9 January, 2017
Selected Foreign Policy clips:
9 January, 2017
Selected Foreign Policy clips:
18 August, 2016
A selection of articles published in New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery blog
Art and performance:
Real estate, housing, and gentrification
7 April, 2016
Germany is currently facing two major societal changes: an aging workforce and the influx of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers.
Over the weekend, Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, told a local news outlet that “the high point of the migrant crisis is behind us.” But de Maizière’s cautious optimism means little for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have already entered Germany. With more than half a million unfilled jobs, there are potentially many opportunities available for motivated refugees and immigrants, but the path from newcomer to integrated employee and member of society can be more challenging than anticipated.
A recent study conducted by Report Mainz, a German news magazine show, found that so far only 200 migrants have found work at Germany’s top 30 companies, including Adidas, BMW, and Deutsche Lufthansa. Only one of the firms has taken on refugees as permanent staff members. [Full Story]
9 March, 2016
The wallpaper is purple-and-gold fleur-de-lis in this tiny apartment located on the fringe of Berlin’s trendy Friedrichshain neighborhood. A bar with two white faux-leather chairs divides the chrome stove from a cookie-cutter modern sitting area with a glass-topped coffee table. The residents aren’t newlyweds or Airbnb’ers, though. They’re Syrian refugees — three of them, grown men. They’ve shared this 350-square-foot room for nine months on the government’s dime. Move-out date? No one has a clue.
More than 1 million asylum seekers arrived to Germany this past year — 100,000 in Berlin alone, a figure that’s likely to remain the same or rise according to the U.N.’s predictions. Given all that, an initial housing shortage shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even many of those refugees who have been in Berlin a year or more have not been able to secure permanent housing, which will likely worsen as refugees continue to arrive. In response, an underground industry has sprung up to offer “temporary” rooms. For the landlords, it’s lucrative; for the tenants, it’s complicated.
The current situation is the natural conclusion of Berlin’s decade-long disinvestment from social housing, says Josh Crites, a strategic advisor for the Seattle Housing Authority, who recently spent 10 months researching German social housing. In Berlin specifically, this trend has been compounded by gentrification and the city’s lack of preparation for the influx of refugees. “You have a crowded housing market and now you are slamming a million new bodies into it,” he says. Some areas in Germany, like the Ruhr valley, may have more housing available, but fewer jobs or less welcoming attitudes toward foreigners, according to Crites. [Full Story]
16 February, 2016
KARLSRUHE, Germany – Ruth Stephan stood outside an abandoned cafeteria repurposed as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers on the northern campus of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT). While a long line of men waited tensely in the cold to receive a monthly stipend from the government, she kept her eye out for an Ikea truck.
An administrator at this major science and engineering university in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Stephan is a lead organizer for Refugee Aid at KIT. She is one of thousands of volunteers who have stepped up as Germany’s usually well-ordered asylum system sinks under the strain of more than one million asylum-seekers who poured into the country this past year. And the number of new entries has not slowed significantly – in January alone 50,532 people applied for asylum, an increase of 133.1% from the previous year.
While these people wait for a decision on their cases, the local government in Karlsruhe is responsible for providing them with shelter, food and health care. But that is where its mandate stops and volunteers step in. A spokesperson for the Karlsruhe Regional Council said in an emailed statement that volunteers organize all other support for asylum seekers from language classes to childcare, sports and social gatherings. Volunteers “invest a lot of time and heart into their projects,” the spokesperson wrote, and they contribute significantly to making asylum seekers “as comfortable as possible.”
In many cases, volunteer initiatives from civil society are the most consistent and important contact that asylum seekers have with German society for months or even years.
“You have the civil society that is doing work for free for the government,” said Alex Janda, who, until recently, was a clothing coordinator for Refugee Aid at KIT. “Work that normally is the task of the government in my opinion – like, for example, to give the people clothes. But it’s not possible at the moment, so the civil society has to do it.” Janda now runs a welcome project sponsored by the European Union at the organization Refugee Aid Karlsruhe. [Full Story]
15 January, 2016
As 2015 drew to a close, Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF (Médecins sans Frontières), announced it would cease activities at migrant reception centers in Italy in the new year. The move — a protest against substandard conditions and absentgovernment attention — is the latest signal that Europe’s creaking asylum system is not improving fast enough or measurably. And yet, the stream of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean flows unabated.
21 December, 2015
As German office workers break for lunch in Moabit, a bustling neighborhood in Berlin, many anxious asylum seekers are just wrapping up a long, taxing morning at the city’s nearby registration center. They’ve been lined up in the cold as early as four o’clock in the morning, hoping to advance their cases, if only a little—but odds are low and conditions tough.
This registration center, Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (known by its German acronym LaGeSo), is the main choke point of Berlin’s asylum system. This is where asylum seekers must come, day after day, before they’ve finished registering, for any number of reasons: to file their applications for protection, to obtain housing vouchers, to apply for health-care coverage, residency extensions, and other permissions. The process once took just hours, but with at least62,000 arrivals to Berlin this year, it has been lagging on for weeks, sometimes months. The wait can seem interminable, even nonsensical. [Full Story]
9 December, 2015
An Afghan doctor wearing a tracksuit stands on the muddy ground inside a temporary registration shelter for asylum-seekers in the western German state of Baden-Württemberg, waving a paper flyer announcing German classes. “Why not us?” he asks.
The full-time class was being offered to Syrians, Iraqis, Eritreans, and Iranians, but Afghans and other nationalities were not mentioned. The discrepancy points to a new multi-tiered approach in how Germany is processing asylum-seekers—one based at least initially on national origin.
In a particularly chaotic year for migration to Europe, Afghans represent the second largest group of migrants traversing the Mediterranean Sea, after Syrians. But though their country is riven by fighting with the Taliban and other armed groups, they have received a different welcome. Instead of fast-tracked applications and pledges to make integration a top priority, Germany is labeling them as economic migrants and telling them to stay home. [Full story]
19 October, 2015
CATANIA, Italy — Nineteen refugees from Eritrea waved to the cameras as they boarded a plane leaving from Rome. Bound for Lulea, Sweden, their trip marked the inauguration of a refugee plan in Europe, one that will redistribute Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqi asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to northern countries with stronger economies and better asylum infrastructure.
But only a week earlier, a different scene played out in Sicily, the island where many refugees traveling by boat arrive in Italy. Nearly 30 men and one woman from Africa crowded inside the small room of local Catholic charity in Catania, nervously listening to a lawyer explain the complex and sometimes arbitrary procedures for asylum processing in Europe.
“Sudan, Eritrea — they get help. Nigeria — half and half,” Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, a professor of immigration and asylum law, told the group. “Countries like Gambia and Burkina Faso have almost no chance.”
As Europe’s border control agency, Frontex, seeks to implement faster methods in Italy and Greece to allow refugees from places like Syria, Iraq and Eritrea to receive asylum and move to other EU countries, there is a simultaneous effort to keep out so-called economic migrants. Yet the criteria to classify them and the process to return them are far from clear, leading to fears of discriminatory rejections and expulsions.
According to local activists and lawyers, police authorities in Sicily have begun to summarily classify some new arrivals as economic migrants on the basis of their country of origin, issuing them refusal-of-entry documents almost as soon as they arrive, without allowing them to exercise their international right to request asylum. [Full Story]
9 July, 2015
Last month, the United Nation’s refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that global refugee figures, driven by the war in Syria and other conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, exceed 50 million people—the highest number since the Second World War. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a corresponding spike in people trying to enter the EU to apply for asylum, often making dangerous trips across the Mediterranean to reach their destination.
After a boat full of migrants capsized, drowning at least 800 in April, the European Commission proposed measures to address the crisis. This included a binding refugee quota system, as well as plans to resettle 20,000 refugees from outside the EU and relocate 40,000 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy—the main countries on the receiving end of the boats—to other European states over the next two years.
“If you do not agree with the figure of 40,000 [placements for asylum seekers], you do not deserve to call yourself Europeans,” Italy’s premier Matteo Renzi said during the summit. “Either there’s solidarity, or don’t waste our time,” he said, according to a conference attendant.
With all the talk of burden sharing and solidarity, it’s worth taking a look at the numbers. What do asylum policies actually look like across the EU, and what would a fairer system mean? [Full Story]