Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Make and Mend Day

Jan went off this morning with the now very battered looking canvas shopping trolley.  The stitching has failed in places and it also has a few holes (I am of course referring to the trolley!).  However it’s just over a year old and has carried some heavy loads.  Actually most of the loads have been heavy.  Jan has decided to shop for a replacement trolley in Rugby tomorrow.

My task for the day was to sand back the oak linings on the inside of the exterior side hatch doors.  Two side hatches = four doors.  They were then given a coat of gloss varnish.  Jan dislikes the smell of varnish but fortunately the side hatches also have internal oak frames glass doors which she could shut.  Just as I thought the job had gone swimmingly….. it started to rain!

It’s been rather busy here in Brownsover with boats regularly passing in both directions.  Fortunately in two more days and we will be free to continue with our own cruising plans.

Whilst reading the news I noticed an article which predicted Germany would probably receive three quarters of a million asylum seekers this year.  Just under half a million arrived last year.  Frankly this level of arrivals alarms me.  I am concerned the numbers are unsustainable and wonder how long before Germany starts to have a major problem with far right nationalists whipping up xenophobia.  It must also be placing a severe strain upon Germany’s social services.  Some employers will welcome a surplus of labour as it will likely drive down wages.  However the average German citizen will likely firstly opt for a more extremist (far right/left) government and if that doesn’t resolve their concerns, public order will start to break out.

The EU is the destination for many seeking sanctuary.  The majority coming from the south (Africa) or the east (Syria & Afghanistan).  Most of these people reach Europe via Greece or Italy, so it was interesting to note the year to date statistics on their final destination.

  1. Greece     9430
  2. Italy         64,625
  3. Germany  288,070
  4. Sweden     81,180
  5. France      64,310
  6. UK           31,745
  7. Austria     28.035
  8. Norway    13,205
  9. Spain         5615
  10. Finland      3620
  11. Ireland       1450
  12. Slovakia      330
  13. Croatia       450
  14. Iceland       170

I didn’t bother with the other EU countries as I thought I could see a trend.  Obviously Greece isn’t a preferred destination, along with Slovakia and Croatia.  Italy must be allowing many to transit through.  Countries surrounded by water (eg, Iceland, Ireland) can better protect their borders.  Other countries appear to be more determined to maintain their sovereignty (eg, Spain & Finland).

World-wide, the two countries with the greatest number of refugees are Pakistan (Afghanis) and Jordan (Syrians). 

I had assumed a person who declared themself to be a refugee only maintained that status whilst they remained in the country where they first sought safety.  Hence the large numbers of refugees in Jordan and Pakistan.  However it now appears each country that is a signatory to the UN International Convention is required to give a refugee travel documents and those documents must be honoured by other countries.  Every refugee starts out as an asylum seeker, but not every asylum seeker will be classified as a refugee.  The difficulty for governments is it usually takes an average of 12 months to assess an asylum seeker application and decide whether they are a bona fide refugee.  Another problem for governments is once the asylum seeker has set foot in their country they are eligible for various rights such as legal aid.  This enables them to challenge their assessment and drag out the process.

The ‘Pull’ factor

There are millions of refugees in 3rd world countries in the most primitive of conditions waiting for processing and resettlement .  It’s therefore not unexpected that some would seek to shortcut the process by attempting to directly reach a country of “choice”.  Nor should we be surprised that a people smuggling industry has developed. It could be argued EU policies are actually encouraging asylum seekers to make the dangerous journey rather than waiting in a safe location whilst waiting for their application to be processed.

It seems to me that the EU needs to process claims in a location where it is almost impossible for asylum seekers to enter the EU.  To my mind the most logical approach is to collect all asylum seekers before they reach EU national borders and transfer them to processing centres where they have exactly the same status as those left in existing UN camps.  This would act as a deterrent to people smugglers; reduce “in transit” fatalities; and provide a level playing field for those seeking asylum (ie, no queue jumping by those who have the means). 

I leave you with one final observation.  There are tens of thousands of Syrians seeking to escape the conflict in their home country where a war is raging between the government regime (moslem shia) and ISIS (moslem sunni).  The asylum seekers head towards Jordan in the west or Turkey in the north.  For obvious reasons they don’t head east into Iraq.  How many of them head south to the largest moslem sunni country in the region?  Looking at the UN statistics for resettlement of refugees I was rather surprised to note Saudi Arabia hasn’t accepted one UN classified refugee!

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