’s civil war.

This crisis did not emerge in a vacuum. For nearly five years now, the UN’s refugee agency has warned of impending disaster, calling on rich countries to increase their support for the agency’s vastly underfunded humanitarian appeals — which, as of mid-October, had raised just 43 percent of the funds necessary to supply aid to Syrian refugees.

The global failure to provide for Syria’s refugees is often cast as a humanitarian one — particularly in Europe, where hundreds of thousands have arrived in recent months. And it is.

But it also reflects a greater failure by the parties fueling the conflict to accept the inevitable consequences of their own intervention in the region. That’s especially true for the United States, which has accepted scarcely 1,500 of the more than 4 million Syrians who’ve fled the country, even as Washington has steadily deepened its own participation in the war.

The United States is far from the biggest perpetrator of human rights abuses in Syria. That particular “distinction” goes to the Assad regime, whose forces, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, have killed more civilians than every other armed group in the country combined. Though rebel groups and the Islamic State also bear immediate responsibility for this catastrophe, 70 percent of Syrian refugees surveyed in Germany recently reported fleeing specifically because of Assad’s regime.

As an international actor operating within Syria, however, the United States has consistently failed to recognize the link between the chaos its military operations sow and their devastating consequences for the local population. Those policies date back at least to the last Iraq war, but they’re continuing even today.

Though U.S policies have destabilized the Middle East generally in almost innumerable ways, at least three directly link the country to the wave of Syrians fleeing violence: fracturing Iraq, proliferating arms throughout the region, and continuing air strike operations against the Islamic State.

The Rise of the Islamic State

Though the general relationship between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the region’s current state is now a firmly entrenched talking point, the specific link between U.S. policy and the rise of the Islamic State continues to be criminally under covered.

A quick history lesson is in order. After U.S. forces toppled the Baathist Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein back in 2003, coalition authorities led by U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer launched an ill-fated purge of Baath party members — from high-ranking generals on down to low-level civil servants — from the country’s government and military. As a direct result of this “de-Baathification” process, the Iraqi armed forces were disbanded and 400,000 of its members were denied employment and government pensions, while being permitted to keep their weapons.

Those purged officers went on to form the core of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency, where the putative secularists found common cause with radical Sunni groups like the newly formed al-Qaeda in Iraq — which later morphed into the Islamic State. After they were run out of Iraq’s Anbar province by U.S.-backed Sunni tribesmen in the middle years of the war, they capitalized on unrest in neighboring Syria to regroup — eventually becoming a major force on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

A glance at the makeup of the Islamic State today paints a clear picture of where many of these former Baathists wound up. As the Washington Post reported in a huge exposé last April, the vast majority of the Islamic State’s military and intelligence leadership are former Iraqi officers — including the “shadowy military and security committees” that facilitate the group’s brutal efficiency.

For the United States, the invasion of Iraq and the “missteps” that followed are characterized as regretful decisions that lie firmly in the past. Yet the ability to divorce these policies from their devastating consequences is a luxury wholly unavailable for Syrians and Iraqis who are today grappling with the enduring brutality of the Islamic State.

Fueling the Fire

Beyond even the Bush administration’s destabilizing policies, however, the United States continues to bear unique responsibility for violence in the Middle East — namely in the form of its ongoing sponsorship of belligerents in the Syrian war.

According to a report published by the Congressional Research Service, Washington has sent over $ 7.7 billion worth of nebulously defined “military aid” to Syria since 2011. In the same timeframe, the United States has only accepted 1,434 Syrian refugees. This amounts to a paltry 0.04 percent of the 4 million people who’ve fled the country during the very conflict the United States is funding.

The United States is far from the only nation responsible for funding widespread violence in Syria. For example, roughly 10 percent of Russia’s total weapon exports flow directly into Damascus, substantially supporting Assad’s military operations. At the same time, the country has granted just 1,395 Syrians temporary asylum — a move that, according to UN officials, does not guarantee “a future for Syrians living in Russia.” Regional actors, such as Kuwait and Qatar, are also not immune to this criticism — in supporting Syrian armed groups while refusing to house almost any refugees, they’re only exacerbating the humanitarian disaster.

Yet the United States derives unique culpability from the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration in arms sales. According to William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, arms sales in Obama’s first five years in office totaled over $ 169 billion, exceeding the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $ 30 billion. In fact, the current administration has “approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II.”

Of this astonishing figure, Hartung elaborates, “over 60 percent have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf,” linking the United States to the “complex array of conflicts” throughout the region.

A Silent War?

The aggravation of regional violence isn’t limited to supplying arms. The United States has also been engaged in an air war against the Islamic State for well over a year, coordinating coalition airstrikes against the group in both Syria and Iraq.

Echoing the CIA’s long-debunked claims about the drone war, military officials such as Brigadier General Thomas Weidley have praised this campaign — dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve — for its “extreme precision” in targeting the Islamic State while “gaining and maintain[ing] the trust of our partners on the ground.” U.S. Central Command claims that only two civilians “may have” been killed by coalition airstrikes.

Amid allegations that the military falsified intelligence reports to suggest that the war is going better than it is, however, the reliability of CENTCOM’s word is suspect at best.

To rectify this problem, “Airwars” helps to fill in the gaps. Headed by The Bureau of Investigate Journalism veteran Chris Woods, Airwars “is a collaborative, not-for-profit transparency project aimed both at tracking and archiving the international air war against Islamic State, in both Iraq and Syria.” This project serves two key functions: It carefully documents government casualty reports while simultaneously challenging them by independently following up on civilian deaths not reported by the military.

Even a cursory glance at Airwars’ findings is startling. First and foremost, the United States is responsible for the vast majority of coalition strikes in Syria: Out of over 2,500 reported strikes on the Syrian side of the border, the U.S. military has been responsible for roughly 95 percent. Total civilian deaths from Inherent Resolve, though difficult to pin down with any certainty, range from 584 to over 1,700. Despite the wide variance in accounts, one fact remains consistent throughout: The reality of these airstrikes directly contradicts the precision narrative pushed by U.S. military officials.

In failing to challenge the obvious falsehoods in CENTCOM’s reports, major news outlets are allowing Operation Inherent Resolve to be painted as a “victimless” war — a war that can apparently achieve strategic objectives without the cost of human life. In fact, the frequency and deadliness of daily coalition airstrikes can clearly be seen as a motivation for many Syrians to flee the country.

It bears repeating that the United States is in no way, shape, or form the single largest contributor to the current disaster. However, the nation is inextricably linked to the Syrian civil war in ways that have been grossly underreported. It’s precisely this lack of transparency that allows the United States to frame a recent pledge to increase its refugee threshold by 30,000 in 2017 — though it’s unclear how many spots would actually go to Syrians — as purely altruistic.

But there’s much more at stake here than altruism. For the sake of Syrian refugees, the United States must be held accountable for its role in creating this brutal reality.

The post Why Should the U.S. Accept Syrian Refugees? Because It Helped Displace Them. appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Laith Shakir is a fellow of the Next Leaders program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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5 refugees drown off Greece as thousands are stranded in Croatia and Serbia – Daily Mail


Daily Mail
5 refugees drown off Greece as thousands are stranded in Croatia and Serbia
Daily Mail
Five people, including a baby and two children, drowned and one was missing after a boat carrying migrants floundered off the coast of Greece. The Greek coast guard said a sail boat early on Sunday reported it had recovered the body of a baby and had …
Baby, two children drown trying to reach Greece from TurkeyIrish Times
A Dozen Refugees Drown Enroute to GreeceGreek Reporter
A dozen migrants drown enroute to GreeceNew York Post
Washington Post -Voice of America -New York Times
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What America Owes the Refugees Pouring Into Europe

refugee child through fence

(Image: UNHCR Photo Unit / Flickr)

The vision of hundreds of thousands of desperate human beings fleeing airstrikes, terror, and violence from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond has brought the stark human cost of today’s “anti-terror” wars to the front pages. The heart-breaking photo of one small boy, still clad in a “red shirt, blue jeans, and little sneakers,” as a now-viral poem goes, washed up on the Turkish shore, has brought the horror of that stark reality into our hearts.

Indeed, the refugee crisis growing out of the multi-faceted Syrian war and others is now a full-blown global emergency. It’s not only an emergency because it’s now reaching Europe. It’s an emergency several years in the making as conditions have deteriorated throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Syria, refugees are also pouring into Europe — or dying as they try — from Libya, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and beyond.

But it’s the war in Syria — now involving a host of regional, sectarian, and global actors all fighting their own wars to the last Syrian — that lies at the bloody center of the current crisis. And here the United States bears no small responsibility.

The Syrian war — and particularly the rise of ISIS — has everything to do with U.S. actions dating back to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which gave rise to ISIS in the first place. Even now the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq are escalating the war in both places.

So emergency responses, particularly from the United States, need to start — though they must not end — with Syria. The Obama administration’s decision to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country next year is a welcome step, but not remotely adequate.

Here’s what needs to happen next.

Immediately, the United States should announce:

  • An increase in daily U.S. refugee assistance to the World Food Program and the UN Human Rights Committee equivalent to the daily cost of U.S. military action against ISIS — that is, about $ 9 million a day.
  • A decision to immediately accept 65,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, as called for by leading human rights organizations.

In next 30 days, Washington should roll out:

  • A plan to parole desperate refugees into the United States on humanitarian grounds. They should be provided with temporary protected status as long as conditions in their home countries remain dangerous. Once they’re in the United States, safe and provided with medical care, housing, work, education, and other support, longer-term protection can be determined on a case by case basis. Such an administrative decision can be made by the White House alone.

In next 45 days, the White House should announce:

  • That the United States will provide 28 percent of needed emergency refugee assistance, equivalent to the U.S. share of global wealth. That means…
  • That it will immediately pay 28 percent of the current United Nations refugee relief request, which totals $ 5.5 billion to support almost 6 million Syrian and related refugees through the end of this year. That would amount to approximately $ 1.5 billion in U.S. contributions by the end of 2015.
  • That the United States will accept 28 percent of those refugees from Syria (and others forced to flee as a result of the Syrian war) who need refuge abroad. That means 28 percent of up to 4 million refugees as determined by the United Nations, or up to 1.12 million refugees who are allowed to come to the United States.

It should be noted that fewer than 1,000 Syrians have been allowed into the United States this year, while Germany has already agreed to take in 800,000. The limits on numbers of refugees allowed into the United States each year are set by the White House, and fluctuate for political and policy reasons. (For example, in just over a decade, beginning with the decline of the Soviet Union in 1990, more than 378,000 Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States. In 1992 alone, more than 62,000 entered the country.)

Finally, in next 60 days, the U.S. should develop:

  • A new plan, now that the Iran nuclear deal is being implemented, to engage with Iran as well as all other regional and global players in a renewed United Nations-led diplomatic and arms embargo initiative to end the Syrian war.

The post What America Owes the Refugees Pouring Into Europe appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies. 

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